Of Mormons, Musicals and Maggie

Trendy theatre goers are bartering their kidneys with scalpers in exchange for seats at the Book of Mormon show, which are proving harder to find than a 1787 bottle of Chateau Lafite.

The response of the Mormon church has been phenomenal. I am so impressed that it has decided to provide the show with airtime oxygen by creating a fully-fledged advertising campaign to rescue the church’s reputation from under the wheels of this satirical entertainment juggernaut.

Both parties are set to prosper from the sharp focus of the debate. More importantly, the media and onlookers can get involved with the rough and tumble of it. However, it’s clear that those who have just returned from a desert island will be heading to the Prince of Wales box office rather than the local London Mormon temple, which Joe Public is not allowed to enter.

It’s increasingly rare to see West End show publicity enter the news pages these days. Producers struggle to market new productions outside the traditional ghetto in a creative way. They seem more comfortable to go through the usual promotional gears without deploying the plethora of modern communication practices employed by other entertainment genres.

Back in the age when Thatcher was still in her role as the Nation’s blue rinse authoritarian headmistress, dispensing her tough love on the populace, I was an infant publicist at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

The theatre staged Barrie Keeffe’s ‘Mad World My Masters’. The action revolved around the humiliation of a City tycoon who got an erection every time Thatcher was mentioned. I remember a spectacular Maggie Cabaret rich with theatrical irreverence. To generate publicity, I persuaded a local to pose as an outraged punter. He called up the rabid Right to Prod the Soft Belly of Outrage.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before a bunch of outraged Tory politicians were turning up in the national papers and on the radio as Rent a Gob, condemning the production. Few thought it might be an idea to see the show. The flurry of outrage put the show on the news agenda, and, more importantly, the publicity sold plenty of seats.

These days politicians from the Left and the Right are far too canny to be drawn into debate.

My mentor, the director Philip Hedley, was a brave and risk-taking maverick to allow this type of provocation, particularly as it was goading the grant hand which fed the theatre.

It’s a shame that, presently, we don’t have pronounced political divisions for a publicist to play with mischievously. Instead, we suffer a bunch of fence-sitting, power-hungry, career politicians happy to inhabit No Man’s Land.

Where are the maverick politicos and theatre impresarios? Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.