Friday, 31 May 2013

Passion Play

My journey into town tonight was enlivened by running into Liam and Mashrur (hi guys!), who were heading into another part of town for dinner and a movie. No, not like that.. a whole bunch of them were going to see Star Trek - Into Darkness, in 3D. Hope you all enjoyed it..

I headed off to Theatreland for Passion Play, in the Duke of York's Theatre. It's a while since I booked it, so I'd forgotten that I got quite a good deal on this - a seat 2/3 of the way back in the stalls, for 1/3 off, with LondonBoxOffice. Mind you, I see the theatre now has a similar offer on their own website, with 1/3 off top price tickets until the end of June. Also, from a conversation I heard behind me, I think there were upgrades - this isn't selling as well as it should.

Zoe Wanamaker stars. I must admit, I was dubious. I've been to so many ho-hum shows in the West End, with big-name stars and overpriced tickets, about which you could say, at best, "Well, yes, it was watchable". But you know, this is an extremely clever play. It centres on a middle-aged couple, where the husband begins an affair with a younger woman. It's very stylish, and Zoe is a delight to watch, but it really takes shape when their alter-egos/inner selves appear as actors dressed like them and resembling them physically, who vocalise their inner thoughts and imagined conversations. This device is used to powerful effect in the second half, in particular. And at stages throughout, we're treated to the most marvellous choral classical music (Zoe's character is supposed to be a professional chorister).

Actually, it reminded me a bit of Gone Girl, the latest thriller by Gillian Flynn, in the sense of being an examination of a marriage from the inside, where we are privy to each person's inner thoughts. It's a really excellent book, and would make a great companion piece to this.

Passion Play is booking to the 3rd of August, and really deserves more people to go and see it. It's head and shoulders above most of the stuff that gets shuffled around the West End. And yes, there is nudity - some behind screens, some more explicit, but all very tasteful. The last image, in particular, is stunning and the standing ovation was well deserved!

And tomorrow, for variety, we have The Play That Goes Wrong, at Trafalgar Studios. I hear good things. The run was extended, and although I was under the impression that tomorrow was the last day, apparently it's booking right through next year! I guess it's not having any trouble with ticket sales, then.. I also guess it'll be a long time, in that case, before I come to this theatre again, having already seen it. That's the thing with these long-running plays; by the time a new production finally opens, you've forgotten where the theatre is!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Film: The Great Gatsby (2013)

Went to The Great Gatsby tonight. Typically, for the Odeon Kensington, there was nobody to take my ticket and I spent some minutes trying to get any staff to notice me. The one who finally did actually looked surprised that there was nobody there to take tickets - which, in itself, surprised me, considering that that is my usual experience at this cinema.

Must remember the optimal seat number. I am usually, like tonight, in Screen 6, and I did remember that the optimal row is D. Optimal seat number - the most central - probably 8. Anyway. I spent the first ten minutes or so of the film thinking "This is terrible. This was a dreadful mistake. What is everybody making a fuss about?" It was overblown, overacted, overchoreographed. It was full of unnecessary sweeping shots, obviously intended for the 3D version, which, thankfully, this wasn't. And it didn't look real.

And then.. just about when our narrator (Tobey Maguire) showed up at his first party at Gatsby's.. the whole thing started to make the most marvellous sense. The parties, by the way, were fantastic. They needed to be for this, and they were. The stupid sweeping shots stopped (pretty much) and we got down to the story. And it is beautifully done. Leonardo DiCaprio is terrific in the role - much better than Robert Redford was, back in the day. Much more believable as a war hero. The costumes and sets are gorgeous. Sometimes it still looked a bit unreal to me - something about the lighting - but it was less noticeable. Also notable was the modern soundtrack, which doesn't always work in period films but I thought fitted in beautifully here.

Highly recommended. Best film I've seen in months.

Passion Play tomorrow night, followed by The Play That Goes Wrong on Saturday..

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Film: The Moth Diaries

I wouldn't have gone to see this if they hadn't been giving free tickets away on SeeFilmFirst. It was this, or another film at the other end of town, 50mins journey each way. This, I could walk to, and I did. Decent weather for it, although the rows and rows of pretty identical terraced residential properties on the way to Shepherd's Bush felt a bit soul-destroying.

IMDB gives The Moth Diaries 4.7. I feel more generous about it - I'll give it a 6. Set in the rarified atmosphere of a girls' boarding school that used to be a hotel, the pleasant setting is disturbed by the arrival of, frankly, a vampire. One that has no problem with daylight, and tends to turn into a swarm of moths rather than bats. But anyway.

I find it interesting that over two-thirds of the IMDB reviews are by critics. I wonder what they were expecting. Certainly, it's not at all scary - unless you're of a particularly susceptible nature. It actually seems to lean heavily towards Carmilla, by Sheridan Le Fanu. This is mentioned pointedly in the film - they're studying it in English class.

The main thing I took from the film was how beautiful it is to look at. Certainly, teenagers didn't look like that when I was one. All the girls in this film resemble nothing so much as porcelain dolls. Perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect figures, miniskirts. They laugh beautifully, they suffer beautifully. They are, in fact, perfect little ladies. Interesting how, although they're all supposed to be big into hockey, they never actually get to play sports. I suppose that working up a sweat is not allowed. Anyhoo, quite watchable.

So, another film tomorrow, and another that I can walk to. The Great Gatsby. Then Passion Play on Friday, and The Play That Goes Wrong on Saturday.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Hothouse

Was supposed to go to a concert on Sunday night, but we ate out, and service was soooo slow that the concert was out of the question. Well, we hadn't booked tickets anyway. Never mind.

Flight back was uneventful, apart from the repeated entreaties from the crew to give them anything that was too big for cabin baggage and they'd put it in the hold. Now, that's very reasonable - if that had been Ryanair, they'd have charged. And the pilot even came on the intercom to apologise, and thank us for our cooperation..

Went to The Hothouse, in Trafalgar Studios, tonight. Now, this was a revelation, because I've only been in Studio 2 here before, and it's a rather dingy affair in the basement. Where, indeed, I'm headed on Saturday, for the last day of The Play That Goes Wrong (extended due to popular demand). I hear good things. Anyway, tonight I was in Studio 1, and was I surprised to discover a proper theatre, with many rows of seats.. and, might I add, the most generous legroom I've seen anywhere. Comfy seats, too. What a difference! Interestingly, the seats behind the stage (which is in the round) and the first couple of rows in front were comprised of a hotch-potch of random chairs.

This was the first night I could get a ticket for this - it was sold out all last week. Which meant I was a little surprised to see empty seats tonight - a handful, anyway. Mind you, that was convenient for the couple of guys beside me, who moved into the row in front at the interval. Convenient for me too, given that the one who had been sitting beside me had what you might call expansive elbows, and a case of the wriggles. Lord knows what he'd have done if the legroom had been as tight as in many other places.

