HATS OFF TO THE LODGE
Unusually, this year’s press conference was held on preparation day (Thursday), but it was as succinct as ever.
“There are two things you need to know about this year’s ElkFest,” said the Lodge Porter. “One: it’s a downsized event. Two: I’ve banned hats. Any questions?”
Anne tennA, rotating reporter for the Audley End Gazelle, was first to respond.
“A downsized event, Lodge? Did the website crash due to an overwhelming demand for tickets?” she asked.
“No. Fewer people will be turning up,” said Lodge, without further explanation.
“But what about the hats,” I asked.
“Bob,” he said; although I’m never sure if he’s addressing me by my first name or my surname. “This year, I will not be out-hatted. All hats will be confiscated on sight.” And with that bombshell he donned his cat flap and left.
SPEECH LESS INTERRUPTIONS
After last year’s unprecedented interruption of the opening ceremony, this year passed off without incident, although there was an unusual twist: the Lodge’s mail bag boasted an unprecedented two letters; both from Mrs Trellis.
It transpired that one was a bogus letter and more of an ’omage to the Lodge. This letter of apology was undoubtedly from Suzanne, who’d absentmindedly double booked herself. [An occupational hazard for a librarian, surely? – Ed]. No matter, she resolved, she would simply attend both events by driving speedily between engagements. However, it was not to be, as there was a slight problem.
Unable to locate her car keys, she consulted a hypnotherapist to take her back in time to where she had mislaid them. Unfortunately she was regressed too far and having found her old car keys, she remembered the car now belonged to a taxidermist in Scunthorpe. Eventually she tracked him down and he kindly offered to drive her to ElkFest, but then he realised that since he’d bought the car, he’d been unable to drive it, because Suzanne had never handed over the keys. It’s strange how Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” still resonates after all these years.
CABARET – THE YEAR OF THE REMAKE
The cabaret kicked off with an excellent demonstration of how not to play a ukulele, ably performed by Woodland Wilf, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Clive, the ElkFest’s chief engineer and lighting rigger. Fortunately his lack of ukulele skill was neatly deflected by his seemingly off the cuff question as to whether there is another word for “synonym”. He left the stage with the question still hanging in the air.
Next up was a modern take on the 1969 film Paint Your Wagon’s “I talk to the trees” song. Phil’s version was an admirable attempt to rid us of Clint Eastwood’s tuneless rendition, by relocating the scene to Liverpool. Alas, just as it started to work, Phil’s medication failed. Keep taking the tablets may be sound advice, but they don’t always work.
Then Colin and Anne served up a heavily propped reworking of the 1958 film “Separate Tables”. There was a lot of waiting, but curiously a lack of waiters. I presume it must have been a self-service restaurant, as there wasn’t a waiter to be seen; not even to offer drinks whilst the jilted awaited the arrival of their respective Godots.
Hayden’s revisiting of Julie Andrews’ “Favourite Things” from the 1965 Sound of Music bore little resemblance to John Coltrane’s version. If it lacked bite, I can only put it down to the dentures. He later claimed to have worn the emperor’s new hat throughout his performance, but no-one seemed to notice.
Shaun tested the Lodge with a devilish remake of the ever popular 1970’s game show: “Name that tune”. Having spotted one tune, Lodge found he could breathe more easily and elected to take the Fifth Amendment for the remainder of the quiz. Sensing Lodge’s lack of engagement, Shaun changed tack and regaled us with some classic misheard lyrics. Fortunately, as I have never been a big Dylan fan, we were spared the indignity of listening to “The ants are my friends; they're blowin' in the wind.”
And then we were transported back to 1966 and the Frost Report. The 3 Goatees having recently reformed as the trio previously known as the 2 Goatees, for legal reasons, performed their version of the classic “Class Sketch”. We were subjected to place, plaice, plays, planes and plains. The planes went completely over my head, but I believe Chris now has a contract for advertising a well-known supermarket.
Finally, behind the counter of a Turkish bath, somewhere in Barnsley, Phil and Hayden sized up the clientele and put them down one by one. A superb finale, which makes me think they could be next year’s “the two Alan Bennetts”. (I can hear Dame Thora Hird turning in her macaroon, as I write).
