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Messages - HtoHe

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News and Current Affairs / Billie Whitelaw RIP
« on: December 21, 2014, 09:44:19 pm »
More sad news as the death of Billie Whitelaw was announced today.  I’ll leave it to more knowledgeable members to discuss her work in detail.  For now I’ll just post a link to her Not I – described by Beckett himself as ‘miraculous’.

Also, I don’t think I mentioned this in the Your Latest Purchase thread but Fopp (in both London and Manchester last time I looked) have dvds of ITV’s Armchair Theatre volumes 1, 3 & 4 (they never seem to have 2).  In vol 3 there is a blistering performance from Whitelaw in Alun Owen’s Lena, O My Lena and vol 1 has a less brilliant but still interesting performance in  Brown Skin Gal, Stay Home and Mind Bay-Bee.  Anyone with an interest in what must be the golden age of original TV drama will find these good value – but vol 3 is worth the price for Whitelaw’s Lena alone.


Radio / Cabin Pressure farewell flights Radio 4 next week
« on: December 19, 2014, 09:31:06 pm »
For those of you who don't keep tabs on R4, here's a heads-up for the two-part final episode of one of the best radio comedies of recent years.  Tuesday 23rd and Wednesday 24th December at 1830.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Mandy Rice-Davies - RIP
« on: December 19, 2014, 09:14:08 pm »
I'm no expert on the Profumo case but I've always had the impression that Randy Mavis Dice was the most straightforward of the major characters.  JP himself, of course, went on to become the poster boy for rehabilitation - and all due respect to him - but he rather let himself down right at the start.  Marilyn was the one who seemed to be playing a straight bat to some very dodgy bowling throughout - which is quite remarkable considering her extreme youth at the outset.  And in the decades since she has certainly come across as better adjusted and less bitter than Ms Keeler.  The only negative I can think of off the top of my head is her support for and contributions to the awful ALW musical Stephen Ward.


The Coffee Bar / Re: Bah! Humbug!
« on: December 19, 2014, 12:22:40 pm »
Think yourself lucky, Jim.  Our seasonal treat is pretty generous for those who like that kind of thing but for me a posh dinner (I don't eat meat and there's usually only a very dull vegetarian option) with unlimited booze (I don't drink) and karaoke (ugh!!!) is hardly a treat.  Add to that the fact that I've got to pay the best part of £100 for trains and hotel and will have to pretend to enjoy myself and it's a big Bah! and a huge Humbug! from me.  Or it would be if I let it.  Actually it's just one of the few small inconveniences that are massively outbalanced by the huge convenience of working from home for the last ten years.

The season is full of minor annoyances.  Perhaps the most irritating is the fact that one or more of my relatives will almost certainly give me a toiletry set that I will promptly pass on to another relative.  OK, it's the thought that counts - but sufficient thought to remember that I don't use perfumed toiletries would be appreciated!  Never mind.  I'll just fill up my little sweet jar with the Bah! Humbug! label bought from the RFH souvenir shop in 2001 (the label also says Christmas 2000 but, in true Scrooge fashion, I bought it in the January sale).

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: December 19, 2014, 09:45:21 am »

Thank heavens for that.  To my eternal shame I'd been thinking they were doing badly because Brendan Rodgers was fielding who players weren't good enough and/or weren't trying hard enough.  Funny how you sometimes ignore the obvious explanation, isn't it?

Theatre / Neville's Island - Duke of York's Theatre
« on: December 18, 2014, 12:27:46 pm »
As drama Tim Firth’s two hour piece doesn’t really meet the usual tests.  Plot development is almost non-existent.  We start in the middle and pretty much finish there.  Neville and his three fellow middle management characters are introduced at the point where they get stranded on an island on Derwentwater during a team bonding exercise and the whole play is a series of episodes dealing with their failed attempts to provide for themselves/get themselves rescued.  There is a resolution of sorts but it comes, literally, out of the blue in the final seconds rather than arising out of the plot.  We are also teased with references to a period of mental illness – and a mysterious person called Lucy – in the past of one of the characters but when this is finally explained the resolution, again, is not commensurate with the anticipation.  There isn’t much by way of thematic exploration either – in fact I found my mind, during the performance, wondering why some corporations think it’s a good idea to send staff off on adventures for which most of them are probably not suited. 

Characterisation was rather more substantial.  I felt I knew these characters well enough – in most cases well enough to know I didn’t want to get to know them better – by the end.  I suppose you could say that a major theme was the exploration of the various ways people, specifically insecure people, deal with stress.  The incompetent Neville (Neil Morrissey) concentrates on his duty as team leader to divert attention from his personal trepidation; the cossetted, invincibly middle class, Angus (Miles Jupp) draws comfort from the fact that he’s packed every gadget the Outdoors shop’s salesperson could persuade him to buy into his top-of-the-range rucksack; Roy (Robert Webb), the one with the mental health issues, has found god, on whom he relies heavily and also takes comfort in the fact that, for an ornithologist like him, this environment has its compensations; and the obnoxious Gordon (Adrian Edmondson) masks his own insecurity by relentlessly mocking everyone else – especially Roy.

The good things about this production are: firstly, the lack of any real depth allows four good comic actors (with, I’m sure it’s not unfair to say, little form for anything else) to play to their strengths - the dialogue is pretty funny and very well delivered; and, secondly, the set is remarkably good.  When a play is set on an island where nature has been allowed to run wild you don’t really expect the set designer to go for verisimilitude; but this set is remarkably realistic.  In fact, for those planning to avail themselves of £15 day seats a warning is in order.  These seats are in the front row and you will get wet.  The theatre provides ponchos to keep you reasonably dry but at some points the effect is more akin to having a small pot of water thrown straight at you than the light spray you sometimes get in the yard of the Globe.  The woman sitting next to me was fully covered by her poncho but still found her £4 programme was sodden when she stood up at the end.  The front row also suffers from a rather high stage.  If you’re of average height you won’t miss much but unless you’re incredibly tall you won’t be able to see small items at ground level.

Recommended for people who will settle for a reasonably entertaining experience delivered by actors who are undoubtedly good at this kind of thing.  You shouldn’t have much trouble getting the aforementioned day seats or any others: but note that it closes very early in January.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: December 16, 2014, 05:26:14 pm »
Can you put barriers in at unstaffed stations?  I thought this was a no-no because of health and safety.  Certainly it's my experience that staffed stations leave their barriers open when there's nobody to attend them.  Anyway it would be of limited use as even the non-athletic determined evader could just buy the cheapest ticket that would open the barrier rather than the correct one.  I still can't help thinking that it must be possible to arrange for an alert to be triggered when, say, an Oyster card has incurred more than a certain number of penalty fares. There can't be many innocent ways of incurring a penalty fare every day, can there?  And any innocent person who runs up such a sequence would benefit financially from being shown how to use the card properly.

Literature and Poetry / Re: The Poetry Thread
« on: December 15, 2014, 09:56:28 pm »
We were introduced to Binsey Poplars at school, Don B, and while I'm not sure we could be said to have appreciated Hopkins he was one of the few poets that most of us instantly liked (the only other one I can think of off the top of my head was Blake).  Remarkably, quite a few of us read The Wreck of the Deutschland for its own sake. 

Binsey Poplars
felled 1879
  My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled, 
  Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun, 
  All felled, felled, are all felled; 
    Of a fresh and following folded rank 
            Not spared, not one         
            That dandled a sandalled 
        Shadow that swam or sank 
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank. 
  O if we but knew what we do 
        When we delve or hew—         
    Hack and rack the growing green! 
        Since country is so tender 
    To touch, her being só slender, 
    That, like this sleek and seeing ball 
    But a prick will make no eye at all,         
    Where we, even where we mean 
            To mend her we end her, 
        When we hew or delve: 
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been. 
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve         
    Strokes of havoc únselve 
        The sweet especial scene, 
    Rural scene, a rural scene, 
    Sweet especial rural scene.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: December 15, 2014, 09:45:52 pm »
Something is very odd here.

Judging by the figures given, this guy must have dodged his fare roughly 3000 times – or, as the story puts it, ‘on a number of occasions’.  Let’s ignore fact that he doesn’t seem to have fallen foul of ticket inspectors; maybe he had a system for staying out of their sight that the BBC doesn’t want to publicise.  It seems, though, that a feature of his fraud was to tap out with an Oyster card, incurring the (then) penalty fare of £7.20 because he hadn’t tapped in.  3000 times?  Even if he changed his Oyster card regularly surely this pattern would have been picked up.  Or is the software not set up to notice when the same card incurs a penalty fare at the same station over and over again?

