Tag Archives: Tower of London

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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The surrealism of real life, comedy shows, football and 888,246 poppies

Why does no-one tell you that getting old is painful? When you are younger, you kind of get the idea that old people move as if they are in some type of special slow motion CGI effect because their muscles are seizing up or something. But often it is because they are in pain and the anticipation of the pain of movement slows them down.

More about my right heel later.

Reality is very surreal

Blood-red poppies pour out of the Tower of London

Blood-red poppies pour out into the Tower of London’s moat

A couple of days ago, my eternally-un-named friend and I went to the Tower of London where the moat is being filled with ceramic poppies – one for every British serviceman and servicewoman killed in World War One.

By 11.00am on the 11th day of the 11th month this year – that is 11 on 11/11, if you are an American – there will be over 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat. I thought more died but, then, the population of the UK in 1914-1918 was that much smaller.

The ceramic poppy heads arrive in boxes and volunteers unpack them, attach them to metal stems and use mallets to bash them into the grass and earth in the moat.

I know. Ceramic poppy heads being hit by mallets. Who would have thought.

You can buy the ceramic poppies from the moat for £25 each. At least you could. Apparently they have now all been sold.

Last night, around 7.00pm, as I travelled in a tube between Oxford Circus and Bank, a woman dressed as rabbit got into the train. She had long white ears and a full-body rabbit costume. This is true. And no-one treated this as odd. It is London. It is a Friday night. It was not odd.

I was in the tube train because I had just been to a meeting in Soho about, in January, marking the 10th anniversary of the death of comedian Malcolm Hardee.

Showman Adam Taffler – a man with a luxuriant moustache – is organising an event. I suggested that we should announce a couple of famous people were going to have sex live on stage.

In (I think it must have been) the 1960s, Oz magazine editor Richard Neville and his girlfriend allegedly hired the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road and had sex live in front of an audience of their friends. Apparently it was strangely un-erotic and slightly awkward.

Yesterday morning, journalist and writer of songs Ariane Sherine, about whom I blogged four days ago, asked me if I wanted to appear as the Pope in her next music video. I once appeared (mute) as Julius Caesar, being stabbed in some educational programme on Sky TV.

I know. An educational programme on Sky TV. Who would have thought.

Performance at a club for the surreally distinguished

At a private members club for the surreally distinguished…

I was on my way – last night in the tube train – to Sophie Parkin’s members-only club Vout-O-Reenee’s which calls itself a club “for the surrealistically distinguished”.

It is hidden under a church near the Tower of London. I went there to see a fascinatingly surreal show by Guy Combes – another man with a luxuriant moustache.

The show was called Auntie Rene’s Memory Box Is The Smallest Museum in The World. After the show, I told Guy I had seen him perform as Moonfish Rhumba at Pear Shaped comedy club. He seemed surprised I was that old. I think he may have been drinking.

Before the show, my eternally-un-named friend and I had talked to comedy performer Jody Kamali who was in the audience. Neither I nor Jody could actually describe to her what “type of act” he did on stage. This is arguably a good thing. If it is impossible to describe, it must be original – if a tad difficult to promote.

Jody Kamali’s extremely likeable wife is Russian. She has a strong Bristol/West of England accent, but has only been in the UK (London) for two years. She told me she picks up accents if she is with people and once spoke in an Irish accent for several weeks.

On the train back home to Elstree, I sat next to an interesting man who was a fan of Chelsea football club and who proceeded to tell me all the great players they had had since 1994 and (admittedly after I asked) the cost of normal and season tickets at Chelsea and other football clubs. I think he too may have been drinking.

Apparently Arsenal are the villains in football ticket prices.

I was interested to listen to what he said in much the same way I used to listen to the Stock Market Prices (sadly no longer done) on BBC Radio 4 and the Coastal Shipping Forecast (which I think Radio 4 may still do).

Listening to the Stock Market prices and the list of coastal areas with staccato abbreviated forthcoming weather details used to allow me to enjoy the abstract pleasure of words without the distraction of meanings. It was like hearing a good actor or actress saying: “Bat random daytime origami lukewarm” – comforting words not encumbered by any distracting meaning.

The man on the train who told me about the price of football seats also told me that today he and his girlfriend are going to see the ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. I told him there were big crowds. Which there were.

When I got home, I switched on the BBC TV News and there was an item about the possibility of people who had lost legs and arms growing new limbs. For some unexplained reason, an expert said he believed that, in 25 years time, it would be possible for a person to re-grow a missing leg but he or she would still have to be given an artificial foot.

My right heel has been distracting me recently

My right heel has been distracting me recently

The heel and sometimes sole of my right foot has been causing me extreme pain for about a fortnight. If I press on it with my fingers, there is no pain. If I walk, there is usually but not always pain. Last night, after sitting on a chair watching Guy Combes’ show and putting no pressure on my foot, the heel was extremely painful when I stood up.

In the mornings, after lying horizontal for eight hours and putting no pressure at all on my feet, when I stand up there is extreme pressure pain on the sole of my right heel. But, as I say, if I press my fingers or any object against the heel, there is no pain. It is very strange. Occasionally, when I walk, I have to stop myself from hobbling.

This morning, around 4.00am, I was woken up by severe cramp in my right leg. There was a big knot inside my leg. Agony and, in the agony of the cramp, too far down to reach and rub it. I just had to try to keep still through the shooting pain until it went. It happens every few months.

The muscles inside my left shoulder are still occasionally painful from when I tripped over and fell on the night-time cobbles of Edinburgh during the Fringe in August.

You may have correctly deduced I had no specific subject for my blog this morning.

I still think announcing that a famous couple will have sex live on stage during a Malcolm Hardee commemorative 10th anniversary show in January would get people in and he would have liked it.

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Filed under Surreal