Sunday, February 28, 2010

Theatre: Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill

I finally managed to catch Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill: A Life in Three Acts at the Soho Theatre on Friday night before it finished its run this weekend. It is part reading, part conversation, part cheap laughs, part oral history of the gay liberation movement in London and (on Friday night at least), part watching members of the audience get up and go to the toilet and watching Ravenhill give his death stare at them when the returned. Maybe it was the wind chill and happy hour at the bar that kept sending so many people out of the theatre... None of them were particularly light on their feet either.

Still, this is a great night out and here's hoping this isn't the last time this is seen. Bourne who is now 70 and living in a housing estate in Notting Hill has loads of stories to tell. Over his years he performed at the Old Vic, set up a squat with drag queens and appeared on the BBC. He also found particular fame in the gay community with his cabaret troupe, Bloolips. The adventures from his early years are enough to make you wonder whether the bad old days of oppression, blackmail, running from police on horseback on Hampstead Heath and the like were really all that bad.

He also recounts his first performance as a youngster singing "Don't go under the apple tree" in Hackney and his singing and dancing is a highlight. So was his story about how people in Notting Hill react to him today, where on the street markets he is a bit of colour and the traders speak to him as if he is a mate. Away from the theatre of the street however he is ignored. And who said that it's only show business that is superficial...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Music: Oklahomo



It's hard not to like a show that is under ninety minutes but Far From Kansas from the London Gay Men's Chorus was doing another encore performance of last year's Edinburgh Fringe Fest show, Oklahomo. Fine singing and gingham shirts abounded... Sometimes even in the audience. They take the show shortly to Dublin...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Theatre: Ghosts



The last play I saw in the Duchess Theatre was about cottaging with Sir John Gielgud, and now I was there watching a play about syphilis. It is enough to make you wonder about what you might pick up from going out to the theatre. Fortunately this time around at the Duchess Theatre the play was Ibsen's Ghosts. Ghosts tells the story of a woman whose husband was a bit of a dirty man and died early, and how she has to deal with her son going the same way thanks to congenital syphilis. Meanwhile to put all this behind her she has decided to open an orphanage on her property.

That all seems fairly straight forward but I couldn't help but think that this once-scandalous play seemed a bit of a mild affair. The characters seemed as irritated with the weather as the sexual depravity so it was a bit hard to put it all in perspective.

Still it is entertaining enough an evening to watch Lesley Sharp and Iain Glen spar about virtuous and noble lives. And the simple set is lovely to look at. Just don't suggest to go see if with friends who you know are filthy bastards... They might see it as all too depressing. It runs until mid May.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scenes from Bank Tube Station Stairwell


IMG_1506, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

I think it was chicken, not human...

Scenes from a bar wall in Covent Garden


IMG_1505, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Now there's a date for the diary...

Seven observations on Megan Mullally's First Night in London

  1. Not counting the West End Whingers and friends, the audience for Megan Mullally and Supreme Music Program appears to be a mix of gay men and their mothers. And lesbians. Some lesbians even brought banners to unfurl during an opportune moment. Here's hoping this is a new trend in the West End for lesbians with banners amongst the audience, particularly if they help performers feel less nervous...
  2. When she sings George Jone's The Grand Tour, a song about a man who finds his wife has left him and taken their child, it brought the house down. She sings the song from the point of view of the man, as originally written which went down well with the audience... It's not really lesbian music, but it could be.
  3. The band sounds great and the choice of music is refreshing with a mix that isn't old standards or songs from shows she has been in...
  4. The show promotes her Will and Grace fame to get the punters through the door, and then delivers an evening of great and lacklustre performances of songs of death and despair. So it was understandable that some in the audience felt cheated. The voice is always there though even if Megan isn't...
  5. Given nowadays you're lucky to have performers on stage sober and singing in tune (last night's Brit Awards spring to mind), I had lower expectations than to think we would be getting music with a performance, a nice outfit, flattering lighting or coherent explanations about the origins of the music.
  6. Could somebody please can listen to her anecdotes and then write them down in a script that she can learn?
  7. I must learn how to pronounce her name at some point... particularly if trying to make Audioboos while holding a gin and tonic...

