Al Murray to tour for anniversary
CHARLIE Brooker, the acerbic newspaper columnist turned acerbic television presenter, is a computer games geek.
A man in his forties, who plays ‘first person games’ on consoles like the X Box – it all seems a bit sad, right? To think so is to fail to understand where these first person games began. The progenitor was a phenomenally successful series of books that sold 250 million around the world in the 1980s and 1990s.
Their tagline was: You’re the Star of the Story! Many people who read them will remember the thrill of being given options at each turning point of the story , crafting the tale for yourself as you went along. Nathan Penlington remembers the thrill well.
Growing up in the eighties, he was a CYOA obsessive. We all were. Revisiting some of the books as an adult, he came across something unusual and his literary imaginings thrust themselves into his everyday world. “A diary just dropped out of the book. It had been written by a child, 20 years ago, someone who was probably the same age as me, mid to late thirties,” says Penlington. “The diary was full of these stories about how whoever had written it had done incredible things.”
Perhaps it was the mindset he was in, given that he was reading a book which demanded adventure, or perhaps it is simply something about Penlington: either way, he had to find the diary’s author. He had a name – Terrence Prendergast – and not much else. A writer, poet and filmmaker, Penlington enlisted the help of some kindred spirits, explained what he had found and the adventure he was about to embark upon.
The filmmaker friends jumped on board and Choose Your Own Adventure became Choose Your Own Documentary, the story of how Penlington set about tracking down the mystery boy who secreted his diary in the pages of a children’s book.
The documentary, which is being screened at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, has also been turned into a stage show, which is coming to Harrogate Theatre next month.
“It could be a very short show. The audience chooses how the show happens, what I do, what decisions I make. At the very beginning I explain how I found the diary and then give them the option to either have me try find Terrence Prendergast or not. If they choose not to, it will be an early night for everyone,” says Penlington.
That hasn’t happened yet. What actually happens in the show, a hit at last year’s Edinburgh festival, is that the audience go on the journey. Each audience member is given a keypad and they can choose the next step of the adventure, just as they do in the books, and follow Penlington on the journey which, crucially, they send him on.
“There are 1,566 different versions of this show and it changes every night, depending on the choices the audience makes,” says Penlington. “It makes for a show where the audience are genuinely invested, they really do buy in to the story.”
It’s about more than that though.
“People come and talk to me about the choices they have made – about choosing to be with one person instead of their true sweetheart, about choosing to stay in a job they don’t love,” says Penlington. “It’s a show about making us look at the choices we make and understanding why.”
Choose Your Own Documentary, Harrogate Theatre, May 16. 01423 502116. COMEDIAN Al Murray will be taking his pub landlord character to York.
20 years ago Al Murray brought The Pub Landlord into the world and ever since he has wowed audiences with the landlord’s own opinions on life.
And to celebrate this milestone he will go on tour with his new show One Man. One Guvnor.
Tickets are now on sale and you can see him at the Grand Opera House in York on November 16. For tickets call the Box Office on 0844 871 3024 or visit: www.atgtiockets.com/ york.
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