Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Scenes from a kitchen at Christmas (early preparations)


Christmas 2007, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

I could have written about the concerts I saw this week which included Cecilia Bartoli with a slight cold yodelling in tribute to early 19th-century diva Maria Malibran, or about the five hours of Wagner I sat through in a coma on Friday (mental note: Parsifal isn't my cup of tea), but anyway, I thought this was far more appropriate for Christmas day...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Overheard at the midnight Eucharist...

Woman: Who are those men in black?
Man #1: They are the priests...
Man #2: No they are the vergers...
Woman: Virgins?
Man #2: No vergers... (to Paul) We know they ain't virgins...

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Tis the season...

After the Accentuate the Positive concert with the LGMC the opportunity arose this week to freeze one's ass (or arse) off in the Covent Garden Piazza singing Christmas carols. Have made mental note to always wear thermals in future, but it was a great way of getting into the festive spirit. And with the mulled wine and hot cider on offer in the square, it helped to keep warm and add to the heartiness of the singing...

Tuesday night's carols were quite eventful with one very straight drunk wanting to join the chorus and no security in sight. His mates were looking on laughing as he pushed his way in through to the front. He got through a full verse of Hark the Herald Angels sing before security finally realised he wasn't part of the tenor 1's. He was dragged out wailing he "jushwannadooshing". They weren't messing about the second time while we were singing ABBA's "Happy New Year". Some drunk queen in a long coat and scarf stopped and stood next to me for a brief moment. A brief moment was all it took for security to pounce on him and man-handle him off to the side as he cried, "But-ith-maa-favourite-song!"

As we finished our finally set Dave walked up to me. I was ignoring him as he looked like he was about to try and sell me a copy of The Big Issue, but instead he gave me a Christmas card addressed "to all the lovely singers on stage". The festive spirit was alive and well in Covent Garden that night...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Concert: Accentuate the Positive

Before the curtain rises (or rather the gauze) on what became a rather memorable show, a choir waits for its cue and a full house waits for the show to begin.

After nine weeks of rehearsals it was show time. But the concert felt less of a show and more of a gathering of family and friends. A gathering that just happened to take place at the Palladium, where Judy, Liza, Barbara, Frank, Rufus and Jason Donovan have previously performed... To name a few...

Throughout what turned out to be a long day with much waiting around, in our spare time one tried not to gawk too much at the Judy Garland memorials both front and backstage, nor did I linger too much around Connie Fisher's dressing room (although I was informed to see Sound of Music before she leaves as the replacements are rubbish). In every corner of the building there is a sense of history about the theatre, although when you get to the bar you tend to forget all that when you are being charged £7 for a G&T...

True Colours went down well and I avoided tripping over myself even with the last minute changes to the choreography to enable us to be heard. The green shirt I wore in the second act was a little bit more controversial with comments ranging from "Great shirt" to "What are you a leprechaun?" Well it takes all sorts I suppose...

photo source: www.luthor.net.nz

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Scenes from Clapham High Street Friday


15-12-2007, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Supermarkets make a wonderful addition to any high street, particularly with their active frontages and contribution to an improved public realm...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

News this week in London


Evening Standard, originally uploaded by robinrimbaud.

Well the homeless man did say to the star that he hadn't had a bite in ages...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Music: Billy Budd and the last stand

It had been a while since I had heard or seen Billy Budd live so this concert version at the Barbican with the LSO seemed like a good idea. And it was. Huge forces, excellent soloists and thrilling and dramatic score made it seem not necessary for all that staging and drama stuff. With such a large orchestra at hand one also felt like you were on the Indomitable as it swelled and subsided... It was all thrilling stuff and quite a treat, even if it started at 7pm which would have to be a rather annoying starting time leaving little time for dinner.

But towards the end of Act two I was preoccupied with the added tension of Ian Bostridge's music stand teetering over the stage. He had been leaning over it, pushing on it, holding it with both hands as the drama dictated, and every time he did, the music stand moved closer and closer to the edge. By the finale, one leg was over the edge. If another went surely that would have made the evenings recording less than satisfactory. The old woman in the front row might have let out a yelp as well. By the Epilogue, Bostrige wasn't even holding the stand and with one and a half legs over the stage I was expecting a crash bang clang any moment. It didn't take long to come. It started to topple like it was in slow motion. There it went. The old woman was probably not watching the stand about to thump her as Bostridge is a bit of a sex symbol for that demographic. What I had not counted upon was Bostridge's quick reflexes. He swooped in and picked the stand up and moved it back to the stage. All was well. Epilogue finished with whimper (as it should). But there was just so much added drama and distraction to the evening...

Hot news this week in London...


09/12/2007, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

It's all about canoes. By the end of the week the canoe husband was in the slammer...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Theatre: Bitch Slapped by God

After three evenings of rehearsals for next Sunday's concert (which was all a bit step, step, turn now what the hell are we supposed to be singing?), the thought of going to see something was a refreshing prospect, particularly with a titled Bitch Slapped by God at the Drill Hall.

A "million Santa march" on Washington leading to Christmas being cancelled sounds like a great idea for an antidote to Christmas panto, but it was more of an ordeal to be endured. Perhaps it is a work in progress but I was just glad I didn't pay to see it.

