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Showing posts from 2010

Opera: Tannhäuser

The hours seemed to fly by watching the Royal Opera's new production of Tannhäuser on Monday evening. The opera about man's dilemma between passion and purity is told on a grand scale with an enormous cast and all are in very fine voice. Johan Botha in the title role is the man unhappy with the excess of Venusburg and unsatisfied with harsh earthly realities. There is no pleasing some people I suppose, but he manages to give this story credibility and power throughout the four hours of the performance.

The production itself is minimal with the orgiastic excess of Venus's grotto Venusburg limited to the Royal Opera's velvet curtain and a rather large dining table. When a sensual and athletic ballet emerges from what started to look like a gala dinner at the opera you couldn't help but wonder if all opera fundraisers are that fun. If there was only one disappointment here it was thinking that Venus (the lovely Michaela Shuster) should not be in a dinner dress as it j…

Movies: Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti)

A rare trip to the cinema this week during the snow was also a chance to catch Ferzan Ozpetek's latest film Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti). It is a family comedy drama with a gay twist. It was well worth the trip out in the snow to see a film that was well acted and nicely shot.

But along with The Kids Are All Right, it is probably one of the few films playing at the moment that is worth venturing out in the snow to see (unless you have diabetes perhaps). It's playing at the moment at some sensible London cinemas.

Another look: Love Never Dies

It is nice to get out the week before Christmas and see a show. Particularly as an attempt to see La Boheme at the Cock Theatre Saturday was thwarted by too much snow. So as a break from the usual Christmas festivities, I took Gio and Bill to see a refreshed version of Love Never Dies at the Adelphi Theatre. As we left the theatre by one of the fire exits, we brushed past a man who resembled Andrew Lloyd Webber racing the other way. It most likely was ALW and Gio and Bill wanted to stop and chat / stare / gawk or do whatever fans do. I pushed on as there was nothing to see only the composer...

When I last caught Love Never Dies I was a little bit disappointed by the plot, the gloomy characters and the unintentional hilarity of it all. Nine months have passed and in what must be some sort of theatrical gestation, the production has been reworked and it is a substantial improvement. The story is clearer, the characters make more sense and things generally flow a bit better. There are e…

Theatre: On The Twentieth Century

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Tuesday night was an opportunity to catch the first preview of On The Twentieth Century at the Union Theatre. Cy Coleman's 1978 musical is set in the 1920s (or it could be the 1930s) where producer Oscar Jaffee is trying to score a hit again with his former leading lady, who has gone on to bigger success in the movies.

I had not previously seen this show, but over a pre-theatre fish and chips (or as they tend to call it in south London, fush and chups) at Masters Super Fish, Johnnyfox was waxing lyrical about how wonderfully rich and inventive the overture to the show was. So I felt his disappointment when the overture was arranged by musical director Oliver Jackson for a saxophone quartet and piano. It was still wonderful but not quite so rich. Actually throughout the show Johnnyfox was mostly singing along so I could sense it was going to be one of those evenings where I would be experiencing quite a lot of audience participation...

Anyway, this was the first preview and no do…

Overheard on the bus Monday evening

Man: There are elements of the play that just allow for those sorts of pathos...
Woman: Yes I would have to agree there
Man: Of course for other people it would be like oh yeah I would just rather watch Eastenders

Music: Andreas Scholl and Philippe Jaroussky

Purcell - Philippe Jaroussky,
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An evening with two countertenors might be one thing, but when they are Philippe Jaroussky and Andreas Scholl it makes for quite a night (albeit an androgynous one) at the Barbican. The countertenor is the twentieth century response to the castrati performers of past. But the arrival of some very talented (and rather good looking) men such as Scholl and Jaroussky has put this singing onto a whole other level.

