A much belated part 2 of time spent in the West End and other fun places, I think I was meant to post this around December 20th, looks like that didn’t happen. I rounded off the last post with a trip to see Zorro.
Next stop Alan Ayckbourn’s trio of plays “Living Together”, “Table Manners” and “Round and Round the Garden” (seen in that order) as part of “The Norman Conquests” in the round at the Old Vic — a theatre transformed for a 360 degree viewing experience. Being under 25 offers us the nice little perk of much discounted tickets, £20 for each play instead of £40–60, or thereabouts, a bargain. The six strong cast consisted of Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter and Amanda Root.
Going into “Living Together”, Sam, Jo and I weren’t sure what to expect, our seats were at the rear of the auditorium, where the stage would normally sit, but instead a circular tier of seats stood, carved into the back. We were incredibly close to the circular stage with its ‘model village come wooden curtain’ and light furniture set. The three plays intermingle in time, each can standalone but together they form a bigger picture, portraying different nuances and natures of the characters whilst each incredibly reveals a significant plot point subtly but realistically referenced in the other two. (Reg wandering into the front room, “Ah there it is”, picks up the bin and walks out again).
The stories are deeply tragic; three siblings, two unhappily married and the other single yet equally unhappy. The other three cast members make up their spouses/possible future partners whilst a sick and elderly mother and her promiscuous past resides out of sight, upstairs and bedridden. Norman is all set to run away for a romantic weekend with his wife’s sister Annie, Annie’s potential love interest — Tom, the dim witted Vet, believes she is going on holiday alone and that this is partly his fault; Annie’s brother Reg and interfering wife Sarah arrive to look after mother for the weekend, in Annie’s absence. Norman’s wife Ruth remains unawares, but isn’t without suspicion. Cue the start of all three plays and without wishing to reveal too much; the home made parsnip wine, Reg’s cleverly devised board game he wants everyone to play, Norman’s desire to make everyone happy, Tom’s complete befuddlement, the rug, the silence at Breakfast, soup and salad, seating arrangements, Ruth’s misinterpreted advice in the garden, the cat stuck in the tree, the tomfoolery and East Grinsted — and as the family tears itself apart you’ll laugh with every turn, every revelation, every remark and your jaw will ache from the smile plastered across your face.
For Table Manners and Round and Round the Garden we were seated at the top in the middle, a little further from the action but still a great view. Originally we’d decided to only go to one of the three, but on the strength of Living Together — which we now believe was the best starting place — we booked the next two. If I had to put them in order of favourites I’d put the Garden episode first, closely followed by Living Together and then Table Manners.
Our taste for plays, comedies, Ayckbourn and the Old Vic have been stimulated and we’re ready for more.
Here’s the best shot I could get of the circular stage from where we were:
Before the shows we ate at the Bangalore Express (with its double decker seating arrangement) and Yo Sushi (where we used our buy 5 plates get 5 free vouchers), both of which are in walking distance from the Old Vic.
Following the Garden, which we saw on a Saturday afternoon in December, we grabbed the tube to Hyde Park to visit the Winter Wonderland with all of its Christmastime goodies and German-like markets. Warming up with a tasty steak burger we aimlessly perused the stalls, trying out the mulled wine, the candied nuts, mini dutch pancakes in chocolate, fun hats and German sausages. Without realising it had reached 9pm we meandered towards Covent Garden before resting at “Fire and Stone”, a fantastic stone-oven pizzeria where every pizza is based on a world city, I had a:
Marrakech // £8.95
Cumin spiced ground lamb, mozzarella, mint yoghurt sauce, green olives, raisins & sliced red onion drizzled with chilli oil.
Worth every penny.
The next big venture into London for Sam and I was to the Coliseum to see the English National Ballet performing Sleeping Beauty; my first foray into the world of ballet and dance. Approaching the night sleepified and docile, I wasn’t looking forward to the three hour performance despite pepping up with a home-made burger from a nearby Moroccan place off Leicester Square.
