Sunday, October 28, 2007

Last night I had an appointment with fear.... seeing Sandra Bernhard at the Shaw Theatre!

It's a long time since I have visited either, I last saw Sandra in 1991 when she was touring her album EXCUSES FOR BAD BEHAVIOUR and probably in the same year I endured DICK WHITTINGTON at the Shaw which starred one of the actors represented by the agency I worked for. So both were definately due a re-visit. The Shaw has the air of an occasionally used theatre... hardly any atmosphere at all but luckily Sandra brings her own energy system with her.

She appeared at the back of the auditorium like a refugee from a 1960s cocktail party, hair up and wearing a black mini-dress 'formal' with tiny fringes and short dark gauze sleeves, dark tights and Blahnik high-heels. Elegance to the 9s for the 1/9s. She started singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from DREAMGIRLS and I knew I was going to love it! She singled out a guy in the audience as a runaway lover - thank God she didn't come down our aisle! - and then it was full steam ahead with her views on life, culture, children, world politics, celebrity, the internet and the crazy times in which we live.

It's always difficult to explain a Bernhard show. It's not stand-up, it's not a gig, it's not An Audience With..., if anything it's an address. It's also difficult to recall exactly why I was peeing myself laughing so often... she doesn't tell jokes, her observations are not punch-lines, it's the way things are said and the way she says them. However there is nothing better than Sandra getting into a rant... so worked up that the words just won't come up and she's left flailing verklempt with bile! It's also fun when she suddenly starts laughing to herself mid-rant, surprising herself with her invective.

Some guy shouted out a question just as she started which set her off! "I am NOT interfacing right now... I don't need to hear your contribution" and off she went, pointing at the stage "This is it, this is my Blog... I don't MyFace... I don't webcam... I don't sit down and give you a crabby, shitty, cracked morning face moaning about something that's in my life... this is it, I give you zuzh, I give you bijoux, I give you maquillage, I give you hair, I give you..." *flails around not finding the word* Hysterical! My favourite observation of the evening: her girlfriend comes from a WASP St. Louis family who was told at the age of 5 "We now put the emotion to one side dear".

The monologues usually culminate in song - musical full-stops as t'were. I really like her voice - an untrained belt that sure packs a punch. My favourite of the evening I have now found out was Randy Newman's "Baltimore" which had been recorded by Nina Simone who the previous monologue had been about as the epitome of a proud but angry black woman. Once asked by a reporter how she could play the piano so well she retorted "I trained at Julliard motherfucker!" An obvious inspiration for Sandra. She vanished at the end to reappear dressed in a NY cop shirt and cap to raunch her way through WHOLE LOTTA LOVE and, of course, LITTLE RED CORVETTE.

The evening had however started off on a bizarre note that really set me off thinking. We trooped in at 8pm to be told that first we would be sung to by one Chris Jacks who later turned out to be the guitarist in Sandra's band of 4 musicians. He then droned through 4 songs - typical singer-songwriter fare with ennui topping. All sung to either the neck of the guitar or to the microphone clasp, we might as well not have been there.

Now the audience was primarily made up of yappy gayers of all sexs and meedja types - definately not the audience for this act. So after a few minutes the burble of conversation started. About midway through the third song the following was heard behind us:
  • Woman: Shut the fuck up will you?
  • Man: Mumble mumble mumble...
  • Woman: No you fuck off. Prick!
Cue mass tittering and tutting in the audience while fella me lad doesn't look up and keeps singing. He finished and got a sympathetic cheer from the audience for getting through it. Then he started singing again... again as if we weren't there.

Now this set me thinking back to when a performance I was seeing of THE DUCHESS OF MALFI at the National Theatre was interrupted by someone making odd noises in the audience which a few minutes later turned out to be a man having a stroke. Ian McKellen didn't move, just stayed in position waiting for the disturbance to end before saying his line while Jonathan Hyde obviously was thrown, looking out into the audience, looking into the wings etc.

