Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

Hamilton "It's better than Wicked" @HamiltonWestEnd @VictoriaPalace ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see much-hyped hip-hop musical Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London's glitzy Victoria.

Hamilton's composer, lyricist, and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda thunders his massive show into town sweeping aside all before it. You can't argue with success, right? Money talks. Sold out performances can't lie. And the reviews - boy, those reviews - "one of the greatest artworks of the 21st century", "I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show," wrote Ben Brantley of the New York Times. "But Hamilton... might just about be worth it."

Michelle Obama even called it the "best piece of art in any form that I have ever seen in my life," (which perhaps raises some disquieting questions about the level of cultural exposure offered in the Princeton undergraduate curriculum.)

So what did we think?

Well, we didn't hate it! But we didn't really love it either. We just 'liked' it. It was good - and at times great - but the promising first half was a little let down by the rather boring second half. It was a super slick (too slick?) show though even if it was at times uneven.

We left thinking to ourselves exactly how did a ten-million-dollar 8th grader US history skit get described as "one of the greatest artworks of the 21st century"?

I'm guessing Miranda saw Les Miserables and thought - "let's do a hip-hop version of that." Revolution (check), stirring songs (check), a band of brothers and maybe they don't all make it (check). Only it's not really as good as Les Miserables. Or Rent even. The songs aren't as good for a start. And the subject matter doesn't really inspire this particular Brit - an annoying loud-mouthed orphan with a chip on his shoulder decided to help 'found' America but couldn't keep his dick in his pants. Ok, let's be nice - let's just say the musical is about putting a humanising focus on famous American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton’s vulnerabilities and ambitions.

It's better than Wicked. But then we hated Wicked.


So given I've said we liked Hamilton, I do have a few issues with it...

Race

To judge from the reviews in the UK press and online, most of the appeal of Hamilton seems to rest with the diversity of its cast and the novelty concept of a "hip-hop musical." Those who write about Hamilton often dwell primarily on its "ground-breaking" use of rap and its "bold" choice to cast an assemblage of black, Asian, and Latino actors as the Founding Fathers. Indeed, you'd think from all these column inches of praise that Hamilton exists more as a corporate HR department’s wet dream than as a biographical work.

But this casting "Founders Chic" tends to really downplay the involvement of the Founding Fathers in slavery. Slavery as a subject barely gets a look in. It’s still white history. And no amount of casting people of colour disguises the fact that they’re erasing people of colour from the actual narrative. Indeed, it does take some getting used to have a black actor play Jefferson, because the actual Thomas Jefferson raped slaves.

In its defence of the casting the director of Hamilton said, "It has liberated a lot of people who might feel ambivalent about the American experiment to feel patriotic."
I'm guessing "ambivalent," here, means being bothered by the country’s collective idol-worship of men who participated in the slave trade, one of the greatest crimes in human history. And to be "liberated" from this means never having to think about it.

Also why was the audience so resoundingly white? (Not, that that is solely a criticism aimed at Hamilton mind you!)

The Women

Given the wealth of alpha males on stage, it's too bad that the female leads are made to sound like afterthoughts, consigned to more traditional Broadway roles and bland blends of R&B and show-tune balladry. As Hamilton the man negotiates a tricky triangle of three lovers or would-be-lovers — his wife, his wife's sister and a mistress — Hamilton the Bechdel Test failing show loses momentum.

The leading women in Hamilton are long-suffering actors who melt into the background while the strutting male leads get all the best lines and songs.

Tickets Prices

One of the unfortunate aspects of the success of Hamilton is that it has made tickets formidably expensive. For those on the lower end of the income scale, the show exists as a tantalizing yet elusive dream. We paid £400 for two tickets. And there are stories of people paying four times that amount.

The Music

The use of hip-hop has been described as new. Yes, hip-hop - that edgy, up-and-coming genre with only 37 years of mainstream exposure.

We couldn't remember a single tune after the curtain fell. Apart from maybe "The Room Where It Happens" which was one of the few standard pop songs in the show.

