Tim Minchin: Storm in a Trumpet

His debut musical has got a West End transfer, a film of one of his songs is out right now now, and he’s coming to Scotland next week with his epic show <i>Tim Minchin and His Orchestra</i> Tim Minchin’s come a long way for a wee lad from Perth (the other one)

Feature by Lizzie Cass-Maran | 08 Apr 2011

Following the recent announcement of a West End transfer for Matilda, today (8 Apr) marks another exciting day for Tim Minchin: the internet release of the Storm movie, an animation of Minchin’s 9-minute beat poem of the same name. It’s been some time in the making, having been produced largely as a labour of love by a small team in England.  Minchin is very excited about the release: “It’s brilliant having your work taken to a different level like that, through no work of your own.”

The poem itself, with its angry anti-hippie messages, might have come as a bit of a surprise to fans who fell in love with Minchin over one of his most famous songs, Canvas Bags. “It’s a wonderful thing to think that I had a whole load of people watching me because they thought I was a loose-haired hippy, and then having to listen to Storm.” And the great irony is that Canvas Bags, with its ostentatious staging and wind machines, was a joke; “Taking the mick out of Bono and the ‘save the world, we are the world, we are the children’ sort of idea - that a white middle class fuckwit in a rock stadium can sing this shit.”

He’s quick to clarify that he wasn’t only mocking it, though. “I bloody hate plastic bags, and I totally do want people to take canvas bags to the supermarket. The thing I like about that song is that I never committed either way to whether I was taking the piss out of hippies or writing an anthem and that’s great - it should be allowed to do both things.”

Next week, Minchin brings his majestic show Tim Minchin and His Orchestra to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. So where did he get the inspiration for such an undertaking? Well, the idea for the whole project, he tells us, came from an Australian producer who negotiates a lot of contemporary acts into relationships with orchestras. “As soon as I knew about the idea, I really wanted to take the challenge of trying to make a show that genuinely uses the orchestra in all its glory, whilst not letting it dilute the comedy.”

It’s the first project of its kind: whilst he acknowledges Barry Humphries’ work with orchestras, and Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra in 2009 (describing him as ‘absolutely gorgeous in it’), this show is different in that it engages the orchestra more directly with the comedy; “Trying to use the orchestra to kind of enhance the massive, audacious, wanky tunes.”

Of course, touring with an orchestra does tend to hike up ticket prices. He describes the ‘hours’ of arguments he’s had with promoters, trying desperately to make the project work for less. But the bottom line is that there are 60 musicians onstage, with all their associated crew costs, and folk need paid. “I completely understand people not liking the ticket prices going up, but it would be incredibly naïve of someone to think that it’s because I’ve got greedy. We are going to make no money out of Scotland. But the fact is, no matter what your reason is, there are students out there who can’t come to my show this year, and that’s a real pity.”

Writing the show, Minchin also worried that the distraction of the orchestra, and the need to play so strictly in time, might hamper the comedy. But audiences seem to be loving it so far, and in the relatively small venues the show is playing in Scotland, he tells us it’s going to “blow people’s heads off. At times it’s incredibly beautiful, at times it’s very harsh, and at times it’s very big, epic, rock and roll and stupid. I think if I was in the audience I’d enjoy it, and that’s all you can really ask of yourself.”

Tim Minchin and his Orchestra,

Edinburgh Playhouse, 16 & 17 Apr

SECC, Glasgow, 18 Apr & 8 May

AECC, Aberdeen, 19 Apr

Tickets £39.75 inc booking fee