Quote Of The Day

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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Importance of Being Earnest @VaudevilleTh ...

Last Thursday Stuart and I went to see Oscar Wilde's much-loved masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Widely considered one of the funniest plays in English, this beloved play is packed full of one-liners. The action throws love, logic and language into the air to make one of theatre’s most dazzling firework displays.

It is hard to go wrong with such good material but many have fallen foul as they try to 'reinterpret' or 'reimagine'. Not so here, each scene is played with a straight bat.  Moreover, this was a very good production.

This is the final instalment of Classic Spring’s deliciously charming Oscar Wilde Season - and a very good run it has been.

Some of the better quotes from the play:-

"The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public."

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his."

"The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to some one else, if she is plain."

"Australia! I’d sooner die."

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."

"Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die."

"It is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth."

"When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring."

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!"

"Ah! that must be Aunt Augusta. Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner."

"Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

"Lady Bracknell: To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution."

Monday, July 30, 2018

Rodin @britishmuseum #RodinExhibition...

Yesterday was Paul's birthday and he treated Stuart and me to a trip to see the Rodin exhibition at the British Museum just off London's glitzy Russell Square.

Rodin made some of the best-loved sculptures in the world - and with it being the last day of the show - the place was packed!

In 1881, having studied the treasures of the Parthenon from literature and fragments, Rodin visited the British Museum for the first time. He was at the height of his powers, had just been commissioned to create the monumental Gates of Hell, and what he saw had a lasting and profound effect on him. He returned repeatedly and would freely concede how much these extraordinarily sculptures and reliefs from 400BC influenced his own work. "... the sculptures of Ancient Greece ... remain my masters."

With much on loan from the Musée Rodin in Paris there were certainly some of his big hitters on display - starting with The Kiss - perhaps his most famous work?

The show was wondrously fluid and instinctive. Rodin did not recreate copies of the figures that inspired him but inspire him they manifestly, and gloriously, did. Grouped by subject matter 'Rodin's Parthenon', 'Fragments' and then thematically 'Emotion', 'Motion', these extraordinary creations of stone made flesh seem to spark off each other. From The Thinker to a plaster cast of Rodin's tortured left hand, an ancient horse head to a grimacing Centaur, a stunningly lovely Icarus' sister, an exquisite Greek foot, this is a show about life in physical form.

It is not big exhibition, one long single room with natural light at one end glancing off the bronze of the tortured agony of the Burghers of Calais, but it is breathtaking.

Sculpture is that most accessible of art forms and, if yesterday was any guide, was patently being enjoyed by young and old alike.

After the exhibition Simon joined us and we had some lunch at Bocca Di Lupo followed by a swifty at the Kings Arms.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Pet Shop Boys Inner Sanctum show @RoyalOperaHouse "splattered its spunky love-light across the smiling faces ... like some multi-coloured glowing rainbow-luminous bukaki" @PetShopBoys

Last night Stuart and I (and the world and his husband) went to the Royal Opera House in London's glitzy Covent Garden to see The Pet Shop Boys tear the old place a new one.

Wow! What a show! People were on their feet from the opening note and stayed dancing for the next hour and three quarters.

We had seen pretty much the same show almost exactly two years ago to the day at the House - although since then the set list has been improived - tweaking it slightly - losing a couple of the more recent singles and inserting an extra classic or two.

Expectations were pretty high as we took our seats, but boy did the Boys deliver again. It was if a giant herd of rainbow flag-draped disco dancing musical unicorns pranced onto the stage of the Royal Opera House and rubbing their silver sparkling horns together spunked out torrents of shiny disco balls of pure pop loveliness that then exploded into the ears of the delighted crowd.

The background visuals were so stunning and the laser light show so joyously bright that when it splattered its spunky love-light across the smiling faces of each and everyone in the auditorium it was like some multi-coloured glowing rainbow luminous bukaki.

As you might gather - I liked the show.

The Boys were simply in magnificent form - interacting with the crowd between the songs (well, Neil anyway) - in fine voice (well, Neil anyway) - dancing around the stage (well, Neil anyway) - and wearing stupid hats (OK, they BOTH did that!) It was everything you expected from a Pet Shop Boys show and more.

It was like their Imperial phase was back all over again. They owned the place!

And after all this time they know how to put a show together - they work with the best. The set design, the background visuals, the sound design were all amazeballs and hung together magnificently. The show had a real feel of being integrated. Something you don't always see in a gig. But here it all had a single vision and it all came together perfectly. And this vision was DISCO.