Still, there was mulled wine on offer at the end of it and the entourage of lesbians enjoyed it. Hopefully for the rest of the run there will be some revisions that take 30 minutes from it. Oh but the killing of the reindeer (and their reassembly) was my favourite part.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Idle chatter on Elaine Paige's talent

John: Elaine Paige is all ham and cheese
Paul: She's like a croque-monsieur...
John: Well you got the crock part right...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Scenes from the Coliseum Sunday Afternoon


021220072920, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

It was Sunday evening around 10.30pm when I looked at my watch while waiting in the wings of the Coliseum and wondered what the hell I was doing there. Sure it was Barbara Cook's 80th Birthday concert. Sure she was great. Sure we were about to go on to sing two minutes in the finale chorus of Make Your Garden Grow... But after being there since 3pm it was a bit of a stretch. Well the concert didn't start at 3pm, it just felt like it did.

Mind you there were more than just a few of us in the chorus that jumped at the chance to sing with Barbara Cook when asked a few months ago. Hell even if it was for just two minutes we were there. Some people in the chorus did ask "Who is Barbara Cook?" to which I replied "Wash your mouth". Well, in the four years I have been in London I have seen her perform twice and got her autograph but all that wasn't intentional. But she is one of the interpreters of the great American song.

Barbara Cook's 80th was a fund raiser for World AIDS day as well. Cook has been doing this concert in the US for the past few months and getting raves for it. And you could tell why. Cook was in great form and it is always a treat to hear her sing. You get a sense of a performer wanting to share something with you, sing without pretension and with a lot of experience. It was a pity what could have been a tight 90 minute show without intermission was padded out for another 90 minutes with a lot of filler. That filler included "stars of tomorrow", dancers out of time, and Elaine Paige.

Paige came on in the second act and started telling Cook how much she adored her since she was young. She did this by rubbing Cook's back in a creepy manner and telling a strangely incoherent anecdote about how she first heard her sing. As she kept telling and telling and telling the story, throwing in some lines such as she couldn't afford a proper seat so some man "stuffed her up the back" (what the...?) the story made less and less sense. She finally finished the story and then inflicted on the audience a tourettes-induced version of "I Know Him So Well" with a spontaneous scream singing of lines like "leahrned about the maaahn bufah ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhlll". This was then followed by a spectacle of "Cry Me A River" that was a cross between Judy Garland and Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. It reminded me that she still is the worst thing you could ever see on stage. Seeing such a hammy screamer perform on the same stage as Cook has to be a crime. Actually seeing Paige perform on any stage surely has to be a crime. I was wondering if we can serve an ASBO on her for anti-social performances? Not even a theatre full of luvvies drunk on champagne from the interval could give her more than polite applause.

Fortunately Barbara Cook got back on stage after this horror and again she stopped the show. Alas it was getting close to our call so we did have to give up our box seats we had commanded for the second act and get back on stage. Even though we were in the finale, the show just wouldn't end. After many curtain calls the compere in a moment of dementia felt that it was time to get everyone to sing "happy birthday". A bit late since she turned 80 in October I thought . I think I got home by midnight. Well that was a night to remember...

On our dinner break we walked past Cook's dressing room only to be told off by her assistant for making too much noise as she was having a nap after dinner. And dinner was salmon. Maybe omega-3 is the secret for longevity and preserving those pipes. It would have been better than that Mexican we had in Covent Garden I suppose...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Theatre: La Cage Aux Folles


271120072894, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Sometimes you can't keep a good polyester down... First preview at the Chocolate Factory the curtain had a mind of its own. And so did the costumes... Sitting in front row I got a lap full of beads during a particularly vigorous number... Then there was the occasional firm grip of Philip Quast on my shoulder... Was all this intimate production of Jerry Herman's big gay musical worth it?

Well as a musical it is a pretty dated show. It isn't called La Cage Awful for nothing. Back in the eighties it was no doubt all very daring so you could probably overlook the incoherent story and weak characterisations. On the plus side (and unlike the new Priscilla musical that will be making it's way to London) it is an original musical and not some jukebox of crap disco tracks. And it has a few nice numbers. In this production where I was sitting so close to the stage in such an intimate space there were a few nice touches such as the affection the two leads show in the song "Song in the Sand". The magic was only lost when a speaker went "Fzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt".

Watching it at a table with John (and Sue and Barbara who we just met) we did find that with a few G&Ts the show went down well. But along with the West End Whingers and their entourage there seemed to be a common view that the show we saw was perhaps not quite ready yet. But it was the first preview. And as an audience we probably failed to give the show enough support by being wild and crazy. Maybe we needed more G&Ts but maybe with more audience heckling the actors may have felt inclined to slap us about a bit...

Still as a work in progress some observations:

  • Front row seats are great to see the actors roll their eyes - particularly when the sound didn't work or the curtain didn't go up (or down)
  • I wouldn't say the dancing was thrilling - it was more frightening - and amazing that the actors didn't hurt something when they were "mounting" the bird cage
  • Una Stubbs should stand further back from the front row audience - particularly when I thought John was going to reach out and strangle her for mugging
  • Get the cast some flu vaccines. Ok most of London is coming down with this virus that is around but after paying to get the vaccine I seem to be doing okay even when I am surrounded by people hacking up a lung either at work or at the chorus.

Given their last Christmas musical was Little Shop of Horrors and the previous Christmas was Sunday in the Park with George, one still couldn't help but be disappointed...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Scenes from an office kitchen Thursday


221120072880, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Office tip: Don't defrost your soup in front of colleagues. They may make interesting comments about it...

