Everybody Loves That Man: BAFTA’s Bugsy Malone 40th Birthday Bash!

IMG_9726As an American ex-pat happily living in London for four plus years (my god, it’s been so long), people sometimes ask me about the biggest differences between England and America.

They go: “Hey Alex, you American ex-pat happily living in London for four plus years, can you please tell us the biggest differences between England and America?”

And oh, I shake my head, and crack a little smile and tell them, “Sure, I can.”

The truth is, there really aren’t many major differences between the two (besides avoiding being hit by cars driving on the other side of the road and adding the letter ‘U’ into words I had been taught all my life did not actually contain the letter ‘U’.) Nine of out ten things you do in London? Exactly the same as you do in the states.

HOWEVER, there are a multitude of tiny, tiny differences between the two countries that still blow my mind. Not things that radically shift the way I live my life, but enough to make me realise that I am a stranger to these lands. Things like ways to behave in polite society, the names for things like food (what the hell are hundreds and thousands!), household items (kitchen paper?) and even damn board games (why are there snakes? What happened to the chutes!)

But my favourite differences are easily the ones in pop culture: the lists and lists of movies, TV shows, theatre, books and rock stars who are well-known in England, part of the cultural zeitgeist, but are nothing in the US. (Sorry Robbie Williams, you tried.)

Now, it does work both ways. There’s plenty of things I grew up with that the good people of England would look at you with a soul-crushing blank stare when mentioned (basically every show ever on Nickelodeon.) Case in point, a few years ago when I learned my lovely fiancee (and girlfriend at the time), had never seen Newsies.

Now, I’m not saying Newsies is the end-all film of American culture, but it’s fun and filled with dancing Christian Bale and the songs are catchy and it’s probably one everyone should see at least once. So I showed it to her during one of our days of lazily watching movies on the couch.

At the end, I asked her what she thought:

“Eh, it was OK. But it’s no Bugsy Malone.”

“What’s Bugsy Malone?” I asked her.

I think her heart stopped. Just a little.

And here the tables have turned. Because while she’d never seen Newies, I’d never even heard of Bugsy Malone.

The weird thing is, I probably should have. It’s a story about America in the 1920s when Prohibition was in and gangster ruled supreme. Classic American stuff. It also starred Jodie Foster and introduced Scott Baio… at 13.

Did I mention they’re kids? Did I mention the whole cast – every actor, every gangster, moll, bootlegger and flapper – are kids. And they do things like ride 1920’s pedal-powered gangster cars and shoot Tommy Guns filled with whipped cream? How did this movie not play in America and was such a hit in England?

Somehow, though, it came and went in the US but became a staple of childhood awesomeness in England.

So she showed it to me, and she’s right, it’s a better film than Newsies.

THE BIG BIRTHDAY BASH

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Because Bugsy Malone is a well-loved part of London, things tend to pop-up around it. Last year we saw an excellent production of Bugsy Malone on stage (of course done with an all kid cast) that’s now playing again. And about a month ago, I got a message from The British Academy of Film and Arts (aka The BAFTA, aka The British Oscars), inviting me to this:

Come on down to Fat Sam’s Grand Slam Speakeasy where you can fling on a feather boa, order a mocktail and throw a custard pie!

For one weekend BAFTA’s iconic Piccadilly will celebrate Bugsy Malone with a Fat Sam’s Grand Slam experience complete with splurge gun shenanigans, daily screenings of the film and an exhibition showcasing behind-the-scenes images and the last remaining original splurge gun. Plus, get the full flavour of a speakeasy with a menu of American classics and mocktails.

Turns out it’s the film’s 40th birthday, so they set up a Bugsy Malone experience! Well, how could I resist that?

I bought tickets to both the speakeasy (£8 per ticket) and the screening (£5 per ticket). They were very reasonably priced and I was excited to check it out… but sadly, a little less excited when we actually got there.

THE BUGSY EXPERIENCE

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It started off well this past weekend. We were greeted at the one-eyed masked door by a dapper gentleman in a suit, who told us to head upstairs for the fun.

