Quote Of The Day

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

Monday, January 31, 2022

Sunday Roasting…

What a fabulous day with Mark and Toby. Laughter, warmth, and a bit of dirty dancing….

Friday, January 28, 2022

Spring Awakening @ Almeida Theatre...

Last night I went to see Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre in London's glitzy Islington.

It is perhaps a tad audacious of Rupert Goold to stage such a flamboyantly morose alt-rock musical about teenage repression, angst, rebellion and suicide at a time when most people want to just be cheered up. But here we all are watching a tidal wave of surging adolescent hormones breaking against a stony wall of adult repression in the musical that is Spring Awakening.

It's a surprisingly faithful adaptation too - based as it is upon the 1891 tragedy by the German playwright Frank Wedekind. Perhaps a little too faithful for my taste.

The dated ideas; for the focal pupils, it’s a time when school grades are a matter of life and death; when losing your virginity is your own personal Mount Everest; when sex is a fantasy involving your teacher; and when lying side-by-side, hands touching, on frigid nights is enough to be mistaken for true love.

Goold has missed a trick in not updating the setting. There is plenty of modern day rebillion to call upon.

With the exception of the song "Totally Fucked" - with its 'Save The NHS' and 'Black Lives Matter' slogans projected onto the otherwise black steps that make up the stage - there is precious little to indicate any modernity.

And given you've decided to put the musical on at all it seems odd to then shy away from some of the important and shocking aspects. The botched abortion scene, in particular, is skimmed over so ambiguously it makes it impossible to feel any emotion other than bafflement during the subsequent graveyard scene.

Full marks to the cast though. There are usually 7 boys and 6 girls but last night three of the girls were struck down with Covid. One understudy helped out but they were still two leads down. They soldiered on though and we all made it through to The Song of Purple Summer finale.

A good night out but I would have liked more bite and more modernity to really shake the show awake.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Virgin Media Loyalty Penalty. £50 per month EXTRA for being an existing customer! Yes, really. Read on... -->

I'm leaving Virgin Media. I wanted to stay with them but as I am an existing customer - I can't afford to.

Ultimate Volt Bundle (18 month deal)
New Virgin Media or O2 customers: £99 / month
Existing Virgin Media customers: £149 / month
Existing O2 customers: £149 / month

So the loyalty penalty for getting the same Virgin Media / O2 services compared to a new customer is an additional £50 per month.

So as an existing Virgin Media customer I would pay a penalty of £50 / month (£900 over 18 months).

Even as an existing O2 customer if I took those same VM services I’d pay the same £50 / month loyalty penalty.

Think about that.

VM & O2 are the same company but they penalise (not reward) existing O2 customers who want to take VM services and vice versa.

Customers got a better deal before the companies joined together.  Surely the competition regulator should look into this.

Utter madness!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Virgin (Media) On The Ridiculous...

I pay a lot for my current Virgin Media broadband. £55.50. Too much. And they are putting up their prices (again) to £59. I've been a customer since 1997 but it's time to find something cheaper.

So I called them on Friday to cancel my broadband service. Couldn't get through. I got held on the line for 3 hours and eventually had to hang up.

So tried again yesterday. And this is what happened....

"We are sorry you are still waiting to be connected to one of team. Our wait times are very high at the moment due to an unprecedented demand to speak to the team."

So far have been waiting 4h 45 mins 'on hold' for @virginmedia So far... "We are sorry you are still waiting to be connected to one of team. Our wait times are very high at the moment due to an unprecedented demand to speak to the team."

5h 45mins... Do @virginmedia care about their customers? In all these hours I've been waiting I have calculating how much money I have given them over the years. I was stunned.

7hr 25mins so far…
"We are sorry you are still waiting to be connected to one of team. Our wait times are very high at the moment due to an unprecedented demand to speak to the team."

"We are sorry you are still waiting to be connected to one of team. Our wait times are very high at the moment due to an unprecedented demand to speak to the team."

Been waiting 8hr 23mins so far…

8hr 50mins still waiting…
"We are sorry you are still waiting to be connected to one of team. Our wait times are very high at the moment due to an unprecedented demand to speak to the team."

