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2017-08-11 08:20 pm

Twelfth Night at the Globe

 It's a while since I have been to the Globe, and one of the plays I've seen there before is Twelfth Night, which I saw 5 years ago, in a very traditional production with Mark Rylance as Olivia and Stephen Fry as Malvolio.



I knew this production was going to be very different - it was directed by Emma Rice, who has now parted company with the Globe, and features Le Gateau Chocolat  as Feste, and has even more cross dressing than is usual for this play.


It is set (judging by costumes etc) in the 1970's, apparently on a Scottish island, so Antonio (Pieter Lawman) and Orsino (Joshua Lacey) were in kilts, and  Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Marc Antolin) was in a pink fair isle sweater and was extremely camp.


Stage / Set (taken during interval!) 

Viola and Sebastian (Anita-Joy Uwajeh and John Pfumojena)were both excellent, and both appeared very young, which works well with the text, and the whole thing was fun, and didn't take itself too seriously.



I can understand why Emma Rice and the Globe parted company - this isn't the traditional, Elizabethan style production which the Globe specialises in, although I can't help but feel that if Shakespeare had had the option of including glitter balls, fairy lights, gold  lamé and the fabulous Le Gateau Chocolat in his plays, he would have done so! 


The performance I saw was the penultimate performance, so the run is over now, but it was fun while it lasted!

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2017-08-10 07:56 pm

GWR - delays and other disaters

 When I travel by train, it's almost always with GWR, as they have the franchise for my area, and run the trains from here to London. 


Which gets frustrating, as they are, frankly, a bit crap at present - lots of delays, very poor customer service  and the like  (For instance, they claim to process refunds, for delays, in 7 to 20 days. I sent off one in mid June which still has not been dealt with!)


So I wasn't too surprised to find my train to London was over an hour late.


Coming home was worse, though, and involved a new and unpleasant experience, due to a passenger who harassed me, and a member of GWR staff who then ignored my request for help. As in, I explicitly asked him for help, asked him to get this guy to leave me alone, and his response was "Whatever it is, move on"


Fortunately it was verbal harassment,and didn't escalate after another passenger who was more helpful than the member of staff, and told him to back off. 


But it certainly took the shine off the day.


Plus, it's now Thursday, and there's been no response to the e-mail complaint I sent, which seem a bit poor. (I know they take forever with refunds, but you'd think they would prioritise dealing with complaints.)


Grrr.

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2017-07-31 07:51 pm

Richard III (Murder in the Cathedral)

 


I was intrigued when I saw that theatre company 'Antic Disposition' were performing Richard III, in a variety of Cathedrals across England, one of which was Bristol. (Another was Leicester, which created some minor controversy as of course Richard III was reburied there, and some of his supporters felt it was disrespectful to perform the play there. Personally I feel that after being dead for more than 530 years, Richard is probably over it all!)


So, I booked a ticket.

 

The performance took place in the Nave,  with the performance taking place in the centre, and we the audience down both sides, so it was a very intimate setting, and of course being in the Cathedral there was nothing in the way of sets, very little in the way of props, and minimal extra lighting.


 


It was very well done. Its a modern dress production. When we first met  the dastardly Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Toby Manleyhe was in black tie, respectable, but of course already scheming, and as the setting was so intimate, his soliloquies and asides were made to the audience, bringing us into collusion with him.

 

 

 

The production makes the most of the black humour in the play. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Richard is 'entreated' to take the crown. The line  "See where his Grace stands, ’tween two clergymen" contained a long and significant pause before the word 'clergymen', due to the rather threatening appearance of the two stone-faced, sunglasses wearing henchmen clergymen.

Toby Manley as Richard III, from Antic Disposition's site

Robert Nairne is excellent as Richard's right hand man, Catesby (doubly unnerving for me, as he reminded me in appearance of my brother, who is not (at least as far as I know) in the habit of carrying out assassinations to order.)

 

Richard, as he does, got darker through the play - chillingly giving his order to "Rumour it abroad. That Anne my wife is very grievous sick" to Catesby in Anne's presence..


It was all very well done. Richard's victims, following their various deaths, moved to the end of the Nave to watch him (except when the actors needed to cover other roles), showing the gradually rising body count, and the Princes in the Tower were such stroppy pre-teens one could almost forgive Richard for their fate.



The production is currently in France, and then at Temple Church in London 22nd August to 9th September. Worth seeing if you can make it.

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2017-07-19 08:32 pm

Kneehigh's Tristan and Yseult

 I'd heard very good things about Kneehigh Theatre's production of 'Tristan and Yseult' so when I saw it was coming to Bristol I booked a ticket, and saw the show on Saturday.

 

 




It was a lot of fun. It's a serious, and tragic story, and the play does have it's poignant moments, but it's also very funny, and very physical. We also have a chorus of 'love spotters', members of the club of the unloved, garbed in anoraks and wielding notebooks, and observing those fortunate enough to be beloved.. 


It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it takes the story seriously, so it is very engaging.


I loved it. 


I wasn't particularly familiar with the story of Tristan and Yseult ahead of time, in case you are in the same position, here's a summary of the story.


The story begins with King Mark of Cornwall, whose kingdom is attacked by Morholt of Ireland. He's on the verge of defeat when Tristan, a roving French knight joins the fight. Tristan's intervention leads to victory (albeit at the cost of a wound to himself). So of course the next step, after disposing of Morholt's body, is for Mark to decide, on the basis of a single hair in a locket, that he might like to marry Morholt's sister, so he sends Tristan to fetch her. (Which you can tell is in no way going to be an awkward  conversation. "Hi, Yseult you don't know me, but, well, your brother's dead, and the bloke who killed her wants to marry you. But he is a King, if that helps"..)


