Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Free Comedy in Hammersmith

Well, the best that Meetup could throw up for tonight was the ever-over-advertised Free Comedy in Hammersmith: on this occasion, advertised by Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith, Wimbledon & Farringdon: London Live Comedy: and London for a Tenner or Less (who are bound to delete the listing when it's underway, possibly to disguise the fact that they work for Funzing, a for-profit organisation, and have literally hundreds of events scheduled).

When it came down to it though, I was hungry, I was tired, and I was not terribly keen on dragging myself across town to force a grin at what, frankly, is often mediocre comedy. Hey, don't get me wrong, it's far from the worst, the atmosphere is good, and I don't doubt I'll be back. However, I will be glad when people get back from their holidays, and get around to organising interesting events again, so I don't have to revert to this one all the time. Anyway, for this evening, I'll stay in and eat.

The rest of the week sounds more promising. Tomorrow, I'm on another London Literary Walk - in Bloomsbury, this time. These are very entertaining (and free), and I'd go on more if they didn't clash with so many other things.

On Thursday, we're going underground with the Man with the Hat; Let's Do London - for less! is off to the Vaults, for a Pop-Up Opera production of The Barber of Seville. Great, it's been a while..

On Friday, speaking of London for a Tenner or Less, they advertised a guided walk in Islington. Sounded good, I booked. Now, London Social Detours were advertising the same thing, and I figured I'd sign up with them as well, as long as they didn't charge me twice - I figured they had a Funzing arrangement, too. Imagine my chagrin to discover that, on that event page, the organiser was offering a discount, it being the last walk of the season, apparently. Well, I went back to the Funzing page and checked the refund conditions; yes, I could have a refund if I cancelled at least 48 hours beforehand. Terrific, I did! It comes in the form of Funzing credit, but you can contact them if you want it refunded to your payment method. Fair enough, I'm sure I'll use the credit in due course. And the walk organiser says I can pay in person - so all I have to do is remember to bring cash.

On Saturday, the ever-entertaining Man with the Hat is taking London for a Less than a Tenner (again, not to be confused with the Funzing group!) to an outdoor screening of Star Wars. We who showed up to the last outdoor screening he hosted are getting a discount that he niftily negotiated for us, since that one was delayed when the folks showing the film (ahem) forgot the film, and someone who lived nearby had to scurry off and get their own copy. So it was delayed, and some folks had to leave without seeing it. Hey-ho, better luck this time; I have seen this Star Wars before, and honestly wasn't completely bowled over - but it is good, and I rarely pass up an opportunity to tag along with the Man with the Hat. This is in Fulham Park, which isn't too far from me - I might drive, which I won't be doing for the other things happening in the meantime..

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Play: Macbeth

There's a new artistic director in the Globe this year, it seems. Well, it's one of my favourite venues, so it doesn't take much to persuade me there, and I've been a few times this year. And it was last month that I went to see Macbeth (click here to read that review).

That was with the Man with the Hat, who's developed a habit (long may it continue) of booking two outings to all his Globe shows this year. It says much for what I thought of the production that when I got home that night, before writing the blog post, I booked for his second outing to Macbeth. And today, it finally rolled around - and I wasn't at all perturbed that I was missing the annual company barbeque to go see this for the second time. No contest.

I took the bus, as usual - and true to form, it arrived just as I did. Mind you, I had to dart through some traffic to catch it before it pulled away. Pretty hot, on this rather sweltering day, but at least I managed to get a seat downstairs. Still, it was a relief to hop off at Southwark Bridge, where there was a light breeze - more so than in Clapham Junction, for sure.

He'd been at the meeting point (carefully described, with a photo, on the Meetup page) for a while, and only a small crowd surrounded him when I arrived. Got my ticket (seating for me, with Let's Do London - for less!, rather than standing with London for Less Than a Tenner - I didn't envy them either, in this heat). Made my way in - annoyingly, I was out of cash again, and didn't fancy the palaver of reaching a minimum amount so I could pay by card. But I wasn't in desperate need of anything.

I couldn't wait for the show to start. I hadn't re-read my blog post since, and just remembered certain elements of the production - but mainly the amazing soundtrack. The same composer, Jocelyn Pook, wrote the original music for the film Eyes Wide Shut - and in lieu of a cd or dvd of this production (or sneakily recording it yourself), the closest you can get to the music is to check that out on YouTube. Here, for instance.

Sometimes, in seeing a show more than once, you worry that it won't be as fresh on a repeat viewing. No such problems here. In fact, straight away I noticed one difference - I believe the witches were more prominent on my second trip than they had been on my first. Guess they proved popular, and rightly so. The music was still as chilling as before. Lady Macbeth (Tara Fitzgerald) and Macduff still impressed. And I'd forgotten how spectacular the visual effects are, particularly in the first scene after the interval.

But what was really, noticeably different for me between the two productions was the performance given by Ray Fearon as Macbeth. The first time I saw him, I thought his transition from loyal subject to murderer was too abrupt - by the time I saw him again, it had evened out, I think, and I thought he played the part terrifically. His rendition of the famous "Tomorrow and tomorrow" soliloquy was breathtaking.

Not to everyone's taste - quite a few people near me didn't seem too impressed, as they didn't return after the interval. Well, it did give the rest of us some breathing space - the place was packed, and on this stuffy evening, every breeze that we caught was very welcome. I, of course, absolutely loved it. Still playing on specified days up to the 1st October. Highly recommended.

Afterwards, we travelled the short distance to The Swan, where, for once, we got seating outside, on the terrace. And what a fantastic evening for it, so warm, and with the view across the river. A very good time was had until we eventually got chucked out, just before midnight.

'Bye for now, Man with Hat - 'bye, Globe, 'bye, London - I'm back to Ireland tomorrow for the bank holiday weekend. Back in action in London on Tuesday. Guess what with? Yup, the various groups are advertising free comedy in Hammersmith again! So let's see, I'm signed up with Free Comedy Nights in Hammersmith, Wimbledon & Farringdon: London Live Comedy: and London for a Tenner or Less. The latter is, of course, not to be confused with the previously mentioned Man with the Hat's group - no, this latter group is the one that deletes its Meetup listing once the event is underway. Very cloak and dagger. Anyway, these comedy nights are free, and tend to have a good atmosphere.

On Wednesday, I'm on another London Literary Walk - in Bloomsbury, this time. These are very entertaining (and free), and I'd go on more if they didn't clash with so many other things.

And on Thursday, we're going underground with the Man with the Hat - to the Vaults, for a Pop-Up Opera production of The Barber of Seville. Great, it's been a while..