The Lyrics

When it was good it was very, very good. When it was bad, it was terrible.

Madison: It’s a tie!
Jefferson: It’s up to the delegates!
Jefferson/Madison: It’s up to Hamilton!
Hamilton: Yo. The people are asking to hear my voice
For the country is facing a difficult choice.
And if you were to ask me who I’d promote
Jefferson has my vote.

Perhaps marginally less embarrassing than "when I say yo, you say ho." But only ever so marginally.

Thankfully for every cloying, bourgeois "ten-dollar Founding Father without a father" and "when the British taxed our tea we got frisky," we were treated to the thrilling "I'll be Socrates throwing verbal rocks at these mediocrities." and the genius phrase, "will no one mention the eloquence in the room".

The Hamilton-Jefferson battle raps was quite good fun too but the show's most entertaining musical moments belong to King George III. He's played with condescending flamboyance and his perpetually raised pinkie finger. The king's a punch line, the sound of the Old World being subsumed by the faster, quicker, brighter hip-hop future of America. Yet he commands the stage like no other cast member by channelling Queen's Freddie Mercury. The clueless King loves to knock his rivals and perceived inferiors (which includes pretty much everybody) down to size with foppish putdowns. He makes even his wordless vocal melodies sound like he's heckling.

Final Thoughts

As I say we liked it. I’m not sure it will become one of the all-time great musicals though. It's no West Side Story. At best I'd say it's a nice musical about immigrant pluck, impudence and ambition.

That said, it was great to see so many black actors on stage. But perhaps the power of the piece's grand political point about America as a country built on the backs and minds of immigrants is conveyed as much by the actual content of the show as by its mode of presentation.

But it’s better than Wicked.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You - a funny, romantic, bleak, quirky, irreverent and refreshing joy @OneDuckTheatre #CocainePlay @johneodonovan, @tjamesmartin @VAULTFestival @thevaultsuk ...

Last Sunday night Stuart and I went to watch John O’Donovan's marvellous two-hander If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You at The Vaults in (or rather under) London's glitzy Waterloo.

Set in a small town in the west of Ireland on Halloween - it is a night of drug-fuelled robbery and surprisingly tender romance. There’s a party to get to and Mikey and Casey have everything they need... booze, cash, drugs... and each other.

Only there's a problem. They’re stuck. On a roof. And as they wait for the police to move off, they find out there are some home truths you can’t climb down from.

It's a raucous and unlikely romantic drama, packed with bleak humour, fizzing with comic timing - all twenty feet up.

Alan Mahon and Josh Williams play two lovers and their dialogue pops and crackles with rude affection. The whole piece is a funny, quirky, irreverent and a refreshing joy.

Go see.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rubber - a unique, inventive, innovative, and immaculate experience. And fucking scary. @pentire_street @VAULTFestival @thevaultsuk ...

Last Sunday night Stuart and I went to a performance piece called Rubber at The Vaults in (or rather under) London's glitzy Waterloo.

Part of the Vaults Festival 2018, Rubber was performed in a real, moving car by two actors for just Stuart and me. We were buckled up in the back seat. The two actors played Jess and Tom - on the face of it a bickering couple - the latter of whom drove us around Waterloo for about an hour. And it was intense. Fucking intense.

Jess and Tom were in a loving relationship and just having a bit on an off day, right? Oh no. This got ugly fast. Jess loves Tom alright. And Tom loves Jess too... well, that and money... and power... and drugs.

It was immersive theatre at its finest. As a piece of realism it was superb. It was a unique, inventive, innovative, and immaculate experience. And fucking scary.

Rubber explores the tough realities of emotional and physical dependencies that the millennial generation can be driven to by a world that increasingly doesn’t want them. If we live in a society where people have to turn to sex work just to pay the bills how can one man’s struggle to control himself compete with one woman’s struggle to break free.

