Last night, I went to see the new play “Touching the Void” in at the Royal part of the Royal and Derngate in Northampton. Based from the film that’s based on the book by Joe Simpson, and all three are the story of Simpson’s near-fatal accident on a climb of a mountain in Peru.
It’s had some very good reviews in the media from the Bristol part of the tour and looked interesting, so I booked a ticket to see it in Northampton.
And all told, I have to say I was really impressed with the play as a whole. The staging is really clever, making use of tables as an initial example of a rock-face, and it’s also a hugely physical production, with a large suspended structure being used to tell most of the story of the mountain climb.
There are a couple of odd bits (two musical numbers in particular seem pretty stramge) and I personally found the last five minutes to be a bit of a let-down, but all told it’s a very very good production, and worth going to see if you get a chance.
I’ve liked all the films by Martin McDonagh – “In Bruges“, “Seven Psychopaths” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – but didn’t know until this year that he’s also been a prolific playwright.
(This, it turns out, isn’t unusual – the knowledge of McDonagh’s works seems to be pretty polarising. I haven’t yet met anyone who could blather about both sides of his work – people know either the films or the plays, but rarely both, and are surprised to learn of the other side)
Back in January, it was announced that there would be a new McDonagh play premiering at the Bridge Theatre in London, and on spec I thought I’d book tickets and give it a go. (Still knowing nothing about his plays) The play was called “A Very Very Very Dark Matter” (always a good omen) and the description for it was…
In a townhouse in Copenhagen works Hans Christian Andersen, a teller of exquisite and fantastic children’s tales beloved by millions. But the true source of his stories dwells in his attic upstairs, her existence a dark secret kept from the outside world.
As it turned out, I managed to get tickets for the second performance – previews rather than “proper” performances, but still, second ever one. Which is pretty good, by anyone’s standards.
On Saturday, that’s where I was. And it’s a strange old production for sure. I’m fully aware that I have other friends going to see it still, and I’m not tosspotty enough to spoiler it at all (which makes this a bit harder to write) but it’s a weird, dark, sweary and scabrous affair.
Jim Broadbent plays Hans Christian Andersen as a fairly unpleasant human being – utterly self-centred, but also a quite spectacular idiot – who is taking advantage of the source of his stories. He also goes to visit Charles
Darwin Dickens (a regularly repeated joke through the play) who is played by Phil Daniels as an exceptionally sweary (and very funny) Cockney – and who may also be housing a similar source for his stories.
Along the way there’s violence, creepy attics and puppets (and arachnophobes should be aware that one of them is a big spider), time travel, writers, lots of swearies, and general weirdness. In short, it’s a Martin McDonagh script.
All told, I did enjoy the play – although I did feel that it could’ve been better, and made more of the subject matter it had – but I don’t honestly know that I’d want to see it again…
The weekend just past is the one where I was supposed to be doing that walked Night Marathon in London. I failed to complete it last year (as I’ve written about elsewhere) and this year didn’t start it – primarily because I just hadn’t been able to get in the practice and preparation that would’ve made it easily doable, so I’d made the decision to not take it on at the last minute.
So it should’ve been this weekend that I did it, and as it turns out, I’m actually quite glad I made that decision. First and foremost, the weather was vile, and doing it while being cold and wet really doesn’t appeal.
Additionally, I’ve picked up a vicious cold (I really should stop having quiet days – they totally kill me) and been feeling rougher than a badger’s backside. To top it off, this week also involved a couple of foodie events (although I’d have rethought at least one of those if I’d still been doing the walk)
All told, I’m still (mostly) happy with the choice to not do the walk this year. I’m annoyed with myself for having let the time slip past, and for not doing the training and preparation I could have done. But there we go, I didn’t do them, and while I probably could have just rocked up and completed it, I wanted to be better prepared this time.
I’m signed up to do next year’s one though, so we’ll see how we go from here to there. And if I don’t do that one either, then I’ll most likely sack off trying again.
I’ve been a fan of Blessed since his turn on Flash Gordon – which is now a very long time ago – which also gave him his most recognised phrase (and with which he opened the show) of “Gordon is Alive!”
The entire show was kind of ramshackle and rambling, certainly nothing like the far slicker comedians and musicians that the audience was obviously more used to. I saw a few people with expressions of “What the fuck?!?” as it went on, because the were very few coherent stories, it appeared to be all more of a shotgun approach, as and when he remembered stuff. (Without seeing the show again I have no way of knowing whether it’s intentionally shambolic, or that it’s just the way Blessed is)
For me though, I’d pretty much expected that, and it didn’t disappoint or disconcert me at all.
