Saturday, January 31, 2009

Scenes from the Roundhouse Friday night


img_0673, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Grace Jones singing Slave to the Rhythm with a hula hoop. It had to be seen to be believed. Surely the Roundhouse this week with Grace Jones was the best place to be in London... Of course on Flickr there are better shots of this moment, but I enjoy working within the limitations of the iPhone and my standing position...

Later at Chalk Farm tube a girl was overheard saying, "I've just got to get me a hula hoop"...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Theatre: Spring Awakening


Spring Awakening, originally uploaded by Lyric Hammersmith.

Tuesday I caught a preview of Spring Awakening at the Lyric Hammersmith. It is one hell of an energetic show (and hopefully by the time it is out of preview all the cast will have grown into their roles). Teen angst, sexual discovery, masturbation, abortion and suicide have never looked better on stage or been presented with a great rock (? - well it's hard to classify it) score. It isn't quite a musical in the traditional sense but it presents it concept in such an interesting way that I only wished they turned up the volume more and blasted the audience... Well, when everyone is singing "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah," and looking so good, it just seems like the most logical thing to do...

The show won eight Tony Awards including for best new musical in 2007 and the creative team from the New York production are here at the Lyric. It is interesting that the Columbine massacre was part inspiration for this show and that the source material is from Frank Wedekind's sometimes-banned play from the nineteenth century. That is not to say that all this teen angst and period drama makes for a downbeat evening. The music and energy make up for that. A highlight is the song Totally F***ed, which I thought was not just relevant to teenagers. To give away anything further of the plot is neither necessary nor relevant. It is a show to experience. Many of the cast are also making professional acting debuts here too.

The ten of us (who tended toward the other end of the age spectrum) who caught the show thought it was great. Although John did fall asleep in the second half. I attributed this partly to the fact that the second act is a bit ballad-heavy, and that he was exhausted from taunting the man in front of him for the early part of the evening...

The man in front, who I decided to dub Rain Man at some stage during the first act, kept turning around at the slightest noise you would make. No cough, or rustle of the programme was quiet enough for his liking. And when I periodically opened my bottle of sparkling water (only during moments of applause I might add), you could imagine the death stares I started to get when there was a slight Pfffffft. Well, it may have been more than a slight Pffffffft as later John confessed that he was creating additional sound effects to accompany my bottle opening...

Anyway, normally I am the first to object to noise in the theatre, but I suspect this man had hearing issues, or was a tad odd... He seemed to be quite unreasonable with his non-verbal complaining so for most of the first act, John made it his mission to flick his programme and rustle his belongings at any chance just to wind him up. Along with my periodical Pfffft-ing, it was hard at times to concentrate on the show as Rain Man kept turning around. But I did my best to ignore him. For the second act, we all stocked up on fizzy water and bags of crisps... We munched and pfft'ed our way through the second act with such defiance that woe betide anyone that objected... It was probably watching all that rebellion on stage that made us do it...

The show runs until March 14. See it with attitude too...

Hot news this week in London...


Worst Slump Since 1980, originally uploaded by LinkMachineGo.

The slumps have been better...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

a big breakfast in East Dulwich

With the weekend a bit of a washout, it was a time for Full English Breakfasts. Saturday's was at Liquorish... It may not look as good as the food presented at Tom's Kitchen (which is where I ate Sunday)... But it gives it a run for its money (and cheaper too)...

Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Theatre: Complicit


img_0621, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

At intermission at Complicit Monday evening at the Old Vic it was a case of some people being complicit in staging photos featuring a very nice looking celebrity and director. Well some people at least seemed to be unnaturally excited to be in his theatre...

Kevin Spacey is directing this new play by Joe Sutton with Richard Dreyfuss, Elizabeth McGovern and David Suchet in the cast. It is still in preview but early word has been all about Richard Dreyfuss using an earpiece to remember lines. It is earpiece-gate. Now after seeing it I have to sympathise with all the actors as they have some weighty dialogue to deliver at times. It is afterall, another play about life under the Bush administration. And perhaps as a new president is innaguarated, the punters aren't ready to relive the horrors of the past eight years.

The play itself centres around a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist (Dreyfuss) who has to face a Grand Jury and divulge the name of his source on stories about the use of torture and rendition. The story has echoes of the Judith Miller / New York Times case and as the play unfolds it is the subject matter that keeps you hooked. And waiting. For the dramatic. Pauses. To pass.

Well I wasn't bothered by that and I wasn't bothered about Dreyfuss's earpiece either (it could have been a hearing aid as he looks much older than he is). His delivery was fine too. What was a shame was the less-than-convincing relationship between Dreyfuss's character and his wife (McGovern). She seems to have not much to do at times other than act with her back to the audience. Perhaps the big ideas of politics, journalism and power get in the way of developing sympathetic characters. Maybe another week of previews could help smooth things. Or maybe I was just too fussy. At the end of the performance there were more than a few people on their feet applauding.

All told while it isn't a brilliant play, it is still worth catching. It looks great too and so does the Old Vic with its new theatre space and bars. There is Sino Thai or Meson don Felipe nearby for a bite to eat. It all adds up to a rather sensible evening of good dining and modern politics and moral dilemmas if you ask me... It is on until 21 February.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scenes from Tottenham Court Road


End Of The Astoria, originally uploaded by Ronald Hackston.

