The Royal Variety Performance 2007, ITV1

by | Dec 9, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

When some of the comedians weren’t seeking to be taken to the metaphorical Tower for blaspheming in front of Her Majesty, there were moments of humour. Elsewhere, popular culture exhibited as much will to survive as a newborn baby crawling into the nearest open plot in an autumnal cemetery.

What was good about it?

• Croaky Al Murray, who, while neutered by the imagined probing castrating eyes of Her Majesty managed to extract some humour from that well-polished act he’s been peddling for the last nine years of the bumptious, bilious pub landlord. “There are stories I turn to in times of crisis, such as losing my voice in front of Her Majesty The Queen.”

• Big Howard, Little Howard, essentially ventriloquism: the next generation as ‘Big’ Howard chatted innocuously with the CGI ‘Little’ Howard. Among the rest of the dross it was bearable, especially when Little Howard referred to the Queen as “the woman off Prime Suspect”.

• Now thankfully liberated of anything that might necessitate responsibility such as a rambling chat show, Russell Brand can focus on what he’s best at – being funny. Following, in the schedules at least, a wonderfully wandering stint on Have I Got News…, he once again was the star performer. That’s not to say his words were dipped in lethal comic potency, but he was certainly funnier than everybody else. On meeting the Queen after the show and feeling inferior next to ex-squaddie James Blunt: “James may have protected you, but did you know I’m shagger of the year? Not that I’m suggesting a demonstration. I’m very respectful of the Queen, whenever I lick a stamp I do it with my eyes shut.”

• The shadow puppeteer Raymond Crowe was quite good, but once the initial novelty of creating faces and animals it did become a bit samey especially when it took a little while for his sometimes confounding images to blur into the creature they were supposed to be.

• Perhaps it was because we’d been beaten to mental pulp by Paul Potts and Teatro, but Dame Tiri Te Kawana’s performance was utterly superior to any of her assumed peers. When she sang, unlike Teatro whose facial expressions and emotions seem to have been ordered from the local chip shop, an electrical current seemed to pass through her that she struggled to control. Not really our thing, but it was helpful to see a professional in action.

What was bad about it?

• Seal was the most atrocious opening act since the invasion of Poland kicked off World War Two. He is wreathed in an aura of middle-aged defeatism; a modern day siren calling all faltering souls to dash themselves on the rocks of crushed ambition and skulk meekly off to retirement. And here he wasn’t alone – his arsenal of enervation was bolstered by synchronised dancers, opera singers, choirs to add soulless soul, drummers tapping metal drums and powder puff fireworks, all emblematic of an act that strives for cultural importance yet achieves only a stultifying irrelevance.

• Hosts Philip Schofield and Kate Thornton waddled onto stage as if swept in on the flow of the curtain to which they had been nailed. Philip’s first act was to demand: “Also, our thanks to Seal – an amazing start to the show!” His words precipitated one of the great mysteries of TV, as the audience instinctively were whipped into another round of applause for the long-departed Seal. Why? Were they amply chided that their first (rapturous) ovation wasn’t enough, or were they dumbly responding with all the discriminating taste of oblivious cattle shuffling on to a truck on the way to the abattoir?

• “Two divas from completely different disciplines!” was how Kate Thornton described singer Katherine Jenkins and dancer Darcey Bussell; a pair as diverse as Marie Curie and Boadicea. They performed some songs from some insipid production they’re currently performing in. It’s during such moments that you question how closely related people are genetically to waves endlessly crashing on to the same beach ad infinitum, and ponder that the besuited husks of mental indolence in the audience don’t enact a similar rote ritual of gazing in awe at mundane musicals.

• Philip Schofield proclaiming “Shows like this bring out the pay-triotic side!”, which may have had more substance if he hadn’t pronounced patriotic as though an oily fundraiser slapping his blotchy hands together at a Republican rally in Illinois.

• Enrique Iglesias has a voice that arrives with all the distinctive passion of an Amazon delivery; and as a singer he’s not even vacuous as that would suggest there’s still some hope that the space could be filled with something worthwhile.

• The cast of Hairspray: Michael Ball in drag looked like Alfred Hitchcock agog with astonishment, and Mel Smith danced like a dispossessed Himalayan peak performing a three-point-turn in a Kent cul-de-sac while loudly berating a fellow driver obstructing his manoeuvre.

• Does anybody like James Blunt? He’s become the human equivalent of Champagne – a sour, rancid ubiquity who induces in those who taste him a car-pile up of curdled bile in the throat. And emotion clambers from his elastic chops with all the dexterity and joy of the Bible truncated to txtspk, while the stubble on his face resemble atrophying stalks of frazzled cacti.

• Ballet dancing seems to have devolved to just cultural skin and bones, and only endures to provide esoteric individuals with a cipher with which to Masonically identify one another through their dilettantish expertise of the performances which in everyone else causes a rigid, frigid icecap of boredom to frost over their brains.

• Kate Thornton: “He’s come all the way from Australia!” This habitual tic hosts have of heralding someone because they’ve “come all the way from wherever” is more antiquated than the slave trade. And why should someone’s point of origin be a cause to celebrate them?

• Simon Cowell: “Paul Potts has been number one in 15 countries – Britain has got talent!” What 15 countries were they? Britain doesn’t count – it long ago lost the will to duel with the flannel-faced fatuous Puritanism peddled by Cowell and acquiescently sank into a mire of convivial collusion not seen since the Vichy Government. Neither does America, with respect to music it’s just a bulbous maggot leaking toxic seeds to the rest of the globe.

• Paul Potts seems like a nice bloke but Nessun Dorma is really Robbie Williams’ Angels for people who have their own offices and like to sneer through their windows at their underlings. The unrelenting despoilment of what was once a musical wonder has rendered it as moving and mobile as the chained Prometheus.

• Lang Lang, a Chinese pianist, performed Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody number two, but if this twee cacophony is the most revered work of Liszt it makes him classical music’s very own Phil Collins. No amount of exaggerated head shaking (that seems to be drilled into classical musicians alongside potty training) from Lang can mask the sheer drabness of the music; just because it was composed over a century ago it doesn’t mean it is imbued with the Mark of Cain much like the awful, and equally bafflingly revered, Nietzsche.

• Joan Rivers was predictably terrible, with her Heather Mills joke receiving a predictably raucous applause from the Liverpool audience, who presumably spend their spare time queuing up outside schools for the disabled mercilessly laughing at kids in wheelchairs.

• Teatro are another compilation of handsome young opera singers who have been flung together for those deluded folk who believe that classical music is a transcendent art form rather than a cash cow with which to milk posh folk who incessantly bark that “this country has gone to the dogs” while fantasising in a former incarnation they lived in 1847 Hampstead when it was still legal to beat stable boys and molest maids.

• Bon Jovi capped a night of variety that hardly stretched the hamstrings of ‘variety’. The notion of variety is that everyone will find something that they can relish and enjoy in the show, when in fact the whole show was meticulously moulded to pander to the palette of those morons who perceive food as a richer, more piquant experience than ‘art’ (and are responsible for the inexorable march of Ramsay, Martin, Thompson, Oliver, Lawson across the schedules). People for whom a Bon Jovi song merely evokes a pinprick of pleasure, whereas for others not catered for here, a Nirvana song will scoop out their bowels with one hoary howl of a rasping Kurt Cobain.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

09/12/2007

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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