A pinch of Spice peps us all up

'Viva Forever!' buzzes along, the songs sung better than first time around

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The Independent Online

As you know, my boredom threshold is finely tuned Ω I've walked out of more theatrical events than I can remember by the first interval. Musicals are a minefield Ω Singin' in the Rain irritated me because the set and costumes were a riot of competing fluorescents and the whole enterprise had no sense of chic. Matilda depressed me, because the prodigious talent on stage and in design and choreography wasn't served by dreary music Ω although I accept that's a very unpopular view of "Saint" Tim Minchin's award-winning opus.

The omens weren't good for Viva Forever!, the Spice Girls musical which opened last week Ω also reviewed by Kate Bassett today. The eager audience of minor celebs and sulky critics waited for Queen Victoria and her brood to appear before the show could begin. (Are her kids more important than those born to the rest of her former band?)

The famous TV presenter sitting in front of me revealed his VIP invite described the performance as being "in the presence of David and Victoria Beckham". So now we know, they are royalty.

Even so, I had a very enjoyable evening Ω although the proceedings got off to a crushingly slow start with Viva (our star) being separated from her wanna-be-famous group Eternity by the nasty team running a TV talent show. The next scene, set backstage, was a hoot. Jennifer Saunders and Judy Craymer have written a musical in which all the best parts are for older women Ω Viva's mum (Sally Ann Triplett) and the evil Sharon Osbourne-inspired judge, played by Sally Dexter. These mature actresses have the best lines, the best voices and easily carry the show. As for the rest, Bill Ward as the Simon Fuller character is lightweight in comparison.

The show buzzes along, with the musical numbers sung much better than the first time around, some outrageous dialogue about pubic hair and the problems of getting laid when you're middle-aged, culminating with a rousing finale. Job done. This is cheerful froth Ω not a worthy anthem for girl power, but an excuse to have a night out with your mates, a sing-a-long.

The show has already taken £4m in advance bookings. What would you rather sit through Ω yet another respectful Sondheim revival, or a bit of down-market fun? Critics are predictable snobs Ω remember how they panned We Will Rock You? It's still playing over a decade later. Sure, Spice Girls lyrics are twaddle, but, in a recession, what's wrong with a giggle?

One holy mess

Sadly, equality means different things to different people, especially politicians, in the UK. David Cameron made much of his determination to make marriage available to all, but why did he deny my church the right to perform gay marriages? Surely, it would have been fairer to include all faiths, and allow those who were uncomfortable to opt out, protected by law.

The Church of England has shot itself in the foot by not voting in favour of female bishops. Now, it will be sidelined once again and doomed to decline, excluded from an important piece of legislation which reflects popular opinion. If you believe in personal freedom, you can't write a pick'n'mix law, trying to appease everyone.

The UK has a convoluted set of rules for collecting tax Ω and now we will duplicate that by creating an equally byzantine definition of marriage. It's enough to make you weep. If anyone brave wants to get married Ω statistics indicate that straights are less inclined than ever Ω for God's sake, make it simple.


Another attempt to rebrand Ed Miliband as "normal" has hit the buffers with the publication of an interview with the Wallace of British politics in Grazia magazine. Doesn't a member of his staff rehearse the correct answers with Mr Wonk beforehand? We don't need the truth, just something cosy and likeable.

Instead, Ed tells Grazia readers (youngish female, low to middle income) that his idea of a romantic night in with Justine is not watching Downton, The Killing or Mad Men. No, they prefer to discuss politics or her work. His best present for her was a Gaggia coffee machine.

When a man and woman find intimacy in small talk about work, and give each other presents for the house, they don't have the kind of relationship that most Grazia readers can relate to. We secretly admit our men can be boring, and we know they fail at presents, buying stinky scent and itchy undies. But most don't boast about it to hundreds of thousands of other women. Any chap who buys his wife a food mixer or a set of pans won't be around long.

The wizard of Oz

I've just arrived in Australia, where Lord Justice Leveson delivered two speeches (tickets £500 a pop) last week, in Sydney and Melbourne, on press freedom. He would not take questions and refused to give interviews. Consequently, m'lud's remarks had all the impact of a damp tea towel, with comment confined to his observations about "trial by Twitter" and "mob rule" on the net. He only devoted one page of 2,000 in his report to social media and the internet Ω so why is he getting so concerned now he's thousands of miles away? He describes it as "a global megaphone for gossip", but none of his recommendations for reform of the press would make any difference to defamation online.

Meanwhile, Sally Bercow, Queen of oafish tweeting, is being sued for £50,000 by Lord McAlpine, over her tweet following the Newsnight broadcast falsely linking him to child abuse in Wales. Sally B (who has hired the expensive legal team of Carter Ruck to fight her corner) managed to give up Twitter for nine whole days after the Lord M boo-boo, but is clearly an addict. She told us last week that her wedding anniversary night had been a disaster. Perhaps her husband should take out a gagging order before she spends any more of the housekeeping on lawyers.

Hoax tragedy

The hoax call made by the Sydney radio station to the hospital in London had two terrible consequences. One woman's life has been lost for nothing, and another who is expecting her first baby had a joyous time in her life overshadowed by this tragic turn of events. I have little time for the Royal Family, but a prurient interest in the Duchess of Cambridge's every breath creates the insatiable appetite for jokes like the one played by the DJs on 2DayFM.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has ordered an inquiry into whether the station breached the terms of its licence. The watchdog wants to know if the call constitutes an invasion of privacy and if it was broadcast without the consent of those on it. The answers are obvious. The station's bosses have still not named the executive who gave the go-ahead to air the story. The only question left is whether the owners will be fined or closed down. The hapless DJs aren't to blame: they are tools in a ratings war.Not one of the bosses has the guts to stick his or her head above the parapet.