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You are in: Norfolk » Going Out » Stage

04 April 2003 1218 BST
Rob Brydon's as keen as Keith in Norwich
Pic: Rob Brydon in Marion And Geoff.
Rob Brydon as the eternally chipper Keith in the hit TV series Marion And Geoff.
Comedian Rob Brydon is reprising his role as Keith, the cheery but hapless cabbie from TV's Marion And Geoff, for the stage.

The Welsh comic is bringing his one-man show, Making Divorce Work, to the Norwich Playhouse on 9 April.

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Tickets cost £12.50 from the Marion And Geoff Tour hotline 09065 581 058 or call Norwich Playhouse box office on 01603 598598.

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Marion And Geoff was first broadcast three years ago on BBC2 and was part of the new wave of reality comedy.

Brydon's dark monologue - co-written with Hugo Blick - earned him a British Comedy Award for Best Newcomer.

A second series is now being screened, but this time Brydon plays a chauffeur instead of a taxi driver. However, that's where the changes end between this series and the first.

The character of Keith still talks into the camera mounted on his dashboard about his relationship with his adulterous ex-wife, Marion, and their two sons.

Peter Cook spoke to Rob Brydon ahead of his Norwich date about being a vertically-challenged actor, Keith's bigger car and rubbing shoulders with Kylie.

Most people will know you from Marion And Geoff but you've been in plenty of other programmes and even on the big screen haven't you?

Yes, I've paid my dues. I was in a film called First Knight with Sean Connery and Richard Gere. I played the part of 'first villager'. When I went to audition for that it was very embarrassing.

I have a theory that the collective noun for actors should be a "humiliation of actors".

When I auditioned for the part I met the casting director called Mary Sellway, who is a grande dame of English cinema. She looked at me and said to her assistant, "Now what could Rob do in this?" Her assistant said, "Erm, maybe a marauder." She looked at me and said, "Hmmm. Five foot seven, no, I think maybe first villager!"

I was clearly too short to be a marauder, you can't be a marauder at five foot seven - you'd be laughed out of town.

So she gave me this script and I had to say, "No, please, no I beg of you..." That was it, I had to be a man who got shot...and I got the part.

But three days afterwards I got a call from my agent who said, "Bad news with the film, I'm afraid you haven't got your lines anymore." So I still did it and my lines ended up with an actor who went on to be in EastEnders.

But I have also been a presenter on BBC Radio Wales and I'm the voice of the Andrex Puppy, which I'm very proud of because it's a lovely advert and a super puppy.

How do you and Hugo Blick write Marion And Geoff?

We get together in an office and spend a few months talking about what could have happened to Keith since the last series.

We'll hit on an idea and we'll get a tape recorder out. Hugo would get a tape recorder out and ask me questions, like what if Keith said this or did that. He takes that away and structures it and adds stuff to it and then brings it back. We'll go through it again and add to it again.

We then go to the car with a finished script. Sometimes it may say Keith talks about, say, garden furniture and I'll just make that up on the spot. Within all that sometimes I'll just improvise because that's what I like.

Then Hugo comes back and edits it and it's his skill in the edit to break that down into usable chunks.

I think one of the great skills is the edit. To keep our attention it needs great editing. So I could look through a show with you and say that bit was made up on the day and that bit was entirely scripted.

Is it true that you got a larger car this time just so Hugo could come along?

[Laughs] No, he's always come along but in the last series we had a small car and he got a bit sick.

But this time we've got a big Chrysler and Hugo comes along in the back and my mate Dave Lambert is there too. He works for the production company and so all credit to him that he managed to fit into that very intense relationship that Hugo and I have.

Who is Keith talking to?

I don't know that we've ever said who it is. I'm wary because Hugo may have a different idea on this than me. He's obviously aware because he leans forward and switches the camera on and off. Some say he's sending tapes to his kids.

In this series he shows you audio cassettes of his days out, he goes to places where you might take kids and records himself there then sends it to his children. We didn't feel it was necessary to explain, it's just, this is how it is.

I suppose it's on the same lines of the way he never talked in the first series about being a taxi driver. He never said look at the state of these roads or guess who I had in the back of my cab. We just said this is his life. For whatever reason he is recording stuff because as far as I'm aware we have never said.

There's plenty of music in the series, who chooses that?

Again it's Hugo and myself. Some of it's from my collection, some of it's from his. I think that's one of his great strengths, seeing how the music can help the drama, inform the drama.

There's a lovely bit in episode six, a piece of music by Ash right at the end which I'd never heard of but Hugo brought that in one day.

My stuff was Johnny Cash, Tom Petty and Slade. It's a mishmash. It's like when you talk about where the ideas come from. In this series Keith's son breaks his arm and that came directly from my son breaking his arm in a soft play area, but then it was also informed by Hugo's experiences of taking his kids to hospital.

So it's an amalgam of things and we build it up that way. Things that may have happened to us and things that we may have observed in other people.

And you've met Kylie haven't you on Jonathan Ross's show. Were you tempted to do a bit of Justin Timberlake?

[Laughs] It's funny when you meet these people because people say "Oh, you've met Kylie Minogue" but we sort of met each other when we sat on the couch before the show and she signed some photos for my kids.

I heard that her Mum had come from Wales so we had a little chat but really at these things you're there to do a job. She was whisked away at the end and you get a glimpse of that type of fame and it's not terribly appealing.

It always helps, and this sounds awfully shallow, if people like that have seen your show because that makes a big difference. You're on a level footing with them and you'd be surprised at the people who have seen it who are big fans.

I went to an awards ceremony a few years ago and Elvis Costello was there and I'm a big fan of his so I went over to say hello and he said, "I know who you are." Then he reeled off all my credits, quoting stuff I'd done, I never expected that.

Then I've met other people and I've thought they'll know and they don't know you from Adam.

Tell us about the stage show.

The idea behind it is what would Keith do if he were asked to come and give a talk about divorce. What he does is give a talk with a slide show called Making Divorce Work. He says, "I am a divorced man myself and I can honestly say I have never been happier."

He says, "I will slip in a few jokes through the evening because it's a very heavy subject."

For example, if you are going to get divorced you have to be like the man at the tollbooth, you have to be prepared to accept change.

And there is lots of change, one of the first things to change is the locks, you may find that your key no longer fits your wife's locks.

He says Paul Simon once said there are 50 ways to leave your lover, slip out the back Jack, make a new plan Stan and 48 others.

At the end of the evening my favourite part is a counselling session where the audience can ask questions and you get some lovely moments. They know it's a very special moment and that can be lovely.

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