Saturday, September 30, 2006

Celebrity Watching at Covent Garden Saturday 18:15


Celebrity Watching at Covent Garden Saturday 18:15
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.


You can't say that I don't get the celebs. Here is Frank Langella's shoes in centre shot. He was sitting down talking on his mobile phone outside the Donmar...

Theatre: Frost / Nixon


A perfect antidote to Wednesday's debacle was the excellent play Frost Nixon at the Donmar by Peter Morgan (who also wrote The Queen). It stars Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost, recreating the interview in 1977 that led to Nixon making some astonishing statements about Watergate and obstruction of justice (including the one above). This was a sensational and gripping two hours in the theatre about a disgraced leader and a fading entertainer both trying to use each other to revive their careers.

The drama behind the scenes and in the actual taped interviews is recreated to stunning effect. A bank of television screens suspended above also brings home the impact of the close up on Nixon. The entire cast is perfect but it is Langella and Sheen had you sitting on the edge of your seat. The closing lines of the play are as follows describing a party scene years later hosted by Frost:

Walking through the crowds of air-kissing politicians, actors and high-fliers it was tough to tell where the politics stopped and the showbiz started. Maybe that was the point. Maybe in the end there is no difference. And David understood that better than all of us.

At that point with the whole cast assembled on stage, Sheen gives a knowing wink and the stage goes black. The run is sold out at the Donmar and hopefully there will be a West End transfer. Even better would be if there was a film in the works. In the meantime, theatre doesn't get any better than this...

Scenes from Shaftsbury Avenue Wednesday 22:20


Scenes from Shaftsbury Avenue Wednesday 22:20
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.


Actually it would be better if you didn't... Never trust a show with crap artwork too...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Theatre: Cabaret

It is a rare theatrical experience when somebody sitting next to you, who you have just met, gets up at the intermission and declares to you and all around "This is SHIT!" But that's what happened Wednesday night when I saw a preview of Cabaret. He left at that point but later on I heard another audience member mutter about who the lead actress must have slept with to get the role… Everyone knew they were in the presence of a megabomb. What can you say about a production where when the Emcee asks, "Where are your troubles now?" somebody in the audience calls out "In Islington!" I'm not quite sure what that meant but it was one of the few laughs of the evening.

It is odd really, as a few years ago I saw an excellent Australian production of the Sam Mendes version that was exciting, well acted, well sung, fast paced and interesting. Tonight had none of this. Rufus Norris as director managed to
  • Take a number of talented actors and squeeze incredibly mediocre performances out of them.

  • Add a few bits of nudity that didn't make any sense and also looked dull. By the time the finale came and the cast were again stripping down you could hear the sighs in the audience...

  • Add large dildos fashioned out of pantyhose and fake tits for various unknown reasons.

  • Add songs that were even cut from the original production (there was good reason why "I don't care much" didn't make it).
The production designer, working on must have been a £50 budget covered everything with a purple velvet which looked dull and cheap even from the second row. The costumes, when they weren't just a bit of minge, testicles and pimpled buttocks, also looked like they had been purchased from RoB and would have looked better off in a fetish bar.

As for the cast, Anna Maxwell Martin as Sally Bowles was a little bit too talentless and irritating. When the Nazis came to beat up Cliff I was hoping that they would also get Sally too. Alas they didn't so she did get to sing the finale. It wasn't pretty. James Dreyfus as the Emcee could sing, but not really any of the music as we know it. He was a pretty bland Emcee. Sheila Hancock also featured in the show too but was she any good? No. I guess even theatre royalty needs to work, what would do? Kander and Ebb's music didn't stand a chance alas. My nomination for this season's worst musical.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Birthday Cards



Last Thursday was my birthday and my colleagues got me this card... Just what were they trying to tell me?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Scenes from Soho Burger Bar Sunday 18:52


Scenes from Soho Burger Bar Sunday 18:52
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.


Warm shabby customer... What's with the beanie when it is 20 plus...?

