Thursday, July 31, 2008

Movies: Savage Grace



About twenty minutes into the movie Savage Grace - which I saw last night with Grant at the Curzon Soho - a couple in the row we were sitting decided to get up and leave. The seats aren't wide enough to let somebody pass easily so it was a bit of a drama to let them by. We both mumbled something along the lines of "furfukssake". I wasn't sure whether they had had enough of the unsettling content, or they were just in the wrong cinema. I settled on it being the latter as everytime I go to this cinema I find myself surrounded by freaks. But there was also something unsettling but still rather smashing about this film.


The movie is based on the book of the same name, which is an interpretation of the true dysfunctional and incestuous relationship of rich (but slightly disturbed) heiress Barbara Daly Baekeland and her even more disturbed son Antony. Julianne Moore plays Barbara and gives her a sympathetic bent. She also looks great too. Maybe the real Barbara Daly wasn't anything like this, but it was a relief she was in the film. I suspect the film could have been a lot more disturbing, but thankfully the movie only focusses on a few key scenes and a whole lot of gorgeousness...

The film is a tragedy, although my mind did wonder to American Pie during the final seduction scene. This incest may or may not have been Barbara's attempt to prove to her son that he wasn't gay (although for the first 80 minutes he had done a good job at proving that he was)... Certainly a unique film... And one that I found difficult afterwards explaining to mates in the pub over a few beers without them being very disturbed: "She notices her sons new suit and starts rubbing it going, 'I love this fabric' and then she moves her hand into his crotch and goes, 'And I love this too...'" Maybe it was the timing of the delivery... Either that or they have mother issues just like Anthony...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scenes from a sectional tug-of-war


280720087786, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

It isn't just singing and touring in the London Gay Men's Chorus... There are the games too... Like tug of war...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Theatre: They're Playing Our Song

It was one of those theatrical experiences that I love. Before the second act started of They're Playing Our Song, a revival now in preview at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the man next to me apologised for blocking my view in the first act. "It's just that I am having trouble staying awake watching this truly awful show...". He did add that he loved Connie Fisher. Well... What is there not to like about Connie Fisher? She does have a star quality about her and that cruel audition on TV to win the role of Maria in The Sound of Music (which I missed) and losing all that weight during the run shows what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger. In this show she was just great as Sonia... The nice Jewish girl with the Farrah Fawcett ginger wig...

Still, I was surrounded by people who just hated this preview. The West End Whingers at intermission were ready to walk out, and I would like to take some credit for keeping everyone returning to the theatre for the second half... Even if it were on the basis of the argument that the second half had only three new songs and all the rest were reprises so the worst was behind them... Anyway amongst all this hostility from bloggers (including bloggers we just met) I didn't want to mention... That... I still kinda liked the show...

Prior to the start of the show, I was discussing with the Whingers whether we knew any of the music. We didn't except for the line "Oh they're playing our song oh yes they're playing our song". After that we didn't know any of it. It became evident why in the first act of the show why that's all we knew as the next line goes "Sh! Sh! Sh!" and who the hell would think that up as a lyric? Still it is an irritatingly catchy tune... And when the overture started it was so funky and retro I had high hopes for this show...

Alas the music, by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager is not their best work... But what makes the show tough going is a Neil Simon's book, which even for its retro interest is pretty dated. Between songs I was waiting for the dialogue to stop as I would rather Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager on a bad day than these poorly set up scenes of neuroses. The ongoing references to Leon, who is Sonia's ex boyfriend are incredibly excrutiating...

Still, given what they have to work with, this production breathes life into the show with crazy wigs, fantastic polos, cardigans and a great disco scene. And of course there is also Connie Fisher...

As the run continues I hope they loosen it up further and make more of the shows limitations (such as a piano doubling as a car). I was a little bit alarmed that this production builds on the new trend in London productions (started with Gone With the Wind) in having a pointless revolve, but I am hoping this too is irony. Although I was fearing ankle sprains when the cast jumped on the stage for the finale... That looked kinda scary...

There is potential for this show to be quite a fun distraction for the summer... Providing you don't think too much about things like "why is this being revived?" And if only they could get those bubbles out of the floor of revolve... It looked like a bad home improvement job... Surely even the Menier theatre-going public deserve a little bit of glitz and glamour? Now to get that "Oh they're playing our song oh yes they're playing our song..." out of my head...

Theatre: Nocturne

I found myself at the Almeida on Friday night watching Nocturne, thanks to some some spare tickets Sue had because she had to go to a summer barbecue.

This is a one-man show written by Adam Rapp and performed by Peter McDonald. There was something slightly unnerving about sitting in a theatre on a warm summer night watching a monologue about a man who accidentally kills his sister. It wasn't exactly summer fun and that might have explained why the theatre was a little empty. Perhaps it was the night for barbecues and drinking rather than monolgoues. Still the performance and story was strangely captivating. At times it was like you were at the edge of your seat, knowing you were about to hear something awful but keen to hear how he accidentally decapitated his younger sister.