I'm assuming the above video from a previous performance was posted on the internet by one of Jaroussky's groupies, who travel the world to see him perform (and reportedly go weak at the knees and post loads of clips on Youtube). The fan base is probably too sophisticated to throw knickers on stage at the end of the concert, but at Tuesday night's sold out performance there were plenty of fans of both men there, and they showed their appreciation instead through rapturous applau…

Opera: Adriana Lecouvreur

I finally managed to see la Gheorghiu perform in an opera. It was at Saturday's Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera. David McVicar's new production has received rave reviews, but seeing it for yourself is another matter. There was such anticipation ahead of Gheorghiu's first appearance, and she did not disappoint. And neither did anyone else in this production. In what at first appears to be a convoluted story, it boils down to a simple love triangle. Besides when Jonas Kaufmann and Gheorghiu are singing together, you are less concerned about the plot anyway. Filling out the triangle was Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina who added to the fireworks.

Star power aside, this opera manages has a series of substantial supporting roles that draws out some excellent performances. It was hard to believe such a good cast and an elegant production could make such high melodrama feel so glamourous. The show has sold out this run (including with the alternate cast), however as it…

Semi-naked scenes from Kings Road Chelsea Saturday

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The weather outside was delightful, but perhaps going in budgie smugglers (tight speedos for those not versed in Australian) to do Christmas shopping was a step too far...

See and download the full gallery on posterous Posted via email from paulinlondon's posterous

Theatre: Grand Guignol

On a chilly Tuesday night, I caught a few thrills and chills with Johnnyfox at Theatre of the Damned's Grand Guignol, which is playing at the Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms on Camden High Street. The Grand Guignol was a playhouse in Paris that for 65 years presented a series of grisly melodramas and cruel plays. It sounded like a smashing place but nowadays it is a term that is more generally used to refer to any sort of horror play. Cheap thrills aren't always easy to find at the theatre nowadays. The Southwark Playhouse does a good job with its Terror season, but it is nice to see there is also a production company dedicated to scaring the pants off audiences.

Presented here are three very fine plays that will alternatively make you jump or make you queasy. Given that, it is probably a good idea to go to the bathroom before it starts as if you wet yourself during the performance, there is no intermission.

The first play, Crime in a Madhouse, a young woman in an ins…

When I'm not Paul in London... I'm Jack with a baby with a wonky penis...

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Australian Couple for their Baby’s Hypospadias Surgery at Hospital of Mumbai in India

Hi I am Jack from Australia. I had my baby’s hypospadias surgery at hospital of Mumbai in India. Our child is a newborn baby. My wife is my other baby but that's another story. Doctors revealed that our son has symptoms of abnormal appearance of foreskin and penis on exam; abnormal direction of urine stream, the end of the penis was curved downward. All this indicated to (play dramatic music)...  hypospadias. Doctors suggested that we must go ahead for hypospadias surgery for our baby as soon as possible. I came in contact with Insert name of dodgy health tourism practice and Dr. Bojwani from Internet. I decided not to worry about my private health or the NHS and some quack online... I cannot praise them.  Enough. I contacted them and confirmed the appointment for my baby’s hypospadias surgery at hospital of Mumbai in India. The hospital staff was very friendly and efficient. The hospita…

Plugs: Make Your Own Kind of Christmas

In the lead up to the London Gay Men's Chorus Christmas Concert, the men have put together a series of clips to highlight the preparations... I think I can be spotted at the back row... I recognise that sweater from anywhere... The concert is on 10 and 11 December at Cadogan Hall and can be booked via the website. Discounts available through Whatsonstage and Gaydar as well...

Theatre: FELA!

Arriving early at the National Theatre to catch a preview of FELA! on Wednesday evening was a good idea. The band was already playing and they sounded so cool. It was such a contrast to the hillbilly rock-a-billy music playing in the theatre foyer, which was being enjoyed by a group of pensioners and a smattering of eccentric dancers who looked as if they were on day release. Who knew that one building could cater to so many tastes? The Olivier Theatre just felt like the place to be. That is no mean feat given the size of the place. Art, graffiti, lights are everywhere and there was the band with its cool beats and sounds...

When FELA! finally gets started, it tells the story of Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti's last night at his Shrine club in the late seventies. Part concert, part dance, part rambling dialogue, and part musical, what is brilliant about this show is its ability to give context to the man and his music. The show weaves in the events that shaped…

Life in London: One New Change

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Plugs: Meat

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The shows in London are always full of awfully talented people. Here is one in which I haven't seen but just love the poster. I suddenly have this urge for rib eye (or it could be really thick rump I suppose), even if I'm not so sure about the hand model...