The play is set in a mental institution where the staff are as cracked as the inmates. The set design was good, and I really liked the device of using lighting to separate different areas of the stage, to make it seem as though we were seeing different rooms. The play itself, written by Harold Pinter, was alternately hilarious and disturbing. I did find the ending a bit abrupt, but overall really enjoyed this. Runs until August. Booking recommended.

Tomorrow night is the film The Moth Diaries. Not great reviews on IMDB, but what the hey, SeeFilmFirst was giving out free tickets, so.. I was going to go to a film anyway, and frankly, seeing this saves me traipsing all the way across town to see a different one. Trailer looks ok, possibly the horror will not be up to scratch. But it hardly ever is.

Another film, The Great Gatsby, on Thursday, followed by Passion Play on Friday, and probably another film on Sunday.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

A Whistle in the Dark

Unfortunately, I was caught up in the bird strike fallout at Heathrow on Friday, as I was coming to Ireland, when two of a plane's engines caught fire and it crash-landed at Heathrow. Both runways were temporarily closed, and all short-haul flights before 4pm were cancelled. My flight was later, at 7.35pm, but the resultant backlog meant that it was the most delayed of the Irish flights; the departure time was moved later and later, and finally settled at 10.30pm.

So, I took up position in an armchair - one of four - around a table at the bar in the "Irish hub"; the furthest you can go before you know which gate you'll want. This turned out to be the most excellent arena for welcoming fellow wandering, delayed, passengers, and I met several, who occupied chairs for varying lengths of time.

Longest there, and first to arrive, was Maggie - a gregarious lady, who lives in Stockholm, and works as a buyer for a clothing company. This work takes her all over - mainly to Istanbul and Morocco, and she works two days a month (I think it was) in London. Originally from Newmarket, where our current president spent his childhood, she was heading back for her godson's First Holy Communion - her great-niece was also participating, and she needed presents for both. We had interesting conversations about many and varied things.

There was a businessman, in a suit, heading back to Dublin, who stayed just for a coffee. His flight was only delayed by half an hour - lucky beggar - and he didn't stay long.

There was a lovely young lady from Cavan, who moved to London for college and now works there as a PE teacher. She was flying back for a week - she had a christening (I think) in Leitrim and her local Gathering next weekend. We had a lovely natter before she took her flight to Dublin, where she was to stay with her brother, who lives in Santry, near the airport, before they drove to Leitrim next day.

There was, briefly, an American couple, but they seemed jetlagged, didn't say much, and moved when they saw there was a free sofa where they could stretch out.

There was a couple flying to Belfast. He didn't say much, but she was a fun, bubbly person, who had plenty to talk about with Maggie, who used to live in Belfast. The Belfast lady got so engrossed in conversation that I had to point out to her that their flight was actually now boarding..!

And finally, there was the young lady from Limerick (well, Clonmel originally), who said she was 40 but looked 26. She was a religious sort, Maggie wasn't, and they had an animated conversation about that. And we all had an animated conversation about the Middle East, and how she would like to go to Syria, but well.. and to Jordan, and how interesting she had found Israel. And then Maggie informed her that she had lived in Israel for a while, and loved how direct the Israelis were..

Our flight finally left at 11.

After a meal at the Sherwood Inn, which, although tasty and very attractively priced, would have been much improved if anyone had come to take an order for dessert - went to A Whistle in the Dark, at Glor in Ennis, last night. A touring Druid production, it dates from 1960, and is a powerful play about a rough Irish immigrant family in Coventry. Recommended, if it passes your way, although I did find Betty's character a bit weak. And a cushion is recommended - the legroom is fine, but the seats not best comfortable.

Thinking of heading to the Chatham Saxophone Quartet, in the Iniscealtra Festival, tonight. And we even have a fine day for it!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Restaurant: Bombay Spice, Guildford

We were at the Bombay Spice restaurant in Guildford last night. I give it about an 8/10.

Very friendly service. We had a selection of starters - not mad about the samosa, which was so-so, but the others I tried, bhajees and some chicken (not sure which variety), were excellent. I was delighted to see butter chicken on the menu, it's been a while; not the best I've had, but very tasty indeed. Pulau rice and peshwari naan were excellent, and completed a very satisfying meal. Had a glass of house white wine, which was drinkable. I'd go again.

Had a palaver getting home. Didn't realise that the last Overground from Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction leaves at 11.31pm, and didn't make it to Clapham Junction in time for that. Unfamiliar with local buses and unable to find a taxi in Clapham, I ended up taking a train to Waterloo and a taxi from there. Which, at least, gave me a gorgeous view crossing the river. Grr. At least I know for next time..

Back to Ireland for the weekend, including a performance of A Whistle in the Dark. Next London performance is The Hothouse, by Harold Pinter, in Trafalgar Studios on Tuesday, and for Wednesday I'm making use of a free cinema ticket offer I got, and taking myself to The Moth Diaries. Not terrific reviews, but it's free..

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Film: Mud

Heard good things about Mud for a while, and with its high IMDB rating, had to go see it eventually. And eventually came last night.

Hey, who knew I only live fifteen minutes' walk from the cinema? Cool! Nice evening for it too. So I'm spending ever less on the Oyster card.

Ah, a seat with a high back again. Such luxury! And so to the film. "Mud" turns out to be a coming-of-age film, but less schmaltzy than many of that ilk. It's absolutely charming, Matthew McConaughey is scruffier than usual and only scrubs up towards the end, and check out Tye Sheridan! Heart-throb of the future. I mean, don't go see it if you really, really hate coming-of-age films, but this has plenty of adult goings-on to keep it balanced.

In Guildford today, eating in Bombay Spice tonight. First Indian I'll have had in ages! then back in Ireland for the long weekend. Will be seeing a play there, so will probably give that a mention. Otherwise, the next scheduled event is The Hothouse, by Harold Pinter, in Trafalgar Studios on Tuesday.

Have a good weekend, all!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

4000 Miles

Remembered just in time to make a move for the bus this evening! I was in the middle of something, as usual. Anyway, made the bus.

Which wasn't the end of the story, as a burst water main on Notting Hill Gate meant the bus was diverted away from where I needed to be. Thank goodness for smartphones, and map apps. I got off somewhere reasonable, and still made it in time.

Well, this was packed. Good job I booked. 4000 Miles, at the Print Room. Excellent play, very well judged study of the relationship between an old woman and her grandson, a self-proclaimed hippy, who comes to stay. V funny, v well written. Only problem was the ending, which I found weak. Still, a good night out. Runs until 1 June - booking essential, I would say.

So, I'm finally going to Mud tomorrow night. Had to happen, it's got an IMDB rating of 7.9/8. They're saying it's a new departure for Matthew McConaughey..

Monday, 20 May 2013


Battersea Arts Centre tonight, for a performance of Mess, a play about, by, and starring, someone who had anorexia.

