Thursday, March 29, 2012

In London at the weekend, I took time out of my busy schedule of eating and drinking to dart into a tiny grubby looking gallery that happened to be next to the latest bar of choice. (Charmingly deceptively called The Book Shop.) (The bar. Not the gallery.)

Down a rickety set of steps was an uneven wood-planked floor circled by bare uneven concrete (perfect location for a Pillowman) with a low slung bulb and no further decoration.


On the walls, some something high up. At eye level, you know. I didn't pay much attention because because.

Around the gutter of the walls, this finery.

Turns out he's famous. Pablo Delgado. More here.

A delightful accidental stumble upon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I've just completed an online survey sharing my feelings about Northern Ballet's Beauty and the Beast.

I toned it down a bit!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wednesday was the latest offering from Scottish Dance Theatre.

I was about as unconvinced by this as I was by Beauty and her beast. But B S offered and I thought (middle class idiot) that even if I hated it, at least I was supporting home-grown talent. Although with 2 for 1 tickets, they were getting very half-arsed support from me.

Glass of faithful wine (and yes, this morning's news stories about liver disease are still ringing in my ears) and delicious not at all dry gingerbread (thanks B S) in hand, we settled down to watch.

Curtains drawn. Black stage. Lights flash on. Loud loud "Too Drunk To Fuck" by Nouvelle Vague pours out of the speakers. Some quite young people dash about the stage wearing short smart dress like things (B S did not like this. Boys in dresses are just wrong in his opinion. I thought the 'dresses' afforded a fine view of their legs) in a variety of monochrome colours. I'm liking my Saturday night music (make no comment) being turned into this modern dance soundtrack and lo - because it makes me feel momentarily cool - surprise - I feel I love the dance.

"Too drunk" turns into a succession of other pieces of music. Some exasperatingly I recognise but am not Cool Enough to know. Ross would have known. The quite young run here and there in their dresses, flexing their limbs and waving their arms. It is quite clear to me that I must never endeavour to review dance for any sort of publication.

The programme informs me that this piece is a tender foray into human inexperience at reckoning with desire and loss. Whatever that means. Certainly the girls seem to jerk their hips about quite pertly now and again. This must be the desire. Sometimes the music is sad and they rush about a bit less. I suppose this is the loss so make myself feel sombre and sad.

Thirty minutes later - though interestingly it feels much longer - it is all over. We rush to the bar.

Half two commences with a spritely little very beautifully lit piece featuring two. A boy and a girl. Some nice red costumes. This piece pushes the two to their physical limits (so says the programme). Seems quite inconsiderate to me. But then I don't Know Dance. They certainly race around a lot. I find myself mesmerised by the girl's hair as it flows around her face really nicely as she hurls herself around. I wonder where she got it cut. It's a very good cut. I find I am dwelling on the hair and not properly appreciating that sometimes the people we care about the most are the people we hurt the most (cf. the programme). It finishes suddenly.


Third piece has a complicated set. A mixing desk. Some tables and chairs. Some spindly bits of wood made into sort of tall proppy things. A man comes out dressed not in dyed toned lycra. He speaks a little into a microphone to us about nothing I can remember but he had a nice accent so it sounded very nice.

Two men come on, dance about a bit and put on rabbit ears. Three girls come on wearing strangely unflattering tea dresses. There's my nice haircut girl but - disaster - she's got her hair up in a bun. They dance about a bit. Another man comes on and speaks a bit into the microphone. He has a less nice voice.

The piece is called Pavlova's Dogs and it's clear that it is possibly very funny if you know what the choreographer is trying to do. I'm (simpleton) finding it quite funny and I have no idea what's going on. But the tea dress girls repeat their dislocated moves over and over. The rabbit eared men seem to urge them on. The microphone men dispute and jostle for the attention of the others. I expect it's hilarious if you're An Intellectual. Maybe Siobhan would understand it.

