No, Black Slap isn’t about specialist chat rooms.
This is 1964, Harold Wilson has just won the election and we find ourselvs in a dressing room at the Victoria Palace Theatre where the cast are putting on makeup for a performance of The Black and White Minstrel Show.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe it ever existed? Andrew actually possesses proof: a Black & White Minstrels TV Show Annual which he occasionally browses through in wonder and disbelief. Phil remembers disliking it, not because it was racist (he grew up in Wiltshire where race had yet to be invented), but because he was bored by the musical numbers. How times have changed.
But there’s nothing at all dull about Paul Haley’s backstage tale (director, Robert McWhir) of dressing room bitching and arguments over who will be in the line up for that year’s Royal Variety Performance which included The Beatles and Marlene Dietrich in its line up. Ah those were the days.
This could almost have been written with the Whingers in mind: a neatly-crafted theatre story with social history (didn’t underpants fit badly in those days?), a bit of dancing, a terrific cast, on stage urination into a sink – plus maracas! It’s frequently laugh-out-loud stuff and one woman in the audience even called out “Boom, Boom!” after one of the gags. Bizarre.
The racism card isn’t overplayed but handled neatly by having a black dresser, Pyrex (Marc Small, excellent), who is working to pay for his studies (and of course he’s the smartest of the lot). Peter Whitfield makes a marvellously curmudgeonly old minstrel and there’s even the real life drag queen Dave Lynne as a flouncingly camp minstrel with a penchant for well, what else, cross dressing.
Right up the Whinger’s alley. Splendid and uplifting.