They answered. After 9hr 45mins. To say…. “Please call back tomorrow.” 🤬😤🤯😡

Finally got through the next day at 8am. I told them I was leaving Virgin. I don’t want to pay money to a company that kept me on hold for nearly 13 hours (nearly 10 hours yesterday and the 3 hours I waited on Friday) and that still happily wanted to charge me a ‘loyalty penalty’ (how much extra existing customers pay over new customers) of £50 per month on an 18 month deal. They offered to reduce my bill by £49 per month for 6 months. Still a £600 loyalty penalty. I told them to sling their hook. Why would I reward a company with such lousy response times and has just stupidly high loyalty penalties?

VM: “I’m sorry to hear that, pet. What are you gonna do for your Internet now then?“
Me: “G.Network. Faster, cheaper, and they answer after two rings”
VM: “Oh. Ok then.”
Me: "Bye"

Monday, January 24, 2022

Trouble in Mind @ Dorfman Theatre...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see actress and playwright Alice Childress's masterfully stinging satire Trouble in Mind at the Dorfman Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Wow. Wow. Wow. What a play. We were blown away.

First staged over 60 years ago, the piece depicts a multi-racial cast all backstage tackling a clumsily worthy Broadway melodrama about racism while their white director Al Manners (Rory Keenan) goes on a power trip; we see the characters squabble, miscommunicate and bond while rehearsing their show.

Wiletta Mayer (played superbly by Motherland's Tanya Moodie) is a talented black actress. She starts out as a woman who gets to rehearsals early, just so she can be alone with the stage. And indeed, her career thus far has also been an apprenticeship in how to act around white people – always laugh at what they say, don’t act as clever as you really are. She imparts this knowledge to rookie castmate John (Daniel Adeosun) who arrives a little later and who will be playing her son.

Ultimately, it's the gifted and passionate Black actors that are being held back by a predominantly white theatre world.

The humour, like in all good satire, is fierce, naked, and uncomfortable.

And then, mid-play, we are brought up short. In a speech about witnessing a lynching as a young boy, Cyril Nri as older cast member Sheldon brings the audience to a standstill. You can hear a pin drop.

This encourages Wiletta to ignore her own advice of white appeasement and challenge the director's interpretation of the play within the play. However, she finds that her arguments to tell the truth of the story are constantly dismissed by Manners. Her arguments about the play fall on deaf ears - “you’re great until you start thinking”, he says. After her frustrations have become overwhelming she finally she decides to act. She delivers an extraordinarily furious speech about the handful of racist stereotypes she’s had to play in the past.

Written in 1955, the year the Montgomery bus boycott began, Trouble in Mind is funny, startling and has an incredibly modern-feeling.

Backstage is brought lovingly on stage by Rajha Shakiry’s set and Elena Peña’s sound design – we get the battered old piano, the cavernous echo of the back door closing. The rehearsal room lights the touch paper for a set of fascinating power dynamics.

If you like to be challenged, and to laugh all in one night, this play is great - and it makes for an unforgettable night.

Friday, January 21, 2022

RIP Meat Loaf - You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night) ...

Boy: On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?
Girl: Will he offer me his mouth?
Boy: Yes.
Girl: Will he offer me his teeth?
Boy: Yes.
Girl: Will he offer me his jaws?
Boy: Yes.
Girl: Will he offer me his hunger?
Boy: Yes.
Girl: Again, will he offer me his hunger?
Boy: Yes!
Girl: And will he starve without me?
Boy: Yes!
Girl: And does he love me?
Boy: Yes.
Girl: Yes.
Boy: On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?
Girl: Yes.
Boy: I bet you say that to all the boys.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

My brand new Dualit toaster just caught fire! Obv sending it back to @AmazonUK @DualitLtd [Dualit 46603 Domus 4 Slot Toaster]

My brand new Dualit toaster just caught fire! So obviously sending it back to Amazon UK.

The central heating element between slots 3 and 4 is faulty. The lower half of this faulty element gets super hot and the upper half doesn't heat at all.  This causes the inserted bread in sections 3 or 4 to remain untoasted in the top half but to burn in the bottom half and eventually catch fire!  