But it was resoundingly more fun than the other two. I hardly thought about haircuts. I didn't think at all about the Pantomime of Life in a dark and humorous (cf. programme) way. Or in any way at all for that matter. But they danced very nicely. The set looked good. Someone had put a lot of thought into it. Ten out of ten for effort.

They all looked very sweaty at the curtain call. I resolved to go to the gym in the morning. Then went home and ate a big fatty curry for my tea.
Now what ever EVER would you need this photo for....?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fankle fankle fankle.

I can see that the fankling show prep is starting to creep up on me.


But yet. (For Cleopatra.)

Very excitingly, the flyers are in the (well, a) (well, David's) building. Most very exciting.

Let's have a little preliminary aperitify *woop*.

If you please.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

God so that's it. I'm committed now.

I need an 18, a 19 and a 22 year old to come (brilliantly) crawling out of the woodwork to be brilliant in my show please. Let's say before the middle of April.

I'm not in the slightest bit worried about the parents as I could cast them several times over given the wealth of talent at our disposal.

But three so young?

Perhaps I'd better start blogging in yoof speak so the young are magnetically drawn towards me.

I got utterly sidetracked at my Spanish class and ended up carelessly sitting about for hours afterwards, carelessly gossiping and forgetting carelessly all about the BIG NOTE on my dining room table.

Finally I staggered off home and ALERT remembered The Form.

So called it up when I got in with quaking heart and footered about with it a bit more.

Tinker tinker. And there's this or that silly pedantry and trying vainly to fix the spacing on this or that bit of it but The Form always wins and forces you into its ugly ways.

At last, 23:21. Less than 24 hours before it's due to be submitted. Off it goes.

Riddled with errors I expect.

But at least I've paid for it while it's cheap.

I'll sleep easy tonight.
I've got a lurking nagging fear that I'm going to forget to submit the Fringe programme entry form.

I'm waiting for confirmation of our bank details so I don't get the pots and pots of money that our shows no doubt will hoop in sent to the wrong place.

The deadline is 5pm tomorrow. I plan to submit it tonight. Whether or not the bank details are confirmed.

But every now and then, the cold hand of forgetful fear clutches at my heart.

I just hopped onto twitter and there was Mark Fisher, retweeting the Fringe office reminder to submit our forms tomorrow to qualify for the early booking discount.

*cold clutch at the cold-handed heart again*

I've written a big note to myself and left it on my dining room table.

Hope my house hasn't burnt down during this day because then the note would be gone and then I would forget to submit and then....

Lions and tigers and bears oh my.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

(Thanks, DG.)

(And thanks to the star of the pic. You know who you are.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My goodness. I've completed the Fringe programme entry form (alverymost) a whole 101 hours before it's actually technically due.

I must be sickening for something.

Though in fact, I conclude that it's a sign of age.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beauty and the Beast by Northern Ballet last night at the Festival Theatre.

Arriving with 9 minutes to spare, I made sure to hurry my companion to the bar to stock up on alcohol before the show began.

I took my seat, cup of wine in hand, with a weary "I don't think I'm going to like this". (Oh #middleclasswoes.)

You'll remember (of course you won't) how much I violently hated their take on Cleopatra. Starring (it still makes me shudder) The Asp. What a horror.

I have no love for the tale of Beauty and her bestial lover.

Why, might you ask, had I even parted with money for the ticket?

For the sake of open-minded-ness, let us say.

So the curtains drew back.

There wasn't an asp in sight.

Instead, we had a very pretty boy wearing the sort of short leathery jerkin you'd fancy you'd find Alan Cummings in if he were to host Come Dine With Me. All strappy and allusions to bondage and ever so very (to my simple mind) cool.

Surrounded by pretties in very funky net-ty skirts. And they danced about a bit and set up the premise nicely. Leather jerkin was vain. They all loved him n'ertheless. He pranced and preened. They (in the medium of dance) cooed.

