Brexit The Musical by David Shirreff and Russell Sarre, & NewsRevue, Canal Café Theatre, 17 November 2016

Mauritian Giant Tortoise ...like...so old!
Mauritian Giant Tortoise …like…so old!

I first met David Shirreff many years ago when we worked together on a couple of “financial Armageddon” simulations. I have long wanted to see one of his plays/musicals, but have somehow been confounded by the timing and/or location of the performances.

So when I saw that David was putting Brexit The Musical on at my beloved, local Canal Café Theatre and that one of the show dates was a free Thursday in my diary, I had no hesitation in booking a seat. While I was at it, I also booked to see NewsRevue; might as well while I am there.

The previous week, while playing a real tennis skills tournament teamed with friend Tony Friend – click here to see my piece on that victorious evening – the subject of the Canal Café Theatre and NewsRevue came up, not least because Chris Stanton (formerly of that “parish” and coincidentally an avid realist at Lord’s, as I reported a few months ago – click here) was also playing in the tournament.

“I’m going to the Canal Café Theatre next week, as it happens”, said Tony, “a friend of mine has written a musical…” The coincidence grew when we realised that not only did we both know David Shirreff but we had both booked the same Thursday night to see Brexit The Musical.

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I ate early and walked to the Canal Café Theatre, as I had so often done back in the 1990s, when we used to meet up for writers’ meetings on a Thursday night before watching the show.

Tony and son John were already there when I got to the theatre.

Tony and I swapped “real tennis war stories” from our famous victory in the skills contest the week before and from our match against Middlesex University Real Tennis Club (MURTC) the night before, in which Tony and I had both been part of losing pairs, but pairs who had lost more heroically than MURTC’s losing pairs, hence contributing towards a great MCC match victory; 2.5-2.5 in rubbers, decided in MCC’s favour on net games. Oh boy, John must have been fascinated and impressed.

I was also able to swap my ticket so I could sit with Tony and John during the show.

We had a chat with David Shirreff before and after the performance. It is a good show. Low hanging fruit for humour, of course, Brexit, not least Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as comedic characters. There were some superbly acerbic lines throughout the show.

The dramatic highlight for me was a parody of the three witches from Macbeth (Theresa, Andrea and Amber, presumably) confounding Boris and Gove with their power riddles. The musical highlight for me was the Putin Rap.

Between shows while I was chatting with David and some of his friends, Nick R Thomas (one of our NewsRevue writing gang from the 1990s) turned up, which was a really pleasant surprise. Nick had seen my e-shout-out that I was going that night, happened to be in London that day and thought, “why not?  I haven’t seen the show for 15 years or so…”

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Since 1979…like…so old!

In case anyone reading this is unaware, NewsRevue has been going since 1979. Around about the time the show first went to Edinburgh, in August 1979, I was in Mauritus looking at prehistoric-looking giant tortoises and stuff (see above picture…no, not the ones with politicians’ faces, the other picture). I wrote for the show extensively for most of the 1990s, starting in 1992.

In 2004, NewsRevue was awarded a Guinness World Record for the longest running live comedy show. It has been described as The Mousetrap of live comedy. You can read more about it by clicking here.

Nick blagged his way onto my table, where we were joined by a very perky and friendly young couple who had never seen the show before. “Have you seen the show before?” they asked us. “Hundreds of times”, we replied, explaining our connection with the show.

Realising how young they were, I suggested that, scarily, Nick and I might have been writing for the show before they were born. The young man politely replied that he was a toddler back then, while the young woman remained silent, confirming my fears. I think the young couple probably saw me and Nick as curious antique creatures, a little like…me looking at centuries-old Mauritian giant tortoises all those years before.

We really enjoyed the show. The Trump opening number was an “orthodox” medley of Queen songs, well put together. A “Corbyn Man” number to the Willy Wonka “Candy Man” song was good, as was a version of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen; Len singing his regret that no-one listens to his recording of the song.

