Tag Archives: london

A Canadian Christmas in London, 1979

I asked Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, if she had any memories of Christmases past. She sent me this about a time when she was an exotic dancer and comedy performer.


Anna Smith in 1979

Anna Smith in London in 1979

The second time I went to England, on the QE2 liner, was in mid-November 1979. Traveling on the QE2 was cheaper than the plane fare. Ian McKellen was on the ship and he gave a little lecture about acting. He had a Q&A afterwards, but I didn’t ask him anything.

When I arrived, I had £30 pounds in cash and the address of the Nell Gwyn club in Soho, where I stayed for seven years. I worked at the Nell Gwyn/Gargoyle Club and ended up living in a house on Royal College Street in Camden full of actors and strippers and comics and an ape expert (Peter Elliott) but they all went to their parents’ houses for Christmas so I was left alone for my first Christmas in London.

It was unusually snowy that year and I got very ill from running around Soho taking my clothes off in different clubs.

So I relaxed in bed. I don’t recall quite which bed, but likely it was the ape man’s, since he probably was the only one who could afford a television.

He used to lie in bed and get woken up by calls from his agent for auditions or odd jobs like teaching Romanian child acrobats to imitate chimpanzees. One time his agent called and asked if he wanted to go to Canada, to work on a film called Quest for Fire. He was an actor and ape expert… Still is. Any British movie about apes for the last forty years, he’s been in or consulted on it.

The first time I met him, he had just returned from Birmingham with a huge white bandage on one of his fingers. A female chimpanzee had tried to rape him.

Ian Hinchliffe in the 1980s

Comedy legend Ian Hinchliffe ate glass but was not an acrobat

I think he was from an acrobat family…. Do they have many of those in Yorkshire?  Who knows?

But Yorkshire produced Ian Hinchliffe who was no acrobat, though he did perform tricks with broken glass.

Anyway, Peter Elliott, the ape expert, was a Desmond Morris fanatic; he advised me to read The Naked Ape and was not mean to me about being an ignorant Canadian.

One lady who lived in that house was very aloof about me and she was always pointing out how inferior people from the Colonies were. One time we were both heading into central London at the same time. I don’t know where she was off to but I was on my way to work and a bit late. It was very snowy and when I saw our bus rushing towards us I flagged it as if it was a taxi, even though we were not at a bus stop. She looked appalled and said sternly: “This is London – We don’t flag the bus here!”

But the bus stopped right in front of us and we both got onto it.

Really, I never have had any problems flagging a bus. One time I did it during a sandstorm in Sydney. Because of the storm I was the only passenger, so the driver took me all the way home. I think he had just finished his shift.

As for that lady who was so mean and had not appreciated that I had flagged the bus for her so, when she went out of town, I slept with her boyfriend who did not seem to think I was inferior at all.

Anyhow, I had an interesting Christmas alone in that tall four story townhouse. in Royal College Street.

I did not have much food, but I enjoyed watching television because there were so many talk shows, though I did not know who any of the guests were or have any idea what they were talking about. It was all very interesting because I was trying to figure out stuff like Why is Esther Rantzen so important to British people?

Tony Green, aka Sir Gideon Vein, c 1983/1884

Tony Green, aka Sir Gideon Vein, in a London graveyard c1984

I phoned my mother in Vancouver to tell her I was fine in London making friends with lots of fantastic strippers and nice men who were ape impersonators or who wrote poetry about their glasses (John Hegley) with friends who pretended they were dead (Tony Green) and who wrote songs about stomping on their cats (Tony De Meur). Also there was a very nice gay actor who had sex with a woman once because he was very professional and said he wanted to know what it felt like in case it ever came up at an audition.

We were all very responsible and only one of the men had ever got a woman pregnant (a comedian who is now a big Name).

I did not mention to my mother the man from British Telecom who somehow had ended up at our parties, because he was a bit older and I did not want her to worry.

Anna Smith impersonates an Englishwoman in London in 1984. She borrowed the cat

Anna Smith impersonates an Englishwoman in London in 1984… She had to borrow the cat

“Thank God you’re alright,” my mother had told me. “I was so worried when I didn’t hear from you for a month.”

Then she told me she had phoned Scotland Yard to ask them to look for me. Scotland Yard told my mother that hundreds of girls disappear in London every day so not to call them for another six months.

