Friday, 30 August 2013


Last night, I went to see Fences, with Lenny Henry, at the Duchess Theatre, Aldwych. This was a new theatre for me, so I looked up Google Maps to see how to get there. Even not having been there, before, I could see they were directing me wrong - they had the right destination, but not the fastest way to get there. Anyway, I've been to the Strand before, so I figured it out.

When I came onto the Strand, mind you, I got a bit lost - but not for long, and soon found the theatre. And immediately got lost again. The lobby was crowded, and the only signs I could see were for the stalls, to the left, and the dress circle, to the right. No sign of the box office. Which turned out to be in the middle, directly opposite the door - but the place was so crowded I hadn't seen it, and there was no sign. Anyway.

For once, didn't give me a front row seat! I was in the dress circle. Ah well. It wasn't far to climb - this isn't a big theatre. And I was well impressed - the theatre decor is spartan, in comparison with some other West End theatres, but the legroom is fine, the seats comfortable (a relief after the Scoop!), and, as far as I could tell, the view is excellent from all seats.

So, this is one of those plays set in the United States, in the period after the Second World War, among the black community. Uh-huh. My, but I've seen so many of these - and maybe that was the problem. It's basically good, and Lenny Henry plays a blinder - hasn't he come a long way since his days as a comedian! - but it left me pretty cold. I found it interesting, but the ending, in particular, perplexed me - Gabe, the main character's brother, who seems to have suffered brain damage in the war, spends several minutes doing a crazy dance centre stage, with all the other characters watching from the edge. Great. Sorry, I thought it was much too drawn-out. I get the message that was being conveyed, but was relieved when the lights went down. And duly unimpressed by the standing ovation that was happening around me. Well, as I say, it is well done in general - could just do with a trim. Booking up to the 14th September.

Afterwards, I felt like a bite to eat. Handily, there were three restaurants right across the road - an Indian, a Thai, and a Pizza Express. I didn't fancy pizza, and the Thai seemed to be closed, so I headed for the Indian, Sitar. It was nearly deserted, but there was a steady trickle of customers when I was there. The food was good, but the portions unusually small for an Indian. Well, given that I can't usually finish my portions in an Indian, that works quite well for me, but others might have an issue. They're very artistic with what they do give you:

My only complaint is with the naan bread, which is very burnt on the underside. If you go here, I wouldn't recommend that.

Back to Ireland for the weekend. I'm going to see Plein Soleil on Monday, in the Odeon in town, and for Tuesday I've booked what will probably be my last cheap theatre ticket as part of's Theatre Fortnight - I'm going to see Home, at the Shed, at the National Theatre. I've never been to a show in the Shed before, although I've passed it. And I thought I could hardly beat an official ticket price of £20, but turned up trumps again and I got it for £12. If you're planning to go to the theatre in London - run, book with before it's too late!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Oedipus Rex & Antigone

The weather held quite nicely today, and so I took myself to the Scoop for the first time ever, to see the current production of Oedipus Rex and Antigone. Mapping out my route, I saw that the nearest Tube seemed to be London Bridge, then take a right, past Hay's Galleria (been there before), and take, not the next left, but the one after that, diagonally across the courtyard. The Scoop itself is right beside City Hall, where I've been before. Well done, Google Maps..

With plenty of food outlets nearby, I said I'd get something there beforehand, so left early. I had to get the District Line, followed by the Jubilee Line. Point of interest - the seats are very hard on the Jubilee Line! Wonder why.. (See, this is the first time I've managed to get a seat on that line!) Anyway, I found the Scoop with no difficulty at all. No distance from the station. I must say, the setting is spectacular:

In the picture, you can see the top of the Scoop, which is a sunken amphitheatre. Fortunately, you can rent cushions - £1, plus a £5 deposit. A very good idea - the steps you sit on are not only hard, but cold. You enter near the booth that is visible in the picture. That's kind of the prime viewing position - the stage is set up to play to that side. Unfortunately, it's also the highest side - so if you want to get close to the action, you have to climb down a lot of steps. And I knew I'd have trouble with my knees, when I saw the size of the steps.

Well, I'm nothing if not ingenious when it comes to working around my knees. Luckily, there's a curved walkway around the edge - for wheelchairs, I think, and the infirm. Like me. :-) Anyway, that let me get quite low down, so I just had a few steps to climb down. My, but it was tortuous. Now, I could have sat higher up, you understand, but I do like to be close to the action if I can manage it. So I scrambled down the few steps at the low side, in a most undignified manner, then, spying a spare place in the front row across the way, I niftily picked up my things and legged it across there. I was to the side, but right at the edge of the action for the subsequent proceedings. Point to note - this was very well attended, and the good seats went fast, being mostly gone by the time I got there, 20 minutes early.

As the skies darkened, the lights came on and the Greek tragedies (literally) began. In modern dress, the actors portrayed for us the story of doomed Oedipus, who was doomed to kill his father, marry his mother, and when he found out, put out his own eyes. All of which was dramatically re-enacted for us, with some actors positioned in the audience. Of course, the great thing about ancient plays is that you don't need a lot of props. Very sparse, very simple themes. At the interval, we were given feedback forms, and offered programmes for sale, and then we were into Antigone, the story of Oedipus' doomed daughter. Yes, a cheery evening it was not. But you know, the simplicity of the themes was a joy - despite the modern translations, particularly for Antigone. Well, they did inject a bit of humour. Until things deteriorated, as they do in the plots of Greek tragedies.

All in all, a terrific evening out, and free too! And afterwards, we got to enjoy the spectacular show that the City puts on every evening (also free):

Did I mention I love this town? ;-) This show runs until Sunday. Worth a trip.

So, I have another of those cheap, Theatre Fortnight tickets for Fences, with Lenny Henry, tomorrow. And I'm back to Ireland again for the weekend, then to the pictures on Monday. I wasn't sure about seeing Plein Soleil, which is essentially a French version of The Talented Mr. Ripley. But it's supposed to be good, and I relented. Booked it, as it's in the Odeon and I get a discount.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Pride

Met Liam, from work, on the way into town and, seeing the headline on the Evening Standard that someone was reading, we had a long discussion about Syria. It shortened the journey - thanks, Liam.

Disembarking from the Tube, I made my way to Trafalgar Studios for The Pride. I got a ticket from for this - part of their Theatre Fortnight. I remember getting a cheap ticket from them before and ending up front row centre. Tonight, for less than bottom price, I didn't end up front row centre - I ended up front row, two from the centre. I love

I also loved this play. Three of the four actors play similar characters in two timeframes - 1958 and 2008 - in which the men's love for one another plays out against two very different backgrounds: one of oppression, one of acceptance. The script sparkles, the acting is first-rate, the staging is very clever, and if I hadn't had so much on my lap, courtesy of a very well stocked usher's tray at the interval - from which I had not only ice cream (chocolate truffle) but also wine - I'd have given a standing ovation too. I did cheer.

