December 2, 2010
We Are Cunard
As Queen Mary 2 continues her Caribbean season, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria met yesterday morning for the first time in Southampton. It was a brief visit, as Queen Victoria left early afternoon for Hamburg, where she will stay for two weeks for her first dry dock. We’ll have more reports about that over the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth will retrace her maiden voyage by returning to the Canaries, escaping the very cold weather in Britain at the moment.
This week’s Guest Blog goes back to that voyage and the first Comedian to appear on Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Court Theatre Stage. That’s all after this week in Cunard’s history from 26 November to 2 December:
Speaking with many guests, I always get lots of questions about our Guest Entertainers who join the ship at various stages of a voyage. All Entertainers are contracted by our head office in Southampton, and it’s then up to the Entertainment Directors on board to schedule their performances, along with all the other components of the Entertainment Programme.
The life of an Entertainer is certainly different, so I asked John Evans if he would give readers of this Blog some idea of what life is like for Entertainers travelling between ships and being on board.
I’ve worked with John for many years now and not only has he become a good friend, he is one of Cunard’s most popular Comedians. His talent has seen him become a firm favourite not only on the Cunard Queens but also around the world on stage and television. He has performed for the British forces on many occasions and his stand up style gained national recognition on Granada TV’s The Comedians. He was subsequently featured in their DVD release and has enjoyed numerous television credits including the Des O’Connor Show and Granada Upfront.
In the corporate world John’s has an unrivalled list of clients and to celebrate Liverpool’s Capital Of Culture year in 2008 John took the role of Ron Jones in a comedy play called Falling Out With The Joneses. In February 2010 he trod the boards again at The Actors Studio Liverpool appearing in the black comedy; Closing Time when he played Johnny Fogarty.
When Alastair first asked me to write a Guest Blog, it was only then that I took stock of how busy my life as a stand up comedian has become.
I have been performing comedy for the last 24 years, with 17 of those being on board ships for various companies, but Cunard has always had a very special place in my heart. To be the first Comedian to perform on Queen Elizabeth was a particular moment that I will always treasure with pride.
In this blog I’ll attempt to give you an insight into my very exciting and hectic life, and thought probably the best way would be to tell you about a ten-day whirlwind trip last summer. This is quite typical of my schedule and included three engagements on two Cunard Queens that saw me join at different locations throughout Europe.
It all started in Southampton where Queen Mary 2 was about to begin a Norwegian voyage. When I first started to work on ships, Entertainers would join at the start of a voyage and stay onboard till the very end, but now it’s far more common for us to be onboard for just 5 or 6 days at a time.
Once on board I met the Entertainment Director, Paul O’Loughlin, to discover when I would be performing. Paul told me I was working the following night, which is always a big one as it’s the evening featuring the Captains Welcome Parties and the first formal night of the voyage. There was just enough time before we sailed to call home and say goodbye to my wife Jackie and our youngest daughter Georgia. Along with Georgia I have two other children, Sarah who is 21 and recently graduated from university with a degree in dance and performance studies, and 19-year-old Tom who is currently working as an Entertainment Host for one of Cunard’s sister companies in the States.
At 5.30pm on the first day at sea, it’s time for my sound check in the Royal Court Theatre. Everyone who works behind the scenes is always so helpful and they stop at nothing to help to make my show run as smoothly as possible, which includes a lighting state I am happy with, and a chance for a quick run through with the band who will be playing my music.
At 8.25pm, five minutes before I step out for my first show, the nerves are pretty big, despite all the years of experience I have. I can only liken the feeling I get to waiting in a queue for a roller coaster ride; the nearer you get to your turn, the less you want to do it, but after the initial rise to the top of the first heart stopping drop it’s the thrill of a lifetime and you just cant wait to get back on again!
So with both shows thankfully well received, it was time to relax before packing for an early afternoon flight the next day from Bergen to Madrid, where I stayed overnight before transferring to Queen Victoria in Malaga.
Now I’m sure that you would think that after all of my travels worldwide I would be able to speak many languages. Sadly though I am like most British people abroad; why learn the language when it is far easier to speak louder and slower to make myself understood. This approach has always helped a little in the past but an incident on that trip has made me realise that I really must learn another language.
I had to catch a courtesy shuttle bus in order to get to my overnight hotel in Madrid. After several unsuccessful attempts at pigeon Spanish to various bus drivers at the airport, I remembered that the hotel details were on my phone in a text sent from my Manager. As the next bus approached I got the text on my mobile phone’s screen, which clearly showed the name of my hotel in Spanish. I climbed onto the bus and pointed at the phone and smiled at the driver, “ Si…Si” I said in my best Manuel accent. The driver smiled and nodded very enthusiastically, but made no move to drive the bus to the destination. I repeated “Si…. Si…YOU TAKE ME HERE?” Again the driver smiled and pointed at my phone. It was at this point that I realised my mobile’s screen saver had come on, and I was pointing at a picture of my dogs playing on the beach. Like I say, I must learn a language!
Finally I reached the hotel for a night’s rest before an early pick up and my flight to Malaga. At the airport, I was met by Cunard’s Port Agent, who drove me to where Queen Victoria was docked. I must say the Theatres on Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are the most beautiful Theatres on any ship afloat. Even the entrances along deck one are reminiscent of the character you feel when walking into The Palladium or His Majesty’s in London.
Amanda Reid, Queen Victoria’s Entertainment Director lets me know my schedule and this time I had two days on board to get a feel for the voyage and the audience before that all too familiar feeling of nerves as my show time approaches. On that voyage I performed on two nights with two different performances for each. On the second night I worked with one of the other Guest Entertainers on board in what we call a split bill, so that meant 25 minutes of material each.
Just a few days after joining, we were back in Southampton and it was time to disembark. The ship where my trip started, Queen Mary 2, is also now back in Southampton so it’s a taxi ride across town to rejoin her for a feeling of déjà vu, and another trip up to Norway!
My life is nothing short of a million miles an hour and even given the stress of meeting flights and various deadlines for ships, I don’t think I would change any of it!
Thank you so much John for a fascinating insight to a Guest Entertainer’s life, and you can read more about John on his website: – www.johnevanscomedian.co.uk.
I’ll be back next week with more news, including Queen Elizabeth’s very first Star of the Month and the first pictures from Queen Victoria’s Dry Dock in Hamburg. Cheers for now, Alastair