Theatre / Re: Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby - Royal Court Theatre, London
« on: December 15, 2014, 04:28:45 pm »
R4 has a programme about this production on right now.  I'll certainly be using the i-player later as I can't give it the attention it deserves right now; but it seems to be Lisa Dwan doing a 'making of' feature set around the New York performances (which, I presume, are the same production as we saw over here).

(I'm a little worried by the fact that no mention of a listen again option is mentioned here.  Surely it will eventually be on the i-player)

The Coffee Bar / Re: What has made you smile today?
« on: December 14, 2014, 07:43:25 pm »
Before the first UK match today Coral’s bookmakers was showing football from various European leagues – anything to avoid the punters keeping their cash in their pockets.  Among the matches being shown was the French Ligue 1 contest between Nice and St Etienne.  As the latter’s official name is Association Sportive de Saint-Étienne and the broadcasters, understandably, didn’t pay too much attention to the fact that the programme would be shown in several Anglophone countries the scoreline in the top left of the screen read NICE - - ASSE.  That makes a refreshing change from domestic prissiness which leads to Arsenal being abbreviated to ASN.

The Coffee Bar / Re: What has made you smile today?
« on: December 13, 2014, 11:51:55 pm »
I suppose it's a bit mean, but I couldn't suppress a chuckle at one of the wrong answers on R4's Counterpoint just now.

Q: Which jazz trombonist had the nickname 'Big T'?

A: Lionel Hampton?

Now, I understand that if you don't know the answer it's often worth a guess.  But in this case a wrong guess cost the competitor a penalty point and might have cost him a place in the final (there was one point in it at the end but I'm not entirely sure the guy who finished second was the one who made this error).  Given that Lionel Leo Hampton was not a trombonist and none of his names begins with 'T' it's difficult to see what the competitor might have been thinking of.  Indeed, I'm not sure I want to think too deeply about it!  The correct answer was, of course, Jack Teagarden - possibly the most famous jazz trombonist in history and certainly my first guess as soon as I heard the question.

The Coffee Bar / Re: What has made you smile today?
« on: December 12, 2014, 09:25:05 pm »
Once again I’m not sure which thread to use.  Is this a minor moan; or does the wry smile prompted by this example of humankind in the service of technology qualify the story for this thread?  For many years Merseytravel has sold a very popular off-peak product called a Saveaway for use on buses, trains and ferries after 0930.  It comes in the form of a scratchcard which you can buy when it suits you and then scratch the squares corresponding to the day, month and year when you want to use it.  You can buy these from Merseytravel offices, main Post Offices and selected other retailers.  Because of privatisation you can’t buy it on the bus as the bus companies will only sell their own tickets.  A few years ago the railway stations started selling a version of the product but as a standard-sized card like a train ticket, not a scratch card.  This version can only be bought on the day of travel - which is a fat lot of use if you have to get a bus to the railway station.  If you start your journey from the station it’s an alternative; if not, you can use one of the stock of scratch cards which, being a well-organised person, you have bought in advance and keep in a drawer at home. 

Now, though, Merseytravel has decided to phase out the scratch cards and introduce a bit of plastic on which you can load a digital version of the Saveaway.  That’s one digital version of one product.  They cheerfully admit that, for now, no other products or cash credit can be loaded on the card.  But you can load your Saveaway on your card when you board your bus, can’t you?  Ahem, no.  You buy it from the same outlets where you currently get your scratchcard.  Ah, I see.  I go to the Post Office with my card and charge it up with enough Saveaways for the foreseeable future?  No, You can only load one Saveaway at a time on the card.  Oh, what a shame.  So I have to go to the local newsagents the night before to buy a Saveaway so I can get the 0931 bus from outside my house the next morning?  No fear,  you can only credit the card on the day you intend to use it.  I got this information confirmed by a very pleasant chap on Merseytravel’s information line.   When I pointed out the inadequacies of the product he said ‘I know.  I mentioned all these points when we were briefed on the plan’.