Ah yes, I remember this place. Overground to Clapham Junction, then get confused getting out of it. Anyway, this is the first time I've been there in daylight, so I now have a small working knowledge of the neighbourhood. And I wasn't lost for more than a couple of minutes. Oriented myself by the supermarkets - make for Lidl, then up the hill and hang a right past Asda, then left and you're right. So to speak.

The Arts Centre is in the old town hall, and you enter via a gorgeous, huge marble staircase, which, for shows, has candles in jars placed along the edges. Lovely effect. The room that this play is in, mind, is accessed through the scruffiest hallway I've seen outside of a building site. Fortunately, staff are strategically placed so you don't get lost and have to spend eternity wandering the corridors.

Ah now, this play is absolutely gorgeous. 10/10. Time Out said no-one could fail to find it charming, and they're right. It's also the weirdest production I've seen in an age. But it works. It's funny, it is indeed charming, and quite moving. I wanted to give each of them a hug. Oddly, although the crowd was applauding wildly after, they didn't come back for a second bow. Maybe they're not used to all this fame..

Highly recommended. Runs until 1 June, only 70 mins long. Go on, if you can. Take a punt on this, you won't regret it.

4000 Miles, in The Print Room, Notting Hill, tomorrow. I wasn't going to book this in advance, then saw today that the max number of tickets you could book for tomorrow night's performance had slipped from 7 to 5.. so I am now the proud possessor of an e-ticket.

I see in the review in today's paper that Lana del Rey's show last night wasn't so incredible - fizzled out in the end, it seems. I guess she still has some things to learn about live performances. Think I was better off at the pictures.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Film: Paths of Glory

After a lazy day - during which, mind you, I got some things done that had been needing doing for a while - I took myself down to Riverside Studios in Hammersmith this evening. I've only ever been to plays here before, but they do have a (one-screen) cinema, which was showing Paths of Glory (today only). As it was a lovely evening - sunny, mild - and Google Maps assured me I could walk it in 25 minutes, I decided to give that a try.

At an easy stroll, I got there in about 30 minutes. Passed the Hammersmith Apollo on the way, where it seems Lana del Rey was playing. The doors were open by that time, and I briefly considered buying a ticket from the touts I was passing, but although I like her singles, I have heard bad things about her live performances. So on I went.

The cinema at Riverside turns out to be on the second floor, reached through a nondescript pair of double doors. Just keep climbing the stairs to the top, where, considerately, they have placed a sofa. I was the first there - the doors opened shortly after I arrived. Open seating, and a rather vivid carpet. Actually, what struck me was that the seats don't come up to neck level, so you can't lean your head back. Jeez, how long is it since I've been in a cinema where I had to hold my own head up?! and when you think about it, aren't we spoiled..

The film itself dates from 1957. Starring Kirk Douglas, it's one of Stanley Kubrick's early ones. Set in 1916, on the French front line, this is as powerful a depiction of warfare as I've seen. And with precious little gore, as such - not as noticeable anyway in b/w. The first part of the film depicts the general ordering Kirk Douglas' character, Col. Dax, to lead his men in a suicidal attack mission on a German position. When the attack, predictably, fails, the general seeks revenge by court-martialling the men for cowardice. Ultimately an anti-war film, the tension of the battle scenes is compelling, and the aftermath would infuriate anyone's sense of justice. This is a film that has aged really well, and is one of the finest films I've ever seen.

"Mess" tomorrow at the Battersea Arts Centre. A play about anorexia, written by, and starring, someone who has suffered from it. Supposed to be very enjoyable. :-) Well, we'll soon see..

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Opera: Wozzeck

Well, I made it in time that I didn't have a heart attack climbing all the way to the balcony of the Coliseum, for tonight's performance of Wozzeck. Handy that the Tube disruptions this weekend only apply westbound from my station, not eastbound into town.

So, this is the view from my seat. Very good seat for the money, gorgeous building and ample opportunity, from the balcony, to see the detail of the ceiling, all that marble and gilt. Lovely. And, as you can see from the bald head in the photo, which was taken from a seated position, the rake is steep enough that people in front of you don't really spoil the view.

But oh my, did I regret coming to this opera. Which is a shame, because I love coming here. Having lasted until the end (there was no interval), I think the problem is, it's too bleak. Now, I can do bleak. Have done many bleak plays. But you see, when opera does bleak, it does it operatically. In other words, it goes completely over the top. Now, this worked in the section of the opera where our (anti-)hero, Wozzeck, is going around murdering people. That scene suited the simplistic dialogue, and the raucous, tuneless cacophony that the orchestra produced. Unfortunately, the whole blasted opera was like that. And what was with the plot in the first part, with a whole conversation about the correct way of cutting hair, and a doctor who seemed to be performing bizarre medical experiments on Wozzeck?! No wonder he went bonkers. I'm sorry, this had nothing going for it. Except the set design, that was interesting and worked well. Ugh. Avoid, unless you're an absolute opera fanatic.

Peckish afterwards, I headed for Villiers Street, where I know there are many restaurants - although I've tried the Indian and don't recommend it. This time, I headed for Café Rouge, at the top of the street. This is a decent chain, which I ate in the last time I was in Gatwick airport. And they were showing the Eurovision song contest final, which was nice - with the sound down, which is probably wise. I can recommend their garlic mushrooms - they come with a lot of sauce, and some pastry, unusually, and are divine. The house white is drinkable, the beef bourgignon, sadly, was a tad tasteless. I adore their chocolate ganache dessert though, which tastes exactly like McVitie's Penguin biscuits.

Speaking of the Eurovision, I watched the end when I got home. Never heard Graham Norton commentating before, as I've always watched it in Ireland. Jeez, he is hilarious.. but then, many Irish with access to BBC do watch his commentary, in preference. I might have, but we didn't have BBC.. I see we came last. :-( Well, I'm sorry, but I did say that song was s**t. And well done to the UK for getting a respectable placing. With Denmark following Sweden's lead last year in winning, it seems to be the Nordic era. Can't say I thought much of the song, though.

Heading to a play called "Mess" in the Battersea Arts Centre on Monday. It's about anorexia, apparently, but quite entertaining, they do say.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Public Enemy (aka Enemy of the People)

Went to Public Enemy (originally titled An Enemy of the People) by Ibsen, in the Young Vic tonight. (Yes, as opposed to the Old Vic!)

'Tis but a short walk from Southwark Station. I've been in the bar here before, but not the theatre. The cheap seats are upstairs, and to the side, and I do like as straight a view as possible, so I went for the next price bracket up (£19). This gets you either a straight-on view from the balcony, or a seat in one of the rows close to the stage. And thus I came to be seated very close indeed to the action - although not as close as those in the seats in front of me, who found themselves seated beside the actors in the public speech scene. What was interesting was the little boy who played the main character's younger son, who was on his character's mother's lap while the pontificating was going on elsewhere, and, a number of times, whispered to his "mother" to ask her what daddy was doing. Couldn't have been heard by anyone more than a few seats away. Now, that's what I call staying in character!

