POET, musician, comedian – however you categorise him, Ian McMillan answers the call with a sense of wonder and wit.
His self-named orchestral outfit returns to Theatre Royal Wakefield this month to tickle audiences with hilarious improvisations borne of eavesdropping and coincidence.
Ian – a Barnsley man through and through – says his rapid-fire spoken word tales are lifted from the everyday and bought to life by his cohorts in the Ian McMillan Orchestra.
All of his stories, it seems, are a mixture of happenstance, excellent comic timing, and great attention to detail.
“Where do I get my inspiration?” he asks. “Things happen to me all the time. I notice things, I see things, I write down them in my little notebook.
“Once I was watching a football match and the commentator said “the midfielder is in space”. I thought, ‘wow, like an astronaut’ - what a beautiful phrase.
“Another day I was coming back from London on the train and I heard this lad say ‘I’ve been at an interview to study drama and stage fighting’.
“What’s that entail? Monday wrestling, Tuesday sword fighting? Brilliant...”
Ian and his five-piece band have been working the theatre circuit off and on for around five years – a collaboration between members who live all over the country and have the enviable talent of turning up on the night, rehearsing material on the fly, then hitting the stage.
It’s a night of musings, quandaries, rhythms and rhymes, led by a man who is stoic in his approach to performance.
“It’s difficult if we have got new stuff on the night,” he concedes. “Sometimes we just get to the venue and rehearse it there.
“But we also make one up on the night. I get the audience to suggest a few ideas and make something up, it’s my favourite bit.
“The band start playing a rhythm and I open my mouth and stuff tumbles out. It’s an amazing thing, I’m just making it up on the spot.
“It helps if the words rhyme but if I started thinking about it I’d be stuffed. Once someone suggested antidisestablishmentarianism but it’s got a flow.
“I think I rhymed it with something about a man on a racehorse.”
The Ian McMillan Orchestra plays Theatre Royal Wakefield on January 26 at 7.30pm.
Tickets are available at www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk or by calling box office on 01924 211311.