Monday, August 15, 2005
Sunday, August 14, 2005
A wanted to see this movie and I was a little hesitant about doing so after seeing the movie poster at tube stations all week. It wasn't that the poster artwork was bad. It was that the main star of this movie -Aamir Khan (and who is featured on the poster) - sports a moustache that curls up to the sides in an extravagant in your face facial hair kind of way. By Friday however I had seen some other stills from the film including a wrestling scene between Khan and Toby Stephens so I was happy to see what the fuss was all about then.
The story focuses on the lead up to the first Indian war of independence (or the Sepoy Mutiny as the British East India Company would call it). Being a Bollywood-meets-Hollywood film no serious epic drama is complete with colour and movement and songs and dancing. Plus lots of camerawork to make you dizzy. This pads out the film for at least an extra hour and a half. It was during one of these giddy all colour and singing extravaganzas I wondered if the Bollywood style would have made Attenborough's Gandhi more interesting a film. It probably would have made it twice as long...
This movie wasn't as subtle as Gandhi. History lessons were shoved down your throat and various other bits like the cruelness of the caste system and the suttee were piled on top of that. At least there was every now and then this loving friendship between Officer Gordon (Stephens) and Pandey (Khan) to fall back on. Pandey saved the Officer Gordon's life in Afghanistan at one point so that meant for the rest of the film they would look each other in the eye and not say much, or fall about drunk together, or wrestle. I never thought that life in the East India Company would be so much like life in Soho...
But anyway, A warned me that the mostly south Asian audience would be badly behaved so they lived up to expectations. I wondered whether it was because Bollywood films have long stretches of singing and dancing in between improbably plots so it is quite possible for the audience to tune out and do other things. So they did. They got up out of their seats, they played with their mobile phones, they chatted, and occasionally they watched the movie. In the end most still had a good enough time to applaud and shout "Long live long live mother India" so who can argue with the punters?
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Paul: I am just heading out for a spot of gym
Flatmate: You're heading out for a spot of what?
Flatmate: Oh gym! I thought you said you were heading out for a spot of gin!
Paul: Wouldn't that be a splash of gin?
Keeping fit and smoking
As for gym, six months after joining I think it is paying off as I feel healthier and I can run for long periods without passing out. This must be a good thing. Although I am still not ready to take my shirt off in a dance tent in Brighton.
To help with the whole gym experience I have had Kylie, Madge and Whitney on the iPOD. But I have also supplemented them with old hits from Olivia Newton John, Basement Jaxx and Mariah Carey. Yes Mariah as New York Times said that her song "We belong together" is the song of the summer. So who can argue about that?
Later tonight I returned home to a flat full of cigarette smoke. My flatmate was entertaining a gentleman caller who obviously had a thing for heavy duty tobacco. I didn't see the caller but envisaged that he would be some red-faced leathery looking thing so I figured I didn't need to meet the passing trade. As for the smoke, I shouldn't complain too much about it since I am living with somebody fairly easygoing. No kitchen Nazi, unlike my former housemates in Haringey. When looking for a place I found it worthwhile to discount anybody who introduced the kitchen with a funny accent and adding "And this is how we always keep it... Spotless!"
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
It's holiday time here. The weather is great and people are taking time off work. Those who are not taking time off work don't seem to be working much either, but that's another story...
Over in Whitehall while TB is on holiday Deputy PM John Prescott is in charge. Yesterday he gave a family a tour of No 10, and got a blaze of publicity. There are bound to be extra families waiting around the gates of Downing Street today hoping for a repeat performance.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
The biggest of the pride festivals Brighton Pride took place on Saturday. That meant lots of punters took the train from Victoria to Brighton to spend the day (or the weekend) there. I caught a Thameslink train from Kings Cross which wasn't quite a camp express trip that I suspect the express trains from Victoria station were.
But upon arriving at Preston Park the place was heaving. The expected number of people at the day is around 100,000. There are various thoughts as to why Brighton Pride is so successful. These include:
- It is in Brighton and that means seaside and sun and all that sort of summer stuff. Nothing like a bit of sun to get everyone outside for a tan.