Seats not terribly comfortable. The set was inventive, although I did feel a bit close - I was in row B. The play itself is an attack on the power of public opinion over matters of conscience, on politics and how it plays to the masses. The main character states that "the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone," - he incurs the town's wrath by pointing out that their new, lucrative baths are actually a health hazard. Interesting piece.

A German opera, Wozzeck, tomorrow night at the Coliseum, which is the home of the English National Opera, rather than the Opera House - which, ironically, is the home of the Royal Ballet. Go figure. Anyway, the Coliseum, largest theatre in London, is a spectacular building, but as usual I'm in the cheap seats in the balcony, and in the Coliseum that's a very long climb.. ah well, good exercise. I'd better arrive early though, give myself time to creep down to my seat - they don't have the handrails they do in the opera house, and it's quite steep.. need to take that nice and slowly! Again, they don't have the most comfortable seats, but this isn't supposed to be a very long opera. Interestingly, I browsed ticket agencies for this, and not only were they all more expensive than the official box office, but some even had the wrong start time..

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Film: Star Trek - Into Darkness

As previously mentioned, it was nice to get to a film again, and something showing locally too. So, headed straight there after work. Not enough time to get something to eat, so was delighted to remember I had a packet of Chocos in my bag.

And so to the film. When Star Trek - Into Darkness started, I had some seconds' worry that this was, despite glowing reviews so far, going to be another of those sci-fi remakes with young, pretty faces, big explosions and not a lot else. That fear lasted no more than about a minute. Simply put, this is the equal of pretty much any sci-fi movie I have ever seen. And that's a lot of movies. The reviews consider this a return to the old style of Star Trek we know and love. I also saw traces of the original Star Wars trilogy (IV - VI) in there. Full of thrills and spills and special effects. And younger versions of all the original characters, some dead ringers for the actors who played their older selves. Oh, and check out Leonard Nimoy's cameo - my, he's looking old. I've heard criticisms of Simon Pegg as Scotty, but didn't see any problems with his performance. A great film - but I still don't understand the review on the poster that pronounced it "delightful"!

Ate in Nando's again, just up from the cinema. Well, if it ain't broke.. and a five-minute bus ride to right outside my house rounded off a pretty good evening!

Merrily We Roll Along

Finally got to see Merrily We Roll Along last night at the Harold Pinter theatre. Chose my seat carefully, and got it exactly right, so the effort was worth it.

1. For this theatre, ALWAYS go for the stalls. Higher levels have virtually no legroom; the stalls are fine in this regard.

2. The rear stalls are obstructed by two pillars. If no seats are available forward of the pillars, or you don't want to pay the exorbitant price, go for an aisle seat - the pillars are less obtrusive.

3. I was in the last row of the stalls, for the sake of getting an aisle seat. This is not too far away for those used to sitting in upper levels, and the overhang doesn't actually obscure any of the action. In fact, for the second act, many people moved back to my row to try for a better view. (Nightmarish, isn't it, that stalls seats can have a substandard view? I hate this theatre.)

As for the show itself, which previously ran in the Menier Chocolate Factory, I am amazed that this good a show ran in such a small venue. The production values, the scale, the quality of the singing, cry out for a larger venue, such as it now has. It's a Broadway musical (Stephen Sondheim) with the interesting plot device that the story starts at the end, when the characters are disillusioned with life, and works backwards, so we get to see the origin of some references made earlier in the show, and the songs become progressively more upbeat as the characters are portrayed as more hopeful. Hence, the show really takes off in the second half. Different - I liked it. Runs until 27 July.

Star Trek Into Darkness tonight. Good, it's a while since I saw a film, and it's nice because that means I can go local for a change. 2D, I have trouble with 3D. Nothing else booked until the 28th, when I'm off to The Hothouse. Watch this space though, I'm sure something will appear in it!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Travels With my Aunt

Saw Travels With my Aunt at the Menier Chocolate Factory last night. Not a chocolate factory any more, sadly, but does comprise a gallery and restaurant. This small venue is in the shadow of the Shard, and I haven't been round the area in ages. Tube to London Bridge and a short walk. Sounds easy. Heh. Except of the two entrances I was presented with after the exit barrier, neither let out where I expected. I took the one that seemed to be better, and turning in the direction I thought was correct, saw landmarks that seemed nothing like I expected. Anyway, I headed off that way, in trepidation, and in due course passed the entrance I had been expecting to come out of in the first place. Ugh. Complicated station.

Made it to the venue, which is complicated in itself. I arrived at the gallery end - the theatre is around the other side. Made my way in the back door (yes, that's how you get in) and discovered the box office has been moved. Located it, and they didn't have my ticket printed out. Indeed, there was much confusion, as she asked me how I had booked it. Huh?! She asked hopefully whether I had an email ticket. No, but I did have a confirmation. Finally got the ticket printed out and took my seat. Allocated seats for this performance. For once, no legroom problems, but I missed the comfy seat I had in the Tricycle..

The show is a delightful farce. No, really, you would expect a pleasant time wiith Graham Greene anyway - and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Four men of a certain age, dressed in similar suits, portray all the characters, and very skilfully. Including the aunt. And the 18-year-old American girl. And the 14-year-old Paraguayan girl, hiding behind a fan. Recommended. Booking advised - it was very nearly full last night, and that a Tuesday. Runs until 29 June.

Coming out, had the most gorgeous view of the Shard, lit up in the darkness. It killed me that I had no way of taking a photo - my camera needs charging, and my phone was in the process of charging, at home.

Off to Merrily We Roll Along (Stephen Sondheim) at the Harold Pinter theatre tonight. Its previous run sold out, but that was at the Menier Chocolate Factory, which is quite small. I'm sure it'll be good, but I do not like the Harold Pinter theatre - still, I'm in the stalls, so legroom should be fairly ok. In an aisle seat in the very back row, to try and avoid those pillars in the middle of the stalls. There aren't many people in the rows in front of me, so I might be moved forward a bit. We'll see.

Star Trek Into Darkness tomorrow night (2D, I couldn't be bothered with 3D). I see it's dropped from 8.4/10 to 8.3/10 on IMDB, but it's still far and away the best rated of the films showing in London that I haven't seen and would like to see. Looking forward to that. Nothing else booked for the immediate future, but finally got a ticket for The Hothouse, in Trafalgar Studios, by Harold Pinter, ironically, on the 28th. Passion Play on the 31st. It was interesting, trying to get the best deal on tickets for that. It's always worth shopping around for tickets for the more popular shows, and this time the competition was between and For the date I wanted, came up with the better offer - £17 off face value, not bad! And I know what seat I'm sitting in, unlike Finally, booked for The Play That Goes Wrong, also in Trafalgar Studios, for 1 June. I hear good things.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Match Box

So, last night I went to see The Match Box, at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. About time I finally got here, it's appeared in listings for ages. Also, conveniently, accessible on the Overground, thus avoiding the expense of Zone 1. Leave Brondesbury Station, turn right, it's a short walk. Fortunately, I left time, given the warning email (!) I received from the box office manager after I booked, reminding me of the start time and emphasising that, because of the intimate nature of the performenace, latecomers would NOT be admitted. So I wasn't late.