Rehearsals: All Week

I was informed this week that gay men are famous for their taste in clothes and interior design, but definitely not their music. When I suggested that it wasn't all that bad and that I was rehearsing the song "True Colours" they said that only proves their point. Well whatever the merits or otherwise of the song, I am singing it with twelve other men from the chorus for the Accentuate The Positive concert. This week we workshopped how it would play out... Complete with choreography... I can never tell how these things sound or look but since nobody was screaming "Oh the horror, the horror!" that can be only a good thing (in fact we were getting compliments on it)...

Mind you, after singing and moving for three hours True Colours my mind started to wander about the lyrics...
You who are oversize
Don't be discouraged
With your thunder thighs
It's hard when your obese...


The rest of the week was rehearsals too... Hmm this singing is becoming a bit of a lifestyle choice...

Scenes from Ausralia House 17 November


171120072869, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Voting in Australia is a favourite pasttime. Voting often (in the same election) is also popular so they ask you if you have voted before... Still not as many people were around to vote this time as there was in 2004, and there were no lamingtons in sight. Maybe they realised it wasn't going to be close with Kevin07... Particularly with an amazingly dud campaign by the Coalition

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Overheard at the Tower of London


161120072792, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

American Boy: Mum, what's torture
American Mother: That's when you hurt someone to get information from them
American Boy: Oh... Is it justified?
American Mother: Yes I think it is in some circumstances...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hot News in London this week


South London Depress, originally uploaded by Ronald Hackston.

According to the South London Press, the ritual dog-burning in Streatham takes place every Tuesday. Sometimes they mix it up a little and put it in a car on fire...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

London is changing indeed...



Took a quick look at St Pancras station which opens later this week as the new Eurostar terminal... Looks rather good but rather than show my photos I thought it would be much nicer to show the current ad campaign from France...

Scenes from Lewisham Friday evening


091120072732, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

London is home to much wild life... Pigeons, squirrels, foxes and shopping trolleys can all be seen on its streets... This one looks like it has come from a giant Tesco (it was that sort of neighbourhood)...

Theatre: Boeing Boeing



Tuesday evening I got the chance to finally catch Boeing Boeing which has been playing since the start of this year at the Comedy Theatre in West End. It was also a chance for Grant, a fellow Australian just off the boat, to also see his first West End show. I told him that if he got the tickets at the TKTS booth I would treat him to the London Gay Men's Chorus concert next month. This seemed like a fair swap and helps with my duty as a cult chorus member to keep up my ticket selling quota... I was also tempted to say "Mwah" at this point but I keep telling people that it will be a good show... Anything with Johnny Mercer and Donna Summer music in it can't be all bad.

Anyway I digress... As luck would have it, on Tuesday evening there were a few problems with the tube. So after a bit of an underground adventure, followed by a run through Leicester Square, we missed the opening of the show. By being a few minutes late we were prevented by the ushers from taking our seats until the suitable break. And boy did those ushers mean it. They wouldn't let you out of their sight even to go to the bathroom (I had to use the ladies).

Grant's first show was not off to a promising start. While waiting fifteen minutes to get into the theatre down the back corridor that I would later call the "walk of shame", I tried reassuring Grant that the first half of any play is just all exposition anyway. Well last year I spent most of my time sleeping through first acts of a show. I don't think he bought it...

After finally taking seats and settling down after the first scene, it was easy to see why this play has been bringing the punters in. Even with a new cast and Elena Roger off, it is rather silly and quite enjoyable if you like a bit of farce. I always love doors slamming, outrageous foreign accents, and bright coloured costumes so this was my cup of tea. I particularly liked the work of Tracy-Ann Oberman who as a German Lufthansa flight attendant managed to keep it real while being the source of some of the shows biggest laughs. There is not enough outrageous Germans slamming doors and grabbing their bosoms on the West End stage and so she goes some way to fill that gap.

Grant on the other hand was less amused by the farce and pondering more logical questions like, why would Kevin McNally have three girlfriends? The answer lies in the perils of seeing a play with its third cast change I suppose (although I hear the third was better than the second...). And looks aside, the show was still a great night out... Well put together, well written and acted... Even missing the opening scene...

To make up for missing those first fifteen minutes of the play, I did shout Grant dinner afterwards. Wanting to give him the proper gay London experience I took him to Balans Soho where he enjoyed the experience of surly waiters in dark corners with food that tastes real interesting. Well there weren't the laughs of early in the evening but the food was a bit like a joke...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Overheard in the gym sauna Tuesday...

Man #1: It's not very hot eh?
Man #2: Nah...
Man #1: I'm gonna take a shower...
Man #2: Yeah okay...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Scenes from the O2 in Greenwich Sunday


041120072709, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Once ridiculed as an expensive and stupid white elephant, the Milennium Dome or rather the O2 as it is now called is very popular with people flocking from all over London to visit the chain restaurants and marvel at the chilly indoor breezes... Oh and there is the occasional concert there too...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Movies: Rendition



One of the most interesting things about my visit to Australia over the summer was how a man was locked up for the entire duration of my stay without charge in Brisbane while I was there. This sort of drama wasn't on my mind when I strongly suggested that Rendition would make an excellent Sunday evening film, rather it was the fact Jake Gyllenhaal was in it.

The premise of the film is that an Egyptian national (and scientist) living in America and married to Reese Witherspoon is suspected of aiding terrorists, so on a flight back to Chicago from Cape Town disappears and is whisked off to an unnamed North African country to get interrogated. The aim of this extraordinary rendition is to try and find out what he knows about a series of suicide bombings that have recently become more sophisticated. Meanwhile, the lead interrogator is trying to find out more information about a failed suicide bombing mission where he was the target.

