Quote Of The Day

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

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Talking of spoilers... We read Of Mice and Men at school. A great book, somewhat tempered by the fact that come chapter 3 or thereabouts, someone had scrawled in my copy, "I don't want to spoil all the fun but Lennie gets shot on page 113."

Talking of spoilers... We read Of Mice and Men at school. A great book, somewhat tempered by the fact that come chapter 3 or thereabouts, someone had scrawled in my copy, "I don't want to spoil all the fun but Lennie gets shot on page 113."

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

French & Saunders looking good for 300 years ...

‪Gosh, I knew it'd been going a while but the girls are looking great if true #FrenchAndSaunders #Gruaniad‬

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fiercely political, deeply personal, Hazel has great energy on stage and each classic song was delivered with enormous passion @Hazel_OConnor ...

Last night Darren, Stuart and I went to see the truly wonderful Hazel O'Connor perform on her Mega Plus Tour at the Adelphi Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

The tour includes songs from her first three albums: Breaking Glass (1980), Sons and Lovers (1980) and Cover Plus (1981).

The set-up was basic (no evidence of current camp Adelphi production Kinky Boots on display) but effective all the same. Hazel and her band simply performed 24 or so songs as a straightforward on stage gig for us. But what a brilliant show it was. Hey, we even got a Belle Star and a Eurythmic thrown in for good measure.

Fiercely political, deeply personal, Hazel has great energy on stage and each classic song was delivered with enormous passion.

For the last five or so songs Hazel and crew were joined by a full choir for backing vocals which was a real treat.

However, the stand out song of the night for me was a more stripped down arrangement - the stunning Snow Patrol cover of Chasing Cars. Spine-tingling.

Hazel's setlist was:-

Do What You Gotta Do
Monsters in Disguise
Calls the Tune
Glass Houses
Sinnerman (Nina Simone cover)
Hanging Around (Stranglers cover)
Come Into the Air
Time (Ain't on Our Side)
Cover Plus (We're All Grown Up)
Top of the Wheel
I Give You My Sunshine
If Only
Big Brother
Will You
Writing on the Wall
Who Needs It
Ee I Addio
Danny Boy

Eighth Day
Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol cover)
That's Life
Still Breathing

Friday, November 24, 2017

Pride in @Arsenal #ArsenalForEveryone #RainbowLaces @GayGooners @stonewalluk @prideinfootball ...

To help support rainbow laces weekend Arsenal have changed their social media logo to have a rainbow background. At least 12.3 million followers will see it. Yay! 🌈🌈🌈

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Coriolanus - Shakespeare likes a self-damaging protagonist - @TheRSC ...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see The RSC production of Coriolanus at the Barbican Theatre in London's glitzy Barbican Centre.

Shakespeare likes a self-damaging protagonist, and while not as horrifying as Macbeth or as appalling as King Lear, Coriolanus sure knows how to stab himself in the foot.

Being a master on the bloody battlefield doesn't necessarily make you the master in the political field and so when Coriolanus is forced to give up the sword and talk to the plebs he has little patience and even less support. His temperament gets the better of him and he is banished from Rome.

For revenge he decides to side with his old adversaries the Volscians invaders - whose leader Aufidius (James Corrigan) welcomes him with almost homo-erotic glee. Their plan is to retake Rome by force.

Only when our hero's power-hungry mother Volumnia (a sleekly persuasive Hadyn Gwynne) succeeds in stopping him Coriolanus’s fate as a traitor is sealed.

Directed by Angus Jackson with Sope Dirisu in the title role the night is well put together but ultimately way too long. Even though an hour has been cut from the original play the straight-forward plot still leaves us sitting through endless to-ing and fro-ing about how Coriolanus despises the populace. The plot simply plods.

A couple of famous lines stand out though:-

"Nature teaches beasts to know their friends"

"What is the city but the people?"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Retrofit all street lamps to be electric car charging points. A no-brainer surely? ...

I was thinking the other day why don't we retrofit street lamps to be electric car charging points? Just add a plug. There are lots of street lamps around (7.5 million in London), street lamps obviously already have electricity to them, it would be relatively cheap to do, and it would save digging up the roads again.

But it turns out they are already doing it in some parts of London! London street lamps are being turned into electric car charging points. So why don't they roll it out to ever street in the UK? It would really kick start electric car ownership.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Maybe no Love, Truth and Honesty in the setlist but much love, truth and honesty on stage from @VivaBananarama themselves @EventimApollo. An emotional, heartfelt, joyous, blissful, upbeat, celebratory, exuberant, fun night...

