Quote Of The Day

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

Friday, March 31, 2023

My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) “Are you filming?”

Yesterday afternoon I went to see My Son’s a Queer (But What Can You Do?) at the Ambassador’s Theatre in London glitzy West End. 

A decade before selfie culture kicked in, Robert Madge was a young child ahead of the curve, demanding their family home-video every flamboyant performance they ever staged in their Coventry living room. It’s as well they did: those videos have propelled Madge (who is non-binary) via social media celebrity to their own autobiographical solo show. The videos are the early focus of My Son’s a Queer, and it can feel self-centred as Madge, a Midlands Alan Cumming in vest and pants, replays the act-outs and homespun theatrics of their youth. But in time, this childhood diva melts into the background and their loving family emerge as the stars of the show. The question here, as per Madge’s lyrics, is: “Why does it have to be a choice of just two?” 

Disney buff Madge wants to wear Belle’s yellow dress but their dad buys them a Beast costume instead. In a shocking moment, their school discourages Madge’s theatricality, which “won’t help him make friends”. 

What is Madge, keener on stagecraft than soccer, supposed to do? Happily for them, and advertised here by abundant footage of their infancy, the Madge family closes ranks, love-bombing this domestic impresario and show pony in the making.

A great show. Funny and poignant. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Sylvia “A tremendous show. Go see” #hiphop #sylvia @oldvictheatre

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Old Vic in London’s glitzy Waterloo to see Sylvia - the hip-hop musical about Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst’s fight to give women the right to vote in the UK. 

It was a tremendous show. A great story with great music. Very similar in style to Hamilton (some, perhaps unfairly, have dubbed the show Lady Hamilton) it deserves all the awards coming to it. 

It was funny too. And intersectional. Although writing a musical about intersectionality might not have seemed a barrel of laughs at first. 

The intersectionality occurs between the fundamental feminist idea that women are equal to men and the then emerging socialist idea that all people are equal. 

In 1903, Sylvia’s mother Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), an all-women suffrage advocacy organisation dedicated to "deeds, not words". The group identified as independent from – and often in opposition to – political parties.

Later Sylvia broke from this apolitical stance and became a socialist believing all disenfranchised people should get the vote. This schism provides much of the drama of the show. 

Emmeline charges on for women. 
Sylvia charges on for women, men, the poor. 
It’s fairly clear where the show’s sympathies lie. 

Later after partial enfranchisement is achieved Emmeline Pankhurst actually stands as a Conservative political that caused great guffawing among the audience. 

Go see. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

RIP Lily Savage. He would say the unsayable. Tell it how it is. So many great one-liners. A man with a big heart. You will be missed.

RIP Lily Savage you fabulous loud-mouthed, Birkenhead drag queen. So many fantastic memories. So many hilarious performances. His eight-year residency at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was a must in the 1980s. He would say the unsayable. Tell it how it is. So many great one-liners. A man with a big heart. You will be missed.

And his best one-liner? Back when the Met stormed into the RVT for it being a gay bar, all wearing rubber gloves to “protect” themselves during the HIV crisis, on stage Lily immediately quipped “Looks like we have help with the washing up!”

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Beyond The Streets London: A celebration of graffiti and street art... "we loved it. Especially the pop-up record store." @saatchi_gallery

On Sunday lunchtime Joanna, Stuart and I went to the Saatchi Gallery in London's glitzy Chelsea to view the Beyond The Streets London exhibition.
A hugely ambitious undertaking, curated and founded by graffiti historian Roger Gastman, the exhibition attempts to highlight a vast range of artists with roots in graffiti and street art - some of whose work has evolved into highly disciplined studio practices. At its core it examines the fundamental human need for public self-expression - whether it was in 1960s Philadelphia where Cornbread’s tags invented modern graffiti, at the birth of hip hop in the Bronx in 1973, or in the 1970s punk movement.
Each of the exhibition’s chapters explore exceptional moments in the history of this artistic movement and how street culture’s enduring strong influence still resonates throughout pop culture, music, fine art, album covers, flyers, ads, graphic designs, fashion, and film.
Hundreds of artists are featured. Including Fab 5 Freddy, DAZE, Stickymonger, Broken Fingaz, Beastie Boys, Blondie, ZEPHYR, Keith Haring and Guerrilla Girls to name but a few.
The irony that street art takes place on the streets and not in an art gallery was not lost on us either. The commercialisation of street art is clear for all to see. The exhibition is sponsored by Adidas after all. Exit through the gift shop.
That said, we loved it. Especially the pop-up record store.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead... "a thought-provoking piece, wry and otherworldly" @BarbicanCentre @Complicite @simonmcburney