If you go see it - and I do strongly recommend you go and see it - fastened our seat-belts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Wow! Ooh, Cloudbusting, you're amazing! Mandy you're incredible. We say you're fantastic. For us, you fit the bill! Their Kick Inside 40th Anniversary Concert was nothing short of sensational @LouiseMilmol @cloudbustingKB @Islington_AH ...

People of my parents’ generation usually know where they were when JFK was assassinated. For my generation the landmark moment was where they were when they first heard Kate Bush singing Wuthering Heights.

For me I remember very clearly that day in early January 1978 when the first ever playing of the Wuthering Heights came on the radio. I was working in a pub as a cleaner aged 16 and my world just stopped - fluffy duster and can of Pledge in hand - as I listened intently to the first haunting notes from that amazing and then completely unknown artist. I'd never heard anything quite like it before and I was utterly blown away. It was completely life-changing and I couldn't wait to get hold of The Kick Inside album to see what other surprises were in store. And what a genius album it was!

And that album was released 40 years ago last Saturday.

And by no coincidence on that day The Kick Inside album was performed in its entirety by ace tribute act Cloudbusting at The Islington Assembly Hall as a 40th Anniversary Concert. And I was beyond excited.

The show was amazing as Mandy and the boys backed by a stringed quartet, some backing singers and some very special guests (Del Palmer and Preston Heyman) took us on a musical journey like no other. They started with a few on Kate's most anthemic songs, then played the first side of the album, followed by a break and then the second side followed by a greatest hits finale.

The band sounded great, Mandy was in fine voice, and the visuals and dancing were the icing on the cake (worth the ticket price alone!)

There was also a giant Kick Inside cover poster for us to write messages on that will hopefully be passed on to Kate.

A truly special night for any Kate Bush fan. There was a lot of love (and chatting!) in the room.




Monday, February 19, 2018

Girls & Boys - "funny, vital, relentless and vivid"... @careymofficial @royalcourt

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Carey Mulligan star in Girls & Boys at the Royal Court in London's glitzy Sloane Square.

Written by the marvellous Dennis Kelly this solo show about a disintegrating marriage is directed by the wonderful Lyndsey Turner.

Carey Mulligan - or Sally Sparrow 'the assistant that got away' as we Whovians like to think of her - made her stage debut at the Royal Court when she was just 19 years old playing a narcoleptic teenager in Kevin Elyot’s Forty Winks. She was back at the Court three years later in The Seagull. And then in the West End in David Hare’s Skylight four years ago. Now she is back on home turf - and what a show it is.

We get taken on an extraordinary journey from the fourth wall breaking chummy laughter of a stand-up comedy routine to the bleak arctic wastes that lie on the other side of terrible tragedy that really punches you in the gut.

Her outspokenly funny chats are interspersed with glimpses of her at home playing with her two small children. The set is awash with a pale blue shade apart from the odd children's toys. Only the children aren't actually on stage with her - and you think you know why - it is the theatrical convention whereby adult performers interact with invisible infants. But then the big reveal comes and the strained and artificial play-acting becomes all too poignant.

Are all men born bad? Of course not. Is every man a disaster waiting to happen? Maybe. Do boys destroy and girls create? Not exclusively. Kelly's writing here is funny, vital, relentless and vivid. A remarkable return for Mulligan.

Go see.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Double-header: Stud (meh!) and then Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho (fabulous!) @SohoThatcher @VAULTFestival @thevaultsuk ...

Last night Stuart and I went to watch two performances - a new gay play Stud and the smash hit Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho - both at The Vaults in (or rather under) London's glitzy Waterloo.

The Vaults is series of performance venues joined together by a warren of arches, tunnels and passageways under Waterloo Station. It's a maze populated with bars, cafes and performing spaces. It is arts at its most immersive and most alternative. A maze of the amazing.

Their mission is to collaborate and conspire, embracing artists from all walks of life to come together and inspire others. It is underground art that is challenging, accessible and imaginative. These underground arts are literally underground.

