Quote Of The Day

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

Monday, April 30, 2018

Absolute Hell @NationalTheatre - we loved it - the micro-dramas of the paralytically drunk - Soho, bo-ho, let's go! Review --->

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Rodney Ackland's retitled and reworked Absolute Hell at the Lyttelton Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

The critics have not been kind to Ackland's 1952 play - either on it's first outing or in this, its latest National Theatre incarnation. But I beg to differ.

Originally entitled The Pink Room the story is set in a Soho drinking club just after the war. The many failed artists, self-declared artists, bohemians, black marketeers and slumming socialites who frequent the club (loosely based on Muriel Belcher’s Colony Rooms) are not particular likable but then, for that very reason, perfectly realistic.

Anyone who has spent any time in a late night drinking den or at a pub lock-in will recognise the scenarios in this play; failed love-lives, failed requests for sex, prat-falls, missed calls, deep discussions of what and when to eat, who to vote for, arguments over who buys the drinks, who to cadge a fag off, and all to the refrain of "can you lend me a couple of quid?". The micro-dramas of the paralytically drunk.

We are in the drunken Soho world of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

Thirty actors ramble around the stage, loosely corralled by Joe Hill-Gibbins direction, living out their self-indulgent lives for just over three hours. But for us, the time flew by.

From the moment the entire cast trooped in front of the curtain to sing the Edith Piaf standard, La Vie en Rose, we knew we were going to love it.

My only mild criticism of the play might be that set was a little too expansive. Those sorts of drinking clubs tended to be claustrophobically cramped.

Soho, bo-ho, let's go.

"What is that strange smell was in here?"

Foot Note: Absolute Hell includes a tweed-suited lesbian wearing a ginger clown wig. She waddles about, is very rude, is denounced by the main writer character for ruining his career – and then promptly dies on stage. Playwright Rodney Ackland added the character as an act of revenge on the Sunday Times critic Harold Hobson, who had declared that the first-night audience in 1952 had been present "if not at the death of a talent, at least at its very serious illness". Ouch!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Chess @ChessTheMusical First preview last night. @mrmichaelball & @alexandramusic superb. @timhowar bailed half-time. @cellencj stepped in - utter star. Review --->

Last night Stuart and I went to see the first preview of the first major West End revival of the musical Chess in over 30 years at the London Coliseum in London's glitzy West End.

Written in 1984 by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and Tim Rice, Chess tells a story of love and political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the late 1970s/early 1980s, in which superpowers attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political ends.

Two of the world’s greatest chess masters, one American (Tim Howar), one Russian (Michael Ball), are in danger of becoming the pawns of their governments as their battle for the world title gets under way. Simultaneously their lives are thrown into further confusion by a Hungarian refugee (Cassidy Janson), a remarkable woman who becomes the centre of an emotional triangle. Tensions are further tightened when the Russian's wife Svetlana (Alexandra Burke) arrives. This mirrors the heightened passions of the political struggles that threaten to destroy lives and loves.

The show includes the international hit singles "I Know Him So Well" and "One Night In Bangkok". Other well-known songs from the score include "Anthem", "Someone Else’s Story", "Heaven Help My Heart" and "Pity The Child".

Michael Ball and Alexandra Burke were both superb. Cassidy Janson sang like an angel. But Tim Howar... well, we only saw half of him.

Half? Well, regular reader will know how very unlucky we are with going to see early previews of West End shows: floods, ill-prepared shows, misbehaving sets, gas leaks, lead actors dropping out - have all contributed to numerous occasions of us sitting in our seats listening to theatre managers with a microphone in hand standing on stage telling us the show is being cancelled. When will we learn, eh? Never, it appears. And so back to last night...

At the end of the first half the normal 20 interval went on, and on, and on. We took our seats for the second half but 45 minutes later and still the curtain had not come up. It wasn't looking good. Then the director Laurence Connor came on stage (oh no!). Lots of apologies... explanations of how hard everyone had worked on the show... how little prep time they had all had... etc. etc.  (we could just see the headlines "CHESS CANCELLED!")... but then...  he said... "Tim Howar's wife has just gone into labour so he has left the theatre!" (Wowie! Some may think that is highly unprofessional. But I'm not like that.) "But Cellen Chugg Jones would be stepping into the part of the American in the second act. He has very little experience with the staging and blocking but he knows the songs." Not ideal, but we were just relieved the show was going to continue!

As it turned out Cellen Chugg Jones was fantastic. He had a great voice and got a thunderous standing ovation at the end. He had saved the show! But, gosh, that was a close run thing.

