Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Opera: Satyagraha

Tonight, an opera in Sanskrit..! without subtitles. Satyagraha had its last night at the Coliseum, and is about Gandhi. So I should have been able to figure it out - could do with the Sanskrit scholar from last Tuesday's play! Gosh, it's ages since I've been there.. I only noticed today that I got my ticket from Amazon tickets, soon defunct. Shame - always bad to lose a ticketing venue, not that I went with them that often, but I did sometimes.

Well, you know, first the weather forecast said it'd snow, then it said it wouldn't. It was perfectly fine and snow-free when I left the house this morning. And then at lunchtime..


Well, of course, that was supposed to be the warmest part of the day - so needless to say, what didn't melt immediately - didn't melt at all. By the time I left, much of the pavement was an icy mess. I went very carefully to the bus stop, missing one in the process, and enduring a frigid wait for the next. Never mind, I was in good time anyway - and delighted to see, when I got to the West End, that the incessant footfall there had cleared away pretty much all the ice and snow.

Got to the Coliseum about 10 minutes before showtime. No indication whatsoever where the box office was - I got in a queue, had my bag checked, and asked. She waved vaguely to my left, and said that if I had a confirmation email with the seat number on it, that'd do just as well. Yeah - maybe not from a second-hand vendor! Took me about five minutes to find the discreet box office - happily, I squeezed in to a gap in the queue, so wasn't queueing for long at all. Now with five minutes to go, I said sod it to the energetic option of the stairs - the Coliseum is a very tall building, and I was in the top level! I pressed the button for the lift. It's a small one, but only one couple already in it, headed for the Dress Circle (two levels below me). And a lift operator, whom I asked for the Balcony - I explained to her that, had I been earlier, I'd have taken the stairs, and she agreed that very definitely I'd done the right thing! Turns out there are 93 steps.. yep, sounds about right. I seem to recall a Tube station with a warning on its emergency stairs that there are 93 steps, only to be used in an emergency..

Happily, I emerged on Balcony level and found my seat - carefully chosen on the basis of me being able to get to it! The Coliseum is notorious, in my experience, for lack of handrails and for very long drops from step to step - I've seen people stumble on them before. Anyway, I'd chosen a seat that was accessible from the side (which has a handrail), and from the side I entered and took my seat, all relaxed and prepared for an enjoyable evening. As I say, it's ages since I've been here, and gosh, it's gorgeous:

 

I've been threatened with a cold the last while, and was rather worried that a cough would disturb the evening. Well, I uttered a slight one or two - and a sniffle - but despite the look from the person beside me, I was quite ok. The seat to my other side was free, which was handy for leaving my stuff on.

I watched the start with anticipation - it's so long since I've been to the opera! Gorgeous score, I must say. We started with a fellow in glasses and a suit - Gandhi, I guess - who sang away while reading a book. After a while, I realised there were captions on the back wall of the stage - in English! Ah here now, I was never told this - so basically, they eschewed the surtitles, which are designed for the purpose, in favour of projected captions (not describing the script verbatim, but giving the gist). Problem was - in the Balcony, we couldn't see them!! What a terrible production decision. We only ever got the bottom line or two.

So, because I saw the name Krishna, and some mention of an epic battle, I concluded that we started with a battle involving Krishna. (Some very clever things were done with newspapers, I must say.) And I guessed that this was linked, symbolically, to Gandhi's decision to reject the Western world in favour of India. Then Tolstoy came into it. (?!) Turns out they were penpals - well, I never. Not that I found that out until I got home. The action moved to Tolstoy's farm..? Turns out (again, just looked it up now) that Gandhi implemented his theories on a "farm" that one of his associates called a "Tolstoy farm". Well, gee.

So then, they took a vow.. of what, I don't know, because all I saw on the captions was "The Vow". And a set of coathangers descended from the ceiling, so they could hang their outer garments on them. (Some went back empty - does that mean that not everybody on stage was committed?) That's as much as happened up to the (first?) interval.

Oh, and it happened very, very slowly. Really, you could go to sleep for five minutes during this and not miss a single thing. Indeed, they'd still be singing the same song. They even walked very, very slowly around the stage. Jeez, a fellow (Lord knows who) was climbing a set of three steps at one point - and the suspense as we wondered whether he'd ever get to the top! Dunno why he was doing it - he probably forgot on the way up, himself. Me, at the interval I figured I'd better leave before I started to get annoyed. I did feel energetic enough to walk all the way back down.

