Quote Of The Day

"If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me - Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980)"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Express Yourself...

25 years ago I had a couple of hook-ups with a guy. We met in Heaven and went back to my place first and then the following week we met at his place in Meard Street in Soho. He made me dinner. We had a fun time together. At his place he kept playing and dancing around to Express Yourself from Madonna's Like A Prayer album while he cooked me pasta. "I love this record", he said putting it on again. "You're not kidding!" He was almost obsessed with it. He made me laugh. He was a Portuguese banker and had more than one bottle of champagne in his fridge. Fancy, I thought! I was impressed. He was well-read too. A nice guy. Had a nice smile. His name was Antonio.

We talked about meeting for a third time. He had people staying that weekend though. How about in Comptons? His birthday was coming up and that Saturday night his mate was throwing him a party on a boat on the river. He said that I couldn't come as there were already too many people coming but we should meet the following day on the Sunday. Late though because it was going to be a late one on the boat. OK, Comptons it was. See you then. Look forward to it.

I went to Heaven that Saturday night with my mate Kit feeling a bit miffed I couldn't go to what looked to be a wild party on the river. I enjoyed myself though dancing the night away.

At about 2:30am or so the music cut out on the main dance floor and there was a bit of kerfuffle by the stairs near the door. A couple of people were hugging each other and crying. And people looked horrified. Rumours started to spread. I asked around but no one seemed to know what was going on. Then someone told me they had come from Cannon Street bridge along the river and there had been an accident. Apparently a boat had collided with another and sank. And some people had died. There were lots of gay people on board too. And they were still pulling bodies out of the water.

Oh God. Dreadful I thought. Dreadful. I told Kit it was time to go. And we queued for our coats. It took ages to leave.

But to my shame it was only after I had got on the N19 night bus on the way home it suddenly dawned on me, "Fuck! Antonio! Antonio was on the river tonight!" I got off the bus at New Oxford Street and dashed back to Meard Street. The lights were on on the second floor and I rang the buzzer but no one answered the door. I rang again. I pressed the buzzer for a full minute. No one was there. Oh shit. I started to cry.

In the following days I couldn't read any of the coverage of the Marchioness disaster or watch the news. It was just too upsetting.

RIP Antonio de Vasconcellos - you great shag with your Express Yourself obsession.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Little Shop of Horrors Skid Row...



Oh no! Ear-worm! After we watched Little Shop Of Horrors on Sunday I can't stop signing Skid Row. Even had a dream with it in last night. Help!!!

Gee it sure would be swell to get outta here.
Bid the gutter farewell and get outta here.
I'd move heaven and hell to get outta Skid.

I'd do I don't know what to get outta Skid.
But a hell of a lot to get outta Skid.
People tell me there's not a way outta Skid.
But believe me I gotta get outta Skid Rooooow!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pride in Football...

Oh look. It's my picture in an Italian right-wing newspaper. Ciao!

Full article here...

Google Translate tells it as:- "There were detachments of the Armed Forces, employees of ministries, the Association of Realtors (the real power, given the cost of the houses in London). There was a group of Christians of various denominations, there were smiling Jews, Muslims with colorful veils and a sign maliziosissimo (held by a girl). There was the band, there were fathers and mothers who confirmed the apparent natural law "twins in a situation always exciting snap in two opposite directions."
From the Pride parade in London, the Gay Gooners. Gay men (and allies) of the curve Arsenal."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In The Army...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Common Misconceptions...

Columbus didn't discover America, microwave ovens do not cook food from the inside out, sushi does not mean "raw fish", bulls are not enraged by the colour red, bats are not blind, waking sleepwalkers does not harm them, hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after a person dies and Stu and I do not go to the theatre every night.
A list of common misconceptions... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_misconceptions

Monday, August 11, 2014

FA Community Shield 2014...

Yesterday afternoon my brother and I watched a great win at Wembley Stadium as the mighty Arsenal trounced the over-paid mercenary Manchester City 3-0 in the FA Community Shield to yet win more silverware! Let's build a bigger trophy cabinet boys!

Friday, August 08, 2014

My Night With Reg...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Robert Hastie's revival of My Night With Reg at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

It was twenty years ago I first saw the late Kevin Elyot's superb tragi-comedy of gay relationships in London when it opened at the Royal Court. And it's as funny, as saucy, as dramatic and as tragic as ever.