The play is apparently based on a Tennessee Williams short story and it is dark obsessive tale set in an abattoir office.

It's at The Albany in Deptford next week and the Giant Olive Theatre at the Lion and the Unicorn in Kentish Town the week after. Vegetarians may wish to steer clear...

Theatre: Bright Lights Big City

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Sunday afternoon was a chance to venture to Hoxton Hall to see the musical Bright Lights, Big City. For the second day running, this was another great cast in a a great production. The music (which I had not previously heard) wasn't that bad either.

Musicals usually have a set format but this is not your traditional quirky heterosexual musical, but a hard core, full-on journey through one man's drug-fuelled sordid week in the eighties. Naturally big hair and big glasses abound, but with the everything eighties seemingly fashionable again it all seemed a natural fit in the surrounds of Hoxton and the East End. It was like spending a cool afternoon in your living room with a concept album that came to life. The cast were all great, particularly Paul Ayres as the lead, Jamie, and Jodie Jacobs as Vicky.

Watching it with Johnnyfox, he was less sure about to make of it. He was off that night to see the concert version of Company so I thought it might be helpful to make a comparison …

Theatre: Tomorrow Morning

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Tomorrow Morning has been playing at the Landor Theatre in Clapham North for the past month and is a great little show. It is a four-hander musical about a young couple (well sort of young since Jon Lee is one half of it) getting married, and an older couple getting divorced. I don't want to say the second couple is old as it appears the couple getting divorced are no older than me and have fabulous jobs and tight fitting suits. Despite the divorce and the child custody issues you still get a sense they are living the dream though slim cut tailoring...

The show was first presented a few years ago and has gone through some revisions since then. Here it is presented as a very slick engaging production with an incredible cast. Heading it up with Jon Lee is the lovely Julie Atherton along with Grant Neal and Yvette Robinson. The performances make this show very memorable and the production is one of the best looking I have seen at the Landor. The set comprises of a series of sofas and…

Life in London: Speed flat-dating

The BBC has caught on to the trend of Speed flat-dating (or speed flat-mating... Actually either sound a bit suspecting). Here's hoping that stories like this will reduce the need to explain to partners you don't live with what you're getting up to...

Trying it over the summer when looking for a place I found it was great. It's less pressure than a real date as everyone has name tags which indicate what area they are looking for and what they are offering / prepared to pay so everyone knows where people stand and you don't have to trundle down confusing streets at night to meet new prospective flat mates. Of course you still might need to do that, but there is something reassuring about a familiar face at the end of dark road.

All that is left is to your partner for instance that you are going out for a speed-dating-like experience to find a flat share... It's not a good idea to say your going out drinking if you don't usually do that. But
I met a really n…

Theatre: Onassis

After catching Onassis the Play at the Novello theatre on the weekend, I found I rather enjoyed the smooth and dirty talking central character.

On one hand it is a silly play that goes on a bit. On the other hand it is entertaining with some great dialogue and an engaging performance by Robert Lindsay in the title role. And there is also Tom Austen, playing the surly son Alexandro, stripping down to his underwear for a nighttime swim. It all makes for a great night out.

Whether it is a realistic depiction is probably up for debate. The women in his life - Callas and Jackie O - are more caricatures than real people here. And when things start to get interesting dramatically it is another excuse for some Greek singing. Historical moments fly by as the play moves from being set on his boat to his island. It all seems very glamourous. 
There are some great monologues in the play, including one where Onassis talks about how his experience being sodomised as a young man made him better unde…

Overheard outside the pub Saturday

Woman (to security): Ooh you have such a big head... And that hat makes you look like a baker...

Overheard at Café Nero Saturday

Woman 1: Aaah know you know her!
Woman 2: Well I do and she's like you and me...
Woman 1: She is?
Woman 2: Yes she's a little bit german a little bit Flemish a little bit Scandinavian
Woman 1: And her husband?
Woman 2: Well she's divorced you know...
Woman 1: Aw such a shame...

