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Messages - HtoHe

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Theatre / Sunny Afternoon - Harold Pinter Theatre
« on: February 19, 2015, 04:34:54 pm »
I don’t know if anyone is interested in this, but here goes.  To be brutally honest, this was fifth and last on my priority list yesterday but, having got up too late to queue I couldn’t get in to the matinee of The Hard Problem, A View From the Bridge, The Scottsboro’ Boys or Taken at Midnight so it was Sunny Afternoon or nothing.  Usually I’d prefer ‘nothing’ to this kind of play but I had heard a few good reports and the box office staff assured me it wasn’t really a ‘juke box’ musical along the lines of Mamma Mia et al. There was, therefore, a certain irony in the fact that I left thinking that it might have been better as a ‘juke box’ show because the song covers weren’t at all bad whereas the dramatic content and structure were extremely poor.  The acting was pretty wooden – which might not be a reflection on the actors as the few spoken lines weren’t exactly sparkling, the characterisation was cartoonish and attention to detail left something to be desired (for example, surely nobody would ask if Ray was going down the pub to watch the football in 1962!) .  The structure is, if anything, worse.  I was already getting a bit concerned when, by the interval, they’d only got as far as 1966.  In fact that, in itself, wasn’t a big issue because they obviously had no intention of getting past about 1970; but where the first half had at least paid lip service to moving the plot along incorporating hit songs as they went the second half seemed to be painfully driven by the need to get Waterloo Sunset and Lola in on any pretext. 

If you’re happy to ignore the fact that the musical deals with only a small fraction of the band’s career (and, to be honest, there are good reasons why you might be) there are plenty of classic songs to listen to.  Of course, even if they did only cover 1964-1970 they probably couldn’t have included everyone’s favourites but I was a bit taken aback by the fact that two songs that were very obscure until Ray Davies gave them to Chrissie Hynde (Stop Your Sobbing and I Go To Sleep) were included while See My Friends, Victoria, Apeman, Death of a Clown, Village Green Preservation Society and others were missed. On the other hand it’s not all mega-hits like You Really Got Me, Sunny Afternoon and Lola.  Less prominent songs such as I’m Not Like Everybody Else, A Well Respected Man and Deadend Street put in an appearance (though I’m not at all sure the last-named was as autobiographical as the plot implies).  Many people will quite happily overlook the dramatic failings to wallow in nostalgia – and why not, when the songs are so good.  If you’re one of those people, though, I should warn that the set is rather ill-conceived with a runway extending into the stalls so that most people upstairs – and quite a few downstairs - can’t actually see the whole playing space.   Contrary to the info in the Official London Theatre booklet there isn’t a £15 day seat scheme but they offer discounted seats on the day at £15 upstairs (mine was in the Royal Circle, 2nd row) and £29.50 stalls.  I presume these are subject to availability but I was told that, in practice, they have them every day. Runs until October 24 – which seems optimistic, but what do I know about musicals?

Television / Re: Wolf Hall, BBC 2, 21st Jan 2015
« on: February 15, 2015, 11:57:10 am »
I was persuaded to catch the first two parts before episode one disappeared from the i-player (less than a week left if there's anyone out there even slower than me) and I'm afraid I wasn't impressed.  The acting was fine - how could it not be with the likes of Rylance, Pryce and Whalley and less well-known names such as Charity Wakefield.  I remembered the last-named giving a decent performance as Anya in a rather dull The Cherry Orchard at the NT and she does well here as Mary Boleyn but, yet again, I found the vehicle unconvincing.  I'm afraid I just wasn't persuaded by this version of events so, no matter how Ms Wakefield sparkled I just couldn't imagine her coming on to Cromwell just as, despite Mark Ryalance's sterling efforts, I just didn't buy this paragon of emotional literacy that was supposed to be Thomas Cromwell.  The whole thing came across, to me, as The Tudors without the bodice-ripping - though by the end of episode two I was beginning to warm to the Tudor policy of eventually killing anyone called Thomas. I'm afraid I won't be going out of my way to watch the rest of the series.

Theatre / Cartoonopolis - Liverpool Playhouse (Studio)
« on: February 13, 2015, 11:14:10 pm »
Lewis Bray’s one man show has dozens of characters and operates on several different levels with no more support than a straight-backed chair – unless you count a screen, behind which he occasionally hides, at the back of an otherwise empty stage.  On the simplest level the piece is an insight into the life of an autistic teenager, Lewis’s brother Jack, and how it affects his immediate family.  Prominent in Jack’s life is the imaginary world of Cartoonopolis and its inhabitants – which he has created for himself using TV, cinema and youtube cartoon films as inspiration and picking up an American accent in the process.  As Lewis plays all the parts this, for much of the play, involves him in giving a portrayal of his brother giving a portrayal of imaginary cartoon characters.  He doesn’t even change clothes so has to rely on changes of voice and subtle differences of facial expression to give us his mother, his father, his brother, a bemused taxi driver, various inhabitants of Cartoonopolis and, of course, himself.  In a highly energetic performance lasting about 110 minutes (inc interval) he succeeds in drawing us into his world – and thereby into his brother’s – and, while I don’t imagine many in the sell-out audience were left begging for more, I doubt many found the experience less than entertaining either.  I particularly liked the bit where Jack, as Mayor of Cartoonopolis, tried to do a deal with Fat Tony the gangster (ably brought to life by nothing more sophisticated than a curl of the lip and an imaginary cigarette) to get rid of the rival, evil, mayor.  Fat Tony had to confess that he couldn’t get rid of the pest despite having tried everything in the armaments catalogue – a giant frying pan over the back of the head, a 20-ton weight dropped from a clifftop, a steamroller etc etc.

