Quote Of The Day

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

Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Tempest...

Last night Stuart and I went to see The Tempest in the temporary theatre of the Donmar Warehouse in London's trying-to-be-glitzy Kings Cross.

The all-female production is the second of Phyllida Lloyd's Shakespeare Trilogy - the three being Henry IV, Julius Cesar, and this, The Tempest.

We'd already seen the marvellous Henry IV and have Julius Cesar to come so were really looking forward to The Tempest.

As with the other productions in the trilogy the play is set in a prison with many modern references - Tracy Emin, hip-hop, Starbucks... And largely it works. The prison as a remote island metaphor is good and the old lifer as the sorcerer Prospero, rightful Duke of Milan, plotting to restore his daughter Miranda (the only female character in the play) to her rightful place using illusion and skilful manipulation is good too.

The acting is top notch and there are some clever stage tricks on display too - the audience having LED torches and the projections on the white helium balloons stand out.

Overall it was a fun show but perhaps let down a little by the source material itself - A Midsummer Night's Dream shares much of the same DNA but is way better.

(If you want to see an even better modern reworking of a Shakespearean play - Imogen is much better down at the Globe).

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Boys in the Band...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Mart Crowley’s seminal piece The Boys in the Band at the Park Theatre in London's not at all glitzy Finsbury Park.

From the producers of the critically acclaimed revivals of Beautiful Thing, Our Boys and Another Country and the forthcoming stage adaptation of Brokeback Mountain, comes this eagerly anticipated revival of The Boys in the Band which was first staged in New York in 1968 just before the Stonewall riots. The piece has had a somewhat checked past with gay audiences. Seen by some as a vicious exposure of self-loathing gay men and as others as a vivid exploration of a gay subculture under attack it was made into a film in 1970 that went to become a cult classic. The play has not been revived in the West End for 20 years.

For my part I loved the film, and I loved this particular production of the play too. It had us in fits of laughter.

It's a funny, cruel, and illuminating piece that is set in a New York apartment where Michael is hosting a birthday party for his friend Harold. Seven other guests arrive all packed with their own particular neuroses. Neuroses that have all developed one way or another because they are all homosexuals - and not particularly happy homosexuals at that. And by hiding it, not being able to express it, or expressing it all too clearly has got them all into a heap of trouble emotionally. And it's all about to come tumbling out.

The production is directed by A Small Family Business & One Man Two Guvnors’ director, Adam Penford with a stellar cast led by Olivier Award winner Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, Doctor Who, London Spy), Daniel Boys (Avenue Q), Jack Derges (Eastenders, Humans), Ian Hallard (Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time), James Holmes (Miranda, Psychoville), John Hopkins (Midsomer Murders), Greg Lockett (Hoff the Record), Ben Mansfield (Primeval, Endeavour) and Nathan Nolan (Undercover).

If you like your theatre bitchy, bitching and heart-felt - this is the show for you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Euston Tunnels...

Last Saturday afternoon Stuart and I went deeper underground to explore the hidden tunnels under London's not-quite-yet-glitzy-but-working-on-it-well-let's-see-what-HS2-brings-if-it-ever-gets-the-go-ahead Euston Station.

Euston station is actually formed of three stations (soon to be four when the HS2 refurb swallows up Euston Square from the Metropolitan Line)

The original three stations were:-

  • The mainline station from the London and Birmingham Railway (LBR) 
  • The (now closed) Euston underground station on the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway (CCE&HR) – now one branch of the Northern line. 
  • The (now closed) Euston underground station on The City and South London Railway (C&SLR) - now the other branch of the Northern line. 


When these three stations were first brought together into one big rambling station a lot of new tunnels had to be built to connect them all together.

However the whole Euston station got demolished and rebuilt in 1962 - described as "one of the greatest acts of Post-War architectural vandalism in Britain" – which meant many of these connecting tunnels became surplus to requirements and were subsequently blocked off to the public. This turned those tunnels into time capsules containing a gallery of preserved vintage advertising poster fragments that have been concealed for nearly 60 years.

So it was with some excitement we donned our hi-vis jackets and began to explore the labyrinth of dark and disused passageways which were once used by the travelling public.

We took lots of snaps of course and the tour had frequent stops to explain how the old tube lines and stations functioned and how now they have had a new lease of life as ventilation shafts to keep the underground cool(ish) and full of fresh(ish) air.

When the Victoria Line was built in the late 1960s a huge new ventilation tunnel was built that we were allowed to walk along and could look down through the vents at the people on the platforms below. Cool.







Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Libertine...

Last Friday Stuart and I went to see Stephen Jeffreys's The Libertine at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London's glitzy West End.

It's a good play but compared to other recent revivals of Restoration Comedies it's a fairly humdrum production. The man behind us fell asleep and starting snoring.

Dominic Cooper plays John Wilmot, the debauched 17th Century rake the Earl of Rochester who is a charismatic poet, a playwright and a rake. He has a legendary appetite for excess, yet this most ardent of hedonists is forced to reconsider everything he thinks and feels when a chance encounter with an actress at the Playhouse sends him reeling.

The scripts is crude and rude but with much flair and wit. It's a wild romp through 1670s London and offers an incisive critique of life in an age of excess.

Cooper makes a good rake and knows how to smoulder but the production never really catches fire.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Imogen...

Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to see Imogen - a gritty reimagining of Cymberline - at Shakespeare's Globe on London's glitzy South Bank.

Modern reworkings of Shakespearean plays don't always work but in this case it does. It's a triumph in fact. East End meets grime meets hip-hop meets drug turf wars meets Daft Punk meets fairytale romance meets violence meets Adidas tracksuits.

It's fun, funny, and chaotic but rarely puts a foot wrong. It treads that fine line between trying too hard and trying hard enough very well.

Starring ex-Eastender Maddy Hill as Imogen the story is one of mistaken identity, infidelity, decapitation, and kidnap. And that's just for starters. Before the show we were warned of...

STRONG LANGUAGE including: Loud music and explicit lyrics
DRUGS including: Marijuana smoking and cocaine snorting
VIOLENCE including: Gun fights, blood and torture
NUDITY including: Sexiness and a bit of nudity
SPECIAL EFFECTS including: Strobe lighting, theatrical smoke and the possibility of being splattered

...and it didn't disappoint.

So if you've got £5 and three hours to spare and don't mind standing as a groundling it's highly recommended. You won't be disappointed and you'll be bouncing along with the production by the end. Literally.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Atheists...

I see those Atheists are fighting and killing each other again, over who doesn't believe in any God the most. Oh, no... wait... that never happens.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Warning! ...

Stuart and I are going to the theatre tonight. Yeah, big surprise. But producer of the thing we are going to see has felt the need to write to us last night...

Production Info: Warning! This show contains everything you could possibly need to be warned against!
STRONG LANGUAGE including: Loud music and explicit lyrics
DRUGS including: Marijuana smoking and cocaine snorting
VIOLENCE including: Gun fights, blood and torture
NUDITY including: Sexiness and a bit of nudity
SPECIAL EFFECTS including: Strobe lighting, theatrical smoke and the possibility of being splattered.

Sounds like my kind of show!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Privatisation...

The road to privatisation is well-trod and has been followed these last 150 years.
1. Starve your state-owned, funded or nationalised service of cash
2. Watch that service deline
3. Wait for people to complain
4. Privatise

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Chambers of Flavour v2...

So... I can't tell you where it is... I can't tell you what it is...

But I can tell you that it's a secret, immersive dining experience, I can tell you it's run by a group called Gingerline. And I can tell you that you get transported from room to room where world after world is created for each course of your gastronomically wonderful meal. You buy your drink in advance at the bar which you take round with you. You get requested to dress a certain way - in this case black with 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 probably enjoyed Chambers of Flavour v1 more but then I didn't know what to expect whereas this time I did.



Monday, September 19, 2016

Yerma...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see the devastating play Yerma at the Young Vic Theatre in London's glitzy Waterloo.

The story stars Billie Piper as girlfriend and then wife of a young couple whose hormones start to kick in and tell her to have a child. As she approaches middle age and no child comes her initially jokey and laisse-faire attitude to conceiving becomes more serious. Her hormones eventually take complete control and end up driving her to some very dark places. Very dark indeed.

Piper is simply amazing and her powerful performance skilfully takes you on her tragic journey with her.

The production is great too with the action all taking place in a huge glass box. The sound in particular is excellent with each breath, each sigh, and each pause filling the auditorium.

If Piper doesn't win an award for her performance I'll eat my hat.

Highly recommended.

(Just after we left we got an email form the Young Vic with information about how to contact the Samaritans. Yes, it was that powerful.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

No Man's Land...

"The best time to drink Champagne is before lunch, you cunt."

Last night Stuart and I went to see Sean Mathias's production of Harold Pinter's classic play No Man's Land at the Wyndham's Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Starring Jean-Luc Picard as Professor Xavier and Gandalf as Magneto it's a play where... Not. Much. Happens. A couple of old poets meet in a pub and carry on drinking back at one of their houses near Hampstead Heath. Later a couple of other suspicious men join them and we are never quite sure who anyone is, what any of them are doing or whether any of them are lying. But that is it's charm and it's power. The gulf that is always there - the no man's land - between truth and fiction. In vino veritas, in vino falsitas.

Apart from the rather infamous line (see above) there are many quotable sections stuffed with such profanity that make it definitely not suitable for children. But it made Stu and I laugh out loud.

A more family friendly joke was:-
"I shared a drink with the Russian Émigré once"
"What, the same drink?"

Some of our fellow audience members got a bit bored and left at the interval which was shame as good though the first half was, the second have was hilarious.


There's life in the old dogs yet. But maybe your last chance to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart together on stage.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Jonce vs Napoleon...


San Sebastien...

IIt's been a fun weekend in San Sebastien with the Essex girls. We've walked, we've talked, we've eaten, we've laughed, and we've downed a few drinks. We climbed a hill and we rode on a funicular. We even joined in a reenactment of Napoleon's defeat by the British to the sound of the Village People's YMCA. No really.







Thursday, September 08, 2016

Bilbao...

We arrived in Bilbao late last night and were whizzed at top speed from the nearby Loui airport to our hotel on the Grand Via at breakneck speed. We even pulled up with a screech of tyres.  I guess our driver was late for his midnight tapas. 

We slept ok but were up early as we had a cycling tour of the city planned and weren't quite sure how to find the bike place. Through the window of our hotel the clouds looked fairly ominous. And sure enough the omens proved prescient as just as we stepped outside the heavens opened on us. Of course being British we weren't going to let a little rain rain on our parade but we must have looked a bit of a odd sight at the door of the bicycle tour shop standing there dead on 10am drenched to the skin expecting two bikes to be ready along with a perky tour guide.

The shop owner - camp as a row of tents - dispatched as to a nearby cafe to wait it out, get coffee, dry off, and warm up.  And sure enough 20 minutes later the rain had stopped and we were ready to roll. He obviously knew Bilbao weather better than us.

Bilbao is a lovely city with lots of history and I think our local tour boy George showed us most of it! He talked about it at length. At length. Boy, the boy could talk. Still, we got good value for money as he shared with us his views on modernity, the EU, taxes, people from Madrid, football, racism, vineyards, the steel industry, David Cameron and the French. He certainly knew his stuff and he made sure we knew it too! We did *see* lots of stuff too though. The old town, the new town, the old docks, the new docks, the old market, the new market... you get the picture. The architecture is great here though.  A right mixture of old and new. The streets are clean and the people we met were very friendly. George even showed us one of the many secret gastronomy clubs (which up until recently were the exclusive preserve of men). Members bring food and drink and cook for themselves and other members. The public aren't allowed in and membership is highly sought after. But he knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a guy... So we got to see one.

To finish our tour - which at this point had lasted four hours (Spanish timing, huh?) - Georgie boy treated us to a beer and a pintxo each. Pintxo are small bar type snacks; ham, cheese, seafood etc served all over the Basque region. They are related to tapas, the main difference being that pintxo are usually 'spiked' with a skewer or toothpick, often to a piece of bread.

So lovely was this that after we had returned our bikes we returned to the same establishment and had six more (pintxo not beers!). Yum, yum. 

The rain came again after lunch so we darted across town to the Guggenheim Museum to shelter from the weather and marvel at the art. I say marvel. There were indeed a few good pieces inside but to be honest the building itself was probably more impressive that what was in it. 

We are now having a siesta before we investigate Bilbao's nightlife. Like the rest of Spain I hear it starts late. Very late. So we might well be fed, watered and in bed asleep long before the Bilbaons are putting on there dancing shoes. But if we do happen to stay up to see the night life, there's certainly one taxi driver we won't be flagging down for our homeward journey.






Bad Moms...

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Your Mum...

Your mum's so fat, when she fell down the stairs I thought EastEnders was ending.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Bye, bye Virgin. - Hello Sky.

Even though the new Virgin Media six-tuner V6 box is soon on the horizon (pun intended) I've just had enough of VM. I've been a  loyal customer since the old Cable London days but their prices have gone up and up and the service down and down. Drop outs, outages and slowness.

And being an early adopter it's always annoyed me that VM are always playing catch up to Sky on HD/4k services, mobile features and channels. And with not having Sky Atlantic and the further prices increases this November... well, that was the last straw. So I'm jumping ship.

This morning I took advantage of the latest discounted offer that MoneySavingExpert had on their web site for switching to our satellite friends and guess what? My monthly bill (entertainment, movies, sports, etc.) has dropped from £93 (I had two Tivos) to £41.40! Same channels (even more in fact) but less than half the cost. And that's for their super, whizz-bang Sky Q 2TB 4-tuner bundle with a Sky Q mini for multi-room. £10 installation and job's a good 'un.

I've signed up to Sky for 12 months (the MSE deal allowed for 12 months not 18 months) and may switch back to VM after that if VM offer a good deal to do so.

I'm sorry to leave VM. And maybe Sky's customer service will be better than VM, maybe it'll be worse - but you can't really argue with the cost saving.

PS: I'm keeping my Virgin broadband though as I get 200MB+ and Sky can't match that at the moment.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Hidden London : Down Street

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went down Down Street. Down Street is a long abandoned tube station on the Piccadilly Line between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park that having closed in 1932 then found a use during World War II as a place to run the Railway Executive Committee operations and was also used by Winston Churchill. Much of the wartime repurposed structures are still there. Both east and westbound platforms still have the shells of offices and bedrooms still on them and we had the chance to walk through them within inches of the tube trains as they sped past. The place was dark, damp, rusting, dirty and musty. But it gave us a fascinating trip back into the past. The five London Transport Museum volunteers were very enthusiastic in pointing out where the offices were, the bedrooms, the toilets, the mess, the typing pool, the kitchen, the generator and the switchboard. Down Street station was ideal as a WWII centre of operations for five reasons: 1. is was already closed due to lack of use so ready to go 2. it is centrally located in London 3. it is 22m below the surface so pretty much bombproof 4. London Underground hadn't been able to get premises on Piccadilly so the entrance was down a side street meaning away from prying eyes 5. because the station entrance was a bit away from the actual Piccadilly Line meant that there were two long tunnels connecting the station to the track - the ample space was ideal for conversion to offices and living spaces. If you get a chance to go Down, do.










Friday, September 02, 2016

The Entertainer...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Kenneth Branagh star in John Osborne's The Entertainer at the Garrick Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

It is claimed that the "angry young man's" play is an "actor's piece" reflecting the "state of the nation", mourning the "end of Empire", a "lament to the loss of English identity" and written about "angry middle-aged man"...

Well, that"s as maybe but I think it"s just "a bit rubbish".

That said, Ken Branagh is wonderful in it as the past his sell by date aging music hall act Archie Rice. He is funny, creepy, lovable and entertaining. But all around him is wooden. The other actors, the set, the staging, the play itself.

Much like the (far superior) Oh! What A Lovely War! we are subjected to the musical treatment of family lives in ruins. The domestic unrest of each character is lubricated by gin and then segued together by a series of a smarmy, smiling song-and-dance vignettes.

And it's all a little weak - a weak plot, weak characters and jokes that get greeted by weak smiles.

Laurence Olivier created the past 60 years ago and that is perhaps where it should have stayed.

Other than Ken, I should perhaps also note Greta Scacchi who did occasionally shine as Archie's care-worn, cheated-on outwardly vapid, inwardly terrified wife Phoebe.

So not quite the crowning glory to end Branagh’s Season at The Garrick we might have hoped.

(Helen Bohnam-Carter and James McAvoy were both there so it wasn't a complete waste of an evening.)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fiesta Major Fireworks

Fiesta Major has been fab this year. The fireworks get more and more impressive. And the images get worldwide exposure. The Guardian covered it this year.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Salvador Dalí...

Stuart and I popped up the coast today to visit one of the three Salvador Dalí museums in or near Figueres. I'd visited before with Paul 10 years ago but the collection has been expanded since. Great weird fun.





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fiesta Major...

Sitges is only a small place but boy they like their fireworks! Fiesta Major goes off with a bang!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Barcelona...

Stuart and I popped into Barcelona for the day to have some fun up a funicular, swing on a cable car and peer at some gaudy Gaudi. Great fun.