The Foul-mouthed Fairy


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Brian and Wendy Froud will be at the Faery Fayre and Faery Ball at Glastonbury, 11 – 12 March. There will also be a screening of Lessons Learned, the live-action puppet animated short film written and directed by Toby Froud!


For more information, visit:

And to stick with the Froud theme, here’s a poem I wrote that was inspired by Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book, written by Terry Jones and illustrated by Brian Froud.


In a beautiful garden
a sweet young maiden
wandered among the flowers
capturing pansies,
roses and daisies
in delicate watercolours.

It was lovely and warm,
so she sat on the lawn,
her sketchbook propped on her knees –
and then she caught sight
of a fairy, a sprite,
fluttering in the trees.

“Oh fairy sweet”
she did entreat.
“Come join me in the sun.
Oh fairy dear,
come over here
and we can have such fun.”

“Oh, bugger off!”
the fairy quoth.
“I’ve better things to do.
A sunny day’s
a total waste
spent with an oaf like you.”

“Oh playful imp”
She sweetly simpered.
“Please don’t be so vexed.
I merely propose
to ask you to pose
so that I can make a sketch.”

Then at long last
he fluttered past
and perched upon her page.
His glistening wings
were dainty things –
but his face was picture of rage.

“You bloody humans!”
the fairy fumed.
“You’re such a pack of fools.
You murder our weeds,
our plump slug steeds,
and dig up our toadstools!”

The girl never thought
this would be the sort
of language that fairies employed.
Yet, sad but true,
the air turned blue –
he really was quite annoyed.

The wicked wretch
said “Call that a sketch?!”
and let rip a stinking fart.
With a filthy leer
he flashed his rear –
then vandalised her art.

The girl was appalled
to have her work mauled
in a manner so degrading.
“I’ve had quite enough
of your language and – stuff.
That’s no way to treat a lady!”

“Lady?” said he.
“I don’t agree –
bloody hell, that’s rich.
You’ve a face like a mare,
and backside to spare –
I bet you’re a proper bitch!”

How could she reply
to such a foul lie?
She gave him a filthy look,
and before he could stir
up into the air –
she squashed him flat in her book!

So, ’twas bile and hate
which sealed the fate
of that very foul-mouthed fairy.
But the moral is this –
the sweetest young miss,
if crossed, can be pretty scary.

Labyrinth in London


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Up to London for Labyrinth Masquerade Ball – a screening with audience participation, singalong, and fancy dress!

As the screening is due to start quite late, I’ve booked into a hotel. I check in and leave my luggage, then go out for some more Bowie-related activity.

First stop is Brixton, to visit the Bowie mural. This time last year I was spending a lot of time here – some of it writing the Labyrinth sonnets that would become my book. Things have changed a little since then. The mural is now protected by a thick acrylic sheet, and there are signs asking people not to write on it. The department store next door, Morleys, has repainted its window frames white (though writing is starting to creep back over them again). There are new posters for Iman’s line of cosmetics, and already the faces of the models have that distinctive zigzag drawn on them.

And there are flowers, of course – always flowers. I light a candle and sit for a while, but it’s too cold and damp to stay long.

So I head off to my next stop – the Proud Gallery, in Chelsea for the Bowie by Duffy exhibition.

The late Brian Duffy took some iconic photos of Bowie, including those for the Aladdin Sane and Lodger covers. It’s interesting to see images you’ve been familiar with for years on an album sleeve – like the clown from Scary Monsters – suddenly larger and on a wall – makes you look at them with fresh eyes. There was also a Bowie photo I’d never seen before – one of him with a cute little black Scottie dog.

I get talking with the guy on the desk, who’s a Bowie fan. He shows me some smaller versions of the prints for sale – I’m quite tempted, but reluctantly decide to be sensible. The exhibition’s running till 19th February.

Time to go back to the hotel and change into my costume, then walk to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. This is London, so no-one bats an eyelid at someone in a ball gown – though I do hear one woman say “This is why I love Soho.”


The Labyrinth Masquerade Ball is always sold-out – so you have to start queuing an hour before the doors open if you want a seat at the front. I take my place in line, next to a couple of girls who’ve come all the way down from Scotland to watch the film. It’s cold outside, so we’re all glad when the queue starts to move.

As we go into the auditorium, we’re each given a little paper bag with some goodies – a fizzy peach to bite, a miniature bottle of bubble mixture, and a party popper. The screening is hosted by a Jareth lookalike – but with a beard – and a hilariously overstuffed crotch!


