Comic Marcus Brigstocke strikes the right note as King Arthur in Spamalot

Funnyman Marcus Brigstocke says he knows Manchester 'reasonably well' but alas not well enough it seems.

Funnyman Marcus Brigstocke says he knows Manchester ‘reasonably well’ but alas not well enough it seems.

‘In Salford they seem to get very upset when I say “hello Manchester” in my stand-up gigs,’ explains the much-loved Radio 4 presenter.‘But they’re more or less the same aren’t they?’

If he wasn’t such a geeky, friendly sort of stand-up, he probably wouldn’t get away with such a crime. Mixing up Manchester and Salford? Well he might as well say that Manchester’s a suburb of Liverpool.

But he admits that the limited knowledge of the city is largely because of the nature of his ‘day’ job.‘I don’t really go out when I’m on tour because I’m on my own,’ he says.‘So really you stand up, do your gig, go home, go to bed’.

That Brigstocke manages to combine a clever satirical wit with an endearing demeanour has not only won him friends in the UK but also in France, where every year he  performs stand up at his Altitude festival in Meribel. It was after a 2006 BBC TV programme called Excuse my French, in which he and unlikely wannabe French speakers, Ron Atkinson and Esther Rantzen went to live in Provence and immerse themselves in the culture and language of our Gallic friends  that he started gigging in French.

And now he’s about to arrive at the Opera House, Manchester in a very different role, that of Arthur in Spamalot, a mixture of Monty Python silliness and song devised by Eric Idle.

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At least it means he has other people to explore the city with. He is he says, getting along famously with his co-stars Todd Carty and Jodie Prenger with the only downside being that he has to sing in front of an audience. And he’s not sure whether the downside is his- or ours!

‘When they told me that at the auditions I said I would need to have lessons before singing in front of the pubic - almost on medical grounds.  So I had some lessons and was told “you’ll be fine”. I’m on telly so I sell a few seats but I didn’t want to be a dead weight when I was singing. It was important for me to get it right.’One minute it’s French lessons, the next, a debut as a singer, it appears that Marcus likes a challenge. He agrees.

‘I do really enjoy that. Pushing the boundaries, otherwise you can’t achieve what you’d like to in life,’

‘Sometimes I am wary, that I will be considered a Jack of all trades and a master of none and then I think I don’t really care because I’m having a really good time and whatever I do, I put my heart and soul into it.’Brigstocke is clearly a complex character. He was an overweight teen with an eating disorder, who had a breakdown at 17 and was sent to a rehabilitation unit to recover.

‘Not borstal but a semi-secure institution,’ he has revealed in the past.‘I saw some wild stuff, kids walking through glass windows. I was middle class and lucky - half of them didn’t know if their parents would still be at the same address when they went home.’He then went on to become a podium dancer in the nightclubs, drinking and taking loads of drugs.

But he has fought his addictions by keeping busy, so it doesn’t take a psychologist to work out this must be partly the reason for taking on all those challenges he says he loves.It’s a treat doing Spamalot. He’s loving being with his co-stars, though he does say it’s still early into the tour and was a big fan of the Monty Python team.

‘Absolutely. You have to be a fan of Python if you’re a comedian,’ he says, admitting their ‘team work’ rather than one particular member.‘It’s such a great production. From start to finish it’s absolutely hilarious and the audience come out with big smiles on their faces, singing the songs. British audiences have really responded to it very well and I hope people will flock to see it.’Spamalot is at the Manchester Opera House from July 5th-10th. Tel: 0844 847 2277 for tickets.

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