Friday, December 30, 2011

Indolence appears to agree with me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The weight of expectation was bundled round my shoulders for this one. Father had travelled to London for the day. Aunt (who is a much less frequent theatre-goer, i.e. a Normal Person) travelled to London specifically For The Show. So - o god - please let them like it. I sat tense in our (restricted view so cheaper) seats, craning to hear whether or not they were laughing throughout.

In fact, the restricted access was hardly restricted at all. Aunt probably fared worst as she had the (thin) bar more or less in her sightline. I was on the far edge of the restriction so had the tailend of the thin bar that scarce impeded anything. A positive luxury in comparison to The Man With The Fattest Head In The World behind whom I was (much more expensively) seated for Jerusalem. These scarcely impeded seats cost £20 each. Jerusalem stalls behind Fat Head: £52.50. Each.

Anyway, the show was fun. It's a play about a rep company doing a play. First act is the tech. Then you see a performance but the set's been spun round and you're now backstage. Final act is a performance from the front, weeks into the tour as it's all collapsing around their ears.

I should read into it but I'm presuming it was written at about the time that he wrote Audience, as part of his tussling with theatrical conventions phase. It's a very smart script. Very funny when it's done well. And this production was done execedingly well. But ultimately, it is only a story about a bunch of people doing a play. It's impressive as a feat of choreography and impeccable timing but it doesn't leave you doing much soul searching.

But - I'd seen it before. EPT did it years ago. Lorna was an excellent flightly young actress who ran around in her pants mostly. And I suspect this sort of play doesn't stand up to repeat viewings terribly well. And I had seen Jerusalem only one day before.

Continuing the downward slide, I saw - and I'm almost ashamed to admit it - Legally Blonde on Friday night. After dire warnings from Father - "mind you, the dogs are good" - I expected to hate it. And sat frozen with disdain in my seat surrounded by chattering sequinned girls for most fo the first half. The charm of the lead girl - the Renée character - almost won me round. Until the final absurdly sexist, quasi-homophobic throes of the plot were vomitted up onto the stage. OMG indeed. Father was right. The dogs were good.

(Though the bulldog was so fat with the treats hand-fed by every cast member that laid hands on him (cue surreptitious wiping of hands on dress by 'Renée' after it had slavered vilely on her) that he could scarcely be lifted and looked rather as if he might burst. Perhaps an actor's life does not agree with this one.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Now, caveats:

a) I'm on holiday so unnaturally good tempered

b) I love far-fetched and fanciful stories

c) I have a yearning for contemporary theatre that isn't just middle-class 'oh life is hard' angst served up with a side order of a drug slash alcohol problem to demonstrate an understanding of the 'urban' landscape

d) Stories of the Put Upon Misunderstood Putting A Brave Face On Things always clutch clawlike at my heart

e) And I could have been heavily influenced by the seventeen year old girl sat next to me in the theatre who was bouncing - actually bouncing - with enthusiasm before the show started. She was seeing it for the third time.

But put all of these things to one side for a second, remember I'm very vulnerable to a nice set and a nicely acted story and then consider the following.

Jerusalem was wonderful.

It's an innocuous enough story. A man living in a caravan on the outskirts of a village in Wiltshire is served up with an eviction notice by the council who want to build a new housing estate on 'his' land. He doesn't fancy that, thank you very much. And spends the rest of the play drunk and in denial.

But luckily accompanied by a ramshackle collection of glorious characters who all use this main man (Johnny Byron) for whatsoever they wish to use him for. Until he doesn't turn out to be any use to them anymore and they scarper.

The play begins with - in fact, I'm not even going to tell you. The opening - the pre-curtain up - was eerily beautiful. If I can one day be responsible for something half as lovely, I'll be a happy girl.

The set is a winnebago nestled in the forest, surrounded by junk. And hens! Live living hens strutted and clucked - albeit in a cage - behind the caravan throughout. And the thing is - I had an excellent stalls seat on account of the queueing situation but - the greater part of the audience won't have had the first idea that there was anything living on stage beyond the actors because of the sightlines. A grand indulgence.

