Still Ac­tive on stage

COM­EDY TEAM RADIO AC­TIVE IS BACK TO CEL­E­BRATE ITS 40TH AN­NIVER­SARY. HE­LEN ATKIN­SON WOOD TELLS MAR­ION McMULLEN WHY CLAS­SIC PUNCHLINES ARE THE PER­FECT LAUGH­TER FIX

Llanelli Star - - SPOT LIGHT -

What’s it like per­form­ing again with fel­low Radio Ac­tive regulars An­gus Deay­ton, Philip Pope and Michael Fen­ton Stevens?

RADIO Ac­tive is al­ways on BBC Radio 4 in one way or an­other. We went to Ed­in­burgh in 2016 and again last year and had such a bril­liant time. We ab­so­lutely stormed it. Then we went off on tour and did Glas­ton­bury as well.

It’s now the 40th an­niver­sary of the show first be­ing per­formed live on stage.

What’s the se­cret of your suc­cess?

WE all love each other. It’s just very nice be­ing to­gether and do­ing the show. We’re a very close group. We all go on hol­i­day to­gether and spend Christ­mas to­gether.

We know each other’s good points and we are just a close knit group of friends. It’s a re­ally cheery thing when we go out on tour.

We sadly lost our beloved Geoffrey Perkins, one of the orig­i­nal writ­ers and per­form­ers, and he was sim­ply one of the finest writ­ers around. He pro­duced shows like Fa­ther Ted and his shadow still lights our path.

You orig­i­nally went to Ox­ford to study fine art. How did the per­form­ing side come about?

I HAD it in my mind to do some act­ing when I went to Ox­ford. I loved it when I was a teenager and I thought ‘there’s a chance to do some plays here’. Then this red-haired boy came up and asked if I would like to do a re­view with him and his friend Howard Goodall.

And the red-haired boy was Richard Cur­tis. He’s played a huge part in my ca­reer in gen­eral and I started to do com­edy shows with him. Then Radio Ac­tive be­gan.

All our lives were just con­verg­ing. I also cut my teeth at the Bel­grade The­atre In Ed­u­ca­tion com­pany in Coventry. You re­ally had to get stuck in. It would be 9am and the schoolkids would be want­ing to go to the toi­let all the time when you were do­ing a drama about the plight of the In­di­ans. Fab­u­lous.

Radio Ac­tive re­volves around a spoof lo­cal radio sta­tion and it trans­formed into KYTV on BBC2 in 1989. Has the hu­mour stood the test of time?

IT re­mains very fresh with the songs and sketches. We were sur­prised by how tremen­dously it’s been re­ceived and that’s made us say ‘let’s do it’.

We did the London Pal­la­dium re­cently for the 100 Hearts char­ity fundraiser and Radio Ac­tive raised the roof. Per­form­ing live on stage was where we all met and now we are per­form­ing the shows again with scripts in hand as we did the first time around along with lots of mu­sic, jin­gles and sound ef­fects.

Are the spoof jin­gles back too?

YES, we do all those. They are just hi­lar­i­ous, if I say so my­self. It’s a very daft show.

So much com­edy on TV now is in a much darker place. There is a lot of clever com­edy around that is very ac­com­plished, but it’s not funny.

Radio Ac­tive is a very light, ironic and ef­fu­sively sunny sort of show. I’m not one of the writ­ers so I can say it’s a priv­i­lege to per­form it.

The good qual­ity writ­ing in terms of jokes is now reach­ing a com­pletely new au­di­ence.

Like Black­ad­der, it is al­ways be­ing shown in some part of the world. All the el­e­ments are in place in Radio Ac­tive and the scripts are sure­fire winners. You just have to sit back and en­joy.

Was it dif­fi­cult to slip back into play­ing char­ac­ters such as the food-ob­sessed TV pre­sen­ter Anna Dap­tor?

(LAUGHS) I’ve never re­ally left her. I do quite a lot of pre­sent­ing as well – in among the oth­ers things I do – a poly­math. Very funny things al­ways hap­pen to Anna that don’t nec­es­sar­ily hap­pen when you are pre­sent­ing tele­vi­sion and radio shows your­self.

Do you have fond memories of play­ing pie shop owner Mrs Mig­gins in Black­ad­der The Third?

MRS MIG­GINS was writ­ten by Richard Cur­tis with me in mind. It’s al­ways ner­vous when you are do­ing some­thing new, but that felt like it was go­ing to be fun from the start.

I al­ways for­get about the pies, but when we all get to­gether for au­to­graphs events in places like Olympia there are lots of peo­ple around who have brought pies or brought oddly-shaped sausages to be signed. (Laughs)

It’s quite fan­tas­tic... and there are a lot of pie jokes.

What do you al­ways take with you on tour?

(LAUGHS) Other than An­gus, Philip and Michael? Not much re­ally. I don’t do knit­ting or any­thing like that back­stage, there’s never any time. We are all on stage all the time.

The busi­ness of act­ing re­quires a cer­tain amount of stamina, but when you’ve done it all your life you’re used to the marathon.

What’s your per­fect way to re­lax?

WHEN I’m not work­ing I like to swim in the North Sea – I’m very keen on the sea – and do yoga. I have a horse and I like to ride through the Suf­folk coun­try­side. I know they are all very ac­tive things, but I like to keep very fit.

I do lots of dif­fer­ent other sorts of work – pre­sent­ing and voiceovers and things. I still paint and I’m pa­tron of an arts fes­ti­val in East Anglia called The INK Fes­ti­val and I’ve al­ways been in­volved with Comic Re­lief.

I think when you do a lot it can be very en­er­gis­ing. (Laughs) I sleep re­ally well but I hit the ground run­ning every day. ■ The Radio Ac­tive na­tional tour be­gins on April 24. Go to so­com­edy. co.uk for ticket de­tails.

He­len Atkin­son-Wood in Radio Ac­tive at the London Pal­la­dium with An­gus Deay­ton

He­len with the KYTV cast and, right, as Mrs Mig­gins in Black Ad­der The Third with Rowan Atkin­son and Tony Robin­son

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