Quote Of The Day

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

Torch Song @ Turbine Theatre...

Last Saturday Stuart and went to see Torch Song at the newly opened Turbine Theatre on the banks of the Thames next to London's glitzy and iconic Battersea Power Station.

Based upon Harvey Fierstein's very funny and deeply moving Torch Song Trilogy the play was directed by Olivier Award-winning Drew McOnie.

In the play we meet Arnold - a drag queen played beautifully by Matthew Needham - and join him on his quest for true love in 1970s Manhattan. It is hilarious and heart-breaking as Arnold discovers love, suffers loss, and expresses his sexual identity. He is also in open conflict with himself - with his deep longing for family approval.

Needham gets able support from Bernice Stegers, who is a joy, as his judgemental "Ma" and also from Dino Fetscher as his handsome and well-toned bisexual lover Ed.

A lovely production.

It was lovely to bump into Mark, Stephen and Trevor who had watched the matinee performance - so we shared a drink before our evening show started in one of the newly opened bars near the theatre.

Friday, September 27, 2019

William Blake @ Tate Britain...

Last week Stuart and I went to see the William Blake exhibition currently running at the Tate Britain in London's glitzy Pimlico.

There are few artists as recognisable as William Blake. His originality, his spirituality, and his poetry influence artists to this day. His innovative work provokes diverse interpretations too.

The exhibition is organised chronologically and takes us through the ups and downs of Blake's creative and professional life. We see many of his commercial engravings, original prints, unique illuminated books, and wondrous paintings.

The man certain was a talent.

We loved it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Emma and Stuart's 30th year friend anniversary

Last Saturday Stuart and I went to see Emma, Carolina and Ignacio to celebrate Emma and Stuart's 30th year friend anniversary. We laughed, we played with Ignacio, we swapped stories and we laughed some more.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Doctor @ Almeida Theatre...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see The Doctor at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

Based up on Arthur Schnitzer's Professor Bernhardi it has been freely adapted and directed here by Robert Icke.

The play stars Juliet Stevenson as a rather pompous doctor working in an institute who denies a Catholic priest access to a dying patient to conduct last rites.

The play then centres around three things - the rights and wrongs of that decision, the power politics at the institution, and the general conflict between medicine and religion as played out in the court of public opinion - especially on social media.

The play also toys with we, the audience's, own biases and expectations. There are dramatic twists aplenty - not least in the colour-blind casting and gender-blind casting.

The whole cast are excellent - the tension throughout is palpable - although the fight between religion and medicine perhaps seems a little stale these days in the UK. That said, it probably speaks volumes to the pro-choice/pro-life conflict that continues on the other side of the Atlantic.

West End transfer ahoy!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Faith, Hope and Charity @ Dorfman Theatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see new play Faith, Hope and Charity at the Dorfman Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Set in a run-down community hall on the edge of town, a woman has been cooking lunch for those in need. A choir is starting up, run by a volunteer who’s looking for a new beginning. A mother is seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. An older man sits silently in the corner, the first to arrive, the last to leave. Outside the rain is falling. And the hall has a leaky roof.

Alexander Zeldin’s writing and production are fantastic - naturalistic, unhurried, and all the more powerful for it. State of the Nation plays often have big, power political leaders declaiming their grand pearls of wisdom. Not so here. Here we see the results of austerity; the results of poverty; and the compassion of the needy.

The play also lives up to its title in different ways. The charity – though she would never use the word – is supplied by Hazel (played note-perfect by Cecillia Noble), who voluntarily cooks hot meals for the hungry. The hope largely stems from Mason (the fantastic Nick Holder), a cheery ex-con who creates a choir from the mixed group of lonely and poor people who turn up to eat Hazel’s pasta. Faith is the daughter of one of the regulars, Beth (played by the squirmingly unstable Susan Lynch), who is fighting court battles to prevent her child being taken into care.

Following earlier plays Beyond Caring and LOVE, Alexander Zeldin’s new play is another uncompromising theatrical experience that goes to the heart of our uncertain times. It is a beautifully gauged production. The cast is exemplary. The Dorfman becomes the community centre, engulfing us, swallowing us and startling us.

The piece shines a light on the resilience and humour of those struggling to survive and is an urgent account of the austerity age. An utterly necessary and deeply compassionate play with superb performances.

We loved it.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Robert Mugabe backwards is what a Yorkshireman says when he finally finds a shop selling extra strong mints.

As Robert Mugabe died recently it reminded me of my favourite RM joke....

Robert Mugabe backwards is what a Yorkshireman says when he finally finds a shop selling extra strong mints.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me - Great watch. Powerful stuff. Brave man.

Gareth Thomas: HIV and Me - Great watch. Powerful stuff. Brave man.