I don’t know if we’ll hear any more from Bray.  Writers are advised to write what they know and there’s no doubt he knows about living in a family with an autistic member and he knows how to turn that into a successful stage piece.  Whether he knows anything else well enough to do the same, only time will tell.

There are only two more performances left (both tomorrow and both, like all performances in the run, ‘returns only’) but there are hopes of a tour.  As far as I can gather nothing has been arranged yet, but tonight’s performance was filmed – unobtrusively, I’m happy to say – with a view to pitching the idea to other theatres.  It’s worth seeing – far more than the sum of the parts I have, somewhat inadequately, described.

Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: February 13, 2015, 01:52:20 pm »
Well, I've booked to see Sher as Willy on my way back from my April trip to London.  At least I hope to see him - I've gambled on a restricted view ticket at £16 because the £50 tickets that were left didn't look very good.  I should have been true to my resolution and monitored sales more closely - but I didn't know they were going to cast Harriet Walter as Linda and effectively double the desirability of tickets!

Manchester has a new cultural venue opening very soon.  One has to question whether that city actually needs another major outlet but I'll certainly give it a go.  Ted Hughes's treatment of the Oresteia is the piece that makes strongest initial appeal.

On which point, the students of MMU at the Capitol theatre present Women of Troy at the end of the month.  If they don't deviate from their accustomed simple staging this promises to be very good - and at £8 a ticket it's a bargain for anyone living in the area.

News and Current Affairs / Re: John McCabe has died
« on: February 13, 2015, 01:34:31 pm »
That's sad news.  I didn't particularly follow his career but saw him several times taking a bow after a performance of one other of his pieces.  If memory serves he had a piece on the same programme as the premiere of Martle's sax concerto. 


The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: February 12, 2015, 11:44:32 pm »
It’s a pity so few people were in the Philharmonic Hall tonight to hear a fine concert conducted by Darrell Ang, who seemed to have a good rapport with the RLPO.  Perhaps people were scared off by the UK premiere of Wolf Totem, Tan Dun’s concerto for double bass and orchestra with Marcel Becker as soloist.  It is rather surprising, though, that Liverpool concertgoers would skip a concert that included the lush Le Tombeau de Couperin and the lively Shostakovich 9th Symphony even if it did also feature a new concerto for an unfashionable solo instrument and a fairly obscure piece by Hindemith.  As it happened the Tan Dun piece was eminently accessible after a strange opening in which the bass gave out rather stark notes against a faint hum from the strings, that could almost have been mistaken for feedback, and a few percussive reports that might have been people dropping their instrument cases.  Whether these were actually supposed to mimic background sounds I’m not sure but it hardly matters as fuller sounds soon took over and a rousing Sino-American mood was established.  I had expected the concerto to be a bit harder work for listeners but can’t say it wasn’t enjoyable.  The Ravel had all the grandeur one expects from that master of orchestration (though I must say I prefer the solo piano piece from which the orchestral one is derived) and the Hindemith – which I don’t think I’ve heard before – was solid stuff, though rather shorter than I expected of something called a Concerto for Orchestra.  The best was saved for last and Ang got a rousing performance out of the band in Shostakovich 9 with its helter-skelter final movement prompting a level of applause that was impressive for a hall that can’t have been more than half full.  I think Mr Ang will be here again and I hope he gets a bigger audience when he does come back.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: February 12, 2015, 10:58:55 am »
.. looks rather like a certain North Korean leader...


It just occurred to me that it's fortunate we don't name monarchs alphabetically because we'd already be looking forward to George G - with George H only a heartbeat away and George W already too close for many people's liking. 

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: February 12, 2015, 09:27:29 am »
I don't think I mentioned in my report on Mike Bartlett's King Charles III - probably because the play contained much bigger constitutional anomalies -  that the likelihood of anyone actually being crowned Charles was only slightly higher than King John II, King Stephen II or King Adolf I.  I'd have thought that, if the monarchy survives, George VII - being associated with not much worse than a bit of madness - is more likely than any of the next three in line (excluding the one who is actually called George already).  Charles III, William V and Henry IX all have rather uncomfortable associations for one section of the population or another, don't they?

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: February 11, 2015, 08:26:36 pm »
Like when David Lammy was asked which monarch followed Henry VIII and he came up with . . .  Henry VII  :facepalm:

Understandable, surely - especially to those of us who see the monarchy as a backward institution.

