When I heard that there was to be a stage show and tour of Bottom, I was very excited and extremely keen to go and see it. Now I couldn’t just go once, now could I, somehow I ended up seeing it twice.
Tuesday 25th May 1993 – Portsmouth Guildhall
My mum was keen to see it too, so we got tickets to see it in Portsmouth. Travelled by train and in our usual fashion arrived early. It didn’t take long to see a queue forming outside the Guildhall, so went and joined it. Inside I was amazed to see that they had programme/posters and T-shirts for sale, so I spent most of my money on those. The t-shirt was a size small, but was enormous on me, I think I ended up wearing it as a nightdress in years to come. It had the phrase “who needs birds when you’ve got your mates” on the front, not really the best thing for a teenage girl to be wearing, but I didn’t care, it had Rik and Ade on it, and was the first official t-shirt I owned of them (I had previously made myself a Young Ones Tee – but that doesn’t really count.) Believe it or not apart from VHS videos, a few audio cassette tapes/LP’s and some books, there wasn’t really much in the way of merchandise up until now, so for me to finally have a T-shirt was the best thing ever. 7.30pm the show started, with the recognisable theme music played really loud, everyone started cheering as the curtains went up to reveal the iconic set just like the TV show. Rik was the first on stage, and came on to rapturous applause and cheers from the audience. The magic had begun and boy did they go for it, now able to get away with much cruder and far ruder material. Rik, like on every other occasion I’ve seen him was sweating gallons and putting every inch of energy into his performance. They of course know the audience likes to see some mistakes and I’m sure pretended to add lib for some of it – which was very funny and to some extent probably fairly genuine, however you just knew it was now happening at every show. I loved it though, and it was great to be in a room with so many fans laughing and enjoying the same thing at the same time.
Large souvenir programme/poster from 1993.
Friday 18th June 1993 – Southampton Mayflower
Somehow I managed to twist the arm of a friend of mine who wasn’t really a Rik Mayall fan to come with me to see the show for a second time. We met nice and early outside the theatre, I couldn’t help on my way there walk past the dressing rooms – as you never know who you might see! We were hanging around waiting at the side of the theatre, my friend was casually looking at a poster, when I out of the corner of my eye I spotted Rik, he was wearing a busy bright blue Hawaiian shirt (not exactly discrete, if you don’t want to be recognised) he had walked out from a cut way opposite the theatre and then strangely got into a van, which drove up to the top of the road and did a U turn, it then went down the side of the theatre to drop him at the stage door. It literately prevented him from crossing the road, and more than likely in THAT shirt to be hugely recognised. There was already a large group of fans waiting at the stage door and we saw him stood outside for quite a while talking to them and signing autographs. We slowly edged our way down, my friend said “don’t you want to go and see him.” I wasn’t too worried, it looked a bit too crowded for my liking and plus I had already met him and didn’t want to spoil my memories. It was however a lot of fun watching from a distance.
There were cameras set up all over the theatre that night, the show was being filmed tonight and tomorrow for a special video release, which according to a man sat next to us, who worked at H.M.V, will be out sometime in the Autumn. So that will be going on my Christmas list then! Second time round it was just as funny, if not better and yes, they made the exact same mistakes. The Mayflower is a big theatre and it was packed out, we were sat quite near the front at the side of the stalls, so could see all the people sat up in the dress circle and up into the balcony. It was a great evening out and I throughly enjoyed it. However, I had been truly spoilt seeing the Gas episode recorded only two years earlier – I don’t think anything will ever live up to that special day. It was amazing to witness how popular Bottom had become, only three years earlier I had received a letter telling me how he and Ade were working on a new sitcom together. Then see an episode recorded with a fairly small audience – which looking back probably had a number of friends and family of the cast and crew there. To now seeing their stage play version, performed to thousands of fans and being toured around the UK. What an amazing phenomena Bottom had become.
I didn’t see any more of the Bottom live stage shows, to be honest I was starting to move on with my live and was thinking of going away to college. Plus I wasn’t really a fan of the way the mid 90’s lad culture was starting to creep in and take over. The comedy I loved and grew up with was slowly starting to change, Rik and Ade as Richie and Eddie were worryingly, to me, starting to turn into quite creepy old men. Bottom I felt, had started to loose some of it’s original dark and well scripted humour that it had started out with. Some of what people were now enjoying about it, didn’t sit too well with me in the later part of the 1990’s. Bottom had gained a huge following and they were obviously doing very nicly from these tours and sale of the merchandise. The stadium/big theatre comedy gig was very much on the rise throughout the 1990’s. So I guess it seemed appropriate to go with the flow, and continue to come up with ideas for the live shows, and to even make a movie. For me, the best and most amazing thing about these shows though, was how it allowed thousands of fans to experience and see of the magic of Rik and Ade live on stage together.
What are your thoughts, did you see any of the live shows, what did you experience?