Dead By 12

The Sound Theatre, Thursday 11 May 2006


Review by Emma Shane © May 2006


The auditorium of The Sound Theatre is basically a right angle triangle shape, with bench-like seating down two short sides. At the right angle corner is a column with an ledge, on which is placed a white china bowl (containing what I thought was sugar, it later turned out to be marshmallows), above which is hung a black jacket on a coat-hanger. In front of the ledge are three chairs. Along the long side of the triangle are four normal chairs, with a high stood behind them. Next to these to stage left is an electric keyboard on a stand, with a chair behind it.

A somewhat sparse audience of about fifteen or so of us did not fill the auditorium. a group of theatre workers sat together in the seating to stage right, the rest of us (of whom there were fewer) occupied the seating to stage left.

The show takes the form of a chat show, interspersed with songs and games. On this particular evening the roles of The Guests are to be played by Simon Greenhill and Louise Gold; with the addition of Jason Carr as a speciality pianist. The show opens with musical director Verity Quade taking her place at the keyboard. The hosts Tim McArthur and Hayden Tee enter to start the show, with an introductory song (I Know Now from the musical Snoopy), during which they introduced their guests: Simon Greenhill, Louise Gold, and, Jason Carr. Louise, wearing smart black tailored trousers and a low cut white jacket with black slip-on low heeled shoes, is last on, and poses in the doorway as she enters (a pose somewhat reminiscent of Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby at the conclusion of The Water Babies). These three take their place in the three corner seats (between the two halves of the audience, an area Tim designated as “The Green Room”. Simon Greenhill, close to Stage Right, and Louise Gold close to Stage Left, with Jason Carr in the middle.. The hosts read out some funny news items, which they called obituaries. The first of these was for Airline seats, then there was something to do with Dundee (which the hosts pretended not to know where that was); while the last involved a Japanese parrot identifying it’s owner “Mikiadio”. This last elicits a laugh from one of the guests, Louise who then remarks “I didn’t get that”, “Well it seemed funny this morning” retorts Hayden.


“What time is it?” asks Tim; At which Verity strikes up on the keyboard a tune which sounds like something from The Phantom Of The Opera. To indicate that it is time for the first guest, Simon Greenhill, who comes out front and sings a song about not liking PE at school, and always being the person who isn’t picked for a team, but this doesn’t matter once one grows up and starts going out with girls. He sings well, and is very convincing. After his number he takes one of the seats out in front, for Tim and Hayden to interview him. First they ask him about his fiancée, Siobhan, who is sitting with the Stage Right crowd, and she has to come out front where Tim and Hayden make them act out how they got engaged. Siobhan returns to her seat. Tim proceeds to ask Simon about when he was in The Full Monty. Simon explained that he was an understudy for one of the main guys. He describes how on the first night everyone was terribly interested in the famous scene, but after a while it actually got boring. The first time he had to go on as understudy, he heard a lot of whispering in the corridors of “fresh meat”. Tim turns to face everyone else (audience and other guests) and asks for, shall we say, a similar sort of experience in a musical. Needless to say this is the cue for the other major guest of the evening to raise her left hand and say “I have”. Tim asks her what the show was. “Hair” replies Louise, and goes on to explain that she didn’t take part in the rehearsals, joining the show in Sunderland because owing to someone else had pulled out “They were going out of their minds in Sunderland” . On being ask if she had received any comments about being “fresh meat”; she proceeds to recount a funny story about the time (when appearing in Hair) the curtain came down very slowly, after that show’s famous scene, and how the next night it came down too quickly, leaving two cast members (Louise was not one of them) stuck out on stage!

                Tim and Hayden continue to interview Simon, asking him the two questions they always ask Dead By 12 guests. The first being that if he could invite anyone alive or dead to a dinner party who would he choose? (his choices include Nelson Mandela), the second being who he would want to play him in a film of his life. He eventually chooses Brad Pitt.

                Simon takes his seat in the ‘Green Room’; Tim hands The Guests a bunch of magazines they can read while they are waiting (these include Musical Stages, which Louise has a little glance through). Hayden takes centre stage and sings a song about being A Broadway Showtune Queen, which had lots of pretty good excerpts from various shows, and thus reminded me of the musical Zipp (possibly partly because the Stage Right crowd included a cast member from that show). I found Hayden’s number good fun, and he certainly sang it well, and with conviction, but let’s not forget it is only one of several songs with bits of other showtunes in them.

