BOO-KHAKI, which I have purposely written phonetically in case it sets off all sorts of bad language alerts and filters on computers, is an extreme sexual act, one which should not be Googled, and one of many listed in the title song of this, the latest offering from Living Spit; listed as things which Elizabeth the First would never experience, having decided to remain a virgin. The clever way that Howard Coggins and Stu Mcloughlin are able to use such adult phrases in a witty pop song illustrates just what geniuses they are. I did not understand some of the terminology in this song, so I could not take offence at it, but just laugh even louder at the more and more extreme language, in the same way that children do not pick up on many adult-only references in pantomimes, but laugh along with their parents.
The songs in this show, as with last year’s Six Wives of Henry VIII, and their free pub show One Man and his Cow, continue the narrative of the piece, with many different musical styles, from the poignant, catchy, love duet of Elizabeth and Dudley, through the Seth-Lakeman-like folk-rock Armada song, to the final rock ballad of Lizzie’s successor James with gangsta rap from Walter Raleigh along the way, and the two performers once again show their impressive musical talents, both vocal and instrumental. Driving home from Salisbury I was listening to the CMA Music Festival from Nashville, and I seriously hope that Howard and Stu have considered sending some of their songs out to be recorded – they would be well received, as the country artists certainly love a song with a story.
If I had been asked to write a list of everything I knew about Elizabeth I before tonight’s show, everything on that list would have been referenced, proving that this is educational, as well as two hours of the best entertainment ever. With song lyrics from Mick Jagger, Wham, Des’ree and Black Lace, involvement of Cadbury’s Milk Tray and Crimewatch and an answerphone featuring the most famous electronically-speaking wheelchair-bound scientist in the world, Living Spit manage to capture every essential piece of information needed to cover the life of this most famous queen, like a modern-day 1066 and all That, or Horrible Histories for grown-ups.
Beneath it all continues the “mythology” of Living Spit – the story of Howard and Stu in real life, with their little insecurities, and in-fighting about who is playing the more important part. This mild one-upmanship continues right to the end, when, just as Stu, as Elizabeth, has died, after reading a speech that, despite any comic intentions, really could have been written by Shakespeare and not Coggins, on comes Howard as her successor James with a rock ballad to end the show. Whatever the many audience members’ reasons for attending, be they history scholars, music fans, or followers of this very clever theatre company, we all left with big grins on our faces, feeling satisfied, educated, and thoroughly entertained. Catch this show at Salisbury until Saturday, at Bath, Lyme Regis, Sturminster Newton and Dorchester later in the month, and keep an eye on livingspit.co.uk for future performances and shows.