Hysterical History

Film. Theatre, TV – part three

Work prior to the release of Where Love Lives.

By the time La Limerick auditioned for her first west end show she no doubt thought she was prepared for anything. Wrong does not even get close, to either the audition process – which was first brutal then ridiculously time consuming – or to rehearsing the show. When the show in question is Starlight Express nothing could quite have prepared a non skater for the levels of fear and pain that came to be the norm. Nor did matters improve vastly after rehearsals. Being an understudy means that one never knows what rôle one might be doing, before arriving at the theatre each day. For only two weeks in the year can a ‘principle understudy’ be sure of what part they will be playing (when the ‘principle’ in question takes their annual leave). Every other show day is a crap shoot. An understudy might arrive on a Saturday afternoon and be on stage for a very minor bit of stuff. They then might pop out for lunch, have a glass of wine – not suspecting that one of the principals has had a fit, broken a leg, fallen down the stairs, sprained an ankle, lost their voice; any number of things – and by the time said understudy waltzes back in (expecting to do what they had done for the matinee in the evening show) all hell has broken loose. As terror raises its grinning face, parts are being shuffled frantically, spare costumes are being sought, skates are being sprayed new, exciting colours and and, ‘Oh by the way you are on for the lead tonight so go and brush up on her songs!’. Controlled (barely) chaos; truly lets you know you are alive. More than once did this happen to Alison Limerick and though she rose to every challenge, did all that was asked of her and enjoyed it, for the most part, after committing to a second year as an understudy she knew that it would be her last. Either she would secure a rôle of her own or she would quit. Fast forward to an unemployed performer, once again taking whatever jobs came her way. Still recording and doing sessions, La limerick also accomplished one very important thing.

Lati (Lars Eric) Kronlund, the writer and producer of Where Love Lives, had seen Alison Limerick perform – before her stint in Starlight express – in a show at the ICA, London. Performing Clothes was ‘an alternative fashion show’ which featured dancers, singers and performers instead of models. Choreographed by Micha Bergese the performers wore clothes by a coven of new, original or outlandish designers, among them Judy Blame, Leigh Bowery, Michele Clapton, Rachel Auburn and Lek. One outfit worn by Ms Limerick, designed by Bowery, was nothing but white zips; zips for the skirt, zips for the bodice. Despite taking measurements of all the performers during rehearsals, Mr Bowery and his team did not quite believe just how skinny Ms L was. At the dress rehearsal, when the zip outfit was tried for the first time, Bowery squealed in dismay and grabbing a fistful of the eponymous fabric pulled it tight around Limerick’s body, demanding from his team that it fit ‘like this’. The bodice was zipped off, three or four zips were unzipped and the singer was re-zipped into the thing. Unfortunately a good deal of the shaping had been removed with the lost zips and the bodice still did not sit tight at the waist. A lot of Leigh Bowery-ness followed; the flamboyant man living up to his reputation. Eventually, by resorting to a reshaping with a sewing machine and some scissors the outfit passed inspection. The singer however could hardly breathe and it took two dressers to get her into it; one to pull the ‘fabric’ together, the other to zip, very carefully, ensuring that no flesh got pinched in the metal teeth. Limerick had to dance in that outfit and one or two others that allowed for easier breathing but were equally . . . interesting. Thankfully what caught Lati Kronlund’s eye was the singer singing, whilst seated sedately on a swing wearing a simple white dress by the designer Lek. He later told her that he knew at once that she would sing for him but could not get her contact details from the ICA; it’s not the done thing to give up a lady’s number to a complete stranger out of the audience. Persistence eventually paid off and having tracked her down Latti persuaded the singer to record for him and together they worked on a number of songs. The cassette demos of those first pieces sit in a box file full of such things in La limerick’s studio and have not been played in a very long time. Nothing came of them and Lati slipped out of Limerick’s life as swiftly as he had slipped into it. The young producer was still hungry, still developing and upon his return to London (back from his native Sweden) he had new material, so sought out Ms Limerick again.

The demo for Where Love Lives was recorded after leaving Starlight Express the first time. The deal with Arista Records was signed after having committed to another year in the same show, this time as a Principal. During her time at Starlight Express Ms Limerick appeared as the female lead ‘Pearl’ and as Electra’ (still the only female to do so) as well as putting her own stamp on the rôle of ‘Belle’ for which she was contracted in that final year. Eight shows a week with only one day off can keep a body busy; things might have gotten very tricky for the newly signed woman but fate was kind. The recording of Where Love Lives was completed, working around commitments in the theatre and thankfully, the track was not ready for release until the end of the Starlight contract. In the same month that Limerick’s theatrical commitment came to an end she gave the first performance of her first solo single; stepping from a huge set, in the Victoria Palace Theatre to a very small podium in the middle of a nightclub in Tottenham, North London. She may no longer have been speeding around on roller-skates, nevertheless Alison Limerick felt like she was still moving at a rate of knots that could make your bum wink.

Posted on: 30th April 2015