Tag Archives: Molly Wobbly

Paul Boyd: from Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory to the bloody Tower of London

Paul Boyd at the Tower of London yesterday

Paul Boyd, ready to audition, at the Tower of London yesterday

My chum comedienne Janey Godley’s weekly podcast has a new signature tune from today, written by the wildly prolific Paul Boyd.

“It’s the same tune,” he told me yesterday at the Tower of London, “I just brushed it up a bit, because I thought: They’ve had it for five years now. I didn’t want to have an outcry from all her fans if I changed it too much.”

“Probably wise,” I said. “There’s an awful lot of them and anyone connected to Janey is possibly dangerous.”

On Monday, I had not been able to go to the launch party for Paul’s latest music album One Night Stand.

“It is,” Paul told me, “subtitled The Best of Paul Boyd, Volume 1 – I made them put Volume 1 in case anyone thought I had died.”

The launch party had included performances by some of the artists.

“It was really strange,” Paul told me, “to hear my songs sung out of context and not within the confines of a show. This is my 7th album but all of the previous ones have been cast recordings.”

“How many shows have you written?” I asked.

One Night stand but 22 musicals and much more

One night stand but 22 musicals + much more

“22 musicals, 35 scores for plays that have toured nationally, 2 water spectaculars and hundreds of songs for cabaret, concerts and so on.”

“You did two water spectaculars?” I asked.

“They’re very big,” said Paul, “in Japan, Taiwan, Serbia and Denmark.”

“You did two water spectaculars?” I repeated.

“Huge water spectaculars,” he replied, “that I co-wrote, scored and co-directed. One was called The Little Mermaid and the other one Sinbad. Boats were coming on. It was crazy. I really loved it.”

“Serbia?” I asked. “Before, after or during the war there?”

“After the war. In Belgrade, there were lots of bullet holes in the walls, but I grew up in Belfast in the 1970s, so I was the only one not phased by any of it. There were about 2,000 people a night coming to see it. We were staging the show in the Olympic swimming pool which had become a bit dilapidated since 1984, so there was a real sadness to the place.”

“Maybe the swimming pool was a bomb crater?” I suggested.

“No,” said Paul. “It survived, weirdly. But there were little things like they didn’t have enough diesel to heat the pool to the standards we required because, when you do water shows, there are so many rules and regulations about the amount of chlorine and so on and the temperature dictates the costumes your actors wear. So, in Serbia, we had all the costumes re-designed, made out of neoprene – the stuff you get in wetsuits – which has a slightly insulated quality. But we had to have two mermaids because they got too cold if they stayed in the water too long.”

“You are,” I said, “from Belfast, but the name Boyd…”

Paul’s glorious musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory

Paul’s glorious musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory

“… is Scottish. yes. I’m from the Royal House of Stuart – well, a servant of… maybe we scrubbed their steps… There is a rumour that the Boyds were kicked out of Scotland for flirting with the King’s men, which is a family trait I like to keep going. Now I’m working with the Beefeaters…”

“Which is why are we meeting at the Tower of London…” I prompted.

“Yes. because I’m doing auditions for chorus members here today. Next February – the 13th and 14th – there’s a variety show – Live at The Tower – it’s Valentine’s Eve and Valentine’s Night – which Historic Royal Palaces have asked me to direct.

“Like all royal palaces, the Tower of London needs to raise money every year to keep going – I think they need to raise something in the region of £2 million a year just to keep the gates open and keep everything functioning. We’re hoping to raise money for St John’s Chapel, which is the oldest Norman church in England – it’s in the White Tower. Lots of people were dragged out of there to meet their deaths. It needs a bit of tender loving care so we’re going to raise a bit of money for that.

Beefeater Moira Cameron (Photo by Joshd at en.wikipedia)

Yeoman Warden woman Moira Cameron (Photograph by Joshd at en.wikipedia)

“The Beefeaters themselves – the Yeomen Warders – came up with this idea – Pete McGowran and Moira Cameron – the first and only female Beefeater. We didn’t know what kind of show to do so I thought a variety show. I love variety, music hall. The Royal Variety Show is the kind of feel we’re looking for and that’s the kind of audience who will be invited along to pay the sort of prices we want for the tickets.”

“Televised?” I asked.

“Not this year. Fingers crossed for future years. The idea is we launch it next year and see what happens.”

“It’s in the White Tower?” I asked.

“It’s in the New Armouries building – There’s a huge banqueting hall on the top floor which has the White Tower as the backdrop.”

“That’s in February next year,” I said, “but, before that…?”

“I’m directing my first panto.”

“Where?”