However, when the curtain lifted, the surrealism of a 3 hour show without a single spoken word, not even for the interval, slowly dawned on me, and with it I became quietly engrossed in the beautiful dance and skill before me, the miming techniques used for the plot mostly going over my head but for a few obvious examples. My slumber had me all buttered up and I left amongst the extraordinarily posh and the disproportionate number of rich attractive girls into the cold winter air, with scarf and gloves, ready for Christmas.
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Phil Elvrum live for the third time in London, this time at The Dome near Kentish Town, with High Places and Parenthetical Girls supporting.
I loved the High Places set; their music is incredibly invigorating and refreshing, with a strange sort of aggression and tribalism when played live — suffice to say I bought their self titled 12″ at the close. Parenthetical Girls were not really my sort of thing, some stand out tracks, an interesting vocalist and instrument rotation made it worthwhile though.
Phil’s set was, as usual, mesmerizing and wonderful, despite his obvious exhaustion from traveling.
Just for good measure, here are two downloads of the complete performances the last time I saw him live — recorded with permission by Sonny (via MEPS); first at The Luminaire and the next day at the London School of Economics library. Yesterday’s show didn’t top these, but to be honest that’s pretty hard ’cause they were awesome; there was even singalongs and people sat cross legged around him on the stage; it was all very intimate and beautiful.
Living in St Albans I’ve recently taken the opportunity to see as much theatre as possible, and now I have a couple of spare minutes between all the shows, holiday and traveling, I’ll write a bit about them all.
I’ve long been a great hater of musicals that sing every. single. word. ♫ I’m going to get the milk ♫, that sort of thing. By that logic I should absolutely despise Les Mis’, listening to the songs briefly beforehand certainly suggested I would. Our seats were upper circle front row, I’d bought them with my sister for my mum’s birthday; we had a good view and I sat back unsure what to expect, ‘Look Down and see’.
Ahead of me the stories of Valjean, Fantine, Javert, Cosette, Eponine et al unfolded; the repeating musical theme resounded deep and a phenomenal performance by Drew Sarich coloured me impressed, with ‘On My Own’ heartrendingly sung by Eponine (Cassie Compton) fully engrossing me, for the first time, within a musical love story. This was and still is the best musical performance I have seen and until that point I had very little faith in the genre as a whole.
I left wanting more.
I had already seen Miss Saigon, although I do believe it wasn’t one of the best performances, I didn’t overly enjoy it. It probably deserves a second chance with my now renewed interest. Marguerite was a new musical with songs by Michel Legrand (see Umbrellas of Cherbourg!) and the hook, lyrics by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg.
The show, music and performances were all bitterly disappointing; the leading singing male came across as an over zealous stereotypical stage fella for which we did not emote. It was all a little lackluster, and no doubt others agreed — leading to the shows premature end in September. Luckily an overly chirpy and entertaining train conductor kept us happy on the way home; if only they were all as happy as him.
Jo, Sam and I saw Fat Pig in its first English incarnation at the Trafalgar studios with Kris Marshall and Robert Webb. The comedy has a simple premise; some guy begins dating a fat girl and must face his work colleagues and their taunts — the ‘obsessed with looks’ ex-date and the crude and womanizing buddy.
Big Spoilers now. The first half revolves around Tom and Helen, the librarian, meeting, laughs a plenty and smiles all around — an hilarious comedy as billed. With the second half comes the to and fro of a relationship, the ups and downs and inevitable questions about the future which revolve around Helen meeting Tom’s work mates; the comedy softens you up and keeps you content in the happy ending realm of positive message storytelling — before a long and quiet conversation on the beach punches you in the gut, rips out your heart and splatters it on the wall, bringing you straight back to reality and ending the show in darkness. Absolutely brilliant.
I heartily recommend this, though cannot vouch for the new lineup or venue.
Another comedy, we got tickets cheap for this one in the stalls, and thought why not. None of us had actually seen the movie, so we didn’t know quite what to expect, especially with only four cast members playing the role of many. It turned out to be a slapstick affair with very clever prop jokes, costume changes and role switching; a good laugh and another recommended night out.
