Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Little Shop of Horrors @OpenAirTheatre "Vicky Vox... Divine‘s sassier and more fabulous daughter!" Full review ->

Last night Andy, Kevin, Darren, Vince, Mark, David, Stuart and I went to a performance of comedy rock musical The Little Shop of Horrors at the Open Air Theatre in London's glitzy Regent's Park. Regent's Park? How appropriate... Somewhere that's Green.

In fact, the park was a particularly well thought out setting dressed as it was as a cross between The Day Of the Triffids and Rocky Horror Show.

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's fabulous 1982 musical, based on a low-budget 1960 movie of the same name, is a celebration of early Motown and rock and roll music, with a bizarre plot and plenty of black comedy. It is a well-loved show and possibly one of our favourite musicals so we were really hoping they wouldn't fuck it up. Luckily for us - they didn't!

From the moment the voice of the prologue stated those opening lines, "On the 23rd day of the month of September in an early year of a decade not too long before our own the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence. And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places." And the band struck up, we knew we are on safe ground. The singing and acting was good, the theatrics nice, and the staging clever.

For director Maria Aberg (best known for directing Dr Faustus and The White Devil at the RSC) this is her Open Air Theatre debut so there must have been some pressure on her. Creating a giant carnivorous plant, the realisation of which is the linchpin of the show, is not the easiest task, and designer Tom Scutt (Jesus Christ Superstar) makes a game attempt at it - even if, it doesn't always quite come off at every point. The initial plant incarnation looks a bit “Poundland”!

This is the story of geek plant shop worker Seymour (Marc Antolin, very impressive) who is secretly in love with co-worker Audrey (I'd enjoyed Jemima Roper before in Hand Of God and Midsummer Night's Dream but she comes into her own here) who discovers a “strange and interesting new plant” that transforms the fortunes of his Skid Row florist.

Drag queen Vicky Vox makes her theatrical debut here as the voice of said strange and interesting new plant (now named Audrey II) and it is a role that is at the heart of this fun-packed musical. It is this casting of Vox, a member of the band Tranzkuntinental, that is the absolute making or breaking of the show. And she (almost) nails it.

Stuart and I had seen the production's first preview performance last month and now, later in the run, Ms Vox has relaxed and was enjoying it all a little more. In fact she was now getting away with even more of what's she's good at – making for an absolute blast of a performance. It was as her cries of 'Feed me' grew wilder in the 2nd half and she scratched at her crotch with a pitchfork that she morphed into essentially Divine‘s sassier and more fabulous daughter!

Conversely, Matt Willis from Busted seems to have tamed somewhat as the production’s run has progressed. In the earlier preview, he was a standout turn as the evil dentist boyfriend of Audrey's who boasts a maniacal laugh and fondness for nitrous oxide that renders him pure Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest goes Twin Peaks. Last night he seemed to have lost some of his allure and descended a little too deeply into self-parody.

Fans of the musical can rest easy though that despite all the scene-stealing by both plant and (to a lesser extent) dentist the romance at its heart, and the score's best song, Suddenly Seymour, remains as moving as ever.

Special mention does need to go to Skid Row street girls Renée Lamb, Christina Modestou and Seyi Omooba who absolutely boss their roles as Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon and bring a real sense of location to the early part of the show. I also loved the skyscrapers in shopping trolleys that the cast wheel about. Forbes Masson as shop owner Mr Mushnik is especially good value too.

The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre has a tradition of its musicals being Olivier Award-nominated and we wouldn't bet against Little Shop Of Horrors featuring in 2019's show.

The audience leapt to its feet in acclaim at the show's encore of 'Mean Green Mother From Outer Space' in a flurry of latex green beach balls flung into the audience and fantastical plant-based costumes.

So a great musical, nicely done. But not a patch on the original production, the film or the Menier Chocolate Factory revival a few years back.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Six - Divorced, Beheaded, Live! "These six strong women are wickedly portrayed rather than wickedly betrayed." @ArtsTheatreLDN @sixthemusical #sixthemusical #queens

Last Friday night Stuart and I sent to see Six at the Arts Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

We all think we know the story of Henry VIII's six wives; "Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived." but this new musical remixes their stories from Tudor queens to pop princesses. We were treated to a right royal night out, in that long British tradition of making history fun.

It may be cloaked in silliness, but Six makes some serious points about female victimhood and survival. These six strong women are wickedly portrayed rather than wickedly betrayed. If GCSE history classes were half as energised as the musical Six there would have been a 100% pass rate.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Lover / The Collection - Simply amazing production. Esp. Russell Tovey who was fucking brilliant. He acted his socks off. His socks... His t-shirt... His trousers... @JamieLloydCo #PinteratthePinter @HPinterTheatre @russelltovey #hayleysquires #johnmacmillan @David_Suchet

Last night Stuart and I went to see an amazing production of two Harold Pinter plays, The Lover and The Collection, at the Pinter Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Billed as part of the Pinter at the Pinter season, this night was called "Pinter Two" being the second collection (albeit, confusingly, the one we were seeing first.) Superbly directed by Jamie Lloyd it was a top night as we were treated to two miniature comedic masterpieces from the 1960s that explored secrets, lies and seduction.

The first play The Lover starred John Macmillan and Hayley Squires as a husband and wife both having affairs. But with whom? They do seem like a conventional, suburban couple but in such unconventional circumstances. The play is playful, funny and provocative.