I stayed for seven years in London.

I had to keep leaving to go dance in Belgium because of UK visa restrictions.

I was constantly in trouble over my work permit in Belgium and eventually I had up go to a Belgian doctor in London’s Harley Street to get my vaccines updated and a certificate saying I was mentally fit to strip in Belgium.

Once in Brussels, we had to sign elaborate contracts in quadruplicate in French and Flemish which had hundreds of items including that if we were performing trapeze or with wild animals we were responsible for obtaining our own insurance.

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An actor’s tale: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”

Peter Stanford took tea with me at Soho Theatre

Peter Stanford sipped tea at Soho Theatre Bar

The last time I blogged about Mensa member Peter Stanford was in June four years ago, when he was taking part in the annual Naked Bike Ride in London.

A couple of weeks ago, he was telling me: “Yes.  I am moving out of the hostel for the homeless to a Church’s Housing flat soon and do not know how much notice I will have. (Four hour’s notice to get in the hostel.)  Library computer running out. If you blog about me, will it affect my chances of getting acting work? Should it therefore be anonymous?”

When we met, we decided it would not.

We met in the Soho Theatre Bar.

“So currently,” I said, “you are living a transient life…”

“I am living in a hostel, yes. I was sleeping rough, living on the pavement, from last Christmas to about April this year.”

“I suppose, as an actor,” I said, “it doesn’t matter where you are.”

“And I have a bicycle,” said Peter. “I haven’t got my youth, but I have my stamina and I can cycle across London and back. Swimming and cycling I can still do.”

Why he is homeless is complicated and he feels too personal to print, as it might affect someone else.

"I have turned down two offers from producers saying: Tell your story"

Turned down 2 offers from producers saying: Tell your story

He also told me: “I have turned down two offers from producers saying: Tell your story about middle class homelessness.”

“You were,” I said, “almost in Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie Grimsby.

“Well…” he replied. “I got an email from one of the agencies saying: Would you object to being a urinating vicar in the film called Grimsby? So I told them: Not at all; sign me up. But then I never heard from them again.

“I can,” he continued, “think of other tales to destroy one’s self-image – being invited onto Take Me Out, turning up on set in my normal clothes for the role of a squatter and being told: You’ve been to costume and make-up then?

“On the other hand, I was writing out my theatrical CV the other day and it looks quite impressive. I sang at the London Palladium with Robbie Williams. I sang at the London Coliseum with ELO.”

“With Robbie Williams?” I asked.

“I was ‘a fat popstar’,”he explained. “At the time, Robbie Williams was getting a lot of flak in the press for looking fat, so he wrote a song and all these fat people ran out and sang No-One Likes a Fat Pop Star. And I’ve sung opera in my time.”

Peter Stanford: one man in his time plays many parts

Peter Stanford… “One man in his time plays many parts…”

“Weren’t you Henry VIII?” I asked.

“Yes. At Hampton Court. But my best story of being a homeless actor was when I was living on the streets. I went to the library to do my emails and was offered the chance to be the new face of Stella Artois beer. I had not told any agents that I was sleeping on the pavement.

We would be filming in Rumania, they told me, so we will put you up in a five star hotel for a week and then buy you out for eight thousand Euros. Is that acceptable?

“I told them that it was and thought that I must get the job for the irony alone. Pavement to 5 Star hotel, then back to the pavement (if I know anything about the wait before payment). I was going to be a Victorian doctor in the ads. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it.”

“But you almost got it,” I asked, “by going to the library?”

Peter’s multiple London library cards

Peter’s has multiple London library cards

“Oh, every day I go to the library and log on: Wandsworth, Ealing, Kingston, Southwark, Greenwich… Westminster is good because it’s open until 9.00pm. They are all good places to go and sleep. I once fell asleep while I was cycling.”

“What?”

“Fortunately,” Peter continued, “I didn’t go under a bus. I went to other way and hit a kerb, flew through the air and landed on my knee. It woke me up.”

“So how do you survive financially?”

“When I became homeless, for the first time in my life, I signed on the dole. I had been living off my acting and living with a relative. I was always brought up to be frugal.”

“I think,” I said, “you’re allowed to work up to something like 16 hours a week and still sign on?”

