The Novel Novocastrian
The Random Ramblings of a Temporary Resident
By Tara Brady
I love Hugh Laurie. I have been a fan since he played Bertie Wooster alongside Stephen Fry’s Jeeves, right up to his portrayal of the acerbic Dr Greg House. But my favourite Hugh Laurie roles are his recurring incarnations of George in the Blackadder series and the perhaps less well known role of blues singer and pianist extraordinaire. It takes some kind of talent to be able to cross the chasm between a foppish, naïve and yet loveable goof and a gravel voiced man of the blues, Laurie manages to do just that and with great integrity to boot. So, when I saw he and The Copper Bottom Band were playing at The Civic Theatre for one night and one night only, I immediately got tickets and then waited with anticipation that bordered on the ridiculous for the night to arrive. What I hadn’t expected was just what a night it would turn out to be.
The Civic Theatre reminds me vaguely of the Tardis: what you see on the outside is nothing like the treasures you find within (and if you don’t get this cultural reference then we need to have a serious chat). The husband and I were amazed at how beautiful the Civic is with its opulent ‘Spanish Baroque’ interior. It’s like walking into the courtyard of some ancient villa at sunset. Once the show started though, we were instantly transported to a steamy blues bar in New Orleans. It is amazing watching Hugh Laurie flip between posh Cambridge boy and down-and-out blues musician. We expected him to be funny, and we expected the music to be good, but our expectations were blown out of the water by this extremely talented man and his equally talented band. So, of course, like any good, avid fans we waited for him after the performance…and waited…and waited…and he didn’t come out.
What do you do when you’ve just been filled to the brim with bluesy sadness and your hero lets you down? Why you get a drink of course! And given the overall theme of the night we decided the only place to go was Newcastle’s very own speakeasy: Coal and Cedar. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the speakeasy then I highly recommend the film “Once Upon a Time in America” for your edification. Basically, during the prohibition era in the USA, if you wanted to get a drink, you went to a secret bar called a speakeasy where, in order to gain entry, you had to give the doorman a secret password to prove you weren’t one of the Feds. Coal and Cedar has a similar set up, only you text a code to your friendly doorman and suddenly you’re ushered through an inconspicuous door somewhere on Hunter Street, and into a cosy bar that is the very definition of cool. The bartenders here know exactly what they’re doing and so does the chef. We indulged in the meat antipasti board and a selection of cocktails, all the while saying how much we thought Hugh and friends would have just loved the place. So imagine our surprise when in walks Baldric himself, Sir Tony Robinson. There isn’t room in this blurb to tell you just how surreal an experience that was. What I can tell you is that Sir Tony was simply lovely to this pair of wayward fans as we found out that he too had been to The Civic that night. And his taste in music? Impeccable.