By Carmel Shortall
The school bell rings and there is an announcement over the intercom: “If you’ve come to see ‘Will Howell apostrophe s Grammar School’ then you have come to the wrong place. However we have something better: ‘Will Howells apostrophe s Grammar School’.” Ok – now read them again. Apparently, this sort of thing always happens in the listings and it was Time Out’s turn to oblige.
Will Howells enters looking every inch the professorial geek in a jacket with elbow patches, clutching the giant dictionary he ‘won’ on Countdown. In keeping with the school theme, potential hecklers are requested to put their hands up if they wish to speak.
Chat up lines in gay bars, graffiti in the gents – nothing is too trivial for Will Howells’s inner pedant. “Andys got a big cock” on the bog wall is metamorphosed over time and with a scratchy invisible pen into “Andy has a big cock ”. Howells delights in wordplay and will spend ages setting up a pun. Thus a rant about people who use comic sans MS ends with the imagined offender drowning in a church font.
In the absence of spelling bees at the Olympics, Will decides to host his own and two hapless members of the audience are pressed into competing for the grand prize of a red pen. One fought back when asked to spell cunnilingus – “Can you use it in a sentence for me, Will?” – perhaps not so hapless after all.
Howells is not, in fact, a pedant but a language enthusiast who values clarity above all else. Real pedants – like the man who goes on at dreary and interminable length about the difference between ‘train station’ and ‘railway station’ – are mocked as much, if not more than, the simply clueless.
This is a good-humoured, mildly interactive, show and was pretty much sold out on its first night. Will Howells is funny, charmingly geeky and the perfect antidote to all those who abuse the English language whether by being too lazy or too precious about it. Catch him while you can (and collect your free red pen!) at the Etcetera Theatre until the 2nd August at 6pm (tickets £7, concs. £6).