“Something like that.”

“How many acting jobs do you get a month?”

“Two or three. I’ve been auditioning a lot. I was a vicar the other week. When they gave me the address, it was where they had had my uncle’s cremation last year.”

“You seem to be getting typecast as vicars,” I suggested.

“Well, I have a deep voice, so I am either good guys or bad guys. A deep voice means evil or benign. A psychopath or wise old man.”

“There’s no way out of this, is there,” I asked, “unless you get a big role?”

“There is my one-man show about James Robertson Justice,” said Peter.

“Except,” I said, “no-one remembers who he was.”

“Alas,” said Peter.

“You wrote it for yourself,” I prompted.

James Robertson Justice in his prime

Actor James Robertson Justice

“I was writing it as a one-man play about James Robertson Justice and someone was interested and, three quarters of the way through, he suddenly asked: Could you make it about Brian Blessed instead? I told him the main reason I couldn’t do that was it was based on James Robertson Justice’s life.”

“Ironically,” I said, “the best person to play the part of James Robertson Justice would be Brian Blessed.”

“That part’s taken,” laughed Peter. “By me.”

“You have already performed it?”

“Written and performed it.”

“You could do it at the Edinburgh Fringe,” I suggested.

“I could do it anywhere. I’ve got a friend for free accommodation in Edinburgh, but I have never been to the Fringe.”

Peter Stanford at Wellington Arch, London, yesterday

Peter Stanford at the Naked Bike Ride in 2012

 

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Noel Faulkner closes the Comedy Cafe. He’s not on drugs. He’s got Tourette’s.

Say goodbye to the logo after 26 years...

Say goodbye to the laughter after 26 years.

I got a message late last night from Noel Faulkner: “I will call you tomorrow to talk about losing the club.”

London’s Comedy Cafe is closing at the end of this month, after 26 years.

“We have been negotiating this for the last fucking year,” he told me. “I thought the comedy could stay, but the guy is a prick.”

“So why is it?” I asked. “The lease has ended on the building?”

“Yeah. They bid £80,000 more than we did and we can’t meet those figures, because comedy is not doing that well, you know?”

“So when exactly,” I asked, “does the Comedy Cafe close?”

“New Years Eve.”

“With a big party?” I asked.

“There will be a party on Tuesday 3rd January?”

“Where?”

“In the Comedy Cafe, because we have nine days to pull out all the equipment.”

“You have,” I asked, “been looking round for other places?”

“Yeah, well yes. But you might as well be looking up your own fucking asshole. Everyone is a fucking idiot – except me, of course.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well, people go: Oh yeah, yeah, great. And they want to rent me rooms. And I tell them: Comedy costs me £600 a night to put on, not counting PR. I can’t afford the rent. You are going to take the bar money. But they don’t understand it and Shoreditch is up its own ass.”

“You would prefer to stay in Shoreditch?” I asked.

“Well, that’s where we are known. I can’t move to fucking Tierra del Fuego, you know? You need to stay around where people know you cos, y’know, 26 fucking years.”

“And the landlord,” I said, “is just interested in the money – obviously.”

“Of course!” said Noel. “What do you think he’s interested in? Comedy?”

“And the new leaseholder?” I asked.

Noel Faulkner - sharp suited

Noel – smiling in the face of adversity

“The new owner wants me to stay in, because he can’t get people in his bar early – he owns 10 pubs in Shoreditch. But he doesn’t want to pay us anything for the fixtures and fittings. We re-wired the building. We put in new floors and toilets And he has already gazumped us, so I’m not going to turn round and say: Oh! I’m going to help you do good business now, even though you fucked me over and given me nothing for goodwill. So it doesn’t look like it could work with him.”

“Is there,” I asked, “a slight possibility it might?”

“It doesn’t look good. He hasn’t got back to me in two weeks. So it’s probably the end of the Comedy Cafe, unless I can find something else. I can’t really talk about this. I’m so fucking wound up, John. It’s so really annoying. The whole thing is fucking annoying. It’s 26 years. Boom! Whoom! Bang! Nothing I could do. We never made the big money. Big names play your club once and then, after that, they’re too busy to come back to you.

“There’s very little support in the comedy business. A bunch of cunts. No better than the fucking City Boys, to be honest. An awful lot of wankers in the business.”