Scenes from the Royal Academy Sunday 15:38


Scenes from the Royal Academy Sunday 15:38
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.


A large bronze gateway called "The Gates of Hell" is part of the Rodin exhibition at the Royal Academy and something rather impressive to see upon entering the forecourt at the Academy. It runs through to January. The work was cast after his death but includes earlier versions of "The Kiss" and "The Thinker" within it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Film: The Queen

Today I caught the movie The Queen which is about that rather unusual period in 1997 when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash and the attempts of the new PM Mr Blair to get the monarch to understand the mood of the public. It was quite an extraordinary film and very well written. While it may not have happened in the way it is presented, the cleverness of the film is that it makes you think the dialogue is believable. Apparently it has used a mix of corroboration from close sources in both camps with a healthy bit of speculation. But at its heart is a great play between two figures of power dealing with change (intercut with real footage of the huge outpouring of grief at the time).

Michael Sheen, who has already played Blair (and Kenneth Williams) in TV dramas, again shows his versatility recreating those heady days of the New Labour era when there wasn't any Iraq, Lebanon or backbenchers passing notes... But Helen Mirren in the title role doesn't quite so much act as channel ER in this film. Actually discussing it later with Ad we agreed that to play the Queen all you needed to do was walk around Balmoral as if you needed a hip replacement and speak slowly and end your sentences on an inflection such as "One does think that would be appro... priate, don't you Mr Blair?" Be careful though, if you are not a trained and brilliant actor like Mirren you could end up sounding like Donald Pleasance as Blofeld... Anyway, definitely a film worth catching...

Weekly Cheap Thrills: Adam Garcia in tight trousers from Wicked


Adam Garcia & Helen Dallimore
Originally uploaded by Fray101.

Hmm an official photo from the West End production uploaded by a Flickr user. This is the "Daaaaahncing through life" number... Maybe sitting in the circle the trousers looked tighter than they were... Oh and the woman is Helen Dallimore. She plays the other lead. She is also Australian and she was great but that's not the point of this photo here...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Theatre: A Wicked preview...


Idina Menzel about to defy gravity... Well at least she didn't fly over the audience like that irritating Mary Poppins... (Photo: Joan Marcus)

I finally saw a preview of Wicked Tuesday night. It turned out the evening was also a charity fundraiser for Elton John’s AIDS foundation... All the stalls were booked out for it and Sharon Osbourne was there and before the show began said something warm and mumsy, which seems to be what she does best nowadays since she has her chat show on ITV... Elton was in LA so couldn’t come.

But anyway having seen the show - which is a postmodern take on the Wizard of Oz and tells the story of the two witches before Dorothy drops in - some things of note:
  • The performance ran through uninterrupted. Apparently, that makes it the fifth performance that has not had technical problems since previews began earlier this month. The audience roared when Idina Menzel (reprising her Tony winning role) rose up in the Defying Gravity number... Even as a slightly jaded theatregoer, I found it did look quite spectacular having her rise up and hover over the cast lit by some incredible lighting belting out the song.
  • It was one of the few musicals I have seen here where nothing about it looked cheap. The sets, costumes and lighting are great…So many of the set pieces just overwhelm the senses (without feeling overproduced) so you do get your money’s worth. The only thing that looked a bit cheap was when they got to the Emerald City and a few green lights came on in the auditorium that looked like the kind of lights hanging off the hoardings at Kings Cross station while they refurbish it...
  • I thought Adam Garcia (who people keep telling me can’t sing or act but I don't listen) was great in the lead male role. Although I wished he wasn’t forced to use a Hugh Grant-style accent. I am sure the audience could have coped with his normal voice or (dare say) an American accent! This Hugh Grant-ism meant his first song became "Daaahncing through life" which made me wonder whether Fiyero was the brother of Sophie Ellis Bextor… None of this mattered to those around me as they found more interest in the incredibly tight pants he was wearing for the number... And boy could he move in them. At this point many in the audience dove for the opera glasses for a closer look...
  • The sound is LOUD and plays like a rock concert (complete with screaming fans). The star last night was Idina Menzel but the rest of the cast including Helen Dallimore (as a very English Glinda), Miriam Margolyes and James Gillan were great too.
  • I sat in the circle which until the stalls seats are reallocated is probably the best place to sit as the sight lines along the sides of the stalls would not be so good... Apparently the elaborate set does block the view a little down there...
  • As for the show, well it's a rather dark take on the world (is the Wizard meant to be George Bush or Tony Blair?) but still a lot fun and I will imagine that it will be around here for some time. This is show will be loved by anyone who is perky, green, wicked or a goat. It opens next week...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Film: Volver

