Socially whirling like a dervish in recent weeks so apologies for not putting pen to paper. Let’s start with the burning issue of the day. Are you going to invest in a pair of ‘Meggings’ for autumn/winter 2012? Yes, this is the news that male leggings are sweeping the style capitals of the world as worn by such beacons of chic like Justin Bieber and Jedward. Has it escaped everyone’s notice that they’re 200 years too late?
In the Regency tight buckskin breeches were known as ‘Inexpressibles’. When Captain Gronow and Beau Brummell introduced the trouser to polite society, the ladies of the ’haute ton’ mourned the fact that they no longer knew whether a gentleman was pleased to see them any more. Quite frankly I can’t see the difference between the inelegantly christened ‘megging’ and the spray-on jeans peddled by everyone from Dior to Uniqlo. Tight trousers that advertise a gentleman’s accomplishments will always return to fashion as sure as night follows day. My money’s on a return to Oxford Bags in 2013.
The past week has been theatrical to say the least. To the ENO last week for the Christmas revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1920 production of The Mikado. When I first saw this production I was enchanted. The audience audibly gasped when the overture ended and the curtain rose to reveal an all-white Jazz Age colonial hotel set as stylised as an MGM musical fantasy sequence. The costumes, designed by the great Sue Blane, are a symphony of jazzy black and white and the cast augmented with a corps de ballet of flirtatious chamber maids in saucy uniforms and leering bellboys with rouged cheeks. What’s not to like?
The production is becoming a little tired however. It’s a fine howdy-doo when romantic hero and prince disguised as wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo has evidently lost his battle with the spring rolls. The young swain is supposed to be on the run from an old dragon called Katisha (daughter-in-law-elect of the eponymous Mikado) who has entrapped him into a marriage contract. Our Kathisha (Yvonne Howard) was a glamorous, Jazz Age cougar who lef the audience thinking our hero would be lucky to get her. This magnificent Katisha could devour an army of gentlemen of Japan without even smudging her lip gloss.
The next evening Better Half and I caught a preview of Privates on Parade at the Noël Coward Theatre. It is the first of a season of star turns directed by ex-Donmar director Michael Grandage with upcoming appearances by Dame Judi Dench, Jude Law, Sheridan Smith, Ben Whishaw and Daniel Radcliffe . Privates on Parade‘s headliner was Simon Russell Beale taking the lead role as drag artiste Captain Dennis leading the SADUCE entertainment corps on tour in tropical Malaya during the Second World War.
I remember Russell Beale’s RSC season twenty years ago when he took the lead in Edward II, Much Ado About Nothing and The Cherry Orchard. You may recall the final scene of Edward II. Made one’s eyes water. For an actor of Russell Beale’s calibre, appearing in Privates on Parade is tantamount to a season of Christmas panto. He has an absolute ball with the production numbers including a turn as Carmen Miranda that reminded me of the late, great Ruby Venezuela.
But Peter Nichols’ play is not just an It Aint Half Hot Mum parody. Performers can and did entertain in war zones and – as in this play – pay the ultimate sacrifice. This production is witty, wise and incredibly moving. It is in essence a story about finding love in the most unlikely of places. There are no happy endings in Privates on Parade and underneath all the bawdiness, camp and showmanship there’s a rich seam of black humour that shows the courage of these song-and-dance men.
Modus Publicity scored a London coup last week by hosting a cocktail party on top of The Shard: now Europe’s tallest skyscraper. When researching the Louis Vuitton Guide to London’s hotels section, Mrs T and I were told we wouldn’t be able to see the Shangri-La hotel opening in The Shard until well into 2013. So it was a genuine cause of excitement to be one of the first Londoners to witness the breathtaking views from the uppermost floors of the London skyline’s latest landmark.
The launch party was a showcase for Thomas Sabo’s silver jewellery collection. Modus knows how to throw an utterly glamorous bash. We were checked into the building by Mafiosi-style security guards mumbling into earpieces, whisked along what looked like a landing strip of candles in glass lanterns and skywards to a piano bar and cocktail lounge…with no view whatsoever. It was only when given security tag bracelets that we were led to a private elevator that shot us up to the stars where a champagne bar awaited with 360 degree views over London’s nightscape. Doesn’t it take breath from body?