So, why is this in the What has made you smile today thread?  Well, the posters announcing the introduction of the new product refer to it as a ‘smart card’.  That would be ‘smart’ in the sense of having a fraction of the functionality of the ancient scratch card, then.  You’ve got to laugh.

Theatre / Sex and the Three Day Week - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: December 06, 2014, 11:52:22 pm »
I don’t want to be gratuitously negative but I thought I’d better mention this for the benefit of anyone who is in two minds about going to see it.  This is not usually my kind of thing but I’ve had pleasant surprises in the past (No Wise Men a few years ago for example) so I gave it a go in the hope that it might not be as bad as it threatened to be.  Frankly, it was worse.  Ostensibly a re-working of Feydau and Desavallieres’s L'Hôtel du Libre Echange set in 1970s England it actually comes across as a very feeble sex comedy.  The compensatory features of good farce that usually cover up the sketchy characterisation and plot – precise timing and clever, risqué wordplay for example – were just not present.  The action was pretty pedestrian and the script flat and often almost insultingly unconvincing – for example the character of Miss Mayhew (Eileen O’Brien) supposedly suffers from a condition (brought on by incipient thundery weather) which causes her to forget the word for what she wants to say.  Cue some ingenious malapropisms, you might think; but you’d be wrong.  She just says stupid things like ‘urinary infection’ instead of ‘you’.  The plot is little better  Catherine (Catrin Aaron) and Philip (Edward Harrison), frustrated at the lack of attention from their spouses Robert (David Birrel) and Angela (Natalie Casey) arrange to spend the night at the Hotel Paradise – which just happens to be where Robert is doing an overnight inspection and where Catherine and Robert’s son Ben (Robin Morrissey) also ends up booking in with Philip and Angela’s au pair Fanny – oh, how we roared with laughter at the aptness of that name – (Lucy Phelps).  With hilarious consequences, you might think – but, imho, you’d be wrong so to think.  As it turns out the most interesting thing in the two hours of the performance was trying to work out whether Angela was moonlighting as working girl Holly at the same hotel or whether Natalie Casey was playing two roles.  In case you decide to see the play I won’t spoil things by letting you know the answer to that one.  To be honest, I thought the most entertaining thing all evening was a sort of stand up routine from the hotel manager Sebastian (Javier Marzan) clearly inserted to cover the final scene change.  Or maybe it was the 1970s records they played – Free, Slade, Stealers Wheel, James Brown and others.  There’s also a live performance of The Eagles’ Peaceful Easy Feeling by the cast but it was, like most aspects of the production, rather limp.  Oh, and there was a mynah bird (miners’ strike, mynah bird – geddit!) that spoke with Ken Dodd’s voice in a cheap (and successful) attempt to get an almost Pavlovian response from some audience members.

Almost certainly the worst production I’ve seen this year.  If you want to judge for yourselves it’s on until 10 Jan.  Although tonight was a preview I thought the cast did as well as could be done with the material they were given.  Unless the thing is actually re-written during the run I wouldn't expect much improvement.

Theatre / Re: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Manchester Royal Exchange
« on: December 05, 2014, 09:44:19 am »
..would would a Southern Lady like Maggie have referred to her bosom as ‘my boobs’? 

To my surprise the text (Penguin) does have Maggie tell Brick that Big Daddy stares at ‘my boobs’.  It sounded rather odd to me but maybe it was more common in the USA than I remember it being in England, where it has always seemed a sort of tabloid word that gained currency in the 1960s when it was still considered uncouth to say ‘tits’.

.. I find it hard to believe Williams would have put the ‘f’ word into Big Daddy’s mouth at all, let alone as frequently as it was used here... 

This was much more peculiar.  The text has the bizarre (in this context) verb, ‘rut’ as in ‘Rut the goddam preacher’ and the even more bizarre adjectival participle ‘ruten’.  I can only surmise that this is either a US or Deep South usage (variant on ‘rot/rotten’?) or a made-up expletive inserted because the author knew he wouldn’t get away with a more realistic one.  If the latter, I can understand why a modern director might want to substitute the ‘f’ word but I still don’t think it’s any more justified to alter the text in this way than to bowdlerise it.  Any Williams experts out there who would know if this kind of alteration is common?

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