INTREPID explorer Levison Wood takes us to the biggest danger zones on earth in Journeys through the Badlands & Beyond at St David’s Hall on Friday 2 November.
With behind-the-scenes moments from his travels over the Caucasus Mountains and his circumnavigation of the Arabian Peninsula, Levison challenges the myths and stereotypes that plague these ancient lands.
Combining current affairs with rip-roaring adventure, his humorous and awe-inspiring anecdotes reveal the real-life stories of the ordinary people he met who call these places home – from Palestinian fighters to Iraqi snipers and refugees to Bedouin nomads.
If you want to know what it’s like to be ambushed by ISIS, have tea with Hezbollah and cross pirate-infested waters in a wooden dhow – then don’t miss this spectacular show!
We caught up with Levison to talk us through what’s in store…
You’ve recently returned from another major expedition. Can you give us a sneak preview of where you’ve been? Will there be another TV series?
I recently returned from a five-month circumnavigation of the Arabian Peninsula through 13 Middle Eastern countries. It’s the most contested region on earth and is so often misunderstood. Our aim was to challenge the myths and stereotypes about the people that live there and tell a ground truth. I’m in the middle of writing a book about it, and there will be a TV show. I’m about half way through writing it now. It’s due to be published at the end of this year.
Where’s your favourite place to write?
I don’t have a strong preference – provided I’ve got my laptop and a good supply of coffee I’m usually fine! I quite like being out and about, and mix it up between pubs, cafés, the kitchen table and my study.
What sorts of stories are you planning to share on tour?
I’ll be mainly talking about my latest journey around the Arabian Peninsula, which includes everything from travelling on a tiny ship in pirate waters and fighting ISIS to climbing mountains in Lebanon and trekking across the Empty Quarter desert in Oman.
Describe your show in three words…
Exhilarating. Funny. Inspiring.
Will you be walking between venues?!
I’ve racked up the walking miles in the last few years – the Nile expedition alone was 4,250 miles – so I’m more likely to be taking an Uber!
What do you enjoy most about touring?
Taking questions from the audience and getting their feedback is good, particularly if they are younger members of the audience as it’s great to know I can inspire another generation to explore too. It’s also nice to catch up with friends, who have spread to the four winds.
How do you prepare for a show?
There isn’t much chance to prepare for a show on the day itself as it’s all a bit whistle-stop, but I like to relax backstage with friends who might live close by and I haven’t seen for a while. Once I’m onstage, it’s mainly a case of gauging the audience from the off, and hoping they respond to my stories. The real preparation is done in the months leading up to the show when I’m writing and rehearsing the material.
If you could invite 10 special guests living or dead to sit in the front row, who would they be?
I tend to fill a row with friends anyway, but for this tour I’d probably throw a sprinkling of old Middle East explorers in there to see what their reactions were. The likes of Richard Burton, Freya Stark, Ibn Battutah, Lawrence of Arabia, Wilfred Thesiger and Gertrude Bell!
What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked by a member of the audience?
I’ve had some very bizarre questions ranging from what do my socks smell like after an expedition to some quite personal ones about my love life…
Do you ever get stage fright?
Not so much anymore, but I think being a little bit nervous is probably a good thing and keeps you on your toes.
What’s on your tour rider?
A bottle of gin, an energy drink or two and a good supply of chilled tonic!