Quote Of The Day

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jo, Wills and Charlie...

Jo, Wills, Charlie, Myrtle and Dad all came up last Sunday for lunch. Stuart cooked us a lovely meal. Great to see everyone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A View From The Bridge...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Arthur Miller's seminal play A View From The Bridge at The Wyndham's Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

And wow, it was an amazing production. Delightful, thrilling, funny, scary, sexy, harrowing, claustrophobic, and menacing.

Deceptively simple staging with a single chair as a prop and performed in the semi-round you felt up close and personal to each and every nuanced emotion of the brilliant cast.

Staged by Belgian director Ivo van Hove with lead actors Mark Strong (as Eddie), Phoebe Fox (Catherine), and Nicola Walker (Beatrice) the production has been a huge success at the Young Vic before it's transfer up West.

The play is set in 1950s America, in an Italian American neighbourhood near the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. It employs a chorus and narrator in the character of Alfieri. Eddie, the tragic protagonist, has an improper love of, and almost obsession with his orphaned niece, Catherine. Eddie's wife Beatrice is supportive of Catherine's endeavours to strike out on her own in the world but Eddie infantalises her and his over protective nature is almost unseedy.

Enter stage left two of Beatrice's cousins from Italy (the two gentlemen from Verona?) who are there illegally as work is scarce back home. Marco is a strong hard worker whereas Roldolpho is effeminate in nature, singing, joking, dying his hair blonde, cooking and making dresses. Catherine falls for Roldolpho and when they plan to marry against Eddie's wishes trouble comes a-knocking. Just what lengths will Eddie go to keep these star-crossed lovers apart?

As you can tell I detected a strong Shakespearean element to the play although the obvious parallels are to a Greek tragedy.

If you get a chance to go, do. Best show in the West End at the moment. 5 stars.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Buyer and Cellar...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Michael Urie's one-man show Buyer and Cellar at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London's somewhat glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

The conceit of the play came after the writer Jonathan Tolins stumbled upon a passage in Barbra Streisand’s coffee-table book, My Passion for Design, that mentioned the fact she has built for herself a shopping mall beneath her Malibu estate. Inspired by that curious tidbit, Tolins invented a character, Alex, a young, gay, out-of-work actor in L.A., and spins a fiction in which Alex gets hired to be the sole shopkeeper in this mall for its sole customer, Streisand.

When Streisand visits the mall to shop, the running joke is that she comes by to buy what she already owns. And so, absurdly, Alex and Barbra haggle over the price of an antique doll she wants.

The play is very funny, full of zippy one-liners and the audience was in stitches. Adorably, Michael Urie seems genuinely to be enjoying the audience’s enjoyment. While the audience is laughing at something he just did or said, an impish grin will flash on his face as if to share the delight. This has the uncanny effect not of diminishing audience response by stepping on the laughs but of amplifying them. Urie’s being in on the humour enhances the spirited connection.

And it is perhaps a tad disingenuous to say that you need three things to enjoy this US import: a fetishistic fascination with Barbra Streisand, total immersion in showbiz and a love of high camp. You don't. But any or all of the above would certainly help.

So well worth a visit.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Breakfast Of Eels...

Our mate and playwright David Eldridge recommended that Stuart and I go and see Robert Holman's A Breakfast Of Eels at The Print Room in Notting Hill Gate. So glad he did.

"You have to go and see 'A Breakfast Of Eels'. It is a shattering and beautiful play. Scintillating, ardent, rattles the bones and tears at your heart. It's like a cantata in play form but there is little stately. It is urgent, of London and of what it is to be a modern man with exquisitely turned heart and guts acting. Matthew Tennyson and Andy Sheridan give performances of such truth and commitment in a lovely production."

I couldn't have put it better myself. Wonderful show. Stuart and I loved it. Thanks for the recommendation Dave!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron...



A couple of complimentary tickets to a private screening of Avengers: The Age of Ultron with a goodie bag and unlimited drinks at the bar afterwards? Don't mind if I do. The downside? A 10 minute film on network storage first. I can live with that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Jeremy Clarkson...

Jeremy Clarkson killed three puppies called Rusbridger, Toynbee and Greenslade, says Sunday Sport. You couldn't make it up. Oh, wait... (Sunday Sport goes all post-modern).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

FORD!...

