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If you Can-Can in Cornwall, Aga-Do-Do you belong in the West End?

Some of you may have noticed that my Twitter feed has been a little quiet these past few days – of course, some of you may not have noticed at all, and that’s fine too (I suppose). For those who were unaware why, I’ve been in Cornwall this weekend on holiday with my daughter. I’m sure everyone can understand that sometimes you need to get away from it all, stepping off the page and disappearing into another adventure for a while. I just wanted a few days of quality family time with my daughter without the interruption or distraction of work; still, even six hours away in Cornwall I couldn’t fully escape the pull of the theatre.

We were holidaying at Perran Sands, one of the Haven holiday parks. Anyone who has been to a Haven, Park Resorts, or similar retreat will know that part of the package includes the clubhouse’s night-time entertainment. Live acts and the children’s entertainment team are a familiar sight at any holiday park around the country and Cornwall was no exception. Having previously worked the bar at a holiday park in New Romney, I more than knew what to expect – I danced along to all the party tunes behind that bar every shift and can still do a mean ‘King Caractacus’ – but yet I couldn’t seem to switch off that Eye of Judgement which is such an necessary part of what I do. On our last night there for example, four of the entertainment team came onstage to sing a selection of popular pop songs. One girl clearly thought shouting was the same as belting while another’s voice was so thin and weak that she just couldn’t make herself heard over the music (a fact I’m guessing she knew as she kept holding the microphone out to the kids on the dance floor). The three which sang were flat and had no range in their voices and I was completely bored listening to them. They absolutely proved a point for me though, which was that not every ‘singer’ deserves to be on a stage in London’s West End. I know some people whose exceptional voices would blow these holiday entertainers out of the water – yet they remain within the throng of the ensemble. To make it to the West End, you have to not only have the voice that ensures people really notice you, but a whole host of other attributes and skills along with it. To actually go on and become a West End leading man/lady, you have to be a true star in every sense of the word and, as is often the case, very lucky too. This is why it grates on my nerves when celebrities (some, not all) are cast in West End shows when, if they weren’t a famous name who can put bums in seats, they would have no chance of getting the role otherwise. Acting, dancing and so on aside, some singers are unfortunately destined to be no more than a ‘karaoke voice’. The pub I work at on weekends holds karaoke nights every Saturday and there are some people in there who sing and are hailed as a sensation who should apply for The X-Factor immediately! I wish I could bring them all along to a West End show sometime and show them what true talent sounds like. If they could hear our West End girls and boys perform then they just might gain a little perspective and think twice before sending in that application form to Simon Cowell.

I don’t mean to put these people down – holiday entertainers are there to be the providers of a bit of cheesy, camp fun. They get their stage, they get their lights and they get their audience, but that is where the similarities to life in the West End ends; unless you’re including the man-centric folk too, if you know what I mean. Ooh ah! My daughter was as crazy as a cat on catnip around them and, as far as she was concerned, they gave her just as good a time as a show in the West End would. I smiled at their character costumes, joined in the Mexican Waves, clapped along to the music and may even have laughed at their awful, cringe-worthy jokes a few times; when it came to their singing show performance though, I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t take them seriously. This is what a theatre life has done to me I fear, nothing else can match the high bar that it sets and simply pales in comparison. My experiences in the world of theatre have turned me into a metaphorical bouncer, guarding the door to Club You’ve-Got-It with my little list of preferred guests who are good enough to get in. In a way, it was a little saddening to realise that,unlike the general holidaymakers, I can’t sit there oblivious to what the entertainment team are lacking in and just go with it now, but the talent I have seen in the West End (and fringe theatres) has enriched my life to such an extent that it more than compensates for this small loss. I still had a good, fun time on my holiday, but now I can fully appreciate just how lucky every audience in every London theatre really are.

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)

Monday 16th April 2012


  • MissJulie

    Julie is a theatre enthusiast, and is particularly keen on new writing. She writes articles each week for our website including a popular weekly ‘In Profile’ which features actors and actresses that are not in lead roles and are often in the Ensemble.

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