Anyway,Tristan avoids having to have the conversation initially by almost dying of his wounds, and arriving unconscious on an Irish shore where he is, by a convenient coincidence, found by Yseult, who, in another amazing coincidence happens to have healing hands and is, therefore, able to heal his wound (and in absolutely no way whatsoever take advantage of the opportunity to get her hands all over a handsome and half naked young man)


There is an awkward moment when Yseult realises that Tristan's sword has a chunk missing, which exactly matches the chunk of sword-blade she found in the ashes of her brother's body, and realises that he was responsible for Morholt's death, but they quickly get over this, and indeed, Tristan's explanation that Yseult should now consider herself part of the spoils of war, and prepare to travel back to Cornwall with him so she can be married to King Mark. Yseult, you notice, does not get a say in this. But accepts the proposition without much difficulty. 


She and Tristan board a ship back to Cornwall, accompanied by Yseult's maid, Branigan. Yseult asks Branigan for a love potion with the idea of making her wedding night easier, but unfortunately, this gets mixed up with some wine and she and Tristan drink it and fall madly in lust love with each other. Despite this, Yseult is determined to go ahead with her wedding to Mark, and Tristan, too, is loyal to him. (Definite parallels with the whole Arthur / Guenevere / Lancelot (Bedwyr) love triangle here!) 

 

Yseult marries Mark, and persuades her maid, Branigan, to slip into the wedding bed with him so he won't realise that Yseult is no longer a virgin. (Mark doesn't notice this. Presumably he has spent all his time until this point focused on improving his tin-mines, and fighting the Devonians and Irish, and hasn't had a lot of time for relationships with women.)


Still with me? 


So, Mark and Yseult are married, but Yseult and Tristan are still under the influence for the love potion and continue to sneak around and continue an affair. They are, inevitably, betrayed to Mark, who makes the choice not to execute them, but instead to banish them., together. After hanging around in the forest for a while, Tristan and Yseult recover from the effects of the love potion, and separate, with Yseult returning to Mark, and Tristan returning home to France where he marries someone who, coincidentally is also called Yseult. (Yseult of the Whitehands, in this case) 


 The story concludes with Tristan, suffering from a mortal wound, appealing to Yseult to come to heal him. He asks that the ship should sail with white sail if she is aboard, black if not, so he knows whether or not she has responded to his call. However, Yseult of the Whitehands is jealous of his first love, and lies to him, telling him the ship has black sails. Tristan promptly dies from disappointment (and, possibly, his pre-existing mortal wound). Yseult then arrives, and promptly dies of grief upon finding him dead.


It's a cheerful tale. 


I would definitely recommend it (although Bristol was the penultimate stop on the tour - it's at the Galway International Festival until 22nd July, then that's it, so you need to be quick (and in Ireland!))

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2017-07-16 01:18 pm

Julius Caesar Redux

 You may remember that I saw the Donmar's all women Shakespeare trilogy in London just before Christmas. The plays were filmed, and the first, Julius Caesar was shown at (a limited number of) cinemas on Wednesday.


 

I was very impressed when I saw it live (which happened to be one of the performances being filmed for this), which is why I wanted to see it again.


It's still very good. I did feel that, as with some other theatre broadcasts I've seen, that the camera was often focused in too close - by zooming in on the face of the person speaking, much of the subtly of the production as a whole was lost, and some of the camera angles, using cameras on the actors themselves, also detracted from the performances, as it made things, to my mind, a bit disjointed, and the production less coherent, which is a shame, as it was a really good production, and I didn't feel tht the filed version did it justice!


That said, it was still worth seeing, and if they show the other two, I will see them as well!

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2017-07-14 11:47 pm

Chris Riddell at Mr B's

 One of my favourite bookshops, Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights (Mr B's, to its friends) organised an event with Chris Riddell (he used to be the Children's Laureate, you know. He  has a Gold Blue Peter Badge), in Bath.



So I went. Of course I did. How could I not?


The event was at the Masonic Hall in Bath, which means sitting in a hall lined with banners, under a star-painted ceiling, (the Hall was the original Theatre Royal, in Bath, built in the 1750, which closed as a theatre in 1805, after which it became a chapel, before becoming a Masonic Hall in 1863. It is still a masonic lodge today, but also hosts various events) 


Chris did an 'Ask Chris Riddell' event, where we were given index cards on which to write our questions - he then picked cards out to answer.



For instance, the picture above was in answer to a question about the hard work involved in writing a book..




And this is illustrates Chris's experience at a South African event where he went to read the mini book in the back of 'Goth Girl and Ghost of a Mouse' and found he needed glasses, so was loaned some lovely cats-eye  glasses by one of the women present, which were effective in being able to see to read, but perhaps not quite so much in relation to the dignity of the position of Children's Laureate! 


Chris also spoke about how he first fell in love with drawing (which involved being rewarded, with wine gums and the opportunity draw, during his father's sermons in church, when he was a very small child) 


Chris gave the pictures to the children (and one adult) whose questions he picked out to answer, and mentioned that he was planning to keep the unanswered cards, and others from previous events, and to pick out a small selection of the best / most interesting, to illustrate, perhaps on instagram or other social media.


When we arrived at the event, we were given the opportunity to buy raffle tickets in support of Bath Welcomes Refugees, Mr B's charity of the year. And I bought some, as you do.


