Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, September 29, 2017

Young Frankenstein #YoungFrankenstein @youngfrankldn ...

Last night Stuart and I went to the London premiere of Mel Brooks's new musical Young Frankenstein at the Garrick Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Mel Brooks has spent the past year in the laboratory repairing his 2007 Broadway flop Young Frankenstein and to be fair has largely succeeded.

It's very silly. Puerile even. But then that's what we love about Mel Brooks. Lots of cheap laughs. But laugh we did. It's no Producers though, nor Book of Mormon. Actually it's a bit like panto really. The songs aren't particularly memorable either which for a musical is a bit of a handicap. Some of the comic timing was a bit off last night but I think that will improve during the run as they get into the rhythm of it.

Ross Noble is a very good physical Igor and Lesley Joseph is a funny German lied singing Frau Brucker.

People will come if they like the original film I suspect (as we did) but it's not got quite the same sense of timing of that gem of a movie.

I can't see it having a particularly long run in the West End to be honest but you never know, sometimes these shows find an audience beyond people who like the film. And it's bound to tour.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Labour of Love utterly brilliant, inspiring, riotous. #LabourOfLoveThePlay @TamsinGreig #martinFreeman @mrJamesGraham @MichaelGrandage

Last night Stuart and I had the pleasure of seeing the first preview of the world première of James Graham’s new play Labour of Love at the Noël Coward Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

In case you didn't know, James Graham is an outstanding comedic playwright who manages to marry the political and the personal aspects of the human condition in a quite extraordinary way. Two other recent productions of his plays - This House and Ink - opened to rave reviews. And I believe Labour of Love will join them. It's a triumph.

New Labour MP David Lyons (Martin Freeman) cares about modernisation and 'electability' his constituency agent, Old Labour Jean Whittaker (Tamsin Greig) cares about principles and her community. Set away from the Westminster bubble in the party’s traditional northern heartlands, this is a clash of philosophy, culture and class against the backdrop of the Labour Party over 25 years as it moves back and forward from Kinnock through Blair into Corbyn and beyond.

The play is extremely clever as it develops themes of old vs new, pragmatism vs idealism, how to read things both backwards and then forwards, and all this with a razor-sharp wit. It's very rude too and not beyond a bit of board farce. A clever trick to pull off - that the Labour itself struggles with - to be all things to all people.

Go see.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Made My Mother Cry...

I sent an email reply to my mother yesterday who had sent me her birthday wishes. She was on the phone in tears when she got my reply. Oh Lordy!

Hi Myrtle,

Thanks both, to you and to Dad, for your birthday wishes today.

As you say in your message we certainly do share lots of love and fun times. I think we have a pretty good relationship, don’t we? As I think the whole family does.

You have certainly both brought me up to be an independent man who can fight his corner, knows right from wrong, is happy in his own skin but also knows how to enjoy life and doesn't hold back when I see injustice. You have both given me your keen senses of adventure and travel, your joint social skills, and your senses of humour. Which are invaluable skills in getting the most out of life.

I've learned how to speak in public from Dad - how to say the right thing and occasionally not say anything at all. And Mum you have taught me to see the other person's side in an argument, to put myself in the other person's shoes but also to not let people walk all over me. And that competitive drive to win I get from you - but not at all costs - makes for a full and happy life of playing games sometimes with myself and sometimes with others. It gives me endless joy to play a game - and win! But I don’t mind losing either. It's the playing of the game I enjoy really.

I have very happy life all round - and I put much of that down to how you have both brought me up and the help you have offered me throughout my life. Encouraging me to study, financial help to get on the property ladder, and supporting me when I came out as gay - which I'm sure wasn't easy for either of you. You've never been over-protective and always been there in case I needed you. Which must have been a difficult balancing act for you to get right. But you did. Get it right.

So thank you.

And please don't even think about a birthday present for me. You give me your time and your love and that is all I want or need.

Much love,

Jonce x

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ear-shattering This Is How We Die @AlmeidaTheatre ...