The second play The Collection has been hailed as one of the outstanding plays of the 20th Century by Laurence Olivier. It delves into the intriguing mystery of two London couples linked by sexual desire and a quest for supremacy.

Husband and wife James (John Macmillan) and Stella (Hayley Squires) live near gay couple Harry (David Suchet) and Bill (Russell Tovey). Stella and Bill are both dressmakers and last week were at a conference away in Leeds. Did they meet? Did they have sex? James wants to know what went on. And so a battle of wordplay, and sexual power games ensues. It was very funny and brilliantly unnerving.

And can I just say I take it all back. Russell Tovey was fucking brilliant. A revelation. And by that I mean he revealed a lot. He acted his socks off. His socks... His t-shirt... His trousers...

Can you help two friends of mine? In UK, but only for 2 days. Time is tight, which place should they visit? Someone suggested wonderful Salisbury. Maybe going twice - in case first time there is slush. They have no slush where they come from.

Can you help two friends of mine? They’re coming to the UK, but only for 2 days. With time so tight, which place should they visit? Someone suggested going to wonderful Salisbury. Maybe going twice - in case the first time there is slush. They have no slush where they come from. 
Are there any hotels in Salisbury? Or should they stay in East London?




Thursday, September 13, 2018

New Apple iPhone XS, XS Max, and R Announced - little change - bit faster, bit bigger - iOS12 good though #iphone @appleevent #ios12

So the three new iPhones announced by Apple last night are a bit of a mixed bag. Overall they are a bit faster, a bit bigger, and a bit cheaper (depending on the model) than the current top of the range iPhone X.

  • iPhone XS (is a bit faster than the X but more or less the same phone with the option of more storage - at a price)
  • iPhone XS Max (is a bit bigger than the X but again with the option of more storage)
  • iPhone XR (is a bit cheaper than the X)


The biggest changes come in the iOS 12 software though - which will be available for most existing models too.

iOS 12

iOS 12 brings performance improvements and exciting new features to iPhone and iPad. Photos introduces new features to help you rediscover and share the photos in your library, Memoji — a new, more customisable Animoji — make Messages more expressive and fun, Screen Time helps you and your family understand and make the most of the time spent on devices, Siri Shortcuts deliver a faster way to get things done with the ability for any app to work with Siri, augmented reality becomes even more engaging with the ability for developers to create shared AR experiences, and new privacy features help protect you from being tracked on the web. This update introduces new features and improvements to:

Performance
iOS has been enhanced for a faster and more responsive experience across the system
All supported devices see improved performance, going back to iPhone 5s and iPad Air
Camera launches up to 70 per cent faster, the keyboard appears up to 50 per cent faster, and typing is more responsive*
Apps launch up to twice as fast when your device is under heavy workload*

Photos
New For You tab helps you discover great photos in your library with Featured Photos, Effect Suggestions and more
Sharing Suggestions proactively recommend sharing photos taken at events with the people who are in them
Search enhancements make it easier to find your photos with intelligent suggestions and multiple keyword support
Search for photos based on the place, business name or event where you were when you took them
Improved camera import with faster performance and a new large preview mode
RAW support for editing images

Camera
Portrait mode improvements preserve fine detail between subject and background when using Stage Light and Stage Light Mono effects
QR codes are highlighted in the camera frame, making them easier to scan
Messages
Memoji, a new, more customisable Animoji, make Messages more expressive with personalised characters that are diverse and fun
Animoji now also include T-Rex, ghost, koala and tiger
Make Memoji and Animoji wink and stick out their tongue
New camera effects bring Animoji, filters, text effects, iMessage sticker packs and shapes to the photos and videos you capture in Messages
Animoji recordings can now capture up to 30 seconds

Screen Time
Screen Time provides detailed information and tools to help you and your family find the right balance of time spent with apps and websites
See the time spent in apps, usage across categories of apps, how many notifications are received and how often devices are picked up
App limits help you set the amount of time you or your child can spend in apps and on websites
Screen Time for kids lets parents manage how their child uses iPhone and iPad from their own iOS devices
Do Not Disturb
Turn off Do Not Disturb after a set time, location or calendar event
Do Not Disturb During Bedtime hides all notifications from your Lock screen while you sleep

Notifications
Notifications from the same app are automatically grouped together to help you manage your notifications
Instant Tuning gives you control over your notification settings from the Lock screen
New Deliver Quietly option silently sends notifications directly to Notification Centre without interrupting you

Siri
Siri Shortcuts deliver a faster way to get things done with the ability for any app to work with Siri
Add shortcuts using the “Add to Siri” button in supported apps, or in Settings > Siri and Search
Siri suggests shortcuts on the Lock screen and in Search
Get motorsports results, schedules, stats and standings for Formula 1, Nascar, Indy 500 and MotoGP
Search for photos by time, location, people, topic or recent trips to find relevant photos and Memories in Photos
Translate phrases in more languages, with support for over 40 language pairs
Check facts about celebrities, such as when they were born, and ask questions about food, including calories and nutrient content
Turn the torch on or off
More natural and expressive voice now available in Irish English, South African English, Danish, Norwegian, Cantonese and Mandarin (Taiwan)

Augmented Reality
Shared experiences in ARKit 2 let developers create innovative AR apps you can experience together with friends
Persistence enables developers to save and reload experiences from where you left off
Object detection and image tracking gives developers new tools to recognise real-world objects and track images while they move through space
AR Quick Look extends AR throughout iOS, letting you view AR objects with built-in apps like News, Safari and Files, and share them with friends with iMessage and Mail