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Musical: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

So, London Dramatic Arts turned up trumps tonight, with the cheapest tickets available to Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, at the National. Fair enough - I booked. And with a nice, late start time (the advantage of having no interval), and being so quick to get to, I even had time to have dinner beforehand! Now there's a luxury..

Mind you, that did mean I was slightly rushed, and after bolting my food, I rushed to catch the train to Waterloo. Uncomfortable journey - I was too hot, despite all the train windows being open. The organiser had asked us to let her know if we weren't going to make it by 7.45 (for an 8pm start), so I did.. that was about the time that my train chugged into Waterloo, and it took me another five minutes to get to the other side of the station, and five more to get to the Dorfman. In really sultry heat - I still have the fan on now, in the wee small hours of the morning. Anyway, the Dorfman is the one accessed to the side of the main entrance, and I guessed - correctly - that it'd be quicker to approach from the rear, along Upper Ground, which was my way from the station.

The idea was that she'd leave our tickets at the box office if we hadn't made it by 7.45. And so she had - although there was slight confusion when I gave my full name to the lady, who just had a ticket under my first name. Never mind, I got it, and when the really slow-moving people in front of me finally decided to make their way to their seats, I could get to mine (in the very front row). Where I said hi to the others, and we waited for the show to start - they always do start a little late.

The lady beside me, who seemed to be acquainted with theatrical people, remarked that she'd hate to be in charge of the props for this - the stage was strewn with plastic bottles, a bird cage, and who knows what all. Some musical instruments filled the rear, and a statue of the Virgin Mary graced the back wall.

The plot concerns a group of schoolgirls who attend the Catholic school that gives its name to the production. They're all in the school choir, and headed for a competition in Edinburgh. They're from Oban, themselves - and, let loose in the city, winning the competition is the furthest thing from their minds, as they lose themselves in a riot of teenage boozing, flirting, and more.

It's absolutely hilarious. The insane scrapes they get into aren't a million miles from the sort of thing we're all familiar with, from our youth. The characters are people we get interested in, and come to care about, as we learn about the problems they face - and we take their side as they come up against people who would do them harm. And through it all, we get snatches of music, sung by the most angelic voices, and accompanied by a small band at the rear.

This is a transfer from the Edinburgh Fringe, apparently, and it's hard to do it justice. It's absolutely terrific, wonderfully written and performed. A standing ovation was well deserved - and I was delighted to have a good night out! This week has been a bit short on them, so far. Currently booking until 1 October, very highly recommended. Contains flashing lights, and loads of strong language.

Afterwards, most of us hung on for a drink, but rather than hang around the cramped lobby bar of the Dorfman, we headed around to The Green Room, since a couple of people fancied food. It was still lovely and warm out, and The Green Room is surrounded by a kind of garden, with seating - there were tables, chairs, deckchairs, people enjoying the evening but plenty of space. I spied a sign asking patrons to check in at the bar first, so we made our way over there.

And we waited, and we waited. A group of people beside us seemed to have taken possession of a number of bottles of wine, but the only person we saw behind the bar seemed to be there exclusively to wash up, and completely ignored us. We made our way back and forth - no management was apparent - and finally found someone to tell us that the outside area was now closed - a pity, as despite all the open windows (and, indeed, walls), the inside was quite stuffy. We were shown to a table - one of the curious, glass-topped ones, with an interior shelf that was filled with curiosities. Ours contained food, which we decided couldn't be real.

We got menus quickly enough, but no-one came for ages to take our order. As I mentioned, I'd eaten before, so just had chips, while the others had mains. And it was all very nice. And my portion of chips was a decent size, for £3. The wine was on the pricey side, but not excessive for the location - but with the lacklustre service we'd had, I raised an eyebrow at the included 12.5% service charge on the bill. I raised it even further when, after we'd all paid separately, she came back to tell us we were 94p short. We didn't fancy dessert, and anyway they were closed now - and nary a "good night" out of them as we walked past to leave. As I agreed with one of my companions, we won't be back there again.

Tomorrow, the Man with the Hat makes an appearance - his second outing to Macbeth, at the Globe, in fact; I loved it so much the first time that I'm going again. The music is by the same composer who wrote the soundtrack for Eyes Wide Shut, and I adored it - I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack. Expecting a good night, then.
And on Friday, I'm back to Ireland again, for a long weekend - it's a bank holiday here on Monday.

Comedy: Crown the Knave

Comedy, comedy - I'm drowning in comedy. Seems to be 90% of what Meetup is throwing up these days - well, if you don't count fitness bootcamps (yeuch). I'd said I'd go to the regular, multi-advertised one in Hammersmith.. but then Crown the Knave (courtesy of London Live Comedy) advertised a show in The Bedford, which is half the distance. Both were free, of course. So I cancelled the first and signed myself in for the second. Cue a helpful message from the organiser to clarify that, this being in the side bar, the entrance was on Fernlea Road.

It's a short journey, so it didn't matter that I was kept late in the office again. Still, good job I gave myself about half an hour - it took most of that, especially since parking was tricky, for once, around the pub, and I ended up having to park past it and walk back. Also just as well she'd let me know about the entrance - there is a completely separate entrance for the side bar, and when I've been here before I've been in the theatre, upstairs.

The side bar turned out to be quite small, chairs packed into the space - I took one. The bar, predictably, wasn't serving, but I didn't feel the need for a drink. After some considerable trouble fixing the large spotlight at the back,so it didn't shine straight into the performer's eyes, they deafened us with the mics. Seems this was only their second performance at this venue - they were thrown out of their previous venue, which was located near an eatery, because they were disturbing the diners. Also seems they're having some set-up problems here.

The first act was good - a blues guitarist, accompanied by a couple of singers in succession, one of whom turned out to be one of the comedians, Siobhan Dodd. Who, as well as being a good comedian, turned out to be a fantastic blues singer! After a brief concert, but which provided a nice interlude before the comedy, the organiser passed around the room with a box of free raffle tickets, and we were into the comedy.

More than other comedy nights, I think this particular gathering tends to attract the same performers over and over. Andy Gleeks, who I thought spent far too much time bantering with the audience, was followed by Rakhesh Martyn, and another comedian whose name was more conventional (so I'm afraid I've forgotten it). Both very good. And followed by Siobhan to finish out the first set, with an enthusiastic - if rather scattered - show, possibly a bit distracted by the fact that her mother was sitting in the front row.

