Monday, November 30, 2009

At approx 3am last night, I dreamt that Liam Rudden cast me in his pantomime.

And as if this wasn't pleasure enough, he then announced that I would get to sing my all-time favourite song.

I was daunted. But ready. Then I woke up.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

DIY in my house is both sporadic and rudimentary. Unless my dad is visiting.

Sometimes, usually in fact, this rudimentariness is a disadvantage. It means when I try to fix things (which I don't very often as I know I can't), it often doesn't work.

For example, I have embedded in the ceiling of my living room, kitchen and hallway, a series of small lights. At least, they should be embedded. They're obviously nearing the end of their natural shelf life now as over the past few months, they've taken it in turns to come slipping out of their natural casing in the ceiling and dangle unattractively, all bare wires and exposed bulbs in midair.

On numerous occasions, I've dragged chairs about and attempted to stuff them back in place. But without fail, they waited til my back was turned and came slipping out again spiteful and defiant.

It took my father's visit in the festival and clever judicious use of newspaper to reinstate them to their more aesthetically attractive position.

So it was with heavy heart that I returned home one day to find the bulb in the kitchen that isn't blown (but has sat unlit and unused for months - more examples of laziness) dangling out of its socket. I've ignored it for weeks. But home this afternoon in a rare moment of daylight, I thought perhaps it was time to act. A chair, a fiddle, a stuff back up and it was cured. Until my back was turned, chair back in place and I heard the telltale sliding grating and it's slithered out again.

I remember suddenly the newspaper. But all the obvious candidates in my living room are still unread (laziness) so I sift irritably through the heaps of papers and stuffs on my living room table. And here's Wit. The prompt script. Hmm, about lightbulb size. So I seize it up. Chair back in place. Cradle the pesky little light fitting with the script, stuff it back up into the ceiling. And so far, so good.

I figure it's like a millennium capsule. I'll find it in some years time when I have my kitchen ripped out and replaced and it'll be a precious evocative memory. Alternatively, the next occupant will find it when they're ripping out the kitchen and wonder what kind of morbid bitch lived here first.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I saw the most gorgeous little concert two nights ago. It was a Scottish Chamber Orchestra number. What they call their CL@SIX. Classic pieces I suppose at six o'clock. It's a great premise. Potted culture to appeal to the home-going workers. Unfortunately, as is the way with all of my obscure pursuits, the SCO's most honourable intentions were thwarted. The predominant hair colour in the audience was white. With a little dirty blonde mixed in.

But the concert was nonetheless absolutely delightful. My classical music tastes are populist. They live up the standards of no-one that knows anything much. I like a little Bach, love the Queen of Sheba, Zadok and Mozart's death mass. My foray into the obscure extends only as far as Gorecki. And that only his populist third symph. So I can't claim to be any kind of master. Perfect audience then for the CL@SIX.

And I was charmed. We had a little Strauss, a Suite in B Flat. A perky little thing that skipped along but dwelt romantically now and again to make us feel a little bit melancholy. And then a wind serenade from Dvorak. I could pretend I heard the eastern European overtones in his stramping march but I'd probably be lying to myself. Or at least, wouldn't have heard them if the programme notes hadn't told me to.

It took place in St Cuthberts, a church I have never visited and am now glad I did. A lovely venue with beautiful accoustics. I would and will try such a cultural hometime foray again. £12 if you're paying real money for an hour's probable loveliness that makes you feel refined and civilised. On a filthy night such as Tuesday was - or even on a nicer one - this in my book is money well spent.

Monday, November 23, 2009

However, much more importantly, tell me. Mini pumpkins, right??
War Horse was more marvellous than I expected.

Bear in mind that it's a children's story adapted for the stage. So my direst predictions of gloom as the story started unfolding didn't quite come to pass. But caveating my reaction with this suggests I'm belittling it. Which I'm not.

You're almost best not to look at the link above. If you're going to go and see it. As the puppetry is out and out miraculous. Charmingly observed. Ingeniously engineered. The reviews all bleat on about how you don't notice the puppeteers. But you don't.

The goose almost stole the show. Although my heart was captured by the foal. I hardly cared about the adult horse when he stramped onto the stage.

Anyway, eulogy to the puppetry aside, this is a cracking show. A lovely story engagingly told. Brilliantly acted - with only one guy that cousin Alice and I weren't quite sure about. I thought he might be a last minute stand in as his German accent wasn't quite what it might have been. But then he was Irish. Brilliant visual effects. They made very nice use of a raggedy tear in the back cloth thing. And lovely folky music interwoven throughout.

Children in tow or not, go see. And you're in luck as they've just released 300,000 more tickets til October next year. Nice to see the National having such a storming success. They must have taken tips from Antigone...
Well here's an interesting idea. Filmed theatre productions available to download. I'm not wholly convinced. Though obviously I should really watch one to judge for myself.

But the site is apparently the brainchild of "three House men" according to my latest college newsletter. The sort of alumni propaganda I despise. Still, at least it's theatrical.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stupidly excited about going to see War Horse tonight. I'm not even really sure why. Except I'm vaguely remembering some superb Guardian reviews. Hope and pray I am not disappointed.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It was a weekend packed with some things cultural and some things less so.

On Friday, I went to see Michael Jackson: This Is It. Decide for yourselves which category this falls into.

I thought it was a brilliant film. I feel slightly defensive saying this. But I suppose I expected it to be quite terrible. I like MJ as well as the next man but would hardly describe myself as an enormous fan. Though I did sit up beyond my bedtime on his night / day of death. But personal opinion aside, I think it must be acknowledged that he had some talent. I mean, Some Talent with respectful CAPS rather than just a morsel or shred of it.

Anyway, given that they presumably weren’t expecting to have to make anything like a full length film with 8 days to go before his tour actually started, they made a sterling job of cobbling something so impressive together. The dancers are particularly adorably respectful. Given my choice of ‘hobby’, the backstage stuff is interesting. And you’re left in sorry awe (at least, I was) of the man’s talent. He could dance. Should I say, He Could Dance.

Saturday night was the final night of Wit. Hats off to them all for a fine show. And we should have simultaneously raised a sturdy amount of money for a couple of local cancer charities. Art and honour. You could do worse.

On Sunday, I blindly went along to see a film of Russell’s choosing. There aren’t many people that I would do this with. That I would trust enough to choose something that I would like I mean. But he chose well.

It was something called Cold Souls featuring Paul Giamatti and told the curiously charming tale of an actor whose angst was hampering him from playing a real Uncle Vanya. I’m sure it was this also that stood between Bill Phillips and Vanya however many years ago. That, and his antique balalika.

So Paul set off to get his soul put into storage. I look forward to the day when this service is more widely available than the NYC Yellow Pages. I’m sure it won’t be far away. Not that it really helped his acting.

Tuesday saw me switch camera sides for the first time in almost one and a half years and audition. For my friend Mr Neill’s one act play. (No pressure, friend.) I experienced a tiny thrill before pushing open the faithful rehearsal rooms’ front door of being neither director nor President. Footloose and fancy free days.

Thursday, November 12, 2009



What a cracking production.

The subject matter is, shall we say, sombre.

But nonetheless, director David Grimes wrings (nonsense sensationalist reviewer speak - but true) every drop of humour out of the script.

You will find a clutch of really superb performances from some of the group's best female actresses. (Maybe I should say actors - more politically correct?) Hilary is quite astounding. Wendy and Lorraine are quite lovely.

The boys do a pretty fine job too. Tis lovely to see John Kelly back on stage again. Steven is a brilliant Geordie doctor.

And we have some very fine supporting actors who do an incredible job of making the continual scene shifts (and medical business) look seamless.

The extraordinary thing about this particular production is that 'tis done in the round. Which is pretty unusual for a nominally amateur production. Even for a professional production for that matter.

So if all of these other factors bundled together didn't appeal, that should at least whet your appetite.

Go see go see. It's a cracker of a show. Details if they have somehow escaped you are here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I have just been in Riga for x4 days. Very very beautiful but very very cold.

I shall try and post a couple of pics up here at some point.

I read not a single play despite my best intentions to take and study The Tempest. Because I'm frantically and obsessively reading the Stieg Larsson trilogy, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo et al.

I started the first volume on the plane on the way back from Singapore and have been scarcely able to put them down (plays aside obviously) since. I finished the second on the return flight from Riga.

Picked up the third (bless airport ridiculous regulations which don't allow hardbacks in airport bookshops!) at East Midlands airport. And have been quietly obsessing about it since.

I am increasingly realising that I have a terrible obsessive personality.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

And I can hardly raise my arms from all the two day ago punching.
Free free free's a bird.

And very slightly hungover.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Something terrible just happened to me.

I went to the gym. Now I don't usually get as far as the gym on a Tuesday night but if I happen to be free, I might go to a little Beginners Pilates. This mostly consists of laying on the floor and feebly waggling your limbs about while breathing deeply and slowly. Sometimes, even the limb waggling is too much. You just lay there and breathe. But I've never really been inducted into proper pilates technique - if there is such a thing - so I've always avoided the advanced class which starts an hour earlier as I feared inflexible humiliation.

But today, I thought hey let's be wild. I'll try the advanced class. What's the worse that can happen? Well, what, indeed??

Let's just take a minute to look at exactly what pilates is. A definition, stolen from (thanks) as follows:

This is an exercise system that is focused on building strength without bulk, improving flexibility and agility, and helping to prevent injury. It involves a series of controlled movements that engage both your body and mind.

Controlled movements that engage your body and mind.

The first strangeness when I stepped into the class was that no-one was drawing off their socks and shoes and preparing the mat on which they would lay for the next hour. Tremulously I asked a tough-looking girl next to me if we didn't need mats? She said, oh yes, we took them at the end of the class. Fair enough. In Body Balance, we sometimes wildly stand on one leg for a bit. Perhaps this is similar.

The teacher has some kind of savage lively rock-like music on the stereo which is also a bit unusual. I'm more used to whale song or Sting. But that's probably just a pre-class thing, right?

Wrong wrong wrong.

The warm up consists peculiarly of many punches and kicks, springing from foot to foot. Now you won't ever have seen me punch anything. Because I can't really. I have no determination to punch in the first place and so no follow-through. To say I punch like a girl would insult girl-kind. So I'm pranking round like an idiot. Of course everyone knows the proper punching routine so as well as looking ridiculous, I'm several punches behind everyone else so they're all watching me with a fascinated pity. I'm a bit taken aback when she shouts (of one particular punch) "AIM FOR THE CHIN". That doesn't really sound like part of a series of controlled movements that engage both your body and mind.

But it's ok because this is only the warm-up, right? I'll soon come into my own, queen of the cow pose, right?

Wrong wrong wrong.

The whole class is a mad frenzy of punching and kicking. And my, it's very good for developing your muscle tone. My arms now are almost too weak to type. I couldn't quite master the flayling kicks and lunges so my legs aren't in the same quite so pitiful state but I suspect I'll feel it tomorrow.

At last we draw out the mats. A little laying still and breathing? No. Some frantic push-ups and strange revolving stomach crunches. Then at last, the warm-down. A cat stretch. Downward dog. Familiar faithful language at last. Ok, so this must just be the nature of advanced pilates. Fierce and energetic and that's why they recommend six regular sessions of pilates before you embark on this. Fair enough.

Slightly sheepishly, I approach the teacher at the end of the shameful hour. "Was that pilates, then?" She looks at me like I'm insane. "No!" I am utterly confused. "But it's Tuesday, right?" I'm racking my brain to think of any way that it could not be Tuesday, in which case what am I accidentally missing... As she's giving me nothing: "Well, what is it then?" "Body Combat (stupid)" "But I thought..." Realisation dawns. "Oh my god you thought this was pilates." Cue general hilarity. "This, pilates?!! Pilates is downstairs!!!!" Screech screech screech. "I'll know next time...." I slither out of the room.

Now ultimately this is the fault of the floods as I was meant to go to Aberdeen yesterday but didn't on account of the floods. We cancelled it again today for fear of the floods, I'd already got the lovely Heather lined up to replace me prompting tonight and she was keen to see it when I advised her that I could, in fact, attend after all. So I was really forced into the class of shame.

On the plus side, I've always been terrified of Body Combat for - perhaps self-evident - reasons. And now I have conquered it. Beware the terrible whirling fighting dervish if you take me by surprise in the Edinburgh byways and sideways in the dead of night.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Friday night was An Argument About Sex at the Traverse. "A response", the programme suggests (rather pretentiously, I would say) to Marivaux's The Dispute (or whatever it would be in French. La Dispute peut-etre). Well, I would question my response to the play but the set was absolutely outstanding. I would have paid x3 £16 to see that. So a good use of a night.

Saturday night was EUTC's (students. Danger!) 4:48 Psychosis. I love Sarah Kane. You'll know this by now. I love her use of language. I love the bottle of Bulgarian cabernet sauvignon and however many sleeping pills. And the

Watch the stars
predict the past
and change the world with a silver eclipse

It's a delight to listen to. Misery aside. Misery cushioned in lovely language is always more palatable, surely.

Well. Most of this production was unfortunately delivered in a screech. Cast of five. One tormented girl. One psychiatrist. Three millers-about who contributed now and again to proceedings. Holding tormented girl's arms as she yowled and retched through her misery for example.

It was beautifully lit. When they were quiet, it was sometimes effective. There were two nice moments. One - the second countdown from 100. Choked out by tormented girl in a frustrated halftone. Worked very nicely. And two - the exchange towards the end where they imagine what it must be like to be normal. You know, just before she tops herself. Also very nicely done.

But my Bulgarian cabernet sauvignon was flung away. My watching the stars. Well, who knew it was even really there to begin with? And the overall piece was such a groaning wrenching retching squall that it became tiresome.

Andy was there out of love for the play. Poor Gillian. Well, I think she thought it might be a nice night out. Oh well.

Though we had a very nice Viognier in the Hotel du Vin bar subsequently to allay the horror. So it wasn't all bad.

From misery to icy misery. I pitched up to prompt to a poorly heated (heated at all?) church hall at the tail end of the all the rain in the sky falling in one single day Sunday. Still, Wit is in fine form. It's going to be a cracking play. I trust you have bought your tickets?

And in between all of this, reading reading fretfully reading plays. I've made the mistake now of seeking opinion from Others. And of course Others aren't always saying what I dream of hearing (which might, for your information, be "Claire, that's an amazing idea, you're so smart and visionary and imaginative and cool and that script, oh my word if you do that, that will the best thing that the Fringe has ever seen").

I realise now that this is the mistake I make when I try and be democratic.