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Showing posts from 2009

Going down under...

On holidays in Australia for the next few weeks so will be making a few observations from here...

Scenes from Knightsbridge Saturday

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IMG_0025, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London. The evening everyone decided to go shopping... While it was raining... And while there were several tube lines down...

Scenes from Fortnum & Mason

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Suspect Christmas windows... Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Overheard at the gym Thursday...

Man 1: Yes what was how you used to do it?
Man 2: It was 2 egg whites in the blender with the protein shake
Man 3: Oh yeah that's right. After some pasta...
Man 2: Oh no pasta. That's carbs...

Scenes from Carnaby Street...

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Theatre: Nation

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About half an hour into Nation, the new "exhilarating" production at the National Theatre at the Olivier Theatre, I hear whispered in my ear the words that you always wish you didn't hear on a night out: "This is a bit boring..." Alas it was the truth. The acting seemed one note, the direction flat, the music painful and there was also the return of the pointless revolve. As for the plot, it kept getting thicker every two minutes. It was as if the creative team decided to shove as much as possible of Terry Pratchett's book on stage and to hell with the consequences. Well the consequences were an awful lot of fidgeting in the audience as if they had fleas, a lot of watch staring and some fairly muted applause at intermission.
Bearing all this in mind, I would have suffered the second half, but I took the advice of some wise theatre peeps who suggested that life is too short to sit through bad plays when you could be enjoying your life at the pub. I did substi…

Overheard on the Tube home Tuesday...

Man 1: She gives me evils because I'm dis neo liberal like you know...Man 2: Yeah and wiv your business acumen and that...

Saturday morning coffee and muffins

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Overheard at the gym Thursday...

Man number one: So how do you get it like that?Man number two: Well the pastry has to be the right consistency...

Music: Michael Feinstein

Spending Sunday evening with Michael Feinstein and his 17 piece band was a great way to pass the time. When I last saw him five years ago, I wasn't so enthused by his performance. Since then he has released a number of new albums including most recently his Sinatra album with new interpretations to the music of Sinatra. This seems to have thankfully given him new music to explore, beyond being known just as the Gershwin man (or one of the foremost interpreters of Gershwin's music).
The concert featured a range of songs recorded by Sinatra, but also included some tributes to Cole Porter (including with John Barrowman) and at 53, he is looking and sounding pretty good. There were various nods to famous people in the audience such as Leslie Bricusse and Judge Judy (who married Feinstein and his partner), but in the end it was an evening of music. And the music sounded great... If only leaving us wanting to hear a little more from that band...

Play: Prick Up Your Ears

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Prick Up Your Ears has sort of become known as the play that Matt Lucas pulled out from following the death of his ex partner. It is a shame really as it is a great little play that deserves to have an audience. Con O'Neill who replaces Lucas gives an excellent performance as Kenneth Halliwell, who killed his lover, playwright Joe Orton, in their small flat in Islington in the summer of 1967. Some of the reviews noted that it is definitely a play for anyone who has a more talented partner... While I would like to think that we all have our own strengths, but I have made a mental note not to share a studio flat with anyone who likes collages.
The play follows their antics of Kenneth and Joe where they defaced books at the Islington Library, and then following a short stint in prison, the rising career of Joe's. It all ends in a fight however, and I personally could have done without the nine hammer blows to the head at the end of the play, but then again I did see it on Hallowee…

People: Leslie Caron

Tuesday evening last week I managed to get very close to Leslie Caron. It was at one of the National Theatre's platform events where they talk about somebody and there is usually a book signing involved. Old queens, people close to death or a combination of the above seemed to make up the audience. Although there was one guy who took up two chairs that was definitely younger than me there... He sat two over and oohed and ahhed at everything she said as if he were her number one fan...

