Quote Of The Day

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Arsenal 3 - 1 Everton...

The final game of the season was a bad tempered one. We won but list out on a champions league place for the first time in 20 years. And who caught the ire? Stan Kroenke. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Salomé...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Yaël Farber's new play Salomé at the National Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Synopsis: Lovely lighting.

Although visually striking the whole night was fatally undermined by a thoroughly turgid script. And at a snail-like pace.

Encouragingly Salomé here is presented as a fresh and politically potent concept. Farber sets out to strip away the veils of myth and misogyny that hide the figure of Salomé (Isabella Nefar). She finds in her a young woman in a brutally male world and an occupied country. Raped by her stepfather (a creepily lascivious Paul Chahidi), Salomé slides around the fringes of power, her abused body a metaphor for her colonised country. Then she meets Iokanaan (John the Baptist) and realises that, by demanding his execution, she can turn him into a martyr and ignite a revolution. That apparently whimsical demand for his head is neither sexual nor capricious here but a provocative, political act.

 It’s a fascinating proposition that, in theory, gives a shadowy woman voice and agency. In practice, we get no closer to Salomé. She remains a near silent, symbolic presence.

And in this silence a few people simply saw boredom. And with that boredom left mid-performance. Which was a shame. Because the bit at the end with the curtains was pure Eurovision.

A classic case of style triumphing over content.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

American Style - Philip Glass & Laurie Anderson...

Last night Stuart and I spent an evening in the company of Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson in the Barbican Hall in London's brutalist Barbican Centre.

Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson might have known each other for forty years but the 100 minutes on stage together barely scratched the surface of what either of them have achieved either separately or together in that time.

Part improv, part jamming session, part greatest hits Ms Anderson and Mr Glass each treated us to some of their solo work while the other played along. It sometimes worked and it sometimes didn't. The playing of the instruments all too often drowned out the speaking.

The stage was set up with a piano for Glass, a desk with laptop and electric violin for Anderson’s music, and a comfortable fireside chair for her story telling. The backdrop was a large screen on which were projected images – photographs by Anderson that had been manipulated in various ways and bringing attention to the many facets of Anderson’s creativity.

Anderson, one of the most creative and influential artists of her generation has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet, John Cage, Peter Gabriel from the world of music and with writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Lou Reed to whom she was married. It was works by these last two writers that formed the basis for the performance.

The voices of both writers were present as recordings of them reading their works were played. Wichita Vortex features the voice of Allen Ginsberg reading his anti-war poem and Junior Dad is a song from the rock opera Lulu created by Lou Reed in 2011. Anderson accompanied the songs on an electric violin that could be manipulated into different sound effects by way of laptop wizardry, while Glass performed the piece at the piano. Voices from the past formed a theme to the evening’s pieces, the performance beginning with a very personal piece by Anderson "I’m Standing in a Room" recalling the loss of her mother. Anderson is one of the best story tellers around. Her timing is superb and her voice, though often pitched at a monotone is amazingly expressive. It was like she’s speaking to each member of the audience personally, almost in a whisper. Her juxtaposition of unexpected ideas is nothing short of miraculous. Anderson’s poem "World Without End" had lines that stop you in your tracks and ponder that big things in life – “When my father died it was like a whole library had burned down.” It was just a shame the sound production on the night was sub par.

To be honest, big fan though I am of both, I think I prefer them performing separately. That way they get the sound right.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Arsenal 2 - 0 Sunderland...

A very empty Emirates Stadium last night. We made heavy work of it too. And now it's all down to the last day of the season. We need to win and everyone else needs to lose. Fat chance. Hey ho. 
 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Angels in America...

Last Saturday Stuart and I went to see both Angels in America plays back to back at the National Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Synopsis: A simply outstanding production. There is blood, tears, laughs aplenty, Russell Tovey getting his kit off, and we see lesbian sex with an Angel. What's not to like?

An epic eight-hour duo of plays featuring more than 30 characters, from travel agents and lawyers to divine emanations and bisexual Mormons, Angels in America is unique.

It creates a world where illness and sexuality are unapologetic and political diatribes sit alongside angelic visions.

It is also very, very funny.