Now, maybe I’ve been spoiled by too much immersive London experiences, where bars and underground cellars and warehouses are taken over to completely make you feel like you’re in a film. I’ve been on the alien worlds, been sent to prison, travelled back in time and attacked by vampires from dusk to dawn. So when we got to The BAFTA’s Fat Sam’s Grand Slam Speakeasy…

Little disappointing. It was simply a white room with three stations of activities and some people wandering around in 20s fancy dress.

Now, again, the tickets weren’t that expensive, so I guess you get what you pay for, but I would have gladly paid more to have more of an experience. Really, any experience. Throwing a plate of whipped cream and having a photo taken does not equal a time at Fat Sam’s Grand Slam.

You didn’t even get the chance to throw a pie or use a splurge gun on a real person, just a printed target. Even dunk tanks use real people to make it interesting, right?

If you had read the BAFTA website or the METRO article about the experience before going like I did, it felt like it would be an epic day out. This was actually my first trip to BAFTA and I was expecting more. But alas, no. I felt a little cheated out of my £16 for two tickets.

I mean, before we came, we had messaged saying the whole experience could take up to 90 minutes. We were done in about 10. It wasn’t worth the money I paid, and I still didn’t pay that much.

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We also sampled their “full flavour of a speakeasy with a menu of American classics and mocktails” (their words, not mine), which was fine. Again, overpriced hot dogs, chips and mango lassi. All kind of just… meh.

However, and I will honestly say this: I did feel just a little badass getting to hold a Splurge Gun. Who wouldn’t?

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THE BUGSY EXHIBIT

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In addition to the experience, they were also running a very small exhibit on the making of Bugsy Malone. Mostly it was some really fantastic photos and a short documentary BAFTA had made the week before when some of the cast had come in for the celebration.

They also had the last remaining actual Splurge Gun from the film and a small replica of one of the cars.

It was nice to wander through this as it was a small solid addition to the celebration they were promoting.

THE BUGSY MALONE

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Of course, we couldn’t leave the Bugsy Malone exhibit and experience without seeing Bugsy Malone.

Not surprisingly, the BAFTA theatre is beautiful. Giant rows of plush red velvet seats that you sink into. Watching Bugsy Malone in their beautiful theatre was perfect and I would head back here to see another movie anytime, anywhere, any film.

Great film. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again.

In the end, I had a good time, but mostly because I have a good time whenever Shamaine and I do anything together. Plus, it gave me a chance to take some ridiculous pics. But the experience itself? No way to say it better than it was a let-down. I’d run back to the BAFTA to see a movie, but unless I had a very, very little kid in tow (I think even any kid over 5 would be dissapointed by this), probably not anything else.


THE GOOD: The amazing theatre at The BAFTA, which you should go just to watch a movie in.

THE BAD: Poor marketing to make it feel like more than it was. The activities, which were disappointing. The food, which was just OK. The entire event, which just kind of felt blah. Not a grand slam at all.

 

40 Comments

  • LaaLaa

    40 years old, jheeze. Why did I not think the film was that old. Just seems pretty timeless! Hmm the activities didn’t look jam packed I would of hoped for more myself. Doesn’t look fun enough!

    • Alex

      That is exactly the issue, not fun enough! 🙂

  • Sus // roughmeasures.com

    It’s a shame when things aren’t as good as you hoped, but at least you got to hold a splurge gun and watch the movie! I love bugsy malone!

    • Alex

      Loved the splurge gun, loved the movie, just was expecting more from BAFTA, you know?

  • Stephanie Merry

    That’s a shame that it wasn’t as good as you hope it would be – although I’m with you. I’ve never seen Bugsy Malone either…. Might have to download it and watch it this weekend x

    • Alex

      You must, it’s super adorable and a lot of fun.

  • Angela

    oh wow. I’ve not seen that movie. Clearly im not in my 40’s but it’s not one I have come across.

    • Alex

      I hadn’t seen it too so no worries. Worth seeing for sure though!

