‘Theatreland is a square mile of pure theatrical quality’
– say Bill Kenwright or Cameron MacKintosh-type West End impressarios.
Funny, we had trouble finding any quality in among the Mamma Mia-Our
House-We Will Rock You cock operas or dreary comedies. Bear this
in mind when someone next asks you to ‘take in a show’
Overture… All this fighting talk of imminent
attacks on our Godless, Allah-less, 24-hour-don’t-give-a-feck capital,
also Koran as ‘erotic poohpit of motherless white bisexual devils’,
has led me to conclude that we should be prepared to reason with
our terroristic friends (should they present themselves a short
while before things get going), and dissuade them from filling the
Tube with toothpaste and consider something entirely more worthwhile.
Banking on their (whoever they are – the more the merrier) intimate
minicab-type knowledge of the West End (indeed, so close to Soho
you just know there’s got to be some sort of innate theologically-vindicated
loathing for the infinite production of crapulent crassitude that
manifests itself in the rarefied atmosphere of sex shops, Swedish
strippers and over-priced coffee houses), I have a modest, yet worthwhile,
proposal to make them: Take out the theatres.
I’ve nothing against plays. In fact, some of my best friends
are plays. Just not ones written by Ben ‘Menstruation-Boy’ Elton,
or featuring songs by ‘Boy’ George or ‘starring’ Gyles Brandreth
(too horrible to be true? Think again as you shell out your pitiful
packet on ‘Zipp! 100 Musicals in 90 mins!’ – a hyper-ironic, uber-filth
fest of untold proportions, no doubt). What the hell are these ‘theatre’
things, their oversized billboards shitting hyperbole from every
turn at innocent passers-by? ‘Awesome’, ‘Astonishing’, ‘Mind-blowing’.
That’ll look appropriate backlit by cluster bombs and soundtracked
by ambulance sirens. These pissy ‘theatre’ creations are everywhere
in London it seems, marinating in mediocrity like rat brothels in
their own feculence, rammed with filthy old ladies from Margate
who’d like nothing more than to have it off with a randy tom-’Cat’
down some dirty West End alley or fellate roller-booted over-made-up
tossers in some slobberish dream-sequence (yes, I know these both
got put down…but there’s still nothing more 80s than musicals).
I present to you the not-very-controversial claim: Endlessly
running musical plays about French poverty, Swedish pop and whatever
else day-trippers subject themselves to have not well served the
collective imagination. In fact, scientists have frequently proved
that long-term use of musicals with regard to their aural, visual
and oral stimulation have led to the unfortunate births of many
left-handed hunchbacked children, cancer of the noumenon and an
inability to spell the word ‘troilism’ (Cf. ‘Break a leg, or Your
child: Musicals and their perilous effects’, Pilular & Briskett,
Old Scientist, 2000).
Everybody knows that central London costs several pacific
islands per square metre. Hell, if even McDonalds can’t take the
pace and is considering pulling out of Oxford Street etc (if only
to be replaced by their classier-looking but equally dubious, and,
in fact, part-McDonalds owned counterparts, Prat à Manger) then
it’s clear that the land value of theatres is immense. And, it seems,
on every corner there’s another one – yet another cultural anomaly
whose ads you see smeared with chewing gum in all the wrong (right?)
places whenever they appear by the side of the tube escalators.
So, culture-sensitive dirty bombs in place; lock on the front
row. Bam! There goes several thousand pounds worth of Bingo club
memberships. Turn to the stage…Bam! An entire generation of over-enthusiastic
sell-out actors and actresses saved from a lifetime of car insurance
commercials and low-cost loan promotions. A whole host of conveniently
placed theatres now on fire, Andrew Lloyd-Webber running screaming
from Her Majesty’s Theatre, blood pouring from every fat, over-fed
orifice – ‘no, no, they mustn’t find out that it was me behind that
mask. All these years I hid my ugly muzzle behind some piss-poor
organ playing and hysterical cape-wearing!’ Too late, Webby – no
more amazing technicolour dreamcoats, no more squealy cats, no more
deeply dubious tales of GIs and Vietnamese poontang.
What now for these sad, empty-hulled pits of lumpen-culture?
How about something worthwhile? Things that don’t run for 57 years
and do nothing but feed the depraved sodden-pantied lust of mustachioed
grandmothers? I’m talking Culture with a capital ‘K’ here. Yes,
boys and girls – forget terror – now’s the time to inject some real
civilisation into London!
Intermezzo… As we all know, it’s all too easy to criticise.
Perhaps you’re thinking that there’s really nothing wrong with the
aged and endlessly valuable (if broken-legged and a bit small) members
of society enjoying a little time out with a coach ride, some popcorn
and a little light humour. After all, we’re not a million miles
away from things that (some) of da yoof like to do too. I hear sing-a-long
the Sound of Music is very popular among my more anally-inclined
camp comrades, and often (I’m given to understand) many high-jinx
result from dressing up like a twat and going to the Rocky Horror
Picture Show. Like getting mistaken for a prostitute. Or a twat.
But really, I’m thinking ‘all this fine space, all these sad
lonely lost souls with fuck all much else to do after pubs shut
EVEN IN A BLOODY HUGE CITY LIKE LONDON’. It’s not fair on anyone
that all this time, money and space should be wasted on filling
the existential voids of visitors with shite about magical cars
or Disney on ice. Another world is possible! And all the world’s
a stage, after all….
Finale… So what now for the theatres? You can even keep
the bloody musicals if you like, but please, let them be seven-day
Stockhausen cycles, or Fisting Extravaganzas (starring the front
bench of the Conservative Party) with musical accompaniment by Whitehouse.
So you want to see the Loin King on ice – sorry, all the big cats
have been killed by bombs! Go and see Heiner-Müller’s Waterfront
Wasteland Medea Material Landscape with Argonauts on ice instead!
And then there’s real kulchural cross-pollination…. Ready,
Steady, Cook co-ordinated by Otto Muehl, culminating in the bloodbath
and sacrifice of each team in a strict rotation, depending on the
card-based decision of the audience; re-enactments of the film-aversion
bit in Clockwork Orange, now with pictures of every gardening and
cooking presenter in place of the ultra-violence (kultur should
enlighten, don’t you think?).
For the real purists, there’s all of Beckett’s plays performed
in slow-motion (come for a week or don’t come at all, no cushions
allowed), a projected 30-year real-time run of the Stanford Prison
Experiment, all exits blocked, and the ever-popular IMAX version
of Rose West’s Memoirs (‘the childhood days’).
At least then you can get back on the coach, pants dry but
strangely educated, and have truly experienced all the culture London
can throw up at you.