Anyway, it was good to get home early, on such a bitter night. On the way to the stop, I passed a soup kitchen with an enormous queue - literally livesavers, on a night like this. Me, I shivered until my bus came - got off just around the corner from home, and oh dear, I wasn't in the West End any more! So I made my way very gingerly along the pavement to get back in, where I picked up my Yaktrax before heading to Tesco. Wouldn't be without them, they're invaluable. Think I may have to bring them everywhere with me for the rest of the week!


Tomorrow, Summer and Smoke (Tennessee Williams) at the Almeida. Does include actual cigarette smoke, and a gunshot. North London Friends are going, but I'm going independently. Sold out now.. and I can walk there. With Yaktrax - it's not even supposed to get as warm as freezing tomorrow, so I suspect the pavements won't improve.

On Thursday, back with Up in the Cheap Seats - and Meetup - at the Bridge Theatre, for what I hear is a stunning performance of Julius Caesar. You get the choice of being part of the crowd - I'm not. Modern setting.

On Friday, Helen's in town, so we're headed for lunch, somewhere TBD. In the evening, back with North London Friends, at Hampstead Theatre, for Acceptance.

On Saturday, Up in the Cheap Seats, and Beginning, at the Ambassadors Theatre. For once, not an official ticket for this - got better value with What's on Stage!

On Sunday, I found another Southwark tour - excellent! The "Family Friendly Liberty of the Clink" tour is run by Walking in London.. therefore Funzing.. and Londonist is involved somewhere too. Hard to keep track of everyone involved in walks. The standard code (crazy_fun) is still giving 10% off on Funzing's website. Hope the weather's warmed up by then..

On Monday, London European Club is headed to Monologue Slam, an actors' showcase at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.

Next Tuesday, Up in the Cheap Seats is at Sadler's Wells for a performance by Ballet British Colombia.

On the 7th, Let's Do This is off to a jazz evening at Two Temple Place. Beautiful venue - should be a lovely evening.

On the 8th, Walking Victorian London is running a walk around Il Quartiere - Tales from Italian Clerkenwell. Excellent - I've had my eye on that for a while. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again.

And on the 12th, London Dramatic Arts is at Caroline, or Change, at Hampstead Theatre. As usual, too expensive for me, and I got my own ticket, at about half the price. She's only going with one unnamed guest - maybe she won't go at all!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Concert: Jake Bugg

Tonight, I booked to see Jake Bugg at the Palladium (yes, another that used to be walking distance..) Honestly, I'd never heard of him, but he sounded ok on YouTube.

After a bitter weekend, I headed back here for the arrival of the Beast from the East. Couldn't believe it when I looked out the window this morning to see lying snow - so rare in central London! The roads were clear, at least. But OMG it's cold - never got above a couple of degrees all day. So I wrapped up really well - was still frozen heading for the bus, which made it very vexing that one passed as I waited to cross. Only a few minutes to the next, but I was so glad when it came. Ironically, I got off one stop early - there was some confusion, owing to the driver stopping before the stop, and again at it, and I was facing backwards, so couldn't see what was happening. Never mind, the extra walk wasn't too cold - despite the fact that it was snowing again - and I did grab a paper en route.


Some confusion when I arrived - a huge crowd trying to get in, and one valiant usher, standing on the front steps, bellowing - something. Full marks (and a round of applause) for effort, zero for comprehensibility. Finally, someone said something that made sense - people in the stalls were queueing to the left, those of us in the Upper Circle just to the left of them again, and entering between the two lit signs. So I got in without too much hassle - ticket on my phone, mercifully; I just had to enlarge it, so they could zap the barcode.

Straight up to the bar, then - and I was to be glad I had a paper, considering that, while all we'd been told in advance was that doors were at 7, it turned out that the house wouldn't even open until closer to 7.30, support was at 8, and Jake himself from 9 to 10.15. A short set, I mused - well, I'm more used to big acts that go on for over two hours. But they have bigger back catalogues, of course.

Got a rather decent pinot grigio while I waited - and I was to be glad, afterwards, that I stood in the bar for as long as I did. When the house opened, I went in - delighted to see mini railings, in the style of the Opera House, that meant I could reach the front row without difficulty. Unfortunately, although my seat was comfy, the legroom was a bit of a squeeze - particularly after hours of sitting there. And a double rail in front of me obscured the view a bit - but not much, as I could peer between the rails.



So. Our first act was a pleasant young lass called Georgie, who entertained us for something under an hour. And then Jake came on, without much fanfare, and entertained us for, actually, an hour and a half, I think. A fellow to swap his guitars and bring him drinks - and adjust the mic when he decided, near the end, that he'd rather stand. Nobody else on stage with him.