The prizes included signed posters, a couple of the sketches which Chris had created while waiting for us all to arrive and settle at the start of the event (including this one, showing him on the magnificant Grand Master's Throne)



When the tickets were drawn, the penultimate winning ticket was held by my friend Cheryl, (who bought the next tickets after mine). I was, pf coursed,  pleased for Cheryl, and a little envious, but sad I'd missed out by so narrow a margin)


Then the ticket was drawn for the Grand Prize - to have your portrait drawn, live, by Chris. The winning number, 98, read out. Not mine.


Then someone pointed out that the ticket was being held upside down, and it was in fact ticket 86... which was one of my tickets!!


So I then go to sit on a Big Red Chair while Chris drew me, and chatted as he did so. Which was interesting, if a little bit intimidating.


And this is the portrait!

Me, as drawn by Chris Riddell

Chris explained that he often draws people as they might appear if they were characters in one of his books.  


(I should perhaps mentioned the the tiara is by way of artistic licence; Chris obviously spotted my inner princess, I rarely wear a tiara in public! )


After the event Chris stayed to sign books and talk to people, which was nice - his new book, Travels with my Sketchbook is just out, so I was able to pick up a copy and have it signed.


Another great evening. This week will take a lot of beating!

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2017-07-13 10:28 pm

Ian McKellan: Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others and You

 I haven't been to the Park Theatre before. It's a small space. The larger of the two theatres, which we were in, seats just 200 people. (there is a smaller one seating 90), so it's a very intimate space - it reminded me of the Donmar, but slightly smaller.


My seat was in the front row of the circle, looking down on the left hand side of the stage.


The show was titled Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others and You. 


Once we were all seated, the theatre was plunged into total darkness and music from Lord of the Rings rang out, and the lights came up to Ian McKellan reading aloud from the part of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' where Gandalf battles the Blarog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, proclaiming "You cannot pass". (After reaching the end of the passage, McKellan pointed out that the films get this wrong, as the words "You shall not pass" never appear in the book - it is 'cannot' every time!).


And were were off! McKellan started by talking a little about filming the Tolkien stories (including giving an excellent Christopher Lee impression, and giving one lucky chap in the front row the opportunity to draw and wield Glamdring, briefly). He also talked about meeting Sir Edmund Hillary, (he asked Peter Jackson whether it might be possible to arrange a meeting with Hillary, and was told to just look him up in the phone book and give him a ring!) and asking him whether it was true that he and Sherpa Tensing are Kendal Mint Cake on Everest (they did).


He then gave us a broadly chronological tour of his early life and influences, starting with a dramatic rendition of "Three Blind Mice" (the earliest poem he learned) and his first trip to the theatre, to see 'Peter Pan', at the age of 3.


We heard about his time watching variety from backstage at a Bolton theatre as a teenager, involvement in school plays, his interview for university and early stage performances, and his experience of coming out to his family.


The reminiscences were backed up with quotes and readings, including Dickens (from Bleak House), Wordsworth ('The Prelude') , and Gerard Manly Hopkins ('The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo') Oh, and a bit of Widow Twanky!

 

 

 

After the interval, it was Shakespeare all the way. Well, almost.

 

Ian McKellan started by challenging us, the audience, to name all of the Shakespeare plays, in alphabetical order (which we did), while he passed a few comments (including pointing out that Shakespeare wasn't that good at titles!), and then gave us the pleasure of hearing him give some wonderful Shakesperean speeches, from some of his more memorable roles.

 

Ian McKellan after the show

So we heard 'The Seven Ages of Man', from As You Like It,  Aufidius's speech welcoming Coriolanus, , the 'Rogue and Peasant Slave' speech from Hamlet, (He was rude about his own Hamlet, very complimentary about Andrew Scott's current performance)   Justice Shallow, from Henry IV Pt.2... He asked if we wanted some King Lear, and then told us we weren't getting any as he is saving it for  later this year.

 

 Then we moved on to Romeo's 'But soft what light' speech, and a little of Juliet's reply, (and learned that  Shakespeare never mentions any balcony, it's just a theatrical tradition which has stuck!) 


What else? Richard II's 'Hollow Crown' speech.. Macbeth's speech from Act 5, on the death of Lady Macbeth ('Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow') with a little discourse on Macbeth and Richard III,  and Richard, unlike Macbeth, having no conscience.


Finally, we had 'Fear no more the heat of the sun', from Cymbeline, before the penultimate speech, which was the 'Strangers' speech from the play 'Sir Thomas More'; the speech having the distinction of being the only part of Shakespeare's writing we have in his own handwriting:


"You’ll put down strangers, 

Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses, 

And lead the majesty of law in lyam 

To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, say now the King, 

As he is clement if th’offender mourn, 

Should so much come too short of your great trespass 

As but to banish you: whither would you go? 

What country, by the nature of your error, 

Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders, 

To any German province, Spain or Portugal, 

Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England, 

Why, you must needs be strangers, would you be pleas’d 

To find a nation of such barbarous temper 

That breaking out in hideous violence 

Would not afford you an abode on earth. 

Whet their detested knives against your throats, 

Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God 

Owed not nor made not you, not that the elements 

Were not all appropriate to your comforts, 

But charter’d unto them? What would you think 

To be us’d thus? This is the strangers’ case 

And this your mountainish inhumanity."


This appeared to be the end, but only appeared...

For an announcement was made, asking whether anyone had ever wanted the opportunity to appear on stage with Sir Ian. Well, who could resist?*

(*7/8 of the audience, it seems )


So, along with about 25 others, I made my way onto the stage, where we all went into a secret huddle so Ian could give us his directions, while the rest of the audience talked among themselves.


I must confess, that our performances did not require an enormous amount of acting skill, not did nay of us have a speaking role, but perhaps, given the lack of rehearsal (or, indeed, auditions) it was probably just as well.


So, you know the part in Henry V when Henry is given a list of the French and English dead, after Agincourt? And Henry gives a speech, starting 'This note doth tell me of ten thousand French, that in the field lie slain'


Sir Ian explained that the text refers to a list, but that the piece of paper is often blank, and then started a mournful litany of French names.. many of which may sound familiar, although not ... Beaune, Burgundy, Moet and Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, and so on..


We were those French dead - on cue, we all dropped 'dead' (It is, I will have you know, harder than you might think to lie entirely dead and unmoving while Ian McKellan is giving the worlds most mournful wine-list!). And then, (again on cue)  we all revived, in order to take our curtain call. Which may have involved me holding Sir Ian's hand...


It was a wonderful show, the chance to wallow in so much impeccably performed Shakespeare was a real luxury and the rest felt conversational and relaxed.


When I booked my ticket, I chose to spend an extra £30 for 'a moment with Sir Ian' after the show, when those of us who had signed up got to briefly meet with Sir Ian, and have a photograph (and autograph if we wanted) .


I have no idea who this chap was but he clearly picked the right short for his meet-and-greet!


I don't normally post photos of myself on the blog, but sometimes, it has to be done...


Me, and Sir Ian!

 

He's a very nice man, is Ian McKellan. A very, very, nice man. Can't wait to see King Lear in September.

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2017-07-12 05:10 pm
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The National Gallery - a flying visit (With Chris Ofili)

 The weekend was busy. After seeing Hir, I stayed overnight in London, due to plans on the Sunday.


A little while back, I saw that Sir Ian McKellan was doing a one-man show, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You  to raise funds for the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, as the theatre wasn't given any Ats Council funding at all in the latest round of grants. 


Given that it was a fundraiser, tickets were, of course, expensive, and at first, I didn't think I could afford to go. But then, just s the tickets wet on sale, I got some money from my bank to say 'sorry we fucked up and locked you out of your account for months', so I decided that it should be spent on something frivolous and self indulgent, and booked my ticket!


I booked for the matinee, which meant I had time to visit the National Gallery - one current exhibition is The Caged Bird Sings, a tapestry triptych designed by Chris Ofili.



It's very beautiful. The gallery has displayed it in one of the side galleries and persuaded Ofili to create a mural of temple dancers to surround the tapestry. 

 

 

 

 

It is stunning, and the colours of the tapestry are incredibly effective against the greys of the mural.

 

 

 

I hadn't realised the exhibition was there, until I went into the Gallery, so it was a lovely surprise! It's on until 28th August, so plenty of time to see it if you wish!


I also had time to see a second small exhibit (in which photos were *not* allowed) of some of the works of Giovanni da Rimini, who created beautiful religious art work in Rimini in Italy in the early 14th century. I do have a soft spot for medieval art!


And there was just time to visit this,one of my favourites of the collection!



Then I met up with a friend for lunch. At her recommendation, we went to Yauatcha in SoHo, where we ate vast quantities of delicious dim sum (the Venison Puffs were my personal favourite), although sadly I hadn't time for dessert, so I shall be forced to return at some point...


And so, we parted, and I set off to see Sir Ian McKellan!

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2017-07-11 09:58 pm

Hir

 I missed Arthur Davrill which he appeared in 'Treasure Island' at the National Theatre, and regretted it, so when I saw he was doing another play in London I decided to go, and encouraged my friend A to come with me.


We fortified ourselves with a rather nice meal at Balans,where the food was good, but they do seem to have embraced the whole 'serve stuff without proper plates or glasses' thing, which is a little annoying!


The plya was Taylor Mac's Hir, at the Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush. The theatre is small, and when we arrived we learned that Ashley McGuire was unwell, and therefore her role was performed by a stand in (whose name I didn't make a note of, I'm afraid), script in hand. She did a very good job, managing to perform, rather than simply to read.

Production photo from theatre website (c)  Ellie Kurttz

The play features Arthur Darvill as Isaac, returning home after 3 years in the army, in an unspecified war-zone where his role has been in the mortuary department, collecting the dead (and their body parts) for repatriation. He doesn't find quite what he expects.


His father, Arnold, (Andy Williams)  has suffered a stroke, and his wife, Paige, is using the opportunity to revenge herself upon him for a lifetime of bullying and humiliation, by refusing to cook, or clean, and by forcing him to wear a nightgown. And when Isaac's sister Max appears, he, and we, learn that ze is transitioning, prefers to use the pronouns 'ze' and 'hir', and is planning to move to an anarchist commune, if only someone will take hir there..


It is, perhaps understandably, all something of a shock to Isaac, particularly as it becomes increasingly obvious, he has his own issues.


The play has lots of funny moments, and it attempt to deal with a whole range of issues, from what makes a home home, to issues of elder abuse, domestic abuse, gender.. at times it is very heavy handed, and can feel a little as though you have been held in your seat and bludgeoned with good intentions, but the play did come together  - I appreciated it a lot more by the end of the 2nd act than I had at the interval. 


I was very impressed with Arthur Darvill's performance, a man clearly holding on by a thread, and desperate for the familiarity and security of home,  and Griffyn Gilliagan as Max managed to stay just on the right side of parody in portraying a teenager with even more than the usual number of issues to contend with! 