There were some excellent quickies and short sketches. I especially liked the customer complaining about their Galaxy Note 7 catching fire, with the gormless shop assistant misconstruing each danger/complaint adjective as slang praise for a wonderful device.

Ed Balls singing and dancing a “Gangnam Style” parody was excellent, as was a superb rap, the origins of which were beyond me, but the lyrics and delivery were superb. But despite those two numbers, most of the songs used as the basis of the show seem to be stuck in the choices we used to make in our era; musical numbers and pop songs from the 1960s to 1980s.

Sadly, the closing number broke the second law of NewsRevue songs, which is Do not use “I Will Survive”.  (The first law being Do not use “YMCA”.)  Still, given the way the world is right now, the use of I Will Survive might be forgiven. Indeed, come to think of it, what with Brexit and Trump, those financial Armageddon simulations David Shirreff and I did years ago might come in handy. But I digress.

I was most taken by the response of the NewsRevue audience, not least the young couple at our table. In fact the whole audience (mostly younger folk) seemed thoroughly thrilled by their evening. It was heartening to see that the formula still works after all these years and can all-but fill the Canal Café Theatre on a cold, wet but thoroughly enjoyable Thursday evening.

A Couple of Days spent mostly at Lord’s, Middlesex v Somerset, 23 & 24 May 2016

Monday

I played real tennis at the convenient time of 10:00 – convenient that is for seeing a fair chunk of county cricket afterwards. I played a good game this morning by my own sporadic standards. By the time I had showered, changed and chatted best part of half the morning session had passed, but I found a nice sunny spot in the pavilion and hunkered down with my book, A Confederacy of Dunces, which I was determined to finish today, along with some more business-oriented reading.

I had taken with me the simplest lunch of nuts and fruit. A resuscitating coffee in the pavilion afterwards and then I went in search of more sun by relocating to the front of the Mound Stand. Fine spring weather it was.

Trego and Gregory were trying to ruin Middlesex’s day, but once Trego fell the wickets tumbled. Then Robson and Gubbins got to work in fine style.

Meanwhile I was making similarly light work of A Confederacy of Dunces; I shall write up that book in its capacity as cricket reading for King Cricket.

Postscript: my “review” was published on King Cricket on 13 March 2017 – click here.

If anything ever happens to King Cricket, I have scraped the piece to here.

Once that was done, I read the Economist and then, as it started to get a little colder, decided to bail out while I was still enjoying myself – after all, I’d be back tomorrow for some more and wanted to clear some work from home.

Tuesday

A couple of meetings first thing towards the Middlesex strategy, then a few minutes before lunch to watch the cricket. I joined Brian and Judy for the first time this season, hoping to witness the completion of a couple of tons and a double century stand between Robson and Gubbins, but Robson fell on 99 with the team score on 198. But Gubbins did go on to complete his maiden county championship ton.

Again some reviving coffee at lunchtime, while watching Andy Murray snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Radek Stepanek in the first round of Roland Garros. Then I wandered over to the Upper Compton stand, in the hope of finding James Sharp of Googlies and Chinamen fame. So much for one man and a dog at county matches – there must have been a couple of hundred people up there. I asked a few people, who I recognised as Middlesex regulars, if they knew James, but they didn’t, so I e-mailed James with my location. But it transpires that James travels incognito, or at least without an e-mail device. He says he also looked out for me, but it wasn’t to be.

One of the more senior regulars up there suggested to me that Middlesex were batting so slowly that they might lose the match. I said I thought they were getting close to the position when only Middlesex could win, although the draw remained the most likely outcome.

Here’s the match scorecard, btw.

Then as 15:00 approached, I wandered back round towards the main gate, as I was expecting cousins Ted and Sue as guests. I ran into Steve Tasker along the way and we had a good chat. Then I saw Harry and Blossom Latchman, and spoke with them briefly, until I spotted Ted and Sue at the Grace Gate. The stewards did their wonderful bit of making guests feel like honoured visitors. I showed them around the lower pavilion and we watched the last few overs before tea from there.