Last Sunday evening Stuart and I went to be shouted at for an hour. And then assaulted by a possibly illegally loud thrash band. Like much of the audience we left with bleeding ear drums.

We were at the Almeida Theatre to see/listen to This Is How We Die, Christopher Brett Bailey's prime slice of surrealist trash, Americana death trip and dizzying exorcism for a world convinced it is dying.

Bailey delivers a motor-mouthed collage of spoken word and storytelling with tales of paranoia, young love and ultra-violence. His spiralling odyssey of pitch-black humour and nightmarish prose is told through a machine gun delivery that bore echoes of Bruce, Burroughs, beat poetry and B-movies.

Our particular favourites were the "my girlfriend, she's so literal" section followed closely by the "go fuck yourself" date with himself.

The final 5 minutes of thrash metal I think probably damaged our ear-drums though and was probably illegal in its volume in such a small venue. Our ears are still ringing days later.

So if you like being sworn at and having your hearing fucked - this is the show for you!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Arsenal Women FC 3 - 2 Birmingham City Ladies FC @ArsenalWFC @BCLFC @FAWSL ...

As a long term Arsenal fan I was rather shamelessly late in going to my first Arsenal WFC game on Sunday at the Boreham Wood FC ground. It was great fun. We sang, we cheered, sang some more.

The Arsenal Women's team were taking on the Birmingham City Ladies' team in the Women's Super League.

A great game saw the reds go from being behind, having someone sent off to pulling back to win 3-2.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Fever Pitch The Opera @HighOpTheatre @UnionChapelUK ...

Last night Ann, Fiona, Val, Val, Olivier, Anders and I went to see high art / beautiful game mashup Fever Pitch The Opera at the Union Chapel in London's glitzy Islington.
The production was a high-spirited, dynamically acted and well intentioned show. It had some genuinely top-notch moments and although it was no Aida it certainly had the whiff of West Side Story about it. The music was good and the singing of a very high standard too. A bit of a shame, the sound quality wasn't quite up to the mark though so we had to strain to hear some of the otherwise very funny lyrics. 
Very pleasingly for we Gooners, the writers - Scott Stroman and Tamsin Collison - included lots of Arsenal chants too; One Nil to the Arsenal, We're the Clock End / North Bank, Good Old Arsenal etc. 
Rather cleverly the actors ran amok throughout the chapel and not only inhabited the stage under the massive ticking Highbury Clock but also occupied the whole of the auditorium and up in the balcony cleverly reimagining football stands. 
The opera itself was based on Nick Hornby's seminal book Fever Pitch - the life of a fan with an obsession and a beautiful hymn to Arsenal. Being an Arsenal fan is as we all know a love / hate relationship. We trust our life to 11 men who we don't know. We give them our happiness. Hornby became a fan in 1968 and, although he didn't know it back then, he had 21 years of hurt and disappointment ahead of him. There was little joy to be had on the windy cold terrace of Highbury. This is the sort of story opera handles very well. The big broad strokes of pain and little ecstasy.
The story takes us through Hornby's school life, teenage years in the 1970s, university life in the early 1980s, trials of trying to teach, attempts to be a writer and eventual epiphany when he goes for counselling in the later 1980s and realises what his Arsenal obsession is all about. SPOILER ALERT: He needs to belong. To be a member of a tribe.
The finale of the show takes us on to 1989 and 'that' pivotal game at Anfield. In seeming real time we relive the game with all it's ups and downs to the incredible rapturous final minutes. A fab end to any show.
Great fun. Very well done. And a very different way to spend a Saturday night.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Beautiful London #London #nofilter ...

We went to see Follies again at the National Theatre last night. If anything it was even better than the last time. They had sorted the sound issues out. 

Lovely view across the Thames too.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Job done. Just. + Lowest ever attendance at Emirates. Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster Rovers #AFCvDRFC @Arsenal @drfc_official ...

