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Archive for the category “Reviews(ish)”

Closing The Year

And so we’re at the end of 2018. And as such, it seems apt that the last post of the year should be a quick assessment and overview.

All told, it’s been a good – and busy – year.

There’s been more travel than usual, with that week in Toronto to add into the bargain.

There’s been more work, but also more fun times, trips out, meals, etc.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on weight-loss which has ultimately ended up not doing much – but I have more knowledge, more figures, and the steps I’ve taken have improved my health, strength, stamina, and resilience. They’ve just done sod-all to lose actual weight. But I’m OK with that, and it’s something I’ll continue to work on.

On the downside, I’m ending the year with a bit more debt than I’d like. It’s nothing earth-shattering, nor even major. A fair chunk of it is for tickets for things in 2019, of which another decent chunk is owed to me by others for their tickets. But all the same, it’s more than I’d like it to be.

However, in a fit of progress and being grown up, it’s also now all in one place, with zero-interest ’til 2022, and it’ll be done by the end of 2019.  I could do it even quicker if I wanted – and I may do so – but it’s all under control, and I’m OK with it.

There are, as always, things I haven’t done – no matter the good intentions, they just haven’t happened. I’ll continue to work towards those things, and I’m going to write more about that tomorrow.

All told, it’s been a positive year, and I’m feeling pretty good at the end of it.

Coming To A Close

This weekend, I saw my final performance of the year – I know there’s only three weeks to go, but still, I’m pretty sure I was seeing stuff ’til later in the year last time round.

This weekend I was at the BBC Radio Theatre (as a plus-one for the friend who’d managed to get the tickets) to see Neil Gaiman recording a programme that will go out on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Day.  As it turned out, he’d also brought along some friends, including Mitch Benn, Peter Capaldi, and some refugees (his words, not mine) from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  It was a good evening and lot of fun to see.  It’ll also be interesting to see what makes the actual broadcast.

The previous weekend, I’d been to see Tamburlaine at the RSC in Stratford for the matinee performance on its final day. I did enjoy it, although some casting choices were a bit odd to me, particularly in the second half, where the same actress is doing two roles – one as the wife of Tamburlaine, and one as the heir of the dead king, aiming to overthrow Tamburlaine.  It’s a credit to her that it was impossible to confuse the two roles as she played them, but it still made things rather more complex and odd than they needed to be.

I’ve already got several theatre visits lined up for next year, but just for now it’s on pause. Which is fine by me.

Troilus and Cressida, RSC

As part of my ongoing education about Shakespeare plays, I went with my friend M to see Troilus and Cressida at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday.

As usual, I knew sod-all about it beforehand – I’d figured some of the basics (that it was around the Trojan war and so on) but that was it.

It’s an interesting production, with extra percussion and sound created by Evelyn Glennie, and in some ways feels like it’s a mix of Stomp and Shakespeare. (Which isn’t a bad thing, in my own pantheon of opinions/preferences)  It’s also a fairly modern staging, with shipping containers taking the place of tents and so on, whereas the costuming (and in some cases lack thereof) is more traditional. So it’s a bit confused, but in a way that I liked.

I was, to be honest, less taken with the play itself. It was interesting enough, and enjoyable enough, but at the same time I don’t know that it’s one I’d make a big effort to see again.

Weirdly, Troilus and Cressida themselves aren’t really major roles within the play – they’re on stage a lot less than most of the other primary characters.

All told, there’s a lot of focus on political intrigues and deal-making as well as the war itself, and it makes for a complicated script and set-up that can sometimes be confusing.

So yes, I enjoyed the entire thing and I’m glad I went. But there are other Shakespeare plays I’d prefer to see before seeing Troilus and Cressida again.

Touching The Void, Royal and Derngate Theatre

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.

A Very Very Very Dark Matter, Bridge Theatre

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…

Queen Margaret, Royal Exchange, Manchester

A couple of weeks ago, I read a piece on the BBC about a new play, “Queen Margaret” that was being staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

Queen Margaret” is Margaret of Anjou, who has parts in four Shakespeare plays – Henry VI parts one, two and three, and Richard III – and across those plays, she has the most lines Shakespeare wrote for any part. For Queen Margaret, the playwright (Jeanie O’Hare) takes those lines and adds new ones to connect all the extant scenes.

Anyway, it all sounded interesting enough that I booked a ticket for last Saturday’s matinee performance, and made a day-trip of it.  It’s easy enough – the train from Milton Keynes gets to Manchester in 90-100 minutes, which brings it well within day-trip range. I certainly couldn’t do the drive in the same time. 

I’m really glad I did so, too – I thought the entire play was excellent, and done well enough that you couldn’t easily tell who had written which lines. (Although I’m no expert on those Shakespeare plays, so if one were super-familiar with them then I assume it’d be easier to separate the two writing styles)  The whole thing held together really well, and I enjoyed it thoroughly – while also learning a lot about all of the stuff around Henry VI and Richard III.

The run finishes this week (on Saturday 6th October) and I really hope that it’s generally perceived as having been excellent so that it gets a longer run, and ideally comes down to London and elsewhere. In my opinion, it thoroughly deserves it.

Brian Blessed, Cambridge Corn Exchange

On Monday night, I trolled over to Cambridge to see Brian Blessed on stage doing his “An Evening With” tour. Safe to say, it was a fun night.

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.

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