I'll get me coat....

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: February 11, 2015, 10:55:44 am »
More newsworthy would be something along the lines of ‘clapped out game show still going decades after it should have been shelved’.   I wonder if JaM is getting desperate for new listeners.  I remember loving the programme about thirty years ago and, at that time, I probably wished it would go on for ever and never change.  But I didn’t mean it – honest!  I suppose that, at least, this celebrity actually achieved something, if only within the context of the game’s format.  I was recently encouraged to watch an episode of Celebrity Mastermind and was staggered by the sheer ignorance of some of the contestants. I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone to have wide general knowledge just because they’re famous but I am surprised that they put their lack of it on display in this way.  Most striking was Ken Dodd who answered the question ‘what is the name of the peninsula between the Mersey and Dee rivers’ with ‘Anglesey’ – which is neither a peninsula nor anywhere near Doddy’s supposedly beloved Mersey.  And he finished second of the four contestants!

Theatre / Educating Rita - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: February 09, 2015, 11:59:23 pm »
Though it will be a long time before I forget the Playhouse’s abysmal Xmas production, this fine revival of Willy Russell’s variation on the Pygmalion story goes a long away towards reassuring me that Sex and the Three Day Week was an unfortunate aberration.  Local star Leanne Best was on fine form as Susan/Rita, though one of my few quibbles was with her accent.  Why is it that people affecting a broader version of their native accent often sound more artificial than complete outsiders?  I had the same problem with Bury’s Kate O’Flynn, whose Stockport and Salford accents in Port and A Taste of Honey sounded almost parodic.  Otherwise, though, Best and co-star Con O’Neil sparked off each other superbly in a piece that really doesn’t show its age as much as I feared it might; and for a first preview the performance ran smoothly enough to suggest that a lot of hard work has gone into this production.  I heard that Russell had written some new lines but there was no attempt to update the action to the present day.  Perhaps some lines placing the action in the 1970s have been excised to give the piece a timeless appeal; I don’t know as I’ve never seen the stage version before.   There was a lot of effing and blinding in the opening scenes that I don’t remember from the film but this had all but disappeared long before the end – perhaps an indication that Rita, an enthusiastic advocate of swearing at the beginning, had gained so much in articulacy that she no longer needed ‘strong language’. 

The set is very good, being a striking recreation of Frank’s study with the walls and doors (to the outside and to his bathroom)  completely covered with bookshelves – and Frank’s stash of spirit bottles hidden behind the books!  No matter how good the performances and the set, though, the script is the main attraction.  Educating Rita is not a hugely profound piece but it is wonderfully effective.  One can’t help noticing that as Rita develops over the 2+ hours of the play – not only being ‘educated’ but also, apparently, giving up smoking, swearing and an overbearing spouse – Frank, ostensibly charged with her education, has ground to a halt.  He’s unable to address his drinking and quite early on begins to doubt the value of what he’s doing.  Like Dysart in Equus he suspects that by guiding his charge towards conventional success he is destroying something intrinsically valuable in her.  By the end it’s clear he feels more need for her than she for him – though whether his need is primarily intellectual, social or erotic is never really clear.  The final scene is a suitably non-committal resolution to a play that’s well worth seeing.  Runs until 7 March. Recommended.

The Coffee Bar / Re: The new pedantry thread
« on: February 09, 2015, 11:00:35 pm »
A nice little nugget of tautology overheard in Waitrose the other day:
"She's got twin girls - and they're both 18 next week."

I'm easily amused.  :)

As this is the pedantry thread:

The Coffee Bar / Re: What has made you smile today?
« on: February 08, 2015, 09:03:38 pm »
There's a shop in Köln dealing with things automotive whose name is dodgy even in the native tongue. And

Köln also appears in one of my favourite stories.  The computer company Wang had an office there many years ago and, we're told, calls from abroad had to be answered in English with the greeting 'Good morning/afternoon, Wang Cologne'

The Coffee Bar / Re: What has made you smile today?
« on: February 08, 2015, 02:03:54 pm »
I'm surprised there aren't more of these unfortunate names in the public eye, Ollie.  When I edit German marketing lists I'm shocked by the number of Herr/Frau Fuckers there are in the country and wonder what would happen if one of them got into the national football team or became a prominent politician.  We've already had Stefan Kuntz who was the cause of several quasi-Colemanballs incidents.  I say 'quasi' because a real Colemanballs incident involves the commentator making a shameful mistake whereas these were amusing without the commentator getting anything wrong.  The one I remember was in a Germany v England game and went something like 'The Germans are coming into this game more and more....Kuntz'  I can't find that online, but here's something similar:

Broadcast and Recorded Music / Re: Your latest purchase?
« on: February 08, 2015, 11:10:23 am »
 Thanks, Bryn.  They have a few things on You Tube, I see.  I listened to Big Swifty and G-Spot Tornado last night.  Great fun!

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