But to the main story, once Meryl Streep (who plays the CIA person responsible for ordering the renditions) throws the Egyptian on a plane to North Africa, that should be the last anyone ever hears about the guy as he is deleted from the system and there is no record of him being on board... Except for the fact that Reese checks his credit card statement online and shows that he purchased duty free on the flight. If ever there was a compelling reason to buy that extra Mont Blanc pen from the in-flight duty free cart, it was there on screen tonight.

Once in North Africa, Jake Gyllenhaal's character enters the frame as the CIA agent who observes the interrogations. Occasionally he interrupts the water boarding or the shock treatment, but for most of the time he just watches and then goes to the bar afterwards and has a line of shots, or smoking something rather strong and herbal... He reminded me of the Lloyd Bridges character in Airplane! who kept saying "he picked the wrong week to give up drinking/smoking/sniffing glue".

With all this in mind, the film has not received great reviews, and the dialogue and performances at times is unintentionally amusing considering the subject matter. Still the shades of grey and the way the film is put together give quite a watchable look at the war on terror. Watching it with a lapsed human rights lawyer made for interesting post-film conversation, but in a way the most intriguing part of extraordinary rendition is that it happens, and that people don't really care... And I thought the film brought out that indifference quite well...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Scenes from Clapham Friday evening...


021120072699, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

After an evening of staring at the sky watching fireworks on Clapham Common, one couldn't help but keep looking up for the remainder of the evening noticing such strange things as oval shaped lights in gay bars...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rehearsal: True Colours

Rehearsals for the next concert of the London Gay Men's Chorus on December 16 are well underway, but Tuesday evening I found myself rehearsing the song True Colours with the small group, that will be part of the show in the second act.

The first thing that struck me about the song was how much I didn't know it. Well I am not an expert on the Cindy Lauper canon, but I do know Time After Time much better.

Was it Show me a smile, you with the sad eyes don't you realise or was it You with the sad smile, show me your courage though I realise or was it You with the sad eyes, don't be unhappy can't remember when... I had no idea how two verses could sound so similar... But after a few lessons by rote I sort of got it... Lucky we have a few more rehearsals to go...

Hot news in London this week...

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Oh and Flickr user Dicksdaily has some great photos of London and worth checking out...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hot news this week in London...


News headlines, originally uploaded by BillT.

He probably just needs a holiday...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Music: Music in 12 Parts

I am not quite sure what I was thinking when back in February I booked tickets to see Music in 12 Parts. Maybe it was the opportunity to see Philip Glass. Maybe it was the opportunity to hear a lot of his music (well at least during his minimalist phase). Whatever the reason, I wasn't prepared for four hours of music plus an hour and a half of breaks when I arrived at the Barbican Sunday. The piece is all about recurring musical structures that grow and change. I was entering the world of musical minimalism and wondering if I would ever escape. It didn't help either that I was surrounded by people with thick rimmed glasses and black turtlenecks. Is this a minimalist thing I wondered? I was glad that I wore a black shirt so I didn't stand out too much...

As for the music, well listening to the minimalist music has a way of creeping up on you and becoming a bit hypnotic. By the first hour I was into it. Suddenly things like gestures by the ensemble members to the onstage mixer became the performance. I found myself counting bleeps and shrieks. I started watching the audience for movement. I started thinking about what I was going to do during the dinner break. Then all of a sudden the music changed. The Guardian described the change as a tidal wave at sea, but for me it was like "Jeeeezuz you scare the shit out of me"...

The performance was broken up into four parts and by the final part most of the audience was still there. It was a hardcore group of Glass devotees. It was late. We had been sitting in the Barbican for way longer than anyone ever should. But we were still there. And you had to kind of admire the ensemble for being there too. It was a marathon for everyone but the end probably justified the means. By the time the performance concluded standing ovations ensued. You probably don't get the chance to see something like Music In 12 Parts performed every day so it was worth the sacrifice...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Idle Chatter Sunday

Paul: I got this text at 2am from this guy who had just arrived at Fire. I'd said earlier I might be there...
Adam: What? Who goes out at 2am unless they are on drugs?
Paul: Well you know what's good about guys on drugs?
Adam: They're easy...
Paul: Eeeexactly...

Scenes from Lambeth North Saturday evening


201020072672, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Tried looking for it but couldn't find it...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Theatre: South Pacific


Source:www.ukproductions.co.uk

Friday I found myself in Wimbledon catching a touring production of South Pacific. I saw it not just because I was asked nicely to, and not just because I had never seen a production of it before, and not just because I had never been to the New Wimbledon Theatre before. I also went and saw it because there were loads of tits on show and frankly when the south pacific is this bare-chested, who can resist? Oh and some of the sailors didn't have shirts on either.

While I have never seen a production of South Pacific before, I felt like I intimately knew it anyway. Growing up I heard it regularly as the cast album was a favourite of mum's. Watching the show was like going back to growing up back home in Oz... I can credit mum for introducing me to Funny Girl and South Pacific at an early age (she also is a fan of Evita but we don't talk about that). For some reason this fact is a tad amusing when I tell people this. But anyway, I suspect mum would have liked the show. Helena Blackman as Nellie even was wearing her hair*...

South Pacific is actually a damn fine musical really... It was a great cast and a fun night out at the theatre... If you can get past the audience humming along to the tunes half the the time (sorry to those around me)...

*That is not Nellie in the poster btw...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Overheard at the Wimbledon Theatre Friday...