And when they came on for their second bow, they brandished placards reading "To Russia with Love". Cute! Very highly recommended - runs until November 9.

For tomorrow, I'm thinking of going to the free play at The Scoop for the first time, weather permitting - it's an outdoor venue between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. The weather is supposed to be fine, and you can bring your own food. Tomorrow, they're staging Oedipus Rex and Antigone. And on Thursday, I have another Theatre Fortnight ticket - to Fences, with Lenny Henry. Again, the cheapest option. Does that mean I'll be sitting onstage with him, I wonder..?

PS Link to photos now included on Lille: Departure post.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Lille: Departure

Typical. Glorious sunshine, on the day I leave. Hmm. Anyway, I had to check out of the hotel by midday and couldn't check in for the train until nearly 7pm, and had pretty much everything done already except buy chocolate to bring home. Good job I had a book with me that I'd just started - interesting biography of the pope. He's an interesting character. I can testify to this, because I got the book finished in plenty of time to go to the train station.

I'd accidentally booked for two people to begin with, and although I later amended the booking, I was annoyed, when I checked my bill afterward, to discover that they'd charged me two sets of room tax. Bah humbug. Well, it was hardly worth going back to complain over a few Euros. Also, I noted that they'd automatically added a charge for two breakfasts for each day, although the man at the desk did check with me that I hadn't had any, and removed them. Good thing too - the breakfast charge came to €84! Bad form to put them on automatically, I think.

I moved around town a bit to read the various chapters of my book. Spent a large part of the afternoon in the Bois de Boulogne, where there was a funfair. Very pleasant in the sunshine. Wound my way slowly back to the town centre, and when I'd finished my book, decided to check out St. Maurice's church again. Sure enough, the dependable Roma had again taken up position there, and again I skipped it.

And went chocolate shopping. Which is quite a fraught practice, you know! First, there's the problem of affordability. Then, there's the problem of choice. One shop looked promising, until I noticed that the bags of sweeties I was looking at, which seemed reasonably priced, were €60 and €80 respectively. That shop looked much less attractive after that, and I ended up in Benoit Chocolatier, in Theatre Square. I was lucky - they used not to open on Mondays. Anyhoo, I made some delectable purchases there, and went back to the hotel to collect my case, which they'd been holding for me. She asked whether I needed the toilet - very helpful, the staff there - and when I said that would be good, she told me where the public toilets are and asked whether she could hold anything for me. She looked very torn when I gave her the chocolates.. but, to her credit, they seemed untouched when I returned.

Made my way to the station, only to find out that check-in wasn't open yet. So I got something to eat at the café, and even gave someone directions to town. How chuffed am I when I actually know the directions to give someone, despite being fairly new to a place myself. And it's even better when it's in a foreign language, and they understand me. :-)

Delays on the Eurostar because of long, long queues at immigration in Brussels, apparently, and then we were held at St Pancras, what with the backlog at immigration there. Honestly, such checking.. I was checked three times on the return trip. There were passport checks for both France and the UK at Lille, then another check in London. Now, that's just silly, considering that there was only one going over. Similarly, when I go to Ireland, there are two checks - one each side - and when I fly back to London, there's only one. Get your act together, folks.. this contrasts with in-station security in Lille, when I was allowed through the metal detector with my coat, which of course caused it to beep, given that it had keys in the pocket, and the security guy just waggled the handheld detector at my ankle and waved me on. I dunno..

BTW, link to Lille pictures:

Back to normal tomorrow, I guess. Going to The Pride in Trafalgar Studios tomorrow night, on one of those cheapie tickets for "Theatre Week". We shall see how that pans out!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Lille: Day 2

Rained this morning, but cleared up early enough. I found a convenient sandwich place for breakfast - right around the corner - then repaired back to the hotel. The only sightseeing I had to do today related to two churches, neither of which opened until 3!

In the event, I missed the opening of one, which duly closed at 4. I wandered in the direction of the other - Église St Maurice - which I got lovely exterior photos of, only to find, clustered around the entrance, the usual crowd of Roma beggars. Including a cat, on a lead, of all things. So I skipped it, and wandered off to the cathedral, to see whether they had turned the lights on again - they turned them off shortly after I arrived yesterday. They had indeed turned them on again - cue some more photos.

I then repaired to the hotel again, to apply one of the plasters I'd bought. I've been having some trouble with my little toe, and the shoes I'm wearing, which are quite old. So when I found an open pharmacy, I went in - despite not having swotted up on the French for "plaster". Fortunately, she spoke enough English to manage, and I got what I wanted. My toe is much better now. She also asked where I was from, remarking that I was much easier to understand than Americans. :-)

This evening, my toe and I went in search of dinner. I had a place in mind, and after a trawl of the old town during which I found nothing better, I came back to that place. When I found it again, after an hour of wandering. And found it closed!! With no notice to say when it was open. Bah humbug! There was nothing for it but to return to Place Rihour, just down the road from the hotel, which is crammed with tourist restaurants and I'd been trying to avoid. Last time, I ate at Café Leffe, which was ok but not spectacular. This time, I continued to the end of the street, where La Chicorée café was buzzing. Had a good meal, including an excellent dessert - the "Merveilleux de Chocolat" - meringue, chocolate mousse, chocolate shavings, chocolate sauce. Ooh yeah. And was v impressed with the service, especially given the busyness of the place. Just catch the waiter's eye - he'll be with you in due course. French not necessary - they have English translations on the menu, and I suspect they all speak it. But it's nice that they understood my French. :-)

Shops were mostly closed today. But I did manage to get to Au Chat Bleu.. a chocolatier, again, just down the road from the hotel. Where I decided to treat myself to €10 worth of chocolates. Which bought me three chocolates, coming to €10.20. I shall try them tonight.. tomorrow, between checkout, at 12, and check-in for the train, at about 6.30, I have time to buy more. Hopefully, not so expensive. Yes, Lille is certainly the place to spoil yourself..!

Bonne nuit a tous..

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Lille: Day 1

I got up deliciously late today. Didn't bother with the (expensive) hotel breakfast - I knew there are half a dozen restaurants / cafes within five minutes' walk of the hotel. Also found a patisserie, round the corner. No, you wouldn't starve. Despite the "Do not disturb" sign on my door, I still got a knock on the door from the maid, to clean the room. Fortunately, I was up by then and let her in to clean around me. I notice that, despite what it said on the hotel information, she did not replenish the peanuts I had from the minibar last night. Huh.

