Friday, 27 March 2015

burns and the church, and burns suppers

... What's fascinating is the link between Burns Suppers and the church. Ever since the first Supper was held in 1802, the clergy have been distinguishing themselves as Addressers of the Haggis, Toasters to the Lassies and Proposers of the Immortal Memory.

All of which is strikingly odd, considering Burns's attitude to the Church. His personal religion, if he had one, consisted of smatterings of Deism picked up in Ayrshire pubs and Edinburgh salons. There was a God, but having set the universe going he had then gone off like an absentee landlord, leaving it to look after itself. By contast, the Presbyterian God was a meddler, and judgemental, and Burns lost no opportunity to ridicule him and his followers. ...

How did it come about, then, that the clergy became such assiduous patrons of Burns Suppers? The short answer is that in the Kirk of Burns's day there were two churches, Evangelical and Moderate, and the Bard's sympathies were decidedly with the latter. There is a striking paradox here. The Moderates were patronised by the landlords; the Evangelicals were the sons and daughters of the soil, and blighted with what moderates and landlords saw as humble circumstances, conviction-religion and the fatal flaw of enthusiasm. In the light of A man's a man for a' that, you'd have expected Burns to favour the religion of his fellow ploughmen, but he didn't. Flattered by Ayrshire's Moderate clergy and Edinburgh's literati, he used his genius to satirise popular religion. An earnest Presbyterian was not 'a man, for a' that'.

And so, while Evangelicals gave Burns Suppers a wide berth, Moderates endorsed them warmly.

- from Donald Macleod's Footnotes column, West Highland Free Press, 30 January 2015.

(He also describes why many people think the Burns Supper structure is a parody of a Presbyterian communion service (as well as possibly having elements reflecting Freemasonry rituals, Burns having been a member).)

morris choir workshop

On Tuesday at choir rehearsal we had a workshop evening to help us in our singing and performance, which was helpful and interesting. I sang Dear Someone - a couple of times - by way of an example to talk about. I'd chosen it as it was one that hadn't gone as well as it might have when I sang it at Sharp's a few years ago (though by no means the worst); unfortunately for our purposes on Tuesday I sang it better this time.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

ruddigore

On Saturday 28 February the three of us - along with Hei Mun (who organised it), Danica and Laura - went to the King's Head Theatre on Upper Street to see Ruddigore (had a good meal at a nearby Vietnamese beforehand too).

It was a production by Charles Court Opera company, who I (and Hei Mun, separately) had seen there last year doing Patience, and who we had seen at the Rosemary Branch doing their Christmas panto, Billy The Kid.

We all enjoyed it a lot - I back to my enjoyment levels of Patience, rather than Billy The Kid. Although a lesser-known G&S work, I knew it from having done it with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society at University in my first year, although I'm fairly sure I haven't seen it since. I was going to say 'or heard', but I do have an EMI CD box set of G&S operas, so I've heard it in there a couple of times.

Again, the singing and acting was very good. The set was simpler than Patience. John Savournin, the director, was performing in it again, and he was excellent as Sir Despard. Matthew Kellett, who had played Billy The Kid in the panto, was Robin Oakapple, and I much preferred him in this. I'd been looking forward to seeing Amy J Payne again, but sadly her role was (the only) one which was being done by two different people, and it wasn't her night (so in fact there was no one from Patience in it); but Sylvia Clarke was perfectly good. They all were, so much so that it seems invidious to single anyone out; although Cassandra McCowan as Mad Margaret was also very good, and she and Sir Despard made an excellent 'normal' couple too after their reunion (he looking surely deliberately like Richard Osman). (Bethan spotted that we had seen her as one of the three little maids in the Mikado in the Charing Cross Theatre, though I didn't recognise her.) Once again, a production and performances as good as any one would hope to see in the West End, out the back of a pub.

It was promoted as a 'Hammer horror' style production (in much the same way as Patience was promoted as a 'Goth' style production), but that didn't really intrude as a style too much. For some reason, the programme contained the full text of the opera (book and lyrics), in contrast with the slimline programmes of Patience and Billy The Kid; which shows how relatively little dialogue there was in it.

