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David Forest: Playing with Myself

| June 15, 2017

David Forest

Playing with Myself

The Pheasantry, London, U.K.,  May 30, 2017

Review by Thanasis Kalantzis for Cabaret Scenes

David Forest

It is really rewarding to be able to look back and have a good laugh, and in his show at The Pheasantry, the inimitable David Forest did exactly that and more. I suppose being a gay man of a certain age—85 years young to be specific—and having lived through the difficult 1940s and ’50s— laughter is the antidote. The title of his show is Playing with Myself. He means the piano, of course, and he has written the lyrics and music for all 12 songs that adorn it. Piano arrangements are by Charles Miller and Forest, and direction by Harry Landis.

Some background information: At the age of 10, he was sent to a Catholic boarding school where he first performed on stage and started writing songs; in 1953, he joined the Royal Air Force; at his parents insistence, he studied law and became a solicitor. He first worked in Birmingham and later moved to London, where he was invited to become a partner in the law firm he was working for in the city. It was then that depression hit him. He realized that, apart from his need to write songs, all he ever wanted when he was growing up was to be a cabbie (in our United Kingdom, that’s the name for taxi drivers), so he became one. His psychiatrist at the time told him that all he really needed was a wife to put his life and future in perspective. Forest protested, “But I’m in love with my window cleaner!” In more recent years, he has appeared in films (Bridget Jones’s Baby, The Illusionist), and has done TV, radio and stage, and even participated in Britain’s Got Talent, where he received a pretty amazing response from the judges.

During all his soul and profession searching, he continued writing his songs and, on this evening, he gave us hilarious, falling-off-my-chair examples of his work. He sang about “My Favourite Bus Driver,” “My Het’rosexual Man” (with Forest contributing to the piano arrangements for both), “My Lovely Big Black Friend,” and about all the “Lovely Young Men in My Flat” (that is, window cleaners, plumbers, electricians, roofers, and a British gas man who could “read his meter, but, thankfully, not his mind.”

He didn’t dare show “My Secret Love” to anyone when he first wrote it 65 years ago, but he now decided to “come out” with it, professing his secret love for Tyrone Power (whom, I confess, I had to look up to find out who he was). He also told us that he loves walking, especially in the country side, but that it took him lots of walking and living—actually 43 years—to write the lyrics to “The People I Met on the Way,” a lovely, reflective song that left a scent of sweet melancholy in the air.

There is no question about it, Forest is most charming without even trying. Despite the strong, obvious innuendos in his witty lyrics and the cheeky delivery, there’s something quite innocent that permeates his work and persona. During the 50-minute show, we were transported to a world filled with music, creativity, and laughter by someone who has been true to himself. David Forest is like the good bottle of wine that only gets better with time.  This is vintage cabaret at its best!

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, London, London Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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