Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Fell into a Restless Sleep and Had a Dream in Which People Shouted "Straight!" at Me

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

I Fell into a Restless Sleep and Had a Dream in Which People Shouted "Straight!" at Me

Article excerpt

I've spent most of my career doing one-man shows. I stand centre stage with a microphone, possibly wearing feathers or rubber, and talk about whatever comes into my head. Gay nonsense, mostly. It's not been a very disciplined life. That's why it suited me. If I lost my way or made a mess of a routine, I could squeeze a comedy moment out of the situation. I might attempt a song but forget the words. So what? I'd just blame my pianist. I was in charge: it didn't matter.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Working in a proper West End show, as I am now, is rather different. I am a mere cog in a wheel, a factory worker dedicated to the collective product--and a responsible, socially aware one at that. My fellow actors and I are all striving towards a common goal: to give the punters a memorable experience, to bring the show to life, to send the audience home moved and enlightened. Someone might have warned me.

Apparently I must say the words from the script in the right order and refrain from improvising at all costs. The story depends on it, not to mention sound and lighting cues. It's a strange new world, I can tell you. For the first time it's not all about me. Fancy.

I don't find any of it easy, but luckily help is at hand. My dresser. She does so much more than her job description might require. For the first week of Cabaret she was responsible for pushing me on stage at the right moment, meeting me as I wafted off in the wrong place after a scene, and telling me what was expected of me next. I'm not exaggerating when I say if she hadn't been there, more than a few uncomfortable silences would have occurred.

But our relationship has entered a whole new phase. Picture the scene. I'm in the quick-change area, preparing for my final scene. Everything must come off: French knickers (I jest not), stockings, boots, corset--the lot, in about 30 seconds. …

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