Confusing entrance on this side. Apparently there's another entrance, handier if you're coming from the Tube; I think this is the entrance pictured on the website, and it looks easier to spot. Coming from the Overground, you see a big sign for the Tricycle, and a porch underneath. No, this is NOT the entrance! Not to the theatre, anyway, but to a private estate. Hmm. so I carried on another bit, and spotted a much less conspicuous entrance a couple of doors down. Hmm. They could work on that. Then, there is a box office on that side, but there was a sign on the shutter saying it was closed, and to go to the box office at the other entrance. Which I had to ask directions to. Easy when you know how, just turn left down the corridor - but still, a confusing start.

Flirty guy at the box office asked me what I was a doctor of. "Statistics" is a real conversation killer, let me tell you. The seating in this theatre is constructed from scaffolding with seats on it. Nonetheless, the seats are the comfiest I've sat on. Legroom not the best tho, but not too bad. The show itself is a one-woman show. As someone remarked on the way out, "I don't know how they can make anyone do that." 1hr 45mins, no interval. Irish playwright. Other comments on the way out were mostly one-word. "Amazing." "Intense." "Astonishing." "Mesmerising." I can add another - "Stunning". She's a one-woman tour de force. I don't know which to praise more highly - her or the writing. I have said before that Mies Julie is the best show in town currently - I can now say it has a rival. Go see - and book, it was full last night. Runs until 1 June. And make sure to arrive on time! although they did start a bit late.

With no interval (I love that, it gives you more time to do other things with your night) I was finished early, and hungry, and there are many eateries on the short walk between the Tricycle and the Overground station, but Nando's caught my eye. I love Nando's - the food is good, the vibe is good, and it's a bit quicker because you take your initial order to the till and pay on the spot. And it's reasonably priced. And they have the most to-die-for chocolate (choc-a-lot) cake. Which I had last night, and finally realised the value of cream with your meal, the chocolate was so dark. The garlic bread was a bit tough, but otherwise an excellent meal, and hence the reason I didn't have time to write this last night. It was late when I got home, what with having to wait 20mins for a train at Willesden Junction, which, I must admit, is a trainspotter's paradise, you can see so many different platforms.

Off to Travels With my Aunt, by Graham Greene, tonight at the Menier Chocolate Factory (no, they don't give you a free chocolate), of which the review points out that the first remarkable thing about it is the absence of an aunt. Finally got a ticket for Merrily We Roll Along for tomorrow night, booking must be slowing. It was completely sold out all last month. Harold Pinter theatre again, yuck. Worst legroom of anywhere I've been. Will not go upstairs at this theatre because of this, it has to be stalls. The rear stalls are blighted by a pair of pillars in the way, so I spent ages trying to decide whether to go for the best, cheapest option, an end seat in the very last row - or go up to a higher price band for a seat further forward. Plumped for the last row in the end. Deciding on a film for Thursday, Star Trek Into Darkness is the highest rated, at 8.4/10 on IMDB. So that was a cert. Booked, as it's in the Odeon and I have membership, so cheaper if I book. Aren't I the organised one?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Sleeping Arrangements

I read this described somewhere as a "little gem". This is a phrase that occurred to me during the performance of Sleeping Arrangements in the Landor Theatre last night.

First time I've been to Clapham, except for Clapham Junction. Anyway, it was nice that I could get there completely on the Overground, which sticks to Zone 2, rather than having to pay more to pass through Zone 1, or go to something in Zone 1, which is where I normally end up.

Another easy journey, with the help of Google Maps Streetview. This is another theatre over a pub. Pub seems nice, theatre is tiny. This show is a musical, with a live band in the corner - piano, cello, guitar, percussion - looking a bit self-conscious. The actors are practically tripping over the audience. So close you can see their fillings. I kid you not.

Brilliant writing, terrific singing. I think I recognise these people from another musical production over a pub - L'Elisir d'Amore, a modern, English-language version of the Donizetti opera that I went to some weeks ago.

This show is a breath of sunshine. Set mostly in Spain, which means the guitarist breaks into Spanish tunes on occasion, which pleases me greatly - I love Spanish guitar! It's a romantic comedy, with two families thrown together in a Spanish villa. The second act opens with a bedroom scene, and there was something of a delay last night, while the musicians looked nervously around to see whether they could start. Seems the delay was to ensure that the poor actors, who had to change across the hall, could nip across to the theatre in their undies without being seen. Which is ironic, considering that we then all got to see them in their undies. Ah well!

Downsides - minor. The venue is so small that amplification is not needed - which unfortunately means that the singing does sometimes get drowned out by the music. Just slightly, though. And the actor playing the teenager, Sam, isn't the strongest singer. But some of the others are breathtaking, and the show overall is well worth a look if you're around that way. Finishes Sunday, so hurry if you want to see it.

Journey home was a bit unpleasant - I'd just missed a train from Clapham High Street - the nearest Overground station - and had to wait fifteen minutes for the next. And it was freezing, and raining. Then had to change at Clapham Junction, and ended up waiting another fifteen minutes in a freezing wind - trains had been delayed because of a fire somewhere on the line. So it took much longer to return than to go there.

Off to Ireland for the weekend. Thinking of the pictures on Monday, but that's highly subject to change, as ever..

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Boy, am I glad I trailed all the way to the Theatre Royal, Stratford last night to see Gutted! Not that it's a difficult journey at all, just a long one, being on the other side of the city. But it is so worth it..

I'd also forgotten what a nice theatre this is. A short walk from Stratford station, it's right beside the Stratford Picturehouse cinema in Theatre Square. Slightly cheaper interval icecreams than usual, at £2 (but they didn't have chocolate!). And here's yet another good reason to get your ticket in person, if possible. That's what I did this time, as it isn't selling out at all - in fact, there were all of six rows of people there (easy to tell, they had us all in the front six rows).

1. Getting your ticket in person, on the night, avoids booking fees. Of course, not all theatres charge them, but it also avoids those "suggested donations". Not that I mind them, but it makes a nice change not to be hit for them.

2. Getting your ticket in person, on the night, just before you go in means you can change plans if necessary, and you don't lose money if you can't make it, or you're late.

3. What happened to me last night was - I had seen, when I checked, that there were plenty of seats available, and that there were two prices - £17 in the front stalls, £13 at the back. So I decided the back stalls would be fine. When I arrived, the lady at the box office suggested  I take F5 at £17. There was a pause. "Or," she said, "you can have K8 for £13" (further back). I said I'd have that one, and after a moment she said that there'd be a gap, and she'd give me F5 for £13. Result..! You don't get that kind of service online..