Man #1: Oh you wouldn't believe my weekend last. I picked up two women. One was 35 and had a 16 year old son, the other was 25 and had a nine year old daughter...
Man #2: Oh wow man, great...

Theatre: I Love You Because...



Not content with seeing just Hairspray this week, on Wednesday I went with John to see I Love You Because... at the Landor Theatre in Clapham. The Landor is a bit of an oasis in a cultural desert known as Landor road that is better known for the number of local youths with ASBOs and shops converted into bedsits. A pity since the show has been drawing in the crowds from across London that they have nowhere to spend their money before or after the show... Still it is my local theatre pub so the thought of seeing something that was really good at it was even more of a reason to get there...

The show is a quirky off-Broadway New York show that is actually pretty darn good. I have had the cast album for some months now, but hadn't given it much thought until Wednesday because let's face it, dramatic context helps. It helps allow for some of the more curious artistic choices (such as writing a song that prominently features a barista). The show charts the life and loves of the four central characters and being a sucker for any sort of character-driven show it held my undivided attention. It held the rest of the audience's attention too, particularly since the first song opens with a shower scene with the lead character. Alas there is no nudity as it is all just smoke, tight pants and a plastic shower curtain. Nevertheless the show was so entertaining and well acted that it was hard to be too disappointed by anything on offer... even the man boobs...

It finishes Saturday but hopefully it will have another life soon. Returning to the tube John and I were confronted with one of the locals on Landor road who has eschewed the need to beg and just started shouting at anybody who passed "GIMMAAHPUND!" and "AAAAH NEEDA PUND!" and "APUND! APUND!". Having recognised him in a previous street begging scenes across SW London I didn't think much of it, but John suggested to him he would need more than one pound to get good elocution lessons... We were leaving the Oasis indeed... Still, having seen a show where a rickshaw peddler picks up an actuary I was willing to belive anything was possible...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Theatre: Hairspray



Tuesday evening I found myself at the Shaftesbury theatre watching what has to be the most entertaining new show on the west end by a long shot: Hairspray (well I don't plan to see Bad Girls the musical but anyway). It is still only in its second week of previews but it there is so much energy and life on stage it was pretty overwhelming to the senses. Then again it is so well written, staged danced and acted and features some very lovable characters that it is hard not to like it, even if you think at times it gets a bit cheesy (or long)...

Michael Ball and Mel Smith receive top billing for the show. I hadn't seen Ball in anything before, and it didn't help that every musical theatre afficianado I knew kept telling me what an asshole he was. Maybe they had heard one too many renditions of "Love changes everything", but I figured anyone who gave such entertaining interviews to the Evening Standard can't be all that bad. And as for his peformance as Edna Turnblad, it was great. His duet with Mel Smith stopped the show in the second act.

Stars aside, the whole cast was a knockout. Ben James-Ellis who was a finalist in the reality tv show Any Dream Will Do must have been happy he didn't win since he got to play the lead in a real musical. Leanne Jones as Tracy Turnblad was great, Johnnie Fiori as Motormouth Maybelle stopped the show with "I know where I've been" and Adrian Hansel as Seaweed could sing over any loud noise generated in the pit...

All that heat generated on stage was almost enough to distract the rear stalls audience (where I was sitting) from the fact that there was no air in the theatre. Several of us ran gasping for the fire exits at intermission. Well the Shaftesbury probably isn't used to being home to a hit show that filled every seat... I suspect this show will be big and around for a long time, so here's hoping it will pay for an upgrade to the air con...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

News this week in London


Skunks attack London, originally uploaded by Kevglobal.

Skunk is conveniently on offer outside most tube stations... I hear in Camden Town they like it like that as it is better to frighten the weary tube travellers than the locals in their nice residential streets... Just tonight at Camden Town tube I was offered charlie, grass and skunk... I prefer raccoons though and they didn't have any of that on offer...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Coming up in December...

Overheard at a dodgy hotdog stand on the south bank


141020072666-revised, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Rough looking woman cooking sausage like things in a large amount of oil: Now careful kids the plate's hot and it might spit
Adam: Eww... So might the woman cooking 'em

Scenes from the Tate Modern Sunday


141020072641, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

The thing to see this weekend was Doris's Crack. Everyone was there looking at it, putting their foot in it, some even got into it. I tried sniffing it... It was big and deep and reinforced... Outside Louise Bourgeois's giant spider is on show... It makes you wonder about those Tate curators...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Overheard at the gym today

Man #1: You see, if you make sure your (golf) swing is like this, then you aren't going to have any problems...
Man #2: But when I do that it hurts...
Man #1: Oh...

News this week in London


Swan Bites Dog, Hampstead, originally uploaded by Fin Fahey.

Hampstead is one tough part of London...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

In the news during the week


evening standard, originally uploaded by quarsan.

Crossrail, Spice Girls and another Maddy story. London has it all...

News: Doris's Crack on show at the Tate Modern

All the talk this week has been around Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth (otherwise known as Doris's crack) at the Tate Modern, which chops up the floor of the Turbine Hall to represent the great divide... This photo was taken by a Flickr visitor, but the story today was that two people fell into the crack at a private viewing... But were they pissed?

I was at the Tate on the weekend but the crack was under wraps. Now that is on show and people are falling over themselves to get into it, it is on the list of things to do...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Theatre: Parade


Source: www.donmarwarehouse.com

I found myself having a discussion this week with a lady who suggested to me that Parade at the Donmar is the type of music theatre that young men go for. I was thinking about this all last night as I watched this great production. Is there something about (relative) youth that makes one enjoy a music piece about a Jewish factory owner who is accused of raping and murdering a young girl, found guilty and sentenced to death only to have his sentenced commuted but then lynched by an angry mob? Ok so it isn't the happiest night at the theatre but it was so well told, well sung and well staged you didn't mind the lynching and the preaching. You even had to look hard to see the trademark Donmar black brick wall.