Then I showed them the upper pavilion and Bowlers Bar, where we had a drink and watched for a while, until Ted casually mentioned that he’d like to see the museum. I thought we’d missed the closing time, but the stewards kindly let us follow the last tour in so Ted and Sue could at least see the Ashes. Then I showed them the real tennis court, which they enjoyed for a while, then round to the Presidents Box for the last few overs before stumps.

An early dinner at The Bridge House (home of the Canal Cafe Theatre) and then a walk back to their Paddington hotel, followed by a short hike back to the flat for me.

Splendid, it all was.

A Visit To NewsRevue With Janie, John Random and Friends, 1 August 1997

I went to NewsRevue so often in the 1990s, I’d rarely even note it in my diary.

Thursday night was “writers meeting and see NewsRevue night” most weeks.

But on this particular week things must have been different, as John Random has recently (July 2017) sent me a note from his own diary, as follows:

IT WAS TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY – SORT OF

John is such a nice chap, his note doesn’t actually ask me to upload the lyric so he can read it.

But I’m a nice chap too and I realise that a revisit to the lyric will please John, me and perhaps other Ogblog readers too, so “up it goes”…as Bill Clinton no doubt frequently used to put it.

NewsRevue Tonight, Multiple Lyric Revisions 1996 & 1997

My main post on this long-running lyric can be found if you click here.

There were several revisions, the last three of which follow.

This one is from 9 January 1996 and is actually numbered “4”:

NEWS REVUE TONIGHT – REVISION NUMBER GOODNESS KNOWS WHAT
(To the Tune of “Comedy Tonight”)

VERSE 1

THATCHER: Someone familiar,
PAISLEY: Someone peculiar,
ALL: Weirdoes from everywhere at News Revue tonight;
BLOKES: Major’s deflecting,
GIRLS: Emma’s defecting,
ALL: No party whipping here at News Review tonight.

MIDDLE EIGHT 1

GIRLS: Nothing that brings share options down,
BLOKES: Bring on Ken Clarke in place of the clowns
GIRLS: Old exploitations,
BLOKES: New corporations,
ALL: Something to make the boss contrite;

CLIMAX 1

ALL: Barbican tomorrow,
News Revue tonight.

VERSE 2

GIRLS: Alan Clark’s diaries,
BLOKES: The Scott enquiry,
ALL: Sleaze factor everywhere at News Revue tonight;
BLOKES: Serbs’ revolution,
GIRLS: Scots’ devolution,
ALL: Side splitting everywhere at News Revue tonight.

MIDDLE EIGHT 2

GIRLS: Nothing with French nuclear tests,
BLOKES: Show us exploding silicon breasts;
GIRLS: News that reflects life,
BLOKES: Diana’s sex life,
ALL: Satire that puts the world to right;

CLIMAX 2

ALL: Maida Vale tomorrow,
News Revue, News Revue, News Revue, News Revue, News Revue..Tonight!!

Next up, revision 5 dated 16 November 1996 – I get the impression I did this in response to a request:

NEWS REVUE TONIGHT – XMAS 1996 REMIX (YOU ASKED FOR IT)
(To the Tune of “Comedy Tonight”)

VERSE 1

MAJOR: Someone familiar,
PAISLEY: Someone peculiar,
ALL: Weirdoes from everywhere at News Revue tonight;
LABOUR: New Labour morals,
TORY: Old Tory quarrels,
ALL: No party whipping here at News Review tonight.

MIDDLE EIGHT 1

GIRLS: Nothing that brings share options down,
BLOKES: Bring on Ken Clarke in place of the clowns
GIRLS: Old exploitations,
BLOKES: New corporations,
ALL: Something to make the boss contrite;

CLIMAX 1

ALL: Barbican tomorrow,
News Revue tonight.