I laughed.

“But there are,” Noel re-emphasised. “Like (he named a promoter). And the other fuckers. They’re just fucking horrible people.”

“Why are they horrible?” I asked. “They’re just trying to make a living.”

“Well,” suggested Noel, “it’s screwing comics out of their fees to make a living. Is that OK? That’s a ridiculous statement, John. The judge asks: Why did you rob a bank? – Oh, I’m just trying to make a living, yer honour! – Oh, OK. No problem there! So, no, that’s a terrible argument, John.”


NOEL HAS POSTED A NEW MUSIC VIDEO ON YOUTUBE:

 

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I am lazy. Comedy club crowdfunding continues. Comic will change his name.

(L-R) Barry Ferns, Dec Munro, Rachel Warnes and Sarah Pearce

(L-R) The founding four for Angel Comedy 2.0  – Barry Ferns (horizontal), Dec Munro, Rachel Warnes and Sarah Pearce

Oh Jesus.

Mea culpa.

Today is 21st July.

On 3rd June, I had a chat with Barry Ferns and Dec Munro about the Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign they had just started to help finance the new Angel Comedy 2.0 comedy club in London’s Islington. The idea was that I could give their campaign a boost with a blog. What could go wrong?

Well, my laziness and tortuous Things I Am Doing for a start.

I mean, if I am going to bullshit, they didn’t really need me anyway.

Their target was to raise a whopping £20,000.

They did this within a week.

At the time of writing, they have now raised over £45,000 and there are only a five hours left.

But – hey! – at least I will have posted a blog of some kind at some point. The Kickstarter page is at:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/angel-comedy/angel-comedy-club
and Angel Comedy supremo Barry Ferns (an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner) has posted a very fine video on YouTube about the Angel 2.0 project.

As an incentive to pledge money, donors will be given various limited-edition Angel Comedy goodies. If you donate more than £30, you can name a random object in the building. So there might be a John Fleming knob (on a door). If you pledge £75 or more, there will be a tankard with your engraved name on it above the bar. For £200, you can name the glitter ball. For £500 you can name a toilet. And – recently added to the incentives – you can also re-name Barry Ferns.

“All of our backers get a vote,” Barry told me last week. “Even just a £1 pledge gets a vote. We will be having a proper naming ceremony as part of the official club opening in September – where I will sign the deed poll form and one of our winning backers will get to counter-sign and witness the name change.”

“Why?” I asked. “Just simply, why?”

“To show how grateful we are,” said Barry. “Anyone can suggest a name for me – even a vengeful ex-girlfriend or a maniac like Adam Larter – who is trying to create a name that will get me into as much trouble at passport control as possible. Suggestions so far include: Mr Terrorist, VOID NAME, 000000000 and First Name, Surname. The stakes are quite high…

The new Angel Comedy 2.0 - the whole building

The new Angel Comedy 2.0 – Yes, it’s the whole building

Way back on 3rd June, when I originally talked to Barry and Dec and they only had around £21,000, Barry told me: “The money so far has mostly just come from people who have been to our shows and know we are good people and are not gonna spunk their money on things. We want to do something good and they’ve seen us do something good over the last six years.”

“Why,” I asked, “did you decide to start the second club in Islington when you already have the 7-days-a-week  original Angel Comedy club still running?”

“Most clubs,” explained Barry, “are run out of upstairs rooms in pubs – like Angel Comedy. Malcolm Hardee started Up The Creek, but he bought the building. So the four of us put money in to buy this building but with the realisation that, once we owned the building, it would take more money to make it right.”

“You have the building on a seven-year lease?” I asked.

“Seven to eight,” said Barry. “Between the two.”

“That gives you great security,” I said.

“Security is one word,” said Dec Munro. “Millstone is also a word.”

“What do you need the Kickstarter money for?” I asked.

“When it rained two days ago,” said Barry, “we had buckets and things.”

“So,” I said, “you are doing a ‘soft’ opening with various things happening in July and August, but a ‘hard’ opening in September, after the Edinburgh Fringe is done and dusted. What does a ‘hard opening’ mean?”

Dec said: “Consistent opening hours, some resident acts, regular format nights like improv, mixed variety, musical comedy, different weird stuff.”

