Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, July 31, 2015

Abi Morgan's Splendour...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Abi Morgan's Splendour at the Donmar Warehouse.

The plot tells the story using the metaphor of things broken. Broken characters, speaking broken lines on a broken set.

The plot is simple: Kathryn (Genevieve O'Reilly), a photo-journalist, arrives at the home of the dictator of an unnamed European state which is being torn apart by civil war, to photograph the dictator. He is not there. She (and her interpreter Gilma (Zawe Ashton)) are welcomed by Micheline (Sinéad Cusack), the dictator's wife, and they wait all day for him to arrive. As they wait, Genevieve (Michelle Fairley), Micheline's best friend, arrives. The dictator never arrives, but as the day progresses it is obvious that the rebels are getting closer and that the city is falling to them.

In the course of the day, we see relationships and loyalities dissolve. Past guilts emerge. Silences are broken and resentments, anger and all kinds of destructive emotions surface.

The play's structure is non-linear. We keep returning to earlier scenes, but with the knowledge of what has emerged since, thus deepening and enlarging the scene and throwing might light on the implications of words and actions. Thus meaning layers upon meaning and the fragile surface cracks open.

We loved it. Powerful performances all round.

It also ticked two West End Zeigeists - no interval and a jarring c-bomb.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Living In Squares...

I've only blooming well just had a tweet favourited and commented on by Edwina Currie! My work on earth is done.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dino Snores for Adults...

Last Friday night Stuart and I spent the night in The Natural History Museum. It was fab. Drinks, three course meal, music, bar, 'adult' lectures, all night dinosaur films, gin tasting, insect eating, stand up comedy, dino drawing, treasure hunt, exploring the exhibition rooms at night...

Fantastic, enthusiastic, super friendly staff. Great food. Great service. Fascinating and fun night . Highly recommended. And they even do a kids night.

Oh yeah and I won the competition for the best photo - so got a year's membership of the museum. Yay!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pub Quiz...

We lost at the pub quiz. Tie-break question too. Name a Bond villain?

He wouldn't take No for an answer.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn...

"Blair to warn that a fully weaponized Jeremy Corbyn could be elected within 45 minutes and so we must invade Islington."

Jeremy Corbyn is our local MP. Tony Blair is not a fan.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Means-tested Pensions...

"I fought in two world wars, worked every day of my life and paid into the system the full amount and I have earned it" - said every pensioner ever.

"I had four kids, got tax rebates for those kids, got tax rebates on my pension contributions, got free dental healthcare for the whole family, got paid when I was sick, had free full-time education to degree level for myself and my whole family until recently, called on the NHS, fire, ambulance and police services 24 hours day for over 50 years, had two hip replacements and a heart bypass, had my rubbish collected every week, my country protected from invaders, and I think what money there is left over for old age pensions should go to those most in need and who probably through no fault of their own haven't been able to put some money away for a rainy day like I have, and you know what? I think I've probably taken out more from the system than I've put in anyway" - said no pensioner ever.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Annual Teddy Bears Picnic...

Thanks to Tim for organizing his wonderful annual Teddy Bears picnic again this year in The Regent's Park. Great amount of fun was had by all. And when I say fun I mean drink. And it continued in the pub later. 'Nuff said.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in London's glitzy Inner Circle of The Regent's Park.

This "classic" musical (actually only written in 1982) is based on the 1954 Oscar winning Howard Keel film which itself is based upon abduction and rape crimes committed back in Roman times - The Rape of the Sabine Women. And it seems times have not changed much since 750 BC.

Basing your musical upon marriage by capture was always going to be a problem. However high your high-kicks are boys and girls.

West End musicals never have shied away from difficult or awkward material; The Producers (Nazism), Sweeney Todd (cannibalism), Rent (AIDS) but these shows were about their subjects - not actually advocating them. For all its pussy footing about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is about, and revels in, bride kidnapping.

It is a deeply sexist, toe-curlingly offensive, at times homophobic piece which no amount of revisionism or post-modern arching of the eye brow can hide. Songs without a hint of irony have titles like "A Woman Ought To Know Her Place" and "Bless Your Beautiful Hide". Need I say more?