Last night and I went to watch the mighty Arsenal FC make hard work of taking on a spirited Doncaster Rovers FC team in the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup. We put out a great set of players and despite dominating the game could only manage a pretty feeble win. Come on boys - up your game!

It was also the lowest ever attendance at the Emirates Stadium of just 44,064.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Brilliant Knives In Hens #KnivesInHens @DonmarWarehouse ...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Knives In Hens at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

This three-hander is set in a God-fearing, pre-Industrial Britain and tells the story of a ploughman (beefcake Christian Cooke), his wife (defiant yet curious Judith Roddy) and a miller (brooding darkly bearded Matt Ryan). The play is earthy, grim, and sexy. And a bit of a corker. The action kicks off with a bout of rough sex between the ploughman and his wife - and yes we were hooked.

On one level, the play has the simplicity of a fable. We see a character known simply as Young Woman tethered like an animal to a village ploughman called Pony William. Although, like everyone else, she is taught to hate the local miller, the woman finds in him a source of emotional release that enables her to escape her husband and articulate her long-suppressed feelings. In that sense, the play echoes Shaw’s Pygmalion, Russell's Educating Rita and Wesker’s Roots, in that it becomes a play about a woman’s liberation through words.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Outstanding Outlaws to In-Laws #OutlawsInlawsPlay @Outlaws_Inlaws @KingsHeadThtr ...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see the marvellous Outlaws to In-Laws at the King's Head Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Consisting of seven gay plays by seven gay playwrights the evening moved us through each of the last seven decades from the 1950s onwards telling stories of gay British history at pivotal moments of gay history. The evening was certainly not short on ambition.

Each play explored - albeit briefly - gay lives against a rapidly changing social history from intolerance, violence and hate to the legalisation of homosexuality and gay marriage. There are also some zinging one-liners - as a drag queen sniffs a line of coke off a framed picture of Princess Diana - "nice to see Charlie and Di back together at last!"

Happy and Glorious by Philip Meeks is set in 1953. On the day of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, South London lad Dennis follows a young man away from the celebrating crowds to an apartment overlooking Westminster Abbey. He soon discovers a world far away from his own and within a matter of hours he falls in and out of love. As the new monarch is crowned, Dennis’ life will never be the same again. It's a funny play heralding he changes in the law that are all too necessary.

Mister Tuesday by Jonathan Harvey is set in the 1965. In their own little love nest, Peter loves Jimmy and Jimmy loves Peter - but only every Tuesday. Peter wants more from Jimmy but Jimmy has a sensitive job, a wife, and baby on the way. Frustrated, Peter makes Jimmy a bleak offer to make sure he won’t flee the nest. Blackmail, sex, and cucumber sandwiches - it was a funny but sad reflection of a life unlived/unloved.

Reward by Jonathan Kemp is set in the 1977. It’s the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Donald, a sweet 16 American meets Spike (Jack Bence), a white skinhead, at a bus stop in a dodgy part of town. The attraction is instant. Except Spike belongs to the National Front and bookish Donald (Michael Duke) is black. Will their love take them to a place of reward or punishment? This play had more time to breathe than the others so perhaps fared best. Boosted by strong performances, it’s a nicely observed, affecting character study in an economically bleak landscape shadowed by racism.

1984 by Patrick Wilde is set in the 1984 (Duh!). The Conservative Party Conference is about to start when Tommy and Allan find themselves under Brighton Pier, but the time for hiding in the shadows should be over. Allan, Margaret Thatcher’s aide, is preparing to help legislate against gay people. Suddenly the political and the personal become a matter of life and death.

Princess Die by Matt Harris is set in the 1997. Shane has had yet another disastrous night out with his boyfriend, and worse his fledgling drag career is struggling to get off the ground. All seems lost until he finds a gorgeous, naked stranger in the flat. Can Tyler help Shane find the personal reserves to carry on before things get any worse? This play was inventively surreal as it dives into drag queen Shane’s comedown after learning his boyfriend is HIV+ on the night his idol, Princess Diana, dies. Alex Marlow’s bewilderment as Elliot Balchin’s Calvin Klein mannequin comes to life on his sofa is well pitched for this astringent farce.

