Tuesday, August 07, 2007

End of the pier

Tarkwith being indisposed following a bout of depression brought on by the return of Victoria Derbyshire to his favourite morning fone-in programme, it fell to me and Mme. to take on the task of bringing continued Culture Coverage to the blog. Right then, here we go. 'Family' entertainment is an all-but lost concept, so credit to the Embassy Theatre for at least trying to bring it to Skeggie audiences. Last night's Summer Spectacular, starring Bernie Clifton, barely attracted enough families to make its comeback a dead cert. but it turned out to be a worthy effort, given the current dilapidated state of live entertainment.

With a sparse cast-list of just the headliner, a troupe of lively dancers, a chirrupy songstress, a dated male lead and a gymnastic duo from Hungary (where else?) it could never be more than a pale shadow of the golden age of variety. But, luckily, Clifton's clowning managed to glue the thing together. There's no doubt that the man is drop-dead funny. (I'm on safe ground here. I know it's true because he wowed the Guardian's critic with the self-same act at last year's Edinburgh Fringe.)

From his opening line of, "Be honest. You thought I was dead, didn't you?" (yes) through wrapping the audience in gaffer-tape, lurching around on his trademark ostrich - including assaulting Katie from Hillsborough in its mating ritual, wrestling a 20 ft. high inflatable diving suit and getting kids up onstage to help with singing 'Dick Dodd's Dad's Dog's Dead' he kept us laughing right up to his leave-em-with-a-song finale. Sung wearing a white dinner-jacket, naturally as befits a proper comic.

As for the rest... well the Duo Denvy thrilled as shapely Gabriella clambered up her muscular partner to swing and swivel high in the air on various death-defying contraptions. I thought the well-drilled Tiffany Dancers hoofed
engagingly to some neatly choreographed routines. Shula Keyte had the right combination of moves and vocals for her role as a lead in excerpts from the musicals, but was let down by the ear-splittingly tinny sound-system. John Warwick did his best but you couldn't help but wonder whether he'd quite have been in the show if he hadn't been its director and co-producer - a little less of the John Hansons about him would have helped. (And John, love... ditch the Nessum Dorma. Pavarotti you ain't.)

So all in all, as good a way to spend a Monday evening as any.. in fact better than most and beating nights spent raging at the awfulness of the telly by miles. The memories to come away with are the sounds of kids and grown-ups helpless with laughter at a comedian who would, no doubt, be proud to say he doesn't do "stand-up". No nastiness, no modern cynicism. Just makes folks laugh.

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