Don't get me wrong though, the Regent's Park stellar creative team of director Rachel Kavanaugh and choreographer Alistair David working together once again after 2013's five star production of The Sound of Music is a joy.

The alfresco staging sees the energetic singing, marvellous music, clever sets and famous high-energy dance numbers from the film all enthusiastically brought to life.

Laura Pitt-Pulford plays a charming Milly (as she did playing Maria in The Sound of Music) and Alex Gaumond impresses playing Adam who is fresh from the role of Beadle Bamford in the ENO's Sweeney Todd.

The problem is what it is, not how it is.

For me the misstep that the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre have made here is in choosing this sexist material in the first place.

With a heavy heart.... Avoid.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Trial...

Last night Stuart​ and I went to see The Trial at the Young Vic in London's increasingly glitzy Southwark.

Before the play I had a pulled-port burger at The Cut Bar and it was delicious, sweet, spicy, and varied. Four words that could not have been used to describe the play we saw next.

Rory Kinnear is an outstandingly fine actor. This production was not. What should have been gripping just left us griping. Rather like the main character Joseph K. trapped in an awful world from which he cannot escape so Kinnear too is trapped in this arduous production.

When people use the adjective Kafkaesque, it is The Trial they have in mind - the nightmarish world of Joseph K., where the rules are hidden from even the highest officials, and any help there may be comes from unexpected sources. K. is never told what he is on trial for, and when he says he is innocent, he is immediately asked "innocent of what?"

So a bit 1984, a bit Brazil then.

Indeed the play has a constant, relentless atmosphere of disorientation and quirkiness. Superficially the subject-matter is bureaucracy, but the story's great strength is its description of the effect on the life and mind of Josef K.

That said, this production was frankly boring. The conveyor belt set was a nice touch but it soon got tired. This was no Brazil. No 1984. We just wanted Mr (unspecial) K. to meet his fate so we could go home.

Some people around us fell asleep. 'Nuff said.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Strawberry Hill to Syon Park...

The other Sunday afternoon Stuart, Joanna, Charlotte, Tom and I walked along the river from Strawberry Hill to Syon Park. It was part of our regular Highbury Walking Club walks.

We had a lovely time, saw some great sights and dropped into some great pubs.

If only I hadn't left my credit card in one of them!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

2nd Upminster Beerfest...

It was lads day at the 2nd Upminster Beerfest as we helped Dave celebrate his birthday. 180 pints of beer, 3 tons of pork scratchings, double helpings of pie and mash. Quality. And although it all started calmly enough... Boys will be boys! Top night Dave. Cheers!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Motherf**ker with the Hat...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the play that dare not speak it's name... The Motherf**ker with the Hat (oh let's give it it's proper title The Motherfucker with the Hat) at the Lyttelton Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

And giving it it's proper title is what we must do because the description as, "a high-octane verbal cage match about love, fidelity and misplaced haberdashery" doesn't even begin to describe the level of swearing that this play contains. It f-bombs, it s-bombs, it c-bombs.. like a motherf**cking trouper.

It takes swearing to a higher level. It uses swearing as the oxygen of the characters. It's almost poetic swearing. It is swearing to an epic level.

But the key thing here is it's not swearing for swearing's sake. This is how these characters talk. How they communicate. These are all recovering addicts - some more recovering than others - whose Shakespearean tale of messy misdeeds, mealy-mouthed mistresses and monumental misdirection requires, no *demands* the use of the modern poetry of the streets.

The swearing makes the dialogue seem both raw and genuine and also provides some quite hilarious zingy one-liners.

Here is one example (beware, swearing ahead.) One character makes a quite off the cuff remark saying, "I didn't fuckin' do da shit, don't put da shit o' me, I'd rather spit in a nun's cunt." You get the idea.

If you get a chance, go. It  is very, very funny.You motherf**kers!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The Ivy...

On Saturday afternoon Stuart, Paul, Simon and I went to newly refurbished The Ivy for lunch. The refit looked great, the service was great, the food was great. It was all great. And best of all was the little look on Stuart's face. Bless.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Romford Dogs...

Last Friday night I treated to Stuart and a bunch of 18 of our nearest and dearest to a night at Romford Greyhound Track.

