Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Scenes from outside Criterion Theatre Piccadilly Tuesday 21:41

Theatre: The 39 Steps



Catching up with all the theatre I hadn't yet seen but should have, on Tuesday night I caught The 39 Steps, which is a sort of sillier version of the Hitchcock classic film from the 1930s. It has been playing for some time and possibly should continue for a while. There is a line at the beginning about the main character feeling bored so he thought he would go for some mindless entertainment in the West End... The jokes keep flying thick and fast as four actors play all the roles.

As a bit of a fan of the film, I wasn't quite sure whether I liked this story being treated this way, particularly since the laughs all came from the acting and staging rather than any clever scripting. In the end however I succumbed to the silliness... Adding to the intrigue (well at least for me anyway) was the gay couple to my right. The one next to me seemed to enjoy invading my personal space. Not doing anything to encourage or discourage this, fights for the armrest ensued all throughout the first act... By second act suspect partner caught on what was going on the seat over so there was none of that...

Conversation at Monday's rehearsal

Tenor 1: Where have you been... All my life?
Bass: Well, I've been in Luton...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Scenes from the Victoria and Albert Museum Friday 19:34


DSC04490, originally uploaded by Pauly_.
Learning how to dance "Bollywood style" in amongst the Raphael Cartoons...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Overheard at the café Thursday evening

Lady dog owner: Her dog ended up in the kennel, and my dog was raped... On Valentines Day...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Theatre: Coram Boy



I overheard one woman leaving the theatre tonight complaining that she had just seen a three hour epic about infanticide and pedophilia. Well that was partly what Coram Boy is about. It is based on a bestselling (and award-winning) novel set in the eighteenth century.

It starts out telling the tale of a man who for a fee takes away unwanted babies and promises to take them the Foundling Hospital. It becomes quickly evident that he is working for his own profit. Soon little graves are found everywhere...

There begins an epic tale full of spectacle and the music of Handel. Even with a dark tale as this, there is a lot to enjoy over the three hours and it is not surprising both of its runs have been sellouts (and popular with young people).

The music of Handel (and additional music in the style of Handel) underscores the drama and it helps overlook some of the more convenient turns in the plot. In a way it was a shame that more music wasn't used.

What is particularly interesting is the backstory about the Foundling Hospital, its connection to Handel and the relevance a story about people trafficking has in modern London.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Overheard under Waterloo Bridge after the play...

Lady in black: Well, the salad was okay...
Man in red trousers: Never mind that, I need to pee...

Theatre: Thérèse Raquin



An advised that I could learn a lot from Thérèse Raquin in a similar way that I learned a lot from Belle Du Jour. Well after finally seeing this production I suspect the central message is not to live with your mother in law.

Adapted from Emile Zola's play, it is a great story about a woman and her husband's friend who conspire to kill the husband so they can be together. In the opening minutes of the first act, Charlotte Emmerson as Thérèse mostly pouts and isn't given much to do. I was wondering what was the appeal of the pouter. I was also starting to get a little bored with this production. That was until Ben Daniels (as Laurent) stuck his hand up Emmerson's dress. Neither actor is particular attractive but there was this electricity that suddenly made the audience snap to attention.

It was a pity there weren't more touches of this throughout. It felt at times to be a bit too polite and mannered as if were a play about herbal teas and dominoes instead of murder and adultery. I would have much preferred a more gruesome and atmospheric fare and less of the standard issue bland sets the National is famous for... Fortunately there were more tears before bedtime and the second act moved swiftly to its sensibly bleak end. It finishes its run soon...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bar tips 101

Chinese New Year was as good an excuse as any to have a few celebratory drinks this weekend, but:
  • Try not to make too much of a scene when encouraging intoxicated friends to sing key songs from Dreamgirls (although helpful to keep unwanted punters at bay)
  • Don't confuse old blonde woman in bar for Jessica Lange post Glass Menagerie matinée
  • Beware that slightly-familiar yet good looking guy in the bar who is checking you out... He may be the star of a children's programme you avidly watched 15 years ago...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Scenes from Leicester Square Tube Sunday 00:24


DSC04470, originally uploaded by Pauly_.
Missing the last tube from central London after one too many drinks...

Scenes from WC1 Friday 13:55


DSC04465, originally uploaded by Pauly_.

Quiet lunchtime at the recently refurbished Brunswick Centre... Cinema, chain shops and a Waitrose which goes down very well for the Bloomsbury types...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Idle office chatter...

Paul (eating): These Sainsburys donuts taste like poop...
Colleague 1: That's the second time you have said that word today, is that a favourite word?
Paul: Maybe...
Colleague 2: I bet you also like using the word... Plop...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The day that was...

Today was Valentines Day and the only valentine I got was from an email from a creepy consultant that facilitated the office away day a few months ago. He sent it to everyone that went on the course. But that wasn't widely known until I let out a yelp upon checking my email and much discussion ensued. I was just relieved to know that the message from creepy consultant wasn't all about about me...

But the fashion for this years VD if you were single was to go out to dinner with friends. It makes sense. If you are going to blow £50 or more on a dinner you might as well spend it with somebody you don't mind hangin' around...

