I always hoped to study Hamlet at school; we did Othello this year, whilst the other two classes did King Lear and Hamlet. Shame, but Othello is fantastic to study as well (although it was hard for me to regard Desdemona in anything other than a 21st century regard - which, as a result, made me very frustrated with her. I suppose that's a sign of effective writing!), and I'm sure David will play Hamlet brilliantly.
So, yes. Pity about the festival, but I'll go and see the others that wing their way over. To his own schedule be true.
ANYWAY. One day I'll write a post which culminates in a promise I intend to keep. Eep! I left the Barrowman Show hanging a bit last time.
Interval arrived, largely uneventful; Tara and I stuffed ourselves with overly-expensive theatre ice cream and conversed with the ladies next to us ("You enjoying it so far?" "OH GOD, YES! He is *amazing*, isn't he?" You may be surprised at which of the two pairs of us said that latter sentence. It was so sweet!)
At this point, despite the fact that the previous, stomach-churning excitement had abated now that we'd seen the man, I started to get seriously jittery, as I'd heard from lots of other fans that John tended to begin the second act with Feelin' Good, sung backstage at first. Feelin' Good; my favourite song sung by him, EVER, and the one that always makes me melt and renders me pretty much useless for a while. So, for the last five minutes, I had to control my impatient twitching for the second half to start. The word sad has been mentioned previously, right?
The lights dimmed, the band appeared again to enourmous cheers (John Barrowman's boys - they really were fantastic; funky and talented and very funny. John had a running joke throughout the show that his drummer was a closeted gay and spent half the time flirting with him, telling him that by the end of the show he'd be "out and proud" - along, according to him, with the rest of the audience. But I digress.), the chords I recognised from my mp3 player, from youtube, from everywhere, rang out, and...
"Birds flying high, you know how I feel..."
Christ. I went insane. Silently, of course. I think my excitement was conveyed through my shaking Tara's arm repeatedly. And let me tell you, the sight of John Barrowman striding through the smoke, singing one of my favourite songs in the world, is one I won't forget easily. I'm planning on recalling it during the imminent exam season, when I get completely demoralised. I've already had to, actually. But more on that later.
I'm not sure of the exact order of the songs from then on, to be honest. At one point during the second half he introduced another "friend" on stage; another dummy with a spangly Elvis costume over it; cue John bursting into hysterics, because the dummy had its back to audience, and, "I can't turn it round. The guys backstage, they've done something to it - there are children in the audience!" Turns out the crew had put a massive black tube in the pants area to, er, flesh out the dummy. John retrieved it, still giggling, and threw it to a member of the band, saying, "I think this belongs to you!"
I didn't recognise the suit, myself, but it turns out it was a costume John wore on his Dancing on Ice days. He waxed lyrical about how he practised, wore the costumes, had so much fun..."and then I got voted off." He's still bitter about that (and somebody called Robin Cousins who was responsible, apparently), but he hammed it up for the audience and made a few pointed (and bitchy) comments about toupees. Hee! He then sang, I couldn't believe this, The Road to Amarillo, claiming that he'd had so much fun dancing it he wanted to sing it himself. At this point, my admiration of him quadrupled because somehow, inexplicably, John Barrowman can sing that dirge of a song and make it good! Seriously! I actually found myself enjoying it, instead of wanting to beat myself over the head with something heavy, when I usually hear it.
There was audience participation, as well, as we all sang along and joined in the "Sha-la-la"s in the middle (amping it up when John told us, "That was shit!" in the instrumental). There was also a brilliant moment when John sang completely the wrong words at the wrong point and almost lost it, but recovered quickly. It's gratifying to know that professionals make mistakes. Plus, he is so cute when he laughs. He told us, at the end, that he'd been on tour for two weeks and that was the best he'd heard it done - hurrah!
