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Thursday, June 28, 2007

And the crowd go wild!

Ragroof Theatre Company
I knew the jive dancing would prove popular. Just look at the excitement on the faces of that audience. I thought they were going to do a Mexican wave at one point, but I think it was just one of them having a stroke.

Anyhoo, I did attend the Theatre Royal's 200th birthday party yesterday afternoon, and very nice it was too. Although I think I was the youngest person there by a good thirty years. You know you're from a different generation when you're asked to climb a flight of about three stairs on your tour of the theatre, and half your group start complaining about their knees.

But on the bright side, I've been on the regional news. Kind of. I followed the BBC cameraman around like a bad smell, with the result that I featured on BBC South Today for about a tenth of a second last night. And if you're reading this in the next 24 hours, then you have the opportunity to witness my brush with fame for yourself. Visit this link, click on 'Watch Now' in the top right-hand corner, and fast forward to 23m 40secs. You won't see me, but trust me, I am there.

Anyhoo, the proceedings got off to a good start with a speech from the new Mayor of Brighton & Hove, Carole Theobald. She's a former two-time winner of Miss Brighton (I'm guessing it was some years ago) and gave the kind of uninspiring speech that suggested she should have stuck with beauty pageants. Fortunately the organisers recognised a desperate situation when they saw one, and grabbed the microphone from her before the entire audience had walked off. At which point they told us it was the mayor's birthday too, and ordered us all to sing Happy Birthday to her. I don't think anyone joined in.

Which is more than can be said for Carole. Once the jive dancing got underway, she was straight in there like... well, like a mayor at a photo opportunity. I watched her for a while - just long enough to give myself a good chance of getting my picture in the Argus today, then decided to take my one-man show to the stage of the Theatre Royal.

Theatre Royal BrightonAdmittedly I did have to queue for the backstage tour of the theatre (that's the trouble with free events - they attract crowds), but it gave me a chance to browse the birthday cards stuck to a pinboard in the foyer. I seemed to be the only one bothering to look inside each card, which is a shame, as it means everyone else missed the chance to read personal messages (and scrawly signatures) from such theatrical luminaries as Timothy West, Wendy Craig, Prunella Scales and... Fern Britton (?). My personal favourite was from Nicholas Parsons, who'd bought a blank card, opened it backwards, and written his message upside down.

Once backstage, our tour guide, who admitted she usually worked in the ticket office, took us on a fifteen minute jaunt around the theatre, during which time she filled us in on the history of the place from a pre-printed card, before stopping every two minutes to ask "Are there any questions?". There inevitably were, and our knowledgeable tour guide knew the answers to precisely none of them, but it didn't stop her asking, which I kind of admire. You shouldn't be put off by your own ignorance. By the end, I'd seen her shrug so many times, I wasn't convinced she even knew her own name, but as a human being, I liked her.

I did get to stand on the stage of the Theatre Royal though - boards which have been trod by Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and, for this week only, Dean Gaffney. I also sat in the royal box, in the very chair occupied by the Queen during her visit in March. It was still warm.

The Brighton DomeBack outside the theatre, I followed signs to the 'Free Tour of the Dome', heading through the stage door at the back and straight onto the concert hall stage. This was the venue for Abba's victory in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, but gazing out over the auditorium, it looked more like they were holding a Rik Waller concert. The advertised 'tour' turned out to be no more than a chance to stand on the stage for ten minutes listening to a (slightly more knowledgeable) guide, before being asked to leave by the same door through which you'd entered. The guide talked a lot about the Dome's great acoustics, but to be honest I struggled to hear her.

Mr XylophoneOutside again, I walked through the Pavilion Gardens and watched the Brighton & Hove Music and Performing Arts String Ensemble. Ironically the one member who was truly impressive was the only one not pulling any strings. The kid on the xylophone rocked (that's not a sentence you hear every day). If there's such a thing as a world-famous xylophonist, he could be it in a few years time. He was like a young Patrick Moore, but with no squint and fewer stars in his eyes. I think he's destined for greatness. Much like myself.

Must dash, I'm due at the Jobcentre in half an hour.


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