The Alex Tour 2008
The Alex Live on Stage Up and Under
You can read Alex's creators Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor talking about Alex cashing in on the credit crunch
Alex opened his world tour, slightly
late, at the Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne on September 9th. Australian shows, we
quickly realised, tend to start behind schedule as audiences Down Under are
rather harder to extract from the pre-theatre bar.
worry was: would Alex be accepted as an Englishman? We had heard that many
Australians, who follow Alex’s adventures daily in the Australian Financial
Review, assume that Alex is a fellow Antipodean. However Robert Bathurst’s
public school tones and immaculate pinstripe suit quickly quelled any lingering
doubts, especially when coupled with his snide asides about Team Australia's
recent underperformance at the Beijing Olympics, which were taken in good
humour by the locals.
However Melbourne audiences were
noticeably more shocked by Alex's cavalier treatment of his wife Penny than
their British counterparts had been last year. Does this give the lie to the
traditional image of the boorish Ocker? Or were they just trying to show that
they are more sensitive and sophisticated than other Australians?
Some Melbourne bankers, who didn’t manage to get to the show, contrived to
fabricate urgent business trips up to Sydney to coincide with the next leg of
the tour (and which would have the welcome additional benefit of earning them
some much-needed air miles).
We played five sold-out nights at the Sydney Opera House
(well, actually it was the Opera House’s studio theatre, but you were impressed
there for a moment weren’t you?).
The much-heralded arrival of
the Alex tour in New South Wales was slightly overshadowed by the simultaneous
detonation of the biggest crisis in the financial world for eighty years. But
frankly, after a day in front of their screens watching global markets melt
down, audience members seemed relieved at the chance to sit in a darkened room
and be forced to switch off their Blackberries for ninety minutes.
Their voluble appreciation of the play no doubt stemmed from a nostalgia
for the golden age of the City (a week or so previously) when the demise of
global capitalism had not seemed just round the corner. Though the references
to banks being taken over and Alex’s constant worries about losing his job made
quite a few bottoms shift uncomfortably on seats as people wondered if they
would still have an office to go back to by the time the house lights came up
As if it wasn't bad enough having global market turmoil steal Alex's thunder in
Sydney, in Hong Kong his thunder was stolen by, well, thunder.. Typhoon Hagupit
to be more accurate, which hit the South China coast on Tuesday, the day before
the show opened. The problem was that when there is a typhoon warning in Hong
Kong everyone gets sent home early from work and they normally celebrate by
going out for a few drinks.
However our worries that our
audience for Wednesday's opening night would be too hungover to show up proved
unfounded and the only damage done by the typhoon was knocking out the
air-conditioning in the theatre. With temperatures at 34 degrees it looked as
if Robert Bathurst would have to take to the stage in a loincloth. Luckily the
audience spent so long quaffing champagne in the bar that by the time they took
their seats the aircon had been fixed. They proceeded to give the show possibly
its finest ever reception (doubtless as a result of the champagne), with some
lines eliciting spontaneous rounds of applause.
The next stop on Alex’s Asian tour
differed from the other territories we had visited in that the cartoon does not
actually currently syndicate in a newspaper in Singapore. Having checked the
diary we suspect this stopover was mainly due to Robert Bathurst’s desire to
catch the Singapore Grand Prix and spend a few nights in the old colonial
splendour of the Raffles Hotel. Clearly he is using the Method to get into his
role, as this sort of Machiavellian exploitation of a business trip would do
credit to Alex Masterley himself.
However the global reach of
the internet meant that there were enough Alex fans – swelled by the curious,
the culturally starved and the usual contingent of nostalgic ex-pats - to
form a keen and appreciative audience. This appreciation was apparently
continued by some of the local ladies in various bars after the show.
In fact, apart from the rather laissez-faire attitude of the theatre
crew (perhaps understandable considering their country’s proximity to the
equator) the only local who blotted the nation’s copybook was the unknown
individual who stole a handbag belonging to Beccy, our deputy stage manager,
and which contained her passport. Had Beccy been unable to travel on to Dubai
it would have meant most of the supporting cast of the play also failing to
make it, as it is only thanks to her expert cue-calling that the animated
cartoon characters are are brought to life on the projection screens each
night. Happily the British High Commission obliged with some emergency travel
documentation just in time and she managed to make the plane.
Our itinerary brought us to Dubai at rather
an awkward time. With Ramadan having just finished the locals were only slowly
beginning to consider the notion of enjoying a social life again. Luckily
audience numbers were swelled by the many thousands of itinerant unemployed
bankers visiting the Emirates with cvs in hand desperately begging for jobs in
what was one of the few remaining secure havens of cash in the world.
The Madinat theatre is located in a five star hotel (scarcely more than
a B&B in Dubai where some hotels have seven stars). The auditorium is equipped
with airline-style business class seats, so that audience members were able to
recline in the sort of executive comfort to which they will pretty soon have to
stop being accustomed, what with the way the markets are going. But despite all
the extra legroom provision we still managed to play to our largest ever
audience in our last night in the Emirates.
And now it’s
onwards and upwards for the Alex show as it moves from the Middle East to