I have been wary of watching monologues ever since I endured the pretentious and coma-enducing one-man Macbeth. Fortunately there was none of that here and McDonald's performance was incredible to watch. At times still all this guilt and memory and impotence was heavy going (which may be the production's fault), but overall there was something still quite remarkable about it.

I dragged David along to see it and after the show we had quite an intriguing conversation about all the ways you could lose your head. None of which included going to see monolgoues on a hot summer night so I am assuming he didn't mind it either. It is now off to Edinburgh Fringe.

Movies: The Dark Knight


At the London Premiere... It's all about camera phones...

Thursday night I crammed into a hot, sweaty cinema to watch the new Batman movie The Dark Knight. There is something about this dark, unrelenting film that people just wanna see. Perhaps it hits the mood of the times, even when it is so bright and hot outside.

The Dark Knight was worth the discomfort of The Ritzy to see it, and probably one of the better comic book adaptations. It doesn't keep up the momentum to the end, and there is a sequence about the good of the people of Gotham that will have you want to yell out, "WTF???" But its visuals and Heath Ledger's performance are good enough reasons to see it. My only question would be, why does Batman speak like Patty or Selma Bouvier? I am waiting for the cigarette tie-in...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

News: Amy Winehouse goes green (and starchy)


Amy Greenhouse, originally uploaded by Andrew Orange.

And speaking of the West End Whingers, they have been enjoying their success and publicity with their award-winning vegetable sculpture of Amy Winehouse - Amy Greenhouse at the Lambeth Country Show over the weekend... But controversy has erupted with a suggestion the runner up, which was a vegetable arrangement of the characters from The Magic Roundabout were robbed...

Apart from being totally biased I thought the better sculpture won... Well whatever the case, the news has been far more interesting than Amy Winehouse as a wax model...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Theatre: Under the Blue Sky



Tuesday evening I wasn't sure I was in the mood to see a play in the West End, but the West End Whingers had organised a group outing to see Under the Blue Sky ages ago, so there I was. The play had quite a few good things going for it and that was before I even knew what it was about: it had a late start, and it was around 90 minutes without interval. The fact that it had a great cast (including Catherine Tate), was just a bonus.

Sitting so close in the stalls with a raised set, it struck me that we couldn't see the actors below their knees. For the first two acts I became preoccupied by wondering about feet. It probably didn't help that we all knew Catherine Tate had a nasty sprain last week which cancelled the first preview, so we were all wondering how she would fare... The other thing about sitting so close was that throughout the first act there was the lovely smell of onions, peppers and minced beef cooking and wafting into the audience... As the scene ended and the kitchen set moved to one side, a few of us in the audience watched it like hungry dogs until it disappeared. Reality can be so distracting...

As for the play about the six teachers exploring love and lust outside the classroom, I thought it was terrific. Maybe it helps knowing a few teachers as then you realise they are such filthy whores (well the fun ones are anyway) who spend half their year on holidays so it all rings true. It's a fun play and while a bit tragic and creepy at times, it is the perfect sort of show for the summer... If you can get past the absence of feet (assuming you are in the stalls). Oh and in the final act Francesca Annis wears a rather flimsy dress and the lighting creates a rather intimate effect that will have you getting flashback's to Polanski's Macbeth...

I'm sure they are hoping on the Catherine Tate effect to bring in the punters to this show, and she does come up with the goods (of being Catherine Tate), but for me the final scene with Annis and Nigel Lindsay was my favourite and it wrapped things up rather nicely. There is even a bit of Neil Sedaka thrown in too which surely has to be a good thing... It runs through to September.

Overheard at Charing Cross Tuesday

American Girl 1: You know I saw like Jesus Christ Superstar
American Girl 2: Oh. My. God.
American Girl 1: And it had that guy in it.
American Girl 2: The black guy?

Hot news this week in London...


police arrest batman, originally uploaded by secretlondon123.

Apparently it was something to do with a kapow in the Dorchester Sunday evening...

Music: There's No Place Like Homo

After a month which has been so far taken up with being in concerts or rehearsing for concerts or travelling to get to concerts rather than seeing them, it was a refreshing change to just watch one. Mind you, Monday night was the second and final preview of the London Gay Men's Chorus show for this year's Edinburgh Fringe, so it was still chorus related. Sometimes when you join a group you forget that you almost join a cult (albeit one that sings and can party hard as the recent tour to Spain proved). This show was performed by the Far From Kansas group within the chorus. It had all the usual references to be expected and cheap laughs abounded. There were some great musical numbers as well, including ones from the recent shows from the main chorus.