Anyway, Leslie Caron was the woman who at 16 danced with Gene Kelly in An American in Paris and then went on to be a star in her own right in films such as Gigi and Lili. She now runs a bed and breakfast outside Paris and has written a book about her life. She hasn't given up entirely on acting. She recently won an emmy for appearing in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and will be appearing in Paris next year in a production of A Little Night Music. It was interesting listening to her as she t…

Scenes from a shop window WC1

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For problem men who like to wear no trousers... Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Rubbish Music: Carousel The Songs of Jacques Brel

An oddly shambolic concert took place at the Barbican tonight in what was supposed to be a show to highlight the music of Jaques Brel and his ongoing influence on musicians. Instead we had a band that drowned out the singers, half the singers sounding as if they had spent a bit too long at the bar, and a concert that looked and sounded like it needed to have a tech run and a rehearsal.
Some people loved this show and obviously had an affinity to the performers. I suspect however they would have been happy for them to read from the phone book. It wasn't all bad either, but when half the performances were so inept, many of those who were more interested in the music of Brel voted with their feet and left at intermission. Some of us stayed to see if it got better, but only after a stiff drink at the bar...
Part of what is amazing about Brel's music is its nuances and particularly its lyrics. But when you pump up the volume or get a performances that are just loud, noisy and atonal…

Opera: L'Heure Espagnole and Gianni Schicchi

In a week packed full of culture and goings on, Tuesday night's trip to the opera to see Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi was a real treat. Well when giant cleavage greets you when you enter the theatre (it was on the curtain, not in the audience), you know it is going to be a bit of a fun evening.
Both performances and productions were excellent. Director Richard Jones (who also is responsible for Annie Get Your Gun at the Young Vic) and revival director Elaine Kidd manage to keep it bright and brisk. The opera singers even managed to show not only could they act but they had great comic timing too. Ravel's piece is not so much an opera, so it was nice to have it paired with Puccini's often hilarious and over the top melodrama. The aria O mio babbino caro is from this piece and sung delicately by Maria Bengtsson. Holding it all together was a great performance by Thomas Allen in the title role.
Worth catching and surprisingly not sold out…

Open season on Brel at Barbican

Theatre: Mother Courage and her Children

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After seeing a few low-spectacle shows (or no spectacle shows given the complete lack of imagination in the current Annie Get Your Gun), it was nice to see such a messy, grand epic production of Mother Courage and Her Children at the National Theatre last Wednesday. While I am not normally up for watching a three-hour play, there was so much to take in with this show that it was a hell of a journey worth taking. Fiona Shaw played Mother Courage in this production, who is a woman determined to make a living during the thirty years war (that was the war between 1618 and 1648) despite the consequences. Written by Bertolt Brecht in a new translation by Tony Kushner, the flavour of the story is influenced by recent events in the middle east.

Things blow up, people die, songs are sung and all amongst it there is money to be made and a living to be made. There is nothing too subtle about this show but with some great songs by Duke Special, a great set by Tom Pye and an overall impressive cast…

Interval musings at the national

Pre mother courage at the national musings...

Theatre: Annie Get Your Gun

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Previews have begun for a great new revival at the Young Vic of Annie Get Your Gun. The cast headed by Jane Horrocks and Julian Ovenden are sensational and there is some very fine singing and dancing happening on stage. I suspect with such a great cast and a lively interpretation of this old show it is going to be a big hit for them. Ovenden and Horrocks together show a great chemistry and give this show a lot of class...

My only quibbles with it would be four piano's don't always do this music justice (or did they sound particularly great all the time on Saturday night)... And no matter how you put it... The set is just hideously awful. It almost detracts from the show as you feel like you're watching the show through a letterbox. Despite what the Young Vic's website says, if you are sitting on the left hand side (and particularly upstair) you are not going to have a good view (unless they fix it over the next few days). And during the opening Act 2 film montage do we …

Theatre: The Author

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The opportunity arose on Friday evening to see the new play The Author at the Royal Court Theatre. Not knowing anything about it, except my suspicion that more than just a few bloggers would be there, I was up for a night of mystery theatre and suggested to Gio that we should go. Even better was that it was short so we wouldn't have to suffer the inedible food at their bar / cafe and could go eat somewhere else. There is a trend in sophisticated theatres in London to serve pretentious overly fussy small servings of food made from ingredients that would be better off going into cans of dog food. The Royal Court is leading this trend...
But anyway, we arrived to see that there were two facing tiers of seating... No stage. Opting for the one facing where we walked in, we sat down and waited for something to happen. Sure enough, the actors were already in the theatre. They were sitting among us. Actor number one, Adrian Howells starts speaking to people and saying how gorgeous we all a…

How do penguins approve?

