Sunday, 17 September 2017

Salt

My friend A and I had booked o see the RSC's new production of Coriolanus on Saturday evening and were thinking about where to eat before the show, and a different friend of mine recommended  Salt, which opened earlier this year, after chef Paul Foster and his wife raised the money to open it, via Kickstarter.

We went for lunch, and chose to go with the tasting menu, which involved 6 courses (plus optional cheese course) and was delicious!

We were tempted to try the special cocktail on arrival - a gin & prosecco fizz, which was also very nice!

The restaurant is small, with a relaxed feel, and the service was friendly and efficient.

After the bread (which was delicious, malty and warm, served with locally churned butter - very rich, with a hint of clotted-cream taste to it!) we started with tomatoes with a linseed cracker and a shaving of cheese - apparently very simply, but a wonderful, rich tomato flavour. 


Then the next course was mussel broth, with salted cod, peas and beans (and mussels, and something which I think was samphire.

Next came a carrot and chicken dish, 2 or 3 different types of carrot, some cooked in chicken fat, others pickled, together with crispy chicken skin, like a tiny, intensely chicken-y piece of melba toast!



Next came the main, perfectly tender pieces of lamb rump, which came on a black garlic emulsion and with tiny onions and vegetables.

This was followed by the (optional) cheese course, which we, of course, opted to have, after which came desserts - first lime curd with yogurt meringue and sorrel, which was light and refreshing. I'm not normally a fan of meringue, but this wasn't overly sweet, and with the tartness of the lime and sorrel it worked really well.  



After this came a second dessert of dark chocolate cream with raspberries and a chunk of white chocolate 'aero'. White chocolate isn't my thing, but the dark chocolate and raspberries, and the milk chocolate shard which came with it were all gorgeous.


This brought us to the end of the menu, I finished with a coffee and we were given little choux pastry buns to finish with - again,  not over sweet, with more raspberries (possibly freeze dried, I'm not sure).

It didn't feel as though we spent a long time over the meal, but when we came to leave I realised it was almost 4 o'clock, so we have been there over 3 1/2 hours!

A fine meal. I shall definitely be going back, next time I am in Stratford, although I imagine that as the restaurant becomes better known and better established, it may get harder to get a reservation! 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Yerma

I wasn't sufficiently organised to get tickets to see Yerma at the Young Vic, but fortunately for me, the play was filmed for live broadcast via 'NTLive' so I was able to see it at my local cinema.



I was very impressed, particularly with Billie Piper's incredibly powerful performance as the (un-named) protagonist, who we see as she is gradually torn apart by her desperation to have a child.

The play has a lot of humour in the early stages, but gets progressively darker, and  parts are absolutely harrowing.

I'm glad I got to see it, but unlike many plays, a part of me is glad that I saw it on screen, not in the more immediate and intimate setting of the theatre.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Loki vs. The Printer

Normally, my printer lives upstairs in the box room, but it's getting a bit temperamental about talking to the wi-fi, so I moved it downstairs where it's easier to turn it off and back on. 

I don't use it very often, and I think this might have been the first time Loki's been in the room which I printed something.


Anyway, as he seemed so interested by the noises it made when I turned it on, I thought I'd video him when it actually printed. ....



Here he is, for your amusement!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

In Which there is cooking

Last weekend was a Bank Holiday weekend, and for the first time in a while, I was neither madly busy and rushing around all over, or away. 

So, I got caught up with some boring but necessary stuff, such as cleaning the house, cutting the grass, and trying to reduce the proportion of the 'lawn' which is made up of docks and plantains.

And did a bit of cooking. 

First, some honey gazed halloumi, which, though I do say so myself, was delicious, and incredibly easy to prepare. (pro tip. fry thick slices of lemon with the halloumi, and a bit of thyme, the juice means the honey glaze doesn't make it too sweet)  And I had peas and tomatoes from my own garden for the salad.

It only took about 10 minutes to make, which is excellent, particularly as it was such a hot day, so minimal cooking time was ideal.