Sunday morning I managed to catch Pedro Almodóvar's latest film
Volver. It is such a sweet story of murder, revenge and family relationships. All the cast were great, and particularly Penélope Cruz in particular in the lead role. Although having her star in a movie as a woman poor and scrubbing floors seemed out of place. She is too glamorousus for that. It reminded me of seeing Marlene Dietrich wearing an apron cookin' up a meal for Edward G Robinson in the movie Manpower - it was just plain wrong. Perhaps things are different in provincial Spain...

Casting of Cruz aside, it was a great film. And her rather perky cleavage feature thoughout the film at key points. My favourite line was said by a supporting character to her about their plan to take over a bar and restaurant: "Between my mojitos and your cleavage we'll make a killing"... I'll drink to that.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Theatre: A Moon For The Misbegotten

In keeping with an intensive week of theatre (since Si was in town), we caught a preview of Eugene O'Neill's A Moon For the Misbegotten at the Old Vic. It is the opening play for Kevin Spacey's 2006/07 season. Spacey has received a lot of flak in the press for his artistic direction over the last two years at the Old Vic, but this play is going to knock everyone's socks off. Everything about the production was fantastic.

Of course O'Neill has written a great story. You are drawn into their story around the relationship between the father and daughter still living on a run down farm, and their landlord and friend(?) who may sell the farm to them, or he may sell to a neighbour who is offering more… From there the story unfolds…

Eve Best in the central role gave an incredibly engaging performance. Spacey and Colm Meaney were also fabulous. The play was so full of life and the performances were so enjoyable that the audience members who hadn't passed out from the heat gave the cast a standing ovation at the end.  At this point I would advise to potential theatre-goers to the Old Vic to avoid alcohol until after a play as the theatre has no air conditioning and gets incredibly warm. In the circle where I sat, people were leaving (or rather staggering out) because of it.

Still they missed a great play. It is in previews until next week but I suspect it will become the must see play this autumn. Spacey was also in the news this week selling the most expensive tickets to the play in an auction for Bill Clinton's charity. At £130,000 for four tickets, that must set a new West End record…

After the play Si and I were both in agreement about it. I thought was probably a good antidote to Daddy Cool, the other show he saw that day. Daddy Cool is a musical set to the music of Bony M and if that isn't bad enough, features some dull star from Eastenders. The show also includes an enormous parrot which hangs in the dome of the theatre. Si didn't stick around for the second act so he couldn't tell me what it did, but in the first act it just was in the ceiling, and very visible to everyone. What a parrot is doing in a jukebox show set in multicultural London is anybody's guess I suppose. It opens on Thursday this week… Maybe the papers will explain it then…

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Conversation at the Festival Hall site visit Saturday...

Lady: So will the new building have more toilets?
Guide: Absolutely. There'll be 50% more toilets for the ladies...
Man: What about the mens toilets? They were always locked?
Guide: Well we had to lock the mens toilets because um... There were certain types of people who er... Gay men liked to go there often...
Lady (to man): Ah see Errol, you missed out...

Scenes from Royal Festival Hall Saturday 14:55


Scenes from Royal Festival Hall Saturday 14:55
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.


