Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time to Stop the Ghastliest Show in Town

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Time to Stop the Ghastliest Show in Town

Article excerpt


The sight of Cilla Black and Barbara Windsor in basques is the latest lapse in taste presented by the Royal Variety Performance.

'Variety' died long ago, says Graham McCann, and this show deserves the same fate

AS appealingly la mode conjunctions go, "Royal" and " Variety" must surely be right down there with "Des" and " primetime", just a notch or two above " Jonathan" and "King." Although there is something strangely sweet about the continuing willingness of today's neurotically niche- conscious impresarios and broadcasters to devote one very long night of each year to an event that unites the dignified part of our constitution with our old spice of life, the time may have arrived for the curtain to come down and the switch to be flicked.

It is hard to be mean to the Royal Variety Performance, because, to borrow a phrase from Gordon Taylor, it is all in a good cause - the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund - but it is harder still to be generous to a show that now seems far more interested in stroking the egos of its stars than it does in satisfying the appetites of its audience.

The combination of Sir Elton John's least-soullessalbumin-25-years promotional efforts, Jennifer Lopez's joyless "This'll be on TV, right?"

going through of motions, Cilla and Bar's unclassy basquebasking and the cast of the Full Monty's misinterpretation of the invitation to hang out with the nobs, had more to do with vanity than with Variety.

The naffness is not the problem. The Royal Variety performance - like any old common-or-garden Variety performance - has always been a nice half-hour or so of fairly fine entertainment stretched out into several hours of mind-numbing naffness (think, for example, of Topo Gigio, the Italian mouse hand-puppet act, whose new ubiquitous presence at such functions during the Fifties and Sixties traumatised Lew Grade to such an extent that, when informed by an excited booking agent that Tito Gobbi was set for an appearance, held his head in his hands and groaned, "Oh, not that bloody mouse again!").

The real problem, in fact, has more to do with us, the audience, and them, the producers and performers, than it does with the format. …

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