Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Laurie Anderson : All The Animals...

Last Sunday afternoon Paul and I hot-footed it from the Emirates Stadium down to the Brighton Festival to see the grande dame of avant garde the iconic Laurie Anderson perform her show All The Animals at the glitzy Brighton Dome Concert Hall.

All The Animals was a fabulous menagerie of Anderson’s work over the years from the poignant – her dying mother’s vision of animals on the ceiling above her hospital bed – to the apocalyptic – species extinction and environmental collapse – to the downright sensible – never try to make an opera out of Moby Dick, or any other novel that you really care about. It just won’t work.

From The Air:-
Good evening.
This is your Captain.
We are about to attempt a crash landing.
Please extinguish all cigarettes.
Place your tray tables in their upright, locked position.
Your Captain says: Put your head on your knees. Your Captain says: Put your head on your hands. Captain says: Put your hands on your head.
Put your hands on your hips.
Heh heh.

For with age (Anderson is an elfin 67) comes wisdom. And self-knowledge. And humour. A lot of it. Anderson’s wry delivery and gentle storytelling camouflaged her technical brilliance. She was very busy up on stage, creating sounds and colours, new audio atmospheres. She was busy but she was playing. She was having fun, and it was wonderful.

Her rat terrier, Lolabelle, even played the blues as an encore - catch it while you can on YouTube.

All The Animals was a triumph for wonder.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular...

Last Saturday night Stuart treated me to a night seeing the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular at Wembley Arena.

The evening featured Murray Gold's music from the hit series performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Chorus of Wales conducted by Ben Foster. The music was accompanied by giant screens showing montages from the show, Cybermen, Daleks, The Silence, hideously emaciated mummies prowling the aisles and Peter Davidson hosting.

Also in attendance was showrunner Steven Moffat and Murray himself.

As Doctor number five Peter Davidson made many a joke about if his abilities as host weren't up to scratch his contract would be (ex)terminated he be replaced by Colin Baker (Doctor number six). Ho ho.

The show was great fun. The music fantastic with notable pieces the wondrous I Am The Doctor, The Impossible Girl (Clara’s theme), Abigail’s Song, Last Christmas Suite, Wherever Whenever and the thunderous Pandorica Suite.

One for the fans - but who isn't a fan on Doctor Who?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Kings Cross Pond Club...

UOn Saturday morning Stuart and I went to the new King's Cross Pond Club. It was freezing cold - well 16C - but fun. Bracing but fun. It costs £6-50 and you can book online.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Elephant Man...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Bradley Cooper in/as The Elephant Man at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Now I'm a big fan of blue-eyed Mr Cooper on the silver screen and he comes across well in interviews. Also the film The Elephant Man is a classic - although this play is not based upon that but on the same original source material.

The story of tells of disfigured John Merrick and how he gets treated first as a side-show attraction at a circus and then for a second time as one in polite society.

So I had high hopes.

And these were mostly met. Mostly.

First the problems I had with it. The play was rather plainly staged - as per it's trusted directions - but the simple 'a chair here', 'a table there', 'a couple of curtains' I actually found a little distracting. The rich, detailed, colourful world of the circus side-show and later the detailed Edwardian parlour room that should so clearly be there to mask rather than juxtapose John Merrick's deformity were simply absent. A bird in the gilded cage needs the cage to be gilded as this helps the captor justify their cruelty of capture. The fact that Bradley Cooper's Merrick also has no make-up but acts Merrick's deformity only seems to only accentuate this problem.

But quibbles aside, we enjoyed the show and Mr Cooper has fine as our protagonist - albeit a little fey as times. The story flowed well and there were laughs as well as tears along the way. It must have taken quite an effort to have acted the deformity for the entire performance. It's a short show though and we were out on the pavement by 9:30pm.

So not 100% sure if it was quite worth the £108 to paid per ticket but glad we went though. Just to see those blue eyes.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Arsenal 4 - 1 WBA...

Paul and I went to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday to watch the last Premiership game of the season. And it was a great win for the mighty Arsenal FC against West Bromwich Albion FC. So that placed us 3rd in the table this year - better than last year but let's face it a long way off 1st. Can we do it next year? I hope so but I doubt it. Chelsea just look too strong. We'll be cheering them all the way though.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Beaux' Stratagem...

Last night Stuart and I went to see George Farquhar's wonderful play The Beaux' Stratagem at the Olivier Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

This was our third Restoration comedy in as many weeks - and the funniest by far. The humour was rich, clever and bawdy. The actors played and sang not only to each other but also to the crowd. And the production rollicked along and getting the tempo just right.

