My last post reviewed a radio show from 2001, The Boosh, that later became a TV show. This post is a review of another radio comedy show broadcast on the same channel BBC Radio 4 but a new 2012 offering called Pearl and Dave. Will it I wonder make its way to TV too? It does not matter to me whether it does do or not but for the sake of symmetry of this paragraph I felt duty bound to pose the question!
Who is Isy Suttie some of you will be asking, well okay nearly all of you will be asking, even more than nearly all if you live outside of Great Britain.
If you do not know her name you may at least know her face. And this will most likely be as Dobby from British comedy sitcom Peep Show. She played the IT Support bod sometime called upon by the David Mitchell character Mark Corrigan at his place of work. There was an awkward relationship if not romance between the two of them too. I don’t know how helpful this background is to you – many a scene and episode she was not even in.
She also turned up as Kiki in another British sitcom Whites, the Alan Davies celebrity chef soft-satire. I say turned up as her appearances were even more fleeting than in Peep Show. And Whites only lasted one series. I thought it had more potential than that and others clearly think so too as there is a Twitter campaign to recall the show. Isy Suttie is one of its, I am sure not self-interested, signatories.
According to the IMDB she was also in an all-time favourite comedy sitcom of mine Love Soup – can you read my surprise at this? – she played a researcher apparently but I cannot recall her.
So there you have, it she appeared in three British sitcoms from the Noughties of varying degrees of obscurity and for parts varying from blink and you will miss her to at best a flickering presence. So by way of enlightening you all as to who she is I may as well saved you and me these last four paragraphs!
Isy Suttie is a comedian then, both performer and writer of it. And her performances include not just innovative if under-appreciated sitcom characters but perhaps its riskiest and bravest of formats – live stand-up.
Which is where Pearl and Dave comes in. This is a stand-up comedy routine which she wrote and performed at an Edinburgh comedy show in 2011. This is its transcription to radio. Nothing has been changed, the routine is still the same, and there is a live audience too – I wonder why we say live audience, we can assume I think such an audience is not dead, though I suppose such crowds would at least not heckle you. Always an upside.
This show is still available to listen to on the BBC’s iPlayer but not for much longer – January 25 if you really need to know. For those very few of you reading this before January 25, 2011! The sites brief description is as follows:
Isy Suttie recounts a funny and moving love story much of which is told through song.
Oh yes, her performance is not just a stand-up comedy routine but a singer-songwriter routine. This may cause a reflexive shudder in some of you, all but that hardy breed with a rare penchant for both Victoria Wood and 1970’s Billy Connolly.
Victoria Wood is an obvious, very obvious comparison, I know it is, what with them both being wo…wonderful comedians who deliver some of their routine in song. Except that Victoria plays an instrument that you tickle, Isy one that you strum.
I do not know whether Isy Suttie was first a comedian who later came to music or a musician who later came to comedy perhaps experiencing an epiphany at a Tim Minchin show…but she can sing and play guitar as well as she tells jokes and stories. For her style is stories with humour rather than a rat-a-tat joke machine – more Alan Carr than Jimmy Carr.
She is like a Yorkshire version of Regina Spektor, if Regina had developed the comedy side of her material more – more helpful comparisons like this will follow.
Now I do understand that the BBC description of her show as a funny and moving love story does not tell us very much. Perhaps enough to get your interest up but if not they do also elaborate a bit further advising us it is about
a socially awkward childhood neighbour (her first pen pal) and a ‘well-bred’ girl from Surrey ..
Dave and Pearl respectively. Isy Suttie is neither Dave or Pearl. She is the neighbour of the socially awkward Dave, if no less awkward herself.
Pearl and Dave is a folk-story and Isy Suttie its folk-singer but in the way that Jarvis Cocker or Lily Allen is a folk singer without even a trace smell of heritage left lingering in your nostrils – stories about us common – and not so common – folk but in the here and now – well from the 1980’s onwards anyway.
This being when the pen-pal friendship commences – the pen-pal being just one of the many undeserving victims of the Internet – and like another 1980’s phenomena CB Radio (remember that?) it was as much about the simple fact of being able to communicate with people in far off distant lands than any deep interest in the life of your fellow communicator – I was obliged to have one in school, as part of my French lesson, so at this time where even communication in my own language of English was chore enough I had then to communicate with a stranger in a foreign language. And I am quite sure adolescent French teenage boys are not very different to their British counterparts – though perhaps giving in to stereotypes he was already well versed in the language of romance and sneered at my polite and frankly idiotic attempts at even the most basic of French sentences. It did not last long. One opening letter each in fact.
Isy and a friend had both read about pen-pals in the then far-flung land of Australia – well it is still far-flung from Britain Internet or no Internet – and so thought they would give it a go too. Think not message in a bottle, think message in a balloon! The balloon though only makes it as far as the next-garden-but one! To the garden of the titular Dave.