And then.


The bad fairy struck. Disguised (and here they had fun) as some giant hairy beast that turned out to contain three people. Two of which were uglified entourage and one of which was all green and black and spiky and fierce. And cast a cruel spell and turned Self-Loving into Beast.

Then good fairy wafted in. All gold lamé and oh how it floated and wafted around the stage. And the music became gentler and she tippy toed and wafted and it was lovely and consoling.

And I couldn't tell you precisely how but things got a bit better for The Beast.

And then we cut to Beauty and she's being nice to her dad because she's clearly a sweet girl. Then mince on the two sisters. Beautiful costumes again. All lacey and net-ty and sugar almond colours and geometric to show they're nasty. They dance (with their shopping - to show they're materialistic). And - dreadful! - the bailiffs - and bad fairy - turn up. Confiscate their possessions - leaving the sisters running round in very fetching underwear.

But - consoling - gold lamé wafts past and a delapidated van appears and the family decamp to this with some simple meagre costumes and eke out a plaintive existence with what little they can forage.

The father wanders out and - bad fairy - strays into the danger place where the Beast has gone to live and there's some messing about with flowers. And he slumps back (van)'home' with a rose and the vain sisters don't want it but pure sister takes it and sets off to see the Beast.

Until this point, it is fair to say, I am riveted.

Costumes - just perky burlesque enough to have me captivated. Dancing obviously lovely. Music an odd patchwork of things I think I half remember. Set is modest and under control. Some nice effects. The 'wallpaper' of the family home torn down by greedy bailiffs before it's all packed up. The bailiffs' van. The family's van.

Nil by mouth since lunchtime and a cup of wine down and I'm thinking I've seriously misjudged Northern Ballet. Or their Cleo was a terrible glitch. (Bear in mind I used to live for their productions when I was little.)

Beauty and the Beast are doing getting to know you dances. Gold lamé's floating about in the background. And I'm thinking this is inexpressibly beautiful and indescribably brilliant.

And there's the interval.

And here we encounter the American Beauty phenomenon. (A sad and bitter experience for which there's no place here.)

In short, you seek the opinion of others - midway through as the worst of times for this to happen - and your bubble starts to strain to almost popping point.

"I'm not so sure about the music" says my immediate companion.

"I'm quite liking it but it went on a bit" says bumped into companion.

"I used to love them but I just feel they've gone off the boil" says friend of bumped into companion.

And so cmfwood's little head starts ticking over. Well, there was this and that thing that I liked a little bit less.

Half two. And my sceptical eyes have started to scan the stage.

Aided and abetted by the fact that they've clearly more or less run out of story by now.

It begins beautifully. Beauty lying in a big soft flower that looked (yes, yes, Freud, hush) disturbingly sexual. Beast fastened inexplicably to the wall getting frustrated.

He untethers himself. She untangles herself. They dance.

Bad fairy. Good fairy. Some comedy business with a meal and Beast's lack of table manners and the oafish men servants who look far more monster-y than Beast's best greasepaint can pull off. Blah blah blah.

Worse still, in half two, wanton displays of money.

To echo the big soft (sexual) flower, little panels motor out of the side of the flats containing their own (smaller) soft flowers. UNNECCESSARY!

There's all sorts of green UV going on in a monster-y print about the rib shaped side-flat-y things (I know you'll have no idea what I'm talking about). Dramatic but UNNECCESSARY.

There's a moon. A most beautifully painted beautifully lit moon that gets about one and a half minutes of (literal) air time and then it's whisked off. UNNECCESSARY.

And the dreadful disloyal thought pops into my head: this is a company with TOO MUCH money.

I know that's wrong and they won't have too much and they'll be struggling to eke out a hand to mouth existence and every day that they struggle and limp on is another cause for celebration.

But really, little flappy outy panels containing flowers within the flats??

So Beauty and Beast dance. Waft. Witchy (bad fairy) pose.

