Quote Of The Day

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

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Middle @ Dorfman Theatre “sad, laugh out loud funny, unsettling, and touching”...

Last night Stuart and I went to see David Eldridge's play Middle at the Dorfman Theatre in London's glitzy South Bank.

Full disclosure, Dave is a mate of ours. So, it gives me great pleasure to say the play is great! It's a sort of follow up to his smash hit Beginning.

A couple (Claire Rushbrook and Daniel Ryan) have hit middle age and they are at a crossroads in their marriage. It's sad, laugh out loud funny, unsettling, and touching.

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Corn is Green @ Lyttelton Theatre...

Last night Stuart and I went to see The Corn is Green at the Lyttelton Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Emlyn Williams’s play about one woman’s mission to bring (English) education to a Welsh mining village was written in 1938. Like many plays since; Educating Rita, Billy Elliot, Goodbye Mr Chips, Good Will Hunting, The King and I etc. etc. etc. the play glorifies the inspirational teacher / saviour who plucks the gifted child out of their otherwise down-trodden life. Semi-autobiographical in nature, as much of these sorts of plays are, and steeped in sentimentality they hard not to like.

And indeed, director Dominic Cooke's revival reframes (deconstructs?) the play in a very likeable way. Gareth David-Lloyd (yes, him off of Torchwood) plays Emlyn Williams who with the aid of a typewriter creates the story from an empty stage. He conjures into existence a school house (not fully realised until the Act II), and populates it with his cast.

Our young Welsh hero Morgan Evans (the great Iwan Davies) is soon plucked out of the filthy mines by bossy but well-meaning schoolteacher Miss Moffat (played by the ever-excellent Nicola Walker). The action is accompanied throughout by a group of singing Welsh miners (as our omnipresent Greek chorus), a pantomime baddy The Squire (a cartoony Rufus Wright) and a spanner in the works by the name of Bessie Watty (the marvellous Saffron Coomber).

Miss Moffet wants our young man to go to Oxford. To become a toff. She teaches him Latin and Greek. Will little Miss Moffet educate her toffette? Or will Bessie get the bestie of him?

All comes good in the end. Or does it? The play’s resolution is far from satisfactory and we are acutely aware of the nature of the unreliable narrator.

An OK play but not a must-see.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Bourgeois & Maurice: Pleasure Seekers @ Soho Theatre...

Bing, bong. "Please bear with us, our members of staff are busy bringing pleasure to other customers at the moment. They will be able to pleasure you shortly."

Last night I went to see Bourgeois & Maurice's latest show Pleasure Seekers at the Soho Theatre in London's glitzy West End.

B&M are award-winning musical satirists with a penchant for the dark side. This show attempts to rectify that dark image, with delightfully reflective results. Buying shit on Amazon, vegans, babies, the great ennui, social media, the Metaverse, the very point of life itself are all given the B&M treatment. It's camp, it's funny, it's measured.

A silly 75 mins with a slice of biting social commentary.

And guess who got talked to in the front row? Hello!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Surrealism Without Borders @ Tate Modern...

A few weeks ago, Stuart and I went to see the impossible juxtapositions, mad collisions and genuine surprises in the Surrealism Without Borders exhibition at the Tate Modern on London's glitzy South Bank.

If the exhibition taught us anything it's that it's not just the high-concept, high-rollers like Dalí and Magritte that define Surrealism. As this sprawling survey demonstrates, there is an extraordinary scope of the global artistic explosion of the Surreal from the bonkers poets, the weird jazz musicians, the fantastical feminists, to the black power activists. After it's beginnings in 1924 Paris the world soon embraced the world of unsettling objects, Freudian dreamworlds, nightmares and fantasies in written word, in images both moving and still, in music as well as in paint.

From Osaka to Bogota, from Mexico to Manila, from Cairo to Greenwich Village, subversive, liberating, violent, transgressive and revolutionary; Surrealism was quickly a worldwide phenomenon.

