We don’t know about you but we often feel like we need a bit of a laugh once the merriment of the festive season has petered out – so this month’s Slapstick Festival is perfectly timed
Yes, there are days in the first, somewhat bleak month of January that can be a bit of a struggle, so when Britain’s biggest celebration of silent and classic screen comedy, the Slapstick Festival, returns – this year from 18-22 January – we breathe a sigh of relief.
2017’s five-day festival will see veteran entertainer Roy Hudd and taboo-busting stand-up Shazia Mirza, among others, making their Slapstick Festival debuts, while late comedy giants, who are gone but far from forgotten, are celebrated with special tribute events.
As always, there are many more superb events on the programme than we have room for here so we’ve compiled a few highlights…
Shooting Stars (Watershed)
The celebration of early screen comediennes starts with stand-up Shazia Mirza introducing Annette Benson as Mae – one half of a husband-and-wife acting team torn apart when he (Brian Aherne) discovers she is having an affair. Mae then decides to get rid of her spouse by putting a real bullet into a prop gun being used in their new film, but matters don’t quite go to plan in this Anthony Asquith comedy, newly restored by the British Film Institute.
• 18 January, 8.30pm, tickets £9/£6.50
Shazia Mirza introduces Shooting Stars
Victoria Wood: Let’s Do It! (Watershed)
Stand-up stars Pippa Evans and Lucy Porter join Andrew Kelly, director of the Bristol Festival of Ideas and Louise Wingrove, a comedy and theatre historian, to look back at the extraordinary contribution made to comedy writing and performance of the late, great Victoria Wood, a regular supporter of Slapstick until her death in April last year.
• 18 January, 5.40pm; tickets £9/£6.50
Victoria Wood is remembered at the festival
A Celebration of the Stickiest Bogeys of Rik Mayall (Watershed)
Robin Ince and his Variety Radio podcast co-host Michael Legge pay tribute to the anarchy, intensity and occasionally blazing stupidity of the late lamented Rik Mayall, helped by a selection of favourite and less familiar clips, including excerpts from The Oxford Roadshow, Boom Boom Out Go The Lights and other magnificent outrages.
• 19 January, 7.30pm; tickets £9/£6.50
Rik Mayal will also be celebrated in two separate tributes
Silent Comedy Gala (Colston Hall)
Rory Bremner hosts the festival’s flagship event, featuring a triple bill of silent classics accompanied by live music. The programme opens with Harold Lloyd in The Freshman (1925) followed by The Finishing Touch (1928) starring Laurel and Hardy, and The High Sign (1921) from Buster Keaton. Music from the 25-piece Bristol Ensemble and the European Silent Screen Virtuosi, under the baton of Slapstick’s musical director Gunther A. Buchwald.
• 20 January, 7.30pm; tickets £27.50/£10.75
Rory Bremner hosts the festival’s flagship event
The Goodies: Book Shambles (Watershed)
Robin Ince, co-host of the popular comedy-literary podcast Book Shambles, interrogates Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie about the books they made as two thirds of the TV comedy trio The Goodies and about their personal favourite authors/titles. While Robin’s usual Book Shambles partner Josie Long won’t be in attendance (she’s “showing off in New York” he explains) he promises a special stand-in.
• 21 January, 1.30pm; tickets £9/£6.50
Roy Hudd in Conversation (Watershed)
Join legendary entertainer Roy Hudd OBE as he shares memories and clips from a career which began seven decades ago, and talks to broadcaster and author Matthew Sweet about his love of other stage and screen performers – among them Max Miller, Jacques Tati and Charlie Chaplin. This event will also include a screening of Hudd’s near forgotten and hugely underrated 1966 ‘silent’ comedy, The Maladjusted Busker.
• 21 January, 11:30am; tickets £9/£6.50
The Young Ones Revisited (Bristol Old Vic)
Anarchic, gross, brave, brash, innovative, hysterical – The Young Ones was the first TV sit-com to come out of the alternative comedy revolution of the 1980s and made household names out of a cast of student housemates which included Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. 35 years on from its first airing, co-writer Lise Mayer, Neil the Hippie actor Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle (the Belowski family) return to the city where much of the series was filmed to talk to Marcus Brigstocke (once a student here himself) about the origins and social impact of this game-changing comedy.
• 22 January, 4.15pm; tickets £15
Comedy classic series The Young Ones is revisited
Just Like That! (Bristol Old Vic)
Barry Cryer discusses his working relationship and friendship with legendary magician and comic Tommy Cooper. Illustrated with classic clips and hosted by writer and comedy historian Robert Ross, this is a chance to rediscover the joyous comedy and erratic genius of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers.
• 22 January, 11am; tickets £12.50
Barry Cryer discusses his relationship with the late great Tommy Cooper
Surviving Slapstick on 16mm (Watershed)
Slapstick comedy shorts were money spinners in the 1920s and 1930s, for companies like Kodascope and Pathéscope who rented or sold safety prints of them for people to watch at home. Decades later, many of these 16mm prints have survived where the ‘proper’ 35mm versions have not. Bill Oddie and Robin Ince present a programme of these accidentally preserved gems starring, among others, Lloyd Hamilton, Wallace Lupino and Marcel Perez. With live accompaniment from Guenter A. Buchwald.
• 22 January, 9.30am; tickets £8/£6
To buy tickets and view the full programme for the Slapstick Festival visit slapstick.org.uk