Review The Mash Report by Judi Hughes

The Mash Report – live audience

Review by Judi Hughes

I was fortunate to be allocated tickets to be part of the live audience at the Mash Report recording of Series 3, Episode 3. The ticket offer came as a bit of a surprise as I had applied to be part of a number of BBC shows some time ago. I received an email saying that we’d been allocated tickets, but this didn’t mean we would definitely get in. The show was being filmed at Pinewood Studios in Slough and since we’ve never been there, my husband and I decided that it was worth a punt and planning for the trip began.

I’m giving full details because I think it’s important to let people know what’s involved in a trip like this. The tickets were free but travel and accommodation were not. Booking.com is my goto website for overnights and I booked a night at the Pinewood Hotel for the night of the show, which we were told would finish around 9pm (£88 including a delicious breakfast, not bad for outer London). I chose this hotel because of its good reviews and convenient location – it’s about 5 minutes’ drive from the studios where there was plenty of free public parking. We decided to drive down, an uneventful journey which was made pleasant by sunshine and the amazing colours of autumn leaves.

The hotel was easy enough to find and we were soon ensconced in our room with a bit of time for R&R and a freshen-up before we headed off for the show. The rest of this information is pretty important if you decide to venture to one of these live audience shows and the first piece of it is to do read their copious instructions and follow them as well as you can.

Top of the list is arrive early. We ummed and ahhed about what time to get there and decided on 5pm even though the studio doors didn’t open until 7pm. This was a good decision. We weren’t first in the car park but there were plenty of spaces and we didn’t have to walk far to get to the waiting area (a large marquee with a very small expensive bar and some portable toilets). After passing through security (don’t take a pen knife like the bloke in front of us) were invited to sit in a row of plastic chairs and wait for announcements to be made. Important advice here is to stay in the seats you are allocated as entry to the show is done mainly on a first come, first served basis.

As advised we took sandwiches (M&S ones for a treat) and drinks in plastic bottles as no glass is allowed in the studios. We waited for around an hour, made trips to the loo (do this early as there’s a rush just before the show) and ate our pack-up as more and more people arrived. Then we were issued with wrist bands – lilac for us, red for the people who had come later and white, silver and gold ones for the more important amongst us. We speculated on the reasons for the colours and after a short time it became clear that our early arrival had paid off. It’s worth saying that the organisers had definitely considered access as wheelchair users were called through to the studio first, followed by the important bods then the lilac wristband holders (us!) and followed up by the red wristband holders who weren’t all guaranteed a seat. I don’t think everyone got in – the process if that happens is to offer those who missed out a tickets to another show and guarantee entry.

Pinewood Studios was not the salubrious experience that we had been expecting; we walked past a jumble of buildings and ended up in a sort of storage bay before we were led into the studio itself. A working space with the expected stage set-up and a mix of flat and raised seating. Much to our amazement we ended up in the 3rd row from the front so we had a really good view. Cameras were above and behind us and it was fascinating to watch how the show was filmed, the use of the space and back screens to create the effect of the actors being outside. Observing the process was as much a part of the evening as watching the show.

The audience waited and chatted excitedly for what seemed like ages but was probably only about 10 minutes. Then the warm-up guy appeared and explained how it would all work, how and when we should respond, laugh and clap and really put us at our ease. Nish Kumar then came on stage and talked to us a bit more about the show, who the guests were to be and all the time being titivated by make-up and wardrobe people. Finally we were all set to go.

Nish introduced the show with his familiar satirical rant about topics of the week. The objects of his rhetoric included the Spice Girls, Trump, the USA Mid Term Elections in which a dead brothel owner was elected and also the rise of American women getting into power. Trump was splendidly ridiculed for his treatment of the press.

Over to the News Desk with Steve N Allen and reporter Susan. Their headlines covered the end of Big Brother, the ‘Living’ Wage, the British fixation with the weather and people wearing massive poppies, supported by some very funny reportage featuring Tom Bell, Freya Parker and Jason Forbes.

Back to Nish to introduce Rachel Parris who spoke about the weird rhetoric used when the media and our politicians talk about Brexit: “the conjuring of nostalgia associated with WW2 to argue for Britain exiting Europe”. Farage was the object of her ridicule along with others including reports of David Davis throwing a tantrum and giving up. She painted a ludicrous picture of the war years when instead of wearing tights you just painted your legs with creosote, rising out of the rubble for a good old sing song. Rachel is a genuinely funny lady who delivers her report in an upbeat manner, showing the positively silly side to all the Brexit shenanigans.

Nish then interviewed comedian Geoff Norcott, known for his right leaning views, although on this occasion not particularly a fan of Theresa May’s dancing. He compared Corbyn to a gangster’s wife in the vein of ‘I was present but I wasn’t involved’. His main target this week were the Lib Dems and it seems that they are so low key that he and Nish have been on Question Time more times than they have. He had a go at pretty much everyone, even the Greens, so in the end a very equal opportunity satirist with a slick delivery.

In a rant direct to the audience Nish covered the United Nations investigation, a serious topic about them visiting Britain to explore the impact of a decade of austerity – his lighter comedy tips advised that all the trains would be late and they might be photographed and end up looking fat on Twitter, which had recently happened to him. Some interesting facts here including that Britain is the 6th largest economy in the world yet 20% of the population are living in poverty. He also covered the rise of in-work poverty, with low wages failing to cover the cost of living. He derided the ‘end of austerity’ reporting that people will be worse off under Universal Credit, which has £3billion a year less funding than the previous system. He cited George Osborne’s political choice to feed the rich “this is George, he systematically made life harder for millions of people for a decade – he didn’t give a s**t and he’s minted”. Philip Green got it in the neck and even the Queen didn’t escape with Nish referring to her having diamond hat and a Netflix show about the hat.

The final News Desk told us “Guy Fawkes urged to have another go” and more digs at the Spice Girls: “Susan were you a fan of the Spice Girls?” “Yes, but I was a lot thicker when I was a teenager”.

Susan, played by Ellie Taylor, is the person I enjoyed watching the most on the Mash Report. She can change from chatty to serious in seconds, creating a believable ‘news face’ as she tells an incredibly funny story without laughing. She’s about to leave the series as she’s pregnant so we watched her perform extra items to be aired in future series as well as taking part in the current show. She was so professional and at ease in her role.

Switch back to Nish and an interview with young Ahir Shah to talk about housing which was very London centric but funny all the same. Ahir told Nish that the government’s only option was to “build more f*****g houses mate”. A bit about stereotypical views on immigrants included this old gag: “Brexit Dave – what a guy – thank you for telling me to go back to a country I’ve never been to”. He suggested building on the greenbelt – the bits that don’t look very green. To prevent intergenerational warfare he suggested a meeting of young and old minds, a sort of ‘Stormzy meet Mary Berry’ – the sound track would be excellent and the catering exquisite. He was funny enough but his delivery wasn’t up to the standard of Geoff Norton’s.

A final goodnight from Nish and then we were treated to about 20 minutes of corrections so we had to laugh and clap things we’d heard before. Not a problem as they were often funnier on second hearing.

All in all we had a brilliant time and I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes good satirical humour delivered by a lefty Asian comedian.

If you want to apply for tickets to a variety of shows you can do so on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/shows/or SRO Audiences https://sroaudiences.com/

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