Full of fabulous discoveries, Surrealism Beyond Borders is a tremendous work of scholarship, bringing together so many artists, so many essayists, so many musicians, so many film makers, so many threads and tangents, it was almost indigestible.

But we were left with a great sense of wonder. A sense that others see the world in a different way to the norm.

As Ted Joans, jazz trumpeter, poet, painter and black power activist said, "jazz is my religion and surrealism my point of view".

Well worth an afternoon stroll. And not just for the expected melting clocks and trains chuffing out of fireplaces.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Diary Of A Somebody @ Seven Dials Playhouse...

"I’ve high hopes of dying young," announces Joe Orton cheerfully. I think we know what happens to anyone who utters those words at the beginning of any play.

Last night I went to see Diary Of A Somebody at the Seven Dials Playhouse in London's glitzy West End.

The playhouse is a venue that is new to me; the story of Joe Orton's rise to fame, infamy, and demise; less so. That said both the venue and the production were a breath of fresh air if a little too exposed sitting as I was almost on the stage.

Written by US theatre critic John Lahr from Joe Orton's diaries in 1989, Diary of a Somebody explores the playwright’s relationship with his lover Kenneth Halliwell.

After having had success with subversive comedies such as Entertaining Mr Sloane and Loot, cocksure Orton's star is rising with a new work What The Butler Saw and a potential Beatles film on the horizon. Self-loathing Halliwell ain't happy - and after this play we can perhaps understand why.

We see how Orton becomes increasingly callous to Halliwell refusing to acknowledge his contribution to the former’s growing success.

Many have seen Stephen Frears’ excellent 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears, adapted by Alan Bennett from Lahr’s Orton biography of the same name. But this play is a different beast, casting new light as it does on the Orton-Halliwell relationship that is both hilarious and chilling. The diaries are both explicit and cruel. The play equally so - albeit very, very funny.

George Kemp's Orton is utterly fabulous. Toby Osmond's saturnine Halliwell equally so.

Director Nico Rao Pimparé does an excellent job in the small space as does Valentine Gigandet’s set with its tiled pink-and-yellow squares which visually highlight the Orton-Halliwell tension.

The four actors who share the 50 or so supporting roles, which include Kenneth Williams and Paul McCartney, are spot on. Big credit to Jemma Churchill, Sorcha Kennedy, Ryan Rajan Mal and Jamie Zubairi.

So a great play and a great production. The only sour note is perhaps actually the words of Orton himself. To it's credit, never played for laughs here, but for truth's sake, the play doesn't shy away from Orton's prolonged distasteful discussion in his diary about his views on women, sex with underage boys in the Middle East, and racial stereotypes. In many ways the play is a re-evaluation of Orton, not simply an unblinking dazzling homage.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Marys Seacole @ Donmar Warehouse...

Sometimes a play comes along that really should work. That really should be an important piece. That on the face of it has a compelling subject. That is being staged by a major powerhouse of London theatre. That has a great cast and production crew behind it. That has an important message for our times.

But sadly, this wasn't it - as Stuart and I discovered to our cost last Friday night at the Donmar Warehouse in London's glitzy West End.

Jackie Sibblies Drury’s new play Marys (sic) Seacole tells the story of the Crimean War nurse Jamaican-born Mary Seacole through the prism of a modern-day black nurse Mary. Both women - then and now - experience discrimination in their day to day life tending the sick. Great set up. This could be a powerful story of racism in the nursing profession and beyond.

But boy was it boring. And muddled. And disappointing.

A complete wasted opportunity. Underwritten, the actors (all female playing many parts), struggled with the script. The audience was roughly half black / white but the response was pretty universal. Each scene, be it utterly trite or desperately earnest, induced sniggers or yawns in equal measure from the audience. As Stuart said, it was like a French and Saunders pastiche of a badly staged play.

When the final line came - "We are all Mary Seacole. Marys Seacole," there was an audible sigh of relief.