Wednesday night was the last night for the Astoria on Charing Cross Road. What was the venue for G-A-Y and many a wild crazy night for chicken and their admirers will soon be gone. The Guardian is asking its readers to share your beer-stained memories but I wouldn't dare do that. I think the only blog posting that I ever did that got a "you be careful" comment from my mother was in relation to the Astoria. The story is blogged somewhere here but it is probably best left unlinked as those days are behind me. Well, I'm sure wherever there are gays, there will be a place for Jason Donnovan to perform. Bring on the wrecking ball...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Theatre: Every Good Boy Deserves Favour



Maybe it was the fact that it was an 8.45pm start, or that I had a rather hearty meal just before seeing it, but I found it hard to stay awake watching Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at the Olivier Theatre. The premise of a man hearing an orchestra in his head was interesting enough, but this work by Tom Stoppard and André Previn feels like three separate stories in one. The first story was the crazy guy with the triangle who hears the orchestra, the second being the one of the dissident, and the third being the perspective of his son. Throwing all three together, the play just didn't work. Judging by the audience's muted applause at the end, I don't think I was alone with that view.

Still, there is the novelty factor of seeing an orchestra and play combined. And Toby Jones is a treat in the lead role. The odd moments of insanity seemed to suggest this could have been something better. But for the most part it just felt so dated. Like something that would have been staged at the Royal Festival Hall in 1977 as an attempt to do something important. Well the music was nice, and I liked the concept. I liked even more the idea of a late short play which enables you to have a leisurly dinner beforehand. Let's hope theatres do more of them if they can get the punters to them. Perhaps it is just advisable however to ensure the dinner does not entail too much carb loading...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Scenes from a frosty Saturday in London


gay, originally uploaded by BisForBabb.

Nothing like freezing temperatures to bring someone out of the closet... In Battersea...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Life in London: When Theatre Goes Bad

On Friday evening I saw an awful piece of theatre in Kentish Town. It was at a theatre pub where the patrons of this boozer seemed to be street drinkers and addicts of various sorts. It was a pity they weren't in the play themselves as it would have given the play a little character. From time to time there were flashes of something that made it watchable, but for the most part I sat there wondering how many flats could be made from this upstairs space and whether it was productions like this that caused the death of theatre pubs across London.

It isn't necessary to know the name of the production as it has finished, but a friend of a friend of friend was in the production. So at the end of the show the inevitible discussion and dilemma about what to say we thought of the show ensued. In the end we all settled for lying through our teeth and saying what a challenging and thought-provoking show it was. Well, actors can be so sensitive, and usually (as in this case) the director was primarily responsible for this shambles...

It was funny as a week earlier after seeing a production of Turandot at the Royal Opera the audience let it be known what they thought of the leads by reserving the largest applause for a supporting part of Liu the slave girl. Alas that was easier as with such a larger audience it was easier to be anonymous. So here's to those euphamisms for crap shows - interesting, challenging, and thought provoking. I intend to use them throughout the year for shows that aren't quite as memorable as August: Osage Country...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Scenes from a gay man's bookshelf

The host of a party in south London had some interesting reading on his shelf... Well some guys like to mix things up...

Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Scenes from the Hayward

At the Andy Warhol exhibition... It looked good at least even if the content was a bit suspect...

Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Trends in London: The hot water bottle



So far this year has been all about hot water bottles. As temperatures plummet, if you don't have a furry friend in your bed, then the next best and hottest thing to have is a faux fur hot water bottle. John Lewis has them. Or you could skip the faux and get the real thing (hot water bottle-wise)... Oh grrr...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Theatre: August: Osage County



On the afternoon of new years eve I found myself at the National Theatre watching this production alone. It is a good idea not to invite people who have to cook dinner for six to a matinee that lasts for three hours. This play has been a sell out however so I didn't have trouble getting rid of the spare ticket. However I was worried about how much of an effort it would be to sit through this production. It turned out that this breathless production is so fast-paced, so gripping and thrilling that the time whizzed by. This production, from the Steppenwolf Company in Chicago won the Tony this year for best play (among others) and it is easy to see why.

The premise in this dark, dark comedy is that the Weston family is reunited in the family home in Oklahoma after their father disappears. This sets the scene for a series of disturbing revelations. The play has been marketed here as a view into a dysfunctional American family. The humour in Tracy Letts script however, is less derived from the over-the-top plot developments, than in the banal and ordinary aspects of family life. The laughter was knowing laughter from an audience that didn't see it as dysfunctional but realistic. It is "Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" for all the family... Some of the terriffic dialogues includes lines like:

Violet (the mother): Some things, though, like the silver, that's worth a pretty penny. But if you like I'll sell it to you, cheaper'n I might get in an auction.
Barbara (daughter): Or you might never get around to the auction and then we can just have it for free after you die.

In fact there is so much crackling dialogue in this play and everyone's got so much to say that it overlaps and interweaves at times. It reminded me of what my dad would say about how in our family the first person to come up for air was declared the listener...

In the programme notes, it is clear this play is intended to be the last word on the real America family first mentality that pervaded conservative politics in the US over the last eight years. It certainly is unrelenting in its attacks on the banalities that families get worked up about, but if you are paying enough attention there is also a warm heart to this play and hope. Which surely is thoroughly American. The run at the National Theatre is only short, but this play will be around for long time. It is certainly one of the best new plays of recent times that I have seen and there no doubt will be future productions. A film production is also in the works... See it with the family in mind...

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Scenes from London: the view from new year...

This is what happens when New Year's Eve celebrations get popular. Who would have thought the punters would brave the freezing weather for ten minutes of spectacular fireworks (they did look rather good).

This new years I also learned
Combine the above with the Australian tradition for a foine woine or beer and you're set for a great night out I think...

Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous