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Music: Are you a man..or a mouse? Main stage: Big Bad Mouse.

Byline: Keith Newton reports:

BOBBY Ball is full of fun but also very sad. He is delighted to be on stage in the celebrated comedy BIG BAD MOUSE but disappointed by the state of current telly.

"I very rarely watch TV," he says, "and when I do, I watch documentaries."

We should turn it off too and catch Bobby and partner Tommy Cannon at the Forum Theatre in Billingham for the week from Tuesday.

The pair who once ruled the television roost will be leading audiences through a show that defies description. Some call it a farce, others just call it "an entertainment." All agree it is very, very funny.

"Big Bad Mouse does actually have a story," says Bobby. "It's set in the orders office of Chunkibix Ltd.

Tommy is Mr Price-Hargreaves who gives the orders and I'm the mouse-like Mr Bloome who obeys them.

"Bloome is accused of chasing a secretary across a common, becomes the hero of every woman and girl in the office, gets a reputation and I play up to it."

The show was a huge hit 30 years ago when Jimmy Edwards was the star but Bobby had never seen it.

"We did it for three nights last year and at first I couldn't understand it. They said 'Come out of the play' and I didn't know what they meant.

"They said 'Do whatever you want with it' which is brilliant. We just ad lib around and what's great, about that, is that you can come as often as you want and it will be a different show every time.

"There are seven actors in the cast but they're not allowed to ad lib. Sometimes they say 'Can you tell us the joke?' but they're loving it."

Big Bad Mouse is on a 12-week tour and Bobby is delighted to be back on Teesside.

"It's our old stamping ground," he says. "We used to play all the big clubs like the Fiesta and my wife Yvonne is from Stockton."

His sons Rob and Darren, who call themselves the Harper Brothers - their and Bobby's real surname - were also in panto at the Forum two years ago.

Bobby and Tommy have been working together for 44 years and show no signs of stopping. They will start a national tour of one-nighters with other comics in August when Big Bad Mouse finishes and then it will be off to St Albans for pantomime.

"Tommy was 70 last year. I'm only 32 and have to look after him," he points out. The joking ends, though, when he laments the state of modern British television.

"A dancing dog," he sighs referring to this week's Britain's Got Talent.

He and Tommy were in I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here three years ago and Bobby was one vote away from the final.

"We won't be on again, the pros are all at home now watching the amateurs."

Because they do not have to pay them, I suggest.

"You've got it," he says.

"Everything on TV is on the cheap now."

CAPTION(S):

ROCK ON, TOMMY: Bobby (right) and Mr Cannon will have an ad lib ball at the Forum
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:May 30, 2008
Words:530
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