GRINS WITH DOG, DRAG AND DIVAS
Theres not been much to
raise a smile about in
farming lately but its hard to
keep a straight face when
you meet Colin Hile, his dog
and his alter-egos, as
Tessa Gates discovered
Not many farmers have a dog that can yodel or have the legs to carry off a dress split to the thigh but put Colin Hile in front of an audience and he will prove he has both.
Farmlife met Colin fresh from an exhilarating appearance at the London Palladium. There, before an audience of 2500 people, his dog, Undercoat, yodelled and joked without so much as a movement of Colins lips. Later Colin came on again, this time as Dame Edna Everage and indulged in a little audience participation so like Barry Humphreys Dame Edna that there was only one word for it – "spooky".
"I can milk a cow and milk an audience," says Colin, a dairy farmer born and bred and currently farm-sitting at New House Farm, Broadoak, Dorset. He had his own dairy herd until the family farm was broken up to meet the requirements of a will, and he started Rent-a-Cow South West. For this he bought the cattle then rented them to new entrants to farming. "Unfortunately I had a couple of farmers go bust on me," he says.
He has always been interested in performing, he won a drama prize at school and wanted to follow a career in acting. "But I was the only son of a farmer and left school to work on the farm," he says, although he perfected a cabaret act which he performed for several years as a youngster.
Then three years ago a cousin asked him to make a speech at his god-daughters birthday party. "I didnt want to make a speech but thought I would put on a surprise little show and I did impressions of Shirley Bassey and Dame Edna, with farmers wife Theresa Dare playing the keyboards," says Colin, who in his 30s and married with two children. From this he got a booking, then another and with the downturn in farming he thought that perhaps this was the "diversification" for him.
"I tried ringing a few agents, but that was disheartening, and then I thought I would ring the Western Gazette." The regional newspaper came out to the farm to take photographs and then syndicated them to the national press. Suddenly Colin was being pursued for tv and radio interviews and since then he hasnt looked back. He has been booked to open shops as Dame Edna and of course to appear at London Palladium.
He is negotiating a management contract with Star EFX, which ran the Palladium show, and hopes they will place him in theatres round the country. He has a two-and-half-hour entertainment packed one-man show he intends to tour with and this includes comedy sketches featuring the characters he does. "They include an gold miner, a mad Aussie vet called Mick Fever who is too coarse to be like Rolf Harris but too soft to be Les Pattison, and I am working on a Dorset farmer piece," says Colin, who has a great singing voice too. His "women" Shirley, Edna and Tina Turner are favourites and one of the most common comments is about his "wonderful legs". He takes it all in good part and has had to take a bit of ribbing at Yeovil Market. "They call out hello darling, or Shirley or Edna but they all know me and everyone has been really pleased for me," he says.
"After all, if I hadnt been a farmer I wouldnt have got all this publicity, it really seems to have caught the imagination of the Press."
Colin Hile (below left) at home on the farm as Dame Edna and with Undercoat, his yodelling dog.