Unwrapping 'A Festive Happening...' at the RVT
As the season of drinking approaches, Bourgeois & Maurice, Jonny Woo and Scottee talk about their Christmas collaboration at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
'Cheese melons.' The way Scottee Scottee says it, it has the weight of a philosophical imperative or a national security alert. 'I'm set on this idea. Cheese melons. Cheese melons. A cheese melon.'
The '70s finger-food classic - a variation on its better-known, pineapple-based sibling - is apparently crucial to the conception of the Yuletide show Scottee is hatching with fellow performers Jonny Woo and Bourgeois & Maurice. Harking back to holiday motifs of its creators' youths, such as 'Abigail's Party' and DFS sales, as well as perennials like carol services and 'EastEnders', it's titled 'A Festive Happening (which may or may not be relevant to your own religious beliefs)'.
It also marks the first collaboration between four of the cabaret circuit's most vibrant talents. A blustery lunchtime earlier in the month found them gathered round a table in their civvies: Bourgeois in a Withnailesque topcoat, Maurice with a square-patterned scarf and dangly jewellery, Scottee wearing a black sweater, bow and nail polish and Jonny in a neon pink hoodie. The first rehearsal had been the night before and they were bubbling with ideas. 'The opening number has the working title "We Love Christmas",' says Jonny, suggesting it will be characteristic of the show: 'superficial cheese with a very cynical twist of the knife.'
It's very much a work in progress at this stage but there's talk of Christmassy variations on Jonny's song 'Faggot' and Scottee's quickchange routine, along with riffs on corporate gigs and office parties, pantomimes and the like. 'The rough idea is that throughout the whole show you will see everything that is obligatory throughout the month of December,' explains Scottee. 'The Queen's speech, maybe,' muses Maurice. 'That should be something that just happens in the toilet because no one ever watches it,' Bourgeois suggests. There's also got to be a bit of horror - though they're not yet decided on whether amalgamating a school nativity play with 'Myra! The Musical' is a good idea.
The heightened, ritualistic mood of the holidays can be peculiar for entertainers. 'Christmas is really weird when you spend your life doing artificial performance,' says Bourgeois. 'It's like what my whole year is like: artifice and disappointment.' For Jonny, it's a chance to 'stay in for a couple of days, shut the door, don't let anyone in', while Maurice tries to avoid sport on the family TV ('so boring'). 'I find it's even more of an excuse to drink while you're working,' says Scottee.
Then there's the religious aspect - or lack thereof. As the title suggests, it's an afterthought of the show, if that. 'We were thinking about what happens at Christmas,' Maurice says, 'and it just didn't occur to us…'
'A Festive Happening…' is at the RVT, Wed Dec 2-Fri Dec 4.