Set in 1985 Tony Kushner's two plays (full titles) Angels in America - A Gay Fantasia On National Themes - Part One: Millennium Approaches - Part Two: Perestroika tell the stories of three gay men living tortuous lives in Reagan's America. AIDS is rife and people are dying.

Prior Walter (a sublime Andrew Garfield) is one of these unfortunate souls but who has a rather fabulous journey to make before he meets his maker.

A second Joe Pitt (hunky Russell Tovey) is a bisexual Moron whose wife (Denise Gough) has her own illusionary world to explore.

A third man Roy Cohn (outrageous Nathan Lane) is a real-life vicious closeted lawyer who knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

Tragedy strikes each of them, but not before a world of fantasy touches them all.

All the cast are excellent but especially Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as the nurse Belize.

Highly, highly recommended.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Alien...

"I don't wanna play any more. She'll only whoosh me out the door again."
 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Lettice and Lovage...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Peter Shaffer's play Lettice and Lovage at the Menier Chocolate Factor in London's rather unglitzy 'London Bridge Quarter'.

Synopsis: Amusing rather than funny.

Directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman the play is about a stately home tourist guide (Kendal) who makes up exaggerated and oft outlandish stories to make her tours less boring. This is by far the best it on the play. She then is hauled in front of her boss (Lipman) who despite firing her also feels some sympathy for her. They develop a friendship, which is sweet if rather improbable.

The play is in three acts and although at times drole the piece ends up being a rather thinly veiled attack on post-war Britain including English modern architecture, (Shell House comes in for some particularly vicious stick). They even propose a tour of the "fifty ugliest new buildings in London".

We saw it in previews and to be honest although great actors both Ms Kendal and Ms Lipman seemed rather under rehearsed. More than once, they fluffed their lines and did not always know where to stand.

Originally, the play was written for Maggie Smith. I bet she did it better.

The show did not start until 8pm (why?) and finished closer to 11pm, which on a school night lead some of the audience to head for the door for their last train.

Recommended only if you really, really like Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman.



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Philip Glass Music in 12 Parts...

Last Monday night Paul, Stuart and I went to see a recital of Philip Glass's Music in 12 Parts at the Barbican Hall in London's glitzy and savagely brutalist Barbican Centre.

Coming in at five and half hours the twelve pieces were written in the early 1970s and reflected early experiments with minimalism. Repetitive, hypnotic and at times genuinely euphoric the time just flew by.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gavin's 40th Birthday...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went down to Piano Works in London's none-too glitzy Farringdon to help Gavin celebrate his 40th birthday. The music was loud (too loud really) but we had a gay old time. Judith was in good form and we meet some friends of theirs - a nice couple from the Dominican Republic and Romania - Gina and Robert.
 

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Arsenal 2 - 0 Manchester United...

Last Sunday Mark and I went to watch the mighty Arsenal take on the once-mighty Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.

Goals from Granit Xhaka and Danny Welbeck were enough for Arsenal to record their first ever competitive win over a Jose Mourinho side.

Four more games to go - let's see if we can make a dash for fourth place.

 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Post Haste...

It's been a fab weekend filled with theatre, fortieths, football, weddings, and anniversaries. But the funniest thing was watching Stuart desperately trying to delete a "Terrible" TripAdvisor posting he made whilst a little bit worse for wear.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

11th Anniversary...

Happy Anniversary to my handsome, funny, sexy better half Stuart - it's been so great to find in you that one special person... to annoy for the rest of my life.
 

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Ferryman...

Last night Stuart, Jane, Sara and I went to see new play The Ferryman at the Royal Court in London's glitzy Sloane Square.

Synopsis: This is a play that deserves all of its five star reviews. Gripping, funny, tragic and enlightening. It also deserves all the awards that will surely be heaped upon it. Fight for a ticket. Do not be put off by the three and half hour running time either - it simply flies by.

Jez Butterworth’s new play starts with the discovery of a body. For ten years, Seamus Carney has been lying in a bog near the Irish border. Throughout that time, his wife Caitlin has been living with Carney’s brother Quinn and his seven children in a warmly chaotic Armagh farmhouse while upstairs Quinn’s wraith-like wife languishes in bed.

But as the Carney family gather to celebrate the day of the harvest, this other, uglier harvest from Northern Ireland’s bloody soil cannot be ignored.

