Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Play: The Exorcist

Honestly, I haven't had much luck with scary Hallowe'ens in London lately - they have tended to turn out to be a bit of a damp squib. However, this year, I was hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..

On decently late, because it doesn't have an interval - so I hung on in the office until after 7:30, then nipped around the corner. Some people did dress up, bless 'em! Now, they'd been quite strict about my e-ticket - it had to be printed out, not on a phone, and that I'd done. It certainly saved me a long queue at the box office! I'd never been in here before - gosh it's ornate, lots of gilt and mirrored glass. Terrible shame I didn't get to take a picture, but honestly, I had left it a bit tight, and the place was horrendously crowded anyway - it was also press night, and I had trouble actually getting to the stalls, where I was sitting. Second row from the back.. I could have got cheaper, but I'd have been in the gods, and I at least wanted to be in the stalls for this. I had an aisle seat, which was something.


It's actually a decent view - the main problems were (a) that bloke in front of me, with the big head, who kept shifting it from side to side so I must needs do the same, and (b) the rear stalls tend to be quite noisy, with people going in and out. But the overhang hardly blocked anything, and I didn't feel disconnected from the stage. I see they have that "ordertorium" here as well, where you can order things to be delivered to your seat - what with the lack of interval, some did that - but it was too late by the time I arrived, as ushers scurried around to deliver orders before the show started.

They are determined to scare us, that was obvious right from the start - ominous ambient music is playing as you enter. When the lights eventually go down, they do so with a bang! just to set your nerves on edge. A stern voice explains that there is no interval - that once this begins, it will continue until it is over. The guidelines say 18+ - oh, and there are plenty of flashing lights throughout. Interesting thing I noticed - the exit lights kept coming on, from which I deduce that they actually turned them off for the scary bits. Cool - I do love a theatre that preserves the atmosphere! It's to the credit of the director that I didn't pay attention to the lights going off while scary stuff was happening on stage..

Peter Bowles actually plays the exorcist himself - I thought I recognised the voice! and Sir Ian McKellan voices the demon. Rather more suave than the one in the film, then. Overall, I have to give credit to the amazing special effects crew - the effects are flawless, and more than I expected. Projections of the demon, and of the younger priest's dead mother's face, lend a fantastic atmosphere. Moving shadows are used to great effect. Funnily enough, I was reading an interview last night with the director, who said - not wanting to give anything away - that the audience would get the scares they were expecting! Those who've seen the film will know exactly what that means - those who've heard something about it will guess. Let me just say this - we were all waiting for that effect, and it got its own individual round of applause!

The girl's bedroom is in darkness while other scenes are taking place - the makeup artist takes these opportunities to add to the scary makeup, live on stage, where no-one can see her - and so the possession progresses. Truly impressive to see this brought to life on stage, and worth seeing if only from a technical perspective. Only thing is.. they try too faithfully to recreate the film, I think, and it does feel rushed as they try to pack in all the storylines. Which is a bit silly, considering that the film is longer than this play. We could maybe have skipped the bits about the priest's mother, or the scenes with the exorcist on his own. Never mind, it's a fantastic effort - and the overall impression, as with the film, is of a colossal, dirty battle between absolute evil and the power of the Church. And for all that they play Tubular Bells as the audience is leaving, it was the hymns that stuck with me.. reminding me of my childhood, when I really thought that the Church was the front line against evil. Runs until March 10th, and is a must for all horror fans.

Well, they've pretty much cleaned out the fridge at work, so I came straight home - and with an iffy internet connection, was doubtful of getting anything done on the blog tonight. Seems better in my room than in the kitchen though, so on we go! Not so much on Meetup appealed for tomorrow - so I decided to go to a film. And leading the charge on my film list is Brexitannia, advertised as the first documentary on Brexit! Includes Noam Chomsky on the list of participants, looks interesting. Just a pity that the only place it's showing is in East Dulwich! Never mind, I can get a bus straight there.. in about an hour.. Includes a Q+A with the director, and I'm delighted to see that they just tell you straight out how many seats are left! I do like not having to book, and commit myself - and pay a booking fee..

On Thursday, back with Meetup for the first time in a week: and on both Thursday and Friday, I'm headed to Sadler's Wells with Up in the Cheap Seats. Thursday, it's Ellipsis Land, and Friday, it's a mixed programme from the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

On Saturday, Helen is coming to town, so doubtless we'll get up to some shenanigans! That evening, I'm off with Walking in London (hence Funzing) on a Hampstead to Highgate Haunted Pub Tour! She can't depend on the trains, so can't really commit to that - I don't blame her, they're worse than Irish ones! (which is saying something). The tour will take a while, but includes a pub crawl, so that's forgivable. "crazy_fun" is the current 10% discount code, BTW. I also see they've now switched their loyalty scheme to cover anything booked online - much more efficient, as it automatically credits you!

On Sunday, the Crick Crack Club is back, with Hugh Lupton telling the tale of Beowulf at the British Museum - sold out by now, I believe, and no wonder.

On Monday, I'm at the RSC's MMXVII season at the Barbican, seeing Coriolanus with Up in the Cheap Seats.

Next Tuesday, I'm with the London European Club (LEC), at the Royal Festival Hall for a "Night Under the Stars" - Russian Soul.

On the 8th and 9th, I'm with Up in the Cheap Seats again - the 8th for Saint George and the Dragon, at the National. Which sounds like fun. On the 9th, we're off to Everybody's Talking About Jamie, at the Apollo. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.

On the 13th, the Crick Crack Club returns to Soho Theatre for an evening called Under the Eyes of Baron Samedi, courtesy of Jan Blake. Delighted to say I persuaded a couple of friends to come along! Hope they enjoy it. Also delighted that the crazy woman isn't coming - despite being a fan of Jan Blake, she couldn't make this.

On the 14th, Up in the Cheap Seats again, and we're off to The Secondary Victim, at the Park Theatre.

On the 15th, I'm finally back with The London Jazz Meetup, to see Ben l' Oncle Soul at Cadogan Hall. Really, I'd go with them much more often, but there's so much else on..!

On the 16th, I'm back at Sadler's Wells with Up in the Cheap Seats, for Hunted Maud Le Pladec / Okwui Okpokwasili.

On the 17th, I'm off to see Young Frankenstein, at the Garrick!

The weekend is Funzing, with Walking in London. On the 18th, A Secret London Tour - I've had my eye on this for a while, it sounds interesting. And on the 19th, I'm finally doing Murder Mile Walk.

On the 20th, I'm off to This Beautiful Future, at the Yard Theatre.

On the 21st, my annual pilgrimage to Cirque Berserk at Winter Wonderland! Whee..

On the 22nd, back with Funzing and Walking in London, this time with Katie of Look Up London, and her Alternative Christmas Lights Tour. Delighted to give her the business, and it should be fun!

On the 23rd, back with Up in the Cheap Seats - this time at the newly opened Bridge Theatre, for their first show, Young Marx. Delighted to make this - I had booked it for the 20th October, then the Crick Crack Club got in the way, as they often do! The theatre charged me a nominal fee to change it to this date. And then it's back to Ireland for the weekend again.

On the 27th, I'm headed to see Follies at the National - another that London Dramatic Arts (LDAM) went to a while ago, expensively. What with their ticket prices, and other things getting in the way, I really don't know when I'll be with them again..

On the 28th, back with Let's Do This! (LDT) at a place called The Fiddler's Elbow, for a Blues Club & Jam. Be good to see them again!

On the 29th, the Crick Crack Club has their long-awaited 30th birthday party at Rich Mix. Finally advertised by their Meetup group, I see, months after tickets went on sale. Helen's going to this one, and another friend. Oh, and the crazy lady - hope they protect me from her!

On the 30th, LDT is off to.. Saint George and the Dragon! Now, when this was advertised, I remembered having booked it already. Checked, and discovered that was during my week in Stockholm - so I was happy to book it again. Completely forgot, of course, that I was already booked for next week, with Up in the Cheap Seats. No refunds either. Ah well, just hope it's good, considering I've now booked it three times! Then I'm back to Ireland again.

On the 4th of December, I'm finally seeing Heisenberg: the Uncertainty Principle, at Wyndham's Theatre. Another that LDAM saw before I have, and another I rescheduled - this from the 16th October, when I was with Up in the Cheap Seats. Another nominal fee to change.

On the 5th December, my annual trip to La Soirée! "Posh new venue", as they say - they're now in the Aldwych Theatre. Cheapest tickets at Amazon tickets.

The 6th December sees our office Christmas party! Have seen a smashing dress online, at a great price - must get on to that.

I can't stay long though - have to be at Stansted at 6 in the morning of the 7th of December, for a trip to Nuremberg Christmas market with LEC! We'll also be doing some travelling in the area. Helen liked the sound of it, and my other friend who's coming to the storytelling is coming too. We'll have a ball! I just bought Lonely Planet's chapter on Bavaria, downloaded it, and have shared it with them - isn't it handy how you can buy individual chapters? Mercifully, although the crazy woman was supposed to go on this, she's pulled out.

Back late on the 10th of December, and on the 11th of December - having taken the day off work (I'll be exhausted) - I'm off to the Barbershop Chronicles. At the National.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Play: Apologia

Tonight, I finally got to see Apologia, at Trafalgar Studios - London Dramatic Arts was going to this a while ago, but it was far too expensive on that occasion. Well, that's what you get for having Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael in it! Amazon Tickets again provided the cheapest - what you don't save on ticket prices themselves, you do save on a whopping online transaction fee.

