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Review: An Audience With Princess Julia

Wednesday 11 November 2015

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The past is for inspiration, not imprisonment.  That’s the lesson of this one-woman show at the Glory – an established venue of Haggerston’s gay scene – based on the life of Princess Julia.

For almost four decades she has been a regular on London’s fashion and clubbing scenes as a DJ, stylist (including for Kylie Minogue), muse and writer.  Seated on a white throne set in a sort of frothy snowy cave, Julia gives us an account of how her life has developed via art, film, music, clubbing – and the friendships she’s forged in those fields.

Starting in the 1970s, enduring dead-end schooling in a drab London, she recalls such milestones as her flamboyant grandmother and seeing David Bowie performing Ziggy Stardust on Top of the Pops, one of the high points of Glam Rock’s glory days (she recalls some teenage sex and drug escapades, too). All this inspired schoolgirl Julia Fodor (there are varying accounts about how and why she eventually assumed the moniker of Princess) to seek-out some glamour for herself whilst working as a hairdresser and shop-girl.

Aided by music and visuals from veteran DJ Jeffrey Hinton, she takes us through her experience of the first flowerings of Punk and London’s New Romantic scene, where she was a regular at the Blitz club. Earlier in the show she mentions inheriting her parents’ strong work ethic, and she makes the important point that the Blitz was not just about posing – it had members who were already working out how to carve out careers for themselves. Blitz would be a forge for creatives who would, for the following two decades, be leading cultural figures. It’s also important to note that women in that scene were not held back by their sex from the idea of ambition (and as a DJ Julia herself is an achiever in an area – music – which has generally been patronising, if not downright hostile, to women who presume to enter its traditionally male technical, testosterone-fuelled world).  Julia then recalls a further two decades of night-life by name-checking legendary clubs as Taboo and Kinky Gerlinky.

Julia takes us though these stories and reflections in a humorous, chatty style which seems to sometimes wander off the subject but which soon gets back on course and doesn’t distract the audience from the wider social and artistic lessons that she draws from her life (it’s a mystery why she isn’t an established TV presenter, as she is a natural for the small screen.) And the ones she makes are important. She shows how we can learn from the past – early-on in the show she tells us that, when young, she was devotee of the films of 1930s Hollywood song and dance director Busby Berkeley – and also embrace the new. She shows how an individual can create for themselves a career by – well – being themselves, utilising wherever they find themselves whatever experiences and skills they have and building upon them. The outsider who becomes an insider, but at the expense of ditching what sets them apart is – sadly – an established figure.

But Julia shows us how an individual can achieve success without the soul-destroying destruction involved in yielding to mindless conformity.  At any time there are people for whom life is a dark, storm-tossed tempest and the example of the likes of Julia can be beacons of hope. In today’s world, which seems to be going back to the social fractiousness, economic hardship and political uncertainties of the 1970s, we’re going to need more of them, and this show is a good place to recharge our batteries by seeing one shining with friendly glamour.

For details of dates, times, and tickets, see The World of Princess Julia.