So who was in the right? The singer who continues on through the disturbance, chooses not to castigate the audience for talking but continues to sing and play just for himself or is the audience allowed to express annoyance with an unscheduled support act who does not even bother to play to them? Answers on a postcard please....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Last night I went with Owen to see Suzanne Vega for the 2nd time this year, this time at the ultra-sprauncy Cadogan Hall.

Things didn't start well when Owen found that Ticketmaster or the Box Office had buggered the booking and instead of being 3/4 of the way back in the stalls we were in the 2nd from last row.

We then sat through the support act Gary Daly who sang fey love songs but showed more personality in his introductions - and swipe me if he wasn't the lead singer of China Crisis back in the 1980s! They had popped up on my iPod only the day before via a New Romantics-ish compilation I have. Go figure.

Anway Suzanne Vega had her full band with her so I had a great time. The second time we saw her it was just her and Mike her bassist and I must admit I got a bit restive. But since then we have seen her with her band of 4 musicians who fill out her songbook with a solid wall of sound. My blog from the summer covers this show too but again I came away with what an interesting persona she has on stage. Very engaging and insightful but also quite guarded and certainly not given to buttering up her audiences. She came on for the last encore to have a man in the audience shout out could she give the audience the story behind LUKA? "No".

Good for you Suzanne.... Marlene on the wall isn't the only one with a mocking smile! It would be good to see her again. In a different venue tho'.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Well it's 5 days since my last gig so I simply had to see another one!

Last night I press-ganged Owen into going to see New Soul Diva Angie Stone in the third of her four nights at the Jazz Cafe.

I have been a fan since her first solo album BLACK DIAMOND in 1999 but have somehow always managed to miss her live - luckily I think as to see her up close and personal at the JC was a wonderfully soulful experience.

Owen and I were sat on the first level allegedly having dinner before the show but an obvious cock-up in the kitchen resulted in us getting fed 5 minutes before Angie appeared, I got a lovely smile from her as she walked past but maybe it was my Salmon she was looking at?

I was a bit thrown at first as her first two songs, "Baby" and "Sometimes" are my favourites off her new album THE ART OF LOVE & WAR and as I was wolfing down Salmon and a salad I couldn't really give myself over to them. However it wasn't long before the Salmon was left to one side so I could concentrate on some serious swaying and head-nodding. She soon opened up too and showed a warm and funny personality exhorting the audience to copy her vocal backing lines and dance moves.

Surprisingly she only did the two tracks from her new album so we were treated to some deep, organic Soul from BLACK DIAMONDS ("My Story", "Everyday") MAHOGANY SOUL ("Brotha", "Easier Said Than Done" - v happy to sing along with that! - "Pissed Off", "More Than A Woman") and STONE LOVE ("I Wanna Thank Ya", "Lovers Ghetto", "Remy Red", "Touch It"). Halfway through she introduced UK nu-Brit Soul veteran Omar to the stage to duet on William DeVaughn's "Be Thankful" and his composition "Little Boy". It turns out she is a huge fan of his so go know.

She finished off with two audience favourites BLACK DIAMOND's "No More Rain In This Cloud" and MAHOGANY SOUL's "Wish I Didn't Miss You" with it's inspired use of the intro from the O'Jays' "Backstabbers".

The show was all the more remarkable in hindsight after I found out while reading up on her just now that she had heart surgery last year before she went into the studio to record the new album. You would never know it from her energetic and hard work on stage. I would definitely like to see her again.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wow - I never realised that Madonna's video backdrop to GET TOGETHER on the Confessions Tour was an homage to Ann-Margret and Tina Turner in TOMMY. This is faaab!
Nearly 30 years after seeing her for the first time, tonight I saw Siouxsie in her first solo tour.

Owen and I made our way through the odd tunnel-land that is the Astoria 2 to the fairly wide auditorium. We stood through the support act The Violets with Gillian, a friend of Dawn who amazingly remembered me from about 6 years ago when we all saw Tom Tom Club in Camden.