Rugby legend Gareth Thomas lifts the lid on living with HIV. In an emotional and hard-hitting documentary he finally goes public about his condition and reveals how hiding the truth about his health left him feeling depressed and contemplating taking his own life.

Now he is on a journey to change perceptions about HIV by raising awareness, fighting prejudice and taking on the biggest physical challenge of his career - running the world’s toughest Iron Man.

With the help of family, friends, medical experts and others with HIV, he sets about tackling the stigmas, myths and misunderstandings surrounding the condition. Modern medicine may have made the virus treatable and non-transmittable, but old ideas about HIV still persist and Gareth is on a mission to smash the stereotypes and show that 'he has HIV and it’s OK'.

Monday, September 16, 2019

A Very Expensive Poison @ Old Vic

Last Saturday night Joe and I went to see A Very Expensive Poison at the Old Vic Theatre in London’s glitzy Waterloo.

The story is one of a shocking assassination in the heart of London. In a bizarre mix of high-stakes global politics and radioactive villainy, a man paid with his life.

At this time of global crises and a looming new Cold War, A Very Expensive Poison sends us careering through the shadowy world of international espionage from Moscow to Mayfair.

John Crowley (Brooklyn, The Goldfinch) directs Lucy Prebble’s (The Effect, ENRON) reimagining of Luke Harding’s jaw-dropping exposé of the events behind the notorious death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Music, song, and humour all play their part. But these lighter elements simply serve to highlight the stark fact that a British citizen was murdered on British soil by state sponsored actors using radioactive poison.

Initially played as a pantomime villain, Putin sits with us in the auditorium. But as Act II takes its grip so does he. Putin's menace becomes clear for all to see.

The play ends with a heartfelt plea to the audience using Litvinenko own words.

Great night out and much to ponder on.

Friday, September 13, 2019

For Queen and Country @ Mirth, Marvel and Maud...

Last night I went to see For Queen and Country at the old Mirth, Marvel and Maud theatre space in London's glitzy Walthamstow.

The show is based upon the incredible (mostly) true story of a certain Major Denis Rake MC. 

Rake was born in Belgium. His mother was an opera singer who very nearly abandoned him to a children's home, but a "friend" suggested putting him in the circus instead. Rake became a tumbler, then a waiter, and finally a chorus boy in the West End and touring shows in the 1920s. He had an affair with a British ambassador, then with a Greek prince. But in 1939 whilst performing in The Dancing Years at Drury Lane, he signed up for the war effort being a fluent French speaker. Despite being a casualty of a bombed merchant ship (twice!), he eventually found his efforts being appreciated by SOE (the super-secret spy Special Operations Executive).

While being trained for spy work, Rake refused to go on the assault course, handle explosives, or use a gun. He gossiped during deployment, he made a "fearful fuss" when he landed at Cannes rather than Juan-les-Pins and, when he is finally caught by the Germans, he believed his interrogator was "against him right from the very start". He lost two teeth and had his arm broken in three places for his backchat.

He escaped capture though and as an openly gay man, assumed the identity of a drag artist in Paris nightclubs whilst both performing to German troops and operating a wireless for the French resistance. His bravery and courage isn't in dispute. His war service speaks for itself, having been awarded the Military Cross, the Croix de Guerre avec Palme and made a Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur.

After the war he later became Douglas Fairbanks Junior's butler (of all things).

His recounting of some of his war "adventures" is, perhaps largely, open to question. But the quality of last night's play was not. It was great. A one hour, one man monologue show, we watched Rake, as a drag queen in a back stage room, getting dressed – readying himself to go on and give it his all. And as he does, he reminisces about his army career, his love life, and his military service in occupied France as a wireless operator.

The stories are moving, funny, and a real education. The show also uses war time songs with changed comedy lyrics to great effect.

The show should tour. It really should. It's great.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Do you know your "chirpse" from your "bare" from your "peng"? #MLE

Do you know your "chirpse" from your "bare" from your "peng"?

If you do, then you are probably from London, young, and live in the inner city. Because it also means you can speak the new English dialect called Multicultural London English (or MLE for short).

And for you older, non-Londoner, suburbanites here's a short list of some of the new words.

1. Blud
e.g. "Yes blud!"
This is an alternative to "mate". It's thought to originate from "blood brother", though the term isn't just used for brethren but anyone who is a close friend. "Bruv" or "bredrin" are handy alternatives.

2. Ends
e.g. "Food in the ends like there ain't no drought"
This is your area, or the neighbourhood you're from. If someone is "from ends" they are from your neck-of-the-woods, so they know what's going on. Interestingly, the word has been used in this sense since the Middle Ages – it just hasn't made it into Standard English.

