# Million/Billion/Trillion

A trillion is a million million (or a thousand billion). If you go by the less generous US system. Which we will.

ALL THE ABOVE FACTS ARE THE TOP RESULT FROM THE INTERNET.  ASK GOOGLE TO CHECK! (or click on the facts)

I have been going on about Universal Income being better for more people than the actual financial measures recently announced by the chancellor in these corona stricken days. No one has really seriously tested the idea and I think it was a wasted opportunity. Anyway it becomes quite unimaginable quite quickly and billions and millions are all interchangeable for “a lot”

I happened across the half-hearted idea that maybe we as a society should not allow billionaires, but have a universal humane agreement: that anyone with \$999.9999 million dollars has maxed out. Everything else you have to surrender to the world fund and you get a day named after you. I thought this not so stupid. On the contrary, having thought about it for a bit, I think it is a bloody good idea! I want to do more with the idea than just forward a wistful meme. I want to explain how it could work.

Let me talk you through what would happen. And remember, it would only affect 2604 people on the planet (all of whom would remain billionaires (minus \$1.)).

Immediately, with the figures above, we would have a surplus of \$6.496 Trillion.  This is aka £6496 billion. Let us apply the Universal income idea and divide that up equally per person on earth.  Each of the people, including babies, would get \$862.

Now imagine if this money was not spaffed on formula milk (wasteful babies!) but had to be invested in something that was for the good of everybody – say rail or hospitals or wells or whatever the country needed.

UK with a population of 66.44 Million would have \$57billion to spend.
USA, with 327.2 million would get so much that my calculator cant display it in normal numbers 2.82 x10 to the power of 11 ( don’t know where that symbol is on my keyboard).
To pick a random place, Honduras, their 9.265million population would receive \$7.986billion.

And so on.  All to spend on something people need AND we would still have 2,604 billionaires knocking around the world.

Why are so many people against this?  And I don’t even mean the 2604 people this would be detrimental to?  It beats me. Please feel free to tell me why my back of a fag packet calculations are complete bullshit!

I went to watch the much-lauded Anthony Minghella production of this Puccini favourite the other day, my 4th opera in as many months and perhaps interestingly in as many countries. My new found interest in this art form began when I went to watch a modern small scale production of La Boheme in Copenhagen, directed by an old friend Amy Lane. That remains my favourite of the 4 shows I have seen so far. Since then I have watched from the cheap seats, two big lavish productions: La Traviata at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm and Falstaff at the Berlin Staatsoper and the third, the subject of this article, Madame Butterfly at the English National Opera in a far from cheap seat (though subsidised in the form of a cast discount) in row D of the stalls. I realised, incidentally, sitting there in my privileged position, that I actually prefer being able to see the orchestra and therefore the best seat in the house for me is probably in the front of the circle.

As a European opera production newbie I have noticed a few things that more experienced goers might take for granted, which I think worth noting before I myself start to accept them as normal without thinking:

1. Bizarre swampings of the stage in the final act with 50+ actors/extras, who have hitherto not been seen, in what appears to be a simple show of extravagance with no artistic merit or need. This happened in both La Traviata and Falstaff, completely different productions in completely different cities. What is this all about? In Falstaff in particular, I felt embarrassed for those performers. They had no idea why they were there or what they were doing and the sexualised goings-on in the Bacchanalian fantasy sequence in the final act were excruciating.
2. The acting is different (hardly a revelation, I suppose) and takes a massive backseat to the demands and rigours of singing. This is fine with me, but it takes an adjustment if you are used to watching actors trying to be as realistic as possible (to the extent that you can’t often hear them nowadays). It is a similar adjustment one makes when you go to watch a panto, I think. After a short while it is easy to accept the new style of acting but it is worth pointing out that it could easily be better, especially for the extras or supernumeraries as they are called, with an acting workshop getting them to think about what their characters want.
3. There are a lot of snobs who go to the opera simply for the sake of watching others and to be seen. This is part of society, I realise, but it is quite tedious. In theatre, there is always someone who will laugh loudly at a 400-year-old “joke” in a Shakespeare play, thereby telling himself and others in the audience and the actors on stage that he is really clever and cultured and gets it. This same person, I have noticed, will fail to laugh at anything else the production may have added, perhaps for a contemporary-based laugh, which the rest of the common audience will get. These pompous self-inflated egotists are outnumbered in UK theatre audiences nowadays, thankfully. These people are snobs, and my point is they appear to go en masse to the opera in Europe. The disdain with which I was looked at for showing up with a ticket dressed in my travelling gear of puffa jacket and walking boots was apparent. I may be wrong, but they seemed to have less appreciation of the actual show than I did. In any event I was delighted to stomp around, bagging myself a rare table in the interval, annoying these people.
4. Staging. It is as if the highly revered directors of these productions have forgotten that there are cheap seats that can not view the entire stage! Move the action about the stage! This is the very least you have to do, surely?! The ENO doesn’t suffer from restricted views as much as the other auditoria I have recently visited, not least because there are no columns supporting the structure. I have watched a few shows in the theatre, especially the Royal Court recently, from restricted view seats and the same criticism could be levelled there too.
5. It is taken for granted that the singers sing it flawlessly and the orchestra is note-perfect throughout. This is a pretty high bar! Which they always seem to achieve. That is quite incredible and the thing I love is that it sounds more or less exactly as it did when it was first heard, without amplification. It is this point which probably is the main reason for the existential problems I am about to address. What is the point of Opera today? To get it sounding right and reflect the time it was written or to update things and make it relevant?