Showbiz drama aside, the production itself was very good. Fun. Entertaining and fun. Laurence Connor's direction featuring the English National Opera's orchestra and chorus, conducted by John Rigby, was up to its usual high standard. Stephen Mear's choreography was fine too as was Matthew Kinley's dazzling set design, Mick Potter's booming sound design and Christina Cunningham's amusing costumes.

Patrick Woodroffe's lighting direction perhaps needed a little tweaking - as we sat in the Dress Circle we got blinded a few times by some of the lighting effects and more than once the stage hands were lit-up plain to see as they removed furniture from the pit and our eyes should have been directed elsewhere. Terry Scruby's video design was Ok too but the delay between vision and sound was annoying. It is very off-putting to hear the beautiful voices out of sync with the extreme close-ups of the singers.

But, as I say, a very good show if not a great one. And nice to have a bit of ABBA back on the West End again after so long, so long, so long. (yes, there were a few ABBA references during the show for the eagle-eared)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Caroline, Or Change - The show is fantastic and soon to transfer to the West End (and I can see why.) @Hamps_Theatre #HTCaroline Review --->

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see a revival of strange, witty, pulsing opera-musical Caroline, Or Change at the Hampstead Theatre in London's glitzy Swiss Cottage.

Caroline, or Change is through-composed with book and lyrics by Tony Kushner and score by Jeanine Tesori that combines spirituals, blues, Motown, classical music, and Jewish klezmer and folk music.

Set in Louisiana in 1963, the story starts from the relationship between a young Jewish boy, Noah (Charlie Gallacher), and his family’s exploited black maid, Caroline (Sharon D Clarke). When Noah is encouraged to leave the small change in his pockets as a gift for the underpaid maid, not only is Caroline insulted but the gesture opens up the racial, social and economic divisions of 1960s America. The word "change" takes on multiple meanings that are dramatically exposed in a scene where black servants cook the Jewish family’s meal at Hannukah and where there is a big showdown between Noah’s revolutionary grandfather (Teddy Kempner) and Caroline’s militant daughter (Abiona Omonu).

But there is much humour to be had here too. Caroline's washing machine sings to her, her dryer sings to her, and her radio is a three part harmony group akin to The Supremes.

The show is fantastic and soon to transfer to the West End (and I can see why.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kev's 50th Birthday @ Backyard Comedy Club...

Stuart and I had a fab time out on Saturday night helping Kev celebrate his 50th birthday.

About 50 of us went to the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green to see a bunch of comedians do their stuff.

Kev paid for us to get in and gave us lots of beers vouchers for the night.

Great fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Brief Encounter...

Last week I went to see a theatrical interpretation of the film Brief Encounter in the old converted cinema Empire Haymarket in London's glitzy West End.

Conceived by Emma Rice it was a nice idea, enthusiastically performed. The 8-strong cast played multiple roles bringing to life Noël Coward's classic train station platform drama. It was perhaps a little twee for my taste but a fun evening all the same.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Putting On The Ritz...

Yesterday Myrtle and Dad treated Stuart and I to lunch at The Ritz. It was to celebrate (utterly belatedly) their 60th wedding anniversary and as a thank you to us for something we did for them.

And The Ritz was everything you'd expect it to be.... terribly posh, terribly formal, terribly enjoyable, terribly delicious, and terribly, terribly expensive (a small glass of champagne starting from £26, anyone?). Luckily we weren't paying!

I guess people have high expectations when going to The Ritz and I have to say, these were met. As well as the first class service the meal was packed with lots of little extras - the freshly-made bread was beautiful, the amuse-bouches gorgeous and petit fours sumptuous.

If anyone ever asks you out for lunch - just say, "The Ritz, please." You won't regret it. Even if their wallet does!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Arsène Wenge leaving @Arsenal at end of season. It's been fun. But au revoir. Leaving a year 'early' speaks volumes I think.

It's been fun. But au revoir. Leaving a year 'early' speaks volumes I think.

Arsène Wenger has issued the following statement:

“After careful consideration and following discussions with the club, I feel it is the right time for me to step down at the end of the season.

“I am grateful for having had the privilege to serve the club for so many memorable years.

“I managed the club with full commitment and integrity.

“I want to thank the staff, the players, the Directors and the fans who make this club so special.

“I urge our fans to stand behind the team to finish on a high.

“To all the Arsenal lovers take care of the values of the club.

"My love and support for ever.”