Then on Sunday I tried my hand at a pissaladière. I'd been planning to do some kind of onion/tomato tart, and then in my weekend paper on Saturday I saw a recipe for pissaladiere, so decided to give that a go. 


I cheated a little, and used shop-bought puff pastry for the base, but that was the only shortcut. It was good, but I think if I do it again I will seriously cut down on the number of anchovies, as a little anchovy goes a very long way. But the roasted tomatoes and slow cooked onions were delicious, though I do say so myself! 

Who knows, next time I might even make my own pastry, too!

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Lady in the Van

On Friday, I went to Bath Theatre Royal to see Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van. Which (for those who don't know) is a play which Bennett wrote based on his own experience, and friendship (or at least acquaintance) with 'Miss Shepherd'. Miss Shepherd was a homeless woman who lived in a Bedford Van, and who moved the Van into Bennett's front garden when the Council painted double yellow lines on the street, and stayed for 15 years until her death.

In the original play, and in the film adaptation, Miss Shepherd was played by Dame Maggie Smith and Bennett (on of the two Bennett's in the play) by himself, which have to be hard acts to follow, but I think Sara Kestelman, Sam Alexander and James Northcote did pretty well!


Sara Kestelman as Miss Shepherd (photo from Theatre website)
Sara Kestleman's Miss Shepherd was acidic, brusque and generally unlikable, but with an element of vulnerability and pathos which won a certain amount of sympathy. Sam Alexander and James Northcote are Alan Bennett (the one who does, and the one who writes) discussing the situation with each other (or, I suppose, with himself)...

I enjoyed it. (and a day or two later, happened to watch the film, which was an interesting contrast)

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Devon, food, family and fun

I've recently got back after spending a long weekend in Devon, with my parents.

Its always nice to see them, and they do live in a lovely part of the country.

As the weekend weather wasn't expected to be very good, we decided to make the most of the better weather on Friday, and went for a bracing walk on the coast path, near Trentishoe.

It was windy, but despite very grey clouds at times, we didn't get rained on (although I did do something painful to my knee which made the last bits of downhill walking were very uncomfortable.)



There weren't a lot of other people around, although we did meet some other walkers...




The following day was rather wet, and we avoided any walking due to my knee, but we did take a trip into Barnstaple, to see the elephant.

Did you know that Barnstaple had an elephant? I didn't. Or, to be more accurate, they have parts of an elephant. It died about 125,000 years ago, and found in 1844, and now its teeth and skull may be found at the museum.

Plus they have a large tissue paper elephant in the stairwell.



The museum also has a small selection of fossils, some taxidermy, and, and some local history stuff, including a couple of adverts relating to a shop owned by one of my ancestors!

Rural North Devon isn't, perhaps, the obvious place to expect to find a Michelin starred restaurant, but The Mason's Arms in Knowstone is just that. 

Apparently, Chef Mark Dodson spent 12 years as Head Chef of Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn, in Bray, before starting his own restaurant, and promptly winning a Michelin star!

As it is only about half an hour away from my parent's home, I suggested to them that we pay it a visit, and we were able to get a last minute reservation. Which was nice :) 


Canapes
 We were tempted with delicious canapes while we waited for our table - little bites of fish eggs and taramasalata (I think) on puffed rice, decorated with petals, and beautiful little duck 'bonbons' with honey.

The meal itself was also lovely. And very pretty. I was sad that we were all too full to eat dessert. Maybe next time.


Arancini with beetroot 3 ways (Starter)
The the following day we got to have some unexpected family time - I'd posted some pictures from our walk, on facebook, and then got a message from my cousin to say she was visiting her parents (who live about 12 miles from mine).

So on Sunday, she came over for a few hours, giving me the chance to meet her daughter (15 months old) for the first time, (and her son for the first time in a while!)  which was a lovely addition to the weekend.  H was very taken with my phone, and took about 40 selfies, mostly of the top of her own head!


We discovered the 40 year old sticklebricks are still highly acceptable entertainment for small people, as are 30-60 year old dinky toys! 3 generations worth of enjoyment of the same toys ins't bad going!

