Griff Rhys Jones to share greatest off-screen adventures in Bowness
PRIMARILY a comedian and an actor by trade, for the past 20 years most people will have actually seen Griff Rhys Jones on television in his other guise - as an intrepid adventurer.
The star of Not the Nine o’clock News, Smith and Jones and Three Men In A Boat, he actually has just as many credits to his name fronting documentaries and series such as Britain's Lost Routes with Griff Rhys Jones, Rivers with Griff Rhys Jones, and Slow Train Through Africa with Griff Rhys Jones. It's clear to identify how he's been typecast in recent years.
Having brought his first-ever touring one-man show, about his time working alongside comedy legend Mel Smith, to the Old Laundry Theatre last year, he returns to the Bowness venue next week to kick off his second tour.
"Last year when I came to Bowness I did Jones and Smith, which was more about our work together," he says.
"Mel was big friends with Charlotte (Scott) and Roger (Glossop), who run the Old Laundry, and because of that I'm also a patron, so I've been there quite a few times before.
"However, I'm not the kind of patron who will come up to sit in the AGM - I'd rather come and do a show instead.
"The show I did about Mel was good fun - it was the first one-man show I've taken on the road.
"The thing is though, it was 1997 when our series finished, which to me feels like it was only yesterday, but it really isn't. So I was talking about this thing that people might think is ancient history or can't even remember at all.
"As the tour went on, I found myself talking more about being in my 60s, and it started becoming a bit like an episode of Grumpy Old Men.
"I looked out there and saw people of all ages, and I thought it might be an idea to talk about some of my more recent forays."
Over two nights, on Friday September 15 and Saturday 16, Griff presents Where Was I? - recalling the journeys he's been on, and airing his stories, anecdotes, reminiscences and outright lies from 40 years of travelling the world.
"I think the biggest problem will be getting it down to under five hours.
"I like to tell stories and find out what people find funny.
"I can't think of anywhere better than Bowness to start the tour, where I've had so many adventures in the Lake District. On one of my programmes, simply called Mountains, I climbed the Napes Needle, which was one of my biggest adventures. I've also done things like husky sledding and on another programme I tried to break the world record for being the slowest water skier, but I didn't do very well.
"One of the things that interests me is this whole distinction between travelling and just going on holiday. Everyone travels nowadays, but it's not an adventure. The only real trials and tribulations are trying to get the kids through the airport at 4am.
"I've been to some of the most remote parts of the world - even more remote than Barrow-in-Furness - and it's just so easy to get anywhere now. I have a farm in Wales, and I can get to the Caribbean faster than I can drive to the farm from my house in Suffolk.
"As you can imagine, I'm not one to sit around on a beach - I like to get out and see things. We used to take working holidays back in my university days, but holidays are quite different now.
"For example, I never go to see ruins in London, but if I'm abroad I'll tramp across a dusty field to see a ruin. When you travel, you feel like it's the only opportunity you'll ever get to see these things."
As anyone who saw Griff on his last tour will testify, he's got enough stories to sustain a one-man tour for the rest of his career.
Griff continues: "I work with the biggest travel agency in the world in the BBC, so I have done a lot of travelling for documentaries since I finished working with Mel.
"In fact it was actually an ITV documentary, Slow Train Through Africa, where I had one of my biggest adventures - and all the adventure stuff was the bits that weren't shown on TV.
"It was only when I got there that I found out it was known as the 'train of death' - I was told it was supposed to be a holiday programme. When I rang the office in Glasgow and told them that it's named the Train of Death because there was a civil war on in Algeria and that they would kill anyone dressed in Western clothes, the producer said, 'that hasn't happened for nine months'. You didn't see any of this on the documentary.
"The biggest adventure I ever had was jumping off a boat that caught fire in the Galapagos. This one wasn't for TV.
"We were told that the boat was on fire and we had to get off, and we saw all our belongings sink to the bottom of the sea - and I'm sitting there in the water thinking, 'just typical, I leap off a burning boat and there are no cameras and no action shots'."