Now, these chairs were loose on the floor, and I had the misfortune to be sat behind one of those guys that always seem to need more space - so his chair gradually crept back towards mine. I eventually had to move, or be squashed - and when, during the interval (while the organiser and another of the comedians desperately tried to get the sound system working for his multimedia show, later), the guy I was now behind started moving his chair back as well - I gave the whole thing up as a bad job and left. The comedy was ok, but it was just kind of hard work in this venue, and it was small and nearly full, so there really wasn't anywhere else to sit.

At least I was out nice and early. Sadly, the street I was parked on was one-way, so I had to go around, which involved getting slightly lost, and my phone would pick this moment to decide that my fingerprint wasn't a match for its database, which meant trouble getting my phone to turn on. But I did make it out eventually, coming back via Asda, which meant I could do a very much-needed shop.. I even had time to cook myself some dinner!

Tonight, I'm back with London Dramatic Arts, who unusually had the cheapest tickets for something, would you believe! Showing at the National, this time it's Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, a riotous schoolgirl comedy set during a choral competition. In the Dorfman, which is that one around the side.. always pays to check, with the National. Third time lucky, for something decent to go to this week?

Tomorrow, the Man with the Hat makes an appearance - his second outing to Macbeth, at the Globe, in fact; I loved it so much the first time that I'm going again. The music is by the same composer who wrote the soundtrack for Eyes Wide Shut, and I adored it - I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack.

And on Friday, I'm back to Ireland again, for a long weekend - it's a bank holiday here on Monday.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Play: The Truth

Yep, I perked up quite a bit when I came across a short film crewing session yesterday - that's something I'd definitely be interested in. But then it occurred to me that this wouldn't be a one-off, that I'd have to go on a regular basis - and like so many things, that just wouldn't be convenient. Instead, I hunted around for what I might get a cheap ticket to: and wouldn't you know it, I got an offer to see The Truth - which the organiser of London Dramatic Arts had recommended to me at the weekend. Yeah, fair enough - I booked.

I got delayed in the office anyway, and wouldn't have made the film crewing session in time - but had more time to get to my play, which wasn't on until 8. It's currently showing at Wyndham's, having transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory.. I might just have had time to catch the bus, but decided not to cut it fine, and took the quick option instead - Northern Line from Waterloo to Leicester Square, take Exit 1, and it's just outside on the left.

I collected my ticket.. hadn't had time to eat, and debated whether to get something at the concession stand in the lobby, or wait to go upstairs - I eventually got some Maltesers in the lobby, and a good job too; they didn't seem to do food further up. The nice usher on the stairs explained that the house wasn't open yet, but if I went this way, I could go to the bar, and enter from there - so that's what I did. The (Royal Circle) bar turns out to be just over the entrance, and I ordered a wine, which was quite reasonably priced, but also quite insipid.

The Royal Circle itself turns out to be through the large double doors in the bar, and was the next level above the stalls - so I had an excellent view:

Fabulously ornate theatre - it's not often I get to the West End, and I was relishing the experience. I was glad I'd taken the quick option, as I opened my (very theatrical) Maltesers:

The nice man who'd sold them to me warned me to get the plastic off before the show started.. I managed that, but not quite to finish them, and ended up having to munch them during scene changes or laughter breaks.

Yeah. I should really stay away from recommendations issued by the organiser of LDAM - we almost never do seem to agree. This is a comedy - and ended up being one of those most awkward evenings where I'm in the middle of a theatre full of people laughing uproariously, while I'm sitting there thinking, "WTF?!" It's obviously based on a French play - two middle-aged couples, best friends, living in Paris, all with French names. And several times, it occurred to me that, although a clever play, this would probably have been funnier in the original French.

Or with a different director. Or a different cast. Humour is an elusive thing, and I'm not sure what this play needed - but it definitely needed something. Not the lead actor running around the stage like a lunatic, while everyone around him keeps their cool. It's a comedy of misunderstandings and half-truths, and there's a scene where one admits to the other he's been having an affair with his wife, because he's convinced the guy already knows. Then (spoiler) he discovers he hadn't known, and utters the immortal line - wait for it - "I've put my foot in it!"

Whereupon the entire place erupted. Sorry, I still don't get it - I woke up this morning still wondering what on earth made that line funny. All I can imagine is that the whole place (me excepted) was suspended in nervous tension as they realised what a mistake he was making, and released it all at that moment in an explosion of laughter. O dear. It didn't improve before the inconclusive ending - at least there wasn't an interval, so I was out of there decently early. Runs until the 3rd, this show, if you're interested - I'm just glad I didn't pay full price.

Fast home as well, via the same route, seeing as I had to be up early today for Guildford again - at least I'll have benefited from the daily price cap on my Oyster card. And on the train, I spied a lass charging her phone at an available socket - brave girl, someone was arrested for that a while ago, you know! They're not for customer use..

Tonight has a couple of comedy events - I had signed up for the usual free one in Hammersmith, then saw one advertised for The Bedford, with London Live Comedy - half the distance, so I've booked for that instead. And I can drive, which is nice.

Tomorrow, I'm back with LDAM, who unusually had the cheapest tickets for something, would you believe! Showing at the National, this time it's Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, a riotous schoolgirl comedy set during a choral competition.

On Thursday, the Man with the Hat makes an appearance - his second outing to Macbeth, at the Globe, in fact; I loved it so much the first time that I'm going again. The music is by the same composer who wrote the soundtrack for Eyes Wide Shut, and I adored it - I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack.

And on Friday, I'm back to Ireland again, for a long weekend - it's a bank holiday here the following Monday.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Canary Wharf Circular Walk

..predictably, didn't happen. Ken's Events was actually doing this, and given that my membership card has expired, I'd have been doing it on my own. It was always in doubt.. and given that I didn't wake till afternoon, then spent the whole afternoon with crippling stomach pain - that wasn't happening.

All better now, you'll be glad to hear - and mercifully, this was the perfect day for it to happen, with nothing special on the calendar. As for tomorrow - well, I was all fired up to do this short film crewing event, until I realised it wouldn't be a one-off, that the work would continue over several weeks - they make a film a month. I'd love to do it - but with every second weekend in Ireland, and so much else on that I want to do.. just not feasible, I'm afraid. Instead, I got me a cheap ticket to The Truth, which has transferred to Wyndham's from the Menier Chocolate Factory, and which last night's organiser was recommending to me.

No change for the rest of the week (so far): Tuesday has a couple of comedy events - I had signed up for the usual free one in Hammersmith, then saw one advertised for The Bedford, with London Live Comedy - half the distance, so I've booked for that instead.

