The Hammersmith Apollo, originally opened in 1932 as the Gaumont Palace cinema, is a wondrous Art Deco diamond. Even if slightly less cosy than some other venues for a tȇte a tȇte with Julie and several thousand other fans, nothing could dampen the air of excitement! The evening began with a medley of clips from her films, and then she came onstage to a standing ovation. It must feel special to have all that love coming at you from an adoring audience. The first half continued with a stroll through her career, with Julie relating lots of anecdotes, and a few impromptu interruptions from over-excited fans.
At the interval I looked around as the lights came up, and was gratified to see the same silly smile I fully anticipated was on my face on everyone else’s too. Queuing for the loo, I asked a young woman, who had travelled down from Yorkshire, if she was enjoying the evening? “Oh yes,” she said emphatically, “It’s wonderful. I was at the O2 last time she came over, and I felt so bad for her when people walked out.”
The two young women behind me had flown over from Cork. They had been to see Angela Lansbury the previous evening in Blithe Spirit. They thought the travelling had been well worth it. In fact there were a lot of young women in the audience – it wasn’t just Julie’s faithful gay following and ladies of a certain age, as I’d probably expected. And they all seemed very familiar with her career, right from the start.
I hadn’t realised that Julie spent a year in the show at Drury Lane before the next cast change. My Dad played Eliza Doolittle’s father for five years (at Drury Lane and on tour) after taking over from Stanley Holloway, and I’m not sure if he ever met Julie, but I do know he would have been in awe of her courage in doing the current tour. He always said to me that he was happy to go out on stage and play a part in front of any audience, but that the idea of appearing as himself truly terrified him.
It was so nice to be in a big crowd of fans who were not afraid to show their enthusiasm. One of the things I particularly love about small children is their lack of cynicism - the way they just get up every day and bounce around until they drop. Recently I read that cynics are three times more likely to suffer from dementia. Well, all I can say is that the prospects are looking good for we happy band of fans beaming away at the Hammersmith Apollo a few Saturdays ago!
On my way back to Charing Cross, a male passenger on the tube, spotting a fan’s programme with a photo of Julie on the front, remarked, “I’d rather shoot myself in the face.” I managed to resist pointing out to him that he was seriously at risk from dementia!
But after spending an evening with Julie not even this miserable curmudgeon could bring me down! My day began with waking to a blackbird’s song at 4am, progressed through the Great War Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, followed by a lunchtime concert at St Martin in the Fields, and then meeting up with an old actor friend from years back for coffee and a chinwag. My glass was full right to the brim!