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Do they make noises? Do they flap their wings? Do they issue special stamps? The latest water on offer in various theatres carries this penguiny message... Pity that given the amount of energy theatres use, this would hardly offset their carbon footrint... Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Movies: Suddenly Last Winter

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It has been awhile since updates on the blog, but there was a recent trip to Rome, general business, and a lack in interest in seeing anything cultural in London that partly explains that. Well anyway the cultural endeavours returned big time this week with a trip to the Barbican on Wednesday night to see the documentary Suddenly Last Winter, which traces the ill-fated journey of legislation to give equal rights to same-sex partnerships in Italy.
I never went to any gay bars while in Rome, and arriving at the Barbican full of gay Italian men I wondered if they were like this... Albeit with more flattering lighting and better coffee. Actually it was probably better not to visit them given they seem to attract firecrackers and molotov cocktails at the moment... Anyway the documentary was a personal account of a gay couple who traced the journey through the Italian Parliament of legislation that could have given Italy civil partnerships. Watching the documentary with a London audience, it…

Hmm steaaaaaak

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Overheard at Whole Foods High Street Kensington Sunday

Italian Man drinking espresso: The cappuccino is forbidden after noon...Man listening: Noon? Italian Man drinking espresso: Yes noon... Man listening: Really? Italian Man drinking espresso: Yes noon. It is really... Forbidden...

Scenes from Shoreditch Saturday

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Well that's one way to look at it... Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

(Open Air) Theatre: Hello Dolly

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Watching a musical in Regent's Park is always going to be a little tricky as the venue lends itself better to plays as the acoustics of the venue... Well there are none. Watching HMS Pinafore four years ago on a chilly drizzly August night did not make me keen on ever going back. Four years later however and on a perfect bank holiday Monday evening - warm and a gentle summer breeze - for Hello Dolly.

Arriving at Regents Park I could feel some trepidation... It may have been something to do with running into a friend on the tube who enquired where I was off to. He thought that was hilarious and when he alighted at the next stop with his mates he shouted, "ENJOY WATCHING HELLO DOLLY!" before all of them broke out into an off-key version of "Put on your Sunday clothes" which trailed off only when the tube pulled out of the station. I remained on the train for another stop. Surrounded by manly men I could feel the glares... And the shame. Although most had got on th…

Hot news this week in London...

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IMG_1152, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London. I still don't like the brown word... Even if invisible...

Overheard outside the Ivy London

Paparazzi #1: I'm trying to help you...
Paparazzi #2: You're trying to help me?
Paparazzi #1: Yes...
Paparazzi #2: ... You're an idiot.

Starbucks coffee chipped mug special

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Be sure in London to ask for your coffee to be served in a chipped mug as well... It adds to the flavour... Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Theatre and trousers: Call Me Madam

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Not content to see one old musical this week directed by Thom Southerland, there was another of his productions to see, the final performance of Call Me Madam at Upstairs at the Gatehouse. It was a matinee, which normally would not be the smartest things to attend... Too many old ladies shoving you aside with their walking sticks to get to the unreserved seating first... And too hot... And the barbecue summer that had been called off was back on again...

But after fighting through the old ladies and battling the heat, there was a definite preference for the gay men in the audience to sit to the right hand side of the stage. This became apparent shortly into the first act... Not because it was close to the air conditioning, but because one of the cast members was dancing and wiggling about in his trousers. And his trousers had a 12-inch fly. It seemed to have hypnotic effect on a section of the audience and continued throughout the performance. One wiggle derived at least three titters …

Hot news this week in London

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Britain Defends NHS On Twitter, originally uploaded by LinkMachineGo. The argument was limited to 260 characters alas...