The production of Madame Butterfly at the Colosseum is in its 16th year and is stunning. I was struck by how simple and effective the set and production were, compared to the two other grand operas, and how effectively the story was told. I also found the acting, particularly by the actor Roderick Williams, who played Sharpless, the US Consul, to be better than the usual. I appreciated a moment when he made as if he had something to say when it was someone else’s line, and he held his tongue. Why others don’t try this simple but effective technique is a mystery. I suspect it is because they have not really thought of their Stanislavskian “scene objective” and don’t really know what it is they might say at that particular moment. The Japanese scene shifters, aka kuroko, were so precise that they all appeared in view always at the precisely same moment, a feat that having watched theatre for decades I know is almost impossible! I enjoyed the use of red ribbons for blood, this theatrical device being as effective as it was over 70 years after Laurence Olivier’s production of Titus Andronicus had Vivienne Leigh spew them as Lavinia and I found the doll of Cio Cio San’s young son, worked by three puppeteers, very moving. Given the nature of the musical bar being set so high I almost took for granted the singing of the cast, but it should be mentioned that they were all great.
It was the best of all 3 major productions by far in terms of design, direction and story (though I preferred the small scale La Boheme to all of them).

I was driven to write this because it is the story of Madame Butterfly and production as a whole that left me with things to contemplate, about which I am uneasy.

Casting. Historically, casting white actors as Japanese is something that has happened in probably every single major production of this opera since it was written. This production offers up the argument in the programme: “An insistence that only Japanese sopranos sing the role of Butterfly would deny us the chance to hear many fabulous interpreters of the role. Moreover, adopting a policy of strict literalism actively works against the long-fought-for policy of colour-blind casting, for surely if Butterfly must be Japanese, then Tosca must {italics, sic} be white Italian (though not all would agree). This is a conundrum that is unlikely to go away.” Anyone who has tried to argue the merits of inclusive casting, as I have for over a decade within Equity – and much longer outside of that conflicted and confused trade union – will recognise the above as argument 1.01. This is not the place to re-state old rebuttals, but it is worth pointing out that theatre in UK faced this issue and argument (which is all to do with white privilege) 30+ years ago. Easier here to ask, if the ENO’s argument is correct then why has not a single white actor played Othello for the last 30 years? The “World of Opera” exists in a bubble that by its own self-definition, performs works without changing a note, that sounds exactly as it would have when it was composed. The argument that this fundamental would be compromised was made when I was a kid by white people about Shakespeare. Maybe someone should challenge this fundamental.
Story. Maybe it is because I was in Miss Saigon, which is based loosely on Madam Butterfly, for over 600 shows, but I don’t buy the romanticism. I am very much of the opinion that if you were to flip the ethnicities of the Asian romantic heroine, the story would be different. I made that very point in a sketch satire that I wrote for tv once. Here is the relevant bit (broadcast on C4 in 2005)

