Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra

From his early stand-up successes through Black Books and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Bill Bailey is one of the UK’s most popular comedians. As well as acting, writing and touring, music has always been a huge part of Bailey’s act and has had a massive impact on his sense of humour, so it’s pretty exciting to see Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra released on DVD – especially when the man himself has the backing of the entire Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall.

And it’s true that all of Bailey’s trademark raffish wit, self-effacing stagecraft and surrealist leanings are here. He’s the consummate showman, bouncing from one section of the orchestra to the other while he himself bounces from instrument to instrument, showing a virtuoso style on anything he picks up from the guitar to the theramin. As well as entertaining, the show does its level best to be as educational as possible, with Bill Bailey providing an informative and amusing guided tour of the various parts of the orchestra and how they contribute to the overall sound.

It’s all impressive stuff, and it’s hard not to feel the emotional impact of a full symphony orchestra, especially when they’re given such license to mess around – an opportunity they’re clearly relishing, judging from the wall-to-wall grins from the piccolos to the kettle drums. There’s an unbridled joy here that’s quite infectious, all reigned in – though often prompted and goaded – by Bailey himself.

Yet there’s a rather large stumbling block in The Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra, and that’s some of the material itself. If you’re familiar with Bailey’s work you may well recognise a few of the skits and songs, but if you’re a fan then there really isn’t much here you haven’t seen before. It’s this unfortunate repetition that really detracts from the DVD, and while it’s impressive and novel to see Insect Nation performed with full orchestral backing, it isn’t quite as funny if it’s the twentieth time you’ve heard it. Sure, it must be difficult orchestrating all this new stuff, but you’d think Bailey would make an effort to have such a unique show even more memorable by cramming in as much fresh material as he could.

While it’s not an essential purchase, Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To The Orchestra is still a pretty enjoyable one, though if you own a few more Bailey DVDs, there sadly isn’t much here you won’t have seen before. Even with this gripe, however, it’s undeniably impressive and enlightening stuff.

Special Features

Albert, Anne and Bill featurette

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