Quote Of The Day

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Philadelphia : The Rocky Steps...

This morning we had the breakfast of champions and then ran up the Rocky Steps to work it all off. I wanted to video Stu running up the Steps while I sang hummed the song but he said I was an idiot. Which to be fair, I am.

And that funny things at breakfast is called scrapple. The scrapple ingredient list is pig off cuts: snouts, tails, trotters, hearts, lips, ears, assholes, eyeballs, livers, spleens, tongues, oh and its primary ingredient corn meal. Basically, everything but the oink!

Philadelphia : Barnes Foundation...

If you like the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists you have probably heard of the Barnes Foundation. Barnes was an American collector who amassed an incredible collection and thankfully due to poor finances have now been put on show more widely. The collection is said to worth upward of $25 billion. 
This includes:-
181 paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 
69 by Paul Cézanne 
59 by Henri Matisse 
46 by Pablo Picasso 
21 by Chaim Soutine 
18 by Henri Rousseau 
16 by Amedeo Modigliani 
11 by Edgar Degas 
11 by Giorgio de Chirico 
7 Vincent van Gogh and
6 by Georges Seurat
It is a bewildering collection and demonstrates the power of the private collector.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Philadelphia : From riches to rags...

Been having a fab time in Philadelphia: the buildings, the history, the Brit bashing, the beer, the boys, the views, the Liberty Bell, the idolatry of all things Benjamin Franklin, the declarations, the constitutions, the U.S. mint, the Reading Terminal Market, the Italian Market Fedtival, the dancing in the streets, tye LOVE sign, the Christ Church, the poverty, the pan handlers, the decaying industrial waste land, the wretchedness, the people on $14,000 a year, the murders, the dispossessed... America's original political capital city. The Athens of the West. Reduced to its poverty capital. A hell of a fascinating a place to visit. 
And great cheesesteaks.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

They have gone mad for the Royal Wedding in the U.S. Bonkers for it. And it's lovely. #RoyalWedding

They have gone mad for the Royal Wedding in the U.S.  Bonkers for it. And it's lovely. 
In our hotel alone was a wedding breakfast in the main reception area for 100 or so people. They all dressed up in their wedding outfits and ate high teas after watching the wedding broadcast at 7am local time. Even Sean Bean was there!
On TV the U.S. TV presenters were everywhere; in Windsor, on platforms, in trees, in the crowds, in the chapel, in the hotel, in the castle, under her dress, you name it. These serious news anchors were reduced to gibbering fan gurls and fan bois - they were so excitable it was infectious. 
What a way to cover a royal event! There is such good feeling towards the UK from the U.S. today. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Writer @AlmeidaTheatre Wow, that a play! A thrillingly shifting feminist drama that quite rightly sends audiences out of the theatre conflicted, thrilled ,and arguing....

Last night Stuart and I went to see Ella Hickson's new play The Writer at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Wow, that a play! A thrillingly shifting feminist drama that quite rightly sends audiences out of the theatre conflicted, thrilled ,and arguing.

It is a play about the theatre, about art and about the creative process. It is about the difficulties faced by women trying to create something true to themselves as an artist, without giving in to the expectations of men, or the pressure to produce something safe and sellable. It takes on two biggies - patriarchy and capitalism - and largely wins.

And what a clever play this is. It is an assault on the stage. It savages the theatrical status quo. It shakes and splinters with wrath. Anyone interested in the theatre should see The Writer.

It opens explosively. A young woman (Lara Rossi) emerges from the audience to collect a bag she has left behind. She is confronted by a man (Sam West, brilliantly repulsive) who asks her what she thought of the play they have both just seen and which – it turns out – he has directed. Her furious denunciation of its commercial and pointless nature points angrily to many tropes women writers and viewers despise so much in current theatre – "the old men saying fascinating things about time and history while women in hot pants lean over desks", the rape added for theatrical effect, the way audiences assess what a woman looks like while wanting to know what a man thinks. It's sharp, savage stuff and becomes more interesting when the woman reveals that the man had once made a pass at her, just after he had praised her first play, which has made her doubt herself. "I wanted the job because I was talented, not because I was fuckable."

So far so predictable. But then everything changes. It was all an act. Or rather is was all actors.

We are suddenly plunged into an awkward Q&A session and we realise that what we have seen before was actually the reading of a scene written by another writer (Romola Garai) who is nervously presenting it for the first time and being subtly undermined by her own director (Michael Gould). The actors in the Q&A throw up objections to the earlier scene – "ranty" is one of them. But then they themselves are undermined by the next vision. Yes, this is a play that tells you what it is not just by showing but by moving. It’s a play of continually collapsing walls: each scene is as provisional as Anna Fleishle’s brilliant design, which hauls flat screens up from the floor to turn them into backdrops. A view of the London Gherkin, a cardboard-looking wallpapered set; bright flowers.

