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...