Measure
New augmented reality app to measure objects and spaces
Draw lines across surfaces or in free space to measure, and tap a line’s label to see more information
Automatically measure rectangular objects
Capture, share and mark up screenshots of your measurements

Privacy and Security
Enhanced Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari prevents embedded content and social media buttons from tracking cross-site browsing without your permission
Suppresses ad retargeting by reducing advertisers’ ability to identify iOS devices uniquely
Strong and unique passwords are suggested automatically when creating an account or changing a password in most apps and in Safari
Reused passwords are flagged in Settings > Passwords & Accounts
Security code AutoFill presents one-off security codes sent over SMS as suggestions in the QuickType bar
Sharing passwords with contacts is easier than ever using AirDrop from Passwords & Accounts in Settings
Siri supports quickly navigating to a password on an authenticated device

Apple Books
All-new design that makes discovering and enjoying books and audiobooks easy and fun
Reading Now makes it simple to get back to the book you’re currently reading or find great recommendations for what to read next
Add books to the new Want to Read collection to keep track of what you’d like to read next
The Book Store makes it easy to find your next favourite read with new and popular selections from our Apple Books editors and recommendations chosen just for you
The new Audiobooks store helps you find immersive stories and informative non-fiction books narrated by your favourite authors, actors and celebrities

Apple Music
Search now supports lyrics so you can use a few of the words to find a song
Artist pages have an easier-to-browse design with a personalised station of any artist's music
The new Friends Mix is a playlist of songs you’ll love from everything your friends are listening to
New charts to show you the daily top 100 songs in countries around the world

Apple News
Apple News is redesigned to make it easier to discover new channels and topics
The new sidebar on iPad and Channels tab on iPhone make it easy to jump straight to your favourite publications and discover new ones

Stocks
All-new design lets you easily view stock quotes, interactive charts and top news on iPhone and iPad
Top Stories section includes articles selected by Apple News editors to highlight the latest news driving the market
Read Apple News stories directly in the app, formatted to look great on iPhone and iPad
Watchlist includes colour-coded sparklines that let you see daily performance at a glance
See an interactive chart for every ticker symbol, plus key details including after-hours price, trading volume and more

Voice Memos
All-new design with improved ease of use
iCloud keeps your recordings and edits in sync across all your devices
Available on iPad with support for both portrait and landscape orientation

TV
Get notified when films and TV programmes are available to watch in Up Next
Share your favourite films, TV programmes and sporting events with universal links

Apple Podcasts
Now supports chapters for shows that include them
Skip 30 seconds or to the next chapter with forward and back buttons in your car or on your headphones
Easily manage new episode notifications from the Listen Now screen

Accessibility
Live Listen now works with AirPods to help you hear more clearly
RTT phone calling now works with AT&T
Speak Selection now supports using the Siri voice to speak text that you have selected

Other features and improvements
Camera effects in FaceTime transform your look in real time
CarPlay adds support for third-party navigation apps
On supported campuses, use contactless student ID cards in Wallet to access buildings and pay with Apple Pay
Website icons can appear in tabs on iPad by enabling them in Settings > Safari
Weather includes air quality index in supported regions
Quickly swipe up from the bottom of the screen to go home on iPad
Swipe down from the top right to access Control Centre on iPad
Mark Up includes a palette of additional colours and options to change line width and opacity for each tool
Battery usage chart in Settings now shows your usage for the last 24 hours or 10 days, and you can tap a bar to see app use for that period of time
On devices without 3D Touch, touch and hold the keyboard Space bar to turn your keyboard into a trackpad
Maps adds support for indoor maps for airports and shopping centres with indoor positioning in China
New definition dictionary in Hebrew, and bilingual dictionaries in Arabic and English, and Hindi and English
New English thesaurus
Automatic software updates allow iOS updates to be installed automatically overnight

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fenella Fielding RIP "Why is your bum so hard? Do you leave it out at night?"

A couple of years ago Stuart and I went to see a packed screening of Carry on Screaming at the Arthouse in London's glitzy Crouch End.

It was a right old laugh and great fun to watch it with a live audience giggling along with you. "Frying tonight!"

Afterwards we were treated to a 45 minute Q&A with the marvellous, the lovely, the vivacious Fenella Fielding. Compere Mark Ravenhill asked questions about her work on the film we'd just seen, her career highlights and how she got on with her fellow actors. She also took questions from the audience.

She confirmed what we all knew that Kenneth Williams was a bit of a nightmare to work with and mean to anyone else who he thought might outshine him, Harry H Corbett played everything for laughs and so in many ways banjaxed his own straight acting career and Charles Hawtrey was a complete darling.

There aren't many 88 year old women who can hold an audience spellbound while discussing the art of subordinate clauses, purring about figure-hugging red velvet dresses and musing on why people just don't hold back the truth when they are tired.

A funny film, a great woman, a top night.

I wanted to ask a particular question but didn't get the chance. The question I wanted to ask was apparently one she asked Kenneth Williams when they were filming Carry on Screaming and had to ride in a cramped horse-drawn buggy together; "Why is your bum so hard? Do you leave it out at night?" 

Sadly I will now never get the chance.




Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"I'm guessing that answer won't make the edit." @Arsenal #OffMessage #ArsenalJokes

I was interviewed by Arsenal Media Team at the ground before the Arsenal Legends match last Saturday.

"What first attracted you to watching the Arsenal?"