Unfortunately, it lashed rain at lunchtime, and continued to drizzle for most of the afternoon. It cleared up eventually, which was when I got most of my sightseeing done. Observations:
1. Lille is very colourful. Gorgeous old buildings abound.
2. Lille is very concerned that you not go hungry. Restaurants, cafes, and chocolate shops abound. Indeed, I shall have to do an inventory of chocolate shops tomorrow.

Anyway, I took some photos, but you'll have to wait for them, because I took them with my camera, and didn't bring the connector to plug it into the laptop. Ah well.

After much sad and fruitless searching for a sort of grocery store, where I could just get a bottle of wine to have in my room (none in the minibar) and a packet of chocolate biscuits or something, finally found one this evening. Bonanza!! One of only two white, screwcap wines they had, the one I bought turned out to be a mixture of wine and orange juice. Tastes like neither, but it's very refreshing. Unfortunately, I mentioned to my mother that yes, they do sell liquors, and now she wants me to bring some. Ay-ay.. that means I'll have to check in a bag when I go back to Ireland next. And I'm not looking forward to carrying them back home when I get to London. The hardship..

Will probably get the rest of the sightseeing done tomorrow. My, it's tiring.. but I would definitely recommend Lille for a weekend of pampering. Food and drink-wise, at least..!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Lille: Arrival

Did my best to pack before work this morning. Had (almost) everything ready, then discovered it wouldn't go into the case, and I'd have to get a bigger one. So this dragged on through the day, with me having to go back for things I'd forgotten. And that bigger case is a b**ger to carry up or down stairs - so I decided, when getting the Tube to King's Cross St Pancras, I'd walk to Earl's Court, where there's a lift. In retrospect, a good decision.

I ended up standing, of course, on the Tube, but all went quite well until we got to Russell Square, the stop before mine. Where we stopped, and the driver told us there was a signal failure, or something, further down the line and we'd be stopped there until further notice, and passengers were advised to find other routes to their destinations. What?! Why not keep going till the next stop? Not only was it my destination, but has more transport alternatives for other passengers. Anyway, after a few minutes, that's what they did - phew!

Found the Eurostar check-in without difficulty. Needed the toilet with some urgency, so made for that first. Bit smelly, despite being actually cleaned on the spot. Anyway, having survived that, I made my way back to check-in, where I was most distressed that I didn't need any assistance from the dishy Eurostar employee that approached me. Also mildly embarrassed to subsequently discover that I'd forgotten to do up my zip after the toilet. The departure lounge was depressingly full, but I eventually found a seat. Boarding started about twenty minutes before departure, the train was scruffier than in the ads, but the seats were marvellously comfy, and with no scenery to speak of, a twenty-minute tunnel, and dark by the time we came out of it, I ended up dozing for most of the trip.

Needed the toilet again in Lille station - which wasn't a bit smelly - and made my way into the warm night air of Lille. Almost immediately, I began to notice beautiful old buildings, floodlit but not completely clear in the dark. Good job I charged my camera battery before coming.. I suspect tomorrow will be busy.

The Best Western Grand Hotel Bellevue backs onto the Grand Place, but the entrance is around the block. Very friendly receptionist, lovely, old-style décor. I love my room, with its big bed, blackout curtains, décor, minibar, tv - which I'm too tired to watch now, I'll just test out the bed I think. Distressed to learn that I'd have to pay for breakfast - for some reason I thought it was included. Ah well - the place is abounding in cafes. I doubt I'll starve. ;-)

Thursday, 22 August 2013

As Is

Tonight, after a good recommendation from Time Out, I went to see As Is, at the Finborough Theatre. I booked, because it's been selling out, and I know this is a small theatre. It also has the advantage of being within walking distance from home, and it was a lovely evening for walking - despite raining for much of the day.

It's a shame - there used to be a lovely wine bar downstairs from the theatre. There's a pizza place next door, with no seating, but they had menus in the bar and would order for you, and the pizza place would deliver to the bar. So you could eat in comfort before popping upstairs for the play. I just had one chance to do that - next time I came, the bar had closed down, and closed it has remained. When I went in, they had a sign for "Box Office" (the till just to the left of the sign), with the equivalent underneath in what looked something like, but not exactly like, Irish. Sure enough - Scots Gaelic. Apparently, there was a Scottish play on there, and they wrote it up for that and left it there. Actually, I saw a Scottish play there - wonder whether it was the same one.. BTW, the Irish would be "Oifig na dTicéad". Scots Gaelic is "Oifis Thiocaidean". So now you know!

As we went in, the girl taking our tickets mentioned that it was completely sold out - and when we went in, about 10 minutes before start time, there were very few seats left. Moral of the story - book in advance, and get there early if it matters where you sit. And so it was that I ended up in the front row, which is very, very close to the action. For such a small venue, there are a lot of actors in this, and I frequently worried that I was going to get in someone's way. I actually flinched during the fight scene, afraid they were going to land on top of me! Mind you, I had good reason - something similar did happen to me once.. not on this occasion, thankfully.

So. A play that's hard to get a ticket to, in a venue that no longer serves food or drink, that's so cramped it feels as though you're part of the play. Is it worth it? Emphatically YES!! It's a play about AIDS. Dates from 1985, when AIDS was still new. One of the first plays about it, apparently. Sounds depressing? It's not. What it is, is funny, and touching, and - for those determinedly hetero females among us - features, in one scene, three nicely buff guys in black leather and shades. ;-) Ooh yes. Think that guy from the Village People..

It's the story of a young homosexual man, full of life, who catches an illness he's barely heard of. We meet several characters in his life, with most of the actors playing various roles. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but you soon get drawn in. One act, lasts just under 90 minutes. Runs until 31 August - highly recommended. Remember, reservation essential!

And now I'm off to Lille for the long weekend. I might even get some packing done tonight.. nothing in particular planned for there, but I'm already thinking ahead, and have booked a ticket for The Pride on Tuesday, at Trafalgar Studios. Gee, another "gay play"! I caught a bit of an article recently about how Putin's crackdown on homosexuality has at least revived the gay theatre scene.. For this play, you can get tickets on that are considerably cheaper than those available anywhere else. Think £15 as opposed to £40. So I did. Remains to be seen how good the seat is, but my previous experiences with them have been excellent!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Film: When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun

When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun, due for general release tomorrow, and also due to show in Ireland, is a documentary about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. It showed tonight in the Curzon Soho, with a panel discussion. Now, the last time I wanted to go to a film here with a panel discussion, it sold out at the last minute - so this time, I booked a ticket.

