In 2009, myself and a good friend of mine decided to write a piece about a comedy double act who had been friends forever, but who fell out after years performing on stage together. The double act were the titular Al and Ned, and their black comedy demise was played out live on stage in front of an audience. They attempt to keep the show going, with sketches, songs, and a bit of stand-up thrown in for good measure. But it all goes sour as the tensions between them blow-up and their personal feud explodes into the audience.
Paul, and I worked on this for some months passing draft -after-draft between us. We worked on the sketches and blocked them for performance in my living room. We enlisted the help of friends and family and created a show that we would go on to take to the Buxton Fringe and then onward to the Edinburgh Festival. It involved us writing a song that was be arranged for performance by my sister and would end up being recorded by a big band from Leicester. Rehearsals took place in Sheffield and London and Paul and I stared in the show; Paul as Al, and I played Ned.
We had an audience every night, and some people were even kind enough to laugh on occasion at some of the things that came out of our mouths.
If you would like to see a beardless version of me performing this onstage; you can see a video here. We were in the scruffiest venue on the fringe, and this video was filmed by a stand-up comedian I met while out handing out flyers who came and watched the show :
Ned: I’ve been thinking of going straight.
Al: I didn’t even know you were gay?
Ned: No, I mean doing some straight acting…maybe get in on some of these Welsh remakes.
Al: Oh yeah, like what?
Ned: I’ve heard that they are making the welsh language version of “Taxi Driver”.
Al: Oh right, “Driver Tacsi“, is it?
Ned: That’s right. So I’ve been working on my audition speech. You wanna see it?
Al: Yeah, go for it.
Ned coughs and gets “into character”.
Ned: Ti’n siarad I fi? Ti’n siarad I fi? Ti’n siarad I fi? Felly pwy I ti’n siarad a? Ti’n siarad I fi? Fi yw’r unig un yma?Pwy y fyc ti’n credy ti’n siarad a? Oh ie? OK?
Al: I’m considering my response.
Al: Don’t rush me, I want to give you measured constructive feedback. Appraise you on your merits; provide you with some thoughts for improvement.
Al: Well, it’s not easy; you gave a very earnest performance.
Ned: Oh right.
Al: Yeah, mostly it was earnest, very earnest.
Ned: Anything else?
Al: It was quite Welsh wasn’t it?
Ned: Yes, it was the Welsh language “Taxi Driver“.
Al: I see that. Very Welsh.
Ned: Have you got any feedback for me?
Al: Mostly I would suggest doing it in a language people have heard of.
Ned: It has to be Welsh. It’s the Welsh “Taxi Driver“. What about the performance?
Al: What about it?
Ned: Was it any good?
Al: The performance was poo.
Ned: You said it was earnest? That’s good though isn’t it?
Al: It was earnest poo.
Ned: You’re just nasty!
Al: Got to be cruel to be kind. What else you got?
Ned: You know I did Brad Pitt’s part on the Welsh dub of “Fight Club“, don’t you?
Al: I did not know that about you. I know everything else about you, I’ve spent almost every day of my life with you since I was old enough to remember, and I have to admit…I’m not sure where I was the day you did that, or any of the days after that when you may have mentioned it, or even spent some of your royalty cheque!
Ned: What you saying, you saying I am lying?
Al: C’mon, these people know you don’t get a Welsh dub on a DVD.
Ned: You do if you go to Dai V. Dee.
AL: Dai V. Dee?
Ned: Dai Video’s Shop.
Al: I’ve never even heard of Dai Video.
Ned: Started out in Betamax he did. You must know him. Had the first video shop in Wales, he did.
Ned: Anyway, he runs that DVD shop in town.
Al: Ah right.
Ned: And he commissions me to do over dubs now and again.
Al: Well… dew-dew!
Ned: So, you wanna see my Tyl-er Dur-den?
Ned coughs and gets “into character” again.
Ned: Rheol cyntaf Clwb Ymladd yw – nid I chi’n siarad am Clwb Ymladd! Ail rheol y Clwb Ymladd yw – NID I CHI’N siarad am Clwb Ymladd! Trydydd rheol Clwb Ymladd, os mae rhywun yn screchen stop, mynd yn llipa neu’n tapio allan maer brwydir drosodd!
Al: (Cutting in) Can I stop you there?
Al: Well, its just sounds, isn’t it? It doesn’t mean anything does it?
Ned: Al, we should be up here championing the Welsh language. Did you know that far from being a dying language more and more people every year are starting to speak it. Welsh is a living language. And the Welsh Language Act of 1993 and the Government of Wales Act of 1998 have only increased the relevance of the language in today’s society.
Pause. Al is clearly impressed.
Al: Wow! Yes Ned! That was an amazing statement! Really! What else about the Welsh language do you think we need to change?
Pause. Ned is impervious to Al’s excitement.
Al: What else should we champion? What else should we do to get the language into a wider spectrum?
Al: A wider spectrum?
Ned: That’s a computer, innit?
Al: No! What you just said about the Welsh language.
Ned: Well, what did I say?
Al: You just said that the Welsh Language Act of 1993 and the Government of Wales Act of 1998 have increased the relevance of the language in today’s society.
Ned: Doesn’t sound like something I’d say…
Al: But you said it Ned!!
Ned: Well, I can’t remember in that case…
The Buxton show was reviewed– and based on the reviews we fine tuned the ending, and did less chasing :
From a Biblical workout program, to a pirate themed Ready Steady Cook (wittily named ‘Ready Steady Hook’), to a Welsh detective agency in a town where everybody knows everybody, Al and Ned cover a vast range of amusing ideas throughout their sketches, which they also break up with song, dance and a lot of banter between the two actors.
As the piece progresses with more and more sketches, we see Al and Ned as their relationship gets more and more strained until a battle of auditorium sized proportions ensues. It can definitely be said that during the entire piece, Al and Ned display astounding amounts of exuberance and enthusiasm that shine throughout. They seem to create a sort of childlike humour which at times is amusing, but others is a bit garish. Be prepared for a lot of Welsh sheep jokes and bad language towards the end! The clever use of voice-overs/music at points in the play make the sketches all the more entertaining.
While unfortunately the piece did seem to lose it’s focus towards the end of the performance, with Al chasing Ned around the auditorium shouting profanities (which seemed to go on a bit too long), and then proceeding to refuse to come on stage (all of which might have been remedied with more control over their ‘banter’ sections and more focus on their sketches), overall Al and Ned have produced an intriguing and amusing performance.
The Skinny reviewed the show in Edinburgh: … They have a solid one hour show, a double act trying to get through their sketches without killing each other. The sketches, in between the bickering tiffs, are the weaker sections though – funny, not hilarious, but energetically performed and avoiding cliché. Better is the building tension between the double act, who are barely containing their exasperation. They are a good pair of contrasting personalities, the uptight and the lazy, and though it’s not the most original idea they play it very well. Its a good show, and you’re unlikely to be able to keep a straight face.
We went on to write a sort of alternative version to the show, but this time it was a play without so much of the comedy staring the same characters. The play saw Al and Ned as middle aged men, weary after years flogging themselves on the circuit. It became more about unrealised ambition, and was probably a more mature piece of writing. The play was submitted to some competitions, but was never designed to be performed by us.