Monday 23 April 2018

Learning how to jig with Gatsby

Kirsty at large

Putting on the Ritz: The cast and audience get into the swing at The Gate
Putting on the Ritz: The cast and audience get into the swing at The Gate
Kirsty at the opening night of The Great Gatsby
Kirstie Allsop
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Jay Gatsby taught me the Charleston on Wednesday night and it was a revelation.

To misquote Cole Porter, the Charleston is the tops, comparable to "the National Gallery, Garbo's salary, or cellophane". Never got the cellophane part, but I digress.

I headed along to the Gate Theatre's immersive staging of Scott F Fitzgerald's novel this week, and it was there that Jay taught me the steps.

I am not a natural mover or shaker but was delighted to realise that when it comes to the Charleston, the worse you are at dancing, the better.

The dance turns what are commonly perceived as weaknesses into strengths.

Robotic arm movements become "happy doll/ sad doll". Lack of rhythm? No problem! You can just jump up and down on one leg while wagging a finger in the air and you're hotsy-totsy.

Plus, it relies heavily on facial expressions and mugging which gives you a great "get out of jail" card if everything goes wrong. Just shrug, roll your eyes and everyone will think you're a regular Clara Bow.

The opening night of the show started across the road, in the toilets of the Gresham Hotel, where a gaggle of women wiggled out of office wear and into drop-waist dresses.

"You can't keep good flappers down," one said while shaving her legs beside the sink.

Two friends in fringed skirts discussed accessories.

"Are three strings of pearls too much?" one asked.

Her friend rolled her eyes.

"We're going to a party at Jay Gatsby's - throw everything on."

I felt sorry for one American lady who stumbled into the toilet seeing us all in a state of undress. "This is the bathroom, right?" she asked timidly.

To say the Gate has had a makeover is an understatement; there's a ballroom and three bars serving whiskey, champagne and gin in fishbowl glasses.

Everyone crowded inside, and, once we had admonished the people who hadn't dressed up (like my dad) and commended those who had (like me), the action started.

There were cartwheels and kicks and plenty of lifts, and then we were brought by a wide-eyed Myrtle into a boudoir where she and Tom Buchanan got to know each other in the biblical sense behind a screen door.

It was certainly an intimate piece of theatre, and then we were bustled out the door and into the main auditorium.

There are different pockets of action happening in different places, so you get a fragmented version of the book and have to piece the rest of the storyline together for yourself.

A word of warning - this show is FOMO inducing. It's hard to contain your jealousy when someone tells you they got to snoop around secret libraries, studies and whiskey bars.

But I could console myself by the fact that briefly (very briefly), I got hauled out of the crowd to play the part of Daisy Buchanan.

"A young Daisy Buchanan, no less," my dad said. Ain't that the bee's knees, old sport.

Mud-slinging for the queen of cleanliness

Kirstie Allsop

Soap and suds divide us. Yes, ­cleanliness is next to Godliness but just what constitutes 'clean' remains a grey and slightly grubby area.

Location, Location, Location presenter Kirstie Allsopp (above) caused indignation this week when she said keeping your washing machine in your kitchen was 'disgusting'.

According to Kirstie, the "bathroom, hall cupboard, airing cupboard (hot press)" are all preferable alternatives. This kicked off a fierce debate - hold on to your hats folks!

People were incensed saying it showed how out of touch with reality Kirstie is, before pointing out that the father of my namesake is a British Lord. "Fine for you living in your MANSION!" Twitter screamed. "Why don't you p**s off and crochet something!!"

Kirstie responded to the situation, saying: "Look you bunch of total f**kwits, IF POSSIBLE having a washing machine out of kitchen frees up space, if not possible no big deal."

Personally I think everyone is being too high and mighty. I live in a tiny apartment that has (to use estate agent lingo) a 'kitchenette', which in layman's terms means "a sink and cooker masquerading as a kitchen".

The only place I can keep my washing machine, unless I plan on standing on it when I shower, is the kitchen.

Despite this, I agree with Kirstie - handling dirty underpants two feet away from someone cooking stroganoff, is disgusting. But there are other areas of hygiene I am less fussy about - like bras. According to Good Housekeeping, we should be washing the things once a week. I am writing this wearing a beige M&S bra (control yourselves fellas) that I have owned for six months and have washed zero times (no really, control yourself fellas).

When I told a male friend this, he was disgusted. "That's like not washing socks for six months," he said. What rubbish; as any woman/ drag queen will tell, a sock is not a bra. It is more akin to a woollen hat. A twice a year wash is fine - regardless of whether your machine is in the kitchen, the hall, or under your bed.


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