"Well, it wasn't the ticket prices."

I'm guessing that answer won't make the edit.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Chilling interview Héctor Bellerín gave in The Times to Matthew Syed on Saturday 8th Sept 2018. Yes, 2018! ...

Chilling interview Héctor Bellerín gave in The Times to Matthew Syed on Saturday 8th Sept 2018. Yes, 2018!

Héctor Bellerín: Act differently and it makes you a target – it’s dangerous

"He hands me his mobile phone to show a stream of invective under a recent photo of him wearing a white linen top. It is nasty stuff, much of it homophobic. "Some of it can get very abusive," he says. "Most of the abuse is online, but you hear it in the stadium too. People have called me ‘lesbian’ for growing my hair. There are other kinds of homophobic insults. I have learnt to grow a thick skin but it can affect you. Every now and again, you get a bit of self-doubt."

Friday, September 07, 2018

The Second Violinist "We loved it. Unnerving, dramatic, and musical" @BarbicanTheatre

Last night Stuart and I went to see playwright Enda Walsh and composer Donnacha Dennehy’s dazzling opera The Second Violinist at the Barbican Theatre in London's glitzy Barbican Centre.

It was an exhilarating blend of opera, theatre and film and a narrowing study in heartbreak. With a bit of male nudity thrown in.

The eponomous second violinist is Matthew, whose life is falling apart: he won’t practise, and spends his evenings drinking and playing violent video games on his phone. In an initially comic prologue, he hides from a bombardment of voice messages from needy idiots and text messages from his local pizza company, while reluctantly travelling to rehearsals. Aaron Monaghan is compelling in this silent role, his whole body expressing pent-up frustration. His words are conveyed by text, mobile phopne snaps and phone video on a 13-metre screen behind him, until three singers invade his living room, enacting emotional scenes whose significance gradually emerges. One of these singers is Martin whose own life is falling apart. Could Martin and Matthew be one and the same person?

Walsh likes playing with multiple timelines in his work, and freely jumps backwards and forwards in time, laying one upon another. Soon the dual-personality becomes clear and Martin/Matthew's violent nature leads him to a even more unsettling climax in the woods.

For woods there are - the stage is split into three sections - the orchestra pit where our anti-hero performs, the middle section is his home, and floating above all this is a 40-tree wood. It's some set. On each wing of the satge were the seated chorus who occasionally invaded the action to no small comic effect.

We loved it. Unnerving, dramatic, and musical.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Quiz Night @HighburyL So here are the answers to this week's quiz. How did you do? #QuizTeamUnderdogz #PubQuiz

So here are the answers to this week's quiz. How did you do?

In the News
1. Which Oscar winning director quit his job at the helm of James Bond 25 over 'creative differences'? Danny Boyle
2. A fish shop in Kuwait was reportedly shutdown for goign what to make his fish look more fresh? Googley eyes
3. Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley agreed to buy which chain store for £90m? House of Fraser
4. I'm a celebrity get me out of hereeeee will be returning this autumn, which celeb will be temporarily replacing Ant as Dec's co host? Holly Willoughby
5. After her catsuit was banned in the French Open, Serena Williams has taken to wearing what as she makes her 1Oth consecutive US Open euarter Final? Tutu

World
1. Which musical string instrument became associated with Hawaii after it was introduced by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th Century? Ukulele
2. What is the name of central London's one remaining wholesale market where meat and poultry have been traded for over 800 years? Smithfield
3. In which part of the world would you find Saint Piran's Flag? Cornwall (black w/ white cross)
4. There are two landlocked countries in South America can you tell me what they are? Paraguay and Bolivia
5. The Welsh Premier League FootballTeam TNS are now known as The New Saints but what did the same abbreviation stand for between 1997 and 2006? Total Network Solutions (a sponsorship made famous by Jeff Stelling once announcing "They'll be dancing in the streets of Total Network Solutions tonight!" on Soccer Saturday)

Food and Drink
1. In restaurants, what French term lets the customer know that they choose dishes from the menu as opposed to a set-menu? A La Carte
2. Which alcohol spirit brand uses a Bat on its logo in dedication to the bats that lived in the originally distillery? Bacardi
3. Andrew has a 12" pizza to himself, Liz has half of an 18" pizza. Who ate more pizza? Liz (12" pizza is 113.1 square inches. 18" pizza is 254.5 square inches so half of this is 127.25 square inches)
4. What is the name of the food product, rich in B Vitamins, that is produced as a by-product of the beer brewing process? Marmite
5. The Globe Artichoke is a species of which flower which is characterized by its prickles? Thistle

Connections
1. Music city USA is the official nickname of which city in Tennessee? Nashville
2. In the United States, what is the name of the river that separates New Jersey from Manhattan? Hudson
3. What is the name of the 2007 film, nominated for 4 Oscars, which tells the story of an independent-minded teenager confronting an unplanned pregnancy? Juno
4. What was the destination of the NASA mission, Apoilo 11? Moon
5. In the British version of the board game Monopoly, what is the most expensive property a player can purciase? Mayfair

Sequences - You have to fill in the gap - For example - Game....set....MATCH
1. Ball...Cox...Moyles...Grimshaw...BLANK James (last 5 presenters of the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show to most current)
2. 122 Leadenhall Street. . . . Heron Tower... One Canada Square. . . . BLANK - The Shard - Top 4 tallest buildings in London in ascending order
3. Crown Paints....Candy... ..Carlsberg... BLANK - Standard Chartered (Liverpool FC shirt sponsors from 1982 to present)
4. 1 Sorrow,2 Joy, 3 Girl, 4 Boy, 5 BLANK Silver (one for sorrow magpie nurse ryrhyme)
5. Home, Brain, Heart BLANK Courage (things sought after in Wizard of Oz)

