In 1987 Michael Phish (yes, like Fish) is a household name and weather Guru, giving portentous predictions of things to come. Living his boyhood dream of becoming a meteorologist cum ‘socialite and ladies’ man’, he doesn’t (or does he?) see that a storm is brewing, a storm which threatens to blow Phish and his reputation away. Written and performed by Russell Layton, Hurricane Michael is a blast of a production based on one of the biggest blunders in British broadcasting history.
watching Layton you cannot help but have a total and affectionate confidence in him
Phish (Layton) turns on his video camera and asks us to bear witness to the truth behind his infamous weather under-report, and we are immediately whisked away into a lively, chortle-inducing and whimsical wordplay world. Phish is our masterfully goofy guide through the swirling story, which takes us from the fated TV report, to the eye of the storm, to the belly of the BBC’s Met Office, and back again. Watching Layton you cannot help but have a total and affectionate confidence in him (much like Fish’s own audience had - before the fateful forecast); each cleverly crafted turn of phrase is delivered so skilfully, it is obvious he is a craftsman, and there are emphatic laughs punctuating each one of his creations.
Apart from Layton, the only other performers are the audience, who Phish interacts with as characters on occasion. One woman is brought up on stage, and the whole dinner-date-seduction scene manages to stay firmly on the side of irreverent hilarity and never teeters into feeling drawn out or arbitrary. Layton’s interaction with the audience makes the show shine, his ad-libs during these parts prove his commitment to the character he has created. With a vibrant performance, and packing so much into the time without ever spreading himself thinly, Layton carries his story with gusto.
As a bonus, there is a Q&A before the show begins, with director Simon Hudson and the real Michael Fish. It is clear why Hudson and Layton fell in love with Fish, who is just as entertaining as his counterpart. A fan in the audience asks if he felt a prat the morning he woke after his forecast aired and Fish replies ‘I feel a prat most mornings’.