And I suppose my attention must have wandered. All these vengeful thoughts about wishing I had their set and light and costume budgets.

Because suddenly, dark stage. Then bright stage full of small organ style pipes and something which I thought was the New World Symphony but actually probably wasn't but you'd know it if you heard it. And the dancers all pouring onto the stage wearing paler gold.

And suddenly Beauty is dancing with the handsome man she's dreamt about and Beast (whom she had honourably grown to love) is nowhere to be seen. (Ok, context, Beast had been dancing about before this clutching his heart but I'd seen this as "full of love" rather than "at death's door".) They all dance. It's gold and bright and very happy. I'm presuming it's a dream.

And then.

It's the curtain call!

I am shocked. Shocked.

For where is Beast?

So the Second Half left me as restless dissatisfied as Cleo did whenever it was. This time last year I suppose. Though the costumes were better. And the set - motorised panels aside - felt less gratuitously extravagent this time around.

But my lord, people, I know you're dancing and not speaking. But consider your dullard audience and perhaps hold up a placard saying "Beast is sadly dead but don't worry because he's become Handsome and He and Beauty are now going to live happily ever after".

I suppose that's the trouble with me and dance.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So. Carousel.

I haven't yet found the review that describes Jonathan McGarrity (so biased, last year's festival show's Antony) as "physically perfect" but I can well believe that it exists. For he was. Actually. And I don't say this very often with amateur ventures.

He was playing a silly empty-headed but ridiculously handsomely charismatic swaggering showman. Now, Jonathan is neither silly nor empty-headed but he managed to pull the former traits off, rather ably assisted by pre-existing ample doses of the latter.

He 'played' (as the pretentious say) alongside a rather fetching 'feisty' girl who allowed her head to be turned by aforementioned showman. And the plot unravelled (I use the word intentionally) from there.

The trouble with the overall venture was that aside from a few exceedingly competent people, it was a bit ramshackle. And I'm afraid that my attention span is such that even exceedingly competent people don't make me embrace sitting for THREE hours to watch a limpid story limp to a faintly unsatisfactory close.

Obviously, the story is nobody's fault but Rodgers and Hammerstein. And I'm sure it has plenty of devoted fans. My patience stretched thin when the wild cockney friend started flashing his knife about the stage. And snapped when the showman died - but popped up a few minutes later in front of his day of reckoning.

We did attend the first night which can be a mistake. Jonathan did suggest that the show had lacked pace in its dress rehearsal. So I should have been prepared. But I'd hoped to be enchanted by spectacular dancing and rousing chorus singing and heartfelt tear-brimming emotion. I got a bit of this last. Perhaps they imported some spectacular acrobatic dancers later in the week as I didn't see much of them on the Tuesday.

But I'm being unkind and I don't believe in being unkind about amateur shows unless they really really deserve it. And this one didn't as it tried really hard. There were some really good things in it. Helen (a 'star' I think) was lovely. The fairground horses were (the reviewer is right there) absolutely delightful. The June is Bustin' Out All Over girl was rousin' and bustin' and just right. The sister was plaintive and long-suffering and vindicated in her safe choices. The feisty pretty was lovely. And Jonathan. Well. I've said enough about him already.

All of these are exceedingly impressive in any show, let alone a (hate the word) 'amateur' one. And what is the alternative? Only doing shows you know you can perfectly all-embracingly cast?

The age old question.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Poor blog. I'll come back to you soon.

In the meantime, you can entertain yourselves with speculation about what I made of this.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Hunky Dory.

The visionary film.

Actually not so visionary as it purports to be based on a true story. So I'm not two years (well, eighteen months) ahead of my time but in fact, 34 years late.

I was predisposed to like this film. A story about a sweetly well meaning (teacher) girl who ropes a ramshackle collection of (young) people into putting on a version of The Tempest punctuated with pop songs. How was I ever not going to have fallen for it way before opening credits slid across the screen?