VERSE 2

GIRLS: More cash for questions,
BLOKES: And lewd suggestions,
ALL: Sleaze factor everywhere at News Revue tonight;
BLOKES: Benazir Bhutto,
GIRLS: Tutsis and Hutus,
ALL: Side splitting everywhere at News Revue tonight.

MIDDLE EIGHT 2

GIRLS: Something to treat your Christmas guests,
BLOKES: Madonna and child with big pointy breasts;
GIRLS: News that reflects life,
BLOKES: Bill Clinton’s sex life,
ALL: Satire that puts the world to right;

CLIMAX 2

ALL: Broadway tomorrow,
News Revue, News Revue, News Revue, News Revue, News Revue..Tonight!!

Finally, the sixth and final revision, a version for Edinburgh 1997:

NEWS REVUE TONIGHT – EDINBURGH 1997 VERSION
(To the Tune of “Comedy Tonight”)

VERSE 1

BLAIR: Someone familiar,
PAISLEY: Someone peculiar,
ALL: Weirdoes from everywhere at News Revue tonight;
LABOUR: New Labour morals,
TORY: Old Tory quarrels,
ALL: No party whipping here at News Review tonight.

MIDDLE EIGHT 1

GIRLS: Nothing that brings share options down,
BLOKES: Take off Ken Clarke bring in Gordon Brown.
GIRLS: Old exploitations,
BLOKES: New corporations,
ALL: Something to make the boss contrite;

CLIMAX 1

ALL: Edinburgh tomorrow,
News Revue tonight.

VERSE 2

GIRLS: War in Tirana,
BLOKES: Canaan Banana,
ALL: Globe trotting everywhere at News Revue tonight;
BLOKES: Congo’s solution,
GIRLS: Scot’s devolution,
ALL: Side splitting everywhere at News Revue tonight.

MIDDLE EIGHT 2

GIRLS: MP’s we chase, much like fox hunts,
BLOKES: Jack Straw and Gordon Brown are……;
GIRLS: …….at lunch;
GIRLS: News that reflects life,
BLOKES: Camilla’s sex life,
ALL: Satire that puts the world to right;

CLIMAX 2

ALL: Royal Mile tomorrow,
News Revue, News Revue, News Revue, News Revue, News Revue..Tonight!!

Me And Paula Jones, NewsRevue Lyric, 28 May 1997

This one ran and ran in NewsRevue in the summer of 1997. My log shows that I wrote it in late May.

John Random sent me a note recently (July 2017) mentioning a visit to the show in August 1997 and this lyric, so it felt timely to place this one in cyberspace asap.

Slow numbers don’t often work in NewsRevue, but this one was a surefire winner.

ME AND PAULA JONES
(A solo for Bill Clinton to the Tune of “Me and Mrs Jones”)

VERSE 1

Me and Paula Jones,
We had a thing going on;
I know right from wrong, but I took my dong,
And let it show now.
I showed Paula my mark,
In the trailer park;
(My troopers), my troopers made sure she’d be there;
Holding hands, shaking my growing glands,
As those troopers helped me service my shlong.

VERSE 2

Me-ee a-and Paula, Paula Jones (Paula Jones, Paula Jones, Paula Jones)
We’ve got a case going on;
We both know that it’s long, but she claims I’m wrong,
When I let it show now.
I’ve now gotta be extra careful,
I can’t afford to get my bone up too high,
Cos she has her own litigation,
And so, and so do I

VERSE 3

Me-ee a-and Paula, Paula Jones (Paula Jones, Paula Jones, Paula Jones)
We’ve got a case going on;
We both know that it’s strong, but it’s much too long,
To let it go now.
Now it’s time for us to be courting,
The Supreme Court, the Supreme Court inside;
Now she’ll brief her silk and I’ll brief mine,
Tomorrow we’ll meet, the same court the same time

OUTRO

Me-ee a-and Paula, Paula Jones (Paula Jones, Paula Jones, Paula Jones)
We’ve got a thing going on;
Sax solo voters – I’ve always been extra partial to playing with my sax

(Bill wanders off, playing his sax)

Here is the original video of Billy Paul singing Me and Mrs Jones, which is absolutely cracking! So 1970’s; the fag hanging out of Billy Paul’s mouth is massively symbolic. In any case, although the song has now been so overplayed as to seem a cliché, in truth I still think it is a fabulous song:

Alexander Lebed’s Name, NewsRevue Lyric, 27 August 1996

Was Alexander Lebed that big news in 1996? Clearly I thought so.

