Tuesday, 27 October 2015
The Shipping Forecast Cabaret, November 4th, The Nines, Peckham, Feat. The Middle-Aged Mermaid
Photo: James Millar
My mother, living at the War Museum (wrong) end of the Lambeth Walk, thinks it's common to have curtains pulled right back, always licks her fingers after flicking someone the v-sign; and in the early seventies raided the mahoganyique three-cornered cupboard in the lounge for the hoard of Green Shield Stamps, screamingly roped us all in schlepping them to the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre and cashed in the whole lot for a single bottle of Chanel nail varnish.
'Will look stand-out posh, that thick and that colour, now, Iestyn,' she said, gazing down at the bottle in her open palm. 'What's it for? It's for marking your name clearly and indelibly on your mug, plate, bowl, knife, fork and spoon to take away camping with the cathedral choir, as it asked for in the letter I got. Don't want those posh ones' mothers - Myra Tingle that lives up Denmark Hill - looking down on me!'
The Middle-Aged Mermaid, as created and performed by Gareth Edward, finds glamour in the mire in more positive ways. Gareth is part of Suburbaret (presenting The Suburban Horror Show this Sunday at the Lost Theatre, Wandsworth) and will next appear as Ariel onstage at The Shipping Forecast Cabaret. Shipping Forecast Facebook page
Yesterday I found Gareth at his day job in an experimental science laboratory, and we discussed his ongoing exploration of the Ariel character.
'We have to find our lives, but not in that Disney way,' he began. 'I didn't want the happy ending for her, where the woman had to change. But then perhaps that's because I didn't have a happy ending of my own. I had the prince and the castle, in Edinburgh, but the crash meant that I had to come to London for work - and commute to work. Hence Ariel having the Oyster card dress, designed by Horatio Jones. There's the ripple-effect that I like as people realise the significance of the dress.'
Sitting in the RVT I'd thought that the dress night have been made specially for Ariel by Luke Casey Browne at the House of Black, or by Giles Edwin Bishop. Made specially for Ariel, you understand, not Gareth. I had also joyously believed that earlier in the day Ariel had indeed been ordered out of the Thames by the River Police and forbidden in future to swim up it to gigs.
'So then Ariel would definitely need her Oyster card.' Gareth is chuckling. 'In the happy ever after scenario the prince might give a pearl to his betrothed, but in real life the Oyster card is virtually a tax on living in London. Every Oyster card has its own story to tell; of sullied glamour. Ariel mainly uses the northern line - I've also created a character who is the northern line himself, compelte with black makeup, black glitter, black feathers. Ariel knows she has to work and commute, but demands a glamorous costume, hair and music.'
Photo: James Millar
I wonder if the swim up the Thames is a recurring conceit. 'Or does Ariel use the Oyster card not just for the day job but to get to gigs as well?'
'She does. Except they're not gigs per se, as it makes no sense for her to appear onstage as a cabaret act: she has no skill. One thing I learned from Paul L Martin's Cabaret Singers' Workshop was the prime importance of story. We know Ariel's previous story, want to know where she's been in the interim. So these days she's hosting her Middle Aged Mermaid Support Group. I'm developing this idea for an intimate setting and small audience, who'll all have clipboards. I just need to right kind of space where it's safe to be experimental, but those are getting fewer and fewer. The show would be a take on a 12-Step Programme. Ariel's at the stage where she's respected, people call her madam. She's made her career in hosting this seminars internationally, but we realise that she hasn't got things together in her own life. She's not very bright; she's fragile; and people warm to her.'
In 2016 Ariel will appear in Suburbaret's World Tour of Zone 3.
And just now I'm ringing my cousin Antony, so far up in the police we must never mention it, to get him to reverse the ruling forbidding Ariel to swim in the Thames.
Gareth Edward's homepage