“Refresh my memory, who are you, and why the fuck are you here?” – Rik Mayall as Elton.
Finding The Last Hurrah, Rik Mayall’s last recorded fictional character was like finding the lost recordings of Prince. Although I can’t stand Prince. (Look it’s late and I’ve been scratching around for a metaphor for the past half hour now). Unlike my inarticulate arse, the scripts for The Last Hurrah where Rik plays Elton, a hapless snowman with an unapologetic penchant for the puerilities of the English language, are deliciously rich. Riks performance has all the smugness of an Alan B’Stard, mixed with the incongruity of a Richard Richard. He’ll deliver pearls of dialogue with a sharpness of tongue reminiscent of the great Peter Cook with lines like “Frosty’s only redeeming feature was that he was a cunt.”
With six episodes in the series, and this being the week that marks the second year of Riks passing, I thought I’d commemorate it by publishing an E-chat I had with the writers of the series, Craig Green and Dominic Vince. The Last Hurrah is available on iTunes for £11.99.
How did the collaboration take place? Did you approach Rik with the concept or a fully written script?
Dominic: Craig was starting a series of books for children in need of speech therapy (now the award winning Clickety Books) and took a punt by approaching Rik to do accompanying recordings. Rik happily agreed, and it was while recording that Craig approached him with the seeds of the idea for The Last Hurrah which had been knocking about in Craig’s head in one form or another since he and I lived together as students. Rik instantly leapt on the idea and began expanding and expanding it. I came in after that to help write it and, after a couple of meetings, the script really began to write itself.
I saw that the six-piece series was recorded in Plymouth, how long did it take to record and did you have to stay in Plymouth for the duration?
Dominic: We did yes. Ourselves, and actors Dave Dutton and Duncan Pow in a hotel. We did two 4 day trips down, rehearsing on the first day and recording an episode a day after that. It was a small close-knit little family.
Was the script always intended for an audio format? Or was there plans for it to be filmed perhaps syndicated for TV?
Yep, always radio. Rik was a fantastic visual comic actor and, although this wasn’t a factor in the decision, it does completely emphasise what a superb voice actor Rik was.
When Rik recorded these did he show any signs of ill health? Were you worried about him at all?
Dominic: Other than his constantly reminding us he was brain-damaged no. The lovely thing about his poor short-term memory resulting from his accident was that you could show him a gag he would love one week, then a couple of weeks later you could show it to him again and he would laugh as hard as the first time because he had absolutely no memory of it.
Personally my favourite performance of Riks is in Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, could you highlight a favourite performance, character or scene maybe?
Dominic: For us both, I think Bottom. As school boys we had the scripts and wouldread them together under the desk in Science lessons. The first time I saw him was George’s Marvellous Medicine which I loved, and then probably doing “I’m Evil,” on some best of variety show program. But when Bottom was first broadcast I was possibly thirteen or so, and watching episode one was like finding a home. I just couldn’t believe this thing existed. Because of the quality of the comic acting one can enjoy it over and over again. I think its where he and Ade really worked out exactly what they were doing. What their whole character relationship was. It seems a contradiction in terms, but it was their ultimate “maturing.”
What do you think Riks attitude was to fame. He shy’d away from a lot of social media. Was he interested in fame, did he engage with the fans well when you were with him?
Dominic: Rik genuinely, genuinely loved his fans. But he also like his privacy and was a devoted family man. One of the reasons he could survive so long, like Bowie and Prince, was that he kept his private life private, and only ever appeared in public when in character. If a fan approached him in the street he loved it and was very generous with them, happy to give autographs and pose for photos pretending to shag them from behind etc. He was always being asked to do these shit celebrity programs like Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity, but he’d turn them down flat. But he loved being “Rik.”
What was your favourite memory from your experience of working with Rik for The Last Hurrah.
Dominic: My favourite memory of working with Rik was when we were having lunch in a cafe in Knightsbridge on the day of the National Strike. we were talking ideas for episodes when suddenly he began coming out with lines and lines of script and we had to ask the waitress for a pen and napkins to write it all down. He was shouting, swearing, being utterly foul and ruining everybody else’s lunch and it was all I could do to keep up. It was a complete rewriting of Snow White, very surreal and with endless lists of extremely pervy dwarves. It was a magical moment.