Some reviews (a lot more than for Patience; must be the time that's passed). The Arts Desk. Standard. Bachtrack. Fringe Opera. Webcowgirl. London City Nights. Planet Hugill. Everything Theatre. Grumpy Gay Critic. Remote Goat. Broadway World. Jonathan Baz. Camden Review. British Theatre Guide. A couple make the point that they pitch very well how to play characters who could be quite unappealing.

Finally, the Charles Court Opera page on the production.

billy the kid

On Tuesday 30 December the three of us went to a matinee of Billy The Kid, the Charles Court Opera panto, at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, courtesy of comp tickets from Anna Rebmann, who was working on the production.

We enjoyed it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as their G&S Patience. It was our only panto of the year, though; we did our time with pantos in the early family years, and don't go to so many now (in fact it's striking that I have no memory of coming across their pantos before, though we were always on the lookout, yet this was something like their eighth; perhaps we didn't consider it because of its location, but it's a couple of easy bus rides away). Amy J Payne and Joanna Marie Skillett were in it from Patience, and the director John Savournin was in it this time; he played the dame, and had also written the script. Again, the singing was good, the acting and script were as you'd expect from a panto (more innuendo than would have been my preference); John S probably the best performance, Amy J Payne good too; and I liked, as ever, the use of pop songs.

It was my first time at the Rosemary Branch, and it was full. Another pub theatre, but upstairs, and raked. Novel approach to seating in that they allocate your seats by name once they've got all the bookings in, for optimisation for groups and ages, and need for extra seats squeezed in; I was on a chair beside the lighting desk; the other two were in the 'box', which was indeed a box at the back but with only room for a cosy two.

Some reviews. Camden Review (which reminds me that they did adult-only performances, presumably when they ramped up the rudeness). Everything Theatre. Theatre Cat (Libby Purves' 'amateur' reviews). LondonTheatre1 (mainly a ticket agency, I think). Broadway World. The Upcoming. Grumpy Gay Critic. UK Theatre Network. British Theatre Guide. Ham & High. East End Review. Ginger Hibiscus. Time Out. A Younger Theatre. Well, I certainly wouldn't rave about it the way some of those did (especially about the villain, who I didn't appreciate), and not just because I was disappointed by comparison with how much I enjoyed Patience. They throw around the word 'boutique' a lot too, which relates to the small size of the cast, as per their 'boutique operas'.

Finally, here's the relevant Charles Court Opera past production page, complete with video.

patience - king's head theatre

Since I've seen my third Charles Court Opera production in a year, it's time I wrote up the earlier visits before covering the most recent.

On Monday 23 June 2014 I saw Patience at the King's Head Theatre. My first time there, though it's a very well-known pub theatre venue. I'd thought the venue was upstairs, but actually it was at the back. Unlike, say, The White Bear, it had a more traditional theatre layout, but small - a few rows of seats with an aisle down the middle, a slightly-raised platform, not very deep, for the stage. The set was well done - a bar counter running much of the width of the stage. I was in the front row, feet easily prop-upabble on the stage, if you weren't worried someone would trip over them.

It was Hei Mun who reminded me about it; she was going on a night I couldn't do, but I got a ticket for another night by myself. Also unlike White Bear, it is numbered seats. Also, as they said at the start when inviting later donations, the theatre is run quite separately from the pub, so they get no income from any pub sales, just their own programmes and ice-creams.

I don't know the full range of the Charles Court Opera expertise, but they've made a success of small-cast performances of Gilbert and Sullivan, in which essentially all the chorus parts are covered by the company, most of whom are playing named parts. You couldn't have fitted more people on the stage, really. One pianist accompanying.

(One of the things Twitter is good for: before I booked a ticket, anticipating that there would be piano at one side of the stage or the other, I tweeted to several people on Twitter who were either associated with the production or had tweeted about having seen it to ask which side the piano was on, so I could book a seat at the other end, the better to hear the singing. Someone told me, most helpfully, that it was stage right, and I booked accordingly.)

It was really good. Once again, the London fringe giving you productions and performances that are excellent and any match for anything in the West End. I hadn't seen Patience before - though I may have read it, when I had the two-volume Complete G&S text in my schooldays - but knew the general idea.

