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 & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on The Crimson Field
Arts & Entertainment
Gian Sammarco plays Adrian Mole in 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole'
books

Sue Townsend's much-loved character will live on
Arts & Entertainment
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show
TV

Kylie Minogue quits The Voice UK

Arts & Entertainment
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Favour Asikpa and Thandie Newton in 'Half of a Yellow Sun'
film

Review: Half of A Yellow Sun

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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?