He talks us through the responses you’re supposed to yell when different characters come on screen, then invites those in costume up onstage for the costume contest. There are some good costumes. Lots of Jareths and Sarahs, a grown-up Toby, a Didymus, and even a couple of worms.

Then it’s time for the film itself. Seeing it on the big screen is always a treat – and it’s not often I get to watch it with 300 people who love it almost as much as I do. Jareth (of course) gets a round of applause when he appears. The worm gets a chorus of “Ahhhh, cuuute!” We sing along with the songs, bite our peaches when Sarah does, blow bubbles during the ballroom scene, and pop our party poppers at the climax.

But all too soon, it’s over. There’s a rush for the tiny toilets, where people are trying to change out of costume before they head home. I just have to stroll around the corner. I pass a drag queen outside a bar and we mouth “You look fabulous!” at each other.

At the hotel, I’m not quite ready to sleep, so I decide to nip into the bar for a night-cap. It’s only when I get the bill that I notice the name of the bar – Henson’s. How appropriate!

Lazarus – the musical




I wanted to love this, I really did…

Remember when Princess Diana died, and Elton John hastily rewrote the lyrics of Candle in the Wind to make it about her?

That’s what this feels like. Another jukebox musical slapped together from hits.

It was written with Irish playwright Enda Walsh – I did see his play Ballyturk, so I should have known what I was letting myself in for…

The fact that Bowie himself was involved makes it even more baffling. Apparently he gave Enda Walsh a few pages of notes, and a list of 69 songs to choose from – one can only wonder which other songs were on that list. Obviously Bowie wrote a vast amount of songs – too many to know where to start! – but most of the ones that made it into the show seemed like odd choices. So many of his songs were concerned with alienation, or insanity, or the nature of reality – surely it should have been possible to pull together something more coherent than this?

If you’re writing a musical about an alien stranded in America, then why not Starman, or Hello Spaceboy, or Loving The Alien? Why not I’m Afraid Of Americans, or Young Americans? Or anything from Outside?

I really hate it when these musicals clumsily change words to try to make the songs fit the characters.

(And in This Is Not America, idea is supposed to be sung as i-de-a, rather than i-dea, as a rhyme for America.)

I saw it at the Kings Cross Theatre, London. I didn’t realise it when I booked, but the show was taking place in a temporary theatre, that was really badly raked, so I spent a lot of time moving my head from side to side trying to see around the person in front of me – which probably didn’t help matters.

Spoilers ahead…

Thomas Newton, an alien stranded on Earth, sits in an apartment living on gin and Twinkies and wishing he could die. A nameless girl who may not exist wants to help him get home. His assistant Elly becomes obsessed with Mary-Lou (the woman who left him). There’s a sinister figure called Valentine. Plus there are other people and events which may or may not be in Newton’s imagination.

I did like the design of the stage. A room with two big windows (through which you could see the band) separated by a big television screen, from behind which actors could emerge. The screen had images of television Newton was watching (or possibly imagining) and other projections.

I liked the use of projections on the walls – wings at one point for Valentine, and a sequence showing Newton leaping about the room while the actor on stage was sitting still – I wish there had been more of that. And I liked the scene with the balloons.
But the colour was so drab. Beige clothes on a beige set – not very Bowie

Michael C Hall, as the alien Newton, did sing better than I was expecting, but I felt he was physically wrong for the part. Obviously you couldn’t ask any actor to become as skinny as Bowie was in the 70s, but this guy is too muscular to mistake for an ethereal alien. They could at least have given him the same hair colour as Newton in the film.

I thought Michael Esper, who played Valentine, was good – in fact, I think I would have liked to see him play Newton. And the band was very good.

But there were two scenes with flashing lights so strong I had to shut my eyes, and felt like I was going to be sick. So I don’t know what happened then – though I think someone was murdered – or possibly not… I’m also not sure what was going on when there seemed to be a load of milk on the stage – the bad rake didn’t help there.

I didn’t really care about any of the characters – unlike in the film, where you feel so sorry for Newton it’s almost difficult to watch.

And it was humourless – I mean, I wasn’t expecting a comedy, but the audience only laughed once in the whole performance I was at.

It’s hard to know what’s really happening (another song they could have used!) for a lot of the time – possibly it might make more sense if you were on drugs.

Seriously – if you’re the only alien on Earth, do you want a woman looking after you who’s clearly mentally unstable and incapable of holding down a job?
And is it really believable that her husband would become so suspicious that she was sleeping with her boss after just a couple of days?

Why does Newton think he can’t die? There’s nothing in the book or film that suggests he’s immortal.

Why does Valentine try so hard to get close to Newton?
If he is actually killing people, why doesn’t he try to kill Newton?

