Sitting through Jes Benstock’s The British Guide to Showing Off (2011) is (presumably) like a bad acid trip – loud, garish and leaves you with the worst come-down in history. This documentary about the alternative artist and sculptor Andrew Logan was (one suspects) intended to put him over to the public as an eccentric, fun-loving icon. Instead, you’re left with the impression of an ageing drag queen with very little of the above.
The film’s main focus falls on Logan as he launches another of his ‘Alternative Miss World’ contests, which he founded in the 1970s as a showcase for bizarre, eccentric and ‘out there’ individuals. Held only occasionally, (i.e. when Logan can find a sponsor – which included Swatch one year – to fund the show), the contest has all the components of the regular Miss World event (daywear, evening-wear etc), minus the exotic locations.
We follow Logan as he explores some of London’s more ‘specialist’ areas in search of a venue in which to stage the 2009 extravaganza, whilst the final lineup of contestants includes an odd mix (both female and male) of everyday, mundane individuals.
In The British Guide to Showing Off’s favour, along the way you get to meet many of Logan’s friends and collaborators including doyenne of British fashion Zandra Rhodes (who designed Logan’s hostess costumes for the event) and fellow cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry (who manages to wear dresses with slightly more aplomb than Logan). One of the film’s highlights sees Logan pick up the phone to ask Ruby Wax (whose anarchic sense of humour is perfect for the wacky event) to be the show’s co-host. Disappointingly though, the biographical elements – which help explain how Logan became the ‘phenomenon’ he is and which would have made for a much more interesting ninety minutes – play second fiddle to the main story.
Many people appear to love Andrew Logan and his work. However – especially after watching The British Guide to Showing Off – you get the impression that some say this simply to be part of the ‘in crowd’ when in fact, like the Emperor’s Clothes, there is very little of substance to Andrew and his eccentrically ‘British’ take on life.