You can keep the River Cafe - I'll take a pantomime dame any day of the week

Share
Related Topics
There is a two-man group playing in the West End at the moment called The Right Size, who are, or so I read, a smash hit in London. So funny it's not fair, says one paper. It is a crying shame that they never won the Perrier Award last year, says another. Go before it's too late, says another.

Well, as I live a hundred miles or more from London, it's unlikely that I will make the trek to the capital and see the new darlings of the West End.

Luckily, I don't really have to. I have seen The Right Size already. I saw them at the Edinburgh Festival a year or two back when they were doing a previous show called Stop Calling Me Vernon, and I saw their current show when it came to the Bristol New Vic, a good time before it ever hit London. Indeed, I seem to remember interviewing the two of them for The Independent and being glad to, as I thought they were almost the funniest show in Edinburgh that year.

I am saying this, not to show off, but to remind people of the gap that exists between London and the provinces. People who live in London behave as if they live in the centre of the universe.

They assume that what happens in London is automatically more important than what happens elsewhere. They assume that the River Cafe or whatever the latest trendy place is called is really important, although they are a matter of supreme indifference to most people in Britain. In the same way that Americans seem to assume that everyone in the world, given the chance, would like to be American, so people in London have an unspoken assumption that we would all like to be part of the London scene.

One example of this assumption is that when London journalists write about this place called the River Cafe, they never mention its address. They always assume that people will know, because it's in London and therefore important and therefore general knowledge. Another part of this assumption is that people always write about the River Cafe as if it mattered, and not about, say, Markwick's. Markwick's? It's a wonderful restaurant in Bristol. It's not in London, so you probably haven't heard of it.

Now, London people are sometimes aware that things are better in the provinces, or at least that there are better things in the provinces, but this doesn't bother them because they assume that if it's any good it will sooner or later get to London - as The Right Size has. This is not true. Yes, some shows and some plays appear in the provinces as a try-out before London, but a lot of things flourish perfectly well outside London without ever wanting to get to the capital.

Example? Well, we have recently been to see Aladdin at the Bristol Old Vic, and I don't remember seeing a pantomime as good in all the 20 years I lived in London. This is because it isn't a pantomime stuffed with small- time TV names and larded with references to TV commercials - it's a home- grown panto devised, as it is every year, by actor Chris Harris, who takes the part of Widow Twankee and is the funniest dame I ever saw.

Some years are better than other years, but this year's is a cracker, and the love scene between Abanazar and Widow Twankee had me, and most of the audience, falling off our seats. It's got a local flavour all through; there are jokes about Bedminster and Cannons Marsh and the Welsh, and even the final communal song is in the local accent ...

Another example ? Well, I said that The Right Size was almost the funniest thing at Edinburgh the year that I saw and interviewed them. Even funnier was a group called Pepolykus with a show called Let The Donkey Go, which I saw later when they came to the Rondo Theatre in Larkhall, Bath. They are coming back to the West Country with their latest show, which I hope to get to see either at the Bristol New Vic or the Merlin Theatre in Frome ... but this will be maddeningly boring to London readers, so I will change the subject to yet another show I have recently seen, being the Bath Natural Theatre Company's hilarious tribute to Rossini called William Tell. I saw this in Frome and again in Bristol, and it's wonderful.

Unlike the others, this did move on to the big city.

The big city, however, was not London but Hamburg. The Bath Natural Theatre Company has always been immensely popular in Germany, and it usually has a good long run when it transfers from Bath to the St Pauli Theatre at the top of the Reeperbahn ...

Never mind. The point is that if any London readers found this column drearily parochial and provincial, they will get some idea of what most of those endless London-oriented features are like for the majority of people.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn