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2017-10-20 09:54 am

A Grand Day Out in Salisbury

 As you'll have seen from Monday's post, I went to Salisbury on Sunday.  My main purpose in visiting was to go to the Terry Pratchett exhibition but since I was there, I also visited the rest of the museum, and the Cathedral. (I've been before, but I like cathedrals!)


The museum is not large, but it has some rather nice bits and pieces, including a Royal Charter from 1461, with lovely illumination, and the seal of Edward IV, a Roman mosaic, and various artefacts from Stonehenge and the surrounding area.



Then I went into the cathedral, which happens to be hosting an exhibition at present, called Threads Through Revelationwhich is an exhibition of embroidery and other textile art, by an artist named Jacqui Parkinson, based on the Book of Revelation.



I enjoyed the art. 




This is part of a panel featuring the four horsemen of the apocalypse. (which made a nice contrast to the Paul Kidby Horsemen, in the Terry Pratchett exhibition)



And a lovely seven headed dragon (part of the same larger panel). I assume that it is a Hellbeast of some kind, but I found it rather appealing...

 

 

 

The cathedral has a beautiful modern font, which acts like a reflecting pool for the nave.

 

There are also some gorgeous carvings - below is a section of the ceiling of the chantry chapel, which seems to have escaped the worst excesses of the puritans!


 

There is also a lot of fairly modern stained glass, including this, the 'prisoners of conscience' window (although the photos doesn't really do justice to the colours)


 

I didn't, on this occasion, visit their copy of Magna Carta, but if you are planning to visit Salisbury, you might wish to know that they have one, which lives in the Chapter House.


After all this culture I took myself to a nice pub for a belated lunch. It was the Haunch of Venison,  which bills itself as the oldest hostelry in Salisbury - the building is mentioned as having been used to house men working on the building of the cathedral spire, in 1320, although I think there have been a few alterations since then! It does have a mummified hand in the snug and some rare Victorian beer pumps, and it served some very nice food!


I enjoyed my day out.


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2017-10-16 05:55 pm

Terry Pratchett - His World

 On Sunday, I took a day trip to Salisbury, to visit the Terry Pratchett exhibition at Salisbury Museum.


It's not huge, but there are a lot of interesting things.


There is a recreation of PTerry's study, with many  of his possessions on display - his desk (complete with cat-bed), the Luggage, lots of art..


 

 and a very interesting library book (spot the banananana book mark!) 


 


There are some of Terry's original sketches, showing his ideas of what Rincewind and Granny Weatherwax look like.

 

 

The exhibition also has lots of Terry's personal items - including the sword which he made, himself, from metal mined on his own land, and including some thunderbolt iron (meteor rock) 


Other items include Terry's Blue Peter badge, his Carnegie Medal, and of course, one of his iconic black hats.


There were also some of the rarer writings - a short story written for his school magazine, and a hand-coloured copy of 'The Carpet People', for instance.

 

And of course, lots of artwork. Some very familiar, such as original cover art for some of the books, and others that are less familiar.



I enjoyed the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. And 'Discworld Gothic', (with Miss Flitwick and Good Old Bill Door), which I do not recall having seen before!


The notes (or footnotes)  for each exhibit are fascinating - some are quotes from the man himself, others from people (such as Rob Wilkins, Paul Kidby and Neil Gaiman, who knew him well.


 


And one or two other little touches, like the label on the Mona Lisa sketch...


Towards the end of the exhibition is a section including  a long quote from Terry about the embuggerance, and some incredibly poignant examples of the tests he was taking to measure the progression of his disease.



 

Generously, however, the curators didn't leave us there - there is a also a small section with things which have happened since Terry's death - details of the Order of the Honey Bee, a copy of the script for 'Good Omens' (tantalisingly showing only the cover page!), cover art for 'The Shepherd's Crown', and what looks suspiciously like a hard draft which has has a run in with a steam-roller.

 

Upstairs, there is a small, separate exhibit of Paul Kidby's work.


And as you leave that, there is a wall for memories of Terry, on which a number from people who knew him well, as well as those of fans and visitors to the exhibit, are posted. And you're encouraged to post your own, so the Ankh-Morpork Post Office has kindly provided sheets of paper, and a pillar-box, into which  memories can be placed..

 

 

 


I also took the opportunity to look around the rest of the museum, and I noticed that the Nac Mac Feegles seem to have found their way in...

 

 


The exhibition is open until 13th January 2018. (and there are a few more of my pictures on Flickr


GNU, PTerry.

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2017-10-07 09:42 pm

Stephanie Burgis and Claire Fayers at the Bath Kids Lit Festival

 I didn't book as many events as I often do, at this year's Bath Festival of Children's Literature, but one I was determined not to miss was the one with Stephanie Burgis and Claire Fayers, discussing Dragons.


I've been familiar with Stephanie's work for a while, since meeting her a BristolCon a few years back, and have enjoyed her work, which includes the 'Kat' trilogy (Regency romance with magic), Historical novels with Opera and Politics, and most recently, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart , which is set in a place and time which (other than the dragons) has a certain similarity to an 18th C Germanic principality, so I wanted to go and say hello, and hear her talking about the newest book.


 

I haven't previously heard of Claire or her books, but having heard her read an extract and talk about her newest book, The Accidental Pirates -Journey to Dragon Island, which is the second in a series, I want to read them, and bought the first in the series after the event. 

 

Claire and Stephanie both talked about the earliest dragons which inspired them - Tolkien's Smaug, for Stephanie, and the Dragons in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea for Claire (which I can identify with. Orm Embar was, and is, a favourite of mine, too.


Claire Fayers and Stephanie Burgis

 

There was some discussion about research. Stephanie selflessly researched chocolate-making and the finer points of chilli infused hot chocolate. Claire did not (she claims) go so far as to become a pirate, but did re-read 'Treasure Island', and watch lots of 1930's pirate / adventure movies in order to recognise and subvert their tropes (leading to sand vines - the kind of vines which, when you grab them to haul yourself out of quicksand, attack you)


There was also discussion about the next books each author is writing; coincidentally both involve fairies. Stephanie's next is set in the same world as The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, but will be told from the perspective of Silke, Aventurine's friend. Claire's next is not part of the 'Accidental Pirates' series, but is instead set in a Victorian England, where one small town on the Welsh border is the last place in England where magic still works, and which is twinned with a similar town in Faerie. 


I like the sound of both, and look forward to reading them.


After the event, I was able to say hello to Steph and CLaire, and get both books signed, before heading home.


And, as it was Bookshop Day today, I also called in at one of my favourite bookshops, Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights,  before the event, where I was able to pick up a copy of Fraces Hardinge's A Skinful of Shadows, together with this year's 'Books are my Bag' bag, and where I bumped into a friend of mine, which was lovely. 

 

 


So, all in all it was a very pleasant afternoon!


Also, you should all buy these books :) 

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2017-10-06 10:59 pm

'Against' at the Almeida

 I saw Ben Whishaw's performance in 'Bakkhai' at the Almeida theatre a little while go, and really enjoyed it, so when I saw that he was appearing there again, I decided to book.

 

This time, rather than a take on an ancient Greek myth, the play was a new one, 'Against' by Christopher Shinn, which explores the issue of violence in society, how we respond to it, anf whether it can be changed.


Ben Whishaw and Emma D'Arcy CREDIT: JOHAN PERSSON

Whishaw plays Luke, a  Silicone Valley billionaire who has a revelation, believing he has heard the voice of god, and is called to "go where the violence is", leading him to visit the family of a school shooter, and a college campus where there has been a high profile rape (or rapes).


Its an intriguing idea, posing questions about violence in society is seen, and how we talk about it, and also about how the original, fairly simple idea which Luke has, of listening to people and giving them a space for their stories, becomes more complex.


There are some interesting (and uncomfortable) scenes with Kevin Harvey, as a college lecturer (and former sex worker), whose determination to stand up for the marginalised (sex workers, those in unconventional relationships) results in his being intolerant and bullying towards anyone who doesn't share his views, brow-beating his student, Anna (Emma D'Arcy) about the (thinly veiled autobiographical) short story she has written, to try to persuade her to change it to reflect his views, and  pushing Luke to disclose whether, and to what, he masturbates..


Harvey also appears as Jona friend of Luke's, and the founder and CEO of Eclipse, an Amazon-esque company where Luke plans to make his next announcement. (and there is a sub-plot, (which doesn't quite work), with Elliot Barnes-Worrell and Adele Leonce as a pair of low-wage workers at Eclipse.


It is a play which provokes thoughts and questions, but doesn't really offer any answers, and I did feel that the final scene, which introduces a totally new character, might have worked better had we met that person earlier in the play.


It was a very interesting play, with a strong cast. 


The performance I saw was the penultimate one, so it's now closed.

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2017-10-02 08:55 pm

Chedworth Roman Villa

 This post is a little out of order, but on my trip back from Stratford-on-Avon  after seeing Coriolanus I decided to call in to a small National Trust property, Chedworth Roman Villa.



The site was originally excavated in 1864, and is believed to have been built in around 120AD, and subsequently extended and rebuilt, before being destroyed in the 5th Century.


It's a fairly small site (although is apparently one of the larger Roman Villas in this country) 



There are lots of walls, most about 2' high, marking the various rooms of the villa (Roman brickwork, topped with modern tiles to prevent deterioration) and then a large section of the villa where mosaic floors have been uncovered, in what were the Dining Room and Bath House. 



I gather that there were further excavations this year, uncovering more mosaics, but they have been recovered to avoid damage, so I didn't get to see them!

 

The villa is in a lovely secluded area, and as I arrived just before it opened, I had it to myself for  little while, before it started to get busier.



There was also an art exhibition taking place while I was visiting, which was fun - lots of sculptures scattered around the grounds.

 

I particularly enjoyed this hawk, and the shoal of fishes.

 


Definitely a nice place to visit, and an interesting way to break the journey home.

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2017-10-01 09:00 pm

'The Real Thing' at Bath Theatre Royal

 On Friday evening I went to see Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, at the Theatre Royal Bath, prior to a tour.


The only other Tom Stoppard play I have seen is Rosencrantz and Guildernstern are Dead, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

 

It's certainly very different to R and G. It was written (and in this production is set) in the early 1980s, and stars Laurence Fox as Henry, a successful playwright, although we don't meet him until the second scene; the opening scene is (as we later learn) a scene from his most recent play, dealing with a successful architect (played by Henry's friend Max ( Adam Jackson-Smith )) who believes his wife (played by Henry's wife Charlotte (Rebecca Johnson)  has been unfaithful to him.



The play then revolves about Henry's relationships - we learn that he has been having an affair with Max's wife, actor Annie (Flora Spencer-Longhurst).


The play addresses issues of love, fidelity and infidelity, and art and writing in particular. There is an ongoing sub-plot about 'Brodie', a young Scottish soldier imprisoned for desecrating the Cenotaph, allegedly in protest against nuclear weapons. We learn early on that Annie is a member of a committee seeking to claim that he is a political prisoner, having met him on a train. She visits him in prison and encourages him to write a play based on his experiences, resulting in further discussions of good and bad writing, with an excellent cricket bat analogy. (And a little twist at the end of the play)


It was entertaining. Not, in my view, as much fun as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and more than a little brittle and self-indulgent, but definitely entertaining.


Full disclosure. Despite the photo on the front of the programme, Laurence Fox does not, at any point, take his top off. 


The play is on tour until 4th November.

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2017-09-30 09:27 am

Zoë Keating at Kings Place

Several months ago, friends of mine pointed out that the wonderful  Zoë Keating would be giving a concert in London in September , and suggested that we should meet up an go, which, naturally, I agreed would be an excellent idea.


I had stayed with my friends the previous night, which was an added bonus - we got to eat cheese, and snuggle the cat, and catch up, and drink gin. (apparently I have led them astray, into the word of gin).


When we got to London we visited the British Library's 'Treasures of the British Library' exhibition, and went to Forbidden Planet, and spent dome time in a pub on the South bank (where we had good beer and mediocre food) 

 

Then for the main event!


 

King's Place is a new venue to me, and it is rather nice - big atrium, adjacent art gallery and National Newspaper) 


Thanks to my friends, we had excellent seats - dead centre of the third row, which was great.


Zoë then played a mixture of new and older pieces, giving us a brief introduction to each, and taking the opportunity to thank everyone who  provided or offered help (BA lost her Cello and luggage, on the flight from Germany. Apparently it finally arrived just an hour before the concert, so she had spent a lot of time trying to crowd-source a suitable cello an electronics).


It was very good, and came to a close with a little Beethoven.

 


For those of us who then hung around in the foyer, there was the added bonus that Zoë came out and chatted to us, briefly.


If you are not already familiar with Zoë's work, check out her web site (zoekeating.com) and buy the CDs.  You can thank me later.

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2017-09-26 08:23 pm
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Coriolanus at the RSC

 I've only seen one previous production of Coriolanus, three years ago,  at the Donmar (review here), so I was interested when I saw the RSC were including it in this season.



I did enjoy this production, but I didn't find the interpretation of the text as interesting, or Coriolanus's character, as compelling as in the last production I saw.


In particular, Coriolanus seemed to have little agency in his own life, and his final choice, to stop the assault on Rome in response to the pleas of his wife, mother and son, lost much of it's force, as he seemed not to realise the implications, seeming almost surprised that the Volscian's didn't accept his terms. I preferred a Coriolanus who recognised and accepted that his choice would have a terrible personal consequence.


However, I think this was a choice by the director rather than a reflection on the actors involved, all of whim I felt did solid work.


I do find it interesting to see different versions of the same play, and to see how the same text can be interpreted, but in this case, despite strong performances from Sope Dirisu (Coriolanus) and Haydn Gwynne (Volumnia) in particular, I found this one  little bit disappointing.


I fairness, though we did a preview, it may be that the production will find itself as the run continues.

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2017-09-17 04:50 pm

Salt

 My friend A and I had booked o see the RSC's new production of Coriolanus on Saturday evening and were thinking about where to eat before the show, and a different friend of mine recommended  Salt, which opened earlier this year, after chef Paul Foster and his wife raised the money to open it, via Kickstarter.


We went for lunch, and chose to go with the tasting menu, which involved 6 courses (plus optional cheese course) and was delicious!


We were tempted to try the special cocktail on arrival - a gin & prosecco fizz, which was also very nice!


The restaurant is small, with a relaxed feel, and the service was friendly and efficient.


After the bread (which was delicious, malty and warm, served with locally churned butter - very rich, with a hint of clotted-cream taste to it!) we started with tomatoes with a linseed cracker and a shaving of cheese - apparently very simply, but a wonderful, rich tomato flavour. 

 

 

 

Then the next course was mussel broth, with salted cod, peas and beans (and mussels, and something which I think was samphire.

 

 

Next came a carrot and chicken dish, 2 or 3 different types of carrot, some cooked in chicken fat, others pickled, together with crispy chicken skin, like a tiny, intensely chicken-y piece of melba toast!



Next came the main, perfectly tender pieces of lamb rump, which came on a black garlic emulsion and with tiny onions and vegetables.


This was followed by the (optional) cheese course, which we, of course, opted to have, after which came desserts - first lime curd with yogurt meringue and sorrel, which was light and refreshing. I'm not normally a fan of meringue, but this wasn't overly sweet, and with the tartness of the lime and sorrel it worked really well.  


 

After this came a second dessert of dark chocolate cream with raspberries and a chunk of white chocolate 'aero'. White chocolate isn't my thing, but the dark chocolate and raspberries, and the milk chocolate shard which came with it were all gorgeous.



This brought us to the end of the menu, I finished with a coffee and we were given little choux pastry buns to finish with - again,  not over sweet, with more raspberries (possibly freeze dried, I'm not sure).


It didn't feel as though we spent a long time over the meal, but when we came to leave I realised it was almost 4 o'clock, so we have been there over 3 1/2 hours!


A fine meal. I shall definitely be going back, next time I am in Stratford, although I imagine that as the restaurant becomes better known and better established, it may get harder to get a reservation! 

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2017-09-04 10:05 am

Yerma

 I wasn't sufficiently organised to get tickets to see Yerma at the Young Vic, but fortunately for me, the play was filmed for live broadcast via 'NTLive' so I was able to see it at my local cinema.


 

I was very impressed, particularly with Billie Piper's incredibly powerful performance as the (un-named) protagonist, who we see as she is gradually torn apart by her desperation to have a child.


The play has a lot of humour in the early stages, but gets progressively darker, and  parts are absolutely harrowing.


I'm glad I got to see it, but unlike many plays, a part of me is glad that I saw it on screen, not in the more immediate and intimate setting of the theatre.

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2017-09-03 05:39 pm
Entry tags:

Loki vs. The Printer

 Normally, my printer lives upstairs in the box room, but it's getting a bit temperamental about talking to the wi-fi, so I moved it downstairs where it's easier to turn it off and back on. 


I don't use it very often, and I think this might have been the first time Loki's been in the room which I printed something.



Anyway, as he seemed so interested by the noises it made when I turned it on, I thought I'd video him when it actually printed. ....

 

 

Here he is, for your amusement!

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2017-09-02 02:03 pm

In Which there is cooking

 Last weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend, and for the first time in a while, I was neither madly busy and rushing around all over, or away. 


So, I got caught up with some boring but necessary stuff, such as cleaning the house, cutting the grass, and trying to reduce the proportion of the 'lawn' which is made up of docks and plantains.


And did a bit of cooking. 


First, some honey gazed halloumi, which, though I do say so myself, was delicious, and incredibly easy to prepare. (pro tip. fry thick slices of lemon with the halloumi, and a bit of thyme, the juice means the honey glaze doesn't make it too sweet)  And I had peas and tomatoes from my own garden for the salad.


