Wednesday, March 25, 2009


This past weekend, Emma and I headed south on a long ago booked trip. In the here and now, the timing wasn't great.

As we made for the station, the city rose to clear blue sky. That afternoon, the Britannia Stadium would bounce to men, women and children singing 'Delilah', a song that features the line 'I put my dick in her hand, and she laughed no more'. Where to begin, where to begin... Perhaps best to not begin at all.

The paltry offerings in the station's Virgin Lounge ensured that we were at the platform well before the 10:12 to Euston rolled in from Manchester.

What would our trip feature. Healthy-living and broadsheet analysis?


Approaching midday, Tottenham Court Road was as clear as the Potteries had been. We made our way directly towards Monmouth Street, off Shaftsbury Avenue, in the hope of an early check-in. Staying at the Radisson Edwardian Mountbatten ensured that this trip into the capital - my second in three days - could pass without need for bus, tube or taxi - a quiet victory for good planning (and liberal dolings of sterling). In terms of cultural tastes, this was very much World of Emma, just shy of Wince of Shane.

In the thrall of the techno-snacks, I forgot to take pictures of things like the main fixtures and fittings of the gaffe. But instead, I did get a sign on the discreetly located 'Interactive Minibar'.

Touch those Pringles and They Will Know.

Saturday afternoon was spent in and around Neal's Yard - small boutique shops - green teas, sitting in the sun, sauntering. That was after we'd taken lunch in Covent Garden - some bistro in a cellar - good food, but really not the day to be underground.

Back at the hotel, brief lounging, a change, and out for dinner - to Soho's Bocca di Lupo. I'd remembered Matthew Norman's review. This paid dividends.

Sitting at the bar, overlooking the main hubbub of food preparation area, good choreography came to mind. Welcoming the ethos of good, simple food, prepared well, Emma opted for a red prawn risotto.

I chose the grilled sea bream.

And then, the main event:

Priscilla - Queen of the Desert, at the Palace Theatre.

This was our first visit to this theatre. I knew that we were heading for good seats, as we headed up the stairs to Dress Circle Row A.

The curtain hid an incredibly clever, albeit mechanically simple set. Reviews have not made enough of this - despite their generally holding the show in high regard.

Though no further shots can be shared (I'm sorry, I dared to forget myself), all praise for costumes, cast, script-updating and direction is justified - a big successful production. No sneering rejoinder to be added, here. Whereas Abba were heavily referenced in the screen version of Priscilla, Kylie was now the wholly lauded - an entirely bearable shift - especially with Mamma Mia (((shudder))) playing just round the corner.

Overlooked in many of the reviews - something that is easy to understand amid such high campery, has been the matter of Priscilla being underscored by two fairly weighty relationship dramas. Within the first 5 minutes of the show, I was welling up at the clearly signposted Father-Son denouement that we were headed for - Jason Donovan's Tick (Mitzi) is off to meet his son for the first time. His drag act trio's provision of a stage show for his wife's (yes, wife's) resort hotel is the hook for the group's road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs. That's the story. But also, the ageing drag queen - Tony Sheldon's Bernadette - charts a course that is, at its heart, about accepting oneself, showing trust in others and redirecting the lifecourse. As I write this, I'm feeling partisan. For reasons that I can't fully unpick, or neatly clarify, Priscilla is a production that touches me.

During the interval, Emma waxed lyrical about the show - the scale of production, its values, the audience. This was all pleasing - the whole trip was very much a one-off, designed to please. Smiling, she then queried:

'Does it not make you feel even a bit gay?'

Amused, puzzled, appalled, I gently queried.

'What do you mean?'

'I mean, the whole thing. It's fairly amazing, isn't it.'

'The costumes, the dancing, the set design, the dialogue, the easy affection and charm, the barbed wit - garish, but all attractive. I'd love to be able to sing and move like some of those people on stage. But as for wanting to put specific bits of my body anywhere near any other men's bodies - even those men's bodies, well, that's a kind of gayness that doesn't appeal. But thanks for asking.'

Seemed a reasonable enough response. She wouldn't have asked if she'd have thought there was the possibility of any other kind of answer.

At the standing ovation, I noticed the four occupants of one of the boxes - two men (in their 30s, together), and two older women (both in their 60s). I gauged a mother and friend, plus son and his partner. The son figure hugged both of the ladies, whilst partner leaned in to ensure that a good evening had been had. It looked like an important moment.

Dodging the boas, the mincing and the people like us, we strolled back to the hotel, and thus turned into the straight that would lead us back to the West Midlands.

Sunday breakfast was as it should have been - hearty, if a little too neat.


Only 5 / 10, for presentation there.

Shane's (Part I):


I didn't picture the rest - what kind of weirdo goes around taking pictures of his breakfast.

Back out into the streets, Emma managed to turn the short walk back up to Euston into a mini research exercise. Over-riding my disdain for such gross opportunism, I played along as best I could.

Obscene, unsightly, gratuitous and ghastly - the lot of them.

If there is a grindstone, then now, we are very much back at it, but still we may daydream (a link for added non-gayness).

The word from above is that (work) things should get easier in late June, and at such a time, then this kind of trip should occur more casually. If they don't, then I shall just have to bugger naff off on my own.


Meanwhile... said...

r.e. Emma's:

Next time get the 08:20 from Euston. You'll be back in the Potteries by ten, and then you can head straight for the classily-upholstered environs of Kaptain Kook's on Sandbach Road.

Guaranteed to please and, like, totally gay 'n' all.

PI said...

That is sooo the kind of week-end I yearn for. Thanks for sharing:) Your 'thanks for asking' made me guffaw - which isn't very elegant.
Isn't the Palace in Cambridge Circus? If - in front of the theatre you glance behind to your left, you would be looking at Glouchester Mansions where up on high, my agent used to hang out. Such memories.

Queenie said...

"what kind of weirdo goes around taking pictures of his breakfast" - hahahahaha, thank you! Glad you both had such a good time.