Thursday, December 29, 2011
Ah, the festive season.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Friday, December 23, 2011
Well some milk would be good since the supermarket at 8pm resembled an old Soviet state shop - wrecked shelves desolate of consumables.
I'd also rather like some parsnips but apparantly they'd vanished by 4pm! Did I miss the memo about food supplies stopping till Easter? And why were there still bags of Brussels galore on the shelves when the eggs shelves looked like the foxes had raided the place?
I'd also value getting some small boxes to package up home made choc chip ginger cookies to take as presents. But hey. I have Neil, moderately ok health, newly red hair and no earthquakes.
Will spend next few days worrying about aftershocks there but so far its only damage to stuff not people. Nature is cruel.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Sound it Out is a fabulous movie ostensibly about a record shop in the North-East town of Stockton-on-Tees. But is SOOOO much more than that.
If you get chance to see it then I would definitely recommend you go. There are so many reasons to love this film:
- It's about music
- It's about vinyl especially, and people's love for the physical objects of music transmission
- It's NOT JUST about music but about people
- It's about people who maybe don't quite fit what society sees as mainstream: in terms of their taste in music, or their obsession/addiction/passion for music (delete according to preference for disparaging human taste)
- It's also about characters at the edges
- It's about individuals whose back-history comes to the fore slowly, gradually, and shows you more than you at first thought
- It's about interaction and isolation
- It's about 'shy boys' (as the director Jeanie Finlay said at the Q&A, "I'm a heat-seeking missile for shy boys")
- It's about places getting left behind in the rush of capitalism and consumption
- It's about a specific place, specific people and specific music - and yet it is also so much more...
Saturday, December 17, 2011
I don't think so.
Turned out this wasn't as he thought just the Tower Hamlets museum of childhood, but rather a spectacular outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum: the Museum of Childhood is a full blown brilliant space with a great collection and lots to see and do.
As you go in the wonderful entrance-way, you currently encounter an exhibition of Julia Margaret Cameron's photographs of children. There is also a brilliant display called The Stuff of Nightmares, featuring the tale of Fundelvogel.
There are the expected collections of children's toys and amusements through the centuries --- everything from Star Wars memorabilia to 18th century dolls-houses, from baby's rattles from many centuries ago to the latest must have robot toys.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
We arrived about 8.20am and headed off for our usual breakfast at Bar Bruno - yummy!
We then headed around the corner to Sister Ray (aka Selectadisc of the South) a favourite haunt if we're not in the vicinity of Rough Trade. We loitered outside the store - we were a good 15-20 mins too early for opening time - and then were let in by the owner/manager.
Between us we spent a goodly amount of money on pre-Xmas goodies and things we had been watching out for: certainly enough to make it worth opening for us, and several other folks came in whilst we were there and seemed inclined to make purchases also. So it was a bit dispiriting to find the store owner starting up the conversation as we excitedly enter with the gloomy line "why do you buy CDs anyway?"
I get that such general stores covering a range of music are dying out like dinosaurs; I get that their diversification into DVDs etc has been futile at best. I get the physical object (certainly the CD) is not going to last my lifetime (probably) - although vinyl will undoubtedly last as long as there are nerds for its sound quality. (I mean that in a good way: I know that vinyl sounds better for all its difficulties).
But why would you want to dismiss the energy of your customers before they've scarcely walked in the door and started to browse? I suggested about the idea that could/should have probably happened with record stores, that being able to download IN THE STORE could/would probably help... but it was all to no avail. Record stores were doomed and it was frankly just odd why we were bothering.
*sigh* - last record shop standing indeed. I'm not sure if the shop will be there when we next go. Will it just end up as a 'novelty store' as he described it, selling vinyl only?
The images are always interesting and many are definitely worth close inspection - the winners for Taylor Wessing 2011 are here - and some really captured my imagination. It's capturing the sitter that is so interesting, though where images come from a series I do wish there was a bit more information about the sitter.
Elsewhere in the NPG, the big paying exhibition is on The First Actresses, covering early actresses of the British stage: we didn't really haev time for that one, but did see the side-room exhibition (free) The Actress Now which was great. (Even though I did get cross at the innacuracy on the signage for Samantha Morton which said she did television work Band of Gold and Under the Skin --- NO, Under the Skin was a FILM).
Monday, December 05, 2011
Friday, December 02, 2011
I was especially taken by this question and answer:
What is your favourite proverb? - Not a real proverb but a quote from knitwear designer Kaffe Fassett: 'If in doubt, add twenty more colours.' This is a variant of my other favourite quote, from Mae West: 'Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.'
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Update: and an honourable mention for The Agony and the Ecstasy about the English National Ballet - beautiful and agonising in equal measure.
Best Fantasy Drama
The Shadow Line - although Hidden was very enjoyable, it was lightweight compared to the density of The Shadow Line. With wonderfully atmospheric music (courtesy of Emily Barker's "Pause"), sound and photography, along with some cracking performances - Eve Best, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Chris Ecclestone, Stephen Rea, Lesley Sharp, Antony Sher, Rafe Spall and more - it proved a tense highlight of the television year.
Best ongoing series setting up for the future
Last year, Bellowhead lost out on having access to a big space at Derby and had to content themselves with the ridiculously small space of the Darwin Suite at Derby Assembly Rooms.
It was VERY full indeed.
This year, thankfully, they got the large Assembly Rooms space itself --- and it was STILL rammed to the rafters (plus full on the seated areas too).
Seeing Bellowhead is always a joyous event --- this is the fifth time I've seen them (Derby Folk Festival, Nottingham Trent University, Derby Darwin Suite, Summer Sundae 2011), and I've never finished their sets less than bouncy, deliriously happy, and utterly soaked to the skin in sweat. I usually have to 'wash' my hair in cold water to at least make it so it's only water running down my back and not icky perspiration.
But I don't care. Songs about death, sailors, fairs, unrequited love, whores, drink, and death (always death), with the finest tunes you could hope to hear to get your feet tapping (I'd need to have broken legs to want to see Bellowhead from a seated position - they are MADE to be bounced and danced to with high spirits).
What always charms me about them is that they are such a great collective - yes, Jon Boden is a fine charismatic front-man, in turns manic, beguiling, faux-bashful and intense - but everyone gets their moments in the limelight throughout the show. It's hard to resist the bouncing dancing of the brass section (Andy Mellon on trumpet is usually one of the first to command more clapping and bouncing from the audience) and the pose-striking humour of the strings section (led by the ever laconic Paul Sartin), let alone the jumping-from-the-speakers mandolin player Benji Kirkpatrick and the steady preparedness of percussionist Peter Flood to break his ad hoc percussive accoutrements. and we should not forget Boden's partner in folk - Jon Spiers - who came on before the gig to check his pedals etc dressed in a workman's coat and wearing the most ludicrous fake beard ever ---- given he'd gone for a great Movember moustache anyway, I'm not sure what the disguise was for, but he plays accordions like a demon. (And a special mention for saxophonist Brendan Kelly who not only manages the excess of playing two instruments simultaneously, but also risked his life in Derby by declaring his home town as Nottingham. Dangerous!)
Consequently, they are a folk band, but this is as far as you can get from anything staid and boring (if that's what you mistakenly believe Folk to be). They certainly have a sense of fun like no other band you can imagine - witness their Bus Song a Day to accompany their tour, which saw them become superheroes for the visit to Derby.
In fact you can get a good idea of their approach from their YouTube channel - thisisbellowhead.
But there is something special about seeing them live, and the audience interaction/engagement with their music: this is captured quite well in this video of one of their recent gigs doing an established favourite 'London Town' (with its crowd-yelling chorus - with simple hand dance movements - of "up to the rigs, down to the jigs, up to the rigs of London Town')
And for sense of their climatic excitement, this video (complete with joyous shrieks from the audience) sums up the exultant pleasure of a Bellowhead gig.
I recommend them to anyone who gets chance to see them, and if you cannot, then at least get hold of one of their live DVDs and/or watch them live on YouTube. It's an uplifting experience you should enjoy.
A little mention for Ahab who provide a very pleasant Americana-style support to Bellowhead. Good harmonies, some fine guitar-playing and great engagement with an audience - despite such a significant majority not being there to see them. Being support is never easy, but Ahab did a fine job of the task, winning new appreciators of their style.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I frequently forget (temporarily, sometimes permanently) my passwords for online accounts. Hey: there are a lot to recall.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
"We'll crack on then" - Theatre Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream - RST Stratford Upon Avon Saturday 29 October 2011
Feeling much better - though frankly I couldn't have gone had not felt better than the Friday night - we headed into this production of Dream with high hopes for both much needed laughter and magic.
It did not disappoint.
The production used the now common Peter Brook's technique of 'doubling' characters between the scenes in Athens and the fairy world. Theseus becomes Oberon; Hippolyta becomes Titania; Philostrate becomes Puck (aka Robin Goodfellow).
The last - indeed only stage version - that Neil and I had seen of Dream was way back in 1992 when we saw The Pocket Dream: a prodution by The Comedy Store players (led by Sandi Toksvig, Michael McShane, Meil Mularkey et al). It was a fine and hilarious production putting play within play within play and marvellously sending up overly serious actor groups.
This more than lived up to the recommendations I had heard.
What was especially interesting to note was how well several key players from Marat/Sade performed:
- Amanda Wilkin (Kokol in M/S) was a brilliant understudy for Lucy Briggs-Own as Helena, and although LB-O has garnered some storming reviews I really feel that Wilkin adeptly filled in and was deservedly well-applauded by both audience and cast.
- Imogen Doel (Charlotte Corday in M/S) made for a truly terrifying fairy - she and Maya Barcot had to make up for lost fairies with the promotion of Wilkin to the role of Helena, but it was scarcely noticeable. The hissing malevolence of Doel's fairy incarnation made the fairy world a much less comforting place than some productions make it. She was excellent.
- Arsher Ali (Marat in M/S) was for me a joy: he's clearly a talent to continue to watch and was a delightful Puck/Philostrate. The balance of Puck to the other characters can sometimes be a problem in certain Dream productions; whilst Ali didn't steal the show he did (quite rightly) have a great charisma, all gangly limbs and wry smile. This was especially well done as Philostrate near the end when (in 'best man' guise) his rapport with the audience provided a chuckleworthy "we'll crack on then" as we tried hard not to totally lose the plot. Puck's outfit was awesome as well - flailing ties of colour over his gold long coat. A delicious pleasure.
Though everyone played a key role in this wonderful version, I would also want to note Matti Houghton, last seen by us in The Caucasian Chalk Circle, who made for a furiously spiky 'little' Hermia. Mark Wootton (Bottom) - though his comedy on screen really hasn't been to my liking - was ideally cast here and brought a note of genuine slapstick to the proceedings that was truly funny. I actually found Bottom's transformation at the hands of Puck rather disturbing, but he was hilarious. Indeed, all the 'players' were excellent and I loved the lion's footstep sound-effects.
Overall, pure joy and pleasure. I only wish I could see it again - and that I had not missed the previous night's play.
Helen Lisette missed out on seeing Arsher Ali as Puck/Robin Goodfellow (and his other guise of Philostrate), and instead saw Lanre Malaolu whom Neil and I last saw in Marat/Sade playing the exceptionally onanistic Duperret. (Indeed, we struggled to imagine him as Puck, but HLW assured us he was very good indeed).
Monday, October 31, 2011
This is not a Theatre Review: "Written on the Heart" RSC Swan Theatre. Stratford upon Avon Friday 28 October 2011
I booked to see Written on the Heart, David Edgar's play about the writing of the King James Bible, back in January 2011 when I did my mammoth booking fest for the year. So I have been looking forward to this production for quite some time.
What was not to like? It's about one of the most important English language books ever, about the nature and construction of faith; and - though this was only revealed long after booking - would feature one of our really great stage actors, ideally suited to such roles, Oliver Ford Davies.
So I was more than a little disappointed when with about a minute to go before curtain up I had to acknowledge 'I don't feel well'.
I gamely struggled on but as I got hotter and hotter I felt less and less able to cope.
Twenty minutes in (max) I had to admit defeat, and ran from my seat past Neil and four others (I was awkwardly located on the far side of the theatre at the end of an inner row). I just made it out before...
I really was not well. If I overheat, this does not help. It took the best part of about 30-45 minutes to stop shaking let alone all the rest (it was touch and go about the RSC staff calling an ambulance for me).
Thanks to the front-of-house staff's care and attention I managed to recuperate and at the interval (of course the first 'half' was an hour and 20 mins long) Neil and I were reunited and we made a decision that I really needed to head back to the hotel.
What Neil saw he said was very good; and certainly I enjoyed reading the play script purchased from the shop earlier that evening. Luckily, I get a second chance at this come January when Helen Lisette and I go to Stratford for our now semi-established January break. Let's hope I am better then.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Theatre Review: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (on tour) - Nottingham Playhouse Preview Night Wednesday 26 October 2011
The Guardian gave it a 4 star review when reviewing this production at Liverpool earlier this month of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
This fast-talking new translation of Brecht's satire is certainly worth seeing, though whether you will keep pace with the dialogue is more debatable (The Observer review intimates this concern).
Last night was preview night in Nottingham (it is on until 12 November here) and the theatre was pretty full (albeit lots and lots of teenagers). Actually, it was a very attentive audience as far as I could tell, and the cast got a very rapturous reception at the end (deservedly so). Ian Bartholomew as Arturo Ui is especially fine.
It is not quite as well done as the version of The Caucasian Chalk Circle which toured to Nottingham in 2009. And inevitably the analogies between cauliflower sellers in the USA and the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany are as subtle as a brick through a window. Nevertheless, I'd still recommend audiences to see this production of Arturo Ui in the UK asap: it remains a powerful work, funny and terrifying all at once.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
We get the train to Matlock, though we're getting off a little earlier at the lovely village of Cromford. It is a glorious bright and sunny autumn day. Perfect for a day out.
The train starts at Nottingham and stops at:
- Long Eaton
- Duffield (or 'Duffield International' as the guard as we travelled out called it)
- Belper (or 'The People's Democratic Republic of Belper' as the guard coming home called it)
- Whatstandwell (surely a contender for the award of best name for a village EVER)
The next two stops are Matlock Bath and Matlock - deep in the Derbyshire Dales. Another visit perhaps...
We stop at Cromford and exit at the newly refurbished station.
We walk down into the village and firstly head to Arkwright's Mill. The Arkwright family are central not only to Cromford but also to the wider history of the Industrial Revolution. The Arkwright Society is doing great work in putting the site and its buildings to good use, and they have a long-term strategic plan to maintain, develop and improve the site so that future visitors can see this important location in the history of industrialisation.