I left feeling that the play was interesting rather than enjoyable, but the performances were very, very good. 


It runs until 22nd July.

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2017-07-08 08:51 pm

Racing Demon

 I had a very busy weekend so it will take more than one post! 


It all started on Friday evening, when I went into Bath to see 'Racing Demon' at the Theatre Royal.

 

It is the first of a trio of plays (none of which I've seen before)  by David Hare about English/British Institutions. This one is about the Church of England.


It was written in 1990 and it is focused on issues of that time, but still worth watching.


It is based around the  members of a team ministry. Lionel (David Haig), the lead rector, who has lost faith in the Church, and perhaps, in Go. Harry (Ian Gelder), a closeted gay vicar whose younger partner resents his unwillingness to risk being outed, 'Streaky' (Sam Alexander), cheery and good natured but, (as gradually becomes apparent) also liable to pick the path of least resistance, and finally Tony, (Paapa Essiedu) a newly ordained curate with an evangelical approach, who, over the course of the play, moves from enthusiastic evangelist to uncompromising, and unsympathetic, zealot.


Add into the mix a Bishop seeking to oust Lionel from his post, and raging against the ordination of women, and a sleazy reporter seeking to 'out'  Harry, and there is plenty going on.


A primary reason why I booked was because Paapa Essiedu was in the cast (I saw his Hamlet at Stratford last year, and was very impressed) In this production, he plays Tony, who is far from being a sympathetic character, and does so extremely well - he progresses from being the new, someone naive curate and becomes increasingly uncompromising, and willing to sacrifice Lionel and the others to his own, rigid beliefs.


In fact, the past generally was very strong. Ian Gelder was very good, in a subtle and understated performance.


I did get a little thrill when I realised that Amanda Root (Who is, and will always be, Anne Eliot to me!)  was also in the cast. She gave a  brief but powerful performance as Lionel's long-suffering wife.


I enjoyed the play. Parts of it felt pretty dated (which given the play is 27 years old is perhaps unsurprising), but the underlying issues around loyalty, friendship and responsibilities are still relevant, and I am glad I went. (the performance I saw was the last but one of the run)

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2017-06-21 08:37 pm
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Travel Woes, and 'The Goat'

 I booked to see Edward Albee's 'The Goat: Or,Who is Sylvia' because I couldn't resist the chance to see Sophie Okonedo live on stage.


I booked a matinee, as that lets me travel up to London for the day without having to incur the cost of a hotel.


Things did not work out entirely to plan.


I arrived in Bath to catch my train to London, and discovered that it had been cancelled, apparently due to a fire on a train somewhere near Swindon. This necessitated  so careful calculations which led e to the conclusion that *if* the next train was on time, and assuming no delays on the tube, I ought to just be able to make it to the theatre on time, so I decided to wait and catch the next train. (I hate being late, so tend always to be early, which does at least mean that missing a train and being delayed for a time need not be a complete disaster)



It was, inevitably, a very crowded train, and very hot, but I did eventually get to London, and to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. 


The play is... odd. Successful, award-winning architect Martin (Damian Lewis) has been happily married to his wife, Stevie (Sophie Okonedo) for 22 years, has a loving (and gay) son, Billy (Archie Madekwe) and is due to be interviewed by his oldest friend, Ross (Jason Hughes), about his 50th Birthday, his recent award, and the new, flattering commission he has received to design a new billion dollar city.  


Ross challenges Martin about his absent-mindedness and lack of engagement with the interview, and he confesses that his distraction is due to his having fallen in love and started an affair ... with a goat.


The play then follows the reactions to Martin's confession - Ross's disgust, Stevie's disbelief, then anger and despair (and a lot of smashing things) 


It's blackly comic in places - even while fighting over the disintegration of their marriage, Stevie and Martin can be sidetracked by semantics and word-play. And pretty dark, by the end.


Interesting, though. I'm glad I saw it.  And Sophie Okonedo is awesome.


It is on at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, until 24th June, so you don't have a lot of time if you want to go!.


It's just as well the play was worth seeing, as, as well as the fun delays on my journey in, I got delayed again coming home. My train got stuck on account of a train near Swindon having a small fire, which resulted in some of the passengers being evacuated onto the trackside, which (understandably)  means they have to stop all the trains.


We ended up sitting at Didcot for an hour, which meant I also missed the last but back to the Park and Ride. Somewhat to my surprise, when I asked, the rail company did give me a voucher for a taxi to the car park,which was a relief, as I *really* didn't fancy walking 3 miles uphill, at the end of a long, very hot day!


Fortunately, none of the people on the train were hurt, they just got delayed even more than we did, I think

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2017-06-18 01:04 pm

The Addams Family Musical

 I really wanted to like the Addams Family Musical. 


It seemed like a nice idea. The basic premise is that Wednesday Addams is now 18, and in love with a 'normal' boy, who she invites, with his parents, to meet her family.

And hilarity ensues. 


Or not.

 


It's good visually, the stage set is suitably spooky, and Morticia (Samantha Womack) and Gomez (Cameron Blakely) look the part, and Carrie Hope Fletcher looks just as you would expect an 18 year old Wednesday Addams to look.


But the plot is thin and clunky, and while a really good musical can get by with next to no plot, in the case, the musical numbers are...fine, but not enough to make up for the productions other shortcomings. 


It's a shame, because the cast are good, it's just that they don't have much to work with.


I think if you want 'normal' people meeting strangers in a spooky house then the Rocky Horror Picture Show has much better music and plot!