Starring Paddy Considine and Laura Donnelly and directed by Sam Mendes, it’s easily the best new play of the year and arguably as mighty as Butterworth’s 2009 smash hit Jerusalem. Where that play exuberantly summoned the unquiet souls of a mythical rural England, this one does something similar for Northern Ireland but this time through the concrete political context of 1981.

Bobby Sands is on hunger strike, Margaret Thatcher is on the radio and the IRA are on the streets. Considine is tremendous as Quinn, the ex-IRA member and committed family man struggling to suppress both a violent past and a treacherous love for Donnelly’s bright-eyed Caitlin.

An ominous sense of foreboding stalks the play and the ending is all the more shocking for it.

Butterworth is as interested in the future as he is the past. In a crack cast Tom Glynn-Carney stands out as hothead 17-year-old Shane, who makes an easy recruit for a revolutionary cause.

If you haven’t yet got tickets for the West End transfer of The Ferryman then you’d best get on the case, fast! A Broadway transfer must also beckon.

Oh and the excellent cast is joined on stage at various points by a live rabbit and a live goose. Reason enough to go see I would have thought.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Blondie...

Last night Stuart, Simon, Joanna and I went to see the magnificent X Offenders Blondie perform at the Camden Roundhouse in London's not too glitzy Chalk Farm.

Ostensibly to launch their new studio album, Pollinator, and thirty-nine years after the band played a career-defining gig there the legendary rockers lit up the Roundhouse with an up-tempo set of hits old and new. In fact the new stuff sounds so much like the old stuff (a good thing) it was sometimes hard to tell them apart. Stuart and I were singing along to some of new tracks with lyrics to the old ones - the way you do. Oh, how we laughed.

The visuals were great, Debbie Harry looked amazing and was in fine voice. She chatted and joked with the crowd and worked us all up into a frenzy.

Their new single, My Monster, written by The Smiths’ former guitarist Johnny Marr wasn't the best but we danced around anyway.

Great night.

Set List

01. One Way or Another (One Direction cover (only joking!))
02. Hanging on the Telephone (The Nerves cover)
03. Fun
04. Call Me
05. My Monster
06. In the Flesh
07. Rapture
08. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) (Beastie Boys cover)
09. Fragments
10. Long Time
11. Atomic
12. Gravity
13. Heart of Glass / I Feel Love (Donna Summer cover)
Encore:
14. Maria
15. Too Much

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Bob Dylan and His Band...

Last Sunday night Stuart and I went to see Bob Dylan and His Band perform on his Never Ending Tour at the London Palladium in London's glitzy West End.

I didn't know much of Dylan's music before the gig and I'm not sure I know much more now - he did a lot of covers. A lot. And rather dreadful ones at that. The first four songs were great though - very lively and very musical.

A couple of his songs sounded like they were being played by an Hawaiian wedding band but then I like Hawaiian wedding bands so that was fine.

"See Bob Dylan" (Bucket list tick.)

The set-list was:-

01. Things Have Changed
02. To Ramona
03. Highway 61 Revisited
04. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
05. I Could Have Told You (Frank Sinatra cover)
06. Pay in Blood
07. Melancholy Mood (Frank Sinatra cover)
08. Duquesne Whistle
09. Stormy Weather (Harold Arlen cover)
10. Tangled Up in Blue
11. Early Roman Kings
12. Spirit on the Water
13. Love Sick
14. All or Nothing at All (Frank Sinatra cover)
15. Desolation Row
16. Soon After Midnight
17. That Old Black Magic (Johnny Mercer cover)
18. Long and Wasted Years
19.  Autumn Leaves (Yves Montand cover)

Encore
21. Blowin' in the Wind
22. Ballard of a Thin Man


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui...

 
Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Brecht's classic political satire The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the Donmar Warehouse.

Starring Lenny Henry and me (more of that later!) Brecht's classic, Chicago-set satire on Hitler's ascent to power almost feels too obvious to stage in 2017, the year a right-wing demagogue took control of the United States. Employing Mr Henry as Arturo Ui was then perhaps a genius bit of counter-casting as he bears very, very little resemblance to Trump.

That said, the fact this new version is by waspish American satirist Bruce Norris would suggest there would be parallels there – plus plenty for Henry to get his comic teeth into.