On Wednesday, I'm back with LDAM, who again had the cheapest tickets for something, would you believe! Also at the National, this time it's Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, a riotous schoolgirl comedy set during a choral competition.

On Thursday, the Man with the Hat makes an appearance - his second outing to Macbeth, at the Globe, in fact; I loved it so much the first time that I'm going again. The music is by the same composer who wrote the soundtrack for Eyes Wide Shut, and I adored it - I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack.

And on Friday, I'm back to Ireland again, for a long weekend - it's a bank holiday here the following Monday.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Play: The Plough and the Stars

Busy day today, eh? A play booked with LDAM for the evening, and meeting Helen for lunch etc. beforehand. Well, I rose late, got a message from her letting me know what time she expected to arrive at Waterloo, and was left with not enough time to get the bus there - predictably. Well, I did manage to catch a train that got me there in time, and actually beat her to the meeting point, hah! Whereupon we both lamented the departure of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, who has graced the station foyer for so long.

Lunch for her, brunch for me, beckoned - we ended in up in Cucina, an Italian restaurant just down from the station. On what was quite a muggy day, pretty much the entire front of the restaurant was open - there was more space inside than on the terrace, so we sat there. With reddish-brown walls covered in Godfather-esque photographs and wine racks, it presents a cosy appearance, with a distinctly Italian feel:

Service was with a (cheeky) smile, and decently quick - we did note how many of the dishes on the menu were marked as "new". Indeed, it was mostly "new" dishes we went for - goat's cheese starter for Helen, Mediterranean marinated chicken for us both. I had garlic bread to start - and it was yummy. The top I was wearing evidently thought so too, attracting a great big splash of garlic butter. The chicken was simple, but delicious, accompanied by a small salad and some nicely crispy fries - well that's the secret, isn't it? Simple food, well done.

When the waiter was asking what we wanted for dessert, he suggested we might like to have him.. tempting as it was, instead I had the "death by chocolate", Helen a selection of ice cream. The menu didn't specify what kind of "death" the chocolate entailed, but sure enough it was a cake, covered in those dark chocolate flakes I love so dearly. Had I looked to my left, I could have gotten a preview - the desserts live in a glass fridge near the door. And I'll say this for the cake - it was gorgeously light, unlike some I've had: perfect for a warm day. Only quibble about this restaurant - there's only one toilet cubicle, so beware long queues..

Next on the itinerary was retail therapy on Oxford Street. A very breezy walk across Westminster Bridge, and we got the Tube to Bond Street. Our first stop was Victoria's Secret - deserves a mention for the sheer audacity of the décor. A pair of helpful shop assistants stand just inside the main entrance - believe me, you need their help. Even if you don't need measurement (for which purpose they wear measuring tape around their necks), you will probably need guidance - the place is an absolute maze, with no clear way to know which room you want. We were directed up the most fantastical staircase, all black with glittering, crystal railings - upstairs, all the lingerie drawers have crystal knobs. Wall upon wall of bras, drawer upon drawer of them - and do you know, they still didn't have what was wanted!

A few more shops were visited, and those with good air conditioning were most highly appreciated. Our final stop was the dependable M&S, where the desired lingerie was purchased, and also a top to replace the one I'd decided to feed over lunch - which I duly changed into, in the toilet. A quick pitstop for cold drinks, and we headed back to Waterloo in time for Helen to catch a train home - she'd had a long week and didn't fancy joining me at the theatre.

It's not far to the National from Waterloo (well, if you're not late for something), and I was there in plenty of time. Managed to make my way in through a side bar, for once - those doors never normally seem to be open, perhaps it just happens at weekends. Anyway, I grabbed a seat by the wall, and eventually got myself a drink at the bar, just before the group was supposed to meet. The performance was in the Lyttelton, and the bar is in the lobby - for once, easy to find in this horrible maze of a building:

Of course, as it's this group, at the appointed time there was no sign of anyone. Anyway, when I'd arrived I'd posted on the Meetup event page where I was, and when the organiser did eventually rock up, with her husband, they knew roughly where to find me. We took a more central seat, and eventually accumulated all those attending - a small group. When we were given our tickets, I noticed that face value was less than what we'd paid - but what we'd paid was still the cheapest I'd found. So that's fair enough.

Our seats were in the second row of the stalls - and as we sat, the fellow beside me remarked to the lady on the other side, who had a programme, that he'd always bought them, until they got so expensive. Ditto for me. One of the ushers passed along the front row, to warn the audience members sitting there not to leave their seats while the scenes were changing, because the stage revolved. And then the stage was revealed, and our production of The Plough and the Stars was off.

It's a large stage, and as well as revolving, shows an impressive amount of detail. The tenement building in which most of the play is set has cut-away sections, like a dolls' house, to reveal a hallway, and as the back of the stage is revealed, there is space to show the revolutionary parade alluded to in the first act. We have scenes in a bar, and outside the front - and in the attic - of the tenement.. and a cast that, at the end, taking their bows, seems much larger than it did during the play.

What I couldn't help but notice during the first act was the slowness of the dialogue. It's as though they're speaking - very - deliberately, so that the audience is sure to understand. This is probably an excellent idea - even at that, the organiser remarked, at the interval, that it took her ear a while to adjust, because the accents and slang are Dublin. Indeed, when I heard it at proper speed - some years ago now - it took me a while to adjust, myself.

Otherwise, the production is excellent. Acting, costumes.. I haven't seen a better production. In the second half, with more action, the dialogue speed is less noticeable, and for all I know they may have sped up. Certainly, while the first act introduces us to the characters and has a good deal of humour, the second half grows progressively darker, as the Easter Rising takes hold. The play's title refers to the flag of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), one of many armed groups in Ireland at the time, which took part in the rising, and was formed of trade unionists - a response to the lockout of 1913, when demonstrations for the right to unionise were attacked by police.

O' Casey, who wrote the play, was a socialist, and more concerned with the plight of the poor than with the competing ideologies - although he did make one of the characters a socialist, who spends much of his time spouting socialist theories. So, while great events develop around them, the characters are more concerned with their day-to-day lives: even when things turn violent. Until they can ignore what's going on no longer. The play ends with a depiction of how completely the inhabitants of this slum have been destroyed, with a particularly moving scene - and after our hearts have been wrenched, and with a dead body lying under a sheet on the floor, two Tommies share a cup of tea and sing about home, in what you might take as the final insult..

"Harrowing" they described it as, afterwards. There was a variety of knowledge in the group about the history behind the play - some knew lots, some literally knew nothing. I spent the interval explaining it to them - now, isn't it a pity that the organiser has banned me from linking to my blog on her site? She might otherwise have learned something. Anyway, nobody felt like a drink after - she was too tired, and had a babysitter to get home to, another couple needed to get home to their dogs, one had a train to catch. Me, I headed for my bus - although had I but known it, I'd reached my maximum fare for the day, which seems to have been reduced, and I travelled for free! So I could have come home faster by train, for no extra cost..

Never mind. Tomorrow, there's a lot in Meetup I'm not interested in-  a couple of concerts I wouldn't enjoy, and some walks that I definitely won't be up in time for! However, Ken's Events have a circular walk around Canary Wharf, before going to the concert there - and since I have no intention of paying to join them, I could head along at my leisure to do that on my own. We'll see how I feel.

On Monday, I found something very interesting indeed - it seems that Godiva Films have a Meetup group, and on Monday they're hosting a short film crewing event in Hammersmith! Gee, film editing is something I've been thinking about for a while - and I could drive there, and park in Hammersmith Grove, which I've done before. It is on quite early though, and I'll be in Guildford - again, we'll see.

Tuesday has a couple of comedy events - I had signed up for the usual free one in Hammersmith, then saw one advertised for The Bedford, with London Live Comedy - half the distance, so I've booked for that instead.

On Wednesday, I'm back with LDAM, who again had the cheapest tickets for something, would you believe! Also at the National, this time it's Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, a riotous schoolgirl comedy set during a choral competition.

On Thursday, the Man with the Hat makes an appearance - his second outing to Macbeth, at the Globe, in fact; I loved it so much the first time that I'm going again. The music is by the same composer who wrote the soundtrack for Eyes Wide Shut, and I adored it - I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack.

And on Friday, I'm back to Ireland again, for a long weekend - it's a bank holiday here the following Monday.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Film: El Verdugo (The Executioner)

After a strenuous trawl through the films listed for this week in London (and at least now they're done, if I want to see another: during this week, anyway), I had a film list, ranked in order of IMDB ratings. And as is often the way with arthouse films, the top three on the list weren't showing today. Number 4 was El Verdugo (The Executioner), showing at the BFI, and after quickly checking out the trailer and deciding it was decent, I checked the BFI website - to find there were only two seats left! So I booked the one closer to the screen, and more central. And sure enough, by the time I left, the other was gone too.

With the whole day to get ready (I was working from home), I was still rushing! Now, there's no free parking that I know of near Waterloo, so public transport it was - I was too late for the bus, so train it was, and I did cut it fine; fast as I trotted from the station, I still only got to the BFI ever so slightly after the scheduled start time. And they do start on time. And blast the BFI box office, but they must have the payment card, and type the whole number into the computer to print out the ticket. Now, very few places take that long to issue a ticket - they might like to streamline their process.

She unnecessarily told me that it had started, and I scurried to the theatre, where I was met by an usher with a flashlight. I would be sat near the front, too. Anyway, in recent times the BFI has taken to screening its own ads before the main feature, so I did actually have some breathing space - and wasn't even the last to arrive, with at least two coming after me. (They used to have a policy of not letting people in more than 15 minutes after the scheduled start time - I don't know whether they still do.) I settled back in the plush red velvet seat - if I position myself right, I can get my head to rest on the seat back, which is lovely. And I had ample opportunity to notice the heavy breathing of the guy beside me - almost a snore. And at several points during the film, it did develop into a snore. I'm sure that wasn't a comment on the film.

El Verdugo was made in Spain in 1963 - plenty of opportunities to stare at the outdated fashions. Not to mention the subject matter: our protagonist is an undertaker for the prison service, and falls for the daughter of the executioner - a reviled, but genial, old man. He marries her, and behold, finds himself obliged to take on the profession of his father-in-law, who's about to retire, in order to retain possession of the brand spanking new flat that goes with the job. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the temperament for it..

The film has a lovely, gentle humour to it, and plenty of clever visual gags. And funnily enough, Franco's government never realised that its message was against the death penalty, then in force in Spain, as in other places where it's now long been abolished. Until, that is, it went and won an award at the Venice Film Festival - whereupon it was banned in Spain. Guess somebody spilled the beans.

Mind you, the consistent anti-death penalty stance of the main character isn't the only thing they'd have found objectionable - there's some unrepentant premarital sex (implied, of course), and a hilarious wedding scene, which opens with a bride and groom, fancily attired, standing before an altar bedecked with candles and a choir. Of course, this isn't our hapless couple, as we see when the ceremony is concluded and they turn to leave, taking priests and choir with them. No, our bridal party creeps in afterwards, nearly tripping on the carpet, which obviously belonged to the previous party, and is being rolled up under their feet. The ceremony is conducted by a lone priest, squinting in the light of the single candle left lighting. A sweet little swipe at the church's attitude to money - no, that wouldn't have gone down well either.

As I left, I wondered whether they had any informational fliers, which the BFI tends to have accompanying its screenings - but the holders were empty. Seems they hadn't been there at the start, either - someone was complaining to the usher, saying he'd promised they'd be there at the end; the usher was promising they would be, once he got this wheelchair down to the front.. I didn't wait. I determined to get the bus home, and found the stop easily enough - it's the terminus, on Concert Hall Approach. Would've spent my time waiting there reading the special "Night Standard" edition that the Evening Standard has published, in honour of the infamous night Tube, which finally starts tonight! ..Except I couldn't read while I was waiting, as the street light was out. Never mind, when the bus did arrive, I made up for the expense of the train fare in; the card reader wasn't working that early in the journey, so we all got on for free!

Boy, am I looking forward to my bed. I don't have to be up early tomorrow - I am meeting Helen for lunch, and in the evening I'm joining London Dramatic Arts - who got a great deal on tickets, for once - for The Plough and the Stars, at the National. Funnily enough, I've never seen it live - didn't even do it in school, because I did Higher Level English, which meant we got taught Shakespeare, while those doing Ordinary Level did O' Casey.. I did get to see it on telly, eventually.

Film: Star Trek Beyond

Film last night.. did a quick trawl of what was on, and top of the list came Star Trek Beyond. On at my local cinema, where they have free parking from 7 - the only time after that was 8.50, but what the hey, I was working from home today, so could stay up a bit late. In the event, the late start time was a boon, as my boss was in the office, got a lift from me, and asked whether I was in a rush in the evening - it was his one day in the office this month, and he had a pile of expenses to submit (been travelling a lot for work, lately).

