Friday, 30 January 2015

Film: Kingsman: the Secret Service

Ooh, if I hadn't had to use the last of my Tesco Cineworld vouchers last night, I wouldn't have gone out. Brr, it was cold! I had both hail and snow on the way home from work. Anyway, forewarned, I wore a nice warm coat as I waited at the bus stop. Still jiggled up and down as I waited for the bus, but I timed it better this time and didn't have to wait so long. I was pretty much the only person on it all the way to the bus station, which is en route - I suspect most people had more sense than to venture out. My phone said it was 3 degrees - I think that was an optimistic estimate. Felt more like -3.

Handily, it was in Screen 2, like last night - so I knew to ask for Row E. The screen was pretty empty when I arrived - ended up maybe a third full. I finally got to see the trailer for Jupiter Ascending - it looks as terrible as the poster, and cast list, would suggest.

And so to Kingsman: the Secret Service. I rarely give things a bad review - I do like to find what's good about them, or what was intended. Here, I find myself in a different situation - I find it impossible to say anything bad about it at all! Film of the year so far - although that's not saying much. We are still in January, after all. But you'll go a long way to find something as clever, as funny, and as entertaining all at once. Which is a joy, because I didn't pick it up from the trailer.

Basically, it's a spy comedy, with Michael Caine as the head of Kingsman Secret Service, based behind an exclusive tailor's on Savile Row. A very genteel secret service, then - cue lots of ads for exclusive men's products, as endorsed by the stars of this film. Colin Firth plays a longstanding agent, who recruits a young tearaway to be the newest member. Mark Strong is Merlin, equivalent to M from the Bond films. Samuel L. Jackson plays the megalomaniac villain (with an hilarious lisp, and a squeamishness for violence) and Mark Hamill shows up as a hapless academic that he has kidnapped.

There isn't a cliche they don't play with, and there are some really memorable one-liners. This is quite violent, but it's stylish as anything, and it's clever! And once they've set up the action sequences, it all proceeds to merry mayhem. Helluvan entertaining film, with a brain. Very highly recommended!

As I scurried home in the icy cold, I noted that our local fox wasn't about - I guess he had more sense, although I saw him at roughly the same time the night before. I did notice something I haven't seen before, though - remember those hail showers I had on the way home from work? I saw something funny as I passed the parked cars. I looked closer - the hail that had fallen earlier hadn't melted, the cars were coated in it. Never did actually see that before.

Back to Ireland tonight, hoping to stay warm! Back to London on Sunday, and on Monday I'm off to the Opera House for the ballet of Onegin, and on Tuesday to the Print Room in Notting Hill for a play called Title & Deed..

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Film: The Theory of Everything

Two down, one to go! So, tonight was #2 of my three Tesco Cineworld vouchers, and off I went to Cineworld Hammersmith again. Tonight, it was The Theory of Everything, and a later show, so I ate at home first.

Bus both ways this time, and a perishing wait at the bus stop - warmer coat tomorrow, methinks. I checked with Google Maps where exactly to get off, and was reminded that they have a funny theory about that. I have said it to them, but of course to no avail. Point is, they want you to stay on until the stop after the cinema, which the bus goes right past. But the cinema is about exactly equidistant between that stop and the one before it, so I think it makes more sense to get off at the first of the two, when you can already see the cinema. So, Hammersmith Town Hall it was, and a brisk trot to the cinema, and boy was I glad to get inside.

This time, I was in Screen 2, upstairs. They have a wide aisle running behind the fifth row of seats, so I chose a seat in that one. I didn't realise how far back it was, i.e. how small the screen was. Also, there was a slightly loud group right behind my row, with coats and feet on the seats in front of them, right where I was supposed to be sitting. I sat further along the row, and finally decamped to the next row down. Luckily, I didn't seem to have taken anyone's place - there was plenty of room. And row E was sufficiently close to the screen.

So, as you probably know, this is the story of Stephen Hawking, played by Eddie Redmayne, and his first wife. Emily Watson plays her mother. Do bear in mind, first of all, that this is based on Mrs. Hawking's book, not on Stephen Hawking's books - so the science is brief and high-level. Apart from some pretty basic calculus equations that we get a glimpse of, and some brief speeches to summarise what he's working on, the science takes a back seat. This is the story of his first marriage, which followed hard on the heels of his diagnosis with motor neurone disease.

In the beginning of the film, he's a fairly normal, if abnormally bright, and extremely geeky, postgraduate physics student at Cambridge. Gets a fancy for this young arts student. I must say, from what I know of geeky guys' conversations, this is pretty on the money. Then, in short, one day he stumbles and falls rather badly, and knocks himself out. When he comes to, he's told he has two years to live. Crikey! Undaunted, and despite his desperate attempts to avoid her, the young lassie declares that she'll take what time she can get, and they're hitched.

That, of course, is only the beginning, as child follows on child, and she finds herself doing everything, and putting her own life second..

It's quite moving. Of course, we know the basics of the story anyway. It is interesting to see flesh put on the bones of it, and as the disease progresses, it's shocking to see just what an effect it has on their everyday life. Redmayne plays a credible Hawking, and I can only imagine how uncomfortable it was for him, slouched over in that chair all day at an unnatural angle - very similar to what it's like for real. The girl who plays his wife does a wonderful job of transforming from the wide-eyed student bride to the weary-eyed frustrated wife.

You can only wish them all well.

Tomorrow, the last of my vouchers will serve to pay for me to see Kingsman: the Secret Service - same time, same place. Stars Colin Firth, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, and lordy - Mark Hamill! Didn't know he was still acting.

Then it's back to Ireland for the weekend - glad my flu has cleared, flights are miserable when you're sick! On Monday, I'm headed to Onegin at the Opera House, and on Tuesday to Title & Deed at the Print Room, Notting Hill.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Film: Ex Machina

It's very nearly gone, thank goodness. My flu, that is. And I have these three Tesco vouchers for Cineworld that will have expired by next week, so I had to get them used - and what with flying back to Ireland at the weekend, that means these three nights are it, starting tonight. Otherwise, I might have stayed in. Unfortunately, the things aren't valid at my local Cineworld - funny definition of a "West End" cinema - so I have to take transport to the nearest cinemas where I can use them. So they're not as cheap as they might have been - but still represent a saving. Still, I probably won't buy them again.

The nearest to work is Cineworld Hammersmith, which is, hopefully, where I'll be able to use them for the rest of the week. Looking at the IMDB ratings, the highest rated Cineworld film for today is Baby, an Indian thriller. However, upon reflection - I'm so sick of Indian thrillers full of gratuitous violence. Specifically, the scenes in the trailer that put me off were those with interrogations that involved beatings. Now, it might be a good film - and I can handle violence in film - but the implicit condonement of that behaviour bothers me. Plus, I find Indian films generally overrated. So I'm skipping it.

