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Messages - HtoHe

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Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: July 18, 2014, 09:30:25 pm »
Niamh Cusack in Juno and the Paycock at the Liverpool Playhouse in early October pretty much comes into the unmissable category for me - and it will probably be the first time I have seen the same role played by two illustrious siblings given that I had the privilege of seeing Sinead's Juno at the NT a few years ago.  I've already booked and noted that the stalls are already almost full for the first two previews so I thought I'd mention it for the benefit of anyone who might be interested.  Having also, to avoid disappointment, booked in advance for Kristin Scott Thomas's Electra at the Old Vic I now have two unmissable performances to see within eight days of each other.

Theatre / Shakespeare in Love - Noel Coward Theatre
« on: July 17, 2014, 09:47:07 pm »
I wanted to see The Crucible at the Old Vic but I wasn’t going to pay £50 for a decent seat or £10 for one described, with commendable honesty, as offering a dreadfully restricted view; so I was left to choose between Handbagged, the veterans’ production of The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare in Love for my Wednesday homeward-bound matinee.  Against my instincts I went for SiL because a couple in the NT queue on Monday recommended it; but within ten minutes of the start I knew I’d almost certainly chosen wrongly.  I won’t go into detail because I suspect this production is aimed at people who look for different things in a play than I do so it’s probably best to say nothing.  I am, of course, happy to answer any questions where I can give useful information; but the reason I opened this thread was to warn that the front row day seats are not brilliant.  At £10 or £15 (I paid £10 but I think that’s because it was officially still a preview) I’m not going to complain about value but it must be said that the stage is very high and very deep.  I presume rows A & B have been removed to make way for an extension which goes to within inches of the front row (C).   I found it impossible to see the back of the stage or to see people lying on the floor (which happens quite often) and I’m not particularly short.  I imagine some people would have difficulty seeing much at all.  If you plan to see this you might get a better deal if the Leicester Sq booth is doing half-price seats further back.

Theatre / Great Britain - Lyttelton Theatre
« on: July 17, 2014, 12:22:52 pm »
There can be little doubt that with Great Britain the Richard Bean/Nicholas Hytner combination has another massive hit on its hands.  It probably won’t be as big as One Man, Two Guvnors because, unfortunately, the phone-hacking, MPs expenses, police corruption and other scandals woven together here will soon be all but forgotten; but a West End transfer is already a dead cert and I’d have thought live screenings and a national tour are extremely likely.

Is it any good?  Well, it’s certainly not a literary masterpiece but it delivers what it promises in copious quantities.  Its minor promise is to prod mercilessly at the putrefaction in our national institutions but its major promise is to  be riotously funny.  The flattering comparison here is not with One Man, Two Guvnors but with The Duck House.  Where that meretricious piece of prefabricated mickey taking had the poor cast pausing for laughs that didn’t come (and sometimes, even, quite literally telling the audience that the last line was a cue for laughter) Great Britain is the kind of play you need to see more than once because the gags are so fast and funny that you’re bound to have missed some of them because you were still laughing at the one before.

I’m afraid I didn’t find Billie Piper any more wonderful than I did in The Effect but it would be mean to be too critical about a performance that seemed word perfect (and she was given a lot of words to deliver) and timed to the split second.  I just thought she was a bit one-dimensional with hackneyed mannerisms and a tone that didn’t seem to distinguish between whether she was addressing the audience (as well as being news editor Paige Britain she is the character charged with breaching the fourth wall when the author wants to) or engaged in dialogue.  And the tone, don’t ask me why, has more than a little of the Maggie Thatcher schoolmarm about it.   Allowances must also be made for the fact that Ms Piper has to use a female character to satirise the behaviour of people who, in real life, are probably male characters.  Most of you will know that this production was kept under wraps until the phone hacking verdicts were in; and the pale-skinned redheaded pal of the proprietor is not Ms Piper’s Paige Britain at all but Virginia White (Jo Dockery), who turns out to be an innocent abroad, completely oblivious to the skulduggery going on around her!  Ms Piper has a lot more in common with a man at the heart of the phone hacking scandal – with the added advantage that she, in the rampantly heterosexual world of the tabloids, could be shown literally getting into bed with the leader of the Tory party, Jonathan Whey (Rupert Vansittart).