At the moment The Vaults are running the Vaults Festival 2018 - a series of plays, performances and happenings - and we were lucky enough to see a couple of things - new gay play Stud and cabaret piece Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho.

Stud was a bit rubbish to be honest. It was on the face of it right up my alley. It was two-hander about gay footballers. Joey Phillip plays Tom and Liam Bergin played all the other characters.

"Tom’s sixteen. His family home is falling apart. His mum has left and his depressed Dad can’t pay the bills. The only light in Tom’s life is football: He lives it and breathes it. Going pro is Tom’s chance to make life better, for everyone... But Tom has a secret (spoiler alert: here's gay), one that could cost him his career."

The script was a bit like when straight people write a piece about the gay experience and get it a bit wrong. Stud tried to be funny, defiant, inspiring but the gay characters were rather clichéd, and homophobes all rather over-cooked. Yes, there's a problem in football - there are currently no openly gay or bi players at any level of male professional football in Britain - but I'm not sure this adds much to the debate. The Pass and Wonderkid both tackled this issue better.

On the other hand, the second thing we saw, Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, was a God-damned riot! We laughed our socks off from start to finish.

Matt Tedford plays Margaret Thatcher who stumbles into Soho on the eve of the vote for Section 28 and becomes an over-night all-singing, all dancing cabaret star. There starts a big gay odyssey about gay rights, the 80’s and disco.

As the Iron Lady herself might say, "Where there are discos, may we bring harmonies."

Tedford is as caustic as Dame Edna Everage, twice as camp and packs a mighty political punch. His side-kicks Nico Lennon and Ed Yelland get to play everyone else in the piece - from 1980s Tory cabinet members, Churchill’s portrait, arch-enemy Jill Knight, Sex-God and punk Peter Tatchell, sleazy MPs, sleazier yuppies, Grange Hill kids, the list goes on.

Great show. Go see.

One thing I did notice though - Tedford's Thatcher did look uncannily like Martin Gore of Depeche Mode!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The York Realist. Great play. A moving, funny and unashamed delight that is superlatively played #TheYorkRealist @DonmarWarehouse @BattRatters @JonnyBailey ...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Peter's Gill's award-winning 2001 play The York Realist at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

Peter Gill first achieved fame for his theatrical restoration of DH Lawrence. And in this, his own play he has vividly brought to life those Lawrentian qualities of emotional intelligence, raw honesty and fascination with the intersection of class and sex.

In outline it sounds like a gay love story. George is a farm labourer who gets involved in an early 1960s production of the York Mystery Plays: John is the shy assistant director who comes to woo him back to rehearsals when he withdraws, ostensibly to look after his widowed mother. The two men's physical and emotional rapport is palpable. But Gill shows, with rigorous honesty, the obstacles that lie in the path of a long term relationship.

Significantly, sexual bigotry is not one of them: even if the play has echoes of Lawrence's The Daughter-in-Law it never turns into a battle for possession of George between his mother and lover. What Gill is writing about is the dual stranglehold of class and roots.

For John, a metropolitan careerist, the Yorkshire countryside has an exotic otherness of which he can never fully be a part. Equally George, although he visits London and relishes its early sixties intellectual fever, is wedded irrevocably to the land. In the end it is he, as much as the anonymous author of the medieval mysteries, who turns out to be the true York realist.

What is startling about the play, given Gill's Welsh origins, is its profound Englishness: it is about the way the English, however hard they try, can never finally escape their origins. But, far from being emotionally conservative, the play is adventurous, witty and fresh.

At a time when sexual acrobatics are all the rage, it captures the hesitant growth of love between two men with rare tenderness. It is also funny not least in the almost embarrassed enthusiasm George's family display after their visit to the Mysteries. "It was very Yorkshire, wasn't it," cries George's mother carefully adding: "Not that I mind."

