I think I can safely say I have never seen anything as bad as the Christmas Crooners show at the White Rock Theatre.
Went on a WI outing. The person who had booked the tickets had legged it up north and didn’t attend. Hopefully she didn’t know what we were letting ourselves in for.
It was supposed to be a jolly Rat Pack tribute singalong with Frank and Bing thing, but instead it reminded me of one those films/plays/novels (sorry, I can’t think of a single title) about sad, ageing variety artists on tours of low-rent provincial theatres. They sit in their stained vests in their dingy dressing rooms, toupee in one hand, fag in the other, bottle of scotch on the side, and bitch on about everything and everyone.
The curtain lifted to a discouraging screech of electronic feedback, to reveal a tatty set with a plastic Christmas tree and a seedy, bored-looking backing band, who turned out to be Bulgarian (you could not make this up…). Then on
came ‘Frank’, ‘Bing’ and ‘Nat’. Three ageing blokes in ill-fitting, shabby tuxedos, trailing retro-style mikes with long wires which, by the end, were tangled into a tantalising spaghetti heap which they kept tripping over. We were longing for one of them to crash excitingly to the floor, or for ‘Nat’, who had obviously put on a bit too much weight, to burst out of his trousers. No such luck. The singing was dire, the jokes corny and the choice of songs poor – too many slow and boring numbers and not enough sing-along fun. We all needed to swing into ‘New York New York’, or shriek along to ‘My Way’, or even to sing some carols, but the opportunities for audience participation were too few.
I am obviously an innocent when it comes to White Rock attendance – some of our group produced plastic water bottles of wine from their handbags to zap up the evening. As ever with the WI, we made the best of it and had a laugh – we were sitting along the back rows of the stalls, but even so we were all conscious of the £14.50 we had paid for our tickets – and that was at a cut-price group discount.
I just googled up ‘Christmas Crooners’ and indeed they do tour low-rent provincial theatres – Southsea, Cleethorpes, Hull, Buxton. Apparently they have been going for eight years. Heaven knows how – I have seen better shows in residential care homes. I guess part of the trouble is that the White Rock is such a cavernous great barn of a theatre. Things like that could do with a more intimate venue.
Friday night was something completely different, the Annual Presentation Evening of the Hastings Writers’ Group, at the White Rock Hotel. We had a record attendance – the room was packed. A real live London literary agent came to award the Catherine Cookson Cup – she only looked about 16. I expect such people to be either hard-drinking tweedy silver foxes, or savage sharp-faced women in red lipstick and little Chanel suits. But then I still expect doctors to look older than me. The cup was won, deservedly, by Mike Walsh.
Philosopher came and did the photos again – he was not happy with the lot he did last year, but unfortunately this year’s were not much better – the lighting in that room is truly terrible.
We also had a performance of the winning play from the competition judged by Shaun McKenna. Two pleasingly handsome young men took part, sons of Amanda, the winner. Not that I looked at them, of course.
This year, unusually, the winners of the regular competitions throughout the year were not the usual suspects who win all the time, but a range of different people. You may have noticed that I have won a couple of times, and when the points were totted up, in the end, the winner of the shield for ‘Writer of the Year’ was – me.
I have never won anything like that before, and I don’t think it did me much good. Far from rejoicing when I got home it ended with a positive drama-queen storm of overwrought weeping and wailing. Heaven knows why but it involved what ‘people’ might now expect from me, that I was a complete fraud anyway and that the photo of me collecting my shield made me look like an over-ripe fuzzy strawberry. Poor Philosopher was not amused.