Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, November 29, 2019

Dear Evan Hansen @ Noel Coward Theatre ...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Broadway's latest 5-star stage musical import, the juggernaut Dear Evan Hansen land at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and book by Steven Levenson, the show had won armfuls of Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score so our hopes were high. Too high maybe.

Was all the hype justified? Has it transferred well to the West End? Is it actually any good?

Short answer: Mostly.

The plot is about an unpopular American school child Evan with various mental health issues. He suffers from social anxiety disorder with features of Asperger syndrome. He takes meds and is also in therapy. His doctor suggest he write himself complimentary, self-uplifting "Dear Evan Hansen..." letters telling himself how great he is.

Only the school bully finds one of these letters and when the bully goes on to commit suicide (off-stage, I hasten to add) it is assumed that the stolen letter in his pocket when found on his body proves he was a very close friend of Evan. Evan is initially confused, doesn't deny this 'fake' friendship, and even sees it as a way of getting attention.

The musical is then about how Evan strings the dead boy's family along; spinning ever more fanciful stories, inventing emails between the two, and ending up fooling his whole school; and even (shock, horror) the Internet. His aim seems to be to get a new family (his biological Dad left years ago and his mum is largely absent) and to get in the knickers of the dead boy's sister. So, he is hardly a sympathetic hero.

The songs are fine. I bought the soundtrack before seeing the show and had listened a couple of times in advance. Standouts are For Forever, Sincerely Me, and Waving Through a Window.

The acting and singing was generally good too, if a little over-wrought at times. Sam Tutty as Evan performs well as does his mother Rebecca McKinnis. Evan's friend and partner in crime Jared played by Jack Loxton is notable too.

Many of the songs are delivered as showstoppers though - shouted, often in unison - so despite knowing the lyrics it was occasionally hard to understand them.

There are a few plot holes too as the boy's deceit goes undetected and it seems a bit rice the most dramatic turning point seems to hinge upon a shouted line, "But, I'm your mother!"

There are unintentionally uncomfortable moments too when Alana, a black character, played by Nicole Raquel Dennis as a politically-correct bully, screams about her own invisibility.

We left the theatre asking ourselves a number of questions and commenting how the show could have been improved. Never a good thing.

So overall, an ok show. Not quite a 5-star show though; 3-star maybe. Other recent American musical imports such as Come From Away, Falsettos and Fun House were all way better.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Star Trek movie elevator pitches...

Trek I: What if Trek came back with a huge FX budget?
Trek II: What if Spock died?
Trek III: What if Spock came back?
Trek IV: What if they time-travelled to the 20th Century?
Trek V: What if they went on holiday? Maybe a bit of camping & a sing-song?
Trek VI: What if Kirk has to be nice to the Klingons? 
Trek VII: What if Kirk died?
Trek VIII: What if the Borg had a queen? And she fancies Data?
Trek IX: What if they visit a cosmetic surgery planet and Geordi can see? And we get Riker to direct it?
Trek X: What if we clone Picard?
Trek XI: What if we start again but with sexy actors?
Trek XII: What if we get Benedict Cumberbatch in as Khan?
Trek XIII: What if we get Simon Pegg to write one?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Piers Morgan...

If Piers Morgan was on fire, I probably WOULD piss on him, just not enough to put the fire out.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Little Boots @ The Garage...

Last Saturday night Darren, Stuart and I went to see Little Boots at The Garage in London's glitzy Highbury & Islington.

Free from a major record label Little Boots was here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her debut album Hands (to be played in full); New in Town, Remedy, Symmetry (sadly no Phil Oakey on hand), Earthquake, Meddle, Mathematics, the lot!

It was fab. Victoria had lots of funny stories too (reading out terrible reviews of Hands from 10 years back), crazy outfits, glitter galore, a bubble machine, confetti canons, a laser light show, and lots and lots of sing-a-longs from her (mostly gay) fans.

And towards the end, a beautiful solo piano section ("It's not getting too Gaga, is it?") including a lovely version of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" and Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill".

Ninety minutes of a little superstar. We loved it.

Full set-list...

New in Town
Stuck on Repeat
Symmetry (with Tom Aspaul)
Tune Into My Heart
Hearts Collide

Encore 1 (Piano solo):
No Brakes
Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order cover)
Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (Kate Bush Cover)

Encore 2:
Working Girl
Get Things Done
Every Night I Say A Prayer

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sydney and The Old Girl @ Park Theatre...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Sydney and The Old Girl at the Park Theatre in London's glitzy Finsbury Park.