Before we had even taken my seats at the Donmar, we had spoken to two actors and shaken a few hands. It was all part of the Donmar's transformation. The stalls - stage and seating - had been removed and replaced to create a space decked out as a late night jazz cafe complete with wooden tables and chairs to fit the new setting of prohibition era Chicago.

The cast mingled with the audience as they arrived in the building and then in the theatre chatting as if you are cafe customers. The reason behind some of the conversations only becomes apparent as the play properly started. If you are sat at the front, you may be roped in. As I was in the second half.

In Norris' adaptation, our Brechtian villain is a gangster who wants respect as well as power and will be as ruthless as he needs to be to get there. The fact that his protection racket targets grocers and in particular, the cauliflower importers and sellers gives you a taste of the rather bizarre tone of the piece. Who knew cauliflowers could be such a ripe target for gangsters?

It is an Arturo Ui which is frothy and fun, with unsubtle references to Donald Trump and blatant parallels with the likes of Richard III - Norris also manages to weave in excerpts from several other Shakespeare plays including 'To be or not to be'. There are also tantalising snatches of popular songs sung live in a lounge jazz style, it becomes a game of name that tune - try and guess the song from a verse or two of familiar lyrics sung in an unfamiliar way. Nat King Cole's Nature Boy gets its second stage outing in as many years too (it was the song playing at the start of Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet). And did we heard Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out For A Hero?

The second half doesn't feel as quite as riotous as the first and in embellishing the play this way the more serious plot development scenes can feel a little stodgy and subdued in comparison. It certainly isn't a production of nuances so one wonders if it they could be trimmed to leave more room for the fun stuff.

And so it was that I got called up on stage. I was asked to play a man on trial - falsely accused of course. For 20 minutes; I nodded, I ran around, I sat in chairs, I got cross-examined, I pointed to the guilty party, I got dressed in bandages, I got in a wheelchair, I got shot. The end.

(Weirdly out in the West End on Sunday night - two days later - someone in the street recognised me and said "I saw you on stage at the Donmar last Friday!" Fame at last!)

Anyway, enough of my fame… back to the play...

Lenny Henry's Arturo is less menacing, more of a lovable rogue who happens to have people killed and that pretty much sums this up. It is a production weighted more towards silliness than biting satire but that isn't a criticism because it was laugh out loud funny.

Recommenced.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Fame At Last...

On Friday night I got invited to be on stage at the Donmar Warehouse (in a Brecht play) and ended up being part of the production. I was on stage for 20 minutes playing a man on trial. The play had Lenny Henry in it.
Weirdly out in the West End last night someone in the street recognised me and said "I saw you on stage at the Donmar last Friday!" 
Fame at last!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Obsession...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Obsession at the Barbican Theatre in London's glitzy Barbican Centre.

Synopsis: Don't bother. It was utter rubbish.

Well, not exactly utter rubbish but mainly rubbish. Even WunderKind Ivo van Hove's quirky production couldn't salvage the dreadful translation of the script by Simon Stephens. Lame, boring and trite the actors try their best with lines like, "Is that what you are thinking? Is it? Because if it is, I don't know what to think myself."

Based on The Postman Always Rings Twice (unhappy couple, enter drifter, steamy affair, stylised murder, and tortured guilt) this should have been a sexy affair. Jude Law gets his top off (buff!) and there is oil, lots and lots of oil to wallow in. But the chemistry between the leads rarely catches fire and you find yourself being more interested in the minor characters like the priest with his interest in yellow eels or the gay drifter Johnny with his longing for adventure and the sea.

There was lots of sighing and yawning in the auditorium and a few people left mid-performance. All a bit of a waste of what is undoubtedly good talent.

Oh and did I mention that the characters burst into opera for no apparent reason. And they run away by running on the spot on an asthmatic travellator. All it needed was a tandem or a dog on roller-skates.

Maybe I was right first time. Utter rubbish. Avoid.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Arsenal 1 - 0 Leicester...

It'll be a long slog to try and secure top four this season but every long journey starts with the first step. 

Despite having much of the possession we couldn't seem to make it count until an own goal a few minutes from full time gave us the game. 

Next step Spurs away. Gulp!
 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Immersive Records Hounds of Love...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to an Immersive Records production of Kate Bush's the Hounds of Love at Hornsey Town Hall in London's glitzy Crouch End.