Its fair to say that I seemed to be in a minority in this view - the audience was, for the most part, highly enthusiastic and clearly enjoyed the show a good deal more than I did. 


But for me, I found the production distinctly underwhelming. 


2/5 Stars.


If you want to judge for yourself, the production is on tour around the UK until November. 

marjorie73: (Default)
2017-06-06 10:25 pm

The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui: Donmar Warehouse

 I've seen Lenny Henry on stage a couple of times - to see Othello in 2009, and Fences in 2013, and he was superb in both, so when I saw that he was going to be appearing at the Donmar Theatre I booked a ticket, despite being unfamiliar with the play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.


The theatre is small, so performances there are always intimate, but this one is more than usually so. The whole of the stalls seating has been removed, and instead, there are cafe tables and chairs, on all 4 sides of the 'stage' (although there was no demarcation between stage and audience), and 'hooch' on sale - the whole effect being that of a 1920's speakeasy.


Cast members were moving around the space, greeting and chatting (in character) with the audience; I had not expected to have Lenny Henry personally greet me and shake my hand as I took my seat! 


For those who, like me, are not intimately familiar with Bertolt Brecht's oeuvre, the play was written in 1941, and is set in prohibition-era, Chicago, covering the rise of Arturo Ui from gangster to politician, in an extremely thinly disguised reference to the rise of Hitler, echoing events such as the Reichstag fire, the night of the long knives and the anschluss / annexation of Austria.

 

It's very, very good. Although written about the rise of the Nazis, the current production has been updated with some more contemporary references as well - Ui, as he begins his political careers, promises to build a wall, and to make his city great again...

 

The theatre foyer

The play has a lot of very funny moments, but also a lot of very troubling ones. Lucy Ellinson, was phenomenal, she was utterly convincing as Emmanuelle Giri (Herman Goring) - completely amoral, murderous, superficially charming, and more than slightly unhinged. Giles Terera as Ernesto Roma (Ernst Rohm) was equally good, tough, loyal to his boss, and not too bright (and, also, murdered slightly, early in Act 2)


The production draws heavily on the audience, with members of the audience co-opted to help move kerosene, and one audience member being hauled out to stand trial for setting the warehouse / Reichstag fire, and eventually we all have to stand (or sit) to be counted. 


Lenny Henry  (Ui) himself is excellent in his move from touchy, inarticulate gangster, to smooth (and terrifying) politician. In fact, he's rather too convincing.


The run ends on 17th June, so there isn't much time to see it, but if you are in London and can get a ticket, it is very definitely worth it. 

marjorie73: (Default)
2017-06-04 04:06 pm

London

 I was in London yesterday. 


It was a gloriously sunny day, everywhere was busy, the tubes were packed, the streets crowded. There were a few more police in evidence than usual, but mostly, everyone was getting on with life as normal.


I wasn't anywhere near London Bridge. And as I was only in London for the day, I'd left, and had been back at home for about 2 hours when the news broke about the attack at London Bridge.


And it is scary, particularly coming so soon after Manchester. Manchester felt personal to me; I used to live there, and although it's over 15 years since I left, it still holds a place in my heart, and I have family and friends still living there.


My heart breaks for the victims, and their families and friends.


(C) Chris Riddell

But you know, I have plans to be in London in 2 weeks time, and I will not be altering those plans. 


I have plans to be there 3 weeks after that, and I won't be changing those plans, either. 


Part of this is statistical - I know that there are, on any given day, literally millions of people in London, and only a tiny, tiny minority are fuckwitted murderers, so the risks are pretty low, but mostly it's because it seems to me that the best, and perhaps the only response most of us can make to this kind of thing is to carry on as normal.



So, mourn for the dead, support the injured and grieving, and keep visiting London, and other cities, keep living your life, and forget the names of the murderers, let them disappear into obscurity and ridicule. 

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2017-06-03 09:15 am

Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry at Hay

 The last of the events I booked for was the glorious meeting of Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry, which, as it turned out, had the additional, wonderful addition of Chris Riddell, illustrating the conversation.

 


Neil's most recent book is of course his Norse Mythology, retelling some of the stories of the Norse gods, and Stephen, it appears, is in the process of writing a book retelling some of the Greek Myths (out in November).


He explained that when he was told Neil had a book of Norse Myths out his first thought was not the normal joy which one usually feels on learning that Neil has a new book out, but rather 'oh sod, is he doing series?' ..


Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry

He explained that once reassured that Neil wouldn't be publishing a retelling of Greek Myths any time soon, he relaxed and enjoyed the book!

 

 

Neil talked a little about when and how he first fell in love with the Norse myths (comics first, then Roger Lancelyn Green). They agreed that it's best to tell the stories and not try to make explain them "If you try and explain them, they get less. They don't get more". 


He also spoke about how different Norse myths are from Greek ones - how inhospitable the world in which the Norse gods live; 'No-one is hanging around wearning not very much and staring at their reflection in pools' 


Neil read an  extract of his story of Loki's children, about the binding of Fenrir.


Fenris Wolf

And Stephen talked about the Greek Myths, and how her grew up on Robert Graves. There was a little discussion about how the ancient greek myths explain the creation of the world, (and how the Norsemen would have known how unscientific the Greeks were, in thinking the world came from chaos, when everyone knew everything was really licked into being by a giant cow...)


They agreed that the ancient Greeks, like the Norse, didn't trust the gods, they are treacherous and unreliable, and as wicked and capricious and lustful as humans!


