Leslie Jordan was news to me, but in My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, a one hour and 40 minute solo show, filling in at the Apollo, he comes into focus: he’s the little gay guy in Will & Grace who got cast because Joan Collins didn’t want to play him.
Anyway, he turns up at the Emmy Awards with co-presenter Cloris Leachman and flashes back to seeing that terrible film about leprechauns, featuring Sean Connery, in his hometown cinema in Tennessee, just three years old, in 1958: he also cherishes a bride doll as a Christmas present.
You get the drift. He’s immensely likeable, little Leslie, a sort of camp cross between Charlie Drake and Paul Daniels and funnier than either. He knows how to drop a line and turn a toe, and he knows himself.
It all goes very well, and I was having a good time - until he comes out for real and starts getting blubbery about having been loaded (with booze and drugs) for 33 years and then finding himself as a real man.
At this point the show becomes a gay pride soap box, and we’ve heard it all before. There’s that rather cringe-inducing mix up between expressing yourself and getting away with it and offering yourself up as some sort of role model; will Leslie Jordan really make a difference in your life?
Still, sprightly as a gnome who’s had tap lessons, he regales us with surprise stories about George Clooney being funny, Truman Capote lisping inspirationally on a Johnny Carson TV show, Faye Dunawaye morphing into Tennessee Williams in the back of a Cadillac and, best of all, Boy George being stoned and grand on a desert shoot for a Saki advert in which little Les played a monkey, pulling faces on the sidelines.
He’s neat, he’s sweet, and he brings alive a gay disco scene of the 1970s and 1980s that he lived through with a vengeance, apparently. But why is he miked, why is he telling us all this, and why is he on a West End stage? Or am I underestimating his niche market pulling power?