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Islington singer/songwriter still entertaining at 83

PUBLISHED: 17:22 14 August 2015 | UPDATED: 17:22 14 August 2015

David Forest

David Forest

© Paddy Gormley

After a career that saw him move from a City high flyer to a London cabbie - and now a singer/songwriter - David Forest has no plans to slow down at the age of 83.

On Saturday, David, of Noel Road in Islington, performed Playing With Myself, his latest one-man show as part of Camden Fringe festival.

The 11-song, 50-minute piano set touches on David’s time as a homosexual in 1950s London, through to the liberated 2010s.

He admitted his surprise that the witty monologue has been well received by straight audiences, and is booked to perform at the three remaining Saturdays of Camden Fringe this month.

Playing With Myself is David’s sixth different show, and he explained how failed attempts to break into acting opened the door to his monologues.

“I worked in radio broadcasting for the BBC in the early 1990s,” he said. “From that, I got membership into the actors union, Equity. I thought I would have a go at being an actor but I had one major problem: I didn’t have the CV to get through to auditions.

“So somebody said to me, why don’t you try a one-man show? I wasn’t sure as I thought you had to be famous.

“But when I had a think, I thought: ‘why not – anyone can do a one-man show’.”

The result was Entertaining Changes, when David looked back at his life and career – which also included stints as a tour guide, writer and broadcaster – in a self-deprecating tone that would become his signature style.

“I was very successful in the City but grew weary of it. That’s when I decided to become a cab driver in 1973: a very unusual step. So my first show was based on those changes.

“I grew up in the 1930s and 40s, when being gay wasn’t as acceptable as it is now. I knew it, but when I came to London as a solicitor in 1957, I never dreamt of announcing it as I thought it would affect my prospects.

“When I became a cab driver, I would have my meals at St John’s Wood cab shelter. The drivers would have realised but I never suffered any antipathy. They accepted me as I was. It was just a gradual process, so coming out never really happened with me. In any case, it was quite obvious for people to see with my first show.”

Of Playing With Myself, he said: “The songs are autobiographical and about people important to me.

“Most of them are intentionally humorous, but there’s one about a girlfriend I had in the 1950s that is not so. I was disillusioned with life in the City and went to see a therapist. I was told if I got hitched up with a girlfriend, everything would be OK. That song is about her, as she was such a lovely, understanding young woman.

“I love performing live, getting that immediate response from the audience. The jokes have gone down well. I thought they would only be acceptable in a gay venue, but I did one segment in the Lake District and it went down better. That was my inspiration to create Playing With Myself.”

David will perform three more shows at the Tristan Bates Theatre, Covent Garden, at 3pm on Saturday August 15, 22 and 29.

As for his future plans, he is open-minded: “I would like to take a break from promoting the show, possibly to start my seventh but more likely expand this show.”

Tickets for the show are £8 adults and £6 concessions. For more information, visit davidforest.info/pwm/

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