Quote Of The Day

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Outrageously funny #Loot @ParkTheatre ...

Last night Stuart, Jane, Sara and I went to see the gloriously uncut 50th anniversary production of Joe Orton's outrageous Loot at the Park Theatre in London's not so glitzy Finsbury Park.

Loot is a very dark farce that satirises the Roman Catholic Church, social attitudes to death, and the integrity of the police force. To put it mildly.

Starring Calvin Demba as bisexual Dennis and Sam Frenchum as his gay lover Hal our hapless anti-heroes have robbed a bank and are attempting to hide their ill-gotten gains in Hal's dead mother's coffin. Sinéad Matthews as the diabolical Nurse Fay is on to them and wants her cut of the cash. Only they hadn't figured on the arrival of a corrupt "Water Board" official...

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in this farcical delight, astutely orchestrated by director Michael Fentiman. It's a bawdy, laughter-filled revival of an Orton classic, every line milked for maximum comedic impact.

Outstanding though all the acting was though, for me the night belonged to Christopher Fulford's manic Inspector Truscott and Anah Ruddin's lifeless but scene stealing corpse.

As Joe Orton once remarked, "Laughter is a serious business, and comedy a weapon more dangerous than tragedy. Which is why tyrants treat it with caution."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#Strasbourg #FarewellEUtour...

Stuart and I had a lovely long weekend away in Alsace. We started in Frankfurt, ended up in Heidelberg but spent most of our time in the beautiful city of Strasbourg. Strasbourg had never really been on my radar but we had some air miles to use up and Stuart fancied revisiting the place he lived for a while when studying his foreign language degree.

We stayed in a rather posh hotel near the main island that had a certain amount of historic gossip attached to it - a story about a German king and some French soldiers (ahem). The town itself was stunning with its Gothic cathedral, chocolate box pretty houses, and its long history of occupation, bombing and syphilis (!) On the Sunday afternoon we took a 5 hour bicycle tour of the city, the ancient walls, the EU buildings and then across the border into Germany for a beer. The weather was hot and we both had a great time.

So, the first part of our 27-country Farewell to the EU Tour was well under way.








Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Au reservoir #Strasbourg #CityBreak #farewellEUtour ...

Au reservoir Strasbourg. Beautiful place, great food, and friendly people. 
(Shame Stuart had to come though... đŸ˜†)


Thursday, August 24, 2017

"The Next Train..." #VictoriaLine now run every 100 seconds...

Victoria line trains now run 36 trains per hour making it the second most frequent line in the world. It means a train on the busy Victoria line, used by more than 700,000 passengers a day, every 100 seconds during morning and evening peak time.

Tube bosses says the line will carry an extra 3,000 passengers an hour at the busiest times.

The new timetable introduced earlier in the summer is the culmination of a £900 million upgrade of the line including new trains and much improved stations.

With 36 trains an hour the Victoria line – from Brixton to Walthamstow Central – now offers one of the most frequent services in the world and beaten only by the Moscow Metro which runs trains every 95 seconds.

The Victoria success is the result of a new automatic Siemens signalling system which allows trains to run closer together, which increases capacity, while still maintaining safe operation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

#BritainOnFilm #LGBTBritain @Barbican...

Last Saturday afternoon Stuart and I went to watch the compilation film Britain on Film: LGBT Britain at the Barbican Cinema in London's glitzy Barbican Centre.

Exploring the rich history of LGBT life in the UK in this special collection of archive films spanned shifting attitudes and the fight for rights from 1909 to 1994.

Mainly in black and white, this moving and fascinating collection included some of the earliest known representations of LGBT people on screen, such as a 1925 film on Cutie Cattaro, a boxer more interested in flirting than fighting and a drag queen, "Percy" competing for a beauty prize in 1909. The former looked like a modern skit of machismo in sport and the latter like a Edwardian Benny Hill sketch. Both genuinely laugh out loud funny.

The collection of shorts also explored the struggles and identity politics of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the films covered early AIDS victims recounting their painful experiences; the formation of the Gay Black Group, an early instance of intersectional thinking; and the 1980 fight for transgender rights in the European Court.

Looking into both the political and the personal, the programme of short films, documentaries and newsreels depicted the collective public fight for basic rights and equality and more intimate and psychological ones: the shedding of shame and the ability to be open about one’s most private self and claiming of the right to love.

