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Archive for the category “Travel”

Theatrical – Thoughts

This year, as I’ve said before, I’ve seen a lot of plays – well, by my standards, at least.  Up until two years ago, I hadn’t been to the theatre in a long time, but for some reason it’s clicked into place over the last eighteen months or so, and I’ve been really enjoying it.

There’s been a lot of Shakespeare this year – partly because of 2016 being the 400th anniversary of his death, which has lead to a lot more stuff being staged, but also because it’s interesting, I know very little about it, and wanted to advance my knowledge of the plays to a greater or lesser degree.

At the same time, I’ve also seen other stuff along the way, and it’s pretty much all been interesting.

The full list for 2016 has been pretty impressive…

  • Faustus (adapted from the Christopher Marlowe original)
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe
  • King Lear, with Don Warrington as Lear
  • The Spoils (written by, and starring, Jesse Eisenberg)
  • Macbeth
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Threepenny Opera
  • The Alchemist
  • Faustus (original script, by the RSC)
  • King Lear, with Glenda Jackson as Lear
  • Tempest at Stratford-upon-Avon

There’s stuff already booked in for next year, too – including

  • Amadeus at the National Theatre
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Hamlet
  • Don Juan in Soho, a play by Patrick Marber
  • Obsession, with Jude Law

That’s it for now, but I’m sure there’ll be more to come as well.

Theatrical – The Tempest

This weekend, I went down to Stratford-upon-Avon to see The Tempest at the RSC Theatre.

As I wrote back in April, it’s been a busy year for me of going to the theatre, and this was the last visit of this year. I’ve already got a number of things next year, starting in mid-January, but for this year, I’m done.

I’d not seen Tempest before, and knew very little about it, but thoroughly enjoyed it. The staging is pretty epic, making use of the carcass of a ship for the stage surrounds, and a very cleverly designed floor with mirrored parts underneath. The lighting reflects off the mirrors and produces a number of different effects depending on the colour – it’s theoretically simple, but massively effective.

Additionally, they’ve done some really innovative stuff using technology and motion-capture, allowing them to project Ariel onto large mesh screens that also move, conveying the freedom of the spirit in a very effective and impressive way that would’ve kept me happy even if the rest of the play had been bobbins.

In particular, the man playing Ariel (Mark Quartly) does a fantastic job – beautifully conveying that he’s a spirit that most people can’t see, concealing himself among the stage timbers, with an outfit that shows him but also camouflages him very effectively. You forget he’s there, watching all, and then he moves and you remember and realise – it’s really quite creepy, but done in a really good way.

Mark Quartley as Ariel

Mark Quartley as Ariel

I found it interesting to also see the parallels between Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream, the similarity of some of the themes and so on. Indeed, a lot of the stuff for the spirits in Tempest could work really well for the fairies of Midsummer Night’s Dream – and I’d like to see it done.

It’s a fabulous production. I don’t honestly know that I’d be overly bothered about seeing the play itself again (although I probably will at some point) but if you’re going to see one version of it, this one’s bloody good.

King Lear, Old Vic, London

Last weekend, I went down to London to see King Lear at the Old Vic – my second Lear this year, never having seen it before – this time starring Glenda Jackson as Lear. She’s just the start of a pretty mega cast, including Celia Imrie, Jane Horrocks and Rhys Ifans as well as a number of actors whose faces and/or voices were certainly familiar.

There’s been a lot of guff spoken about having a woman play Lear, but in the end I found it didn’t really matter. Jackson is pretty androgynous, and the play really is more about age, families, children and betrayal than whether Lear is a King or a Queen.  Personally I found it a bit jarring to hear the male pronouns (“Sir”, “Lord”, “He” etc.) while knowing the role was played by a woman, but that was more about my brain than anything else.

I really liked the production – it’s very modern, which was interesting in comparison to the much more traditional one I saw in Manchester. It’s also quite minimalist for a lot of the time, with some moving scenery and not much else. However, the storm scene is performed through projections onto billowing black plastic sheeting, which was surprisingly effective.

All told, I liked the production a lot, and still feel that I was fortunate to see it.

I felt even more fortunate to also see the “Voices Off” conversation afterwards, with Jackson, Imrie, and Horrocks all on stage talking with a presenter and Lear’s other ‘daughter’, played by Morfydd Clark. That was another forty minutes or so after the main three-and-a-half-hour production, which made for a long evening, but one that I really enjoyed.

Final Weeks

We’re coming to the end of 2016, and things are (kind of) calming down a bit here.