Altogether a fun weekend.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Twelfth Night at the Globe

It's been a while since I have been to the Globe, and one of the plays I've seen there before is Twelfth Night, which I saw 5 years ago, in a very traditional production with Mark Rylance as Olivia and Stephen Fry as Malvolio.


I knew this production was going to be very different - it was directed by Emma Rice, who has now parted company with the Globe, and features Le Gateau Chocolat  as Feste, and has even more cross dressing than is usual for this play.

It is set (judging by costumes etc) in the 1970's, apparently on a Scottish island, so Antonio (Pieter Lawman) and Orsino (Joshua Lacey) were in kilts, and  Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Marc Antolin) was in a pink fair isle sweater and was extremely camp.


Stage / Set (taken during interval!) 
Viola and Sebastian (Anita-Joy Uwajeh and John Pfumojena)were both excellent, and both appeared very young, which works well with the text, and the whole thing was fun, and didn't take itself too seriously.



I can understand why Emma Rice and the Globe parted company - this isn't the traditional, Elizabethan style production which the Globe specialises in, although I can't help but feel that if Shakespeare had had the option of including glitter balls, fairy lights, gold  lamé and the fabulous Le Gateau Chocolat in his plays, he would have done so! 

The performance I saw was the penultimate performance, so the run is over now, but it was fun while it lasted!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

GWR - Delays and other disasters

When I travel by train, it's almost always with GWR, as they have the franchise for my area, and run the trains from here to London. 

Which gets frustrating, as they are, frankly, a bit crap at present - lots of delays, very poor customer service  and the like  (For instance, they claim to process refunds, for delays, in 7 to 20 days. I sent off one in mid June which still has not been dealt with!)

So I wasn't too surprised to find my train to London was over an hour late.

Coming home was worse, though, and involved a new and unpleasant experience, due to a passenger who harassed me, and a member of GWR staff who then ignored my request for help. As in, I explicitly asked him for help, asked him to get this guy to leave me alone, and his response was "Whatever it is, move on"

Fortunately it was verbal harassment,and didn't escalate after another passenger who was more helpful than the member of staff, and told him to back off. 

But it certainly took the shine off the day.

Plus, it's now Thursday, and there's been no response to the e-mail complaint I sent, which seem a bit poor. (I know they take forever with refunds, but you'd think they would prioritise dealing with complaints.)

Grrr.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Richard III (Murder in the Cathedral)


I was intrigued when I saw that theatre company 'Antic Disposition' were performing Richard III, in a variety of Cathedrals across England, one of which was Bristol. (Another was Leicester, which created some minor controversy as of course Richard III was reburied there, and some of his supporters felt it was disrespectful to perform the play there. Personally I feel that after being dead for more than 530 years, Richard is probably over it all!)

So, I booked a ticket.

The performance took place in the Nave,  with the performance taking place in the centre, and we the audience down both sides, so it was a very intimate setting, and of course being in the Cathedral there was nothing in the way of sets, very little in the way of props, and minimal extra lighting.



It was very well done. Its a modern dress production. When we first met  the dastardly Richard, Duke of Gloucester (Toby Manley) he was in black tie, respectable, but of course already scheming, and as the setting was so intimate, his soliloquies and asides were made to the audience, bringing us into collusion with him.

The production makes the most of the black humour in the play. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Richard is 'entreated' to take the crown. The line  "See where his Grace stands, ’tween two clergymen" contained a long and significant pause before the word 'clergymen', due to the rather threatening appearance of the two stone-faced, sunglasses wearing henchmen clergymen.
Toby Manley as Richard III, from Antic Disposition's site
Robert Nairne is excellent as Richard's right hand man, Catesby (doubly unnerving for me, as he reminded me in appearance of my brother, who is not (at least as far as I know) in the habit of carrying out assassinations to order.)

Richard, as he does, got darker through the play - chillingly giving his order to "Rumour it abroad. That Anne my wife is very grievous sick" to Catesby in Anne's presence..