Paul Chan (explaining the plot of the popular musical): This GI falls in love with a beautiful Vietnamese girl and knocks her up. And when the war is over, he goes back to the States and forgets about her. But the thing is, the baby gets born so she tries to find this GI…
Me: In the States?
PC: Wherever. And basically, because he’s married to another woman, she tops herself. That’s it.
Me: Sounds alright.
PC: Yeah. Its brilliant. It’s very romantic.
Me: But why does she top herself?
PC: Because she’s in love with him. It’s a beautiful story. Forget it.
Me: That’s not romantic.
PC: Eh?
Me: Look at it this way. If a Chinese geezer came over here and knocked up a beautiful girl like (thinks)… Carol Smilie..
PC: Carol Smilie?
Me: OK, then … (thinks) Errr.. Jordan.
PC: OK. Go on.
Me: If he went back to China, married someone else and Jordan has his baby and then she topped herself because she was still in love with him, people would say, “It’s a joke”!
PC: So what are you saying?
Me: It is because she’s East Asian! Miss Saigon is East Asian, that’s what makes it a romantic story. If she were Jordan it would be stupid.
PC: But she isn’t Jordan.
Me: That’s what I am saying.
PC: And it isn’t stupid, its romantic!

It is because she’s East Asian!

For me, Cio Cio San, the 15-year-old Madame Butterfly in Puccini’s opera on whom Miss Saigon is loosely based, suffers from the same oriental fetishism by its audience and book author as Kim in the popular musical. This “exquisite tragedy” is, in fact, a frustrating depiction of a naïve girl’s self-inflicted ordeal ending with an inevitably noble suicide, told from the viewpoint of white superiority and imperialism. It is eyebrow-raising to observe the fact she is 15 in today’s climate. The fact is in today’s tabloid culture, Pinkerton, Butterfly’s “GI” in this Miss Saigon reverse analogy, is a child-abusing paedo, who evilly sets out from the very start of the play his plan to abuse his temporary Japanese wife and abandon her like a property with a short notice lease, which is exactly what happens (not unlike Gary Glitter did, it is worth pointing out).

It depends what you want from your Opera, I suppose. The programme acknowledges that there are problematic themes with the piece, namely orientalism, misogyny and casting (all of which I agree with). There is no mention of paedophilia/Gary Glitter, or that the under-agedness makes it undeniably sordid as well. Despite it being a fantastic production, I can’t ignore any of these issues. And the question of whether these issues can be addressed is actually the same fundamental question of whether Opera itself can reform and make itself relevant to a new generation. The question for Opera becomes whether its inability to move with the times will spell the end for the whole art form – or whether on the contrary it will flourish as people like to get away from the new 21st century hubbub of digital unsocial media etc.

I expect the Opera world to forever reside in a past that does not exist any more, and hoping that by acknowledging the problems intellectually they will get away with not having to actually address them. The kind of past that Remainers mock Brexiteers for still believing in, but a majority still want. A time when you could say that Jimmy Savile may have been a bit creepy but at least he raised a lot of money for charity.

# Enterprise Car Hire, is this what you call dynamic pricing?

I wanted to rent a car in Germany for a couple of days:  The price was €166.90.  The start date is in the top left of the picture, highlighted below. Tues, 3 Apr.

My plane times were a bit unhelpful for an easy drop off without wasting a lot of time at the airport to save on another day’s rental.  I wondered how much extra it would be if I actually added another couple of hours to the drop off time.  It would probably add a whole day, I thought.  I was right.  However, the price of this extra day shocked me:  it was minus €47.38.

Yes, It would save me €47.38 to hand it in an hour late, which was surprising.  So I wondered how many days extra I could book before it cost me more than the original 2 days.  Four?

Wow!  Even doubling the hire period would still cost me €22.30 less than hiring for two days.  How about a week?

WTF?! It is cheaper to have the car for an entire seven days than it is for two.

My conclusion is that renting from another place altogether would be a good option.

These pics were taken by John Godwin of London Headshots in 2013 and he must be a genius.  I paid £150, which is a great price, for a full usage license and I put them here because 1. It’s a good place to save them (saves on cloud space, given I am paying for this blog anyway!) 2. he asked me to “squinch”, which is where you close your eyes, but without squinting.  ie raise the bottom eyelid, to make you look more appealing and interesting.  The trick is to eliminate any white eyeball under the iris.  It’s hard, but it does work!  Google Brad Pitt and you will see him doing this all the time. 3. I want one of these pictures to appear on my Wikipedia entry, which is being created!

These images are under a license that allows free re-use for any purpose. A Creative Commons Attribution license.