- Brighton is not too far out of London to take forever to get there. If one oversleeps you still stand a chance of getting there quickly as it only takes a little over an hour by train.
- Unlike the London version which costs £20+ this one is free and Londoners love a bargain...
One thing there wasn't a lot of was urinals. Most people resorted to the bushes along the edges of the park which meant you had to watch your step in that area... Later that night back in London, you couldn't help but notice how quiet the streets were...
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Scenes from Balham Tube Station Friday 20:56.
Balham - gateway to the south - does have a few smart restaurants on and around its High Street. Friday night I went with A to Dish Dash, which is a smart Persian restaurant offering delicious meats on sticks among other things. A gay couple sitting next to us and celebrating a birthday offered us cake. It was that sort of night...
Friday, August 05, 2005
Thursday, August 04, 2005
A was very impressed that he was adding to my cultural enrichment by getting me a ticket (due to a last-minute cancellation by a relative of his) to see Ravi and Anoushka Shankar in concert at the Proms. It was a wondrous and uplifting evening of musical meditation.
Well for the most part. The first half consisted of a piece by Param Vir Horse Tooth White Rock which sounded interesting in parts but it also had some very loud percussion sections. I had warned A previously that loud percussion can make me jump unexpectedly and this was no exception. It was a pity that I wasn't sitting with A so he didn't see this very undignified jolt. But his relatives who I was sitting with did, and this amused them for the rest of the performance... Well, one can't always be dignified and graceful.
After this loud and noisy piece, Shankar's Sitar Concerto followed. It was a welcome relief and I think most of the audience felt this way... You could feel the audience get more and more excited as Anoushka Shankar played and as the music continued to its finale. And as a piece of programming it was an excellent way to introduce the second half.
After the interval Ravi Shankar came on to play a series of Sandhya (evening) ragas. The sell-out crowd in Albert Hall leapt to their feet as he walked on. The atmosphere was electric. It wasn't just an evening of musical entertainment but so much more. The ragas lasted for a little over an hour and the audience was rapt throughout. The improvisation and techniques were astonishing, the music sublime, and the sensation of the performance unfolding before you was all part of the experience.
Afterwards A whisked me away from Albert Hall. He thought there were far too many South Asian Men in the vicinity for his liking. I don't know where he got the idea that I was some dirty stopout. It may have been those leering references to how friendly the South Asian men are at my local M&S... But I digress... The evening to me seemed a fairly mixed affair. And besides, music as good as this has no boundaries.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
A: I have a spare ticket to see Ravi Shankar at the Proms tonight. Are you free to come?
Paul: Sure, I only had my fallback plan of going to the gym. But what will be "the make up" of the audience?
A: Oh it will be a night of a thousand saris. Have you got yours?
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
After a hectic day in the office I decided to go and see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was playing at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, which is a grand old theatre that is a feature on the high street which has great seats and a good sound system... No trip to Brixton is complete without a visit to the cinema (although try and get to see a film in the main cinema and not in the extended bit)...
As for the movie, I recently had a discussion with a Gene Wilder devotee who was passionately arguing that nobody could come near his comic genius. I thought that was all very well but that first movie had all those dreadful songs and departed from the book in several key places. Besides, I thought Johnny Depp would make this far more interesting and he did by becoming Michael Jackson. There is a scene towards the end where Wonka tries to lure Charlie away from his family into his big glass elevator so they could live together - and alone - which surely could have been lifted straight from a Martin Bashir documentary.
To be fair on the film and not just take the fashionable reading of the day, it was very entertaining. There are a few smart updates to the original story as well (although I am not sure why Mike TeeVee's father replaces his mother... The gender balance seems all wrong there)... Roald Dahl's text remains for the Oompa Loompa songs, and they seem a lot more fun than the last time I recalled them too. All told a not particularly subtle at points (there is this heavy handed aside into Wonkas upbringing), overall it was fun... And cruel... Squirrels attacking a girl from Buckinghamshire is surely something anyone in their right mind will want to pay to see!
