The Daily Telegraph
Cafe Royal

THE FRINGE can be a cruel place, especially if you are trying to do something different.
A couple of years ago I chanced across a singer called Philip Jeays, performing his own material with an excellent band at the Cafe Royal. There were only about a dozen people in the audience, but Jeays gave his all, singing his splendidly dramatic and well-crafted songs with tremendous panache.

He's back at the festival this year, his flyers quoting my own rave review and pop singer Tom Robinson's description of Jeays as the finest singwriter he's heard in 10 years. This time, surely, it would be a big venue and audiences roaring with approval.

Er no, actually. Jeays is back in the small room at the Cafe Royal, and on the night I attended he was playing to 13. He seemed sheepish rather than bitter about this, and says that part of the problem is that his work is in the Jacques Brel tradition, which has never been big in England.

To subsidise his singing he works two days a week in a bookies and helps his brother run comedy clubs. Does he ever get depressed? "Not really, because I really love writing these songs. I know I'll never be really huge, but what I would like is to be able to make a living out of it and not to have to work in the bookies any more."

If there is any justice at all, Jeays will one day do better than that.

Charles Spencer