“There are so many comedians out there,” added Barry, “who are not really supported, because there’s nowhere they can get free preview space or a place that will let them perform absolutely bat-shit crazy stuff or if they are going to take a risk. The reason Angel Comedy has worked is because the new comedians are brilliant. That’s why it works. Not because it’s free; but because the shows are good.”

“Why are you keeping the original Angel Comedy club open?” I asked again.

“Because that is not this,” replied Barry. “That is an open mic club. It is the top of the open mic circuit. Angel Comedy 2.0 is not the open mic circuit.”

“How will the charging here work?” I asked.

“It’s whatever the performers want to do,” explained Barry. “If they want to put on a free night, they can collect in a bucket at the end. If they want to run Bob Slayer’s model, they can do that. If they want to charge £15 for a ticket, they can do that. Our cuts will be cost-only cuts. We won’t take a 60/40 split.”

“So how can you calculate covering costs?” I asked.

Angel Comedy club 2.0

“A permanent home for London’s loveliest comedy night.”

“What we can say,” replied Dec, “is we hope from September not to charge more than a 20% split of any tickets. And that money would go into a magazine or similar to be distributed in the local area to let them know about us.”

“And there is no rental fee for the room?” I asked.

“We,” said Barry, “will not charge a fee that we will make any profit on from renting it out. If we charge any money, it will just go to the publicity costs.

“Here at Angel Comedy 2.0 it’s not always going to be free, but we want it to be a place where people can take risks. We also have space where people can come in at low cost or no cost and record a podcast. And we can teach people how to make films or sketches.

“If you’re an art or theatre student, you can go to university and get access to a lot of other things but, in comedy, there is not that. I have gone bankrupt. I have done the craziest things just to be able to perform. And there is no support unless you have wealthy parents who own a house in London. You have to work at least five days a week to make your rent and then you have two hours to perform comedy when you’re exhausted and you have no resources.”

Thus said Barry Ferns.

But he may not be Barry Ferns for much longer. He explains more about his re-naming in a video on YouTube:

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How to fail at the Edinburgh Fringe

How NOT to succeed at the Edinburgh Fringe

At around this time each year, a lot of performers preview their upcoming Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows in London.

‘Preview’ in this case is a word with many meanings. It can mean the full, finished Edinburgh show; or a jerky show with the performer reading some or all of it off notes; or some thrown-together mishmash of ideas which do not yet gel but which may yet end up as a smooth Edinburgh show in August.

I have been seeing a lot of previews recently and, earlier this week, I saw one which was fully written, rehearsed and well-performed. Unusually, the show was in a packed-to-overflowing venue and went down a storm. The audience LOVED it, as well they might, because it was skilfully crafted to appeal to them.

And, as I watched it, I saw – minute by minute, second by second – an almost 100% Edinburgh Fringe disaster unfolding before me.

The show comprised observational comedy and was tailor-made for a wide audience who could identify through their own experience with all the observations in the show. To make it even more enjoyable, there were a large number of audience participation sections – dividing the audience down the middle; that sort of stuff.

The audience loved it.

We now have a flashback to my erstwhile youth when, on big TV shows like Sunday Night at The London Palladium, major US comedy stars would be flown over to the UK and would smoothly perform their slick, tried-and-tested material… material about living in New York; material about eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day; material about mom’s apple pie.

You can see where I am going with this.

The comedian I saw this week had a very-well-put-together themed show with the linking device narrative of a trip on the Underground, visits to ‘West End’ clubs etc etc. It was not just very very English; it was utterly London-centric and almost certainly could not easily have the London elements removed and replaced with other references.

One bit was: “You know what it’s like at 12 o’clock on a Saturday on the Central Line…”

The act performing this has never, as far as I know, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe before and this is his certainly his first show there.

The first hurdle he has fallen at is Know your audience.

The last time I heard any figures, the Fringe Society reckoned that around 60% of audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe come from EH postcodes. That means that they come from Edinburgh. Not even Glasgow or Fife. Specifically Edinburgh.

Sometimes ‘newbie’ performers assume that, at the Edinburgh Fringe, they are playing to the same audiences they play to in London. They are not. They are often not even playing to English audiences. They are playing to Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Australian, American, wherever audiences. And to English audiences.