Brothas by Topher Campbell is set in 2003. It centres on Dwayne, a muscular, attractive Jamaican immigrant and his overweight, plain university friend, Remi. They are chilling, and chatting… and chatting to guys online but after Dwayne finds a hot date for the night - with benefits he discovers Remi is using a fake profile...

The Last Gay Play by Joshua Val Martin is set in the present day. Anyone can get cold feet before getting married but hiding in the chapel belfry isn’t the answer. Will the Father get the groom to the altar or does he care more about the church roof than he does about the couple’s happiness?

Mary Franklin’s staging shifts nicely between all the plays, although it’s hampered at times by issues with audibility. But even through this production’s clumsier moments, the joyful message in this last play as Robin and Zak pop open the poppers and decide to live married life their way is loud and clear.

A great night out.

Monday, September 18, 2017

@ChelseaFC 0 - 0 @Arsenal @ChelseaPride @GayGooners ...

Last Sunday afternoon was a fun day out with the Gay Gooners at Stamford Bridge watching the mighty Arsenal take on the some might say equally mighty Chelsea. I'd not been to Stamford Bridge to watch a game in a very long time and it was a really nice experience - the soon to be demolished 43,000 seat stadium had that old world feel to it c.f. Highbury, the game was lively and fun, we played quite well (for a change), and we away fans were in good spirits and even better voice.

We also got to meet up with the Chelsea Pride group afterwards too which was lovely. We went for a drink or three, had a good exchange of information on how our respective groups are run, and of course there was a bit of banter too.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chaos Arsenal vs.FC Köln @Arsenal @fckoeln #AFCvCOL ...

Well, that was fun. Not. Last night's kick-off between Arsenal and FC Cologne was delayed as the German fans tried to storm the stadium, with fans branded a disgrace.

Fans were seen giving Nazi salutes, fighting and urinating in doorways, following disorder earlier on in central London. The Europa League group was due to start at 8.05pm but was pushed back by an hour because of crowd safety, with people arrested on suspicion of public disorder.

We and the other Gay Gooners took refuge in The Rocket until it was confirmed kick-off would definitely go ahead. The game eventually did go ahead amid heavy security, with riot police stationed around the Emirates Stadium.

Earlier on I had a bottle thrown at me. Nice.

As for the game itself, we played badly first half - lots of booing at half time - but upped our game in the second half and eventually won 3 - 1.

Shameful night.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

George Michael ‎– Listen Without Prejudice Vol.2... @GeorgeMichael #ListenWithoutPrejudiceVol2 ...

 As Sony gears up for the reissue of George Michael's Listen Without Prejudice Vol.1 some of you may not be aware of the follow up that George Michael had planned before he fell out with Sony appropriated entitled Listen Without Prejudice Vol.2

The album was never released although much of it found its way into other projects.

The Vol. 2 album was intended to be a dance-oriented follow-up to the more sober-toned Vol. 1. But as I say it never materialised due to Michael's contract disputes with Sony. But he'd been working on it before he abandoned the project, so there were a number of tracks either in progress or already completed. Three of the tracks ("Too Funky," "Do You Really Want to Know," and "Happy") were released on Red Hot + Dance. "Too Funky," was also released as a single, with "Crazyman Dance" as the b-side. On Bonus Disc was the unreleased single "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" in four versions.