Which, led me, delightfully, to Ex Machina tonight. I've been intrigued by this since someone mentioned it at work, and was glad to get a chance to see it. So off I went, straight from work, to the early evening showing. It's ages since I got the Tube at rush hour, and I'm glad of that - also glad I wasn't in a hurry, considering how long it took to arrive! Thirdly, I was glad to see the crush of people that got off at West Kensington, just in time for me to get on. Truly, I don't think I'd have managed to squeeze on further down the track. Getting off at Ravenscourt Park was interesting, as I was at the opposite side of the carriage to the door that opened..

I used to live around there, but it's been a long while now since I got off at that stop, and I'd had to look it up on Google Maps earlier today. So it wasn't surprising that I failed to find the fastest way onto King Street. Still, I had no problem finding the street, just not by the very fastest route. There's a zebra crossing right in front of the cinema (oh, the feeling of power!) and I was shortly inside and smugly watching the guy at the till say "of course you can!" to my question as to whether I could get a ticket with this voucher. Screen 3 was just to the side, and seating there is in one block. I picked a seat in the middle - what's nice about this cinema is the seating plan is on a printed sheet in front of you.

Saw a couple of interesting trailers - one for Kingsman: the Secret Service, which previews on Thursday and is currently top of my list for then, and one for Fifty Shades of Grey. Which isn't on my list at all - I daresay it'll be useless, like the book on which it's based. As someone remarked today, the film would have to be pornographic to make anything of the story watchable. Unlikely.

And so to tonight's film. I hadn't even seen the trailer, so it was a surprise to me to be confronted almost immediately with one of the Gleesons. "Gosh," I thought, "isn't that..?" Red-haired, Irish acting family. Can't mistake them. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember this guy's name (it's Domhnall). Anyway, turns out he's a programmer for a major software company, and as the film opens, he's won the company lottery. The prize is a week at the CEO's exclusive estate!

So in no time at all, he's whisked off in a private helicopter to this vast estate, looking like the wilds of Scotland really. The house itself is practically a bunker, and it's some time before he can even find his host. And they're the only ones there - apart from a taciturn, Japanese-looking maid, and Alicia Vikander. Who hardly counts as a house guest.. you see, the purpose of this little trip is really to conduct a Turing test between Gleeson and Vikander. Because she's absolutely the last word in AI, a humanoid robot that is kept in a glass-walled room for the purposes of questioning.

The film looks and sounds absolutely beautiful. It's all clean lines, the swish of automatic doors, and classical music playing softly. Kind of like a modern hotel - with no windows. (This guy wants to keep his research private - although any potential thief would have some trek across that estate!) And, as with the best science fiction, it's extremely thought-provoking. How do you define intelligence? How do you figure out whether an entity is lying? And what do you do with an intelligent being you've created?

Hats off to Alicia Vikander. She's the hot starlet of the moment, and she plays a blinder here as the ingénue robot. I can't give any more away, but the ending is brilliantly thought out. It's a stylish, thought-provoking, and gripping film. Very highly recommended. About the trailer though - having watched it since, it does occur to me that you could go into this expecting a straightforward thriller about a rogue robot. Not at all what's going on here.

I just missed a bus across the road - irony is, I'd have caught it if there hadn't been another in front of it that blocked the driver's view. So I had a cold ten-minute wait for the next one. Decided to hop off one stop early and head to my local Chinese - I hadn't had a chance to eat after work. It so happened that I was sat beside a businessman staying in a local hotel, who had decided that venturing out to eat was the better option, and was very pleasantly surprised by what he found there. Well yes, I agree!

Tomorrow night, next on the list is The Theory of Everything - then, as I say, Kingsman the day after. Both also in Cineworld Hammersmith, but later in the evening, so I can eat at home. At least I'm getting to see some of the big releases.. next Monday, when I'm back from Ireland, I've got a ticket to the ballet Onegin, at the Opera House. Nice and far forward in the Amphitheatre, too. I'm delighted about that - sounds lovely. And on Tuesday, I'm heading to the Print Room in Notting Hill for the first time in ages - the show is called Title and Deed, and is a monologue about being an outsider. Oh, and I think getting out and about has done my flu a power of good!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Walk: Jubilee Greenway

As the man said in Life of Brian.. "I'm alive! I'm alive!!" You could apply much the same sentiment to me today. Geez, I haven't been out in four days, apart from an abortive attempt to go to the office on Thursday, which didn't last long nor achieve much but make me feel woozy. I did manage to get to Tesco to get the shopping in, and I managed to check the gas meter, but that was the extent of it. This was an awful bout of 'flu.

And once you're past the stage where you need to sleep all the time, but not yet at the stage where you can go gadding about, it's frightfully boring. At least Amazon Prime was good enough to stream the entire first season of Transparent for free yesterday, so I hunkered down and watched that. And very good it was too.

Today, however, I felt a bit more substance to my being. So I investigated this thing called Winter Wanders - guided walks through London. Darned if a single information link was working on that site though - the only informative link I could find was the link to the TFL walks page. So, so much for the guided walks - I used the TFL information to pick my own. Of course, that always has the advantage that you can meander off course as you wish, shorten the walk as you like, linger wherever you want.

The closest to me is the Jubilee Greenway, so I determined to do that. Not the whole thing of course - the first section, Buckingham Palace to Little Venice. I've seen both before, but not gone through Hyde Park - apart from attending Winter Wonderland there: so I'd see something new. Mind you, I got sufficiently distracted by other things that it was evening by the time I was setting out; but I persevered.

I took the Tube to Victoria and tramped along to Buckingham Palace,10 minutes away. Loadsa tourists, as usual - Italians on the Tube wondering whether it went to Victoria, tourists making their awkward way up and down Underground staircases with enormous suitcases, and a guy with an even more enormous suitcase, waiting with me just down from Buckingham Palace to cross the road. After a minute, he decided he'd take a chance and ask directions - and it turned out he was looking for the infamous Victoria Coach Station. Infamously hard to find. Now, the only time I was there before, I had the devil of a time finding it.. but at least I knew he was at this moment headed the wrong way! He looked at me very dubiously when I said that - apparently he'd been sent in several different directions already. But I insisted that he retrace his steps to the train station and find a map there. The guy even had a maps app on his phone! Lordy, you'd think he might learn how to use it..

I had no such problems finding the palace. It's hard to miss from there. Not so many tourists around in the evening - it was dusk by now. I didn't linger there, and carried on into Green Park. A brief consultation of the directions I'd printed out informed me that I was to carry on along the edge of the park to Hyde Park Corner. Well and good, I did that. Although it was dark, it was quite pleasant really, a cool breeze blowing and the path slightly removed from the busy roadway. As I neared Hyde Park Corner, I found myself surrounded by war memorials of various kinds. I have no particular interest myself, but they do make an impressive collection - I hardly noticed before, always rushing through there en route to somewhere else.

