FROM THE ARCHIVES: Leicester Merryweather (25/10/08)

Welcome to Episode Three of From The Archives, as we continue our journey through the first series of The Yesterday Show. This week we're off to the theatre in the company of Leicester Merryweather, the decidedly flowery director of Hamlet on Ice.
Leicester Merryweather's origins are a little embarrassing. When I was at Warwick a great deal of my friends and acquaintances were of a theatrical bent; many of them were either members of a drama society, or did Theatre and Performance Studies for their degree (many did both). While I enjoyed the different acting experiences I had at Warwick, and got on well with the vast majority of the people in the drama scene, I had a very love-hate relationship with the thesp culture. This was at a time when I was being exposed to a lot of new trends and movements in theatre of which I hadn't previously been aware, and more often than not I didn't react in a mature and sensible way to the people who conveyed them to me.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Leicester is at his simplest a rather cheap piss-take of the thesp scene at Warwick. He doesn't share any characteristics with any individuals I knew directly, but rather is a take-off of the reputation that student acting can have (for instance, being pretentious - something I know a lot about). There are a couple of other influences in there as well, such as an incidental character from Dennis the Menace and Mark Hamill's performance as the Joker from the Batman animated series, but primarily he's a rather straightforward send-up of something that probably doesn't exist to anything like the extent I imagined at the time. His name derives from Mistress Merryweather, the stroppy blue fairy in Disney's Sleeping Beauty.
Listening back to the episode now, I still think it's very funny, in spite of all the grovelling I've just done. One of the things I like about this episode is that we begin to see an arc developing between Tom and Alex. This wasn't intentional as far as I remember, but the continuity between the International Reports became highly entertaining to play with as the series went on. There'll be a two-parter later in the series, but for now you can listen to him steadily failing to cover his tracks with increasing degrees of desperation.
One last thing to mention regarding this episode is the 'Hamlet on Ice' joke itself. Tom and I are big fans of The Goon Show and honestly weren't aware that they had done it first - specifically in the episode The Missing No. 10 Downing Street, the transcript of which can be read here. You might well write this off as a complete coincidence, but credit where credit's due - and Spike Milligan deserves an awful lot from just about everyone.

So, all apologies and self-deprecating aside, here's Series 1 Episode 3 of The Yesterday Show. Enjoy!

P.S. If you want to read some of my positive thoughts on student drama at Warwick, check out my theatre reviews for The Warwick Boar here.