I know, last week of all weeks, that there are more important things to worry about than the shifting demands of a theatrical diary. Waking up last Sunday morning in New York to the news of the dreadful mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, and then hearing of the murder of British MP Jo Cox on Thursday afternoon, suddenly puts everything else into perspective.
But if those two events invariably overshadow all else, the show(s) must go on: last Sunday’s Tony Awards went ahead naturally with many acknowledgements to the Orlando tragedy, and on Monday I arrived at the Prince Edward Theatre for a press preview of Aladdin to find Old Compton Street completely rammed with a vigil to remember those affected. The Prince Edward even turned its electronic signage outside the theatre to a rainbow flag instead of the show’s logo. The photograph I took and tweeted has had over 320 likes and more than 160 retweets already.
When I went by the Royal Opera House a couple of days later, it was good to see the rainbow flag also flying outside there, alongside the theatre’s own flag. These are simple but eloquent shows of support.
And in the week ahead when Britain votes on its future membership of Europe, I can only hope that we vote to remain. I was so sick of hearing the arguments a few weeks ago that I dispatched my postal vote immediately, so I could stop thinking about it.
Meanwhile, I’ve had enough to distract me from the pressing matters of today by the comfort blanket that theatre so often provides. There was something immensely cosy about seeing Hobson’s Choice, this year celebrating its 100th anniversary, returning to the West End last week; ditto, revisiting (as I did on Thursday afternoon), the musical Mrs Henderson Presents (before it closed on June 18 at the Noel Coward Theatre), a delightfully unabashed, vicarious visit to the Windmill Theatre that kept the show on (and the clothes off) throughout the Second World War.
The Windmill, meanwhile, celebrates its 85th birthday this week, and was planning to bring three generations of Windmill girls to the theatre to mark it on June 22. Three of them, Sylvia Eedy and Jill Shapiro, both now 72, and Joan Jackson, now 78, made an impromptu visit to the theatre back in April to see their old dressing rooms and the stage. But now they’ve withdrawn from the 85th birthday, with Shapiro declaring: “The building that was once our Windmill Theatre is now used for such a different purpose that we ‘Windmill Girls’ have been advised not to compromise our ‘naughty but nice’ wholesome good name by taking part in any publicity for what is now the Windmill International.”
The theatre is nowadays a lap-dancing club, and a spokesperson for it has replied, “What’s the difference between the original Windmill girls taking their clothes off for money in the 60s and today’s Windmill International lap dancers doing the same thing in 2016? All Windmill Girls should stick together.”