The Royal Variety Performance is taking place at the Opera House in Blackpool tonight, and was last there in December 2009. On 14th November 2009 I woke up fully clothed and viciously hungover in a hotel room in Blackpool after an epic party night celebrating the end of another leg of the Vagina Monologues UK tour (I was on the tour understudying the celebs). We'd been guests of honour at Funny Girls and then hit the dancefloor at the Flying Handbag... and I don't remember much after that! However I had a day to waste before being driven back to London and decided to blow away the headache, cobwebs and that end of tour feeling by taking a walk along the seafront. It was out of season, rainy, windy, and forbidding but I just kept walking. Through the grey air and driving rain I saw some twinkling lights from a door and the words 'Palmistry' and 'Fortune Telling' and so headed towards it to escape from the weather.
Despite the fact that I'd been working as a magician's assistant for a few years and should have known better, I decided to go for it. I was now out of work, hungover, at a loose end and the chance to get a bit of personalised positivity in that bleak city seemed worth indulging in. About a minute into the reading I began to regret it - she was pleasant but the Barnum statements kept coming and although it was interesting to watch to a certain extent it felt too impersonal to play along with. And then - she suddenly looked at my hand, and then into my eyes, and said "Are you a performer?" I felt a surge of anticipation - yes, yes! I told her that the tour had just ended and I was heading, jobless, back to London. She looked at me intensely and in that moment I felt a genuine rush of excitement - what was this strange woman in this unpromising place on this sort of nothingish day going to say? What would be the pithy nugget of truth that might change everything? Would I look back on this moment as a turning point?
This is what she said:
"Can you get me tickets to the Royal Variety Show?"
I laughed out loud - at her and at myself - and said that there might be chums working on it and I could certainly ask. Left that little seafront studio with her email address on a scrap of paper and a genuine sense of buoyancy created by my own gullibility and ridiculousness.
So that's what I thought of when I heard the show was happening in Blackpool tonight!
The final hurrah of the Actresses' Franchise League was in December 1958 at a special Ball held in the Savoy Hotel.
The programme for the event is fantastic - a treasure trove of information and a tantalising glimpse into what sounds like an amazing evening. The great and the good had their dinner at 8pm but there was a later "Actresses' Supper" served at 11pm, presumably so that actresses in shows could come and join the festivities after their performances had come down.
I've found myself doing fortune telling gigs as Ada Campe quite a lot recently and it's been really fun researching and even more fun creating my own methods!
I did a lot of research on cold reading and traditional methods of fortune telling - all fascinating stuff. Having also learnt to do and perform a bit of Mentalism in my magic shows helped too. In Glasgow at the Britannia Panoptican - a fabulous old music hall that I heartily recommend you visit - I had my first encounter with a tarot card reader and found it very interesting watching her and seeing how she worked the whole encounter.
As it's intended for amusement purposes only I don't use tarot cards or do palmistry or anything that people have heard of and therefore might believe.
I've created my own cards and methods which are intended to be so blatantly silly that hopefully no one will take them to heart - although as I've discovered this means that people think I'm double bluffing them and am in fact psychic. I'm not. I'm just interested in people, want to amuse them and have discovered that with enough ambiguity, you can make anything seem relevant.
Feedback from events so far includes:
"Spookily accurate", " What a fun idea!" "You are a little bit psychic, aren't you?", "Spot on!", "That's amazing!" and
"They really are chickens, aren't they!"
Basically it involves me telling lots of strangers how lovely they are and to have confidence in themselves... an asset at any event, surely?
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research