“Blackpool, the home of variety. At the Blackpool Grand.”

“That’s gigantic,” I said. “And it’s your first panto?”

“Yes,” said Paul. “A lot of my shows started off as Christmas productions, like Alice: The Musical and Pinocchio and Hansel and Gretel, but I’ve never written a panto ever.”

“Oh yes you have,” I have.

“Oh no I haven’t,” said Paul.

“What’s the panto?” I asked.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs starring Sue Pollard with real-life little people. A lot of pantos don’t do that now. A lot have children with big heads and pre-recorded voices. And some just have people on their knees. We’re very fortunate. We have a very good-quality cast.”

“Pantos,” I said, “are very restrictive, but in a good way.”

Paul’s first ever pantomime - coming to the Blackpool Grand

Paul’s first ever pantomime – coming to the Blackpool Grand

“Yes, there are all the rules and regulations. Things like the good fairy always enters from stage right and the bad fairy or Wicked Queen always has to enter from stage left.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” said Paul. “If you ever see a panto where the good fairy comes on from stage left, it’s wrong.”

“Any trouble with Disney?” I asked.

“I imagine there’s always trouble with Disney. But I think the only thing is, with the dwarfs, you’re not allowed to call them Sleepy. Dozy, Doc, Bashful and so on.”

“There was,” I said, “the porn film Snow White and The Seven Perverts and, when Disney threatened to sue, the distributors changed the title to Some Day My Prince Will Come.”

“I remember reading once,” said Paul, “that someone was doing a panto of Beauty and The Beast – which is a Disney stage show as well as a film – and they had to have their posters approved by Disney in case they infringed any Disney rights.”

“You are very prolific,” I said, “but you have not done a new musical this year.”

“I did have three shows lined up,” explained Paul, “which all fell apart. We have had a really dodgy year in Theatreland this year.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, there’s a lot of people running venues in London who just really don’t know what they’re doing. That’s the honest truth. I work in Rep theatres all over the country and other theatres all over the world but in London – particularly on the fringe – the lunatics are running the asylum.”

“Can I quote you?” I asked.

Some of Paul’s many musicals

Just some of Paul Boyd’s successful musicals

“I think so, yeah. Though make sure you say there’s some lovely lunatics, because some of them I get on with really well. But I’ve had a couple of run-ins with people who’ve taken shows almost to the point of production and then turned round and decided they’re going in another direction. You don’t do that. I’m not used to that. A lot of faffing around. There’s no malice in it at all. A lot of people just don’t know what they’re doing and I think a lot of us, as writers, are finding it frustrating when our only outlet is the fringe and off-West End.

“One of the shows I had lined up with one of these fringe venues that didn’t come off this year, we’ve decided to do next year and I’ve just started to co-write it with a very well-known, award-winning TV scriptwriter who is venturing into theatre for the first time. He’s bringing a lot of cachet with him and a lot of people with big names want to be involved in it now. So having it fall through initially has actually helped the show.”

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Edinburgh Fringe: a 14 year old comic, Janey Godley and tales of a Tit Factory

Eternally relevant street art in Edinburgh

So far, I have bitten my tongue about the ticket incompetence at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

On my first day here, a ticket for a show (ordered ten days before from the Fringe Office) was not confirmed. The show started at 6.10pm. Eventually, at around 8.30pm, I got an e-mail to say the ticket had now been confirmed.

A couple of days ago, a ticket ordered even longer in advance never appeared (twice); I went to the venue press office instead; they arranged it; on the night, it was still not at the box office.

I never blogged about these (and similar) things because it’s impossible to know who cocked it up and, each year at the Fringe, different parts don’t work. You just have to accept it. That’s Fringe life. But it is just as well I did not complain. Yesterday it was me with the massive cock-up. Oooh missus!

Janey yesterday – not photographed by me

Comedian Janey Godley was at an event in Glasgow at lunchtime yesterday. New housing was being opened next to the pub she used to run in the Calton. The housing is named after St Thenue and Janey had been asked to donate a painting of St Thenue and to officially open the new housing with the Lord Provost of Glasgow. Why?

“I kept that building up,” she told me last week (you have to read her autobiography), “and, because of that, they had to build good, sympathetic architecture next door to it.”

“It’s your swirly painting?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “The one that looks like my mammy in the Clyde, but it’s St Thenue, who also ended up in the Clyde.”

I invited myself along to take photos and blog about it.

It happened yesterday.

Except I had put it in my Fringe schedule as happening today.

“Where are you?” a text from Janey said yesterday morning.

By that time, it was too late for me to get to Glasgow from Edinburgh.