Middle of the middle in the stalls we watched the well praised Avenue Q as the Gary Coleman references whisked over our heads and the ‘grab your dick and double click‘ line resounded. Though we enjoyed it, the abundant acclaim meant it did not meet our high expectations.
This adult puppet comedy, although making us laugh, really didn’t grab us as we had thought and hoped it might. A tad disappointing, it might have been the understudies but probably just all the hype surrounding it.
Another performance caught on the Hoxton weekend, lucky enough to get tickets on the day,
Neither of us had seen the Dustin Hoffman movie, we went in without any expectations and without grounds for comparison. We left absolutely stunned — wow; the play was brilliant with Godley and Hartnett supremely leaving us on tender hooks. This was the first straight up play we’d seen together and no doubt we’ll be back for more of the same.
It is very much a love story, a comedy and a drama. I must remember to now watch the movie (adding to my LoveFilm list). I’m not sure how we would have reacted to it had we seen the movie. To no surprise, a large proportion of the audience were female. I do agree that Hartnett is a stud, even in The Black Dahlia with its stellar cast, which I caught last night, a poor attempt at a film noir.
Zorro is the most recent of musicals I have seen after Sam grabbed four tickets for £40; this opened earlier in the year and Matt Rawle plays the lead and once again I had no expectations or even a clue as to the story. The show is none too serious (despite the brilliant ‘Man behind the Mask’ number) and comes accompanied with flamenco gypsy dancing, heel stomping, sword fights, fire and The Gypsy Kings (see Bamboleo); ‘a fun filled romp’ some tabloid review might say and it certainly was. With a dance and clap encore I left with dancing feet completely satisfied with my night out, bar the Gypsy King tracks that looped around my cranium for the remainder of the night.
If you want some plain old fun in London, I recommend Zorro the musical!
Raise your arms the highest you can, so the whole universe will glow…
Last night I had the privilege of seeing M83 live at Scala in London, with The Domino State supporting; and oh how superb it all was. Of course there was a strong focus on the new album, Saturday=Youth, but they didn’t forget the old songs, mixing it up beautifully with Dead Cities and Before the Dawn Heals Us. As the rising drums, guitars and rhythm of “A Guitar and a Heart” crashed through the venue with ever increasing furor and energy, a shiver shot down my spine and I hoped it would never end.
Here is some crappy footage I shot on my camera just for my own nostalgic purposes. Note how the camera can’t hold its auto focus in the light levels, giving the impression I can’t focus anything.
Normally the words shoegaze, pop, 80s, rave and enjoyable shouldn’t be put next to each other, let alone used to describe the same 90 minutes. However, those are just the words I’m going to use to describe last night’s M83 gig at London’s Scala.
Taking to a stage covered with enough cables to give even the most seasoned of electricians a heart attack, Anthony Gonzalez (who’s much smaller and more elflike in real life than I had realised…) made it clear it was his night, and with the help of a few supporting artists ploughed through an impressive selection of his work from the past 7 years.
Naturally, the focus of the evening was on new album Saturdays=Youth, with tracks like Couleurs, Graveyard Girl and Kim & Jessie getting some of the biggest cheers of the night. However, whilst his new pop direction was the reason Scala was so packed, he didn’t forget the diehard fans from his early days (and there were a few…), throwing in some harder dancier numbers which culminated in the encore with an almost full-on rave. Well, for about 5 minutes.
Shoegaze was the theme of the evening really though, with many songs blurring into one, and for the casual fan (like myself) it was easy to lose yourself in the music for 10 minutes, totally entranced by the teamwork and the skills of everyone.
The HoxtonHotel (‘the urban lodge’) in London recently had a sale, where a lucky few could purchase rooms for £1 a night or £29 a night. Most came away with nothing, but Sam was lucky enough to not only get a room, but two consecutive nights on the weekend of her birthday! Fantastic!
Said weekend started last Friday, we each took the day off and took our quick and usual route into the centre; meeting outside Leicester Square, cases in tow, ready to be tourists for a couple of days. After apple juice and lunch in St James’ park we took the Northern Line to Old Street and checked in, electrified by the overwhelming trendiness that is both the hotel and surrounding area.