Friday, 13 April 2012

Demanding answers to the questions that just don’t matter

"Can you believe that Ian McKellen bought me a library in India? It was in a card I got in the post that said, 'Dear Frances, Sir Ian McKellen has pledged x amount of money - I won't say how much - to build a library in your name to help the underprivileged children of the region.' It's an amazing present isn't it?"
That was one of the more tame revelations that one of my favourite actresses Miss Frances Barber gave us at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern last night....

The occasion was a new cabaret night starring David Mills and Myra Dubois called Mouthing Off!, billed as "a brand new panel show for the Twitter and Facebook generation" (whatever that means - even Myra was at a loss to explain!). Part musical revue, part chat show, part piss-take ("demanding answers to the questions that just don’t matter"), it was a brilliantly entertaining and anarchic evening indeed.

As well as wanting to see (and possibly to meet) Miss Barber, I couldn't miss this event for another very good reason - the fantabulosa Clayton Littlewood was the other guest.

Clay is a great writer - his Dirty White Boy from a few years back (a book that began life as a blog on MySpace, where I first encountered him) is a bloody good read, and we went to see the stage adaptation of it not once, but twice! He is also charm personified, and I would always pass the time of day with him and his hubby Jorge when they still had their boutique of the same name in Soho.

His long-awaited follow-up to DWB, Goodbye to Soho, is having its official launch (in conjunction with the fab Maggie and Martin's new album Union) at Madam JoJo's in (of course) Soho on 10th May - read more about the event.

Clayton told us he was a bit nervous of taking to the stage, not knowing quite what to expect - but as it seemed that no-one else had a clue either, it looked likely he was safe. And a very adept conversationalist he is, too - reminiscing about Soho's "village" atmosphere, about the business going bust and their move out to Holland Park, about the rivalry between Soho and Vauxhall gay scenes, and of course about the eccentric characters he encountered over the years.

On that note, he read a dedication written by the late Sebastian Horsley, who was one of his very good friends. And here - a few years ago at Polari - Clayton and Sebastian play out their first meeting...

And after the break it was Miss Barber's turn! An actress we have always adored here at Dolores Delargo Towers - we went to see her on stage as "Billie Trix" in the Pet Shop Boys musical Closer To Heaven (for which she won WhatsOnStage Best Actress in a Musical), and again as Ian McKellen/Widow Twankey's sidekick in Aladdin; and among many other roles she played Joe Orton (Gary Oldman)'s sister in Prick Up Your Ears, and she was a remarkable guest star in the wondrous Beautiful People :

Miss Barber is a genuine insider to the "luvvie" world of acting and actors. Among the guests she brought with her to the RVT was Sir Derek Jacobi's husband, for heaven's sake...

As such, she has loads of gossip to hand - and my heavens, did she share it! Surreptitious back-stage blowjobs, Serena McKellen and his wicked sense of humour, on-stage balls-ups, indiscretions, working with Louis Spence, terrifying theatrical stars, and of being probably the only classical British actor working today who isn't in Harry Potter... She was candid, funny, and fabulous - our hosts David and Myra could hardly keep up.

Despite a slight mishap while trying to climb down the precipitous stairs from the stage, Miss Barber was utterly charming when we asked her to sign her autograph, and to have our photos taken with her (even when quite a crowd gathered around her). Such a class act:

An unforgettable night, indeed - little Tony, Emma, Toby and I loved it!

Mouthing Off! at the RVT


  1. Looks like a fab night out! I almost had Francis Barber in my living room once! A TV producer was looking for locations for a new detective thriller, and was considering using my house in Streatham. As far as I remember, someone was going to be bludgeoned to death in my living room and then Francis Barber (playing the detective) was going to come in and solve the crime. Never came about in the end, which was a shame at £750 per day, and that’s 1999 prices!

    1. I wonder whatever happened to that detective series? And if they eventually did film it, whose living-room eventually got splattered? Jx

  2. what a brilliant recollection of a tremendous night out - we are very lucky to have the RVT and nights like these to attend.


    1. I loved every minute of it - gawd bless the RVT, indeed! Jx


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