So there I was on the golf course, when I bellowed out, "FORD!"
The two guys ahead turned round and shouted back, "The term is FORE, you ignorant fuck."
Then the plane hit them.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Essex...

We had a lovely weekend - spending most of it as we did in Essex. Firstly to Kerry and Fergal's on Saturday night for a pre-St Patrick's Day dinner. Kerry laid on a great spread and we were joined by Sheila, Martin, Brendan, Nee and her sister. The bottle of Jim Beam didn't make the journey home in one piece though!

On Sunday we were back in Essex again - this time to Grays to have Sunday dinner with Stuart's family. We even got to pop into the Traitor's Gate public house to sample the local ale.

En route to Grays we went to Columbia Road Flower Market to pick up some irises for Brenda.

Great weekend.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Di and Viv and Rose...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Di and Viv and Rose at The Vaudeville Theatre.

The play tells the story of three eighteen year old friends - Di (Tamzin Outhwaite), Viv (Samantha Spiro) and Rose (Jenna Russell).

The women meet at university and Amelia Bullmore’s popular play follows the next 30 or so years of their lives, loves, ups and downs as friends. It's funny, moving and fantastically acted.

This brilliantly directed production deserves many accolades - not least to its actual director Anna Mackmin.

Go see.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pictures Or It Didn't Happen...

If a friend says 'pictures or it didn't happen', murder him and don't take any pictures.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Man United 1-2 Arsenal - Tunnelcam...

Yaay! 2-1. We're going to Wembley. We were celebrating each ManU dive/booking like it was a goal. Here is a behind the scenes look at Old Trafford from last night's #FACup game Awful first season for LVG. Man Utd's first trophyless campaign since... oh, since last season.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Open Doors...

Auditions for the new Village People tribute act queue here...

Various construction sites around the UK threw open their doors this weekend just gone as part of... er... Open Doors weekend.

We visited Trenchard House first (lovely), then St James Market (ok but just office space) and finally Whitechapel Crossrail (bit boring as just a hole in the ground and a fairly humdrum viewing platform.)

It was fun though.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Game...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Game at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Where to begin?

Think Big Brother (the TV show). Think new house. Think cameras everywhere. Think near-future. Think housing crisis. Think young couple. Think guinea pigs. Think sport. Think shooting people for sport. Think shooting young couple in house for sport. Think clever set. Think hidden audience. Think voyeurism. Think good acting. Think poor idea well executed. Think Charlie Brooker. Think Black Mirror. Think Chris Morris. Think Blue Jam. Think mercifully short.

Think bleak. Bleak house.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Freezer...

I was upset when the freezer broke last week.
But that's just water under the fridge.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Barbara Dickson...

Last Saturday night Stuart, Darren and I went to see Scottish songbird Barbara Dickson at the Union Chapel in London's glitzy Islington.

Originally a folk singer back in the 1960s Ms Dickson's pop career started in earnest in the early 1970s and continues through to the present day.

She has worked with the best, had a number one hit with I Know Him So Well and starred in numerous stage shows and television shows.

On the night we were treated to many songs from her back catalogue including Another Suitcase in Another Hall, Answer Me, Wise as a Serpent, Easy Terms, The Ark, Mary Skeffington, In The Bleak Midwinter/Here Comes The Sun, The January Man, Winter Song and of course the wonderful Caravans.

Great singer. Great voice. Great show.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Nether...

Last night Stuart and I went to see The Nether at The Duke of York's Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

I have to say we were rather disappointed.

The Nether = a future version of the internet where it is almost photo realistic and you can go online to indulge your wildest fantasies as avatars. In this case the fantasies seem to be all about child abuse and murder.

I'm not quite sure why the author suggests that given no law enforcement or repercussions offline then people's base instincts will make them want to molest and murder children online. Or indeed whether it is better for society if a child molester is kept online committing virtual crimes rather than allowed to roam the real world committing real ones. Surely it's sickness that needs therapy.

Anyway... technically the play was great - think The Matrix. And the acting was fine too. Even the plot supplied a couple of nice twists but the subject matter was a misstep I feel. There is an interesting discussion to be had about how we live our lives online and the digital personalities we create through social media but this play was rather like a paedophilic version of Godwin's Law. By resorting to child molestation the message was lost in the medium.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Take that Queenie!...

My friend is a republican so puts all stamps on letters he sends me upside down. "Take that Queenie!". 
Maybe to join in the fun I should send my replies to him with no stamp on at all. Arf, arf!