Things get even more complicated from that point onwards and include the arrival of a live baby who is not the writer's but "belongs to a woman in the wings" and a scene set in a wild jungle. The set is constructed and deconstructed before our eyes, as the action swings in unexpected directions, always bound together by Garai's watchful presence.

Each episode argues with the previous one. A very neat naturalistic dialogue involving cassoulet, disobliging sex and career pressure gives way to a scene of women behaving wildly: woad in the woods; huge shadows looming like Easter Island statues; stage and actors encased in zebra stripes.

But the piece is tightly structured, with scenes mirroring each other. There are two painfully realistic sex scenes on sofas, two confrontations with lovers, two conversations between writer and director. Themes are twinned too, built on sets of opposites – money versus art, pretension and vocation, pretend and real. Issues of gender, of race, of desire for your own sex, of the politics of sex and desire, are all flung into the mix.

Although at two hours straight through the play is marginally too long, Hickson's writing can take the breath away. There's a marvellously vivid moment when the writer says selling her script to cinema would be "like letting strangers do plastic surgery on your unborn child to make it more fuckable" which is one of those images that is hard to let go.

The whole piece is so massively meta, like a series of Chinese boxes, that some will find it irritating. But I loved its underlying passion, particularly about the function of art – whether it is indeed a holy thing, or whether none of it really matters. It's a barb that cuts deep and makes an audience think.

It is also hard to resist a piece, beautifully and sensitively directed by Blanche McIntyre, that stars Garai at her most powerful. The amount of detail she brings to a performance that could so easily descend into generalised anger and grief is really astonishing. Her great cries for freedom, for blood, for the truth, in her series of encounters with passive aggressive directors and lovers (of both genders) are the engine that drive this interesting, compelling play.

The Writer is an eloquent, intellectually agile, vividly written and frequently furious play. It feels like the result of years of pent-up frustration about the way that stories get told on our stages, who tells them and how, and the constant compromises that women are obliged to make in this industry, and in the wider world.

Blanche McIntyre directs all this with customary dexterity and alertness to the work. It’s a perfect union of writer and director. The cast grasps it too. Garai is spectacular. She morphs from a tongue-tied aspiring new writer – cowed by those around her and almost constantly apologising, for occupying this platform at all, for having the temerity to have something to say and a wish to say it in the way she wants – to an altogether more confident figure who nonetheless lets men shut her down or sway her choices. There are moments when she rages, when she burns with fury, at her self and the world.

There is a lot of onstage eating, too. The food is real. Appetite is all. The final scene makes it plain that none of this is enough. Even though there isn’t a single man on stage, the patriarchy remains intact – there’s still a great big dick in the room, literally and figuratively.

It’s strange how so often we use the language of violence to describe things that affect us. We say: "It packs a punch", "It's hard hitting". The Writer makes it clear that it’s time to use new tools, to think differently, talk differently, live differently.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Nightfall @_BridgeTheatre --> Review...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Barney Norris’s new play Nightfall at the Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

The reviews have been rather sniffy about it - comparing it unfavourably to Mike Bartlett's Albion at the Almeida Theatre - but we really quite enjoyed it.

The story is one of love, desperation and resentment of everyday country folk: specifically, a farming family in debt and in crisis, on the rural Hampshire borders. The father has died, leaving responsibility for the farm to his son Ryan (Sion Daniel Young - yes, him off of War Horse and Curious Incident...), along with £200,000 of unpaid bills. Ryan calls up his mate Pete (Ukweli Roach - yes, him off of Blindspot) to help do a bit of unauthorised welding work on an oil pipeline that runs through the farm, so they can siphon some off into a tank for private use. Except that Pete, an ex of Ryan’s sister Lou (Ophelia Lovibond - yes, her off of W1A), has done time in jail already for drunken assault, and is risking a lot with this kind of caper.

The situation is complicated as Pete is also there to rekindle his relationship with Lou and the siblings' mother Jenny (Claire Skinner - yes, the mum off of Outnumbered) is so stymied by grief and a rose-tinted desperation to preserve their way of life that she barely registers her children’s misery.

Conflict leads to further revelations and the drama that follows. Soon they are all at each other’s throats. But there’s enough tenderness to the story-telling and nuance to the performances to keep this play free of sensation. Instead it’s an elegy, an intimate look at waste, loss and the lies we tell ourselves.

It’s a story imbued with the themes of decay and lost livelihoods that have become rather a trademark for writer Barney Norris (Visitors, 2014; Eventide 2015 While We're Here 2017).