But I liked it so much that I can't even tell whether it was a good film or not.

I was lost from the second that the crowd of ramshackle (young) people launched into (think it was) this.

As this, for ever after, will make me think of the most marvellous moment at the RSC workshop last summer when The Actors were groomed by The Teachers to sing to The 'Directors'. And it was one of the most spine tingly moments of my life. (Even though I hated the workshop itself so much that I still can't bring myself to mention it here for fear of seeming ungrateful.)

Diversions aside, this Hunky Dory is no different to any other film charting the ascent of a pack of unprepossessing trouble-wrought Youth. There are so many of them. In this, the transformative power of (insert noun) theatre is used to overhaul their petty but personally individually tragic lives and make them realise that They Can Be Better Than They Are. Even if only for one night.

It's beautifully shot. Sun soaked. Nice attention to detail with the stonking suede knee high pastel boots and tank tops and pointy collars and polyester. Wales in 1976 and The Young are beeeautiful.

Minnie is probably a bit old to be playing the sweet well-intentioned but quietly bohemian (she drinks sherry! Shock! not as an aperitif! Greater shock) expressionist (discipline never really specified) teacher. Certainly she's substantially older than her 'cool' housemates. But this doesn't matter. Perhaps Minnie is the age of The Real Woman.

The kids are all of that lovely nubile 25-playing-14 looking age. The lead boy has a face like Michelangelo's David. The lead girl looks - well, Nabokov wouldn't have objected.

The director has possibly struggled slightly to eke out the story to fill the time. Or maybe that's really unkind. Maybe the dwelling shots of children's hands sawing at childsize instruments were celebrating the talent of the innocent.

The story strains into cliché now and again. The absent mother. The shambolic dad struggling to hold it together. The sultry French. The lumpen loafish oaf PE teacher who verges on / is a terrible bully. The child that can't come out. Oh but then he does and it's all fine. The shaven headed boy who turns out to be the worst of all of them - oh but does he?

None of this story is new. But if you want a cosy pair of pyjamas on a beach flooded with gently warming sun of a film, you could do worse.

Ferdinand - Michelangelo boy - winds up in a baby David Bowie jacket atop some sort of tree singing a - presumably - David Bowie song after Prospero has trilled his last 'little lives are rounded in a sleep'. And it was quite quite magic.

If you're B S Neill, you'll be disparaging from fifteen minutes in, I reckon. If you're cmf or Cari, I reckon you'll be enchanted.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Phrases I may never again hear in my life:

"I thought you put it very well in the book."

Thanks, dad.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

So I think I wrote a slightly petulant post a few weeks back about how frustrated I was that I couldn't do anything to advance my festival preparation in the absence of a show start time.

My my. Poor diddums.

It's funny that my fellow Fringe director appears to have managed to forge on regardless.

For earlier this week, I received an email from him containing:
  • x1 flyer image
  • x1 set of words for the Fringe programme entry
  • x1 Fringe programme image
  • x1 rehearsal schedule
  • x1 set of audition extracts
  • x1 microsite for his show
"What have I missed or what else do you need from me?" he signs off with.

Well, perhaps all of the above for my show??

I am a lumbering moaning beast.

DG is amazing.

So I got up 'early' (for a Saturday) to address the situation. And hey. Guess what? I've been fankling around with pointless things and now it's time for my gym class.

Organisation will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Wasting MORE time when I could be blogging by watching Mad Men.

In the nick of time - not that I have the facility to appreciate it - I've caught up with myself.

Three weeks before series 5
starts on some channel I don't have, I've finished series four.

The final episode was slightly more self-indulgent and slightly less compelling than the final episode of series 2 which almost left me breathless.

I suspect they thought they'd not make another series and were spinning out their moment in the sun.

Though who am I to say?

Anyway, cracking TV.

If you like watching your day job playing out by night on a small screen near you.