I thought the entire thing was a lot of fun (and also very loud, and sometimes sweary – also things I’m OK with) and would happily go and see it/him again.
I think the final note to leave on, though, is this notice on the doors.
Last week was a very bad one food-wise. Not bad food per se, but more just that I was being bad by eating a lot of meat.
On Thursday it was the National Burger Day event down at Hawker House in London, which is something that’s been in my diary for the last three or four years. As usual, it was a good event, I got to see some people I’ve known from previous ones, and also meet some new ones who I hope to stay in touch with.
Then on Saturday and Sunday it was Meatopia down at Tobacco Dock in London – for my fifth consecutive year. Both days of that were great – personally I think I preferred the Sunday, which seemed to have a greater variety of meats and techniques than the Saturday.
All told, I ate a lot. But in some form of compensation, I also covered just over 110,000 steps over the week, amounting to just under 60 miles. In a week.
In short, I’m just an irredeemable idiot, with no real idea of what’s sensible…
On Tuesday, as I mentioned before, I went down to London to see Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe. I’d not seen any previous productions of it, and it seemed like a good plan – particularly as it was only £5 for a standing ticket.
All told, it was OK. Standing at the Globe is OK, although the concrete floor is a lot less forgiving than the original’s mud, straw and whatever. I get that that’s less sustainable in modern London, but yeah, a bit tough when standing for near-as-dammit three hours, once you include arriving before it starts, interval, and leaving.
The play itself was good, and I had a decent view of the stage, albeit from the side. Going in with a pretty blank and basic idea of the play, it fulfilled most of that, and was easy enough to follow. I had always had the idea that Iago was a lot more panto-villain with hand-twisting moustachioed evil – although I suspect that’s just how it’s been built up over the years, as a lot of the irony of calling him “honest Iago” wouldn’t work if he were being blatantly manipulative and machiavellian – so it was interesting (and a bit jarring for me) to see the way it’s played by Mark Rylance as a much quieter role, more of a jealous little man, overlooked by those in power, assumed to be a nobody who couldn’t possibly come up with such intrigues.
But I enjoyed it (although I feel the ending is another of Shakespeare’s more melodramatic dollops) and came out feeling I’d got what I came for.
Then, because I’m an idiot, I’d also booked to see Brian Friel’s “The Aristocrats” in the evening, at the Donmar Warehouse. Which also conveniently meant I could go and have a quick dinner at one of my favourite places in that area, Chick’n’Sours (Fried chicken and sour cocktails – my kind of place)
So that’s what happened – a walk back from the Globe to Seven Dials, food, and then with plenty of time to kill I sat outside an empty building on Earlham Street, right by Donmar Warehouse, and just relaxed for an hour – which was lovely. It’s a really quiet street – surprising for being in the Covent Garden area – with enough people going past to be interesting, but not chaotic.
And then Aristocrats. Which, in my opinion, was sadly an absolute bag of bollocks. Apparently it’s Chekhov-esque, which apparently means “sod-all happens”. I’d seen generally positive reviews of it, but couldn’t find much to be impressed by in it, myself. It was good to have seen it, and understand a bit more about the kind of plays I don’t like – which is always a useful reference point, so long as you haven’t spent an absolute shed-load of money to find out you hate it – but it’s definitely not one I’d bother with again.
Mind you, I was in a seat in the second row of the stalls, right by the stage, and it cost me £30. So it could’ve been an awful lot worse than it was.
All told it was a good day, and not massively expensive. What more could one ask for, really?
It hadn’t been super-high on my priority list, but a friend of mine is running the lighting desk, and it was also in consideration as something to take my mum to later in the year, so I picked up a ticket to see what it was like.
I didn’t really know what to expect – and in many ways, I’m glad of that. While I did enjoy it, it’s not one I’d go and see again (and also I’m not convinced that mum would like it) so it was definitely worth seeing as research first. In fairness, a lot of people really like it and have seen it multiple times – and Meatloaf himself saw it a couple of days before I did, and seemed to be pleased with the entire thing. It just didn’t really do it for me – it’s a subjective thing, and I’m never going to say to anyone “Don’t go”. It just turned out to not be my thing.
The staging, set, lighting and so on are great, the music performances are pretty good – but the story itself is woeful, and seems to be there just as a kind of bare basic scaffold on which to hang the songs. (I’m no expert on juke-box musicals, so this could be the case with all of them, I don’t know – and I’m not going to generalise based on a sample of one!)
But still, it was entertaining enough, and kept me amused. I didn’t come out thinking I’d wasted my money, or disappointed in the production – but I still wouldn’t want to pay to see it again…