Of course, this time I didn't need one - it was quite full, but there were empty seats. Figures. Interestingly, as I was just looking at the Curzon website, they describe the Curzon Mayfair as the jewel in their crown. You what?! Well, I've never been in Screen 1 there - maybe it's worth the description. The rest certainly isn't - the Curzon Soho is much more impressive, with a café at street level, a bar downstairs and the cinema one below that.

We were informed that the discussion would take place after the film. The film itself, as we were to learn during the discussion, took seven years to make, and contains much striking imagery. As you'd expect, many shots of mountains, both snowy and not, some deep-throated chanting, and lots of footage of the Dalai Lama. A sad and familiar tale, this was made more interesting by coverage of the protests surrounding the Beijing Olympics, particularly a rally held in San Francisco. This was attended by Richard Gere, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and by at least two irate Chinese, who were interviewed for the film, and were convinced that the Dalai Lama was in the habit of having people killed and using their skulls as candlesticks. Apparently, this is what they teach them in school. I'm not exaggerating.

Other worrying aspects of the film were the tales of forced migration of Tibetans to the rest of China, and moving Chinese to Tibet in their place - and the despair in the faces of young exiled Tibetans. As one young Tibetan woman, a member of Tibetan Students in Exile, remarked, with tears running down her face - "What are we expected to do?!" Really, the cause seems a hopeless one, with members of the Tibetan government in exile fighting amongst themselves, and many disagreeing with the Dalai Lama's advocacy of a "middle ground", which they see as giving up the dream of independence. The film is excellent at presenting differing points of view. Could do with a bit of trimming.

The panel discussion afterwards contained both a panel and a discussion. How novel! As the director explained, with multiple camera crews, and many years of shooting, they ended up with 800 hours of footage. Ok, well, to get it down to 2 is quite a feat then. The panel also included the head of the UK Free Tibet movement, and the representative of the UK Dalai Lama's office. Now, he had many interesting things to say. Like - isn't it interesting how the Save the Pandas movement gets more coverage than Free Tibet? and how people who contact the Dalai Lama's office can be divided into two categories - the givers and the takers. The takers are those who just want to be seen with the Dalai Lama, to have him come visit their university or whatever. He includes, as he says, "international peace organisations" in that category. As he says, "isn't it interesting that they've never once offered to help?" He also mentioned the incident in Woolwich, when describing how a young exiled Tibetan saw that as the only way to get results. And he pointed out all the self-immolation of Tibetans there have been, and how funny it is that it gets hardly any media coverage in the West.

When the discussion was opened to the floor, for quite a while, the floor was hogged by an elderly lady in the front, who'd never heard of the Woolwich attack, and wanted it explained to her. Cue much sighing from the back, where others wanted in on the discussion. Finally, we were handed "Free Tibet" fliers on the way out.

Ironically, I then went for a Chinese. :-) Well, when in Chinatown.. Made sure to hide the fliers in my pocket first. I went to my usual, The Black Bean. I tell you though, I think I'll shop around in future. The service was brusque, the spring rolls were actually caked in grease, and the Szechuan was nothing special. I didn't leave a tip.

Back to Ireland tomorrow for a few days. Next scheduled event - As Is, in the Finborough Theatre, next Thursday. Oh, and my guidebook to Lille arrived today. :-)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Film: Thief

Good job I started out a little early this evening, because when I got outside it was raining quite persistently, and I decided to go back and change into trousers. Still made it with several minutes to spare. Tonight, I went to the Prince Charles cinema to see Thief. The advantage of quite a late start was that the Tube was quite empty for once, heading into town - at least until we got to the centre, by which time, of course, I had a seat and it didn't matter.

I was lucky enough to pick up a paper when I got on the Tube, which I'd read something less than half of by the time I got off. Got my ticket at the cinema, and paid by debit card, having no cash on me. Well, was I surprised to hear there was a fee, even for a debit card! Note to self: have cash in future before coming here. And I left my paper on the counter and forgot about it. It was gone by the time I came out - bah humbug!

Anyway, I settled into my comfortable, reclining leather seat. I had noticed on the way in that there was only a handful of people there. Unsurprisingly, I guess - it's midweek and it's a long time since this film was popular. With such an empty cinema, it was ironic that a guy arrived to sit in front of me, one seat to the left. And that he was so tall that he blocked off a corner of the screen. He'd have had to be tall - the seats all have very high backs, and the screen is set very high to compensate. He'd have had to be tall to be seen over the top of his seat.. well, I discovered that, by shifting myself sideways, he blocked sufficiently less that it was too much trouble to move seats. And the seat was spacious enough for me to do that. So that was ok.

This film was directed by Michael Mann, and stars James Caan as a brilliant diamond thief, who dreams of the perfect life. Part of this dream includes the girl he fancies, played by Tuesday Weld. There's also the man who was like the father he never had, played by Willie Nelson, and his partner in crime, played by James Belushi. Robert Prosky plays the mob boss who wants to employ him.

Despite the thief's noble intentions, make no mistake - with Michael Mann, of Miami Vice fame, at the helm, this film was never going to be schmaltzy. The soundtrack is pure 80s electronic rock/pop, the action is frequent. But, oh my, this is an excellent film! I'm so glad I chose it over the other I might have seen - I'd have hated to miss this. The scene where the thief is trying to persuade this woman to marry him didn't do much for me, but by the end I was really rooting for this guy. Go seek it out..

Tomorrow night is looking like When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun, a documentary on Tibet. Mind you, given that there's also a panel discussion, I'd better keep an eye on availability. Last time I wanted to go to one of those, in this cinema, it had plenty of availability in the morning but was sold out by the time I got there. I'm taking an extended break in Ireland this weekend, not coming back until Wednesday evening, then off to Lille on Friday. In the one day remaining to me in London next week - Thursday - I'm off to a play. I was looking at Sweet Bird of Youth, but after reading a bad review on Time Out about Kim Cattrall's performance, I decided to give it a miss. Instead, I'm going local for a change - As Is, at the Finborough Theatre. Which, again, I can walk to.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Film: Brighton Rock (1947)

Ticked another film off the list tonight, with Brighton Rock at the BFI. Now, this was advertised as having a panel discussion. I don't know your definition of a panel discussion, but to me, it suggests two things - a panel, and a discussion. This had, in contrast, a lone man (maybe a member of some panel, who knows?) and what I would describe as a speech, rather than a discussion. But maybe I'm being picky. Certainly, the seats are comfortable, and I always like to hear people give speeches at the BFI - there's a slightly muffled quality to the mic and if you get someone with a nice soft voice, it can be very soporific.

The film is a gangster film, made in 1947 and set in Brighton, between the wars. As the programme notes pointed out, no other British seaside town seems to have been as popular a setting for crime films as Brighton. This one, apparently, really annoyed the good people that organise tourism in Brighton, what with all that fighting. The film was actually banned in the Netherlands and Sweden, when first released!