Before last year, I had only seen one or two G&S productions, a long time ago, since having been in them myself at school and university, and had concluded that they were more fun to be in than to watch. But these - and the Mikado (also small-scale) which I recently saw in the Charing Cross Theatre showed me I was wrong about that.

I'd forgotten what a high proportion of singing there was - they pack the songs in - and the text was really good too. It was very well performed; they certainly made it funny (by which I mean as funny as it was written), and although they didn't update it it didn't feel like a period piece. It was interesting that there were identifiably different kinds of voices; Patience in particular had what I thought of as a very operatic style, which I wasn't so keen on, though I don't have the understanding to explain what I mean by that. My favourite was certainly Amy J Payne, who played the Lady Jane; David Phipps-David as Bunthorne was also very good. But in fact, really, everyone was good, both in singing and delivering their lines (which they also sang very clearly, as well as those they spoke). (Three of the parts were played by different people on different nights; for the record, on my night I had Giles Davies, David Menezes and Richard Immergluck.)

Some reviews (fewer than usual appearing in the first couple of pages of results, either because of passing of time or just fewer reviews done). Webcowgirl. Standard. Britishtheatreguide.info. Ham & High.

Finally, here's the relevant Charles Court Opera past production page, complete with slideshow.

Friday, 20 March 2015

sharp's

On the Morris Folk Choir Facebook page this evening I posted:
'On Tuesday a good number of us went up to Cecil Sharp House for the singers night at Sharp's Folk Club. Singers nights at Sharp's rarely let you down, packed with songs and tunes well done by a great range of performers.
'In the first half we did All For Me Grog and Poison In A Glass Of Wine; in the second half (in decreasing numbers) we did Whiskey In Me Tay and St Giles' Bowl (one of our Tim's songs - title track off his new album, don't you know!). (Tim and Iain from the choir also did a couple of songs each.)
'I think it's fair to say we did okay!'

I shared it on mine, with this note:
'In the first half I sang Making Time - another of Tim's songs, which (with his permission) I'd picking up off a demo version and tinkered with the words a little. Tim's churning out so many good songs that this one isn't even on his album; the tune in particular is lovely. Perhaps in thirty years it will see the light of day on Tim's Bootleg Series Vol 1...
'In the second half I sang Jock o' Hazeldean.
'I did them both a little too high, especially Jock, but nothing new there, and largely got away with it (though a bit disappointed with the latter in particular). Sharp's is always a very supportive and forgiving place.'

Monday, 16 March 2015

la traviata

On Friday 13 March - having an evening to myself - I went to see La Traviata by the English National Opera at the Coliseum, having got a 'Secret Seat' ticket on Thursday.

On Sunday night Hei Mun asked me by email what I thought (I'd asked her expert advice on going to this and/or Purcell's Indian Queen, being across all things opera; she warned me off the production of Indian Queen, which she'd seen, but thought La Traviata would be worth it). Here's what I said:
'you may get a full pleb's-eye view on my blog sometime in the next two years (wrote up a couple of things from 2013 today...), but in short:
- I liked it
- I was surprised I only recognised one song/tune from it (the drinking song) - my first Verdi, but it's a famous one
- I was surprised how unelucidated the 'plot' was
- I was surprised how much of it was solo singing, with comparatively few combinations and very little chorus work (seems a shame when you have all these good singers in one place not to use them together, but then I prefer harmony singing to solo singing)
- I was genuinely impressed at how powerfully people could sing while lying down or otherwise awkwardly positioned
- to my plebby ears it was sung and played well (male lead was unwell, sub sounded good to me; female lead was a bit 'harsh warble' for my tastes, but maybe that's how it's meant to sound)
- I didn't mind the simple staging (lots of curtains), but if there was a symbolism in the layers and the opening and closing then I didn't get it (but I haven't read the programme yet, there may be a clue in there; layers of society/hypocrisy/intimacy?)
- a couple of times characters sang from the stalls, and I didn't get that either (programme ditto; Violetta's isolation?)
- I find it odd that everyone who sang even a couple of solo lines (like the man who delivered a letter) gets an individual bow and round of applause at the end
- I was surprised, it being the last performance, that there were no flowers (camellias?) or similar at the end
- I wondered if composers writing operas featuring people dying of consumption is a satirical dig at the number of people who cough their way through an evening at the theatre; there was certainly no shortage of coughers in the audience
- I'd definitely do the Secret Seat again
- I don't think I'd ever feel the need to see it again, but I'm very glad to have seen it.'

