D4D

What doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

Archive for the category “London”

Running Into The Flames

Following on from the stories about the terrorist attack yesterday at the Houses of Parliament, the BBC has a piece on the people from St Thomas’s Hospital (literally just over the bridge from the Houses of Parliament) who, on hearing about the incidents, ran to help.  And not just doctors and nurses – I feel a huge dollop of recognition should also be due to Tobias Ellwood, the MP for Bournemouth East, who went to help resuscitate the stabbed policeman.

I don’t care what the hell else is said about those events, but those people are heroes.  Stories like these always remind me of the speech from the West Wing TV Series, (The episode “20 Hours In America, Part II“, if you want to look it up) in the aftermath of another (fictional) terrorist attack …

… and two others are in critical condition, when, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran into the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight.

Gets me every damn time, the people who don’t stand and take pictures, who don’t run away, but instead run towards the danger.  I’d like to think I’m of a similar ilk – but who really knows, until that time comes?

Hamlet, Almeida Theatre, London

As I said before, on Friday I went to see Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre in London, starring Andrew Scott. (Moriarty from the BBC’s Sherlock – which also means that I’ve now seen Hamlet performed by Sherlock, and Moriarty)

Honestly, I’m still not sure what to make of it.  I’m not even 100% sure of whether I liked it or not. I wouldn’t want to go and see it again – which is the usual final verdict one way or t’other – but I’m still glad I did see it.

In some ways, it’s very clever. It’s obviously been updated (or at least the staging has) with events being announced via a large screen, showing the coverage in a BBC News style.  Additionally, rather than being guards on the battlements etc., the the ghost of Hamlet’s father initially appears on CCTV screens in the security office of the castle.

In other ways, it’s rather less clever – or perhaps I’m less clever, and just didn’t get the relevance of things. Ophelia’s madness and grief are just thrown in, with no real explanation or build-up.  It’s handled almost an incidental, which seems odd when one considers how integral and essential it is to the final act.

Indeed, in a lot of ways there seemed to be the assumption that the audience were well versed in the ways of Hamlet – something I’ve found a couple of times over the last year or so, particularly with Shakespearean stuff.

I’m reliably informed that it stuck a lot closer to the original subject matter – I hadn’t appreciated how different some of it was in the Hamlet I saw with Benedict Cumberbatch last year – but that’s fine.  I do feel that I really should probably actually read the bloody play as well, and get it fixed better in my brain.

For me, the final act is a stretch – I’m never overly comfortable with the hysteria and overwrought reactions of grief and betrayal, and find myself left cold by it as a result.  That’s no criticism of the play, or of the actors therein, it’s just it doesn’t sit well with me.

So all told, it was a decent play and well done. I just still can’t quite put my finger on why I’m as ambivalent about it as a whole, though.

Theatrical

This week has, again, been somewhat theatrical (and with a fair dollop of travel, just for balance)

On Wednesday I finally got round to seeing the Harry Potter play, which was very good (and I’ll write some thoughts about it later on) but made it into a seriously long day. Because of the size of the story/play, it’s been made in two parts, both just over two and a half hours.  Including the break between plays, it meant I went in at 1pm (for performance starting at 2) and left just after 10pm.  Then including getting back to Euston, and the Train Of The Damned to get back to Milton Keynes, I got home at about half midnight.

Yesterday I was down in London, going to see Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.  I’d gone down earlier in the day, which was fine, and the play itself – again, very good, although I still need to formulate my thoughts and reactions to it a bit – was pretty complete, and ran to nearly four hours, including intervals.  So again, starting at 7pm, I didn’t leave ’til 11. Driving home was easier, but still, I wasn’t back ’til gone midnight.

This evening I’m back down in London for a friend’s birthday thing (and another late return home) and then tomorrow morning I’m over in Reading supporting another friend who’s running the Reading half-marathon (again) and raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust.

So yeah, busy, and there really is no sign of sanity impinging on my life at any point soon…

Mere, London

Last night, I was lucky enough to get to go to Mere Restaurant, the new restaurant venture from Monica Galetti, with friends.  They opened on Monday, and I’d managed to snag a booking for Tuesday – in honesty, when they’d announced bookings were opening, I’d set an alarm for that time, and got in as quickly as possible for a booking.  So – lucky, but also organised.