Theatre: State Fair

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Sitting down in a darkened space as the sweat runs down your neck, then your back and into lower regions is probably not something you would expect from a night out at the theatre. But it is worth it to see this lively and energetic little production of State Fair playing at the Finborough Theatre in Earls Court. It will have you damp with delight...

State Fair is an odd sort of musical about a pig, a nightclub singer, a boy, a girl, a nightclub singer and the Iowa State Fair. There is an awful lot of mince meat too. It includes cut numbers from other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and a book with some of the corniest jokes immaginable. But it all hangs together somehow. It helps too when you also have such a filthy minded audience (or maybe just a Londonist reviewer). People were laughing hysterically after lines such as "I'm going for a pearl necklace in the back row" and "There's a girl who knows her way around a cucumber"...

The cast are all great but I…

Scenes from a gay man's meal...

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Fish... Chips... And a cosmopolitan... That's such a Samantha thing...
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Scenes from a council block lift

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IMG_1112, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London. Insight into your neighbours perhaps... Maybe that will help them to swallow...

Theatre Wake: Too Close to the Sun

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It didn't feel like closing night of Too Close To the Sun. It felt more like a wake. Too Close To the Sun opened two weeks ago and immediately posted closing notices. We arrived almost too late for curtain up as John, Feigned Mischief and I were still having dinner across the road from the Comedy Theatre. I was keeping an eye on the theatre to watch when people went in, only to realise (almost too late), that with so few people attending the show, it was hard to tell. As we entered there was a deathly silence, and while I don't recall if there even was an overture, it felt like there should have been an organ playing funereal music.

The musical is a four-hander about the last few days of the life of Ernest Hemingway. The synopsis goes something like this: Ernest plods about and tries to molest his secretary. His wife, played by Helen Dallimore, walks around the set in some rather fascinating stirrup pants and heels. Meanwhile some other guy tries to woo Helen Dallimore and the …

Scenes from the Serpentine Pavilion

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IMG_1093, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London. Is it a coffee shop? Is it art? Is it both? Certainly this year's pavilion is an inspired piece of design.

Also at the Serpentine is the Jeff Koons Popeye Series. While some at the gallery commented that if you shoved any inflatable water toy up your arse this could constitute as a Koons installation, it was brief enough for me to not get too bothered about it one way or the other...
Both run through the summer.

Theatre: The Mountaintop

Friday evening I caught The Mountaintop at the Trafalgar Studios. The two-hander is about the night before Martin Luthor King Jr is assassinated and imagines King as a man. A man with stinky feet, no toothbrush and afraid of thunder. There with him is the hotel's maid. After bringing him a cup of coffee, the stage is set for an astonishing set of revelations, many of which are hilarious.

Much of the humour derives from the banality of everyday life. There are pros and cons about different brands of cigarettes, whisky, coffee, the weather. Martin Luthor King has just delivered his I've Been to the Mountaintop speech, and as the play unfolds, both his regrets about what more there is to do, and the knowledge the audience has about what lies ahead, gives this play its strength.

Katori Hall's play is fast paced and the production is slick. The chemistry between David Harwood as King and Lorraine Burrough as the maid Camae was incredible too. Who knew summer plays could be so i…

Hot news this week in London

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Don't mess with my tutu, originally uploaded by ian_fromblighty. Flickr user captures Katie Price in Selfridges in a tutu... To publish some book... Nice Aussiebums though...

Brüno in tube

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Hot news this week in London

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DOG POO MISERY, originally uploaded by the_moog. It isn't just the swine flu... There is dog poo too...

Opera Opera (and more) Opera

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It has been a a summer of opera for me. And a very enjoyable one as well. After catching Renée Flemming in La Traviata earlier in the season, I caught the opening night performance of The Barber of Seville. This production has to be a highlight of the year and one of the best productions I have seen. While Joyce DiDonato's fall in the first act gathered the headlines, what really was sensational about this production was how great the cast was. Particularly DiDonato, Pietro Spagnoli and of course, Juan Diego Flórez as the Count. Flórez in the final fifteen minutes of the opera was simply amazing, even more so after reading DiDonato's account on her blog, where he was holding her up... Literally. After his final aria, the audience couldn't stop cheering, stamping, hollering (you name it). It is moments like this that you remember why you go to the opera.