The acting. Well, Mr Rylance was outstanding. A proper tour de force. Half of the audience rose in a shambolic standing ov at the (three hour) performance's end. And the poor chap's been at it for two years. Roaring and strutting and limping and captivating like the real proper showman that the script (perhaps) called for him to be.

Mackenzie Crook also featured. Not a great lure as far as I was concerned but let's take back all the mean thoughts I've ever had about him. He was tremendous too. As were a whole bunch of others, none of whom were dwarfed by Mr Rylance, which is important and an achievement and a tribute to them.

But what I liked so much was the story. The subject matter, to be precise. The 'what is happening to England?' or has, in fact, already happened to England, as civilisation steadily encroaches around us. The safety curtain has a huge St George's Cross slapped onto it. Which I found particularly interesting as the face of Mr Redmayne in the day's before Richard II had a huge St George's Cross slithered all over it in the Donmar's publicity materials.

Both plays presented opinions about the state of the country today - and how we do or don't cope - that are one million times more interesting than - well, how can I judge as I haven't seen it but, for example - a trilogy of plays about what it means to be pretty in today's society. (Miaow.)

But I suppose it's just a question of priorities.
This, for Mr B S Neill. He was playing - with all sorts of syncopation - Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

First up, Richard II.

You're all much cleverer than me so you'll know the story. Given my deep-seated suspicion of programmes, I accosted a gentle and refined looking man as we sat in the Circle Bar awaiting admission to ask for a plot synopsis. (Yes, Siobhan, I can hear you snorting from here.) But by the interval, I liked it so much that I lashed out and bought an aforementioned brochure. Though plot-wise, it didn't prove very useful as it contained only an intellectual essay from the Allardyce Nicoll Professor of Drama at Birmingham University on the concept of kingship. With a few plot pointers thrown in for fools like me to thirstily lap up.

The programme was further proved redundant as I'd (secondarily) wished to check the identity of Richard. I spent the entire first act half-convinced that he must be the red-headed boy that featured in our (DG's) Dangerous Liaisons a few years back. Hasn't he done well for himself? I marvelled. However, it turned not to be this boy at all but in fact, a boy that Cari and I had watched on celluloid a few weeks before in My Week With Marilyn. Eddie Redmayne is his name. Bolingbroke was pretty hot too. It was a fine play for eye candy.

But the production. Was wonderful. The set was beautiful. I wanted to take a sly photo but the ushers looked vigilant and impatient. Let's see if this will work:

Look at that!

A balcony, a staircase, an exit off on the high level and what you can't see because of the photo angle is that the stage was raised with little catwalks exiting off to the back of the auditorium to the left and right of the audience seats. Five different exits. Imagine! And just to reinforce the fact that they really knew their stuff, incense was wafting around the auditorium as we squished in to take our seats. Magic.

It's a cracking story. Eddie was effetely radiantly perfect as Richard II. Well, as far as I could see. I concentrated my very hardest and didn't feel sleepy once. (To be fair, I'd deliberately gone without dinner in the hopes of maximising my alertness. The high quantity of handsome boys in the cast I'm sure made no contribution.) I got a little bit confused about who was whose brother. But that's possibly just the nature of the history plays. Given no prior study, I kept pace remarkably well.

The costumes were stunning. Oh to have money. It was beautifully directed. (Michael Grandage's swansong at the Donmar.) Not remotely histrionic although the script could seamlessly slide into so being with the amount of shouting and ranting squashed into the lines. And the thing that really got me was that they all spoke Soooo well. As if it wasn't Shakespeare at all. It just happened to sound lovely. Of course you'd expect them to be so competent but a real pleasure to see the language so well and effortlessly (apparently) spoken.

(Spoiler alert!) As an additional pleasure, Richard / Eddie died beautifully. A demonstration, should one need it, that you don't need to screech and flail your arms about. Lie still. People will get the point. I like these lessons.
If you're feeling benevolent this Christmas, my little sister is taking nil by mouth for 24 hours lurching into The Festive Day in the name of WaterAid.

You can contribute to her kindness if you feel so minded here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Boy in front of me in this morning's queue said: "the trouble is, it's my competitive spirit. It catches up with me every time." Just so.

I limped away from this morning's queue with a chilled nose, feet like ice and a cold, cold body. Notwithstanding Greta's animal embrace.

I learn that there's a sort of dark mystery to these queues. There are the fools / the optimistic who pitch up with no sense that there is any art to this strange system. There are the queue elite who have all the numbers in their heads: quantities of seats per theatre, multiple purchase options, optimum arrival times. Then there are those - and I clump myself into this category - who have a glimmering suspicion that they should try harder but are a little bit coy about displaying any sort of "inside" knowledge.

Chatting to a couple of fellow queue-ers at last night's show, it appeared that Jerusalem is The Problem Show (for the stubborn on-the-day-ers at any rate. And as it's sold out seemingly now and for always, these are the only ticket options available.) I heard a dispiriting story about a man who started queueing at 4am. (Tickets on sale at 10am.) He was too late to get a ticket.

Then The Woman Who Taught The Identical Chinese Children (and nightmarishly was sat right next to me last night - I wondered if the guilt at my online mockery flashed across my face when I recognised her) told me that she'd arrived at quarter to nine and got an excellent seat. Because there are fourteen seats on the front row of some bit of the theatre, reportedly, that afford an excellent view. And then there are seven others that are barely worth having as you can't see anything. At all.

(That theatres get away with this makes me squirm slightly. But it didn't prevent me joining The Queue.)

So this morning, I rose at seven. Seven! It was still more or less dark when I left my temporary home. The tube behaved. And I walked as fast as you might without actually running from tube to theatre.

The Queue snaked around the block. At half past eight. Half past eight!

Remember what I said about observing but being too shy to ruthlessly observe The Wisdom Of The Queue? ICCW (Identical Chinese Children Woman) had instructed me to count those in front of me. If there were more than fourteen ticket requests in The Queue (given the sightless seats), I should give up and go home.

Two shows on a Wednesday. ("Don't leave it til Friday" said ICCW, "everyone has the same idea. And think of all the tourists. It'll be hopeless.") I had my heart set on the matinee as the show lasts three hours. I thought this would maximise my chances of not sleeping. But I was graciously resigned to the fact that I might have no choice.

So I counted the queue. I needed no more than fourteen tickets times two minus one in front of me. I promptly forgot the number (it was more people than tickets) and joined the queue thinking (again): damned if I'm getting up so early and not etc etc.

It was drizzling but only very finely. Two beautiful boys in suits in front of me along with an exotic looking girl who turned out to be an actress in waiting. No-one behind me for a long, long time (which enraged me. Nothing like feeling you're the stupidest in the queue). Big plops of rain dripped from the guttering above onto my book. I waited.


A procession of seventy brown horses trotted past.

Waited. Trying valiantly to screen out the stereo chatter (at last some (less attractive but interestingly, also young) people behind me). Luckily my book ending wasn't remotely moving (Generation A, Douglas Coupland) so I wasn't left in an awkward crying in a queue situation.

Ten a.m. The Queue began to creep forward. I was ambivalent by then. The thrill of the chase - the length of the queue - the mizzle drizzle - had worn me down. ICCW's words echoed in my head: "I see a lot of plays and don't get me wrong, it's brilliantly acted, but the script's a bit rubbish. I don't know what he's trying to say." I thought energetically about how character-forming queueing can be.

Then we're inside the building. Well, barely. We're admitted into a kind of antechamber, housing a ticket desk. I suppose so they don't have to admit The Poor into the venerable interior. A lucky few are allowed to violate the foyer to attend a parallel ticket desk. We shuffle forward.

Mutters run up and down the queue about availability. Matinees. Evening shows. This number or that number left. People stepping out of the theatre doors clutching their prizes.

Three tickets left supposedly. Me and the two besuited boys and the wannabe actress to go. "I'll only get one ticket" exclaims exotic girl, opening her cat-like eyes wide at the besuited boys. "I couldn't queue for all this time with you and then take two tickets, knowing that would only leave one for you both." The boys hum with gratitude.

Cat Girl is admitted to the inner sanctum. "Did you get one?" asks one Besuited. "Well, I had to get two" she shrugs, face full of sorrow. "There were two sitting together so that wouldn't have been any good to you as you wouldn't have been sitting together." Oh, how she sits in judgement.

Somehow the extra ticket is gone. Besuited Boys go forward. Only returns. £52:50 or £75. Besuiteds look crestfallen and turn away. "I just can't justify paying that" says one to the other. A little shred of my cold cold heart breaks for their middle class anguish.

I'm next up, thinking - fifty quids - for a show I don't even know if I want to see - that I've only queued for out of some kind of crazed notion that I'll otherwise miss out. And then I hear ICCW's sincere as the Christmas spirit voice in my head. Her parting words to me last night after the show: "I really hope that you get a ticket for Jerusalem tomorrow. And have a great Christmas."

ICCW would've wanted it. I hand over my credit card.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In a feat of spectacular disorganisation, I've cleverly come to down to London for a packed theatrical spectacular week with - hmm - no tickets. Well, except for one which is probably readily available anyway.

A supposed pleasant evening's browsing at the weekend's end was thus rather impeded by the skimpy availability of tickets for anything I actually wanted to see. I could see the Woman in Black or The 39 Steps or Crazy for You or a whole host of equally banal pleasures (miaow) every night twice over if I wished. But anything interesting is sold out sold out sold out.

This is the only way to explain how I ended up in the queue for x10 on the day £10 tickets for a show that is bottom of my list of things I ever want to see. Pure vexation that I couldn't see it. And so - typical me - it must be the thing I strive for. Along with a rather lame justification that I haven't been to the Donmar before and of course I should. So this drove me out of bed and into the tail end of the rush hour tube this morning.

It was a suspenseful experience.

I arrived to find a small clutch of people lurking in the theatre doorway. A quick count reveals that - in total - we are ten. Hoorah! But wait. "You're the twelfth" they seethe as a pack. "Do you want a standing seat?" "Tchah!" quoth I, "not for Shakespeare." "I know what you mean" murmurs one of the gentler looking seethers, smug in the knowledge that he is One Of The Ten.

Listening into their Blitz-style camaraderie reveals that queue-ers are entitled to queue for two tickets. And then another slim young fellow climbs over some strewn feet to take his place by a hard-faced girl defiantly clutching a flask. Ten.

But because I'm a stubborn girl and because I'm thinking that I'm damned if I'm getting up this early for nothing, I wait out the hour with patience. One half of it cluttered on the pavement listening to one woman with a triumphant face recount the tale of how she ended up "for personal reasons" teaching at a middle school full of identical looking children (her words - my place is not to judge) in the capital city of China after thirty years tending to a small Welsh flock in this land. And one half hour queueing inside which was more irritating as we had to queue alongside cast photos which reduced leaning opportunities dramatically. This to the accompaniment of a woman from Minnesota ("well, not originally") who taught in a college and has been coming to London at Christmas every year for 26 years to queue up for last minute tickets for shows. (Why not book ahead, love?) She's going to the Orange Tree tomorrow. (I silently thank the lord above that this is not tomorrow's hit list for me.)

So we wait. I eavesdrop and pretend to read my book.

And at half past ten, a great humming murmur goes up: "half past ten! It's time!" Followed by a gentler hubbub and then a cry of indignation: "they're three minutes late!"

In the nick of time, the middle classes, brutalised by the experience of having to queue like Russians, surge forward.