Our late meeting didn't go on that late, and the office is a short walk from the theatre anyway - how I'll miss that when we move! I can console myself with every show I go to locally in the meantime. Hell, I passed two on the way that I'm already booked for. Anyway, I didn't need directions for this - although it's been a while, I have been here several times. Got there in good time, picked up my ticket at the box office - where he apologised sympathetically for Stockard Channing being indisposed this evening, her role being played by an understudy. This didn't come as too much of a shock - I'd just been reading it on a notice while he was hunting down my ticket.

The usher had a sign advertising a very good value offer - a drink, ice cream, and a programme for £7.50! The programme on its own would have cost £4.. she didn't take cards, but the kiosk just inside the door did, and was doing the same deal. And yes, the drink could be wine, which could be taken in. She gave me a voucher for the ice cream, which I could present at the interval - I figured I wouldn't fancy it all at once. So, I made my way in - had forgotten all the stairs you have to climb here, and gee, I would be right in the back row. Which meant more climbing. Anyway, I'd just settled myself - and remarked to myself how the stage looked like a doll's house - when another usher came along and asked me whether I'd like to move down. Eh, ok. And so I moved from Row R.. all the way down to Row F! Not so bad.. You do miss a tiny bit of the left of the stage, but nothing worth mentioning.


So. A family drama, Stockard Channing (usually) as the matriarch, the clan descending for her birthday. Laura Carmichael plays the girlfriend of one of her two sons. As well as them, her other son's girlfriend and a longtime friend of hers, Desmond Barrit. And her other son - who's gone off the rails - might - show up.

It's a very well-written play. And the part is obviously perfect for Stockard Channing, as the bitchy and sarcastic mother. Over the course of the play, characters turn into something we weren't expecting, and there's a nice resolution.. it wasn't until I read my good-value programme that I realised that it was a comment on the idealism of the 60s, and how that panned out: some forsaking it for capitalism and greed, some truly espousing its aims and living by them. There's a most excellent essay on the subject in that programme, which I really recommend getting. Of course, this relates to the choices that Stockard Channing has made along the way. Unfortunately, that understudy is completely wrong for the part, playing it quite flatly, especially in the first act.

What the hey, hopefully Stockard Channing will be back on form before long - and I really recommend this. Runs till the 18th. Awesome music of the 60s and 70s plays at the interval.. oh, and if you were wondering, it's pronounced "Apol-OH-gia", and means a justification or defence of one's actions, rather than an "apology". You live and learn..

I'm hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Play: Albion

Tonight, Up in the Cheap Seats was off to the sold-out Albion, at the Almeida. Same writers as Charles III, which I enjoyed immensely - I was looking forward to this.

The evening started hectically.. our office has a Hallowe'en party tomorrow, and I did ask my co-workers whether people would dress up for it. "Oh, no!" they assured me. "They did the first year, but after that people didn't bother." Heh. I think I asked the wrong people. What did they do today? Only went out and bought costumes! Which led me to a last-minute rush to Angels, just down the road, before heading out to my play. Lord, it was packed, though! I'm guessing this is their single busiest time of the year. Men's costumes on the ground floor, accessories on the first, women's to buy on the second, teens' on the third, women's to hire on the fourth. I squeezed my way up the cobwebbed staircase, then up another backstairs to the second floor - where I pretty quickly saw something that would suit. They had catalogues on the long desk, much like Argos, and if you picked something from that, they got it from the long warehouse-type shelving behind. I was happy with what I had though, and clambered down again.

The tills, it turned out, were on the first floor - and it took me a solid 25 minutes to snake my way through the queue. Just as well I was early! The queue meandered past many latex scars and wounds, among other things - but I wasn't really tempted. Frantic shop assistants tried to organise the flow of people in, which increased considerably while I was there - by the time I got to the tills, the queue "behind" me had gotten so long that the only place to put them was on the stairs up to the next floor. Which meant I had to cut through the end of the queue when it was my turn, finally, to pay - just like the snake in the old game, which always ended up eating its own tail! When I had finally paid, we were sent out the back way - which is what the second door leading to the street is for. And I had an extra bag to carry with me, too large to fit into the other, and sealed, so I couldn't fit the other into it.

And so to catch a bus, and fortunately one was along shortly. Lordy though, traffic was so terrible - up to about Rosebery Avenue - that I was sure I'd be late for the play. Thank goodness my plan had been to arrive about half an hour early, because that was when the group would be meeting! As it was, it was 10 minutes before the start when I finally got off, and hurried up St. Mary's Path, a tiny alleyway linking Essex Road, where I had got off the bus, and Upper Street, where I needed to be. I had to cross for Almeida Street - handily, they have a zebra crossing just there, so no problem! By now I was within five minutes of start - I dashed to the box office for my ticket, which was slightly problematic when she asked my address, because it turned out I'd used my Irish credit card! No idea why.