The Boys managed to pull off that difficult trick of getting the set list right too. With such a large back catalogue to choose from and with new work to promote you're never going to please everyone. But they seemed to give the occasional fan plenty of hits, promote their two most recent two albums quite well and keep the hard-core Pethead on-board too.

And you don't always know what is going to work live. Even on paper you think something might work better than it did on the night. For example one of my personal favourite songs from thir latest album Super is The Dictator Decides. But this didn't really work live - the vocal got rather lost - whereas The Sodom and Gomorrah Show (an album track from ten years ago) went down as an epic sing-a-long storm.

For the last few songs of the night the boys were joined on stage by dancers wearing brightly-coloured inflatable fat suits. Very funny and the dancing looked great.

Let's hope that when the third of the triplet of Stuart Price produced albums appears in the next couple of years the Boys promote it in a similar way with a really big arena show. Because this was a super Super show and we deserve an encore on an even bigger stage.

We love the Pet Shop Boys.

High point: Vocal
Higher point: Burn
Higher point still: The Sodom and Gomorrah Show
Highest point: New version of Left to My Own Devices

Set List:-
Inner Sanctum
Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)
The Pop Kids
In the Night
Love Is a Bourgeois Construct
New York City Boy
Se A Vida É (That's The Way Life Is)
Love Etc.
The Dictator Decides
Inside a Dream
West End Girls
Home and Dry
The Enigma
The Sodom and Gomorrah Show
It's a Sin
Left to My Own Devices (New version)
Go West (New version) (Village People cover)

Domino Dancing
Always on My Mind (Brenda Lee cover)
The Pop Kids (Reprise)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Big Gay Picnic 2018 in The Regent's Park ...

Timmy organised his annual big gay picnic in The Garden of St John's Lodge in The Regent's Park last Sunday.

Not quite so many people as in previous years but great fun all the same. We retired to the pub afterwards.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Man Alive: Consenting Adults 1: The Men...

Below is a link to a very moving, quite revealing, occasionally heartbreaking (and often funny) BBC documentary from 1967. Jeremy Vines interviews homosexuals (the term 'gay' hadn't been coined then). The main themes seems to be sex, companionship and looking for love. Universal themes in life I think.


"In the first part of a special Man Alive report, Jeremy James interviews homosexuals about their feelings and the opinions of society towards them. The contributors include a hairdresser, a doctor and a woman whose husband committed suicide rather than face a court case that would have revealed his sexuality. The language used in the programme is often blunt and reflects the attitudes of the time. (1967)"

Some great quotes though:

"Most homosexuals dread getting old."

"You either hang around toilets or you go to London!"

This first documentary is just about men. The sister show afterwards is about women "Man Alive: Consenting Adults 2: The Women." One of the women (Stevie) in the second part seems to be more trans than lesbian, the lesbian couple are lovely, and the married lesbian at the end does seem genuinely torn between her family and her girlfriend.

Both shows are well worth a watch.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Imperium II: Dictator... I Claudius meets Yes Minster meets The West Wing meets House of Cards meets Carry on Cleo. Yes, that good. @DMTWestEnd #RSCImperium @TheRSC

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see the second, and final, part of the lengthy adaptation of Richard Harris's three epic Cicero biographies Imperium II: Dictator at the Gielgud Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

This part was shorter than the first, but at just over three hours, still long. Very long. But we loved it - probably even more than part I.

There was thicker politicking, deeper philosophising, higher intrigue, looser morals, more fourth-wall breaking, albeit fewer decapitations, precious few heaving bosoms, and no six-packs.

In summary: with Caesar out of the way Cicero, rather like many an aging politician, tried to outwit the new order - the political upstarts. But in their own ways both the headstrong Mark Antony and wily, young Octavian out-foxed our hero with their own mixtures of flattery, guile and sheer brute force.

Again the whole cast were again excellent and we hung on their every word.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Imperium I: Conspirator... I Claudius meets Yes Minster meets The West Wing meets House of Cards meets Carry on Cleo. Yes, that good. @DMTWestEnd #RSCImperium @TheRSC

Last night Stuart and I went to see the first part of a lengthy adaptation of Richard Harris's three epic Cicero biographies Imperium I: Conspirator at the Gielgud Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

At three and half hours it was long. Very long. But very good. Rather like I, Claudius meets Yes, Minster meets The West Wing meets House of Cards meets Carry on Cleo. Yes, that good.

Politicking, philosophising, high intrigue, loose morals, much fourth-wall breaking, the odd decapitation, the odd heaving bosom, and the odd six-pack. Something for everyone really.

