Well, for those of you who have spotted my recent social media uploads you would already have noticed that I’ve had a rather busy few weeks. Before last Tuesday, I had never been to the Hammersmith Apollo but in the space of a week I found myself at this iconic theatre not just once but twice! The first was to attend what many still consider to be the biggest night of the British entertainment calendar: The Royal Variety Performance. Obviously in recent years The Royal Variety has enjoyed an added boost thanks to Simon Cowell and Britain’s Got Talent. Yet I do find it very ironic that Cowell’s other venture, The X Factor, has robbed The RVP of it’s rightful prime time Saturday night slot in the schedules. I suppose we can put this down to the evolution of television but still, as a traditionalist I remain utterly bamboozled by this fact. The Royal Variety and Saturday nights go together like fish and chips or Morecambe and Wise.
Back to the show, David Walliams once again proved more than capable of compering such an event and seems to always be able to straddle that fine line between risqué and respect. It was surprising to discover that Walliams himself doubled up as the warm up man which I felt was a sign of an extremely accomplished performer. I doubt that many of today’s crop of entertainers would have the inclination to do their own warm up. When the show began it became real that I was watching one of my favourite shows of the year and it didn’t let me down.
A galaxy of stars from Robbie Williams to Barry Gibb graced the famous stage in a bid to raise funds and awareness for The Royal Variety Charity who support former entertainers, fallen on hard times. Yet perhaps the biggest reception of the night came in acknowledgement of Britain’s Got Talent’s winning magician Richard Jones who with the help of HRH Prince Charles, performed possibly the most moving trick I’ve ever seen on British television which was promptly followed by an unanimous standing ovation. Like all magic you have to see it to appreciate it so I won’t even try and explain it for fear of not doing it the justice deserved but it’s definitely worth a look on YouTube.
2016 has been quite a sad year for entertainment, loosing so many icons of the small screen and The Royal Variety took it upon themselves to have a natural break in proceedings to remember those who tragically passed away this year. I believe this is the first year that has included this section and I found it incredibly moving. The late great Ronnie Corbett has been so synonymous with the Royal Variety that it almost sounds ridiculous that he’ll never appear on that stage ever again. As for Terry Wogan, I feel it’s impossible to watch television or listen to BBC Radio without noting his sad passing over the last year. A wonderful tribute to all of them.
All that was left was for the legendary Barry Gibb to take to the stage for the musical finalé with You should be Dancing… And we were! The evening climaxed with David Walliams and the great Bernie Clifton riding their ostriches… What a way to end a great show! I had waited such a long time to witness the Royal Variety live and I’m very happy to say it didn’t disappoint. A big congratulations to everyone involved in the organisation including my good mate Ian Freeman – you’re all fantastic!
So, six days later I found myself back at the Hammersmith Apollo for an entirely different gig. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to see Ocean Colour Scene and on Monday I fulfilled a lifelong ambition. For people of my age and slightly older, Ocean Colour Scene provided the soundtrack to our childhoods and so it was great to finally hear such familiar music performed in a live arena. Ironically, they opted to perform all their biggest hits in one block right at the top of the show. I was almost beside myself when I heard the first few chords of The Day We Caught The Train – one of my favourite songs of all time. A lovely Christmas present from my sister Soph!
That’s it for this week folks but make sure you come back next week to listen to my interview with a legend of British television drama.