Theatre: Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol

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I was really in the mood for watching Theatre of Horror at the Southwark Playhouse Thursday evening. Maybe it was the skin biopsy I had a lunchtime that put me in the mood. There I was, watching chunks of flesh being taken out of me and put into little jars, blood dripping down my leg and feeling the stitches forcing it all back together. At one point the doctor said, "Oh you turned your head at just the right time," as I watched a little slice of me going in a jar. The shows were tame compared to all that, but still in the same vein.

The first piece, "The Exclusion Zone" started off incredibly disturbing about a young couple wanting to have some fun in the woods. It was a nice ride until the end song, which was inaudible and hard to understand the connection to the previous twenty minutes.

The second piece "The Unimaginable" was a slightly creepy monologue about people who swipe your children. After mentioning parents who go out to the theatre and leave …

Life in London: Burglary

Crime in London may be on the decline, but occasionally it does come and remind you its still there.  Over the past weekend someone got into my flat via a suspected unsecured bathroom window and helped themselves to a five year old iPod. I wonder if they will enjoy the over-representation of musical theatre and funky house tracks on it, but who knows. There is also the slight sense of humiliation you feel when burglars have determined the only thing you have worth stealing is a five year old iPod, but that's probably something I can discuss when the victims of crime unit gets in touch.

I always believed that you would know when you were burgled as you would come home and see clothes thrown around, drawers left open, things upended. That is also a bit like what my flatmate's room looks like on a good day but I digress. But returning home on Monday evening I at first did not see anything out of the unusual. Except for the toiletries bag with my electric shaver open on the bed. A…

Music: Caroline O'Connor

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Continuing a season of performers in their prime that have seen Wonder Woman and others grace the West End, it could also be known as "Old broads at the Garrick", I caught the second night of Caroline O'Connor with Johnnyfox and others. Caroline O'Connor, while being world famous in Australia, has also been in a number of West End productions, including the ENO's production of On the Town and Bombshells. This time around it is her on stage with a terrific band and some real nice young dancers. Its a bit cabaret and a bit performance and all brass class.

I realised it has now been ten years since I first saw Caroline O'Connor and she doesn't seem to have changed much at all... She still looks and moves pretty well and still sounds good (if you overlook those occasionally suspect high notes), and is full of such energy and life you can't help but enjoy watching her perform.

In the first half of her show she talked about life growing up in Australia and …

Opera: Niobe, Regina di Tebe

A three hour baroque opera on a Saturday night is probably not going to be everyone's cup of tea. I am not a fan of the baroque period of music with all those intricate melodies that go on and on and on... And then repeat... So bearing in mind these narrow-minded preconceived notions, it is somewhat surprising to find how enjoyable it is to sit through Niobe, Regina di Tebe.

There is some fine singing by Véronique Gens in the title role and male soprano Jacek Laszczkowski as the King of Thebes. And it is quite a surprise to hear him sing too. I also enjoyed the slightly comic / malevolent performance by Alastair Miles, who wore a most intriguing costume and gave the production relief and drama. Actually there was enough drama and intrigue in the opera to keep anyone alert and attentive. In the orchestra pit was the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble and they sounded great and even by Royal Opera's usual standards of production design (although Don Pasquale might be an exception) this…

First Impressions: Caroline O'Connor

Scenes from a long bus ride

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I suddenly had the urge to eat a huge roast chicken. Can't quite work out what came over me...

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Opera: Don Pasquale

Donizetti's Don Pasquale at the Royal Opera was a nice way to spend a Sunday evening. Not good or bad but nice. There was nothing terribly engaging about the performances, and in the first act it was a struggle to hear anything much from the cast. Later we were informed that one of the cast members was having problems but would persevere for us all. But the opera is witty and the story around an old man who marries to spite his nephew moves briskly through its three acts and comes with some laughs.

Particularly exciting was watching conductor Evelino Pidò conduct the opera chorus in the third act, which was a performance in itself. Jonathan Miller's 2001 production still looks fair enough, although its doll's house set design manages to distract one's attention and is possibly the reason for the poor quality sound. On the other hand you do get a better view of the cast than you would normally sitting in the amphitheatre... It runs through September and worth catching.…

Theatre: Passion

Stephen Sondheim's Passion has started previewing at the Donmar as part of the Sondheim at 80 season... This dark story about a young officer drawn towards a sick unhealthy woman is less musical and more melodrama set to a lush romantic score, with a bit of crazy thrown. The musical motifs repeat and repeat to a dizzying point and if you let yourself accept the basic premise of the show you're in for a hell of a ride. I have always liked this show in which the central message seems to be long distance relationships don't work, no matter how well written the letters are. Sondheim's music and lyrics are more natural here and grounded in realism, including told through a series of epistolary songs that repeat and alter. And if it this production is this good on the first night, it can only get better.