Anyway, this play was so good I bought the playtext, which is the first time I've ever done that. Gritty, although not as harrowing as it says in the Time Out review. Not as much as Mies Julie. And that line that supposedly makes everyone gasp only made about 1/3 of the people gasp last night. Maybe we're too hardened to that kind of thing.

What was lovely was that the writer was watching from the upper level! He must've been the only person up there. I wouldn't have noticed him except that the actors paid him tribute at the end, and I was one of those giving a standing ovation, and turned to look, whereupon I saw him leaning over the balcony. Recognised him from the picture on the playtext. I highly recommend this - very, very well done. Runs until 25th.

In other news, I've noticed in the papers the last couple of days that Helen Mirren has been in the news for running out, in the interval, to complain at a group of protesters that disrupted the first half of the play she's in. Not that she doesn't support their cause, just the noise they were making. Thing is, the play she's in is The Audience, and she ran out dressed as the queen. :-) Which must have made quite a scene, with the language she's famous for using on occasion. Another highly recommended play, btw - if you have an interest in royalty - despite the higher ticket price and difficulty in getting tickets. And a well deserved Olivier award for her. Runs until 15th June.

Sleeping Arrangements in the Landor tonight. Then back to Ireland for the weekend..

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

London Wall

Right! went to see London Wall at St. James Theatre last night.

You know, this play is 80 years old. And it could practically have been written yesterday. The writing is so clever and so fresh, the themes pretty much universal, it's an absolute delight to watch. That, I guess, is the thing with older works - they have to be good to survive.

Set in a London law office, it deals with the female typists working there, and their various romantic situations. That description actually doesn't do it justice. It's not a fluffy romance, it's a keenly observed observation of the different situations in which women of the time could find themselves, and the implications for their lives. And it could mostly apply just as well today. Definite recommendation. I was riveted. Runs to 1 June.

On the legroom issue.. When I booked, all the centre section was shown as sold out, so I booked an aisle seat on the back row. When I collected my ticket, surprise surprise, I was offered an upgrade. No thanks, I said. When I showed my ticket to the usher, he remarked that they were upgrading that row. No thanks, I said. After I had taken my seat, somebody who appeared to be a theatre reviewer sat just in front of me. Even she suggested I could sit further down. To her, I explained that I didn't want to, because of the legroom. I was left alone after that, and had a most pleasant evening, with no cramped-ness.

Funny thing, the place was only a third full. Now, it sold out when it was playing the Finborough, but that's a tiny venue. What's curious is that all those seats showed up as full when I booked. I just checked, it doesn't seem to be happening for tonight. Weird..

On another note, someone took a nasty spill on the stairs as people were taking their seats. It's worth noting - most people are fine, but accidents can happen, and these are not the easiest steps to negotiate that I've ever seen. She hurt her knee, and she and her friends seemed to decide to leave after that. Apart from the knee, she seemed in ok spirits as they passed me..

Thinking about Gutted in Stratford tonight. Nuisance, trailing all the way out there, but it sounds good. We'll see. Going to Sleeping Arrangements in the Landor Theatre tomorrow night. It keeps coming up in the listings, seems to have been getting more popular. So that'll be another ticked off..

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Final Day of Travel: Wells

Decided not to have breakfast, there being no mention of what it cost. Had thought check-out was 11, delighted to discover it wasn't until 12, but still decided to try and make the 11.35 bus to Wells. There is only one per hour on bank holidays, and I didn't want to waste the day.

Lifts were working, fortunately. Had to queue for check-out. It was 11.10 by this stage, and I was beginning to get nervous about making the bus. And was right to be. You know, they're lovely at this hotel, but completely scatty. So, I finally got to the desk, she made out my bill and informed me I had about £34 outstanding. You what?! I asked for an itemised bill, which took some minutes to print out, and asked her to explain the charges.

She explained I was being charged for three breakfasts, having been there for three nights. O lordy, would someone please explain the basics of hotel administration to these people?! I had to tell her, several times, because she didn't seem to be getting it, that I only had two breakfasts, and that of those, I had a voucher for one. And why.

Just as well, breakfast seemed to cost £12.90. Rip-off, as ever. Stil doesn't explain one charge of £13.75 on my bill. In fact, my bill was littered with unexplained charges. And I'm still trying to make a bus. In the end, there was such confusion that I ended up not paying for breakfast at all. Which makes it all's well that ends well.

Left them in charge of my case and galloped for the bus. Which, naturally, was late. In the meantime, I had time to be confused several times by people asking me questions. I must have that kind of face. Confused, why? I dreaded anyone at all speaking to me, because I could not understand one word of what they said. Impenetrable accent..

Bus was a bit stuffy in the glorious sunshine, but relieved from time to time by a breeze wafting from the windows. After a winding journey of just under an hour, through rolling hills with sheep on them, we arrived in Wells. No problems at all figuring out where to get off. Wells isn't that big anyway, but when we passed a wall with gaps in it, through which we could see a whopping great cathedral, we all decided this would be a good place to get off.

To the sound of drums. We'd arrived in the middle of a May fair! and the Mendip Drummers were entertaining us. Right in front of a mediaeval gatehouse, over the top of which some of the cathedral spires were visible.

Passed through the Pauper's Gate, in which, appropriately, a pauper was begging, and into Cathedral Close, which is the first proper view you get of this amazing cathedral. Truly, this is spectacular. The front has something like 300 statues, many life-size. It is a majestic sight. And impressive to see that there is no entry fee, just a suggested donation. And you have to buy a photo permit, which is fair enough. I don't think I'd recommend the guided tours, you're better off with a good guidebook and taking the time to dwell on the interesting bits. I listened to the tour for a while, and decided I'd rather wander off on my own.

Afterwards, finally felt ready to eat. There were food stalls around the market square, and a very good smell emanating from "The Parson's Nose" but it turned out they were only doing sausage rolls, and honestly I don't really like English sausage, too heavy for me. So I ended up eating Italian again, in "Ask", the nearest restaurant to the cathedral. Luckily, I was at the end of the lunch rush, and didn't have to wait very long, despite the apologies of someone who looked like the manager. Excellent service - generally excellent food too, apart from the incinerated chips. :-)

Well fed, I set off again, to explore the bishop's palace, next door. Wandered into the compund and took some photos (again, watch this space for them) and was dismayed to see they charged an entrance fee. So, after consulting my guidebook as to what was to be seen there, I decided it wasn't worth it and moved on.

Very hot at this point. Really, the first day of summer. I wandered around to Vicar's Close, which my guidebook had recommended, snapped off a photo, wandered back to the green, decided to make for St. Cuthbert's church, near the station. Famous for its starring role in Hot Fuzz. Had the church not been so interesting, I'd have made the earlier bus! but it was a lovely, cool, tranquil haven on a hot, sunny, crowded day.