So we stayed late, but I was still in plenty of time for the film. Made it a bit of a rush to eat, though, and I ended up not finishing it - never mind. Traffic was light, and I made the cinema in 10 minutes. Parked, made my way upstairs, had my ticket scanned, found the screen (annoyingly, there are two entrances, but one is never staffed, so you have to enter by the other - and that was the opposite end from the screen, last night). So by the time I took my seat, it was half an hour after the scheduled start time - the screen was dark, and as I sat down, the film certificate for Star Trek came on. So, perfect timing.. always thought Cineworld has about half an hour of ads! Handy to know.

In short, I was a bit ho-hum about seeing this. I do love sci-fi, but it's not all terrific, especially some of the more modern ones - too much style over substance. But the trailer for this had been unusually subdued, and as the film started, I came to appreciate that this was a lot better than it had a right to be. J. J. Abrams, who directed the last Star Trek, is busy with Star Wars these days, it seems, so this Star Trek had a different director - and I think it was all the better for it.

It looks.. absolutely.. beautiful. It's shots like this that remind me why I love sci-fi, and space has never looked lovelier. Breathtaking, literally. There's a scene - where a starship crashes into a planet (small spoiler) - that's an absolute work of art. And just wait till you see what they've conjured up for  the enemy spacecraft! Woo-hoo, I haven't come across this idea before, but it makes for some terrific shots..

It's not without problems. They constantly complain that Simon Pegg (playing Scotty, and who also co-wrote this) is annoying - but frankly, I don't think he has anything on Bones (Karl Urban). See, the banter that went on between him and Spock in the original tv series and films was funny. Here, it isn't. For one thing, Karl Urban just - isn't - funny. Well, nobody in the screen last night was laughing at the jokes. Please, recast or just leave out the banter between them - there's no point in recreating it just for the sake of it! And on top of all that, you can forget about more detailed plot points - it's too hard to catch what they say about it, so I didn't try: but you'll get the gist in the end, anyway.

That aside, it was gorgeous, it was memorable, and it had a depth that I found lacking in, for instance, the latest Star Wars. I was delighted I got to see it. And that I could sleep in this morning! Tonight is to be another film - and after spending most of a day redoing the film list for this week, I lighted on El Verdugo (The Executioner) - a Spanish comedy, made in the 60s, about a hapless undertaker who marries an executioner's daughter and finds himself obliged to take on that trade. (At the time of release, Franco's government didn't realise it was against the death penalty - until it got an award at the Venice Film Festival. Whereupon the producers had trouble releasing it in Spain!) Showing in the BFI, and I got the second-last seat.. sold out now, I see. Again, a nice late showing, which gives me time to do other stuff. Like blog - I was wrecked last night, not having got much sleep the night before.

Again, I don't have to be up early tomorrow - I am meeting Helen for lunch, and in the evening I'm joining London Dramatic Arts - who got a great deal on tickets, for once - for The Plough and the Stars, at the National. Funnily enough, I've never seen it live - didn't even do it in school, because I did Higher Level English, which meant we got taught Shakespeare, while those doing Ordinary Level did O' Casey.. I did get to see it on telly, eventually.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Top Secret Comedy Club

Top Secret again last night - as I've said to a few people now (because they asked, and it's true), the first time I was here I walked out. Didn't like it, period. Now, I attended on my own, on that occasion. Several times, since then, the Man with the Hat has led a faithful band from London for Less than a Tenner there several times - and I never went with them. Until one week, I did. And loved it. And have been back a few times since. So, fair to say I give it a high rating nowadays.

I wouldn't drive there (although I might have to rethink that, as I got talking to someone over the course of the evening, who had driven, who'd had no trouble parking, and who swore by this app called Waze (which I have heard lauded before). Well, now that I have a good phone, I might just investigate that - watch this space. For now, I got caught up doing stuff at home, and ended up taking the fast route, rather than the cheap one (which would have been a direct bus) - train to Waterloo, 521 to Holborn.

With the usual confusion of several trains from Clapham Junction to Waterloo, I ended up taking one from the nearest platform - actually, the two nearest each had trains to Waterloo departing within a minute of each other. I figured the nonstop was the better choice - and it might have been, even with the unscheduled stop in between stations. At Waterloo, I was just in time to miss the 521 (this is becoming a habit!). The departure board then said the next was due in five minutes. Then that vanished off the board. Then a bus started to pull in with a completely different number. Then it decided to be a 521. Very suspenseful bus route.

It's not far to Holborn, and I was in plenty of time - got myself a drink (had cash, this time, to avoid the card fee for bills under £10), and was glad to see they haven't increased the price. The place was almost full.. I'm not used to that, but had forgotten that we generally arrive earlier than this; the show started later last night, and the bulk of people had already arrived. Still, I scored a good seat - near the front, but not right under the performers' eye.

I had ample time to admire the view of the (empty) stage, as the room gradually filled up. I'm used to shows in London starting late - audiences tend to arrive late, and you can't blame them, with traffic and public transport as it is. But honestly - 35 minutes?! In a room that was stifling, with pumping music and swirling lights that were just irritating after a while. I've never known such a delay, and if it hadn't been for the group I was spending the evening with, I would have left before the show even started. Even an apology from stage for the late start would have gone a long way - but we were given nothing.

It was such a relief when the mc finally came on - despite his reprise of jokes that he's done so often that practically the entire room knows the punchlines, and recited them along with him. Hey, I guess it's a trademark now. Hallelujah, he was followed by some comedians - and good ones, too. Nick Dixon started, to be followed immediately by his fiancee, Maria Shehata. A short break, and we had two more: the hilarious Latifa Lovejoy (I think), who had a thing about the voice in public announcements, and Tania Edwards - who, for me, was the comedian of the night, delivering a deadpan set as the personification of middle-class ennui, with the hook that she'd just had a baby. It was a new material night, and I think had she done some stuff she was more familiar with, she'd have been more comfortable - but I really admired her sharp delivery. Another of those short bar/toilet breaks, and we had the final two: a Canadian who, I think, was called Brendan Grey, with Josh Robertson ending the night. Pity his set was a bit disrupted by a flickering spotlight.

A good night, overall - but not many of us hung around for drinks afterwards. We select few trotted down the road to the White Hart, as usual, grabbing sofas at the rear. And we had an interesting chat, and the largest number in a long while to be chucked out at closing. Hard to imagine I won't be with them again for over a week..

Anyway, for tonight I'm finally going to Star Trek - Beyond, at my local cinema. Which I have no problem driving to. Should be fun. And late enough that I can grab a proper dinner, for once! 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Play: Thérese Raquin

Thérese Raquin, eh? Well, I'd seen it before, but an invitation from the Man with the Hat was enough incentive to go see it again. So, off I went with Let's Do London - for Less! to Southwark Playhouse. Always a good night, a good show with good company..

I was in Guildford, but it was late enough that I shouldn't - and didn't - have trouble getting there in time. Wouldn't drive there - awful driving route and iffy parking - so bus it was. Now, I've developed a thing of arriving at the stop at the same time as the 344 bus. Unfortunately, this evening I was slightly too late (or it was too early), and I was waiting to cross the road as it pulled away. Blast. Never mind, the next one came along within 10 minutes, and I was going to be early for the play anyway.

Downstairs was full, so I had to sit on top.. ooh, it's been a while, and by the time I staggered off at Newington Causeway I was feeling a bit seasick. However, I made it safely up the road and lived to order a drink - they seem to have upped their price to £6 for a large wine, but it's still decent value. Located group, sat with them down the back until the Man with the Hat called us all to order, the house now being open. Of course, this is a place where you simply take your drink in with you - not even required to convert the container to plastic. Very handy.

We'd been warned that this was to be a somewhat salacious performance - as we entered, in fact, the air was thick with vapour of some kind, and someone remarked that it was "already steamy!" Well, it was unassigned seating - I ended up about halfway up this small theatre (it's in the smaller of the two) and to the side. Bench seating, for this - not the most comfortable, by the end of the night. But otherwise fine.

A somewhat dingy set reflects the mood of the piece. Based on a story by Émile Zola, it's a sordid tale - it's not much of a spoiler to say that the eponymous Thérese is locked in an unhappy marriage, and ends up falling for her husband's best friend - an attractive artist. But you know, be careful what you wish for - it might not bring what you desire, and in this case, her desires prove her downfall: and not only hers, but that of almost everyone around her.

As I mentioned before, I'd already seen a production of this, and was on the alert for differences between them. Certainly, I found this production much more sympathetic towards her, both in its depiction of her as a tortured soul, and in its depiction of her husband as, frankly, the most irritating, sickly, snivelling, spoilt brat you could hope not to meet. He treats her as an inconvenience, his sister (more commonly his mother, in the traditional tale) doesn't understand her either, and just treats her as a dogsbody. It's not until the arrival of the handsome young friend that Thérese feels she has found someone who truly understands her.

Ah yes, the handsome young friend. He, of course, provides the promised "full-frontal nudity", and a fine figure of a man he is, too. Someone remarked, at the interval, that they thought they'd noticed a birthmark.. can't really say, myself. (Sorry, photography not allowed.) But his isn't the only memorable performance - this is an almost overpowering play. It's packed with sexual tension, laid on thick with ominous music, and with pointed looks that are followed by graphic physical acts. Indeed, by the end - when they took their bows - I did remark that there were few members of the cast who weren't.. messy. Covered in water, or blood, or whatever. They put in a hard evening's effort.

A small set nonetheless works well in depicting the different scenes, and clever lighting changes and rearrangement of props completely change the mood - in particular from the first act, where the sexual tension is awakened and plans are laid, to the second act, where we see the dreadful consequences. And I thought the Yorkshire accent worked really well, even if it is set in Paris! Nowt like a bit of French mixed in..

Personal favourite moments - not yet mentioned - include the dead guy who has more fun than when he was alive, and the corpse that laughs in bitter revenge, right at the end. O yes, this is very watchable, and highly recommended; runs until 3 September.

And we're following the Man with the Hat around again tomorrow night, when he's leading London for Less than a Tenner to Top Secret. Slightly later start than usual, which is always handy, you know, for eating and such.. not that you can't eat there, but still..

Play: The League of Youth

Ah, back to London - back to sunshine and heat, back to things to do. Mind you, I think Meetup has holidays on its mind - it didn't have anything for yesterday that appealed. Still, I have other sources of tickets - and of the things I could do, simply the closest I could get a cheap ticket to was in Theatre N16, where The League of Youth is playing until Thursday. Close is good - I booked.

I've driven there before, and determined to do so again - in the hope it wouldn't be cancelled, as it was last time! Anyway, it doesn't take long to get there, and I did have plenty of time - mind, I should have had even more, except a car went off the A3 and the emergency vehicles blocked one of the lanes, which always throws the road into chaos, for miles beforehand. I wasn't as bothered as my passenger, who had a date on the other side of town, and had been late for the last one - but I still didn't have time to eat much beforehand.

Left about 7:05, for a 7:30 start. And again it was easy to find - follow signs for the South Circular, then Balham, turn left at Waitrose - but the traffic, especially in comparison with last time, was woeful! Which is fine, except when you're trying to turn right against, or into, said traffic. I finally cut in front of a bus, which I figured would be less likely to mow me down, and took the first parking space I could see on Bedford Hill, arriving at the theatre at 7:25.

Made straight for the rear door, as I remembered from last time. I had visions of it being cancelled again, as I met with a stream of people leaving, as I climbed the stairs - but then I remembered there seemed to be some kind of dance studio just downstairs from the theatre. Sure enough, that was where they were coming from; and outside the theatre, a dinky little ticket booth had been erected, where a lady was checking names and distributing paper tickets that she ripped off a roll.

"Straight ahead and to the left" was the instruction.. in other words, bypass the stairs (just ahead, to the left) and continue to the door, where the theatre actually is. I did see some people heading upstairs - have to wonder whether they got lost. Anyhoo, seating was unreserved, and I made my way - against a bright spotlight that I had to shade my eyes from - to a second-row seat on one of the two sides of the stage that had seating.

Those seats are darned uncomfortable - if there was an upholstered one, I missed it. And I wasn't the only one who found the room too hot! The set for this play is basic - some chairs arranged in rows around the stage delineate a room (orange ones, which does a decent job of distinguishing them from audience seating). Fairy lights decorate the ceiling, and a large portrait of a stern-looking man hangs at one end, just over the table of drinks; just for a moment, I wondered whether they were for us. Nope. At the other end, a single urinal, attached to the wall, allows them to stage scenes in the gents' toilet. And throughout the evening, we had a backdrop of train noise from the station, right next door.