About halfway through the second half, having hinted at it earlier, he brought on Daniel Boys, one of the Joseph finalists from Any Dream Will Do. I'll admit, I wasn't particularly keen on the idea (I hate those programmes and wanted to see more of John, to be honest), but Daniel was fantastic; he sang three songs (I am a terrible person and can't remember what they were, but one was a Josh Groban song and one was from Hercules, to my recollection) and was adorable with the crowd; "Woo!"ing back whenever he got cheers, and being lovely and modest. Plus, he's a brilliant singer; he's in Avenue Q in the West End, and I can see why he's doing so well. John was incredibly complimentary of him; bringing him back on stage for a massive hug and more audience appreciation.
(And before you ask, yes, there were jokes about how nice it must be to have Daniel's hand up...there. Mind in the gutter, that bloke. Mind you, nothing less than what we were expecting. There was a little stand-off with the band over some misplaced Preparation H as well; "Who's got piles?!" He was adorably filthy-minded all evening, and we loved it!)
Following Daniel Boys, there was a groovy little session with the band, who he introduced one at a time whilst they all did their little riffs on their instruments (the man who played percussion was brilliant - I wish I could remember his name. *shame*), and he danced along. The band were lovely all evening; so talented and on the ball, and shamelessly flirty and teasing with John. John called them his family, and you could really see why; they all seemed really close, and it must've been a shame for the tour to end.
John then performed Moonriver, which was absolutely beautiful, and then the song Please Remember Me, which was dedicated to Sandie Gill, his partner's sister, who died of brain cancer a few years ago. The whole theatre went absolutely silent to hear his story; her husband had already died of cancer a few years previously, and her and Scott's brother, in a horrible irony, couldn't help her, despite being one of the top brain surgeons in the country. Sandie exceeded the life expectancy given to her by her doctor, but sensed that she didn't have long; the night before she died, she rang up everyone she knew, and when she spoke to John, she said, "Please take care of my brother." She died the next mornings, and the song was for her; what John imagined she wanted to say to her kids. The story, and the way he told it and sang it, makes me choke up just writing about it, and had both him and the audience in tears by the time he'd finished. It's so rare to see John so vulnerable like that, and it really affected everyone watching. To the girl who shouted, "We're with you, John!", that was so lovely, and he definitely appreciated it.
There was a lovely little bit of business with a hanky that was thrown on stage; John gave a massive comedy nose blow then handed it back to her, saying, "Thank you very much. Here, six hundred quid on e-bay." Which led to possibly my favourite exchange of the night.
"It's close to my heart now."
"Close to your heart? My bogies?"
My memory of the evening gets a bit muddled around this point, because at some point there was a flurry of presents being put onto the stage, but I'm sure it was before Please Remember Me, or maybe in the first half. Anyway, one lady put some roses on the stage, which led to another, and another, until the front of the stage was heaped with gifts, leaving John pretty bemused. I now understand why his ego gets a little out of hand sometimes; when you've got women throwing roses and cards and knickers at you (and yes, knickers; there was a whole bunch chucked on stage, to his delight), then your self-esteem is bound to give a big leap.
The woman sat next to Tara deposited a bottle of alcohol of some kind, and John leaned down and said "Give us a kiss!", and she, to our great amusement, lay several smackers on him that left him reeling backwards. I had to admire her; I'd never have the nerve to do that! She sounded a little embarassed afterwards, saying, "I know you've got Scott..." to which he replied, with a grin, "Well...never say never!" She practically bounced to her seat, and we spent a considerable amount of time later, in the scrum at the exit, telling her quite how envious we were of her.
Whew. Fingers hurting again, but I'm damned if I'm letting this span over three entries. Anyway, the following exchange preluded his next song.
John: Now, Portsmouth, I'm gonna tell you a little secret.
Random Audience Member: *yells something*
John: What was that?
RAM: YOU'RE STRAIGHT!
Whereupon John cracked the hell up for about a minute and a half. It was glorious! Then he came back, with:
"I remember when I was first getting into the business; I'd meet with all these executives who'd be whispering, he can't be gay, he just can't be! I thought, back then, when I'm forty-five, I'm definitely gonna come out as straight and freak everyone out!"