The other moment of high drama in this opera was when DiDonato fell in the first act. I thought it was those chunky shoes.…

Overheard at the gym Friday night...

Man #1: So we could have salad for dinner...
Man #2: Yeah like lettuce?
Man #1: Yeah like lettuce... Lettuce and... Chicken...

Scenes from One and Other Trafalgar Square Thursday

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Theatre: Forbidden Broadway

Initial impressions of Forbidden Broadway which is currently in preview but opens later this week at the Menier Chocolate Factory



It has been a while since I have been to the theatre and blogged about it. Sure I could have written about Frances Ruffelle's cabaret show at Madame Jo Jos saying it was good but after a long day rehearsing with the London Gay Men's Chorus, I wanted something funnier. I could have also written about opening night of La Traviata with Renée Fleming which was also fantastic (overlooking the first act and the over-egged production). But it was the sheer cheap laughs and silliness of Forbidden Broadway that is worth a blog update.

While it was a little short side, there were enough fresh barbs at the London theatre scene including Elaine Paige, the West End Whingers, audience members, and even Susan Boyle, along with with material previously performed from the off-Broadway review to keep everyone entertained. Well maybe everyone who is a little in the know…

Scenes from London Naked Bike Ride

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Picture 500, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London. It is that time of year again when naked people cycle through the streets of London. While it lacked the body paint and noise of last year's ride, it made up for that with the huge numbers of naked people cycling.

And amongst all this full-frontal nudity there was a message that we should get back to nature and stop relying on oil... More ass, less gas or something like that...

Walking back through Hyde Park afterwards one stumbled across a sea of naked and semi-naked people who had finished the ride. There were also loads of people taking photographs of this nakedness. I resisted the urge to capture close up nudity in favour of the magic of the ride... Besides some things are best viewed when they are whizzing by you...

Scenes from a Westminster Park

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Picture 454, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London. There are loads of things you cannot do, but it is nice to know the council would still like you to enjoy yourself while you are there...

Scenes from rehearsal Monday

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Send in the clowns... We're performing at the Scoop on Friday as part of Fringe Choirs week... Also performing this week is the London Irish Pensioner Choir... But they perform on Thursday...

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Scenes from a rehearsal break...

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Well... You are what you eat...

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Theatre: Grasses of A Thousand Colours

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Saturday morning over breakfast, we were discussing how it was possible to have sex with a cat. There was a general consensus at the table that it would be quite difficult as unlike a cow, a goat (Silvia perhaps), or a big dog, a cat would have other ideas. I hypothesised that perhaps the cat could be used like some sort of muff. Such was the fascinating conversation that ensued after seeing Grasses of A Thousand Colours at the Royal Court on Friday evening.

This play is part of the Wallace Shawn season at the Royal Court, and is a world premiere featuring Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Tilly and Shawn himself. Shawn plays a scientist who has managed to manipulate the food chain with rather surprising results. In amongst all that he has three women in his life and sex with a cat that ends up bruising his penis (or giving it a funny colour at least).

Most of the story unfolds through a series on monologues. A series of monologues that lasted nearly three hours with only two ten minute int…

Theatre: The Cherry Orchard

Thanks to the West End Whingers, I had long held a ticket to Tuesday night's preview of The Cherry Orchard. This was a show that Time Out listed this week as the one thing you should go and see. I always have relied on friends, bloggers or just passing people on the street to be slightly fashionable and this was no exception. I was lucky too as the play turned out to be a real treat.

