Betty Blue Eyes Review: Raquel In Royston Vasey

Starring Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen) and Sarah Lancashire (Raquel in Coronation Street); watching Betty Blue Eyes was a bit like watching a musical amalgamation of my parents’ 1990s TV highlights. Indeed, it is a genius crowd-pleasing pairing for a new West End show.

Both actors shine, Shearsmith with his own brand of uplifting self-deprecation and perfectly timed facial expressions, Lancashire with her natural flare for injecting comedy into moments of melancholy, and vice versa. Although it is Adrian Scarborough who plays the eagle-eyed latrine-lurking meat inspector who brings home the bacon this time, somehow managing to roll Chitty Bang Bang’s Professor Pots, Baron Bomburst and The Child Catcher into one wonderfully villainous and perverse truffle of a performance.

The best scene in the show depicts a glistening and idyllic 1940s ballroom which (just when the audience are waiting for the catchy chorus to come round again) crashes into a black oblivion of smoke and rubble – in short, it's a ballroom blitz. Although the plot device here is not exactly original (I saw a scene just like it in the recent Cinderella ballet at Sadler’s Wells), the chorus girls in Betty Blue Eyes are fabulous, giving ear-to-ear grins one minute, then hilarious frowns with invasively pointed toes and stuffy pouts the next. Alan Bennett, who wrote the screenplay for A Private Function, has a spiritual presence throughout the show. The audience are served up a very loyal portrait of Benettian Yorkshire, an illustration of his home county that we’re now so accustomed to his work delivering.

Whilst some moments are side-splitting other jokes are a little undercooked, perhaps aimed at day-tripping Raquel fans and tourists, it seems even the cast struggle not to wince at some of the show's less-accomplished punchlines. Betty Blue Eyes faces the classic West End dilemma of needing to create funny ticket-selling caricatures for all the family to enjoy without boring to death the much smaller core of London's creative intelligentia, wine-swigging West End know-it-alls and the impossible-to-impress media whores. Sadly it is the latter who have the final say on whether a show is any good.

Austerity Britain, the Royal Family, the introduction of TV broadcasts, and the recent downfall of the Nazi empire provide sufficient satirical meat to chew on but too often Betty Blue Eyes shies away from being too impactful, choosing instead to be a light-hearted glossary, keeping perhaps tactically within the school syllabus, Betty Blue Eyes could have been called Keep Calm And Carry On: The Musical.

Several reviews have likened the show to Animal Farm, The Wizard of Oz and even Wicked (The ballroom number certainly sounds quite similar to Ozdust Ballroom, whilst the funniest song about a pig in the house sounds very much like The House Began to Pitch)

I was reminded of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, most obviously the ‘Kill The Pig’ routine, but also the wider concept of using the pig as a metaphor for human evil, social invention and the descent of civilisation.

The show is quite evangelical in its constant condemning of killing animals, using comedy to seduce the audience into listening first and then bludgeoning them with a slice of animal rights. Indeed, watching Betty Blue Eyes with a vegetarian friend sat next to me was interesting - to note just how much our appetite as a nationa has changed over last 50 years, with millions happily choosing not to eat meat at all and many more of us quite willingly living on a diet of processed trash.

Betty Blue Eyes is a fun musical, held together by its strong lead actors, and filled with charming details. Perfectly timed in the aftermath of a recession and in the run-up to a Royal Wedding, it’s well worth a watch, if only to see Reece Shearsmith in a pair of sock suspenders.

Photos: Pink Collar Boxing

Last night I went to the first ever Pink Collar Boxing at The Scala in Kings Cross. Organised by boxer trainer Dermot Mannion, it was an exciting evening with six scheduled fights that took place in The Scala's main arena. The turn out was large and the crowd's cheering, yelling and egging-on crescendoed into a very lively atmosphere by the final fight.

I felt the evening's host Bernie Katz could have been a lot chattier, he didn't make much of an effort to build up a rapport with the audience, meaning there were some awkward sober silences during the first half. I'm sure boxing is meant to be watched with concentration and sincerity, but for an event targeted at a wide audience of amateurs and first-time spectators of the sport, the audience certainly needed a livelier host to provide commentary, insight, jokes, and generally to hold their hand through the evening's discourse.

Some videos of the boxers before each fight, with vox pops from friends possibly, and some X-Factor style hype, would have been another welcome addition to the evening.

All in all though - a fun evening of rambling around The Scala and watching hot men hit it out in the ring. Definitely go for the experience, the next one is in four months:

I wrote a preview to the event on Gay Times here.

And here are my iPhone snaps:

Above: Club land songtress Lizzie France sang some dance hits, adding to the dance music backdrop of the event. You can here her stuff here.