As I remarked to the usher on the way out, I'd never before heard of him, and was quite impressed. (Turned out she'd never heard of him, either.) He has some of the catchiest melodies I've heard, which made the evening a real pleasure - really clever lyrics, too. Actually, he's got something really good. His most unique feature, however - and I don't think even his die-hard fans would argue with this - is his voice. He has a normal speaking voice - but when he sings, he has a voice that is the incarnation of Elmer Fudd..

So, I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy the albums. But hey, the late, great Leonard Cohen - whose Suzanne was played as we waited for him to come on, and was one of my highlights - had the voice of a frog, so it's hardly fatal. Certainly, a fairly packed house was adoring.. and took the opportunity, at every lull between songs, to yell "We love you, Jake!" Yeah, I think he got the message after the first dozen or so times. Towards the end, as he started to take requests, they switched to yelling song titles. And it was lovely, finally, to see people in the stalls start to get up and jive to the music - I believe Two Fingers, the only one I knew in advance, was the one to start that off! Nice, too, to have a proper fan beside me - she obviously had her favourites. Yeah, I'd happily go to see this guy again - he knows how to work a room, and he has the material.

Cold, cold, cold on the way home - it's years since I could feel pinpricks all over when I got in and started defrosting. Thank goodness, I was just in time for Tesco. Wrapping up again for the rest of the week, methinks. Tomorrow, an opera in Sanskrit..! without subtitles. Satyagraha is at the Coliseum, and is about Gandhi. So I should figure it out - could do with the Sanskrit scholar from last Tuesday's play! Gosh, it's ages since I've been there..

On Wednesday, Summer and Smoke (Tennessee Williams) at the Almeida. Does include actual cigarette smoke, and a gunshot. North London Friends are going, but I'm going independently. Sold out now..

On Thursday, back with Up in the Cheap Seats - and Meetup - at the Bridge Theatre, for what I hear is a stunning performance of Julius Caesar. You get the choice of being part of the crowd - I'm not. Modern setting.

On Friday, back with North London Friends, at Hampstead Theatre, for Acceptance.

On Saturday, Up in the Cheap Seats, and Beginning, at the Ambassadors Theatre. For once, not an official ticket for this - got better value with What's on Stage!

On Sunday, I found another Southwark tour - excellent! The "Family Friendly Liberty of the Clink" tour is run by Walking in London.. therefore Funzing.. and Londonist is involved somewhere too. Hard to keep track of everyone involved in walks. The standard code (crazy_fun) is still giving 10% off on Funzing's website.

Next Monday, London European Club is headed to Monologue Slam, an actors' showcase at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.

On the 6th, Up in the Cheap Seats is at Sadler's Wells for a performance by Ballet British Colombia.

On the 7th, Let's Do This is off to a jazz evening at Two Temple Place. Beautiful venue - should be a lovely evening.

On the 8th, Walking Victorian London is running a walk around Il Quartiere - Tales from Italian Clerkenwell. Excellent - I've had my eye on that for a while. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again.

And on the 12th, London Dramatic Arts is at Caroline, or Change, at Hampstead Theatre. As usual, too expensive for me, and I got my own ticket, at about half the price. She's only going with one unnamed guest - maybe she won't go at all!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Dance: Beats on Pointe

Tonight, Up in the Cheap Seats again, for Beats on Pointe - my last Meetup of the month. Unfortunately, this is in the Peacock, rather than the closer Sadler's Wells. Either bus from the local stop would get me there, and mercifully, I didn't have to wait long - the Beast from the East is really starting to bite, and tonight had a deep cold, that penetrated right through my winter coat to my bones. Wherever the wind blows, you freeze.. and the wind is blowing constantly. I took the opportunity before the show to check the Hotel Chocolat in Monmouth Street, where I'd got my free sample of salted caramel hot chocolate on Sunday, and where I thought my best chance might be of getting some to buy. Sadly not - I ended up ordering it online, just before the show.



A wiggly walk, and a cold one, to the theatre then - and was I glad when I ended up down alleys, sheltered from that wind. Holding my phone, for directions, my hand was completely frozen by the time I got in - took several minutes to get back to normal. We met in the foyer to start, and at the end - in the stalls bar at the interval, the level where most of us were sat. Rear stalls for me - but it's one of those theatres where you don't have to worry about the view. My seat was at the end of a row, and jutted out anyway - so, unlimited legroom and nobody's head in my way!



From free fliers distributed in the lobby beforehand, we discovered that this group, Masters of Choreography, is Australian. We marvelled - at the interval, and afterwards, at their sheer energy, Energiser bunnies that they were: why move casually, when you can fling yourself across the stage? and at their numerous costume changes! Tutus aplenty, hip-hop-style outfits - some with sequins, some with LED lights. This, you see, is a mixture of hip-hop and ballet..

