Norfolk's hall of fame

ED FOSS Some of comedy's most famous faces gathered in the shadow of a spectacular Norfolk stately home last night for an outdoor screening of their BAFTA-nominated movie.


Some of comedy's most famous faces gathered in the shadow of a spectacular Norfolk stately home last night for an outdoor screening of their Bafta-nominated movie.

Instead of red carpets and the glare of the world's media, perfectly-manicured lawns and the gentle clink of drinks glasses greeted the special showing of A Cock and Bull Story.

And the designer labels reserved for high-profile London or Hollywood premieres were left at home, with casual dress the order of the evening.

The gathering at Felbrigg Hall, one of the National Trust's properties near Cromer, was not simply an excuse to show the film in a pleasant location on a classically warm, dry summer night.

It may have acted as a launch of the 26th Cambridge Film Festival, but much more importantly it was a chance for genuine fans to meet their silver screen heroes, who last night included comedians Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and Stephen Fry. The event was open to the paying public and several of the celebrities were happy to mingle.

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The screening, held in the hall's walled garden, was also an opportunity for those stars to return to the film's key location.

Felbrigg Hall, Blickling Hall and Heydon Hall were all used during the filming of the comedy drama, although the former was the most important of the three.

Almost every room at the 17th century country house was used when the cast and crew took it over in October 2004.

The film is an adaptation of one of literature's more bizarre classics, The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, an experimental novel by Laurence Sterne.

Welsh comedian and chatshow host Rob Brydon, who plays indecisive Uncle Toby, described the film as a wonderful adaptation of a phenomenally difficult novel.

He added that Norfolk was “like Britain used to be”.

“And we are also very lucky to be here in the summer this time, a season of abundance, whereas before we were here in the autumn, a season associated with death,” he said.

Steve Coogan, best known to Norfolk folk as the hopelessly crass broadcaster Alan Partridge, plays four roles in the film - the main character Shandy, his father Walter, the author Sterne and himself.

He added that he was very proud and excited about the film.

“Being at Felbrigg Hall for the filming was the most enjoyable thing I have done in my career. It was a wonderful place to work.”

Ahead of the screening, he told the EDP: “I am planning to watch a bit of the film and leave before the embarrassing bits or I might drink a bit too much and do something embarrassing anyway.”

Director Michael Winterbottom, renowned for his unusual and sometimes provocative films, said: “We had a lot of laughs filming at Felbrigg. This screening is a great chance to meet up with all our friends who worked on the film.”

Tristram Shandy was published in nine volumes from 1759 to 1767.

The book is narrated by Shandy and begins at the moment of his conception, taking in his birth, christening and accidental circumcision.

It diverts into endless digressions and stories within stories.

Events occur out of chronological order and sometimes whole pages are filled with asterisks or dashes or left entirely blank.

The adapted film flits between the 18th century and a contemporary film crew trying to capture the essence of Sterne's book.

Coogan's anecdotes get interrupted by family and household staff accidentally revealing other truths.

t A Cock and Bull Story hit cinema screens in January and the DVD will be officially released on July 10. It will include special features such as behind-the-scenes footage, coverage of the premiere and audio commentary from some of the stars.

The DVD will be priced at around £19.99 and will be available from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.