# Monitoring Forms at theatres and their importance

When you are having a discussion about anything to do with equality from the point of view of a minority, you have to be aware that there will be objections from the majority.  This is simply because to the majority, when a minority attempts to level the playing field they are removing the majority’s privileged position.  There are many examples of how this works (some good some bad) and equally as many (if not more) examples of how white people object to the idea.  Google it.  Click here to see both on the same page.

The problems we in the Equity Minority Ethnic Members committee have in trying to equalise the opportunities, are mainly:

1. The business of acting is hardly fair anyway.
2. The business of acting is run by the majority who often cast in their own image (the unconscious bias theory) and when caught out doing this in an egregious manner cite “the best person for the role argument” and Equity is loathe is get involved in matters of artistic taste (though as argued in another post, they should not be).

Even when the whole issue is regarded as a victory for the minorities, as in the case of the Print Room, whose name has now become an industry by-word for how not to deal with racial casting issues, the other side does not need to agree.  In fact not only does the Print Room still refuse to acknowledge any wrong-doing nor come close to issuing an apology, it has in fact gone so far as to threaten legal proceedings against Equity for libel.

All of which brings me to the argument for Monitoring Forms.

They might seem like an invasion of your privacy and oftentimes the two issues are conflated on the form.   This one was collected from Yellow Earth’s recent production of Tamburlaine at the Arcola, which I watched and enjoyed on Saturday, and does not ask for your name or any identifying info, unless you opt to give your email address.

The  important reason for these forms is simple:  Without this data, it is impossible to argue any case with accurate facts.  In other words, to flip it around, it is impossible to counter-argue that, for example, the RSC did indeed employ a British East Asian Actor between 1994 and 2012.  None of us were hired!  They won’t provide the name of any unknown BEA actor they might have hired!  It is in the past now and no use raking over it – but the point is: we do not have official statistics.   They didn’t hire a BEA actor!  But they can pretend they might have!    Not having any official data weakens our case.  We need this data going forward and you are the only one who can give it!

What  Equity needs, in order to be able to argue for fairness, is facts. We need therefore to have the presence of minorities actually quantified, in both on-stage roles but also back-stage roles and, crucially, audience.  Equity is pressing for this and is running a campaign which itself runs alongside an industry wide TV/Film initiative, The Diamond Project, which seeks to do the same.  BAFTA have even announced that unless you have a diverse cast and crew, you wont win any award!

We are getting there, but it is slow going.  And the last two projects mentioned don’t measure audience, which is important if you are in receipt of public money. Theatre companies like the RSC are in receipt of this money, yet they seem not to have thought about who comprises that public, especially not thinking about British East Asians much between 1994 and 2012!  Companies receiving public money need to better reflect the public paying for it, and this includes women, muslims, disabled, LGBT and BAME people.

My advice if you are wary of writing down your address or email is to ignore all the personal information the theatre company might want to get from you and give only the diversity information, which will help this fight.

The other advice I am happy to give is that theatre companies take this more seriously themselves.  In a world where the nature of identity is being constantly challenged, the theatre producers need to prioritise gathering accurate monitoring data  and not reproduce simplistic old-fashioned options that not a single of their own cast or Artistic Director could tick satisfactorily, aside from the “other” or “multiple ethnic background” boxes.  If that is your area of expertise, please collect better and more expertly nuanced categories.

# equality vs Equity

This picture shows why I argue for positive discrimination, as a casting policy the actor’s union Equity should be supporting – to redress the balance that everyone now accepts is true and has spawned Act For Change and Lenny Henry’s recent pronouncements etc.   But even better, it shows why those who are threatened by positive discrimination, ie those who are privileged and already see over the fence (in the case of actors, those white actors with a certain agent), always argue that positive discrimination isn’t true equality and therefore illegal.  It may well be illegal, but that doesn’t mean an actors’ trade union can’t stand for it in principle, as it could have done (but didn’t) when homosexuality was illegal.

I believe that Equity the union, by not promoting what they would call “positive discrimination for minorities”, is not doing its job nor serving its name honorably.  I believe this happens because the union is 98% white (or whatever stupidly high number it is) and the elected Council is 100% white.  Unless BAME members are elected to the Council this argument will never be made. Even if they are, it still isn’t certain to be made.  At the moment I have made it a few times in committee meetings and it has never even been listened to at Council level.

