Sunday, June 29, 2008

Theatre: All Bob's Women



It isn't every time when you go to the theatre that there is a deathly silence at the end of the show... Only to be broken by somebody in the audience sighing and exclaiming, "Well... THAT was interesting..." But such was the case Sunday afternoon at the wake last performance of the musical All Bob's Women. The show opened Tuesday and posted closing notices the next day. Translated from an Italian show that apparently ran in Milan for months, it is billed as a sexy musical comedy. The problem with the show was that it was not sexy, not musical and it wasn't funny. But no point flogging a dead horse. The Evening Standard, The Stage and (most memorably) The Telegraph cover why it is a disaster. I was surprised by little things like:
  • The actors had been rehearsing this show for many weeks
  • Concert-like body mics and deafening sound to match it
  • Half a taxi-cab appearing on stage
  • Some weird woman in the audience who cackled every few minutes (I was half-expecting one of the actors would shout out, "Would you keep it down mum?")
Part of the story involves Bob (played by Samuel Oatley) dressing up as a woman to get to know the secret desires of the women he wants to bed. His drag act and clothes worn reminded me of Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari in Bosom Buddies, which may not have made it to Britain so I have included it above. The rest of the story didn't make much sense so I decided for my own entertainment value to fill in the gaps... Bob was a secret agent working for the enemy to corrupt England's slappers. He would find the most unattractive women and mess with their minds until they sang off-key before moving onto the next one. That worked for me.

Large portions of this play Samuel Oatley was parading around in pants. Which was not bad. After Julian Ovenden in his boxers on Friday, the gays in Clapham Saturday and Oatley in his briefs on Sunday it has been quite a pants weekend. I think that is something I can live with. As for the show... It lives on in Youtube thanks to West End Live (if you can put up with the poor camera work and overbearing sax).

Scenes from Clapham Street Party Saturday


280620086357, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Hmm that's deliciously naughty too...

Theatre: Marguerite

I wasn't planning on heading out to see some musical theatre on Friday night, but the prospect of a bargain basement ticket to see Marguerite was too good to pass up. Fortunately the power of web advertising which was playing a excerpts the show on the internet while randomly browsing theatre websites on Friday (as you do) prompted the hunt for cheap tickets... It didn't take long to find them...

The fact that the show is selling tickets for as little as £12.50 suggests that the economy is hurting the West End, the punters don't want to see a show updating the story of La Traviata or Camille to occupied France, or both... I suspect it is both.

This is a pity as there is a fabulous cast headed by Ruthie Henshaw and Julian Ovenden (pictured left) as the two lovers Marguerite and Armand. I was last distracted seeing Ovenden in Grand Hotel and here he gets to play a bit of jazz, run around in boxer shorts and get into a bad temper... I challenge anyone not to go "Phwwwwoaaar" at that... For Henshaw fans apart from her great range and fabulous outfits, you also get to see a bit of her nipple.

The production looks gorgeous as well. The only problem is that the material that everyone has to work with... It feels like it could do with another workshop. The show starts off well enough (not counting the dull opening number) but just as the story should be getting interesting it loses interest in the central characters and we are inflicted with choruses and marches. Marguerite and Armand start making mad passionate love after a bomb goes off in her front garden and blows out her French doors... And then its all downhill from there... There is so much doom and gloom from that point onwards as they sing in minor keys about the peril that lies ahead that I wondered why they ever bothered. I also pitied the cast that had to sing what seemed like scales and glissandos and sustain difficult vowels eight shows a week.

I lost count the number of times Marguerite gets slapped about, had her crotch grabbed or spat upon. Not to mention having the nipple shown. Maybe that's what they mean by a musical for grown ups. If the show is aiming to be a musical for grown ups, it was a pity they didn't think about going for a bit of subtlety. The whole German occupation and French collaboration felt like a history lesson spelled out and shoved down your throat. The creative team (including many who were responsible for that Les Mis show) seemed more interested in history lessons than providing an evening's entertainment. Even Les Misérables had comic relief amongs all that moaning about stolen bread... This show at two hours felt like a descent into depression and by the end I was just glad it was all over. A few small changes (maybe more songs by the three principals and a few less chorus reprisals of that awful song "Day By Day") could make this something a little better than it currently is.

Still for the price, and if you're a Henshaw / Ovenden fan it is still worth catching... Quickly... It may not last...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Overheard at the gym Wednesday...

Man #1: How about we give it to you at the Clapham Street Party?
Man #2: Do you think I'm the type of dizzy scene queen that would be seen at a street party?
Man #1: Well yes...
Man #2: Yeah you're right...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tight scenes in Soho Saturday...


210620086276, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Hmm... That's deliciously naughty...

Scenes from West End Live Saturday 15:30

Saturday the London Gay Men's Chorus took part in West End Live in Leicester Square. Not only was it a preview of the upcoming show Songs of Innocence and Experience at Cadogan Hall (July 4 and 5), but it was a chance to show off the new chorus uniform of coloured shirt... And chinos... Tickets on sale now for our concert and West End Live continues Sunday...

West End Live is a great showcase for what's currently on stage and well worth checking out... The rather fit cast from High School Musical on stage preceded our Saturday afternoon slot certainly got our attention...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Theatre: Lord of the Rings (finally)


Lord of the Rings, originally uploaded by Anika :).

As I suspected... There is a photo on flickr posted by someone who sat in a similar seat as I did when they saw Lord of the Rings - the overproduced, spectacular (bit like Wicked) but woefully acted (unlike Wicked) musical on stage spectacular that is playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until mid July.