At Arkwright's Mill, we enjoy visiting a number of excellent craft shops, especially Arum Lillie. Really beautiful print designs, textiles, and pewterwear, amongst other goodies. We'll be visiting them again!
The store (according to its website and reported in the Guardian's recent listing of Scarthin as one of the top UK independent booksellers) holds approximately 5000+ antiquarian texts, 50,000+ second-hand works (many piled high against the walls and stairwells I can report!) and 40,000+ NEW books. It is a trove of non-specialist gems, but I'd particularly recommend their children's book room which is delightful.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
The press night is tonight.
I wonder how they will react?
Guardian review - reasonably fair I feel... I'd have maybe gone with 3.5 stars.
A pretty thorough blog review that is well worth reading from The Real ChrisSparkle.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
And guess what? I liked it too.
In fact - as I noted everywhere - I applauded at the end. It just felt spontaneously right to do.
Some of the things I liked
- The eyepatches explanation. Made perfect sense suddenly. Why didn't I get that earlier?
- Madame Kovarian getting a good dose of Amy Pond: proving that River is very much her mother's daughter.
- Rory 'dying' for Amy - and her return to save him. Just lovely.
- The 'wedding' and the name of the Doctor. Oh playful Mr Moffat.
- The phone call to rally the troops - the reveal that the call the Doctor makes is a too-late invitation to the Brig for a final adventure hit me in the throat and had me reeling. A lovely and perfect farewell to a much-loved character and actor.
- The final line - such an obvious 'ultimate question' and yet so satisfying!
- Two seasons: 6 or 7 episodes scarcely ever feels enough. 13 sometimes felt like a short-change: this split just feels limited.
- No Mark Sheppard! oh sadness! (I nearly typed that as Badger: highlighting my love of Serenity/Firefly) For some reason I was really looking expecting another appearance from Canton Delaware Everett III...
- I'm still not sure I quite get why Madame Kovarian worked with The Silence (or what they achieved/didn't achieve)
- Teselecta ex machina - really should have seen that coming (as lovely as it was to see inside and watch the Stetson wave)
Neil's family in NZ may beg to disagree.
Given that the alternative result to the semi-final (an Australia win) may just have pushed the country into howling a national outcry, it was a delight to see New Zealand get to the Rugby World Cup final on home soil.
It'd be nice to see the All Blacks win...
If not: what the hell is wrong with you?
Anyway: we picked up Ransom Rigg's debut novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children in San Francisco and I have to say I've been itching to read it since then. Today I finally settled down to it and devoured the whole thing in the afternoon. I'm almost certainly going to read it again as there is much to be gained from a re-read (I kept skipping back to re-read sections even as I read it - not because I was confused but because I loved the way that things had been conveyed - the choice of phrasing, the imagery created...)
Amongst its many pleasures are those granted by the inclusion of several photographs to 'illustrate' the narrative. They are wonderful finds and add an extra whoosh of disconcerted meaning to the tale and its characters. To say I was left wanting more, MUCH more, would be an understatement.
I don't want to say too much about the plot - there's a grandson and a grandfather and some very peculiar children and beyond that would spoil the thrill of its development. However, what I can say is that it is resolutely and almost certainly NOT the sort of story you think it is going to be and it subtly shifts gears on several occasions, making you think 'how did I not see that?'
It is magical, mysterious, heartening, thrilling and adventurous. I'd recommend it to young adults, but with its use of history I'd also anticipate some (much) older readers to fall for its many charms.
Should a play "work for you"? Preview 15 October 2011 Marat/Sade @ Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon
Marat/Sade - or to give its full title "The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" - is currently being revived by the RSC at Stratford.
This was always going to be a dangerous proposition, for despite Peter Weiss's German play being an intentionally provocative work, the RSC's 1964 production has passed into legendary status. Originally translated by Geoffrey Skelton, but brought to verse life by poet Adrian Mitchell, the original RSC version had been directed by Peter Brooks, and had starred Ian Richardson (as the Herald - though in the US production he took over the role of Marat), Clive Revill (as Marat) Patrick McGee (as De Sade) and Glenda Jackson (as Charlotte Corday). It was an incendiary play, and an incendiary production - still strongly recalled by all who saw it --- as the comments surrounding the current production indicate.
So bringing it back to life in the 21st century was always going to be a risky strategy as a way of demonstrating the RSC still had the power to be radical: firstly, because it is doing radical things elsewhere (both with new plays and the direction of some of its Shakespeare productions); and secondly because - guess what? It's a REVIVAL and what is ever going to be radical about revisiting the past?
Quite a lot it seems, and that the production may not quite work is only part of such radicalism.
Do remember that I'm commenting here on a Preview performance (only the second). A few technical and performance hiccups were clearly still present, but no-one and nothing seemed to come to lasting harm. Note as well that the play is only on for approximately 3 weeks (opening 14 October and closing 5 November: I predict a spectacular finale suitable to the date when it closes).