“What time is it?” asks Tim. At which Verity strikes up The Phantom Of The Opera tune again, to indicate that it is time for the second guest. Louise Gold and Jason Carr get to their feet, with Louise picking up the sugar bowl of marshmallows. Jason replaces Verity at the keyboard. Louise stands to his left, poised. As Jason begins to play Louise leaps into action with some graceful dance steps; and lets her lovely voice wrap itself around that gorgeous song A Little Love. When Louise performed this song at Lauderdale she did not have so much spare to dance around in (especially as she went rushing through the audience). The Sound Theatre’s auditorium, however, is a different sort of place. Louise dances beautifully around the stage, she is a very graceful mover; surely a legacy of her Arts Ed training. As she dances, especially during the choruses she tosses handfuls of marshmallows around, into the audience, though half them land scattered on the floor of the stage. This kind of reminded me of Issy Van Randwyck’s tulip chucking antics at Dress Circle’s Grand Reopening. Perhaps great cabaret artistes think along similar lines? Nevertheless, Louise Gold always makes whatever she does so very much her own, that really no one is going to mind how original or not it is. A Little Love is a beautiful song, a real signature piece for Louise Gold, it suits her delightful personality so beautifully. If you really want a number that combines being both cuddly and glamorous than this is surely it. Which makes a nice change for Louise to the monstrous women she seems to play in the West End these days; And of course we have the added treat that the song is played on the keyboard by it’s author, Jason Carr, who joins with what would have originally been the ensemble singing. At the end of the number, Louise and Jason came and sit on the chairs out front for the interview. However, first, Louise makes the point that the song they have just done is by Jason from his musical The Water Babies. He returns the complement by mentioning that Louise starred in that show, and jokes that perhaps it was just to wear that pink ball gown. Jason seems to have got it into his head that it is the costuming that ‘makes’ that number. I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think what makes that number is the fact that both musically and lyrically it seems to match Louise Gold’s personality so well. Tim makes a few remarks about whose going to clear up the marshmallows scattered on the floor (Katherine Ives of course). Then it’s on to the two questions they always ask the guests on Dead By 12. For the Dinner Party question, Louise informs the show’s hosts that she and Jason are answering this together, as a joint dinner party. So it’s over to Jason for his choice, Jerome Kern (he wouldn’t have chosen Richard Rodgers – great music, but not someone he’d want at a dinner party). Louise chooses the rest, however, her choices include: Kate Moss (“because” says Louise “I’m greedy and I don’t think she’d eat very much”), Christopher Biggins (“because he’d get us the best table” says Louise    who should know as she co-starred with him in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), and, Nelson Mandela. On to the question of who she would choose to play her in a film, Louise has some odd ideas, ending (the Spitting Image veteran is clearly in a jovial mood) concluding with John Prescott (Louise’s excuse for this something about him being so ugly as to make her look good!). On to some more questions. Tim asks Louise about her role in Mary Poppins. Whereupon besides correcting how the name of her character Miss Andrew is said, Louise’s intelligent interpretation of the character as being miss-understood is more or less what she said in that Theatre Radio interview the other week. Tim goes on to ask Louise whether researching characters she plays is important to her, and what research she does. It’s already clear that Louise is in a very humorous mood. Quite right too on a spoof chat-show. So this gives her an opportunity to make a few jokes of her own invention. Firstly suggesting that having her son was preparation for a role in a big show like Mary Poppins (one couldn’t help feeling this joke was directed at the crowd seated on the stage right side). Secondly, for Assassins, well obviously she’s kidding (over method acting), and after a few moments she switches into seriousness and says that she did a lot of reading up. Louise is then asked what she’s enjoyed most about her work, and she’s completely stumped for an answer, until eventually Jason has a bright idea to prompt her, by asking her “what about favourite guests on The Muppet Show?”.  So, just in case we’re not already aware, Louise quickly explains that she puppeteered on The Muppet Show, Jason points out that her famous character was “Annie Sue Pig”, and then Louise gets seriously onto the subject of Muppet Show guests, well that’s mostly about Danny Kaye, and a bit about Carol Burnett.

Interview over, Louise and Jason are about to take their seats in the ‘Green Room’, with, Louise telling Jason “Don’t tread on the marshmallows, I want to eat them”; but somewhat to their surprise find they are to do their second number, now! They hurriedly go to take their places, but just as they are about to do so, Louise insists “Forgot to change me costume”, in a flash she’s over by the ‘Green Room’, her nimble hands have removed her white jacket (put that on her chair), snatched up the black jacket and put it on “More glamorous” says Louise. Someone brings the high stool forward, and Louise perches herself on it to sing. At the keyboard Jason strikes up a medley of: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Odds And Ends, Some Of These Days, and, So Long Dearie. Although her voice is good and strong, it did not sound to me as if it was quite at full power. That could be the acoustics of the venue, of it could just be that the singer had decided not to belt it full it (as this was a somewhat sparsely attended late night cabaret, and she’s currently doing eight shows a week in the West End, it might make sense not to wear herself out with too much belting). Either way it didn’t matter, she’s certainly loud enough and sings with conviction as though she means it. There were also a few moments that were a little more belty, when her voice seemed to really merge with the music. And it’s just enjoyable to hear her sing this medley, musically it suits her voice rather well.

