As with my write-up for Rotterdam, there’ll be no specific spoilers for what happens in the episodes which were recorded at this session on the 29th of April, although I’ll drop a few vague hints about particular moments to look forward to. So, having only realised a few days ago that Cabin Pressure episodes are named in alphabetical order (it’s OK, I’ll wait for you to go and google “Cabin Pressure episodes” ... Right, now do you believe me?!), I had learned that Newcastle, Ottery St. Mary, Rotterdam and St Petersburg had already been recorded and so we would be getting the P and the Q episodes.
As the audience were
filing shoving their way in (please, for God’s sake, theatres, before someone gets killed you need to learn that fangirls are bloody dangerous in their determination to get seats near the front), John Finnemore scampered out into the audience and handed out some pieces of paper which asked everyone to help play a practical joke on producer David Tyler. At the beginning of each recording session while he’s warming up the audience, David asks how many members of the audience got their tickets through the BBC website and how many through the advert in Time Out magazine. As there actually wasn’t an advert in Time Out, which is all part of the joke, he was a little surprised when, on asking people to raise their hands if they got their ticket via the magazine, pretty much the entire audience raised their hands! However, he coped brilliantly with the surprise.
He didn’t cope quite so well with the gasp of slightly appalled horror that came when he went a little too far with a joke about the Royal Wedding that was taking place that day. But never mind; you can’t win ’em all.
The recording was just about to start when Benedict suddenly scampered offstage, causing some consternation until they realised that he had come on with the script for the other episode they were recording today. Or, as either David or John pointed out, he’d left the stage with the red script, which was the colour his face was going to be when he came back out again. Of course, because it was Ben, he got a huge cheer and round of applause on his return.
John Finnemore is a genius. Truly, he really is. I will keep this vague, but I just can’t not talk about it at all. Part of this script reduced the entire audience to tears of laughter when certain ... Holmesian dialogue began to be uttered by none other than Martin Crieff. Seriously, it went on for so long and got funnier and funnier as it went along, and I thought I was going to rupture something I was laughing so hard, and you can just imagine the massive round of applause that happened at the end. Almost unfortunately, Ben had to re-record the first line – the one that had the biggest impact – quite possibly because the audience was shrieking so much with laughter, and I wonder if some of the glorious spontaneity of that first time will be lost a little. But I’ll say it again: that was just pure brilliance from John – and all kudos to Benedict for playing along so superbly.
Benedict looked tired and was a little bit hoarse (though not as much as in the Rotterdam recording), but he genuinely seemed to be having a good time rather than seeing this as a chore in the middle of his current manic life, and there was much giggling between him and his fellow cast members.
John wasn’t happy with his delivery of his final line of the episode and went into a huddle with Roger as David came back down and said a few words to the audience, then John turned around and proudly announced that he had just been having some dialogue coaching from a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
So, a quick loo break for everyone and then they recorded the next episode.
All right, so anyone who predicted in advance that the Q episode would be entitled Qikiqtarjuaq deserves every plaudit going. Google must be wondering why the heck there’s so much interest in that place all of a sudden! John spent a couple of minutes teaching the audience how to say it (Ki-kik-tarj-uak, if I remember correctly), though I suspect he was also dinning it one last time into the cast so that they would remember too!
As the four main actors and the new supporting cast came back out, they suddenly discovered that there weren’t enough chairs for everyone. This was a sad sign of BBC cuts, lamented David.
As Ben stood up to do the opening credits, David joked from the gallery that this recording was going out live on BBC Four Extra. Ben gulped mock-nervously, then rather unwisely said in front of an audience of fangirls, “Oh dear, my broken flies will go down well, then.”
Benedict seemed to be doing a lot more visual and facial acting this time around, which was great for the audience but did produce some laughter in places that may seem a little strange in the broadcast.
Roger managed to mispronounce “Miami” at one point, accidentally saying, “Mee-ami” instead. As he paused and everyone laughed and then collected themselves, Stephanie brilliantly quipped, “My my.”
Again, I’ll keep this vague, but for crying out loud you just have to listen to this episode to hear Benedict’s fantastically perfect mangling of a foreign accent.
There’s also a revelation about Martin’s life that actually produced whimpers from some members of the audience.
And can I say that there is probably nothing more adorable in this world than the sight of Benedict Cumberbatch trying to silently giggle at the hilarity of John’s script.
He then totally cocked up the end credits, getting several of the words or names wrong and eventually ending, “... The show was a Pozzitive production and I’ll do that again.” And I think that everyone who was in the audience will agree that we’re all so glad that he did get it wrong, because his second and final version – and I assume that it was spontaneous and not pre-planned * – will have you falling off your chair laughing.
[* Thanks to fifthviolet, who noted as follows: And yes, the hilarious re-record of the Qikiqtarjuak outro was definitely unplanned - I was nearish to the front, heard Benedict mumble something to David Tyler after he cocked up the first time, but he didn't hear properly - he asked Benedict to repeat but he just grinned and said something like "No don't worry, I'm just going to do it." And then he did.]
And then we got the delights of what David referred to as the DVD extra: as many of you will already know, Benedict lost his voice a few weeks ago and couldn’t record two episodes and his place was taken by Tom Goodman-Hill. However, they have apparently since decided that while they will leave Tom in as a substitute-Martin in Newcastle, they wanted to re-record Ben’s voice into Ottery St. Mary, and so they recorded those sections of the script today.
John, on goofing a particular line: “Shall I say the things I wrote for me to say?”
I would like to believe that “Jellybabies to manual,” will be a standard catch-phrase by this time next year.
And I also wish to predict that very soon, everyone will be playing Yellow Car. Just sayin’.
I can’t wait to hear this episode in full. Roger, Ben and even John himself kept dissolving into giggles at some of the completely hilarious dialogue in this. I was laughing so hard at times that I missed vast tracts of dialogue. If you can’t imagine a hundred, you will be able to after this.
As always, after recording all the sections, David then came out and asked for particular sections to be redone. Two particular re-records were a single word, presumably because someone had jumped in a little early at the beginning of a scene. David said to John that he wanted to record a simple, “Hey,” from Arthur, then pointed out which one he meant – the one on page 13. “Ah,” said John wisely, “the one with the hint of menace.”
And then after three hours of solid laughter, not to mention three hours of ogling the Pretty One (and his broken flies), I scampered off to the National to collect the Frankenstein tickets that I had miraculously bought on the website late the previous night (and when I told some of the Cabin Pressure queue that I had simply been fortuitous enough to click in at the right moment, I thought I was going to get lynched for a moment!). It was only when I got to my seat that I realised that I was in almost exactly the same position in relation to the stage as I had been that afternoon and – seeing as I’m probably the most recognisable person in any audience *, being the fattest person in the room, I was a bit concerned that Ben might look out and think that I was stalking him!
But that’s OK, because I pretty much was. Now, how much are train tickets to Cardiff ...?
* (well, maybe the second most recognisable person ...)
[Waves to Lucy (hey, I’ve hugged the girl who’s been hugged by Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch!) and her posse, all of whose names I’ve forgotten (apologies), as well as Marie, Jules and Vicky.]