Tony Robinson’s Cunning Night Out
by Jef Burnham
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Best known for his role as Baldrick in Rowan Atkinson’s BBC series, Blackadder, and more recently for his archeology series Time Team and the documentary series The Worst Jobs in History, Tony Robinson performed this immensely entertaining one man show in front of a live audience in June of 2007. In 83 jam-packed minutes, Robinson takes us through the history of the British monarchy with side-steps into some of the more degrading jobs in military history, all the way up through his parents’ lives, and taking us through the highlights of his own life and career.
Utilizing what must be one of the world’s greatest stockpiles of energy, Robinson bounds from one end of the stage to the other, reenacting battles and car chases. The man’s frantic story-telling style alone is enough to entertain, so his knowledge of disgusting, obscure historical facts feels almost like a bonus. He goes into all the unsettling details of the daily lives of arming squires, who were the men responsible for suiting up the knights, mounting them on their horses and, at the end of the day, scrubbing the human waste out of the armor (using a mixture of sand and their own urine).
Fans of Blackadder will find this show very rewarding. Robinson’s anecdotes on the creation of Baldrick’s boils, the origin of the turnips, and other behind-the-scenes info are hilarious, providing a unique insight into one of the greatest shows of all time. The special features on the disc are a Q&A in which Robinson not only describes what he would do if he had the T.A.R.D.I.S. (Doctor Who’s time machine), but hints at the future of Blackadder and reveals his favorite series and episode of Blackadder. Excitingly, his favorite series (the third) and his favorite episode (Ink and Incapability) are also my favorites.
Other amusing yarns spun by the beloved British performer include the story of his debut as the Artful Dodger in Oliver, his journey under the sea with James Cameron to explore the Titanic, and how it came to be that John Wayne threw him off a dock into disease-infested waters. Robinson also shares a rare clip from one of his earlier screen appearances as an aspiring student filmmaker in an educational film about dental health.
Tony Robinson’s Cunning Night Out! will be available on DVD from Acorn Media on February 9.
Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic in Chicago.
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