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Des O’Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck: New Wimbledon Theatre.

October 31, 2018

(seen at the performance on 16th September 2018).

Broadcasters aren’t keen on older, white men on TV any more. As Tarbuck admits here, the main reason he isn’t on television is because he can’t cook. The fact over two-thirds of a vast London suburban theatre was full and constantly echoing to laughter for over two and a half hours says more about the state of the nation than the censorious controllers of broadcast media ever can.

Tarbuck and O’Connor appearing together top and tail the show, with Tarbuck taking most of the first half. He gives us a mixture of stand-up, memories and a bit of video (his scoring a goal at Wembley his highlight), sing-a-long (acapella “Do-Re-Mi”) and some “Q and A” when the audience is relaxed enough to be coaxed into it.

For instant transportation back to days when the true “British sense of humour” wasn’t silenced, when everybody knew “it’s only a joke” really did mean that – and was taken that way, and the politics of the few didn’t leave the rest feeling constricted by views they didn’t agree with but couldn’t push against… this was bliss.

Blue, sometimes, but never crude. Stories flowed, wordplay and anecdotes mixed, those who used to grace our screens but have passed are remembered. Time flew even as the clock whirred backwards.

Second half, Mr O’Connor (with false teeth – you had to be there at the interval to get that one) took over. Aged 86, cursed with a trapped nerve in the back that makes walking difficult, talking slightly slurred and gives a rictus grin, this man is the definition of “showbiz legend and trouper.”

Who else in that condition can give 50 minutes of songs, stories and glorious video commentary – and be brave enough to admit that the audience was the one thing making him feel well? In that context, his brief run at “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” out-did for pathos anything even latter-day Garland was recorded singing.

His wife even joined him for her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” – and it was a good one. More to the point, she clearly meant every word and it was reciprocated in their joined hands.

Brought together for some final laughs before the curtain, a cheeky re-written “Favourite Things” had the entire audience mentally adding this pair of names to the end of the list.

It may be “underground in plain sight” but this is proof that there is a real Britain still out there away from the howlings of online and the radio, television and newspapers dictated to. A slice of nostalgia, but also an even bigger helping of hope, and a salute to the truly golden years of entertainment. Here’s to them both.


And, just for contrast and for the record…

Spamilton: Menier Chocolate Factory.
(seen at the afternoon performance on 2nd September 2018).

Suffice to say an utter disappointment from a long-term fan of the “Forbidden Broadway” series. Plenty of very old material re-used, and the new stuff served only to tilt at the dull targets of 20 years or more ago, once again.

With the venue running out of programmes – with almost 3 weeks of the show left to run – and no cast list, it’s impossible to name the actors who did pretty well in this (and they are blameless). This is a miniature acknowledgement of that.

Sadly, unlike every CD ever issued by the team, this had me grinning slightly just once (Sondheim as the Yoda of Broadway) – and that is the best that can be said.

1 star. Wouldn’t want to be in the room where it happens ever again, thanks.

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