Mind you, in the next month the main events are

  • Seeing Glenda Jackson in King Lear at the Old Vic in London
  • Seeing The Tempest in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • A Festive BurgerCrawl in London – only Christmas Special burgers allowed. (That’s pretty much planned already)
  • Meals at five Michelin-starred restaurants, including one for New Year’s Eve

and alongside that there’s also

  • at least one techie meetup/socialisation night
  • two social things with other friends and contacts
  • a minimum of three films (that’re already booked) including Rogue One and Passengers, plus any others I choose to see

That’s about it – except for the standard stuff around the Festering Season as well.

And yet still, that’s a lot quieter and calmer than a lot of the year has been. Which just goes to show, sometimes I can be a spectacularly busy idiot…


Looking back over the weekend, and the twatted ankle, I do find it interesting that whatever I’m doing (or have done) to myself, I still appear to be lucky enough and healthy enough to repair and heal pretty quickly.

Considering that I fit with no-one’s image of a fit person, and that I’m also capable of doing 13-15 mile walks in a day with no further ill effects, that all makes me a lot happier than it maybe should.

Of course, if I were less of an idiot, and more open to allowing small injuries/damage to put a stop to plans, I’d probably heal up even quicker, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

Maybe it’ll change as I get older, but for now, I’m pretty content with how things stand.


Damage, Stupidity, and Repair. (And food)

Just before the weekend, either Thursday or Friday, I twisted my ankle. Nothing major, nothing broken – but painful, and a joyous shade of purple by the Saturday morning.  I’ve no idea what I actually did to it – there was no noteworthy twist, trip, or knock, but I’d obviously done something stupid to it.

However, because I’m a massive idiot, I wasn’t going to let something like that stop me from doing the stuff I had planned for the weekend.

So on Saturday I took the train down to London in order to go to Taste London‘s Festive Edition, down at Tobacco Dock. I went earlier than usual, because – again, despite that slightly twatted ankle – I was planning to walk from Euston to Tobacco Dock, meet friends, go round the event, and then decide what I’d do from there.

The walk went surprisingly well, made a decent time – albeit a bit slower than usual, for obvious reasons.

route map and timingI got there hugely early, which meant I was at the front of the queue, but that’s fine. Met up with friends, covered the whole of the Taste Festival, and had a good time.

And then, because I’m still a massive idiot, we walked back from Tobacco Dock, first to The Alchemist on Bevis Marks, near the Gherkin, for a couple of cocktails (they’re brilliant, hugely creative, and decently priced – for anywhere, rather than ‘reasonable for London’) and then on to Honest Burgers at Tottenham Court Road before getting back to Euston. All told, somewhere around 13 miles of walking on a still-stuffed ankle.  By the end of it, my leg was extremely sore, but it was well worth it.

On the Sunday, I had a quieter day planned – out in the evening, but nothing planned for the day. So I took it a bit easier, did a load of domestic stuff, but without doing a lot of walking. The leg and ankle were still sore, so I didn’t want to exacerbate the damage any further.

Then in the late afternoon/early evening, over to friends, and thence to Northampton for food at a place they’d recommended and like (Sol Y Luna in Northampton) for epic tapas and then a couple of drinks at The Olde England pub before heading to their and then home.

So it was a pretty epic weekend of food, with added twattery and pain.

And this morning, when I no longer need to do a load of walking, of course the ankle is now pretty much back to normal. Of course…

Birthday Weekend – Dinner

For the birthday weekend, once I’d done Le Manoir on Saturday, I was in London on Sunday for two things – the first of which was lunch at Heston Blumenthal’s “Dinner” restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

I can’t claim to be a huge fan of Blumenthal, but Dinner is an interesting concept, resurrecting and reinventing meals from previous times/eras, ranging from the 1300s through to early 1940s.

It’s also one of the few places I’ve been to this year that doesn’t do a tasting menu, opting instead for three larger courses.

I had a great meal consisting of

  • Roast Scallops (c. 1830) – with cucumber ketchup, roasted cucumber, bergamot and borage
  • Chicken cooked with Lettuces (c. 1670) – Grilled onion emulsion, spiced celeriac sauce and oyster leaf, with a side of some of the best mashed potato ever (as recommended by the waiter)
  • Tipsy Cake (c. 1810) – fresh-made brioche on a beautiful sauce, with spit-roasted pineapple.
  • And finished off with Liquid-Nitrogen ice cream, made at the table, which was a great finale.

There’s also a lot more stuff on the menu that I now really want to try, so I’ll be aiming to return in 2017.

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