That seems really strange to these jaded eyes. But times change. A very young Richard Attenborough plays the chief hoodlum - and a very well spoken one at that. And oh my, the hapless heroine has to be in with a fighting chance of being the most insipid female I've ever seen, onscreen or in real life. Almost as bad as Shelley Duvall in The Shining, when Jack Nicholson is chasing her through the deserted hotel with murderous intent, and she's wailing, and I always just wish he'd catch her and stop the wailing, once and for all.. but I digress. So, not that bad, but nearly.

Still, it's a charming film, and oddly compelling.

Tomorrow, so far, the plan is for another film, and I have a choice of two, both rated at 7.2 - Paradise: Hope and Thief. I'm thinking Thief sounds more interesting. It's playing, nice and cheaply, as ever, at the Prince Charles.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Films: Yojimbo & Rashomon

Yojimbo and Rashomon, both films by Akira Kurosawa, were showing as a double-bill tonight at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. So, off I trekked again. Except, again, I had visions of walking, but left it too late and ended up taking the Tube. Where I ran into Nabeel, who asked me what I was going to. And I ended up having yet another of those discussions with someone who's dubious about my policy of following IMDB ratings.

Undaunted, I made it to the venue with not much time at all to spare, given that I had to queue to get my ticket. I see the 10% discount voucher for a drink seems to be standard with double-bill tickets. Had to get it in a plastic container this time, and take it upstairs - they were calling for people to come for the film while she was still trying to figure out my discount. No calculator on the till, I guess! I made it upstairs without spilling very much, and as I climbed, it occurred to me that I've improved - the first time I went to the cinema here, I was nearly dead by the time I got to the top - now, it hardly phases me. Oh, and I got there with several minutes to spare, it turns out. So I think they were just trying to scare us. :-)

I knew little about Yojimbo before tonight, apart from that it was an influence on many spaghetti westerns, particularly A Fistful of Dollars. And the trailer looked ok. Well, I was blown away. It's from 1961, but it looks and feels so modern.. it's excellent. A Western with samurai. Swords (mainly) instead of guns. Pathos. Dramatic music. You can see the influences on Western cinema.

It was so good that I decided to stay and see Rashomon, despite it being available on YouTube. There was a short film in between, during the 20-minute interval. And then Rashomon started, which is an even older Kurosawa film, from 1950. It deals with a murder, committed in the woods, and the stories of the people who were there (including the murdered man, via a medium - quite a creepy sequence). Everyone has a different perspective, and we get to see the scene re-enacted from each point of view. Terrific film, this - even better than Yojimbo. When I see Kurosawa films mentioned again, I will take notice. And so, proof yet again that my system of following IMDB works!! I wasn't even keen on going to see these tonight - what a great night I would have missed.

Let's hope I do half as well tomorrow night, with Brighton Rock at the BFI.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Film: The Bad and the Beautiful

Despite some rain this morning, it cleared up nicely in the evening and I did, indeed, walk to Riverside Studios for their double-bill. I was only interested in the first, The Bad and the Beautiful - the other was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which I've seen and wasn't interested in seeing again. However, I didn't lose out - they only charge the same for a double-bill as for a single film. I even got a 10% discount voucher to use at the bar! So I did. I could've taken my drink upstairs with me, but had time to finish it in the bar.

The Bad and the Beautiful, directed by Vincente Minelli, stars Kirk Douglas as the film producer nobody likes. He's pissed off three old friends - including Lana Turner, who was once his leading lady, in love and in films - and wants them to come back to work with him once more, on his comeback film. It's a good story, and showcases plenty of old Hollywood glamour. Ah, the fashions.. and it's supposed to have been a real expose in its day, giving a behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood really works.

And now I've seen it, and can ignore it when some cinema shows it again, as they regularly do. And that's about all I have to say about it. It was pleasant to watch, but didn't engage me as much as, say, Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory, which was made a few years later.

Coming home, and fancying a meal out, I remembered that Latymer's is on the way, and that I once had an excellent Thai meal there, so decided to stop off there again. It's a pub, with a restaurant at the back - you can also get your meal served to you in the bar. On this occasion, I decided to sit in the restaurant. Service is excellent - prompt and friendly - and the food as delicious as I remembered. Good job I came when I did - I wasn't finished my main course yet when someone came to tell me that the kitchen was closing, and ask whether I wanted anything else. I had been planning to have a dessert, but decided not to, when I heard this. So - take note - the kitchen closes at 9. On a Sunday, anyway. Prices very reasonable. Recommended!

Looking ahead, I saw that the film I was planning to see on Tuesday - Brighton Rock at the BFI - was half booked out already, so I've booked that. Annoyingly, all the cheap Tuesday seats were already gone. And, looking further ahead, I fancied taking a jaunt by Eurostar for the bank holiday weekend. I've been to Paris a couple of times, seen the sights - so instead, I'm off to Lille for a few days. In the nearer-term, I'm thinking of hitting Riverside Studios again tomorrow for another of their double-bills.. this time, a double of Akira Kurosawa films: Yojimbo and Rashomon. Or, indeed, Rashomon is on YouTube, if I get tired of sitting there all night..

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Season in the Congo

Had the devil of a time getting a ticket for A Season in the Congo, at the Young Vic. In fact, looking at the website, I see it's now completely sold out, despite having had extra performances scheduled, according to the posters at the venue. I got a ticket for today's matinee two weeks ago - today was the first availability, and at that, there were only two seats remaining: one downstairs, the most expensive, and one in the gallery, which turned out to be a stool. So I went with the seat downstairs.

I was glad to be heading to Southwark, rather than somewhere north of the river, given that the Piccadilly Line is out of action in the city centre this weekend. Mind you, that's probably why the poor old District Line was crammed - nearly as bad as rush hour! And, of course, the journey took 15 minutes longer than Google Maps predicted - just made it in time. Having said that, the performance did start late. And, despite it being sold out, I noticed some empty seats, although not many. Maybe the people that should have been sitting in them had trouble getting there on time..

There was a chap on stage with an electric guitar when we arrived. He had a busy time of it, playing that and percussion through most of the show. For this is a riot of colour, music and dance. It energetically tells the story of the fight for independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1960, and of its first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, who - not giving anything much away - is assassinated by his old chum, whom he promoted to army chief of staff: Joseph Mobutu, later known as Mobutu Sese Seko. The DRC's very own dictator.

Short story - after the idealism of independence, the dream turns sour with the intervention of western powers, who do not come out looking well. And the story becomes a familiar one, in African terms, of everything going down the toilet. Oh, and in a play with an exclusively black cast, the white people are represented by (black) actors wearing pig snouts. And the Belgian government, from which the DRC won its independence, are portrayed as giant puppets.

Certainly, it makes an interesting tale. I will be looking up the facts shortly. The play is interestingly staged, and the lead actor, playing Lumumba, is terrific. And they got a standing ovation. But.. I now understand the mixed reviews. See, I didn't enjoy this as much as The Boat Factory, which I saw last night. The reason is simple - I was emotionally engaged with that. There wasn't as much emotion, per say, in this - more action, menace, stylised gunfights. There was some grief, but it was downplayed.

So.. why didn't The Boat Factory get a standing ovation? Because there were only two people in it, and it was a simpler production? Anyway, this is worth seeing, if you can get a ticket. Your only hope now seems to be to queue for returns. Runs until the 24th. Or you could go see The Boat Factory, which I think is streets better, and is not selling out. Only runs until the 17th.

Afterwards, I fancied a bite to eat. Luckily, there are tons of restaurants near the Young Vic. I didn't fancy the look of the Chinese, and the Indians weren't open yet, so I ended up in the "Mediterranean" restaurant, Paradiso. Where the service was great, and the food tasty, if a bit salty. And the potatoes I got with my main were a bit tough. When I asked for a dessert menu, the waiter suggested I have the dessert special. I said I'd like to see the menu anyway, and he seemed positively offended.. said the special was the best thing on the menu. Pear and ricotta cake - it was nice, but the scoop of ice cream I got with it was better. I should just have had ice cream.

Tomorrow, it's back to film. And the film it's looking like is The Bad and the Beautiful, from 1952, starring Kirk Douglas and Lana Turner. Looks really good - I've never seen it, and it's about time I did. It's showing in the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, as the first part of one of  their double-bills. I'm not interested in the second part, which is Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which I've seen and don't wish to see again - but I won't be losing out, because they charge the same for a double-bill as for a single showing. Now, there's value! I'll make use of that some other time. I shall walk, if it's fine..

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Boat Factory

Back to going to plays for a couple of days! Tonight's was The Boat Factory, in the King's Head, Islington. Now, I've been here before, and by a few different means, but this evening I opted for the Overground. It was going to take a little longer, but was easier, involving no changes going and just a change of trains coming back, rather than a train and a bus - and it's cheaper, by design, as it circles Zone 1 without entering. Mind you, this is the first public transport I've taken since Monday, and the first train since Sunday, and it wasn't a happy re-introduction, being at the tail end of rush hour, and packed - I never did get a seat on the outward journey, and spent half the journey in a part of the car where the only thing to hang onto was the overhead bar, which is uncomfortably high for me on the Overground. I was stiff and sore getting off..

It strikes me that Islington wouldn't be at all a bad place to live. Well, at least the bit I walked along this evening. Packed with bars and restaurants, and with two top class theatres - the King's Head and the Almeida - yes, not bad at all. Despite the website stating that doors would open at 6.45, they still hadn't when I arrived, just after 7, but I eventually got in. Now, here's a tip, if you're going here - I booked seat D4, which turns out to be one of those benches of which you get half. However, inside that (seats 1-3) are individual tip seats. And when our row filled up and someone asked whether I could move in, I duly moved to one of those and found it to be one of the most comfortable seats I've ever sat in. Take note. I think they're only to be found in row D.

Before the show started, we were regaled by a charming young lady, who explained that the theatre and bar are separate - indeed the theatre rents the room from the bar - and if they were to receive no funding, they'd not only need sold-out shows every night of the year, but also another £100k on top, per annum. So, we could become friends of the theatre, or she'd also be waiting at the end, with a bucket. Bless. She also told us how this is the oldest pub theatre in London (43 this week) and the first since Shakespearian times! Fancy..

And so the show began. A two-man show, it's a love poem to the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast. They built the Titanic, y'know.. and, as they say, there was nothing wrong with her when she left Belfast! Seriously, a better show you'd be hard pressed to find. It's stunning. The dialogue is beautifully written and evocative, and the acting is superb. The two men portray numerous characters, with the aid of some headgear as props, but mainly just by a change of expression, of gait, of voice. I am amazed to discover, looking it up just now, that the writer is one of the two actors! - Dan Gordon. The other, Michael Condron, is noteworthy for the expressiveness of his face, and how he can change character, and mood, so readily just by changing expression, leading us right along with him.

At the end, I was trapped in place by two elderly ladies, enthusing about the show. Mind you, I had to agree with them - I, too, felt lucky to have seen this. And I deposited some change in the bucket on my way out. Runs until Saturday 17th.

Tomorrow, it's the matinee of A Season in the Congo, for which I got the last (non-stool) seat a couple of weeks ago. Should be good - it should certainly be packed!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Film: The Heat

Well, I seem to have found the secret to getting my ticket checked immediately at the Odeon Kensington. Wander past the guy standing outside the other door, the one not associated with your screen. He'll take it for you - or at least, he will if he's the chap with the beard and the black, curly hair. Yay! Third time lucky, eh?

With free seating now, I decided to put myself in front of the empty wheelchair space, so I'd have loads of legroom. Sat through the same old ads again.. including the "Summer 2013 at the cinema" one, where I've got decent at namechecking the film clips shown. I've seen some of the films in that by now.

The Heat is a cop comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, whom I only know from the tv series Mike & Molly, which I've seen maybe a couple of times. However, it seems she's been appearing in lots of comedies I haven't seen, but have heard of - The Back-up Plan, Bridesmaids, This Is 40, Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III..

This could be her big break. Reviews I've read of this before now have noted the great chemistry between her and Bullock, and they're absolutely right. It's comedy gold - they are really terrific together, a great double-act, and that's rare. The sequel is already in the pipeline, I hear, and that ain't surprising at all. Strongly recommended!

Oh, and I can now testify that the downstairs toilets at the Odeon Kensington, while not quite as fragrant as those upstairs, are still quite a step up from those in the Vue Shepherd's Bush..

Taking a break from films for the next couple of days, and shifting to plays instead. Tomorrow is The Boat Factory, at the King's Head, Islington, where I've been a couple of times before. A nice, intimate venue - just a room behind a pub - they show some interesting productions. It'll make a nice change from the cinema.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Film: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa went on general release today. Well, its IMDB ratings have been bouncing around like a rubber ball. First time I saw the ratings, it was at 8.3, then 8.4, which is what it was at on Thursday. By Monday, it had gone down to 7.8, by yesterday to 7.1, and now it's back to 7.4. If I were Alan Partridge, I'd be dizzy.

They're getting better at taking tickets - I was only waiting for three minutes today.. other observation: my, the screen in Screen 5 is small! I went all the way to the second row, which is unusual for me.