Louise and Jason finally take their seats in ‘The Green Room’; Some more commentary from Tim and Hayden, and then it’s time to play a game ‘Whose Will Is It Anyway?’  For this the audience are two teams. Stage Left, and Stage Right. One or other of the hosts is standing with his back to the Green Room, causing Louise to say (loudly) that they (the Guests) can see the clues. Resulting in Tim making them come and sit out front, so they won’t be part of the game. However, the team on stage right number more than the team on stage left. So Tim tries to persuade one of two of those audience members to come and swap sides, they decline. But, after the stage right crowd get the answer to the first question. (which turns out to be Chantelle from Big Brother) Louise decides to take decisive action. She and Jason join the audience on stage left, occupying some vacant seat space in the front row, where they remain for the rest of the show. Louise proves to have quite a brain for this kind of game, she’s also quite loud and vocal, and it is largely thanks to her that the stage left team win the next two questions (whose answers were Uma Therman and George Michael). Louise is jubilant yelling out “Losers” to the other team.

                Game over, Tim and Hayden conclude by asking the various guests to sign a ‘Gravestone’ prop they have, and then launch into their goodbye song. The audience is asked to suggest various styles they can sing it in. Verity has to put her foot down over some of these as being “un playable”. And so the show comes to an end.


All in all a very fun, enjoyable, light-hearted evening; with a joyous informality, that seems so delightfully characteristic of Trilby’s productions. (Although this one seemed even more informal than most). It is possibly the best show I have ever seen Tim McArthur do, it really suits his talents, and Hayden Tee’s very well; While Verity Quade did a good job as the musical director. The Guests entered into the spirit of the evening, it suited their personalities. Although they were playing the role of Guests on a chat show, they were also playing themselves. Simon Greenhill and his fiancée Siobhan showed themselves to be good sports. Guest accompanist Jason Carr played the keyboard well, as one would expect, although I got the distinct impression that he comes more into his own with a more mechanical rather than electrical instrument, in other words the piano (or his accordion). However, Jason also proved to be rather useful during the interview, most notably coming to Louise’s rescue, with a helpful suggestion on the one occasion in the entire evening when she got stuck for an answer. Louise Gold is perhaps the best known of the six performers. But while she obviously made sure she had the props and costumes she wanted to use, where she wanted them, she does not throw her weight about. Well apart from deciding that she and Jason were going to join in with the Who’s Will Is It Anyway game (and Tim certainly couldn’t argue with such a big powerful creature), but, typical Louise, that was more about joining in with the audience, identifying with them, than being a star, and in fact, it turned out to be highly beneficial to that team.  They only became “a winning team” because she was with them. Anyone who saw the Magic Fish episode of The Secret Life Of Toys may recall Raisin’s hidden talent turned out to be “knowing the right answers”, it looks as though this really is a talent of that puppeteer’s. Like on the Theatre Radio interview that Tim McArthur did with her a few weeks ago, Louise Gold comes across as: intelligent, jolly, and, informal performer, who fits in very well in a rather informal late night cabaret show.

                The four major musical numbers were all good, and all well suited to the performers singing them. But, at least as far as I am concerned, the highlight of the four was A Little Love. It’s such a great song, but to my mind, it is also like a signature piece for Louise Gold. The song’s creator, Jason Carr, seems to think its costuming that does it. Although on the now three occasions when I’ve seen Louise perform this number she’s been very smartly turned out, I don’t really think her costume would make any difference to her ability to put this number across; (Louise is always smartly turned out when performing, but I think that, if she wanted to, she could do this number in her jeans and trainers and still put it across). In my humble opinion what makes this song is the fact that it is a true match for Louise’s lovely personality. It is that glamorous yet cuddly personality which makes her just the right sort of performer to have as a Guest on this show. Because of course a guest star needs to have a bit of star quality, a bit of glamour about them. Louise Gold can certainly play glamorous, especially when she’s singing. But when it’s not actually her turn in the limelight, the cuddly element takes over, with the result that though her loud voice and charismatic personality ensure that one is aware of her, she becomes an enthusiastic team-player, using her wits (and considerable comedy experience) to encourage the show along, in any way that she usefully can.

                If you are a friend or a reasonably a respectful fan of a theatre performer, whom you find on the bill for Dead By 12, then consider going along to it, it’s more than a cabaret, its actually an enjoyable little, refreshingly unpretentious, event. Well done Trilby.


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