Arsene Wenger

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Soft Cell's much anticipated boxset Keychains & Snowstorms - The Soft Cell Story released on 7th Sept. The ten-disc (9CD + 1DVD) set available pre-order now. Misery. Complaints. Self Pity. Injustice. @soft_cell @softcellhq @MarcAlmond @dbelectrode

Well, there goes another 70 quid of my hard earned cash on another 1980s fav. Can't wait!

Self Pity

This comprehensive 10 disc – 9CDs and 1 DVD – box set tells the definitive story of one of electronic music's most thrilling and pioneering acts, Marc Almond and Dave Ball, better known as Soft Cell. With over 50% previously unreleased music, 'Keychains & Snowstorms' is a genuine treasure trove of art-school experimentation, huge pop hits, ground-breaking club tracks and piercing introspection straight out of bedsit land.

CD1 features remastered versions of the band's legendary early-'80s 12" single A-sides, with 'Numbers' and 'Soul Inside' being very slightly edited in order to fit onto the disc, CD2 contains all the full-length B-sides, also remastered, and CD3 includes brand new versions and extended versions of key Soft Cell fan favourites. The extended versions feature only original parts from the multitrack masters, while the new versions have been created especially by Dave Ball, who has finally created the definitive mix of 'Say Hello Wave Goodbye' that he always imagined, as well as new takes on some of his favourite album tracks and B sides. These new versions are more than fit to take their place among the existing greats.

CD4 includes a mixture of unreleased and less widely available material, as well as demos from the 1980-1984 period, rare international radio-only edits, and the fabled unreleased 12” mix of 'Forever The Same', once mooted to be the third single release from 'The Art Of Falling Apart'. CD5 is made up of music from Soft Cell's earliest years, including one of the first recordings ever made by Dave Ball, plus tracks recorded at the band's first ever gig in December 1979. This disc also includes a remastered version of the debut 'Mutant Moments' EP, plus one of Soft Cell's earliest recordings, previously unreleased and not even available on any bootleg. As well as other early demos, this CD also documents Daniel Miller's work with Soft Cell in 1980 and 1981.

Recently found in Universal Music's vaults, CD6 contains live recordings made by Flood of the US dates from 1983 where the band previewed songs from the then-upcoming 'This Last Night In Sodom' album. Originally slated for a live album release the tapes have been painstakingly mixed and mastered and capture Soft Cell at their live zenith. This show was recorded at The Palace in Los Angeles, with a certain Michael Jackson part of the audience! CD7 features the final section of the Los Angeles show, plus other live highlights, including tracks from Soft Cell's farewell shows at Hammersmith Palais in January 1984. Remaining selections come from the band's reunion tour dates in 2002-3, where producer Ingo Vauk recorded the whole UK tour.

Disc 8 features 'Non-Stop Euphoric Dubbing', a Dave Ball directed 12-suite continuous mix of Soft Cell classics which forms a moody counterpart to the pioneering dub album 1982's 'Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing'. This CD also includes a splatter of remixes, including the first ever remix by Erasure, who have remixed 'Bedsitter'. In addition, The Grid's 1991 remixes of 'Memorabilia' and 'Where The Heart Is' have been reworked to replace Marc's 1991 re-vocalled versions with his original takes.

The ninth and last audio disc CD9 features highlights from the BBC's vaults, including previously unreleased audio of their Whistle Test appearance in 1982. Soft Cell's first recordings since 1983 are also included, with an unreleased extended version of 'Divided Soul,' and the set is completed with Marc and Dave's favourite tracks from 2002's comeback album 'Cruelty Without Beauty'.

Finally, the DVD features the 'Non-Stop Exotic Video Show' plus the official promos for 'Where The Heart Is', 'Numbers', 'Down In The Subway' and 'Monoculture'. There's a host of TV appearances, including The Oxford Road Show, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Top Of The Pops, The Tube, The Switch and The 1983 Supersonic Christmas Special plus a previously unreleased gig 'Live At Leeds Amnesia Club' from 28th May, 1981. Finally, there's the 'Young Guns Go For It' BBC documentary.

The box is 10”X10” square with a comprehensive book packed with photos and a new essay by Simon Price.

Released Friday, 7th September 2018 and available for pre-order now.