I really like this lyric.

ALEXANDER LEBED’S NAME
(To the Tune of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”)
CHORUS 1

Come on and hear, come on and hear,
Alexander Lyebed’s name;
Come on and hear, come on and hear,
Why oh why his name has changed.

MIDDLE EIGHT

ITN still say “Lebed”,
On the Beeb they say “Lyebed”,
Sky News just has the Smurfs and octuplets instead;
This man’s a tough guy who can’t stand,
That Chechen land.

CHORUS 2

Come on along, come on along,
Watch him take the military;
Back to the land, back to the land,
Where the capital’s Grozny.

OUTRO

And if you want to read that War and Peace book,
In a blood bath;
Come on and see, come on and see,
Alexander Lyebed
(Betcha Yeltsin’s long dead)
Alexander Lyebed’s ta-a-ank (bom bom)
Yes, we said tank (bom).

Here’s a YouTube of Louis Armstrong singing Alexander’s Ragtime Band:

…and here’s a link to those Alexander lyrics too.

Submission To Chris Alderton, NewsRevue, 16 August 1996

Submission…Amipro tables don’t convert…you get the picture:

Chris Alderton
News Revue

LIST OF SONGS SUBMITTED AND TAPE TRACK LISTING
AUGUST – SEPTEMBER 1996 RUN

Dear Chris

Welcome to News Revue!! This starter pack consists of my latest songs plus some older ones which have longevity or are still topical. Please call me and let me know if you are short of any subjects or styles and I shall try to oblige. If any of the enclosed need a bit of rewrite then I am happy to change them on request.

Good luck and I look forward to meeting you soon.

Song Title / Original Title/ Artist on Tape

Approx.. No. of weeks performed 7+ 4-6 1-3 New

side 1

eight babies / two ladies / caberet: New

the netanyahu chorus / hallelujah chorus / handel: 4-6

paisley and adams / father and son / cat stevens: 4-6

john major just cares for / my baby just cares for me / nina simone: New

tony blair / gloria / vivaldi: New

solicitors are doing it for their fees / solicitors are doing it / eurythmics & aretha: New

when i see an orangeman smile / when i see an elephant fly / dumbo: New

strike me a letter / the letter / boxtops: New

 

Eight Babies, NewsRevue Lyric, 16 August 1996

I don’t remember all the details of this news item but I think the lyric provides plenty of clues. Here is a link to the news item at the time.

I think this one did well in the show, but only briefly. The publicity-seeking, octuplet-carrying mother sadly lost all the babies, which rather put a dampener on the story as a source of comedy.

EIGHT BABIES
(To the Tune of “Two Ladies”)

A song for pregnant woman (PW), other woman (OW) and rogue father (RF). Brummy accents would be nice but aren’t compulsory

VERSE 1 – PREGNANT WOMAN AND (ROGUE FATHER)

Biddly-diddly-de, biddly-diddley-de, biddly biddly biddly biddly de;
Diddly-di-de-de (eight babies),
Diddly-di-de-de (eight babies),
Diddly-di-de-de (and I’m the only man here);
Diddly-di-de-de (she crackers),
Diddly-di-de-de (I’m knackered),
Diddly-di-de-de (there’s eight for one).

VERSE 2 – ROGUE FATHER AND (PREGNANT WOMAN)

Diddly-di-de-de (eight papers),
Diddly-di-de-de (eight papers),
Diddly-di-de-de (but only one exclusive);
Diddly-di-de-de (Max Clifford),
Diddly-di-de-de (fat cheques for),
Diddly-di-de-de (News of the World).

