Tim FitzHigham: The Man Who Discovered the Kama Sutra

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Tim Fitzhigham certainly lives life to the full, taking on at least one fresh outlandish adventure each year. Usually inspired by some eccentric English upper-class antecedent, he’ll embark on such ill-considered projects as rowing the Channel in a bathtub or living in a cave in a suit of armour, just for the sheer challenge of it.

This year’s obsession is Captain Sir Richard Burton, a Victorian war hero, learned academic and fearless explorer. He infiltrated Mecca, disguised as an Arab Muslim, translated the Arabian Nights, and sought the source of the Nile and so much more besides. And, of course, he discovered the Kama Sutra.

By Fitzhigham’s standards, he didn’t try to emulate his hero too closely this year, a sprint up Mount Vesuvius and an Oxford college prank aside. Well, taking on hoardes of maurauding Somali tribesmen, despite being speared in the face, is too much even for the usually indefatigable Fitzhigham.

Our google-eyed narrator whips through the history, his passion clearly stoked by so fascinating and brave a subject. It surely can’t be long until he is presenting a TV documentary series on great men of the past, injecting some much-needed life into the moribund genre.

But, midway through, Fitzhigham gets distracted, and that’s because of the ancient Hindu sex manual which Sir Richard discovered.

The book, or at least Burton’s translation of it, is hilarious in itself, and Fitzhigham wrings out the laughs by reading random extracts from it, then simply looking up in bafflement. The euphemisms he employs, the highly dramatic writing style and the unenlightened attitude to the woman’s enjoyment in all the situations, provide many a chuckle.

He performs all this looking like a suicide bomber in a draper’s shop, with a vaguely oriental-looking curtain draped messily around his neck, along with all sorts of sundry props such as a tape-measure.

He looks a mess, carrying too much, but a delightful mess. It’s typical of a show that careers all over the place, never really deciding where to go or what’s most important. But it suits Fitzhigham’s chaotically passionate style, and the fun is driven home by his pure, infectious enthusiasm.

His exploits have earned him a fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society, just like his hero du jour, so god knows what high-jinks the next 12 months will hold. Whatever they are, they’re sure to provide as much damn fine entertainment as this did. A great ride, no sexual pun intended.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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