Please note spoiler warnings: Unlike the reports I wrote of Season 3 episode recordings where I gave the names of the episodes, I won’t do so this time. There will be NO spoilers of events that take place in the episodes. I will, however, give the initial letter of the two episodes, and will name the guest actors, though not the characters they play, but one or more of their names may – or may not – automatically constitute a spoiler. Or not. (Bloody hell, how more vague do you want me to be?!) There will be mention of one character who has been talked about in previous episodes but has not appeared onscreen (or rather, on air) before now. If you’re a total spoilerphobe, don’t read on. Otherwise …
I met up with the lovely Mystradedoodles to whom I’d given my second ticket after spotting her plea on Tumblr. In return she joined the queue at 8.30 (and still only got sticker number 39!), allowing me to arrive at a slightly more civilised time.
But if ever there was a reward for being patient, a colleague from work and her boyfriend arrived late to the queue, by which time all the guaranteed stickers had gone. They were given stand-by stickers but these were numbered in the mid-twenties, so it seemed unlikely that they would get in. Nevertheless they waited, and amazingly and somewhat miraculously they got in because some of the others who had had stand-bys had apparently given up and left.
May all the gods bless the RADA Studios for having finally realised that fangirls can’t be trusted to play fair and will shove their way through a crowd with no thought for others’ safety. This time – for the first time – they allowed people into the theatre in sticker number order, ten at a time – a much safer idea and it gave justified priority to those who had queued the longest.
Almost – almost – disappointingly, today they did the two episodes whose drafts I had already heard at John Finnemore’s early run-throughs at the Priory Tavern some weeks ago. It was nice to hear the finalised versions and how they had changed, although it would have been nice to have heard two new episodes. At least we don’t have to wait long before the series starts!
Benedict arrived on stage wearing the obligatory scarf, together with a T-shirt and shirt and a bloody great long beret on his head, for reasons that escape me (there are photos here) [Edit: actually, now I look at the photos I realise that it wasn’t actually a beret, but it looked like it from the side!]. The hat and scarf came off quite quickly, the shirt was undone by the beginning of the second episode and even that came off during the episode to reveal his favourite grey Bridge T-shirt that we’ve all seen a zillion times before.
Guest actors for this episode were Dan Tetsell (who some of you may know as the voice of Marion the cat in Mongrels – and if I had known this at the time instead of only finding out later when I googled his name for the spelling, I would have pounced on him and hugged him because I love Marion to bits), Kieran Hodgson, Matilda Ziegler and Anthony Head, the latter of whom came on to huge applause and a massive cheer. There had been rumours that he was in the area because someone in the queue had seen him in a coffee shop nearby, but we had wondered whether it might be just coincidence.
After David Tyler, the producer, had done his usual introduction, John Finnemore came to the microphone to say, “To all who queued up in the cold, you’re mad, but I like you.” He added, “To those who didn’t queue up in the cold … how did you get in?!”
For one scene which takes place in a sunny place, Tony Head put on sunglasses before he came to the microphone!
In an early scene Arthur was doing some movements, and John actually did the movements while Ben helpfully held his script for him in his free hand so he could still read it.
Tony struggled to say the words, “soft shoe shuffle,” repeating the line three times with much giggling in between each attempt. After the third attempt (which still wasn’t quite successful) he gave up and went back to his seat. Roger Allam came forward to do the next scene and asked in his smoothest voice, “Can I do it for you?”
Benedict was the next one to fluff a line, saying, “… in Fritton. … Not Fritton, Fitton!” John instantly said, “It’s twinned with Fritton.”
As always, Ben’s facial acting was amazing and produced laughs in places that just won’t work in a radio recording! At one point, in reaction to a great moment in the episode, he leapt into the air with delight!
Dan played two characters during this episode, one of whom was Karl from ATC who had some of the most hilarious lines of the entire episode. If they get cut, I shall not be happy!
After the episode was done, David came on to ask for the usual batch of re-takes, telling the crew, “Not many, but the first one is page … one.”
As Roger struggled to turn the page of his script silently, dramatically backing away from the microphone and almost doubling over as he tried hard to get the page turned, Ben struck a pose and said, “Theatrical? Moi?”
Tony and Stephanie were asked to re-do part of the scene in the sunny place, at which Tony promptly fished out the sunshades and flambuoyantly put them on again. There had been mention of Herc’s ex-wives earlier in the episode, so when Tony then accidentally called Stephanie’s character “Caroline” and then cursed as he turned away from the microphone, John promptly said, “That was his third wife!”
