by Jonathan Thomas
I had been trying all week to get tickets for us all at the Satellite City TV forum. Just at the last minute, out of the blue, Boyd and Kirsten managed to get me in on one of their spare tickets. What an exciting night this was going to be!
Plug, Plug and More Plugging!
I decided that I was going to take this opportunity to advertise the website as much as possible and grab as many fans attention toward it as I could. So I took a wad of small flyers and ended up at the front gates of the studios at BBC Wales Llandaff. What an amazing building, very lavish and crystal clean, what you’d expect to see at a massive company like the BBC really! As I walked into the foyer area which was packed with around 250 people, I spotted Kirsten Jones waiting to hand out her tickets behind glass panelled, hydraulic gates that allowed people into the studios, so I went over to greet her and say thank you and let her go off and finish her travels.
I was more than a little surprised when i talked to a few of the people amongst the crowd, only to find they weren’t real fans of the show but were there simply because the BBC had invited them to come be in the audience for the laughter track, probably to due being on the mailing list after previous visits.
Anyway, as we were sifted into the canteen area prior to filming, we just stood and waited so obviously, I got itchy feet and couldn’t stay still and had to work my way around the crowd passing out flyers as I passed! Needless to say, there were no security guards there otherwise I believe this story would’ve ended here! Talking to random’s, dropping into the sight of people so they took an interest, and even passing them out in the gents!
Ticket kindly given to me by Kirsten Jones in order to attend the evening. The date and venue were changed from Friday 24th at Culverhouse Cross, ITV Wales Studios to Sunday 26th at Llandaff BBC Studios.
The Canteen Celebrity
As we standing, waiting, watching, in walked a gentleman to the sound of a united “hmmm” and a “That’s him!”. He walked with an air of confidence, tall above many of us, it was of course Mr. Clack himself. Looking happy as Larry and greeting the many people who looked at him in awe really, he waded through the crowd at the door to make it over to some friends at a table. As he sat and talked he got interrupted dozens of times by fans who just wanted him to see their faces. I encouraged a couple of children near me to go say hello, that he’d be only too glad to speak to them. They were just caught up in it all and glad to see a famous person from the tele!
Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to say hello, he looked far too busy on this, both his and Kirsten’s big night!
As we walked through the maze of corridors at the studios trying to make our way to Studio 1, I noticed the walls were decked out with framed photos of dozens of celebrities that have no doubt performed and donned the stage at Llandaff. Good old Roy Noble presenting ‘Children In Need’, the National Orchestra of Wales and even, slightly more random, Dale Winton!
As we arrived at the studio, I made sure I positioned my place in the audience central to the set, directly opposite the living room where I knew most of the action would take place. It was strange seeing all of the rooms, even the kitchen and Hoff and Charlie’s room just there in the middle of the room, with only three walls, with us, the audience sitting there invading the privacy and just staring inside! It is far different from on the TV where we think were getting the whole picture and that it really is a house situated in the valleys with this cosy little living room but it’s really not! It spoiled it a little for me in a way, I always remembered the show with such a perfect image, but it turned out to be just a set of walls! But then again, I was a little shocked when they informed me about Father Christmas too! (I tried to make that as subtle as I could, I don’t think I gave too much away there for our younger readers!)
The Warm Up Guy
Dafydd Arwyn Jones organised everything so well, he really was a ‘real professional’. He introduced us to a Welsh stand-up comedian, well known within comedy circles as Rhod Gilbert. What a funny chap, he had the crowd roaring, which was of course his job. But not only that he involved the crowd, using a poor fellow in the front row in a sky blue suit as the brunt of his jokes. There were some rowdy ladies near me who he had a crack at too. It made the evening fly by, he was genuinely hilarious.
He laughed and joked about how he was once involved in a near death experience in a studio fire, doing similar work to that of which he was doing now, however, he tried to reassure us there was absolutely nothing to worry about with the thousands of pounds worth of electrics above our head and all around us…yes, very reassuring!
Luckily I managed to spot him again on the BBC Wales program “Stand Up If You’re Welsh” shown just after one of the High Hopes episodes not so long ago. A superb comedian and well recommended to go listen to either at Cardiff’s Glee Club or on his BBC Radio Wales Saturday Morning Show.
Check out Rhod’s website at www.myspace.com/rhodgilbertcomedian.
As the filming got under way, the cast were introduced to us one by one, with an ear piercing applause for each. It was great to see them all in the flesh, fantastic to see them all getting into the spirit of Christmas and into their characters.
They are all a little different from their characters, I think the only person who is very similar to his Character is Steven Meo, with his strong Welsh accent. Robert Blythe and Margaret John don’t really speak with very prominent Welsh accents. Ben Evans larked around a little and had fun in between takes.
Archibald Duck introduces his granddaughters, Donna and Daphne, to Elsie and the boys
It’s hard to recall exactly what happened that evening but as I watched the episode back on the 19th December on BBC1 it reminded me of how little the cast members made any mistakes. They were all so professional and so well prepared. Even when they did mess up, only they and the rest of the cast could ever tell, until of course Bob would burst out in laughter and then the rest of the audience would just laugh with him. Then about a minute or so later I’d cotton on and laugh along too realising what had happened!
There was a point at which he had to stumble on saying “Ho, ho, ho!” which some may remember from the episode when he was trying to practise being a good Santa Clause. He tried to get that right about twice and that was all I remember of Bob making any mistakes. He did have a little bit of trouble getting in and out of the wheelie bin in the living room at one point though!
One memorable part of the night was when the boys have their regular “panic chat” with Fagin, which usually goes along the lines of “boys we’re buggered, I dunno how the ‘ell we’re gonna get out of this one”, “My neck ‘ave gone ‘ard” and the boys try to console him with “Don’t worry mun Fag me and Charl’ will go down the road and find some alternative”…you’re all familiar with this conversation! Well the lads were in full flow when Steve’s watch alarm went off! His embarrassed words were “I’ll get a row for that!”. Nothing is quite the same unless you get the inevitable hiccup!
Archibald Duck forgot his name when he was telling Elsie “Fifi” Hepplewhite at the end, and Joshua Richards tripped on his words once too, but it was all good natured fun, and a cracking good night.
All the way through Boyd sat on the steps at the bottom of the tiered seating shaking and nodding his head in approval (or disapproval) at the way his story was planning out. Whilst Kirsten wandered around seemingly anxiously but happy that it was all going well.
The Final Push
Afterwards was my favourite part of the evening. I waited patiently outside the building after rushing out of the studio in order to catch all the audience as they left. I managed to say congratulations to Gareth Gwenlan on the way out as well as grab myself a smart printed signed photograph of the cast (as shown above). As I waited the crowds started to make their way out of the entrance and down toward the car park, I waited and pounced on my first victims bellowing, “If you’re fans and you want to see these shows get released on DVD then please sign these petitions and visit this web site”.
I got rid of about three quarters of my wad of flyers and many people seemed interested so hopefully it’s shown at some point down the line on the petitions themselves.
Finally, I managed to grab Bob Blythe, Margaret John, Gareth Gwenlan and Steve Meo as they came out. Telling them all about the web site and handing them flyers too. They loved the idea of it all and seemed very proud that people were taking so much of an interest in what they were doing. The good news for everyone else is that each of them agreed to do interviews for the web site in February when the new series starts filming. Also Boyd is in the process of arranging for me to go on location at the filming of High Hopes’ next series, so expect more reviews/write ups!