Chess the Musical has been revived for a limited run in the West End of London. This is not a review of the revival, rather it is a story about what happened when I went to see Chess in 1989 with my friends Emily and Sarah. These are fake names because I’ve not yet checked with them if it is okay to include their real names.

A 29-year late review of Chess

I’ve always loved musicals, both film and theatre, I even have my own rating system for films based on songs, dance and whether Fred Astaire is in it.  This story takes place in 1989, I’m 17 as are my two friends Emily and Sarah. We were all fairly keen on musicals, but Sarah, in particular, was keen on Chess. Keen as in seen it nearly 20 times already.

As loyal friends, Emily and I must have felt it our duty to accompany Sarah on this her 18th? 19th? trip to see the show. Bear in mind we’re living in Devon, a day trip to London is a BIG DEAL!

One of the attractions of this particular run of Chess, aside from the music, was that Anthony Head was playing The American. Anthony would later become Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but at this time mostly known for being Mr Gold Blend to Sharon Maughan’s Miss Gold Blend. The Burton and Taylor of the instant coffee world!

Quick break for a review of the actual show and a musical interlude….

From what I remember…the staging was sparse with lots of neon.

The songs were, and still are fantastic.

I still can’t decide if I’m Elaine or Babs from Know Him So Well

Back to my story…

It’s the end of the show, we’ve all enjoyed it very much and I’ve splashed out for a souvenir brochure. Sarah suggests that we see if we can go backstage. This sounds like a daring, somewhat scary and slightly impolite idea. I was and still am a funny mix of “Fuck the world do your thing” and “oh better make sure we’re doing this right”

I don’t remember what Emily thought of this plan, but of course, we agreed, swept along by Sarah’s enthusiasm and the fact that we couldn’t go back to Devon without her.

The stage door of the Prince Edward Theatre looked just as I hoped it would from my diet of films about showbiz, but there was a problem. Between us and Anthony stood a doorman, we’d need a cunning plan based on fast wits and even faster talking – or we could just tag onto that group of people that were being let through and pretend we were with them.

As they headed into the changing room of one of the female leads with lots of “helloos” and “congratulations” we crept on through the corridors of the backstage. I’ll be honest, I was not feeling good about this, I was convinced we’d get caught and some unknown awful fate would await us. Sarah, full of bravado that only the crush of a 17-year-old can give you led us on.

We found Anthony’s dressing room, it’s so handy how the doors are labelled and knocked. Well, Sarah knocked, I just stood sheepishly behind her.

Our knock was heard, the door opened and there stood Anthony Head, he of the Gold Blend gorgeousness, standing in his white boxers and open dressing gown. If he was taken aback he was far too polite, and too good an actor to show it. He allowed us to step inside and that is when we saw Anthony Head’s hamster.

I don’t remember what he’d named it but there it was, all fluffy and friendly in its little cage. This wasn’t the moment to tell anyone that I didn’t really like hamsters. And then after some chit-chat and probably with excuses about getting dressed from him and catching our train from us, it was time to leave the magical world of Anthony Head and his hamster and return to the real world.

And that dear reader is my story of how I saw Anthony Head’s hamster. Oh and a very late and slim review of Chess!

Tonight Sarah is back in London, at the opening night of the Chess revival. I am excited for her, a little bit envious and a little bit hopeful that she’s not grown out of her backstage blagging ways and returns with tales of Michael Balls gerbil or Alexandra Burkes gecko.

And finally, my apologies to Anthony Head and my thanks for treating three star-stuck teens with such kindness.

Ruth