I work for ... Gerard Simi

Gary Elphick is PA to the owner of the Raymond Revue Bar

When I first met Gerard he was slightly intimidating. While being polite and friendly, he remains reserved; he won't give too much away until he trusts you. But we developed a friendship over time. I came to parties held here, and then Gerard asked me if I would help him out at the theatre. Five years later, I am still here. I've always worked in the theatre; once you fall into it it's hard to fall out again, and I know that I could never do a nine-to-five job now.

This is a respectable West End theatre, run like any other theatre with a large staff. It just happens that the performers are naked. I had been to the Moulin Rouge, the Lido and the Crazy Horse in Paris, but even they didn't prepare me for the Raymond Revue Bar show. I knew that this show wasn't seedy, unlike some of the strip joints nearby which cater for the white mac clientele; there's a huge difference between a revue and an in-your-face strip act. But I still wasn't expecting anything on this scale, including 12 female and three male dancers, and huge props and elaborate special effects.

We have a mixed audience, many of whom are tourists, including whole families. There's a very different attitude on the Continent towards this type of show. The British seem to have rather an immature approach towards nudity, rather like schoolboys having a peek at something rude. It's almost as if they are frightened to admit that they are sexual people. I feel that we are trying to educate people to see that there is something in between porn and non-porn. If you find the body attractive, why deny it? Gerard calls the show a celebration of the body and he bases much of the show on ballet, which traditionally leaves nothing to the imagination bodywise; apparently ballet was originally supposed to be performed nude.

At first I felt quite uncomfortable having constantly to justify what I was doing. A lot of people think that Gerard has just choreographed striptease, whereas he's in fact a true and talented professional with a background in classical ballet. When he was younger he danced with many of the stars of the time, and his first role here was as an exotic dancer. He won't tolerate unprofessionalism from any of his staff, and will be quite formidable if they don't respect this. Dancers use me as a sounding- board before they approach Gerard with a request for time off or a suggestion for a change to their act, but I usually dissuade them from trying to alter the show because Gerard is very particular about his choreography.

Some of the dancers are married or have families; others are students working through their degrees; some are trained; others have never performed before; but none of them are at all as you might imagine striptease artists to be - in fact they are quite the opposite of their stage personae. They are all very assertive people; they don't beat about the bush when telling you what they want. It becomes second nature to see them walking about backstage naked; as in any other job, you quickly accept the environment. All the men who work here do so because they are professional theatre people, not because they are looking for a cheap thrill.

We recently began a ladies' night on Saturdays, and girls ring in to ask whether our show is better than The Full Monty. We are licensed for male nudity, and that's what the girls want. There's a very different atmosphere between male and female punters; the men tend to be quite serious about the show, whereas women are in party mood. I'm sorry to say that some of them can behave like absolute animals. It can be terrifying, but it's my job to deal with it.

Yet when the women realise how artistic and beautiful the bodies and the dances are they often fall silent, because it's a long way from the baby oil and G-strings they have come to expect.

It has been a real eye-opener to discover what running a theatre involves. Not having had a great deal of experience in the administration side, I just picked it up as I went along, relying on others' help when needed. The licensing is the most complicated aspect to my job, for although we remain well within the boundaries of decency there's a lot to know about what's needed to keep Westminster Council happy.

I usually begin my working day at home doing the bookkeeping, the accounting, the banking and the correspondence - Gerard is a good writer, but I need to translate his letters from pidgin English into something more legible. I'm doing the work of two or three people which means I work hard, sometimes from midday to midnight. But I'm very proud of the theatre; last Sunday I spent four hours polishing the chandeliers, because I wanted to see them looking their best.

Since Gerard took over the place and encouraged the staff to become less formal, it has become a lot more lively here. It may be a cliche to say that our theatre has a family atmosphere, but it's true. This is our 40th anniversary year and we invited local businesses to see the show and celebrate with us. It was like a dream come true to hear them say how different it was to anything else they had ever seen. Some say that the Revue is stuck in the Seventies, but I ask them whether that is such a bad thing.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star