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see the Complicité theatre adaptation of Olga Tokarczuk's quirky, eccentric, and wildly popular eco-thriller novel Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead at the Barbican Theatre in London's glitzy Barbican Centre.
Set in a area that lies mostly within Poland, with small parts in the Czech Republic and Germany, the play focusses on an unreliable narrator Janina who tells us the story of locals who are dying one by one and her own struggle for animal welfare. Post-modern in style, Janina addresses the audience directly to gain our sympathy and trust.
Directed by Simon McBurney the play uses light and dark as its themes; the plot, characters, shadows, masks, music, sound effects, and back projection are all shady (in every sense).
The affect is for you to judge. Good or bad. It's a thought-provoking piece, wry and otherworldly. Swirling around the central murder mystery is also a tale about the cosmos, astrology, the poetry of William Blake, and the possibilities (and limitations) of activism.
Fun but, at three hours, perhaps a little too long.

Friday, March 24, 2023

The Way Old Friends Do... "well-meaning, witty, high camp, rather fun, but ultimately rather light on its loafers" @parktheatrelondon

Last night Stuart and I went to see new comedy The Way Old Friends Do at the Park Theatre in London's glitzy Finsbury Park.

Short review:
Two friends put together a drag ABBA tribute band. It's well-meaning, witty, high camp, rather fun, but ultimately rather light on its loafers. Best viewed with a drink or two.

Longer review:
Seemingly aimed at ABBA fans, but I suspect really aimed at gay men of a certain (middle) age, this Ian Hallard play serves as a vehicle to explore male friendship, homophobia and family.

Our two heroes, the loveable Peter (played by Hallard) and the campy Edward (James Bradshaw), are old school friends who meet up one night after a Grindr match. Grindr is of course just a plot device for them to get back in touch with each other and share stories of a certain Swedish band they have both worshipped since boyhood.

Before long their gender-reversed Abba tribute show is conceived, born, and launched onto the am-dram circuit. The boys always wanted to play the girls in the band so Peter plays Agnetha and Edward plays Frida. As for the boys, Sara Crowe as a show stealing Mrs Campbell plays Benny and Rose Shalloo as a nervous babbler Jodie plays Björn.

The cast is completed by Donna Berlin as their lesbian stage-manager Sally and Andrew Horton as Christian, a disruptive 'Chekov gun' of a role who resembles the young interloper in All About Eve.

Ably directed by Mark Gatiss, the production wisely keeps the band’s singing off stage. The rotating set (designed by Janet Bird) is neat though as are the costumes (also by Bird).

Peter and Edward have a lot of fun dragging up yet backstage talk openly and often of the toxic legacy of generational homophobia, the struggle to come out to family, and 'the shame that lingers' after they have. That said, in the show Peter comes out to his grandmother (voiced by Miriam Margolyes) on the telephone which is as equally beautifully awkwardly as it is sweetly tender.

Things get less good when the plot kicks in in the second half. And rather weak plot it is. The drama just gets a bit... thin and frothy. The end, when it does come, is perhaps all too predictable. That said, along the way there are enough jokes and ABBA references to keep us well entertained.

Hallard is certainly a good comic writer who brings lots of warmth to his work. But I think I'd like to see a bit more melancholia, a bit more sadness in his writing. It is, after all, these contrasts that make ABBA so wonderfully compelling. The light and shade. The Scandi noir with sequins.

Fun, if you're an ABBA fan. Of a certain age.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

St Mary's Church, Islington "a great tour" "incredible 120-step high bell tower that commands amazing views of London"... @islingtonwalks

Last Saturday afternoon Stuart and I went to, entered in, had a tour of, and most excitingly went up St Mary's Church in London's glitzy Islington.
The tour was organised by Islington Guided Walks and was very informative. 
St Mary's Church, Islington, or to give it it's full title "The Church of St Mary the Virgin", has been on the same site for a thousand years. In fact, there are been five churches on this site in total. As the centuries have come and gone the first church was been replaced (12th-century Norman church), left to ruin and rebuilt (15th-century medieval), expanded and rebuilt again (18th century), and finally during the 1940 Blitz bombed (the first London church to be so) and rebuilt once again in 1956.
The current church is big, light and airy but, I have to say, a little bland inside. But it boasts an incredible 120-step high bell tower that commands amazing bird's-eye views of London.
Alexandra Palace antenna to Crystal Palace antenna
The City
The London Eye
The Houses of Parliament
The Emirates Stadium
Hampstead Heath
The Shard
Centre Point
Canary Wharf
...to name but a few.
Great tour, and the tower is well worth a visit.