3. Wasteman
e.g. "He's 35 and he still lives with him mum – total wasteman"
This is a derogatory term used to describe someone being useless or worthless: a loser. Similarly, "wastegal" can be used for females.

4. Mandem
e.g. "I'm out with the mandem tonight, bruv"
Mandem is a collective noun for a bunch of boys or men, particularly your own group of mates.

5. Galdem (or gyal dem)
e.g. "Thank God fi the gyal dem"
The female equivalent to mandem; a group of girls.

6. Rude boy (or rude boi)
e.g. "I heard you gotta problem with me? Rude boy listen"
Originally Jamaican slang, this describes a bad man or someone who is hardened by the street. A rude boy might be an armed gangster or just a teenager with an attitude.

7. Safe
e.g. "He's safe blud, let him kotch"
If something is safe it is cool, good, sweet. Safe is also used to signify agreement: "Yeah safe, blud."
"Safa" is a superlative version of safe, denoting the coolest of the cool.

8. Bare
e.g. "This tune is bare sick"
In Standard English this means sparse, but in MLE it has the opposite meaning. It means "very" or "lots of".

9. Swag
e.g. "Nah, that film Jaws was bare swag"
Swag is usually associated with something valuable or coveted, but has recently come to mean extreme or scary.

10. Peng
This word is used prolifically but is relatively new. It's a word that people use casually to describe anything positive: chicken can be peng, a pretty girl is peng, or a tune might be peng.

11. Hench
e.g. "That bodyguard is hench, man"
If someone is hench they are strong-looking or muscular.

12. Nang
e.g. "Stormzy is bare nang"
Nang, a word that originated in Hackney, refers to something that's cool.

13. Mans (or manz)
e.g. "The girl told me, ‘take off your jacket.' I said, ‘Babes, man's not hot'"
Man has often been used to describe people in general, them or you, but now it's being used as a first person pronoun – it's a way to refer to oneself.

14. Creps
e.g. "Check out mans creps"
Creps are shoes, specifically a pair of good-looking trainers.

15. Chirpse
e.g. "I chirpse her just for fun, I never ever call her phone"
If you are chirpsing someone then you are flirting with them, or chatting them up.

16. Long
e.g. "Nah man, getting the bus is long tings"
A negative description for a task that involves more effort than it's worth, or something or someone that is considered arduous or annoying. To "long off" someone or something means to avoid it: if you've been "longed off" you've been stood up.

17. Yout
e.g. "Skeng chat, kick up the yout, man know that I kick up the yout"
Short for youth, this means a child or young person. The yout of today are speaking MLE!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Brexit Guide...

So I followed the Government multi-choice question / answer Brexit guide. And it turns out I “do not need to take action at this time.”

But I’m taking no chances.

I'm following Quentin Crisp’s advice on hair dye: “When war was declared I went out and bought two pounds of henna."

Monday, September 09, 2019

Mark and Simon’s Wedding Do (the crazy night)...

We had a fabulously crazy night at the gorgeous Simon and Mark’s wedding. Thank you for hosting us Chris and Andrew - and for being our partners in crime Darren and Vince. 

Friday, September 06, 2019

Musik @ The Leicester Square Theatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see musical cabaret Musik at the Leicester Square Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Starring Frances Barber, who starred as the same character Billie Trix in the first Pet Shop Boys musical “Closer to Heaven” almost two decades ago, it is a new solo show by the musical duo written with much aplomb by Jonathan Harvey.

Billie bursts onto the stage dressed all in black and wearing an elaborate purple fascinator. The character is shrouded in the droll, gleeful darkness of Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, a "little monster from hell."  The first song is "Mongrel" where we discover Trix was conceived in Berlin of 1945, her father an unknown soldier, as the Second World War crashed to a halt.

The piece then sees Trix claim an influential part in most of the cultural highlights of the past 75 years, in the form of a cabaret character comedy. She is our very own Zelig. A "zeitgeist for sore eyes."

Madonna, we are told, stole Billie’s trademark eyepatch; Andy Warhol made her change her name ('Hildegard' didn’t sound quite as rock and roll); Nico was “one German too many” for Warhol; Salvador Dali designed her a coffin after an overdose left her technically dead for days.

The second song "Soup" tells us how Warhol stole her idea to make soup as art. It is a comedy track which enthusiastically lists tinned varieties of Campbell’s.

Throughout it all, Barber is a magnetic performer, brash and husky, giving Trix just the right amount of lack of care for anything bar our approval; proudly declaring her largely drug-free status while chopping up a few lines on her tambourine, or dismissively giving birth to a child she didn’t even know she was expecting at Madison Square Garden. Mothers and daughters play a big part here, namely Billie’s loathing of each of hers.