Monday, August 01, 2005
- It isn't everyday you have a crime scene out of the window. This morning around 4.30am a group of youths stabbed a boy. The story unfolds but will be front page of the South London Press Tuesday.
- And Scotch Beef ads are back on TV. They show a very muscular man in a kilt eating a big ol' hunk of beef. I had some last night. Delicious.
Man #1: So how much more have you got to do?
Man #2: Well I have to do my abs...
Man #1: Yeah...
Man #2: And I think I might do my obliques...
Man #1: Yeah...
Man #2: And I think I might do some stretches...
Man #1: Uh huh...
Man #2: And then I might do a bit on the treadmill...
Man #1: How about I meet you later?
Scenes from Soho Pride Sunday 19:07 - A few sensible drinks outside Rupert Street... Standing amongst the shaved headed lads...
Scenes from Old Compton Street Soho Pride Sunday 17:08. A view from above of the carnival atmosphere... It was also the chance to look down and do some serious people watching...
Scenes from Soho Pride Sunday 16:50 at Soho Square. Today the punters came to Soho for a big gay street party. The weather even warmed up enough to make wearing a shirt unfortunately optional for many... Still there were some nice fit people out and about.
Walking home from the theatre on Saturday evening at this same location I saw some gentlemen who had featured in some straight-to-video films that are popular amongst the gay community. They were wearing t-shirts that proclaimed what Eastern European production company they belonged to. A was not familiar with Bel Ami so I had to explain their cultural significance...
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Saturday night I caught the play Some Girl(s) at the Gielgud Theatre that stars David Schwimmer. I was a bit wary of a star vehicle but I had heard that it was funny, it was written by Neil LaBute and Catherine Tate also featured in it. The premise was simple, a man about to get married looks up some old girlfriends that he thought he did wrong to say sorry and make amends with them before moving on. This could potentially be quite an interesting premise but as the play moved on I realised that I knew far more interesting people than the four people on stage and I wondered about these people around me tittering away at the scenarios dished up on stage (then again it was a Friends audience so they probably found this cutting edge satire)...
My mind couldn't stop wondering thinking about real-life substitutes for what was on stage. Most recently I know F who is dating two men. One night she calls man #2 and gets a woman who tells her that she has the wrong number. This is the same number she has had stored in her mobile for six months so suspicious she sends a text message to the mobile: "You should start being honest with me and facing up with your responsibilities. How are you going to be when I have your baby next month?" Well F isn't pregnant but this simple little message led her to find out that man #2 is married and she didn't know, and now the wife isn't happy. Now none the woman got to have any sort of smart revenge on Schwimmer's man.
Then there were the scenes that should have been in there like the man leaving because he didn't like his partner having opinions? Now surely one of four strong female characters could have bothered this alpha male character enough for him to just leave them. Also what about one of them being too fat, or not having big enough Brad Pitts? The man is up himself enough to travel around America making amends with ex girlfriends, surely he can have some deeply superficial reasons behind doing so?
Still I guess you do have to accept what you are given by the playwright: a man meets four women in four different hotel rooms and nothing happens. There is a grope and a bit of thigh (Schwimmer's and Lesley Manville's), but not much else. By the time the man started declaring his undying love for the Saffron Burrows I had lost track of the dialogue and I didn't realise what the hell was going on. But I wasn't the only one.
A was fidgeting by halfway through the show. As he had only had an expresso prior to sitting down I initially assumed this was caffeine withdrawal. It was only later I realised he was in pain from the bad script and Schwimmer's poor acting. I then noticed that all around people were moving in their seats, munching on crisps and popping open cans of soft drink. So many people kept getting up and going somewhere it felt more like a waiting room than a theatre. LaBute's plays don't have intervals but this one could have done with one. It would have been good to have a break amongst the repetition. And the Gielgud theatre seats aren't the most comfortable to last 100 minutes without stretching the legs...
