“Helen of Troy wouldn’t have had a Brazilian” – A night with Park Theatre

by Brackets Digital

…Or 'Key-Change as Comedy Licence'


A Guest Blog by Vicky Johnson

Moving to Finsbury Park in the wet and windy days of October, the first thing I did to acclimatise was hit Google. Because like everyone under 40, I’m tech-dependent and Google is my friend. There wasn’t a lot happening in the area, so it seemed – a Bermuda Triangle of culture right in the middle of North London. And then, bang! Is that Ian McKellen? Promoting a theatre? What, where? Turns out I probably should have just picked up a brolly and walked around a bit. Shameful.

I had stumbled upon the awe-inspiring project that is Park Theatre. Needless to say, I was pretty damn impressed with the sort of guts it takes to say ‘Yeah, let’s just open a theatre in the middle of a cultural wilderness’. Sadly, it’s still under construction, so I’ll have to wait awhile before they get tired of seeing my face in their cafe and using their heating. I’m thinking of going for an Ernest Hemingway of Finsbury Park vibe; they’ll be pouring my English Breakfast tea as I come through the door (mojitos are probably a bit much day-to-day). I hope they’re prepared.

In the meantime they have been hosting some pretty bang-up parties…sorry, “fundraisers”. Last Friday was one such event; a black-tie Bi-Centennial Dickens Dinner, hosted along with Gail Dickens (clue’s in the name, folks) and with speaker Adam Long, founder of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, dusting off A Christmas Carol in dramatic fashion. It was a bit fancy and that, as you probably guessed.

With a lack of friends able to attend with me – thanks a lot guys – I tweeted my despair. Did I mention that I’m tech-dependent? Pitching up by myself has never been my favourite part of events. But then I was cajoled in an answering tweet by Artistic Director Jez Bond, and so I went for it wrapped up in a dress that made me look a bit like a purple Quality Street. I’m all class, me.

To my bemusement, I found myself sat on a table with actual important people. Therefore, I felt I should be on my best behaviour (‘remember who your grandparents are’ came to mind – a favourite family refrain. A ploy to stop me falling out of clubs with my skirt tucked into my underwear, no doubt). However, my usual appropriateness filter was compromised by some truly excellent vino; and this is even coming from somebody who knows zilch about anything that doesn’t come with a Blossom Hill label.

No matter how I conducted myself, though, the people who I met couldn’t be more lovely. Elaine, Leslie, Abi, Jez, Gail, and Melli Bond (Creative Director) were just a few that I felt need a bit of a shout-out for putting up with me and my wine-soaked ramblings. In fact, I felt a bit like a proper grown-up, and at that thought almost tripped over myself. Which would’ve been awkward.

Not only that, but sitting down for dinner and it became apparent that Jez had read my entire blog and seemed to have stored up snippets of info I should really never have put on the internet. That’ll teach me…lesson probably not learned though. I was a bit tempted to ask if he should really be spending his time reading whatever drivel I’ve written, when he’s got a theatre to build. But I decided I’d quite like to be invited back at some point, so kept schtum.

Observant readers are probably looking at the title of this post and wondering if I’m still hungover. That may well be the case, actually, but I am referencing a real conversation about a cracking production of The Trojan Women where Louise Brealey did an epic strip-off (somewhere around here I have a review – which is terribly unfortunate, as the run has ended). We were in agreement that, no, Helen of Troy would NOT have had a Brazilian. So Brealey deserved a gold star…it would just be awkward finding a place on her on which to stick it.

The incredibly talented Adam Long cracked out some fantastic lyrical persuasions to go with his monologues and our plethora of food. Listening to the guitar-accompanied woes of Tiny Tim with his “twisted foot and withered limb”, while thoroughly entertaining, led to the somewhat awkward moment when a small and undoubtedly puerile section of us wondered whether we should actually be laugh-spluttering into our sparkling or not. We took it as a go when the key changes kicked in. It was an almost perfect Dickens/Westlife pastiche, whether intended or not.

One of my favourite parts of the evening was the prize-giving of a mini-break donated by the guys who supplied the wine (if anybody knows them, they’ll probably be worth buttering up). After an intriguing game of ‘Guess the Wine’ – where I searched valiantly for a tick-box that just said ‘red’ – Mrs Bond, mum of Jez, won to a plaintive and embarrassed question from the glamorous prize-giver Melli, “Erm…is this even fair? Is it allowed??”

The party rounded out to some classic tunes; the likes of Van Morrison and Abba rocking the foundations of a hallowed and atmospheric Crypt. One can only hope that those buried at St Ethelreda’s have a taste for Gold FM. Abi and I were only slightly disappointed in the lack of ‘Come On, Eileen’, even if it is classically a wedding song. I can do a hell of an air-violin solo.

Wandering out of the Crypt at the end of the evening, after hugs and kisses from seemingly everyone and their grannies, the evening had already taken on a gilded sheen in my memory. Terrific doesn’t even come close. I just hope they’re ready for me at the next one. I’m wearing lower shoes…that means business.

NB: Joking aside, Park Theatre is a fantastic enterprise, doing something great. North London needs it, lest we be taken over by the tedium of Starbucks and 24hr McDonalds. If you can support it, by sponsorship, by spreading the word, anything – do so! Melli and Jez and their team are wonderful people who treat even randoms like me – who pitched up with just 24hrs notice – like close friends. And if you’re really lucky, they may stalk your blog to embarrass you about things you shouldn’t put on-line. Champion.

Jez: You never got round to telling me what animal I would be. Answer in writing, if you please.

Written by Vicky Johnson


Here you go, Vicky. Loyal, likes company, likes to play but also enjoys intellectual stimulation / challenges. Sometimes seen wearing Quality Street dresses... the Great Plains Wolf...


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