I passed through the impressive entrance to Hyde Park, and surveyed my options. The rough plan was to head along by the Serpentine - I didn't think I'd get much further. Then I had to tie my shoelaces.. and as I was bending down, I got so dizzy that I knew I'd have to call it a night. I'd just passed Hyde Park Corner Station, so I made my way hastily back there and caught the extremely crowded Piccadilly Line. I had to stand, and since I was still feeling woozy, changed for the District Line at South Kensington, in the hope of getting a seat. The stairs there nearly did for me, but thankfully the second train on the platform was mine, and I did get a seat. And lived to tell the tale!

I'm ok if I'm sitting down. I just need to be careful when I'm out. Back to work tomorrow.. I'll probably be ok for that. Tomorrow is the last night of a series of four short plays about umbrellas - Night of the Umbrella is showing at the Lion and Unicorn. Very much depends how I feel tomorrow though. For the next three days, I need to head to Cineworld to use those Tesco vouchers. Should be able to manage films, if I can make it to the cinema! I've had a look at what's on, and the winners are, as of now - in terms of IMDB ratings - Baby (an Indian espionage thriller), Kingsman: the Secret Service (comedy - previewing Thursday) and Ex Machina (SciFi). Irritatingly, these vouchers exclude my local Cineworld (so I won't be buying them again!) and so I have to head to Cineworld Hammersmith and Cineworld Wandsworth to use them..

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Play of Thrones

Shakespeare's Henry VI, in the style of Game of Thrones. Well now, I have zero interest in Game of Thrones, and I'd never seen Henry VI before. But I am fascinated by that period in history, so this was a no-brainer. Despite the review in a recent Evening Standard, that while praising some aspects of the production, did think the performances were patchy. Anyway, looking at the website, I could see there was limited availability, so I booked.

I'm not sure, but I think I was at Union Theatre once before. Anyway, it's an easy one - Tube to Southwark and a short walk. I was feeling a bit fluey, but headed out anyway, in good time. As usual, the District Line was clunky and prone to delays. It was interesting to watch the platform indicator at Earl's Court.. when we pulled in, there was a train at the next platform, which was slated to go first - but you can't take the risk, it isn't always accurate. It was on this occasion. When the next train replaced it, that train was also slated to go first. It didn't. Goes to show.. It was a relief to get onto the zippy Jubilee Line.

I don't get off here often, but it turns not to be too hard. Two exits are signposted as you leave the platforms - the train station, and everywhere else. Take the exit not for the train station. Sundry roads are signposted - just leave the station and head straight ahead, past the large office building across the road. Continue under the railway arch - the entrance to the theatre is just on the other side of the arch, on the left.

I passed through a kind of cafe area, with a guy at a table that looked as though he might be selling tickets. But I had already booked mine, and printed the receipt - and a sign behind him said to continue to the box office if that were the case. So I did, through a double door into a tiny bar. Gave them my receipt and got a card with a number on it. I'd read this in the play information, but he told me again in case I didn't know - we'd be sent in in groups of 10, by number. I was 37.. When I got in, I saw the two seats in front row centre were free - so I took one.

Seating is unassigned, and tiered. Quite comfortable - luckily, because this runs to three hours, including interval. It was about five minutes before the performance started. And I loved it. Well, they'd have had to do something serious to make me hate it. So, you have Shakespeare's beautiful texts.. and for a Game of Thrones-type twist, dramatic background music, more female characters (notably, the Duke of York is now the Duchess - but also, Joan of Arc's mother, rather than her father, appears), and characters that glare at each other periodically, just to remind you that they're not best of friends. And a plot voiceover - as someone remarked at the interval, this was much clearer than the RSC production of it she'd seen. Duh!

As I mentioned, the Evening Standard was taxed by some of the performances. For my part, the production itself was so dramatic that I don't think anyone would notice whether someone's performance was a bit off. The set is sparse, the only props being a chair that acts as a throne, and a few ladders, used extensively throughout - as walls, as bookcases, as things to stand on to get a vantage point, and during the battle scenes, the actors pick them up and thrust them at each other. Quite noisy, that. I liked the clever mock red and white roses the Duchess of York and Duke of Lancaster wore - made of bits of appropriately coloured paper, sandwiched between the plastic covers that the queue numbers come in. (BTW, the "Duke of Lancaster" should be the Duke of Somerset - there was no Duke of Lancaster at the time, but I guess they wanted to emphasise the Lancastrian connection.

They bookend the play with bits from plays set before and after - the "Once more unto the breach" speech from Henry V, and the first line from the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech from the beginning of Richard III. Speaking of whom, Richard gets a look-in here, of course, and the Evening Standard praised his performance highly. They were right to - he was perfectly cast, and presents a sinister figure at the end of the play.

The only fault I had to find was that the place was freezing. They had heat on when we came in, but seemed to turn it off soon after the start. They chucked us out at the interval - the hall outside was even colder, with the outside door open, so I made my way into the bar - and made a dash for the open stove, where I remained for the duration of the interval. Someone apparently asked the barman whether they sold hot drinks and was told they didn't - fools, they'd have made a fortune!

Highly recommended - but maybe bring a blanket. Runs until Saturday - decent availability for tonight, sold out tomorrow night, and only one ticket left for Saturday. So get a move on if you're interested! The event did nothing for my flu, and I shivered all the way home and was too sick to write the blog last night. I had a debate on cyber security booked for tonight, but frankly, I'm going to run home to bed and stay there. Anyway, it was free. (Gee, this is becoming a habit, booking free debates and cancelling because I have the flu!)  Looking around for what's on tomorrow, my primary impression is that pretty much everything is sold out. But there is a show called Shaw's Women, at the Tristan Bates Theatre, that seems to have good availability - and there is also some comedy. If it isn't sold out too! But I'll wait and see what happens with my flu..

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Film: Birdman

Ah, about time I got to the pictures again! After I excluded two OTT (and probably overrated) Indian films from the top of my list (ranked according to IMDB ratings), Whiplash was in pole position. But I'd seen the trailer, and was disturbed by the sadistic drumming teacher in it. So I passed. Birdman was next on the list - although it's highly nominated, someone in the office had nothing good to say about it. Still, I said I'd give it the benefit of the doubt. Times in the local cinema didn't suit, so I decided to go to the next nearest - Cineworld Fulham. I see they're advertising this film as one of their "Oscars Unmissables".

It's within walking distance, so I was complacent about how early I left. So naturally, I ended up dashing down the road - at least that insulated me against the cold! Well, but you can always let ordinary cinema releases slide a bit - they always have at least 15 minutes of ads beforehand. So I entered the lobby, and joined the queue for the only ticket booth that was occupied - they're not keen on having people behind the counter here.

I would've booked online for a cheaper ticket (10% off with a Cineworld registration) but I have Tesco vouchers for Cineworld. Which require redemption in person. When I finally got to the desk - one eye on the clock the whole time - she told me my voucher wasn't accepted there. What?! She showed me the fine print - this was one of the cinemas listed as an exception. Huh! Had I known that, I wouldn't have bought these - and won't again. Still, I did want to see the film, so bought a ticket. At least they have a special offer on Tuesdays!