The fighters included Scott Roberts, news editor of Gaydar Radio, Pat Cash from QX magazine (who had a photographer there on the night so look out for those snaps), and Ricky 'The Hammer' Sinz.

Below: One of the skimpily clad ringside hunks with a round card.

Below: The bell boy! He took his job very seriously, smiles were few and far between. Hot.

Below: Dermot Mannion referees

Juicy Lyrics: Because Gay Rappers Don't Represent

It's sad how closeted the black music scene seems to be. It's quite apparent to even the untrained eye that several of the big-selling 'urban' artists in the charts right now, men and women, are gay. But rather than help along people like them who don't have electric gates and security guards, they prefer to keep selling a lie, and so consequently, a lot of 'urban' (pop) music is starting to sound very empty.

I love R'n'B and rap, but because it's all written for womanizing straight men and acidic man-hating women, I find myself re-categorising and gender inverting the lyrics myself in my head. It goes so far to the point that I forget the original lyrics and get annoyed when I am reminded of them and they clash with my own little bubble.

Notorious B.I.G, Jay-Z, Ol' Dirty Bastard (and perhaps Nelly) are my favourite rappers. They each have a sound and rhythm to their voice that is unique to them, both melodic and weighted. They also each have their own preference to rhyming structure and form. A gifted wrapper is a poet, a spoken word artist, and even Dizzee Rascal can be credited as such, but by and large - most chart rap is absolute manufactured trash.

Below are my alternative gay lyrics to Biggy Smalls' hit Juicy. I feel quite shy sharing them, despite the fact that they're deliberately tongue-in-cheek and farcical. It's not meant to be rapped in a tone that mimics Biggie's voice, but more rather a camp Yorkshire accent, preferably with one hand on a hip and a generous dollop of eye-rolls.

Of course Notorious wasn't gay, he was the complete opposite - a womanizing mysogynist some say. These lyrics are in no way disrespectful of his legacy, it's just a bit of fun. If you fancy penning your own gayternative to a rap classic then please do share the link below!
Now if you want to match my Juicy to the original then I recommend opening up the original on YouTube (Search Notorious - Juicy), and then when you get good - "rapaoke" if yourself over
the instrumental version perhaps.

JUICY - by JC Superstar

Fuck all you ‘phobes. Get a grip fatherfucker.

Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I'd never mount a muffin, to all the people that lived above the buildings that I was gossiping in front of that called the police on me when I was just tryin' to give feedback on how to dress their daughters, and all the Nadines in the struggle, you know what I'm sayin'?

Uh-ha, it's all good baby bay-bee, uh

Verse One:

It was all a dream, I used to read QX magazine, Billie Piper and Alice Deejay up in the limousine, Hangin' Robbie on my wall , Every Saturday Camp Attack, Tranny Shack, my bedroom had a mirror ball. I watched ass rock 'til my cherry popped, Hating tweed and Typhoo, suckin' on private school cock , Way back, when I had the red and black Minnie Mouse rucksack With the hat to match , Remember kissing Luke, woo-ha, woo-ha, I never thought that his butt would take me that far, Now I'm in the limelight 'cause I ride tight , Time to get laid, sell some homemade marmalade , Born sinner, the opposite of Michael Winner , Remember when I used to sing Javine before dinner , Peace to Fergie, Tommy C, Marlon B , Spunkmaster Pecs, Bum love Starsky , I'm blowin' off like you thought I would , Another cock, same number, same hood , It's all good

Uh, and if you don't know, now you know, quee-ah, uh


You know very well who you are, Don't let them hold you back, reach for his arse, You had a go, and it felt insane, You're not the only one who likes it good and plenty,

Verse Two:

I made the change from a slip brief, To wearing lamé jock straps on Whitby beach , And I'm far from cheap, I play P!nk in my jeep all day, Spread spunk, it's the Yorkshire way , The Moet and Alisha’s Attic keep me bitchy, Girls used to diss me , Now they write letters 'cause I’m sissy , I never thought it could happen, this faggin' stuff , I was too used to fearing' tits and muff , Now hunks hold me close in a buttocks spit roast , Behind Mr. Whippy down on the east coast , Nandos with queens, Soho for weeks , Sold out seats to hear Stephen Fry speak , Livin' life without fear , Pushin' five carrots in my neighbour’s rear. Lunches, PR brunches, interviews by the pool , Considered a fool 'cause I slept around high school

Stereotypes of a gay male misunderstood And it's still all good

Uh...and if you don't know, now you know, quee-ah


You know very well who you are, Don't let them hold you back, reach for his arse, You had a go, and it felt insane, You're not the only one who likes it good and plenty,