Format: Soft Cell - Keychains & Snowstorms – The Soft Cell Story - (Super Deluxe Boxset)
Label: Universal Music
Release Date: Friday, 7th September 2018

Disc 1 : The Phonogram 12” Hits 1981-1984

Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go 8.57
Bedsitter 7.52
Say Hello, Wave Goodbye 8.56
Torch 8.29
What 6.10
Where The Heart Is 9.46
Numbers 9.49
Soul Inside 11.12
Down In The Subway 7.50

Disc 2 : The Phonogram B Sides 1981-1984

Tainted Dub/Where Did Our Love Go? 8.51
Facility Girls (12” Version) 7.17
Fun City 7.33
Insecure Me (12” Version) 8.16
So (12” Version) 8.44
It's A Mug's Game (12” Version) 8.11
Barriers (12” Version) 7.10
You Only Live Twice (12” Version) 6.58
Her Imagination 5.20
007 Theme 3.27
Disease & Desire 4.04
Born To Lose 2.55

Disc 3 : New Extended & Reworked Mixes

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (Dave Ball Lateral Mix) 7.08
Youth (Dave Ball Wasted On The Young Mix) 5.41
Secret Life (Extended Mix) 5.17
Chips On My Shoulder (Extended Mix) 6.14
Facility Girls (2018 Mix) 7.43
Heat (Alternative Version) 6.04
Kitchen Sink Drama (Extended Mix)
The Art Of Falling Apart (Extended Mix) 8.47
Martin (Hallowe'en Mix) 6.14
Barriers (Dave Ball Broken Down Angels Mix) 7.09
Meet Murder, My Angel (Extended Mix) 6.00
Slave To This (Life Of Existence Mix)

Disc 4 : Rarities, Alternative Versions and Curios

The Girl With The Patent Leather Face (Original Version) 4.57
A Man Could Get Lost (Daniel Miller Vocal Edit)
Memorabilia (Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing Version) 5.21
Forever The Same (Unreleased Extended Version) 10.58
Heat (US 7” Version) 4.01
Loving You, Hating Me (Special USA Mix) 7.45
Martin 10.13
Hendrix Medley (Hey Joe, Purple Haze, Voodoo Chile) 10.22
Numbers (7” DJ Version) 4.26
Down In The Subway (7” Remix Version) 4.21
L'Esqualita (7” Version) 4.22
Soul Inside (Demo) 5.21
So (Dave Ball Demo Outtake) 3.16

Disc 5 : The Early Years 1978-81

Memorabilia (Original Daniel Miller Mix)
Persuasion (Original Daniel Miller Mix)
Metro MRX (Flexipop Version)
A Man Could Get Lost (Daniel Miller Demo)
The Girl With The Patent Leather Face (Demo)
Tainted Love (Demo)
Bedsitter (Demo)
Potential (From Mutant Moments EP)
L.O.V.E Feelings (From Mutant Moments EP)
Metro MRX (From Mutant Moments EP)
Frustration (From Mutant Moments EP)
Red Tape, Sticky Tape (Demo – Previously Unreleased)
Martin (Original 1980 Demo)
Paranoid (Black Sabbath Cover)
Science Fiction Stories (Demo)
Bleak Is My Favourite Cliché (Demo)
Cleaning Fanatic (Demo)
Mix (Demo)
A Man Could Get Lost (Original Version)
Walking Make Up Counter (Live at Leeds Polytechnic, December 1979)
Occupational Hazard (Live at Leeds Polytechnic, December 1979)
Persuasion (Live at Leeds Polytechnic, December 1979)
Dave's Theme (Previously Unreleased Demo)

Disc 6 : In Session / Reunion / Cruelty Without Beauty

Entertain Me (Richard Skinner Radio 1 Session)
Seedy Films (Richard Skinner Radio 1 Session)
Chips On My Shoulder (Richard Skinner BBC Radio 1 Session)
Youth (BBC Whistle Test)
Sex Dwarf (BBC Whistle Test)
Soul Inside (David Jensen BBC Radio 1 Session)
Where Was Your Heart (When You Needed It Most) (David Jensen BBC Radio 1 Session)
God Shaped Hole (Remix)
Divided Soul (Hooker Mix)
Somebody, Somewhere, Sometime
Monoculture – Dave Ball Extended Mix
The Night
Darker Times
Last Chance
Together Alone
Caligula Syndrome

Disc 7 : Non-Stop Euphoric Dubbing (Continuous Mix) & Remixes

Barriers (Dave Ball Broken Down Angels Dub)
Numbers (Extended Dub)
Youth (Dave Ball Wasted On The Youth Dub)
Where The Heart Is (Marcus Lancaster Dub)
Seedy Films (Richard X Dub)
L.O.V.E Feelings (Demo)
L'Esqualita (Dub)
Loving You, Hating Me (Dub)
Baby Doll (Dub)
Facility Girls (2018 Mix Dub)
Little Rough Rhinestone (Solvent Dub Mix)
Say Hello, Wave Goodbye (Dave Ball Lateral Dub)
Bedsitter (Erasure Remix)
Where The Heart Is (The Grid Remix : 2018 Re-Edit)
So (The Grid Remix)