Arriving at the theatre Wednesday night, It was quite a sight to be greeted with hobbits playing around. But more intriguing was the scene that was unfolding right behind me. An usher, after telling an old Italian woman that she could not take photos, wanted to confiscate the camera and return it to her after the show after he caught her taking another photo. She was having none of that and so someone more senior was called and harsh words including "breach of copyright" and "£20,000 fine". The woman didn't speak much English and as the show started and the harsh words continued, I started asking around how do you say, "For Chrissske give the usher the fucking camera" but nobody knew Italian... In the end it wasn't necessary as the argument resolved itself before Bilbo disappeared so everyone around was grateful and could get on with watching the show. Still... the internet has many more breaches of copyright online as this photo attests... And obviously many are a lot sneakier around the ushers...

As for the show... Well it has been reviewed to death... It was lovely to look at and technically quite clever... But I found most of the performances to be lacking anything other than shouting and big gestures. It lacked any heart or any interest in the majority of characters. Special mention has to go to the role of Galadriel who had me in hysterics with her grand gestures and unusual way of speaking that made me wonder if the character had been smoking some unusual herbs growing in the Golden Wood.

While music features throughout, it isn't really a musical. Actually it is hard to tell what it is. Sometimes it is a bit musical, other times it is a bit drama, even once it gets a bit Cirque du Soleil... All told... a rather expensive production (£12million) that would seem to be more suited at Vegas or arena spectacular than the West End. But since it is only here until 19 July... It is worth a look... Cheap tickets abound right now for it as well...

Best thing were the Orcs... Dressed up in what looked like a combination of leather, rubber, large codpieces and masks, when they started terrorising the audience between acts in the second half you could be forgiven they were out for a night in Vauxhall... Grrrrr indeed....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Scenes from Piccadilly Circus Saturday


London Naked Bike Ride, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Just what London needs more of... Full frontal nudity... This time it was the World Naked Bike Ride in London to protest against oil dependency (timely as strikes close some petrol stations) and getting back to nature... It certainly stopped traffic... And there were all sorts of body shapes and slogans like "more ass, less gas" on display... It was all done in the best possible taste...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Theatre: 2000 Feet Away


Publicity still for 2000 Feet Away: Phyllis Logan, Joseph Fiennes and Ian Hart
Source:offwestend.com

I was talking to an actor recently who was horrified to learn that out there in the blogosphere, there are bloggers that go to previews and review the work before the official press night... He was initially horrified and then angry. After slowly stepping away from the actor and getting back to the real world, I thought it must be strange for some people to comprehend how people pay for a show and then talk about it afterwards... It is as if the phrase "word of mouth"didn't exist before blogging... It seems to be the latest thing for actors to moan about bloggers even if it is what they have to appear in that is at fault...

So with all that in mind, I am blogging about going to a preview of 2000 Feet away by Anthony Weigh on Friday night at the Bush Theatre. I don't know what made me want to go see this play about sex offenders and a local sheriff responsible for enforcing a law keeping them away places where children may gather... But I am glad that I did. It must have been the power of some great email marketing in late May that did it. I didn't even realise that the cast included Joseph Fiennes. Richard joined me to see the play. I saw Dina Martina at the Soho Theatre with him and he thought there was a common theme in the sort of entertainment we have been seeing together: sexual abuse... If we keep that up the mind boggles thinking about what we are going to see next...

This play was first presented in Sydney last year and there was a view then it had nine scenes yet to make a coherent play. I am assuming it developed further (or that reviewer was bonkers), as what we were presented with was a very cleverly put together series of scenes that while may have been stylistic, were always sharp and funny... And there never was a dull moment... All the performances were amazing including by the young cast members. It was also interesting that this cast seemed to fare better than most in London in being able to perform with genuine American accents.

Being Bush Theatre virgins and having spent a little longer at the bar next door, we had to take one of the unreserved seats closer to the performance area. I noticed those who appeared more experienced with seeing productions here took the seats further back. However sitting on one of the sides does have its advantages as you can check out the rest of the audience while pretending to be watching the play... You also were so close to the performers you could reach out and touch them... Not that you would want to try that, but you could see every detail and nuance of the performances. So much so that Richard informed me afterwards he was sure Joseph was wearing boxer briefs.

Earlier this week when it was a bit warmer, a luvvie had also told me I better wear a t-shirt and shorts going to the Bush Theatre as it is hot... I can gladly report that this advice was out of date... While the weather had cooled by the end of the week, the Bush Theatre also now has air conditioning.

So all told, I saw the play in preview... But I thought it was great... I'm sure by the time press night rolls around tomorrow night it will be amazing... Unsurprisingly it has sold out but day seats remain available... It must be that good word of mouth...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hot news this week in London...

It all happens in Stoke Newington... Except basic sub editing skills...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Overheard on Clapham High Street Wednesday

Woman on phone: Yeah and he like followed me all the way to where I was getting my eyebrows done... Can you believe that? Can you? Can you?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Scenes from the South Bank Sunday


010620085909, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

How low can a lowrider go?

Scenes from the Underground Saturday Evening (burp)


Party on the tube, originally uploaded by kujunu.

It was a classy night on the tube as people took advantage of the last night it was legal to drink alcohol on public transport... I guess that marks the end of that trick where you stand on a Circle Line train holding nothing but a can of beer and you keep going around and around until you keel over or pass out or vomit... Footage set to the music of "Dancing Queen" also on Youtube...