Tim Fitzhigham is probably chuffed to find himself regularly described as a great British eccentric. Well, someone’s going to get round to calling you that if you insist on rowing across the Channel in a bath, which is precisely what the comedian found himself compelled to do for charity back in 2005. All At Sea is his story, and although time has passed since the feat, it’s still fascinating years later. Last night was his first ever Liverpool performance, booked to tie in with the Boat Show (RIP).
Part Michael McIntyre in his fast, intense delivery, and part Jason Hamilton, the “charming” travel writer in the Black Books episode of the same name, Fitzhigham is a whirling dervish of ideas, motivation and inspiration. With ‘man rows in bath’ as its premise, the show – and the challenge he set himself – is pretty high concept. But, to make it all happen, there was a remarkable amount of work to do (number one, as it happened, was learning to row anything, never mind a bath). His show, cut down to its Edinburgh length of one hour, although he does also perform a longer version, barely scratches the surface of the struggle to achieve his goal. That he kept going and saw it through when most anyone else would throw in the towel and quit is quite insane, but his attitude and energy are thoroughly uplifting.
We heard about Fitzhigham’s desperate search to find a sponsor (Thomas Crapper & Company saved the day, and not only was that good for gags, but they eventually made a special toilet bowl named after him); his run-ins with the truculent French authorities, that constantly threatened the project; what it’s like to see a cargo ship heading towards you when you’re bobbing in the sea in a bath; and the physical toll the journey (and the first failed attempt) took on our hero.
It’s an evening in the company of a natural storyteller, full of energy and wit. He’s self-depreciating, despite knowing he’d achieved something quite extraordinary and worked incredibly hard for it. But underneath the casual demeanour, the conclusion of the show gives Fitzhigham away. As he wrapped up, we watched footage of him rowing back into London, victorious, and set to Coldplay’s Fix You (blerg), and he finished with his thoughts on the British public who helped him along the way. He must have performed this show many times, yet it could be sworn Fitzhigham’s eyes misted over as he remembered the completion of his crazy struggle and those who played a part in making it happen for him. The whole endeavour certainly had its absurdities, and the show is played for laughs, but it looked as if the memories of that incredible physical feat were as powerful as ever.
The Liverpool Comedy Festival continues all this week. See the website for more details.