The Violets... u-huh. Siouxsie was having sport methinks. I can't think of any other reason to have a band supporting her with a female singer who sings atonally while doing little bunny skips around the stage while looking glacially into the audience as the band sonically chop away behind her.
Seconds before Madame's entrance our view was obliterated by these fat B.O. smelling, beer-swilling bellowing fuckers who appeared from each side like the Raptors in JURASSIC PARK who then proceeded to do the pogo surge when she launched into ISRAEL - like, it's such an up-tempo number! We put up with being cannoned into by these twunts for the one song then moved back... just as I saw Gillian getting carried off with them. I hope she survived the gig to get back to Deal.

We then did the peripatetic thing, trying to find the spot in the venue for us finally ending up in the relatively empty left side bar of the first level watching through the viewing gallery windows across onto the stage. It was a great view although it was a bit of an odd experience having the sound from the stage piped into that bar but none of the crowd noise!

Siouxsie was excellent - she sounded in great voice and was suitably sniffy with her audience. By my reckoning she sang 7 songs from MANTARAY and they sounded wonderful live. I had wondered how these glitteringly dark and lush songs would transfer to a live setting but they shone: the bouncy ABOUT TO HAPPEN, the cinematic LOVELESS, the sweeping IF IT DOESN'T KILL YOU, the Salsa-fying SEA OF TRANQUILITY, the nervy ONE MILE BELOW, the swaggering HERE COMES THAT DAY and the anthemic INTO A SWAN. The set was filled out with classics such as DEAR PRUDENCE, SPELLBOUND, ARABIAN KNIGHTS and - swoon - HONG KONG GARDEN. Her swansong was indeed SWANSWAY - a slow version of INTO A SWAN which segued into The Doors' HELLO I LOVE YOU.

My only gripe was the lighting - the same as Boy George's Koko gig. All the lights shining into the audience with the occasional side light picking her out. Atmospheric maybe but shite.

Kinda kicking myself now I turned down Owen's offer of going to see her again at the Roundhouse.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Attending the premiere of the incomprehensibly returning RENT - or as Forbidden Broadway would have it RANT - to the West End, Kylie Minogue appears to be resembling Nancy Sinatra these days.

Always nice of see someone being - ahem - homaged other than Madonna.

This is now the third production of Jonathan Larson's RENT to play the West End. I saw the first production - the original is still running on Broadway after 11 years - and to this day I cannot see what the fuss is all about. I saw a show that needed a serious re-write and half the score ditched or amalgamated. Yes there are a few good songs in there but oh my God that book! I defy anyone to be able to work out the individual plot lines in the second act. And for all it's vaunted hard-hitting AIDS storyline... of course it's the gay character that dies while the Mimi character gets to death's door - to remarkably bounce back to life again for a final curtain clinch. Of course the death of Larson on the eve of it's off-Broadway production resulted in the show with all it's faults being frozen.

So despite the last two productions and the film version tanking over here, it's back again. God help us.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Behind youuuuuuuu.....

Poor old Emperor Ming - so much for the caring sharing Liberals eh? They can be vicious when they're roused.

Oooo it gets better. Simon Hughes (booo) has just said on Newsnight that he hadn't spoken to Campbell today. So the party leader has not spoken to the party Manager on the day he resigned?

Oops. Now Mark Oaten has popped up. He looks a bit browned off. As 'twere.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

On Wednesday it was 5 years to the day that I had a lunch with a chap called Owen who I had been chatting with on OUT IN THE UK for a while. 1825 days later and we are still chatting!!

To celebrate we went to see the first production of a new regime at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It will now become a producing theatre with an artistic director who changes every year. This is a brave move bearing in mind the constant reports of the dearth and unpopularity of non-musicals in the West End. Jonathan Kent has been appointed the first artistic director and his choice for the launch production is William Wycherley's sex comedy from 1675 THE COUNTRY WIFE

I had never seen the play before but knew of it's reputation for being one of the more bawdy Restoration comedies - in fact after being performed regularly for 80 years it suddenly fell out of favour and was banned for 171 years! However a sanitised version had been written by David Garrick and this was performed even into the 1900s. While not shocking to audiences anymore it's outrageousness is certainly surprising.

