More Batteries Required

Some of my more long-suffering friends will be familiar with No Batteries Required. It started off as a joke in a pub.

Wouldn’t it be funny if a bankrupt chicken farmer kidnapped a celebrity chef? No, tell you what, it would be funnier if the chef had gone to school with the Prime Minister and he got kidnapped as well. And he could be at the farm to

No celebrity chefs were harmed in the production of this play.
No celebrity chefs were harmed in the production of this play.

give his old school chum a government job.

So it got wrote, got recorded, go edited and I sent the script off to Eastern Angles. I’d seen one of their productions done on Bentwaters airbase, near my house and I liked the play and the way they fixed on local stories and used local resources to tell them. The play was about an airman, one of the Americans who used to fly out of Bentwaters until it shut 20 years ago, and in parallel it was about the people who used to live here, in the next village over the other side of the base.

It got finished in May last year. We recorded it just before Christmas. I sent the script to Eastern Angles in January. I edited the recording in March.

I didn’t hear any more until this Thursday. Then I got an email.

I like the dialogue and the sheer bravura of the piece.


What does that even mean?

There are some words and phrases I’ve never bothered to find out exactly what they mean until very recently. Obviously it rarely stopped me from using them. Cartesian dualism, for example. Quantitative easing, which must never be

Ladeezangennelmen, swingin' this town tonight, it's Al Dente! Let's have a big hand!
Ladeezangennelmen, swingin’ this town tonight, it’s Al Dente!

confused with the kind of thing the Weimar Republic did, just creating money out of nowhere. Bravura was another one of those words. Like al dente, who I’d always presumed had a dance band in Philadelphia.

So apparently, according to an online dictionary because I’ve been too busy to get out of bed doing this re-write all day (well no, obviously I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and make some kedgeree and end up with faux chainsmoker Writers Fingers but in fact it’s just where I cleared up some spilt turmeric without a cloth,  oh and to get some wine, obviously) bravura means some really nice things according to the Oxford dictionary.

Great technical skill and brilliance shown in a performance or activity.

A display of great daring, except that wouldn’t wholly make sense in context.

Which was nice, as the saying goes, because that was an email from Eastern Angles, asking for a look at a proper stage version of the play that came in on Thursday. Needless to say I’d said there was a proper stage version ready. Needless to say, there wasn’t. So I had to get my finger out this weekend. Even if it was a curious shade of yellow.

Wish me luck.


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The play what I wrote

Hugely flatteringly if that’s a thing, people are actually listening to No Batteries Required on Soundcloud. I only put it up yesterday.

A Songs Without Music production.
A Songs Without Music production.

If you’ve got 34 minutes to spare you can listen too. It’s an everyday story of country folk, mostly, with some odd and debatably funny things in it.

Without giving away the ending, or the location of the Prime Minister’s tattoo (for security purposes, of course) it’s about a farmer and a celebrity chef. The funny things happened when I was writing it. I’d been thinking about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who screamingly funnily becomes Pew Farley-Toherstall for the purposes of the play. So far so so. But he really did go to school and then up to Oxford with David Cameron. And if not even David Cameron would be bonkers enough to make Jeremy Clarkson Minister for Transport, there were certainly very strong rumours that Kirsty Alsop was going to be offered a Ministerial post prior to 2010 and turned it down. And she really is Cath Kidston’s cousin. And her daddy really was chairman of Christies. So you can make your own judgement about her career progression dahn the auctions, as she almost certainly doesn’t say unless she’s very drunk indeed.

For me the funniest thing was the pin number on the Prime Minister’s emergency phone. I gave this script to several people to have a look at it before we recorded. A solicitor friend so that the caution was correct, when Tom is at the police station. An actual police sergeant, for some of the procedural stuff. She said she hadn’t been on a firearms job but it sounded about right. Funny. She liked it. Just one thing.

I hate it when a police person says ‘just one thing.’

‘How did you know about the PIN number?’

It’s not really officially secret, she said, but you’re not really supposed to know about it.

And the honest answer is, I didn’t. I made it up. It was the most ridiculous thing I could think of, the most British procedural thing I could imagine, the thing you’d be most likely to forget under stress, which would be the only time you’d need it.

So it’s a fair cop, guv. You’ve got me bang to rights. I’m done up like a kipper. But I ain’t got previous and it was the voices made me do it.

And as she said, in the best Jack Reagan tradition before I poured her some more wine: ‘Shut it.




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