Wednesday, 27 April 2016

A gay cop, a micro-penis at 35,000 feet, the return of the Queen of Teen, a pas de deux of lust and love, and some twirling

A second outing for Polari - "London's peerless gay literary salon" - in a month? Ambassador, you are spoiling us!

And so on Monday this week, I and John-John (and Bryanne, Simon, Jayne, VG, Anny, and many more familiar faces this time) settled in for a feast...

Our genial host Mr Paul Burston was resplendent in purple in tribute to the dearly departed Prince (as was much of the lighting at the glittering Fifth Floor Function Room at the Royal Festival Hall), as he introduced this latest outing for what is undoubtedly one the Southbank's premier literary events - of which he, and the events team at the Centre, should be rightly proud.

Opening proceedings was a "Polari virgin", Mark Lock - coincidentally(?) from the same bit of Wales from whence hails Mr B (home town of rugby stud Gavin Henson, newsreader Huw Edwards and recently deceased drug smuggler turned author Howard Marks - Bridgend, I believe). He read from his debut crime-novel-with-a-twist Dead Man's Hand (recently chosen by book retailer WH Smith for promotion in their "Fresh Talent" series). It's blurb reads thus:
DI Hal Luchewski is a jaded London cop with a turbulent past and a complicated personal life. The stress of his job is getting to him – usually in the form of hard drink. He’s still living in his dead father’s shadow, his relationship with his daughter is strained, and his love life is complex to say the least… although nearly 40, Hal’s still reconciling himself to the fact he’s gay.
...and the piece Mr Lock read, where Hal is challenged about his attitude to being gay (and to his pick-ups in general) by one of his recent one-night-stands, was rather intriguing.

But up next - remarkably early in the evening's schedule, we thought - was the moment we (and many of the Polari regulars) were waiting for. The return of Rebecca Chance - recently described by TheGayUK as "a heady mix of RuPaul meets Joan Rivers"! One of our favourite readers/performers at Polari, she didn't disappoint - as she invited another chum and regular punter Wayne Herbert (writer and actor) to accompany her on one of her notorious re-enactments of a suitably smutty passage from her new book Mile High. Introducing the story - a highly-publicised maiden flight of a flagship new craft in the armada of an airline not-at-all-related-to-Virgin, on board which is not only a superstar singer with a stalker, a convicted criminal and a range of celebs, but also a randy pilot, a jealous head stewardess, and a new member of the in-flight team transferred in from recently folded budget flight company not-at-all-related-to-Ryanair - she had the audience hooting at such throwaway plot "spoilers" as "I think I’m the first author ever to have an accidental lesbian bondage scene"...

So it came to pass that Wayne had the onerous task of transforming his immaculately-coiffured persona into that of a lascivious and uncouth telly chef not-at-all-related-to-Gordon-Ramsay, as he (hilariously) attempts sex in the shower room with the newbie stewardess - and she can't feel a thing. A bastard-persona-created-for-television, the result of its creator having a micro-penis? Oh, how our real-life perceptions have been changed forever :-)

Completing the triumvirate of readers in the first half was Juno Dawson, making her own debut of sorts. For last time we saw the crowned "Queen of Teen" in September last year she read as James Dawson, and this was her first reading for Polari since she "came out" as trans. It was a confident performance, and the audience loved her. She was scheduled to headline the night's event but unfortunately had to depart early for home in Brighton.

Here she is reading from her recent novel Spot The Difference at World Book Day's Teen Fest:

And so, the break. Thankfully the Southbank Centre is an excellently accessible venue, and even with broken foot and crutch I was able to dash out for a fag and get back in plenty of time for the second half.

Rachel B Glaser, evidently an American expat, treated us to a reading from her own debut, Paulina and Fran, which was very good (despite being another "teenage interest novel"), but was somewhat diluted by the distinctly monotone delivery. Its blurb reads thus:
A story of friendship, art, sex, and curly hair: an audaciously witty debut tracing the pas de deux of lust and love between two young, uncertain, conflicted art students.

At their New England art school, Paulina and Fran both stand apart from the crowd. Paulina is striking and sexually adventurous—a self-proclaimed queen bee with a devastating mean-girl streak. With her gorgeous untamed head of curly hair, Fran is quirky, sweet, and sexually innocent. An aspiring painter whose potential outstrips her confidence, she floats dreamily through criticisms and dance floors alike. On a school trip to Norway, the girls are drawn together, each disarmed by the other’s charisma. Though their bond is instant and powerful, it’s also wracked by complications. When Fran winds up dating one of Paulina’s ex-boyfriends, an incensed Paulina becomes determined to destroy the couple, creating a rift that will shape their lives well past the halcyon days of art school.
The reviewers certainly love it, even if her friends seated at the table only seemed interested in their phones.

And finally, our surprise headliner - another familiar face from Polari past, Mr Will Davis, reading from How Not to Survive, the forthcoming sequel to his semi-autobiographical My Side of the Story. I can't find any extracts of his writing, nor any videos of him reading - so, it is to his "other" major skill to which I turn to show off his talent. Mr Davis is also an accomplished aerialist; and here he is a-twirling!

With the warm applause for the final "curtain call" resounding in our ears, that was it, once more, for another heady evening.

There is no Polari at the Southbank in May, but it returns to the Light Lounge in Soho on 9th May, featuring readings from Paul McVeigh, Jacquie Lawrence, Carl Stanley and Jules Grant. Our next outing at the Royal Festival Hall will be on 1st June (part of the annual "Festival of Love", apparently), and features Chris Neil, Tehmina Kazi, Richard Scott, Susan Heffernan and headliner (and favourite) Sophia Blackwell.

We love Polari!


  1. Brilliant Jon! I thought the evening was wonderful but I truly enjoyed Wayne's performance - it is so lovely to have a really good laugh! X

    1. Thanks, Val.

      The combination of the two of them - Lauren/Rebecca and Wayne had me in stitches! Jx

  2. Lovely write-up, Jon, very funny and witty! And yes, I was hugely lucky to have the talented Wayne reading in with me...


    1. Yours was an absolute star turn, my dear - loved it! Jx

  3. This does sound like a classic Polari.
    Unfortunately you were right about Baal, x

    1. You would have been better off joining us for some "bonk-buster action"... Jx


Please leave a message - I value your comments!