[Dualit 46603 Domus 4 Slot Toaster]

Monday, January 17, 2022

Force Majeure @ Donmar Warehouse...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Force Majeure at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

Based upon the infuriatingly divisive 2014 film, Force Majeure tells the story of a Swedish family who travel to the French Alps to enjoy a few days of skiing. The sun is shining and the slopes are spectacular but, during a lunch at a mountainside restaurant, an avalanche turns everything upside down. With diners fleeing in all directions, mother Ebba (the wonderfully tightly wound Lyndsey Marshal) calls for her husband Tomas (the distracted Rory Kinnear) as she tries to protect their two children (Florence Hunt, a mardy teen and Henry Hunt, at the cute but irritating stage - both excellent). Tomas, meanwhile, is running for his life... The anticipated disaster failed to occur, and yet the family's world has been shaken to its core, a question mark hanging over their father in particular. Why did he run and not protect his family? Tomas and Ebba's marriage now hangs in the balance as Tomas struggles desperately to reclaim his role as family patriarch.

Director Michael Longhurst and designer Jon Bausor, have done a fine job in solving the not inconsiderable problems of bringing a film set on a large mountain and in a gigantic hotel to a small stage. The Donmar has be converted into small but perfectly formed ski slope! Which adds much to the intensity of the central relationship, now hemmed into a space as small physically as it is psychologically.

A great show.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Habeas Corpus @ Menier Chocolate Factory...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Alan Bennett's 1973 farce Habeas Corpus at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London's glitzy London Bridge Quarter.

Today’s younger theatre-goers might wonder at the popularity of the farce as a genre back in the 1960s and 1970s. Is there a place in the West End of 2022 for crude innuendo, sex puns, wince-worthy double entendres, trouser-dropping, sexism, horny middle-aged men, sex-starved wives, flat-chested spinsters, and jokes about tits and cocks. 'Woke', it ain't. Well, judging by the packed house and the raucous laughter last night, the answer is a resounding 'yes'. We laughed like drains too.

Now this is partly due to the meta style of the piece. We are all in on the joke. Despite being written in 1973 the play is a post-modernist take on the farce and all the characters know who they are. In a pantomime style they often break the fourth wall to tell us they are in on the joke and to make sure we are too. They marvel at the poetry of their own crude lines with their obsession with self, with sex, and with death. It's a bit like Hamlet, playing it for laughs, while chasing the ghost of his father waving a dildo.

Bennett decreed the piece was to have no set, which already puts it in the realm of the modernist play – Richard Hudson's set offers just a coffin, a phone, a stuffed terrier dog and lots of great lighting (design by Richard Howell). And instead of the usual hurried one-liners, double takes and lots of shouting, the text is a treasure chest of resonant speechifying and vicious verbal sparring, stuffed with references to, yes, Shakespeare.

The sexually frustrated middle-class characters, living unfulfilled lives in Hove, turn out to be as melancholy as the Dane, as furiously vengeful as Iago, as nihilistic as Lear’s bastard, Edmund. They have a toothsome text to work with, breaking into couplets where “Sundays” rhymes with “undies” and delivering lines as unexpected as “King Sex is a wayward bollock!” (This from a character called Percy.) Even the self-styled representative of the working class, the cleaner Mrs Swabb (musicals actress Ria Jones), is at it: “The air is black with the wings of chickens coming home to roost,” she declares near the denouement with all the melodrama of a witch on the blasted heath. Bennett played Mrs Swabb himself for part of the first run: that would have been worth the price of admission.

All of this requires an almost deranged performing style that’s nevertheless anchored to a crispness of delivery and impeccable comic timing. As Muriel Wicksteed, the sex-starved middle-aged wife of philandering doctor Arthur, Catherine Russell has a good stab at this mad mix, especially in the scene where she aims a bosom at the waiting cupped hand of the man from the false-breast company (Abdul Salis) who thinks he is there to check that her mail order “falsies” fit. (They have been bought by Arthur’s flat-chested sister Connie, played ably by Kirsty Besterman.) Dan Starkey, too, as Sir Percy Shorter, “head of the BMA”, clearly relishes getting his chops round his florid lines, and his battle of words with Canon Throbbing, the predatory vicar (a subtle Matthew Cottle, who delivers the finale’s wedding vows in Bennett’s voice), is of the high standard the piece needs.

Camp it up too much, though, and it tilts towards just being a raucous romp about private parts and breast implants. That might be what some audiences are looking for in these straitened times but it’s not really the play Bennett wrote. Disappointment particularly registers in Jasper Britton’s portrayal of Arthur Wicksteed, Muriel’s roving-eyed husband, who tries to hide behind the rubric: “As a doctor, I’m a eunuch.”

