A glitter bomb of drag queens in outrageous slap and the highest heels sashayed onto the stage at Norwich’s Theatre Royal to add a little glamour to the naughty but nice musical Kinky Boots, the very latest thing from the class act that is the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society. The show is based on a 2005 British comedy* of the same name, which itself is loosely based around the true story of a Northampton cobbler struggling to save his family-run factory from closure by producing fetish footwear for men.
With songs by Cyndi Lauper and a book by Harvey Fierstein, the show is a glorious celebration of diversity and acceptance. Despite being set against the grim reality of deindustrialised Britain, it’s a heart-warming tale of hope and salvation, and strangely resonant given Norwich’s own long history of shoe-making. The dazzling cast did Cyndi proud, and dowager drag queen Lola was simply fabulous. The show ended with a well-deserved standing ovation.
I’ll leave the last words to that camp old crooner Barry Manilow and aptly named sixties supergroup The Kinks.
Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl
With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there.
‘Copacabana‘ by Barry Manilow
Well, I’m not dumb but I can’t understand
Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man
‘Lola’ by Ray Davis
*A film directed by Norwich’s very own Julian Jarrold. The Jarrold family are big round here.
Last year New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics were all big bangs but no punters. The pandemic saw to that. This year, punters were back in force, lining the banks of the Thames. To mark their return, London Mayor Sadiq Khan put on a show of shock and awe. There were nods to various events from 2022 – the lionesses’ historic win in the Euros, fifty years of London Pride, standing tall with Ukraine and, of course, remembering Her Maj. The sky exploded like a million party poppers, a spectacular musical extravaganza to celebrate London’s extraordinary diversity and strong sense of inclusion – a city for all – and it was a marvellous sight to behold.
Yes, folks, it’s that time of year when big money is lavished on those big-budget Yuletide TV ads with a social conscience – ads to make you smile, make you cry and make you think. I know it’s all about the relentless commercialisation of Christmas and a crude attempt by big business to convince us all that they’re the good guys really. But, if they’re well done and have a laser-sharp message then they can strike the perfect note and, hopefully, make a difference. Every little helps, as they say at Tesco. Here are my personal favourites from the UK, Germany and Spain.
With all the endless doom and gloom swilling around us, it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come. It says something incredibly powerful about our society when the three finalists of Strictly Come Dancing – the most popular show on British TV – were a black woman, a deaf actor and a same-sex couple, as voted for by the viewers. As critic Barbara Ellen put it in her Guardian review:
“A ground-breaking Strictly final in step with modern Britain.”
“… Strictly, and the BBC, at its best: everyone welcome, and everything all the better for it.”
Hot on the heels of Strictly came the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, also a public vote. It was won by the child of Chinese-Romanian immigrants with a gay diver bringing up the rear in second place.
And then came the out-of-the-blue and very public marriage proposal on the stage of Norwich’s splendid Theatre Royal at the end of their Christmas panto production of Dick Whittington. When Joe popped the question, the kids went wild. Just as well Luke said yes!
asked the driver in broad Naarfuk as we clambered into the back of the taxi. Here we go, I thought. We’re gonna have thatconversation again.
Cabbies are notorious chatterboxes, aren’t they? I think it’s in the job description. And they’ve usually got a view on absolutely everything, with opinions often slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. I knew where the conversation was heading and I didn’t fancy going round the houses so I cut straight to the chase.
“No, we’re husbands.”
“Oh, reet. Me youngest is gay too.”
It turns out our local yokel is totally unfazed by his son’s sexuality and he told us about it – loudly and proudly all the way.
“’Bin goin’ steady wiv the boyfriend for a couple of year now. I ‘ear weddin’ bells. I might get me a noo ‘at!”