Title: Listen Without Prejudice Vol.2
Artist: George Michael
Label: Not On Label (George Michael)
Format: 2 × CDr, Unofficial Release, Stereo
Released (planned): 1991
Genre: Pop

01 Too Funky 3:48
02 Disco 3:52
03 Happy 4:04
04 So Damn Hard 5:23
05 Do You Really Want To Know 4:47
06 CrazyManDance 5:55
07 Piece 6:31
08 Lonely Nights 2:25
09 Fantasy 5:01
10 Killer 5:01
11 You Spin Me Round 3:22
12 Thank You 4:21
13 Disco (Instrumental) 3:44
14 Piece (demo) 6:22
15 Waiting For A Heart (demo) 4:33
16 CrazyManDance (demo) 3:06
17 Disco (demo) 2:53
18 Lonely Nights (demo) 2:12
19 Too Funky Happy (demo) 3:07

Bonus Disc Ain't No Stopping Us Now
1 Single Mix 4:38
2 12" Remix 7:38
3 Unreleased Mix 5:50
4 Live 5:39

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wonderful The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir #themagneticfields #50songmemoir @TheMagFields @BarbicanTheatre ...

Last Saturday and Sunday night Stuart and I went to see Stephin Merritt a.k.a. the man behind the ever-inventive musical vehicle The Magnetic Fields perform all fifty songs from his 2017 five-album collection 50 Song Memoir at the Barbican Hall in London's glitzy Barbican Centre.

Each of the fifty songs relates to each of the first fifty years lived by Merritt starting in 1965. And as we might expect from the pen of one of the world's greatest living songwriters and the man who wrote 69 Love Songs each are utter earworms. I've been dreaming them, humming them and singing them obsessively since I first heard them.

In-between each song Merritt told a little story about the song ("this was written for Kiki and Herb the year those religious fanatics tried to blow up our city", "this was written for a musical I tried to write in San Francisco which everyone thought was dreadful but I liked this one song", "my ex was a fucking liar. This is his song." etc.)

Current favourites are: '68 A Cat Called Dionysus, '72 Eye Contact, '76 Hustle 76, '84 Danceteria, '92 Weird Diseases, '01 Have You Seen It In The Snow?, '10 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, '11 Stupid Tears, and '12 You Can Never Go Back To New York.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

@Arsenal vs @AFCBournemouth and @GayGooners vs @SkySports @ArsenalLGBT ...

Last Saturday morning I was getting all set for the day's game - Arsenal vs AFC Bournemouth; Arsenal scarf, Arsenal cap, rainbow socks, new Gay Gooners banner, gay badges, rainbow laces, heart full of optimism, a 'must' win...

But first we Gay Gooners had a meet up with the Sky TV team who wanted to film us outside the Emirates Stadium for one of their new Sky Sports Football Channel Idents.

The Sky boys were very nice and we won three - nil so a good day all round. Oh and they gave us some beer vouchers to spend in The Rocket. Result!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Loved @MailRail @ThePostalMuseum ...

On Sunday afternoon Stuart and I took a trip on board a minature train on the recently one hundred year old reopened Post Office Railway in London's glitzy Mount Pleasant.  
The Post Office Railway, also known as Mail Rail, is a 2 ft narrow gauge, driverless underground railway in London that was built by the Post Office with assistance from the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, to move mail between sorting offices.

Our train departed from the former engineering depot of Mail Rail passing deep below Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant sorting office out beyond under bustling London high above. We saw the original and largely unchanged station platforms and were transported back in time. The train stopped at various points so a "theatrical experience" could peel back the layers of time to the railway’s lively 1930s heyday.

After the journey we visited the Postal Museum itself across the road which was great fun.  Dressing up included.

Highly recommended.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Oh My Giddy Aunt! Strictly Ballroom The Musical! West End! #strictlystage ...

Oh my giddy Aunt! A life lived in fear is a life half lived. One of my favourite films Strictly Ballroom now a musical and coming to the West End!

Liz: What do I want? I'll tell you what I want! I want Ken Railings to walk in here right now, and say 'Pam Shortt's broken both her legs, and I wanna dance with YOU!'
[the door flies open. It's Ken]
Ken: Pam Shortt's broken both her legs, and I wanna dance with you.
Kylie: That was unexpected.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Blo Norton Hall #BloNortonHall...

