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Martin Freeman in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock
Martin Freeman in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock
Martin Freeman in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock

In case you missed them, these startling images were released late last week to promote the BBC mock-rock comedy Brian Pern: A Life in Rock, which is the sequel to BBC Four’s The Life of Rock with Brian Pern.

To illustrate what kind of a thing it is (we’ll get to Martin Freeman and why he looks like that in a moment), here’s a brief clip from the first series, in which the suspiciously Peter Gabriel-ish Brian Pern (played by Simon Day) narrates the history of rock music, with particular reference to his own band, the prog-rock behemoths Thotch.

The sequel is the story of Brian’s attempt to create Stowe Boys*, a West End musical based on the band’s early years. And that’s where Martin comes in.

Martin Freeman, Simon Day in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock
Martin Freeman, Simon Day in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock

He plays himself, the actor Martin Freeman with his Richard III beard still intact, who has been approached to play Young Brian.

Martin Freeman, Simon Day in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock
Martin Freeman, Simon Day in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock

After a frank discussion of the role with Brian himself, Martin signs up and so does the comedian Jack Whitehall, who plays himself playing the younger version of Thotch’s keyboard player, Tony Pebble.

Jack Whitehall, Kathy Burke and Martin Freeman in Brian Pern: A Life in Rock

And look! That’s British national treasure Kathy Burke too.

Thotch Brian Pern: A Life in Rock

And here’s the full line-up of the all-new ‘Thotch’:

Thotch Brian Pern: A Life in Rock
Thotch Brian Pern: A Life in Rock

And for anyone unfamiliar with the original Thotch in all of their red-clawed shrieking glory, here’s a clip. Keep an eye out for The Fast Show’s Paul Whitehouse on lead guitar and Nigel Havers as the real Tony Pebble:

Kinda groovy, y’dig?

Brian Pern: A Life in Rock comes to BBC Two on December 9. And according to the Hollywood Reporter, Martin Freeman is in talks to take a lead role in Tina Fey’s big screen adaptation of Kim Barker’s blackly comic war memoir Taliban Shuffle.

* The title is a play both on Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons musical, and the British public school Stowe, which is a reference to the early years of Genesis, who formed while at the similarly upper crust Charterhouse school.

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By Fraser McAlpine