Still the four women on stage were great and there were some funny lines. Schwimmer was just his Friends character which was a pity as this role required him to be a bit more of a cad. I would have liked the character to be much nastier but I guess one can't have everything. While most of the audience probably would have been excited if Schwimmer was onstage calling out street names out of the A-Z, I found it would have helped to have surtitles as he was a bit hard to hear for the most part. Amazing to think that this man has made so much money out of nine seasons of a tv show, but that's they way it goes.
Scenes from Harrods Saturday 16:30.
The last day of the Harrods sale brought all the punters out for an extra 20% off.
A wanted to get some more dinner plates, but not these ones after I suggested that they looked like you could get them at John Lewis. He settled for something much smarter. Later I bought a couple of shirts, so a sensible round of shopping was had by all.
It was actually the first time I set foot in Harrods, so A was keen to give me the grand tour (but I declined the offer to see the Dodi and Di memorial). While it is a tacky Egyptian bazaar with clothes, crockery, this and that piled up on top of each other in no real sense of logic or organisation, it still does have a certain charm about it...
Still as one sees the fading grandeur of the building and the cracked and dirty tiles in the food hall, it seems like there is a (very) small part of English shopping history that is slowly decaying away... And nobody really seems to notice as they snap up the Harrods bags and bears.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Thursday, July 28, 2005
There is no benefit in staying back working late. I found this out tonight when the high street was closed off due to a suspect package found near the tube station. It turned out to be nothing and the main street has just now reopened. Its just another day of heightened state of alert where every package and every passenger is suspect.
Actually dealing with suspect passengers is easy now... You just get up and move to another carriage. I didn't think I would see this but I saw it on the Victoria line when a drunk man asleep across several seats was causing a little alarm to other passengers, so they got up and moved. Personally drunk men flailing about didn't strike me as likely terrorists.
Tonight as the Victoria line was suspended due to more security alerts this meant I took to walking on foot from Brixton to Stockwell. Along the way I noticed the terrorist safe house in Blair House that was raided overnight and the impromptu memorial of paper signs and dried out flowers outside Stockwell tube station to the Brazilian man killed last Friday.
Oh and it wasn't just an ordinary day going to work either. There were very few people on the tube, but there were six Transport Police officers at my station at 7.15 this morning... I did feel a little self conscious with my big bulky rucksack filled with my gym gear and iPOD wires trailing out of my jacket... But life (and the gym and not to mention the music) still goes on...
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Scenes from Bloomsbury St - Bloomsbury 21:39. The weather this week has been cool rainy and wet. Given the long period of dry weather the rain seems almost out of place... Now where did I leave my umbrella?
Travel advice in London...
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.
Also doing the rounds today on email... A message board purportedly from Notting Hill tube station this week... It reads:
Please do not run on the platforms or concourses. Especially if you are carrying a rucksack, wearing a big coat or look a bit foreign. This notice is for your own safety. Thank you.
(If you don't believe it, clicking the photo will enlargen it)
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Scenes from Torrington Place, Bloomsbury Sunday 15:34 - On a traffic divider a debate written in permanent felt pen takes place about the pros and cons of the Islamic faith. A tell-tale sign of ones proximity to a university campus if there ever was one...
Monday, July 25, 2005
- Ted Heath was buried today. I recall Monty Python's quiz joke about Ted, "Edward Heath is a what?". The answer was "a bachelor" which still gets laughs since it is still the euphemism bandied about.
- The big news today was be on the lookout for bombers with delta containers made in India. These tupperware rip-offs are only sold in 100 stores in the UK. I suggested to A he should do a stocktake of his plasticware and he advised that all containers were present and accounted for. Personally, I don't have any...
- And as the inquest opened today into the death of the man who was shot eight times at Stockwell tube, there are unconfirmed reports that t-shirts around London have started to appear with the slogan "Don't shoot, I'm not Brazilian"...
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Caught the Young Vic's production of As You Like It at the Wyndham's Theatre on Saturday night and it was quite good (and fun). This production has Sienna Miller as second billing, but playing Celia she hardly has the most demanding of Shakespearean roles. It is quite possible to play this role and to fret over Jude at the same time I suspect.
