Wednesday, 9 December 2015

A dude, a lesbian surprise, a feast, a brunch, a pansy and big baubles

Our little gang (Me, John-John, little Tony, Paul, Jim, Emma, the lovely Justin, Bryanne, Simon and chums) gathered on Monday for Polari's traditional Xmas send-off. A double celebration - the last outing for "London's peerless gay literary salon" for 2015, and the grand finale of host Paul Burston's ground-breaking Polari national tour - which seems to have hit more towns and cities up and down the UK than the Olympic torch!

So it was with great pride that Paul introduced our opener for the evening, his stalwart accompanist on every one of those "roadshow" events, the marvellous VG (Val) Lee to the stage. Sparkling and entertaining as always, she glittered with festive baubles as she read for us some suitable extracts from her forthcoming anthology featuring the fearsome ex-friend and neighbour "Deirdre". In the absence of any of those out there in interweb-land, however, here she is reading two (more familiar) "Deirdre" stories from Brighton's L-Fest earlier this year, "dude":

Andrea Stuart, author of the prize-winning historical examination of her own (shocking) heritage Sugar in the Blood read from her short story that was published in Granta journal, The Tourist, about her own coming-out as a lesbian - which, given her youthful propensity for men, appears to have been as much of a surprise to her as it was to everyone else... Read more if you are a Granta subscriber.

[Photo: Krystyna FitzGerald-Morris]

Next up was the (first outing for) our friend, the multi-talented Mr Marcus Reeves, who has "ditched the mask" in favour of a rather fetching black velvet evening gown, in which he performed for us a couple of new numbers he recently released, including Three Little Words:

He also read from his anthology of prose and poetry Sighs Ten ("fresh from my publisher, Prontaprint"), including a rather juicy poem, Eat You Whole from which this is a mere snippet:

Don't talk with your mouth full
Or bite off more than you can chew
The only dish I'm laying on my table
Is a man-sized portion of you

Phew. It was time for a break, a smoke and a top-up to cool down...

The last time we saw Ms Paula Varjack at Polari four years ago(!), I described the experience as "being 'Varjacked'". Little has changed...

She's utterly mesmerising in the way she blends her background music with her spoken word performance - her star piece was a pithy rumination on the contrast between actually seeing drum and bass legend Goldie live at last recently, with a full orchestra (and it was over the man's music she recited), and her remembered feelings as a young girl first listening to his albums. However, it was this short startler with which she opened (and got the audience perked up) - Brunch Date:

[Photo: Krystyna FitzGerald-Morris]

And so, our star reader of the evening, the enchanting Paul Bailey had (once again) to try and follow something like that...

That he managed it, in his measured, subtle and very, very funny way was a credit to the man. We loved his recollections - from his memoir An Immaculate Mistake: Scenes from Childhood and Beyond - of his closeted (and unconventional) childhood and teen years as a gay boy attempting to throw off the constraints of convention in the 1950s, the disapproval of his mother (whose cultural references included calling opera "closet music" sung by "squawking foreign cows" and Shakespeare "a snob"; and whose concerns about her son were that he was "not natural") and enter the world of the theatre (with its coterie of gay men, users and mentors alike).

Our favourite quote: ”I was a Battersea pansy, wary of displaying his true colours in the sunlight. Pansy. The hardiest of perennials.”

Perfection. The audience loved him.

[Photo: Krystyna FitzGerald-Morris]

There was one more treat in store, however. As it is the Festering Season, the finale could only be - as is traditional at Polari - courtesy of the Singing Christmas Tree (Mr Reeves again)!


And so, as Paul called the readers back to the stage to rousing applause, we bid our fond seasonal greetings to the assembled punters and to Polari itself for 2015.

Our next outing is on 29th January, with Alex Marwood, Timothy Graves, Stevie Henden, Anya Nyx - and our headliner is Adam Mars-Jones.

[Photo: Krystyna FitzGerald-Morris]

Polari. We love it.


  1. Looks like you had a lovely time!!! Who doesn't enjoy a singing Christmas tree!!! And your little friend John John and yourself..hubba hubba!

    1. It was a fabulous way to start the Festering Season... Jx

    2. Oh this is marvellous Jon! You have so captured the spirit of the evening. A truly wonderful blog. Here's hoping you have a jolly and joyful Christmas and all good things in the new year! X

    3. Bless. Thank YOU for your brilliant performance! Seasons greetings to you and yours... Jx

  2. Great memories of a great night - it feels much longer ago than 6 days (as of now) it was lovely to reconnect with everyone x

    1. It was lovely to see you again - it was splendid fun. Jx


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