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Saturday 19 May 2018

Brighton Festival 2018 Review: John Finnemore's Flying Visit @ Brighton Dome

John Finnemore has followed a well worn path and is pretty much your definitive BBC Radio 4 comedian; studied English at Cambridge University and cut his teeth in the Cambridge footlights rising to become its vice president in his final year. After graduating, he performed in Sensible Haircut with the Footlights team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2000.

His most notable achievement for Radio 4 has been Cabin Pressure, which he wrote and took the part of the likeably idiotic Arthur. The series was about a small airline run and staffed by a bunch of misfits, it became an early evening favourite for many of Radio 4's 11.55 million audience. 

And….. he also wrote two series of John Finnemore's Double Acts and lastly and most pertinently (as most of the sketches from the show were derived from it) he wrote and performed in the  John Finnemore's Souvenir. So far this has run for seven series. 

Finnemore performs with Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Simon Kane, Lawry Lewin and Carrie Quinlan. Most of the sketches from Flying Visit were taken from Souvenir and most translated to the stage well... and some didn't.

So, he's been around…. well, on BBC Radio 4 anyway. He's also won more Comedy.co.uk awards than any other writer. (Doncha just hate him already?)

Anyway, the show;

The audience: Well to do, Brighton's ageing cultured middle class… all Radio 4 listeners, all polite, all with good pensions and most, I can guarantee it, Guardian readers [OK, that's enough with the stereotypes. Ed]. They were a comfortable lot. 


And so John Finnemore could do no wrong.

It was good to put faces to the voices and many of the sketches (for me only half-remembered) were genuinely funny. 

The skulls, required to supply directions but who could not pronounce 'p' gained a belly laugh. 

The Goldfish Memory sketch where the goldfish repeatedly ask Neptune to give them better memories because they keep forgetting they'd just asked was greatly enhanced by the actors wearing rubber gloves and plastic bags over their heads. 

The final 'Since you asked me' story for the search for The Lost Chord was (Radio 4) comedy at its finest. The piss-take song of Brighton that closed the show also went down very well.

There were some lows though. The interview by Carrie Quinlan as Patsy Straightwoman of Finnemore in character as Cabin Pressure's Arthur was very weak, and the guest appearance from Wing Commander Arthur Shappey, well, wasn't a guest appearance…. I think it was a recording, at least he didn't appear on stage. Maybe he couldn't make the Brighton show? 

The show also seemed a bit long. My wife timed it at three hours (including the half hour interval). I'm a great fan of keeping shows just a little on the short side so the audience are left wanting more, but by the time the show rolled to a finish I was glad to get out of my seat (which I had begun to find very uncomfortable). 

I was left thinking that if Finnemore had cut out maybe thirty or forty minutes of the weaker material the show would have been much stronger for it.

They were also under rehearsed. This was the first show of the tour and it showed. Lines were fluffed and even forgotten, exits made to the wrong side of the stage and actors even bumped into each other at times.

They'll get better at the live stage thing as they do more shows and if they cut out a bit of the material this will be a blinding show that any Radio 4 listener would appreciate (and maybe even some non-Radio 4 listeners). Well worth catching.

Brighton Festival 2018 runs until Sunday 27th May. CLICK HERE for more info.


by: Simon Turner




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