The stars of the show really were Helen McCrory as Rosalind - who playing a man and woman gets to do all those fun Shakespearean things - and Dominic West as Orlando, who looked suitably good looking and all that. On the strength of McCrory's work in this I suggested to A that she deserves to be a bigger star. After reading her bio I realised that she already has quite a film career but surely she should be the next Catherine Zeta Jones. A suggested that CZJ was far more beautiful that HMcC so she had no chance, but I suggested that with cigarettes and plastic surgery surely anything is possible.
As for the show, this production is set in France in the 1940s, which gives and excuse to have many romantic-sounding songs and to use Shakespeare's text against an accordion, piano and cello. While the logic of setting it in this location may not always make sense, it sounded and looked great... For the most part. The production was a bit sparse in its design of the Forest of Arden. For the first half it was just a bit of grass on the stage with a black brick wall as a backdrop (which gave the impression of being the theatre's back wall). In the second half the black brick wall lifted up to reveal a black and white photograph of a forest. The Donmar style of using a black brick wall as a production feature seems to be catching on.
The update of the production also had a lot more obvious references to naughty bits. This had an interesting affect on the audience, which in the Royal Circle where A and I were sitting seemed to consist mostly of young American women. This meant that every time there was a reference to a penis there was nervous laughter, and everytime there was a reference to a vagina there was a collective gasp. I don't think these women were familiar with Eve Ensler's work. Still, you have to love young American women. The bottom would fall out of West End theatre if they didn't keep coming to shows, and despite references to naughty bits there was a lot in this show for them to love.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Catching the tube from Balham into central London was an interesting experience today. Passing through Stockwell and Oval tube stations did cause pause for reflection on the past 48 hours. You can't exactly get back to normality when you're reading The Times which gives you great detail about the bombs that partially exploded on the tube Thursday, and looking at CCTV footage of a man fleeing the station you are just passing through.
The events of yesterday were also quite extraordinary (not to mention exhausting)... And as the police presence on the ground and in the air becomes ever more noticeable you can't help but wonder and hope if it is coming closer to endgame... Whatever the events of the next few days hold, it is now a case of be on the lookout for certain types of young men with rucksacks. They may be easier to spot if there are smart-casual trendy officers with Glock automatics drawn trailing them...
Today I picked up tickets at the TKTS booth for As You Like It tonight, and the police presence on the ground and in the are has noticeably increased with a new booth and lighting installed throughout the area. I'm Looking forward to seeing post-Jude Sienna Miller performing in the play tonight. Apparently she's putting on a brave face, and there's something we can all learn from that...
Friday, July 22, 2005
Today's shooting at Stockwell Tube station (that's where I interchange in my normal commute) was a bit of an shock. But I can't help but think it is a little relieving that there is one less madman out there... Unlike in Australia, police don't shoot people here as much so it has been described as a watershed for UK security. But what is the alternative when a man on a hot day is wearing a thick jacket and refusing to obey police instructions?
Also a great piece by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times about the incitement of hatred as well. His article doesn't give much time for the excuse-makers either: When you live in an open society like London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow "understandable" is outrageous.
The opportunity arose on Thursday to see the Hampstead Theatre production of Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw with A. After a day of near-miss bombings on the public transport network it seemed like a sensible antidote. Or a silly one anyway. I thought the cast were great and it is such a great play full of witty one-liners about sex, incest and psychiatry so who could ask for anything more on a night like Thursday night was?
It was press night as well so there were all sorts of press reviewers there with their little notebooks (including former Tory MP Michael Portillo - who we made stand twice because we had to get past him to get to our seats in the theatre). The production kept the story set in the 60's which was a good idea since the story while witty and fully of funny lines does tend to go on a bit and all the psycho-talk is very out of date. After the show there were some murmurings about how it was a little amateurish but I thought the story was more at fault than anything else. All the actors did remarkably well screaming and running around in their pants if you ask me...