Science & Nature
1. What does 'http' stand for, as used in website addresses? Hyper Text Transfer Protocol
2. Who is credited with the discovery of Jupiter's 4 moons in the year 1610? Galileo
3. What does the Gieger counter measure? Radioactivity
4. The largest known spider in the world is named after which biblical character? Goliath
5. What is the official name of the north star? Polaris

The Arts and Culture
1. In the UK mockumentary The Office, Wrat is the name of the paper merchants David Brent manages? Wernham Hogg
2. In Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror classic The Shining, what is the name of the hotel situated in the colorado Rockies, where the story unfolds? The Overlook Hotel
3. What was the name of Bart Simpson's 1990 single that went to number 1 in the UK Charts and featured back-up vocals from Michael Jackson? Do The Bartman
4. Which british sculptor has works such as the Arcelor Mittal Orbit and Cloud gate (big silver bean in Chicago) included in their portfolio? Anish Kapoor
5. What are the names of the twin characters in the Lewis Carroll novel Through The Looking Glass who have become synonymous in western popular culture slang for any two people who look and act in identical ways? Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Intros round -
1. C'est Le Vie - Bewitched
2. Ray of Light - Madonna
3. Hard Knock Life - Jay Z
4. Teardrop - Massive Attack
5. No Matter What - Boyzone

What was the year? 1998

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Quiz Night @HighburyL Great fun. How did we do? We came second! And can you guess which famous film we recreated in Playdoh? #QuizTeam #Underdogz #PubQuiz

Last night Jane, Sara, Stuart and I entered Liz's amazing monthly quiz at Highbury Library in London's glitzy Islington.

This was our second attempt at the quiz and we were determined to improve upon our dismal performance last month - second to last. We even changed our team name - to Underdogz

Liz was calling out the questions, Joanna spinning the tunes, and Ryan pulling the pints. It was great fun.

As with last time, there were loads of inventive rounds involving eating, making stuff and guessing the intro. We downed quite a few beers, ordered super-tasty Tangy food and had a rare old time.

But how did we do? Well, came second out of eight teams! 36.5 points. The winners got 39 points - and the £62 jackpot.

Here are the questions. See how you do? If you think you can beat us (you know you can!) - come next month! Booking essential!

Oh, and what is the weird picture to the left? There was Playdoh round. Can you guess which famous film we recreated?


Taste Test: Three pieces of chocolate to guess
1. Rum and raisin
2. Cappuccino
3. Salted Butterscotch

In the News
1. Which Oscar winning director quit his job at the helm of James Bond 25 over 'creative differences'?
2. A fish shop in Kuwait was reportedly shutdown for goign what to make his fish look more fresh?
3. Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley agreed to buy which chain store for £90m?
4. I'm a celebrity get me out of hereeeee will be returning this autumn, which celeb will be temporarily replacing Ant as Dec's co host?
5. After her catsuit was banned in the French Open, Serena Williams has taken to wearing what as she makes her 1Oth consecutive US Open euarter Final?

World
1. Which musical string instrument became associated with Hawaii after it was introduced by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th Century?
2. What is the name of central London's one remaining wholesale market where meat and poultry have been traded for over 800 years?
3. In which part of the world would you find Saint Piran's Flag?
4. There are two landlocked countries in South America can you tell me what they are?
5. The Welsh Premier League FootballTeam TNS are now known as The New Saints but what did the same abbreviation stand for between 1997 and 2006?

Food and Drink
1. In restaurants, what French term lets the customer know that they choose dishes from the menu as opposed to a set-menu?
2. Which alcohol spirit brand uses a Bat on its logo in dedication to the bats that lived in the originally distillery?
3. Andrew has a 12" pizza to himself, Liz has half of an 18" pizza. Who ate more pizza?
4. What is the name of the food product, rich in B Vitamins, that is produced as a by-product of the beer brewing process?
5. The Globe Artichoke is a species of which flower which is characterized by its prickles?

Connections
1. Music city USA is the official nickname of which city in Tennessee?
2. In the United States, what is the name of the river that separates New Jersey from Manhattan?
3. What is the name of the 2007 film, nominated for 4 Oscars, which tells the story of an independent-minded teenager confronting an unplanned pregnancy?
4. What was the destination of the NASA mission, Apoilo 11?
5. In the British version of the board game Monopoly, what is the most expensive property a player can purciase?

Sequences - You have to fill in the gap - For example - Game....set....MATCH
1. Ball...Cox...Moyles...Grimshaw...BLANK
2. 122 Leadenhall Street. . . . Heron Tower... One Canada Square. . . . BLANK
3. Crown Paints....Candy... ..Carlsberg... BLANK
4. 1 Sorrow,2 Joy, 3 Girl, 4 Boy, 5 BLANK
5. Home, Brain, Heart BLANK

Science & Nature
1. What does 'http' stand for, as used in website addresses?
2. Who is credited with the discovery of Jupiter's 4 moons in the year 1610?
3. What does the Gieger counter measure?
4. The largest known spider in the world is named after which biblical character?
5. What is the official name of the north star?