Thankfully, this was a downstairs screen, so no stairs to climb. However, there were several to descend! Flight after flight.. I finally got there and took my seat just as the title came on.

The story centres on Michael Keaton, who plays a has-been Hollywood superstar, famous back in the day for playing a superhero called Birdman. These days though, he's trying to make a go of it on Broadway - and not managing well at all. He's separated; his sullen teenage daughter (Emma Stone), who works for him, is a mystery to him; and he's got a vanity project in production, a play he's adapted, and is directing and starring in, based on a Raymond Carver novel - apparently, Raymond Carver was the one who inspired him to get into acting.

The night before the first preview, the other male actor in the play meets with an unfortunate accident - luckily, another of his stars, Naomi Watts, is going out with Edward Norton, who steps in at short notice. And proves himself to be both an excellent actor and an obnoxious git. And then there's the theatre critic, who has a chip on her shoulder about Hollywood stars trying to make it on the stage..

Well now, sorry, guy from office, but I thought this was excellent! Well deserving of all its awards. I think he'd been expecting a straightforward comedy, while this is more serious.. having said that, I found it hilarious, but it's a very dark humour. It's very actor-y. We are immersed in the frantic world of Broadway, with all its false praise, and I happily went along for the ride. Poor old Michael Keaton is overwhelmed by it, consoled only by the voice of Birdman in his head. Oh, and his supernatural powers. Highly recommended - unless your type of comedy is a more in-your-face style. I can understand its nominations.

Tomorrow, I'm back in the theatre for real - going to see Play of Thrones, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry VI a la Game of Thrones. Not that I've seen Game of Thrones, but it should be interesting - I haven't seen any of the Henry VI plays either, but I am fascinated by that period of history. Showing in the Union Theatre.

As for the Tesco vouchers, I still have three of them. So I'll have to look sharp - they expire the weekend after next, when I'm back in Ireland, so my last days to use them are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Well, great excuse to catch up on the blockbusters!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Play: Pig Girl

It's ages since I went to a play at the Finborough Theatre - despite it being the closest to me, and the only one within walking distance; well, other things just keep coming up. So I generally look favourably on productions there - and Pig Girl sounded ok. Controversial, hard-hitting.. yep, I can handle that. I decided I'd better book, given the small size of the venue.

I couldn't remember how long it takes to walk there from home, but Google Maps told me about 10 minutes. And they were right - thankfully, because I forgot to wear a scarf. I set off in good time, but still deliciously later than I'd have had to for any other theatre. And for once, I made it 10 minutes before the start. I couldn't remember where the box office was - I never do, and it's not obvious - so I walked over to the bar, where the barman pointed me back towards the door, where the box office was tucked away in a corner. Exactly where it'd been before. They really need a sign though - it's impossible to see when you come in.

I hardly ever buy a programme, and I didn't tonight. But she told me the house was open and I could go straight up if I wanted - it's above the bar. She also said I could take up a drink, if it was in a plastic container - and I nearly got a glass of wine, but then remembered I had very little cash on me, so I didn't bother, and made my way up the steep stairs instead. Sure enough, when I got far enough, there was an usher, who warned me to turn off my phone, and reminded me that there are supposed to be five to a bench. And in I went.

This is a very, very small theatre. So you have to cross the stage to get to or from the seats. As mentioned, seating is on upholstered benches that are comfortable enough, and is unassigned - although you're supposed to have five to a bench. Now, by that reckoning, it wasn't full tonight - but frankly, you really can't fit more than four comfortably. So it was comfortably full - three or four to a bench.

The play - receiving its European premiere - is based on the true story of a serial killer who had a pig farm outside of Vancouver. Jeez, reading the details, this is beginning to sound familiar - I spent some months in Vancouver in 2004, which is when they were putting together the case against this guy, and I'm sure I heard something about it in the news at the time. Well, here it is in the flesh, so to speak - a fictional victim's story, her and the killer in the middle of the stage, in low light - her sister on one side, having ongoing conversations with the cop, on the other side, brightly lit.

Now, the kidnapped female character's title is "dying woman", so you know what the outcome is. The story - from the "outside" characters' point of view - spans nine years, as they first hunt for the missing woman, then for her remains. It doesn't take so long for the story in the middle to run its course. But for the 75 or so minutes (no interval) that this play runs, the stories run concurrently.

It's visceral. The meat hook in the middle is reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and indeed that's a good yardstick as to whether you can handle this. If you can handle the film, you can handle the play. If not.. well, it's a good job that an usher sat through the performance with us, for the sake of the woman who needed to leave before the end. You see, as I said, you have to cross the stage to do so, and the actor obligingly stepped out of her way - without someone to lead you out, you would probably feel awkward about leaving. And if you need to leave this play.. you really need to leave. It doesn't get easier. They do use that meat hook, by the way - the clue is in the metal loop on the back of the victim's hoodie. Ouch..!

The acting is superb. From all four actors. And it's moving. Reviews have questioned the need to focus on these events, with no new information - what's the point, they ask, apart from torture porn? Well, but what's the point of a play? From my perspective, I want it to move me - I don't care how. This play did - to sympathy, to horror. I thought it was extremely good - but I'm only going to recommend it to people capable of watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Otherwise, you are going to have trouble. Runs Sundays and Mondays, as I recall, for the rest of the month and into the next - the website seems to be down again!

For tomorrow.. well, it's about time I got back to the pictures, dontcha think? So, barring any last-minute developments, that's the plan. And going through the IMDB ratings, I've excluded a couple of OTT Indian films, and also Whiplash - the story of a drum student and his sadistic teacher. I've seen the trailer - it looks disturbing. Which brings me to Birdman. Multi-award-nominated, it stars Michael Keaton as an actor trying to recreate his glory days. Also stars Edward Norton. Now, someone from work saw it and wasn't impressed - but I'm willing to give it a shot. And as it's not showing at a convenient time in my nearest cinema, I get to go see it in the nearest Cineworld - which means I get to use one of the Tesco Cineworld vouchers I bought, which expire at the end of the month. Also, as that's still within walking distance, I get to not use public transport two days in a row! Excellent savings..

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Magic Hour

Ah, magic. Eternally fascinating. So when I saw The Magic Hour advertised, well, that wasn't a hard choice. Tickets available online only, so I booked.

After last night's fruitless trek all the way to Angel, I was glad to be going to something closer to home. Mind you, when I checked today I discovered it was round the other side of Hyde Park, not the side I'm used to. Still, I could get a Tube straight to Bayswater, which is a short walk away.

I ate at home again, and since Google Maps said the journey would only take 16 minutes altogether, I left it quite late to leave. Bayswater is a terribly posh station, all white-painted railings and flower boxes. And I probably should have availed of the zebra crossing right in front of the station - I wasn't expecting one so convenient. Anyway, there wasn't much traffic, and I crossed safely, and was glad I was as close as I was - the wind was bitter again tonight!