Anyway, ticket in hand, I dashed outside again, being sat upstairs. Not the first door - that was for seats in the low numbers. Not the second door - no, that was for stalls seats in the high numbers. No, I had to enter by the third and final door, which led to an enormous flight of stairs, at the top of which I was told to scooch around the other side, where I was sat to the side of the stage, in the front row. Well, the only row here - we did have people standing behind us though, who could lean on a rail just behind our heads. The view was decent, albeit with a safety rail in the way - or would have been, except for the woman beside me, who spent most of the evening leaning on said rail, so I must needs lean forward myself, or crane to the side, to see anything to the right of the stage.

Speaking of which, that's a great big tree they have for this production! The whole thing takes place in a relatively small garden, mostly lawn, with a seat built around the tree, and an earth border. Some gardening does go on in the course of the play. There's also some weather - at the end of the first act, there's a rain shower, and a breeze is ruffling the leaves at the start of the second. Very well done, actually. Caveat: there's a thunderstorm at one point, so flashing lights are involved.

And so to the story, and in particular its main character, played stunningly by Victoria Hamilton. Oh my, I disliked her from the start. Briskly offensive to absolutely everyone, she put me in mind of a couple of strong female English public figures - she even has the submissive husband to fetch and carry. If there's a prejudice that she doesn't show in the first act, I can't remember it. She's just moved back to the countryside after years of living in London, and her young daughter couldn't be more disgusted. There's a young local lad that cleans the windows for pocket money - well, she treats him like a servant; there are a couple of actual servants, husband and wife, who've been there forever: and there's a strangely insecure-looking young woman, whom she seems to look down on. There's the promise of a visit from her well-travelled friend, a famous author whom the younger people have read, and are starstruck by. And shortly, there's a young Polish cleaner, whom she's asked to stop by because, well, the old cleaner just isn't up to it.

Right then, let's get metaphorical. She makes for a character you love to hate, but I do think she's meant to represent Albion itself, or perhaps people who yearn for an idealised version. And there's a lot in this about Brexit, which is actually referenced, and got a titter from the audience, although it's not specifically named. She's been seduced in the past by the bright lights of the big city, and has done well in business - but now she hankers after more traditional values. She wants to return to her roots, wants her family around her, tends to ignore more modern trends, and disapproves of what she can't ignore. She criticises her cosmopolitan friend for her scathing description of the small-mindedness of country folk, in her writing. She constantly refers to the history of the place, which she wants to revive.

And, as the play progresses - and without wanting to give away too much of the plot - she finds her fortunes going much the same way as those of Britain since Brexit, what with financial difficulties, the welcoming of some outsiders and the exclusion of others, and the ultimate alienation of her cosmopolitan, well travelled friend - who still lives in London, by the way. There's something of a twist at the end, which is perhaps too much of a stretch, as suggested by some in the group.

But hey, I found it very interesting - if not particularly cheery - and I could seriously write a long essay on this play, and how it relates to contemporary politics. Beautifully acted, too - and it was fascinating to see how the different characters progress, including the young country lad who squanders his potential. So, quite a serious play - worth watching, particularly if you're interested in current affairs. Runs till the 24th. They had a Q+A afterwards, but honestly, by now it was going on 11, and I needed to get food on the way home - I was starving! The chocolate chip brownie I had at the interval - and queued for five minutes to get - was a lifesaver, though! And the bus home.. much quicker, of course.

Tomorrow, after the office shenanigans, I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again - hopefully, by that stage they'll have cleared the roads following Storm Ophelia. And Storm BrianOn Monday, I finally get to see Apologia, at Trafalgar Studios - London Dramatic Arts was going to this a while ago, but it was far too expensive on that occasion. Well, that's what you get for having Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael in it! Amazon Tickets again.

And finally, I'm hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Walk: Alexander Pope's The Dunciad

Tonight, Walking Victorian London was doing a walk called Alexander Pope's The Dunciad. Never heard of it before, myself, but I'm always up for a historical walk, particularly one that takes me somewhere I'm not familiar with!

This one started from Blackfriars, which is walking distance from the office, so I set off in decent time, on what was a very pleasant evening:



Meandered down to the Embankment, then along the river to where I assumed we'd be meeting, at the entrance to the main train station. When I eventually got across the road.. yes, there he was, and I thought I recognised him from behind, although I went to the front to peek at the sign he was holding before going over. I have been on one of his walks before, back in spring.. and yes, he did recognise me. We were all quite prompt, actually, but he hung on for a bit, just to make sure he hadn't forgotten anybody was coming.