Robert Hastie's production has the same spare honesty as Gill's writing and is superlatively played. Ben Batt (yes, that sexy bad-boy off of Shameless) endows George with exactly the right blend of Yorkshire grit and unashamed delight in his sexuality: it is John played by Jonathan Bailey (yes, that cute one off of Doctor Who and W1A), as the supposedly sophisticated Londoner, who is the more tentative. And there is exemplary support from Lesley Nicol (yes, that cook off of Downton Abbey) as George's mother whose love takes the form of unspoken understanding. The play comes like a rare blast of reality.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Ayres on the Air: My 82 yr old mum asked me, "So how was Pam Ayres last Saturday?" "Great, mum. She was great" "So there's life in the ol' gal yet then" LOL @PamAyres

On Saturday night Stuart and I found ourselves at the BBC Radio Theatre in London's glitzy West End waiting for ever-wonderful Pam Ayres to perform.

She was recording her latest series of Pam Ayres on the Air - an half hour BBC Radio Four show combining sketches, monologues and the inevitable and ever-welcome poetry. We witnessed a double recording of two shows entitled 'Holidays' and 'Grandparents'.

I have to say she was superb. Full of great anecdotes - very funny. I'd not see Stu laugh so much in ages.

Aside from the comedy at the front it was the audience that made us giggle too. All crusty old Radio Four demographics, mainly in couples who would be constantly producing hankies from sleeves and whisper to their partners about how cold it was... or how hot it was... or how long we had to queue... So very British.

The radio show should be broadcast in the Spring. So in the meantime here is one of her new ones and one of her (and my) favorites:-


Martians

You wonder what the Martians think we're sharing,
When a Tesla car with David Bowie blaring,
Comes revolving through your sky,
With the volume turned up high,
And you might find Elon Musk a little wearing.


Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth,
And spotted the dangers beneath
All the toffees I chewed,
And the sweet sticky food.
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

I wish I’d been that much more willin’
When I had more tooth there than fillin’
To give up gobstoppers,
From respect to me choppers,
And to buy something else with me shillin’.

When I think of the lollies I licked
And the liquorice allsorts I picked,
Sherbet dabs, big and little,
All that hard peanut brittle,
My conscience gets horribly pricked.

My mother, she told me no end,
‘If you got a tooth, you got a friend.’
I was young then, and careless,
My toothbrush was hairless,
I never had much time to spend.

Oh I showed them the toothpaste all right,
I flashed it about late at night,
But up-and-down brushin’
And pokin’ and fussin’
Didn’t seem worth the time – I could bite!

If I’d known I was paving the way
To cavities, caps and decay,
The murder of fillin’s,
Injections and drillin’s,
I’d have thrown all me sherbet away.

So I lie in the old dentist’s chair,
And I gaze up his nose in despair,
And his drill it do whine
In these molars of mine.
‘Two amalgam,’ he’ll say, ‘for in there.’

How I laughed at my mother’s false teeth,
As they foamed in the waters beneath.
But now comes the reckonin’
It’s me they are beckonin’
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Birthday Party: Superb production. Oustanding cast. @StephenMangan is electrifying #TobyJones is mesmerising @ZoeWanamaker @Pearlie_mack #TomVaughanLawlor #PeterWight @BdayPartyLDN @HPinterTheatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to help The Birthday Party - Harold Pinter’s classic play - celebrate its 60th birthday at the theatre that bears the playwright’s name in London's glitzy West End.

Seasoned Pinter-helmsman Ian Rickson’s superb production has an outstanding, stellar six-strong cast: Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan, Pearl Mackie, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Zoe Wanamaker and Peter Wight.

Pinter’s play, savaged by all but the Sunday Times’ Harold Hobson on its legendary London premiere in 1958, has nonetheless grown to become one of his most famous and most performed works. Revivals are regular, on stage and on the airwaves, but few can boast as many big names as Rickson’s. But does Pinter’s disturbing portrait of life in a beach-side British boarding house still hold water 60 years after its debut? You betcha!

The Birthday Party is about Stanley Webber, an erstwhile piano player who lives in a rundown boarding house, run by Meg and Petey Boles, in an English seaside town. Two sinister strangers, Goldberg and McCann, who arrive supposedly on his birthday and who appear to have come looking for him, turn Stanley's apparently innocuous birthday party organised by Meg into a bit of a nightmare.

If you haven’t seen the play before, it still works like a thriller, its outcome as uncertain as everything else about it. It's a sort of cross between Agatha Christie and Kafka with its incomprehensible reversals, nameless terrors and laughter as dark as the grave.

Toby Jones plays Stanley and it's a show stealing performance. His Stanley is nervy and audacious, pampered and feral at the same time, and mesmerising to watch.

Stephan Mangan's turn as Goldberg is electrifying. He is by turns matey, delusional, bombastic, and charming. He is the psycho house-guest from hell but you cannot take your eyes off him as he flashes a megawatt shark-like smile. He holds forth, fires questions, laughs, all alpha-male man-spreading swagger, tinged with the promise of extreme and joyful violence.

We loved it. Pinter’s play has aged well, and I'd go so far as to say its combination of humour and horror has matured into the perfect metaphor for Brexit Britain.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Arseblog Reports On Arsenal’s LGBT supporters club Gay Gooners celebrate their 5th anniversary...

Great piece by Tim Stillman of Arseblog on the Gay Gooners.

Oh, did I mention I'm one of the interviewees! :-)

"This month, Arsenal’s LGBT supporters club Gay Gooners celebrate their 5th anniversary. The first LGBT supporters club in English football, they arranged a 5 a side tournament with other supporters groups before the Arsenal v Everton match recently, designated as ‘Arsenal For Everyone’ match day. The tournament marked the 5th anniversary of their creation and also falls during LGBT History Month.

Tim Stillman went across to the Arsenal Hub to talk to the Gay Gooners about their inception, their purpose, their successes and the challenges to come in fully removing the stigma around homosexuality in football- for fans as well as players."

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Everybody's Talking About Jamie - its fun, funny and fabulous... @JamieMuscial

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see new British pop musical Everybody's Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

The inspiration for Everybody's Talking About Jamie is 22-year-old Jamie Campbell, whose youthful ambition to become a drag queen was the subject of a BBC TV documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 in 2011.

Apparently Mr Campbell is rather unlikeable in real life - something that certainly can't be said for his newly renamed on-stage version Jamie New.

Jamie New (as played by John McCrea) is lovely and what is more he can sing, he can dance, and he can act. A triple threat with dynamite legs to match.

The play is written by Tom MacRae and the music by Dan Gillespie Sells and its fun, funny and fabulous.

The story is thoroughly feel-good - bigots are exposed, minds are changed, and everyone camps it up - you get the idea. And the songs are spot on, from the opening dance number "And You Don't Even Know It" through to the rousing "Spotlight" sung by Jamie's bestie Pritti to the show-stopper "He's My Boy" sung by Jamie's mother Margaret.

You'll smile ear to ear. Go see.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Gunnersaurus Rex vs Homophobia...

Thank you Arsenal mascot Gunnersaurus Rex for all your support last Saturday at the Gay Gooners VIP Match Day. It means a lot.

#rainbowlaces @gaygooners @AFCCommunity #ArsenalforEveryone‬





Monday, February 05, 2018

Gay Gooners 5-a-side football tournament and VIP Match Day...

Fantastic day on Saturday watching the Gay Gooners 5-a-side football tournament at the Arsenal Hub followed by a VIP Match Day.

Congratulations to AFC Community team for the win. Hard luck REDaction - you was robbed!

I met a few Arsenal legends too - Robert Pires, Lauren and Tomas Rosicky... oh and the mighty Stillberto too (who interviewed us).

And did I mention Rihanna was there also!

We finished the night off with a few drinks at the pub.

#ArsenalforEveryone

(Lots of photos! Sorry!)
















Friday, February 02, 2018

Barnum...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the Cy Coleman musical Barnum at The Menier Chocolate Factory in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

In a nutshell: OK musical, great ensemble, poorly cast lead.

Barnum tells the story of P.T. Barnum, the "Greatest Showman on Earth", who combines razzle-dazzle with charm and brass to sell "humbug" to cheering crowds. It's an upbeat musical portrait of the nineteenth century’s greatest show-biz legend. Barnum is a colourful, dynamic spectacle full of circus, side-show acts, toe-tapping songs and more than little heart.

Laura Pitt-Pulford plays Barnum's wife Charity charmingly. Celinde Schoenmaker's Jenny Lind is in fine voice as the femme fatale, and Harry Francis's Tom Thumb is a star turn.

Sadly, though Marcus Brigstocke's Barnum is a bit of a damp squib. He's not got the voice nor the acting chops to carry off the part.

Avoid.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Last train to London. Just heading out. And I really want tonight to last forever.... #nofilterneeded #superhero #trainsurfing #worseforwear #lasttrain #suit #myeyesmyeyes

Last Saturday night Stuart and I found ourselves in deepest, darkest Essex on the last train to London... Just heading out... And I really want tonight to last forever.... #nofilterneeded #superhero #trainsurfing #worseforwear #lasttrain #suit #myeyesmyeyes






Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Swansea 3 - 1 Arsenal. Dreadful, abysmal, embarrassing ...

Arsenal went down 3 - 1 to Swansea last night. It was dreadful, it was abysmal, it was embarrassing.

At any other club an away record like this would result in a new manager but Wenger is seemingly unsackable. Just how long can this man stay on?


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Twilight Zone (Do-do Do-do, Do-do Do-do)...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see The Twilight Zone at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Adapted by Anne Washburn (yes, she of the dreadful Mr Burns) and directed by Olivier Award-winner Richard Jones, this world premiere production of the acclaimed CBS Television Series The Twilight Zone lands on stage for the first time in its history. Or its present. Or its future. Who can say?

Most pf us can all do The Twilight Zone theme music (Do-do Do-do, Do-do Do-do, if that helps the uninitiated) and most of us know that this was the TV show in which the downright spooky bumped into sci-fi.

Factoid: That title music was written by Bernard Herrmann - the man best known for the stabbing violins in Hitchcock's Psycho.

The latest screen-to-stage adaptation is this 1960s collection of paranormal parables. US playwright Anne Washburn crams eight Twilight Zone episodes into one show. We begin in an isolated diner where bus passengers are taking refuge from an ice storm. Enter the local sheriff who is investigating reports of a crashed UFO. Trouble is, the bus driver counted six passengers and the tracks leaving the UFO lead to the diner. So who is the seventh? Do-do Do-do, Do-do Do-do…

The cast pitch-perfectly replicates the camp earnestness of the original series. This is the closest theatre gets to black and white TV. A starry night sky serves as a backdrop and goggle-wearing stagehands twirl cut-outs for special effects.

What elevates Richard Jones’s funny and frightening production is the way in which Washburn uses nostalgic horror to comment on modern America.

The final story about a suburban community under nuclear attack climaxes in a race war. It’s as if there are forces in the universe telling us something about Trump’s America. You might say, the truth is out there. Oh, sorry, that’s The X-Files.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Julius Caesar @_bridgetheatre What a mess! A beautiful play and top-notch cast ruinously distracted by an OTT, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production. "It's not too gimmicky is it? The tandem?"...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

Fantastic play, fantastic lines, fantastic actors, fantastic production staff, fantastic theatre, but boy what an utter mess of an actual production.

Ben Whishaw and Michelle Fairley are great as Brutus and Cassius, David Calder is super playing Caesar and David Morrissey admirable as Mark Antony. But super-star director Nicholas Hytner and production designer Bunny Christie have really dropped the ball on this one.

The cast seemed to be in pitch battle with the set and the 400 people odd in the pit with them. To say that the set was a distraction would be utterly underplaying the annoyance we felt as we struggled to hear Shakespeare's beautiful words or see the action.

The constant rising and falling of the scenery, the crashes, the bangs, the live rock band, the flashing lights, the balloons, the leaflets, the rubble falling from the gods, the blaring music, the smoke, the jeep, the audience being constantly pushed around, the gun shots, the cheap suits, the relentless two hour running time, the stagehands shouting "move!" to the audience in the way of the constantly moving set... Everything was a distraction.

It is frankly impossible to suspend your disbelief while you are watching a play when you are constantly being dragged back into the present moment and reminded you are in a theatre.

It reminded me of the Victoria Wood written sketch with the ridiculous play producer asking of her over-blown production of Hamlet, "It's not too gimmicky is it? The tandem?"

Phyllida Lloyd's all-female Julius Caesar was both braver and better with just two chairs and a cloak.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea: Trophy-hunters vs Trophy-buyers : Carabao Cup Semi-final, Second leg, #ARSCHE ...

Last night Paul, I and 60,000 other people went to watch trophy-hunters Arsenal take on trophy-buyers Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London's glitzy Highbury.

Arsene Wenger said his side were playing with "more clarity" following the transfer of Alexis Sanchez as the Gunners came from behind to beat Chelsea and set up a Carabao Cup final with Manchester City.

After a goalless first leg, Eden Hazard put Chelsea ahead before an own goal from Antonio Rudiger levelled it, and Granit Xhaka's winner took Arsenal to Wembley.

It came only two days after Sanchez's drawn-out transfer to Manchester United was completed, with the Gunners getting Henrikh Mkhitaryan in return.

Wembley! Bring it on!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Chambers of Flavour V3.0 [SECRET LOCATION] "It's a sort of You Me Bum Bum Train meets Heston Blumenthal"...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see / eat / ride Gingerline's latest immersive culinary experience The Chambers of Flavour V3.0 in [SECRET VENUE] in glitzy [SECRET LOCATION].

At 4pm on the day we got some instructions via SMS message leading us to a secret location somewhere along the old East London Overground Line (between Highbury & Islington and New Cross Gate). All their events are held near that train line hence the name Gingerline.

When we found the place the door creaked open and we entered the bar area and got a view of the outside of the dining machine itself - a sort of steam-punk contraption made from pipes, video screens and copper-bottomed saucepans.

For the next two hours we were pushed, crawled, climbed, ate, drank, slid, and flew through five wonderful scenes. In each scene we had one course of the dinner as performers entertained, interacted and delighted us. The food was good - the entertainment equally sumptuous. You buy your drinks in advance at the bar which you take round with you.

You are requested to dress a certain way - long colourful, brightly coloured socks - and you strap yourself in for a bit of fun. Also it's best to 'join in' rather than 'just watch'.

I'll not give too much away about the plot, the food or the entertainment but if you like your dinner cabaret to be immersive, inclusive and funny this is the show for you. It's a sort of You Me Bum Bum Train meets Heston Blumenthal. The immersive rooms have names like Institute of Flavourology, Greenhouse, Liquorice Bullet Train, Lotus Eaters, Doll's House, and Crème Carousel which perhaps hint at the variety on offer.

We loved it. And I certainly enjoyed Chambers of Flavour V3.0 more than last year's Chambers of Flavour V2.0 - but neither were as good as the original Chambers of Flavour V1.0.

Gingerline has been going for a while now and long may they continue. Here are some of their previous rides.

HQ1: Casino - Autumn 2013
HQ2: Fairytale - Winter 2013
JUBILEE (The Lost Gardens of Gingerline) - Autumn/Winter 2013-14
HIDEOUT: Spaceship - Winter 2013-14
The Secret Garden - Spring 2015
Classic Gingerline Returns (Madame Gingerline) - Summer/Winter 2016
Chambers of Flavour V1.0 - 2015-16
Chambers of Flavour V2.0 - 2016-17
Chambers of Flavour V3.0 - 2017-18