Monday, 5 December 2011

More letters home from the light entertainment trenches





I've been performing at the City branch of the Proud burlesque empire on and off for most of this year, both as part of the Decades show, and in their burlesque and cabaret bills, but last week saw my debut at their Camden venue. Loved it. As you might expect, the audience is a little more savvy and hipstery than their City equivalents, which means you get more attention and less grey suits. There is also a Piranha fish in the dressing room. A real Piranha fish. In a big round tank. Apparently there were three, but one of them went a bit mental and ate the other two, and is now lonely. I will draw no parallels to the competitive life of a cabaret performer.

Brilliant bills at Proud this week, including the awesome Ophelia Bitz, Kiki Kaboom, Annette Bette and Jonathan Finch. All great. If you any of 'em on a bill, you'll be in for quite the time.


This week also saw me make the journey up to Sheffield, to do two nights of Steve Faulkner's Magic Show. I shot some promo images of Steve a while ago, one of which you can see above. I don't, in fact, do magic - but nobody seemed to mind. Steve is an old friend, and ex-street performing colleague, as was everyone on the bill. It was a lovely chance to catch up with Steve, brilliant magician (and the only person to have won both the Magic circle stage magician of the year, and closeup magician of the year) Peter Wardell, and the hilarious Noel Britten. I first met Noel about 25 years ago, for about 5 minutes at - fittingly - the London Palladium, and although we work in very similar circles, we seem to have managed to avoid each other since then. Was great to finally get to hang out with him and watch him work. Both nights the room was completely sold out and packed to the rafters with lovely people.

There's a lot said about the death of variety, and if you read this blog regularly, then you'll know that variety is far from dead - it just moved to a bunch of different venues. Variety never went away, and in the last few years it's started getting much, much stronger. And shows like Steve's are why. Good mid-sized shows that have a sell-out audience of massively up for it people, have atmosphere dripping off the walls, and talent kicking off the stage. There's shows like this is most cities, and a bunch of 'em in London, and they should be supported. At the Edinburgh festival this past August, there was a Cabaret symposium. It seemed a little self-congratulatory for me, but towards the end my friend Tricity Vogue said something that has stuck with me. She said "In the past, people have believed that television was the privileged position for a performer, but now, people are slowly realising that an intimate room full of people who want to see you is the true privileged place". She ain't wrong. 

I got a new pair of tap shoes last week. My mum taught me a few tap steps when I was a kid, and ever since I've picked up enough steps from other performers, and made up a few of my own, that I can tap dance. Not well, but enough to say I can. I haven't actually owned a pair of tap shoes for a couple of decades, but recently backstage at a gig, Laurie Hagen - no slouch dance-wise herself, told me that I couldn't call myself a vaudevillian without having a pair of taps, and she was right, so I placed an order that night. They arrived in the morning, and I was doing a show with Laurie that night, so she told me to bring them. In the interval we put on our taps, and started trading moves backstage. It was great. I could still do it. So as we're dancing at each other, giggling, a couple of audience members find their way backstage, lost, probably looking for the toilet. Out of the corner of my eye, I see them stop, realise where they are, and watch us dance of a few moments. And I see it through their eyes. A perfect glimpse behind the curtain of a cabaret show, to see a singer and a juggler having a dance off while a bunch of burlesquers watch. I see them grin, watch for a little while, and then shuffle back out to the auditorium, taking their little secret memory with them. How great.