Part-farce, part-comedy of manners the story tells of Archer and Aimwell, two young gentlemen, who have fallen on hard times, who plan to travel through small towns, entrap young heiresses, stealing their money and moving on. In the first town, Lichfield, they set their sights on Dorinda. Aimwell falls truly in love, and comedy ensues. And for extra comedic value Foigard, a priest and chaplain to the French officer, is actually an Irish priest called MacShane.

The two beaux are played superbly by Samual Barnett (yes, him off of History Boys and Beautiful People) and Geoffrey Streatfeild (yes, him off of The Other Boleyn Girl and The Thick Of It).

Their respective female foils are Mrs Sullen played magnificently by Susannah Fielding (yes, her off of Almeida Theatre's American Psycho and Doctor Who's Victory of the Daleks) and Dorinda played coquettishly by Pippa Bennett-Warner (yes, her off of Doctor Who's Time Heist).

The National doing what it does best.. Entertaining - top-notchly.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Angel, Islington...

Angel, Islington, Lyons Cafe and Restaurant 1936. The creators of Monopoly shopped for tea there which is why Angel Islington is on the UK version of the board.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Flannelettes...

The other week Stuart and I went to see The Flannelettes at the Kings Head Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Richard Cameron’s new play attempts to combine the earnest treatment of serious social issues with some light-hearted musical pastiche. The various strands are each moderately successful on their own, but never really seem parts of the same play.

The director of a battered women’s shelter deals with the real issues and emotional confusions of her residents while looking after her mentally-limited niece, who is in danger of being sexually exploited by some of the same villains who beat their wives. Meanwhile, even the most sympathetic men in the community are limited by prejudices and practicalities that stand in the way of justice.

The girl’s one simple pleasure is fronting the titular amateur tribute girl group, so that rehearsals and performances of Motown classics punctuate the action. That’s really more than one play can handle, with the songs and the Flannelettes subplot particularly awkwardly shoehorned into the action.

The abused women’s stories, the girl’s vulnerability and the dark ironies limiting the good men each come across strongly, largely through the inherent power of the material, but even they have to compete, sometimes uneasily, for centre stage.

Director Mike Bradwell can’t fully disguise the script’s fragmented quality or the fact that squeezing so much in results in barely sketched-in characterisations.

Emma Hook captures the mix of innocence and petulance in the childlike young woman, but Suzan Sylvester as the shelter manager has little to play but harried exhaustion.

Despite the weighty material it's fun though.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Alexander McQueen...

Last week Stuart, Darren, Mark and I went to see the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London's glitzy South Kensington.

The show follows McQueen's career from early apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, before joining Gieves & Hawkes and, later, the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans. All good grounding for his impeccably tailored look and his love of dressing up.

Part fashion designer and part fancy dresser McQueen took things to another level. His creations were amazing. Bonkers even.

As were his catwalk shows. Whilst appointed as head designer at Givenchy, he had a show where a single model, Shalom Harlow graced the runway in a strapless white dress, before being rotated slowly on a revolving section of the catwalk whilst being sprayed with paint by two robotic guns. Fab.

Or the one where the show room was dominated by an enormous glass box. But because the room outside the box was lit and the inside of the box was unlit, the glass walls appeared as large mirrors, so that the seated audience saw only their own reflection. Finally, after an hour, and when the show began, lights came on in inside the enormous glass case and revealed the interior to be filled with moths and, at the centre, a naked model on a chaise longue with her face obscured by a gas mask. The glass walls then fell away and smashed on the ground.

The clothes are nice too.

If you like frocks - or just showmanship - you'll love this.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Grapes...

This is how The Grapes in Limehouse looked way back when. This historic riverside pub dating from 1585 is still in business today run by famed actor Sereena McKellen.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Carrie: The Musical...

Last night David, Dean, Stuart and I went to see Carrie: The Musical at the Southwark Playhouse in London's rather er... unglitzy Elephant and Castle.

Based on the Stephen King schlock-horror story and with a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and music by Michael Gore (sic) this musical was royally panned when it was first staged in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1988. When it transferred to New York later that year the audience was heard to boo and it closed just 5 performances after previews losing nearly all of it's $8m investment. Some critics described it as the worse show they had even seen.

So here we are 27 years later with a brand new slimmed down production. And you know what?  It is actually really rather good.

In a nutshell Carrie tells the story of a teenage girl, bullied by her classmates and fanatically religious mother, who develops telekinetic powers.

Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie impressively charts the path from vulnerability to insane rage. She transforms first from cowering teenager to delicate young woman, as she blossoms briefly for the school prom, then to deranged killer when her more vicious classmates humiliate her. There is lovely support from Sarah McNicholas as her classmate Sue, smitten with conscience, and from Greg Miller-Burns as Sue’s nice-guy boyfriend, Tommy.
Meanwhile Kim Criswell is simply sensational as Carrie’s mad mother Margaret, her hair-raising solos conveying the personal pain behind her crazed religious mind set. In numbers such as Remember How Those Boys Could Dance, Criswell’s voice is powerful but perfectly controlled, conveying all the warped tenderness and menace which Margaret needs. If you’re going to watch a deranged religious mother drag her daughter round the stage while singing at top volume, this is definitely the show for you!