The most moving part for me was the interview in mid-1960s of the mother. The interviewer was asking the old dear what was her reaction to her daughter coming out to her as lesbian. Expecting a standard respond of "it's disgusting/our daughter means nothing to us now" the lady said, "Well, we were shocked at first. But we felt sorry for her. Not sorry that she was a lesbian. No, no, we were sorry that she must have struggled with the secret before telling us. That must have been so hard for her to keep that secret. It was a very brave thing for her to do and must have taken a lot of courage on her part. It cannot have been easy for her to trust us with that information. She did not know how we were going to react. But we love our daughter and I just hope that as the months go by she feels that her trust in us has been well placed." Not the reaction the interviewer had expected!


If you get a chance to see it.. do. It's great.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Evita...

Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to see Bill Kenwright’s very successful national touring production of Evita at the Phoenix Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Tim Rice's musical masterpiece of Eva PerĂ³n's rise to fame has stood the test of time quite well although the constraints of a touring production obviously meant that the cast were perhaps not quite as thronging as I've seen in fuller productions and the set was somewhat more wobbly. That said, it was a very entertaining show that did not mess with the usual classic staging.

The plot follows the true story of Eva/Evita, the wife of former Argentine dictator Juan PerĂ³n. Documenting the journey that led her from humble beginnings to becoming the spiritual leader of the nation, the show includes a rousing score that contains some of the musical duo’s biggest numbers.

Emma Hatton's Eva was in top form as she thundered out such classics as "Buenos Aires", "I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You", and of course "Don’t Cry for Me Argentina". Gian Marco Schiaretti, meanwhile, was an effortlessly tuneful (if a little cheesy) narrator-like figure Che. However favourite of the night for us was Sarah O’Connor playing Juan PerĂ³n's mistress singing the beautiful "Another Suitcase in Another Hall".

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Happy Birthday Darren #oldfriend ...

Stuart, Vince, Rachael, Tim, Andy, Mark, Chilli and I all went out last night to help Darren celebrate his 52nd birthday. We went to Wahacca on Waldorf Street for Mexican food followed be a swifty at The Welly. 


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Unnecessary" #QuotationMarks...

Always a "classic", check out the "unintended" and at times "disturbing" double-meanings of signs made by the "ignorant" with the "blog" site of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

William and Jaye Engagement #ProundUncle ...

I couldn't be more happy for my nephew William on his engagement last weekend to beautiful fiancee Jaye. The family got together for a meal out to help the happy couple celebrate.



Monday, August 14, 2017

We’re Back! @Arsenal 4 - 3 @Chelsea ...

It was fantastic to be back at the Emirates Stadium last Friday night. Slightly weird that it was on a Friday night though. A heart-racing game saw the mighty Arsenal come from behind to snatch a victory. Good stuff,




Friday, August 11, 2017

Enjoyable Apologia @TrafStudios @apologiaplay @LloydJamie ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Stockard “West Wing” Channing in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play about intergenerational conflict Apologia at the Trafalgar Studios in London's glitzy West End.

The return of Stockard Channing to the London stage after an eight-year absence is to be welcomed and was a pleasant way to spend a Thursday night in wet London. As Rizzo in Grease might say, there are worse thing you could do... OK, that's a bit unfair.

Apologia means a formal written defence of one's opinions or conduct. And that is the basis of the play starring Channing's perfectly cast Kristin, a former 1960s radical who sacrificed the wellbeing of her two sons for her political principles.

The debate about whether political idealism trumps domestic responsibility is well handled though there are some gaps in credibility and the reasons for Kristin’s behaviour are never quite unearthed. But director Jamie Lloyd delivers a satisfyingly bumpy ride and it is hard to take your eyes off Channing

In fact Lloyd’s production is strongly cast all round. Joseph Millson doubles very effectively as both of Kristin’s sons, the angry Peter and the sad Simon. Laura Carmichael is excellent as Trudi, catching both the character’s naive good nature and the rising inflexions of a native American. Freema Agyeman is admirably spirited as the unrepentant soap star and Desmond Barrit, as a gay dinner guest, movingly suggests that behind the protests and the demos of the 60s lay a concern for people.

Such a story of complicated, damaged people and relationships, steeped in futility and regret; Apologia must surely be a conscious tribute to Chekhov. As soon as it is stated that the phones of Claire and Kristin look alike, the audience knows that one will receive a call intended for the other; a digital update of Chekhov’s gun. That said, the story was rather heavier going than much Chekhov - especially as things dragged somewhat in the second half.

Still, it was great to see Stockard Channing back on the London stage and it was a very enjoyable evening. Peachy keen, jellybean.

As a footnote, I do have to mention her face though. She has had way too much work done. Way too much. But does call to mind some advice her character Rizzo gave Olivia Newton-John's Sandy in 1978's Grease film, "Think of it this way, if she screws you up she can always fix your hair so your ears don't show."

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Beautiful Tour of #Highgate by @ltmuseum part of #HiddenLondon ...

