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Story last updated: 10 Jun 2004 1155 BST Printable version of this page
The trollman cometh
Bill Bailey
by Robin Markwell
BBC Bristol website reporter
:: Bill Bailey

:: Colston Hall

:: June 9th and 10th 2004
A troll - or relative of Gollum? Bill Bailey in Bristol

A wizard, a medieval roadie or a boiled egg attached to a shower curtain - Bill Bailey is proud of the attempts to capture his unorthodox appearance.

He has dubbed his tour 'Part Troll' and delivers his comedy beneath an enormous portrait that is more Gollum than Bailey, although a lurking resemblance cannot be denied.

Indeed, Bailey was quick to confess his disappointment at being overlooked at an audition for the part of Gimli the Dwarf in the Lord of the Rings films.

He says he was denied access to cinematic Middle Earth for laying on his West Country accent too thick.

It is an accent that comes naturally to Bath-born Bailey and his act began with a frank admission to this effect. 'I am Bill Bailey and I am from the West Country' he proclaimed to the delight of the audience.

But, despite fleeting references to the Wurzels and Taunton cider, little more was made of this anticipated homecoming.

One-man band

Unshackled from the studio sets of television's Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Black Books, the hirsute comedian revealed his pedigree both as a stand-up and as an educated musician.

He excelled as a bored lounge pianist with a fondness for tinkering with lyrics and his skill with the little-seen Theremin bolstered both a rendition of Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah in the style of Portishead and an eerie take on the BBC news theme.

Lady in Red made splendid listening when played on the banjo - one of a number of hillbilly classics that lifted the fuggy atmosphere of a sticky Colston Hall evening.

But whilst the musical numbers were slick and riotously funny, a well-rehearsed speech routine jarred in places.

It lumbered from moments of sublime hilarity on the subject of Argos catalogues (books of dreams, laminated to cater for those tears of joy) and Little Chefs (originally built on ancient ley lines, the roads would come later) to incongruent deep philosophical thoughts on the existence of God.

Impress but not amuse

Here Bailey the polymath replaced Bailey the comic as Marx, Freud and Pavlov were all casually name-dropped amongst a welter of polished polysyllabisms to impress but not amuse.

The uncontrollable laughter came on occasions when the audience were invited to heckle. The very prospect would have a less-talented standup in beads of cold sweat, but such unsolicited remarks were meat and drink to the ever-creative Bailey mind.

His assertion that Hitler was a vegetarian was roundly put-down by a vociferous member of the front stalls who insisted the German dictator 'ate sausages all his life' thereby undoing the premise for an elaborate joke.

As the script was thrust to one side, Bill Bailey's raw genius dazzled in improvisation.

After all, trolls only really thrive off the beaten track.

  Bill Bailey website

Colston Hall

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