Last night Stuart, I, and the world and his husband went to see Bananarama perform as part of their Original Line-Up Tour at the Hammersmith Apollo (OK, the Eventim Apollo) in London's glitzy Hammersmith.

I remember 35 years ago reading the joke about Bananarama, "They can't sing, they can’t dance... they should go far!" Well, my friends they did got far. Who can argue a career containing 28 hit singles spanning the whole of the eighties and beyond? They may come across as amateurish but their unison singing and rudimentary choreography is their trademark and we love them for it.

Last night's show was staged with great imagination and buckets of panache as the three belles of the ball mucked about for us in front of footage of their younger selves, cut to a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour. Mistakes were made and gleefully pointed out, without shame or (much) recrimination. The gang is finally back together. Thank goodness.

When Siobhan Fahey departed Bananarama in 1988, in search of musical credibility with her Shakespeare's Sister project, the duo of Sarah Dalin and Keren Woodward gamely carried on with some success.

This scenario was cheekily recreated when the girls announced mid-set that they were going to go a ballad. "Bear with us – ballads aren't really our forte,” stated Dalin as the trio sat down to sing the rather laboured friendship anthem, Cheers Then. At the song’s conclusion, Fahey walked off stage. "At least she went off the right way this time," muttered Dalin. "Makes a change!" Jokesters to the end.

Then as a blazingly brilliant moon rose on the back screen, the remaining duo launched into Fahey’s 1992 Shakespeare's Sister hit, Stay. When Fahey returned for the middle eight, the three embraced in a group hug. Cheap theatrics maybe but it bought a tear to this old codger's eye.

The second half of the set was full-on Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW) Hi-NRG disco stompers culminating in the peerless Love in the First Degree.

Maybe no Love, Truth and Honest in the setlist last night but much love, truth and honesty from Bananarama on stage last night. An emotional, heartfelt, joyous, blissful, upbeat, celebratory, exuberant, fun night. Thank you girls. You've made an old man very happy.

Best song of the night for me: Aie a Mwana (a re-issue would surely go top five!)
Little known fact about "Aie a Mwana". It was the first Bananarama single. The girls had heard the Black Blood version sung in Swahili in a French disco and decided to cover it - learning to sing the song phonetically. The tropical nature of the single inspired the group's name: banana coming from the vibe of "Aie a Mwana" and -rama added to the end as a nod to an early Roxy Music song called "Pyjamarama".

Last night’s setlist:-

Nathan Jones (The Supremes cover)
Robert De Niro's Waiting
Rough Justice
Aie a Mwana (Black Blood cover)
Cruel Summer
Trick of the Night
Shy Boy/Boy Trouble
Really Sayin' Something (The Velvelettes cover)
Cheers Then
Stay (Shakespeare's Sister cover)
Preacher Man
I Heard a Rumour
More Than Physical
I Can't Help It
I Want You Back
Venus (Shocking Blue cover)
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (Steam cover)

It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It) (Ella Fitzgerald cover)
Love in the First Degree

Friday, November 17, 2017

As a broad satire Network fires at several broad targets (TV, corporate commerce) but broadly misses #ntNetwork @NationalTheatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Network at the National Theatre's Lyttelton stage on the glitzy South Bank.

Clocking in at a bladder breaking non-stop two hours Belgian big-shot Ivo van Hove had brought us the reworked version of Paddy Chayefsky's satirical 1976 film Network.

And what a disappointment it was! We had had such high hopes and the many five star reviews looked so promising too.

As a broad satire Network fires at several broad targets (TV, corporate commerce) but broadly misses. And it treads such a well-trodden path as to be boringly trite in its attempts. It imagines a world where TV news becomes a branch of show-business, where profit margins dictate editorial content and where nation states are subordinate to "a college of corporations". Er, yes, we already live in that world. But, it treats these facts are revelations worthy of a messiah.

The play's set is getting most of the critical attention though. Those familiar with van Hove's previous staged works will recognise his signature on-stage video cameras and large screen close-ups but here we also have to contend with an on-stage restaurant complete with patrons to distract us too, a make-up / dressing area, a TV production room, and a four-piece Kraftwerk-lite band. It all rather scrappy and annoyingly distracting.

Granted, if the sheer sensory cacophony we experienced is the point of the piece it is a point well made. It is just that ultimately, this overload to the senses makes any other messages from the piece too hazy to be effective. The fine acting gets lost in the noise. So if the idea is that "the noise" is the problem in modern media it didn't need to take two hours to convince us. We get the point 2 minutes in.