I had to work late so I was having none of that. But I did catch up with An later in the evening for some cheap champagne in a straight bar in Balham. Strange, but I had seen this bar before. It was back in those heady days of 2003. The fish were still there... So were loads of women. I don't think they were all lesbians. I have it on authority from an ambiguously straight male that VD night is the best time to go cruising as the women are eager for it... He must have been talking about the bars in Balham...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Theatre: Happy Days



The first thing you notice when walking into the Lyttelton of this production of Happy Days at the National Theatre is that where there should be a stage there is a huge mound of dirt and a surrounding desertscape. The set is lit by such bright lights that the little old ladies in the row in front were covering their eyes for the first half hour of the production. It was a pity that the ushers didn't offer sunglasses out of a large black handbags. It could have easily been in keeping with the mood of the show...

I get the impression Happy Days by Samuel Beckett is the play that is trotted out every now and then to get a great actress to strut her stuff on stage. This time it is Fiona Shaw's turn and she was great to watch as Winnie, the middle-class housewife who has minor worries in life, but is always concerned about whether it will be a happy day. All the time in the first act, she is up to her waist in a mound of dirt. In the second act she is up to her neck in dirt. I have to admit my mind tended to wander a bit as I kept thinking, how does Fiona manage to act surrounded by all that dust??

Still, it was helpful having a discussion earlier today about the play with a colleague who studied it as part of her A levels... That whole mound of dirt thing could have been a little unexpected. Then again, you probably can't be too ready for seeing the mound of dirt on such grand scale. Director Deborah Warner (whose last production I saw was the equally large scale production of Julius Ceasar at the Barbican) obviously doesn't do small scale.

At the end of first act as if a nod to some of us postmodern to confuse our Beckett for our sitcoms, the theme tune from Happy Days played us out to the bar. These days are ours indeed...

Overheard in line at the National Theatre Cloakroom

Lady #1: Oh I'm still a bit jet lagged...
Lady #2: Jet lagged?
Lady #1: Yeah I was in Miami for two days for work and just got back this morning...
Lady #2: Oh...
Lady #1: You know how it is... You're expected to be the party girl out until 1am; then you have to show up the next day at a meeting and say something intelligent...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The week that was...

Looking back over the week it was striking the number of single people who in the cold, opted for sleeping with their cats. Maybe I just know a lot of cat people, but what is wrong with sleeping with a hot water bottle with a faux fur cover? It was the week for the cat people I guess as one by one they all proudly announced how their cat kept them warm to anyone who wanted (or didn't want) to hear.

Overheard at Saturday Brunch in Clapham

Abbeville Man (to woman): ...And worse than that, she is a complete lesbian. And I had to baby sit her boyfriend the other night...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Culture Shock

The phrase "run dead" is not commonly used here. As in, he was ambivalent about the ethical treatment of animals so he decided to run dead on the issue in the campaign. Add that to the list of other words including Scuttlebutt and Cassandra...

Scenes from SW4 Thursday 08:38


DSC04419, originally uploaded by Pauly_.
The neighbours got into the seasonal spirit as more than 5cm of snow fell overnight... Snow continued to fall throughout the morning. This evening while snow still remained on cars and a heavy frost was moving in, the snowman had moved out... A bit of carrot and a few twigs were lying on the ground nearby...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Theatre: Rock and Roll

Finally caught Tom Stoppard's play Rock 'N' Roll before it closes at the end of this month. It has been playing since last summer and has caught the imagination of the critics and the punters. The background of the story is the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia, and the links a family in Cambridge have to the country. The central message is that there is no freedom without creative freedom and that's something that I could agree with. There is a wonderful scene where an old British communist after the collapse of the old regimes in 1990 smashes a plate. Was it all just a waste of time? Or do the new democracies appreciate what they have more than those in the west? Who can say but plenty of food for thought...

The original cast have moved on but even with the second cast headed by Dominic West (who is terrific) kept the pace going, even when it was a bit on the long side. I get the impression that even though the play finishes its run in February, it's going to be around for some time...

Walking out of the theatre afterwards, there were plenty of people wondering what it was all about they had seen, not to mention where they were when they first heard the many music clips peppered throughout the production...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Overheard at the Palladium...

Lady #1: So it is... Good times, and bum times, I've seen it all...
Lady #2: ...And my dear... I'm still here.
Lady #1: Plush velvet sometimes... Sometimes just... Just wha?
Lady #2: ...Pretzels and beer. But I'm here...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Concert: Follies

Sunday evening I caught the Starlight Foundation's Charity Concert of Follies. Some jaded theatregoers had warned me over the weekend it would be a bit dire with its stunning array of B-list stars front lining it, but actually it was quite entertaining. There was something perversely amusing watching the punters in the packed-out Palladium go ape over a series of world famous (well, world famous in Britain) ladies in the 55 plus age bracket. Most I didn't recognise.

The show lends itself well to a concert version, as (much as I expected) while the music is great, the story is dire. Two hours of two couples - middle-class, middle-aged has-beens - bickering does not make a night of entertainment, even if that is the point. As a concert version it feels easier to ignore the story. But fortunately the piece has , and with the full orchestra on stage and even the odd cameo by ITV newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald...

Even sitting in the cheap seats it was a lot of fun, although I didn't hang around for the charity plug at the end of the evening... I had seen enough. Besides the people sitting either side of me seemed to both have a bad case of halitosis... Talk about that ticket being a false economy...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Overheard underground Wednesday evening...

Bland man: Why am I meeting all these people who look great... But have nothing to say?
Bored woman: I dunno...

Scenes from Kennington Monday 22:59

Waiting for the southbound 155... It never came...