..and it's primarily aimed at kids. I had to wince when they started coming into the audience to get volunteers - they just got one, who wasn't required to do much. The dance experts among us remarked after that the dancing, well, isn't that good. A lot of it is played for comedy anyway. The first half is primarily hip-hop, the second more balanced - but I will say that it's energetic, it's fun, and hell, I was just glad to hear some music - I usually listen to music on headphones while I'm working, but they're currently broken, and the best I can do is white noise! Listening to it this evening, I realised what I'd been missing. Mind you, as they also remarked, a lot of the hip-hop music is quite old - think 30 years or so! But then, that's when it flourished.. me, I relished hearing a lot of this stuff. Sheer highlight of the night for me - Lose Yourself, of which a snippet was played during one set piece. Sod the dancing, that was the bit I loved.. runs till Saturday. Apparently the upper level was nearly empty, tonight..

It was fun afterwards, to see the two organisers present divvying up the new season shows between them! Afterwards, as predicted, straight home - mercifully, the bus came straight away. Tomorrow, I'm back to Ireland for the weekend - better wrap up!

On Monday, I'm off to see Jake Bugg at the Palladium (yes, another that used to be walking distance..) Honestly, I'd never heard of him, but he sounded ok on YouTube.

On Tuesday, an opera in Sanskrit..! without subtitles. Satyagraha is at the Coliseum, and is about Gandhi. So I should figure it out - could do with the Sanskrit scholar from Tuesday's play! Gosh, it's ages since I've been there..

On Wednesday, Summer and Smoke (Tennessee Williams) at the Almeida. Does include actual cigarette smoke, and a gunshot. North London Friends are going, but I'm going independently. Sold out now..

Next Thursday, back with Up in the Cheap Seats - and Meetup - at the Bridge Theatre, for what I hear is a stunning performance of Julius Caesar. You get the choice of being part of the crowd - I'm not. Modern setting.

On the 2nd, back with North London Friends, at Hampstead Theatre, for Acceptance.

On the 3rd, Up in the Cheap Seats, and Beginning, at the Ambassadors Theatre. For once, not an official ticket for this - got better value with What's on Stage!

On the 4th, I found another Southwark tour - excellent! The "Family Friendly Liberty of the Clink" tour is run by Walking in London.. therefore Funzing.. and Londonist is involved somewhere too. Hard to keep track of everyone involved in walks. The standard code (crazy_fun) is still giving 10% off on Funzing's website.

On the 5th, London European Club is headed to Monologue Slam, an actors' showcase at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.

On the 6th, Up in the Cheap Seats is at Sadler's Wells for a performance by Ballet British Colombia.

On the 7th, Let's Do This is off to a jazz evening at Two Temple Place. Beautiful venue - should be a lovely evening.

On the 8th, Walking Victorian London is running a walk around Il Quartiere - Tales from Italian Clerkenwell. Excellent - I've had my eye on that for a while. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again.

And on the 12th, London Dramatic Arts is at Caroline, or Change, at Hampstead Theatre. As usual, too expensive for me, and I got my own ticket, at about half the price. She's only going with one unnamed guest - maybe she won't go at all!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Play: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Tonight, Up in the Cheap Seats headed to Picnic at Hanging Rock (organised by the guy I met on Monday) - nice and close, in the Barbican. I remember this as quite a disturbing film - was interested to see the stage version. Was also interested to see how it would compares to last night's production, in the way it treats the theme of delicately brought-up young ladies, overwhelmed by the power of natural forces in the wilderness.. I thought I'd pop into the local Hotel Chocolat on the way, see whether they had that caramel hot chocolate that was so nice on Sunday, and I made the mistake of telling my mother about..

Left in good time, and could walk everywhere:



Sadly, this Hotel Chocolat didn't have what I want either! The search continues. And I didn't get a free choccie here. Anyway, for now, I was off to the Barbican - weird, approaching from the other side of Silk Street, but I found my way!

I'd had to read the arrangement email twice to get the meeting location - "side of the bar" on Level -1. It was only on the second read that I got the fact that it was Level -1, not Level 1 - that is where the box office is, and is also the entrance to the theatre stalls, so it made sense. I don't blame the three people who mistook it though, and were waiting upstairs.. Meantime, downstairs, I did a circuit of the bar and ran into someone who had to collect his ticket. And then we hung out at the side of the bar, until our organiser came and got us, and took us to the side of the adjacent cafe, where some others had gathered..