Which was followed by a hot, dry wait for nearly an hour at the bus station. Ah well. Dozed on the bus back to Bristol, had the luxury of a reserved seat with telly on the train back to London, and here I am.

Well, it's still sunny, at least! "London Wall" at St. James Theatre tonight.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Bristol: Final Day

So, hunger this morning dictated that I get breakfast at the hotel, even though I had to pay. Again, didn't have a waffle, although had great fun watching a couple of young guys make a mess of the waffle iron..

Today was a day mainly of churches. Appropriately. Had noticed an ecclesiastical ruin at the back of the hotel - looked it up online and it turned out to be Temple Church, destroyed in the Blitz. This is a feature of Bristol, which was badly bombed. Anyway, the church is so named because it was founded by the Knights Templar. Gorgeous.

Then made my way to the church of St. Mary Redcliffe, just down the road. Lovely church, founded by local merchants and prayed in by them before voyages.

Wended my way into town. Had a ticket, from yesterday, good for sightseeing by bus or ferry, but didn't really feel like it, it was such a gorgeously sunny day. So hung around the centre for a while, in the sun, listening to the jazz buskers. Terrific place for busking, by the water, in the centre of things. Then headed to the tourist information. Turned out I had to pass a market to get there, and the first thing that greeted me was a group of acapella male singers singing some sea shanty about heading to South Australia. Which was not only accomplished, but highly appropriate for the setting. Bought me a vintage locket, got to tourist information and located a Rough Guide. At last! The only guidebook worth having..

Took myself off to the cathedral after. Honestly, not as nice as St Mary Redcliffe. Took myself for another late lunch, and had seriously the best Italian food I've ever had outside of Italy, in San Carlo. Not the cheapest, but my was it worth it! Only problem was, I had to consider the free meal I would have later. But this was the kind of food that never makes you feel too full, regardless how much you eat.. it was that good.

'Twas over lunch, perusing my new guidebook, that it occurred to me that I might not go to Bath tomorrow, being Georgian-ed out as I am, but might consider Wells, for the cathedral. So that's the new plan. See, that's the thing about the Rough Guides - they're inspirational.

Wandered back through Castle Park. Parks were the place to be today, in the sunshine. They were littered with sunbathers, skateboarders, cyclists. All I can say is, Bristol has been a revelation. One of those places where the quality of life matters. 5 stars.

Hardly anybody in the restaurant tonight, hah! Dunno what was on last night, but they obviously all cleared out this morning. Sadly, this meant I had to eat in the restaurant and, honestly, I wasn't mad about the food. If you do stay here, try and eat in the bar rather than the restaurant..

So. Wells tomorrow. I have to check out by 11, there's a bus at 11.35 gets me there at 12.26 or something. #376. And if I get the 5.20 back, I'll be back at 6.10, plenty of time to get my bag from the hotel and get on the 7.30 train to London. (Scintillating reading, I know. I say this to remind myself.)

PS Sorry about the lack of photos. There are actually lots, which have come out fairly ok, but owing to the quantity my idea was to put them on Facebook, and it seems the multi-uploader on Facebook is giving problems. Watch this space..

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Bristol: Day 2

Evening all!

So, had a good breakfast, for which, as you may recall, I had a voucher. Buffet - I had your basic fry, except for the sausages, which I found stodgy. Which I generally do with English sausages. So skipped them. Interesting twist was that you could make your own waffles. :-) They provide the batter, in jugs, and the waffle iron, plugged in, and instructions. I didn't go for it today - maybe if I have breakfast there again.

Trudged into town, remarking that my right knee felt a bit peculiar after yesterday's antics. So decided to start the day on the sightseeing bus. Excellent idea, except for the strong wind that became stronger yet on top of an open-topped bus. Especially on the hills, of which I discovered Bristol has a lot. Anyway, saw some beautiful views of the Avon, and a lot of beautiful Georgian buildings. I think I'm Georgian-ed out at this point.

Disembarked when the guide said this was the stop for Red Lodge - I had identified that as somewhere I wanted to visit. Unfortunately, the guide got it wrong - I should have stayed on till the next stop. Anyway, made it.

Very unassuming - there is a sign, but you have to open a quite ordinary-looking door to get in. Gorgeous, gorgeous Tudor/Georgian townhouse. Quite unique features, different to most things I've seen before. And the curator is from Co. Louth, in Ireland! Small world..

Getting pretty peckish at this point, it was past lunchtime and sadly many places were closed. Was at last very well fed indeed at the Hatchet Inn. If this is the standard of pub grub in Bristol, I am well impressed! Mind you, Bristol does have a culinary reputation.

Headed next to the cathedral, which was very impressive. From the outside. It seemed to be closed, and I thought I could hear music coming from inside - maybe they were closed for an event. I know there was a concert there later this evening. Then headed for the Georgian House - a restored Georgian house with authentic furnishings and so on, which proved impossible to find. Later discovered that it was closed by that time, contrary to what my guidebook had said. Still, they could have put up a sign..

Knowing that I had a hop-on, hop-off ticket that is good for two days, I thought I'd take the last sightseeing bus home. Could I find the bus stop though?! Finally thought I'd look for the other one, only to see the bus pass me. Too late. So back to the hotel I trudged, and glad to get here.

Had a dinner reservation for 8. Well, that was what I understood. Turned out the restaurant knew nothing about it. And it was packed. So they sat me in the bar, which was fine, and meant I got to choose from the bar menu if I wanted, with a dessert from the restaurant, if I wanted. Which I did. And all included in my room rate. Along with a whole bottle of wine.. which I consumed in the time it took them to get to taking my dessert order. Still, all is good. Including the food.

So, the last hotel problem that remains is that of the lifts, which don't seem to work at all at busy periods. Not this morning, and not going for dinner this evening. I had to take the stairs. And I'm on the fourth floor. That's ok, but I am a bit worried about checking out with a heavy bag. Well, I won't be in a hurry, I can just insist someone carry the bag down for me, if it comes to that. (I have a sneaking suspicion that the cleaning staff monopolise the lifts in the morning.)

Friday, 3 May 2013

Travel: Bristol

Hey-hey! Hello from Bristol! (I could say sunny Bristol, but it's not at 11.43pm, so..)

V little to report so far. Cute, fluffy chihuahua on the Tube to Paddington. Ahh..

Didn't reserve a seat on the 7.30 train out of Paddington. :-) You may know what that means.. I'll know my mistake in future, never fear. I have never seen a train so packed - you'd think London was subject to an epidemic, so many people were so anxious to leave. I didn't get a seat until Bath. It was 1.5hrs until I got enough space to sit on my suitcase, Bath was about half an hour after that. Urgh. Oh, and the train was delayed by 50mins owing to another that had broken down. Just to add to the fun.

Never fear, I have a reserved seat coming back.. oh, the luxury.. boy are my legs tired now.