And major plot holes abound, there are too many characters to follow, and that toe-curling awkward audience participation… I could go on... And the anti-Arabic rant mid-show was frankly racist.

Network is a glowing, short-circuiting mess. It is a giant, chaotic dance of man and video that amplifies a well-known two-pronged message. One, that populism can be a volcanically destructive force that can obliterate the "bullshit" that we call society with frightening speed. Two, that the “bullshit” wins in the end.

So if this merciless and resonantly topical vision of the way modern media fragments our attention with relentless content works at all, at two hours, it outstays its welcome.

Other opinions are of course available.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Lady From The Sea @DonmarWarehouse is hauntingly delightful. We love Ibsen and we simply loved this production. #TheLadyfromtheSea ...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see a new version of Ibsen's The Lady From The Sea at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

We love Ibsen and we simply loved this production. Elinor Cook has transposed the action from 19th-century Norway to the Caribbean in the 1950s and is directed here with both style and flare by Kwame Kwei-Armah. The play is hauntingly delightful.

Nikki Amuka-Bird plays mermaid-like Ellida Wangel who is in a dilemma: she is conflicted between her duty to her devoted doctor husband Edvard Wangel (Finbar Lynch) and her attraction to a mysterious, seagoing Stranger (played by Jake Fairbrother) to whom she was once betrothed.

She is being driven mad as she is tortured by her dreams. Her only relief seems to come from her endless swimming in the deep black sea to escape the torment. Shifting the story to the Caribbean also does nothing to diminish the stories potency. Ellida, like most of the characters, feels trapped in an island paradise with the sea as the only escape route.

Bolette (Helena Wilson) Edvard's elder daughter from a previous marriage wants out too. She wants to go to Oxford to study urged on by her lonely ex-tutor played by Tom McKay who secretly loves her.

Hilde (Ellie Bamber) is Edvard's mischievous younger daughter who feels trapped too and who seeks her relief by tempting sickly sculptor (Jonny Holden) to taking her out.

It's a fabulous setup of these three tormented women with genuinely heart-wrenching moments.

Go see while you still can.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle - a pleasant enough evening with two great actors and great set #HeisenbergPlay ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham are both excellent in this immaculately designed production of Simon Stephens’ frankly rather slender fable about love and physics.

Duff plays Georgie, a wild, faintly unstable 42-year-old woman from New Jersey who impulsively accosts Cranham's Alex, a solitary 75-year-old butcher, as he sits on a bench at St Pancras Station.

What follows is an improbable love story that perhaps says more about male wish-fulfilment in the idea that lonely old codgers can prove sexually magnetic to younger women than it does about quantum uncertainty. It's sweet if a little predictable.

The set design is a wow though. Bunny Christie set is beautifully mobile, white walls permit the stage space to constantly expand or contract: at one point, Georgie is hemmed in by the moving blocks and then shunts them aside, which perfectly captures her sense of entrapment and escape.

So, it was a pleasant enough evening with two great actors and great set. Maybe the plot just needed a new few more twists to keep our interest though. Rather like hearing a joke where you already know the punchline.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Life-long dream come true. Me and @Gunnersaurus Looking good for 65 million years old. (Him not me!) @Arsenal...

The other I had a life-long dream come true by being photographed alongside Arsenal mascot Gunnersaurus Rex.

What a thoroughly nice chap and looking good for 65 million years old. (Him not me!)

"Will you march with the Gay Gooners in Pride next year?" I whispered to him. "Talk to my agent," he whispered back.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Lie...

Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see The Lie at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

Florian Zeller’s The Lie (Le Mensonge) is the most amazing night of comedy we have ever had in the theatre. But it’s not. But it is. But it isn't. And if you believe that you're believe anything. Or you won't. Because it's rubbish. No, it’s great. But it isn't.

And if you find the strategy of characters in a play making an assertion, then contradicting it, then undermining that contradiction irritating then maybe The Lie isn’t for you.

We simply hated it. We really did.

Nice to see Samantha Bond playing opposite her real-life husband Alexander Hanson but they had to cope with a dire script as translated by Christopher Hampton that sounded like it had come out of Google Translate...

"So that is what you want me to believe then, is it?"
"Yes, that is what I want you to believe"
"But why is it so important that I believe what you are saying to me?"
"Because I want you to believe what I am saying to you and it is important to me that you believe what I am saying to you"

They all had affairs with each other. There, you know the ending now. Save yourself the money.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Funny, sad, brutal, powerful, pastoral #Albion @AlmeidaTheatre ...