Last Sunday evening after hotfooting it back from Brighton Pride I joined Stuart to take a tour of the secret abandoned Highgate ground level station as part of the London Transport Museum's Hidden London: Highgate Wilderness Walkabout in London's glitzy Archway borders.

First opened in 1867 the high level Highgate station was a key part of the steam line running between Finsbury Park via Crouch End and up to London's 'Northern Heights' (the villages of Edgware, Mill Hill and Finchley). It also served as a gateway interchange for a new overground line up to Alexandra Palace before it in turn burnt to the ground 16 days after opening in 1873.

Initially popular, the plan was to extend the network further north. However this planned extension of the line under the New Works Programme in 1935 was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. And the introduction of the Green Belt in 1947 prevented the spread of urbanisation further north so plans to extend the line faltered. And the declining passenger numbers with the popularity of the Northern Line underground meant the days of the old line and its stations were numbered. Highgate finally closed in 1954.

Today it is left as an urban sanctuary. A sanctuary for the bats to hang in the once smoke-filled waiting rooms where the posters promising a new life in Northern Heights used to hang. A sanctuary for the foxes to run where the rusty old tracks once ran. A sanctuary where the trees stand silently on the platforms waiting patiently for the trains that will never come.






Tuesday, August 08, 2017

60s Drag Double-bill and The Glory Takeover Afterparty @BFI...

Last Friday night Darren, Stuart and I went to see a drag double bill at the BFI on London's glitzy South Bank. The two films were followed by The Glory Takeover Afterparty in the Blue Room.

Each film was unique. The first called Black Cap Drag was a rare surviving record of a 1960s drag performance at Camden's must missed Black Cap pub. Drag queens Shane and Laurie Lee performed and discussed their craft in this homemade documentary by Richard Benner (who went on to make Canadian drag film Outrageous! in 1977). It was great show and some of their jokes still survive today ("thank you for that warm hand on my entrance" etc.)

The second film was made in 1969, called What's a Girl Like You...,and shot partly in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and partly in a Northern club. And boy did these boys take their craft seriously! The frocks might have been smart but the wisecracks smarter. These guys sure knew how to entertain. But many of these transvestite showmen wanted us to be very aware that they were not all gay and they were just in it for the money. Gay, dear? Me, dear? No, dear! That said, some even took to female hormones to produce breasts to complete the illusion. It was a mixed up world. Beautifully made film though that made no judgments but just showed life the way it was.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Glorious #Brighton #Pride #LondonByTheSea...

Another fabulous Brighton Pride. Colourful floats, fantastic atmosphere, great friends, packed park and to top it all off the Pet Shop Boys. Sadly Stuart didn't come this year though.









Friday, August 04, 2017

#Committee @DonmarWarehouse ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see new musical Committee (or to give it its full title "The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall's Relationship with Kids Company") at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

“The objective of this session/Is not to conduct a show trial,” sings the committee of MPs, “We want to learn/We want to learn/We want to learn”. Not a show trial maybe but now a theatrical show.

Hadley Fraser and Josie Rourke, the Donmar’s artistic director, have fashioned a book and lyrics that are based on transcripts of the evidence session in October 2015 when Camila Batmanghelidjh, the CEO and founder of Kids Company and Alan Yentob, chair of the trustees (and BBC grandee) were grilled about the financial (mis)management of the company that had received some £42 million from successive governments, including a final £3 million bailout just before its collapse in the previous August. The questioning is interspersed with testimony from others involved (employees, a deputy children’s commissioner, Oliver Letwin et al) – some of it favourable, much of it not.

The idea is an interesting one - a verbatim musical - but these sorts of pieces rather live or die upon whether you find the source material gripping enough and whether you believe that the characters might feel passionate enough to actually burst into song about it. Sure, Kids Company saw a vital need to protect vulnerable children and young people in inner cities and they were passionate about doing just that. And the select committee maybe felt some passionate that they shouldn't have allowed self-referrals or simply given large amounts of cash in brown envelopes. But I can't help but wonder if a straightforward drama might have put these issues across more forcefully than a musical format. The writing was brave (we like brave), adventurous (we like adventurous) but ultimately not quite the winning formula it could have been. It need just a little more oomph.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Lovely walk through #FriezeSculpture in #RegentsPark care of @FriezeArtFair...

Stuart and I went to see Frieze Art Fair's Sculpture Park in Regent's Park the other Sunday. Some fab works of art including Miquel BarcelĂ³'s Gran Elefandret, John Chamberlain's Fiddler’s Fortune, Takuro Kuwata's Untitled, Ugo Rondinone​'s Summer Moon, and Magdalena Abakanowicz's Standing Figure with Wheel.