Unsurprisingly, several people left the production at the interval which is timed approximately 2/3 of the way through the show --- the couple next to Neil grumpily stayed for the second part and she at least was clearly negatively comparing the show to the version she had previously seen [I didn't catch if it was the notorious first RSC version, it may have been the Daniel Craig one...]. If I had a pound for every time she muttered darkly "It's just not working for me" I'd have made at least a tenner, with which I'd have given her a subscription to a decent newspaper since she seemed to think the Daily Mail was a suitable read....
Anyway, in contrast, the woman sat beside me seemed to positively revel in this desperately uncomfortable play. She chuckled heartily many times, for although this is a play (and production) that throws harsh lighting on uncomfortable realities, it is not without absurd humour.
To say the play comes across as uneven need not necessarily be a criticism: rather there is nevertheless an inchoate quality to the performance as a whole that makes the production perhaps even more chaotic and unfathomable for its largely middle-class audience than they would anticipate. The RSC letter to advance ticket purchasers certainly tipped them off about the foreseeable combined violence, nudity and "religious imagery", but I don't know to what extent they were all ready for the distinctly non-revolutionary France 'setting' for the play.
What works best are some of these relocation updates and the directorial flourishes associated with these. Connections to the recent riots, the uprisings in the Arab Spring (and other Middle East associations) abound everywhere. Technology, particularly mobile phones, are used incredibly well and in a way that goes beyond mere invocations of Abu Ghraib but into thoughts of control and distractedness from humanity. The blurring between post-Revolutionary France and contemporary events feels even more heightened in this age of increasingly fast mass communication, certainly more than even the 1960s could have anticipated. When the crowd/the inmates cry out for their revolution there is a crackle of recognition that makes the text of the play as relevant as it would have been in the 1960s.
What work less well are some of the moments of vocalisation (sometimes the singing and the music, the spoken text and the noise become over-layered in a way that just makes them unintelligible - but it is never clear whether that may be the point). The production is also not helped by some of the racially iffy consequences of colour-blind casting: sometimes you really do have to think about what certain characters are doing, saying and gesturing to others in the light of each performers race. Additionally, one can't help but feel that the production doesn't quite break down enough the barriers between audience (within the play) and the theatre audience - for all the popcorn, thrown clothing and minor entries into the seated areas. The use of the thrust stage and balconies to place actors amidst the audience is already well-used by the RSC and so its use here perhaps needed to be even more radical and confrontational in order to challenge the audience out of their comfort zone of passive observers.
Nevertheless, there are some stand-out performances which for me made the production work and will make it memorable as an experience.
Jasper Britton as de Sade was incredible. At times he looks astonishingly like his father (actor Tony Britton) and I'm not sure if that makes the performance more or less disturbing. Certainly, his moments of transformation - he gets a number of costume changes - are carried off with breathtaking confidence. His de Sade is both manipulative and disconcertingly weak: perhaps in just the right measure. His playing against the control of Coulmier (Christopher Ettridge), the Governor of the Asylum is particularly well handled.
Similarly, Lisa Hammond makes for a discomforting Herald: her sexuality is heightened, not ignored, and her disability acknowledged and provocatively played upon. I hope she gets further opportunities with the RSC, and hopefully ones that allow her talents to be appreciated. She conveyed wit and malice with incredible power.
Arsher Ali also made for an excellent Marat, initially uncertain in his performance (as befitting his inmate status) but growing in frustration and self-awareness as the play progresses; his need to proclaim, his need to speak and be hear, sound like the buried sensibilities of reasoned analysis amidst a time of revolution. He is the most broken by the insistent reminders from Coulmier that it's now 1808 and things are different... (when really audience, actors, inmates and the play-within-play audience all know it is nothing of the sort).
Both Nicholas Day and Andrew Melville are under-used in this production, and both suffer enormously for their contributions to the play: but they nevertheless contribute to the unsettling feeling of incoherence that surrounds the performance. More disappointingly Corday (as played by Imogen Doel) never seems to take on the full weight of importance one feels she should have within the play. She comes across as a puppet to other's plans (both as Charlotte and the narcoleptic inmate playing her), which may be just right but somehow seems less pertinent than it could be.
Elsewhere, there are disconcerting and erratic performances from within the ensemble: Maya Barcot as Rossignol, Golda Rosheuvel as Cucurucu, and Amanda Wilkin as Kokol sing magnificently but can come across too often as performers playing inmates playing performers --- and I'm not sure that level of meta-playing is quite what the play wants to alert us to. Similarly, Lanre Malaolu as Duperret (the ever masturbating sex maniac) works best when in his moments of 'lucidity' and articulation - which is probably the intended counterpoint of his ever-more pathetic inability to exert physical self-control.
Despite my misgivings and uncertainties about the production 'working' - and the more I think about last night's play, the less certain I am what it would mean for the play to 'work' - everyone is clearly giving everything they have to this work and I can only imagine the exhaustion and psychological weirdness that must surround their performing in this hysterical play (since it is hysterical in so many senses). I can't help but applaud the effort of the RSC to challenge boundaries - but I'm not sure that reviving this play, with all its actorly baggage, was necessarily the best way to do it. The (sub)text references to contemporary events are well-intentioned, but I'm unclear about the extent to which audiences will be stirred to think differently as they may have done in the 1960s to the contemporary relevances invoked then. It's therefore an honourable take on a problematic work --- it will be interesting to see how others react.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Great visuals too as hinted at in this rather well put together piece.
Let's look at the stats (they're in the sidebar but they make for salutory reading):
2004 - 47 posts. Heck I didn't start till the Autumn...
2005 - 762 posts. Phew - seriously addicted. January, March and August were the lowest productive months at 49, 41 and 40 posts respectively --- but December ended the year on a WHOPPING 90 blogposts.
2006 - 824 posts. The high water mark of regular blogging. It was ALL downhill from there. However, it's useful to note the two lowest months were April (26) and December (37) with the peak of activity in the summer (122 and 100 respectively). April was when we made our first NZ trip; December marked the the kind of average number of monthly posts I'd hit in 2007. The decline started there.
2007 - 478 posts. It's not exactly half, but it is close enough to look like a massive drop. On the other hand, it was a year where we hit bereavement AND job changes.
2008 - 245 posts. Eek, that trend of 'halving' is getting worse. Again, summer was the high point (though a shadow of its former self) with May, June and July hitting 53, 54 and 66 respectively. The average was around 30ish. We ended on 12 in December. Pathetic.
2009 - 173 posts. We're not getting much beyond 20 posts per month, and by the end its single digits. At this point, we can't even really blame 'other forms of social media are available'. Worse than pathetic.
2010 - 141 posts. Meh.
And so we come to where we are now. We hit 33 in January (thanks to some strategic planning) and 31 in May (thanks to some plays I think. But by and large this has been an equally disappointing year on the blogging front.
At this point it is possible to be honest and acknowledge The Facebook. With smartphone in hand and much greater ease accessing Facebook on it than anything else, I've been able to tap into that to do quick links and comments sat on the sofa at the end of anything good on TV or even just in response to a friend's remark.
On one level, that's great and it has proven super-useful at times.
But I do regret that I've neglected reading and especially writing blogs as much as I have enjoyed in the past (and in many ways still do). Partly, this comes out of the more limited time I have available and my desperate need to not spend hours on computers at home after a day at the office. The Facebook is 'easy' in that respect. Partly it is also rubbish idleness - a trait I frequently stumble into despite appearances to the contrary.
But I do miss it. I miss keeping up with people and writing expansive reviews.
I haven't even covered the latest Doctor Who finale - and I seriously disavow any sense that this was out of 'meh'-ness as it made me applaud each time I watched it. And I also haven't commented here on The Fades (frankly my new favourite programme).
Will try better?
Friday, September 30, 2011
All courtesy of the entrepreneurial spirit of New Zealand as one man turns his shed into a weekend nostalgia museum. Enter through the TARDIS.
And when the museum is open, his home made dalek stalks the lawn!
In New Zealand, landscaping, roads, pathways etc are usually done first: hence why on some estates you get the grand entrance way built to an estate which never actually comes to fruitition.
Anyway, some estates DO start to come to life: I hope Pegasus is one, as they confidently proclaim that there will be a town centre coming soon!
One of the selling points of Pegasus is its proximity to the nearby beach - a spooky short drive from the centre of the new estate through wooded dirt tracks.
But the view when you arrive is lovely.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Didn't you spot the 'switch off your critical faculties' line?
What can I say that hasn't already been written? In an age where the internet - especially Twitter and Facebook - mean that every faultline, every contradiction, every incoherant plot thread and every bit of over-emotional music scoring can be dissected within seconds of airing, to the world even before they've had chance to watch themselves... how can it even be possible to comment after the event?
But the point is that all that 'noise', the immediacy of comment, doesn't necessarily make for considered opinion. Not as I am promising considered opinion, but in these fast-moving times I suspect that even something written around 12 hours after the end of the UK screening of Torchwood, and at the mid-point of the second run of episodes for Season 6/Fnarg-plus-one-point-five/32-ish of Doctor Who will appear 'thoughtful'.
For what it's worth then, here are my thoughts (you'd be silly not to anticipate some spoilery remarks:
Well it was bonkers wasn't it? It certainly wasn't up there with Children of Earth level creepiness or emotional wrenching, but neither did it hit the (nevertheless entertainingly awful) lows of some of the episodes of S1 and S2. There were moments when the American-ness of the series threatened to overwhelm everything and turn it into 24, and I could have done without some of the awful "here-are-the-differences-between-the-American-and-English-language" puns, riffs and 'explanations'. But then it worked out more of what it wanted to do and there were some brilliantly unsettling aspects to the story. I was glad that we caught episode five before we travelled (as I would have been really cross to not have the horrors that presented to depart on) and there was something wonderful about squashing in four episodes to a couple of days on our return ensuring we were primed for the finale in tandem with the rest of the UK.
