We were lucky enough to secure the last ten tickets for a truly remarkable show on December 1st. While a charity comedy gala – in aid of World AIDS Day and fund-raising for the Royal Free Hospital – would in itself be an exciting and worthwhile destination for a school trip, to be so fortunate as to encounter a line-up including (among others) Rowan Atkinson, Julian Clary, Mitchell and Webb, Harry Hill, Lee Mack, Jack Whitehall, The Overtones and the League of Gentleman (back together for the first time in eight years) was an honour indeed.
After trekking up to the Adelphi Theatre (and a brief sojourn to McDonald’s en route), we were welcomed by Little Britain’s Matt Lucas, our compere for the night, speaking over the tannoy. From here on in a breathtaking array of performers and special guests trooped on to entertain us, beginning with special guest Graham Norton and one of his – only slightly off-colour – anecdotes. Mitchell and Webb were on sterling form, a particular favourite of mine, with a mix of new material and old classics, such as the party planners considering whether to invite James Bond to their soiree. (“I mean, why would I have any Martini, what does he think it is, 1973?”) Other highlights were Tim Vine, whose non-stop selection of puns perhaps went down the best with the Cranleigh boys, and Rowan Atkinson – his performance of the renowned schoolmaster monologue was worth the ticket price alone. His deadpan delivery remains utterly hilarious, as well as a few choice additions to the script: “Hitler? Is Hitler here? Put your hand down, Hitler…”
Possibly my other personal highlight of the evening was Julian Clary, who despite reaching middle age continues to put in sterling comedic performances. While he may have mellowed somewhat – not even a mention of Norman Lamont – he is still a master of the razor-sharp put-down, particularly when strolling down the aisles: “Alright dear? Yes, please don’t touch or breathe on me…” Nevertheless, considering the World AIDS Day theme, his closing song about where homosexuality is still illegal or punishable by death across the world was a poignant reminder that though we have come a long way in this country, many other places have some catching up to do.
It was certainly a night to remember, and a privilege to be in the company of so many legendary artists, as well as a reminder of the comedy talent produced by the UK over the last few decades. I thank Tim Ramsey for his assistance with the trip, and very much look forward to our next excursion to see Hal Cruttenden (of Live at the Apollo and Mock the Week fame) at the Cranleigh Arts Centre on the 1st of March 2014.