So we hung out there until it was time to go in. My e-ticket - which could be displayed on my phone - was unfortunately quite tiny, and could only be fully seen by zooming out even further! Happily, the usher who showed me in had good eyesight. And took so much trouble over it that he clean forgot to check my bag! So I climbed up some stairs, and down some more, to my seat in the prow of the Upper Circle. Where you have plenty of room, and are nice and snug, in that corner all on your own - but there is an annoying rail right in your eyeline. And I did miss a little of the action, right to my near side:



And so to the play - 90 minutes without interval. Almost as bare a stage as last night, tonight's did include a potted plant on a stand, and two deckchairs. And a cane, although it's not really used to effect. The story actually pretty closely follows the plot of the film, despite some saying afterwards that they didn't remember this or that (well, it was a long time ago) - on St. Valentine's Day, 1900, a group of young ladies from a refined Australian boarding school take an outing to the local landmark of Hanging Rock, where there is a picnic. It's a hot day - that's summer, in the Antipodes - but while most slumber afterwards, a small group decide to explore the rock further. Some never return..

It starts as narration - five young women perform the whole thing, switching from one part to another, usually with a costume change. The costumes in general, while school uniforms, are modern-day ones, not from 1900 - although one costume from 1900 does make it in eventually. And one man's costume, which helps with identification.

After the exposition, when the girls head on their last, fateful journey up the rock, things start to get weird. Different chapters are introduced by surtitles, punctuated by darkness, which is when people come on and off, and props get moved. Actually, I think they do a great job of reproducing the sense of disorientation that I felt from the film - and all of this from an almost empty stage! I loved the sheer sense of unnerve, unsure of what on earth will happen on stage every time the lights come up, as the sense of civilisation collapses. Recommended, if you love the film. Runs till Saturday.

Afterwards, most felt they had to rush off, for one reason or another - despite quite an early finish! Just the one stayed, and we kept each other company for an hour or so, chatting, and musing on why this group - of all that we go to - is so disinclined to socialise afterwards. It's not unheard of - but frankly, it's unusual. Of the 36 Meetups I've been to with them so far, in only nine of those cases did we go for drinks afterwards: and on three of those nine occasions, the organiser didn't join us! Up to them, of course - but not typical of other groups that I'm in, and I do think it's a crying shame. Standing around discussing the evening is all very well - but wouldn't it be rather nicer to sit..? You might ask why I don't host my own - frankly, I don't have the time: and frequently, the energy - to do it as I would like to see it done.. the Man with the Hat has spoiled me for that, and I wouldn't like to do anything inferior to his.

Tomorrow, Up in the Cheap Seats again, for Beats on Pointe. Unfortunately, this is in the Peacock, rather than the closer Sadler's Wells. I suspect it won't be a late night - another we're unlikely to be drinking after. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.

On Monday, I'm off to see Jake Bugg at the Palladium (yes, another that used to be walking distance..) Honestly, I'd never heard of him, but he sounded ok on YouTube.

On Tuesday, an opera in Sanskrit..! without subtitles. Satyagraha is at the Coliseum, and is about Gandhi. So I should figure it out - could do with the Sanskrit scholar from last night's play! Gosh, it's ages since I've been there..

Next Wednesday, Summer and Smoke (Tennessee Williams) at the Almeida. Does include actual cigarette smoke, and a gunshot. North London Friends are going, but I'm going independently. Limited seats available..

On the 1st, back with Up in the Cheap Seats at the Bridge Theatre, for what I hear is a stunning performance of Julius Caesar. You get the choice of being part of the crowd - I'm not. Modern setting.

On the 2nd, back with North London Friends, at Hampstead Theatre, for Acceptance.

On the 3rd, Up in the Cheap Seats, and Beginning, at the Ambassadors Theatre. For once, not an official ticket for this - got better value with What's on Stage!

On the 4th, I found another Southwark tour - excellent! The "Family Friendly Liberty of the Clink" tour is run by Walking in London.. therefore Funzing.. and Londonist is involved somewhere too. Hard to keep track of everyone involved in walks. The standard code (crazy_fun) is still giving 10% off on Funzing's website.

On the 5th, London European Club is headed to Monologue Slam, an actors' showcase at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.

On the 6th, Up in the Cheap Seats is at Sadler's Wells for a performance by Ballet British Colombia.

On the 7th, Let's Do This is off to a jazz evening at Two Temple Place. Beautiful venue - should be a lovely evening.

On the 8th, Walking Victorian London is running a walk around Il Quartiere - Tales from Italian Clerkenwell. Excellent - I've had my eye on that for a while. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again.

And on the 12th, London Dramatic Arts is at Caroline, or Change, at Hampstead Theatre. As usual, too expensive for me, and I got my own ticket, at about half the price. She's only  going with one unnamed guest - maybe she won't go at all!

