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!
Readings Fourteen and Fifteen - 26th November 2020
My Little Sister by Elizabeth Robins (1913)
Readers: Sarah Annakin, Bronwyn Elizabeth, Stephanie Fayerman, John Fleming, Sarah Ford, Catherine Harvey Green, Mufrida Hayes, Sioned Jones, Michelle Kelly, Sarah McCourt, Charlotte Moore, Jamie Newall, Philippa Ritchie, Maggie Saunders, Bob Sinfield, Lucy Stevens
Readings Twelve and Thirteen - 22nd November 2020
Where Are You Going To? by Cicely Hamilton (1914)
Readers: Sarah Annakin, Rachel Creeger, Bronwyn Elizabeth, John Fleming, Maroussia Frank, Mufrida Hayes, Michelle Kelly, Sarah McCourt, Charlotte Moore, Jamie Newall, Maggie Saunders, Alison Skilbeck, Lucy Stevens, Genevieve Swallow, Sarah-Louise Young
Reading Eleven - 16th November 2020
The Woman with the Pack by Gertrude Vaughan (1912)
Readers: Sarah Annakin, Rob Bond, John Fleming, Sarah Ford, Valentine Hanson, Sarah McCourt, Jamie Newall, Philippa Ritchie, Maggie Saunders, Lucy Stevens, Velma Von Bon Bon, Sarah-Louise Young
In September I did a show called 'An Afternoon with Ada Campe' at the Phoenix Arts Club in London. It was the longest bit of live performance I'd done since February, and was packed full with new material including a socially distanced magic trick and some songs - the first time Ada had sung on stage. It was great fun - and a second show called 'A Late Afternoon with Ada Campe' happened at Above the Stag Theatre in Vauxhall in November - simultaneously my first and last live appearance that month due to the implementation of the second lockdown in London.
After both shows I had a sort of post-show 'hangover' that lasted for days - the rush and excitement of performing live again and packing in so much new material at once was wonderful, but whereas in pre-COVID times I was used to finishing Ada shows with a great release of tension, for both of these the tension seemed to stay in my body... presumably because the chance to perform live has been so rare during 2020 that I didn't want to let the feeling or memory of it go.
Reading Ten - 20th October 2020
Which by Evelyn Glover (1914)
How One Woman Did It by J. L. Austin (1912)
Readers: Rob Bond, Hannah Davies, Steve Fortune, Maroussia Frank, Michelle Kelly, Charlotte Moore, Jamie Newall, Maggie Saunders, Annie Walker
Reading Nine - 15th October 2020
Supposing by Sewell Collins (1913)
The First Actress by Christopher St John (1911)
Readers: Sarah Annakin, Nick Dutton, Stephanie Fayerman, Maroussia Frank, John Fleming, Catherine Harvey Green, Michelle Kelly, Sajeela Kershi, Sarah McCourt, Charlotte Moore, Jamie Newall, Bobbie O'Callaghan, Philippa Ritchie, Maggie Saunders, Velma Von Bon Bon, Annie Walker, Faye Wilson
Reading Eight - 8th October 2020
A Bit of Blighty by Evelyn Glover (1917)
When Women Rule by Ned Joyce Heaney (1913)
Readers: Sarah Annakin, Maroussia Frank, John Fleming, Mufrida Hayes, Genevieve Swallow, Annie Walker, Alison Walls
Reading Seven - 15th September 2020
The Parrot Cage by Mary Shaw (1914)
An Allegory by Vera Wentworth (1911)
Readers: Janice Connolly, Stephanie Fayerman, John Fleming, Catherine Harvey Green, Sajeela Kershi, Charlotte Moore, Jamie Newall, Maggie Saunders, Bob Sinfield, Lucy Stevens, Genevieve Swallow, Annie Walker
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research