First Night; Dragging out the venom and vitriol

Lily Savage Fairfield Halls Croydon
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The Independent Online
THERE WERE more OAPs at Lily Savage than at the Conservative Party conference. She made several jokes about the, er, mature nature of the audience. "They don't want pop music in Croydon," she remarked. "Vera Lynn is pop in Croydon."

But the very venerability of her audience proves just how big she has become. In a few short years Savage has progressed from drag nights at the hardcore Vauxhall Tavern in south London to hosting her own BBC1 show and filling a huge suburban concert hall in Croydon. She came on stage down an illuminated staircase in a gold lame dress to the accompaniment of heavenly choirs. She even had her name up in lights above the stage.

It was a defiantly middle-of-the-road crowd - the woman sitting next to me reminisced about coming to see the prog-rock band Yes at the same venue. But what exactly do they see in a six-foot drag queen who has a gob on her that would make even Alf Garnett blush? Her appeal seems to lie in the fact that in this guise she can get away with murder; she comes out with the sort of statements we all dream of making, but are too buttoned- up and polite ever to utter. Savage does venom and vitriol with great panache.

She was dismissive of PC language: "I have no sympathy for fat people," she sneered. "'It's me glands'," they say. "Then get your jaw wired up, you fat cow."

She went on to show herself well capable of words as sharp as her six- inch heels, deriding, say, people's decision to marry: "Why buy a book when you can join the library?"

Later, she delicately described the hunger you feel after smoking dope: "You could eat a nun's arse through the convent railings."

For all that, the show would benefit from some serious pruning. Savage herself barely featured in the first half, which was mainly taken up by the camp caperings of Bob Downe. I sat through a selection of songs by the second support act, Sonya, wondering if I'd inadvertently stumbled into an early heat for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Savage is unapologetically mainstream, mocking more alternative forms of comedy. When an absurdist routine fell flat, she explained: "That's a bit surreal, which is just a euphemism for talking the sort of shite they get away with at the Comedy Store."

Her style of humour does not reside in sophisticated territory; in fact, it rarely strays far from the lavatory. But there is no arguing about her popularity. She left the Fairfield Halls stage to the kind of riotous applause that perhaps even Yes in their heyday would have been pushed to match.

James Rampton