It was all very well done. Richard's victims, following their various deaths, moved to the end of the Nave to watch him (except when the actors needed to cover other roles), showing the gradually rising body count, and the Princes in the Tower were such stroppy pre-teens one could almost forgive Richard for their fate.

The production is currently in France, and then at Temple Church in London 22nd August to 9th September. Worth seeing if you can make it.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Kneehigh's Tristan and Yseult

I'd heard very good things about Kneehigh Theatre's production of 'Tristan and Yseult' so when I saw it was coming to Bristol I booked a ticket, and saw the show on Saturday.







It was a lot of fun. It's a serious, and tragic story, and the play does have it's poignant moments, but it's also very funny, and very physical. We also have a chorus of 'love spotters', members of the club of the unloved, garbed in anoraks and wielding notebooks, and observing those fortunate enough to be beloved.. 

It doesn't take itself too seriously, but it takes the story seriously, so it is very engaging.

I loved it. 

I wasn't particularly familiar with the story of Tristan and Yseult ahead of time, in case you are in the same position, here's a summary of the story.

The story begins with King Mark of Cornwall, whose kingdom is attacked by Morholt of Ireland. He's on the verge of defeat when Tristan, a roving French knight joins the fight. Tristan's intervention leads to victory (albeit at the cost of a wound to himself). So of course the next step, after disposing of Morholt's body, is for Mark to decide, on the basis of a single hair in a locket, that he might like to marry Morholt's sister, so he sends Tristan to fetch her. (Which you can tell is in no way going to be an awkward  conversation. "Hi, Yseult you don't know me, but, well, your brother's dead, and the bloke who killed her wants to marry you. But he is a King, if that helps"..)

Anyway,Tristan avoids having to have the conversation initially by almost dying of his wounds, and arriving unconscious on an Irish shore where he is, by a convenient coincidence, found by Yseult, who, in another amazing coincidence happens to have healing hands and is, therefore, able to heal his wound (and in absolutely no way whatsoever take advantage of the opportunity to get her hands all over a handsome and half naked young man)

There is an awkward moment when Yseult realises that Tristan's sword has a chunk missing, which exactly matches the chunk of sword-blade she found in the ashes of her brother's body, and realises that he was responsible for Morholt's death, but they quickly get over this, and indeed, Tristan's explanation that Yseult should now consider herself part of the spoils of war, and prepare to travel back to Cornwall with him so she can be married to King Mark. Yseult, you notice, does not get a say in this. But accepts the proposition without much difficulty. 

She and Tristan board a ship back to Cornwall, accompanied by Yseult's maid, Branigan. Yseult asks Branigan for a love potion with the idea of making her wedding night easier, but unfortunately, this gets mixed up with some wine and she and Tristan drink it and fall madly in lust love with each other. Despite this, Yseult is determined to go ahead with her wedding to Mark, and Tristan, too, is loyal to him. (Definite parallels with the whole Arthur / Guenevere / Lancelot (Bedwyr) love triangle here!) 

Yseult marries Mark, and persuades her maid, Branigan, to slip into the wedding bed with him so he won't realise that Yseult is no longer a virgin. (Mark doesn't notice this. Presumably he has spent all his time until this point focused on improving his tin-mines, and fighting the Devonians and Irish, and hasn't had a lot of time for relationships with women.)

Still with me? 

So, Mark and Yseult are married, but Yseult and Tristan are still under the influence for the love potion and continue to sneak around and continue an affair. They are, inevitably, betrayed to Mark, who makes the choice not to execute them, but instead to banish them., together. After hanging around in the forest for a while, Tristan and Yseult recover from the effects of the love potion, and separate, with Yseult returning to Mark, and Tristan returning home to France where he marries someone who, coincidentally is also called Yseult. (Yseult of the Whitehands, in this case) 

 The story concludes with Tristan, suffering from a mortal wound, appealing to Yseult to come to heal him. He asks that the ship should sail with white sail if she is aboard, black if not, so he knows whether or not she has responded to his call. However, Yseult of the Whitehands is jealous of his first love, and lies to him, telling him the ship has black sails. Tristan promptly dies from disappointment (and, possibly, his pre-existing mortal wound). Yseult then arrives, and promptly dies of grief upon finding him dead.

