Friday, 20 August 2010
The great at their best, caught in wax
Louis Tussaud's House Of Wax in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, has been called the 'worst museum in Britain' and, although I wouldn't claim it was the best, or that the wax figures inside were either completely lifelike or up to date, I have been there at least once a year since 1975, so I feel I can say with some certainty that the critics are entirely missing the point.
Louis Tussaud's is a place where the ephemeral and the briefly phenomenal are celebrated forever: where else nowadays will you find a waxwork of Adam Ant, J.R Ewing, General 'Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf or a a tableau from the TV series 'Colditz'? It is a place of stasis, stalemate, where nothing ever happens, nothing ever changes, and the great at their best, the stars at their brightest, are caught, no, trapped in wax, forever.
As for the accusation that the exhibits are rubbish, I refute this too. For the most part, the waxworks are excellent likenesses - they're just outmoded and shabbily executed. The museum, sadly, reeks of damp, under investment and disinterest: there are holes in the ceiling; someone has moved Sir Francis Chichester, but not his seagull; there is no such person as 'Micheal Barrymore'; The Chamber of Horrors which terrified and excited me so much as a kid is now revealed to be a dank and unpleasant smelling basement, although the inmates remain reliably macabre and the 'Death & Horror Sound Effects' tape keeps rolling...
Ultimately, like my poor wife, I actually don't know just what it is about this rundown wax museum in this odd, seedy seaside town that fascinates me so, but it is somewhere I return to again and again and still feel a frisson of excitement before I enter. I'm obsessed by it, I love it, I named my son Louis because of it, and I'm always relieved to find it still open. Even if the entry fee has now gone up to £5.