Watching the show in the third row I got a bit carried away... It was probably the overly warm theatre on a hot July night and the cheap bubbly that caused me to yell out among other things "nice legs" to the boys in kilts. But it was a sight... Particularly when they attempted to sit in a polite way on high chairs... Anyway they are back in rehearsals to get that sorted before it heads to Edinburgh from 18 to 23 August. There is talk of a return engagement in London later this year as well given these two previews were sell outs. Here's hoping that's the case...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hot news this week in London...


Doomed, originally uploaded by Martin Deutsch.

And you're fat, you're lazy, you're single, and you're gonna die!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Music: Mahler's 8th

I caught the second performance of the London Symphony Orchestra playing Mahler's 8th as part of the City of London Festival at St Paul's Cathedral tonight. I wondered whether I would enjoy listening to it as much as performing in a choral concert. Well when it is Mahler it isn't such a problem. What is more a problem is whether in a piece like this everything is held together (apparently it wasn't last night) and if the soupy acoustic of the Cathedral makes for a rather lost cause.

It might all depend on where you sat, but sitting in the north transept there were some startling moments of clarity and subtlety amongst the great forces at play (big choirs, huge orchestra, big soloists and gigantic cathedral). But there was also a lot of soupy ones... At the end of both the first and second movements, the audience stayed transfixed on the dome... We were all watching the music bounce around and around until it went up to God.

The last time I saw Mahler's 8th I was in it as part of the chorus. The then Prime Minister of Australia bored the audience with his knowledge about the piece. The things that stick in my mind about this performance were that the choir benches collapsing (and too much noise was coming from the orchestra for anyone to notice) and the clumsy way it was staged made it a struggle to stay together. By the end of it we were all exhausted (particularly those who had to squat after their benches collapsed). Watching tonight's performance I was still exhausted, and it wasn't just due to the flashbacks. Listening to it or performing it, it is still a big piece...

All told there was only polite applause at the end... But I think we were all too exhausted by watching these large forces in an epic struggle - life versus love, Gergiev versus St Paul's... Either that or we weren't quite sure what God thought of it...

The concert is available on BBC Radio3 for the next week, and although it does miss out on capturing the music bouncing around the dome, it makes up for it with much better clarity than it sounded sitting there... Well done to the sound engineers...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hot news this week in London...


DEAD NUNS DUG UP AND SENT HOME, originally uploaded by gilesbooth.

The South London Press goes where other papers just couldn't be arsed to...

Cheap scenes from Gay Pride Saturday


2008 Gay Pride, London, originally uploaded by randydandy.

The moths in London are getting worse...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Movies: Mamma Mia! (the movie)



After all the excitement of the weekend where one was part of the London Gay Men's Chorus performing their summer concert at Cadogan Hall, it was nice to unwind with a quiet movie at the Odeon Leicester Square Sunday evening. Well not quite quiet... It was Mamma Mia! And a special Gaydarnation preview for Pride weekend so a lot of the audience was gay, drunk, coming down whatever they took from last night, or all of the above.

All the stops were pulled out for tonight's preview, including organ player as pre-show entertainment, free lollipops and a souvenir brochure which made the exorbitant admission price for this exclusive preview week worth it (which was almost the cost of a theatre ticket - albeit not one to see Mamma Mia in the West End). The Odeon is still decked out in the cladding from Friday's premiere (above) as well so that was a nice touch too...

I have yet to see the stage musical after being put off by the awful cast recording of the show which I can only assume drained the show of its energy and exuberance, but I was not alone as most of the audience tonight had not seen it. So I got Mark who has seen it quite a few times to come along to see how much it was like the show. Well it turns out it is pretty much like the show and still rather fabulous, if just a little bit silly. Given the encouragement we were given to shout out and dance in the aisles that is probably not such a bad thing. There may not have been dancing in the aisles but there was dancing and grooving in the rows... I suspect given the state of the audience anything more vigorous was out of the question...

Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters were all great and kept the laughs coming. Many of the musical numbers were also quite well put together... As for the plot, well while it has elements of farce about it, it also reminded me of the Southpark episode Cartman's Mom is Still A Dirty Slut which lasted right up to the conclusion of the film when some person yelled out, "Never mind all that, who's the bloody dad?!!" Well I suspect by this point nobody really cares...

This is a great night out at the movies, assuming you don't mind ABBA music and silly stories and chick flicks for older chicks. If you can get a group of ten or so people together, have a few drinks beforehand, then hit the cinema, it will be a great night. Well... That was the mix that sure worked well tonight... The film opens from Friday.

Scenes from London Pride Saturday


IMG_0064, originally uploaded by Tom S Crowley.

Another year, another pride... Bit chilly for the skimpy costumes flogging some cheesy gay internet site I would have thought... But anyway...

Saturday, July 05, 2008

News this week in London


SHIT!, originally uploaded by Igor Clark.

The Hackney Gazette tries to give the knife crime story a local angle... As for Torn, I am hoping to catch it later this month...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Words: Just so random

What Wordle thinks about my blog postings of late... Shows, musicals and bit of pants... I'd like to think that sums things up quite nicely...