Verse Three:

Thunderbirds Are Go, tapes of Genesis , When I didn’t fuck blokes, man I couldn't picture this , 50 inch dreams on a green leather sofa , Got two rides, a limousine with a coiffeur , Phone Bill when the cava’s gone flat , No need to hurry, bumming in an accountant’s flat, And my hole screw is poundin’ , Celebratin' every day, no more public browsin' , Thinkin' back on my one-night shags , Now my Mum pimps a Matalan fleece on her back , And she loves to show me off, of course , Smiles every time my throat is cummed-up and hoarse , We used to fuss when the Newsagent dissed us , “No Heat?” Wonder why All I Want For Christmas missed us? , Birthdays was the worst days , Now I suck Sam’s mate when I’m thirst-ay , Uh, damn right I like the life I live , Jus’ don’t go from negative to positive , And it's all... ,

(It's all good)

...and if you don't know, now you know, quee-ah, uh Uh, uh...and if you don't know, now you know, quee-ah Uh...and if you don't know, now you know, quee-ah, uh

Representin' G-Town in the house, Gay Mafia, Billie Piper, uh, uh yeah a-ight.

Anti Gay Marriage? Meh.

In response to Richard Waghorne’s piece on Gay Marriage : ************************************************************************************** Leaving his incoherent ramble on gay marriage to one side for a second, it mostly offends me when Waghorne writes “actual homophobia already has a scarcely-threatening, almost antique quality to it” - this is simply not true. Thousands of young gay people are subjected to bullying in British schools everyday. As I type this sentence right now a student will be crying alone in a corner somewhere on their lunch break*. Homophobic killings still happen in Britain, and as for the rest of the world – there are entire nations darkened by heavily institutionalized homophobia, to pluck out one example from dozens - Iraq - where gay men are sometimes imprisoned, sexually abused by prison staff, and tortured to death such as having their anuses super glued so that they die painfully of their own digestive malfunction. We don't necessarily have a right to impose our culture on other cultures, but it is admirable that Britain sets an example of tolerance and love. **************************************************************************** Waghorne undermines his piece on gay marriage when he writes that civil partnerships “provide gay couples with nearly all necessary legal provisions”. Nearly all? What about equality? Gay people deserve to be treated the same as anybody else. We don't want tiaras and fancy titles, we don't want to better anyone, we just want the same, and it is so saddening to see a gay writer working against this. As Peter Tatchell has argued for a long time, denying gay people marriage is just another way of classifying them as second-class citizens who should be rejected by the family unit, ostracised from mainstream society, as if they don't belong in the world into which they were born, in which they live, and to which they contribute. If Richard Waghorne doesn't want to marry, and if no man wants to marry Richard Waghorne then that is fine, but why should he write a piece condemning something that he claims to have no interest in doing, and yet a lot of gay people do want to do and deserve? He has written this piece because he fancies himself as controversial, and his experience of reality is clearly somewhat skewed. ************************************************************************************** I am not attacking him because he is “anti-gay” as he thinks the "predictable" and cliche reaction to his piece will be. No, I’m highlighting his article because it reads like the work of a heartless careerist, and a boring one at that. His long rambling introduction of "I, I, I" and "actually gay people should X, Y, Z" just demonstrates the distance between the empty old-fashioned arguments and the heart of today's gay community. *********************************************************************************** It annoys me that he suggests gay partnerships don’t lead towards raising children. He is failing to see the future landscape of Britain here, already gay teenagers are growing up with the understanding that they could quite feasibly raise a family, and indeed there are plenty of gay parents out there right now. Just as gay people can be brilliant teachers, they can be brilliant parents, and if marriage is the springboard for succesful child raising, as Waghorne believes, then gay people have a right to give themselves that security and bond. ************************************************************************************* As for marriage being the perfect template for couples to raise children, I disagree, and we all know this isn’t always true either. Many of my friends were damaged by their parents’ marriages, does Richard Waghorne not know of at least one marriage that had a detrimental effect on a family? The idea that marriage is synonymous with monogamy and fidelity is a myth. Lots of people marry for status, money, security, or out of parental and social pressure and societal expectation, the same reasons why many have children. Whilst my parents were never married (they met at a party at university and had me – they shared parenting responsibilities) we are all perfectly happy as an archipelago-style family and are “successful” without the aid of church bells and a cake. I personally probably won't have a gay wedding, unless I meet a Wimbledon finalist and Marc Jacobs brings out a line of kilts. But I respect those gay people who do want to marry in private, and celebrate with their family and friends, and in the eyes of their all-loving all-accepting God if they're religious. ************************************************************************************* I'm sure there are reasons to doubt the introduction of gay marriae, and issues that must be ironed-out, and hopefully there is a writer somewhere who could convey these arguments more clearly and intelligently than Waghorne. If anything surely the major argument against gay marriage is that is affiliates the modern gay community with an old-school ecclesiastical gay community that is corrupt. Because to believe that the church doesn't have a whopping great twisted homosexual legacy is simply to bury our heads in the choir gowns rack. Marriage might also be (with emphasis on might) an example of government trying to “straighten out” the gay community, take away the bliss of an alternative counter-culture lifestyle, and to subject them to capitalist obedience. Arguments and concepts that when contemplated are complex, confusing and no doubt too chewy for old Weddingless Wordpress Waghorne here. ************************************************************************************ I’m not sure if I will marry myself, but I certainly won’t waste my time writing articles that offend and hurt those people who do want to marry. And if I do ever get married to my Wimbledon tennis finalist then I am certain a lot of straight couples and their prosperous, hearty, healthy heterosexual children will be in attendance. **************************************************************************************************************************************************************** *To borrow a Comic Relief writing style for one moment!