Disc 8 : Live in Los Angeles, 83 Part 1

Mr Self Destruct
Soul Inside
Forever The Same
Insecure Me
Loving You, Hating Me
Disease & Desire
Where Was Your Heart
Baby Doll
The Art Of Falling Apart

Disc 9 : Live In Los Angeles, 83 (Part 2) plus other live recordings

Hey Joe/Purple Haze
Ghost Rider (with Clint Ruin)
Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Live at Hammersmith Palais, 84 (Fan Recording)
Down In The Subway 4.01
The Best Way To Kill 5.20
Numbers 5.29
It's A Mug's Game 8.12

UK Tour, Live in 2003
Tainted Love 3.39
Where Did Our Love Go 5.33
Bedsitter 3.43
Sex Dwarf 6.17
Barriers 5.28
Surrender To A Stranger 4.22

Disc 10 : DVD
Includes the 'Non-Stop Exotic Video Show' plus the official promos for 'Where The Heart Is', 'Numbers', 'Down In The Subway' and 'Monoculture'. There's a host of TV appearances, including The Oxford Road Show, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Top Of The Pops, The Tube, The Switch and The 1983 Supersonic Christmas Special plus a previously unreleased gig 'Live At Leeds Amnesia Club' from 28th May, 1981. Finally, there's the 'Young Guns Go For It' BBC documentary.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Gingerline's Dream Dinners - food was good, cast fabulous, quiz/learning aspect to night, and disco ball makes guest appearance - #gldreamdinners @gingerline #immersivedining #onlythebravewilldine #soldout Review ->

Last Friday Stuart and I got a text message at 4pm. It told us where to go and to be there for 7pm. It also said, "During your time at our facility please wear an apron over your normal attire. Comfy shoes are also advised. Don't worry, all will become clear at the event." That was it.

We were dead excited though - as we were going to the latest Gingerliners event.

Gingerline's Dream Dinners is one of a series of experimental dining projects where new and innovative dining methods will be tested on London's food adventurers. Part culinary playground, part experiential laboratory, the Dream Dinners promises to take diners back to Gingerline roots with these more intimate, single room, food focused experiences.

Gingerline are one of the pioneers of London’s now flourishing alt-dining scene, and for the past 8 years have been serving punters a mix of flavours, food, interaction and some audience participation. And this time it was no different.

I can't give too much away other than the food was good, the cast fabulous, there was a quiz/learning aspect to the night, and a disco ball makes a guest appearance. The night was essentially an expanded version of one of the most successful rooms in a previous Chamber of Flavours adventure.

In fact, we had such a good time I forgot that I left my credit card behind the bar and we had to go back the following night to retrieve it. As I entered the room that second night I was welcomed with open arms like a conquering hero. Nice people Gingerline.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Doctor Who myth #44. Michael Grade is mistakenly hated by Doctor Who fans... Russell T Davies take him to task though Steven Moffat ->

Many fans place the blame for Doctor Who’s demise in the Eighties heavily on Michael Grade’s shoulders. It’s no secret that the man who was BBC One’s Controller from 1984 to 1986 wasn’t a fan of the show (he called it ‘rubbish’ and ‘pathetic’), and he did suspend the series in 1986 and dismiss Colin Baker (who he described as ‘absolutely God-awful’ in the role). However, it was actually Jonathan Powell who cancelled Doctor Who in 1989; by then Michael Grade was controller of Channel 4. When the series was successfully revived in 2005, Grade wrote a letter congratulating the BBC on the triumph, ending with, ‘PS never dreamed I would ever write this. Must be going soft!’.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Chicago / Dad's Red Letter Day / And All That Jazz @ChicagoOnStage @Phoenix_LDN​ @JfeenaB @AlanBRichardson @CubaGoodingJr Review ->

Last Saturday afternoon I treated my Dad and Mum (and Stuart and I) to a Red Letter Day out for Dad's belated birthday treat. We went to see the latest production of Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre in London's glitzy West End followed by dinner at Balthazar in Covent Garden.

The show was great. The Bob Fosse production was brilliantly executed by the muscled dancers and the band was sensational.

Stand out songs were:-
All That Jazz
Cell Block Tango
When You're Good To Momma
We Both Reached For The Gun
Mr. Cellophane
Razzle Dazzle

Cuba Gooding Jr. played Billy Flynn - he can act but the singing... not so much. Sarah Soetaert was a wow as Roxie Hart, Josefina Gabrielle great as Velma Kelly and Ruthie Henshall cooked up a storm belting out her Mama Morton. A special mention needs t go out to Alan Richardson who blew us away and to Paul Rider whose Mr Cellophane was great.

If you like Chicago this is a good version. We perhaps weren't quite as bowled over as when we first saw the big West End production 15 years ago but it is still a very good show. Funny too.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Quiz - a fun night but perhaps not a great one @QuizThePlay Noël Coward Theatre @mrJamesGraham... Review ->

Last night Stuart and I went to see James Graham's new play Quiz at the Noël Coward Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

The production has just transferred following a successful run at Chichester Festival Theatre and has attracted four and five star reviews in its new home. I'm not sure I'd go that far though. It is not in the same league as Graham's other recent successes: Ink, This House and Labour of Love – for which he just won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

The show is directed by artistic director Daniel Evans, Quiz has design by Robert Jones, with lighting by Tim Lutkin, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, video by Tim Reid and movement by Naomi Said.

Gavin Spokes plays Charles Ingram, also known as "the coughing Major" when he hit headlines for cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? He is joined by Stephanie Street as wife Diana Ingram and Keir Charles as host Chris Tarrant.

The Ingrams were convicted of "procuring the execution of a valuable security by deception" in 2003, two years after Charles won £1,000,000 on the programme.

My issue with the play is that it is perhaps too enslaved to (and in awe of) the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? format rather than to the affect it has on those around it. It harnesses the obsession with the TV show in the shape and setting of his play and yet then seems to use that very obsession to critique it. It criticises the selective presentation of the facts and then without irony does that same thing itself. Cake and eat it.

That said, there is much fun to be had with the pub quiz during the show, the guilty/not guilty audience voting, the nostalgia of revisiting old game show formats (complete with audience participation), and Keir Charles's turns as Des O'Connor in Take Your Pick!, Jim Bowen in Bullseye, Leslie Crowther in The Price is Right are a joy.

So, a fun night but perhaps not a great one.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

British Airways Avios are changing... @British_Airways

British Airways (BA) are closing down the Avios scheme and transferring it all over to their BA Executive Club scheme. It won't really affect Stu and me because we use the BA Executive Club scheme anyway.

What is more interesting however is that around the end of the year BA are hinting that they will be overhauling the whole points system entirely. Talk is that they will be expanding the BA Exec Club points scheme to have more Avios points seats available on every flight (they currently only have up to 4 economy and 2 business class ones), offer a sliding scale of how many points vs. how much money you want to pay for these seats, and give you the option to use points to upgrade your seat, pay for luggage excess, or indeed any number of other travel-related services. So basically you should be able to use Avios points like money.

Fingers crossed that means they will have *no limit* to how many Avios seats they offer on any BA flight!

It makes sense.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Recording for the radio and filming for the telly with these lovely idiots! @JoeyWh1te @LBArsenalWFan @gaygooners

Recording for the radio and filming for the telly is always fun. Especially with these idiots!

It was a long day with Joe, Lea, and Ryan on Sunday but good fun.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Way of the World - absolutely gorgeous production of #TheWayoftheWorld @DonmarWarehouse @JustineMitchel2 and Geoffrey Streatfield are marvellous...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see ridiculously complicated restoration comedy The Way of the World at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

Restoration comedies are opening like dandelions in the West End at the moment - this is the third in a week. They are like sprouting dandelions, with the emphasis on the dandy. For these shows are packed with men who like a bit of stocking, not to mention a tightly fitted brocade coat. Each dandy wanders through the muck and mire of love, catching one madly wordy and witty play after another. They are all obsessed with status and money, marriage and love. But especially status.

Last week the RSC launched The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, written in 1700 by Mary Pix. Then it was The Country Wife (1675) at the Southwark Playhouse. And now we have The Way of the World, written in 1700, the final play by William Congreve.

So, yes, we're partying like it’s 1699.

Luckily for us, James Macdonald's stylish account of Congreve's script is terrifically funny.

At the heart of its giddying plot are two lovers, Mirabell and Millamant, who tentatively sketch out a contract for a more equal form of marriage as they inch towards one another through a maze of obstacles. There’s a wonderful sense of relief, here, when Geoffrey Streatfeild’s shrewd, articulate Mirabell and Justine Mitchell’s mischievous, intelligent Millamant finally drop the artifice and risk honesty.

Around the two lovers circle a top notch cast sporting masses of intrigue, buckets of witty bon mots, extravagant frocks and even more extravagant frock coats.