Last weekend we took my parents away for their 60th Wedding Anniversary weekend to Elizabethan pile Blo Norton Hall just outside Diss in Norfolk.

It was just the thirteen of us; Myrtle, Dad, Jo, Simon, Angus, Charlotte, Jos, Wills, Jaye, Simon T, Barbara, Stuart and me. We cooked, we ate, we went for walks, we went to the pub, we played games. All great fun.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Outrageously Funny #DavidSedaris #RFH @SouthBankLondon ...

Last Sunday night Stuart and I went to listen to David Sedaris, man of letters, read to us at the Royal Festival Hall on London's glitzy South Bank.

Ostensibly a Radio Four friendly speaker Mr Sedaris sure came out with our outrageous stuff. Stories about death and about diarrhea featured prominently.

Towards the end of the evening though we were treated to a few stories that he himslef had been told. Often at the end of reading there is a book signing and as peopel wait for his signature people will casually mention things that happened to them. So I thought I'd relay three of them to you now.

A woman told a story about meeting a man online and then agreeing to meet him for dinner.
At dinner the man started out by saying, "I have to confess, I'm frightened of the C word."
Without thinking the woman said, "Cunt?"
After what seemed like an eternity of stunned silence the man eventually said, "Commitment!"

A man told a story of him and a friend walking past a tramp on a street corner.
The tramp pleaded to the passing men, "I just need an extra 25p for a cheeseburger."
The man's friend replied, "Have it without the cheese!"

A man and his son came up to David Sedaris while signing his books and the boy said proudly, "I've got a joke."
"Go on then", says David.
"What is nice on a pizza but not on a pussy?"
Rather shocked at the young boy's language David said, "I don't know. Mushrooms? Melted cheese?"
"A crust", said the boy.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Sensational #Sondheim #Follies #ImeldaStaunton #DiBotcher #JanieDee #TracieBennett @NationalTheatre ...

Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to the first night of the National Theatre's sensational revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies at the Olivier Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Synopsis: The Follies girls are gathering to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves.

This 2hr 15min straight-through production was simply wonderful. Like a massive steam train, it was perhaps a little slow to start but once it had built up a full head of steam it thundered on with show stopping hit after show stopping hit. The cast were universally dazzling, the plot deliciously complicated, and the music as joyous and lyrics as bittersweet as you would expect from Sondheim.

Set in 1971, Follies concerns a reunion in a crumbling Broadway theatre, scheduled for demolition, of the past performers of the Weismann's Follies, a musical revue (based on the Ziegfeld Follies), that played in that theatre between the two World Wars. It focuses on two couples, Buddy and Sally Durant Plummer and Benjamin and Phyllis Rogers Stone, who are attending the reunion. Sally and Phyllis were showgirls in the Follies. Both couples are deeply unhappy with their marriages. Buddy, a traveling salesman, is having an affair with a girl on the road; Sally is still as much in love with Ben as she was years ago; and Ben is so self-absorbed that Phyllis feels emotionally abandoned. Several of the former showgirls perform their old numbers, sometimes accompanied by the ghosts of their former selves. The musical numbers in the show are pastiches of the styles of the leading Broadway composers of the 1920s and 1930s, sometimes being parodies of specific songs (for example, Losing My Mind parodies George Gershwin's The Man I Love).

Tracie Bennett, Di Botcher, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton were all stunning.

Standout numbers of the night were I'm Still Here, Losing My Mind, Broadway Baby and the simply thrilling Who's That Woman (Mirror, Mirror) that all brought the audience to its feet.

Go see.

(We are going again in two weeks!)

Friday, September 01, 2017

Put Blo Norton Hall into Google and.. Oh! It's us! ...

We've taking my family away this weekend to Blo Norton Hall in Norfolk for my parent's 60th Wedding Anniversary so I thought I'd show them all what it looks like. So I put "Blo Norton Hall" into Google, selected "Images" and... Oh! It's us!