Saturday, December 31, 2005

BEST GIGS OF THE YEAR

(in no particular order)
Marianne Faithfull (Shepherds Bush & Queen Elizabeth Hall) - Beverley Knight (Hammersmith) - Patti Smith 'Horses' (Festival Hall) - "Stand Bravely Brothers" (Festival Hall, represented here by The Dresden Dolls) - "Songs Of Innocence" (Festival Hall) - Michelle Shocked (Islington) - Buffy Saint-Marie (Canada) - Justin Bond & The Freudian Slippers (Soho Theatre) - Scissor Sisters / Bananarama (Forum)

MY 10 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A who's that of the royal family...

I am proud to say I have watched no television at all this Christmas.

I now realise Madonna might have a point in not letting Rocco or Lourdes watch tv... m'Ma is watching some quite frightening load of cock called WHATEVER LOVE IS on ITV (the clue to it being shite is in the channel) I had hoped we were over the tv-drama-based-on-the-life-of-the-royals after the genius that was DIANA: A TRIBUTE TO THE PEOPLE'S PRINCESS.
 

This scream-out-loud tv movie was knocked off a few hours after Diana herself and is on my Amazon dvd rental list - I must see this forelock-tuggin', poe-faced, laff fest again if only for the scene where Diana meets Mother Theresa - played by an actress about 6 foot tall!!!

Anyways... what's good for the Diana faction is good for the Camilla pack... WLI tells the story of love among the ruling arses when a Chris Barrie lookalike playing Charles falls for the Rubenesque lovely playing Camilla. No horse-faced biddy here oh no. Anyways it all leads up to the Chris Barrie lookalike being introduced to Lord and Lady Spencer's girl Diana, played by an actress who looks like a young Victoria Wood. I sat staring at this though latticed fingers until a scene when the Chris Barrie lookalike lead a new hoity-toity lady friend up to an actress who looked not unlike Charlotte Church. saying "I would like you to meet my sister Anne" - it was then, Constant Reader, that I smashed the television in.

How strange that the Director, Producer and Casting director who were no doubt so keen to do this piece of ermin-lined shite were not familiar with what the actual royals look like.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

MERRY XMAS CONSTANT READER!!! A Wild Duck is no turkey...

 
Yes after all that pushing and shoving in shops and on Oxford Street, the regimental planning that goes into my card lists, the fear of starvation due to Budgens closing for one *whole* day... it's here! And what a quiet day it's been, what with O *and* m' Ma up in Newcastle - not together I hasten to add! As there is squit-all on the tv I have watched a few music dvds: 2 x Ed Sullivan Show complilations of Motown acts, Take That's video anthology and a collection of Barbara Cook's 1960s tv appearances.

Andrew dropped by this morning and gave me my Christmas Day present, the wonderful film DOWNFALL starring Bruno Ganz as Hitler. I'll have the paper hat on watching Mrs. Goebbels poison the kids soon...

Have I seen my last theatre of 2005? I went on Friday night to the Donmar Warehouse to see Ibsen's THE WILD DUCK in an excellent production directed by Michael Grandage.

A wonderfully ironic production to be on at this seaon of good will, this devastating play shows how sometimes ignorance really *is* bliss. Gregors Werle, the son of a wealthy businessman returns home after 15 years to discover that his father allowed Ekdal, his business partner, to carry the can for a wrong business move resulting in him falling on hard times. 


Ekdal's son, Hjalmar was his best friend at University and Gregors discovers too that his own father privately financed his friend to become the town portrait photographer and also engineered Hjalmar's marriage to a former servant who left his house when his wife accused them of having an affair. 

Gregors is furious and determines that Hjalmar must be told that his whole life is built on the money of the man who ruined his father. He talks his way into being Hjalmar's lodger and starts on his campaign of Truth.... with devastating results.

Ben Daniels is horrifyingly good as Gregors - the most hissable villain on stage this Christmas - a man who knowingly destroys his friend's life because some absurd notion of The Right Truth. In a world endanged by the terrorist and the neo-con this is a very timely play. 


