Feature

 

 

 

THE IMPOSTERS

A feature by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

The Alternative Royal Wedding Reception

 

 

E4 Udderbelly - Southbank Centre

 

29 Apr 2011

 

What better way to round off a day spent in Hyde Park, watching the Royal Wedding? The crowd seemed up for it, the drinks were flowing, and the fact that for some, they’d been flowing all day seemed like it might make them an easy audience. I’ve been in the Udderbelly a few times in the past few years and it’s never been full, so walk-ins arrived until the very moment the show began.

I’m admittedly bad with names, and when they’re shouted into a mike at rapid fire in front of a chattering crowd, the chance that I’ll assimilate them is slim at best, so apologies to host Tim for not catching his surname.  I did, however catch his reoccurring act between acts, and, with the exception of some ‘how’d it come out?’, ‘number one or number two?’ jokes, (no kiddies in the audience Tim) he was capable and humorously human, quickly covering any looping holes left by his own foibles via comic thinking aloud - ‘Don’t go there Tim – dead end’, as well as handily fielding any and all short-falls in the acts of his fellow performers which, in this particular case, turned out to be a job in itself.

First up on the firing line was American songwriter/comedienne/singer/guitarist Loretta Maine with songs from her ‘album’, I Had Your Baby But I Threw It In the River, which, appealed to me, as Paul Anka’s sexist anthem, ‘She’s Having My Baby’ is and always will be on my personal hit list, and I’m not talking gold records. Bed headed, crazy eyed Maine presented the largely British audience with a brash American stereotype, singing in an exaggeratedly loud ‘I don’t care’ tone. Her contrasting deadpan delivery was well suited to songs like ‘I Should Be More Famous than This’ and other numbers of gritted teeth disappointment and cryptically black humour. Her imitation of singers who sound like Lily Allen was a crowd favourite. An entertaining set for fans of offbeat sendups of pop culture and relationship angst.

etween acts, host Tim, with the unsolicited help of a Roy Orbison sun-glassed man in the front row called Norman, offered the audience a recipe for a new name for the Royal Wedding guest list made up of your mother’s maiden name (or Dad’s middle one), the street where you were born (or lived) and the name of your first pet. Mine materialised as Camilla tinged Carroll Broad Christopher but co-editor John’s regal moniker– Lawrence Montfort Bubbles was much more the ticket!

Pete Firman, Middleborough’s answer to comedic magic appeared next, full of fast talk, and sleight of hand speedier than the eye could hope to follow. Having said that, Firman stretched the couple of tricks he performed, one of them of the genuinely ‘how’d he do it?’ variety to the point of making me think he might really be saving himself for his own show. A bit of heckling in this case, enlivened, rather than detracted from quick-witted Firman’s performance.  

Le Gateaux Chocolat of La Clique fame may not be the person you’d choose to lip-synch the speaking part of Susan Boyle’s first telly appearance, but having seen him do so, you aren’t likely to forget the experience anytime soon! With a booming bass voice seemingly, drawing on Solomon Burke and disco’s Sylvester simultaneously and a larger than life persona, rotund Chocolat clowned it up big time, inspiring as many guffaws as disapproving grimaces.,  belting out Boyle’s signature song, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. Norman the front row heckler got a wide berth this time as scowling Chocolat didn’t even ‘want to go there.’ A little kick of one chubby foot and Chocolat was off, showing a hint of tubby brown skin through the slit at the back of his one shouldered wrap as went.

Time for Jenny Mead as Kate Middleton, rapper, in fact, it was well past the eleventh hour for Jenny as the gal formerly known as Kate, but Mead gave it her all and her upper class accent and up market lyrics about ‘being demure in haute couture’ said at lightning speed suited the show’s mixed bag mood. ‘Ninety Nine Problems, but the Prince Ain’t One’ – ‘hit me’, as we headed for the interval.

‘Remember, we’re British…even the Welsh’ quipped Tim as he introduced Irish duo, A Banjo Man. The guitarist strummed, as his fellow performer moved through the crowd asking the audience to hold up the oddest things in their pockets, then together, they sang a spontaneous song about the items chosen. Similarly, after asking two audience members to provide names, occupations, childhood dreams and alternative careers, the amiable pair again composed a rhyming song on the spot, incorporating all they’d learned about their helpers, in an act as entertaining as it was clever.

‘Cabaret Whore’ Sarah Louise Young  was next up with a song about ‘British Resolve’ detailing the way she feels her countrymen hold it in, only to be shouting inside. ‘You’re My One Night Stand’ came clean re: the parameters of that game, ending with ‘I don’t love you.’ Between songs, Young poised the question, ‘What is the monarchy for? to which someone quickly shouted, ‘tourism’. As the first Royal mention on the current top twenty of tourism is Windsor Castle at number seventeen, perhaps it’s time for a vote. Cue French inflected ‘What Has English Given Us?’ with its’ comparisons, often comic, of English versus French contributions, like croissants and HP sauce. ‘I Couldn’t Give a Toss’ focuses on the trendy penchant for giving to causes by buying, rather than actually helping.

Scottish comedian Phil Kay was meant to go on next, but it was obvious from the outset that he was either extremely unbothered, totally sizzled, or both. As contemporary comedy has few boundaries, no one balked when Kay initially headed for a small cheering section in the audience who noisily called out to him, snogging some of them in the process. Nor did anyone complain when he stepped into the performance space and went on about the dried dandelions he’d brought from Scotland as an analogy for the Royal Wedding night, blowing their seeds around. But when he shouted that he was ‘free’ because he’d been ‘paid in advance’, waved his pay packet, and stuffed it down his trousers, we knew something was up.  After inadvertently exposing himself, Kay still seemed undeterred.  But some in the audience shouted ‘get off’, upping the ante to ‘you’re not funny’ as he verbally insulted the audience head on  before storming off, as the Udderbelly staff who’d been watching from the wings hurriedly scattered. Our host Tim rather gingerly returned, commenting, that Kay was ‘somewhere between a nervous breakdown and a lot of drugs that went wrong.’

 As Kay had, among other things, expressed raging anti-royalist views, Tim assured the audience that the next performer was ‘covered in Union Jacks’, and sure enough, when Le Gateaux Chocolat bounced back, his round body was made all the rounder by his latex Jack fronted jumpsuit. ‘I Who Have Nothing’ seemed an odd choice of song, but that only made it seem a funnier one, not to everyone though, as those who’d been vehemently tight-lipped before remained so. London is nothing without its abundance of stiff upper lips after all. As Chocolat launched into his second number, a raucous version of Madonna’s ‘80’s hit ‘Holiday,’ rolling his rotund body on an unwitting man in the front row, I chuckled, ever so softly so as not to disturb a cringing man nearby.  But finally, as Chocolat high kicked it in his delicate Barbie mules, the belly laughs of the California girl behind me got to me and I succumbed. What’s a Royal Wedding day without its absurdities after all?

 

 

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