Since writing that I've read the programme. The first thing to say is that it wasn't the man playing Alfredo who was unwell, but the man playing his father, Giorgio. This explains why at the end the conductor shook Giorgio's hand rather than Alfredo's, which had puzzled me.

The Secret Seat is a great scheme, where you pay £20, are guaranteed a seat priced at at least £25 and from which you can see the surtitles (ENO sing in English, incidentally, but surtitles still helpful); there's a limited number (don't know if they increase the number for productions not selling so well), and they tell you a couple of days before the performance what your actual seat is. Mine was in Row C of the dress circle; I'm not entirely sure, but think this may have been a £105 ticket.

The most striking example of the plot vagueness was that although Violetta is famously a courtesan/prostitute, I saw no way of telling that from what I saw or heard on stage: 'a whore despised by society', the programme says, but I hadn't realised she was despised, she appeared quite popular. It's almost amusing to read the synopsis in the programme (or on Wikipedia), packed with detail, nuance and motivation so unevident in the text or performance. Although this production is a shorter one, I understood the cuts to be of repeated song sections and of musical/dance sections; but maybe some things were cut which would have conveyed some of the things described in the synopsis. The other programme articles are similarly full of interpretations and meanings and readings and depths which, again, were in no way apparent to me watching it (as with other operas, I had deliberately not read the synopsis or the programme notes beforehand, to keep the performance more interesting for me, so that I didn't know exactly what was going to happen). It seemed a very straightforward story to me watching it (tragic odd couple love story), with a major implausibility at the heart of it (why did she leave him - and betray him - just because his father asked her to leave him?), but apparently I should have understood it was much more complicated than that.

The on-set curtains coming down represented the beautiful surface of an allegedly civilised society being temporarily shattered. I thought Alfredo was straightforwardly in love with Violetta, but the programme doesn't think so.

I think the execution of the music, the singing and the production were fine, and it's none of those which make me uninterested in seeing it again; it's the material itself, and probably chiefly within that the amount of solo singing, and that the melodies didn't appeal to me particularly.

Interestingly, the programme suggests it was originally going to be called 'Love and Death', a title Woody Allen did use.

The director on the curtains set (translated, to be fair): 'we deliberately avoided realistic sets and instead created a symbolic world of theatre drapes that is both surreal and nightmare-like. When the curtain rises in the theatre, a story begins. When it falls, that story is over. But these are only the most simplistic interpretations. If we multiply them by the imaginary number 'the square root of minus one', the act of passing through several curtains that open successively can also signify the passage towards death.' Now that's funny.

The Wikipedia plot summary, actually, is more straightforward, more like what I actually saw. Also indicates that some of the cuts were chorus songs at the later party, not just instrumental as I'd thought; so I guess I'd have enjoyed it more with those still in it.

Some reviews. Independent (likes the singing, not the staging). Guardian. Express. Bachtrack.com. Mark Ronan blog. Planet Hugill blog (which reminded me of the way the chorus crawled off stage like slugs into darkness at the end of one scene to leave Violetta on stage alone, which started ridiculous but became creepy in a good way). Standard. What's On Stage. Financial Times. A Younger Theatre (a good line: 'As the looming curtains are torn down, leaving Violetta alone on an empty stage, the picture would have been more poignant if the stage had not been empty all along'). MusicOMH.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

yu-en's exhibition

We went to Yu-En's photography exhibition on Saturday 12 October 2013 - part of Within Walking Distance, an exhibition of various Goldsmiths students work. Here's our church blog post about it, Yu-En's page from the exhibition website, a Goldsmiths blog post about it, and Yu-En's own website.  

journey into fear

On Tuesday 1 October 2013 I finished Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler, a wartime spy thriller. I'm not one for adventure thrillers really, but it was a good little read. I wouldn't be averse to reading others of his that were more spy and less adventure, but I'm not sure how far that way he ever went.

earthlight; roseanna

On an August 2013 weekend in Shrewsbury I finished Earthlight by Arthur C Clarke (on Friday 9 August) and read Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (finished on the Saturday).

