Anne Reid: In A New Key
Sondheim, bedding Bond and fighting over fried eggs
Despite having loved Anne Reid in, well, everything she’s ever been in, the announcement that she was taking up a week-long residency at the gorgeous Crazy Coqs in London’s West End for a cabaret show slightly floored me.
Not that I profess to know every detail of Anne’s long career (though granted, there’s many a line of hers I have been known to quote) but her dabblings in the world of cabaret passed me by.
It turns out that this is because it’s new for her and actually a life-long dream which, she admits towards the end of her opening night, she wishes she’d ‘had the bottle to do sooner’. One of her many wonderful anecdotes throughout the evening talks about an unexploded bomb landing on her house during World War II – and therefore had it gone off, she wouldn’t have been standing on the stage now... And if everything happens for a reason, this is it. A former incarnation of Anne doing cabaret wouldn’t have had the mix of musical material, the ability to hold a sold-out audience hanging off every word and the oh-so-wonderful showbiz tales that link one song to another.
She’s quite fond of her Sondheim – five songs appear during the 20 song set – and there’s a lovely laid-back feeling to the evening as she’s accompanied by her musical director and friend Stuart Hutchinson on piano (and sometimes duets).
“Is this real?” she asks, beaming. “Or am I talking to a wall in a home full of dotty old actresses?” She’s obviously as delighted as the audience are to be a part of her ‘dream come true’. “People must think I’m bonkers wanting to start doing this at my age.” And, brilliantly, she’s got a story to tell about one person in particular that might think that – Prince Philip. But no, we’re not going to steal her punchlines – her comedic timing is frankly brilliant.
There’s so many stories to be had of her time on the road and appearing in film and on television – just not enough, frankly, as I could listen to Anne’s acting anecdotes all night. Someone please get her to write a book (and then record the audio version of it). Highlights include performing for the Queen (“your actual Queen”) and the perils of polystyrene cows.
There’s a brief mention of her time on Upstairs Downstairs and how, had the show continued, her face would have been on Christmas puddings - depsite her being the worst cook in real life. A story about Thora Hird and Dora Bryan fighting over plastic fried eggs at the wrap for Dinnerladies actually had me in tears.
Then there’s her recent ‘golden age’, as she calls it - bedding Daniel Craig in The Mother and sucking the blood out of David Tennant in Doctor Who. “It was a really nice morning,” she beams.
An absolutely joyful evening, with a lovely crowd of all ages in a gorgeous art deco building – which I’m sure Anne was just as overjoyed with as I was. Highly recommended.
Anne Reid: In A New Key is at The Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zedel, Sherwood Street, London until 25 May. Tickets and details here.
Words: Darren Scott
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