Some reviews had been rather sniffy about the play and others down-right rude. And a few of our friends who have seen it haven’t liked it at all. But, you know what? We rather enjoyed it.

Coming from Irish actor and writer Eugene O’Hare, this, his latest play, is in fact very funny. If you find intense dramas of family self-loathing funny - which we do!

Forget political correctness though, in this play any civility or polite conversation is long gone. These loathsome people are coarse, offensive and say some very dark things to each other indeed. But it's also brilliantly performed, gaspingly naughty, if perhaps a little overdone at times.

The set is a shabby flat with dated furniture, a faded floral carpet, a broken television set, and a door with marks of previous locks and handles. The designers Max Jones and Ruth Hall have really had a lot of fun.

Miriam Margolyes plays Nell Stock, a cantankerous woman in her late seventies, contemplating her own death. She spews demeaning hate toward her bachelor son Sydney, played by Mark Hadfield. Sydney is in his early fifties, allegedly rents a place of his own but is never there, and returns his mother's abuse with knobs on.

The saving grace in both their lives is carer, Marion Fee played by Vivien Parry, who visits at various times to make sure all is well, which it never really is. She is soon out of her depth though. She gets batted between the two old pros like a bedraggled shuttlecock.

Margolyes is great, Hadfield is too. And the finale a treat as the guilt of a dead sibling, the claustrophobic oppression of living together, and recriminations and ingratitude come to the burning fore.

We really rather liked it.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Great Fire Of London Guilded Walk...

A month of so ago Stuart and I went on a guided walk in the City about The Great Fire of London.

Every school kid learns abut the Great Fire of 1666; the fact it started in a baker's shop in Oudding Lane, it lasted for four days, and two thirds of the City was destroyed. And that song.

The guide did add a few gossipy tit-bits about the soldiers not being allowed into the City to help fire-fight until the King interceded and how the Catholics got blamed for everything.

But, to be honest, the guide didn't really tell us much we didn't know already. It was interesting to walk the route from where the fire broke out to where is was finally stopped though.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Back in the Saddle...

...did I say 'saddle'? I meant harness.

And if I have to suffer another comment at work about being in Thailand and "Happy Endings".... Grrrr.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Thailand : Day 17 : Qatar Airways

Our flights home were with Qatar Airways. Which was unusual for us. We are normally British Airways kinds of travellers (We think they are better than most? We like the livery? Misplaced loyalty? The loyalty scheme via Amex?)

But boy were our eyes opened to an alternative today. 

Qatar Airways are part of the One World Alliance so our BA Avios loyalty points are good to use for them too. Their flight times fitted slightly better for our return trip from Thailand so we thought we’d take a chance. And we were so glad we did. 

Fantastic service onboard, amazing food, a ludicrously hi-tech seating pod, the widest range of films we have ever seen on an inflight entertainment service. And the Qatari airport lounges! Huge! Bigger than most hotels. In Doha, the Qatari parent hub, we had a choice of five(!) to go to. We picked what looked like a good one - and it was bigger than a football stadium. Multiple floors of restaurants, bars, smoking rooms, Wi-Fi, cocoons, beds, leather sofas, games rooms, showers, toilets, tourists information, art work, waiter service through-out, iPad-type devices at every seat, multiple charging options at every seat. Food cooked to order, booze flowing freely, and that kind of customer service that makes you feel good. All thrown in. 

 We will definitely be flying them again! 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Thailand : Day 16 : The Long Way Home

So today we took the first of the three flights on our long way home; Phuket to Bangkok. Currently we are waiting for the second, to Doha, before a brief stopover and then onward aboard the final one to Heathrow. 

We have had a lovely time in Thailand, but there was still a bit more fun to be squeezed out of our return trip; Bonnie, Darren, Andrew, Michael, Andrew, Kevin, Darren, Mark, Stuart and I enjoyed a few beers in Bangkok airport hotel. Never let a good holiday slip through your grasp, I say!

And here a few pictures from our trip that didn’t make it into other posts. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Thailand : Day 15 : And... Relax.

Quiet day today. Recovering from last night and reflecting on the fun we have had in Thailand. 

Tomorrow we start the long journey home. 

Also trying out a new red combo. I wonder how it will go down at the Emirates? LOL

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Thailand : Day 14 : Andrew’s Birthday

Today was Andrew’s 50th birthday - the real reason for our trip here to Thailand. We intended to spend the day hanging out around the hotel pool, chatting, and laughing the way old friends do. Which indeed we did. 

As we have known each other for such a long time, the conversation came very easily. We joked about our shared experiences, the trips we had had away together as a group, and of course the fun we had had together too. 

By the mid-afternoon Mark and I were feeling a bit restless so left the gang to walk along to the hotel jetty; the white wooden pier structure at the edge of the hotel coastal border which was the place where the birthday party meal was going to be held later that evening. 

The jetty was looking lovely in the afternoon sun as the staff were busy preparing the tables, napkins, menus, lighting, chairs, and flower arrangements for that evening. They were concentrating so hard on all the sort of delightfully unnecessary paraphernalia that corporate hospitality does so very well that they hardly noticed Mark and I slip by. 

Once at the end of the jetty we both dived off into the warm, crystal-clear emerald waters. We were greeted by hundreds of brightly coloured fish; blues, greens, yellows and oranges flashed before us. Quite a sight.

Our swimming done, we returned to the hotel to join the others by the pool again where we were met with an equally lovely scene. Bonnie and Darren had bought fizz and the hotel a cake to celebrate. So we all toasted the birthday boy’s big day. 

By early evening we had retired to our rooms to don our glad-rags for the evening’s return to the jetty. 

We met up again first by the Rim Talay pool on the water front and took a delightful walk along the beautifully lit pathway to the jetty to be met by a fantastically illuminated scene. The hotel and its staff had done an amazing job since the afternoon and made the whole place seem, if that were possible, even more magical; fairy lights, candles, flowers, the little touches. 

As we arrived we were greeted with yet more fizz as the staff attentively served us; happily taking pictures of us in the late afternoon sun as we prepared to sit down to a glorious meal.

The food was fantastic - course after course of culinary delights. The company and the conversation was equally delightful. I think Andrew enjoyed himself; and judging by the permanent beaming grin on his face I think it’s safe to say that he did.

After the meal was over we decided to top the night off by heading into town and hitting a few of the gay bars. What night would be complete without the odd spot of karaoke, the old drag show, and a few rounds of tequila shots on the house?

A great day and I think Andrew will remember it for some time. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Thailand : Day 13 : James Bond Island

Today Andrew, Michael, Darren, Tim, Andy, Andrew, Kevin, Stuart and I took a boat trip to some of the islands off Phuket in Phang Nga Bay itself nestled in the emerald-green Andaman Sea. 

Famous for its gravity-defying limestone formations, the islands are a must-see for any traveller coming to Phuket. 
Correction: for EVERY traveller coming to Phuket; they were all packed!

We started our day early, 7:30am, when we were picked up by air-conditioned van from our hotel and transferred to Boat Lagoon Marina in Phuket Town on the other side of the island. 

There we boarded our speed boat which was clean, seated about 35, and seemed solid enough. It was a solidity we would welcome towards the end of the day. 

First stop was tourist trap Khai Island. Nevertheless we disembarked, swam in the glorious blue ocean, spotted all manner of fish, and drank an overpriced milk shake. (Beer only sold after 11am, the swines!)

Next stop was an island of Joan’s Cave. We donned hardhats and climbed up into this elevated cave. The place was big, damp, dark, muddy and moody. We escaped with only a few bruises and cuts. 

We then moved on to do some scenic sea canoeing at Hong Island which, though also packed with over 100 other canoes, was actually great fun. Lots of rock formations (elephants, turtles, piranha, upside-down chickens, Scooby Doo!), sea caves, and beautiful blue lagoons. 

Leaving there, and being halfway through the trip, we stopped for a buffet lunch on Panyee Island. Panyee island is a floating village complete with a floating houses, a floating school, and a floating football pitch. 

The food was great. The floating village actually very nice. Would I want to live there though? Well, no quite frankly. Being a Muslim village no beer was sold. It was turning into a very ‘dry’ day. 

After lunch we visited the place we had really come to see. James Bond Island - named after the 1974 film The Man with the Golden Gun had many iconic scenes shot there.

The island was lovely. But just so packed with people.

Finally we stopped at Pair Island with the intention of finally buying a beer and having a swim. 

A few sips into the beer, a tropical storm hit and the heavens opened. So no swimming. Thunder, lightning, torrential rain meant we had to take cover until the worst had passed. 

We then set out in our speed boat one final time to return to Boat Lagoon Marina. En route the last of the rain insisted on drenching us for good measure. The sea was a little choppy due to the storm - hence the previously mentioned solid nature of the boat helped keep us on an even keel. 

Back on dry land, we boarded our air-conditioned van to be transferred once again to our hotel. 

A nice way to spend a day - going from tropical island to tropical island - but we were pretty glad to be back in terra firma.