The cast we excellent and kept the action flowing pretty well. Parallels with the current politicians were sign-posted too.

Tonight we are seeing the second half. Another three and half hours. Let's hope we get to hear those immortal words... infamy, infamy, they're all got it in for me!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Allelujah! Alan Bennett's laugh out loud funny new play @_bridgetheatre Full review ->

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see a preview of Alan Bennett's new play Allelujah! at the Bridge Theatre in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

Short review: Alan Bennet has done it again. Another laugh out loud funny play in which he once again trains a sharp eye to delineate Englishness.

Longer review: In Bennett's first new play in nearly six years he paints an affectionate portrayal of the National Health Service despite its depiction of a hospital in crisis. The play is packed with well-crafted jokes, often involving Yorkshire towns, but has a central theme that affects the whole of the UK. Behind the laughter is a strong point to be made about universal health care. Keep your stinking hands off our NHS!

Although when I say "affectionate" perhaps Bennett, who reunites with long-time collaborator Nicholas Hytner, puts it slightly better: "It’s very affectionate about the National Health Service but it’s very unaffectionate about the people who are trying to privatise it or remedy it in the wrong way."

The setting is the geriatric ward of a Yorkshire hospital, the Bethlehem, that is threatened with closure. It is not, however, going down without a fight. Salter, the self-important chair of its trust, has waged a sponsored campaign to keep it alive and has a TV crew on hand to record its vitality. The patients are a cheery lot with their own choir - classic songs, arranged by George Fenton, are sung with gusto often accompanied to simple, joyful choreography from Arlene Phillips.

The hospital's attempt to survive is tied up with publicity gimmicks and the renaming of wards after celebrity stars - "can you squeeze her into Joan Collins this afternoon?" "Grab a mop, we've a clean-up to do in Fatima Whitbread."

But the arrival of Colin, a management consultant attached to the health ministry, suggests that the days of this kind of cradle-to-grave hospital are numbered. Even Sister Gilchrist has her own peculiar methods to ensure maximum cleanliness with her determination to ensure the ward has a rapid turnover.

Around this plotting circles an immigrant doctor, depending on a student visa, who is threatened with deportation and rebuked for his hands-on care.

At its most effective the play hones in on the moments of care and kindness that still manage to exist, even within a target-driven, throttled hospital system.

In a 25-strong cast there are some fine performances. Deborah Findlay as the criminally efficient Sister, Peter Forbes as the self-aggrandising Salter, Samuel Barnett as the post-Thatcherite Colin and Sacha Dhawan as the precarious immigrant all impress. Among the patients Julia Foster as an ex-librarian, Jeff Rawle as the old miner and Simon Williams as the scholarly teacher stand out.

Even if individual characterisations could perhaps do with being fleshed out a little more, overall there's something inspiringly defiant about placing centre-stage those who lurch on Zimmers, loll in wheel-chairs – too often banished from society's view.

Bennett's craft as a writer, the way he slides effortlessly from the comic group scene to the single, telling moment is always apparent. Two stunning scenes could only have been written by him. In the first, Lucille and Mavis (lovely Patricia England) reminisce about the joys and disappointments of marriage, ending with the dying fall of "still it was better than this." In the second, Joe tries to talk on the telephone to his son, who is in a box at the opera with the Health Secretary. "Does he like opera? <pause> Well, why does he go then? <pause> Pharmaceuticals? <pause> Do *they* like opera?"

If you like Alan Bennet, you'll love this.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

King Lear @IanMcKellen marvels @dukeofyorksLDN Luke Thompson's Edgar crackles. @jamescorriganjc sexy, dark-breaded Edmund nails it. @MunbyJ #KingLearWestEnd Full review->

Last Thursday night Stuart and I went to see Jonathan Munby’s remarkable and triumphant Chichester Festival Theatre production of King Lear at the Duke of York's Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Starring Ian McKellen in one of Shakespeare’s greatest roles his daft old King Lear was a marvel. Simply outstanding. In fact, this was a production that seemed to sing – from hitting the high notes of the merry royal court to whistling an evil tune behind the throne.
The pseudo-modern dress was certainly no distraction, the thrust staging worked a treat, and the lighting, the sound and the copious Kensington gore married the violent action perfectly.

All three of Lear's daughters were brilliantly realised. I've rarely seen Goneril (Claire Price) and Regan (Kirsty Bushell) played so well – all scheming, bitchy, pouty and self-obsessed these women weren’t going to let anything get in their way.