I'm kinda glad I'm not staying in Bath this weekend, not that it occurred to me. As someone remarked to me when we arrived in Bath - "This train is going to Bristol, isn't it?.. So why is everyone getting off in Bath?!" I suspect it will be busy this weekend. Plan to visit on Monday, for a day trip.

Oh, I love my hotel though. Well, I should, it's the Hilton Garden Inn. :-) Consulted the guidebook, they recommended a v posh one, but I'm not into v posh. Then they said the youth hostel has a great location, so I checked it out but it was booked up. So here I am. So far, so lovely. For no extra charge, I got a "dine & wine" deal (dinner with wine every night). Too late tonight - thank you, First Great Western - but they gave me a breakfast voucher in lieu. Not quite the value, but it'll do thank you, seeing as I don't have breakfast booked. If it's good, you never know, I might splurge on breakfast for the rest of my stay. Dinners are included. With wine. For free. Not so shabby..

And they have a 24-hr pantry, you pay at reception. They have wine, they have chocolate, they have crisps, they have microwaveable meals. And a microwave. Now, that's a good idea.  And they have a weekend special on wine.

And it's the Hilton, so everything is comfy and plush. Ahhhhh... And so much cheaper than London. Sadly, the one thing I lack is a bath - I only have a shower, and I could do with a soak for my aching legs.

Free wifi. :-) Not even a password to be bothered with.

Lastly, as I was leaving the station, I noticed that it was interestingly floodlit in lilac. So thought to take a picture, only to find that the battery was gone in my camera. They had batteries in the "pantry" at reception. Yay! And then I got back to my room, took out my camera and went, "Oh, it doesn't take batteries! Hell.. it needs a charger." And, although I brought my phone charger, my camera charger is sitting snugly in London.

I calmed down when I remembered that my phone takes photos, albeit not quite as good. The cheap wine may also have helped.

Buenas noches. I intend to enjoy my break. I also got some chocolate at the pantry. Well, would you expect otherwise?

Hasta luego.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Glory Dazed

Glory Dazed at the Soho Theatre

Was a bit lukewarm about deciding on this - going through the motions, dutifully ticking off another on the list.

Took myself once more into the chaos that is the Piccadilly Line, followed by the chaos of Piccadilly Circus. Haven't been there in a while, used to it but oh! the squash on the Tube and the crush of people on the street. Anyway, all successfully negotiated and made it to the theatre.

With nearly ten minutes to spare. Bought my ticket on the spot - this isn't booking heavily. But I was early enough to be surprised that the lady behind the desk said that it was about to start, and radioed upstairs to warn them that another punter was coming. Maybe her watch was fast.. anyhoo, ticket purchased, I started the long trek up the stairs again. They have theatres on two levels, and I'm almost always in the upper one. Well, good exercise. I guess.

It was over half full, but there were plenty of empty seats. And shortly after it started, I began to wonder why. Because you will not see a better acted play. Anywhere. It's only just about an hour long, but so much intensity is packed into this hour. Story: a pub, after hours, they're locking up, and someone comes banging at the door. Turns out to be Ray, an army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. A larger than life character, with anger-management issues and ptsd and a drink problem, and a whole list of other problems. Played with intensity and charm. Amazing performance, star of the show, that man. Worth seeing, only showing till the 11th. Has the advantage of finishing by 8.30, so handy for those with a distance to travel.

So, why the empty seats for a show this good? Could it be because it's shorter than average and people don't feel they're getting their money's worth? Pshaw! Please don't say it's because it's set in Doncaster.. Anyway, I am so glad I went. This is one of those shows that reminds me why I go to all these shows. Even the ones I'm not particularly interested in to start with. Because, just sometimes, you find a gem like this..

On a side-note, noticed a couple of people this evening giving food to beggars, rather than money. A sandwich, a banana. Excellent idea.

Bristol tomorrow, looking forward to getting out of town. "London Wall" on Tuesday. After that? Watch this space..

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Fraulein Julie

Made it this time. :-)

Long journey over to the Barbican. Google Maps sends me either on the Piccadilly Line to King's Cross, then to Barbican Station, or on the District Line to Monument, then the Northern Line to Moorgate Station. District Line this evening. Just as well I didn't cut it too fine, there were some delays due to signal problems.

Weirdo award of the evening goes to the strange-looking man who got up from his seat when Earl's Court was announced, but left his large kit bag in front of the seat so nobody could sit in it. Then he put a home-rolled cigarette in his mouth, took out a lighter, but didn't light it. Twice. When there was an announcement that there would be a minor delay, he punched the support pole. Mercifully, we eventually got to the station and he eventually got off. With his bag. Whereupon I got his seat.

Many thanks to the gent on the escalator in front of me, leaving at Moorgate, who left his Evening Standard at the top. Which I picked up as I passed. V handy. They don't carry free papers at West Ken Station. Walk to the Barbican is short and mostly well signposted - Google Maps Streetview recommended.

And so to the venue. I do like the Barbican - pity it's not closer. Had some confusion on arrival, as usual. I think you really need to be coming here quite regularly to get the feel of the place. Also recommended to get an e-ticket, which avoids queueing at the ticket desks. Peckish, I stocked up on a packet of Minstrels before going in. As ever, reasonably comfy seats and good legroom. Not a bad view in the house - I was in the very back row of the upper level.

And the show? As I said before, this is a German-language version (with surtitles) of a play I saw some weeks back, "Mies Julie", running in the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith until the 19th. Very, very different version. "Mies Julie" is all fiery passion, "Fraulein Julie" is the much more poignant tale of the spurned fiancée of the servant who has a torrid affair with the lady of the house. However, what's really interesting about this production is that the whole thing is played out as a movie, on a large screen over the stage (with English subtitles), while on the stage you can see the making of the movie, in real time. As a guy in the row in front of me asked his friends afterwards, "So, did you enjoy your masterclass in filmmaking?"

So, if you ever wondered how they manage those close-ups, where there didn't seem to be room for the camera, or how the microphone picks up the sound, or how common film effects are achieved, go see this show. They even have a cellist playing the background music, over the side. It's a revelation. A film within a play, indeed. Recommended - but hurry, it's only on until Saturday, and tickets are limited.

Thinking about "Glory Dazed" at the Soho Theatre for tomorrow. They tend to have edgy, interesting stuff. Off to Bristol for the long weekend, whee! 'Twill be nice to get away, the weather should be ok, and there does seem to be plenty to do. I shall blog about it, never fear. Already thinking ahead, I've booked "London Wall" at St. James' Theatre, near Buckingham Palace, for Tuesday. It's an 80-year old play about women in the workplace. I'm glad to get a ticket, it sold out completely during its run at the Finborough Theatre. Pity I didn't get to see it there, that's walking distance for me and where it's running now, for all that it's a new theatre, does not have good legroom. Still, I booked an aisle seat, so hopefully won't be in too much agony. :-/