You've not read the book, now see the show
Celebrity memoirs are coming to the stage, courtesy of a show that puts the words in the mouths of actors. The result, says Kevin Rawlinson, is tragi-comic
Saturday 02 October 2010
The celebrity autobiography might not be the most obvious medium to adapt from the occasionally trashy end of the bookshelf to the West End stage.
But now the literary revelations of luminaries such as Katie Price, Peter Andre and Miley Cyrus will form the spine of a London show, and will be performed by actors and comedians who have read the books so their audiences don't have to.
Actors deliver deadpan passages – from the banal to the bizarre, via the less-than-family-friendly – culled mercilessly from celebrity autobiographies. The show has already enjoyed acclaimed runs off Broadway and at the Edinburgh Fringe. "Audiences walk away asking: 'Did they actually write that?' Yes, we couldn't make it up," the producers say.
"It is so easy to become a celebrity now," adds Eugene Pack, the American creator of the show, named Celebrity Autobiography. "All you need to do is appear on a television and that, apparently, makes you someone who is ready to release an autobiography. Our show is not nasty, we just let them speak for themselves and the reaction is great when people realise who has written an autobiography and hear some of the things they wrote." Mr Pack admits people are still "fascinated" by celebrity and says the London run will be tailored to the British market.
"From what we gather, these autobiographies are even more popular in the UK than in the States," he said. "We'll have the likes of Katie Price and Peter Andre in there who provide some of our greatest comedy but just aren't right for the US version."
The producers add to the comedy by juxtaposing the celebrity subject with the actor chosen to read from their books. Think Richard Bacon reading Miley Cyrus. Other performers expected to appear in the show, which will run at the Leicester Square Theatre from Monday to next Saturday, include The Independent columnist Dom Joly as well as Smack the Pony actresses Doon Mackichan and Sally Phillips. The comedian Bridget Christie, the actor James Lance, and the radio presenters Scott Mills and Richard Bacon are also due to feature.
Mr Pack says the show seeks to poke good-natured fun at its subjects but would steer clear of featuring anyone who was "writing a serious or moving work". "I would not be keen on featuring Tony Blair just yet either. The controversy surrounding his book is just too great – we don't want to get involved."
From the page to the stage...
Diana Ross: Secrets of a Sparrow
I didn't remember the rain in my blueprint, but this was most definitely my dream and here was the rain. I opened my arms wide. I merged with the pouring water. I let it in. I became a part of it, it became a part of me. Rain and woman were one. Now I was a rain woman. I was in a wet dream, and it was all right.
Tommy Lee: Tommyland
A good idea to fire up your relationship is to drive down the highway at about 65mph and have sex with your girl. But please believe me, you've got be careful. Never use cruise control because there's no bigger bummer than crashing your car mid-fuck.
Eminem: The Way I Am
In the hip-hop world, when you talk about someone, you might not want to see them, because you don't know what's going to happen. With Moby, it wasn't like I literally wanted to physically put my hands on him. It's just that all my life I'd been trained to react a certain way in a situation like that. My instinct was, someone talks about you, you see them, you fight. But Moby? Really? I was going to fight Moby? I was going to fight a puppet? I don't know if anybody will even understand it now. It was basically just too many different things at once – Moby, Christina, the puppet ... I was like, OK, someone's really fucking with me.
Debbie Reynolds: My Life
You can actually feel pressure when Elizabeth Taylor tells the world that you're depriving her of a lover. I guess you can even feel Elizabeth should always have a lover, even if it's yours.
David Cassidy: C'mon on, Get Happy
Susan [Dey] lacked that slutty aspect of a female that I always found so attractive. She was never going to say, "I want to take that big piece of meat of yours, baby." To me she wasn't dirty. She wasn't nasty. She was good.
I don't think you have to have a language in common with someone to have sexual rapport. But it helps if the language you don't understand is Italian. I practically come listening to people speak Italian and I don't understand it that well. When they say: "Are you hungry? Let's go eat some spaghetti," it sounds like they are coming on to you. It's really arousing.
One of the best experiences I ever had was with a teenage boy. I think he was a virgin. He hardly had any pubic hair.
Ivana Trump: The Best Is Yet To Come
All my kids play tennis and ski beautifully. At the age of two, I took each of them to the top of a hill and told them: "Ski down!" They would wail: "I don't like it!" "Tough honey," I'd tell them. "Get to the bottom of the mountain." I find it so funny that children adore hamsters. They're rodents! That's what they are. A duck – now that's a pet.
Mr T: The Man with the Gold
I remember when I was called to come to Hollywood to audition for Rocky III. I received a seven-page script to study in three days. I'm sure there will be other books about me, but they won't tell it like it is. So, here is the unadulterated truth, told, written and spoken in such terms that even a FOOL can understand what I am talking about.
David Hasselhoff: Don't Hassle the Hoff
At the theatre, I looked in the dressing-room mirror and said to myself, "What is wrong with you, David Hasselhoff? Why do you put yourself through this? Are you crazy? You're in the hardest role on Broadway, singing 14 songs, playing not one character but two. You're opening after only five weeks of rehearsals? You must be crazy."
Miley Cyrus: Miles To Go
When I started this book, I was 15. I turned 16 by the time I had finished it. I'm pretty young to be writing about my life. But there's nothing wrong with being young!! Young people have lots of energy! People know me as Hannah Montana – a television character. That doesn't make her real, and it doesn't make her me.
Ozzy Osbourne: I am Ozzy
People tell me stories about that tour and I have no idea if they're true or not. They ask, "Ozzy, did you really once snort a line of ants off a popsicle stick?" and I ain't got a fucking clue.
Katie Price: Standing Out: My Look, My Style, My Life
I prefer my man completely clean-shaven. A full back, sack and crack is an absolute, 100 per cent must. Why is it some blokes expect their girlfriends to be completely bald down below, but don't bother to sort out their own? As far as I'm concerned, a bloke's bits have got to be as neatly trimmed, because let's be honest – who wants a mouthful of hair?
Sylvester Stallone: Sly Moves
I have a thing about posture in the car. If I'm driving, I'll purposely put the seat upright to 90 degrees ... and try to drive with my head on the headrest and it is so great for the neck and the spine. Or else I have my arms locked which exercises the triceps. Then I like to do steering wheel push-ups. Have you ever talked to your muscles? As you work out, and bring up the two dumbbells to your body, say: "Grow!" It's what I call body dialogue where I actually converse with certain parts of my body.
Justin Timberlake: Nsync
I once ran onstage after a quick change with my fly unzipped. My pants almost fell down all the way to my ankles. They fell down on my thighs almost to my knees and I grabbed them. Luckily I had a baggy basketball shirt over them, so you couldn't see that they fell down. I also broke my thumb onstage before. Luckily it was the last song of our set. I just held the mike in my left hand the whole time.
Cher: The First Time
You get just as much fulfilment from fruit – but you've got to prepare it, peel it. An orange is so unglamorous at the market. But every time I eat an orange I'm surprised how much I like it. Someone gives you a slice, and you go, "God, this is good."
Tiger Woods: How I Play Golf
I would just get up there and bang the ball hard into the hole...I love golf. It is pure, honest and immune to sweet talk. Neither can it be rushed.
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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