Play: A Passage to India

Last night, I was back with North London Friends for A Passage to India, at the Park. Last time I was with them, someone asked me whether I was coming to this, and I said no.. it's hard to keep track, though! A couple of them were meeting in My Cottage Cafe, next door, beforehand, but that would've been too close for me, so I just aimed to meet half an hour beforehand, at the box office, as they arranged.

Two buses - the first was early, the second arrived before I had time to check when it was due! Both crammed like sardines, but I was lucky enough to get a seat. Remembered the way to the theatre - the upshot was that I was there early, in time to have a glass of wine, so cold it was painful to hold! Now, I've only been with this group once before, so couldn't remember faces, really - luckily, one of them recognised me, so I did find the group - and the lady with my ticket. And when the guy who'd spotted me offered me a nut, well, that set off a yen for them, and I bought my own packet, which I'd nearly finished by the time we went in.



The lobby was crammed, as usual - and the house, when we went in, seemed to be full. We were to the front of the stalls - woe betide you if you stepped on the stage to get to your seat, though! Now, I saw this as a film, years and years ago, and remembered the story as follows: a rather ditzy English woman arrives in India to visit her fiancĂ© (Nigel Havers), who works there. She's desperate to know more about the country, despite his contempt for it. She's accompanied by his mother (Dame Peggy Ashcroft), a much more amenable character, who's fascinated by the country as much as she is. They're facilitated in their desire to meet the locals by their friend, a member of the local ex-pat community (James Fox), who introduces them to a respectable local Indian doctor (Victor Banerjee), his friends played by Art Malik and Saeed Jaffrey - and to a local Hindu holy man, Sir Alec Guinness. However, the mixing of the cultures isn't going to be as easy as all that - there's a mishap on an outing, the young English lady is flustered, and the poor doctor gets the blame. Directed by David Lean, this was a massive, big-budget, sumptuous production - Event Cinema, you might say!

This stage production couldn't be more different. For a start, it's one of those bare stage plays - props are restricted to a few packing crates, a set of bamboo poles, and some screens hung from an overhead rail. Really, you have to see how they create an elephant - the bored schoolgirl, part of a group to the side, finally perked up at that point! Not just that - the play involves a train, caves, a palace, a courtroom.. I always love the ingenuity brought to a bare stage. Most of the characters also play multiple roles, with an enthusiasm I couldn't fault.

The play, it turns out, is also based more on the original novel than on the film - while the film focuses on the fallout from this outing, the book carries on to tell us what happened in the years following. And so does the play - with a much more mystical bent! I was hugely impressed with how effectively they manage to convey the various scenes and settings - I found myself immersed in what is a very powerful piece. Awesome stuff - highly recommended. Booking until the 24th of next month - advance booking also recommended.

Afterwards, some of us went for drinks - and now I know of an alternative to the theatre bar! Just around the corner is a cosy wine bar called Oak - we got a table and some very good wine, and stayed chatting for quite a while; they seemed in no hurry to kick us out. They do music events on Sundays, too - a very pleasant place, and a good choice for evenings at the Park. All in all, a lovely evening was had! even if I did get home too late to blog, what with having to be in early today - for a meeting that, as usual, didn't happen. Oh, and the bus journey was eventful - I'd just missed one, and as I was shivering, waiting for the next (reduced services at that time of night), there was a car crash practically right beside me! A taxi was shooting down the bus lane, and couldn't brake in time to avoid the car that turned to cross the lane without looking. Then, when I did get the bus, the driver - who had a fairly deserted road - was going so fast that he overshot my stop and I had to walk back from the next..

Tonight, Up in the Cheap Seats is headed to Picnic at Hanging Rock (organised by the guy I met on Monday) - nice and close, in the Barbican. I remember this as quite a disturbing film - will be interested to see the stage version. Will also be interested to see how it compares to last night's production, in the way it treats the theme of delicately brought-up young ladies, overwhelmed by the power of natural forces in the wilderness.. Oh, and I'd better pop into the local Hotel Chocolat on the way, see whether they have that caramel hot chocolate that was so nice on Sunday, and I made the mistake of telling my mother about..

On Thursday, Up in the Cheap Seats again, for Beats on Pointe. Unfortunately, this is in the Peacock, rather than the closer Sadler's Wells. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.

On Monday, I'm off to see Jake Bugg at the Palladium (yes, another that used to be walking distance..) Honestly, I'd never heard of him, but he sounded ok on YouTube.

On Tuesday, an opera in Sanskrit..! without subtitles. Satyagraha is at the Coliseum, and is about Gandhi. So I should figure it out - could do with the Sanskrit scholar from last night's play! Gosh, it's ages since I've been there..

Next Wednesday, Summer and Smoke (Tennessee Williams) at the Almeida. Does include actual cigarette smoke, and a gunshot. North London Friends are going, but I'm going independently. Limited seats available..

On the 1st, back with Up in the Cheap Seats at the Bridge Theatre, for what I hear is a stunning performance of Julius Caesar. You get the choice of being part of the crowd - I'm not. Modern setting.

On the 2nd, back with North London Friends, at Hampstead Theatre, for Acceptance.

On the 3rd, Up in the Cheap Seats, and Beginning, at the Ambassadors Theatre. For once, not an official ticket for this - got better value with What's on Stage!

On the 4th, I found another Southwark tour - excellent! The "Family Friendly Liberty of the Clink" tour is run by Walking in London.. therefore Funzing.. and Londonist is involved somewhere too. Hard to keep track of everyone involved in walks.

On the 5th, London European Club is headed to Monologue Slam, an actors' showcase at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.

On the 6th, Up in the Cheap Seats is at Sadler's Wells for a performance by Ballet British Colombia.

On the 7th, Let's Do This is off to a jazz evening at Two Temple Place. Beautiful venue - should be a lovely evening.

On the 8th, Walking Victorian London is running a walk around Il Quartiere - Tales from Italian Clerkenwell. Excellent - I've had my eye on that for a while. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again.

And on the 12th, London Dramatic Arts is at Caroline, or Change, at Hampstead Theatre. As usual, too expensive for me, and I got my own ticket, at about half the price. She's only  going with one unnamed guest - maybe she won't go at all!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Showstopper! the Improvised Musical

Tonight, I was back to Showstopper! at the Lyric. (Durnit, another I could've walked to, last year!) No problem seeing this more than once, they base every night's show on audience suggestions (roughly), so it is a different show every night.. During the day, I was surprised to get a message from an Up in the Cheap Seats organiser, who had some cheap tickets going for.. the same thing! I think I know where he gets these. Anyway, nuts, but I had already bought a ticket, months ago, for a lot more money - these deals tend to be last-minute seat-fillers. Never mind, when I said I was going too, he said they were meeting in The Theatre Cafe beforehand, and I was welcome to join them.

I headed out a bit early - after tales of the delish salted caramel hot chocolate I got in Hotel Chocolat yesterday, my mother wants some: and there's a branch not far from there. I just managed to jump on the back of a #55 - now, this is a Routemaster, so you can enter by any of three doors, and I ended up at the rear, and since it was crowded, that's where I stayed. So I got a good view of fare-dodgers; there were a few, it's easy enough on a bus as crowded as this was. And there was a guy who sat on the rear steps, waving at a cyclist coming along behind us! Finally, by sign language and lipreading, they agreed that he'd get off at the next stop, and the guy got off his bike, and they walked along together. Obviously a chance meeting of friends - good timing there.

Once I got off, it was a short walk to Hotel Chocolat, where I browsed - found two kinds of hot chocolate, but not the one I wanted. I was just about to leave when she came over with  a tray of their "flavour of the month" (champagne truffle, and Lordy I had loads of them yesterday). So I thanked her, took one, and left - to the sound of her murmuring to her colleague, "Thought so!" Ah well, tough.



The Theatre Cafe was another short walk - no sign of the guy I know when I walked in, but I was early. So I queued, and ordered a hot chocolate and a slice of chocolate fudge cake. The cake that had been on display seemed to have expired, because they opened another for me - and by the time that was done, and the hot chocolate was ready, all those people in the queue in front of me had occupied all the tables. So I needs must eat my cake standing by the ticket desk - they sell theatre tickets here too, you know! Great atmosphere, actually, with showtunes playing in the background, and walls lined with theatre posters. Pity I can't say the same for the seating space - or the food; the hot chocolate was ok, except there was so much cream on top that I spent a very long time just gobbling that up: and the fudge cake.. wasn't fudgy. It was a completely different one to the one they'd had out previously, and I do wonder whether it was the right flavour at all - not very tasty anyway. If I'm here again, I think I'll just have a cold drink!

After the cake, and just as I was getting to the bottom of the cream on top of the hot chocolate, I got talking to a lady who turned out to be one of the takers of yer man's spare tickets! She was of the opinion that he was never late - I was able to tell her that he has been known to be. We grabbed the "Reserved" table by the door - as she said, if they came, we could move. As the minutes passed, we tried to get in contact with him, to no avail - finally, 10 minutes before showtime, he panted in the door! Turned out that his train had been stuck for half an hour, for which conflicting reasons were given - otherwise he'd have been early. Well, London can be a nightmare that way..

