Come On You Queens!

Now that live theatre is back in full flow after the lockdown drought, we’ve been lapping up the good, the bad and average. First on the bill was the fantastic Come From Away – a West End show for our times – at the aptly named Phoenix Theatre. Next up was Norwich’s cute Maddermarket Theatre for a semi-pro production of One Man, Two Guvnors, the full-on farce which made a West End and Broadway star of James Corden. We saw the London show a few years back but enjoyed our little local offering rather more.

Then there was Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks the Musical on its pre-West End run – strictly for the kiddies and needs work before it gets to London – and The Dresser starring the brilliant Matthew Kelly as the well-past-his-sell-by-date thesp and a so-so Julian Clary as his long-suffering retainer. Both productions were at Norwich’s splendid Theatre Royal.

But by far the best in show was Six – also at Norwich’s Theatre Royal – a very modern musical about Henry the Eighth’s six wives. The gig was first performed by Cambridge University students at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017 and has since gone global. It’s now on its UK tour.

Presented as a concert by a girl group, the wives take turns to sing their stories to decide who should get lead vocals. It’s a right royal foot-tapping take on girl power long before the Spice Girls got in on the act. Of course, in reality they were just pawns in Henry’s matrimonial chess game – divorced, beheaded, died – divorced, beheaded, survived.

Let’s face it, we only really remember the old letch because he had six wives. Ok, there was the small matter of the break with Rome too, but honestly, Henry, all that fuss over a pretty face and the pursuit of a male heir. His daughters were much more capable. Well perhaps not Bloody Mary so much, but the Virgin Queen showed real girl power.

Jurassic City

It’s been a pretty dismal summer, weather-wise. The shortest of heatwaves in June, a washed-out July and a blanket of low cloud for most of August. Still, we didn’t suffer the death and devastation of flash floods, wilting temperatures and rampant wildfires that afflicted Turkey and much of continental Europe so I guess we should count our lucky stars. And who needs the sun anyway when the streets of Norwich are lit up by brightly coloured dinosaurs?

Over the last few years we’ve had an invasion of psychedelic gorillas, a parade of glittery elephants, the flight of the camp dragons, a husk of vivid hares and a swarm of big bugs. Now it’s the turn of dazzling dinosaurs on the Go Go Discover T Rex Trail inspired by the arrival in Norwich Cathedral of Dippy, the Natural History Museum’s iconic Diplodocus cast. It’s the final gig of his nationwide tour.

Image courtesy of Norwich Cathedral

Twenty-one individually designed T Rex sculptures meander through the centre of the city as a guided route to the Cathedral – just in time for school’s out for Summer. If God can’t tempt the kids into church come Sunday, Dippy surely will.

Here’s a small sample. I guess my favourite ought to be the rainbow T Rex stomping all over Millennium Plain but actually it’s Sherlock on Cathedral Close that gets my vote.

As usual, the trail is all in aid of Break, a charity providing support to young people in care. They’ve also covered Cambridge in a herd of colourful cows. That’s a lot of painted udders.

Summer of Laughs (Part 1)

It’s been a comedy season of fun and laughter, despite the COVID blues and the hit and miss weather. After drag gags from the extraordinary La Voix a couple of weeks ago, we were back at Interlude in the Close for another comic treat – Henning Wehn, the self-styled ‘German Comedy Ambassador for Teutonic jolliness’.

A regular on many a TV panel show, Henning has been living and working in Britain for twenty years and provides a ballsy view of the life on these islands from a continental perspective, always delivered with wit, insight and affection.

His was a show in preview called Das Neuen Materialen Nachten (The New Materials Night) – a brand new routine, testing the water before a big tour. And there was plenty of water to go round – our bottom halves were soaked through as we rushed along Cathedral Close and squelched across the sodden playing fields of the lower school. Liam was wearing trainers – well you can imagine.

What Henning ambitiously called a masterpiece under construction was more a work in progress but there was plenty of witty banter, and the jokes old and new made sure the angry clouds didn’t dampen our spirits. The wine helped, of course.

High Camp in a Big Tent

We love a live show and they don’t get more lively than ‘La Voix’, drag queen extraordinaire and a glorious blend of song, sparkle and wit. La Voix belts out the tunes in the best tradition of old-fashioned drag cabaret where the voice and the repartee are just as important as the frocks and the wig.

It was high camp in a big tent – ‘Interlude in the Close’, a big top in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral’s Lower School. La Voix’s old razzle dazzle was part of the wider opening up of the arts across the city, after a very dark time. Even during the Blitz, the theatres stayed open; not so with COVID.

The only downside was travelling back to the village on the last bus with a load of young people who’d been out on the razzle themselves. They were no trouble, but there wasn’t a mask between them. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Get the Bloody Jab

We just can’t wait to get back into the theatre – we’ve a glittering chorus of touring musicals queued up – from the modern: Six, Waitress, The Book of Mormon to the classics: Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Sound of Music. Few trades have suffered from COVID more than the performing arts. The only sure way to get bums back on seats and keep them there is for everyone to get the jab. And yet there are still some twats out there who won’t get vaccinated because they’d rather fall for the total crap swilling around social media than listen to those who really know what’s what.

A case in point is the music video commissioned by the Official London Theatre (the umbrella organisation for London’s West End theatreland) which features a host of names encouraging vaccine take-up. I love it because it’s a spoof of ‘The Rhythm of Life’ number from Sweet Charity, one of my all-time favourites. Like everything else these days, the video’s on YouTube. Depressingly, the barrage of fake ‘outrage’ from the trolls is staggering.

So I have two messages – the first to the refuseniks…

Do us all a favour, stop being a wanker and get the bloody jab because it’s the right thing to do.

And the second to those running the show…

Do us all a favour, share the vaccine with those in the world who can’t afford it because it’s the right thing to do and because until we’re all protected, none of us are.