The Arts and Culture
1. In the UK mockumentary The Office, Wrat is the name of the paper merchants David Brent manages?
2. In Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror classic The Shining, what is the name of the hotel situated in the colorado Rockies, where the story unfolds?
3. What was the name of Bart Simpson's 1990 single that went to number 1 in the UK Charts and featured back-up vocals from Michael Jackson?
4. Which british sculptor has works such as the Arcelor Mittal Orbit and Cloud gate (big silver bean in Chicago) included in their portfolio?
5. What are the names of the twin characters in the Lewis Carroll novel Through The Looking Glass who have become synonymous in western popular culture slang for any two people who look and act in identical ways?

Intros round -
1. C'est Le Vie - Bewitched
2. Ray of Light - Madonna
3. Hard Knock Life - Jay Z
4. Teardrop - Massive Aftack
5. No Matter What - Boyzone

What was the year?

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Jacqueline Pearce RIP - best remembered as the glamorous but ruthless villain Supreme Commander Servalan #Blakes7 ...

I was saddened to learn that Jacqueline Pearce, star of Blake’s 7, Doctor Who and Hammer Horror movies, died yesterday aged 74.

I was lucky enough to have met Jacks a few times in the early 1980s when I was part of the then budding Blake's 7 Appreciation Society. She was as striking a woman as she was an actress.

She is of course best remembered for playing Supreme Commander Servalan, the wry, calculating sociopathic villain, who was both glamorous and ruthless in said popular BBC science fiction series Blake’s 7. A show which retains a keen cult following to this day. Initially appearing in a supporting role for a single episode, the character proved to be so popular that she was invited back for more. Servalan became a recurring villain, appearing regularly throughout the series’ four seasons, from 1978 to 1981 (with Pearce ultimately billed as second lead after Paul Darrow's anti-hero Avon). She would later recall, with delight, how she received numerous fan letters from young men whose passions had been awakened by her sexually charged performance as Servalan.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Art in the Park @FriezeArtFair ...

The other week Stuart and I went to see the annual Frieze Art Fair Sculpture Park in London's glitzy Regent's Park. Some fab works of art. We love art in the park.












Monday, August 27, 2018

Little Shop of Horrors "As we took our seats it started to rain. And then it poured. So the show was a wash-out." @OpenAirTheatre ...

Last Friday night Stuart, Darren, Vince, Andy, Kev and I went to go and watch Little Shop of Horrors at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre in glitzy London town.

As we took our seats it started to rain. And then it poured. So the show was a wash-out.

We have rebooked for a few weeks time.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Mendelssohn’s Octet in a beautiful candlelit setting in the City of London.

Lovely evening last night as Gavin performed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Mendelssohn’s Octet in a beautiful candlelit setting in the glitzy City of London.














Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Too British to do so yourself...

In Wagamama when you can see your food is ready but the waiter hasn't noticed it and you're just staring at your meal under the hot light willing it to develop the power of speech to it can tell the waiter it's ready because you're too British to do so yourself. That. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Fun Home "sensational" #YVFunHome @youngvictheatre ...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see American lesbian coming-of-age musical Fun Home at the Young Vic Theatre in London's glitzy Waterloo.

Fun Home is adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel's 2006 graphic memoir of the same name. The story concerns Bechdel's discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her gay father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life. It is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist.

The action is set in a funeral parlour with the story told as non-linear vignettes over the three ages of Alison; when she is a little girl living with her parents and two brothers, when she is first at college and coming out, and as a 42-year-old graphic artist. It is this last older incarnation that narrates and revisits the other two - sometimes just to watch and sometimes interacting with them or reliving their stories.

The show is sensational - the singing is great, the story very sweet, and the acting top notch - especially by the kids. The dad's own story whilst moving is perhaps a little over-played for my taste though. For me, things were best and funniest when they concentrated on our heroine.

Of the musical numbers the funniest were 'Come to the Fun Home' (small Alison and her brothers John and Christian perform an imaginary advertisement for the funeral home) and 'Changing My Major' (when college Alison discovers her sexuality for the first time).

If you get a chance - go see.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Exit The King @NationalTheatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Eugène Ionesco's absurdist drama Exit the King at the Oliver Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Ionesco, that French-Romanian titan of post-war drama, acclaimed architect of such avant-garde classics as The Killer, The Chairs and Rhinoceros, is only now receiving his first National Theatre production. And it is 2018. Well over two decades since his death in 1994. Utterly absurd... as is the play, of course. But perhaps not quite absurd enough for my taste.

Exit the King's original French title is "Le Roi se meurt" that literally translates as "The King is dying" which perhaps explains the plot somewhat more clearly and less poetically than the English version. The play is a fairly straightforward affair about a king (Rhys Ifans) who is in denial of his own death and refuses to give up power.

His first wife Queen Marguerite (Indira Varma) tries to make him realise what is going on. His second wife Queen Marie (Amy Morgan) seems to be in an equal state of denial as the king. The royal doctor (Adran Scarborough) and the guard (Derek Griffiths) complete the pack of cards.

In the play, Ionesco insists that death, for each and every one of us, is the loss of our everything – all our earthly possessions and powers. It is a simple point and a profound one, though not one that sustains an hour and forty minutes of overblown verbosity and polite, pantomime clowning that hits the same notes again and again. The initial absurdist politics soon gave way to a meditation on the meaning of death, of letting go, of giving up, of realising it is not really all about you. Some people in the audience were developing their own exit plan, heads bobbing in a way that signalled sleep was nigh.