Arrived about 10 minutes early, which wasn't really enough time to avail of the free cocktail they promised us. I wasn't that pushed anyway. I preferred to stay outside and admire the gorgeous lobby of the Grand Royale!

In due course, we were shown into the lounge, just to the right of the entrance, where an assistant stood at the door with a bowl of choccies. I refrained, admirably.

The lounge was just the setting for an evening of Victorian prestidigitation. Among other things..

In this shot, you can see the aforementioned assistant, who performed magic tricks at the interval to tempt us to buy merchandise. Funnily enough, a couple of photos I took of the other side of the room didn't come out. Weird, huh?

The room was full, and some had seen him before, I overheard. The magician came on in a frock coat, appropriate for the period, as he said. And he had a tale about a magician of the olden days, whose paraphernalia he bought at auction for a large sum, and which was contained in a trunk he had there tonight. So the contents of this trunk formed the basis for the show.

It runs for an hour and a half, including a 15-minute interval. Some tricks I'd seen before - after all, this is based on old-fashioned magic shows, and some of the tricks are familiar. Some were extremely good, and I'd be hard-pushed to explain a couple. One he revealed the secret of to us, and in one case I got a hint of how he did it, which was down to keen observation on my part. But I won't give it away!

The second half has a scéance, for which the room is darkened and takes on a suitably eerie demeanour. We had great fun, and he involved practically everyone in the audience in some way. I'm sure a certain magician of my acquaintance would pick holes all through it, but it was performed with a flourish, and was a great evening's entertainment. Definitely different. Runs Thursdays and Fridays for the rest of the month - the 30th is sold out though.

Back to Ireland tomorrow - hope the winds die down. Back here on Sunday, and on Monday I've booked for a play called Pig Girl at the Finborough Theatre. It's the local one, and so small that booking is always advisable.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Concert: Jagaara

Sadly, I can't make the next Hard Façade gig on Friday, as I'm flying back to Ireland for the weekend. But I was set to go to another gig tonight; the Lexington is staging a week-long residency of a series of concerts aimed at promoting up-and-coming new bands, called The Line of Best Fit. Having checked out tonight's acts, I was particularly interested in Jagaara. The others, not so much. So I bought a ticket and aimed to get there for 9.15, when Jagaara was scheduled to be on.

Google Maps had me taking the Piccadilly Line to King's Cross St Pancras, then walking or taking a bus. However, when I checked it on Streetview, I could see it was closer to Angel - one stop from King's Cross on the Northern Line. So I determined to carry on and walk from there instead - especially given the squally rain all day.

So I ate in, and set out quite late. And was all the way to Russell Square - the stop before King's Cross - when the driver made one of those unintelligible announcements they're so fond of. He eventually turned the volume up a notch, and we could hear that there was a delay, owing to a "passenger incident" further up the line. And he hoped we'd be off in the next five minutes.

More like 10. And I was going to be late, but I figured it wouldn't be too bad - these things generally start late anyway and it didn't matter if I missed some of the set. So when I got to King's Cross, I set off in search of the Northern Line. Now, this is one of the worse-signposted stations. I followed a sign for the Northern Line, rounded the corner, and next thing I saw was a sign saying that the Northern Line was NOT this way. Turning around in confusion, I saw a flight of steps I'd passed, leading down, with a sign for the Northern Line on them. Now, that could be signposted a bit better.

Technically, heading to Angel from King's Cross, you're southbound. Not really - more like east, if anything - but each line tends to recognise two directions, either north/south or east/west. Northern has northbound and southbound trains, and since the line turns south after Angel, southbound is what you want. So I got to Angel - one of the deepest stations on the network, and with officially the longest escalators in Western Europe, at 90 feet high and 197 feet long. Takes over a minute to travel its length, if you stand still. The southbound platform, where I disembarked, is also unusually wide; apparently they used to have two tracks here, which made the platform very narrow - so they paved over one, making the much wider one you see today.

I exited the station to a horrible, windy night, still with spitting rain. Made my way to the Lexington - no difficulty in navigation, but terrible difficulty in walking in a strong crosswind that threatened to unbalance me. I was glad when I finally had it in my sights. And then.. I saw the queue outside! O hell. In a bad mood already, after the delay, I was in no humour to be made to stand outside in this weather. I turned on my heel and stormed off back to the station.

Now, there were announcements about delays on other parts of the Piccadilly Line. I decided a wiser course of action was to replicate my journey from the Barbican, and take a Tube to Edgeware Road and the District Line from there. Following the signs for those lines, however, I found myself faced with having to pass through the exit barriers. Signs reassured me that, although I needed to tap out and tap in again in another section for those lines, I wouldn't be charged twice as long as I did it within 15 minutes. In the event, it took me under five. Lotta walking altogether, though!

I had a brief wait for a train that would take me to Edgeware Road, and got there and across the platform just in time to see a Wimbledon-bound train (the one I wanted) pull out. Before long though, there was another, and I took a seat at the rear, to be handy to the exit at West Brompton. Before we got there, there was more excitement at Earl's Court, when as we pulled in, our driver informed us that the train at the next platform would also be going to Wimbledon, and would be departing first. Oh, and there were signal problems down the line, too. So, when the other train appeared, we all dashed across. And as we were waiting for the passengers to get off the other train so we could board, the driver of that train announced that it was being diverted to Richmond. So we all dashed back again. My, was I glad to get off at the next stop! (It also occurs to me to wonder how much of an inconvenience it is for drivers of diverted trains, particularly if it's the last run of the night..)

It was a breezy walk home, and I can hear the wind howling outside now and rattling the kitchen window, which is a bit exposed. Very glad that tomorrow's show is much closer - The Magic Hour is a Victorian-style magic show, with spirit messages and everything, in the Grand Royale, a glorious old Victorian hotel near Hyde Park.
Hopefully the wind will have died down in time for my flight on Friday. And after the weekend, for Monday I've booked to see a play called Pig Girl at the local theatre, the Finborough.

Opera: Orfeo

The posters for Orfeo have been visible in Underground stations for months. So by the time Helen asked me whether I'd seen them, I was already interested - and she agreed to come. Which is how I came to book us tickets for the opening night, last night in the Roundhouse. Although it's a collaboration with the Opera House, and tickets were available on both websites, I booked with the Roundhouse itself, which had better availability. We booked the cheapest non-restricted-view tickets, second row from the back in the circle.

It occurred to me the day before that we'd need to eat - there is a restaurant in the Roundhouse, but it was completely booked up. Upon investigation, I discovered that there's a Nando's just down the road. Now, I remember attending a gig at the O2 Academy in Brixton and trying unsuccessfully to get a table at the Nando's across the road. So I decided I'd better book this one. No online booking - I rang them up, and booked a table for 6pm.