It is reasonable for the performer to assume they are British audiences because foreigners will make allowance for the fact they have come to see UK comedy.

But it is not reasonable to assume they are audiences from South East England. The show I saw would likely get right up the proverbial noses of audiences in Manchester, Liverpool, Plymouth and Newcastle let alone Edinburgh or Glasgow.

It will come across in Scotland as “yon fuckin’ wee English cunt” showing disrespect for where he is.

I have seen South London audiences turn on comedians who talk too much about life in North London.

Move that to the Scottish/English divide and magnify it 100 times. Especially at the moment.

Of course, that figure of 60% of Fringe audiences coming from EH postcodes can only be from research taken from people buying tickets for pay shows. Who knows the make-up of audiences going to free comedy shows? But it may not be much different.

And the other thing to consider is word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is HUGE at the Edinburgh Fringe. Totally unheard-of acts in obscure venues can suddenly take-off and become the hottest shows in town. Or in both towns (in Edinburgh). And, if any would-be Fringe performer reading this does not know why I wrote “both towns”, then he or she has not researched the city they are playing enough.

Again, the last figures I heard from the Fringe Society were that the average Fringe visitor stays for three days.

But those are visitors to the city and the word-of-mouth between genuine visitors is highly unlikely to be vastly significant. The real word-of-mouth is what happens between the locals (remember that EH postcode) and between the media. A single 5-star review of an obscure show from Kate Copstick in The Scotsman will likely fill a venue for the whole run and ensure the rest of the media pay attention.

When those American comedians used to play sets of American-themed observational comedy on Sunday Night at The London Palladium, UK audiences felt they were being shown contempt. The Scots have never taken kindly to English comedians per se (see endless horror stories of the dangers of playing the Glasgow Empire in its heyday).

My advice to any London comedian playing the Edinburgh Fringe is:

1) Remember Edinburgh is not in England

2) The audiences you are playing to are not entirely and possibly not even predominately from England.

3) The audiences you are playing to are almost certainly not predominately from London.

4) Showing what may be perceived as contempt for your audience is never going to end well.

5) The word ‘England’ is not the same as ‘the UK’ or ‘Britain’ or ‘here’.

6) Edinburgh is north of Watford.

7) If you do not know what a ‘Weegie’ is, you may end up ‘brown bread’ on stage.

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Thameslink – the Third World railway company giving a second rate service

Thameslink phone app

The Thameslink phone app today

If you have a blog, you can whine. Yippee!

Occasionally, this has meant I write a blog whining about the disaster that is Thameslink – franchise-holders for the Bedford-Brighton railway line on which I live. Though I have not burdened blog-readers with the daily chaos.

Suffice it to say that, in the evening at West Hampstead station, those in the know do not go to the platform the indicators say the train will be arriving at. Because it is often – or even usually – changed to another platform about 30-60 seconds before the train arrives. One evening, there were 31 people on the bridge, ready to run to whichever platform the train actually arrived on. A Dunkirk spirit of camaraderie broke out.

Which brings me to today’s whine.

So, today I went to see comic Martin Soan at home in Nunhead, South London. No problem there, you might think, because it is on a direct line from my home in Borehamwood and, although today is Boxing Day, the trains are running. I checked on the Thameslink app yesterday. And this morning.

So there could be no problem except a late or cancelled train. This is Thameslink we are talking about.

Last night, I checked on the Thameslink app and chose which train to get. And double checked this morning.

I arrived at my local Elstree station which, of course, was open. Well, the main ticket office was closed but that is not uncommon and the side entrance was open. The platform indicators just displayed a generic notice, but I knew there was a train at 11.12am because I had double-checked the Thameslink app yesterday AND this morning.

Although the platform indicators showed no train times, they did say: For train information please listen to Announcement. And, reassuringly, an occasional loudspeaker announcement usefully told us the Overground was not running; the Waterloo & City Line was not running; and there were some sections of the Underground were closed.

The Thameslink indicator said Listen. I listened. First mistake.

The Thameslink indicator said Listen. I listened. First mistake.

I say We. I had got there early, as had about eight other people, all reassured that the 11.12 was going to arrive. That included two Italians who could speak no English and a Bulgarian who lived in Borehamwood.