No I wasn't auditioning for the Village People. It was London Open House weekend this weekend and that meant the opportunity to visit various places of architectural merit (however dubious some might think).

Royal Festival Hall - an iconic post-war building or eyesore (depending on your point of view) - has been undergoing a major refurbishment since last summer and was open to guided tours. Hard hat, vest and construction shoes were necessary to take the tour.

The tour went from the basement to the new replastered ceiling. It is a Grade I listed building and while the majority of it will look exactly as it was when it opened in 1954, it will have improved acoustics, a deeper stage and (at last) air conditioning.

It is such a great building that going on a tour of it you could forget all about the problems and budget overruns from this project...

Opera: Faust

Friday night I caught the opening night of Faust, featuring Angela Gheorghiu and Piotr Beczala. It is a fantastic production, although at three and a half hours it did test not only one's concentration but one's glutes. Gheorghiu reprising her performance from 2004 was probably better suited to this role than the one she attempted earlier in the summer with Tosca, but the jury has to be out on the blonde wig she wears in the role. It was however Beczala's night and the audience saved the most applause for him…

I did get the feeling that the best parts of the opera are all in the first half. Particularly in this production the ballet dancing through hell in the fifth act felt way too literal. All told however the production was lavish and there was plenty to take in…

Friday, September 15, 2006

Reimagined conversation at the V&A Thursday...

Si: After seeing the Da Vinci show I bought "the last supper after dinner mints"... They're the campest thing...
An: No Paul's the campest thing... They would have to be the second campest...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Theatre: Donkeys' Years

Tuesday night I caught Donkeys' Years. It is a revival of Michael Frayn's 1976 comedy and has been doing well enough to have its West End run extended.

The cast has been changed this month which is probably necessary given all the door slamming, sweating and running about that takes place.

I did find the first act to drag a little. So much so that I felt myself nodding off at times. Lucky S was next to me to prod me as we were sitting second row centre. It was a lot of exposition to get through and I figured I could do without it. Still for a mild farce it did hold up well.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Idle Sunday evening chatter...

Ad: I went to the new gym tonight. It is so much better than the one in Soho...
Paul: Why's that?
Ad: The one in Soho is too cliquey...
Paul: But you could say that we're a clique when we go there...
Ad: Yeah but that's a clique I don't wanna be in...

Theatre: A Slice O Minnelli



Caught Rick Skye in his final performance of A Slice O Minnelli in London tonight. It was a faithful recreation and parody of you know who... Glamour and glitz, legs and tits in the basement of the Theatre Museum at Covent Garden.

Plenty of references to the film
New York, New York abounded too as the above picture can attest. The above picture was also an excuse to put a female impersonator on my web page as I don't think I have done that before either...

Of course if you knew Liza's music (and hey who doesn't?) there were plenty of in-jokes but even without knowing that "With One Look" from
Sunset Boulevard was sung in the style of "Some People" from Gypsy there was plenty to enjoy from this loving yet slightly barbed tribute. Skye is actually a pretty good singer too and it was a full house (well as full as the bowels of the Theatre Museum can be) too...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Idle Chatter on Clapham High Street

Sun and weddings...



New look for blog

I decided that I needed a new look for the blog and one that would make use of larger computer screens that seem to be the standard nowadays... What do you people think?

Scenes from a Soho Bar Saturday 21:41



The ceiling on this bar was covered in mirror balls... They looked like they were ready to hatch and unleash mirror ball peril onto the unsuspecting punters on the dancefloor... Or I was still hungover from last nights drinks and they were just doing my head in...

Scenes from a Covent Garden Bar Friday 19:44



Shoes and old cigarettes...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Overheard near Carnaby Street Thursday Evening...