Looking around the theatre there was an over-representation of young men there interspersed among the usual Donmar types. The story is based on the true story of Leo Frank and the press frenzy that was whipped up by the case. The show works best when it focusses on the two central characters of Leo and his wife Lucile (played by Bertie Carvel and Lara Pulver). Mind you, there was so much angst, agitation and other odd mannerisms the two expressed throughout the play. Toward the end of the show when the two climb into bed together I couldn't help but think "Eeeeeeeeeewwwwweeewww". It was like watching stick figures on heat and seemed a little forced (and not just because the characters had been apart for a year)...

Anyway, Jason Robert Brown's music is great and Alfred Uhry's book keeps things moving along. So while it is a depressing story, it is still one that is curiously enjoyable. Well if you are a young man perhaps... And it probably helps if you have younger buttocks to withstand those Donmar seats... Act one runs for almost 90 minutes... A cast recording of this production is due out soon and dare I say it is probably worth getting...

This week in the news


HOT WAX, originally uploaded by the_moog.

I hear she was a bit of a babe...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hot news this week in London...

They may not be able to find her, but she is talking to the Evening Standard about her dad...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Scenes from the East End this week...


BETHNAL GREEN, originally uploaded by the_moog.

Those Bethnal Green rodents are good chameleons...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Theatre: Rhinoceros


Source: www.royalcourttheatre.com

Saturday night I found myself with Fliss at Rhinoceros at the Royal Court. I figured any play where pachyderms spontaneously appear and start running around the stage is my kind of show. Besides, I had studied it in high school so I knew it already. Fliss on the other hand declined to investigate further then knowing it was one of those weird-ass plays that Paul drags her to from time to time, but since it was my birthday she was bound to put up with it.

Our evening started out as a comedy of manners as Fliss thought my paté starter for dinner looked like dog food (it did). Well that's those Sloan Square bistros for you. But during the second act the evening had taken its absurdist tone, as she leaned over to me and whispered, "You didn't tell me there was going to be full-frontal nudity in this". Well I didn't know that was going to be the case either. She declined to answer whether it was the first time she had seen a middle-aged white man naked before (it was the first time I had ever paid money to see that) but whatever the case was, we had very good seats to observe it all.

Still nudity aside, there was so much to like about this new production. Ionesco's satire on mindlessness, conformity and banality was written as a response to the rise of fascism in Europe. But it could apply to many things these days. The Rhinoceros could be anything that refers to pack mentality, such as the way the West End theatre critics review things I suppose.

This new translation by Martin Crimp gives a new lease of life to this play as well and sounds a lot more like dialogue too... Actually the banal office banter was all too familiar for Fliss and I, although we often talked more about sex than socialism. I guess Ionesco didn't have as filthy a mind as we did. Or he had more important things to say.

The Royal Court itself was a great venue for the production as the distant rumbles from the tube trains passing could easily have been mistaken for galloping rhinos. The full-sized rhino that bursts through the wall before intermission was also a highlight that had the audience breaking out into applause. Of course the down side to all these walls being broken and stairwells collapsing and buildings falling apart was that there was a thin layer of chalky dust on everything... Those rhinos by the end of it all sure looked like they meant business. And with all that dust its best advised to avoid wearing black to the Royal Court for the next month or so.... Press night is this week and it runs through to November.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Scenes from the Royal Court Theatre Saturday


220920072512, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Theatre dust thanks to the sets being smashed by a rhinoceros... More later...

Overheard at the Sainsbury's Checkout Saturday

Man #1: Look you are a 50 year old man. Deal with it.
Man #2: Yeah yeah yeah... Shush.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Theatre: Bouncers

Midweek theatre this week entailed going to the Greenwich Theatre to see a 30th anniversary production of Bouncers. For somebody turning 32 this week I figured I wasn't showing my age as much as this production. Sure the music had been updated and the cultural references had been too. But a night out had never seen so dated. If they were updating the play surely there should have been experiences of bouncers patting people down for knives, turning a blind eye to the GHB usage, and making sure everyone is drinking out of plastic cups if they are on the footpath. Alas it wasn't to be.

Essentially the play is an extended comic routine involving four men who are bouncers and their experiences picking up women and observing men at pubs. It's meant to be hilarious but I suspect that depends on how much you have drunk at the bar. The four men as women seemed to be collectively channelling John Inman. I would have preferred it to remain a period piece but that might have been a tad confusing for the large crowd of school students in the audience who were ready to laugh at it. Such a pity what is on the school curriculum these days... Well it is still a classic... Apparently...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In the news this week...

Not sure what the story is about but it probably doesn't matter. The South London Press is an entertaining read for those who like to read lovingly retyped press releases and filler before the ads for Foxtons...