Despite the fact that I've told myself that I will walk away - just walk away - if there are standing room tickets only, my heart starts to race. Suddenly this play that I didn't even want to see 48 hours before becomes the possible pinnacle of my theatrical experience. I stare vengefully at the backs of those (ten plus who knows how many absent accompaniers) ahead of me. The queue shuffles forward.

Two people in front of me, (perfectly able) Teacher of the Identical Chinese Children is dithering about how easily she'll be able to get out of her seat. "Everyone will be leaving at the same time" says the long-suffering box office man with more patience than she deserves. But wait, miracle! She opts for two standing seats, presumably to give her full freedom to manoeuvre. Fool!

The Man In Front Of Me steps up to the window. He remained silent in the queue so I know nothing of him. I cannot assess how much he deserves (or does not) a ticket.

"We have one seat and eighteen standing room places" says Mr Long-Suffering. "Only one seat?" says The Man In Front of Me. The other box office man waves me forward but makes a gesture to invite my silence while we see What The Man IFOM will do.

"Can I just wait to decide?" says TMIFOM hopelessly. "Well, yes, but we can't hold tickets." TMIFOM turns hopelessly to the rest of the queue. "Can we stand for three hours?" The queue seethes back. A kinder man steps toward him: "it's only two hours and forty". I laugh derisively, forgetting my vulnerable position. "Two hours and forty too long."

TMIFOM takes out his phone. "We can only get two standing??" These compassionate fools who have co-theatre-goers to worry about. "Think about yourself!" I cry in my head to him. "Be selfish!" But The Man is obviously a kinder soul than I and opts to stand.

Impatient, my box office man starts to say "So we have one seated t.." "The seat, please" I crow, triumphant. "It's only one seat on it's own?" he says. (Obviously I don't look like a girl who travels alone.) "Yes! Yes, that's great, brilliant" thrusting my (such a small amount of) money at him. And he places the ticket in my hand.


(Richard II, by the way. Shakespeare!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm listening to a livestream of Mozart's Requiem.

It's most gorgeous.

There are only approx 4 minutes left (by my uninformed calculations) so you've most probably missed it. (No, wait. Bad luck. C'est fini.)

I'm monitoring the chat about it on twitter which is also fun. (Check out #guardianmozart.) And randomly conversing with someone who is a very proud godfather/mother of the female soloist.

Perhaps you can catch it on catch up.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All I can offer here by way of cultural commentary today is my exquisite delight at the concluding moments of Series 2 of Mad Men. Beautifully presented drama.

I've just dashed through the final 4 episodes on my laptop. A superlative use of a train journey.

However, I hope to have more to say (phew - thank god - the relief is audible even 400 miles away) in the coming days.

A bientot. (With a slash on the a and a little hatty thing on the o.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You know me. I love a trip to the theatre.

So what reprehensible day was this that saw me celebrate the human error that resulted in my not attending a long-planned theatrical extravaganza tonight?

Well, I had not wished to see the play in the first place. It sounded dull and worse still, worthy.

I don't much like the writer. Though feel that I should for silly sentimental reasons. She brought me love - albeit briefly - back in the day.

And much as I love the booker (not-booker - more usually my role) of the tickets, I felt our chances of chatting were slim with the competing (the play's the thing) demands on our attention.

Furthermore, it was Final Spanish Class of 2011. A Christmas class, no less. And much as the day rarely lives up to expectation, there are few things I like as much as Talking about Christmas.

So all in all, when aforementioned not-booker said she hadn't booked, I'm ashamed to say I dashed off an email entitled "stupendous" to my compadres. And enjoyed Rioja and Manchego and olivas instead.

Feliz navidad, todos.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Well, after an extremely concentrated effort, I am ready to be festive.

Gifts mostly bought. House tidy-ish. Wardrobe in place. Cards partly written.

And my house lacks the festive vomiting that appears to have blessed DG's abode but by my standards, it looks a little bit festive.

Accomplished principally by the retrieval of what I really hope is "my" little potted fir tree from the back garden. Poor scraggly thing - the exercise demonstrates neatly to me the value in having some cultivate these trees. As uncultivated for approx two years now, this aforementioned foliage lacks much discernible shape and most of it's lower branches. But it is fir and that will do for my low standards.

To further shove me into the festive spirit, I enjoyed a vigorous performance yesterday from the Dunedin Wind Band. It's a shame they didn't all possess the sax appeal of Mr Neill but they seemed to have fun. And I sang my first (accompanied) carols of the year. It was great fun.

So Christmas, bring it on. I'm ready.
My mother just said something she's never said before.

She said: "I know. I read that on your blog." She sounded strangely proud as she said it, as if she knew she'd done well.

I continued to be astounded that anyone at all reads this blog, in the absence of the actor's narcissism, rushing to check whether Mme Director has said Anything Other Than The Notes. So it's always slightly startling to discover that a few poor souls do.

Then Sister said exactly the same thing.

I must manage the release of my wardrobe news more efficiently next time.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

I went to London at the weekend and didn't go anywhere near a theatre.

I feel a little bit like I've betrayed TheatreLand.

I did keep pointing hopefully at nearby theatrical establishments to the gaggle of girls to whom I'd attached myself.

But not once did they take the bait.

Culturally void, clearly.

Friday, December 02, 2011

On Monday, I took a substantial step towards adulthood.

On Thursday, a leap.

On Friday, a big springing step.

And by Christmas, I should be there.

I vowed at the start of the autumn, as in fact I did last autumn, that by the end of the year, I would have a wardrobe as opposed to the student buckling clothing rail of shame. (O yes! Don't think I'm pleased with this dishevelled arrangement of mine. I'm just inexorably lazy. Or more accurately, almost insurmountably disinterested.)

As December looked set to rather carelessly roll around again, I thought I should take action. I asked a friend if she could drive me around wardrobe shops on the only Saturday in December that I was free. She could not.

The plan almost collapsed.

But I was bold. I forged on.

On Monday, I sprang from a taxi on my return from a meeting and flung myself into a nearby secondhand shop to which I've developed an inexplicable attachment. Two ugly wardrobes jostled for my attention near the door. (For this particular shop is less a carefully laid out selector's paradise and more a wild quagmire of Things. Old pictures heaped, chairs tangled, dressing tables, mirrors mirrors mirrors stuffed in every available space, some nice desks, a fireplace, a dressing table, eight pink velvet and gold chairs strewn, some waist high wooden soldiers. It's like Home Street. Except they're trying to sell stuff. And they don't have the moth problem.

I prowled through the thin gap between the doorway and the back of the shop, knowing that if I did not purchase today, I would not purchase.

And there. At the back. Tucked behind chairs, pictures and a coat rack. A wardrobe that was not ugly! For this was my main criteria. Better yet, given the spectacular absence in my flat currently, the door boasted quite a long mirror. Huzzah!

I hastened to The Man, terrified it was bought. But no. He issued a tape measure. I measured. I took his phone number. (For purchase purposes.) I departed.

On Tuesday, I did not dare to measure the space for fear of disappointment.

On Wednesday, I steeled myself. I measured. It seemed it might fit.

On Thursday, I phoned.

And this morning, it was hauled up the staircase stairs by two perspiring fellows, one with a long (hair) tail, one in a boilersuit. "This would be a lovely blond colour if you stripped it down" said The Tail, sweating and panting. Clearly not realising that it has exhausted all of my interior design interest getting it there in the first place.

Attentive readers will note that I don't expect to reach fully-fledged adulthood for a few weeks yet. For my wardrobe is not yet in full working order. It lacks - I know it almost beggars belief - a rail. So I must sort this out before I become a real grown person.

But as a glorious sign of what is to come, as I skipped (adult-ly) into work, I collected an email informing me that I'd won a tea towel. And my heart sang.

Welcome to (almost) adulthood.