October 1999

Well here we are again and doesn’t it seem like we’ve never been away :o)

As you would imagine I’ve been to London again and here are a few things I noticed. I’ve decided to try something different this time so it won’t be in chronological order I thought that was getting a little predictable so let’s enter the wonderful world of Robs’ unreliable memory shall we…..

First impressions this time were of a robot……….., Well at least a robot voice on the London Tourism Office information line. I hate those things, and this service is worse than usual. All I wanted to find out was the name of the Theatre showing “Lenny”. Directory enquiries inform me they need the name to find out…..the name, somewhat defeats the object in this case.

So I try for London Tourist Information, get through to the dismembered voice from hell, offering me strangely enough loads of options, except Theatre, accommodation, tours, Cinema even, but no Theatre. Now for a city which includes the WEST END!!! You would have thought… but no. So I thought let’s try Cinema and see if it’s included in that. Suddenly “Sorry all our operators are busy please try our premium rate information line” at I think 50p per minute!

Now this happened EVERY time I tried over a 2 hour period. Now more cynical people may think this was deliberate, but I would never say such a thing :o). For those interested I found it by ringing an Agency and asking for the name of the Theatre, and very helpful they were too.

Other impressions…. I’ve never seen so many people in Leicester Square as I did at 11:30 PM ish on Saturday night, the Police were there just herding people into queues for the Nighclubs, [in some cases whether they wanted to go or not!] barriers everywhere, even as a regular I was surprised, and made a mental note Nightclub + Saturday Night = an early start queuing.

To the first of the shows I saw “Lenny”. This was only my second run at a non-Musical so I was a little apprehensive as “Art” my previous attempt was okay, but that’s about as enthusiastic as I can get I’m afraid. But this was different a Play starring a stand up comic, about a stand up comic and with an actress who I believe is very underrated. But I would say that because of three things:

I’m Male……..

she’s Elizabeth Berkley…..

and she’s nude in the show!

But that WAS NOT the reason I chose to see the show…..okay it was one of them ;o)

But I was really interested in the life of Lenny Bruce.

As someone who cannot stand censorship of any form. People have the right to make up their own minds, this obviously doesn’t include Child Pornography or cruelty to others I mean like Movies banned over here for years that people in other countries can see. I thought his stand against the repressive “regime” in place in 1950’s & ’60’s America was a great one and I wanted to know more. So I arrived at the Theatre got my ticket [pre-booked, now I know I’ve said I just turn up but this was a Saturday Night, a popular show, and coming to the end of its run so I was taking no chances.] Well I did but that’s later.

So I arrived at the Theatre, and was greeted by the one thing I could have done without “JAZZ” I hate this type of music.

Notice I don’t say it wasn’t good because for those that like it apparently it was great but I personally don’t like it, and we had 20 mins of it before the show started. This one small quibble aside the show was Excellent. For the uninitiated the play stars Eddie Izzard “Lenny Bruce” & Elizabeth Berkley “Rusty”, with two other “faces” I knew from various other projects David Ryall & James Hays amongst the supporting cast. This is a very hard hitting play and definitely would not be to everyone’s taste, but I thought it was excellent.


It starts uncompromisingly with a naked Eddie Izzard / Lenny Bruce dead in the centre of the stage, and then runs as he explains to a Judge, David Ryall, why his show isn’t obscene. Now as I’ve said this show takes no prisoners and if your offended easily, or for that matter offended by almost anything, it could be an uncomfortable few hours as “Lenny” tackles Race, Sex, Religion, and quite often all at once. This show got it’s notoriety by the full frontal nudity of both its leads, and here I must say that Elizabeth Berkley is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, even with her clothes on ;o), and really is a very good actress, her scenes on the phone to “Lenny” and in Prison were excellent. Eddie Izzard also plays the part brilliantly, even if it took me half the first half to realise the annoying cough he had was characterisation and not a result of appearing naked on a cold stage in front of a couple of hundred people every night and twice on Saturdays for the last few months. His comic training came into play on a number of occasions with a few adlibs in the style of, but probably not authentic Lenny Bruce. Like when the audience were a little slow to catch on with the required reply. A sly glance and ” Do we Want to be here ALL NIGHT then”.

A thought provoking, very funny which I haven’t mentioned to this point, and entertaining evening. Someone once said “Ich Bien Berliner” [Now I apologise to Nikki, I couldn’t get an e-mail to you in time to check, and any other German readers for the probably appalling spelling of this quote] and I can now say “I am a Theatre Goer” horrendous misquote I know but you’ll get my point in the next few lines.

The one thing I’ve never done is queue for returns, until last night [Monday] when I was deciding on something to see, I really wanted to see “Mama Mia”. I rang the Theatre and was reliably informed the Pope and his Wife couldn’t get a ticket, now before anyone takes offence I’m a Catholic and I thought it was a funny line.

So as I walked London eating a ….you’ve guessed it. I passed the Prince Edward Theatre and thought what the hell the queue wasn’t too long, it was a Monday, it wasn’t raining and my main reason for being in London, the Miss Saigon Last Cabaret, was already sorted. So I joined the end, and waited…….and waited. Now this type of patience will amaze most of my friends as I’m not known for too much patience in normal circumstances. One thing that was good about this waiting lark was chatting to my co-MAMA MIAites, one who recognised my accent, not too difficult as anyone who’s met me will confirm, and asked where I lived, I went into the ” A little place you’d never have heard of called Merthyr Tydfil ” reply immediately followed with the ” and I work in a smaller place called Risca which you’d definitely never have heard of” retort. To be greeted with the ” Well I’ve been to Merthyr, I lived in Cwmfelinfach and isn’t the Jobcentre [where I work ] opposite the park in Risca. Well when I stopped saying isn’t it a small world we continued our wait. This small World syndrome was further confirmed by the two ladies I chatted too at the interval who told me they were from Blackwood and one of their relatives was a Policeman in the Gwent Force.