And so we started with a wee biography of Alexander Pope, who, it turns out, was Catholic, and unfortunately for him, born in the same year as the Glorious Revolution, which deposed the Catholic King James II and replaced him with the Protestant William of Orange. What this meant for him was that he was subject to anti-Catholic laws, which, for example, prevented Catholics from living within 10 miles of Westminster. (Gee, and here's me, a baptised Catholic, living right in the borough!) The family had to move to the countryside. The laws also prevented him from attending university - a fact that seems to have rankled with him. He was pretty much home-schooled, and a great student of the Classics - he directed much ire against people who rejected them in favour of modern ideas.

And so to The Dunciad, which essentially seems to be a poetical tirade against people of whom he disapproved. Well, he had had an unfortunate start, which would have made him understandably critical of those in power. Be they royalty, politicians, or fellow writers and poets, it seems to have been a rather unwise practice: and, indeed, being a man of small stature (he'd been ill as a child and his growth was stunted), apparently he took to never leaving the house without being armed, and taking with him his massive dog.

Imagine having a tirade against people that you disagree with be one of the things for which you're best remembered! Anyway, our walk passed some places that were mentioned in the work, and took us down many dark and winding alleys - just the way I like 'em!


We had a nice sit-down for a bit near Dr. Johnson's House - and right around the corner, passed another tour group (different itinerary, I'm sure!). We passed near the legal district of Lincoln's Inn:


..and, passing through Theatreland (Pope had quibbles with some actors, too, who were in the pay of the government), finished up on Strand:


We passed many historical places of interest en route - but well, this is London, and that will happen; you can't keep mentioning them all! An interesting walk, in all - he finishes at the end of the month, apparently. And his non-Meetup company is called Footprints of London.

A nice, early finish then - and it was handy that the walk turned itself in the direction of my office! Tomorrow, more sociably, Up in the Cheap Seats is off to the sold-out Albion, at the Almeida. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again - hopefully, by that stage they'll have cleared the roads following Storm Ophelia. And Storm Brian.

On Monday, I finally get to see Apologia, at Trafalgar Studios - London Dramatic Arts was going to this a while ago, but it was far too expensive on that occasion. Well, that's what you get for having Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael in it! Amazon Tickets again.

And finally, I'm hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Dance: Michael Clarke Company

Tonight, I was with the London European Club (first time in ages!) - we were off to the Barbican for a dance production by the Michael Clark Company.

Left in good time to take the bus - I had a choice of three, from different stops - picked the one with the shortest projected journey time, although they were all much the same. Then an easy stroll - although Google Maps got seriously confused about where I was, as I was passing the Museum of London. After a minute, I was less confused - and was soon walking down familiar streets, and into the Barbican. Downstairs to collect my ticket, back up to ground level, where the organiser had said she'd be.

Having got a drink and some peanuts, I located the final free chair in the very busy bar - behind the piano, at the back. Turned out most of the people were there to listen to a talk by the astronaut, Tim Peake.. funny that, I'm doing his VR Experience in January, at the Science Museum! Seems he's written a book. I was suddenly worried, as I opened the container of peanuts, that they mightn't be salted.. huh, I needn't have worried, they were very much on the excessive side of salty.

Ages until the organiser found me - I had to leave messages about where I was, and turn off the phone, the battery was so low! She'd been delayed anyway - I was far and away the first to arrive. A third finally joined us, in our cosy corner - the fourth and final person never did show. But we three had a convivial chat, before it was time to go in.

They were in the stalls - I'd gone for a cheap seat (obviously), upstairs, but this was the show that had a single seat that kind of pokes out of its level, the only seat at the end of a promontory! So I clambered down the steps all the way to it. I must say, I like that seat (AA11 in the upper circle).. very snug, plenty of room to leave your stuff, and although the legroom isn't terrific if you're pointed forward, there's plenty of space to sit sideways. The view is also perfectly decent, quite close to the stage, with just a safety rail in your view. I did miss the action left of stage, mind. And it mightn't be the best place if you suffer from vertigo!



Could see my companions below - the organiser even gave me a wave! And so to the show. Three parts, two before the interval - the first, we agreed afterwards, was quite robotic, with aggressive music to match, and we weren't sure we liked it.. although I did find it interesting, and, as I pointed out to them, I didn't walk out, like the last time I saw contemporary dance! The second, in which they danced to music by Patti Smith, wearing outfits with flared trousers, we found more accessible!