As I understand it, Monday’s launch was a “friends and family” thing – unless they sold out in seconds on the day bookings opened. So Tuesday was effectively the first ‘open to the public’ day.

We had the six-course tasting menu (and two of the friends had the accompanying wine flight) and it was all decently priced.  Obviously it hasn’t got Michelin stars (yet) but I’m willing to bet that it will have at least one in the next guide.

It’s hard to describe the exact cuisine type – Mere themselves describe it as “blending classical French with South Pacific influences”, I’d just say “Brilliant”. It’s a great restaurant space, quite designery, but it’s all been done to a theme, and it really works.

It was ace, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. I’m already looking forward to going back!

Varied

So, this week is somewhat varied in its activities.

Yesterday was John Wick Chapter 2.

This evening I’m off to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, talking about his newest book, “Norse Mythology“, his latest book. (And collecting a signed copy into the bargain)

Tomorrow, I’m off for a meal at the Fat Duck with friends, and driving them all there and back.

There’s stuff lined up for the weekend too, but that little lot should keep me going for a while anyway…

Surf vs Turf, Blues Kitchen

Last night, I went with a friend to one of my favourite places, Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch.  I’ve been going there fairly regularly over the last eighteen months or so, but usually on a weekend. This time was different though – they had organised a three day “Surf vs Turf” event, bringing in the chef team from Extra Fancy in the US to ‘do battle’ with the team from Blues Kitchen, with a special menu (including cocktails)  to play with.

And it was epic.

Once it had been announced on Twitter, I had booked in straight away. For me, it was a no-brainer, I wanted to try it. And I am so glad I did.

As well as the food and drinks, it meant we got to spend time with some of the people we’ve been talking to on most of the visits, talked about what was good on the menu, what they should be keeping, and even got introduced to one of the owners of the group that owns Blues Kitchen. For me, that’s what makes Blues Kitchen stand out from every other place in a similar vein – the people make it, even more than the food.

Between the two of us, we had everything on the menu – including the cocktails. Plus a couple of things that were so good we had two…

I’m hard-pressed to even decide what the best things were – it was all good, and most of it was great. Hell, even the cocktails were awesome.

All told, a great night, and a type of event I hope Blues Kitchen repeat – there’s plenty of opportunity, with lots of different kitchens and teams that would be up for it, I’m sure.

Theatrical – Amadeus, National Theatre, London

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to see Amadeus at the National Theatre in London this week.  I didn’t know much about the play beforehand, or what to expect – I’ve still not even seen the film – but I really enjoyed the play.

What’s really interesting in this production is the way that the musicians from Southbank Sinfonia appear on stage alongside the cast, becoming key parts of the entire thing.

It didn’t (in my opinion) start well, with the first scene being quite confusing, and – as it turned out – pretty irrelevant to the rest of the play. But once we’d got past that small hurdle, the rest of it was excellent. A fascinating story of a man (Salieri) who believes he’s done a deal with God to become a musical genius, then is faced with a true child prodigy (Mozart) with a foul mouth and worse attitude, whose works are infinitely better than Salieri’s pedestrian efforts. Exacerbated by Mozart’s middle name being Amadeus (‘loved by God’) and seeing how Mozart’s ‘first draft’ writing of scores is immediately perfect (because he’s composed it all in his head and knows how it’ll look) he decides to resign his deal, and instead to wreck God’s plans by becoming Mozart’s enemy, knocking him down at every turn.

In many ways, it’s a very dark play, focusing on obsessions, revenge, jealousy and the like. It’s also very powerful, and covers a huge scope on the stage – sometimes it’s hard to watch both Salieri talking at the front of the stage, and see what’s happening at the back with the musicians and other cast members. While your attention’s on Salieri, you suddenly realise that all the musicians have moved – and sometimes appeared – without you really noticing, and for the sheer number of people that involves, it’s pretty note-worthy. (In that way it reminded me very strongly of Ariel in the RSC production of the Tempest that I saw before Christmas)

All told, I was really impressed with the entire production (excepting that first scene) and found it a fascinating experience. Definitely one I’d go and see again, if the opportunity arose.

 

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