The penned message having landed in the garden of their near neighbour Dave it was then considered by Isy and her friend as fate, that Dave himself should become their pen-pal – adding that the letters they would send Dave required them having to walk past his house to get to the post-box!
Then adding that they were 10 and 6 and Dave was 25 – paedophilia she explained not existing in the 1980’s despite being big in Ancient Greece and only having made a come-back recently!
She then shared some of the letters they wrote to each other in the early 1990’s. The most common question, indeed theme, was asking each other what they had for their tea – but as she notes the common ground between a ten year old and a twenty five year old is a limited one.
Dave has a catch-phrase – ‘C’mon Dave’ – which he addresses himself in the third-person by way of encouragement to himself!
She then moves us on to where Dave first met Pearl – at the family holiday camp Butlins which in her words as kids ‘you either went to get chips or to get felt up. And that they went only for the chips!’
Though Dave and Pearl’s Butlin encounter was a significant one for both they somehow still managed to lose contact with each other thereafter. It is only through the later emergence of the Internet in the mid 1990’s and going online and searching for her that he comes upon her again – first by Friends Reunited – remember that she asks us and I ask you? – another undeserving victim of Facebook!
He used to log-in every morning with his hopes up high and log-out again every evening with his hopes re-crushed!
It will be Facebook indeed where Dave and Pearl will become friends reunited.
All of this has been delivered by Isy Suttie as a spoken monologue. But now comes the first song. Its verses and chorus detailing Dave’s first messages to Pearl on Facebook, testing out its waters, discovering her profile that she is married and musing on how he should phrase his first message to her. And in respect of Pearl being marital toys with ‘I would like to shoot your chappie’ then rewriting ‘I would like to maim your chappie’ then finally ‘I would like to shake your chappie by the hand, if my hands were made of guns and shards of glass and poison hot-cross buns’!
She then returns to her spoken word – mentioning her own relationship of that time where both of them knew it was doomed but carried on anyway
like an old ill dog that just wanted to go in the corner and die with some semblance of dignity but we kept feeding sugary biscuits to for three and a half years and telling it that it was going to be alright until it finally dragged its rotting carcass into the corner and turned around to us to say ‘later, losers’!
Pearl does reply to Dave and this we hear as the second song of the night. In the song she recalls their first encounter – ‘sharing a cigarette dipped in Amaretto!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ – Pearl’s exclamation marks not Isy’s or mine! – where Suttie then goes off on a tangent riffing on exclamation marks and their binary meaning – they either mean humour or peril – the more there are the more humorous or perilous the writer is being!
In typical Facebook style each of them embellishes their times since they last met – he is an accountant who pretends to be in a rockband – she is an housewife who pretends to be…an accountant! We learn from this song that Pearl is married but unhappily.
She then returns to her monologue and a tangent about Isy Suttie’s own mum’s disappointment in her choice of career – a stand-up comedian – ‘how she will never meet a lawyer, lawyer’s don’t go and watch standup (!)’ – and how she suggests to her Mum ‘that maybe she doesn’t want to marry a lawyer’ and how her Mum then replies near-screaming ‘That’s not the plan!’.
And then six months go by without Isy hearing from Dave. She has correctly surmised that he has gone deep into an online relationship with Pearl. He finally advises her of this by Email. This cues the third song ‘The Six Month song’ which details the trajectory of that time from initial Facebook messaging – ‘C’mon Dave’ he says to himself as he girds himself to end his message ‘Love Dave’! through to Email – ‘like moving from smash to mash’ – then to trying to get Skype to work then finally getting Skype to work and seeing each other face to face, then seeing of each other what they really wanted to use Skype for – ‘You’re naked, well done, brilliant!’ Finishing off with Dave plucking up courage to ask Pearl out for a meal.
This song sees her delivering a duet between Dave and Pearl not so much Sonny and Cher but obscurely and perhaps perversely reminding me of ‘Lucky Stars’ but where Isy Suttie is both Dean Friedman and Denise Marsa. I told you there were more unhelpful comparisons to come.
The song ends and she returns to the story though again sharing with us her own relationship status now with a Welsh boyfriend who also speaks Welsh. So setting up the fourth song – in Welsh! – she then switches back into English translating it ‘in case we don’t know what it means’! It went ‘I went, you went, he went, she went, we went, you went (formal!), they went’!
The swansong details Pearl and Dave’s relationship since those early awkward Skype times. They had met up but Pearl could not bring herself to leave her husband for Dave or to cheat on him but they decide to continue their infidelity/relationship online. And have continued ever since. Concluding that in a sense ‘they are in a land where no-one is accountable for their actions, like Ikea!’ but in another sense ‘it is more real than Pearl’s own relationship with her husband’.
Pearl and Dave is a one-off special for radio. Though TV as with the aforementioned Boosh may come calling by way of a TV sitcom series yet.
I am quite sure though we have not heard the last of Isy Suttie. Even for those of you who have yet to have heard the first of her.
- Comedy star’s big Welsh challenge (bbc.co.uk)