I was incredulous to read a Diversity Objectives memo from the BBC – dated the year 2000 – at a meeting yesterday , and we all realised the situation has not changed one iota in half a generation.  In the last 16 years,  Equity has done almost nothing to drive change in this area.  I think it should take a long hard look at itself and make sure that come 2032 it can look back with pride at how it helped manage to change the landscape.  This can only happen by listening to and adopting some new ideas – then leading the way, not retroactively following the crowd.

It is like the recent Iraq bombings getting little to no coverage in the press; no-one in the key positions in journalism at the moment prioritise this story, because they have post Brexit, Chilcot Inquiry and football (and tennis!) to report on.   But no one would deny it is massive story!  In this example at least it is getting reported, thanks to having a person in a senior position like Jeremy Bowen.  Equity doesn’t have this person. Unless someone of high status whose main issue is BAME representation is there making the arguments, then no one thinks to make them.   In the same way as people forget to make arguments for disabled and LGBT and all minorities – unless a specific representative is in the room.

Equity believes it has shielded itself from criticism in this regard by having a protected seat for a BAME Councillor – but the facts speak for themselves, no such argument has ever been made, Equity’s history on acting for ethnic minorities is embarrassingly bad (the current leaflet doing the rounds listing Equity’s achievement s in this area is false – a wholly fictionalised re-writing of what stands Equity took;  for instance on the Miss Saigon episode) and the current setup is simply not good enough to redress the imbalance, which in turn means Equity is not leading the way.

Polls for the new Equity  Council elections closed  last night and results will be forthcoming soon.  I hope BAME members took my advice in the previous post and voted (in most cases for the first time ever) for BAME reps on Council. My own private interactions with actors tells me that more BAME actors than ever are leaving the union and even less are inclined to join.

If I am elected, which I doubt given my absence from the preferred “list”,  I will argue again
for positive discrimination.  Even though it may be illegal technically, I do not understand why the Union would not campaign for targets that amount to the same thing, which are not legally binding, but exactly as Sky have set themselves, for example.

Equity the union does not seem very equitable.  The new President, whoever it turns out to be, could do a lot worse than to face this issue and make Equity for the first time pro-active in this area.

ps.  a friend of mine, who brought this meme to my attention, points out that politically, people have different ideas of what is fair, and your ideas on fairness are, more or less, the determining factor in what makes you right or left wing.   Some may even point out the meme overlooks the idea that the people in question have not paid for the spectacle they are watching, which may not be ideal as a meme for actors’ politics!

UPDATE!  The results are in and it appears that me and my colleagues on the MEM committee, Daniel York and Somi de Souza did not get enough votes to get on to the general Council seats – but three other BAME actors did!  Congratulations to them!  Equity’s Council has gone from 3% BAME including the protected seat to 12%, which is far more representative – which alone was what I was campaigning for anyway!

A big thank you to the 600+ that did vote for me.

A poor turn out (as usual) from Equity’s 40,000+ members meant that the President was elected with only 2,300 votes!  That is 5.5% of the membership!  And some people have the gall to argue that the Tories do not have a democratic mandate!

# Ab-Fab. Yellowface and Comedy.

I am pleased that Margaret Cho has taken the heat on this Yellowface thing with AbFab the film. I like her and she has brought the term to a wider audience in UK, who have never heard or thought of such things. Raising the idea that this kind of casting is out of order in a big publicity wave is a great warning shot across the bows for others contemplating it.

I do, however, think that the role needs to be seen in context before people kick off. Jennifer Saunders (with Dawn French) has been consistently the funniest woman in Britain for 3 decades and never at the expense of minority groups. It would be incredible if she were to slip up now – especially at the expense of East Asians, the most historically under-represented ethnic minority group in Britain.

I went up for Mrs Brown’s Boys-D’ Movie and it was for a Chinese role that was so racist, that I had to mention it at the audition. The dialogue was all, “me no likee” etc.  The casting director told me that it wasn’t meant to be racist, and that it must have only come across like that when reading it because Brendan the writer was dyslexic! We were talking at cross purposes, and my speaking up scuppered my chances of being seen again by this woman … but my warnings must have been heeded because they re-wrote the part to become a white guy who thought he was Chinese for some reason; a clever device, which avoided criticism of racism (and one fewer part for a Chinese actor! Doh!).  It would be incredible that Mrs Brown’s Boys would take steps to avoid being insulting to East Asians and yet Jennifer Saunders would not.