Which was a bummer because, in all truth, it was going to be one of the highlights of my Edinburgh Fringe this year.

I allegedly edited Janey’s autobiography Handstands in the Dark – still in print and a book which gives Edgar Allan Poe a run for his money in horror. I have walked round Shettleston, where she grew up, and the Calton, where she ran a bar for 14 years. But not with her. It would have been fascinating. We had even talked about it last week.

She had been to see the new housing development in the Calton a couple of weeks before and had popped into her old bar next door.

”The guy who runs the pub now,” Janey told me, “is a guy I barred from the place back in the early 1990s. I told him I’ve just been to see the new houses and he says Aye, they’re just gonna be alcoholics and wife-beaters in there so I asked Have you got your name doon?

Anyway. I let Janey doon yesterday – often a physically dangerous thing to do, as others have found to their cost – and, while she was opening the housing in Glasgow with the Lord Provost and photos were being taken by her daughter Ashley, I was in Edinburgh watching 14-year-old stand-up comic Preston Nyman perform his Fringe show Shtick. (It is only on until Sunday.)

Preston Nyman wears well for 14

I had asked Janey’s daughter Ashley about this because in 1999, aged 13, she had performed her own comedy show What Were You Doing When You Were 13? at the Fringe.

“I can hardly remember it,” she told me. “I know I was ballsy and blatant about it all and everyone was very worried I would say something risqué by accident. But mostly I blanked it all out. I did enjoy it but, looking back, I think What the fuck was I doing? Who let me do that? I wasn’t made to do it. It was all my idea… but who let me do that?”

Preston was very professional, part 1950s Catskill joke purveyor, part fast-talking double glazing salesman. He even did sword-swallowing and persuaded a member of the audience to put his head in a guillotine. Aged 14, he has been, he says, performing since the age of 7 and was dressed in a rather 1950s outfit with blue blazer, frilly-fronted cream shirt and checked trousers.

Young Preston and his guillotine with perhaps foolish punter

“This is what I normally wear,” he told me after the show.

“Where on earth do you live?” I asked.

“Hammersmith in London,” he replied.

“It’s kinda Catskills Jewish,” I said. “The clothes and the act.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s a kinda mix of vaudeville and 1970s ITV. All my life I’ve just loved performing and making people laugh and, seven years ago, I heard about this workshop Comedy Club 4 Kids. It’s every day, 5.30, at the Bongo Club during the Edinburgh Fringe, but I do it in London at the Soho Theatre.”

Preston’s dad is Andy Nyman actor, magician and co-creator/co-writer of the Derren Brown TV shows Derren Brown – Mind Control and Trick of the Mind. He has also co-written and co-directed four of Brown’s stage shows.

After the impressive shock of young Preston yesterday, I went to see the gloriously-titled musical Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory. The Fringe office had buggered-up the ticket for this too but, through Janey Godley, I contacted the show’s writer Paul Boyd and got a comp ticket (remember I’m a Scot brought up among Jews).

Paul Boyd wrote the intro and outro music for Janey and Ashley’s weekly podcast as well as eighteen previous musicals.

“Paul and I were on blog.co.uk back in 2004,” Janey told me. “He’s of the same ilk: he’s a performer, a writer, similar minds. We became friends and then this guy John Palmer from New York, a model, started talking to him and talking to me. Paul wrote to me and said You know, that guy John, I kinda fancy him and I said Go for it! He looks gorgeous and he sounds amazing!

“So then Paul phones me out of the blue – we’d never actually talked – and said I’m about to get on a plane and go to New York and meet John. I’ve given up my life, my lover. I’m gonna go. And he did and they’re still together after all these years.

“Then, a couple of years ago, me and Paul were in the Groucho Club in London with John one night and in walk some of my comedy friends. One of them was Tara Flynn. Paul is Irish, so I said jokingly Oh, Paul, you might know Tara Flynn – she’s also Irish. They screamed and hugged each other. I had been joking, but they’d been in a play together twelve years before and now she’s in Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory.”

And Molly Wobbly, I can say with total honesty, is astonishing.

It has more catchy tunes in it than all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals combined. You could argue that’s not difficult but it’s still very very impressive. It is a combination of Rocky Horror style exuberance, British music hall jollity and the best of West End musicals.

All this plus a singalong song titled “When I Shouted ‘Fuck’ in the Manse”.

Whether it will play to Americans I don’t know, but its effervescent vitality is quite something to behold and, given that it got a lot of attention because the official Fringe Programme (which is very censorious this year) printed the title without any asterisks, there is a wry smile to be had at the very end of the performance with a change to the words in the title.

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