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All the fun of the fair

PUBLISHED: 17:28 23 July 2008 | UPDATED: 17:30 16 August 2010

A 1970s heartthrob singer has returned to his roots and is back on stage in a musical he has waited for years to bring to the theatre, writes Marina Soteriou.

A 1970s heartthrob singer has returned to his roots and is back on stage in a musical he has waited for years to bring to the theatre, writes Marina Soteriou.

David Essex is due to tread the boards at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, in September, in a new musical he spent a year-and-a-half writing, which will later tour the rest of Britain.

All the Fun of The Fair is based on his childhood experience of working on a funfair when he was 14.

He said: "We thought maybe the funfair would be an interesting subject because its in its own insular world.

"The veneer is to have a good time, but there is this strange, dark undertone to it, where we don't really know that world."

The show will feature some of Essex's best known hits, including Rock On, but he promises it will be 'no jukebox show' and is more 'a play with music'.

"I think I have written about three days and nights worth of music, film scores, ballet scores, all different things," he continues. "So we have drawn upon all of that and integrated into the musical and it is not just stuck on, it moves the plot along. It is credible.

"Unless you were a real follower of me, there are songs that people won't have heard before.

"We are pre-recording all the music, instead of having a band or an orchestra.

"I wanted to make the sound special, all enveloping, like a film score."

There are scenes in the show that are actual childhood experiences of Essex.

As he says, people connect him with fairgrounds.

Whenever he goes to one, people won't let him pay.

"It is like there is some kind of allegiance," he reveals.

Of course, Essex's traveller roots have been much publicised and he proudly wore the title of Patron of Britain's National Gypsy Council.

The dizzying heights of fame he reached as a rock idol in the 70s left him with scores of weird fan male and marriage proposals.

He explains: "There was a lady who was going to jump off a cliff if she didn't meet me. I spoke to her on the phone."

In the show, Essex plays widower Levi Lee who is struggling to fend off the unwelcome attentions of an attractive divorcee while trying to keep up with his son's tangled love life and grand ambitions.

"The show really is about relationships, unrequited love, which I have been quite lucky on, relationships between fathers and sons, a possessive father and a daughter, young lovers and love affairs," he said. "The father and son thing is certainly something I can relate to. There is that difficult period with teenage boys, when they start to realise their fathers aren't gods and they start to resent it until their 20s and they start to be people again."

He and his family are now based in Rhode Island in America and Essex calls himself a 'commuter', shuttling between the USA and London while dividing his time between theatre and gigs:

"I have just done 48 rock dates so it is nice to go from that into a more structured environment," he said. "My concentration is minimal so to do different things is good."

He admits he was considering putting his son in the show and he even features in the poster, but he said 'he has his own thing going on'.

Essex senior, meanwhile, remains quietly confident about the show.

He said: "We've got dodgem cars, carousels, but what is worrying me is trying to ride the dodgem cars. I'm glad there is not an orchestra in the pit.

"We saw this incredible motorbike act, as a lot of the fairground is about the 'wall of death' and we had all that lined up, but cannot have it because of health and safety. We will probably kill the audience with the carbon monoxide. But we have got round that in very interesting and theatrical ways."

* The show is on at the Churchill, Bromley, from Friday, September 12 to Saturday, September 20.

Prices are between £22 to £35.

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