Other performances were as efficient as Ms Piper’s (though surely none were as taxing) and several were more convincing.  Robert Glenister as editor Wilson Tikkel (whose surname, you’ll note, is most definitely not Mackenzie) and Paschal O’Leary as the emphatically Irish, and not Australian, proprietor succeed in being recognisable and stereotypical without being cartoonish.  Aaron Neil as the 'first Asian police Commissioner', Sully Kassam, is cartoonish but is very obviously written with such hyperbole that no attempt at credibility could even be attempted.  And the character, unless I’m missing something, seems to be a pure figment rather than anyone recognisable.  Mr Neil hams it up gloriously – which is all you can do when your character holds press conferences and says things like ‘I’m appealing to the public for any information you can give - because a clue is one thing I have not got’.  Harriet Thorpe as Clarissa Kingston-Mills, a PR consultant with a wicked line in revenging herself on the press when she feels cheated is also fine.  Indeed the list of good performances is too long for me to comment on them all so I’ll stop there.

The set is fairly simple though quite hi-tech, including huge screens so the audience can see the TV and internet feeds and magnified front page pictures and headlines – including iIrc ‘Heil Ma’m!’ over a picture of the future queen playing in a Hitler Youth band in the 1930s.  I won’t give away too much more but can’t resist my favourite exchange between the Tory Leader and his press advisor:

There are more pandas in Scotland than Conservative MPs

We must do something about that.  Any suggestions?

Shoot the pandas?

(paraphrased, of course – my memory isn’t nearly that good!)

It might be difficult to get tickets as news spreads about this; but I was very surprised to find myself third in the queue at 0700 on Monday.  And everyone who was there when the box office opened will have got a front row seat for £15.  These seats are fine for this production – you’ll see everything and be in a better position than most to read the front-page mock ups and other stuff. 

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 12, 2014, 08:06:13 am »
The term "sibling" was previously in use to cover the relationship issue in this thread. Why introduce the loaded alternative "blood ties"?

I don't know.  Why have you introduced it?  I can't see that particular term in any of my messages so (apologies if my 'search' option has let me down) I can only assume it springs from your determination to find something offensive.  I don't think 'blood ties' is particularly loaded but as far as I can see I've only used terms like 'blood connection' (as opposed to, say, business or political connection) and 'blood relative' (as distinct from, say, marital or adoptive relative).  No 'blood feuds', 'blood debts', 'blood oranges' or any other term that just happens to contain the word 'blood'.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 11, 2014, 11:55:21 pm »
The distaste I feel is in the use of the term "blood connection". For me it has the ring of "blood feuds" and "blood debts". Which have no place in this enquiry.

I'm out of this one.  The idea of trying to communicate with someone who finds a phrase distasteful because it has a word in common with a phrase that means something completely different is too much for me.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 11, 2014, 01:52:20 pm »
I find the "blood connection" line o argument to be particularly distasteful. It should have no relevance whatever to her leadership of the enquiry.

Why?  Are you saying that blood loyalty doesn’t exist?  Or that it’s always overt?  Or always operates on a conscious level?  Or do you mean we should be ‘tasteful’ enough to ignore the possibility?  Like Don B, I have my doubts about the wisdom of inquiries like this but if we are to have them we should, at the very least, consider the feelings of the supposed victims.  Apologies for, in part, paraphrasing what jean says but the this is not about Ms Butler-Sloss’s reputation; nor is it about the insiders’ view of who is best at inquiries.  It’s about people who claim they were abused and who further claim that the establishment closed ranks to cover up this abuse.   If you can’t see that instigating an enquiry under the sister of a leading member of that same establishment simply won’t do I have to wonder what kind of ivory tower you’re speaking from.  I have qualified my opinion with terms like unfortunate and coincidence but if that’s not enough I’m willing to risk being seen as distasteful rather than change my opinion that close blood relatives shouldn’t be involved in such inquiries - well not in a supervisory capacity, anyway.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 11, 2014, 12:15:36 pm »
Oh, and please HtoHE, this is not some petty game of  football.

Let’s hope it’s not a witch hunt either.   The World Cup reference is, as I said twice, an analogy and, frankly, I think it’s a much tighter analogy than the witch hunt one.  Furthermore, even if the World Cup final is a ‘petty game of football’ (you are close enough to reality to understand there are hundreds of millions who wouldn’t accept that description, I trust) that, if anything, strengthens the point.  If even FIFA can see that otherwise perfect candidates have to be excluded because of unfortunate coincidence, how much more careful ought we to be in matters of greater gravity.  To return to the witches (Don B’s analogy, not yours) the last thing we want, should someone say ‘I saw Michael H with the devil’ is to have the late Mr H’s sister saying ‘I see no evidence for that’

[Of course her detractors pose as not questioning her integrity. They know that would put them on a very sticky wicket indeed (if we must descend to sporting analogies).