It's a cheerful tale.

I would definitely recommend it (although Bristol was the penultimate stop on the tour - it's at the Galway International Festival until 22nd July, then that's it, so you need to be quick (and in Ireland!))

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Julius Caesar Redux

You may remember that I saw the Donmar's all women Shakespeare trilogy in London just before Christmas. The plays were filmed, and the first, Julius Caesar was shown at (a limited number of) cinemas on Wednesday.



I was very impressed when I saw it live (which happened to be one of the performances being filmed for this), which is why I wanted to see it again.

It's still very good. I did feel that, as with some other theatre broadcasts I've seen, that the camera was often focused in too close - by zooming in on the face of the person speaking, much of the subtly of the production as a whole was lost, and some of the camera angles, using cameras on the actors themselves, also detracted from the performances, as it made things, to my mind, a bit disjointed, and the production less coherent, which is a shame, as it was a really good production, and I didn't feel tht the filed version did it justice!

That said, it was still worth seeing, and if they show the other two, I will see them as well!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Chris Riddell in Bath

One of my favourite bookshops, Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights (Mr B's, to its friends) organised an event with Chris Riddell (he used to be the Children's Laureate, you know. He  has a Gold Blue Peter Badge), in Bath.



So I went. Of course I did. How could I not?

The event was at the Masonic Hall in Bath, which means sitting in a hall lined with banners, under a star-painted ceiling, (the Hall was the original Theatre Royal, in Bath, built in the 1750, which closed as a theatre in 1805, after which it became a chapel, before becoming a Masonic Hall in 1863. It is still a masonic lodge today, but also hosts various events) 

Chris did an 'Ask Chris Riddell' event, where we were given index cards on which to write our questions - he then picked cards out to answer.


For instance, the picture above was in answer to a question about the hard work involved in writing a book..



And this is illustrates Chris's experience at a South African event where he went to read the mini book in the back of 'Goth Girl and Ghost of a Mouse' and found he needed glasses, so was loaned some lovely cats-eye  glasses by one of the women present, which were effective in being able to see to read, but perhaps not quite so much in relation to the dignity of the position of Children's Laureate! 

Chris also spoke about how he first fell in love with drawing (which involved being rewarded, with wine gums and the opportunity draw, during his father's sermons in church, when he was a very small child) 

Chris gave the pictures to the children (and one adult) whose questions he picked out to answer, and mentioned that he was planning to keep the unanswered cards, and others from previous events, and to pick out a small selection of the best / most interesting, to illustrate, perhaps on instagram or other social media.

When we arrived at the event, we were given the opportunity to buy raffle tickets in support of Bath Welcomes Refugees, Mr B's charity of the year. And I bought some, as you do.

The prizes included signed posters, a couple of the sketches which Chris had created while waiting for us all to arrive and settle at the start of the event (including this one, showing him on the magnificant Grand Master's Throne)


When the tickets were drawn, the penultimate winning ticket was held by my friend Cheryl, (who bought the next tickets after mine). I was, pf coursed,  pleased for Cheryl, and a little envious, but sad I'd missed out by so narrow a margin)

Then the ticket was drawn for the Grand Prize - to have your portrait drawn, live, by Chris. The winning number, 98, read out. Not mine.

Then someone pointed out that the ticket was being held upside down, and it was in fact ticket 86... which was one of my tickets!!

So I then go to sit on a Big Red Chair while Chris drew me, and chatted as he did so. Which was interesting, if a little bit intimidating.

And this is the portrait!
Me, as drawn by Chris Riddell
Chris explained that he often draws people as they might appear if they were characters in one of his books.  

(I should perhaps mentioned the the tiara is by way of artistic licence; Chris obviously spotted my inner princess, I rarely wear a tiara in public! )

After the event Chris stayed to sign books and talk to people, which was nice - his new book, Travels with my Sketchbook is just out, so I was able to pick up a copy and have it signed.