So, this is based on an Ibsen play, transplanted to a corporate environment in the 80s. Not sure why that's the era chosen, but it does provide an excellent soundtrack. Some of the editorial choices are a bit naff - did the company have to be called "Norway, Inc."? (An unnecessary nod to Ibsen's nationality, and the play's original setting.) And since the character of Stensgaard is actually played by an Irish actor - who explains away the discrepancy by explaining that he's from the Dublin office, but of Norwegian ancestry (how ironic, as he points out!) - could they not just have changed the character's name..?

Ok, having said all that, I really enjoyed this. The characters are excellently drawn, quite recognisable, and intelligently acted. Stensgaard is eminently watchable as the young-ish protagonist, arriving on the scene to shake everyone up. He's the one who founds the "League of Youth" to "give everyone a voice" - but when he starts to attract attention from the bigwigs, we begin to see his true intention of self-advancement.. and as he starts to climb, we see how cynical and ruthless he really is.

After a 10-minute interval, the play develops to show us all the characters now at each others' throats. Given the high-minded speech near the end, it occurred to me that we should really have had this in the run-up to Brexit, when the statements about a divisive, "black or white" position would have rung so true. But hey, it's well worth a look - maybe bring a cushion. And a piece of paper to fan yourself.

Over delightfully early - just after 9, and I headed home, in much lighter traffic, in time to have a decent meal. Not to blog, mind, as I'm in Guildford again today. Tonight and tomorrow are Man with the Hat days - tonight, I'm particularly looking forward to; he's taking Let's Do London - for Less! to a production of Thérese Raquin at Southwark Playhouse: and sent out a message just yesterday to the effect that this contains strong language, scenes of a sexual nature, full frontal nudity and depictions of graphic violence, and could we let him know if that was going to be a problem. Hmm - nope. And tomorrow he's taking London for Less than a Tenner to Top Secret. Shh..

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Free Comedy Night

I like these free comedy nights in The Grove - the atmosphere is good, and it's my side of town (although, as I noticed today from researching my route on Google Maps, it's actually five miles away! You don't think about it, but the area of Greater London is over 600 square miles..

Third time lucky - my third time at this venue, and I finally drove. First time, I didn't think I'd get parking, this close to Hammersmith. (Not true.) Second time, I didn't think the route that Google Maps gave me was easy to follow - and I was tired that day. This time, however, I was determined - and working from home gave me all the time I needed to research the three routes that Google gave me - this time, I liked the fastest and shortest one, which took me over Battersea Bridge, up Warwick Road and left on West Cromwell Road to Hammersmith - areas I knew very well when I used to work in the area.

I had my directions printed out, with notes, and the phone on hand for emergencies, as I set out. Right on Battersea Park Road - and my goodness, but it was busy! The worst traffic I encountered, in fact - it was a relief to take the left lane for Battersea Bridge. Nice view as I crossed: then immediately left on the other side, follow the road through to Warwick Road, which I used to walk along to the office. (Did I ever imagine I'd drive the same road?!) Left on West Cromwell Road, passing the old office - by now, it was handy to be able to recognise landmarks. Hug the left lane for the Hammersmith turnoff..

Hammersmith is always fun, especially as trying to Streetview it is a pain - it keeps switching to the flyover view. Essentially, right lane coming off the main road, then take the third lane - for the A315 - rounding the Hammersmith Gyratory (because the first two veer left too soon). As soon as they do, switch to the second lane to take the next left onto King Street, where your task is to avoid shoppers. Now, the one-way system forces you to do a little circle - take the first right possible, then right again, and left onto Hammersmith Grove at the end of the road. Wouldn't you know it, every time I had to make a turn (except the very last one), the car in front of me was going the same way, which was reassuring - and I didn't make a single wrong turn! 25 minutes, it took.

Parking was easy (and free in the evenings), and I was way too early for the gig. So I strolled up to the top of the road, to check out where I'd have had to turn if I'd come via Shepherds Bush - the route I rejected last time. If it's suggested again as the quickest option, I think I'll try it.

Returning to the bar, I ordered a wine (which I intended to last all evening, as I was driving). Someone was offering free shots of something Mexican - I passed. Spilt my drink twice going upstairs, of course, and took a seat - thus filling out the second row nicely; the front row never did have takers. The mc remembered my name! which was nice. And that I worked in IT. And there were others there from Meetup - not that I got chatting to anyone on this occasion; the person beside me wasn't in the mood, it seemed.

The lineup was a varied one, of newbies who, if not polished, were endearing as they tried to last their allotted time. Nobody from the first half really did it for me, and I was beginning to get sick of keeping a rictus grin on my face. Also, the room was getting very warm - it was a relief when they put on some air-conditioning at the beginning of the second half. At the interval, I checked my phone, during which time (surprise, surprise) London for a Tenner or Less cancelled both events relating to this gig. Interesting ploy, probably to disguise just how much stuff they advertise - I see the only events they don't seem to delete after the fact are the talks. You see, although they don't charge for these comedy nights, this is one of the Meetup groups for Funzing, which is a commercial organisation - not what Meetup is supposed to be about, and I daresay they want to fly under the radar if they can.

The second half saw one rather cringeworthy guy, whose name I forget, but who managed to annoy just about everyone there in one way or another. Carmen Ali seemed to be a last-minute addition, discussing her participation with the mc beforehand. Richard Nixon (I think), a New Zealander, looked familiar - and when he told the joke about the similarity between the way ducks swim and the way Irish dancers dance, I knew I'd heard him tell that one before, at We Are Funny. And he is funny, if a bit cerebral - a lot of his jokes, while witty, require thinking about. Funny man of the night, for me, was the headliner, Adam Greene, who was practicing, apparently, for a big show on Saturday.

The journey home actually sounded more complicated, but seemed easier in practice. Travelling in that direction through the gyratory is a lot simpler, and despite a complicated lane arrangement headed eastwards on West Cromwell Road, I still made no wrong turns. Yippee, another route sorted! The view on the bridge by night was even lovelier than by day - but for obvious reasons, I couldn't take a picture!

Back to Ireland tomorrow for the weekend. On Monday, I got a cheap ticket - to a play called The League of Youth, by Ibsen, in Theatre N16. Which means I can drive again, yippee! (Let's hope this one isn't cancelled, as the last one was!) Then Tuesday and Wednesday are Man with the Hat days - on Tuesday, he's taking Let's Do London - for Less! to a production of Thérese Raquin at Southwark Playhouse: and sent out a message today to the effect that this contains strong language, scenes of a sexual nature, full frontal nudity and depictions of graphic violence, and could we let him know if that was going to be a problem. Hmm - nope. And on Wednesday he's taking London for Less than a Tenner (not to be confused with the aforementioned group, which is easily done) to Top Secret. Shh..