No wonder they are giving away tickets. Avoid.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Prima Facie @HPinterTheatre "Brava! Stunning. A masterclass. An absolute triumph" @suziemillerwriter @Bierman71 #JodieComer Review here ->

Sometimes a play comes along, a performance comes along that leaves you utterly breathless, totally speechless.

Author Suzie Miller's outstanding Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter theatre in London's glitzy West End is one such play. And Jodie Comer's West End debut in that play is one such performance.

After Comer's 100min masterclass, along with the entire auditorium, we jumped to our feet in rapturous applause with tears running down our cheeks. Brava! Brava!

Newly graduated, high-flying, brilliant defence barrister Tessa Ensler revels in the certainty of the law – defendants are either convicted or acquitted, everything is either black or white. It's not about guilt or innocence, it's about testing the accuser. Is there enough doubt in the claim? There is 'real truth' and 'legal truth'. Tessa only concerns herself with legal truth. What can be proven, or what can be cast in doubt. For barristers it's all about the win - not whether the accused did it or not. Then Tessa's world is shattered as she finds herself on the other side of the courtroom.

It's This Life meets I May Destroy You. Yes, that good.

Comer's authentic Scouse accent places her perfectly apart from those privileged enough to expect an education that will lead to a lucrative legal job. She's an outsider who is savagely turned upon by the legal system when her life dramatically changes.

Comer’s performance is absolutely stunning – funny, hugely physical (as she leaps on top of the office furniture) and heart-breaking as she contemplates a legal system that has been devised by men at the expense of women.

We can hear sobbing from every person around us as Tessa urges us all to look to the person on our left and to the person on our look right - 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual assault.

A place on 2023’s Olivier Award shortlist for Best Theatre Actress beckons as would a Tony Award too if it transfers to Broadway which it surely must. An absolute triumph.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Are You Listening? “Yeah, that's almost exactly like my situation except mine is way more complex and interesting."

Guys, if you're actually listening to the other person you're not properly readying that story about a thing that happened to YOU one time. 
"Yeah, that's almost exactly like my situation except mine is way more complex and interesting."

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Happy Easter! Big kids we were, chasing the ice cream van…

It was a relaxing Easter Monday having a quiet pint with the boys. Or 5. Oh, and an ice cream. Happy Easter everyone!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Doctor Who : The Legend of The Sea Devils - “A disappointment. Confusing, messy, and underwritten”

If I had a pound for every time the first female Doctor Who happily relied on a man to step up to the plate and sacrifice themselves over her for no real reason, I'd have two pounds, which isn't many, to be fair. No, having a female Doctor has been great.

But I do feel bad for Jodie Whittaker. She is doubtless a talented actor but with the most terrible writing. Last night’s The Legend of The Sea Devils wasn’t exactly dire - but it was all just a bit lame. A disappointment. Confusing, messy, and underwritten. And a MacGuffin called a ‘keystone’? Gimme a break.

Saving the joke “No ship, Sherlock” it barely cracked a smile. The action scenes were pantomime. The Yaz/Doctor romance seems well-meaning but again underwritten. A kiss? No fear. Captain Jack would have known what to do.

I do hope RTD reboots the show in the right way. I need Doctor Who in my life. But it has to be good Doctor Who. And not just simply watching David Tennant, Matt Smith or The Grumpy Doctors’ reruns on Forces TV.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Goldfrapp @ Royal Festival Hall... "Which number bus did you get?" @goldfrapp @southbankcentre

At the Royal Festival Hall last night, Alison Goldfrapp said she'd heard many people have come a long way for this concert and asked for some places... Tel Aviv, San Francisco... then someone shouts out "Peckham", Alison's response is "Which number bus did you get?"

This audience interaction and humour was perhaps the only thing in short supply though. The sublime gig saw Goldfrapp conjure up swooning cinematic song after swooning cinematic song from another time, another planet to a delighted crowd.