The young ensemble do a cracking job, going full-throttle on the melodrama while keeping the focus tight. This is High School Musical meets Last House On The Left. This is Glee meets Saw. Sure the cast send to sing AT each other rather than WITH each other at times and the songs aren't particularly memorable but it's a great ride. Funny too.

If you get the chance, go see.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Closer To Heaven...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Closer To Heaven at the Union Theatre in London's not so glitzy Union Street in Southwark.

Written by Jonathan Harvey and with music by the Pet Shop Boys the show had a limited run at the Arts Theatre back in 2001.

This was a spirited revival of what is frankly not a particularly good musical. I like the Pet Shop Boys music they wrote for it a lot and listen to the show's original cast recording regularly but its story of clubs, drugs and coming out is sub-par, sub-Taboo and very dated (it was even back in 2001). The whole thing just needs a rewrite.

Having said that the show we saw last night was fun enough. The boys and girls wore very little, danced very well (in the very limited space the Union Theatre allowed them) and seemed to be enjoying themselves very much. The singing was another story though. It was pretty grim at times. With no microphones on the actors you couldn't hear the words and there were so many bum notes we almost offered them some Andrex. Shame really was the lyrics are quite good.

No, what the show needs is a rewrite and a production in a bigger venue which could transform it into a much better show. You up for it Boys?

This was the review I wrote back in May 2001 and I pretty much stand by what I said back then:
"So was it any good? To be honest no. I so wanted to like this. Bits were OK but I just never felt engaged. I never connected or felt any sympathy towards any of the characters - I just didn't care whether they fell in or out of love. Whether they lived or died. It had all the right ingredients - Pet Shop Boys' music, Jonathan Harvey as author, a cast and crew with a good reputation. But even my low expectations were sadly misplaced. Billie Trix (Frances Barber) plays an aging pop star with a past. In many ways she holds the whole show together as the confidante of the other leading characters. But despite punchy lines like, "Love? That was like Vietman. After a lot of protesting it ended in the Seventies" her Eartha Kitt growl and Gabriel looks began to grate before long. Her Billie's Babes were little more that Hot Gossip in day-glo. Things looked up a bit half way through the first half with the appearance of Bob Saunders (Paul Boughton) a thinly veiled Tom Watts character as a fat, gay, hideous record producer. But he was barely used beyond his first half success. The music was generally OK. The previously written PSB songs such as Shameless and Closer to Heaven sounded adequate live but just like Mamma Mia some songs were shoe-horned with amazing crassness into the plot. In Denial was a good example. Its reprise in the second half was only slightly better. The only moving part in the whole show was a dramatic rendition of Vampires by the father character Vic Christian (David Burt). This consisted of him singing stage right while the two main gay characters had sex in a bed naked stage centre. Sadly the rest of the second half was trite to the point of boredom. On the whole the show was too 'gay'. Not camp enough but too 'gay'. Homosexuality was not only a given of ever male character but their only characteristic. They had no other qualities. I can't see it running as a musical. A straight audience will find nothing to identify with. It'll close at the end of the summer at the latest. Closer to Heaven - your fifteen weeks of fame starts now.
Star Alert: Neil Tennant sat in front of us. I chatted to him a bit on the way out - he's going every night. Why torture yourself, love?"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Black Ops...

I styled it out earlier. I pretended I was in Black Ops when I ran and missed my tube train by saying into my sleeve "I've lost him."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to see Everyman at the Olivier Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Everyman is the first play to be directed at the National Theatre by Rufus Norris since he took charge. The play stars Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor as a coke-snorting hedonist who faces death on his 40th birthday.

Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy's reworking of the 15th-century morality play is a seductive spectacle featuring as it does an impressive arsenal of stage effects including a giant video screen, suspended silver statues and a wind machine - along with energetic choreography by Javier de Frutos.

Throughout the 100-minute drama, Ejiofor's character Ev meets an array of allegorical characters as he assesses his past life. The drama is foul-mouthed, moralistic, atheistic and theatrical.

Kate Duchene plays God as a cleaning lady who opens the play sweeping the floor. The character of Death is played by Dermot Crowley as a dry-humoured Irishman.

There are modern references too to footballers, pop stars, and even to a colostomy bag worn by 'Sir Cliff'.

Offbeat but traditional, theatrical but heartfelt, it's a triumphant night.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Mad World My Masters...

Last week Stuart and I went to see A Mad World My Masters at the Barbican Theatre in London's glitzy Barbican Centre.

