Comedian, DJ and playwright Russell Kane is bringing all the fun of the fair to the Bush with his comic musical The Great British Country Fete. He tells ROBERT CUMBER how he learned to love tombolas and all things twee, and why he is jealous of his more musical rivals on the stand-up circuit
FOR someone who has always found village fairs unbearably twee, it seems a strange decision to make one the subject of your latest play. But that's apparently how Russell Kane, the stand-up comedian, DJ and respected Fakespearean actor, works.
"I like to immerse myself in things I don't know much about and which I'm not immediately attracted to," he explains.
"I couldn't stand village fetes before. I found them twee and anachronistic. It's all old people and children and no one in between, which seems wrong.
"But my eyes have been opened to their bucolic charms and I may even go to the one near me in Westcliff-on-Sea. "It's the same thing with stand-up. I didn't get it at first and couldn't understand what was funny about it, but now I've got to quite like it," he jokes.
The Great British Country Fete, the first thing he's 'written and not had to appear in', tells the story of a group of villagers trying to save their countryside idyll from the evil grasp of Tesco.
The nationwide tour included a stop-off at the Latitude festival last weekend, and it was deliberately written as a series of comic vignettes, all set to music, so audiences could happily drift in and out.
"We wanted something with an overarching narrative but written in an episodic style," explains Russell.
"It's about a battle to stop the village being turned into a giant Tesco, literally.
"The supermarket bosses want to build a huge perspex roof over the entire village, so the residents decide to put on the best fete ever to persuade them to leave their homes alone.
"As Farmer Joe leads them around the stalls, you get all these surreal episodes and oddball characters."
Russell teamed up with award-winning composer and lyricist Michael Bruce to work on the play and says he loved putting his ideas to music.
"Unfortunately, I don't have any musical ability, so it was really good working with Michael on this," he tells the Chronicle.
"It's made me a bit jealous of my comedy colleagues who include songs in their acts. It's great to have the opportunity to finish a joke with music.
"It gives it something else."
In between pitching ideas for TV shows, Russell is busy fine-tuning his latest act, Smokescreens & Castles, ahead of the Edinburgh Festival.
"It's about the council house in which I grew up in Enfield, and how the neighbours hated us when we bought our council house," he explains.