Last Friday Stuart and I went to see Mike Bartlett's new play Albion at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Directed by Rupert Goold the play is in many ways a treatise on present day England. It's a metaphor to unearth both the richness and rot of modern Britain. A sort of state of the nation play concerning Brexit, national identity, and the longing for an idealised version of country life. And it's also very, very funny.

Audrey Walters (Victoria Hamilton) is a successful if shrill businesswoman who moves from London to the rural Albion house. Her aim is to resuscitating the estate’s garden, what was once a paragon of English design. She brings her 23-year old daughter Zara (Charlotte Hope), her laid-back husband Paul (Nicholas Rowe), and the partner of her deceased son Anna (Vinette Robinson).

We simply loved it. It was not only funny, but sad, brutal, powerful, pastoral, long(!), had great acting, and at one point there was a topless gardener. Oh and a bit of Peter Gabriel's Here Comes The Flood and a bit of Kate Bush's Oh England, My Lionheart!

Monday, November 06, 2017

Many thanks to #ArsenalforEveryone and @ArsenalWFC for making we @GayGooners feel welcome...

Last Sunday we Gay Gooners went to watch Arsenal Women F.C. take on Reading F.C. Women at the Boreham Wood Football Club ground.

Promoted by Arsenal for Everyone as a game to support the Gay Gooners we got a mention in the match day programme, met some of the Arsenal Women's team, had nibbles in the Director's Box, and got to choose the player of the match (Beth Mead as it happens).

Sadly we lost 2-1 but it was a great (albeit cold) day out.

Many thanks to Arsenal for Everyone and Arsenal Women F.C. for making us feel welcome.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Marvelous A Woman of No Importance at the Vaudeville #OscarWilde @ClassicSpringCo ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's glitzy West End. 

And for a 125 year-old play, it was pretty damned funny. Admittedly, the plot is perhaps fairly thin but the plot is not really the point of this particular play. Ostensibly, about marriage, the battle of the sexes, and the upper classes Wilde simply uses the play as a vehicle to place an avalanche of witty and urbane words and phrases in the mouths of his badly behaved English toffs at a country retreat. 

His characters talk down to those less experienced than themselves and it is very funny. Self-aware daft snobbery can be hilarious and even more so when spoken by such a high calibre cast as performed it last night. Anne Reid, Eve Best & Eleanor Bron were on top form. 

Puncturing all the English pomposity was the young American puritan woman though whose heartfelt speech on the inequality of class grounded the evening for us all. 

Top notch. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Disappointing and over-long #SaintGeorgeAndTheDragon @NationalTheatre ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Rory Mullarkey’s new play Saint George and the Dragon at the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Upshot: Where this play should have perhaps been as sharp as Blackadder or as silly as Monty Python it ends up, less happily, being as tedious as a School Pantomime.

The story is one of brave knight of yore George, slayer of dragons and saviour of the people, who becomes enfolded into our nation’s narrative, told over three very long hours.

Confronting his enemy at three different stages of English history, George first saves a medieval village from a three-headed fire-breathing dragon (the most compelling part), then in a smoke-filled Victorian town outwits the dragon of mercantile capitalism (over-long), and finally in a modern, glass-turreted city takes on the dragon in more insidious, less easily defined form (rather unfocused).

As they say, "Unhappy the land in need of heroes."

While the play has much to say about our shifting national identity, the means seem disproportionate to the ends. There is inevitable and needless repetition in the idea of George’s attempt to rouse the populace against the tyrannical dragon and some scenes, especially those between an endangered heroine and a possible ally, cry out for swift and extensive literary surgery. Cut it in half and call it "Regrets"!

The plot wanders with aimless direction, leaving us, the audience gasping for distraction. Underdeveloped stock characters and cheap looking stage effects (with the possible exception of the exploding dragon-heads on zip-wires) only exasperate our plight.

That said, John Heffernan excellently captures George’s transition from a perfect, gentle knight into a vainglorious, patriotic symbol and finally an absurdly outdated figure in a woolly hat trying to pass himself off as a man of the people. Julian Bleach, alternately menacing and camp, is an admirably shape-shifting dragon with a remarkable capacity to slither down the perpendicular walls of the set; and there is staunch support from Amaka Okafor as George’s increasingly assertive champion, Gawn Grainger as her accommodating dad and Richard Goulding as the dragon’s side-changing spokesman.

The National Theatre faces a problem: where to find the big new plays it craves for the Olivier, its largest theatre? For the second time this year, it entrusts the space to a relatively new writer. While Rory Mullarkey’s epic folk tale about England’s national hero is more accessible than DC Moore’s Common and has a commendable ambition, like Common sadly it ultimate fails to deliver.