It was great fun. We had a six pack - entrance, food (chicken in a basket), two drinks, a jackpot bet and a free re-entrance should we desire it.

It was everything I thought it would be and more. Duckers, divers, Essex boys, tattoos, friendly banter, helpful staff and a real eye-opener.

I won big on the night, but I lost bigger. Great fun though.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Billie Ray Martin...

Last night Darren treated Stuart and I to a trip to The Glory in not so glitzy Haggerston to see the wonderful, the wondrous, the sublime techno diva Billie Ray Martin.

Born and raised in Hamburg Martin's early influences were 1960s soul and early 1980s industrial. This lead her to form Electrictribe 101 with whom she had a series of club hits. Going solo in the mid-1990s she has continued to produce music collaborating with a number of DJs and producers but rarely performing live.

So it was with much excitement that we ventured along to The Glory to see this rare thing - a Billie Ray Martin performance.

In the stifling heat of the pub Martin launched into Captain Drag, Dead Again and a number of other solo works. Her voice soared, the band thundered and feedback whined. Or was it feedback? No, it was the weirdly sounding theremin making it's sci-fi noises - humming, squeaking and screeching. But this instrument was a simply perfect complement to the evening; slightly weird, completely off the wall but deliciously off key. As if The Clangers had a house band.

Steve her sound guy was repeatedly chastised for the sound levels and the reverb and probably even the state of the Greek debt crisis. Everything seemed to be Steve's fault. But it was good natured chastisement. Billie and Steve obviously go back a long way.

Backing vocalists came and went, musicians came and went. But it was Billie we were there to see.

Finishing up with the brilliant Talking With Myself and as an encore Your Loving Arms it was a night to remember.

Three cheers for the incomparable Billie Ray Martin.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Ich, Robot...

On Thursday night I went to see Terminator Genisys. Oh dear.

Obviously made by fans of the original (a good thing). In fact it's almost a remake, ticks all the boxes - it's just that the plot is hugely confused though.

My favourite quote from one of the reviews is, "There’s so much wrong with Terminator Genisys it’s hard to know where to start, but the script is the obvious place..."

The characters just say some stupid things so its fun watching the other actors hod and try and look interested. "Reverse the neutron flow of the flux capacitor, you say?" etc. And don't get me started on the number of random time machines that pop up conveniently.

Worth seeing but just don't expect too much.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Gladys Knight...

On Wednesday night Darren treated Stuart and I to a trip to see the wonderful Gladys Knight at the Royal Albert Hall in London's glitzy South Kensington.

Six years after we last saw her - in what was then billed as her farewell tour - at 71 this self-proclaimed Empress of Soul has still got the voice and the moves.

It was a blinding set of her classics, standards and modern songs reinterpreted.

Gladys Knight has a uniquely emotional and spiritual voice to which few can compare. The raw emotion that she put into her singing meant that every song sounded fresh, bringing many spine-tingling moments

She did a particularly wonderful version of Sam Smith's Stay With Me.

Other notable renditions were:
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
If I Were Your Woman
You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me
The Way We Were
Come Back and Finish What You Started
Licence to Kill
If You Don’t Know Me By Now
Midnight Train to Georgia

Don't leave it so long next time Gladys.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Wait and See Attitude...

You should get that checked out. Jim Henson had that wait-and-see attitude. Now we've got wrong-sounding Muppets - Stewie Griffin

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rebuilding Stonehenge...

Rebuilding Stonehenge in 1954. Yes, 1954.

Over the past 100 years Stonehenge has been completely overhauled. Stones were hoisted up and it was made to look all neat and tidy as people thought it might have looked. Unthinkable to do that today to such a treasured monument but they moved much of it around. Now they don't tell you *that* in the guidebooks!

 The first major rebuilding of Stonehenge started in 1901 and continued over the next 50 or 60 years. A big fuss was made in 1901 (letters to The Times!) So after that, much of it was then done on the quiet. Only comparatively recently have people campaigned to have the various restoration works included in official guidebooks and histories of the site. You can judge for yourselves the rights and wrongs of the situation. Should broken relics be repaired and if so how and by whom?

This from 1954.

This from 1877.

This from 1920.