Incidentally it was a warm day yesterday too and I arrived feeling a little perspired having had to take three tube lines to avoid all the network closures. It was a bit of a tense commute yesterday with everyone checking out everyone else - especially if you had a backpack or bag. By the time I reached Swiss Cottage I was a little bit hot and bothered. Fortunately somebody shoved a drink in my hand shortly after arriving and after a glass of wine I never have to look back...
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.
Scenes from Waterloo Station Northern Line Friday 09:31 - The morning commute is disrupted at Waterloo after what was described as a suspect package is found at Kennington... My train had to be reversed back up the line to allow another train to reverse back into the station. It would be the bus for me for the rest of the journey...
Before catching the 59 Bus from Waterloo Station I thought I could do with a coffee. I started heading over to the nearby Starbucks and suddenly British Transport Police appeared out of nowhere and swooped on a tall young lad with a rucksack right next to the coffee shop. I decided to skip the coffee and head to the bus stop. Starbucks coffee is such rubbish anyway. From the safety of the bus stop I could see that it was a false alarm.
**Further Update** It is now reported that a man has been shot at Stockwell tube station around this time (three stops south of Waterloo). Just as well I was late for work today...
Scenes from Westminster Tube Thursday 23:16. An all-too familiar notice of service disruptions across the underground network this evening as the city escapes another round of bombings. Fortunately this time there is plenty of evidence that has been left behind. I was coming home from an evening at the Hampstead Theatre and with all the service disruption it was a bit of a roundabout route...
Watching the footage this evening on the television as people describe the scramble to get out of Warren Street tube today seems all the more close by. Afterall I use that station a few times a week. Tonight I returned home to my street covered in discarded police tape. For most of the evening Tottenham Court Road was a pedestrian mall, but by midnight the road had reopened.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Sent: 21 July 2005 17:07
Subject: RE: News from a friend...
Always count on you with the latest... But WHERE are these men now???
Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2005 5:09 PM
Subject: RE: News from a friend...
hehe.... not in my life that's for sure.
Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2005 5:17 PM
Subject: RE: News from a friend...
Yeah I'm glad I don't have men with wires in my life either...
Police search hospital (the one at the top of my street) for a black, possibly Asian man, around 6ft 2ins tall, with wires protruding from a hole in his blue top. It appears they didn't find the man with wires in the hospital, although they have since returned. It is an odd feeling to know that a man intent on blowing himself up over some warped outlook on life is in your manor...
As the hours go by without any further reports, the threat appears to have abated for now... It is now a waiting game... But they will be caught...
Fortunately I am off to the theatre this evening so I don't need to go home just now...
And on the email circuit...
Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2005 5:01 PM
Subject: News from a friend...
Just spoke to X who has spoken to scotland yards ellite special forces unit he used to work for who are the first point of contact for terrorist attacks.
Apparently 4 bombs in rucksacks were dettonated but for some reason didnt go off.
One of the suicide bombers looked very uncomfortable as a small puff of smoke came out his rucksack and then he bolted off the train. 3 people wrestled him to the ground but he managed to escape.
Another suicide bomber was also chased by SO19 into a hospital which has now been shut down and they are currently trying to sort the problem out.
Some of the train lines are now back working
Originally uploaded by akira_kev.
What now appears to be a minor explosion on Warren Street tube has closed all roads around. This picture is taken by a photoblogger at the corner of TCR and Torrington Place.
The hunt is on for the various failed suicide bombers
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Asian woman: You are very rude man. You give bad service
Hairdresser Luke: Well I think you are rude. You wanted your hair straightened and now you want it curled but there isn't enough time to do this before we close
Asian woman: You are hopeless and your work is rubbish
Hairdresser Luke: Lady, go and get FUCKED!
At this point Hairdresser Luke threw the rubber anti-static thing that goes around the neck at her and picked up his bag and stormed off out of the shop. I sat there wondering whether (a) he hurt the woman with this rubber device and (b) whether he was coming back as until this little drama unfolded he was due to cut my hair. Fortunately he did come back to cut my hair. He didn't say much but it was the most aggressive chop I have had. There was raw aggression in his texturing...