Following that, he sang the song I won't send roses - which, according to Scott, is him down to a tee, which surprised us all, really. He seemed quite embarassed singing it, but it was a beautiful performance and you could tell that he meant it, despite having performed it dozens of times before. I have to admit, even though the song was about him and Scott, halfway through I turned to whisper at Tara, "Jack and Ianto!" because to my ears, the song seemed to scarily fit them. This is what comes of being involved in fandom for a while...
After that (and raucous applause), John donned a sparkly jacket, and I instantly knew what was coming; yep, I am what I am, and oh, it was so good. That song has gone down in folklore as John's signature song, and it was sensational. He put his all into it, and the audience were on their feet by the time he was done. He went off, then came back with an encore about thirty seconds later. He thanked everyone; the stage crew, the band, the organisers, and us (which...well, you can imagine the "you're welcome!" we supplied him with).
He ended by getting on his soapbox a little and talking about advancing music programmes in schools (the speech's effect was slightly marred by him saying "I know you care about sport, here in Portsmouth...", and that comment being greeted by a massive laugh), then sang the song Heaven, which he said represented what he had with Scott, and what his parents have after thirty-odd years of marriage (we, promptly, melted into puddles for the fiftieth time that evening), and finally ended with That's Life - the absolute perfect, cheeky, brilliant song to end with which, again, had the audience on their feet and giving him their all. He stayed on stage for a few minutes, thanking everyone through their applause and shaking hands with the front row (lucky bastards) before he finally, finally, left the stage.
So. There it was. The best evening I've possibly ever spent; I don't know about Tara, but I'm convinced the whole thing gave me some kind of drug-effect. I was on a massive high from it until halfway through the next day, whereupon I arrived back in Cheltenham after yet another long and rainy journey, and just went...sort of flat. Later that evening I went to see Dara O'Briain with some friends, something I'd been looking forward to for ages, and I just couldn't get into it. Is that a normal feeling? I felt I was still recovering; I wasn't in the right mindset. Plus, he wasn't as funny as I'd been expecting, and we were being bugged by several drunk, Welsh hecklers just down the row. But, another digression.
The journey back to Pokesdown from the Guildhall was a bit fraught; we ended up in a completely empty, freezing station, bashing a vending machine to make it dispense some goods before hopping onto a train set for Bournemouth that turned out to take forever to get back - still, it gave us a chance to have several long conversations about writing, slash, and relationships. And sluts we know and love. And also hate.
(Also, to the man who stared at me as I swore repeatedly at the vending machine when it refused to accept my money; I was hyper! I needed food! Give me some credit! The damn thing hated me, although it suited Tara fine.)
I left Pokesdown at eleven thirty, in the pouring rain, but frankly not in a tearing rush this time. It was horrible saying goodbye to Tara again, but we've promised to meet for Pride London on July 5th, so we've got that to look forward. Going to the Barrowman concert could never have been half as fun as it was without her; her excitement was infectious, and she also helped calm me down when I got a little too into it. I'll miss her, but we speak on the phone a lot, and hopefully she'll wing her way over here to read this.
So...that's it. I went straight back to school, and straight away, the shit has hit the exam-fan. Remember last year's exam woes? Well, they're making an unwelcome return, and have returned in bulk rather than gradually. Ack, it's not good. I have a German oral AS next Thursday, off on study leave the following Friday, and my first exam is on May 16th.
However evil GCSEs are, AS-levels are doubly evil. I have three-hour exams with tiny breaks in between them; exam boards clearly think we are either robots, ambidextrous, or just incapable of being exhausted. Perhaps they've been watching Skins and think we're running on Ecstasy. Bastards. Have they ever tried writing about the intricacies of electoral reform and constitutional sources for three hours? It's fascinating stuff, sure, but three hours in the Gym doing that? Yuck. Still, it has to be done.
RIGHT. MUST GO. My fingers hurt now, but I'm glad I wrote all that up. Hopefully it wasn't too boring. It was...so good. I can't begin to describe how much I love that man, and how good he is onstage. He is, as I always suspected, spectacular. Here's hoping for a Pride London reappearance.
Rosby out, feelin' good. I'll keep you posted on the exams of doom.
P.S. How on earth did I live seventeen years without discovering this song until now? It's insane, wild, bewildering..and utterly brilliant.