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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 5 September 2008
Give us a Blue, the cartoonists’ choice

THE Tory party has always lent itself to satire.
Whether it was shagging and sleaze during the Major years, wartime-cabinet champagne sessions in The Ritz, Maggie Thatcher’s “nasty party” or the winds of reform ushered in by the Bullingdon Bolshevik, David Cameron, the Conservatives have always been at sharp end of the satirists’ pencils.
A new exhibition at the Political Cartoon Gallery charts the history of the party from Disraeli to Cameron by way of Balfour, Baldwin and Major – a veritable feast of toffs, carpetbaggers, and union-bashers ripe for lampooning.
Consisting of 60-odd cartoons from such esteemed artists as Sir John Tenniel, Sir Francis Carruthers and Sir David Low, Tory Blues is something of a potted history of the fashions and fortunes of Britain’s most successful political party.
No matter your political stripes, you can’t help but be tickled by the wit and wisdom dispensed by the men who some believe hold the hardest job in newspapers. If journalism really is the first draft of history, many of the interpretations have stood the test of time.
The exhibition will be opened by former Conservative MP and Times journalist, Matthew
Parris. It will be accompanied by the launch of Alan Mumford’s book of the same name.
Tory Blues runs from October 21 until January 7.
The Political Cartoon Gallery, 32 Store Street, WC1.

Plaque for the ‘queen’ of carnival

I WAS pleased to note that a plaque has been put up to honour an extraordinary woman, Trinidad-born Claudia Jones.
It was unveiled during the Notting Hill Carnival in memory of Claudia, who is regarded as the “mother” of Carnival.
Hounded out of the United States by the McCarthy witch-hunt in the mid-1950s, Claudia founded the first West Indian newspaper in London.
She died tragically young at 49 in her home in Lisburne Road, Gospel Oak, and now lies in Highgate Cemetery. Her grave, I gather, is beautifully attended by those who remember her contribution to the lives of West Indians in the capital.
I have written about Claudia in this column several times trying to persuade English Heritage to erect a plaque on the house she lived in. She spent a great deal of her time in Camden.
Come on English Heritage, give her the honour she deserves.

Stirring finale to Bond celebrations

Dastardly villains, improbable gadgets, screeching cars and, of course, the voluptuous girls. It can’t possibly be anything other than James Bond.

Next month, Ian Fleming, the man whose vision
created the institution, will be honoured in a special gala in the grand finale to his centenary celebrations.
The roll call of guests includes Dame Judi Dench, who has played the acerbic M since 1995, the man entrusted with carrying on the legacy, novelist
Sebastian Faulks, and enough Bond girls to field a football team.
The evening will be presented by Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry and will also feature a 60-piece orchestra, actors playing out their favourite scenes and a sneak preview from the new film, Quantum of Solace.
The show has been organised by Fleming’s niece, Lucy Fleming, and will take place at the Palladium Theatre on Sunday October 5.

Understudy heroics, but Roy’s off pay role

THE heroics of Colin Roy have saved a West End show from closing on three occasions , but there is another less palatable underside to this freak story which raises troubling questions about what’s going on in Theatreland.

It’s nothing to do with fate or a Phantom of the Opera-like curse, but more a matter of the way rank-and-file actors, men like Roy who turn out performances night after night seven days a week often more than once a day, are treated by the production firmament.
It seems there’s no business like showbusiness for the Lloyd Webbers and X-factor-cum-musical-stars who are quite frankly more flush than they ever have been. But when it comes to the “grunts”, there’s nothing but minimum wage disputes, sparse opportunity and gruelling schedules.
Understudies are probably seen as too costly these days and keeping cast sizes down obviously makes financial sense.
He makes no bones about his interpretation. “It’s simple, they’d rather save money by cutting cast numbers,” said Mr Roy. “It goes on everywhere now. I’ve been on the stage since I was a boy and when I got plucked from amateur dramatics to the West End about 12 years ago it was like hitting the big time. We were looked after, we got pampered and had proper training. Now it’s a completely different

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