The play was a hit back then and is set to be a hit all over again now. Parallels have been drawn - favourably I think - with such great American rants as Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy, Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart and Tony Kushner's Angels in America.

Reminding me somewhat of Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band the play starts at a house party and throughout treats gays as "just like us" - something quite extraordinary at the time. Here we are in the late 1980s however as the AIDS epidemic took hold it and although never mentioned it is the back drop to much of the action.

The play is clever as it jumps in time over four years between the initial house-warming party in north London to two wakes via half a dozen shags. Reg doesn't actually figure at all, except as a sombre spectre of death. The great trick of the play is we, like the characters, are all actually dying to meet him.

We do get to meet however house-proud, floppy-haired advertising copywriter Guy (Jonathan Broadbent); Julian Ovenden's strapping John "Juanita" who is working his way through the family fortune; globe hopping art-dealer Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild); lust-interest decorator Eric (Lewis Reeves); and bickering couple Benny (Matt Bardock) a butch, unshaven bus driver and his better half boring Bernie (Richard Cant).

There are great one-liners throughout; "He talks a lot during sex. Maybe he likes the sound of his own vice", some full-frontal nudity and it's very funny.

Above all, Reg is a lovely, touching play about old friends and dangerous liaisons. It set the benchmark for gay drama with popular appeal back then, and Hastie's production has done so again. Elyot's play has been brilliantly restored and is rightly celebrated.

Go see.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Classic Top of the Tops Titles...

An affectionate return to the baffling world of the 1970s Top of the Pops chart countdown. Who were all these people? Was there really a time when looking like that could make you a superstar?


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Brighton Pride...

Last weekend was Brighton Pride and Stuart and I joined Hudd, Chris, Darren, Vince, Simon and Mark in an Airbnb house for the long weekend.

The parade and the park were both fun and we had a rare old time catching up with friends.







Friday, August 01, 2014

The Crucible...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Yaël Farber's production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible at the Old Vic in London's not especially glitzy Waterloo.

Starring the hunky Richard Armitage as John Proctor and performed in the round it tells the story of a tight-knit community fractured by petty jealousies and grievances that is blown apart when a group of young girls start accusing local women-folk of witchcraft. In order to gain forgiveness the accused must in turn accuse others. Events snowball as dozens of women are accused creating an atmosphere of hysteria brilliantly captured by this claustrophobic production. The vehemence of the false accusations drive the show forward so we as the audience are left in no doubt the road we are taking. It is the road to tragedy.

Largely seen as a attack on McCarthyism in 1950s America the play as presented here goes deeper than that. It exposes the fragilities of the human condition - its lusts, its mean spiritedness and its capacity for mindless persecutions.

A five star production - perhaps only slightly marred by its bum-numbing three and half hour length.

Oh and we had Alan Rickman sitting behind us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bring Up The Bodies...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Bring Up The Bodies at the Aldwych Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

This is the second of the two plays (the first being Wolf Hall that we saw the previous night) adapted by Mike Poulton from Hilary Mantel's two Man Booker Prize winning novels.

Henry VIII is still desperate for a male heir. And due to a miscarriage Anne Boleyn can't give him the prince he so desperately craves. By 1536, Henry has started courting Jane Seymour and he wants Anne out of the way. He enlists Thomas Cromwell's help and what follows is then a miscarriage of justice as Anne Boleyn is falsely accused of multiple infidelities and heads to The Tower.

Slightly darker in tone than Wolf Hall this is another great production with strong performances all round.

Roll on part III - The Mirror and the Light.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wolf Hall...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Wolf Hall at the Aldwych Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Directed by Royal Court Associate Director Jeremy Herrin, the play has been adapted by Mike Poulton from the first of Hilary Mantel's two Man Booker Prize winning novels.

England in 1527. Henry VIII has been King for almost 20 years and is desperate for a male heir. Intent on divorce he demands that Cardinal Wolsey persuade the Pope to grant him an annulment. With every month that passes without progress the King's anger grows. Into this volatile court enters the commoner Thomas Cromwell.

