No, this is not a lengthy essay on my favourite member of the 90’s pop fivesome and nor is it a simple but effective guide on the best use of cayenne pepper. Instead, it’s a well deserved round of applause for the true variety of theatre that the West End currently has on offer and the rather marvelous way all types exist alongside each other.
With my show schedule rolling into action on Wednesday next week, I’ve tried to get along to see as much theatre as possible before I only have Sunday matinees available to me; which is of course a day of rest, experimental cooking and my ongoing quest to master campanology. Careful… Think about it… So in recent weeks, I’ve been very privileged to see Sweet Nothings, Priscilla, Pina Bausch at the Barbican, War Horse and Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi.
Bias aside, it is huge testament to the London theatre scene that shows like War Horse and Sweet Nothings can sit alongside Priscilla and all enjoy packed audiences. Whatever your personal tastes, there is always something to excite, move, entertain, provoke or rouse you. Which makes me all the more inclined to get myself along to shows that I might not immediately rush to see - simply to make the most of what’s on offer and allow something new to inform, indulge, infuriate or delight me.
Pina Bausch’s Kontakhof proved to be an evening of much debate yet massively enthralling and a piece of dance theatre that must be preserved, simply to show what can be achieved when a practitioner has the licence to create work with no commercial restraints. She created work that she was passionate about and presented it in such a way that although it’s not always what the audience want to see, we are none the less captivated by her strict structuring of timings, shapes in space and quirky gestural choreography; we see the work through her eyes and it is not necessarily created to please us, thus we are in one way already once removed from the action before we’ve even sat down.
And just a 10 minute ride in a sweaty tube carriage (along with a group of screeching school kids, some drama school student pole dancing or singing showtunes and the obligatory 14 copies of the Evening Standard scattered around the floor like bad carpet) and you’ll find yourself in the Palace theatre facing the biggest disco ball you’ll ever see along with a neon pink lipsick smeared set. Unlike Pina, the assault on the senses throughout Priscilla is wholly deliberate and is orchestrated to give us just what we want and loads of it in an unashamedly brash way that leaves us wanting more as the curtain falls.
Yes, it’s undeniably camp and trashy, but this is trashy with a whole lot of ‘cashy’ invested in it. And so long as the producers remain entirely clear with the show’s intentions, audiences will continue to step-ball-change out of the theatre and nip into Boots on the way home to pick up a new eye liner.
Adding to the various treats currently in town, we can look forward to the imminent arrival of the Menier’s Sweet Charity, while the Broadway cast of Hair have already made themselves very cosy at the Gielgud. I hope I’ll be able to slip out of the stables and catch them at some point very soon.
Trivial item of the week: today is the day I finally discover the fate of my barnet for the next year. Yes, I’m pathetic and should really man-up and I know it’ll be fine and will be right for the show and I’m not nervous at all and don’t mind not being allowed to cut my hair for a year and of course I won’t bleach it as an amusing experiment…. Phew.
And at the end of the day, there’s an easy solution. A friend of mine once proffered these priceless words: bad hair? Good Hat.
DISCLAIMER: I can only apologise for the appalling, trite and downright awful use of the made up word ‘cashy’. I must learn that not every line needs to rhyme. Not all the time.