After a  slight delay (it would appear that  not having yet published your book, makes it harder to actually read from your book.) Stephen read about King Midas, , ('rather a nice King. He loved his roses') who had asses ears, as a result of criticising Apollo's musical ability..


King Midas has Asses Ears


They talked about mining myths, how you can dig down into older versions, (with specific reference to versions of the Orpheus and Euridyce story), and also spoke briefly about 'American Gods'


Chris Riddell illustrated both of them. (It should be mentioned that as Chris's art was being projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage, we the audience could see what he was drawing, but Neil and Stephen couldn't, without turning round, which meant that from time to time their (relatively) serious conversation was interrupted by laughter from the audience!

Is Neil going to be writing a book of Welsh Myths, he was asked


As, for instance, when a member of the audience asked about whether Neil had any plans to use the Welsh Myths.. (Stephen did point out that, out of mercy to his spell-checker he probably shouldn't go from Norse to Welsh myths!)


Questions included Stephen's views on insulting gods He takes the view you can't insult what you don't believe in, but that if it turned out there was an omnipotent god and he met it, he'd be 'a bit cross' .


Neil was asked which of the Norse gods he most identified with (Kvasir, because he didn't to anything to dreadful, and because of the mead of poetry) 

 


They were also asked about whether they felt like gods while writing. Neil admitted he did when he first got to write Doctor Who, and wrote 'TARDIS, Interior' and when he wrote Batman and realised that he could make Batman do anything!



Finally, Amanda Palmer came onstage to read Neil's poem, 'The Mushroom Hunters' which was new to me.


The BBC was recording the session and put the full thing online here. Watch and enjoy!


After the event, Neil did a signing, which was very generous of him. The tent in which the event was held seats around 1,700 and it seems as though most of us wanted to get stuff signed! 


About an hour and a half  into the queuing-for-the-signing  part of the evening, Amanda and Patrick came to entertain us, (and to let anyone who didn't know, know that they had a gig later) 



It was, as always, lovely to see Neil and say hello, but I can completely understand why he doesn't often do such big signings. 


I had a long drive back home afterwards, so couldn't stay for Amanda's gig, but it was a lovely day!

marjorie73: (Default)
2017-06-02 07:57 pm

The Hay Festival:The Christopher Hitchens Platform: A New Enlightenment

 The second Hay festival event I went to was in the big, 'Tata' tent (which seats around 1,700 people, so 'tent' feels like a bit of an understatement.


 


Such an awesome line up: Stephen Fry, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Lawrence Krauss,  historian Bettany Hughes, and astrophysicist Martin Rees, (the Astronomer Royal). It made for a fascinating conversation to listen to.



The starting point of the discussions was whether we need (and whether we are likely to get) a new Enlightenment, with debate about whether we are seeing a beneficial democratisation of knowledge, or a dumbing down - Martin Rees pointed out that knowledge is more readily available but harder to distinguish from 'crap'.



The discussions also covered religion and science and stories "Science is a story. It's a story that makes predictions. But the arbiter of truth is not the story, it's observations.  It's a story you can test" [Lawrence Krauss]


There was also consideration of fanaticism, and whether the modern availability of knowledge and communication might mean that the current wave of fanaticism might pass faster than previous, historical incidences - perhaps the phase will pass faster than it did for, say, Christianity.. which is, I guess, a hopeful view.  


It was a very interesting and thought-provoking conversation, (although the tent did get very stuffy!)


The BBC was present and the whole talk is available online, although it may be region-locked.

marjorie73: (Default)
2017-05-31 09:06 pm

Hay Festival : Chris Riddell's Laureate's Goodbye

 I've never been to the Hay Festival before, but when I realised that Chris Riddell was there, for his  last official event as Children's Laureate, and that Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry were doing an event together, and that both of those things were taking place on Bank Holiday Monday, I couldn't resit booking tickets.


Hay is about 2 1/2 hours drive from my home, so this meant getting up early for the drive (and realising, as I went, that it has been well over a decade since I last crossed the Severn bridge, and that I should perhaps make plans to visit Wales again)


The first event I had booked for was Chris Riddell's event: 'The Hay Literary Lecture: The Laureate's Goodbye' . Chris was appointed as Children's Laureate in June 2015, so will be stepping down on 7th June this year. 


The format of the event was that we were all given postcards as we queued, on which we could write down questions for Mr Riddell. He then selected cards at random, and answered the questions (with art and talking)


 

He started out by talking a little bit about being Laureate (or, as he explained he has been referred to, ' the Children's Lauderette'... The best part about being Children's Laureate is, apparently, that you are given a medal, which you can keep on the mantelpiece and creep downstairs to stroke, when you need reassurance! (although it does not, we learned, get you out of doing your share of the housework...)


 

Questions included asking about how to improve someone's confidence in their art (the answer, with reference to having had Raymond Briggs as a personal tutor at Art College, was 'encouragement') , whether tea or coffee is more effective when dealing with artist's block...



Chris also talked about the discussion he had with his publisher before the first Ottoline book was published, about the extras required..including foiled endpapers, miniature books in the back of the book and so forth..and the pain of being made to give away his first two copies to children of the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he happens to be at 10 Downing Street (and lets face it, who hasn't had that experience?) 


It was so much fun!




After the event, Chris did a signing. The queue was long. I was near the end, but he was still very smiley and friendly when I reached the front (and there are worse things than standing in a slowly moving queue, reading, in the sunshine)

Such a nice man, and so talented

marjorie73: (Default)
2017-05-28 03:46 pm
Entry tags:

Bank Holiday Weekend

 This weekend is a bank holiday weekend, which means 3 days off. It is also traditional for the weather to be terrible!