At the interval, it was rather disconcerting trying to get out, as my way seemed to be blocked by seats! Turned out that the wall panels turned into doors (what a weird building). In the foyer, long queues waited - that talk now being over - for the astronaut to sign his book.. it took me an age to make my way through to the others, back where we'd met.. in the meantime, got a message, would you believe, from the aforementioned crazy lady whom I've blocked on Meetup. She found a way to get in touch, and is trying to continue the argument. No wonder I was a bit distracted at the interval! I've since reported her for harrassment.

The third and final piece was an homage to David Bowie - set to his music, and kind of reminiscent of his imagery. Quite short, we felt, given that we'd just had an interval: but never mind, it was all quite interesting, and passionately performed. In skintight costumes, which for the Patti Smith section, sported flares. Runs till the 28th. And afterwards, meeting again behind the piano, we had a most entertaining chat. Nice to see some friendly faces!

Tomorrow, Walking Victorian London is doing a walk called Alexander Pope's The Dunciad.

On Thursday, Up in the Cheap Seats is off to Albion, at the Almeida. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again - hopefully, by that stage they'll have cleared the roads following Storm Ophelia. And Storm Brian.

On Monday, I finally get to see Apologia, at Trafalgar Studios - London Dramatic Arts was going to this a while ago, but it was far too expensive on that occasion. Well, that's what you get for having Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael in it! Amazon Tickets again.

And finally, I'm hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..

Monday, 23 October 2017

Storytelling: Tricksterland

Tonight, back with the Crick Crack Club - at Soho Theatre this time, with Nell Phoenix telling us all about Tricksterland: a favourite theme of hers! I hesitated about booking it, to be honest, having heard the theme so often before - but the stories described in the event info sounded new, so I risked it.

There were leaving drinks this evening, but I had a meeting anyway, so just hung on for a bit afterwards - it's less than a 10-minute walk from (this) office to the theatre, and it wasn't starting till eight. I left about 7:30 - collected my ticket, and hovered around the bar. Nostalgically.. ah, for the days when the Man with the Hat would have booked us a couple of tables, chalkboards on them with his name, and the time they were booked for. (I remember one occasion when one of the actors performing that evening had the same name, and his family invaded our tables..!) It's always very packed, you see. I didn't get a drink there tonight - it just wasn't the same, on my own. Glad to see they're catering to the transgender community!

Wouldn't you know, just as I finally got a table to myself, it was time to go upstairs! I was literally first in the door - passing Ben Haggerty en route, overseeing things as usual, and with Nell peeking out of a side room. I took a seat front row centre - wouldn't miss a thing - and it duly filled up, only one latecomer tonight, who sat in the seats by the door that are reserved for such.

After the customary introduction by Ben, Nell came on - demurely. The performance lasted for 75 minutes straight through.. and well, she had to tell us the story of the Weasel sisters. Who were, as she explained, women, and weasels - and sisters! My gosh, these Weasel sisters had some adventures over the next 75 minutes.. some of which I'd heard in other forms, but none quite like this. And wow, was I glad I'd come.. she was absolutely on fire tonight, electrifying as she inhabited the spirits of the various creatures she described: the canny older sister, the scatty younger one, the meandering moose, the bear that was more concerned with honey, the starmen.. and, naturally, Wolverine, without whom no trickster story would be complete. No, not the Marvel one..

We were enthralled as she hopped from character to character - and she was just hilarious throughout, perfectly setting the scene with words, expressions, and movements. No props needed - she just had a stool to sit on when she needed a rest. After laughing away with her for most of the evening, we hung on her every word as she became more serious - she'd earned our attention by then. Really, I have never seen her better! At the end, she deferred to Ben again, who reminded us of their 30th birthday appeal - they've been in existence for 30 years, and are trying to raise enough money to get new works commissioned. Every little helps, and they have a cool video to advertise! Starring the following:


(L-R, top to bottom; Hugh Lupton, Emily Hennessy, Tim Ralphs, Nick Hennessy (Emily's hubbie), Clare Murphy, Tuup, Sally Pomme-Clayton, Nell (bottom centre), and Daniel Morden.) And others. And I, for one, will give them all the advertising I can manage! Donate at the link in the picture.

Afterwards, it was just too crowded to be searching for other members, and I came home. Tomorrow, I'm with the London European Club (first time in ages!) - we're off to the Barbican for a dance production by the Michael Clark Company.

On Wednesday, Walking Victorian London is doing a walk called Alexander Pope's The Dunciad.

On Thursday, Up in the Cheap Seats is off to Albion, at the Almeida. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again - hopefully, by that stage they'll have cleared the roads following Storm Ophelia. And Storm Brian.

Next Monday, I finally get to see Apologia, at Trafalgar Studios - London Dramatic Arts was going to this a while ago, but it was far too expensive on that occasion. Well, that's what you get for having Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael in it! Amazon Tickets again.