Confusingly however, I had the play in my diary as the Bridge Project. Well that is the name of the co-production between the Old Vic, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Neal Street Productions, under the direction of Sam Mendes. The acting troupe including Simon Russell Beale, Ethan Hawke and Rebecca Hall will perform Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Shakespeare's The Winters Tale at the Old Vic over the summer here before continuing to various other locations around the world for the next two years. It has been described as a new model for theatrical productions , which hopefully does not tu…

Hot news this week in London...

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Headline News, originally uploaded by SteveM51. The third tube baby in history... Ew...

Hot news this week in London

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Gnomes Invade Chelsea Flower Show, originally uploaded by LinkMachineGo. The invasion of the gnomes starts in Chelsea...

Theatre: Madame De Sade

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Maybe after watching Angels and Demons on Friday, I was in the mood for something with a little less action, fewer explosions and better dialogue; but I actually enjoyed watching the Saturday matinee performance of Madame De Sade. The play, which is nearing the end of its run, has had largely negative reviews in The Times and The Telegraph (and luke warm reviews in the Guardian and Evening Standard).

The review in the Telegraph prompted Dame Judi Dench to describe the Telegraph's critic as an absolute s---. Well to be fair to both, the quality of theatre criticism in London is dire, and this will probably not be the most memorable of Dench's performances on stage (as she mostly has to move between being outraged, cunning and just over it all). However all that being said, there is much to go for the play, particularly the quality of the acting, the fabulous costumes, wigs, lighting and set.

I had been forewarned that the action takes place off stage and the drama unfolds by the…

Theatre Revisit: La Cage Aux Folles

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Sometimes it is good not to be the first to see some things. In the case of the first preview of La Cage Aux Folles I saw in November 2007 it was hard to tell what would become of it. Particularly since many technical problems (like curtains not coming up and so forth), made it hard to watch. Well last year it transferred to the West End and became one of the big hits of 2008. Having finally caught it in a proper theatre it is easy to see its appeal. Some updated observations:

It is a family musical (of sorts) and the enjoyment of the show probably depends on how much you believe the performances by the two male leads. In this case, the run now has Roger Allam and Philip Quast in the lead roles and they can come up with the goods. Within moments from when they appeared on stage and started arguing you could believe that they were a couple who had been living together for over twenty years.

The group I was with were initially disappointed that Graham Norton had finished his run, but by …

Hot news this week in London

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img_0893, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London. The slow and overly detailed drip of news about MPs expenses continues... Well at least the headlines are sort of entertaining...

Hot news this week in London...

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Hackney Gazette, Stoke Newington, originally uploaded by Fin Fahey. Or rather... Something for everybody in Stoke Newington...

Theatre Week... Oh the drama...

Last week was a week for Theatre. Four plays and one Musical. This is what happens when friends who are mad theatre-goers drop in to London and have been dying for some cultural pursuits... Well Adrian comes from Melbourne where all they have been playing down there of late I think is re-runs of Menopause the Musical and Phantom of the Opera, so his desperation for some culture was understandable...

First play up was Rookery Nook at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It was still in preview last Tuesday and I couldn't help but think that they had yet to get the pacing right. Part of the problem might have been sitting so close to the action. While it was harder to fall asleep, it also meant that the over the top acting and other shenanigans was right in your face. Sometimes a little distance helps. Still the flag seller, the dog and the biscuits strewn across the floor kept me intrigued with the show. Perhaps a trim of the play might have helped with the levels of enjoyment.

I left Adria…

Hot News This Week In London...

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Killer Flu Reaches Europe, originally uploaded by LinkMachineGo. Oink oink oink...

Photo shots: Princi...

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Photo shots: I really like your shoes...

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Odd goings on in soho...

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Theatre: Rookery Nook

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First impressions now with Adrian from Melbourne... More later...

Hot news this week in London

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SLP: Kitty Tikka, originally uploaded by Ronald Hackston. Another unintelligible headline from the South London Press...

Idle banter at the movies Sunday

Paul: Let the Right One In isn't that scary when you think about it...
David: You kidding? I hadn't heard you hyperventilating so much since that aborted landing flying back from Edinburgh...
Paul: Well okay... Still the central message of the movie seems to be that everyone needs a guardian angel... Of death...