I had to look at the Wikipedia entry for Earthlight to remind me what it was about. I expect I enjoyed it reasonably well; as a general rule Arthur C Clarke is more interested than I am in justifying and explaining his predictions and extrapolations, in science in particular. What became the 'hard science' end of SF, I guess, which doesn't really interest me.

Roseanna was the second Martin Beck novel I'd read - the first was The Laughing Policeman, the fourth in the series, which had been in one of my 'best ever crime novels' lists and I'd picked up in a charity shop. Subsequently I'd bought the first three in the series in the British Library bookshop, which has an interestingly-stocked crime section (or perhaps had - there had been a crime-fiction exhibition on then or around then); I got the three as I didn't think I'd seen them in bookshops generally before. I've picked up most or all of the others in charity or secondhand shops since then, and therefore haven't been reading them in order. As I've said before, if I'd read the later ones first I wouldn't have been so keen, as they became more consciously about society (I think ordinarily crime fiction tells you a lot about the society of the day without having to consciously make an effort to do so); but this one was straightforward and satisfying.

good vibrations; troll hunter

Having the whole day to myself yesterday, I decided against going out in the end and did stuff at home. Said stuff included watching two films I'd recorded on the digibox.

In the afternoon I watched Good Vibrations, about the Belfast record shop and punk label, which I enjoyed a lot, but found sadder than I'd expected. In the evening I watched Troll Hunter, a Norwegian 'found footage' film about a troll hunter, which I also enjoyed a lot; it was a nice idea, that trolls actually existed but the Norwegian government kept it quiet and dealt with it in secret; 'found footage' can get a bit wearisome, and doesn't always obey its own premise, but this did okay.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

hamlet - rachel waring

On Friday 27 February - the others being at a church ladies' outing to Zizzi's - I went to The Cockpit Theatre near Marylebone to see a production of Hamlet by The English Repertory Theatre.

I'd seen earlier that it was on, but the tickets were £30, which I wasn't prepared to spend on a fringe production in a theatre I hadn't heard of before. But then a day or two earlier - I can't remember if I was specifically looking at it again, or just for something for Friday evening, as I had a potential night out - I saw a tweet with an offer code for £10 tickets, so I went for it at that price.

I think they made two big mistakes in their promotion of the play, and the first was definitely setting it at that price. They were ill-advised to so do, because not many would take a punt on a fringe Hamlet at that price, even such a regular Hamlet-goer as myself. On the night I went - a Friday night - there were between fifteen and twenty-five in the audience, in an in-the-round space that looked like it would seat a couple of hundred. I wonder how many of the others paid £30. I think they'd have sold a lot more tickets at full price if that full price had been £15 or £20.

The other was to make such a big deal about this being the youngest female Hamlet ever in a professional production (they didn't always remember to say the professional bit in the places I saw it - including in the programme). This made it sound a bit gimmicky and desperate, and, worse, that it was the key selling point of the production, as opposed to anything else the production had to offer.

It was not the worst Hamlet I've ever seen, and in fact it wasn't actively bad, it was just unremarkable, and certainly in the lower third of productions I've seen.

And I have actually seen a female Hamlet who I remember as seeming younger than this one - or at least a similar age - and who was very much better, in a much better all-female production at the White Bear. In fact, here's what I wrote about it. That Hamlet - Sian Roberts-Grace - I see was still a student, so certainly younger.

I think they were still playing Hamlet as male, rather than female; Rosencrantz/Guildenstern, condensed into one character, was also a female actor. Apart from a woman playing Hamlet, the main big idea of the production was emphasising the younger generation's youth (a primary feature of the Ben Wishaw Old Vic production, of course, though what was more striking there was actually therefore the youth of their parents, in particular Gertrude). They pushed it even younger, though, for no good reason, so that instead of university age they were school age; the permanent set was what started as the schoolroom, where Horatio was the teacher/tutor to Hamlet, Ophelia, Laertes and Ros/Guild, all in school ties. It was quite cut, with a small cast without doubling (the five mentioned, plus Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius). There was no Ghost (instead a letter to Hamlet from his father), no Norway or England or graveyard (a skeleton in the classroom, with two fencing swords inserted, sufficed). Often people stayed on the stage, very close to and appearing to watch, other scenes and soliloquys, and it wasn't clear whether the characters were indeed meant to be seeing/hearing those speeches/exchanges.