A one-time mercenary, master-politician, lawyer and doting father, he sets out to grant the King his desire whilst methodically and ruthlessly pursuing his own reforming agenda.

We loved the production - it was both enlightening and funny.

Tonight we are going to see the second half - Bring Up The Bodies. Can't wait!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Forbidden Broadway...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to the Menier Chocolate Factory in London's not so glitzy London Bridge Quarter (sic.) to see musical satire Forbidden Broadway.

It's a show that has been running off-Broadway for well over 30 years putting new lyrics to songs from living musicals. This long-running hit is relentlessly, cleverly, breathtakingly funny. This is precision-engineered ridicule. I had tears rolling down my cheeks.

Despite never seeing the Irish musical Once, I loved Forbidden Broadway's vicious skit about it - and I'll be sure not to catch it.

There are numerous highlights - Les Mis comes in for a particularly vicious (and funny) attack as does Miss Saigon.

My fear that all in-jokes are thin jokes was utterly unfounded. The sparkling quartet of Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis make this a most consistently funny show.

Go see before it closes.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Holy Warriors...

The cliché goes that those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. And this is the central message of David Eldridge’s play Holy Warriors at Shakespeare's Globe.

The play relates 800 years of the struggle for Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Middle Ages to the present day. The scope is ambitious and given the current troubles the subject matter perfectly timed.

In the left corner we have Saladin, mighty leader of the Muslims. In the right corner we have Richard the Lionheart, saviour of all Christendom.

The action starts in the late 12th century, and Richard is trying to win back Jerusalem, the holy city for both Christians and Muslims. This particular Crusade fails and we are left wondering why.

When Richard finally dies and goes to purgatory where his now dead mother treats him to a fast-forward through history as we see failure after failure to reach any sort of settlement in the Holy lands. It's a sort of Christmas Carol setup with Eleanor of Aquitane as the ghost of Christmas Future. We meet Napoleon, Lawrence of Arabia, King Fiesal, some Zionists, some Palestinians and some Egyptians. Oh and Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W Bush. And last but no means least Tony Blair.

Richard is then asked the big question: if you had the chance to do it all again, would you change a thing?

The story then re-runs with all the medieval characters in modern combat fatigues. Sadly, despite their fresh look and wise-cracking, we are lead in the end to the same sorry conclusion. We are failed by our leaders.

Eldridge writing is enjoyable, ambitious, and compelling. A very nice touch is using many places names from the historic Middle East that are still in use today as this naturally resonates with a modern audience.

James Dacre’s production is colourful and lively, has songs, dances and many impressive visual elements.

Alexander Siddig is excellent as Saladin. John Hopkins cuts a powerful (and rather sexy dash) as Richard; Geraldine Alexander is super as Eleanor of Aquitane and Sirine Saba impressive as Berengaria of Navarre.

The power of Holy Warriors is in telling us that Jerusalem is not only a symbol of Middle Eastern politics but that the battle for it's possession perpetuates a cycle of hatred and violence. A cycle that will continue for as long as our leaders are unable to compromise and reach peace.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Richard III...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios in London's glitzy Westminster.

As part of the Trafalgar Transformed season it stars our own, our very own Martin Freeman as Shakespeare's most terrifying of psychopaths. Only this Richard we see in the manner of a persistent insurance salesman trying to sell you a policy you don’t want or need.

In fact Freeman's Richard all but blends into the background in many scenes - save for the grunts while strangling a victim with a telephone cord. We have to take it as read that this man is feared throughout the realm as Freeman gives no fearful performance here. Rather he plays it as a bureaucrat - and in a comparison he would surely hate - a slightly more demonic version of Tim from The Office.

Faring better was Jamie Lloyd’s production referencing as it does the UK's 1979 own so-called 'winter of discontent'. That was a time when the country seemed to be falling apart and rumours of an aristocratic plot to overthrow the Labour Party by military coup were rife. Lloyd imagines how Britain might have looked had such a coup taken place, and it is a dreary, desperate world that he sees.

We visit it here in this dilapidated, linoleum-floored office, suggesting a Whitehall run to seed. Clever use is made of lifts (and lift music), old fashioned rotary telephones, cassette players, the sound of flushing toilets and an illuminated aquarium for the drowning of Richard’s brother Clarence (Mark Meadows). There are also rows of microphones, for official pronouncements and debates.