It only took about 10 minutes to make, which is excellent, particularly as it was such a hot day, so minimal cooking time was ideal.


 

 

Then on Sunday I tried my hand at a pissaladière. I'd been planning to do some kind of onion/tomato tart, and then in my weekend paper on Saturday I saw a recipe for pissaladiere, so decided to give that a go. 


 


I cheated a little, and used shop-bought puff pastry for the base, but that was the only shortcut. It was good, but I think if I do it again I will seriously cut down on the number of anchovies, as a little anchovy goes a very long way. But the roasted tomatoes and slow cooked onions were delicious, though I do say so myself! 


Who knows, next time I might even make my own pastry, too!

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2017-08-30 07:45 pm

The Lady in the Van

 On Friday, I went to Bath Theatre Royal to see Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van. Which (for those who don't know) is a play which Bennett wrote based on his own experience, and friendship (or at least acquaintance) with 'Miss Shepherd'. Miss Shepherd was a homeless woman who lived in a Bedford Van, and who moved the Van into Bennett's front garden when the Council painted double yellow lines on the street, and stayed for 15 years until her death.


In the original play, and in the film adaptation, Miss Shepherd was played by Dame Maggie Smith and Bennett (on of the two Bennett's in the play) by himself, which have to be hard acts to follow, but I think Sara Kestelman, Sam Alexander and James Northcote did pretty well!


Sara Kestelman as Miss Shepherd (photo from Theatre website)

Sara Kestleman's Miss Shepherd was acidic, brusque and generally unlikable, but with an element of vulnerability and pathos which won a certain amount of sympathy. Sam Alexander and James Northcote are Alan Bennett (the one who does, and the one who writes) discussing the situation with each other (or, I suppose, with himself)...


I enjoyed it. (and a day or two later, happened to watch the film, which was an interesting contrast)

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2017-08-26 12:11 pm

Devon, Food, Family and Fun

 

I've recently got back after spending a long weekend in Devon, with my parents.


Its always nice to see them, and they do live in a lovely part of the country.


As the weekend weather wasn't expected to be very good, we decided to make the most of the better weather on Friday, and went for a bracing walk on the coast path, near Trentishoe.


It was windy, but despite very grey clouds at times, we didn't get rained on (although I did do something painful to my knee which made the last bits of downhill walking were very uncomfortable.)


 

There weren't a lot of other people around, although we did meet some other walkers...



 

 

The following day was rather wet, and we avoided any walking due to my knee, but we did take a trip into Barnstaple, to see the elephant.


Did you know that Barnstaple had an elephant? I didn't. Or, to be more accurate, they have parts of an elephant. It died about 125,000 years ago, and found in 1844, and now its teeth and skull may be found at the museum.


Plus they have a large tissue paper elephant in the stairwell.



The museum also has a small selection of fossils, some taxidermy, and, and some local history stuff, including a couple of adverts relating to a shop owned by one of my ancestors!


Rural North Devon isn't, perhaps, the obvious place to expect to find a Michelin starred restaurant, but The Mason's Arms in Knowstone is just that. 


Apparently, Chef Mark Dodson spent 12 years as Head Chef of Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn, in Bray, before starting his own restaurant, and promptly winning a Michelin star!


As it is only about half an hour away from my parent's home, I suggested to them that we pay it a visit, and we were able to get a last minute reservation. Which was nice :) 


Canapes

 We were tempted with delicious canapes while we waited for our table - little bites of fish eggs and taramasalata (I think) on puffed rice, decorated with petals, and beautiful little duck 'bonbons' with honey.


The meal itself was also lovely. And very pretty. I was sad that we were all too full to eat dessert. Maybe next time.


Arancini with beetroot 3 ways (Starter)

The the following day we got to have some unexpected family time - I'd posted some pictures from our walk, on facebook, and then got a message from my cousin to say she was visiting her parents (who live about 12 miles from mine).


So on Sunday, she came over for a few hours, giving me the chance to meet her daughter (15 months old) for the first time, (and her son for the first time in a while!)  which was a lovely addition to the weekend.  H was very taken with my phone, and took about 40 selfies, mostly of the top of her own head!


 


We discovered the 40 year old sticklebricks are still highly acceptable entertainment for small people, as are 30-60 year old dinky toys! 3 generations worth of enjoyment of the same toys ins't bad going!


Altogether a fun weekend.

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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!))

marjorie73: (Default)
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!

marjorie73: (Default)
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!