Am I 'pleased' with the ending? Not yet sure. It made no sense at all, but hey: it's Torchwood (kinda like Chinatown but less well written). I liked that it killed Vera off and let Kitzinger survive, and felt utterly baffled that there wasn't more general social chaos post-miracle given that effectively the world had been governed by people prepared to decide who lived and who died (and burning their inconvenient asses in the process). But you know what, I was glad to have it around and it sure beat lots of the other stuff on TV (esp as we don't have access to US TV generally nor most of the cable channels in the UK). A solid 7.5 overall I'd figure (with Children of Earth hitting a good full point or more higher).
Best episodes: The New World, The Categories of Life, Immortal Sins, and (just for sheer bravado nonsense) the finale The Blood Line.
Three to go. I had to catch up on Let's Kill Hitler once we returned from our travels, thus getting a little out of step with the series as we had caught Fear Him (sic: thanks be to Rob) whilst over in the USA. Hence The Girl Who Waited was my first ep watched in company 'real-time' back on home soil.
Is the series of 2011 as strong as the 2010 one? Not sure. In some ways its better - much more consistent and hey, I like dark (even kids-TV dark). For all the failings others spotted, I've largely loved it --- Pirates! 'Gangers! bonkers eye-patch cobblers! enough wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff to make your eyes bleed!
Seriously though, I haven't felt the disengagement that others have; I've enjoyed the emotional manipulation of old Amy/young Amy (and younger Amy - ah, Amelia Pond, we're ALWAYS happy to see you, even if you are a projection); I've enjoyed seeing Rory become less of a cipher and Matt Smith is still proving to be every bit as good as the Doctor as we wanted him to be from first seeing him in The Eleventh Hour. Are there still unanswered questions? Of course - and I'm not sure I will want or like all the answers to them (not least the 'absolutely killed him' issue of astronaut Melody and the Doctor).
But I'm fully signed up for the ride, and as long as they keep using my old furniture as props (seriously: that wardrobe in Night Terrors had clearly meandered from Nottingham to Cardiff via the charity shop we passed it to), then I will remain happy.
Southern hemisphere you see --- their winter. So we could have been really caught out - stuck and unable to reach the family.
As it was, it perfect timing, the sun came out. This meant there was snow on the mountains still, but our level was just beautiful.
One thing that I do indulge in over in NZ is coffee: I don't drink much coffee here (I'm a tea-belly if anything) but they do make a real effort with the presentation of coffee in New Zealand. Witness this cappuccino from Seagars in Oxford, NZ.
Indeed, food standards generally are pretty hot in NZ: see these lovely desserts, also from Seagars. (Apart from the fruit I swear everything was made with maximum attention to calories...)
We also had some spiffy food at Route 72 and at Pukeko Junction, near Amberley and Leithfield, NZ.
(Sorry about the lighting but the Pukeko salad and frittata was too lovely to not photograph - even if the lighting came out weird).
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
We had a blast last time we went to the Getty, but the journey there was a tad traumatic. Working out we could go via Santa Monica, and then through Brentwood up to the Getty was a great treat and much less hassle. And - befitting a sunny summer day - we had a glorious time again.
There is something exquisite about the light and colour of the place. Here's a short video of the visit. If you can get through my 'peg-on-nose' nasal tones and talking with Neil, there's a good of-the-period joke about Nick Clegg (see here for details).
Rullsenberg at Heathrow T5 at ungodly o'clock ahead of our flight. Very relieved that I had surrendered the (nevertheless would have been delightful) pleasure of seeing Much Ado for a third time the evening before. Heaven knows how little sleep I would have had.
Still: all worthwhile to arrive in LA and immediately hop on the Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica and have a paddle!
Thursday, September 08, 2011
I'm a bit zoinked from travelling but I'll be back with news and reviews of our travels over the coming days.
- Wednesday 17 August - travelled to London, overnight at Sheraton Skyline Heathrow
- Thursday 18 August - fly out from Heathrow 09:55
- Thursday 18 August - arrive in LA and stay at Marriott LAX, visit Santa Monica (lots), Getty, and Armand Hammer gallery
- Saturday 20 August - fly out from LAX 23:40
- Monday 22 August 08:10 (yes, I know - we crossed the dateline and lost a day) - arrive in Auckland to catch connecting flight to Christchurch - stay with family
- Wednesday 31 August - fly out from Christchurch up to Auckland 15:00 - stay at SkyCity Grand Hotel
- Friday 2 September - fly out from Auckland 13:05 to LAX
- Friday 2 September arrive 06:30 (yes, I know: more time-travelling, this trip going back in time) - pass security and re-check baggage to get flight to San Francisco at 09:30
- Friday 2 September (STILL!) - stay for four nights at the InterContinental San Francisco on Howard Street: lots of walking, the Coit tower, Haight Ashbury, Fisherman's Wharf, lots of shopping (City Lights!)
- Tuesday 6 September - fly out to Heathrow at 16:55
- Wednesday 7 September - land in the UK 11:25, home by 18:00
- Thursday 8 September - back to work!!!