MIDDLE EIGHT – ALL

PW: I’m Mandy Allwood,
OW: I’m the one he’ll wed,
RF: I’m taking hormones to serve them both in bed;
ALL: We’ve one thing in common with publicity;
PW: The fee, OW: The fee, RF: The fee.

VERSE 3 – ALL

Diddly-di-de-de (OW: two ladies),
Diddly-di-de-de (PW: two ladies),
Diddly-di-de-de (RF: and I get all the bad press);
Diddly-di-de-de (OW: two timer),
Diddly-di-de-de (PW: eight timer),
Diddly-di-de-de (RF: they’re up the duff).

OUTRO

PW: Are you going to help me to change all those nappies then, Paul.
RF: I thought Max Clifford said he’d do that for me.
OW: He never, he just said he could take all the shit off your hands.
BLACKOUT

Here is Two Ladies from the movie Cabaret:

Here is a link to the Two Ladies lyrics.

Coke Olympics, NewsRevue Lyric, 16 July 1996

Not my best ever lyric, this one. I don’t think it was used, but perhaps it was.

I guess I was irritated about Coca Cola’s prominence in the Olympics marketing that summer. But the games were being held in Atlanta Georgia, so what did I realistically expect?

Anyway, here are my lyrics:

THE OLYMPICS ARE SHIT
(To the Tune of “The First Time”)
VERSE 1

First line, first drug,
What a feeling is this?
Electricity surge
Extra power, what bliss.
Like a break in the clouds in the Atlanta sun
With the sound of the crowds now the contest’s begun.
These are amateur games with professional kit,
And a whole load of substance abuse, the Olympics are shit,
The Olympics are shit.

MIDDLE EIGHT

When they were new,
The Olympics were fair and true,
Now there just are no words to describe the deception
Oh no no no

VERSE 2

Big dosh, such hype,
What a sponsorship deal;
The most mercenary yet,
Can this nightmare be real?
Let me sponsor your towel, print my name on your shorts,
The gold medal is yours, we don’t care for the sports;
They should give an award for the product which bored,
Us the most with this commercial shit, Coca Cola is it!
Coca Cola is it.

Here is the advert/song which is a suitable repository for the above lyric – other brands’ irritating soft drink commercials are available.

Here is a link to that advert’s cheesy lyric.

NewsRevue Submission To Jason Kane, 8 July 1996

Usual apologies for the poor look of the “table” of submissions, which converts so poorly from Amipro software, but you’ll get the idea.

Jason Kane seems to have called me prior to my submission; a rare proactive move by a new director before the start of a run. Well done him.

Jason Kane
News Revue

LIST OF SONGS SUBMITTED AND TAPE TRACK LISTING
JULY-AUGUST 1996 RUN

Dear Jason

It was good to hear from you this weekend. I was feeling guilty about my lack of submissions and actually had a jotter full of new ideas.

This starter pack consists of mainly the new songs, plus a couple of rewrites and one or two currently in the show which I think still have legs.

Please do call me again if you are still short of any subjects or styles and I shall try to oblige. If any of the enclosed need a bit of rewrite then I am happy to change them on request.

Good luck and I look forward to seeing you soon.

 

Song Title/Original Title/Artist on Tape

Approx.. No. of weeks performed/ 7+ 4-6 1-3 New

side 1

hillary / eleanor / turtles – new

john major just cares for me / my baby just cares for me / nina simone – new

tony blair / gloria / vivaldi = new

solicitors are doin’ it to themselves / sisters are doin’ it for themselves / eurythmics – new

saturday night’s all right for tantrums / saturday night’s all right for fighting / elton – new

mr ghali / mr blobby / mr blobby – new

netanyahu / hallelujah chorus / handel – new

paisley & adams / father & son / cat stevens – 1-3

ode to eurosceptics / symphony  9 mov 4 excerpt / beethoven – 1-3