Another great evening. This week will take a lot of beating!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Ian McKellan: Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You

I haven't been to the Park Theatre before. It's a small space. The larger of the two theatres, which we were in, seats just 200 people. (there is a smaller one seating 90), so it's a very intimate space - it reminded me of the Donmar, but slightly smaller.


My seat was in the front row of the circle, looking down on the left hand side of the stage.

The show was titled Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others and You. 

Once we were all seated, the theatre was plunged into total darkness and music from Lord of the Rings rang out, and the lights came up to Ian McKellan reading aloud from the part of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' where Gandalf battles the Blarog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, proclaiming "You cannot pass". (After reaching the end of the passage, McKellan pointed out that the films get this wrong, as the words "You shall not pass" never appear in the book - it is 'cannot' every time!).

And were were off! McKellan started by talking a little about filming the Tolkien stories (including giving an excellent Christopher Lee impression, and giving one lucky chap in the front row the opportunity to draw and wield Glamdring, briefly). He also talked about meeting Sir Edmund Hillary, (he asked Peter Jackson whether it might be possible to arrange a meeting with Hillary, and was told to just look him up in the phone book and give him a ring!) and asking him whether it was true that he and Sherpa Tensing are Kendal Mint Cake on Everest (they did).

He then gave us a broadly chronological tour of his early life and influences, starting with a dramatic rendition of "Three Blind Mice" (the earliest poem he learned) and his first trip to the theatre, to see 'Peter Pan', at the age of 3.

We heard about his time watching variety from backstage at a Bolton theatre as a teenager, involvement in school plays, his interview for university and early stage performances, and his experience of coming out to his family.


The reminiscences were backed up with quotes and readings, including Dickens (from Bleak House), Wordsworth ('The Prelude') , and Gerard Manly Hopkins ('The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo') Oh, and a bit of Widow Twanky!


After the interval, it was Shakespeare all the way. Well, almost.

Ian McKellan started by challenging us, the audience, to name all of the Shakespeare plays, in alphabetical order (which we did), while he passed a few comments (including pointing out that Shakespeare wasn't that good at titles!), and then gave us the pleasure of hearing him give some wonderful Shakesperean speeches, from some of his more memorable roles.

Ian McKellan after the show
So we heard 'The Seven Ages of Man', from As You Like It,  Aufidius's speech welcoming Coriolanus, , the 'Rogue and Peasant Slave' speech from Hamlet, (He was rude about his own Hamlet, very complimentary about Andrew Scott's current performance)   Justice Shallow, from Henry IV Pt.2... He asked if we wanted some King Lear, and then told us we weren't getting any as he is saving it for  later this year.

 Then we moved on to Romeo's 'But soft what light' speech, and a little of Juliet's reply, (and learned that  Shakespeare never mentions any balcony, it's just a theatrical tradition which has stuck!) 

What else? Richard II's 'Hollow Crown' speech.. Macbeth's speech from Act 5, on the death of Lady Macbeth ('Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow') with a little discourse on Macbeth and Richard III,  and Richard, unlike Macbeth, having no conscience.

Finally, we had 'Fear no more the heat of the sun', from Cymbeline, before the penultimate speech, which was the 'Strangers' speech from the play 'Sir Thomas More'; the speech having the distinction of being the only part of Shakespeare's writing we have in his own handwriting:

"You’ll put down strangers, 
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses, 
And lead the majesty of law in lyam 
To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, say now the King, 
As he is clement if th’offender mourn, 
Should so much come too short of your great trespass 
As but to banish you: whither would you go? 
What country, by the nature of your error, 
Should give you harbour? Go you to France or Flanders, 
To any German province, Spain or Portugal, 
Nay, anywhere that not adheres to England, 
Why, you must needs be strangers, would you be pleas’d 
To find a nation of such barbarous temper 
That breaking out in hideous violence 
Would not afford you an abode on earth. 
Whet their detested knives against your throats, 
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God 
Owed not nor made not you, not that the elements 
Were not all appropriate to your comforts, 
But charter’d unto them? What would you think 
To be us’d thus? This is the strangers’ case 
And this your mountainish inhumanity."

This appeared to be the end, but only appeared...
For an announcement was made, asking whether anyone had ever wanted the opportunity to appear on stage with Sir Ian. Well, who could resist?*
(*7/8 of the audience, it seems )

So, along with about 25 others, I made my way onto the stage, where we all went into a secret huddle so Ian could give us his directions, while the rest of the audience talked among themselves.

I must confess, that our performances did not require an enormous amount of acting skill, not did nay of us have a speaking role, but perhaps, given the lack of rehearsal (or, indeed, auditions) it was probably just as well.

So, you know the part in Henry V when Henry is given a list of the French and English dead, after Agincourt? And Henry gives a speech, starting 'This note doth tell me of ten thousand French, that in the field lie slain'

Sir Ian explained that the text refers to a list, but that the piece of paper is often blank, and then started a mournful litany of French names.. many of which may sound familiar, although not ... Beaune, Burgundy, Moet and Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, and so on..

We were those French dead - on cue, we all dropped 'dead' (It is, I will have you know, harder than you might think to lie entirely dead and unmoving while Ian McKellan is giving the worlds most mournful wine-list!). And then, (again on cue)  we all revived, in order to take our curtain call. Which may have involved me holding Sir Ian's hand...

It was a wonderful show, the chance to wallow in so much impeccably performed Shakespeare was a real luxury and the rest felt conversational and relaxed.

When I booked my ticket, I chose to spend an extra £30 for 'a moment with Sir Ian' after the show, when those of us who had signed up got to briefly meet with Sir Ian, and have a photograph (and autograph if we wanted) .

I have no idea who this chap was but he clearly picked the right short for his meet-and-greet!

I don't normally post photos of myself on the blog, but sometimes, it has to be done...


Me, and Sir Ian!
He's a very nice man, is Ian McKellan. A very, very, nice man. Can't wait to see King Lear in September.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The National Gallery - a flying visit

The weekend was busy. After seeing Hir, I stayed overnight in London, due to plans on the Sunday.

A little while back, I saw that Sir Ian McKellan was doing a one-man show, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You  to raise funds for the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, as the theatre wasn't given any Ats Council funding at all in the latest round of grants. 

Given that it was a fundraiser, tickets were, of course, expensive, and at first, I didn't think I could afford to go. But then, just s the tickets wet on sale, I got some money from my bank to say 'sorry we fucked up and locked you out of your account for months', so I decided that it should be spent on something frivolous and self indulgent, and booked my ticket!

I booked for the matinee, which meant I had time to visit the National Gallery - one current exhibition is The Caged Bird Sings, a tapestry triptych designed by Chris Ofili.



It's very beautiful. The gallery has displayed it in one of the side galleries and persuaded Ofili to create a mural of temple dancers to surround the tapestry. 


It is stunning, and the colours of the tapestry are incredibly effective against the greys of the mural.


I hadn't realised the exhibition was there, until I went into the Gallery, so it was a lovely surprise! It's on until 28th August, so plenty of time to see it if you wish!

I also had time to see a second small exhibit (in which photos were *not* allowed) of some of the works of Giovanni da Rimini, who created beautiful religious art work in Rimini in Italy in the early 14th century. I do have a soft spot for medieval art!

And there was just time to visit this,one of my favourites of the collection!



Then I met up with a friend for lunch. At her recommendation, we went to Yauatcha in SoHo, where we ate vast quantities of delicious dim sum (the Venison Puffs were my personal favourite), although sadly I hadn't time for dessert, so I shall be forced to return at some point...

And so, we parted, and I set off to see Sir Ian McKellan!

(For those in the UK or with access to BBC iPlayer, there is a documentary about the Ofili exhibit, on BBC2 on Saturday 15th July)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Hir

I missed Arthur Davrill which he appeared in 'Treasure Island' at the National Theatre, and regretted it, so when I saw he was doing another play in London I decided to go, and encouraged my friend A to come with me.