There was a bus strike yesterday, but it didn't affect us. The Tube didn't seem any busier than normal as a result, either. With a couple of options, we decided to take the District Line to Embankment, then the Northern Line to Chalk Farm, just up the road from the Roundhouse. Easy-peasy.. except you do have to be careful with the Northern Line; there are several different branches, so you need to make sure you're on the correct one. Anyway, we got seats the whole way, after Earl's Court. Much better than the crush we'd have faced on the Overground at that time of day.

At the station, (very slow) lifts take you to the surface. They're a bit unnerving, because there doesn't seem to be any indication that the lift is coming. Finally, when you have made the ascent, the "EXIT" sign is on the opposite side to where you exit.. well, we were soon out on the road, and a left out of the station and a right onto Chalk Farm Road soon bring you to the Roundhouse. Nando's is a bit past that, on the other side of the road.

Well, far from the crowded scenes I remembered from Brixton, there weren't many people there at all yet. We passed a very empty Italian restaurant, and kept going to Nando's. Which.. was just as empty. We explained to the waiter that greeted us that we'd booked a table. I don't blame him for looking confused. :-) Anyway, he showed us to a table and we chose. The procedure at Nando's is that you get a table, choose, then order and pay at the till. They give you your drink at that point - or an empty glass if you've ordered a drink that comes from the dispenser - refills of those are free. Now, I got him to swipe my loyalty card first, because I was sure I had earned something for free. Sure enough, I had. Unfortunately, what I really wanted - "Butterfly chicken" - isn't on the free list. So he ran through the entire list of what was.. I finally chose a 1/2 chicken and two sides, and only had to pay for my wine. And we were both very well fed. Helen, by the way, was very appreciative of the rosé she chose, which was second on the list.

We were too full for dessert, which means we were finished nice and early, and made our way back to the Roundhouse. The crowds were beginning to gather now, and there was a small queue for the cloakroom. We made our way upstairs, visited the toilets, and by that time the doors were open and we took our seats.

It's curious, this idea of "non-restricted" view, as the venue is in the round, with supporting columns. Unless you're sitting between the columns and the stage, they're going to block your view from some point, regardless where you sit!

It took me a while to spot the surtitles (circled below):

The orchestra was sitting at the back of the stage, and as well as two harpsichords, and a regular string and brass section, sported three long-necked guitar-like instruments. Upon researching this, they seem to have been lutes.. oddly, I didn't think they looked like that. But I may have been thinking of the lyre.

This production is stunningly visual. In the above photo, you can just see the base of the ramp leading down to the stage, from the right. This is used extensively throughout the show, not just for people to process up and down, but also as an extension of the stage, on which they're happy to stop and sing. Frankly, from where we sat, we had a terrific view of everything, and I would have been sorry to have had a more expensive seat, near the stage, and miss most of what was happening on the ramp. The only time we had a problem with the view was in the second half of the first act, when they're celebrating the wedding of Orfeo and Eurydice, and these blasted long green ribbons are unfurled from the ceiling to ring the stage. All very nice, but they did somewhat get in the way of the surtitles. Never mind - it is in English, and we could see the other surtitle board (at an angle). And bits of the one we were supposed to be reading! Anyway, they cleared them away at the end of the first act.

We had some entertainment just coming up to the interval, in the form of a lady near us, but in the row behind, who apparently spent much of the first act talking (presumably to her companion), to the annoyance of the man - with the standing ticket - who was positioned behind her. Who proceeded to annoy her in some way - maybe by asking her to be quiet. Anyway, the first we heard of it was when she quite loudly said, "Would you stop bothering me now?!"

Shortly afterwards, we were in the interval. After some more arguing between them, evidently without resolution, she went off in one direction to complain to one usher, the man behind her went in the other direction to complain to another. He then disappeared, and she and her companion decided a resolution would be to move into our row, which up to then was mostly empty. Unfortunately for them, all those missing folks whose seats they were, and must have been late and had to wait in the bar for the first half, came back looking for their seats at the interval. I actually believe she tried to brazen it out and stay where she was, but ultimately they had to go back to where they'd come from. Sensibly, her standing nemesis had taken himself off elsewhere - I think I saw him at the other end of the theatre in the second half.

Well then, what was the show like..? I love Baroque opera - that's a good start. Now, it can be a bit slow for modern audiences - in this case, that's mitigated by a troupe of dancers - apparently schoolchildren, different groups on different dates. Somebody took a great deal of care with the staging of this: the dancers are brilliantly used. During the wedding, they're leaping and cavorting - they're most effectively used in the second act, however, when they form a kind of human pyramid to create the door to the underworld, and at other times roll along the floor in blue/grey uniform, to represent the raging river Acheron. Most strikingly, when Orfeo is attempting to lead Eurydice back to the land of the living, they roll along the floor in a line between them, presenting a very visible barrier keeping them apart.

The singing is superb, and Orfeo presents a haggard figure, happy so briefly at the beginning, before his love is snatched from him and he begins the journey to Hades. The ramp works beautifully as the climb that must be made to escape back to the world of sunlight, simply evoked by having a bright spotlight at the top. And the last scene is worthy of a painting. Absolutely stunning. And I must give due credit to both Orfeo and Eurydice, who must spend periods suspended in a harnesss hanging from the ceiling. They're supported under armpits and knees - can't be comfortable. And he has to do some singing in that position! Ay-ay..

Highly recommended, if you like Baroque music. Runs until the 24th, about every couple of days. The Opera House website is sold out, but the Roundhouse website has limited availability - principally standing, a few seats available in the stalls on certain days.

After we trudged out through a very slowly moving crowd, Helen took the Northern line straight to Waterloo for her train, and got an earlier one than she'd anticipated. And the rain held off for me to get home - just too late to blog. Hence the delay.

Tonight, I have a gig at the Lexington, near King's Cross. They're running a week-long event - The Line of Best Fit - to showcase up-and-coming acts. Particularly interested in Jagaara. I still have to watch something by the act on before them, see whether I fancy going early to listen to them as well. Someone from work was also thinking of going, but I hear it's sold out now!

Tomorrow: The Magic Hour. A Victorian-style magic show, with spirit messages and everything. I like the look of the venue too - the Grand Royale, a glorious old Victorian hotel near Hyde Park.

After I get back from Ireland, on Monday, I've booked to go to a play in the only theatre within walking distance of me - the Finborough. The play is called Pig Girl, and the theatre is so small that it's always advisable to book.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Play: Henry IV Part I

I've never seen Henry IV Part I before - or Part II, for that matter. Some of the advertising for this production has it as the greatest of Shakespeare's plays. Well, I do like a good Shakespeare - so I booked. One of the cheapest seats in the house - but a decent one, centre of the front row. Of the gallery, the very top level.

It's been a terrible evening, weatherwise - pouring rain - and if I hadn't booked I wouldn't have ventured out tonight. And it all the way across town as well, in the Barbican! Google Maps gave me two options, basically - District Line to Mansion House and walk, or in the other direction to Edgeware Road and take either the Circle or Hammersmith & City Line from there to Barbican Station. Well, with the weather, I fancied a shorter walk - so the latter was the option I chose.