Horner (Toby Stephens) a London libertine starts a rumour that his visit to Paris has left him impotent. A brilliant ruse to get into the drawing-rooms, among other things, of wives with their husbands sympathtically holding the door open for him. Needless to say this sets the tomcat among the plump-breasted pigeons while tying in two other plotlines.

Horner hears that his friend Pinchwife (David Haig) has sneaked his new bride Margery (Fiona Glascott) into his townhouse so his randy friends won't get to see her. However Horner spots them at a theatre and likes what he sees and when Margery learns this she starts champing at the bit to be allowed out. This set's Pinchwife into a jealous rage and goes to outrageous lengths to keep her to himself. Meanwhile Horner's friend Harcourt (John Hopkins) has set his cap at Pinchwife's sister Alithia (Elisabeth Dermot Walsh) despite the fact she is set to marry the borish fop Sparkish (Jo Stone-Fewings).

The production got off to a bad start with a 20 minute delay due to problems with the sound (aka scenery change music) and there was a definate feeling of the audiences goodwill deflating by the minute. The play then started and it seemed to be pitched at too high a level with Toby Stephens playing Horner like Rik Mayall as his 'Flash' character from "Blackadder". Whether this was because the cast were trying too hard to win the audience over I'm not sure but there didn't seem to be much subtlety on stage. On the whole I enjoyed it and laughed a lot but it would be nice to see the cast being allowed to trust the material more - it wouldn't be around for 300 years if it didn't have it's strengths.

David Haig - one of my favourite stage actors - was called on to do his harassed sexually compromised shtick but damn he does it sublimely! His increasing mania was a joy to watch - his frantic running about the stage trying to find where Horner had spirited Margery while in Vauxhall Gardens was topped by him appearing in the stalls trying to find her there. He even turns to the audience at one point and says in desperation "What would you do??" Sadly he was flying solo as Fiona Glascott is totally charmless as Margery, screeching her way through her lines.

The other major asset to the production was Patricia Hodge as Lady Fidget, the prime recipient of Horner's non-poxed affections. As usual her disdainful delivery and excellent comedy timing made her every appearance totally on the money. She triumphed in the scene where she stumbles out of Horner's bedroom to find her husband waiting outside and in a double-entendre heavy conversation describes how wonderful his china collection is. There was good support to from John Hopkins, Elisabeth Dermot Walsh and Jo Stone-Fewings, one of whose lines has given me a new favourite word. 'tis true, I did de-pish myself laughing. The design is quite fun by Paul Brown cleverly mixing 17th Century swagger coats with black jeans for the men and couture evening dresses with swags of materials as skirts for the women.

It will be interesting to see how audiences take to this West End experiment, THE COUNTRY WIFE is set to run for three months and will be followed by another intriguing choice, Edward Bond's THE SEA which is hardly the most obvious Haymarket fare. Bets are well and truly hedged though with a new musical from Boublil and Schoenberg as the final production, a bizarre-sounding update of CAMILLE to WWII Paris. Think I'll miss that.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The first trailer for the film I am most nervous about seeing.... Tim Burton's screen version of Stephen Sondheim's musical SWEENEY TODD. Well they finally admit it's a musical about half way through.
Yesterday I heard news that sadly another address book entry will have to be deleted.

My friend Julia Richards died a few weeks ago from cancer. We had dwindled into being "Christmas card friends" so I had no idea she was ill.

I knew Julia for 21 years. In September 1986 Barbara Cook did a month-long residency at the Albery Theatre in St. Martins Lane which I went to a few times and I kept bumping into Julia at the stage door. We got chatting and discovered a mutual love of theatre and theatre-going.

Julia was a very easy person to get on with, genuinely outgoing and friendly with a quick wit and a mind that luckily dealt in the most outlandish double entenders. She was an usher at the National Theatre and the job suited her to a tee, helpful and friendly to the punters and in her element in the green room bar with the actors and staff.

When I first met her she was living with her parents who she was remarkably close to, she then moved to a small house near the Olympia where many an evening was spent roaring with laughter over the silliest thing.