The show opens with Scarlett Strallen as Clara and David Thaxton as Giorgio in their underwear doing gymnastic gyrations on an unmade bed. Amongst all this they manage to s…

Scenes from West London

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A little bit of muscle and a big bang...

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Theatre: Death(c)rap

After catching Tuesday's preview of Deathtrap with the West End Whingers and others, I was left slightly ambivalent about it. Sure it was entertaining and mildly amusing, but so is throwing insults at chuggers, and you can do that for free. I had also missed catching the "movie-like" trailer on the internet as well so even the pre-show buzz about this show had passed me by. So when the opportunity arose to see it again on Saturday night, I thought why not. So this post covers both the Tuesday and Saturday preview of the show... It may be a little odd seeing the same show twice in one week but I figured I would simply channel the mindset of Simon Russell Beale'sstalkernumber one fan to get through the show...

Upon arriving at the theatre, you are asked not to give away the story to others and I suspect that is because if people knew it was as creaky as the set then they might have second thoughts. On Tuesday night what made it fun was the audience screaming and the l…

First Impressions: Deathtrap in preview

Shows: Edinburgh Wrap

A midweek trip to Edinburgh with Johnnyfox for the Fringe was brief but productive. Ten shows in three days and not too many were duds. This was a bit of good luck as the awful little secret that nobody dares mention is that... most of the stuff on in Edinburgh is crap. The Fringe Festival seems to be mostly run by students and staged by students so it helps to brace yourself and expect the worst. It was also entirely possible to see more shows in three days but it is important to allow time to savour the fine food of Edinburgh as well and then use your time at the shows trying to digest it... Anyway here are the shows I caught:

Sordid Lives was performed by the Tower Theatre company and had some fine performances. It was well worth putting up with the slow first half, particularly when it came alive with a great drag performance at the end. It finishes Saturday but will be in London next month.


The Improvised Musical performed by No Shoes Theatre. Apart from the fact that half the cast…

Theatre: Into the Woods (and out in the elements)

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Once upon a time, I went to Regents Park Open Air Theatre and sat in the rain to watch HMS Pinafore. There was barely any audience, it was freezing and I got wet.


Five years passed and all had forgotten this incident. And then one Friday evening we got ready to see a preview of Into the Woods. It was raining and it was freezing. However we did not quite get so wet. This time we made use of seat covers and fashioned them into smart little outfits with bonnets. It may have looked like we had just been to the dry cleaners, but "dry cleaner chic" abounded on Friday night. It was awfully sensible but it made it a bit harder to applaud the many fine performances we saw (unless you punched out holes for the arms)...

And so under the weather, we started watching this fantastic show. There probably isn't a better setting than the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre for this show. The dampness and the chill added to the atmosphere and the set just blended into the park's trees. …

Theatre: Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity has been playing on the West End since May, and it is still showing plenty of signs of life. At present the understudies are covering the roles of Charity, Nickie and Helene and are fantastic and serve as a reminder that you don't need to be a name to give a great performance.

The musical itself is an old fashioned musical fluffed up to some extent to make it feel less dated. It's a little bit coarser and dirtier and the drug use is a bit more explicit, but these changes make you feel like you are trapped in a time warp; torn between the sickly saccharine musical and the coarser (and far edgier) Fellini source material. Still this is the show that introduced the world to the numbers "Big Spender", "If my friends could see me now" and "Rhythm of Life" so there is a familiarity to the show for everyone even if you have never seen a musical before.

