Quote Of The Day

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Silverpoint...

So, how was your evening last night? Mine was.. different.

I went for a drink at a pub in Essex Road but was told I was too early so to wait on a bench in Islington Green Park. Just as I'm just starting to feel abandoned a woman came up behind me and gave me a slip of paper with a telephone number on it. I called it and another woman, Chloe, told me she was trapped underground. I had to rescue her. She had been kidnapped and gave me vague directions. I kept her talking as I crossed the park and along Essex Road trying to find her. I found a deserted building and a half open gated door. I followed Chloe's instructions and ran through the door, across an empty room to the far side and then down a long staircase into the dark. At the bottom Chlore's recorded voice was repeating instructions from a recorder into a phone. It was a trap. A man from the murkiness grabbed me and steered me against a wall. We were joined by others. Then more hooded people came into the room. They paraded around and then stood in front of each of us. They turned us round and then dressed us in hooded robes. We were then lead through a door and stood before a thick curtain. An oppressive noise filled the small room and our heads. The curtain then was pulled back and we faced a massive blackness. As our eyes became accustomed to the dark we discovered we were in a huge underground room with dim lights above our heads. Hands then shoved us straight into the blackness. Onwards we were pushed into the dark. Eventually we were lead to a railing which we hung on to. We were all standing around a huge pit with a railing round the edge and three floors or so way down below us a single woman was illuminated in the darkness. The noise was deafening. The woman moaned and chanted above the noise and pointing up choosing one of our number. A gate in the railing opened and the chosen one was shoved forward falling down into the darkness below.

Then we were steered to an exit where we got free vodka cocktails. Wow!

All this started from playing the iPhone app Absolut Silverpoint. Good old Punchdrunk!

The game started simply enough - a bit like Candy Crush you had to get three items in a row. But before long you get invited out for free cocktails (you can take a +1), get given a number to make a very strange and creepy telephone call, get to go to a salon where they 'do' your hair but surreptitiously take your DNA, receive a weird frantic phone call and then the amazing finale (which is what I described above).

The game is finished now as everything was real-time based and ran over the past two weeks so you had to get to various levels by certain dates. Hopefully they will run it (or something similar) again.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Three Tales...

The Science Museum in London opens up some Friday nights to entertain (we were there for a Minimalist opera in the IMAX), sell booze and sell ideas. Paul, Stuart and I ran around like school kids marvelling at how the exhibits hadn't changed since we'd first been there in the 1970s.

The opera we were there to see was Three Tales, a video-opera in three acts titled Hindenburg, Bikini and Dolly, with music by American composer Steve Reich and visuals by Beryl Korot, his wife.

The musical narrative of Three Tales follows "speech melodies" of pre-recorded interviews and was quite alluring. The live performance of the music and singing was great. The videos aspect seemed rather naff though.

The three tales (acts) divide into various sub-sections:

Act I – Hindenburg
It could not have been a technical matter – Nibelung Zeppelin – A very impressive thing to see – I couldn't understand It

Act II – Bikini
In the air I – The atoll I – On the ships I – In the air II – The atoll II – On the ships II – In the air III – The atoll III - On the ships III - Coda

Act III – Dolly
Cloning - Dolly - Human body machine - Darwin - Interlude - Robots/Cyborgs/Immortality




Friday, April 24, 2015

Shock Treatment...

Last night Stuart and I went to see new musical Shock Treatment at the Kings Head Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Written by the same team (and as a sequel) to The Rocky Horror Show the action takes place in Denton, USA - a small American town where the local television station is putting on increasingly bizarre shows. Rocky hero and heroine Brad and Janet are first exposed to husband and wife co-presenters Ralph and Betty Hapschatt as audience members on their game show Marriage Maze. Brad is soon dragged off by brother and sister doctors Cosmo and Nation McKinley and Janet is given a taste of show-biz as station owner Farley Flavors moulds her into a singing diva superstar.

Dances are danced, songs are sung, clothes are shed. All very Richard O'Brien.

The humour is dark and subversive. Four or five of the songs are good. The rest a bit meh. The whole show simply reeks of Rocky though. Which is a good thing!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tesco...

Tesco has reported a record loss of £6.4 billion.

Well, that's what you get for gambling on horses.

Monday, April 20, 2015

FA Cup Semi Final - Arsenal 2 - 1 Reading...

On Saturday later afternoon Paul and I headed to Wembley Stadium to watch the might Arsenal FC take on Reading FC in the first of the two FA Cup Semi Finals. It was a scrappy game which we barely deserved to win. But win we did thanks to an Alexis Sanchez late winner and Wojciech Szczesny's goalkeeping. So now we are taking on Aston Villa FC in the final of Sat 30th May. Fingers crossed we are both successful in the ballot for tickets.




Friday, April 17, 2015

Oppenheimer...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Oppenheimer at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Oppenheimer the play tells the story of Robert Oppenheimer the man who led the team that created the atomic bombs released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and had to live with the moral consequences of his discoveries: “I feel,” he says, “like I’ve dropped a loaded gun in a playground.”

We watch his transition from card carrying communist to flag-waving US military bomb maker as the play treats us to scenes of 1940s academia, a few basic nuclear physics lectures, a student anti-Fascist fundraising party, many war-time arguments and the gradual erosion of idealistic notions to the hard realities of war.

Truly Oppenheimer has 'become Death, the destroyer of worlds.'

My only criticism of the play is the three hours running time. It could have been half the length and told the same story with a bit more urgency.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rules for Living...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Rules for Living at the Dorfman Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Starring Stephen Mangan as eldest son Adam the play takes place on a Christmas Day with a dysfunctional family assembling. Adam and his wife are secretly living apart, younger son Matthew has bought his new loud girlfriend and father is returning from hospital. Edith the mother is just trying to hold it all together.

The play is strongly reminiscent of the French and Saunders dinner party sketch where nothing is too much trouble and the hostess can't wait for the guests to leave. But in this case everyone is the 'hostess'.

Petty jealousies, random traditions and lasting grudges show these people all stuck in their repetitive patterns of negative behaviour.

As things go from bad to worse the rules of their behaviour get flashed up on screens - "must sit down to lie", "cleans to stay calm" etc.

I should perhaps state that this is a comedy - and a very funny one at that. But it's also a sort of self-diagnosed family cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) session. The question the play poses is can each character break these rules and 'get happy'?

Not perhaps the riot is could have been but very funny all the same. Painful to watch at times as it perhaps reminds one of family events all too plainly.

3 stars.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Gypsy...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Gypsy at Savoy Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Not since her performance as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd have we seen Imelda Staunton deliver such a knock‑out performance as she does as Momma Rose in Jonathan Kent’s dazzling revival. It was a complete "wow!"

At the end of act one as Ms Staunton belts out the show-stopper Everything's Coming Up Roses - such is the skill and power of her performance - you feel every raw emotion that Momma does. In just this one song she manages to convey perfectly the frightening destructive iron will-power, the monstrous blind ambition and the naked aggression of the pushy show business mother. A triumph.

Gypsy is one of the greatest ever Broadway musicals and this transfer to the West End follows its sell‑out, rapturously acclaimed five‑star run at Chichester Festival Theatre. It was simply a joy from start to finish.

Based on the true life memoirs of legendary burlesque entertainer, Gypsy Rose Lee, it tells the tale of Momma Rose and her two daughters, Baby June and Louise, trekking across America in their family vaudeville act. But times are changing, audiences are expecting more, and the two girls have their own ambitions in mind. The rise of burlesque is upon them, and nothing will ever be the same again for Momma Rose.

Alongside Ms Staunton is Lara Pulver who reprises her stunning role as Louise. They were joined on stage by ex-Timelord Peter Davison as Herb and they all danced to the marvellous choreography from Stephen Mear.

With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents and music by Jule Styne, this moving and scintillating production of Gypsy is the first to be seen in London for 40 years. Let's hope we don't have to wait as long again.

Fight for a ticket.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Journalists...

Divorced, beheaded and died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.

That how I remember the people I met on my journalism course.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Thunderbirds Are Go...

5-4-3-2-1. The new Thunderbirds Are Go was pretty boring, charmless, dated, and betrayed the original ideas. Even the original puppets seemed less wooden.

I so wanted it to be good. Back in the day the Supermarionation puppets were charming, a little bit silly but most importantly physical. When the epic disasters happened there was genuine jeopardy that those little chaps might actually get crushed or killed. It was inventive too. Not just the stories, but the way the marionettes were used. With the cartoon version its now just another committee created 'adventure cartoon.'. Shame.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Arsenal 4 - 1 Liverpool...

