As I've done in previous years, as well as reviewing at the Fringe, I was to be in Arthur Smith's show. Now don't get excited, I can't sing, tell jokes or even juggle (well only if I'm allowed to drop the balls) but what I can do is stroll completely minus my clothes in a particularly casual manner. It's because I life model as a side line (yep, journalism's that well paid. Actually it's more a case of it keeps things ticking over and gets me out of the house) and if you can hang about naked in front of the judgemental eyes of a class room of 17 year olds you can pretty much do anything.
So what tends to happen now is the combination of both my vocations draw me into some unusual situations. During an interview with Smith on hearing of my exhibitionist tendencies he said, in trademark Sid James gravel, 'when you come to the show pop backstage I might have a job for you.' The mind boggled. But I went of course. And found myself striding naked across the stage the punchline to one of Smith's gags. Only problem was that I was reviewing the show for the Manchester Evening News and had to review the second part of the show sat sans vêtements in the wings.
And lo, a partnership was born. Since then we've done many gigs together, a rather ad hoc arrangement of whenever I'm in London, he's in the North West, we're both at the Fringe or we both head off to Switzerland (and that's a whole different story told here). We've even done it on the radio.
I'm still bemused as to why the sight of me naked is funny (yeah you can keep your comments to yourself on that one...) but it pretty much always gets a laugh, often a really big one.
So as usual I was booked to do his show this year, Smith's reprisal/rework of his Leonard Cohen show from 2000 Edinburgh's ago. I love both Cohen's music and the melancholy edge that Smith reveals at times on stage. Unfortunately because the show maintains (very well) a fine balance between melancholy and humour, though the song I arrive on stage to is an upbeat (non Len) number, the crowd were simply perplexed. They would sit bemused without a clue of how to take it or why I was there.
And so with a heavy heart the part had to be ditched. It's an incredibly beautiful show and I wouldn't want to be doing anything that tainted it in any way and of course as a critic I'd be the first person to be pointing out that that bit didn't work. There's always the next Arthur show. So take heart any one who got a two star review or less from me this year - I do, at least know what rejection feels like.