It was a performance I nearly decided not to go to. At the time of booking, the ‘late night’ performance Whoopi Goldberg was to give at the London Palladium was to start at 11pm. As I already had a long-standing booking to see what would have been the last night of Half A Sixpence in the West End (it has since been extended to April, then to May, then to September), the timings seemed perfect: 10.15pm finish for that show, then a dash across from Leicester Square to Oxford Circus (or St Martin’s Lane to Argyll Street for the pedantic). Then, a day before the performance, I was in receipt of an email saying that the start time for Goldberg’s show had been brought forward to 10.30pm.
A combination of factors led to me seeing the whole thing (woe betide anyone who walks into a comedy show late, though on this occasion a woman on her mobile phone riled Goldberg instead, and she (Goldberg) didn’t bat an eyelid about a few latecomers – but even so). At Half A Sixpence, their leading man, Charlie Stemp, was indisposed, for reasons I never did discover – and I’m quite sure if it was anything major to be concerned about we’d have heard about it one way or another. The salient point here is that Sam O’Rourke, performing the leading role in Stemp’s place, rattled through the show at an even faster pace than his colleague, such that the curtain fell five minutes earlier than it ordinarily would.
When I left the theatre, I had to battle through the crowds (other theatres had also let out around this time) to get to Charing Cross and on to the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus. And who exits at Oxford Circus at 10.25pm? Plain sailing getting out of the station and through the Palladium doors. I even had time for a pee, and was comfortably seated before anything happened. This, as some of my religiously minded acquaintances would say, is God’s will. I suspect what really happened is that someone connected with the production saw complaints from me and others on social media that we would very likely not be on time, and held the start time back accordingly.
Speaking of social media, a lot of the topics discussed derived from questions Goldberg (or, more precisely, Goldberg’s team) had invited the public to ask. The questions were, as one would expect, very broad in nature, and included ones from her fans about previous television series that people like me who haven’t followed Goldberg’s career obsessively didn’t have a clue about, and one asking when she will run for President of the United States. Short answer: Never. The longer answer is that she’s an entertainer, not a politician, and whatever a particular administration does will please some people and piss others off.
Toilet humour was much in evidence – metaphorically speaking, I hasten to add, with details about how bodily functions (or dysfunctions) affect daily life more and more the older a person becomes. I loved a later story about her grandson. When he was a little boy, he was heard to have said, “Fuck it!” very loudly at a public occasion. The boy’s mother, Whoopi’s daughter, wanted to know where he picked up such atrocious language from. “What did he say?” Whoopi asked as her flesh and blood yelled down the phone. “You know what he said!” came the reply. “No I don’t, I wasn’t there.” “He said, ‘Fuck it!’” “I can’t hear you?!” “I said he said ‘Fuck it!’” “What?” “Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it! FUCK IT! Now where did he get that from?” “I don’t know, it must have been you. You just said it four times.”
It was, in the end, an hour and a half of belly laughs about almost anything under the sun. In an age of technological wizardry and video graphics, it’s good old fashioned storytelling that had us in stitches. A tad overpriced, this was nonetheless an experience that will not be soon forgotten.