There was a fiancee in her past who had allegedly died suddenly and I don't believe she ever had a serious relationship after that - she seemed to subsume it into the wild crushes she would develop for actors such as George Hearn, Philip Quast and Jeremy Northam. How ironic that Quast this Christmas will be appearing in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, the very show she used to watch Hearn in. If Julia had a fault it was that this obsessive nature could trip over into friendships as well and could be a bit too full-on.

Julia pursued a career in acting and singing for a while. I saw her in a profit-share production of Ionesco's EXIT THE KING in the basement of the old Lesbian and Gay Centre in Farringdon on a Sunday evening in front of an audience of about 15 which was as ghastly as it sounds.

Julia played Juliette the tart and acerbic maid which was no stretch for her. Luckily any post-show worries about how to greet her were allayed by her walking into the bar saying "Well that was crap wasn't it?"

She asked the Actors' Agent I worked for at the time - who she also knew as a friend - to try and get her some acting work but The Scottish One was never that keen on putting her forward as she was unsure of her abilities which ultimately ruined their friendship and possibly coloured ours too.

So as I said, in the past few years we seemed to dwindle into "Christmas card friends" which is sad to think on now but which is so often is the case.

So with the sound of a dirty laugh.... another part of the cliff falls away.

Sweet dreams Jools

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Civilisation comes to Enfield. And it's at the top of my road. I could cry with happiness.
Wooo tonight was fun.

Owen and I went again to the IndigO2 - what is this love affair I have with North Greenwich suddenly? - to see the The Bedford Bandstand. Now what that all meant was bupkiss to me, all I knew was that it meant seeing Kiki Dee in concert for the first time 31 years!

It's nice to know we are both still around.

It turns out the titular Bedford is in fact the Bedford pub in Balham which has a reputation as a live music venue allegedly so the Bandstand is a way of showcasing acts who have done well there in the more toney atmosphere of the IndigO2.

We arrived just after the time for doors opening to find them in fact closed. Around 8pm the doors were opened to the small queue of punters - so the show was delayed by over 30 minutes which needless to say was never made up.

It was odd to walk in and find the front of the stage actually seated! It later was revealed a conference had been held there during the day and they did not have time to change the layout but sitting is good, I can do sitting. After having seen the place heaving for the Sugababes - Waaay Number One this week with the fab About You Now - it was fun to see it with um... less people in it. We sat in the centre of the fourth row from the stage and had a clear view as the whole centre of the third row was empty. Oooop. The audience was small but keen to clap it must be said.

Our garrulous host Tony Moore sang a song and introduced the first act Beth Rowley. How to describe her... imagine a Joss Stone without the hype and a liking for Billie Holliday. I really liked her, great voice, a couple of good songs and how good to hear a new Brit girl singer with a BIG voice - unlike the Mockney twitterings of the Allen and Nash bints. I have of course asked to be her friend on MySpazz. No I did not take the picture.

After she left to big applause we had Mamas Gun who certainly gave bang for your buck. A heady punchy mix of Sly & The Family Stone, early 70s Stevie Wonder and Jamiroquai - if only for the cocky lead singer Andy Platts - they were another big surprise. I really enjoyed this genuinely funky band. I have of course asked to be their friend on MySpazz. No I did not take the picture.

After a quick break we got the one duffer of the evening singer/songwriter Nick Hall. Like we need another introspective male singer/songwriter right now. But it kept the women in the first few rows busy with their mobile phone cameras. I liked the lighting.

He could easily have dropped a few of his songs to make way for Bolton's own Pauline Mathews and the world's own Kiki Dee with her musical partner for the past 13 years guitarist Carmelo Luggeri. I have been a fan of Kiki Dee since her first big career break in the early-mid 1970s and have always had a soft spot for her - especially when I learnt of her Motown career and her years of singing backing vocals for Dusty Springfield in the mid 60s. Apart from seeing her in the west end musicals BLOOD BROTHERS and PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES the last time I saw her live was headlining at the Royal Albert Hall on 2nd December 1976 - it's an easy date to remember as it was the day after the Sex Pistols met Bill Grundy!