Sorry, I'm still tethered to the logic of homo sapiens so you'll have to explain this.  What exactly is the difference between not questioning her integrity and 'posing as not questioning her integrity' if both manifest themselves as, ahem, not questioning her integrity?  Whether or not the objectors doubt her integrity they have no need to question it because the blood connection means it doesn't matter.  Even if you can read their minds (and I don't see how else you can presume they're 'posing') that doesn't nullify the principle that she shouldn't have been considered in the first place.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 11, 2014, 11:09:39 am »
Then I suggest you put down your dictionary and grasp that the witch-hunt I was referring to is that which I perceive to be taking place against the professional integrity of EB-S, and the fawning being that after the populist campaign against her appointment. She is to lead the enquiry, not to be a one-woman band, and she is eminently fitted to do so. Why this clamour to get a less well qualified person to do the job? What is the agenda governing that?

Once again, the analogy of the football match is useful.  The best referee in the world might br German or Argentinian but that official’s disqualification from the World Cup final would not be for the purpose of appointing a ‘less qualified person’.  Nobody, as far as I know, is speaking against Butler-Sloss’s professional integrity – except, perhaps, insofar as she doesn’t seem to comprehend why people might not want her on the inquiry.  A juror would be expected to declare such a connection and would certainly be challenged and a judge who was otherwise perfectly suited to a case would stand down if a blood relative was involved in it.  This is not populist posturing; it’s a very practical desire to ensure that justice is seen to be impartial.

I must say ‘witch hunt’ strikes me, too, as a strange way to describe this even if you don’t understand the objections.  I can see what Don B means about the possibility of such inquiries getting out of hand and people who had been guilty of nothing or of actions that were not particularly unusual at the time are caught up in an obsessive crusade against ‘abusers’  But objections to Butler-Sloss’s appointment are not in this category.  Nobody is proposing that she should be shamed or punished – just that she is not a suitable person to investigate this particular case.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 10, 2014, 11:28:51 pm »
Franky this stinks of a bad case of 'sins of the fathers'.

Sorry, you've lost me.  To me, the phrase 'sins of the father' implies punishing one generation for the deeds of another.  Nobody is suggesting Butler-Sloss should be punished - just that she's an inappropriate person to chair this inquiry.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 10, 2014, 09:26:39 pm »
The one thing that is relevant is her CV. The rest is dross. Natalie Bennett and the Green Party have made fawning fools of themselves by joining in with this veritable witch-hunt.

Well, I haven't read anything from the Green Party.  To me it's obvious she should be disqualified before anyone even looks at her cv.  It's bad enough having members of the establishment investigating the establishment but to a certain extent that's unavoidable.  But who is going to believe they couldn't find a person to head the enquiry who wasn't a first degree blood relative of one of the most powerful persons in the group under investigation?  No matter how skilful she is her credibility is shot before she starts.

In my experience, relations are the last people to trust.

Witch hunt is what I can see this whole abuse thing becoming, not least because "abuse" as a word is so vague and cover anything from rape to being creepy.

Now there, I agree with you.  I have my doubts about the wisdom of having a wide-ranging enquiry into things that happened many years ago in what was, in many ways, a different world.  But investigating a cover up by appointing the sister of one of the people who was at the centre of the establishment when this supposed cover up was happening is mad.  Stand by for conspiracy theories involving the Freemasons, the Bilderbergers etc, etc.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 10, 2014, 08:44:26 pm »
Just because her brother said something years ago, doesn't mean she agreed with him then or now.

I’m not sure what you’re referring to Don B.  I’m not aware that any of her brother’s views are at issue – indeed I don’t even know what those views might have been.  The point is that she will be heading an enquiry into whether abuse took place, and was covered up, in the corridors of power at a time when her brother was a prominent figure in those very corridors. The point is not whether she agreed with her brother on any particular matter – the point is, quite simply, that she is his sister.  Sibling loyalty is a very well-observed phenomenon and the fact that it doesn’t apply to all siblings is irrelevant.  The relevant fact is that it only applies to siblings, meaning that it can be avoided by the simple measure of not using people’s siblings to investigate their behaviour.  That way there can be no partiality of this type and, more importantly, no suspicion of such partiality.   As I said, this is not to pass any judgement at all on Butler-Sloss.  To use a topical analogy: the reason the officials in the World Cup final on Sunday won’t be from Germany or Argentina is not because FIFA thinks anyone from either of those countries would be biased; it’s because ruling out Germans and Argentinians precludes any suspicion of such bias.  Even Sepp Blatter can understand this basic principle.  It’s a pity we can’t say as much for David Cameron. 

