SoSoGay’s Buerk! feature

Saving the best until last is SoSoGay’s interview with me about Buerk!

Interviewer James Moore says “We haven’t laughed this much during an interview in ages, so if you’re drinking tea, put it down safely now.”

So pleased SoSoGay got our sense of humour! It’s not to everyone’s taste…

Here’s the feature in full:

Spotlight On: Greg Jameson (Buerk! The Newsical)

Posted by: James Moore in Stage 23 April 2013

A few weeks ago we told you about the Top Ten musicals you didn’t know existed, and in at number six came a rather bizarre offering entitled Buerk! The Newsical. An entire musical based on the life of 80s newsreader Michael Buerk. We were confused, slightly weirded out, but also intrigued to find out why such a regular, run-of-the-mill TV presenter could make for the subject of a stage extravaganza. Creator of the musical, and star of the show Greg Jameson, let us pick his brains about all things Buerk. We haven’t laughed this much during an interview in ages, so if you’re drinking tea, put it down safely now.

So So Gay: What on earth gave you the idea to write a musical about an 80s newsreader?

Greg: The genesis of the idea is a bit hazy now. Alcohol certainly played a part. My co-creator Tom Bailey and I had collaborated on a series of comedy shows and enjoyed working together so we decided to conjure up a full-length theatrical extravaganza. It helps that we have a near-identical sense of humour. We’re both children of the 1980s so that decade is hugely nostalgic to us and to our target audience, and of course Michael Buerk was a major player back then. We liked the idea that his career was an unlikely subject for musical theatre; but let’s not forget that the man broke the news of the famine in Ethiopia in 1984 which in turn gave Bob Geldof the inspiration for the whole Live Aid/Band Aid malarkey. In recent years he’s added narration of Pineapple Dance Studios to his already considerable legacy – so there’s plenty of scope for a cracking yarn.

So, how do you prepare for playing the role of the Michael Buerk?

We started the writing process wondering what on earth Michael Buerk would say when faced with the unlikely scenarios we wanted to throw at him, but it’s amazing how quickly characters take on lives of their own, and within a script they have certain functions to fulfil, so there’s a considerable gap between the real thing and our fictional characterisation of him. Our Buerk is essentially the straight man – ironically. He’s like Graham Chapman in the Monty Python films – crazy things happen around him and he’s surrounded by lunatics, but his relative normality grounds the story. Buerk’s insane boss, and the baddie of the piece, feckless weather boob Ian McCaskill, have all the funniest lines, whilst our Moira Stuart gets to be delightfully sexual; so my task in playing Buerk is to give the audience a human story to follow. I’m not too worried about doing a Michael Sheen-like job of impersonating the real McCoy!

Have you ever met the man himself? Will he be coming to see the production?!

Old Buerky is aware that his life and career have been turned into a bit of comedy hijinks, and we hope he’s flattered by all the attention. We’ve invited him to the premiere and offered to throw in a can of lilt and a packet of nuts on the house to sweeten the deal, but he’s maintaining radio silence. I expect to see him on the front row, howling into his hat (and definitely not conferring with his lawyer) on our press night on 2 May. It would be great to meet such a legend, though hopefully we wouldn’t short one another out like matter and anti-matter colliding.

Will there be any references to the TV show 999? We loved Michael narrating that.

Absolutely! In our show there’s a pivotal moment in Buerk’s life in which he invents 999. For those who don’t recall, 999 was an early 90s show in which Michael Buerk, often wearing a fetching sheepskin coat, presented dramatisations of real-life near- catastrophes in which inattentive idiots cheated death by impalement or decapitation through luck rather than design. It had one of the best theme tunes ever written. [Sings] Diddle-um-ding-ding-did-diddle-um/diddle-um-dang-dang-dag-diddle-um…

Can you draw any parallels to Buerk’s life?

We’re both terrible at robot dancing and insist on wearing leather driving gloves for long journeys.

The musical started off in Leeds in 2011, what’s been happening with it since then?

Tom and I are perfectionists, so we cut jokes that didn’t get as much of a laugh as we’d hoped and reworked the script slightly to make it faultless, which is the version we’re performing in London. We’ve added some topical jokes too. After our Leeds performances, Tom, inspired by a documentary he’d seen on the mating habits of bonobos, sired a daughter, whose middle name is ‘Moira’. This put the kibosh on Buerk’s return for a while whilst the child grew up and learned to fend for herself – but Buerk! is our collective baby, so we were keen to keep the hiatus as short as possible and thrust our offspring anew into the faces of expectant theatre go-ers, which is why we’re returning with our London debut on 2 -4 May.

What’s the big plan for the show after its three days in London?

We’re hoping that the show will go global. We’ll only rest on our laurels when they’re whistling the hits of Buerk! The Newsical on the streets of Tokyo. Possibly a producer will present us a blank cheque to take it off our hands and turn it into a big- budget movie starring Al Pacino as Buerk? I’ve faxed a pitch to George Lucas but no cigar at time of writing. But seriously we’d love to see it have a whole new lease of life as a fringe show with a several-week run, and are happy to negotiate with any directors or producers who may want to do their own thing with it.

Any other newsreaders that you’d like to turn into a musical? How about another Michael weather man Michael Fish? You could do a cracking hurricane related number…

Well funnily enough the whole ‘Great Storm of 1987′ debacle forms a major part of the plot of Buerk! The Newsical in which a maniacal McCaskill goes ape, so it’s territory we’ve already covered. We simply eschewed Mick Fish for Ian McCaskill. But we’re already in the planning stages of our next production. It’s going to be a sex comedy farce, with plenty of nubile young actors of both sexes – to keep Tom and I happy – dropping their drawers. The hook of the idea sees the producer and script editor of Doctor Who infiltrating Michael Grade’s Swiss Alpine lodge after he cancelled the show in 1985 to try to persuade him to bring it back. Against that backdrop will play out an absurd farce. We don’t have a date to expect it yet, but stay tuned!

And finally, how stagey are you on a scale of 1-Elaine Paige?

I’m probably about a two. But then I suspect even Elaine Paige thinks that! I make remarkably few diva-ish demands. All I ask is for an all-over body massage by go-go boys half an hour before curtain-up. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Performance wise, with several larger characters in the show, I’m trying to keep Buerk reasonably under-the-top – but I’ll let our audiences be the judge of whether or not I succeed!

Buerk! The Newiscal is playing at the Network Theatre, Waterloo, between the 2 and 4 of May 2013. Tickets are £10.