We’ve put Amazon Prime on trial. The retail juggernaut offers Prime free for a month. The jury’s out whether we’ll carry on once the trial is over. Not because it’s rubbish. It isn’t. But because Amazon has got too big for its boots. Just saying.
The trial did give us the chance to check out Prime Video and a couple of movies that took our fancy – ‘Dating Amber’ and ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. We’d not heard of the former but we’d seen the stage version of the latter beamed from the West End before the pandemic turned off the glitter ball.
Set in Ireland during the mid-90s, ‘Dating Amber’ tells the story of Eddie and Amber, two gay teens who decide to fake a romance to stop the kids at school from banging on about their sexuality. It’s a funny, sweet and touching coming out tale, and perfect for warming a cool autumnal evening.
The musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ was a surprise West End hit, inspired by the 2011 BBC documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’. The show follows the eponymous teenager as he beats the bullies and the bigots to slip on the high heels, sequined frock and big hair as a wannabe drag queen.
The show’s back on in the West End now and Prime recently premiered the film version. We liked the stage show but we loved the movie – gutsy, exuberant and courageous with a sparkling cast, including Max Harwood as Jamie.
And what do these two films have in common (apart from the bleedin’ obvious)? None other than fabulous Irish actress, writer and comedian Sharon Horgan who plays Eddie’s doting mother and Jamie’s tight-arsed teacher. Sharon Horgan’s all over our screens right now, making career hay while the TV sun shines. And who came blame her?
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.
This year, Liam and I jollied in London for our birthdays. A state of the art, hi-tech micro-room in St James’ was the perfect base for our foraging. We arrived on Remembrance Sunday and the centre of town was buzzing with blazers, badges and bling under a canopy of Christmas lights. It was fun being tourists with time on our hands to roam and drink it all in, something we rarely did when we were worker bees on the treadmill.
Talking of drinking it all in, no trip to the West End is quite the same without a jar or two in a local hostelry. As seems to be our habit these days, we ended up at Halfway to Heaven, a gay bar just off Trafalgar Square and the splendid den of iniquity where Liam first caught my roving eye 13 years ago. Quite by chance, we arrived just in time to catch their annual Remembrance Day show.
The pub was rammed with military veterans – men and women, young and old, straight, gay and everything in between, all in their Sunday best – enjoying a convivial mingle with the regulars.
Halfway to Heaven has become something of a safe and welcoming place for ex-military LGBT people. Who knew? But it was a wonder to behold. When we were at the bar ordering drinks, a middle-aged woman was chatting to the manager.
“Thank you for being so nice to my dad and his husband,”
she said, pointing at two old soldiers in the corner.
The annual Norfolk and Norwich Festival is in full swing right now, an eclectic mix of the performing arts in venues right across the city. One of the more original festival venues is the Adnams Speigeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, a replica Edwardian erection with a handy on-site beer garden to quench the thirst. Last night, we enjoyed a night at the big top with Panti Bliss, the Irish drag queen who’s become a bit of a national treasure in Ireland since her famous exposition of homophobia last year. I wrote a post about Panti’s eloquent speech and remarked at the time that it would change minds. And it has. Panti was no less eloquent last night as she revealed funny, absurd and touching titbits from her extraordinary life. Her social commentary was razor-sharp and the copious consumption of gin did nothing to blunt the edge.
Naturally, Panti has been a dedicated supporter of marriage equality in the Irish Republic. In fact, there’s a national referendum on that very subject today. Let’s hope our friends over the water do the right thing. I’m optimistic. It will mean that across these wind-swept islands, only Northern Ireland* will be holding back the tide of social progress. And a yes vote in the Republic might just shame those dusty old Presbyterians into some positive action. But did Panti get back to Dublin in time to cast her vote?
*In fact, there is no marriage equality in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands either. Except in matters of tax evasion, these off-shore tax havens always have be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era.