Movies: A Single Man



Some movies just linger in the mind a few days after seeing them. The none-too-subtle use of colour, period setting and innuendo in Tom Ford's A Single Man is one of these. Watching a movie set in 1962 in a the Chelsea Cinema, which has kept its retro 1973 interiors largely intact, also aided with the atmosphere. It's as if you could be part of the film, living in Colin Firth's lovely glass house thinking about topping yourself. Well who knew that suicide could be so stylish and sophisticated? It was hard to believe anybody in this film could be suffering in any way given they wore such lovely Tom Ford clothes and had such tight skin pores, but if you suspend disbelief about the story and go along for the lesson in style, it is a trip worth taking. Have made a mental note I need a facial though...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Theatre: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof



This week I finally caught up with Cat On A Hot Tin Roof that has been playing for a while. Directed by Debbie Allen, the all-black cast in Tenessee William's play about Brick, a man who is sexually ambivalent about his wife Maggie, while visiting his family estate in Mississippi. Given that Brick is played by Adrian Lester and the show opens with him taking a shower you could appreciate why she is a little frustrated by this scenario. The audience the night I saw it became a little frisky after this opening scene as well...

It's not my favourite Tenessee William's play and there is way too much exposition and labouring on about Maggie being like a cat... On a tin roof... That was hot... It was hard to buy Lester as an alcoholic either mourning over the loss of his dead friend or on the down-low. More convincing was that he was pissed off rather than pissed with his moody looks and occasional throwing of his crutch...

Still it was an entertaining production, particularly with the sharp second act where Brick and Big Daddy (James Earl Jones) trade barbs and confront the truth. In the end though, particularly with an overlong third act it was hard to work out what the central message is. Maybe it is large tracts of land can conceal anything... It runs until April...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Opera and Theatre: The Rake's Progress and Dalston Songs



This week saw two trips to the Royal Opera to catch the final performances of The Rake's Progress, an opera by Stravinsky and directed by Robert Lepage and Dalston Songs, a song cycle written by Helen Chadwick.

Stravinsky's Rake is inspired by the paintings by Hogarth, although the action here takes place on the west coast of America during the 1950s. It is a pity that it didn't take its modernisation a bit closer to the present day as then the tale of green might have had a bit more bite... As an opera it does tend to drag a bit (all that neoclassical window dressing), but what it lacks in focus and brevity it sure made up with the performances and the stunning production design. The moral of the story summed up very nicely in the epilogue was that the devil makes work for idle hands... Obviously for idle operas it doesn't matter so much when they look this good...

Saturday night's performance of Dalston Songs was a different affair. There were no fancy set pieces or flashy projections. Instead the set looked like either a community hall or a internet / phone cafe. I was glad I was sitting close to the action as from the upper levels of the Linbury Theatre it looked like it was half built. Eight performers in everyday dress sang a cappella and danced about the life and musings about home from the people who live in Dalston, a north east part of London. The songs were interrupted with recordings of people from Dalston talking about their life. The recordings seemed unnecessary as the music and the performances had a life of their own. It will be interesting to see where this show goes next as it deserves further outings...

Scenes from cheap eats in London...


Extra sauce, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Asking for extra katsu curry sauce almost makes you forget that the chicken at Wagamama is dry and overcooked...

Sunday Afternoon coffee and sfogliatella

Coffee and sfogliatella from Princi...

Posted via web from paulinlondon's posterous

Scenes from the streets of London...

It is a bit hard to work out why they have this sign outside of the Aberdeen Angus Steak House in Soho. Perhaps they now are selling tube steak. Then again, nothing like a bit of saucy humour to take your mind off what they pass for the menu...

Thursday, February 04, 2010