Britton comes across more as a dyspeptic matinee idol playing the provinces. I wanted to feel he loved the latent anarchy of the piece, but it was a lukewarm relationship at best. His is the pivotal figure of the play after all. The final scene sees Wicksteed pronounce bleak aphorisms about the futility of the fleshly and the terrible pain of deathbed regrets. We're not convinced.

But if you can’t take his finale sadness remotely seriously, there's always the string of cock and breast jokes to make you smile.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Wicked @ Apollo Theatre...

Yesterday afternoon I went to go and see long-running musical Wicked again at the Apollo Theatre in London's glitzy Victoria.

Stu and I had seen Wicked way back in 2006 and we didn't really rate it. But I thought I'd give it another chance. Besides, the tickets were seat-filling freebies. I didn't have bothered though; still pretty lame. I almost nodded off twice.

For those who may not know, it's the back story of The Wicked Witch of the West from the The Wizard of Oz. Only here she's simply misunderstood here.

Well, the plot's all over the place and the songs are under-powered and forgettable. The dancing is dated and if only the performance had been as tight as the male lead’s trousers...

It's all too typical of the modern Broadway musical: efficient, knowing and highly professional but more like a piece of industrial product than something that genuinely touches the heart or mind Well-meaning but also melodramatic, incoherent and dreadfully superficial. A bit of a mess.

At one point in the show the male hero holds the good witch Glinda at gunpoint. A little lad in front of us shouted out, "shoot her!" Everyone's a critic!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

BJ by BJ that BJ at BJ…

Tense days ahead as Boris Johnson waits to find out if enquiry set up by Boris Johnson finds out if Boris Johnson attended a rule-breaking party at Boris Johnson’s house. Then if proven, it’ll be down to Boris Johnson to decide what sanction should or shouldn’t be taken against Boris Johnson.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Best of Enemies @ The Young Vic “A man should never turn down two things. Sex, and appearing on television.”...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see the electrifying Best of Enemies at The Young Vic in London's glitzy Waterloo.

“A man should never turn down two things. Sex, and appearing on television.”

James Graham's new play is a whip smart love letter to America’s chaotic politics in the late 1960s. Directed by Jeremy Herri, David Harewood plays conservative pundit William F Buckley Jr. and Charles Edwards plays iconoclastic liberal Gore Vidal. Both are simply phenomenal.

These two US political commentators are not only bitter rivals but diametrically opposites politically so when they go head to head in a nightly political televised debate on struggling ABC News sparks fly.

Graham is a political playwright at the top of his game so even though at first the USA and the 1960s might seem a country and an era both quite distant to us, the subject of a deeply divided country, a recent unpopular foreign war, a powder keg of domestic politics, and the wounds of all too recent racial hatred are as relevant here today as they were back then.

Harewood's transformation through the play is particularly remarkable. His Buckley starts as a stiff, impassive man whose emotions are only betrayed by a twitchy half-smile into a cocky, confident media performer who is only undone when national events overtake him, and he cannot contain is underlying fury when Edwards's Vidal gets the better of him.

We loved it.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Time for a break…

Guys, I’ve decided to take a break from real life so I can focus on social media. I’ll be checking in on my family every now and again but if you need me you can find me here, on Twitter, on Facebook, on WhatsApp, or on Instagram. Thanks for your understanding X

Friday, January 07, 2022

Peggy For You @ Hampstead Theatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Peggy For You at the Hampstead Theatre in London's glitzy Swiss Cottage.

Starring Tamsin Greig as the famous Peggy Ramsay and directed by Richard Wilson, Alan Plater's play is set in the literary agent's late 1960s London office.

Now, not everyone will enjoy it as much as we did. The play is written by a playwright. About a famous agent of playwrights. Featuring a lot of other playwrights. Talking about writing plays. You get the picture.

Don't get me wrong. It was very funny. A lot of zingers. But ultimately, we found out very little about Peggy Ramsey herself or what made her tick. But if you like jokes about writing plays - this is the play for you!

Thursday, January 06, 2022

5G outside my front door….

Just outside my front door is a strong 5G signal. No, not the minder-controlling Devil’s trickery, the super fast data network. My mobile phone connects to with speed 362Mb download / 29.3Mb upload. Wow! 

Monday, January 03, 2022

New Year’s Lunch @ Sacre Coeur…

Super afternoon yesterday for our annual New Year’s lunch. Well, I say lunch… it rather stretched into a all-dayer. Fab friends, fab time. ❤️