It would be a poor Hamlet indeed, however, which had nothing to interesting to offer or reflect on. Hamlet certainly had the petulance of a teenager sometimes, as did the other 'schoolchildren', but the moving down in age didn't work for much else of the text, staging and relationships. Horatio in particular had a quite thankless and pointless task of delivering - at start and end - dialogue as if being delivered by a teacher 'putting it on'. Hamlet started pretty full-on sarky, angry and aggressive, which I felt left her nowhere else to go but to remain so throughout, which lacked nuance and got a bit tedious.

Ros/Guild had an approach which I'm not sure I've seen completely, where she was in no way afraid of or intimidated by or felt inferior to Hamlet, but gave as good as she got, and that was interesting. (In another production, I don't remember which, at the end of the 'play upon this pipe' scene in which Hamlet gets stuck into R/G, the other one - G/R - takes the pipe, in front of Hamlet, and plays upon it very well, making his own point.) Although I thought it was a bit too 'naughty schoolgirl' at first, it ended up my favourite performance of the evening. She was Charlotte Ellen; she was billed as Rosencrantz.

Similarly I don't remember - though I surely must have, surely - ever seeing Laertes, when he sees the mad Ophelia, taking his beloved sister in his arms, as you instantly realise surely every loving brother would do. Yet I only ever remember seeing him watching her from a distance.

Those were the two most interesting things. Hamlet seemed to see perfectly well that it was Polonius he was stabbing, but if that was the case then I'm not sure what the point of that was.

It was very much one of those cut-down versions that I think would have been very hard to follow if you weren't already familiar with the play; not one for first-timers.

I guess a measure of how good I thought it was, was that after I'd seen it I didn't even tweet info on the £10 offer as making it worth going.

This is the blurb about the production on the ERT's own website:
'Horatio teaches Modern History to four privileged teenagers in Elsinore; Laertes, his sister Ophelia, who is in love with Hamlet, Hamlet himself and his slippery friend, Rosencrantz. Life could not be worse for Hamlet. He is late for class. His father has been murdered by his uncle and his mother has married him. Everyone knows of course, including Hamlet who holds the proof in a letter written to him by his dying father. Never paralysed by the task ahead, Hamlet rages against the impossibility of his predicament with matters getting completely out of hand and everyone dying a very nasty death.
'Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most iconic work. Completed in 1601 and now brought refreshingly up to date, the play explodes with modern ideas and is the ultimate story of loyalty, love, betrayal, murder and madness. In this stripped-back, fresh and fast-paced version, emerging actress Rachel Waring, at the age of 26, the youngest women ever to play the eponymous Prince, creates a deliciously ferocious and devious protagonist delivering some of the greatest soliloquies in the English language.
'With a running time of just one and hour forty minutes, none of the elements are missed in this hugely entertaining, fast paced black comedy that ends in utter tragedy. Following their sell-out season at Oxford Castle, English Rep come to London with this unique and critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare's tragedy.'
- Forgetting again to say 'professional' there in their 'youngest woman' line.

Some links, mainly reviews (from first couple of pages of results, mostly blogs, some new to me). English Repertory Theatre. The Cockpit Theatre (which turned out to be part of City of Westminster College; a nice space, with a nice lobby bar area). Everything Theatre. London City Nights. Rev Stan's blog. Culture Compass (interestingly, thinks Horatio is the teacher, Polonius the master, and Claudius and Gertrude the headteachers - I guess thinking, as someone else says, that it's just wholly set in a boarding school, rather than a private tutor in the castle; if that's meant to be the case, then I didn't get it and it would make even less sense than it does). The review does however remind me that either RosGuild disappeares and the actor doubles as Osric, or RosGuild survives). OfficialTheatre.com. GrumpyGayCritic blog. There Ought To Be Clowns. Laura Peatman blog (the one I agree with most so far in this para... and I see by the end of this process too; will be interesting to see in future if we are generally like-minded, or this a one-off). BritishTheatre.com. Ginger Hibiscus blog. Bargain Theatre. Marylebone Journal. Although they didn't appear on the first couple of results pages, I sought out the reviews from Time Out and The Stage, since they got quoted on the ERT website; interestingly, I couldn't find the one in The Stage; I did find a link in an ERT tweet, so it  obviously existed, but that goes to a 404 page not found.

