A STYLISH STANDING CABARET
Savile Row is about style, not fashion. It sets the gold standard for men who wish to appear well dressed but not dressed up. And actor John Standing epitomises that air of classic English insouciance that represents it at its best, as to be seen in the cabaret act that he is performing.
“One doesn’t want to look ‘dinky’,” he says solemnly. “We actors have to dress up so much, and I’ve worn some amazing stuff on stage, but I like to be a bit more casual now.”
Now sees him enjoying a new career as a cabaret performer and in this role he appears in a casual get-up of jeans and shirt and jacket – the jacket by Anderson & Sheppard - and with some wonderful two-tone correspondent’s shoes adding a deliciously rakish touch.
Born in 1934, from a distinguished line of actors on his mother’s side, he has been blessed by being one of those actors nearly always in work, either on stage, in the movies or on TV. His English credentials are impeccable – Eton, Millfield and later serving in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps before studying art.
“I had thought I wanted to be a painter but my mother said no, you must go out to work, earn a living. And so I went for an audition and that was it. I’ve had an amazingly good life as an actor, its been joyous. I’ve played every part I would like to play, worked for Osborne, Stoppard, Simon Grey and Noel Coward. I knew him well, a lovely man.”
And he has focused upon Coward in his cabaret act, singing his songs, and interjecting anecdotes about the Master and others of the many celebrities he has known over the years. Witty, tuneful and sophisticated, its an act that has won Coward a new generation of fans, as well as Standing.
“A friend suggested I should do cabaret, and I started at Bellamys Restaurant in Bruton Street, which was a bit daunting,” he admits. “Since then, it has been a wondrous learning curve, a new adventure, new challenge. I was getting a bit long in the tooth to keep going back to the theatre, and this is like having a whole new career.”
“I didn’t want to appear in a dinner jacket,” he says. “Too stiff, too formal. So I opted for black jeans – by Ralph Lauren, I have to admit - a white shirt, and a black jacket from Anderson & Sheppard, with the co-respondents shoes I bought in New York. And I feel relaxed.”
At top, as Standing appears in cabaret; above, the young Standing in his King's Royal Rifles uniform made for him by Welsh & Jefferies; and below, the romantic lead, with Maggie Smith.
For his very first suit, his father took him to his tailor, Benson, Perry & Whitley in Cork Street, the firm favoured by Ian Fleming and whose styling he used as a template for James Bond’s wardrobe. The young Standing was hooked on bespoke clothing.
“I suppose my favourite is Anderson & Sheppard,” Standing says, “because the shoulders are so soft, the line relaxed. That’s why actors like going there. After wearing costumes, we like the soft construction – Noel and Larry went there. It’s the joy of wearing bespoke tailoring, it is comfortable – and fortunately, has often been paid for by the film company!”
Such has been his success as a cabaret performer that he is in demand all over the place, from private parties in castles to charity do’s at Goodwood and performances at Wilton’s music hall – “I love it more than anywhere”.
He has moved on to also perform a collection of Cole Porter songs, again with engaging banter and stories about the Hollywood greats he has known – and that’s a lot of greats.
There’s a renaissance of this form of entertainment, both here and in the US, with people appreciating again its intimate, sophisticated style but in more relaxed venues than in the past.
“I love it, “ he enthuses. “I’m working with such wonderful young musicians, the pianist Will Stuart, the double base played either by Jo Carter or Nichola Davenport, such talented girls. The audiences are usually very generous, and laugh at my stories.
“I’ve just been so lucky.”
Couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow.