Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Hard Problem...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Tom Stoppard's new play The Hard Problem at the Dorfman's Theatre on London's South Bank.

The play follows the story of psychology student Hilary (Olivia Vinall) as she wins a job at a neuroscience institute funded by a vicious hedge-fund billionaire, Krohl (Anthony Calf).

Hilary is helped along the way admirably (and often confrontationally) by her often stripped and very ripped ex-tutor lover Spike (Damien Molony). Spike is a rational Darwinian fundamentalist (think of a hot Richard Dawkins) who has little truck with Hilary's praying and faith in a higher power.

Stoppard loves throwing his characters into good old fashioned arguments and here they trade banterful blows, intellectual insults, and wily witticisms about 'the hard problem' -  can we distinguish between brain activity and awareness. How do sensations acquire characteristics, such as colours and tastes. Empiricism vs rationalists. What is consciousness? Is there a God? Oh, all the easy stuff.

She is an altruistic fan of altruism. She is good. He's a brilliant brutalist - an egotist who belives that the ego is king. The selfish genius.

Krohl in turn is brutal to his City associates – it is law-of-the-jungle stuff. Yet as one of his underlings (Parth Thakerar) observes, ruthless markets do occasionally behave irrationally. So much for the empiricism of survival genes.

The staging is spare, modern: decorated by an overhang of neon lights that burst into pretty, multi-coloured activity between scenes. This represents the whirring of the brain. Set changes are accompanied by rich, ornate piano music.

It is a good play, maybe not up there with Stoppard's greats. The well sign-posted plot twist was a tad too easy to guess and the resolution tries to not only have it's cake and eat it but to buy the whole cake shop too.

Great acting though and a fitting end as Nicolas Hytner's final production at the NT.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Business Trip...

Just back from a four day business trip to the Middle East. Lots of meetings and I gave a presentation. Joke went down like lead balloon. Tough crowd

I put "we must all learn to laugh at ourselves" into Google Translate but the Arabic that came out met with a hushed silence in the presentation room. Later I was told that the words I had written on the screen roughly said "so, you all think you are funny?". Oops. Think I won them over in the end though.

On the final day of the trip I attended a full day of meetings, back to the hotel to pack, headed for Dammam airport, flew to Bahrain, then connecting (turbulent, no-sleep) flight to Heathrow and then straight into the office. A 15 hour commute back into the office!

#norestforthewicked #redeye

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Everything is Shiiiit!...

From the makers of Cards Against Humanity come some rude cards. So Bryn, Stuart and I hopped all over London the other Saturday being childish, immature and silly with them... but blimey Charlie how we laughed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Ruling Class...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the hunky James McAvoy starring in Peter Barnes' satirical play The Ruling Class at the Trafalgar Studios in London's glitzy West End.

The (black) humour of the play hinges on one of two things; (1) whether you find the idea of a paranoid schizophrenic psychopath British nobleman inheriting a peerage funny, or (2) whether you find a talented actor playing a paranoid schizophrenic psychopath British nobleman inheriting a peerage funny. We are in 'laugh at' vs 'laugh with' territory again.

For me the answer to (1) was "not really."
The answer to (2) was (as the actor in question is James McAvoy) "largely, yes."

So here it was - a rather broad, rather blunt attack on those who rule us (clue: they all talk in posh accents, went to Eton, own country estates, and hate the poor.)

When the play worked it was fine - the action was zany and madcap with Mr McAvoy sparkling as mad Jack. He got to show us his unicycling skills, his ripped bod, his demon smile and his underwear.

When it didn't work (especially in the 2nd half) it rather reminded me of a 'trendy vicar' routine I used to do when I was a member of the Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society (CULES) back in 1982 - cringingly old hat.

3 stars (mainly for Mr McAvoy's spirited performance and evil grin)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cereal Killer Cafe...

As part of our hipster cafe tour last week Bryn, Darren and I went to Cereal Killer Cafe at 139 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB.  We plumped for cereal cocktails - Unicorn Poop, Don't Have A Cinnaman and cocoa puffs. Scrummy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium...

First up on Bryn and my hipster cafe tour was Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium @ 152-154 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6DG. We played with the 12 moggies. Especially loved fluffy 5 month old Alice. Awww, can we get a kitten Stuart?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Sarah and I went to Pizza Express Thursday lunchtime - their oven broke down. Stu, Andy and I went to Studio 6 Thursday night for dinner - their kitchen closed due to a gas leak. Bryn and I went to the cat cafe on Friday - their coffee machine broke down as we arrived. We then went to Cereal Killer Cafe later - their till broke as I went to pay. Later Friday night our central heating broke down. On Saturday evening the bus we got on... the ticket machine broke.

Anyone need an establishment cursing just let me know. ‪#‎curses‬

Monday, January 19, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown...

Last night Stuart, Andy and I went to see new musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

With theatre and TV star Tamsin Greig in a leading role of Pepa Marcos this manic, frantic, neurotic whirlwind of a musical simply beats you into enjoying it.

And this was pretty high drama; love, betrayal, revenge, a gun, a terrorist, attempted suicide, a china duck...

But for high drama to be funny it either needs to take itself so seriously that it allows the farce to come punching out (we are laughing *at*) or the characters need to realise the situation that they are in is absurd and encourage the audience in on the joke (we are laughing *with*). Here things perhaps trod rather dangerously near that laughing at/with line.

But that minor quibble aside it was great fun - once you got up to its energy levels.

And the singing was perfectly respectable if the songs instantly forgettable. "Tasmin Sings!" should be on the poster. Because she does so. Very well.

The plot was enjoyably confusing and very funny, but then it would be based on the fantastic Pedro Almodóvar film.

In fact the whole production was perfectly serviceable; the set was rather spartan but quite in keeping with 1987 Madrid.

What raised things up was Tamsin Greig herself. The character she plays is the heart and soul of the piece and she plays it note perfect. You are with her from the get-go and wanting everything to work out for her. This really sells the piece.

Apart from Ms Greig the other standout player is Haydn Gwynne as jealous ex-lover Lucía. She is a comic creation that could standalone. She is passionate, wronged, contradictory, and very funny. Ms Gwynne brings all this out in spades.

So my verdict. Recommended (but with minor reservations.)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Google Translate...

Update to the Google Translate smart phone app is amazing. Real-time language to language audio translation, text in image translation etc. Don't even need to be online. Douglas Adams would have loved it. It's a blooming Babel fish!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Robert Mugabe...

Robert Mugabe backwards is what a Yorkshireman says when he finally finds a shop selling extra strong mints.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Henry IV Part I & II...

On Friday and Saturday nights Stuart and I went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Henry IV Part I & II.

Starring Antony Sher as the infamous comic knight Falstaff we were also treated to Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Alex Hassell as Prince Hal and Paola Dionisotti as Mistress Quickly.

Part I
With his crown under threat from enemies both foreign and domestic, Henry IV prepares for war. As his father gets ready to defend his crown, Prince Hal is languishing in the taverns and brothels of London, reveling in the company of his friend, the notorious Sir John Falstaff. With the onset of war, Hal must confront his responsibilities to family and throne.

Part II
King Henry’s health is failing but he is uncertain Hal is a worthy heir. Meanwhile, Falstaff is sent to the countryside to recruit fresh troops, where he gleefully indulges in the business of lining his own pockets. As the King’s health continues to worsen, Hal must choose between duty and loyalty to an old friend in Shakespeare’s heartbreaking conclusion to this pair of plays.

The production was fine. Classically staged. But not a patch on Phyllida Lloyd's all-female production at the Donmar last year.

Friday, January 09, 2015

City Of Angels...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Josie Rourke's fantastic production of the musical City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

City of Angels, in homage to 1940s noir, is a bitter comedy about the treacherous LA movie industry. It is clever, gloriously stylish and very, very funny.

Two narratives work in complex concert. In the “real” colour world, clacking away on a typewriter, a hack called Stine (Hadley Fraser) is adapting his detective novel City of Angels for the big-screen, at the meddling behest of cigar-chomping producer Buddy Fidler. In the black and white “reel” world, his characters – notably his gumshoe alter-ego, Stone (Tam Mutu) and his sidekick, Oolie (Rebecca Trehearn) – are embroiled in a mystery involving a rich, decaying man with an iron lung, his grasping younger wife and the pair’s missing beautiful femme fatale daughter/step-daughter.

Aside from the parts of Stone and Stine, everyone in the cast plays dual roles that comment on and reflect each other.

It has lines in it of which Raymond Chandler would have been proud, “Only the floor kept her legs from going on forever.” As you can guess its tongue is firmly in its cheek.

This musical comedy first came to London's West End in March 1993 for eight months, winning an Olivier Award in 1994. The revival deserves to repeat the feat.

It's the sold out production it deserves to be - here's hoping it transfers.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Us and Them...

And if there has to be an 'Us and Them' mentality can the Us be the non-murderers and the Them be the murderers? 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Theatre Themes...

When you're as much of a pair of West End Wendies as Stuart and I are you start to see trends in theatrical productions. Over the past few years we've watched trends come and go. So I thought I'd note a few recent ones down.
I wonder what the next theatrical fad in 2015 will be?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Where's Wally?...

Last Sunday Paul and I went to see the mighty Arsenal take on Hull FC at the Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup 3rd round. Thanks to Alexis Sanchez it was a bit of a walk in the park winning, as we did, 2-0.

As part of the Gold Membership pack this season we were all given red and white bobble hats so the stadium looked like a 60,000 strong version of Where's Wally?

Monday, January 05, 2015

Back to Work Blues...

Argh! Back to work blues. I do love my job but a bit of a wrench after 11 days off to get up before sunrise. Still, it will be great to see everyone again and catch up with everyone's Christmas and New Year's news.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

New Years Eve Fancy Dress...

We went to Tim and Andy's fancy dress party on New Year's Eve. The theme was musicals. We went to Lederhosen. Can you guess the tune for our props?