Earlier when Darren, Stuart and I had taken our seats in the glitzy South Bank venue we knew were in for a treat. But not that is was going to be this good. It was simply fantastic.

Playing their first album, Felt Mountain, along with many loved classics we were simply blown away.

Released in 2000, Felt Mountain mixed folk, 1960s pop, electronica and lush John Barry-style orchestrations to become a chillout classic, selling 250,000 copies in the UK alone and earning a Mercury Prize nomination. One of the defining albums of its genre.

Shy Alison stuck behind her microphone for most of the 85-minute running time only occasionally stalking the stage. But she held us all captivated by her charm, by her charisma, by and that voice. An ethereal unearthly voice that bewitched the entire auditorium.

And when the two encores roared onto the stage we were on our feet going crazy dancing and singing along.

Highly recommended.

Below is the set list, and below that is the review I wrote in 2001 after seeing Goldfrapp for the first time at the Union Chapel. Much of that original review still holds true.

Set List

Felt Mountain
Paper Bag
Deer Stop
Hairy Trees
Road to Somewhere
Eat Yourself
Moon in Your Mouth
You Never Know
Black Cherry
Lovely Head

Encore 1:
Ride a White Horse
Strict Machine

Encore 2:
Oompa Radar (Audience exit music)

Review from 2001:-
"Amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart wrenching...
Last night's Goldfrapp concert at the Union Chapel was one of the best, if not the best concert I have ever been too. And judging by the roars from the packed pews I wasn’t alone in that view. I’m a fairly recent convert to Goldfrapp’s individual style of trip-hop, orchestral, landscape music. Many have likened Alison Goldfrapp’s voice to Shirley Bassey – to be honest I don’t see the connection. She has a multiple octave range and a delicious sexiness that would put Ms Bassey to shame. Alison is understated, almost shy on stage. She often would face sideways or towards the rest of the band, which only added to the mystery of her performance. She was dressed in an outfit that looked like a grey BOAC airline stewardess’ uniform from the 60’s. She drifted about the stage and struck the occasional pose that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Cabaret. A very enigmatic performance only made more wondrous when we realised that the sound coming over the speakers was actually coming out of her mouth and not from some synthesizer. She could in turns scream, soar, scale and boom in perfect pitch. The dreaminess of the songs and brilliance of the vocal performance from the outset told us we were in for something special. There were nine members of the band in total; a stringed quartet, an Irish fiddler, a drummer, two keyboards (one being Will Gregory) and Alison. Their music has an art house movie / east European freak show dramatic richness that any film score composer would be proud of. Impossibly deep organ riffs swelled and fell and echoed round the chapel with eerie effect. They performed every song from Felt Mountain to a rapt crowd. The light show transformed the chapel from late night smoky jazz room on Pilots to the magical dreamscape evoked by Utopia (the new single). Alison’s dusty vocals on Paper Bag brought a tear to my eye. Well actually tears were streaming down my face by the end. It was a very special moment. They did two encores. The much anticipated cover of ONJ's Physical and Horse Tears which brought the house down. If ever you get the chance to see them live. Go. I’ll be there.
Star Alert: Simon and Yassim Le Bon were snogging in a row but one behind us. Steven Tyler (that Aerosmith singer) and Chrissie Hynde tried to nick my seat while I was at the bar with Colin. Mark fought them off valiantly."

Thursday, April 14, 2022

For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy @ Royal Court…

Last night I went to see the laugh-out-loud funny heart-warming yet poignant celebratory black theatre fantasy musical play For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets Too Heavy at the Royal Court Theatre in London’s glitzy Sloane Square.

Six young Black men meet for group therapy, and let their hearts – and imaginations – run wild. For Black Boys is located on the threshold of joyful fantasy and brutal reality: a world of music, movement, mental health, storytelling and verse – where six men clash and connect in a desperate bid for survival.

It’s a mosaic of young British black men’s experience; often very, very funny, physically exuberant, occasionally poetic, but with a recurring undertow of dread.