How does Elly know Mary-Lou used to call Newton Tommy? Can she hear his hallucinations?

Why is the musical called Lazarus? It’s not about a man who comes back from the dead. Why not call it Icarus, about a man trying to escape – Icarus being a motif in The Man Who Fell To Earth, both the book and the film?

I’m not sure who it’s aimed at. Those who haven’t read the book or seen the film won’t know what’s going on. Those who have can hardly be comparing it favourably.

There was a record player on stage, with some Bowie albums – meant as a tribute perhaps, but every time it caught my eye it just reminded me how un-Bowie the whole experience was.

I thought I might feel emotional watching this, even upset – not annoyed! There were some poignant lines, given what we now know – but by about twenty minutes in I realised it was going to be an endurance test. The show didn’t have an interval, and honestly, if it had, I probably would have left.

One final annoyance – the programme refers to Bowie’s film career. The Last Temptation of Christ, where he was on screen for about three minutes, is mentioned – but not Labyrinth, the film that for over a generation has been many people’s first introduction to Bowie. Grrrr…

The Storyteller – John Hurt


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I was saddened to hear the news that John Hurt, one of Britain’s finest actors, had died. What to watch from such a body of work to mark his passing? Quite apart from his memorable performances in The Elephant Man, The Naked Civil Servant, and Alien, to name but a few, he was in the Harry Potter films – not to mention playing the War Doctor in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special.

But as a Labyrinth fan, it had to be The Storyteller.


This little gem from 1987 is nine episodes of what I feel is the most perfectly realised television series ever made. Recently re-released on DVD, after being unavailable for ages, it’s well worth a look.

Created by Jim Henson, it’s a retelling of European folk tales in a blend of live action, puppets, and animation. The stories aren’t the traditional Grimm tales but other less familiar ones from Ireland, Russia and Scandinavia, with scripts beautifully written by the award-winning Anthony Minghella.

John Hurt is the storyteller of the title, narrating the tales, and occasionally interacting with them – and his grouchy canine companion. He does it so well (despite having to do so beneath quite a bit of makeup) that you wonder why he didn’t do more narration. There’s a host of British actors, including Bob Peck, Jonathan Pryce, Miranda Richardson.

Labyrinth links – the storyteller’s dog is voiced by Brian Henson, and sounds a lot like Hoggle. Brian Froud was conceptual designer on the pilot episode, Hans My Hedgehog. Three of the episodes were directed by Steve Barron, who directed the music videos for Underground and As the World Falls Down. A lot of the designers in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop also worked on Labyrinth.

And if you needed any more reason to watch it, Sean Bean’s in one story – and he doesn’t die!

Post-Bowie World, Year Two


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It’s been one long, Bowie-less year.

But this helped. I nearly tripped over in the street when I first caught sight of it in a gallery window.


‘Goblin King’ by JJ Adams – isn’t it lovely?

Ordinarily I’ve tried to keep my Labyrinth addiction and my Bowie admiration separate (as much as one can) but I found this combination of the two strangely soothing – and cheaper than going to the Bowie mural in London every time I felt sad!

I’m not so sad now – though I still don’t know if I’ll ever be able to face playing Blackstar again…

Hal-Con 2016 – Day 3 Sunday


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Once again I’m wearing costume – but I get to the hotel lobby, and realise it’s raining outside! Back to my room to swap my wig and mask for a big woolly hat, and to tie my skirt up around my knees, to evade the worst of the rain. Ballroom gowns – great in a ballroom, but outdoors in Nova Scotia in November? Terribly draughty…

If people ask about my costume, I shamelessly plug my book. One woman screams (actually screams!) at the sight of it. There certainly seems to be a lot of Labyrinth love in Nova Scotia. There are signs on the walls of the convention centre saying “Unattended children will be given to the Goblin King”. I also spot this Jareth tattoo.


I queue for an hour to get a good seat for the Gates McFadden Q&A. This does mean missing the panel on shark movies (and I can never resist a bad shark movie) – but I’m with friends, so the time goes quickly – and it’s worth the wait.

Gates is a really interesting speaker. She’s probably best known for her work on Star Trek – The Next Generation, and she spoke about that a lot (including playing practical jokes on set, and failing to recognise Michael Dorn without his Worf make-up) but about half the questions were about Labyrinth. It’s clearly an experience she remembers fondly. “Someone had to teach David Bowie how to waltz” she sighs – like, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it!

She was also full of praise for Jim Henson, who she first worked with on The Muppets Take Manhattan – she talked about being on the set alone (or so she thought) with Kermit – who then started talking to her!

