End of the Pier Show

The Spa, Scarborough July 2007

This was a belated birthday present for my brother, a rather unsatisfactory substitute for a day at the cricket festival, or so I thought. Entitled Summer Spectacular, it was one of those shows where everybody did everything, except sell tickets and ice-cream (which they still do at The Blackpool Tower Circus). So the magic act also sang and danced, and the compere also told jokes and sang and danced. Come to think of it they all sang and danced at some stage – all seven of them, often at the same time.

I booked ahead on-line and got a reservation in the middle of the front row. We might be going deaf, but I was too ahead of myself and too close and we might have got picked on. Better half way back.

The choir know ‘The Spa’ well, or bits of it. Home to Max Jaffa and host to conferences, political back-slappers and hypocrits (interestingly derived from the greek for actor). We were in the Theatre. Up the stairs and turn right. Seats around 600 and a good two thirds full. All ages, slightly heavy on pensioners and only a few with long faces. A cosy venue that would have been better for us.

Linda Newport and Neil Hurst were the pick of the singers and she made a passable Mrs. Overall.

Tony Peers, compere and comic, was the wily professional. He came down into the auditorium for his first spot – to warm us all up I guess. ‘Anyone here from ….. ?’ ‘Any children in tonight?’ and so on. There’s always somebody who says yes. He was one of the tenors in the best comedy sketch of the evening, entitled surprisingly The Three Tenors. They spent so much time trying to keep to the script, it reminded me of those tired words of persuasion that bureaucrats and politicians overuse – ‘frankly’ and ‘clearly’.

Come to think of it, variety acts and politicians are similar – they are about creating illusions, something which Visage, the magic act, didn’t. And, frankly, they didn’t do a lot for the show either.

 The song and dance slots included tributes to The Golden Days of Hollywood, Burt Baccarach, Cliff Richard and The Blues Brothers. Of the props, the cadillac was real enough, but the creased movie camera was clearly a cardboard cut out. The girls’ wardrobe department must have been at full stretch – every song a different costume.

It wasn’t cringingly naff. This was old-fashioned seaside variety into which the cast put their heart and soul. And the audience went home happy. Some would argue the performers are there because they can’t find work elsewhere. But, they are keeping a tradition going and pulling in the punters despite foreign holidays, TV, multiplex cinema, home movies, the internet and all the other easy ways of being entertained.

It’s a bit like cavalry charging artillery. Glorious but foolish. Honest but doomed. Beats a political party conference.