One for the die-hard Ionesco fans I feel.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Uncle Jim RIP...



Uncle Jim RIP. At his funeral today. I dropped a note to my aunt, his wife of 68 years earlier.


Dearest Aunty Jenny,

 

I just wanted to write a brief note to you to express how very upset I was to hear that Uncle Jim had passed away this week.

 

My thoughts are with you. And please pass on my deepest sympathises to all the family.

 

Uncle Jim held a very special place in my heart for many reasons. His sense of humour - I can still hear his roaring laughter so clearly. His love of family - the get-togethers at Red Tiles when we were younger were some of the happiest days of my youth. And despite Uncle Jim's no-nonsense manner I could always see his softer side behind his twinkling eyes.

 

As I am sure you know, I was christened after him too. Jonathan Mark JAMES Green. What you may not know though is that "James" was always the favourite of my first names and as a child I even tried to persuade my family to start calling me that. They didn't bite though. The swines!

 

And Uncle Jim was my Godfather too, a role he and I talked about a couple of times. Most recently, two years ago at the last big the family get-together.

"Uncle Jim, you know are my Godfather." 

"Yes, I know, boy" He smiled.

"Did we ever need to do anything about that? I mean, do godfathers and godsons need to actually do anything?"

"Do? No, I don't think so, boy. Don't you go telling your mother though"

"I won't Uncle Jim" We both smiled.

No nonsense. No fuss.

 

I know Uncle Jim had lots of nieces and nephews and at times our big family parties must have all seemed a bit overwhelming with all those kids running around - watching all those "Phillips smiles". But I always looked up to him at those events. He knew how to keep everything calm. How to keep order and yet still enjoy himself.

 

Whether we were all on the beach together on holiday in Mudeford, playing a game of Newmarket in Welwyn when Uncle Jim would place a £5 note on one of cards to get the children screaming with excitement, or simply watching you and him sharing a drink together and laughing together out loud. I will miss him.

 

He was a great man. And a great Uncle.

 

All my love,

 

Jonathan XX

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

£¥€$ (LIES) @AlmeidaTheatre...


Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see £¥€$ (LIES) at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

£¥€$ is an interactive game satirising the international banking system. Only it is a lot more fun than it sounds. Rather like Monopoly but you are playing for real.

You arrive with your group, but immediately get split up. You are then seated at one of ten gambling tables in a darkened room. The theatre has been gutted to resemble a casino and you along with six other strangers sit opposite a 'croupier'. Only they are not a croupier, they are your new country's central bank - and you and your new friends are all individual banks. Everyone is instructed to turn out their pockets and any cash is secured by the bank and exchanged for chips. You place you bets, you roll our die, and depending on the outcome, you make your returns.

The returns are initially modest but as time progressed more and more sophisticated financial products are introduced to the game. You can take out loans, you can increase your stake for bigger rewards, you pay your taxes, you can go short, you can issue bonds, you can buy bonds from other countries (each table i.e. country has a credit rating that affects their bond price), you can merge with other banks... You get the picture. As you make more and more money, you are encouraged to gamble more and more. You trust the system and the system keeps paying out. Credit thrives. Greed is good. For some.

Only the financial crash is never far away. And when it comes, and come it does, who do you bail out and who do you leave to sink?

The take home message? The national and international banking systems are incredible complex and highly interdependent. Money is very alluring. Trust is fleeting.

A great night out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Aristocrats "good to see this companion piece to Translations revived at the Donmar." @DonmarWarehouse...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Brian Friel's Aristocrats at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy Covent Garden.

With Friel's Translations about to close at the National, it was good to see this companion piece revived at the Donmar.

The plot revolves around Irish stately home Ballybeg Hall - a place that once played host to grand balls, musical evenings, tennis parties: its rooms busy, bursting with painters, poets and politicians. And presiding over all of it was the imposing figure of Judge O’Donnell, the patriarch, a former judge, who is a stricken figure whose authoritarian ramblings we hear through a baby monitor.

Now, on the eve of a wedding, the O’Donnell children return to their ancestral home to find that the rot has set in.

But all is not what it seems. The son (expertly played by David Dawson) seems to have one too many tall tales to tell. The three Chekhovian sisters - one a careworn coper, another a London-based lush and the third a chronic depressive (beautifully played by Eileen Walsh, Elaine Cassidy, and Aisling Loftus) - all have their tales of woe.

Lyndsey Turner returns to the Donmar following Faith Healer to direct Brian Friel’s again. The staging it perhaps somewhat meta for my taste though - a bare stage with a small dolls house serving as the only prop.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Home, I'm Darling "skewers any sexist notions of the perfect housewife" #HomeImDarling @NationalTheatre

Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to see Laura Wade's new play Home, I'm Darling at the Dorfman Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Katherine Parkinson dazzles like a newly cleaned surface in this incisive critique of what happens when nostalgia goes too far as it skewers any sexist notions of the perfect housewife.

How happily married are the happily married? Every couple needs a little fantasy to keep their marriage sparkling, right? But behind the gingham curtains, when things start to unravel, is being a domestic goddess as easy as it seems?

Meet Judy: a woman arming herself against the modern world with a duster, a cocktail mixer and a pair of teetering heels. Judy has chosen to go back in time and live life as authentically as she can as a 1950s housewife. But as she roots herself firmly in the past, the modern world keeps banging at her perfectly painted door.

