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“Welcome to Castle Anthrax,” coos Zoot, the exceptionally accommodating mistress of the castle, who reveals that this is home to a bevy of “young blondes and brunettes, all aged between 16 and 19½”. For some reason, the scene comes vividly to mind as I tramp along Shaftesbury Avenue towards the Palace Theatre to meet 10 women, all aged between 19 and 38, all of them dreaming of becoming a West End star – and all of them Swedish.It opened to rave reviews: my colleague Charles Spencer had “an absolute ball” and singled out the leading lady for particular praise.Linda and Jenny are unperturbed by the fact that they’re in competition with each other.“We’ve been competing in figure-skating since we were six or seven, so we’re used to it,” says Jenny.Humiliated, Hatt eventually reaches his destination, which turns out to be an HBO set for “Game of Thrones” where actor Björnsson meets him.Björnsson stands up and berates Hatt for using plastic packaging that harms the environment.Grindrod, who has been described as “the antithesis of Simon Cowell”, says: “If people are putting themselves on the line like that, it’s important that you don’t whack them down.” Yet, in the end, aren’t all but one of his finalists going to fail? As I head from the stage door towards the peals of laughter emanating from the auditorium where the girls are waiting, I think I know who’s feeling more intimidated.
“Slut,” she adds, pronouncing our familiar English word perfectly, “is a very bad word.” And with that stern admonition ringing in his ears, this shamefully ungallant knight beats a hasty retreat through the wings and out into the London drizzle.In one of the funniest scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, fresh-faced Sir Galahad the Chaste (Michael Palin) stumbles through a storm-lashed, mist-veiled forest towards the mysterious hilltop castle in which, he believes, the Grail has been secreted.Desperately, he thrashes at the castle’s imposing doors, and when finally they creak open he collapses exhausted on to the rough stone floor.So what was Grindrod looking for as each stream of Swedish womanhood swished past him? “The Lady of the Lake has something of the operatic diva about her, and I was looking for somebody who had style and presence.They also had to be able to make me laugh, and they had to demonstrate great vocal skills.