For a more mature rebuttal against Richard Waghorne's attention-grabbing piece check out Conor Pendergrast's piece 'Dear Richard'

Gay Pub Special: Rose Garden, Dalston Superstore, The Griffin & The Eagle

A few photos and notes from the weekend:

Above we can see Jaki Graham performing at Carpet Burn in The Eagle, Vauxhall (I didn't know who she was either, but a quicky Wiki on the iPhone told me she was quite a big deal in 1994).

The crowd of Muscle Marys and Piercing Brosnans applauded (screamed) so vigorously (it was 1am) that Jaki had to fight back tears of joy - "Oh my! Oh my God! You boys gonna give me a big head!" she delighted, "And some of you were just babies when I was doin' ma thing!" (they weren't).

Despite looking like Kelly Rowland on Fat Booth there was something compelling and very likeable about Jaki, she was clearly a born-performer. Whilst waiting at the bar I downloaded some of Jaki's hits off iTunes for the nightbus - 'Step Right Up' and 'Could It Be I'm Falling In Love' are firm favourites, YouTube this fine lady.

The Eagle is a pretty smoking venue in Vauxhall with an even prettier smoking area, although you CAN'T PAY FOR DRINKS ON CARDS, which I struggle to understand in 2011AD (with the exclusion of rural pubs and pop-up shops). If you're paying £8 entry and £1.50 per item in the cloakroom then you're obviously going to run out of metal quite quickly.

Everyone in The Vauxhall Griffin was given a female pop alter ego on Saturday, part of their alternative pop quiz night 'Push The Button'. I was given Joan Osborne, but complained and so the host took Joan away and angrily stamped Lady Gaga on my chest as if to say 'Oh, grow up you tart!'.

I took a photo above of one man's two-sticker title of Tampera Feat. Maya - brilliant. I wanted to bin his shirt for him, but at least it wasn't chequered.

A collection of 1980s figurines, mainly Thundercats characters, chilling on the picture rail in The Vauxhall Griffin. I loved my hand-me-down He-Man toys as a child. In fact, they have a lot to account for, along with Dolph. Has anyone done research into the ties betwen gay culture and the colourful highly eroticised and utterly camp boys toys of the 1980s?

Bob Chicalors, deputy features editor at Gay Times, danced to all your favourite hits in a Camilla Parker-Bowles mask (part of the quiz). We clocked in at 6th place, winning a box of runners-up Maltesers (mainly for bonus points incurred by our creation of a Lisa Left-Eye Lopes mausaleum in one of the wing's of Mel C's house (long story)).

Breakfast at Dalston Superstore. It's weird being there when it's not rammed with gay-electro teens, gay-friendly girls in Aldo heels and Will Young. This fresh mint tea came beautifully presented with a napkin-tied heat protection grip, and some little slices of lemon. The food there is exquisite and the atmosphere is perfect for nursing a hangover, well worth a hop on the overground. Being healthy I ordered granola with yoghurt, only to sit there in emerald-faced envy as my fashion PR pal Rob tucked into a giant smoked salmon bagel breakfast.

Rose Garden without her wig, a wonderful performer - great legs too!

Rose invites some cross-dressing punters onstage. Mistake. Hilarious.

Rose tries to hold herself together whilst everything goes ungracefully wrong!

Rose attempts to teach the boys a dance routine. Not many can walk in heels like our Rose can.

Rose Garden is a sophisticated and visionary drag persona, do go and see her. I regular at The Black Cap, she has regular slots all over London and indeed the world. Visit her Myspace page here.

And that was my gay weekend! Elements of it anyhow. Jack xx