I really thought I was going to be late. Infuriating delays on the District Line were followed by several lengthy pauses as we made our way on the Circle Line. The driver apologised several times, saying they were trying to match up with the timetable. Or something.. Anyway, we pulled into Barbican Station 10 mins before the performance was due to start. Now, this is the closest station to the Barbican - but it's not quite across the road. Still, all you have to do is cross the road and walk down the covered street ahead - a relief, given that it was still raining. Then cross that street and it's around the corner on your right.

I set a blistering pace, and halved Google's estimate of the walking time. So I arrived with a whole 5 minutes to spare. And o, was I glad I had a Print at Home ticket - and may they issue many more of them! This is a horrendously complicated building, but it turned out that the entrance I needed was the very first one inside the building proper! What a joy not to have to climb down two flights of stairs to the box office, then up again to get back there. Instead, I just showed my printed ticket to the usher, who directed me up a couple of flights of stairs, and to the other usher at the top of them, who directed me to the door. And then I had to squeeze past half of a very long row - there are no aisles in the middle - to get to my seat. And it is a bit of a squeeze!

I keep forgetting the rail that blocks your vision in this row. It's not too bad - you get used to it - but really, they should mark it as a "restricted view" row. And with the dim lighting, it was impossible to see seat numbers - I kept having to ask people. It was a relief to sit down, finally. Seats are comfy, at least, and the legroom is ok - principally because there's enough room to either side to turn your legs slightly.

You can always expect excellence from the RSC, and they didn't disappoint. Right from the start, the staging is magnificent - lighting on the floor reminiscent of the stained glass rose window of a cathedral, and a giant crucifix hanging at the back. Simple and striking. Candles are lowered in glass beakers, and monks appear, also bearing candles, and standing in a circle around the lighted floor. Finally, we see a hooded man, prostrate in the midst of the "reflections" on the floor. This is the king, and this is how we find out he's a religious man.

What unfolds over the next three hours or so (including interval) is worthy of any tale of fantasy. They do say that Game of Thrones is based on mediaeval history - well, they'd lap this up. The king's son and heir, Prince Hal, spends his time drinking, carousing, womanising. The king despairs of him - particularly with his enemies massing against him, including a young man, a ferocious warrior that the king wishes were his - another Henry: "Hotspur", for his hot temper. (Actually, in real life, he was slightly older than the king. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?)

So, Hotspur allies with his brother-in-law, Mortimer, who's just shown where his allegiance lies by marrying the daughter of the Welsh rebel, Owen Glendower. Mortimer was never really a fan of the king's anyway, as the previous king, Richard, had apparently named him heir, and not the man who now holds the title. (Actually, in real life, his nephew was the heir. But anyway.) Now, as the rebels gain power, the king summons his errant son. Will he step up to defend his birthright?

It's a classic tale, beautifully told, with musical accompaniment of the period. Particularly moving is the scene, apparently in Glendower's court, where the rebels debate their plans. You can tell it's the Welsh court, because a Welsh harp stands beside a chair. And sure enough, before they're done, a lady picks up that harp and strums an air, as Glendower's daughter sings in Welsh. The lighting is low, the room illuminated by open flames, and the effect is spine-tingling - with a crude map of England and Wales on the floor, you feel the reality of this, the last real fight for the independence of Wales.

The most popular character has to be Hal's drinking buddy, the irrepressible Falstaff, brilliantly portrayed. Yes, this is a must-see production if you're into Shakespeare. Both plays run until the 24th, with matinees and evening performances for Part I on different days (except Sunday & Tuesday), and Part II showing in the evenings only, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. But next Saturday and the following Thursday are sold out. Highly recommended, booking advisable.

On my way back, the rain was even heavier, but at least the Tube was behaving itself. On the District Line, I shared my carriage with a sizeable group of American college students, who had been to the play on what looked like a field trip, and were accompanied by their professor - the only one who seemed to have bought a programme. They all got off at my station - I guess they're staying in a nearby hotel, there are a few - and duly blocked one of the two exit gates when someone got her bag caught in it. To be fair, you have to be quick!

Well, bedtime for me - Helen and I are off to Orfeo at the Roundhouse tomorrow. It's the opening night, and the Royal Opera House, who are collaborating in this production, are sold out - although last I looked, limited tickets were available on the Roundhouse website. Anyhoo, the restaurant at the venue is booked out, so we reserved a table at Nando's, down the road, for before the show.

Wednesday: a gig at the Lexington, near King's Cross. They're running a week-long event - The Line of Best Fit - to showcase up-and-coming acts. Particularly interested in Jagaara.

Thursday: The Magic Hour. A Victorian-style magic show, with spirit messages and everything. I like the look of the venue too - the Grand Royale, a glorious old Victorian hotel near Hyde Park.

After I get back from Ireland, on Monday, I've booked to go to a play in the only theatre within walking distance of me - the Finborough. The play is called Pig Girl, and the theatre is so small that it's always advisable to book.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Play: Potted Sherlock

I had it in mind to see Potted Sherlock, and found quite a few deals, when I shopped around, that bettered the official price. Slightly. Slightly undercutting all the other slightly advantageous deals was the one from LoveTheatre, so I took that one. So I saved, ooh, just over £3 that way. I was at the end of the row, near the back of the stalls - but never mind, the Vaudeville Theatre turns out to be one of the few that gives a photo of the view from every seat, so I was reassured that I'd probably be able to see the stage.

Having eaten everything in the fridge that could reasonably constitute dinner, I had the perfect excuse to eat out - and when I looked up the location of the theatre (I'm not sure whether I've been here before, but if so, it was a long time ago), I noticed it was near Covent Garden and all the excellent eateries there. Ooh goodee, I could go to Cote! That was a plan then.

Again, I was ready too early, and had to make myself wait, so as not to leave too early. At the same time, I had to leave myself time to eat. I figured I'd take the Piccadilly Line to Covent Garden for the restaurant, then walk to the theatre - five minutes, I looked it up on Google Maps - and after the show, take the District Line back from Embankment.

The platform indicators at both West Brompton and Earl's Court now seem to only recognise two destinations for eastbound trains coming from Wimbledon - Edgeware Road, or Earl's Court! So in effect, you're going all the way to Edgeware Road, or you're not. Of course, the train I was on was continuing past Earl's Court and into town.. but as I say, I was changing to the Piccadilly Line anyway.

I see the lights are still up in Covent Garden, despite all the cranes making an effort to take them down when I was there last. Not lit, though. I'd looked up my route to the restaurant, and it took me no time to get there. I knew the only thing that could scupper my plan would be a packed restaurant, but when I got there, it was practically empty! Lovely. I was quickly shown to a table near the bar.