Scenes from Open House Weekend Sunday


160920072484, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.
Admiring some of the best architecture London has to offer as part of London Open House weekend... In (informal) architectural terms it is called "big penis structures"... Goldfinger (the architect) obviously had some issues there... They don't build 'em like that anymore...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Movies: 2 Days in Paris



2 days in Paris was pretty good. Written directed and starring Julie Delpy it was a bit like a French Annie Hall. It may not be such a great movie to see if you are single, with all this angst on screen about being in a relationship and being alone. Catching it with Mandy (who is single too) she didn't have as much a problem with that but rather that the characters didn't stop talking. Well they were New Yorkers. I just found it great therapy. It showed that there is hope for all eccentrics out there to find somebody just as weird. The funniest scene involved no dialogue on the metro as they were getting spooked by a crazy guy with no sense of personal space. Oh the memories of Paris that came flooding back (even if when I was there I knew the crazy guy). Shot on the streets of Paris I have made a mental note to get back there once the new Eurostar link opens in November. Sure Waterloo looks great in The Bourne Ultimatum but the Eurostar from St Pancras looks even better...

Scenes from Soho Wednesday


Scenes from Soho Wednesday, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.
It seemed fitting on the day it was announced that dining in London is more expensive than anywhere else in the world... To eat out...

Well, it was Busabai in Soho. Rather than do what another boy from Brisbane (well he is from Logan which is just outside of Brisbane and like Peckham but less pretty) did and get arrested on suspicion of racial abuse of the staff, we just started taking photos of the other diners who were well fit...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Dance: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre


Source: http://www.alvinailey.org

In a week with a head cold from hell (which meant no gym, a lot of rest, and no socialising), it was somewhat of a relief to get out and see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre at Sadlers Wells on Saturday night. Arriving at the theatre with the above artwork plastered all over the theatre (and most of Islington), I expected little was spent on the costume budget. But in a programme set to legendary jazz music, it turned out to not be the case. This was a bit of a relief as after a week of coughing and spluttering who needs to have somebody else's physical fitness rubbed in your face?

After the first interval I caught up with Fliss who was there with her posse. Fliss signed up to see the show on the strength of a viral video that was doing the rounds in the past month. I was there just for the artistic enrichment (plus I got a great seat at good price). Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Anyway I joined them the first interval onwards as a seat filler in the stalls. And while the view of the stage wasn't as good, the view of the stalls was much better and there were some pretty nice views there... Fliss and I also managed to bitch about some of the production team seating by who only vaguely managed to resemble their photos in the programme.

Anyway I digress... Setting dance to the music of Duke Ellington and others can only be a good thing and it was a great evening. I was even grooving along at various points. Afterwards I passed on a chance to dine with the posse in favour of more drinking and more jazz... It was probably not the best idea after a decongestant with pseudoephedrine (and may have explained the in-seat grooving) but what the hell. Regardless of what substances I was under the influence of, it still was a great night. They are in London until the end of this week before touring the rest of the UK. Definitely one to catch... And most of the seats at Sadlers Wells are pretty good...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Benefits of a tube strike


, originally uploaded by Orhan*.
1. You can walk home while the weather is still good
2. Save money on travel fares
3. Excuse to get home early and watch the sultry Nigella flog Waitrose products on the BBC

Monday, September 03, 2007

News: Nobody's going anywhere


Nobody's going anywhere, originally uploaded by thegareth.
Unless you can take shanks's pony, the next few days are going to be a bit of a nightmare... Until today I had no idea what shanks's pony was... I had to look it up... So there's a word for the day...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Overheard from a family on cycles in the park...

  • Your seat looks really comfortable
  • I don't know why you wanted to start the day cycling at 5pm
  • I wanted to go out much earlier but everything's closed
  • Aw come on mum...

Scenes from Kensington Palace Gates Saturday 18:42


010920072370, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

That's the trouble with being the people's princess... The people can be a bit cheap and tacky with their memorials made out of cereal boxes, old newspapers and ball-point pens... Ten years after dying in some car tunnel thanks to a pissed Frenchman, the display at Kensington Palace must be the most hilarious thing in town at the moment... Cheap, tacky and nasty... And that's just the women (of a certain age) there pushing and shoving you if you take too long to read the messages (or photograph them)...

All that was missing was "Die Camilla die"! Don't miss it... Those ASDA flowers won't last the weekend...

Theatre (again): Little Me


Source: http://www.nymt.org.uk

In a packed week of theatre I also caught a youth theatre production of Little Me which actually was pretty good when you realise it was put together in under two weeks. The night I saw it the sound was a bit off and I couldn't help but wonder what drag queen they stole those wigs from. But Sarah Hagan was lovely as Belle Poitrine... As much as I was able to hear her...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Theatre: The Emperor Jones


From http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/

Tuesday night I had the chance to see The Emperor Jones at the National Theatre starring Paterson Joseph. The production originated at the Gate Theatre in 2005 and has been pumped up and given the usual National Theatre treatment such as loads of cast members on stage for no comprehensible reason, shirtless men, gigantic sets, and a large percussion orchestra. Most of the time that is enough to make a show enjoyable but this time I kind of wished I had seen the original production rather than this monster one. Sure the jungle beats were infectious (and so loud that nodding off even during a bit of a dull exposition was only temporary) and Joseph gives a great performance, but it all seemed like it could have benefited from remaining a bit smaller scale...

The play is about a southern American conman Jones, who establishes a dictatorship in the West Indies, only to find himself facing a people's revolt. It made Eugene O'Neil famous. But it isn't the jolliest night out at the theatre as paranoia, madness, dance and shirtless men take over. It is however a short descent as the entire performance lasts about seventy minutes without an interval.

Watching it with Fliss, she commented if she was going to blog about this piece she would just say... "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... That was interesting" and "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... The black men sure were fit". They sure were. I don't think she would rate it as one of her most entertaining nights out... Even if we both were grooving along to the jungle beat... I suggested to her that perhaps she might have found it more entertaining if it drew more relevant parallels to the present day with the music of today... Maybe a few samples of Jungle Boogie. At least then you could groove out of the theatre...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Scenes from Chinatown Sunday 18:20


260820072286, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

One lady. One large package... Strangely in focus...