And while it is by no means a great musical, it does at least provide the actors with a…

Music: Elegies for Angels etc at the Shaw Theatre

I wasn't sure what to expect when rolling up to the Shaw Theatre on Thursday evening this week to see Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raving Queens. While I knew one of the ballads in it, I assumed it would be more than just a series of ballads inter cut with a series of monologues. Alas it was an evening of ballads with monologues, some of which were more successful than others, about dying from AIDS. It is serious stuff and it is probably not everyone's idea of entertainment, especially for those people who have lived (or a living) through the epidemic.

For me, the monologues were more interesting than the music, but neither really linked together in any coherent way. The music was largely forgettable and it wasn't until the closing number did it feel like the show made any sense. By then I wasn't ready to be moved by it, but just glad for lively performances. But it is a fundraiser for the Terrance Higgins Trust and a worthy cause for an evening's reflection and…

Music: Sondheim at the Camden Fringe

The Camden Fringe is on at the moment which is an opportunity to see some strange and interesting new theatre... It also feels like an excuse to just "put on a show" in the Judy and Mickey kind of way... This was somewhat apparent with the Sondheim at 80 review I caught with Johnnyfox on Tuesday evening.

It finished its short run this week and there isn't too much you can complain about a bargain basement show like this. It is great that Camden is using its spaces in August to encourage this sort of thing. I can only assume that the "deer in headlights" looks of the cast members lessened for the later performances, and that they remembered all their lines...

My only other thoughts were that an evening of all Sondheim can be tough going... And that the show Passion should be left out of any anthology as it provides too many unintentional laughs listening to the songs out of context... I'll find out next month if this changes when watched in the correct dram…

Music: Maria Friedman singing Sondheim...

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After taking a break from the cultural life of London during July, last Friday I found myself watching Maria Friedman singing Sondheim. The last time I saw her it was a bit of a mixed bag, and the person next to me fell asleep. This time around she seemed a lot better and nobody was asleep. Maria may not be the best singer around, but her voice is suited well to Sondheim's music, which after listening to for an entire evening, you realise is not necessarily always music... Maria was able to convey the right amount emotion, whether it was humour, anguish or tears and for a Sondheim song that's often more important than hitting the right notes...

The programming choice was a little odd at times. I don't recall ever seeing a recital opening where the singer walks out cloaked in black as if she is channelling Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke. She then proceeds to sing a series of songs from the obsessive compulsive musical Passion, which out of context was a bit of a downer. For…

Opera: Salome

Full frontal nudity, blood and violence never sounded and looked so good as it did in the Royal Opera's production of Salome which I caught last week. Richard Strauss based his one-act opera on Oscar Wilde's play, and gave his leading lady the enormous task of singing Wagnerian-like over a large orchestra, belting all the way. Angela Denoke in the title role could meet that task, although I was a little bewildered why she went from a delightful dinner party down to the cellar to speak to Jokanaan in the first place. Later, as Salome was dancing the dance of the seven veils, running from the dining room to the wash room, it felt more like dance of the seven rooms...

Actually there were so many eccentricities in this production ranging from a cellar / basement that looked like a hospital, it was best not to think about these things too much... I did assume the executioner was naked due to the practicalities of having to wash all that blood off one's clothes. A nice little Fr…

Theatre: Lingua Franca lost in translation

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It always seems to be awfully warm when I head to the Finborough Theatre to see a show. Last year it was the excellent State Fair which is having another run at Trafalgar Studios. It was worth persevering with perspiration for that. This time around it was Peter Nichols's play Lingua Franca which alas, was not. This was a pity as the cast were great and there potentially was something interesting that could have emerged from the constant stream of monologues in search of a story.

When you have a good cast with some great actors featuring I always assumed you could put up with them reading a phonebook. In this case, maybe the White Pages would have been better. The story is set in a language school in Florence in the 1950s, which is the backdrop for a series of mildly interesting stock characters. There are no real surprises in the story, except when two of the characters embraced in some frottage-like behaviour in the first act. By the time the play reaches its climax involving a …

Hot news this week in London

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Ping pong tables are popping up around London this week and are free to play... Providing you return the bats and balls...

It's one of the initiatives to get people playing more sport (possibly by blocking the walkway so you have no alternative)... Here's hoping we see surprise fencing tournaments start up next... Outdoor darts might be a step too far... It isn't an Olympic sport...



Ping pong on Leather Lane in Farringdon
Originally uploaded by Ping! London