Well, it's obvious, isn't it? If you like Alan Partridge, you'll like this film about him. If you don't, you won't. Also features Colm Meaney as the crazed, fired dj who takes the station hostage. I've always liked Alan Partridge, I found this funny. I think its current rating is about right - I might go for 7.5. What was nice was that, of course, being its first day on general release, most people in the cinema were fans, which meant they laughed uproariously. Always helps.

And no matter your opinion of Alan Partridge, you have to love the scene where they take the outside broadcast unit around town, playing "The Voice" by John Farnham, while people in the crowd wave placards proclaiming "Day of the Partridge". Pure cheese.

The last of my run of mainstream films is tomorrow, with The Heat.

Oh, final observation about the Odeon Kensington. The toilets - at least the ones upstairs - are so much more pleasantly fragrant than those in the Vue Shepherds Bush, it's really worth mentioning. Kudos!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Film: Red 2

I haven't seen Red, but somehow didn't expect that would be a problem when it came to Red 2, which I saw tonight. I don't remember why I didn't see Red - possibly just wasn't interested.

Walked to the cinema, it being a pleasant evening. Ate in Nando's, a couple of doors away from the cinema, beforehand - I do like them, they're reasonably priced and good quality. Tonight, I splashed out - the house white, Cara Viva, can be a bit watery, so I went for the Spier Chenin / Sav Blanc from South Africa, which was lovely, and well worth the extra 10p. And - would you believe it - despite them having the best chocolate cake I've had anywhere, I didn't fancy any! Well, it is very heavy.. don't worry, I shan't make a habit of that.

Had a nice surprise when the ticket machine at the Odeon did what it was supposed to, and spat out my tickets for all three nights! Now all I have to do is not lose them. And had no surprise at all when I was left waiting for several minutes for anyone to take my ticket. Honestly, what is it with them?! Of course, the solution is easy - just make your own way in and they will magically appear. I actually wondered whether even that would work this evening, as I had got halfway up the stairs before I heard someone behind me call, "Excuse me, can I take your ticket?" "Finally!" I said as I gave it to him. No response, of course. Wonder if they'll make it three nights in a row for that. We shall see..

This was in Screen 1. I know it's a Tuesday night, but it still felt deserted - there were about a dozen people there, I guess. Don't know what it was, but I felt my seat strangely uncomfortable tonight. No lower back support. Didn't have that problem when I was last here, in the same screen. Maybe it's me. Anyway, so to the film.

Yep, I was right, I didn't need to have seen Red to understand Red 2. Neither did I need to actually pay attention tonight to understand what was going on, although there was a plot that was decently complicated, if you cared. Nah, but it was good fun, though. The ladies - particularly Helen Mirren, who's always a joy to watch, and Mary-Louise Parker - played a blinder. I was a bit worried at the start, because it was a bit po-faced and the humour hadn't properly engaged yet, and there was a bit too much Bruce Willis (I'm automatically suspicious of any film where he stars, I'm fairly guaranteed not to like it), and there was a bit too much action - I tend to find action sequences very boring. But then the humour kicked in, and things started to happen, and even I got engaged in the action sequence at the end, which has some iconic shots. Recommended, for a fun couple of hours.

Tomorrow, I get to see - on its first day of release - Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Holy moley, I have never seen a film's ratings plummet so fast on IMDB! It started at 8.3, then went to 8.4, where it was when I booked it - must have been Thursday. Now, I only booked it because I got a discount.. and in the meantime, when I checked yesterday it was at 7.8, and now.. 7.1! I mean, I'd still see it at that, and it's booked anyway - but what a fall. Well, again, we shall see..

Monday, 5 August 2013

Film: The Conjuring

I'm a huge horror fan - particularly of psychological horror. So, when I saw that The Conjuring was rated highly on IMDB, that was a must-see.. The closest place it's showing is the Vue Shepherd's Bush, so I trotted along there this evening. Well, I say trotted - the original plan was to walk, but it started to pour rain around the time I was thinking of leaving, so there was nothing for it but the bus. Fortunately, it had stopped by the time I came out, and I walked home.

I went to the early evening showing, so there was hardly anyone there. Well, some arrived late - but still, it wasn't a third full. The trailers, interestingly, included one for Insidious Chapter 2, which is to be released on, would you believe, Friday 13th September (no rating yet on IMDB). Appropriately, because The Conjuring has the same director as Insidious, and its sequel, Insidious Chapter 2: James Wan. He also directed, and wrote the story for, Saw. Remember that name, I suspect we will hear more from him.

The Conjuring, if you don't know, is the apparently true story of a haunted house that was investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren in 1971. They were also the people who investigated the Amityville Horror, and apparently Ed was the only non-ordained demonologist recognised by the Catholic Church. Ed is played in the film by the lead actor from Insidious - Patrick Wilson. Vera Farmiga plays Lorraine.

The fact that they share a lead actor is one of the many things in The Conjuring, particularly in the first half, that remind me of Insidious. Also the lighting, the camerawork - the style will be very familiar to anyone who's seen it. The other interesting facet of the first part of the film, for me, was the focus on the doll Annabelle, which ends up playing a prominent role at one part of the film. I've heard of Annabelle before, it was nice to see her in the - eh - flesh.. although that's not what she actually looks like. But that story alone is fascinating.

There were some folks at the screening I attended, sitting in the back, who felt compelled to giggle every time something scary popped out of the shadows, or whatever.. and then we got to the second part of the film, and the giggling at the back stopped. I can best describe it by repeating the words of one critic, who remarked that, if half of what happened in the film is true, we should be very afraid. You could describe it as a film with nearly every horrific occurrence known to humanity thrown in. You name it, they've probably got it - hang onto your hats, folks, this is a roller-coaster ride to hell. Me, I found I couldn't actually shut my mouth - I was literally agape for half the film.

I really like this director, I hope we get a lot more from him. He has a real feel for horror. I have one quibble, which is his tendency to throw in overtly scary music when something scary happens. Fortunately, we don't get much of that - or don't notice - in the second half of The Conjuring. But my word, this is a good film.. I still feel a bit shaken.

Good job I'm going to comedies for the next few days. Red 2 tomorrow, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa on Wednesday, and The Heat on Thursday, all in the Odeon Kensington. The ticket machine will definitely throw a wobbly. Then it's a couple of days of plays, for a change - The Boat Factory, which centres on the old Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, on Friday, and A Season in the Congo on Saturday.

But for now, I'm going back to see how much more I can find out about the truth behind The Conjuring..