Oh, and one of the pews was a gift from The Arsenal Football Club in 1956!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) "an utter joy" @_lightroomldn @_LightRoomLDN @CoalDropsYard @59_productions @59productions @haworthtompkins

Last Thursday morning Stuart and I finally got to the David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) show at the Lightroom in London's glitzy Lewis Cubitt Square.
It is simply quite wonderful. For 50 minutes you get to hear Hockney's inspirational story told by the man himself in a huge immersive space created by 59 Productions and Haworth Tompkins.
Surrounded by the great man's art coming to life before your eyes, there is an utter joy in seeing the beauty in the small things writ large. We get a fascinating peek into Hockney's brain; his musing on perspective, poetry, the seasons, nature, photography, opera, Los Angeles, and the male form.
Worth a trip for any art lover.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Women, Beware of the Devil… “Meatloaf on a motorbike with Kenny Williams in a side-car wouldn’t have seemed out of place” @almeidatheatre

What on earth did we just watch? Is it a joke on us? Maybe.
Last Saturday night Stuart and I went to see utterly confounding play Women, Beware of the Devil at the Almeida Theatre in London glitzy Islington. It was certainly a unique night of theatre!
The play is partly about the Devil. That much is clear because He turns up in the first scene to address us directly. But is it about modernity too? The evil in modern society? A feminist parable? Who knows?
A 17th-century stable cowgirl, Agnes (Alison Oliver), rumoured to be a witch, makes a Faustian pact with the lady of the big house, Elizabeth (Lydia Leonard). Agnes then travels though the posh household granting wishes, much to the existing housemaids’ annoyance, rising in status but never losing her dastardly reputation. But is she a good witch? She seems to think she is.
The play begins as a nod to The Crucible, complete with Puritan hysteria and hearsay along with rumblings of the civil war of 1642, but goes off in some pretty strange directions. The plot bends and twists from bedroom kink, to incestuous assault and pregnancy, to bloody battle. It’s a wild ride. 
Directed by Rupert Goold, it comes with his usual clean televisual style: Evie Gurney’s period costumes are stunning. Miriam Buether’s set has a gorgeous black gothic canvas at the back resembling the perspective of a Dutch painting. The performances are superb too, from Oliver’s conniving Agnes to Leonard’s menacing Lady Elizabeth, and Leo Bill as her bonkers brother Edward who keeps demanding beef at the dinner table in one of his many riffs about cows. But the characters themselves appear like a collection of extras from Carry on Screaming, The Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Addams Family. Meatloaf on a motorbike with Kenny Williams in a side-car wouldn’t have seemed out of place. 
The story and the dialogue both defy conventional logic. The characters behave in bizarre ways. The plot is (deliberately?) weird. Is it a comedy or a horror? It looks at times like Bridgerton on LSD. It might be a pastiche of the period drama itself, or one big metaphor (but for what?). It wobbles somewhere between a surreal episode of Blackadder, a Peter Greenaway film and a Monty Python sketch. As we sit puzzling it out, there is the passing thought that the joke is on us.
Yet, in spite of it all, there is something exhilarating about its disruptions, which seem deliberate. The devil (Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea) tells us at the start that this play is “pretty long but don’t worry it’s enjoyable”. He’s not wrong.
Lulu Raczka is a bold and brilliant playwright whose previous work shows risk-taking. Maybe this is a risk too far. If it is a failure, it is a heroic one, performing the rare feat of leaving me impressed, exasperated and temporarily speechless. What on earth did we just watch?
We certainly talked about it a lot afterwards!


Monday, March 20, 2023

Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace… @arsenal #ARSCRY #COYG

Another great result for the Gunners yesterday. The lads dug out a really great home win. 

And another great pre-match meet-up. Brilliant to see so many fresh faces again. 🔴⚪️⚽️