I'd just finished my drink - leaving a sludge of mini-marshmallows in the bottom - so we left, making our way along the line of theatres to the one we wanted. They were a level below me, would you believe, with their cheapy tickets.. anyway, I was in the front row of the Upper Circle, threadbare carpet leading up to it, and the view was just fine - not as much trouble descending the stairs to it as I had in the Theatre Royal Haymarket, last week! Again, I was on the aisle, so plenty of room, both for my legs and whatever else I had. Whatever they call the level above me, I don't think it was occupied.


I'm continually amazed by the ingenuity of the Showstopper! team. As I remarked, what a party trick - to be able to sing, on demand, a song about anything, in any specified musical style. Not to mention, for this show, putting it all together in some sort of coherent story! The chap with the spare tickets tonight has been to several of these, and has some interesting stories to tell - me, I've only been once before.

I more or less remembered the format - the mc takes suggestions for a setting from the crowd, writes down about six, then the audience gets to vote on them, by cheering. Tonight's winner.. a botox clinic! When asked to choose a title, someone in the front stalls piped up "Frozen"! Ah well now, you couldn't beat that - no argument, that person got a souvenir mug. Then we had to suggest famous musicals in the style of which the show was to be performed - a varied set indeed, of which the mc picked four - and I have to say, my favourite of the styles was "Hamilton".. just a shame it's almost impossible to get tickets for.

The performances are excellent, but as I say, their main talent lies in the ability to come up with lyrics on the spot - as the guy with the spare tickets pointed out, likely the tunes stay much the same from night to night. The mc sits over the side, hurling orders for style changes. Costumes are cobbled together as appropriate, props can be used for - whatever.

As we came to the interval, we were asked to tweet ideas for the second half, for an opening number, and for plot twists. And so to a rather spectacular Upper Circle bar! Much nicer, I believe, than the Dress Circle one, downstairs:


The man with the tickets was kind enough to pop up and keep me company, for a while. And in the second half, we got Phantom of the Opera (unilaterally agreed to be the best bit), Swan Lake, Disneyland, and Tom Cruise, in a near-perpetual state of jogging. Oh, and a great running gag about a cryogenic machine that immediately freezes anyone passing through it.. Always recommended, check this show out.

Tomorrow, I'm back with North London Friends for A Passage to India, at the Park. Last time I was with them, someone asked me whether I was coming to this, and I said no.. it's hard to keep track, though!

On Wednesday, Up in the Cheap Seats is headed to Picnic at Hanging Rock (organised by the guy I met tonight) - nice and close, in the Barbican. I remember this as quite a disturbing film - will be interested to see the stage version.

On Thursday, Up in the Cheap Seats again, for Beats on Pointe. Unfortunately, this is in the Peacock, rather than the closer Sadler's Wells. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend.

Next Monday, I'm off to see Jake Bugg at the Palladium (yes, another that used to be walking distance..) Honestly, I'd never heard of him, but he sounded ok on YouTube.

On the 27th, an opera in Sanskrit..! without subtitles. Satyagraha is at the Coliseum, and is about Gandhi. So I should figure it out. Gosh, it's ages since I've been there..

On the 28th, Summer and Smoke (Tennessee Williams) at the Almeida. Does include actual cigarette smoke, and a gunshot. North London Friends are going, but charging extra, so I'm going solo. Performance sold out now..

On the 1st, back with Up in the Cheap Seats at the Bridge Theatre, for what I hear is a stunning performance of Julius Caesar. You get the choice of being part of the crowd - I'm not. Modern setting.

On the 2nd, back with North London Friends, at Hampstead Theatre, for Acceptance.

On the 3rd, Up in the Cheap Seats, and Beginning, at the Ambassadors Theatre. For once, not an official ticket for this - got better value with What's on Stage!

On the 4th, I found another Southwark tour - excellent! The "Family Friendly Liberty of the Clink" tour is run by Walking in London.. therefore Funzing.. and Londonist is involved somewhere too. Hard to keep track of everyone involved in walks.

On the 5th, London European Club is headed to Monologue Slam, an actors' showcase at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East.

On the 6th, Up in the Cheap Seats is at Sadler's Wells for a performance by Ballet British Colombia.

On the 7th, Let's Do This is off to a jazz evening at Two Temple Place. Beautiful venue - should be a lovely evening.

On the 8th, Walking Victorian London is running a walk around Il Quartiere - Tales from Italian Clerkenwell. Excellent - I've had my eye on that for a while. Then I'm back to Ireland for the weekend again.

And on the 12th, London Dramatic Arts is at Caroline, or Change, at Hampstead Theatre. As usual, too expensive for me, and I got my own ticket, at about half the price. She's only down as going with one unnamed guest - maybe she won't go at all!