She was great tonight, that remarkable voice is still there although it isn't as taxed with her new material which is very chill-out as she herself described it. Luggeri provided a fierce guitar sound for her to sing and play occasional keyboards against. She looked good too, that familiar chestnut hair framing her face with it's sharp cheekbones and jutting chin. She looked relaxed and in control and for a 60 y/o veteran of the British music scene that is no mean feat. The set consisted mostly of songs she has recorded with Luggeri but there were covers of Sinatra's "It Was A Very Good Year" - a song I've never liked but she did it ok - a surprisingly effective "Running Up that Hill" and - EEEEEEEEK! - "I've Got The Music In Me" - acoustic and stripped down but still n all - wow!! Oh and yes I did take these pictures.

So despite getting out at 11.30 and racing the last tubes across London to get home I had a very enjoyable night discovering new acts to keep an eye on and rediscovering an old favourite.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Three arts visits in as many days. Thank goodness I like to talk about this stuff eh Constant Reader?
On Saturday we went to see ATONEMENT. I had wanted to see the film soonish as - having never read Ian McEwan's book - I just *knew* the plot point that turns the film would be revealed to me before I saw the film. I had been tipped off roughly what the deal was but the story still held a few surprises.

As you all probably know now, on a rich estate in 1935 13 year-old Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) witnesses an incident between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the housekeeper's son Robbie (James McAvoy). Robbie - whose Cambridge education was paid for by the girls' father - later on entrusts a letter to Briony to give to her sister. However he has given Briony an earlier draft of the letter in which he says graphically what he wants to do to her sister. She reads it but still gives it to her sister. To make matters worse, Briony then catches the couple in the library in a state of undress. Her secret crush for Robbie in ruins, she later accuses him of raping her cousin in the grounds although she knows the real culprit was a friend of her brother. Robbie is arrested and sent to prison for three years.

1940, Robbie and Cecilia meet briefly, realise they still love each other but he is on his way to France. Meanwhile an older Briony (Romola Garai) is now training to be a nurse but is unable to forget the misery her lie caused. The three characters come together again but as before, Briony's view of things is radically different to the truth, this being finally revealed by her in her 70s (Vanessa Redgrave).

For the longest time I waited to be engaged by the film, the opening 1935 segment certainly suggesting the enervating boredom caused by a hot day in the gardens of the big house with an unspoken tension slowly building. The trouble being that couple who we are being angled to invest our sympathy in are totally unsympathetic. The library scene should be a moment of great release for these two lovers who have both denied their feelings for so long but James McAvoy and Keira Knightley give off no heat at all. For the life of me I cannot understand the Keira Phenomenon. Here she gives us Kristen Scott-Thomas but with the brittleness whacked up to 10. She stands out like a sore thumb against her fellow actors - and not in a good way. I will admit she tones it down a touch in the middle section of the film.

It is not helped that she has to appear with actors who are simply more interesting - McAvoy shines whenever he is away from her stultifying presence and Saoirse Ronan is excellent as the young Briony, a real talent to watch. Romola Garai had the difficult bridging role of the 'middle' Briony but her grave presence made this character even more intriguing.

Thanks to Garai the film started to interest me also thanks to a nice performance by Michelle Duncan as her fellow-nurse and seemingly only friend. By the time that Vanessa Redgrave appeared as the 70-something Briony I was fully emotionally engaged for a small but telling reason. In the film, WWII Briony sneaks into the society wedding of her cousin and the man who had raped her. Although you only see the actor playing the Vicar in a longshot my ears pricked up when I heard the voice. What I was seeing was the last screen role of my actor friend John Normington who died in July. I had no idea he was in the film so to see and her him was a total shock.