And finally, I'm hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Walk: Southwark's Saucy Secrets

Today, I was with Walking in London (a Funzing group) for Southwark's Saucy Secrets.. Now, the last time I was booked for a walk in that part of town - also with Funzing - I missed it, so was paranoid about doing the same this time. Happily, I headed out in plenty of time to catch the bus. It also helped that, on this occasion, I had the guide's phone number - unlike the last time.

Again, despite not being listed on the departures board initially, my bus did happen along quite quickly. Whatever route I took, if it was to be by bus, would involve a change - so I got off near Angel to change to the 43. I was supposed to catch it at the same stop I got off at - oh here we go again, it isn't listed at that stop!! I have, again, complained on the TFL website, for all the good it'll do. With a sizeable walk to the stop that was listed as having buses going to London Bridge, I gave up and took the Tube, which was a shorter walk. Thanks again, TFL, for costing me more - not for the first time.

At London Bridge Station, I'd hoped to catch somewhere I could get a hot chocolate - I'd got up late, as usual, hadn't had breakfast, and it was cold out. This would do perfectly. Sadly, on the short trip to the Duke Street Hill exit, I saw nothing that would sell me anything. There was a small coffee shop outside - "My Tea and Coffee Shop", with workers in high-vis jackets sitting outside with their purchases, so probably a good choice. Sure enough, for the princely sum of £2.50 (and no card fee), I got a hot chocolate that's one of the more decent I've had. Recommended, if you're around those parts.

Our guide was stood across the road, underneath the "pointy sculpture", as she described it. The Southwark Gateway Needle would be a more official way to do so, but less informative! She didn't have a sign - as she explained, she was asked for directions enough without drawing attention to herself! And we gradually accumulated there, waiting for the inevitable latecomers and the one that got lost. What they hey, they were prompter than other tours I've been on, and it wasn't long before we were off.

Into a stiff breeze, which, honestly, has gotten stiffer since. Now, I've been on many walking tours of London - not so many of Southwark - and the real test for me is whether I knew it before. I'm delighted to say that this personable guide managed to wend her way through several parts of town I hadn't seen. Like, for instance, Guy's Hospital - which you can use as a shortcut, if it helps - and which contains this interesting sculpture, which, it transpires, is one of the arches of the old London Bridge!


That, by the way, is Keats, sitting in it - used to work here as an anaesthetist, it seems. More photos here.

We passed old breweries, and heard much about the naughtier side of town, what with bear baiting and the Bishop of Winchester's Geese.. 


And despite nearly becoming icicles with the force of the wind, we had an excellent 90 minutes! Well done, that lady - her walking company is actually called Look Up London, it seems, from the very good advice to raise your eyes from the pavement, as there's so much to see above your heads. I'd be delighted to go on another of her tours.

Afterwards, desperately needed a Tesco, and Google Maps kindly directed me to the nearest one. And then directed me to where I could get a bus - which was along shortly. Tomorrow, back with the Crick Crack Club - at Soho Theatre this time, with Nell Phoenix telling us all about Tricksterland: a favourite theme of hers!

On Tuesday, the London European Club (first time in ages!) - we're off to the Barbican for a dance production by the Michael Clark Company.

On Wednesday, Walking Victorian London is doing a walk called Alexander Pope's The Dunciad.

On Thursday, Up in the Cheap Seats is off to Albion, at the Almeida. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again - hopefully, by that stage they'll have cleared the roads following Storm Ophelia. And Storm Brian.

On the 30th, I finally get to see Apologia, at Trafalgar Studios - London Dramatic Arts was going to this a while ago, but it was far too expensive on that occasion. Well, that's what you get for having Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael in it! Amazon Tickets again.

And finally, I'm hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..

Saturday, 21 October 2017

"Pre-Hallowe'en" Psychic Fair & Play: Oslo

Today, Spooky London Pubs had a "Pre-Hallowe'en" Psychic Fair at the King and Queen pub, just down the road from me. Free entry - well, I couldn't say no to that! Could always leave if it wasn't interesting. That was in the afternoon - in the evening, I was off to Oslo. The play, not the city! (Despite all my Scandic jaunts of late!) Taking place in the Harold Pinter Theatre, it tells the story of the Oslo peace accords. Has rave reviews. Cheapest tickets were with Amazon Tickets.

