Prince Charles Cinema

London is littered with cinemas of all shapes and sizes. From the huge to the small but perfectly formed. From the art house to the mass of the multiplexes. There is one cinema, however, that stands out in the centre of London. A real cinema goers dream. The Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square.

Hidden in a side road off Leicester Street and on the outskirts of Chinatown, The PCC is a haven of popular retrospective cinema. Everyday is like a celebration of the cult, the classic and guilty pleasures. Themes, sing-a-longs and quote-a-longs, double bills and movie marathons. If you have a passion for cinema, this is the place to go and share in the experience with other like-minded film fans. When I say share in the experience, this is more than a place to just watch a film.

The PCC has two screens; the magnificent Screen one is situated in the basement. If it’s the first time you visit, it can feel a little daunting. Once you have left the bar area where everyone congregates before the doors open (this can be a little like being a sardine in a tin, depending on the popularity of the screenings) the first thing you notice is the way the auditorium dips in the middle so the rake seating suddenly start to rise up. Have no fear. The seats are comfortable and the reddish leather has a slight recline and unless you have a giant sitting in front of you, you should get to see  the screen from every angle. Even sitting in the front isn’t a terrible experience.

Upstairs from the foyer is screen two, a much smaller, more compact affair in which the few rows that make up the screen are pretty close to the screen but not in a too uncomfortable way. The foyer is also a compact place to be, serving a small selection of confectionery half the price of its multiplex competitors. As the cinema is independent, you don’t mind paying for a popcorn or a bag of sweets. The only thing they don’t offer is hot dogs but they do allow the patrons to have a drink or two.

So what’s the main appeal? It has to be the programmes they offer. During the day, the PCC screens second run movies, so if you missed it the first time, you are pretty sure a few weeks after it has finished, it will pop up at this gem of a palace. Again, pricing is a big draw but if you want an even cheaper movie trip, then you can become a membership and this reduces the ticket price drastically. Why would you not want to be a member? At £10 a year, you get £2.50 off your ticket, discounts at the bar as well as 10% off selected stores around London. If £10 is cheap, then you could add another £40 for a lifetime membership at an incredible £50.

The place really comes to life with its regular special screenings that run throughout the week. Mondays is double bill night, where two similar or connected films are shown back-to-back, just like you remember from the old day. At Christmas the double bills spread across the week with yuletide films. If there is one downside, it’s having to leave the cinema between films, so if you have found a perfect seat, unless you leave a coat or bag on that seat, chances are it will be taken when the audience return (there is no allocated seating, it’s a first come, first seated affair).

Throughout the week they screen classics and occasional silent films with piano accompaniment but the weekend offer the wider choice. There’s the popular sing-a-longs where the audience is encouraged to dress up and join in. The Sound Of Music, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Grease are the usual films but occasionally Little Shop Of Horror and The Lion King also screen. Along with these are the Quote-a-longs or,depending on the films, Swear-a-longs. Throw into the mix Q&As, film festivals and the occasional premiere.

The PCC also love bad movies, having a monthly Good Bad Movie Club as well as the best film experience you will have, with The Room. A madcap evening of screaming and shouting at the screen while being bombarded by plastic spoons (you seriously need to go). Grab a group of friends, let yourself go along with the crowd or just listen to the sharply witty comments and enjoy being part of the most fun you’ll have with your clothes on.

I absolutely love this cinema. Being a huge film fan it accommodates my movie fixes with friendly staff and a terrific on-line community (many a Twitter conversations have been had). You get the feeling that they really love the films they show. If you are really lucky, you might bump into a celebrity or two and if that isn’t enough, the gents do have the legendary Kevin Smith cubicle  (I kid you not! A toilet dedicated to the director of Clerks). Not as highbrow as the other great retro cinema in London, The BFI,  but if you like your film either kitsch, cult or just classic, then head down to this cinematic gem.

The Prince Charles Cinema, 6 Leicester Street, London Chinatown, London WC2H 7BX

Twitter: @ThePCCLondon


Stand And Deliver!

Musicals can be about absolutely anything. We’ve had musicals about Argentinian dictator’s wives, man eating plants, even a musical about a fairground barker who dies but wants to come back to earth. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a musical based around a football fanzine before. Until now. Until I saw Stand and Deliver! at The King’s Head in Islington. Yes, it’s a musical about a man’s obsession with Enfield Football Club.