Outstanding amongst these circling players is Haydn Gwynne's Lady Wishfort. She is absolutely hilarious in the role of this wealthy, vain and silly woman who strives to act younger than she actually is. Hectically trying out various becoming postures in which to be discovered by a (phoney) admirer, she falls right off her chaise longue. "Nothing is more alluring than a levee from a couch in some confusion," she insists undeterred. There's the odd twinge of pathos, too, as when she examines her cracked face in a mirror. "I look like an old peeled wall" she concludes.

Other stand outs in this glittering comedy are Fisayo Akinade’s wonderfully ridiculous fop, Witwoud, and Alex Beckett as a servant masquerading as a dashing lord. But there is also real cruelty in Jenny Jules’s bitter, brittle Mrs Marwood and Tom Mison’s smoothly vicious Fainall, who you suspect is capable of genuine malice towards his wife.

If you like your comedy fully "restored" - this is the show for you.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Arsenal 3-2 Southampton ..

After a convincing win against Stoke at home last week (3-0) and an impressive win against CSKA Moscow (4-1) last Thursday what could possibly go wrong as the mighty Arsenal took on lowly Southampton yesterday afternoon? Well, lots as it turned out.

It was a game of great saves and awful defending, of fine attacking play and gripping twists in the narrative, and there was a redemptive ending for the enduring frustration that is Danny Welbeck. He scored twice but missed a sitter. The drama was relentless and for neutrals there was the bonus of seeing the contest descend into chaos after Jack Wilshere’s clash with Jack Stephens in added time. Stephens was sent off Wilshere wasn't. But then  Elneny got involved and sent off too. Oh the drama. Great fun.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 28
Danny Welbeck 38
Danny Welbeck 81

Shane Long 17
Charlie Austin 73

Friday, April 06, 2018

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical. @adriennelwarren is sensational. The tag line should really read: Hit after hit after hit. (Thanks to Ike.) @TinaTheMusical #myTINA #simplythebest ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Tina - The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

This highly anticipated musical is on the face it, let's be frank, simply a jukebox musical but that said, it was a very, very good one. It tells a story of tenacity, survival and ultimately celebrates a formidable woman of mind-blowing strength with incomparable talent.

It’s certainly not a Disney show though. It is frequently shocking, oft times breath-taking and somewhat heart-breaking. There is pretty strong language and some graphic bloody scenes of domestic violence too. But then it is based on Tina Turner’s remarkable life.

We were even asked afterwards whether we thought the show would be suitable for 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 or 18 year olds.

That said, there is also a lot of humour - especially the scenes with Heaven 17.

Adrienne Warren makes her West End debut in this production raising the roof and embodying Tina perfectly. She’s a star who gives 100% throughout the entire performance. She drives the show, she is the show. What a voice, what a talent, what charisma, what sexiness, what legs – the epitome of Tina.

Actually, the entire cast were pure class with highlights including Ryan O’Donnell as Roger, Gerrard McCarthy as the charming love interest Irwin, Francesca Jackson as Tina’s confident Rhonda, and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who plays wife-beating villain Ike.

The show includes such hits as:
The Best
What's Love Got To Do With It?
I Can't Stand The Rain
Disco Inferno
Private Dancer
Nutbush City Limits
Let's Stay Together
Better Be Good to Me
We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)
I Don't Wanna Fight
Open Arms
River Deep – Mountain High
Proud Mary

By the end, the entire audience were on their feet. Need I say more?

Recommended. Hit after hit after hit...

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Long Day's Journey Into Night - a gripping but grim family portrait - @DMTWestEnd...

Last night Paul and I went to watch the Richard Eyre directed production of Long Day's Journey Into Night at the Wyndham's Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Eugene O’Neill did not intend his semi-autobiographical, sprawling masterpiece, to be performed until 25 years after his death (a wish overruled by his widow). This fact perfectly captures the sense one has throughout of transgression, breached secrets, the burden of family. The play is, at three-and-a-half hours long, a marathon to watch, a pessimistic consideration of the potentially tragic human predicament that people remain, inescapably, themselves. The audience’s sense of being trapped in the auditorium mirrors what the characters feel on stage.

The play is set in a seaside town in Connecticut in 1912 and stars Jeremy Irons as James Tyrone, thespian father of the family. He is a loud, harrumphing, miserly, moustachioed presence who treads the boards in his own house, offering bursts of Shakespeare in hammily declamatory style. But he also brings cadaverous suffering to the role – this is a man who has been through more than 35 years of marriage as a soldier might a war. Irons is splendidly at home in the part.

