Thursday, March 10, 2011


Yesterday I bumped into Hammy Lee in the pub; Hammy is a brilliant drummer who used to be in a band called Furniture, and the The Flavel Bambi Septet, before forming Transglobal Underground and forging a fusion of dance music and music from around the world that has become hugely successful.
Back in the 1980s, Hammy played in several pickup bands that accompanied the musical theatre antics of a group called Count of Three. They started off with The Beggar's Opera (a new musical version) with new songs written by trombonist Dave Jago and yours truly, and directed by Nicky Triscott who now runs The Arts Catalyst (an agency that engages scientists with artists and vice versa).
It was chaotic but fun; how on earth did we manage to organise it?
The cast (every one of whom nodded a sartorial nod to punk in their attire) was huge and so was the band, but I don't think anyone missed a rehearsal. We performed it to large audiences (and how did we do that?) at The Chelsea Centre Theatre, The Hoxton Hall (with the band on the rickety balcony that was condemned shortly afterwards) and The London Musician's Collective, of all places.
Soon after, we did a horro-panto musical version of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, which we took the the Edinburgh Fringe and played to nuns (they laughed) at midnight. The stars of that one were Titus himself who flung himself energetically into every song, and a tea-auctioneer who had a very loud voice and stole the show whenever he sang (I think he was Lavinia's uncle and I gave him a sixties-style rhumba to sing). Hammy was busy and didn't play for that one (I'm not sure I blame him) but the Flavel Bambi Septet came in their entirety to play for Dr Calamari's Music Hall of the Macabre, MC'd by Lester Square of The Monochrome Set,  and featuring a real live smoke machine hidden behind a curtain that it was my job to set off.
There were nine members of The Flavel Bambi Septet, and at least twenty-one other cast members.
I was Hoarse Sue, and I tap-danced around the room singing a song called She's a Girl Who Likes To HAve A Horse Between Her Legs and wearing a strap-on wooden horse costume; there were Snuffy and Puffy, the Smith twins, who wore huge cartwheel hats with glass swans and lilies, and massive paper crinolines. They sang Spanish songs and played accordion and sax to accompany themselves. There was Dada poetry, a Carmen Miranda Act, a comedian called Phil Fowler who sawed audience members in half and removed kidneys and an apple from them ('I'm all right, I'm all right!' they would frantically assure him as he looked, distraught, at the audience). There were three very saucy girl singers, and Olrod and Eddy who performed an entire play about a marine biologist in ten minutes; there was a fresh-faced lady who set up a camp table and showed us all how to wash our faces in the outdoors before singing Red Sails in the Sunset rather beautifully; there were comedians (Stephen Marchant the cartoonist and his mad Scottish friend)....
The Flavel Bambi Septet were due to stay in Lester Square's sister's flat, which had burned down the week before. There was nowhere else for them to stay, so they took their sleeping bags into the blackened living room and slept there each night. Hammy told me that Lester turned up every morning with a tray of tea, because there was no water or electricity there. The twins camped at a site just outside Edinburgh, and I slept on a sun-lounger in McMum and McDad's garden shed.
That show only managed to pull about five people a night because it was in the gay area of Edinburgh and there had been a murder in the street that our venue was in a couple of days beforehand. There were so many of us that we filled the theatre just with us and by the end there were so many in-jokes that the show hardly made sense. Lester Square threw a toy octopus at the Dada poets and the Flavel Bambi Septet threw stuffed chickens at the trio of clarinettists (Mary, Paul and Carla); everyone rolled up one trouser leg, since it was a Freemasons' Hall. And one night at 5 a.m. I gave Nick Smith a haircut under a streetlight just outside the Fringe Club (I do believe I have posted about this before).
I actually auditioned Eddie Tenpole, but he was busy and couldn't do it; I think he would have loved it.
Hammy has some photos- I'm going to write and ask him to send them!

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