Bearing this in mind, when Vanessa Redgrave appeared as the dying Briony I soon had a bit of a trickle running down my cheek. She gives a wonderful performance in this small but all important role. There are few actresses who would allow the camera so unflatteringly close but it allows you to look into her watery blue eyes and concentrate on the devastating tale she has to tell, a monologue which she delivers sparingly but which finally gives the film it's emotional depth. I hope she is remembered next year for the Academy Awards.
So all in all I enjoyed it particularly the script by Christopher Hampton which is as masterly as any he has done before. Joe Wright's direction has had the world falling over itself but I found it unnecessarily showy at times. In particular during the Dunkirk episode there is a vaguely irritating tracking shot which goes in forever, following James McAvoy as he walks around and around the beach, in between soldiers. around a roundabout, up and around a bandstand etc. etc. for no other reason than to draw attention to itself.

So what is the perfect antidote to an over-reaching director? To spend some time with one who could never over-reach himself as he never had a budget big enough usually to try! On Sunday lunchtime we went to see the hilarious documentary film of John Waters giving a lecture to a group of film students THIS FILTHY WORLD. It's being given a lamentably tiny release - showing at Brixton Ritzy at 1.30pm each day - but hopefully this means that a dvd release will be soon in the offing. We had to sit for ages while the projectionist worked out the proper ratio for the digital screening, get it wrong, then start all over again. So imagine the collective hoot of laughter when Waters suggested that cinema audiences should be more bold - like attacking a projectionist who can't show a film properly!

Filmed with no frills by Jeff Garlin, Waters ostensibly takes us on an anecdotal journey through his life in film but stops every so often to give us his take on the gay world, tabloids, guerrilla film-making, parents, children, growing old disgracefully, role models, Michael Jackson and lame excuses for not giving autographs "Jodie Foster says "They won't let me" - who? Who's they?? The autograph police??" He is pissingly funny, no more so than relating things he has overheard on his travels, such as the little boy asking his father on a Baltimore Street:
Son: "Dad why is Mommy crying?"
Father: "'cos you're an asshole!"
Try to catch it - it's 80 minutes of trashy joy!

And on the subject of dysfunctional families... tonight we saw Clifford Odets' AWAKE AND SING at the Almeida Theatre. I can't say I have ever been keen to widen my knowledge of this writer having only ever seen GOLDEN BOY and THE COUNTRY GIRL on stage previously and I don't think this production is going to change that.

The Berger family live squashed in a Bronx apartment, their lives and dreams curtailed by the sheer relentlessness of life. Three generations constantly rubbing each other up the wrong way, from Grandpa Jacob to his matriarch of a daughter Bessie married to the under-achieving Myron and the stymied grown children Ralph and Hennie. Bessie pressures Hennie into a loveless marriage with a recently arrived Russian immigrant Sam after she gets knocked up by a disappearing lover. When Ralph's love affair with a girl Bessie says is beneath them all seems lost until an unexpected event offers a possible release.

I had been looking forward to seeing this but I was left slightly underwhelmed by it all. Try as I might to keep in mind how ground-breaking it was to see a 'normal' family on stage in 1935 I couldn't really connect to it. Whether it was Michael Attenborough's workmanlike but uninspiring production, the predictability of the play itself or the sheer relentlessness of the "You want I should shut up?" "I should go to the kitchen for this?" venacular, I don't know. I just kinda sat there watching the playwright's wheels go round.

The delight of the evening was the performance of Stockard Channing. I suspected we wouldn't get the stock over-bearing Jewish mother from her and I was right as she gave a performance of Bessie as an exhausted but cunning woman, rueful and jaundiced at her under-achieving family while still attempting to instill in them ideas they were above most of their neighbours and friends. Her final speech allowing her children a quick glimpse of her own crushed dreams was particularly fine.

She was ably assisted by Jodie Whittaker (see left) who made the most of the perminantly disatisfied Henny, trapped into marriage but with an eye on the door and Nigel Lindsay as her longtime admirer and eventual lodger in the house. There was also an eye-catching performance from John Loyd Fillingham as the put-upon and put-up-with son-in-law Sam (see right) - possibly the only genuinely sympathetic character in the play. Sadly the role of Jacob the Communist grandfather was played by John Rogan who once again baffled me as to why he is cast in these sorts of plays as his accent slipped from Tipperary to Vladivostock by way of Flatbush.