Luke Thompson's Edgar was a sensation too. Almost naked for much of the production the intensity with which he crackled on stage was electric. It was an earnest, occasionally homoerotic, and physical performance that was as akin to mime as it was to the Bard's great words. Action happily married to poetry. A true feat.

For me though, the night went to James Corrigan who's dark-breaded Edmund was simply astonishing. Beguiling, evil, sexy, and funny we were entranced from the get-go. Played as richly as Ralph Fiennes's recent villainous Richard III we were rooting for him from the start in spite (and perhaps despite) of his nefarious intent. A wicked role played quite, quite wickedly. No one writes a villain quite like Shakespeare and Thompson nailed it.

Taken as a whole this was a far superior production to either Sam Mendes' recent rather strained production at the National starring Simon Russell Beale or the over-lauded Glenda Jackson performance at the Old Vic a couple of years back. No, this production gets it just right. And if this indeed is going to be McKellen's last great Shakespearean stage role then it is a must-see performance for any fan of this galactic actor and the stars that orbit him.

Run for a ticket.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Róisín Murphy @SomersetHouse #SummerSeriesGigs @roisinmurphy...

Last Sunday night Stuart and I (and the world and his husband) went to see Ms "Sing It Back" herself - Róisín Murphy at Somerset House in London's glitzy West End.

Midway through the video that accompanies her recent track "Plaything," the A-side of Róisín Murphy's latest EP, an interior drama plays out on a dance floor. As she's led by a friend to take a breather, she sings, "I know I mean nothing to you." She's flagging, and seemingly despondent. (At this point, you can only hear claps and soft, curling synth tones.) Once the kicks and keys return — the song is produced by Maurice Fulton, and that trademark disco funk is unmistakably his — Murphy psyches herself up to go again. "Just taking me / with a pinch of salt," she sings, visibly re-energised, "Breaking me / Don't give a thought! / Shaking me / To the very core / Play with me / Till you get bored." The track's garage shuffle kicks back in, and suddenly she's back on the dance floor, doing high leg kicks.

The clip, which Murphy directed, tells a familiar story of a dip on a night out, but it possibly nods to a broader theme. In an interview a few years ago, the Irish artist recalled the barriers she faced under a more intense spotlight, when she'd made her 2007 album, Overpowered, on EMI. "[The title track] was given to [BBC] Radio 1 way up front, and we were told that the guy who runs Radio 1's wife just loves this record," she said. "It was like, 'We've been on holiday with it and we love this record, we've been listening to it and listening to it and listening to it... we're not going to play it though.'" That frustration surfaced again a few days ago in a string of tweets. "I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall," she wrote in one. "I make good and surprising records... But I get indifference in the industry."

And so it was last night. The set was indeed “good and surprising”. But there was a slight whiff of indifference in the air.

Sure, the courtyard of Somerset House was packed with a dedicated crowd jumping up and down to most of the wonderfully (mainly strange and hypnotic) music that Róisín Murphy produced and yet... and yet... it was all just too tantalisingly uncompromising. Just when you heard part of a song and think, "oh I love this bit - the song should do more of that and go this way more..." it didn’t. Just when you love that disco funk riff in say "Ten Miles High" you get a sudden ending or comparative swerve in a dud like "Demon Lover" or "Exploitation". The melodic highs are amazing - enough to make you want to dance like a crazy animal - but the lows are just a bit drab. As I say of my beloved Arsenal, "it’s the inconsistency that kills." That said, "Plaything" was indeed genius as was the aforementioned "Ten Miles High".

We love Róisín Murphy. We really do. But like so many artists (Marc Almond comes to mind) on some nights - on some hot Sunday nights - you just want to hear the hits... played properly... and sing. Sing it back.

The set-list was:

Demon Lover
You Know Me Better
Ten Miles High
All My Dreams
Gone Fishing
House of Glass
Forever More (Moloko song)
Sing It Back (Moloko song)

(no encore because the curfew at 10:30pm sharp)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Chipstead Fair...

Last Saturday Stuart and I went over to spend the day with Judith, Gavin, Clodagh, Colin and the kids in lovely Coulsden.

In the afternoon we all drove to the annual Chipstead Fair. It was nice fair actually - stalls with homemade jams, a huge tent to house the best rhubarb and biggest marrow competitions, a bouncy slide for the kids, a local choir singing songs from the shows, a brass band playing ABBA, stalls selling various home crafts, a local falconer with some sleepy looking owls, a rather sad looking candle stall, the local school gymnastics, that sort of thing. It had just the right mix of cheese and good nature. Mind you, the cheese stall itself was darned impressive!