So, most of those reviewers liked it more than I did (some praising it to an extent I really find baffling). I certainly didn't think it was radical and daring, as some of them did (and as I think perhaps the ERT did too). I'm reminded that Ophelia's mad songs were contemporary pop songs (including Tainted Love) rather than the originals, which felt gimmicky rather than adding anything I thought.

I also increasingly wonder whether the increase of professional-looking review blogs is attributable to some (not all) of them hoping to get enough of a profile to start getting free tickets for stuff. Well, good luck to them, but some of the ones I see are in danger of sounding a bit too pompous and quote-baity and trying too hard to achieve that authentic/weighty/serious/analytical/professional tone. (Not unlike the reviews people email in to the Mayo/Kermode film review programme on Radio5, trying to sound like 'a film reviewer' rather than themselves.) The ones that sound like they're writing for themselves, and perhaps their friends, are the best ones.

clueless

On Friday 20 February - while up in York - we watched Clueless on DVD (my choice, to some people's surprise). An American high school version of Emma, which I'd seen in the cinema when it came out, it had stood the test of time for me. There were a couple of awkward moments, though, it being a 12, but they passed without remark.

the theory of everything

On Thursday 19 February - during half-term - the younger generation and I went to the Cineworld West India Quay in the afternoon to see The Theory of Everything. I'm not sure why she was so keen to see it, but I looked into it - the BBFC site is very good for that kind of thing - and it seemed like it would be okay. It was, and we both enjoyed it a lot. It was a significant film for me in that it was really the first film we'd gone to together that wasn't a children's film, a family film or a superhero film - a grown-up film (although of course we've watched 30s/40s grown-up films at home on TV or DVD). A shopping centre strop on the way home acted as a counterbalance.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

'ah, cynthia...'

Cartoon from Private Eye, 23 January:
A man holds out a piece of paper to a tortoise, sign saying 'Energy Company' behind him.
Caption:
"Ah, Cynthia... pass these savings on to the customers, would you"

Saturday, 7 March 2015

john stow's survey of london

Having pointed Douglas in the direction of John Stow's A Survey Of London, I thought I should read it myself (like so many books, it's been on my shelf long enough...).

Having just started it, the striking things are: the reminder of how even though we're much further away from the early history of various things (including London), how much more accurate our understanding is of what really happened than people confidently asserted in the middle ages, and often even into the twentieth century; how important water sources were, the first thing to be listed after the 'history' of the foundation of the city and the history of the walls.

Friday, 6 March 2015

planet of the apes

On Saturday 14 February we had a romantic Valentine's Day evening in, the three of us, eating ready meals and watching the original Charlton Heston Planet Of The Apes. I'd never seen it, though turned out Bethan realised she had. It was just okay; I wasn't expecting it to be such a clumsily heavy-handed satire on racism and religion; I was also surprised how unsympathetic Charlton Heston's character was. Also of course one of those films whose ending is so iconic that it's impossible not to know that it's coming.

big hero 6

Friday 13 February was an inset day, tacked onto the start of half term, and in the morning two of us went to see Big Hero 6 at the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel. Another good film, satisfying for all ages in various ways - we've had a good run lately.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

penguins of madagascar

On Saturday 31 January the younger generation and I went to the Peckham Plex in the morning, for the first time, to see Penguins of Madagascar. We both enjoyed the film a lot, and the cinema wasn't too bad (a bus ride away and a flat rate of £5 at all times), though I suspect it might be noisier in a busier showing (there were three or four family groups in ours), and they have one of those annoying systems where it's a single queue for tickets and food & drink (presumably either because most people want both, or to increase likelihood of sales of the latter), so you'd have to allow extra time for that.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

pmqs

In the Radio Times of 31 January, in an article previewing his Inside The Commons documentary series, Michael Cockerell says of David Cameron at PMQs, 'Sometimes the roars are so loud that he can't even hear the question, and has to answer based on what he knows about the MP who's standing up.'