To a first time member of a queue this was all new, I was surprised how quickly the time went. How anyone could be expected to be taken seriously, or at least be trying to be inconspicuous as a ticket tout, wearing “DelBoy’s” Camel hair coat and with the “never stops moving” furtiveness of George Cole in those old St. Trinians Movies [no I’m not that old I saw them on the TV] while standing right outside the doors of the Theatre.

Anyway when the waiting ended they didn’t let us in as I expected, on a first come first served basis. A man came out and worked his way down the queue asking how many tickets you wanted if for example like the people infront of me you were after three he had 3 at the £22.50 price, take it or wait and see if that many at any other prices came in. I bit his hand off for a single at the top price, and I was in.

Mamma Mia” is sold out till at least the new year, but all I can say is: take a camp bed, a tent anything but GO AND SEE THIS SHOW. It was one of the best evening’s entertainment I’ve had in years. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed other shows I’ve seen but for sheer fun, exuberance, and toe tapping tunes this show cannot be beaten. It’s no wonder it’s sold out.

The story what there is, is about a girl “SOPHIE SHERRIDAN” played by Lisa Stokke who has been brought up by her mother “DONNA” played on Monday by Annette Yeo, in a Taverna on a Greek Island. We arrive as she tells us she does not know who her father is so has read her Mothers diary, narrowed it down to three men and sent them all invitations to the Wedding, the bulk of the action takes place on the day before and the day of the Wedding.

Normally I wouldn’t give so much detail away but as the story is really just a way of hanging as many ABBA songs in a semi – coherent order, it doesn’t really matter. What you really need to know is the cast has or at least seems to have, as much fun as the audience, seeming at times to telegraph lines for song links as if to say “sorry but here goes” :o)

Cast wise Lisa Stokke is excellent with a very distinctive and pretty voice, Annette Yeo has the sort of voice that makes Sound Engineers quake, with power I mean :o) and is excellent as the confused, once “swinging”, single mum. The show is almost stolen by Jenny Galloway “ROSIE” and Louise Plowright “TANYA” backing singers and best friends of “DONNA” over for the Wedding. Jenny Galloway whom I’ve seen play “Madame Thernadier” is brilliant and really has fun with the audience. Louise Plowright makes the role of the man-eater her own and her scene with “EDDIE” is one of the highlights of a show with really no low points, except it should have been longer!!

The 3 fathers ” BILL AUSTIN” Nicolas Colicos, “HARRY BRIGHT” Paul Clarkson and “SAM CARMICHAEL” Hilton McRae [who I haven’t seen since I saw him play the Engineer in Miss Saigon years ago] are also great. Everyone and I mean everyone was dancing at the end upstairs, and down, boxes and front of house staff. I’ve never seen anything like it even at Rocky Horror, Grease and Buddy all brilliant shows but this has for some reason something extra. GO AND SEE IT that’s all I can say.

Well I told you this wasn’t in chronological order didn’t I, so we leave Theatre for a while and tackle accommodation. Normally I stay in Addlestone and commute but last night I had a problem….my brother was working nights [inconsiderate of him I know but there you go] so I couldn’t get a lift home. A Taxi would have bankrupt me, atleast £60.00 at that time of night I was reliably informed.

So I found a hotel the Regent Palace in Piccadilly the rooms were only £44.00 when booked in advance, it’s about as central as you can get short of asking Eros to shove over a bit, so I thought what the heck. Well it was clean, it had a bed, and you had your own key no Landlady saying ” If you’re out after the Cat you’re out till the Morning” So I gave it a go. And I can recommend it for those on a budget it’s fine, the rooms aren’t on suit but there are toilets and shower facilities on every floor which are “serviced” [cleaned to you and me] after every use. So I found it okay and will be staying there again. Unless any of you out there know of anywhere else at a similar price, or cheaper :o) as central or almost.??????

Well To “Miss Saigon”, you didn’t really think you’d get away with a whole report without me mentioning it did you?? This was the real reason I was in London. The last ever :o( Miss Saigon Cabaret evening at the Talk of London. All I can say is BRAVO. Well not quite ALL, the show was compared by, two members of the cast, a very striking lady who attended at one point the Elizabeth Berkley school of costume………well almost ;o). The first song and here my horrendous memory for song titles kicks in I’m afraid called something like “there’s a child..” was lovely and the Welsh were well represented by a bald headed soul singer and member of the chorus, with an excellent version of “Mustang Sally”. There was a brilliant guitar duet, some great solo numbers one buy a crew member I believe with two cast members in support, an original switching of roles made all the more entertaining by the fact that they said the crew member had been with the show from Day one. And a big cast & crew number to end a great if slightly sad evening and well worth the trip from Wales.

Well there you have it. I’m back again on the 30th for the last night of the great “Miss” so expect a localised shortage of Kleenex. I won’t bore you with another review of that but will let you know if anything else of not happens……See Ya. Rob

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