Last night I saw Jason Donovan.
I feel this is worthy of note because Jason Donovan was one of my great childhood heros – possibly even the greatest. For a period of maybe two years (which I remember as an eternity where it was always sunny) I was completely Jason obsessed. I listened to little else and I was so single minded about collecting and displaying posters of him that my parents felt it necessary for my sanity on one occasion to confiscate them for a week. Perhaps they were worried that I’d turn out gay.
At that time I’d have given at least one limb, possibly four, to catch a glimpse of the King of Pop.
How ironic that that my reason for seeing Jason Donovan was ultimately because I had turned up to watch somebody completely different in the same show. My dear friend Peter Head (who shares the same photographer as Alan Rickman) is currently playing the Beadle (and the piano) in John Doyle’s production of Sweeney Todd, which stars Jason Donovan.
(I confess, I was a little jealous. But only a little, for my taste in music has changed considerably since the late eighties. Some might say improved.)
Meeting one’s childhood heros is not always a pleasant experience, but in this instance I think my illusions have mostly been long-since shattered anyway, and Jason was pretty much as I would have imagined him to be. By which I mean, not really up to the part of Sweeney Todd either as a musician or an actor, but not anything like as bad as a lot of people might have expected or indeed hoped. And I have to say, I was rather moved by the sight of Jason struggling to do his best in a challenging role and a challenging production.
In full John Doyle style he was surrounded by multi-talented actor musicians playing their instruments and singing at the same time as coping with the necessarily complicated and clever staging. He looked – and possibly felt – a little out of his depth. But he coped, dammit – he strummed his guitar in “Johanna” (not at all badly), he sat and played the glockenspiel and cymbal when it was required of him and he didn’t fuck up the choreography. While he didn’t inspire awe, he kind of invited confidence in a weird kind of way.
When I was waiting at the stage door for Peter, Jason Donovan emerged to greet a smallish crowd of rather loathsome thirty-something women. They all had to be photographed with him, and get his autograph, and when he unwisely kissed one of them on the cheek they all wanted to be kissed. Looking rather out of place in the midst of these peroxide blondes was a balding forty-something man, who very seriously told Jason that he had “occupied the stage”. I feel they should all be ashamed of themselves – especially the balding man. I stood and watched from a slight distance, feeling quite relieved that I didn’t look in any way like a Jason Donovan fan. How times change.
But watching Jason Donovan being rather lovely, graciously kissing and signing and nodding sagely for the benefit of the balding man, even though he was clearly in a hurry – and after he’d at least given Sweeney Todd a good go, when let’s be honest he could still be lip-synching to “Too Many Broken Hearts” for students – I couldn’t help feeling just a little bit proud of him.