The jokes are, I have to say, pretty good throughout.

When referring to the Pet Shop Boys and the famous divas they have worked with Trix spits bitterly, "Dusty stole my eyelashes, Liza my coke!"

Trix tells us how cinema lovers may remember seeing her in The Masturbation of Race, which drew in a further legion of high-art admirers when it was adapted as an oratorio. If you are a theatregoer, she says, you probably saw her "incomprehensible" Mother Courage.

The YBA scene caught her eye too - when she hung out with Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin in a phone box in the 1990s. And she has been courted by everyone, including Donald Trump, and no less a figure than Jean-Paul Sartre called her pretentious.

You get the picture.

The show contains four new songs and two that have seen the light of day before.

Fans will all recognise "Friendly Fire" although perhaps may be less familiar with Vietnam War song Run, Girl, Run which was released as a demo on "Release: Further Listening 2001–2004"

The other two songs in the show are the poundingly euphoric Eurodisco "Ich Bin Musik" with the finale of "For Every Moment" which offers us a grand reflection not just on Billie’s life but – with backdrop images of her youth blended with slides from the show – on Barber’s, too.

Great show. I can see drag queens performing it for years!

Thursday, September 05, 2019

A bit of (much needed) light relief in the heat of the Brexit debate...

A bit of (much needed) light relief in the heat of the Brexit debate yesterday. 
Boris Johnson heckles John McDonnell loudly. 
“I believe the last time he was shouting this loudly someone had to call the police,” the shadow chancellor replied. 
Ha ha.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Prom 60: Vienna Philharmonic and Bernard Haitink...

Last night Paul treated me to a night at the Proms to see Bernard Haitink, who turned 90 in March, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Ludwig van Beethoven's revolutionary Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major and Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 in E major at London's glitzy Royal Albert Hall.

Perfectly performed by pianist Emanuel Ax as the soloist, the Concerto had us on the edge of our seats. Beethoven’s revolutionary piece was written by the composer as his own farewell to the performing stage.

A farewell of a different kind ran through Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7. Completed shortly after Wagner’s death, the work’s heartfelt slow movement, with its poignant closing elegy, pays homage to the man and mentor Bruckner described as his 'dearly beloved Master'. One composer’s heartfelt tribute to another. Sensational.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Captain Corelli's Mandolin @ Harold Pinter Theatre ...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Captain Corelli's Mandolin at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Louis de Bernières's Greek island epic about love across the barricades was such a phenomenon way back in 1994 that the book's blue-and-white cover is still instantly recognisable to many. But twenty-five years on, can this story of Second World War island occupation still enchant? Well, yes, mostly. Largely because Rona Munro's adaptation cuts back the love story to drum home the bloody trauma of conflict.

Life during wartime is tough in idyllic Cephalonia - a place that becomes both safe house and arena for the action. The allure of music is at the heart of this love-across-the-barricades yarn concerning doctor's daughter Pelagia and the eponymous Corelli, who heads up occupying Italian forces with an urbane reluctance and an artistic sensibility that reaches out beyond the uniform.

With Cephalonia sheltered from the blast of war, Pelagia tends to her goats, while her widowed father Iannis pees on the plants in-between tending to the poorly. Once the Italian army, move in, alas, with Pelagia's new squeeze Mandras already a casualty of one form or another, things can only get worse.

Played out against Mayou Trikerioti's set, dominated by a giant metal sheet onto which are projected the horrors of war, Melly Still's touring production that originated at the Rose Theatre, Kingston is an expansive and impressionistic affair. Its little choreographic flourishes running alongside Harry Blake's score give it an epic feel.

In terms of narrative thrust, its generational sprawl possesses the feel of a state of the nation mini-series, with the framing device of Corelli's comrade Carlo's letter lending a poignancy to proceedings.
The action starts with a gay love story between two Italian soldiers - giving the invading army a warm human touch. However, that human touch is set on fire by the appearance of Alex Mugnaioni's Corelli - a red hot Italian lover. Ultimately though, it is Madison Clare's vivid presence as Pelagia who carries the fifteen-strong ensemble throughout.

The first half drags a little as the action revs up, but things pick up in the second as love story takes a back seat, and the body count mounts.

At times Cephalonia resembles Shakespeare's stormy island in The Tempest, with Iannis a foppish Prospero figure, Pelagia a more Street-smart Miranda and Corelli a castaway charmer with musical magic at his fingertips to soothe even the Germans' fevered brow, for a while, at least.

It is another island-based Shakespeare play, however, that gives Bernieres' story its essence. As Pelagia and Corelli make belated music of their own, one can't help but will them to play on.

An enjoyable night out. If a little underpowered in the first act.