It’s performed on an almost-bare, multi-coloured stage by the hugely likeable six-strong cast of the original production at the New Diorama in 2021. Cameron co-directs here with Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu, who helmed that production, and the results are pretty wonderful.

There are tales of playground racism, police harassment and gang culture, but also delicate confessions of thwarted love and performance anxiety, of struggling with macho self-image.

Knitting it together is a surface gloss of boisterous, mocking camaraderie that masks a deep sense of empathy.

Indeed, the emotional payoff of the piece comes from the moments when the men forget their beefs and embrace for a hug when they talk about suicide, which increased among black men during the pandemic.

This makes it sound depressing. But, it is far from. There is a lot of joy, humour and celebration in the pain.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Tiger Lillies @ Soho Theatre…

Last night I went to see The Tiger Lillies’ show One Penny Opera at the Soho Theatre in London’s glitzy West end.

It was fine. But I’ve seen the boys do way better.

The show is a 70-minute, no-interval cabaret show based on John Gay’s 18th century Beggar’s Opera and Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera. Ever witty, they demote their version—a mix of Gay, Weill and their own songs—to a One Penny Opera.

Deadpan and deathly in their ghoulish black and white face paints, it all feels a bit déjà vu, same old same old. Not a patch on Shockheaded Peter

The playing was great (Adrian Stout on double bass and theremin and Budi Butenop on drums) but it drowns out Martyn Jacques’s falsetto voice which is perhaps a little too reedy of late. 

There is no programme, but if you’re a fan you know what you’ll get with the Tiger Lillies, seedy life, pimps, cut throats, prostitutes, corruption from the lowest in the land to the top to Prince Albert, in all its glorious verbal vulgarity.

The standards are great though - “Alabama Song / Whisky Bar” and “The Ballad of Mack the Knife / Mackie Messer” still pack a punch.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Hidden London - Moorgate: Metropolitan Maze...

A few weeks ago Stuart and I took the final Hidden London tour we hadn't yet done - Moorgate: Metropolitan Maze in London's glitzy City.

We explored the 'wonders' of Moorgate station - the portal into the City and one of London’s first Underground stations.

The station opened in 1865 as Moorgate Street on the first extension of the Metropolitan line joined in 1900 by the first extension of the Deep Tube. Remarkable re-designs and station upgrades have left behind a maze of disused tunnels, abandoned track and a complete Greathead shield from 1904, the only one of its kind on the London Underground Network.

We got to visit corridors lined with the original glass tiles of the City and South London Railway, heard how the station served as a freight terminal for decades and saw how long disused parts of the station have been repurposed ingeniously in response to the needs of our growing capital.

Great fun. Not quite as good as the Down St or Clapham ones, but very us. Underground. Overground. Wombling free.


Monday, April 11, 2022

Straight Crazy Line @ The Bridge Theatre...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see Straight Crazy Line at the Bridge Theatre by London's glitzy Tower Bridge.

Great playwright (David Hare)
Great actors (Ralph Fiennes, Samuel Barnett, Siobhán Cullen et al)
Great director (Nicholas Hytner)
Great theatre (seen some great stuff there)

God, it was boring! Quite a few people left at the interval. And there was a lot of yawning from those of us that stayed.

Ralph Fiennes stars as Robert Moses - the New York public official whose lust for power, questionable ethics, vindictiveness, and racism led him to literally bulldoze his way through much of Long Island and Manhattan.

He created roads, roads and more roads along with many bridges, playgrounds (mainly in white neighbourhoods) and parks - but provided little by way of mass transportation.

For forty uninterrupted years, Robert Moses was the most powerful man in New York. Though never elected to office, he manipulated those who were through a mix of guile, charm and intimidation.

But boy did the story - a potentially interesting BBC Four documentary perhaps? - drag. We just didn't care about anyone. Drama comes from conflict. And the conflict here, despite having some potential - the black groups protesting the demolition of their homes - was largely unrealised. It was just all very flat.