The night belongs to Lesley Manville however. In an award winning performance, she plays the emotionally itinerant mother, Mary Tyrone. Her performance is a tour de force. Mary is a hysteric for whom unhappy laughter is oxygen. Laughter buoys her up, drags her down, reveals and conceals her. She is full of breathlessly agitated, liverish talk. She is lonely in company. She is addicted to morphine because to be awake is torment. Her desperate, compulsive talking continues even when no one is listening. At one point, she is reduced to confiding in Cathleen, the Irish maid, played by Jessica Regan with comic aplomb. Mary talks in order not to hear news she already, on some level, knows – that her son Edmund has consumption. The play will not leave this idea alone: "We know what we are trying to forget."

The Tyrone have two sons. As Eugene O’Neill proxy Edmund Tyrone, Matthew Beard is fastidious perfection: a languid mummy’s boy and poet. Refinement of mind, sulks and sickness are precisely conveyed. By the end of the night, he is barefoot and in black, as though rehearsing to be his own undertaker. Rory Keenan as Eugene O’Neill's brother proxy James Tyrone Jnr is also tremendous: a drunk with heart. He looks dishevelled with the floppy braces of a layabout and hectors his family as the sweet scent of his pipe tobacco wafts into the stalls.

It is a play depicting a grim family portrait. A play about what it is to feel homeless at home.

But it is a play worth seeing. Even at three-and-a-half hours.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

#StrictlyBallroom The Musical @TeamPiccadilly good - what we saw! Cancelled show burst waterpipe! Rebooked but struggling with @ATGTICKETS for refund sadly. @jonnylabey, @ZiziStrallen and @willyoung great. Lovely direction / choreography @DrewMcOnie @strictlystage

Last Thursday night my sister Joanna, niece Charlotte, Stuart and I went to see Strictly Ballroom the Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

I was Joanna's birthday and so it was a special treat.

I'd like to give you a full review of the show but sadly I can't - due to a burst water pipe the show was cancelled just before the interval.

What we did see was good if not great. It was about 80% as good as the film - the script being almost word for word the same and the Australian accents and humour largely intact.

Will Young plays a new character "Narrator" which I feel was a little bit of a misstep though. He wandered amongst the action grimacing and reacting to the plot which was a little off-putting. We don’t need signposts as to what is funny. But that aside, it was good.

He sang beautifully though - with Time After Time being a stand out moment. The dancing was great too and the humour was all there. It perhaps just needed to be a bit better rehearsed. Something that will come as the previews progress.

We've rebooked for early May. It should give them a chance to fix some of the issues.

I just need to try and convince ATG they owe me a refund as per their Ts and Cs!

But do remind me to never go for the opening night again!

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Kim Wilde tour get blend just right - Kim engaging, voice like velvet, Ricky & boys rock place like last night on earth. Scarlett a sensation. @kimwilde @Wildericky @scarlettwilde #herecomethealiens @lawrencehmusic Codicote’s finest!

Last Saturday night my sister Joanna, brother Simon, Stuart and I went to see the beautiful Kim Wilde perform at Cliffs Pavilion in glitzy Southend.

Ostensibly to promote her new album Here Come the Aliens (which is great by the way) the set also included all the of Kim's great hits like Kids in America, Water on Glass, Cambodia, Chequered Love, You Came, View From a Bridge, You Keep Me Hangin' On, Never Trust a Stranger and the rest.

It was fantastic gig - epic, joyous, and uplifting. My feet were aching from dancing, my voice weak from singing, and heart swollen in pride. Codicote’s finest! They get the blend just right - Kim is engaging, warm, with a voice like velvet, Ricky and the boys rock the place like it was their last night on earth. And Kim's niece Scarlett was a sensation - great vocals and a songwriter too.

Claim to fame klaxon! Many years ago Kim Smith (aka Kim Wilde) came to my 5th birthday party! We are the same age and Mr & Mrs Smith (aka Marty Wilde and his wife) and my folks were friends back then.

Towards the end of the set I closed my eyes and imagined "You Came" was sung just for me. Well, a boy can dream.

Lawrence Hill was the support act and he was great. Second claim to fame klaxon! Lawrence went to school with my nephew William.

On the last train on the way back into London I was so pumped up I started dancing to "You Came" in the carriage. Stuart was rolling his eyes so far back into his head we thought we might need to call A&E.


Set List:
Stereo Shot
Water on Glass
Never Trust a Stranger
Kandy Krush
Yours 'til the End
Another Step (Closer to You)
Words Fell Down
Four Letter Word
If I Can't Have You
View From a Bridge
Chequered Love
You Came
You Keep Me Hangin' On

Pop Don't Stop
Kids in America