Monday, August 15, 2011
If you see a woman with red hair dancing near the front - that was me!
Here's my pics:
And here's my little video!
Just to say, Neil bought a stetson.
Yes: Stetsons Are Cool.
Passing stuff: Other Lives, Wolf People, By the Rivers, Givers, The Bees, Graham Coxon and The Maccabees.
King Creosote and Jon Hopkins - Gentle, beautiful and utterly melodic. Soothing stuff. And I was right at the indoor stage barrier. Great performances.
Portico Quartet - The highlight of Friday for sure: just brilliant musicianship.
Toots and the Maytals - Packed the Indoor stage at De Montford. Really got the place excited.
Shonen Knife - yeah, I KNOW, I KNOW... but they clashed with Portico and it was a tough call. I need Hermione's hour glass thing.
Passing stuff: The Rasoodocks, I am in Love, Showaddywaddy (yes, they are warbling away), We Three and the Death Rattle (though we did see most of their set), The Jim Jones Revue (yeah, again, sorry, but the acoustics did nothing for them), Little Comets (fair portion of their set), Reef (hard to miss 'Place Your Hands'), Dizreali and the Small Gods (didn't catch enough of them but they were great and worth buying their self-produced CD), Teddy Thompson, comedy from Rob Rouse, bit of Newton Faulkner.
Rachel Rose Reid @ Curiosity Corner - definitely one of the best locations for unusual entertainment this year, Curiosity Corner was a gem. Spoke Word and folk songstress Rachel Rose Reid was a lovely ease-in to day 2.
Gallery 47 - a Nottingham Uni student! Very good guitar player and song-writer
Galli Galli Theatre @ Curiosity Corner - a Victorian Melodrama called "Fretting Fanny's Forlorn Forage for Friendly Fumblings". The title should tell you everything about how mad this was!
Beth Jeans Houghton (and the Hooves of Destiny) - her hair alone is worth watching! Despite some technical problems (a broken string!) they were suitably off-beat and with heavy cursing lyrics too.
Benjamin Francis Leftwich - not as good as I hoped but passably pleasant
Bellowhead!!!!! (see separate post) - Well - I had a VERY good time (and probably lost half a stone in sweat dancing!)
Pete and the Pirates - Bloody excellent. First heard the song 'Half Moon Street' when the lead singer did it with his side band Tap Tap, but the song is just AWESOME and I really like their style and lyrics. Even Neil was won over as they did a storming set in the Rising stage.
I Am Kloot - Sadly no where near as well attended as it could have been, they were nevertheless wonderful to see. Opening with their own special 'The Sky at Night' intro from Sir Patrick Moore, Singer, they were lushly lovely. Drink-inspired and self-reflective analysis of life and love ("and disaster"). John Bramwell was on fine vocal form - and it was nice to catch his warm up vocalising, letting his natural crooner style find voice with the likes of 'Fly Me to the Moon'. Opening with 'Northern Skies' was delicious...
Passing Stuff: Austin Francis Connection ("Everybody Knows Dave") - ridiculously good fun...
More passing stuff (Sunday)....Dark Dark Horse (dull), The Swines, The Antlers (rubbish), The Black Atlantic (sorry I missed most of them - they sounded pretty damn good actually - see video below)
More passing stuff again (Sunday)...Summer Sundae Choir, C.W. Stoneking, The Cuban Brothers, start of Kitty Daisy and Lewis (too tired: had to leave)
Harp for Hangovers @ Curiosity Corner - gentle harp based versions of Blur (The Universal), Jefferson Airplane (Don't You Want Somebody to Love) and The Beatles (Come Together) etc. Very gentle!
My First Tooth - quite jolly pop band from Northampton with nice sing-a-long style. Plus lively violin playing.
Maniere Des Bohemiens - Nottingham band of French-flavoured Django Reinhardt/Stephane Grappelli style music. Perfect summer afternoon fare!
The Leisure Society - wonderful as ever, if not getting the support they needed being placed on the Outdoor stage. I enjoyed them very much.
The Dead Victorians @ Curiosity Corner - mad music hall from four Victorian Gentlemen (of suitably varying heights. Eyebrow solos, tongue solos and madness ranging from 'The Pizza Song' to "If I can't have a proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot I'll have a cup of tea". Sadly, I knew all the words already. I had a very odd upbringing!
Dutch Uncles - bosting! Angular pop. Plus a fine version of Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World". Think a Sparks style of vocal but with more dancing. Quirky fun.
Warpaint - packed the Indoor stage out for quite a while. Much deserved Grrl guitar musicality and perfect harmonies.
Example - we didn't intend to but with the sun going down, the crowd bouncing and a vibrant energy, we couldn't help but enjoy!
Missed: Everything, Everything. Wasn't quite in the mood for falsetto. Plus we ran away before McFly kicked off, and the collective squeals deafened everything in Leicester.
There's a nice review - mostly Nottingham focused - of Summer Sundae from the excellent LeftLion site.