Frank Goldenboy is a regular guy bringing up his daughter Paris and his adopted son Antwerp by himself. While cleaning up his garage, they come across a box containing memories from the 80s; albums, dirty magazines and a football fanzine called  Naughty Sport, devoted to Enfield Football Club. Accidentally hit by the box, Frank becomes delusional and is transported back in time to when his beloved club almost became the giant killers of the 1980/81 FA Cup. He has to face the possibility of the club being sold by the evil Penny Flats and with the help of Boscombe Chart, the legendary player for the team, Frank gets the opportunity to live his life as his personal hero, Dick Turpin.

I know what you are thinking, it sounds utterly bonkers. That is because…it is. Written and produced by Wayne Gumble, the man responsible for creating the real Naughty Sport fanzine magazine, has taken his passion and created a madcap comedy littered with 80s classics like We Close Our Eyes, It Must Be Love and, of course, Stand and Deliver. The show does borrow from the likes of Airplane and the Carry On films but it works in its favour. It never once takes itself seriously and often breaks the fourth wall, making this more like an adult pantomime but without the fairy tale element.

Mixing a blend of comedy style, Mr Gumble’s script is an absolute blast, a concoction of satire, innuendo, self-mocking and just plain silliness. The jokes come thick and fast, ranging from pop culture references to gags worse than you would find in a Christmas cracker. Some will have you groaning, others will get you belly laughing and while the story goes flying off in all directions, one moment in the garage, then at Enfield’s game, then in an Inn in the 1700s, it is brimming with invention.

Capably directed by Amy Gunn, she has managed to keep the pace moving while giving the audience plenty to watch, a hard task considering the size of the stage. I particularly liked the scene in which the chorus enter with tree branches and create a Scooby-Doo type effect as Frank, now the Dandy Highwayman, is being chased his prey. Interspersed and acting, in a way, as narrators to the madness, are TV commentators Ulrika Pearce and Mmbop !Hansen (See? Told you some of the jokes will make you groan). Set slightly above and away from the action, they are the consistent link to the action and this works well, allowing them to keep things on track. Choreography by Tracy Peacock and Charlotte Bilsby is simple but works well, especially in the I’ve Had The Time Of My Life routine, which is both surprising and very funny.

The cast, while some are a little rough around the edges, do have one thing in common. They exude energy and it’s infectious. Some do struggle with the acting while others have slight pitching problems but this can be forgiven as they throw themselves wholeheartedly into their performances and you can’t help but smile.

As Frank, Nigel Barker comes across as your typical, ordinary bloke who likes football and highwaymen (?) This is a savvy piece of casting as he isn’t the greatest singer nor the greatest mover but you fully believe him as this “geezer”. If you were to walk into a pub, you would see dozens of Franks and Mr Barker captures him brilliantly. Not knowing his left foot from his right while attacking the simple choreography, it would be wrong to cast an actor who spoke as a North Londoner but sang like Pavarotti and danced like Wayne Sleep. It works.

Kara Lily Hayworth as Frank’s fesity daughter, Paris, does a good job with the role and then she sings and her voice is utterly enchanting. She even had the good sense of pulling the cast together when the nerves kicked in or when they couldn’t quite hear the musical notes. Not an easy thing to do sometimes but she did it magnificently. Christine Corser does a very good job as the evil Penny Flats, speaking in rhyme and sporting a Dr Evil-style laugh while Leigh Stevenson, who joined the company late, handles the role of Mmbop with aplomb.

For me, the stand-out performances were Terema Wainwright as Ulrika, with her natural sense of comic timing and strong, delightful singing voice and Simon Lindon as Boscombe. Here is a man who came on, grabbed the audiences’ attention and never let go throughout. He commanded every scene he was in and got some of the biggest laughs. A terrific and very funny performance.

It’s not perfect by any sense. The singing is sometimes drowned out by the three-piece band and a few of the cast looked genuinely scared but this is the opening night and I am certain that once the nerves have settled down, this will make the show even better.

I really enjoyed this lunacy and so did the small but enthusiastic audience who were there. At 80 minutes, it never outstays its welcome and zips along effortlessly. If you are wondering what to do over the next few days through Christmas, then pop down to Islington and see this very likeable romp. It will bring just the right amount of Christmas cheer.

Stand And Deliver! runs at the King’s Head Theatre, Upper Street, Islington from 20th to 29th December at 10pm. Tickets are £12.