Thursday, 13 September 2012

Church or Cabaret? sometimes it's a tough call

I'm blogging on a train today. I’ve managed to get my blogging pattern (is there such a thing?) back to the mornings and I’m sitting on the London Bridge train from Charing Cross happily writing this. I’m aware that by the time I reach London Bridge I’ll have said nothing before I have to change trains but such is the fast pace of modern life. I'm on my way home from the morning draw at Covent Garden to do some serious writing and general sorting out of my life. The glamour of a life in the arts. It's only been half a day since my last post so nothing much has happened really.

I did meet a vicar yesterday evening. That’s something that doesn’t happen everyday. Grisel has a job at a lovely community center in Walworth called Pembroke House, and David (The Vicar) is her boss. I'd been invited there in the evening and as I walked around I had the sense that good things went on here. We were actually there to watch a short film of a community project about different cultures coming together through play. After the film our Reverend made a speech. To me he was typical of many vicars that I've known over the years, you know, very well meaning and good hearted but slightly stiff. In my experience vicars have a habit of leaving little silences all the time when they speak and I never know if they are being thoughtful or just uncomfortable. He certainly was an archetype, and observing him, I ended up wondering if he watched ‘Rev’ on the telly. I liked him, and admired greatly what he was trying to do for the community. He spoke of people coming together and I warmed to that. His speech came to a natural end, there was another pastoral micro pause. We thought he was going to sit down but he stayed standing up. He then displayed another personality trait them made me warm to him even more. He seemed to be a bit of a frustrated actor. Next came a rather awkward joke, and a reference to limbo dancing. (We both thought that that was an attempt for this Oxbridge educated man of the cloth to 'get down with the youth'.). Again there was a short pause, was he going to sit down? No, next there was then an attempt to get a round of applause for the film we had just seen. The cadence of his voice rose, and he gave a sort of showbiz flourish that wouldn't be out of place on The Good Old Days. I now wondered if, secretly, he wanted to start up a comedy club in the church hall. It's not the first time that I've come across a vicar with thespian intentions. I remember the highly camp and wonderfully eccentric vicar I knew a few years back. He had written a play that I was touring in, a sort of tragi/comic dialogue between God and Jesus. He was retired by this time but was chaplain at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He quite openly told me that when he was young he couldn't choose between being on the stage, or in the pulpit. He decided that he was not quite cut out for a life in the theatre so opted for, as he put it, "the only other job were you could be the center of attention and wear frocks". I suppose the two callings are rather similar.

I looked over at one point and saw David, our rev, sitting at the side. He seemed a little alone and lost amongst the hustle and bustle of kids playing and grown ups drinking wine and chatting. I can relate to this. It made me think that I spend most of my time with people in the arts and entertainment, or and it's not always so easy to hang out with people outside of this tight circle. You could call them ordinary folk, but to me, they are the extraordinary ones and it was great just to be there for a little while. Before we left I said goodbye to The Reverend. "I'll be seeing you again" I told him. Grisel then jokingly chipped in with, "Is that a threat or a promise?" "Oh it's definitely a threat." I retorted. David seemed perplexed at this bantor and he went slightly stiff again. "Oh well", I thought, "maybe The Church really is his true calling, and not comedy."

For more information about the wonderful work that Pembrooke House does go to

Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancé Grisel Tarifa. They hope to open a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools in Peckham in the winter.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. Mike is also busy writing his one man show, Clowns, Coulrophobia and Me for the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. Go to for more info.

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