Picture: Rob Brydon

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Rob Brydon

Actor and author Rob Brydon is in Hay to talk about his autobiographical work ‘Small Man in a Book’. In case you are wondering he does ‘the voice’ at the top of the session, better to get these things out of the way. He also does a very creditable Alan Bennett.

Brydon is a raconteur whose voice and delivery evokes memories of some of the great Welsh actors. He tells several side-splitting show business anecdotes slipping in and out of impressions, many of them of stars called Jones; Tom, Catherine Zeta, you get the picture.

Brydon knows what the audience wants, cue a Michael Caine story with accompanying impression. He doesn’t always go for the obvious or easy line, his story about a message left for Ray Gravell after he had a foot amputated was brave, funny and deeply dark.

You have to be brave to ask Brydon a question and several are. One was rewarded with an exclusive on series two of The Trip with Steve Coogan. No promises but Italy has been talked about.

Welcome to The Sound Castle

Making Hay made its first excursion to The Sound Castle, the Hay Festival’s new music venue to see the excellent Belleruche on the final date of the UK leg of the current tour. The set list featured much of the new album Rollerchain as well as music from the band’s first album on their own label. Kathryn deBoer’s voice was in top form despite a gruelling live schedule and we were treated to tight and lively performance.

The liveliness came in the second half when the audience was invited to dance.  Prior to that the venue, which has tables and chairs more akin to a cabaret venue seemed sedate in daytime light.  I imagine it really comes alive at night.   There’s a bar, outdoor tables and it’s in a wonderful location beneath the castle.  First impressions confirm it’s a great addition to the Festival.

Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax and Monty Don Talking About It

Talking about depression and bipolarity in front of an audience of over 1000 people, many of whom are themselves sufferers is bound to result in awkward moments, which it did.  There were moments of hilarity too, with Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry on stage that was also a given.  One of the funniest moments was when Fry addressed Monty Don by his surname. “You keep calling me Don” said Monty.

“Oh my god I’m so sorry Montague.”

“I really don’t mind” replied the affable Monty.

There was a rawness about the session.  Ruby was adamant that she never experiences mania,  though her on screen persona often conveys the energy and charge that characterises many descriptions of the ups of bipolarity.  Stephen Fry revealed that he struggles with lows even when working and that many episodes of QI had been recorded whilst fighting the mood disorder.  Monty talked about how the rhythms of nature sometimes help with his inner discord.

There were parallels drawn between the struggles for acceptance that the gay community had experienced in the past and the discrimination that people with mental illness face today.  Fry talked about how artistic people in the gay community had carried the flag because they had less to fear in the work place “you’re not going to get kicked out of your job being Elton John because you are gay.”