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...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Overheard outside South Kensington Tube

Very nervous woman in car (to man): Excuse me sir... Excuse me.
Man on street: Yes
Very nervous woman in car: Can you tell me why all these people are heading this way?
Man on street: They're coming from a concert at Albert Hall.
Very nervous woman in car: Oh

Too bad she didn't ask me. I would have told her we just wanted to get the hell out of South Kensington and get on with our lives... Perhaps she had visited the following website...
Current UK terror threat level

Overheard leaving Albert Hall

Lady: The wine was actually really nice wine... Not like that old stuff
Man: Yes really nice. Really really nice. Not the old stuff at all...

Scenes from Albert Hall Sunday 18:52


120820072145, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

The crush to get back into the hall in time for Act 2 of Götterdämmerung. Some folks thought they could stop traffic but the black cabs had other ideas...

At least an hour for a meal break was provided since it started at 4pm... It had another three hours to go... All things considered (like it was at Albert Hall, the catering is rubbish and it was a concert version), it probably was worth the effort... No chance of snoozing anyway when one was sitting in front of the augmented horns section...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Music: John Dankworth and Cleo Laine

I keep forgetting that I should avoid going to proms concerts. Albert Hall is stuffy, the acoustics are bad, the seats are terrible, and you always have to worry about some old person falling over you with their walking stick as they navigate the steep inclines. I really don't know why so many old age pensioners risk hip replacements coming to these concerts, but they do...

Anyway, I found myself among the OAPs watching two OAPs on Wednesday night: John Dankworth and Cleo Laine (well they both turn 80 later this year). Despite the limitations of the hall, they managed to give it a feel as if it were a jazz club and they were just playing some music. The audience loved it and it was a bit of a treat...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Overheard at Victoria Underground Station

Man: Well you aren't expected to know everything...
Woman: Yeah, like... Like... What's it matter that I don't like know who Tony Blair is?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Scenes from Soho Square Sunday 15:20


050820072026, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.
Just when the sunbathers were enjoying the sun in the square, these fat bastards come by murdering songs with their guitars and piano accordions. Putting the trash into eurotrash, they were less Gipsy Kings and more Gipsy Queens... They were passing around a hat for money (or was that for doughnuts?) but that seemed to encourage them to stay so I gave them nothing...