Magazine article The Spectator

Glum Night Out

Magazine article The Spectator

Glum Night Out

Article excerpt

Ten minutes into Les Misérables my boyfriend turned to me and whispered, 'Is it just me or is this Charlie Rap?' As the thunderous clatter of a large prop being unceremoniously dropped backstage reverberated around the mournfully tatty Queen's Theatre, I concurred that the legendary musical was indeed a load of Mr Charles. It was also Kieron Dyer. And downright Pete Tong.

Despite everything that has ever been written about it stating the exact opposite, it seemed embarrassingly obvious to me that for some bizarre reason, perhaps for one night only, the plot was stupid, the music was awful and most of those on stage could neither sing, act, dance or move around without bumping into each other, dropping things or coughing.

The entire cast rushed through its lines as if panic-stricken that they'd left the iron on.

My boyfriend and I had come to experience 'one of the best musicals of all time' as part of a carefully planned programme of cultural clear-up. That is to say, we want to see all the famous shows we have never seen for taste reasons. We figure that our recreational snobbery has left us with huge gaps in our social education, that we ought to bite the bullet and see what all the fuss is about.

But with the best will in the world, I am at a loss to know how we were supposed to cope with what occurred on stage at the Queen's. It's not as if I am totally naive when it comes to West End entertainment.

I accept that a certain cheesiness lies at the heart of all such enterprises. But I do draw the line at applauding a number where the words 'duke' and 'puke' are the best that can be accomplished by way of rhyme.

And from the orchestra pit? The disorientating sound of a Yamaha as it used to be played by Rowland Rivron of the band Raw Sex. I imagined him down there, pint balanced on the keyboard, fag hanging out of his mouth, stabbing at the keys with one finger of each hand.

I scrunched so far into my seat that my head was practically on my lap. I shut my eyes. I prayed to God to help me in my hour of need. I blocked my ears when the character known as Fantine enticed bats out of the belfry of a church somewhere in Sussex .

It wasn't just me being a snob. …

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