Going back to the lines where Arthur had been doing some actions, David told the audience, “We need John to do [these lines] again, but without laughter this time.” John, who had already stood up and was dramatically doing lunges ready to do the moves again, looked round with a very hurt expression on his face, prompting the obligatory “Aww” from the audience. After re-recording the lines while the audience dutifully kept quiet, David added, “We might put a diagram in the Radio Times.” Then he paused and scoffed, “The Radio Times! Who gets that any more?!” Instantly Roger told him straight-faced and sternly, “I do.”
Inevitably one of the re-takes was another attempt by Tony to do the “soft shoe shuffle” line and yet again he cocked it up. Benedict stood up and said, “Maybe if we all stand round?” and he, Roger and John then surrounded Tony, egging him on enthusiastically with Ben standing in front of him yelling encouragingly, “Come on, Anthony!” Tony promptly nailed the line, to huge cheers from the audience!
While some of the cast were re-doing another line, John was having a quiet conversation with David, who then came back to the microphone and said, “John has been writing while we’ve been recording.” John added, “This’ll be a record for getting a script in late!” before giving a new line over to record.
It’ll be interesting to hear whether they keep in a part of the episode which produced enormous shouts of laughter from the audience but which really do need you to have heard a previous episode to understand it.
Edited to add extra notes after the episode was broadcast:
I’m thrilled that Karl’s lines appear not to have been cut at all.
Kudos to David Tyler for his seamless editing of the ‘soft shoe shuffle’ line. The cheer that went up from the audience when Tony got it right was almost immediate but David has cleverly cut it with (presumably) laughter from another line so that it doesn’t appear out of place.
The brand new line which John wrote during the episode was Douglas saying, “Martin? I fear you’re looking directly at the king.”
The bit which I was concerned might be cut was the Yellow Car/Green Truck/Black Dog game. I was already more hopeful that they might keep the lines in when the Yellow Car game was also reprised in Timbuktu.
Guest actors in this episode were Dan Tetsell (playing a different character to the previous episode), Justin Edwards, Prunella Scales (who was introduced with awestruck reverence by David) and Rosie Cavaliero. John then came to the mic but just stood there with wide eyes while silently mouthing, “Prunella Scales!!” repeatedly before turning and walking back to his seat.
Ben stuttered over a couple of lines in one scene, prompting David to ask, “Sorry, can we go again?” Ben replied plaintively, “Please can we go again?!”
If unnecessary actions had been part of the earlier episode, there were even more in this one, which prompted such hysteria from the audience that it was inevitable that they’d have to do the lines again - to just as much hysteria second time around. I won’t reveal what happened in detail but I never thought I’d see the day when Benedict Cumberbatch was hauled off his feet one-handed by another man who was so tall that Ben’s feet were dangling in the air. Of course Ben completely played up to it, plaintively waggling his legs around.
There was a long pause during a big ensemble scene as everyone waited for the right person to say their line. As the pause began to get awkward, Ben suddenly exclaimed, “Shit!” as he realised it was his line they were waiting for.
While struggling to turn the page at one point, Ben said apologetically, “Very fat thumbs!”
Martin’s sister is in this episode but oddly it had been decided to stop pronouncing her name “Caitlin” and instead call her “Catlin.” I don’t know if there’s an explanation for this in the T or U episodes, but it seemed to cause confusion and more than one character seemed to stumble slightly when saying her name. It threw Ben when he was doing the closing credits but for the wrong reasons as he said, “Rosie Cavaliero as Catlin … Catlin! I said it right!” Coming back to the mic for another try at the credits, he bemoaned, “Oh God, it’s a never-ending nightmare!”
John had done another late re-write, prompting David to announce, “Basically John’s gonna do a couple of his acoustic numbers.”
I’ll leave others – or the presenter herself – to blog about the presentation of the Lemons and Landmarks book to John (her first report is here and a video of her presentation of the book to John is here). I will say that John was utterly blown away by the book and couldn’t stop rifling through it and showing it to the audience. He was clearly chuffed to bits by it, and totally gobsmacked by the fundraising that had gone with it. Well done to everyone involved.
Oh, and if you really really want to know the episode titles, highlight the blacked-out names below:
Vaduz and Wokingham.
And with that, this is Ariane DeVere signing off with – as always after a Cabin Pressure recording – sore feet, an aching back, dehydration, ringing ears, and a huge happy smile on her face. Hi and thanks to everyone who chatted in the queue, especially to the girls who were handing out candy canes and wearing awesome crocheted fingerless gloves with captain’s bars on them, to everyone who fretted about my bare feet and whether I was getting chilblains (I really wasn’t!), and to Mystradedoodles for the coffee and the badge!