It's been very hot over the last couple of days (you know, the days we've been spending in the office) so of course at around 3 a.m. on Saturday morning there was a massive thunderstorm, with torrential rain, and lots of very loud thunder. 


I'm sure that the rain will be good for the garden and fields, but I could have done without being woken at that time of night!


The forecast suggested that we were likely to get more rain over the weekend, but other than a very brief shower, Saturday was dry (although very warm and muggy a lot of the time) so I was able to cut the grass both at the front and back.  


I had turf laid at the back, when I had the gravel removed last year. The front, where I had tarmac removed, was just replaced with topsoil, and I wasn't quick enough to plant it so have an awful lot of docks and nettles and other things I don't really want,but am gradually working on getting rid of the weeds, and getting grass to grow. 


I also planted some young hydrangeas (grown from cuttings from my parents' garden) earlier in the year, which seem to be doing reasonably well. I hope, eventually, that I will have a selection of bushes and flowers - and maybe even a vegetable patch.




The clematis I planted last year is thriving, and has just started to flower, and my tomato plants (in pots and grow bags) and peas (also in pots and grow bags) seem to be doing well; the tomatoes are starting to flower, and the peas have both flowers and little baby mange-tout pods. 


Given that my track record on growing things to eat hasn't been great, and mostly seems to consist of growing things to be eaten by slugs, or to die for no apparent reason, it is very gratifying! I'm really hoping that this year I will get a reasonable crop of tomatoes. The last few years I've grown them, the fruit has't had time to ripen before it gets too cold, but I started the seedlings off earlier this year, and I'm keeping some of them in pots indoors, so hopefully those will ripen, even if the outdoors ones don't!


So, I've been pottering around, doing a bit of weeding and pruning and re-potting, and I also did various bits of housework, because sometimes you run out of excuses not to! 

marjorie73: (Default)
2017-05-27 05:01 pm

'Ink' at Mr B's

 A little while back I saw this beautiful looking book in Mr B's  bookshop in Bath. I read the blurb, and like the sound of it, and the book became part of my holiday reading.


It's Alice Broadway's debut novel,  and it's an excellent read. (its also the first of a trilogy, which is nice, as it means that there's more to come) 


 

The protagonist, Leora, lives in Saintstone, a city, within a wider world, in which everyone's life story is, quite literally, written on their skin. When someone dies, their skin is preserved as a book and is judged, and weighed as worthy or not. Leora is waiting, confidently, to hear that her father has been judged worthy..........

 

I won't spoil the book by saying more, but urge you to read it for yourself.


Hearing Alice talk about the book was very interesting, addressing issues around faith, and questioning it, about tattoos, and the preservation of human skin, was very interesting.  She explained that she doesn't (yet) have any tattoos, due in part to the difficulty of choosing what to have permanently on one's skin.                        

She also revealed that  she knew from the beginning the 'A' and the 'Z' of the whole story, but not all of the other points on the way, and that she had started writing the book as part of NaNoWrMo, but never really dared to plan for parts 2 and 3 as it seemed so unlikely that the book would be published!

I am glad she turned out to be wrong about that one!   


Alice read a couple of extracts from the book, and also answered questions, before signing copies of the book. I hope that when the 2nd an 3rd parts of the trilogy are published, Mr B's can persuade her to return.

marjorie73: (Default)
2017-05-22 07:46 pm

Bath Festival : Dominic Dromgoole

 I was a little disappointed with the line up for the Bath Literary Festival this year, as I couldn't find very many events I wanted, and was able, to attend. However, one I did like the look of was an interview with Dominic Dromgoole, former Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, talking about his book about the 'Hamlet: Globe to Globe' tour.


For those who don't know, the tour marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by trying to take a production of 'Hamlet' to every country in the world.


Dominic Dromgoole, 20.05.17

 

It was very interesting. Dominic started by explaining that he is a local boy; he was brought up in Wedmore, so coming to Bath feels like coming home. He also pointed out that the parents of one of the Hamlet cast, another local boy, were in the audience!


He explained that the idea of the tour came about in a 'louche bar' where he and other members of the Globe team were drinking cocktails at the end of an away day (he commented that the Globe doesn't get any government support, and very little sponsorship, so the money comes from the box office and they felt, therefore, able to spend it on such things!). They were unsure, at first, whether it would even be possible, but (he claims) decided to go ahead anyway! It followed on from the season they had had at the Globe, where they performed all of Shakespeare's plays, with companies from around the world performing in a wide variety of languages, so they were able, to some extent, to build on the relationships built with various international theatres and companies.


He explained that they then had to decide which play to take on tour, and decided on Hamlet on the basis that it has iconic appeal, and unlike other plays (such as Romeo and Juliet) it is elusive; there is always more or the actors to discover, so they are less likely to get bored and stale over a long run.


He was asked about how well the play was understood, in non-English speaking countries, particularly as there were no sur-titles, and in some of the countries visited the play would not be (well) known.  He explained that, as at the Globe, they performed in natural light or with the audience, as well as the players, lit, which allows cast and audience to make eye contact with one another, and that key parts of the play 'read' clearly even of you don't understand the words -the opening scene, on the battlements, is a readily understandable scenario,  Claudius can be recognised as an authority figure, ghosts are well known in most cultures, and so on. 


Over all it was an interesting conversation, I was glad to have gone. And it left me really wanting to see a version of Hamlet at the Globe! 


After the event, I had a chance to buy a book (although I bought an older one rather than Globe to Globe, to start with!) and say hello.