Amazing day. Amazing score. 4-1. Arsenal FC are now 2nd in the table. Yes! We played with intent. Liverpool FC were very poor. Chatting with some scousers afterwards and they were gutted but very friendly. Gosh I love football. Exciting and excited.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Closer...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Closer at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

Marber's play has been described as a work that "gets under its audience's skin, and ... not for the emotionally squeamish". Too bloody right!

The language in Closer is brutal and sexually explicit; fucking this, fucking that, cunting this, cunting that. And the action is no less visceral: kissing, spitting, shouting, fighting, loving, betraying, leaving... This is Greek tragedy, Victorian melodrama and modern relationships all in one.

The central theme of Closer revolves around truth. All the characters have a tense relationship with truth. Those who are passionate about veracity press each other to tell the complete truth, no matter the emotional pain caused by it — and the controlling irony of the situation is that though the truth clarifies, it does not bring together. No one is made "closer" by the truth.

On its premiere in 1997, Closer won Olivier, Evening Standard and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards. Since then, the play has been produced in more than 200 cities across the world.

Here David Leveaux's production is strong and follows closely the text of the play by insisting on all settings being "minimal". Though evocative of real happenings, the lack of physical detail in setting is meant to balance the verbal excess.

Dan rescues Alice. Anna photographs Dan. Larry meets Anna online. Alice rescues Larry. This is London at the end of the twentieth century, where lives collide and fates change in an instant. Strangers become lovers and lovers become strangers.

All the leads are excellent; Nancy Carroll as Anna, Oliver Chris as Dan, Rufus Sewell as Larry and especially Rachel Redford as Alice.

Some of my favourite lines:-

"Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood"

"Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off"

(When talking about to new boyfriend about her ex-boyfriends cum) "He tastes like you, only sweeter"

Go see.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the new semi-staged production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street starring Emma Thompson at the London Coliseum in London's glitzy West End.

"Semi-staged?" you say? Yes, it's a sort of concert but still acted out using minimal props and no sets. "They do it all with shawls and lighting, love."

A couple of years ago we'd both seen the magnificent Michael Ball / Imelda Staunton production at the Adelphi and I'd seen both the 1980 production starring Sheila Hancock as Mrs Lovett and also the 1993 production starring Julia McKenzie in the same role. So Emma Thompson had big shoes to fill.

And fill them she did. Her voice was quite a revelation being soft when needed and oi oi brassy at all the right times. Needless to say her comic timing was perfect.
Her Mrs Lovett was cruel yet kind, heartless yet loving, knowing yet deluded.

Bryn Terfel's Todd was a thunderous wonderfully menacing rendition. He is the biggest operatic star on the London stage. In all senses. A voice so clear and seductive that you can hear every nuance and believe every utterance.

This production caught the mood of the piece just right turning the audience's affections first this way and then that as the wronged Demon Barber of Fleet Street sets out to enact his revenge. Quite a few innocents meet a grisly end before the corrupt and evil get their comeuppance in the barber's chair.

My only minor quibble would be that I would have loved to have seen a full staged production with the same actors. The miming of the props was a little distracting at times and having the dead simply walk off stage looked a little odd.

Catch it if you can!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fasten Your Seatbelts...

Stuart and my flight back from Cork on Sunday night was the worst, bumpiest, most turbulent flight we have ever flown together. I was hysterical, in floods of tears and clawing at my jeans. They had us in a stacked holding pattern for 25 minutes waiting to land at Heathrow Terminal 2 while the weather did its worst! Argh! There was a big round of applause when we touched down by most of the passengers. I, on the other hand, shouted "thank fuck!"

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cork...

This weekend just gone Stuart and I spent in Cork staying with the lovely Clodagh, Colin and baby Harry.

The reason for the trip was to meet up for the 20th anniversary of 'Giessen Girls' - who all misspent their youth on the same student course in Germany.

We had a great time and always fun to spend time with everyone.

At the start of the trip in Heathrow and as we boarded our Aer Lingus flight I popped my head into the cockpit and whispered to the pilot and co-pilot, "feeling happy today fellas?" Well, you would wouldn't you?

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.