108. Soho

Tapehead no 108 

Tapehead has lived in Soho, and God it was awful: full of drunken prats, clichéd clones, Norwegian tourists, arseholes in advertising, and, worst of all, people eating on the pavement who weren’t even homeless. It is astonishing how many people in Soho think that sitting outside a café sipping cappuccinos liberally laced with petrol fumes is cool. (Tapehead blames Paul Weller.)

One thing it wasn’t, though, was dull, so quite how writer/director Christopher Terrill has crafted a series as monumentally monotonous as Soho Stories is beyond anybody’s guess.

It starts ominously on Monday with the description of Soho as “a film set full of characters learning to play their parts.”

Sadly, through Tuesday and Wednesday’s episodes, we realise the film set in question is some tragic Broadway musical – an idea that anyone who saw Absolute Beginners will regard in horror. Judging from the second episode, Soho was also the scene of the most boring bomb scare in history.

Most of Terrill’s “characters” are anything but that. The “artistic director” at the Raymond Revue Bar, a dresser for “Les Miz”, and even a cheeky-chappie bespoke tailor, just aren’t interesting enough, while an absurd drama teacher, “Garbo” (a victim of a bizarre mascara splatter attack), proves Soho’s “characters” can be as severely irritating as anywhere else.

Mystifyingly, Terrill fails to bestow any kind of poignancy (or indeed point) on his subjects, and in terms of bringing out any good stories, Soho Stories seems to be full of people who don’t really have a story, or, if they did, fail to articulate it.

The exception is Gwen, a bonny student making some money stripping at Raymond’s, whose brief biography (“I was aiming to do astrophysics but I’m doing English – Shakespeare’s my favourite”) immediately eliminates her from further episodes on the grounds of not being superficial enough.

This is certainly not an accusation you could level at Danny.

Danny dominates this week’s Soho Stories in a way that you can only presume the director wished he would dominate him. Either that or he has never really met a drag queen before and thinks that they’re so weird that their fascination is endless. (If only ! Most of the drag queens Tapehead knows are just as boring as everyone else.)

Either way this is the most boring love letter ever written.

“Do you prefer buying men’s clothes or women’s 

clothes ?” he asks him. (Not exactly Cutting Edge.)

Danny has obviously never thought about it.

Poor Danny hasn’t to the, erm, equipment to justify all the coverage Terrill give him. He is left floundering. Danny waffles away about how incredible he finds it that something called “straight society” can thrive in Bar Italia, a mere 20 yards away from gay Old Compton Street. Why is not clear. Given that he lives in Soho, you’d think he’d have got over it by now.

Click-clacking his way to his spot at the drag cabaret bar, he gets antsy as soon as he crosses the gay border, uncertain whether to demand to be treated the same as anyone else or to get slightly irked that no one’s paying him any attention and treating him differently. 

Mostly, though, he is happy to let Terrill portray him as just another sad drag cliché – one who wants to give the whole thing up (“another two years and I’m stopping”) in order to concentrate on his dreams of singing/dancing/acting/ – none of which, on this evidence, he appears to be very good at

We’re spared his up-tempo version of Stormy Weather. 

(“I am such a fucking Nancy !”)

Then he goes back to what he – or Terrill – likes best: shopping. 

“Now that’s a handbag !” Danny gasps, picking up (cue: Margaret Rutherford voice) a handbag.

Danny, the truth begins to dawn, is just the dullest drag queen in Soho. Terrill lays every one of his painfully unamusing asides before us until, in the end, all poor Danny can think of is to give us his 15th Bruce Forsyth impression so far.

Judging by these, his acting prospects are even lower than those of his singing. Let’s hope he’s a fucking good dancer.


Soho Stories: Mon-Tues-Weds, 11.15pm, BBC2