Ken Dodd Happiness Show, Spa Centre, Leamington, February 16.
HE’s back! Now in his 85th year and his 60th in show business, he remains one of the hardest working performers in show business – a model for the few attempting to continue a musical tradition.
With new material, in good voice and full of innuendo – “I went out on Sunday night and awoke on Monday morning with misgivings” – Dodd is the master of keeping an appreciative audience in their seats for very long periods. And so it continued for five hours from soon after 7pm (an early start requested by the council in order to clear the building on Saturday night rather than Sunday morning – which failed).
Helping out briefly at 10.15pm was an astonishing magician. Paul Derek introduced an accomplished act producing ducks, geese, chickens and owl-like birds from empty containers with one duck trained to quack each time a revelation of yet another bird was successfully achieved.
Supported by a long-suffering organist and drummer, Dodd delights in teasing his full house audience about the legendary show finishing times – “50 per cent of this audience are optimists – they are the ones who booked taxis for 11.30pm”; “Time is an illusion – I’m going to prove it tonight - this will be a feast of fun and a challenge to your kidneys”.
So at 10.45pm Dodd begins his third stint – “Most of you will have been reported missing by now,” he adds. Those fortunate to have seats in the first three rows of the stalls are very much in Dodd’s sight – patrons are ill-advised to try to look at watches. It happened on Saturday and the perpetration caused ‘extra time’ to be added to the end of the show.
By 11.30pm, Dickie Mint is revealed and they sing the delightfully sorrowful melody- Little Man You’ve Had a Busy Day’ – a show-stopper. Fortunately the voice is holding good, his tenacity too as he announces at 11.40pm, “we’re about half way through”. Now Dodd works his way through the infamous list of greetings and goodwill messages – “A couple are celebrating their third row ... oh, no they are sitting in the third row”.
And as he leaves to a standing ovation, his audience can reflect on what a hostage situation must be like. Dodd is a remarkable individual with a remarkable talent.