Monday, February 23, 2015

When They Call, I Come...

Dragged into work at 8am yesterday. Disaster recovery mode. 11 hours later got home. Pah! I want my Sunday back!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Man and Superman...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Bernard Shaw's epic masterpiece Man and Superman at the Lyttelton Theatre in London glitzy South Bank.

The play is as good as any Shakespearean play working as a comedy of manners, a comment on sexual politics, and a vehicle for Shaw's cosmic philosophy. It is very funny throughout being subversive, heretical and hilarious.

This National Theatre production sees Ralph Fiennes take on the role of John Tanner a well-educated political firebrand who thinks a lot, talks even more and during the course of the play is beguiled, bewitched and betrothed to his sparring partner the plucky Ann Whitefield.

Ann loves John and wants to marry him. To avoid this fate, John goes on the run to Spain. What he doesn't foresee, is that Ann will pile half of rural England into cars and follow. At one point, in a dream, he finds himself in Hell (an Act often omitted). He can't escape her there either. So this is love....  Man and Superman is a marathon play. Three and a half hours exploring courtship and marriage and the different states of manhood. From suitor to suit; from loafer to breadwinner; from getting wood to collecting it: marriage is the end of joy and free expression for a man and a victory for women.

Man and Superman has the feel of a sexist romp in Simon Godwin's playful production, and delights because it isn't. There is a strong feminist streak, albeit bedded in the idea of the maternal. Elegantly stated arguments inform the continuing vexations between the sexes. Fiennes beautifully articulates John's ideas as he scuttles with a loser's stoop across the chessboard of life, a King vainly dodging checkmate. He has some long speeches that must add to ninety minutes, but is ably supported by a wonderful cast including Tim McMullan as an oozingly charismatic brigand leader and, later, Satan. Mentions too for Indira Varma's confident Ann, Elliot Barnes-Worrall as a chirpy Straker, and Nicholas Le Prevost as Roebuck Ramsden. Oh and let's not forget handsome Nick Hendrix Hector Malone, Jr.

George Bernard Shaw wrote Man and Superman in 1903. Stuart and I, lured by Fiennes, did not know the story and were daunted by the length of the production, but after a bit of a dry exposition were pinned to our seats with smiles on our faces. It's not a play for people who prefer action. Every plot twist facilitates perorations on the same theme from different perspectives: women are driven by the need to procreate and populate the earth and men, powerful because they aren't, lose that power because they cannot resist women. Women therefore hold the power. What's so interesting is that, despite massive changes, Shaw's views on love and the flawed and ungiving institution of marriage remain current.

In conclusion: It could all be edited down (and may well be, as the National has a habit of crazed pruning at the preview stage) but the tone overall is so lively, and the story such fun, and the endings of the two halves so funny, that all is forgiven. There's also a fabulous, working, vintage Jaguar in one scene. It's currently sold out, but it's always worth calling for returns.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

La Traviata...


Last Friday Paul, Stuart and I went to see La Traviarta at the London Coliseum.

Peter Konwitschny's production at the ENO was well sung, well-acted and funny.
 
Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic masterpiece of The Fallen Woman runs for 1hr 50mins without an interval and starred Elizabeth Zharoff as Violetta, Ben Johnson as Alfredo and Anthony Michaels-Moore as Germont. 

Violetta ending was by conspicuous by its consumption. Nobody leaves until the thin lady sings.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Justin Vivian Bond...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the wonderful, the brilliant, the sublime, the fabulous Justin Vivian Bond at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's glitzy South Bank.

Dressed in a flowing black dress with flowing blonde locks La Bond flowed silkily onto the stage to deliver a two hour, uninterrupted master class in throaty cabaret chanson. Although when I say uninterrupted he interrupted himself quite a bit with anecdotes, witticisms and stories of love, sex and longing that had us in tears of laughter.

"We love you Lana Turner... get up."

The show was funny, moving and musical - often all at the same time. We were treated to many self-penned gems and numerous covers from the likes of Tracy Chapman, Peggy Lee and Mama Cass.

High point for me was JVB's 16 glorious minutes of Kate Bush's Nocturn and Aerial. We were speechless.

Crowd-pleaser In the End sent us home all feeling that much happier that someone like Just Vivian Bond lives in this world.