Letters To A Young Comedian

Monday 5 April 2004, The Stage

As a sometime travel presenter and writer I have a hearty reputation as a fearless explorer of wild terrains and remote cultures, often living with them for years on end, immersing myself in their marvellous customs before finally sitting at a table I have hewn and painted myself to bring my poetic, anthropological thoughts together into a crystal sentence.

This week I have been in Benidorm. Benidorm stands provocatively between Alicante and, our destination, the convalescent mountains of La Marina. I may have once written an article for Conde Nast Traveller but I am not too much of a snob to enjoy a night out in the garish mainstrip of downtown Benny - as I imagine the cognoscenti call it. Here are employed scores of fellow Equity members dancing, singing and telling jokes in dozens of shows around town.

My girlfriend Beth was intrigued by a venue called the Wheeltappers and Shunters Club. Not familiar with the TV show of this name that ran in the seventies, she expected some esoteric talk about the arcane art of manipulating train carriages. Instead we got Great Balls of Fire, a show dedicated to the songs of the fifties and sixties.

I would not normally choose to go to this kind of show but here, in brassy Benidorm, I was soon clapping and singing tunelessly along with these six talented youngsters. It was a bit like five West End tribute shows squeezed into a one pulsating evening. What energy! What pizzazz! The very thought of it has brought me out in exclamation marks!

I was very impressed not only by the vivacity of the performances but also the technical skills that all the cast possessed. The four women were all more gifted than the Spice Girls - although on reflection, so am I. Katy Ikringill and Emma Tazzyman sang like pop idols, Carrie Gill was a hot dancer and Rachel King was the one with most verve (and, for me, the sexiest). Darren Lawrenczuk, the Danny Kaye of the Costa Blanca, may, I suspect, be heterosexual and as such is a lucky man. Meanwhile our compere Campus - it may have been Campas, in which case his surname is probably Apinkjacuzzi - was cheeky and charming. To a thumpingly perfect music track, they had me jiving to Blue Moon, wiggling my hips to Elvis, singing along with the Beatles and listening in surly silence to Cliff Richard.

I was reminded of my own days as a youthful soubrette and felt my jaded senses recharged by this demonstration of unbridled brio. Look at them, I thought, shining with energy and ambition, dreaming of the London stage or the dazzle of Broadway, taking their first steps up the staircase to the showbiz stars.

I am writing in a remote village high up in the Aitana range of mountains and the air, you may deduce, is rather thin. Tomorrow we roll downhill to the airport and I shall discard my Mediterranean sunniness and slip back into a spiky London springtime.text

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