It was great fun and the evening was topped off by a performance of the entire album by Kate Bush tribute act funsters Cloudbusting.





Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Handmaiden...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see Korean erotic psychological thriller The Handmaiden at The Screen on the Green in London's glitzy Islington.

Based upon Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith the twisty plot has been changed from Victorian era Britain to Korea under Japanese colonial rule.

Under Park Chan-wook's direction the film is visually sumptuous and absorbingly idiosyncratic. It's at times sexy, often funny and at one point toe-curling horrific.

Recommended.

Monday, April 24, 2017

FA Cup Semi-Final...

Yesterday afternoon Paul, me and 35 other Gay Gooners all went to Wembley Stadium together to watch the might Arsenal take on the might Manchester City in the FA Cup Semi-Final 2017.

The boys did us proud and because of a disallowed goal (tee, hee) we scraped a win in extra time.

Big ups to Monreal and Alexis for their goals.

We had a great time and it was quite special to spend it with the Gay Gooners.
 

   

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Human Nature...

To understand human nature, look how worn out the lift's "close the door" button is compared to the "keep the door open" button.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Limehouse...

So another election is upon us? (sigh)

Last Thursday Stuart and I went to see timely drama Limehouse at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

The story is set in a house in Limehouse in 1981 where the so-called 'Gang of Four' – Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams - meet to plot their future, the future of the Labour Party, and indeed the future of British politics.

At the time of the Limehouse meeting Britain had an adamantine female prime minister with a strong right-wing majority and a Labour Party divided over how to respond, arguing over Trident and in disarray over Europe. Sound familiar?

After Margaret Thatcher's big win in 1979, the Labour Party took a big jump to the Left. And the moderates/right-wingers of the Labour Party like our Gang of Four weren't too happy. So they met in secret to talk it through – do they stay and fight or break away and form a new party?

By the end of the day they had set aside their rivalries, anger, guilt, squabbling, in-fighting, jealousies and bitter recriminations and come up with The Limehouse Declaration. A statement that signalled their intent all to leave the Labour Party and form a Council for Social Democracy.

The Social Democrats were wildly successful for a while polling at 25% but then after Thatcher's Falklands War election win in 1983 they waned until merging with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats. And look where *they* are now.

In some ways, the Social Democrats were the New Labour of their day. And if May gets a huge majority in 8 weeks’ time... who knows?... maybe their time will come again.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Queer British Art 1861-1967 @ Tate Britain...

Last Friday Stuart, my brother Simon, my sister Joanna, my niece Charlotte, Paul, Simon and I went to see Queer British Art 1861-1967 at Tate Britain in London's glitzy Pimlico.

Two pieces of legislation set the timespan for this exhibition. One is the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy in 1861; the other is the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. And it’s the shadow of illegality and widespread prejudice that’s cast over everything on display in this rich and fascinating survey of queer art.

Weaving between history and gossip, private lives and public declarations, repression and celebration, the exhibition recounts a complicated story of sexuality and desire through work that is as often as coded and veiled as it is candid and outspoken.

Although wide-ranging, I'd like to highlight three pieces from the exhibition that spoke to me.

The first is the calling card left by the Marquess of Queensberry for Oscar Wilde (with the words “for Oscar Wilde, posing Somdomite” [sic]) left at Wilde’s club. The card hangs near a full-length portrait of Wilde, as an elegant man about town and the door to his cell in Reading jail.

The second is Duncan Grant’s 1930 portrait of PC Harry Daley which commemorates the Hammersmith policeman who was, for a time, EM Forster’s lover, and who went on to write a book recounting his experiences on both sides of the law.

Thirdly the heart-breaking pieces by precocious Jewish pre-Raphaelite painter Simeon Solomon who was arrested for cottaging, first in London, later in Paris, and spent the last 20 years of his life in St Giles workhouse, alcoholic and abandoned by many of his friends.

The show is strange, sexy, and oft heart wrenching. From Man Ray’s portrait of Virginia Woolf to Orton’s library book collages and Noël Coward’s dressing gown, this vital survey is bursting with fascinating stories.

Go see.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ebola vs. Tulisa...

Q: What's the difference between Ebola and Tulisa?
A: Ebola will finish you off.

Thursday, April 13, 2017