Bill Bailey’s Australian Adventure review: Bill’s such a big hit Down Under… he’s even picked up the accent, writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS
Bill Bailey’s Australian Adventure
The Remarkable Journey Of Bernard Levin
Two days into his Australian Adventure (Ch4) and Bill Bailey’s English accent has been completely swallowed up. He’s gone native.
‘Good on yer, mate,’ he cries at passers-by, sounding more Aussie than Dame Edna.
It’s a curious phenomenon. Some people, and Bill is evidently one, absorb a local accent instinctively. Former England manager Steve McClaren, for instance, provoked much mockery when he transferred to the Netherlands and lost his Yorkshire twang — replacing it with a cartoon Dutch accent.
Others never change. Bill met a woman from Wales who moved out to Western Australia long ago, to savour the open spaces. She still speaks with an unaltered Welsh lilt.
Bill’s an enthusiastic traveller, as we saw a couple of years ago when he journeyed to Iceland on Ch4’s Travel Man and appeared to enjoy it much more than host Joe Lycett.
But he’s at his best when he has a script. Interviewing the people he met — an Aboriginal Noongar nation elder, a paddle-boarding former basketball star — Bill seemed short of questions. He introduced himself, got people talking with a rehearsed sally or two, but then responded with a lot of ‘mmm,’ ‘ah,’ and ‘oh’.
Two days into his Australian Adventure (Ch4) and Bill Bailey ‘s English accent has been completely swallowed up. He’s gone native
That didn’t seem to matter. The folk of Western Australia are eager to chat. Perhaps that’s a consequence of the sparse population: 2.8 million people spread across an area 13 times the size of Great Britain. For some of them, Bill might have been the first human they’d seen in weeks.
The crew of a harbour tug warmed to him so much that they let him take the controls of their £10 million boat and spin it round in circles, doing doughnuts on the water.
As an explorer, he’s too laid back to be inspirational. He enjoyed the forests and the pristine beaches, but was equally happy to flop out in a coffee shop. The producers appeared to have picked the wrong time of year to visit, too — instead of blue skies, there were mists and grey clouds. Perhaps the tickets were cheaper off-season.
As a performer, though, there’s nothing laid back about Bill. He joined a band of sea shantymen — like a Korean boy band, he said, ‘but with beards and craft ale’ — to belt out a version of What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor. ‘Sailor’ became ‘whaler’, reflecting the region’s maritime history, and with every, ‘Heave-ho and up she rises,’ Bill became more maniacally animated. The audience adored him.
There were no sea shanties but plenty of opera in The Remarkable Journey Of Bernard Levin (BBC4), which drew heavily on three solo travelogues made for Channel 4 in the 1980s by this former Daily Mail theatre critic.
Levin made such an entertaining guide — the unashamed intellectual who cheerfully poked fun at himself — that it’s a pity the original travel series are not available to watch on Channel 4’s on-demand service (File Photo)
Levin walked across the Alps in the footsteps of his hero, the Carthaginian general Hannibal, and wandered the length of the Rhine, before visiting New York, where he was appalled by the vulgarity of the Trump Tower.
He made such an entertaining guide — the unashamed intellectual who cheerfully poked fun at himself — that it’s a pity the original travel series are not available to watch on Channel 4’s on-demand service.
It’s impossible to imagine any TV satirist daring to be as rude, even savage, as Levin was in his 1960s heyday. He mocked politicians to their faces and shredded celebrities. When Bernard dug his claws in, the wisest response was to laugh. Victims who tried to argue back only made him more cross.
One chap, a cousin of Winston Churchill named Desmond Leslie, did object forcefully. Fuming over a theatre review, he marched onto a studio set during a live broadcast and threw a punch. Dangerous job being a critic, you know.
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