BROKE ‘N’ NARROW
The acoustic stage is usually sited in a wilderness beyond human reach; such is the Lodge’s distaste of one finger in the ear melancholy. However his instructions were misinterpreted by the construction crew’s Sat Nav system and it ended up on the main stage.
Broke ‘n’ Narrow seems a curious name for a duo, who appeared well-dressed (so not broke obviously) and delivered a wide-ranging set, from Floyd to Van Morrison. Alan and Barry performed an excellent acoustic slot – it was nice to see Mr Bennett and Mr Cryer do something out of their comfort zone.
But then Lodge spotted Alan’s hat, confiscated it, and had security escort them from the stage.
THE WORD IS BUTTER-STAG
Having been invited to (and attended) the ElkFest Eve dinner, I wondered if this year’s play had been cobbled together from conversations overheard in the pub, but (after extensive research) I discovered there had been a leak; a witty leak. Someone had found a draft of this year’s play in a skip, somewhere outside of Bristol, and had twittered extracts, which subsequently went viral.
No matter. This year’s ElkFest Radio Play: “Lodge Porter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was a great success.
Phil as Alan Rickman aka Professor Snape was a tour de force, with excellent stilted delivery, and his Dumbledore stung like a bee.
Sue’s little miss clever clogs, Hermione, sang and danced in time to the music and the rhythm of the spheres, despite the encumbrance of her clogs.
Hayden’s Ron was Weasley, so that was spot on. Having to deliver only one “Amazing Holmes” line must have been a challenge, but I think he picked the right one. (I am still trying to decide whether he was wearing the emperor’s new hat during his performance).
Paul’s narration was intense, but that may have been influenced by being in a marquee.
Dave’s attempt to impersonate the Lodge Porter lacked a certain cat flap, but I guess he was avoiding expulsion from ElkFest.
Samantha was excellent (most excellent) as ever and didn’t miss a sound effect, which was a shame. There may have been a few doubling up of effects, but I don’t think anyone noticed.
And then there was Clive. Failing to eat any wasps this year, he concentrated on origami. Paper folding has never sounded this good, so hats off to the star of the show: Clive.
CRIMSONS HAD OWLS
We were promised a surprise line-up this year. What was not foreseen was a surprise for Crimson Shadow, as they had no idea as to who would be in the line-up when they finally hit the stage.
At 6:30 they were a duo. 7:30, Richard arrives, so it’s a trio. 8:00, Andy arrives, so it’s a quartet. 8:30, Ritchie arrives – a quintet. 9:00, Jade arrives ... at last, a full band. But where was Steve, who had been booked as a dep lead guitarist? He was at home, feet up, enjoying a glass of Chablis.
At last, fully formed, they blazed their way through many an old favourite, followed by many an old favourite, and continued with many an old favourite. I was particularly impressed by the keyboard break in Virgin Trains Not Running – a nifty piece of Hammond there – and new addition, Jade, certainly gave the band legs. But then they were sadly lacking the presence of some additional percussion for another of the old favourites. One of the band dialled 118 118 and asked if they could provide a telephone number for a directory enquiry service. They suggested ringing 118 500. The number was dialled and they were diverted to the maracas emergency service. Fortunately one of their operatives was in the area. “Look out for the weird guy with the goatee and the false moustache – he’s the one whose grandfather would be embarrassed to see him dancing.” Chris was quickly identified and grabbed his maracas without even a hint of discomfort. And then they were seven and they all danced the night away.
I was hoping for another keyboard break and Shaun didn’t disappoint – he went for a pee. The band played on, without missing a beat. A Jolly B good time was had by all.
THE SURREAL BREAKFAST
Surreal breakfasts come and surreal breakfasts go. I don’t know where they come from or where they go to, rather like the Festal Virgins, but somehow they do. I was going to ask the Lodge if he had any special memories of this year’s ElkFest, but he had spotted someone wearing a hat and stormed off to deal with the matter. His parting words were: “Oi you ... you in the hat ... get off my land!”