  • Anosa

    uhhh I have never actually seem the movie oops but I will do promise.
    Shame the marketing wasn’t on point

    • Alex

      Shame indeed. But let me know what you think of the movie when you see it! 🙂

  • Ana De- Jesus

    I love Bugsy, I was Talluluah in a stage production and it was a lot of fun I have to say! Glad you enjoyed yourselves!

  • Tara

    Never been a fan of Bugsy, but this does sound like a cool event.

  • Liz Mays

    It’s awesome that you enjoyed your introduction to Busy Malone enough to check out this event. It’s too bad they didn’t have some better stuff planned!

  • Susanna

    It’s the pop culture differences that I find the most obvious, too!

    I have to confess though; I have never seen Bugsy Malone! My husband is apparently a fan, so I think I’ll need to watch it soon!

    • Alex

      Nice, let me know what you think if you do see it!

  • Lemon Fancy

    Oh dear what a shame, could have been so much more! Wish they had let me have the budget it would have been awesome!
    I felt like this after going to the Harry Potter tour – not immersive enough. I wanted Diagon Alley to be full of character wearing magic folk, acting silly or suspicious but no, WB tour guides in T shirts.

    Perhaps we have learned to expect to much? NO! 😉

    • Alex

      Agreed! I say no. Our standards aren’t too high, it’s London, go big or go home. 🙂

  • Rhian Westbury

    Wow I can’t believe it’s been that long, but is it really bad to say I have never seen the movie?! x

    • Alex

      Ah! You’ve got to, it’s so much fun.

  • Anna nuttall

    Omg what a fun event! Love Bugsy Malone. I’m going listen to the soundtrack now. xx

  • Sam | North East Family Fun

    This looks like SUCH a fun event – I love all the attention to detail from the props to the drinks and menu! Looks like you had a fab time xx

  • Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    It’s a shame that it wasn’t as good as you were hoping it was going to be, but kudos on the honest review.

  • Tanya Tracy Brannan

    Awww what a shame it wasn’t as good an experience as what you wanted, although watching the film in such a good theatre setting seemed good! I do love Bugsy Malone and it reminds me of my childhood x

    • Alex

      Right? I did want it to be so much better than it was. Ah well.

  • Bethany Naismith

    This sounds like a cool event! Never seenm Bugsy Malone though, definitely need to give it a watch!

    • Alex

      For sure, it’s a blast.

  • Kira

    I will be honest, I have heard of both Bugsy Malone and Newsies but I’ve never watched either of them! That said, that event looks like so much fun!

    • Alex

      Get on it! They’re both so good. 🙂

  • Jemma

    I used to watch Bugsy Malone when I was little, but never really got it for some reason.

  • Jenni

    It’s a shame the event wasn’t great. We did Bugsy Malone as our year 6 play x

  • Hannah

    Can’t believe it’s been 40 years and I still haven’t seen it haha

  • Whitney

    Bugsy Malone is one of my fave childhood films, looked like a great day out. Also I love your writing style xx

    • Alex

      Best comment I’ve gotten all day. Thanks Whitney!

  • Harriet from Toby & Roo

    Wow 40 years! This looks amazing fun – a perfect way to celebrate! H x

  • WhatLauraLoves

    Oh no! Its such a shame that this didn’t live up to expectations 🙁 xxx

  • Charlotte

    I love Bugsy Malone! I was about to ask if it was American as I was sure it was. The world would be a boring place if we already knew about everything. 🙂 x

  • Leslie Hernandez

    I have to be honest I haven’t seen it either, I know you wanted it to be better but it looks like a really fun time out 🙂

    • Alex

      Yeah. It wasn’t a bad day, but that’s because the lovely lady and I have fun wherever we go. 🙂

  • MELANIE EDJOURIAN

    My daughters drama class did Bugsy last term so we got to hear all the songs not that long ago. It’s a shame that it wasn’t as good as expected. Prices in London are high unfortunately it’s a price you have to pay (sorry couldn’t help myself) to experience the big city.

  • The London Mum

    Oh what a shame.. although the theatre does sound amazing. I’ll need to watch a film there!

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