I believe it is possible, given Margaret Cho and anyone else complaining has not read the script nor seen the scenes, that Ab Fab’s casting may be similar to that which Mrs Brown’s Boys eventually settled upon.   Or it may be Sacha Baron Cohen-like, which would be 1. funny and 2. not racist, but satirising racism and racism towards East-Asians itself. It could be, for example, that Krankie’s character is not Japanese at all, but that people think she is because she has a stupid fake name.  It then would be a joke on Patsy and Edina for falling for faux-orientalism from an obvious fraudster.

The point is: that casting blackface or yellowface in comedy in itself is not racist, which is what Margaret Cho assumes here.  The best recent example of where it is not is Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder.   This is not racist because the joke is on Downey Jr’s character, who is so up himself that he doesn’t realise how offensive he is being by blacking up.

This is why I have advised Equity to wait before wading in, taking a stance on this film and embarrassing itself.  Equity is now waiting to hear from the film’s producers, which response will be enlightening.

If anyone has earned our comedy trust, it is Jennifer Saunders.  If she lets us down, then it is another matter and I will be at the forefront of giving it both barrels here and via Equity.  Let us wait and see and let Margaret take it in the meantime.

# Chinese Elvis’ Great Wall (of shame)

“If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything”, said some idiot.

I disagree.  Especially when it comes in the context of 2015 Britain, where increasing numbers of customers and consumers are being ripped off by companies, who worry more about their public image and less on service and quality.

It makes sense, when everything else fails, to hit them where they like it least – in a public forum, and if you can do this in a mocking way it is even more satisfactory.

I learned this with the company, AA Warranties, a car warranty firm who failed to actually pay up when I made a claim.  It was only after an intervention by Paul Gosling’s newspaper column, A Question of Cash in  The Independent, that I got what was rightfully owed – my claim for repairs paid.  It took a full page headline in a national newspaper for them to call me up and honour what was already paid and agreed for.

I was happy with the outcome but I realised it had come to something when one has to rely on a consumer column, (or BBC’s Watchdog) to get what you deserve – and that many other people would be in a similar if not worse position, especially many elderly people.

It is for this reason, that I am resurrecting an item from my 2008 Chinese Elvis Edinburgh Festival show.  This item had to be abandoned without proper road testing in 2008, because my venue, Surgeon’s Hall, could not provide full internet access, despite it being on the venue spec sheet.  This item was to go hand in hand with the Chinese Elvis Great Wall of Fame, which was reserved for glorifying British Beijing Olympic heroics, and was called:

THE CHINESE ELVIS GREAT WALL OF SHAME

This Wall is to be a whole page on the main website, where ChineseElvis simply openly mocks companies who have given him or his friends/ fans bad service.  It could be popular.  It may just sit there in a corner of the internet, unvisited.  But it will at least be satisfying and a blow for the little person.  Not to mention, you will be surprised how many hits my website gets.

If you have a candidate for the Great Wall of Shame, please send me details and supporting evidence.  A list will be compiled.  It will be posted on the wall.  The Wall of Shame.   Shame on those on it.

First up, is potentially going to be a boiler company, who installed a brand new boiler in my partner’s house exactly three years ago, and which has broken down 5 times already.  Not only did she pay for the installation, but she has had to pay for all the repairs in the form of a service contract, payable monthly!  Now that is the kind of thing the Great Wall of Shame is designed for.  If you have anything similar, let me know by emailing me at wallofshame@chineseelvis.com

# Xmas meal and party, Central London

If you like the idea of Chinese food in a very nice Chinese restaurant, 1 minute’s walk from Baker St tube  – and to have that food served with loads of booze while being entertained by Chinese Elvis, with the options of 1. dancing and 2.singing (aka shouting) – then you are at the right place!

What I need to spell out here is that the £34.80 Set Menu is not compulsory.  It is a nice set menu, but as long as you spend a certain amount of money (they might tell you how much when you book) which can be on booze, then you can order from the a la carte and probably get away with the cheapskate option of prawn crackers and a chicken fried rice for two and a half bottle of Moutai!

The restaurant and all its plushness can be examined at www.phoenixpalace.co.uk  Owners Raymond and Angela and the top staff, headed by Jimmy will ensure that your evening will be memorable and the food and hospitality top notch.  I will make sure you have a laugh and a good singalong.  It sounds easy – which it isn’t – but it is a simple idea and works every time!  Looking forward to seeing you there.