With his humpback scarcely visible beneath bespoke suits and uniforms, Freeman’s Richard speaks in the measured manner of an accountant toting up numbers and looking for discrepancies in expense reports. He’s a precise, fussy little man, who when decreeing that the princes in the Tower should be despatched seems to be just tying up loose ends rather than committing such a gross act of infanticide and regicide.

Freeman does find some adroitly timed and funny line readings within this repressive persona. However he lacks that hypnotic force of will that allows Richard to seduce a country, not to mention women like the doomed Lady Anne (Lauren O’Neil). It seems fitting that a later potential conquest, Elizabeth (Gina McKee), will listen to Richard’s suit only after she’s been trussed up in a chair by his henchman.

That Richard requires such coercion to get an audience with a lady makes you feel rather sorry for him. His rival, Richmond (Philip Cumbus), displays more oomph. By the time he’s slain Richard and ascended to the throne, Richmond registers as twice the demented nutter that his predecessor was.

So I'd say is is a good production, but not a great one.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Medea...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the National Theatre's new production of Medea at the Olivier Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Starring the wonderful Helen McCrory it's a new version of the child-murdering story by Ben Power. Carrie Cracknell's direction is top notch featuring as it does powerful performances from all the cast, hypnotic dancing by the Muses/Goddesses and haunting music composed by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfapp.

We just couldn't take our eyes off Helen McCrory for the entire 90 minutes. She was simply mesmerising as Medea, the woman scorned. If ultimately this dish of revenge is served not just cold but positively icy then it's journey from kitchen sink drama to high table is by no means a steady one. McCrory doesn't portray Medea as an out and out monster - rather a woman who is simply out of control. She is trying to take back her life. She is full of doubt and hates herself for what she means to do. But it is her only way of getting back at her husband Jason who has rejected her. And it is McCory's triumph that we sympathise with her at all.

Powerful stuff and well worth seeing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Proud Uncle...

Many congratulations to my niece Charlotte and my nephew William. Both struggled with many obstacles that life threw their way in life (dyslexia, language barriers, money) but with wonderful support from many teachers, assistance grants etc. went on to both get 2.1 degrees in fine art and marine biology respectively. Now they will (hopefully) get jobs, pay tax and repay that support. Proof our education system works and works well IMHO. (Proud Uncle)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Great Britain...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see Great Britain at the National's Lyttelton Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank. It's a zeitgeist comedy written by Richard Bean about tabloid phone-hacking. Not convinced? Well, it's very funny.

Starring Billie Piper, amongst many other luminaries, it is rude, crude and right on the money. Like a especially good episode of Drop The Dead Donkey it tears into the tabloid newspaper industry, the police and the political establishment. No one comes off well. Not least us as newspaper's readers.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner and designed by Tim Hatley it is a delight of a show - only held back from a launch earlier in the year by a certain court case. Ahem.

If you want to laugh for 2h 45 mins pretty much non-stop this is the play for you! Almost every gag is a winner.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Shakespeare in Love...

Last night Roger, Stuart and I went to see Shakespeare In Love at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Q: What’s Shakespeare in Love about then?
A: Well, it’s about 3 hours. (ha ha.)

Being the transfer of the multi Oscar-winning film to the stage we begin our story as promising young playwright Will Shakespeare is tormented by writer’s block. Soon he finds his muse in the form of passionate noblewoman, Viola De Lesseps. Their forbidden love draws many others, including Queen Elizabeth, into the drama and inspires Will to write the greatest love story of all time, Romeo and Juliet. Oh, and there's a bit with a dog.

Shakespeare in Love is still in previews so perhaps we should give it some benefit of the doubt but I found it dragged somewhat. Yes, there were some funny moments (the boat taxi for instance) but largely the laughs were to be had at the expense of jolting us out our suspended disbelief. Using modern-day expressions and sayings to give us a laugh are all well and good but Shakespearean X-Factor just reeks of pantomime.

Shortening the running time, rewriting with a few more gags and reducing the thirty odd players down to a more manageable twenty or so would do much to tighten up this production.

Overall I'd say it's an overlong but enjoyable romp.