Scenes from a barbeque Saturday 18:06


250820072271, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Bank holiday weekend barbeque conversation starters:
  • Hey there is sun... That's new for summer...
  • Is there normally this much smoke in coal-fired barbeque?
  • Has the fire alarm gone off yet?
  • How do you like my sausages?
  • Are my meat patties brown enough for turning yet?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Theatre: Take Flight

It turned out to be the second time in about a month that I saw a show featuring Amelia Earhart. The first show was An Air Balloon over Antarctica that I saw in Melbourne and which is now getting fabulous reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe. I thought that show was a bit crap with very uninteresting characters, but that just goes to show how much I know...

Anyway this show is a musical about flying planes featuring the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. It is having its world premiere at the Menier Chocolate Factory but it has been in development for a while. I guess songs about engine drag, staying awake and 3.14 squared just don't cut it with investors. It was and obscure choice for a musical but I'd heard word that the songs and the production were good, so I went and saw it with John. John was glad I wanted to see this as he couldn't think of anybody else who would. I was just glad he got there before me and grabbed a good seat since the seating is unreserved...

But we both were curious about the show created by musical theatre veterans David Shire, Richard Maltby Jr and John Weidman... So how was it?

Well, at times during the longish first act both of us wondered if we were watching some Sondheim-esque show like Sunday in Glider with Orville (minus the depth and agonising torch songs). Getting up at intermission (to go directly to the bar) we realised that an hour and twenty minutes on fringe theatre seats is more than anyone's bottom should take. But there was a consensus that the performances, music and the overall production were pretty good. Still it was weird subject matter for a musical. And the camp interpretation of the Wilbur and Orville Wright made me wonder what those two brothers really were getting up to in those sand dunes in North Carolina.

By the second act however things started to take... er... off and work a lot better as Amelia Earhart's story comes out more. It is the strongest of the three stories and a pity that it isn't the central focus of the show. Amelia had a pretty interesting life before she ran out of fuel in Papua and went pffft. Then again there were loads of potential possibilities for this show including having a set design that didn't look like the basement of an old chocolate factory but I guess we have to take it for what it is.

Definitely a show worth catching, particularly since there are plenty of deals about to see it for under £20. And now that the Chocolate Factory has air conditioning (which helped one dry out from the torrential downpour that lasted the short walk from London Bridge) there won't be any more repeats of last year's hand-held fan theatre... Now that's an a major technological advance worth writing about...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Overheard on Clapham High Street

Fat man on phone (walking into Tescos): Look I don't want excuses from you anymore I want results...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scenes from Soho Square Sunday 18:43


190820072216, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.
Soho Pride was a quieter affair this year... With the light drizzle it did tend to put people off... Well some people anyway...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Scenes from the Northern Line Thursday 17:30

That would be right... No bloody seat...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Theatre: Bands and Cigarettes

An old school friend sent me a message asking if life in London was an endless stream of theatre productions and overheard conversations. Well basically I would have to say (in between the rest), yes... So bearing that in mind, Fraser and I went to see two short plays by the National Youth Theatre at the Soho Theatre (or should that be the national yoof featre?)...

Anyway, the first play The Band was about a bunch of Manchunians bitching and moaning... I could relate to it as I lived with a Manchunian and that's seem to be what they do best... Fraser wasn't so enthralled by it with all its teen angst and overplayed drama. Besides he was still pissed that I had arrived late to the theatre and there wasn't time for a drink beforehand... Still even sober I thought it was great fun. Even better was that it was short and short is always a good thing... As mid week who has the attention span to last longer than 50 minutes before an interval or break?

The second play was 20 Cigarettes, which also featured the not-so-youthful Simon Dutton. I quite enjoyed watching Simon Dutton but Fraser started to wonder if the large glass of wine I consumed during interval had gone to my head... It was all those well-pronounced vowels I suppose... Anyway the play was a great ensemble piece and quite funny. There were lots of cigarettes too (along with the odd cigar). Special permission has to be sought to do that sort of thing on stage nowadays since smoking is the new pornography... But for good reason I suppose... Watching Harry Melling puff away on a cigar made me wish I hadn't given away all my cigars last week at a colleague's leaving work do. All told I would go again. Not just because the plays were good (and short), or the actors are the very talented stars of tomorrow... But for the passive smoking...

Leaving the theatre, there was an even bigger crowd waiting to see Miss Coco Peru. Strangely they were mostly male mostly recognisable from my gym. Who knew so many men are out there looking for cheap laughs?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Overheard at the gym last night...

Man #1: Guess what happened to Graham yesterday?
Man #2: No what?
Man #1: He missed his flight.
Man #2: No...
Man #1: Got to Gatwick too late because of mmmmm...
Man #2: Really?
Man #1: So guess where he had to stay last night? Mmmmmm
Man #2: Get outta here...
Man #1: Mmmm hmmm. What Graham wants... Graham gets...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Scenes from the Haywood Gallery Monday 20:30


130820072159, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.
Waiting in a long line to see the Antony Gormley Blind Light (basically a foggy room). It was fun in a disorienting kinda way... And not without its thrills... I was with Anna and she got unintentionally groped by a woman desperately trying to find the exit in an "Oh my God I've gotta get outta here" moment. The rest of the exhibition was even better. It finishes this week...