In the evening the guys laid on a fantastic barbecue for us and we drank the night away together swapping stories, laughing and being entertained by the kids.

Great fun.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Way to piss off Londoners trying to sleep Trump!...

Yesterday afternoon Trump flew over our office in his helicopter and landed up the road in the Regent’s Park.

Then last night a thumping great noisy low-flying military helicopter circled overhead keeping the skies over London clear for Trump’s chopper trip back into town from dinner at Blenheim Palace. Way to piss off Londoners trying to sleep Trump!

And then again early this morning military helicopter thundered over head again.

Be glad when he's gone.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Boris Johnson - “Blackadder in a blonde wig”...

Max Hastings, former boss of Boris Johnson, writes that it is a “common mistake to suppose Johnson a nice man”. 
Be afraid, be very afraid.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pride in London 2018 - how the day unfolded for @GayGooners with @Gunnersaurus @PrideInLondon -> more pictures here ->

We all had a great time at Pride in London last Saturday. After the launch party on Thursday night I wasn't quite sure how the big day could live up to all the hype. It had been 8 months of planning... but it not only met, it exceeded all my expectations. It was fabulous.

To kick the day off the thirty or so ballot-winning Gay Gooners met up at the Met Bar near Baker Street station as arranged. There we were joined by the seventy or so Octopus Group marchers and Octopus Group's Ariana who arrived soon afterwards with all of her co-worker Nick's carefully prepared Octopus merchandise stuffed tote bags in cardboard boxes. Gunnersaurus then pitched up with his handler Ross and he posed for loads of photos with we Gay Gooners and rainbow flags. It was so good to have him there.

The tote bags then got further stuffed with our freshly printed Gay Gooners stickers, last year's Arsenal scarves and flags by Angus, Val, Vash, Lukas, and Francis and distributed to all the Gay Gooner marchers.

Shortly after noon we all headed off en masse to Portland Place to take up our positions in the Parade in the beating summer sunshine. To our delight Gunnersaurus offered to come with us to wave us off too! He must have been hot but he insisted on coming. What a guy!

There was a small mix up in our Parade position (last minute change by Pride!) and then a long wait while some anti-Trans demonstration was dealt with.

Finally, we got moving at 2-30pm - although about half of our number had already gone to watch the England game leaving about 10 of the Gay Gooners to carry our new white walking banner and big red banner. Our music got somewhat drowned out by Facebook's music lorry but that said, we danced, we sang, we whooped, we gave out all our stuff - and had an utter blast. By 4-30pm it was all over.

We then headed - some by tube and some on foot - to Octopus Energy's offices in Soho for their beautifully hosted after-party. Octopus did us proud - dancing, drinking, food and lots and lots of good cheer. Things finished shortly after 10pm and we all went home very happy. A great success I think.

And yesterday we had a piece in the Islington Gazette about Gay Gooners at Pride too. Amazing!


Monday, July 09, 2018

The Incredibles 2...

Yesterday Dean, Alessandro, Darce and I went to the UK Premiere of The Incredibles 2 at the BFI on London's glitzy South Bank.

Full-on red carpet event, TV crews, DJ, PA, celebrities, Samuel L Jackson, Holly Hunter, The Incredibles-themed video games, cocktails, sculptured balloons, puzzles, and all sorts of crazy cartoon super-hero nonsense. We were like big kids.

The film was great. Maybe not quite as good as the first one - fourteen years ago! - in my humble opinion but that was a very high water mark indeed.

Go see!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Madama Butterfly @ Glyndebourne...

Last Sunday Myrtle, Dad, Jo and I took a trip down to see the opera Madama Butterfly at Glyndebourne near East Sussex's glitzy Lewes.

We drove down to Glyndebourne early, stopping on the way at Nick and Sally's for a cup of coffee. There we got dressed up the nines and proceeded on to the venue proper to stake our claim in the grounds on a patch of grass in the shade. We set up our table and chairs and then got a bit tiddly on champagne and swished about like we owned the place - pretending we knew how the other half live. Great fun.

Madama Butterfly has great too. After the first half there was a long interval when we returned to our table and chairs and had a sumptuous picnic prepared by Jo and Myrtle. With more wine.

The second half was slightly longer than the first and and wth the applause still ringing in our ears we legged it for the exit so I could make the 9:21 Lewes train back to London.

Grand venue, grand performance, grand day out.