We fortified ourselves with a rather nice meal at Balans,where the food was good, but they do seem to have embraced the whole 'serve stuff without proper plates or glasses' thing, which is a little annoying!

The plya was Taylor Mac's Hir, at the Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush. The theatre is small, and when we arrived we learned that Ashley McGuire was unwell, and therefore her role was performed by a stand in (whose name I didn't make a note of, I'm afraid), script in hand. She did a very good job, managing to perform, rather than simply to read.
Production photo from theatre website (c)  Ellie Kurttz
The play features Arthur Darvill as Isaac, returning home after 3 years in the army, in an unspecified war-zone where his role has been in the mortuary department, collecting the dead (and their body parts) for repatriation. He doesn't find quite what he expects.

His father, Arnold, (Andy Williams)  has suffered a stroke, and his wife, Paige, is using the opportunity to revenge herself upon him for a lifetime of bullying and humiliation, by refusing to cook, or clean, and by forcing him to wear a nightgown. And when Isaac's sister Max appears, he, and we, learn that ze is transitioning, prefers to use the pronouns 'ze' and 'hir', and is planning to move to an anarchist commune, if only someone will take hir there..

It is, perhaps understandably, all something of a shock to Isaac, particularly as it becomes increasingly obvious, he has his own issues.

The play has lots of funny moments, and it attempt to deal with a whole range of issues, from what makes a home home, to issues of elder abuse, domestic abuse, gender.. at times it is very heavy handed, and can feel a little as though you have been held in your seat and bludgeoned with good intentions, but the play did come together  - I appreciated it a lot more by the end of the 2nd act than I had at the interval. 

I was very impressed with Arthur Darvill's performance, a man clearly holding on by a thread, and desperate for the familiarity and security of home,  and Griffyn Gilliagan as Max managed to stay just on the right side of parody in portraying a teenager with even more than the usual number of issues to contend with! 

I left feeling that the play was interesting rather than enjoyable, but the performances were very, very good. 

It runs until 22nd July.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Racing Demon

I had a very busy weekend so it will take more than one post! 

It all started on Friday evening, when I went into Bath to see 'Racing Demon' at the Theatre Royal.

It is the first of a trio of plays (none of which I've seen before)  by David Hare about English/British Institutions. This one is about the Church of England.

It was written in 1990 and it is focused on issues of that time, but still worth watching.

It is based around the  members of a team ministry. Lionel (David Haig), the lead rector, who has lost faith in the Church, and perhaps, in Go. Harry (Ian Gelder), a closeted gay vicar whose younger partner resents his unwillingness to risk being outed, 'Streaky' (Sam Alexander), cheery and good natured but, (as gradually becomes apparent) also liable to pick the path of least resistance, and finally Tony, (Paapa Essiedu) a newly ordained curate with an evangelical approach, who, over the course of the play, moves from enthusiastic evangelist to uncompromising, and unsympathetic, zealot.

Add into the mix a Bishop seeking to oust Lionel from his post, and raging against the ordination of women, and a sleazy reporter seeking to 'out'  Harry, and there is plenty going on.

A primary reason why I booked was because Paapa Essiedu was in the cast (I saw his Hamlet at Stratford last year, and was very impressed) In this production, he plays Tony, who is far from being a sympathetic character, and does so extremely well - he progresses from being the new, someone naive curate and becomes increasingly uncompromising, and willing to sacrifice Lionel and the others to his own, rigid beliefs.

In fact, the past generally was very strong. Ian Gelder was very good, in a subtle and understated performance.

I did get a little thrill when I realised that Amanda Root (Who is, and will always be, Anne Eliot to me!)  was also in the cast. She gave a  brief but powerful performance as Lionel's long-suffering wife.

I enjoyed the play. Parts of it felt pretty dated (which given the play is 27 years old is perhaps unsurprising), but the underlying issues around loyalty, friendship and responsibilities are still relevant, and I am glad I went. (the performance I saw was the last but one of the run)