Bizarre Bath - The Comedy Walk
Reviewed by Jez Rose
beautiful sunny April evening and I'm here in Bath, that historic city where
many years ago people came to have their ailments healed by the mystical powers
of the Roman Baths but where for the last 16 years people have flocked for a
very different mystical evening...
Turns out that I wasn't alone as I mingled outside the Huntsman Inn - several people have driven to Bath this evening, especially to see Bizarre Bath. My trip was two hours and if I'm honest, I was genuinely excited but very prepared to be let down. You see, there's been a lot of hype about Bizarre Bath and there aren't any bad reviews about it, which made me a tiny bit suspicious. Plus, I'd seen Noel do short stints on both television and live but never a long set - and the walk lasts 90 minutes.
Bizarre Bath is Noel Britten's brainchild of a comedy walk - essentially it's the love-child of a guided tour of the city of Bath (which is a lovely city and worth the trip but only if you're planning on doing the Bizarre Bath walk also) and roaming street theatre, just with very little (...if any) history! That's my kind of walk! Grandma wouldn't have liked it but so what? She wasn't there! I took my neighbor along with me to get a normal person's view of it and as we waited outside, I noticed quite a large crowd of people gathering and wondered if perhaps the Huntsman Inn was the starting point for several guided tours. They wouldn't stand still long enough for me to count, but I got to 107 before it became too much.
Noel dutifully walked out of the pub at 8pm and all 107+ people gathered round him. They were all here for the Bizarre Bath walk! 90 minutes sounds like a long time to be walking but I only looked at my watch once and that was only when the woman we were waving to in a restaurant (yes, all 107 of us) decided it would be appropriate to lift her top and flash her chest. I felt my oesophagus go into spasm so to prevent myself from being violently sick, I decided to check the time in order to avert my gaze. It is simply the finest event/show/walk I've ever been on, full of Noel's expertly timed comedy (there's no one like him when it comes to timing and delivery) - so perfect that despite how absurd and familiar one supposed interruption was (I won't spoil it here because it is simply brilliant), Noel's delivery and presentation even had me wonder if perhaps it might not have meant to happen - even though I'd done the same stunt on television! Another example of Noel's brilliant timing and delivery is the ring vanish using a helium balloon - as it flies off into the distance it seems only right, for Noel, to "move on". A head-chopper, keys of baldpate and plenty of excellent sight gags provided wonderful entertainment which flowed so naturally - none of the pieces, stunts or tricks were forced, each one woven into the tour with spoof or comical history that had the entire crowd in fits of laughter (I'm sure she won't mind me telling you but my neighbor nearly wet herself - twice). But the piece de resistance for me, and for most on the tour, was Noel's excellent (it must be a signature piece) rabbit escape - I shan't tell you anymore than that he ties up a rabbit, puts it in a mailbag, with weights, and lobs it into the canal. The effect is sensational and gets you right when you think you've seen it all. He should market it - it's that good. But only to me, naturally. There is plenty of magic throughout but it is professionally balanced with comedy, audience interaction, irreverent stunts (which make you laugh stupidly) and Noels' wonderful persona. You also get to see a lot of the city of Bath, often stopping outside such landmarks as the City Cathedral, the Roman Baths and little lanes stacked full of history. I've been to Bath before and I highly recommend this tour to combine an evening's entertainment and a sightseeing tour without the distraction of aching feet.
His rapport with the multinational crowd (South Africa, New Zealand, Amsterdam, America, Germany and Brazil on our tour - odd woman she was) is perfect and you visibly see them warm to him, racing to get nearer to this funny man who has even the hardest of men bowing to him while wiggling their fingers, or keeping a watch out for 'strangers'. The best bit about it is it's only seven quid - or a fiver if you're a tight student (just pay the full price, the extra two quid still isn't enough for what you get) and there's no booking - you simply turn up. There is a (very remote, but still possible) chance that you could turn up on a day that not enough people are there to do the walk (Noel likes a minimum of 10). But the average size crowd is 50 so if you turn up and no one else is there, it probably wasn't a very lucky day for you anyway and I'd advise you don't drive home.
If you're looking for somewhere to eat, we ate in a delightful and very tasty fish restaurant (obviously, don't go there if you're allergic to fish) called OnefishTwofish. It's a family run restaurant and the only independent fish restaurant in bath. Excellently priced and one of the finest restaurants I've ever eaten in.
My career as a comedy performer has seen me work with and alongside the likes of Elton John, Madonna, Jonathan Ross, Alan Carr, Jackie Chan and even Steve Coogan. I've always like Noel Britten but before now I'd never seen him properly work, however, after experiencing Bizarre Bath, I rate him as one of the finest comedians in the country and the fact that he's not super famous, his cheeky grin and tightly curled hair not beaming out from my ostentatious flatscreen, is frankly one of the biggest wrongdoings of the 20th century.
For me, any entertainment I see is judged by that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when it's over. The feeling of fulfillment and the inability to wipe the smirk from your face. Bizarre Bath does this and more.
I loved it - and so will you.
No conflict of interest to declare.
© Jez Rose, April 2007