Is Posh the real paragon of Girl Power?
Having sat through the two and half hour long Spice Girl themed musical Viva Forever, I am not surprised it has received generally poor notices. I was surprised, however, to note that I feature (albeit as a footnote) in one of them.
In a tone that I read to be dismissive, the Times' Theatre Critic wrote 'the BBC's Arts Editor was to be seen afterwards passionately discussing the profound cultural significance of Posh Spice with the Artist-in-Residence of the British Library. I made my excuses and left'.
The language used is heightened for effect, but essentially it is an accurate report of a brief conversation that took place after the show between me, a charming man who was still recovering from being mistaken for Rupert Everett (this ginger-haired fellow is, I assume, the Artist-in-Residence of the British Library), and the aforementioned Times' Theatre Critic.
We had all witnessed the awkward sight at the end of the show when four of the Spice Girls leapt to their feet as one and loudly applauded the performers, only to discover that everyone else had remained in their seats. Including Posh Spice, who sat apart, a row or two behind.
Victoria Beckham did eventually rise from her seat looking deeply embarrassed and hopelessly exposed, like a naughty child made to stand in front of the entire school during morning assembly. You got the feeling that she had not been wholly amused by the evening's entertainment.
After a couple of imploring looks to advisors in the aisles, she sat down: the others stood firm. No matter, soon everybody was on their feet because that is the way of this type of shows nowadays. The end is no longer the end, but the beginning of the finale, which involves the entire cast leading an all singing, all dancing swing-a-long to the show's most famous numbers.
During this cacophony all five Spices made their way to the stage and in due course took turns in saying a few words of thanks to family, friends, players and producers. Throughout this process an unsmiling Victoria Beckham struck a pose as if taking part in a fashion shoot for Vogue.
She was there in body, but not in spirit. The other members of the group seemed positively delighted to maintain their association with their past and the world of light entertainment from which the Spice Girls emerged. Mrs Beckham did not.
She is now an internationally recognised, extremely successful clothes designer: a bone fide member of the fashion elite who prefers being part of the manufacturing world of designer dresses, and not that of manufactured environment of girl bands.
It was this transformation that we three were discussing on a freezing pavement last night. The Times' Theatre Critic thought little of Victoria Beckham's achievements, putting her success down to having a football-playing husband who is very famous and very rich. The British Library's Artist-in-Residence and I, begged to differ.
A platform of wealth, contacts and fame is helpful, we argued, but in her case it was also a hindrance. The high-end designer fashion world is necessarily extremely image conscious. Vulgar is never in. And quite high up on the list of things that might deemed vulgar by such aesthetes are footballers and manufactured boy / girl bands.
For Victoria Beckham to succeed as a designer required her to overcome scepticism among the media, the public and the profession. That she has done so is a testament to her tenacity and eye. It doesn't matter whether she can draw or not, or if she takes advice from managers and handlers, ultimately it comes down to her. She decides what goes out with her name on it: the clothes are a reflection of her taste.
Which, it appears, is shared by plenty of people. When I last spoke to the buyer at Selfridges, Victoria Beckham's dresses were the most popular line in its designer section. The fashion world has also accepted her into its fold, with Vogue saying that her Spring 2013 collection shows she 'continues to grow her brand with quiet assurance and intelligence.'
I don't think that Victoria Beckham is profoundly culturally significant, but I do think she has done well and deserves recognition and respect for her achievements. She knew what she really, really wanted and went out and got it - that's girl power.