I'm with Don on this one. Her sibling relationship has no relevance whatever. Take a look at her CV. She is the ideal person for the job.

Her cv is not relevant; nor is the possibility that I might consider her the ideal person for the job, other things being equal.  The fact is other things are not equal - she has a family connection to a prominent member of the group under investigation.  You couldn't make this up even as an Ealing comedy They're going to investigate an alleged cover up by appointing the sister of the man who was Attorney General at the time things were allegedly being covered up to head an inquiry.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 10, 2014, 12:22:06 am »

I’m dumbstruck.  Perhaps I am, to paraphrase David Bowie, tethered to too simple a logic; but I can’t see the fact that she’s a sibling of a senior member of the group under scrutiny as anything other than an automatic disqualifying factor.  No matter how unfortunate it might be, her impartiality is bound to be in doubt.  Without wishing in any way to impugn Butler-Sloss's personal integrity it looks almost as if the establishment, by even considering her as an appropriate person, is thumbing its nose at people who wanted this matter investigated

The Coffee Bar / Re: What has made you smile today?
« on: July 07, 2014, 03:21:01 pm »
Good to see the contestants on Round Britain Quiz aren’t afraid to make fools of themselves.  Having failed to identify Jimi Hendrix’s sublime The Wind Cries Mary, one of the contestants, when the song was named, asked ‘oh…is that the same as They Call the Wind Maria’?  She had, beforehand, candidly described herself as ‘a Hendrix-free zone’ but I bet she has some friends who will, perhaps for the rest of her life, delight in telling her just how dissimilar those two songs are!

Theatre / Krapp's Last Tape - Crucible Theatre Sheffield (Studio)
« on: July 05, 2014, 10:15:34 pm »
I don’t think I’ve seen this play before but I suspect this production is unconventional. Not that I’m complaining – it’s just my roundabout way of bringing up the fact that the set is a revolving stage on which Krapp’s den turns throughout the 40-odd minutes of the piece.  One obvious consequence of this is that the drawers on Krapp’s table can’t really open towards the audience as directed since their position relative to any part of the audience is constantly changing.  Another consequence - of more interest to me – is that the way any audience member experiences the action is very different from how it would be if the stage were static.  In a sense that almost certainly couldn’t have been anticipated by the author the movement, and the fact that Krapp’s ‘den’ is completely enclosed (resembling a shed rather than a retreat room in a house), makes the experience somewhat akin to watching a surveillance recording.   Of course there are aspects of any production that are voyeuristic.  We are seeing and hearing someone who thinks he’s alone and does things he probably wouldn’t do in company – talking to himself, putting a peeled banana in his shirt pocket etc; but the effect is heightened by the fact that he goes in and out of view in much the same way people do when caught on cctv.  I’ve no idea whether or not this was intended; it’s just the way it struck me.

Richard Wilson is very good as Krapp.  The inevitable association with Victor Meldrew isn’t a problem as it’s not not at all unreasonable to see simiarities between what we see of Krapp* and the TV curmudgeon.  He does a good job of sounding 39 on the old tape – I couldn’t help wondering if anyone has ever recorded those parts of the text in their thirties then used the tapes for a production of the play 30 years later.  As usual with this author I found the piece moving without really making any attempt to work out what it was ‘about’.  It’s well worth seeing if you can get there and, despite Wilson’s celebrity, tickets seem to be easy enough to get.  Seats are unreserved but, for all that the staff tell you one seat is as good as another because of the revolving set, you might want to get there early as there are several rows but no rake so the front row is obviously better, especially for shorter people.

*I say ‘what we see of Krapp’ because I was a little bothered by conclusions drawn as to Krapp’s character in the programme notes.  No doubt the writers of these notes – the director Polly Findlay and some members of the crew – know the piece better than me but some of the comments seem to ignore the likelihood that Krapp has a life outside his den and that what we see is not necessarily a representative slice of his life.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: July 04, 2014, 09:00:13 am »
This is disturbing.

It's so blatant that it looks more like a spoof in the Onion than a report in the Independent.

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