I soon realised I'd better time this, out of curiosity. I hadn't sat down yet when I was asked when I wanted to drink - so I put in my wine order. I pretty much already knew what I wanted - their pre-theatre menu does me absolutely fine, and never changes. And there was a waiter with his eye on me the whole time.. whenever I looked relaxed, having been perusing the menu beforehand, he dashed over, notebook in hand. I arrived at 5.45. By 6, I'd eaten my starter - a peppery mushroom soup that warmed me after the slightly chilly walk there - and been served my steak, with garlic butter and frites. When I'd finished it, I asked for the dessert menu - just to check the exact name, I already knew what I wanted. I had my dessert - a very rich chocolate pot topped with crème fraiche - eaten, the bill paid and was buttoning my coat by 6.40.

Which is great if you're in a hurry. Unfortunately, the show didn't start until 7.30! I deliberately got lost on my walk to the theatre, thus adding a couple of minutes to my trek. Which wasn't terribly pleasant, as it was raining lightly. After mooching up and down the broad and, frankly, uninteresting expanse of the Strand for a couple of minutes, I said sod it. I'd already passed my theatre, where crowds were still pouring out of a production of Wind in the Willows, but with nothing else to do I returned and stood in the lobby for an age as they streamed past me.

I didn't even have to pick up my ticket - I'd selected Print at Home. Finally, I decided enough was enough, and made my way upstairs to the bar, where I got myself a large glass of wine and was unable to find a seat, but did bag myself the piano to lean against. Now, it's not so often these days that I have a large glass, and I must say I've become something of a lightweight. By the time I got to the end of it, I was beginning to have imaginary conversations with my mother's dog, Fluffy, which were, worryingly, accompanied by facial expressions. I figured I'd better make my way back downstairs soon. While I still could.

I made it down safely, and had no trouble finding my seat - what with the view on the website and all. Lovely plush red velvet seats, too. Only thing was, being on the end, I kept having to get up to let people past. Six times, I had to do that before the show even started.. then a very tall guy came and sat in front of me and I thought, "O no.." until, immediately afterwards, he turned to me and said I must tell him if I couldn't see, and that he'd try to lean to the side for my benefit. And he did, the whole first half! Didn't really need to though - he seemed to forget for the second half, and I had no line-of-sight problems.

Yes, even for a show only lasting 80 minutes, they had an interval. And in those 80 minutes, they attempted to summarise the whole 60 Sherlock Holmes stories. Mainly by means of someone coming in and stating a case or a mystery, and Holmes immediately telling them whodunit. It's a very, very silly show, and at the beginning I despaired of it - and it would have been so easy to leave, being on the end of the row. But when it crossed a line of silliness - specifically, when they attempted all the short stories in a rapid-fire section - I started to enjoy it. I hummed and hawed at the interval, and ultimately decided to stay.

I liked the painting with the swivelling eyes, and I liked the hat-swapping bit, where they changed characters along with hats. But ultimately this is a very silly show, and I found the slapstick much too drawn-out. I give it 6/10 for effort. Anyhoo, that was the last performance.

Tomorrow: I'm dragging myself across town for the RSC production of Henry IV Part I, in the Barbican.

Tuesday: the opera Orfeo, at the Roundhouse. With Helen.

Wednesday: a gig at the Lexington, near King's Cross. They're running a week-long event - The Line of Best Fit - to showcase up-and-coming acts. Particularly interested in Jagaara.

Thursday: The Magic Hour. A Victorian-style magic show, with spirit messages and everything. I like the look of the venue too - the Grand Royale, a glorious old Victorian hotel near Hyde Park.

After I get back from Ireland, on Monday week, I've booked to go to a play in the only theatre within walking distance of me - the Finborough. The play is called Pig Girl, and the theatre is so small that it's always advisable to book.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Concert: The Pink Singers

Honestly, I wanted to go to La Soirée tonight - but the only seats they had left for the early performance when I looked were the posh ones, and I didn't want to wait for the 10pm show. So I booked to see The Pink Singers - Europe's longest-standing LGBT choir, apparently - in Cadogan Hall, instead.

The show started at 7, which on a weekday would leave me in a tizzy, trying to get everything done in time, but of course at the weekend I'm ready hours before! So, I set off in good time. The platform indicators at both West Brompton and Earl's Court were under the illusion that my train was terminating at Earl's Court, but luckily the train - and, presumably, its driver - knew better, and it took me all the way to Sloane Square. And Cadogan Hall is just up the road, to the right as you exit.

My seat was quite near the stage - just to the side, but with this stage configuration that was ok. I was at a show here before where the stage was extended into the front rows, so I ended up having to look sideways, which wasn't ideal. I was one of the first in, but the hall soon filled - by the end, there were a few free seats, but not many. Eavesdropping on the conversation beside me, I discovered that the lady in the seat next to mine had been to several of these concerts.. but still didn't know what LGBT stands for!

Well, the concert wasn't the most professional I've seen - but it was the most fantastic fun! The theme was "legends", which encompassed both pop and classical. So, we got a bit of Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Madonna, Joni Mitchell, Queen (natch), Édith Piaf, Mozart, and Monteverdi, among others. I hadn't bought a programme, as usual, and was delighted to discover that they were going to sing an aria from Orfeo, which I'm going to on Tuesday and have never heard before. And it was delightful.. but I do love Baroque opera.

Highlight of the show had to be the guest choir - the Mallorca Gay Men's Chorus - who entered into the thing with great gusto, dressing up, practicing their English, and endearing themselves to us all. They got a standing ovation as they left the stage. Even from the guy in front of me who'd been shaking with laughter, hand over his face, as one of the soloists did his thing - admittedly, that was a shaky voice. The main choir also got a standing ovation when they finished, and well deserved. Oh, and they finished on a U2 song. Quite right too. And what else but Pride..

I was glad not to have to wait too long for my train - it was absolutely freezing after the concert! Tomorrow is Potted Sherlock, in the Vaudeville Theatre. And I'm sorry I said that the Royal Opera House was the only venue to provide a photo of the view from every seat - this place seems to do it too! I only just looked at that, to see what the seat I got with LoveTheatre is like. Well now. With nothing left in the fridge, I think I'll take the opportunity to eat at one of my favourite restaurants tomorrow. Cote is only five minutes' walk from the theatre..

Monday: The RSC production of Henry IV Part I, in the Barbican.

Tuesday: the opera Orfeo, at the Roundhouse. With Helen.

Wednesday: a gig at the Lexington, near King's Cross. They're running a week-long event - The Line of Best Fit - to showcase up-and-coming acts. Particularly interested in Jagaara.

Thursday: The Magic Hour. A Victorian-style magic show, with spirit messages and everything. I like the look of the venue too - the Grand Royale, a glorious old Victorian hotel near Hyde Park.

After I get back from Ireland, on Monday week, I've booked to go to a play in the only theatre within walking distance of me - the Finborough. The play is called Pig Girl, and the theatre is so small that it's always advisable to book.