Paul Hilton and Michele Fairley give fine performances as Hjalmar and Gina whose life is turned upside down due to an outsider's social experiment and Sinead Matthews is heart-breaking as their daughter Hedwig. Excellent support from Nicholas le Prevost as the neighbour doctor who sees through Gregors actions, William Gaunt and Peter Eyre as the two fathers and Susan Brown as Gregors' soon-to-be stepmother.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sublime SUNDAY....

On Saturday O and I went to see Stephen Sondheim's SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE at the small Menier Chocolate Factory fringe theatre in Southwark. This most personal of his musicals - dealing with the sacrifices an artist must make to pursue his vision - is a tricky one to pull off. It's hard to engage with the characters of Georges Seurat in the first act and his great-grandson also named George in the second while at the same time the score includes some of the loveliest music Sondheim has written. I remember being disappointed with the 1990 National Theatre's production possibly because I was so familiar with the Broadway recording with the powerhouse performances of Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. However this production by Sam Buntrock is an utter triumph again proving that the smaller you can do a Sondheim musical the more resonant the piece will be (mind you this isn't always the case, I disliked the cast-playing-instruments SWEENEY TODD earlier this year).

Daniel Evans, who seems to be getting better as he gets older, plays the two Georges very well while Anna Jane Casey is fine as Dot although her singing could do with a bit more heft. There is excellent support namely from Jan Soper as Seurat's mother, Simon Green as Jules, Seurat's more successful artist colleague and Liza Sadovy as Yvonne his wife and secret admirer of Georges. One of my favourite scenes is a small one between Yvonne and Dot in George's studio which is played very well by the two actresses. 


However what makes this production a winner is the excellent design team of David Farley's set and Timothy Bird's digital projection which floods the stage with colour and fluid movement. Used with economy and wit the digital animations are a total delight with nice telling touches such as the actor's one by one leaving the second act tableau of Seurat's "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" as their characters digitally appear in the painting on the museum wall behind them.

I can never deceide which is my favourite Sondheim show - usually it's the one I have just come out of - but SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE lays claim to the one that effects me emotionally. The three songs that end the first act floor me: Dot's WE DO NOT BELONG TOGETHER usually starts me off, Georges and his mother's BEAUTIFUL keeps me sniffing on a low-light and then... the tears just flow during the song SUNDAY. 


One of the most beautiful melodies ever, it's sung softly by the characters in the Seurat's painting as he arranges them into the final tableau that will freeze into "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte". It gets me every time... I'm not talking "tear tricking down face" I'm talking shuddering sobs. I cannot explain it.. it just reduces me to an emotional blub at the end of each act.

I loved this production.

Monday, December 12, 2005

3 unhappy experiences...

What a week - last Tuesday while running for the train I tripped on the last step up onto the platform, did a staggering 2 step run then went down bang. 5 days later my knees are still plastered up. And stinging. That's the last I run for a damn train to work.

Thursday saw Owen and I at the National Theatre to see the 30s comedy ONCE IN A LIFETIME which stars David Suchet, Victoria Hamilton and Adrian Scarborough.

I must admit to being disappointed in the production. It's a perfectly fine play for the Lyttleton Theatre which has been given the full Olivier Theatre treatment and it rattles about the stage like a pea in a pod. It also mirrors one of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's criticisms of Hollywood - the original play is given the full Big Production overhaul with unnecessary big sets and interpolated song and dance numbers which only hold up the gags. 

The play still delivers some fine jabs at the insanity of the Dream Factory but there is some dodgy pacing which needs to be tightened up before the opening night. The set hopefully will be tightened up too. After the second scene the stage manager walked onto the stage and asked if we could all go into the foyer while they fixed the revolving drum which had got stuck! Ten minutes later we trooped back to our seats and the play resumed. Needless to say the massive staircase which rose out of the stage got the biggest hand of the evening!

Then on Friday showing the Devil works in threes... Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel at Shepherds Bush Empire. The win triple of indifferent act, vile crowd and bad venue. It was Owen I felt sorry for... 30 years to see a favoured artist only to be greeted with negligible sound, boozed-up punters and a charisma by-pass act. The one song I was looking forward to hearing COME UP AND SEE ME (MAKE ME SMILE) was of course lengthened further than necessary for the hand clapped call and response version.... yawn.

Roll on this week!