Gates later worked with Henson on Dreamchild, a film where the grown-up Alice remembers her friendship with Lewis Carroll, which features some of the characters from Alice in Wonderland done by the Henson Creature Shop. It’s recently been re-released on DVD after being unavailable for years, and it’s well worth a look. Such a pity Henson never did complete adaptations of the books – they would have been so much better than those Tim Burton CGI monstrosities.

As we file out, the music that’s playing is The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie, and I find myself feeling unexpectedly emotional. After the costume contest, as the con draws to a close, I wander down to the Grand Parade, and blow bubbles into the darkening sky. It’s going to feel weird taking the costume off…

Hal-Con 2016 – Day 2 Saturday


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“Play with your toys and your costumes”

After struggling with costume change yesterday, this morning I decide to just wear the thing and brave the walk to the convention. (Note to self – next time, get a hotel nearer the venue). It does feel a bit odd being out in public dressed like this – but it’s worth it when a little girl walking past with her mother looks at my costume and says “Wow!”

Today’s highlights include a Q&A with Boba Fett himself Jeremy Bulloch (very funny), fantasy author Charles de Lint reading from his as-yet-unpublished next novel, and a bubble workshop with the Jugglin’ Bubblers, featuring the biggest bubbles I’ve ever seen!

I also pay another visit to the vendors hall. Yesterday I managed to resist everything (apart from Arcane Angel), but today I have a proper look at the other stalls. There are a lot of lovely things on offer, from chocolate daleks to steampunk hats. Labyrinth seems to be a popular source of inspiration for Halifax artists, including:

The Quarrelsome Yeti  (alongside many weird and wonderful things with tentacles) has this cute print of Sir Didymus on his trusty steed.


An Oddity or Two  covers quite a variety of fandoms – for Labyrinth lovers, there are earrings (including Ambrosius and Didymus, Jareth and owl, and the door knockers),




a badge of everyone’s favourite worm,


and this Jareth magnet (currently adorning my fridge).

Badmouth Soap  makes ‘Soap for Filthy People’, including a number of soaps named for shows and singers – Direwolf, Tom Waits, Ziggy Stardust. They’ve also done one called Jareth.


It’s scented with cedarwood, fir balsam and lavender – not what usually comes to mind when I think of Jareth, but I guess really I should be relieved no-one’s tried to make a soap that smells like crystals and crotch…

Hal-Con 2016 – Day 1, Friday


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 “My lovely jewels…”

Off to Halifax, Nova Scotia for Hal-Con – Atlantic Canada’s largest science-fiction convention.

This year Gates McFadden is a guest. Although she’s best known for playing Dr Beverley Crusher, in Star Trek – The Next Generation, anyone who’s reading this blog will also be aware that she was responsible for choreography on Labyrinth.

In honour of this, I’ve made a costume based on one of the dancers from the ballroom sequence in Labyrinth. This just about squeezes into my hand luggage. I’m very glad I’m not asked to open it at the airport, as leather masks can be difficult to explain to security personnel…

I’m not sure I’m up to braving the streets of Halifax dressed as a goblin ballroom dancer, so I decide to change into my costume at the convention. This turns out to be surprisingly difficult in a small cubicle…

But eventually I stagger out into the vendors hall – which has grown so much in the last few years that it’s now in another building, adjacent to the convention centre. I try to resist the bewildering variety of stalls and head for my first stop – Arcane Angel. I have been lusting after one of their limited edition Labyrinth cuff bracelets, and Marina had told me she would have four at the con. All her pieces are handmade, which makes them slightly different, but equally beautiful, so it takes me ages to choose. Finally I decide on this one:


I also end up with an owl necklace to go with it:

Then into the queue to get Gates McFadden’s autograph. Most of the photos there to be signed are from Star Trek, but I (of course) choose the Labyrinth one. Gates seems pleased, as apparently most people choose Star Trek. I then offer her a copy of my Labyrinth book. She is thrilled by this, and asks me to sign it for her – which is bizarre. So she signs a photo for me:


While I sign my book for her. Never did I imagine anyone involved with Labyrinth would be asking me for my autograph LOL

Who remind me of the babe…


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I’ve loved Labyrinth for thirty years – but I’ve loved Doctor Who for even longer. So I was delighted to find the two combined in Titan Comics’ Doctor Who Eleventh Doctor (issue 11 May 2015, written by Al Ewing) where a character called the Talent Scout takes on a familiar form:


The story-line also features a character called Jones – an alien chameleon rock star…

And Bowie fans may appreciate the cover of the latest Titan Comics’ Doctor Who Twelfth Doctor (issue 9 August 2016):