In the same vane as the National’s triumphant One Man, Two Guvnors this Jacobean comedy plays it was laughs - and crude laughs at that.

Transported to the seedy surroundings of 1950s Soho, Thomas Middleton’s wickedly funny comedy sees our hero Richard Follywit variously become a lord, a high-class call girl and – God forbid – a poor actor. But beautiful Soho tart, Miss Truly Kidman, is also on the scam: a whore to some, a religious instructor to others, and a debutante in need of an eligible bachelor to yet more.

In this mad, boisterous world, glamour rubs up against filth, and likes it; the posh mix with musicians, prostitutes and racketeers; and a dashing bachelor in need of quick cash is forced to live on his wits. Things are very bawdy here and the uproarious tale of deceits and disguises is played for the broadest of laughs. Joe Orton would have approved.

At times the persistent use of innuendo makes you feel you’re watching a Carry-On film. The conniving Dick Follywit tells us he is a man of “considerable endowment”. “Here’s the cock coming to bone the chicken,” declares the easily duped landowner Sir Bounteous Deersucker. The gags just keep on coming. Missus.

Great fun though.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Hail Dave...

So it's bye bye Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.

A Tory majority will herald in the constituency boundary changes they have been after for so long. That should deliver them a further 25 Tory seats at the next election in 2020.

Funnily enough Ed Balls could find himself in No.10 rather than No.11. If his wife Yvette Cooper leads and then wins for Labour at the 2020 election...

A Politician...

I was in a graveyard earlier and I saw a tombstone which read, "Here lies a politician and an honest man."

I thought to myself, "Wonder how they got them both in the same grave?"

Thursday, May 07, 2015

9 Years Ago Today...

9 years ago today I asked the boy of my dreams out on a date, today I asked him to marry me.

He said no both times.

So I'm stuck with Stuart instead.

(Only joking... Happy anniversary Twigs.)

Well, it makes a change from my usual, "In 2005 Stuart and I went on eight dates before we finally went to the cinema together to see Batman Begins. It was dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner, Batman."

Vote Early! Vote Often!...

They say, "A man who doesn't vote Labour when he's in his 20s has no heart. And a man who doesn't vote Tory when he's in his 40s has no brain." Well, I am neither in my 20s nor my 40s so will not be relying on either of those two particular organs to sway my vote. I shall not be voting with my wallet either... but with my conscience.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Marc Almond...

Last Friday night Paul, Simon and I went to see Marc Almond at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London's not so glitzy Shepherd's Bush.

The show was the final night of his The Velvet Trail promotional tour and it was a real wow. Showcasing much of his recent top album (his best in 10 years?) Marc also treated us to a gambol through his weighty back catalogue.

The guy is a amazing, has got the hits and has still got the power to command the stage. The show was haunting, tuneful and joyous. That man is a star, boys, that man is a star.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Canalway Cavalcade...

On Bank Holdiay Monday Stuart, Bobby and I went for a walk. A long walk along the canals of London.. all the way from Highbury via Campden Lock on to Little Venice and on to Kensal Rise.

En route we stopped off to see the Canalway Cavalcade canal festival with lots of gaily festooned barges and entertainment for kids. Nice.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Only Connect Marathon...

Yesterday Darren, Vince, Stuart and I completed the final stretch of our Only Connect viewing marathon for series 10. We started at about 1pm and finished about 11:30pm. Phew! Roll of series 11.

May The Fourth Be With You!...

Ha ha ha. That is genius. Ha ha ha. So funny. I see what you did there. Ha ha ha. May the FOURTH be with you. Wonder how I had not heard that before? Ha ha ha. Ha!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Hay Fever...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Hay Fever at The Duke Of York's Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Starring national treasure Felicity Kendal and directed by Lindsay Posner this was the Theatre Royal Bath production of Noel Coward's classic comedy.

It was all very amusing. And at times quite funny. Coward can be very drôle, m'dears. Pompous but drôle.

Felicity Kendal was great playing the mother Judith Bliss – a once glittering star of the London stage - alongside her dysfunctional scene-stealing family. Her author husband David Bliss (played by the lovely Simon Shepherd) and the dreadful Bliss children unbeknownst to each other have each invited someone down to stay for the weekend in their Berkshire rural retreat. And they are a competitive bunch.

All is not Bliss in this particular respectable English family as they soon show their true colours and try to outshine and out-misbehave and out-seduce one another.

The unassuming visitors are subjected to unconventional, risqué and often downright rudeness. Outrage, mock outrage, drama and melodrama proliferate. Can they stand it? You'll have to come along and find out.

It's all funny enough - if you find posh people squabbling and ignoring houseguests funny - which luckily I do!

Ms Kendal is in fine form and her performance is reason enough for our trip.