Woman on mobile: Well I just wanted to say "Fancy a shag?" to the first guy I met, but then this guy comes up to me and I ask him what does he do and he says "I'm Naomi Campbell's agent" so I then say, "How aaaaare you?"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Theatre: The Life of Galileo

Tuesday night I caught The Life of Galileo at the National Theatre. This is a new translation by David Hare of the Bertolt Brecht play. It is an epic story (at three hours and two intervals) but still an engaging tale of how Galileo as a genius in the scientific world was unable to deal with the consequences of his genius. He was a scientist not a politician, but to state that the earth moved around the sun challenged the entire notions of Heaven and Earth so was tantamount to heresy.

Simon Russell Beale as Galileo leads a terrific ensemble as the story unfolds from his scientific discoveries to his condemnation and eventual redemption as his work is smuggled out of Italy. David Hare's translation and the production kept things at a brisk enough pace, although a three hour play after a day at work is a challenge both for the actors and the audience.  It was a packed performance too which just goes to show that Brecht too can be accessible…

By the end of the play the real victory was that science and the pursuit of knowledge did triumph of sorts… But it did take the Catholic Church until 1992 (350 years later) to finally admit Galileo was right…

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

News: Bicycling

Rabid cyclists are an everyday hazzard on London roads and footpaths. If they aren't trying to run you down while you're crossing the road, they are attempting to steal your mobile while you're talking on it and walking down Clapham High Street.

Now there is a plan to teach cyclists and drivers not to jump red lights... Next year there will be a plan to teach drivers that the green light thingy means it is safe to proceed... In the longer term there is a plan to teach drivers how to drive down a street without clipping the external mirrors on parked cars...

Of course silly cycle stories pale in comparison to the news of Steve Irwin's death, which promoted a flurry of tributes on websites including one on a BBC newsgroup which said, "He will be truly mist and never forgotten for his dangerous moves on camera with animals..." Crikey indeed...

Scenes from the Barbican Gate 9 Sunday 17:20



It is all very straight forward getting out of the Barbican... Sort of... Finding one's way home after catching the last day of the Satirical London exhibition at the Museum of London.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Overheard on the N155 Bus Saturday...

Man on phone: Well when I say I'm with people I mean all the other people on the 155 bus to Tooting. I mean they're like strangers you know…

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Scenes from outside Mary Poppins Saturday 17:04



Rickshaws waiting for the matinee to end...

Scenes from Clapham Common Saturday 15:06



Pissing on trees in Clapham Common is a popular pasttime since there are more toilets on the common closed and boarded up than open.

An AFL event on the common today however had a solution by providing two portaloos... But despite theses valiant attempts by the organisers, man's desire to wee in the open continued...

Customer service at a Clapham shoe repair store...

Man: Your shoes will be ready next week.
Paul: Ok that's fine.
Man: When would you like to pick them up?
Paul: I'll pick them up next Saturday…
Man: They will be ready by Wednesday…
Paul: Ok then I'll pick 'em up on Wednesday then!
Man: And that's £10 deposit too…

Theatre: Sunday in the Park with George (again)

S was in town on Friday so I took him to the third-last performance of Sunday in the Park with George, which also made it the third time I had seen the production.

This time with front-row day seats it was a very up close experience. The cast is amazing in this production and there was an incredible chemistry between leads Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell. Russell was in tears at the end of the performance which isn't surprising given the emotional demands of the role, but also perhaps the result that this amazing production closes tonight. It is closing too soon but the full house last night made their appreciation known to the whole cast and production team with cheers and a standing ovation... Oh well, it is time to move on... But at least there is a cast recording available of this production...

Idle Chatter at the Tate Modern Friday...

After a little bit of wine and a bit of jetlag on the part of those around me, a conversation about family, Lutherans and lamingtons ensued...


Scenes from the National Theatre Friday 13:40



The punters love a free concert, and today was the Puppini Sisters. They have an Andrews Sisters schtick that they take to songs like 'Libertango' and 'I will survive' which was sort of funny and entertaining for a free concert, but they are getting a bit of a following around London and their album is available on iTunes...

Scenes from Southbank Friday 13:32


Southbank
Originally uploaded by Pauly_.



The tourist and the traveller with jetlag...