This woman sounded like she was a nightmare. I say sounded as I sat in a chair on the other side of the mirror where she was. I couldn't see what she was like except for noting her cheap shoes. Well, Covent Garden hairdressers are passionate about their craft...
Scenes from Soho Bar Tuesday 23:52. I ran into Adam in the gym tonight and we went for a bite to eat afterwards. After that he insisted we should have a drink so he dragged me to a bar full of gays. Since I had been working out I only had orange juice (with a splash of vodka).
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Scenes from South Kensington Sunday 17:56. Everybody on the street wear pink. Pink is a popular colour at the moment...
Monday, July 18, 2005
Muscle Mary (on mobile phone): Well I said to him, "Glen, I am a 'uman beeeeeeing and I am still living here and until I move out my room isn't a sssshow room"
After Glyndebourne on Saturday I went to Royal Albert Hall on Sunday to see a BBC Proms concert of Purcell's The Fairy Queen. As it was a concert it was just the music (so it was only two hours) and it was a very enjoyable way to spend an early Sunday evening.
A had two tickets, one in the stalls and one in the circle. Rather than take up my suggestion of paper-scissors-rock for determining who sat where, he suggested that we swap seats at interval. That far more sensible suggestion turned out to be best as the seat in the circle provided a great vantage point to see everything, while the seat in the stalls was better for proximity.
Purcell in the cavernous space of the RAH may not be the best setting for this music, but it was nice to see it, and it reminded me that between now and mid-September I should be getting to more Proms concerts.
After the concert and as we left the hall to find somewhere to have supper, A spotted a few celebrities in the neighborhood, but I was too busy with those little Purcell ditties running about in my head to notice. Those things can seriously cause you to be distracted. Well that was my excuse for the evening...
Scenes from Glyndebourne grounds Saturday 16:48 - black tie, picnics on the grounds and the opera house in the background...
A invited me to Glydebourne on Saturday (which just so happens to be a country house near Lewes in East Sussex, that just so also happens to have a large state of the art opera house on its grounds). Naturally the chance to see opera done very well in a smashing location was something I eagerly accepted, so on a warm Saturday afternoon I was on a train to Lewes with A... Wearing a dinner jacket (as this is the expected standard of dress), and helping A with the picnic hamper.
There are a few interesting things that is all part of the opera experience at Glydebourne. First of all, dinner jackets are required attire for men. What women wore seemed to veer from flowing ball gowns in an array of summer colours to something still formal yet more sensible. And secondly there is the dining experience. While there are restaurants there, many people opt to have a picnic on the grounds. So on lush green lawns are people in black tie having salads and cold meats. It is all very civilised, especially as English picnics entail silverware, glassware, fine tablecloths, fresh flowers and candles. Not everyone had tables and chairs however, those slightly younger (and who still had their original knees and hips - such as we) took the picnic rug option.
Oh and as for the opera, well it was fantastic. I had seen Rossini's Cinderella before but found it hard going. Perhaps with the right staging, singers, orchestra and sets anything is possible. The singers were all great actors as well. There was comic timing amongst all the scandal and intrigue that make up the story.
The programme notes point out that Rossini's opera is less a fairy tale and more a social commentary on class. There is no glass slipper, fairy godmother or pumpkin carriage. The story is all about the father who dreams to be in a higher class and sees two of his daughters as the means for this, and the prince who disguises himself to see who the genuine woman is. Understanding the focus of the story helps understand the opera and the detail of this production has gone into the intricacies of all these things. A didn't care for Cinderella's ball gown or wedding dress (which were silver and gold respectively) but I figured a little bit of sparkle didn't hurt anybody… Especially since there was no fairy godmother amongst all the social satire to brighten things up. Actually Cinderella by the end of the story does become a bit of a saint. She doesn't seek revenge on her two sisters and her father but forgives them. There were no scenes of huffiness in a golden gown at all! Well it is opera I suppose. And Rossini wasn't writing about a bitch.