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Concert: Midsummer Music by the Lake

Midsummer Music by the Lake was part of the 2013 Summer Music on the Shannon festival, which runs for another week, and was held in the pavilion at the Annicarriga estate. The estate has its own brasserie, but the menu didn't appeal to us, so we decided to eat in Killaloe, a few miles away. Having parked by the water, we were within a short walk of two eateries, and having inspected the menu of each, we chose Flanagan's.

Now, I haven't been in Killaloe in years, and I do believe this was a pub the last time I was here. In the meantime, they've opened a large, yet intimate bar / restaurant. The entrance is at the bar, in the middle of the building, the restaurant to the left, and the bar dining area in a mock stone tower to the right, which is where we ended up sitting. Bar dining gives you the choice of sitting at regular tables, or in comfy armchairs and sofas at coffee tables, which is what we did. There are also plenty of picnic tables outside.

Service is friendly and efficient. The wine list has a good selection. Our mains both came with creamy mash, which was slightly salty and, while perfectly edible, wasn't terrific. Portions were generous, and the food was good, if not spectacular - I give the mains 6 out of 10. To be fair, it does describe itself as a steakhouse, and we didn't have steak. Desserts, however, were spectacular, and I would go back for those alone!

Afterwards, we had to find our way to the Annicarriga estate, which, despite the grand name, used to be Lough Derg Holiday Cottages. Not hard to do - it's on the road between Killaloe and Ogonnelloe, just keep an eye out for the sign (on the lake side of the road). All that the change of ownership seems to have conferred is a nicer sign, and a large glass pavilion by the lake, which is where the concert was held. Parking is available near the pavilion.

Now, I have spent years in Galway, and it did not come as a surprise to me that, with a Galway organization in charge, things did not, well, seem as professional as might be expected. I had booked the tickets online, and when I went in, I located the ticket desk, explained that I had booked online, and gave my name. The poor lady behind the desk developed what might best be described as a rictus grin. "Oh right," she said, in what sounded like an American accent, "you booked over the phone?" "Online." "Oh, ok. Um, you see, I don't have any records with me.. but, you know, it's ok, just go on in!" Hmm. Ok, fine. They were still rehearsing at that point, but it was fun to people-watch and catch snippets of music. And the view was, as ever, spectacular through the glass walls of the pavilion, despite the overcast day. It did come as something of a disappointment, and a surprise, to discover that there were no refreshments of any kind. They missed a trick there.. we were hopeful for a moment, when we saw one of the organizers bring in a couple of bottles of wine, but they turned out to be raffle prizes.

The programme was in two parts. The first began, pleasantly, with the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. This was followed by a piece I'd never heard of - the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, by Paul Alday. Apparently, it was the first symphony ever written in Ireland. Reminiscent of Beethoven, somewhat. More organizational confusion at the interval, as they suddenly realized that there wouldn't be enough light for the performers at the edge to see by, and they didn't have anything suitable. They ended up getting them to huddle together in the middle, and producing a table lamp for the pianist. The second part of the concert consisted of the Four Seasons, in its entirety. I must have heard this a hundred times, but it never tires.. although the lead violinist was no Nigel Kennedy! For my money, the Four Seasons just ain't the same if he's not playing.

The real attention-getter during the second half, however, was the weather, as a tremendous thunderstorm competed with the performers. We had the whole show - lightning from all sides, rolling thunder, and finally rain so torrential that the performers actually discussed whether to continue, because it was becoming hard to hear them over it. They carried on gamely, and the rain had lightened considerably by the time we had to go out in it! At least the marquee was proved waterproof..

So, back to London tomorrow. And, likely, The Conjuring on Monday.  Oh, I am so looking forward to that.. getting myself in the mood by getting myself nicely scared watching things on YouTube. I read yet another good review of it today, and discovered that it features something I'd heard of previously - a haunted doll called Annabelle. Goodee, I was always fascinated by that..

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Film: World War Z

Well, well - I finally made it to see World War Z! About my last chance - the Empire, Leicester Square was the only one showing it at a reasonable hour, and they were only showing it tonight. Of course, I'd've seen it a lot sooner if its IMDB ratings hadn't kept slipping.. I don't recall what it started at - around 7.6, I think - but it finished at 7.2. Probably deserves something in between.

It was in screen 9, which must be one of the smallest. You could see that online, so I made sure to keep an eye on how the bookings were going, and booked just before heading into town, when I saw seats were filling up. After another sweltering journey - at least I got a seat - I made it to the Empire, which was my first time there. They're vying with the Prince Charles cinema around the corner for title of "best value in the West End". I think the Prince Charles has that one sewn up.. but the Empire is a nice cinema, with nice shiny banisters, and generally feels posher than the Prince Charles. In the lobby, at least. Sadly, Screen 9 turns out to be at the top of the house, and I was breathless by the time I got there.. (no escalators). Anyway, seat was comfortable and reclined slightly when I sat down, which is nice. Not so nice was the fact that the screen was low enough that, when captions or subtitling were displayed along the bottom, I had to crane to read them over the heads in front of me. Just as well it wasn't a foreign-language film..

Straight away, it struck me that this isn't your typical zombie film. For one thing, all the main characters are quite calm. Makes a nice change. For another, we don't see zombies that often in the film. Most of the film has Brad Pitt going around looking worried. As well he might, for it seems that disaster follows poor Brad wherever he sets foot. He's stuck in a traffic jam - zombies attack. He goes shopping - looters attack. He goes into an apartment building - zombies. He goes to a military base - zombies get the captain. He goes to a previously unattacked city - zombies get in. He's on a plane - it crashes. His family are evacuated to a refugee camp at one point, and he's worried about their safety. Frankly, I'd figure they were fine as long as he was elsewhere.

But I don't mean to imply that it isn't a good film - it's a very good film. I'm glad I got the chance to see it. It's a thrill-a-minute, never lags. The lack of constant exposure to the zombies makes them all the scarier. And you might recognise the Irish doctor in the clinic from the Irish tv series Love/Hate. I never took to it myself - only ever watched one episode.

Well, as I say, I'm back to Ireland for the weekend, and heading to the Summer Music on the Shannon festival. Assuming it's not washed out - I believe the rain has been biblical. Well, that'll make a change. And I'm extremely well organised for next week. Planning to see The Conjuring on Monday, although I haven't booked it yet because it doesn't seem to be selling out - well, it is showing widely - and, would you believe, it isn't showing in the Odeon! The nearest place it's showing doesn't have a discount for booking, so I'll leave it open for now. The next three days are booked though - and all for the Odeon Kensington, which makes me think I'll probably have trouble with the ticket machine - it doesn't like multiple bookings. Tuesday is Red 2, Wednesday is Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, and Thursday is The Heat. Gee, how long is it since I went to so many popular things in a row..?