Saturday, 17 May 2014


I don't know what's wrong with me! I've just watched my second West End show of the day!

The first was completely unplanned. Philippa's Dylan called at noon to ask if I'd like to see a matinee Matilda with his family, and the answer was obviously yes, not least because it's always lovely to see my God-family, but also because I've been wanting to see that show ever since Nathan sneaked in without me and came home saying he'd cried like a baby throughout.

I hastily finished off orchestrating the song, Billy Whistle, jumped on a tube, and within an hour was weaving my way through the hordes in Seven Dials. There was some sort of street festival taking place, and they'd pedestrianised the whole district and filled it with all sorts of stalls, which were proving incredibly successful. There was a queue of 80 people for the fancy ice cream truck. Add the word organic to any food type and wealthy Londoners will climb over each other to sample it. Throw the name of a suitably rustic-sounding county into the equation and fights will break out! "Made with Shropshire cream." Bingo. Or should that be "ker-chingo!"

They'd created an enormous circular lawn out of astro turf around the monument at Seven Dials itself and hundreds of people were enjoying its novelty value. Sadly, by the time we emerged from the theatre, the Camden borough health and safety bods had moved in, and the whole lawn area had been surrounded by red and white plastic tape, which was ghastly beyond words. Thank God they're on hand to stop someone tripping over on the astro turf! Very dangerous stuff, astro turf.

Matilda was, as expected, a great joy. It is such a relief to know that there are still great musicals being created in this county which don't rely on the back catalogue of a failing rock act. I sense a sea-change across the board in this respect. I think this year's Eurovision will end the nonsense of people like Bonnie Tyler cashing in her withered chips and demonstrating to the world why people lost interest in the first place. Likewise, the death of crap like Viva Forever versus the success of Matilda (with its noticeable lack of faded pop stars and ex-X Factor contestants in the cast) will hopefully prove to the world that a well-written show/ song performed by genuine talent is the only winning formula we need search for.

Speaking of which, the second show or the day was The Pyjama Game - or as the Americans spell it, Pajama, which to me just looks like a canal.

This show was filled with genuinely talented music theatre performers. You know the sort. The ones with stage presence, and schtick. The triple threats. The ones who can do a full eight-show week without getting ill or developing a nanti claque. The ones who sing in tune without the aid of special technology.

Joanna Riding, Michael Xavier, Peter Polycarpou, Claire Madchen... The cast was a Who's Who of those who Could Could. The show itself is a touch "old school meh", but it was a thrill to watch such genuinely classy performers. If you like a bit of Broadway 1950s escapism, head straight to the Shaftesbury. Sadly, with that theatre where it is, you're unlikely to be passing by...

1 comment:

  1. George Robinson on TwitterSunday, 18 May 2014 at 13:54:00 BST

    Yep, Ben, I saw Matilda a couple of months ago. Loved it and really appreciated the opportunities RSC are giving our young actors to have West End experience. With the necessity of having several young actors for each role it means that a lot of young people will benefit from the experience, which I'm sure they'll never forget!
    I thought it was brilliantly done and Bertie Carvel will haunt my nightmares as Miss Trunchbull for years to come!