Katherine Parkinson, BAFTA award-winning actress of The IT Crowd and Humans, is magnificent as a jittery, bustling and desperate Judy. Parkinson deftly communicates the searing agitation underneath Judy's unwavering smile as she becomes trapped into thinking that the aesthetic of a happy, simple life is more important than acknowledging the despair that is seeping into her and her husband's (Johnny, played by Richard Harrington) household. Parkinson's Judy never quite lets go of her self-imposed restraint, even at her most vulnerable.

Playwright Laura Wade made waves in 2010 with her Royal Court play Posh, a cut-throat and wry analysis of British social structures and injustices. In Home, I'm Darling there is an abundant ease in Tamara Harvey's direction that makes Wade's script dance on the stage; the audience delights as Wade's sharp-witted gags pop and sizzle, hitting their mark each time. All of this takes place within Anna Fleischle's retro set - delightfully designed as a homage to vintage '50s-style domesticity.

Cracks start to appear in Judy's '50s illusion as real life starts to intrude in the shape of Johnny's boss Alex (Sara Gregory) and friends Marcus (Barnaby Kay) and Fran (Kathryn Drysdale).

A real highlight comes when Judy's CND protesting, commune-living mother Sylvia (Sian Thomas) annihilates her daughter's fantasies by giving a rousing diatribe on why the 50's were a horrendous time to live as a woman: having to huddle by the oven for warmth, while the hands of your husband and any other man grab at you, as you contemplate the dread of eating that new mould-based dairy product 'yoghurt'.

This is a play of ideas. Wade's penmanship nimbly tackles the fantasies of domesticity, the empty nostalgia of a simpler time, the stereotypes of gender, and the battle between the different waves of feminism. Although the narrative is slim, it makes space for an incisive character study of a woman driven to destructive absurdity by her unrelenting fantasies of a pristine, perfectly petticoated life.

Both fabulously funny and a revealing dissection of womanhood, Home, I'm Darling scrutinises both the fabricated image of domestic goddesses from the 1950s, and what it means to be female today post the #MeToo movement.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Little Shop of Horrors @OpenAirTheatre "a great musical, nicely done." Full review ->

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to the first preview performance of comedy rock musical The Little Shop of Horrors at the Open Air Theatre in London's glitzy Regent's Park. Regent's Park? How appropriate... Somewhere that's Green.

In fact, the park was a particularly well thought out setting dressed as it was as a cross between The Day Of the Triffids and Rocky Horror Show.

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's fabulous 1982 musical, based on a low-budget 1960 movie of the same name, is a celebration of early Motown and rock and roll music, with a bizarre plot and plenty of black comedy. It is a well-loved show and possibly one of my favourite musicals so we were really hoping they wouldn't fuck it up.

From the moment Julian Clary (the voice of the prologue) states those opening lines, "On the 23rd day of the month of September in an early year of a decade not too long before our own the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence. And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places." And the band struck up, we knew we are on safe ground though. The singing was good, the theatrics nice, and the staging clever.

For director Maria Aberg (best known for directing Dr Faustus and The White Devil at the RSC) this is her Open Air Theatre debut so there must have been some pressure on her. Creating a giant carnivorous plant, the realisation of which is the linchpin of the show, is not the easiest task, and designer Tom Scutt (Jesus Christ Superstar) makes a game attempt at it. Sadly, it doesn't always quite come off though.

This is the story of geek plant shop worker Seymour (Marc Antolin, very impressive) who is secretly in love with co-worker Audrey (I'd enjoyed Jemima Roper before in Hand Of God and Midsummer Night's Dream but she comes into her own here) who discovers a strange and interesting new plant that transforms the fortunes of his Skid Row florist.

Drag queen Vicky Vox makes her theatrical debut here as the voice of said strange and interesting new plant (named Audrey II) and it is a role that is at the heart of this fun-packed musical. It is this casting of Vox, a member of the band Tranzkuntinental, that is the absolute making or breaking of the show. And she almost nails it.

We only saw a preview but we'd advise Ms Vox to relax and enjoy it a little more – and that she can get away with even more of what's she's bringing to this absolute blast of a performance. It was as her cries of 'Feed me' grew wilder in the 2nd half and she scratched at her crotch with a pitchfork that I realised that I wanted her to be even more outlandish. She's essentially Divine‘s sassier and more fabulous daughter so she should just go for it!

It is a role however that's more than matched by Matt Willis from Busted as the evil dentist boyfriend of Audrey's who boasts a maniacal laugh and fondness for nitrous oxide that renders him pure Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest goes Twin Peaks.

Fans of the musical can rest easy though that despite all the scene-stealing by both plant and dentist the romance at its heart, and the score's best song, Suddenly Seymour, remains as moving as ever.

Special mention does need to go to Skid Row street girls Renée Lamb, Christina Modestou and Seyi Omooba who absolutely boss their roles as Crystal, Ronnette, and Chiffon and bring a real sense of location to the early part of the show. I also loved the skyscrapers in shopping trolleys that the cast wheel about. Forbes Masson as shop owner Mr Mushnik is especially good value too.

The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre has a tradition of its musicals being Olivier Award-nominated and we wouldn't bet against Little Shop Of Horrors featuring in 2019's show.

The audience leapt to its feet in acclaim at the show's encore of 'Mean Green Mother From Outer Space' in a flurry of green beach balls flung into the audience and fantastical plant-based costumes.

So a great musical, nicely done. But not a patch on the original production, the film or the Menier Chocolate Factory revival a few years back.