Goulash and whiplash

Ed is a plank. He was always a plank — and now he is in Ibiza being a plank. Plankety–plankety-plank: goodbye to our most recent terrible leader — and who will be the next? I, meanwhile, am in the Gay Hussar, choking on my own grief, hearing ‘Crying in the Rain’, weirdly, in my head, trying to forget the images that flicker mercilessly across my eyes, disrupting my view of a book that says, in capital letters, for emphasis — tony blair (now that’s a leader, eh!) — Clegg, dry-eyed with realisation at the breadth of his failure, Ed Balls hauled down like an -Easter Island statue, Samantha Cameron’s victory

Bidding a fond, and drunken, farewell to the awe-inspiring Mark Amory

Rubbing shoulders with political suits on the pavement outside the Westminster Arms, I drank two pints of Spitfire. Pump primed, I strolled the 50 quaint yards along Old Queen Street and entered the Spectator offices through the open door of number 22.  An elderly chap on his way out said, ‘You’ve missed the speeches.’ I said, ‘Is all of literary London in there?’ ‘I wouldn’t know about that,’ he said huffily. I went downstairs to the party and grabbed a ready-poured gin and tonic from the drinks table of one’s dreams. For the next hour, knocking back gins and working my way to the back of the garden, I chatted

L’Escargot is Soho as Soho sees itself

L’Escargot, or the Snail, is a famous restaurant on Greek Street, Soho, opposite the old Establishment club; the oldest French restaurant in London, they say (1927), and who am I to argue? It is the type of restaurant that non-Londoners have heard of and used to visit. They passed photographs of Larry Olivier and Mick Jagger staring glumly at them as they took off their overcoats in the hallway for a pre- or post-theatre supper; despite this, or maybe because of it, the Snail fell into a long and sad decline. Its green and gold rooms embraced silence. The waiters snarled; the snails wilted. They had been there too long.

Simon Cowell’s latest attempt at global domination

I Can’t Sing! is a parody of The X Factor, which already parodies itself at every turn. Quite a tough call. The heroine is an oppressed no-hoper stuck in a tiny caravan under the Westway with her crippled dad who lives in an iron lung. She longs for a chance to win stardom and wealth on a TV talent show. So this is the Cinderella story with a lot of grotesque and absurd modern detailing. Is it good? No. It’s spectacularly brilliant. A hit musical needs to get everything right and this one does just that. The sets are lavish and sumptuous. The costumes are razor-sharp parodies of underclass loser-wear.

A gaggle of husbands and a pair of piglets

Here’s a great idea for a play. Turn the polygamy principle upside-down and you get a female egoist presiding over a harem of warring husbands. Sharmila Chauhan’s drama, The Husbands, introduces us to a pioneering sex maniac, Aya, who founds a commune in India where women take as many spouses as they fancy. Aya herself has three blokes on the go and is about to get married again.  Curtain up and we meet her pre-existing husbands, Sem and Omar, who get along together very nicely. Both are childishly besotted with Aya. Which is also nice. Anticipating the arrival of husband number three, the hubbies quietly vacate the bedroom and start

Rape, porn and Cheesy Wotsits

Interesting times at Soho Theatre. One of its outstanding shows of last year, Fleabag, was an offbeat Gothic love story written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The director of Fleabag, Vicky Jones, has penned another offbeat Gothic love story. And it stars Waller-Bridge. The action plunges us into the weird, manipulative love life of beautiful Jo and her slick older lover Harry. Up goes the curtain and they’re copulating to porn while sharing a bag of Cheesy Wotsits. Harry’s old flame Kerry bursts in and announces that she’s been raped. Harry and Jo console her, rather perfunctorily, and then use her distress to start swapping cynical, sneering accusations about their

An audience with the Queen and Mrs Thatcher

A feast of pleasures, and some annoyances, at the Trike. Handbagged, by Moira Buffini, is a fictional account of the weekly audiences between Mrs Thatcher and the Queen. The staging is extremely odd. Buffini gives monarch and prime minister two impersonators each. This enables us to trace the minor developments in hair colour and frock choice between 1979 and 1990. But also encourages the pairs of actors to outdo each other. Here are the results. Marion Bailey plays the older Queen as an unbudgeable human lighthouse. The facial gestures are beautifully done and Bailey gets that stoical out-thrust lip pout that has become the Queen’s signature grimace in recent years.

Are theatre critics on drugs? Fallen in Love and Pastoral reviewed

A marvellous novelty at the Tower of London. The Banqueting Suite of the New Armouries has been converted into a pop-up theatre and the Tower authorities have welcomed a new play following the rise and fall (into two pieces) of Anne Boleyn. Joanna Carrick, who directs her own script, has chosen a tricky format. Two characters, Anne and her brother George, tell the story of Anne’s fatal marriage to Henry VIII. Even Aeschylus found this ancient format rather constricting and introduced a third character. Perhaps Carrick knows better. Anne and George are evidently attracted to each other and they romp around a four-poster bed exchanging gossip in fits of giggles.