My Thameslink app reassured me there was definitely at train due at 11.12 – although another app (presumably using information supplied by Thameslink) said the train was due at 11.38 and yet another app said the train was at 11.48.

It was the Bulgarian who spotted the poster in among other posters halfway along the platform at Elstree which said, about halfway down in among other details that there were no trains running today. No information about this, of course, at the entrance to the station.

The platform indicators remained on. Occasionally, there was the reassuring tannoy announcement that the Overground and Waterloo and City Line were closed – plus helpful details about the Underground, A useful announcement by Thameslink which made no mention of the fact that, in fact, Thameslink itself was not running any trains.

It was the Bulgarian who realised that a scheduled bus (totally unconnected to the Thameslink situation) left Elstree station for Edgware tube station at 11.13.

So we waited (there were about ten of us) until the train did not arrive but the bus did and off we went to Edgware tube station. Well, not all of us.

The Italians who could not speak English had no Oyster travel card and there was nowhere to buy one and the bus driver refused to let them on because, apparently, buses will not accept cash (all they had) any more.

A traditionally Peckham Rye totem pole

A traditionally Peckham Rye totem pole

As the rest of us left, six more people were arriving at the station.

The day went on like that.

I won’t burden you with the details.

I just had to get it off my chest.

Eventually, I got to Martin Soan’s home in Nunhead/Peckham Rye by bus and tube and bus.

He has a nearby totem pole.

No surprise there.

 

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Comedy and variety in Bethnal Green + crime, stripping and porn films in Rome

Rich Rose (left, without shirt) and Gareth Ellis (right, in dress) last night

Rose (left, without shirt) and Ellis (right, in dress) last night

Things are on the up. There seem to be a rising number of comedy clubs in London which are not just putting on very samey bills of 5-male-comics-doing-stand-up. There are several now staging genuine variety nights and filling their venues.

Among them are the highly-esteemed Pull the Other One comedy nights in Nunhead and Peckham, the occasional Spectacular Spectrum of Now shows in King’s Cross and the occasional Brainwash Comedy nights run by Ellis & Rose at the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green.

I saw a Brainwash show last night, headlined by Harry Hill who, although he could be described as a straight stand-up, is considerably more weird than that.

I won’t even attempt to explain what was going on here

I won’t even attempt to explain what was going on here

Tom Ward was, I suppose, the genuine token stand-up act. Other acts on the bill were sketch trio The Birthday Girls, Neil Frost (of The Spectacular Spectrum of Now) as moustachioed Victorian ‘Gentleman Johnson’ who ended up in a boxing match with a genuinely feisty girl from the audience, Casual Violence creator James Hamilton in a double character act, Mr Susie only partially on planet Earth and Lipstick & Wax doing a standard but nonetheless astonishing magic act.

So… one stand-up, six excellent variety acts, not a dud anywhere and Ellis & Rose impressively managing to be both effective MCs and constantly anarchic in themselves.

Perhaps London comedy clubs are changing.

They certainly have to.

Joe Palermo, Italian stallion, tonight

Joe Palermo, Italian stallion, in Soho tonight

In the meantime, people are preparing potential Edinburgh Fringe shows for next year.

One of the most interesting could be Joe Palermo’s Mémoires of an Italian Stallion.

I saw an initial try-out tonight which took around 70 minutes and did not get even halfway through the story, which involves his somewhat colourful life.

From what I heard tonight and during a post-show chat at the Grouchy Club, I reckon his story might take about four hours or longer to tell – if heavily edited.

It will be interesting to see how this fits into a 55-minute Edinburgh Fringe slot. The briefest of headings would include:

  • him as a child in Italy (watching porn on TV in the back garden)
  • attempts to be a Roman teenage gigolo
  • crime and the drug trade
  • athletics
  • modelling and becoming a male stripper
  • porn movie experiences
  • encounters with ‘proper’ movie people including stories of Cinecittà, famous actors and spaghetti western people

Joe says: “The show at this stage is mainly for a male audience, however open minded women or girls are welcome.”

I told him I thought Edinburgh audiences might crucify him atop Arthur’s Seat for sexism.

But, if his Mémoires of an Italian Stallion show does make the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, it will surely be an interesting ride.

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Filed under Comedy, Sex, Theatre