Had a late night, and a lovely, long sleep.. why not, indeed? That emergency door release, down the hall, that someone activated, and which has been beeping for the last three days, is still at it, but a bit softer:


Anyway, I moseyed out of the house and down the road at about 3pm. The King and Queen looked worryingly empty - I said I might as well have a peek all the same, and carried on to the upstairs room. Where six people were gathered, chatting, around tables - a couple of which had posters on them. One had little glittery things on it. All the people in the room looked expectantly at me as I came in - oh hell, I was the only non-medium there! Ah now.. Well, one asked whether I'd come for a reading, and I said I was just having a look around, and he gave me a couple of brochures, which I said I'd go off and read. And I duly legged it. Jeez, I've never seen such a badly attended event - you know, they have these in Ireland too, but they sell jewellery at them, and incense, and stuff.. and they get good attendance.. Honestly, what do you expect if you just put a bunch of psychics in a room? (The cynic in me can't help but remark that, being psychic, they should have known.. oh well..)

Right, that was the first event of the day over. Shortest ever. And I made my way to the office, in a stiff breeze - I was passing a newsagent on Charlotte Street when the carousel of greeting cards, just outside the door, got blown over, and the cards were strewn all over the pavement! Luckily, the owner was at the door at the time, to start the clear-up..

A few hours in the office, which is quite devoid of food today, so I decided to eat out. Fancied a Chinese, which I hadn't had in a while - and Chinatown is conveniently positioned right between the office and the theatre, so I popped off to New Loon Fung, where they were busy enough that I got the last table on the main level - they had to open the upstairs section. Nonetheless, service was brisk, and I was soon served. Had my usual - chicken spring rolls, which were delicious, and chicken in a delicious honey and lemon sauce. The fried rice was a bit bland, but pouring some of the sauce on it helped. The pinot grigio was nice, too - and all the while, I was entertained by watching the Chinese lanterns decorating the street outside sway back and forth in the wind, which has continued all day.

Finished in under an hour, and another quick walk to the theatre - and yes, that queue outside was for the box office. I was in the Royal Circle - I just won't get the Gallery here, it's far too cramped. Seemed to be full tonight, though. I was in the front row, at the end - which was described as an aisle seat, although it's patently not! Anyway, the "restricted view" just consisted of a safety rail cutting across my field of vision, which was perfectly fine - good legroom too. I'd definitely recommend this seat.


This play is based on the true story of the Oslo peace accords in 1993, where basically, a Norwegian academic thought that he had a better theory for how negotiations should take place, and why they were currently failing. He and his wife were in Gaza in 1992 when violence broke out, which inspired them to try to host an informal talk between the two sides, back in Oslo. Don't underestimate the audacity of that aim - at the time, it was illegal under Israeli law for government officials to talk to members of the PLO, and what this Norwegian pair were trying to do - without knowledge of their superiors - was to get two tigers in a room together and stand back.

Oh my, how noble and dry. Oh no it isn't.. this play is absolutely hilarious, clever rather than silly. The two sides like nothing better than scoring verbal points off each other, and the thing is packed with rapid-fire one-liners and impersonations of political leaders. Really, if the talks were like this, they must have been great fun. And it's a masterclass in negotiation - with the Americans sidelined, wondering what's going on and being outright lied to, so they don't take over. It was a fabulous piece of diplomacy at the time, even if the peace didn't last.. a poignant final scene has all the actors, standing still, reciting the litany of atrocities that happened since - and including the deaths of some of the participants. And throughout, projections on the rear of the stage explain to us where we are, and what's happening.

A wonderful, sparky, intelligent piece of writing, this is entertaining, while never making light of the serious issues involved. A fantastic play, which I'm delighted to recommend - go see, go see, go see. Runs until 30 December - nearly three hours including interval, but it flew by, truly. There was a collection as we were leaving, but we hadn't been warned, so I wasn't ready to go digging for change.

Tomorrow, I'm with Walking in London (a Funzing group) for Southwark's Saucy Secrets.. Hope I can make this one in time!

On Monday, back with the Crick Crack Club - at Soho Theatre this time, with Nell Phoenix telling us all about Tricksterland: a favourite theme of hers!

On Tuesday, the London European Club (first time in ages!) - we're off to the Barbican for a dance production by the Michael Clark Company.

On Wednesday, Walking Victorian London is doing a walk called Alexander Pope's The Dunciad.

On Thursday, Up in the Cheap Seats is off to Albion, at the Almeida. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again - hopefully, by that stage they'll have cleared the roads following Storm Ophelia. And Storm Brian, which is due to hit this weekend..

On the 30th, I finally get to see Apologia, at Trafalgar Studios - London Dramatic Arts was going to this a while ago, but it was far too expensive on that occasion. Well, that's what you get for having Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael in it! Amazon Tickets again.

And finally, I'm hoping for a nicely scary Hallowe'en.. when I heard that they were doing the first-ever stage production of The Exorcist - and what's more, it's on in the Phoenix Theatre, right behind the office.. well, that was fate, wasn't it?! I jumped to get a ticket for that, as soon as they went on sale - after all, Hallowe'en has to be its most popular night! Jenny Seagrove plays the mother of the demonically possessed teen..