Saturday, 21 January 2012

Sexy redheads, Restoration grimacing, Viv Stanishall's sausages and a Ferret

It was the first Polari of 2012 on Thursday, and yet again our host (and sometime semi-nude photographic poseur) Mr Paul Burston pulled out all the stops to give us a wonderful evening of literary high camp!

Arriving on stage fully clothed (and sickeningly tanned) with a tack-o-rama souvenir brolly from his recent holiday in Brazil with hubby Paulo, we knew it wouldn't be long before he could no longer resist the temptation to strip for our star-studded audience. However, there was another "peerless gay literary salon" to introduce first...

Our opening speaker was the lovely Anthony McDonald, author of the books Adam and Blue Sky Adam (extracts from which he read for us at Polari back in June 2009). His new book emerged out of a real-life obsession with a redhead stranger on a train, and the passage he read involved the burgeoning relationship between such strangers - the older (slightly autobiographical) Oliver and the younger, ostensibly straight Orlando - and their adventures in Malaga. It seems like a great story! Getting Orlando is available from BigFib books.

The ebullient Mr Rikki Beadle-Blair is a true drama queen - the man responsible for Stonewall - The Musical (which we went to see at the Pleasance Theatre back in 2007), the TV series Metrosexuality and numerous theatrical productions, in many of which he starred as well as produced. As well as having a long history in drama and gay activism, he is also an avid poster of "Things I Learned Today" on Facebook, which apparently have become so popular he has collected them all into a "self-help" book of the same name. It was this he decided to focus his reading on - and encouraged a lively and interesting audience debate session in the process! I found it fascinating (if a little reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver's cameo role in Jeffrey).

"Pox, say I, upon the insolent crackfarts, the impudent numps, the tawdry morts!" These are just some of the shocking expletives that our next reader the actress and author Fidelis Morgan uses - regularly by all accounts. An expert in the wild, weird and wacky world of the 60s - the 1760s, that is! - Miss Morgan is a fantastic and mesmerising reader and performer. In her scarlet velvet jacket and pearls, she gave us an extract from her "Countess Ashby de la Zouche" period crime novels involving the purchase of a dildo, and an insight into attitudes to homosexuality and sex two hundred and fifty years ago - and not content with all that she dragged some willing victims out of the audience for a Restoration-era lesson in acting expressions as well...

"I have three passions: larger-than-life people, structure and smut. It was therefore inevitable that I would write whodunits set in Restoration London. Everything is waiting there for me: actresses, stalkers, prostitutes, street hoodlums, footpads, extortionists, rapists and, inevitably, murderers. A quick glimpse through the 1690s Accounts of the London Sessions or the Newgate Calendar is not unlike spending a Sunday with the red tops. Human desires and foibles roll on without ever really changing. I have found neighbours squabbling about noise or smells from next door, wife-beaters, husband-beaters, drunks, peers who think themselves above the law, fraudsters, child molesters, child thieves and children who murdered.
Marvellous stuff! Download an extract of her Unnatural Fire [pdf].

It is very difficult to follow an act like that, but Miss Rosie Wilby certainly leapt to the stage with aplomb! From her roots as a singer with a band back in the 90s, Miss W has developed her career into journalism and latterly stand-up comedy. Recently she has combined all three into a new show based upon her Pop Diaries from the dearly-departed Melody Maker. Here are a couple of samples of the lady's superb talents...

Rounding off the evening, his clothes having unsurprisingly fallen off by this stage, Mr B introduced Polari First Book Prize winner Mr James Maker, who treated us to some of his often hilarious reminisces from his memoir Autofellatio. On this occasion he entertained us with the often bizarre experience of filming Middleton's Changeling alongside an array of eccentric characters including Billy Connolly, Ian Dury, John Cooper-Clarke and Viv Stanishall (who appeared in the kitchen in the middle of the night to announce to the startled young Mr Maker "The Cumberland sausages are mine!" before disappearing again). Read in James' typically droll "throwaway" style, the experience seemed all the more amazing...

And so it was unfortunate that another great evening's entertainment had to close - just sufficient time for me to get a photograph taken with two of my favourite entertainers, Miss Adele Anderson (who we saw only recently on stage with her group Fascinating Aida) and Miss Eve Ferret (whose one-woman show we saw in June last year), who I had been raving about meeting all evening!

Utterly charming and delightful company they were, too.

J'adore Polari! Our next is on 6th February, and Tiffany Murray and Faarea Masud are already announced - but I have no doubt there will be much much more.

Polari is at the Southbank Centre


  1. It was a fabulous night as ever - Polari is cementing it's place as my highlight of the month.

    It feels like a family but one you choose to spend time with :)


  2. I so agree - I actively look forward to Polari every time! Jx


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