Designer Rae Smith turns London’s slick new Bridge Theatre into a scruffy farmyard with tufty grass, moody skies and an array of garden furniture.

The naturalistic dialogue is peppered with striking moments of lyricism. The writing is exquisite, even if it sometimes feels a touch too artful and poetic to come out of the characters’ mouths.

Aside from a few moments of wry comedy Nightfall is bleak watch; we see the character’s hopes and dreams seeping away and leaking out like the oil that Ryan’s siphoning off into his own tank.

The auditorium last night was half empty which is a shame. This is new writing true, but fine writing all the same.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Eurovision 2018 : It is a shame Sweden didn’t win - who can forget the year they put on such a great show. Boiiiing! @AllAboard

Sorry Lisbon but is was a weak Eurovision show this year. Great songs and all that but a mess of a show! Where was the energy? We wanted to jump around but we were just left yawning.

The winner, Israel with Toy, was fun enough but it isn’t a vintage Eurovision classic. Sounds more like Crazy Frog. 

And that idiot grabbing SuRie’s microphone deserves no future publicity.  She didn't deserve 24th place out of 26 either!

It is a shame Sweden didn’t win though - who can forget the year they put on such a great show. Boiiiing!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

#StrictlyBallroom The Musical @TeamPiccadilly @jonnylabey, @ZiziStrallen and @willyoung great. Lovely direction / choreography @DrewMcOnie @strictlystage Review ->

Last Saturday night my sister Joanna, niece Charlotte, Stuart and I went back to see Strictly Ballroom the Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

We had been a month or so ago but due to a burst water pipe backstage the show had been cancelled just before the interval.

Again, what we saw was good if not great. It was about 80% as good as the film - the script being almost word for word the same and the Australian accents and humour largely intact.

Will Young plays a new character "Narrator" which in a show about dancing I feel was perhaps a little bit of a misstep. He wandered (and occasionally roller-skated) among the action whilst grimacing, overreacting, and commenting on the plot which was a little off-putting. We didn’t really need signposts as to what was funny. But that aside, he sang beautifully - with Time After Time being a stand out moment.

Ironically the first half (the half we had now seen twice) was the better of the two halves as the show's rather muddled quick-fire ending was a bit of a mess.

The dancing was great throughout though and the humour was all there.

Recommended - if you like a bit of a camp show and liked the film of the same name.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

An Ideal Husband "I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself." #Wilde #Vaudeville

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

The Rolls-Royce of English comedies, Oscar Wilde‘s An Ideal Husband explores corruption and morality, bringing an act of political sin into the heart of the English home. An ambitious government minister, Sir Robert Chiltern (Nathaniel Parker) along with his wife Gertrude played by Sally Bretton, seem to have a smooth ascent to the top assured. That is until Mrs Cheveley (a marvellous Frances Barber) appears in London with damning proof of Robert's past financial chicanery.

This witty new production from director Jonathan Church brings together all the best aspects of the play - gag-fest, drawing room comedy, melodrama, romance, morality play, even farce – melding them together with complete success to create a golden, satisfying whole.

Susan Hampshire puts in an oddly touching comic turn as garrulous Lady Markby and Faith Omole is a coquettish delight as Robert's sister Mabel Chiltern.

But it is the fantastic Mr Foxes that really wow. Real-life father and son team Edward Fox (as father Earl of Caversham) and Freddie Fox (as incorrigible dandy-about-town son Lord Goring) are perfection. Their scenes together - especially in the second half - are funny, exasperating, affectionate, and blissful.

Go see.

Best quotes of the night:
Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.
Nothing ages like happiness.
There is nothing so difficult to marry as a large nose.
To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.
I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.
Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.
Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are.
Fathers should be neither seen, nor heard.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Merci Arsène - "The one positive of me being a fan once I've left is that I can now shout at the next manager!" @Arsenal #MerciArsène ...

It was an emotional send off for Arsène Wenger at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday. The sun was shining, the team put on a good display to beat Burnley 5 - 0, and there was lots of singing from the stands.

Also loved the comment from AW last night...

"The one positive of me being a fan once I've left is that I can now shout at the next manager!"

Monday, May 07, 2018

Happy 12th Anniversary Stuart! It is much easier to apologize than to ask permission! :-)

Happy 12th 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.  

My top tip for making it work: It is much easier to apologize than to ask permission. 😂  

Friday, May 04, 2018

Madrid 2018...

Had an amazing time in Madrid over the past few days. Art galleries, city tours, football... It is a great city, very friendly and will be going back soon.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights...

My life is complete. I have seen Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. My favourite painting ever.