Monday, 27 July 2009

The Rivals (Abbey Theatre- Dublin, playing until the end of September)

Ok, so I don't know how useful this review will be to anyone because the only people I know in Ireland were sitting next to me in the audience on Wednesday. Anna and I went to visit Sarah in Dublin, we had a non-stop chock-a-block three days of Irish-fun. Though somehow I managed not to drink any whiskey. On the first day Anna and I were tourists, we did the open top bus, the W.B. Yeats exhibit, Trinity College Library and the Writers Museum.
local boy R.B. Sheridan wrote The Rivals in London. Oscar Wilde wrote in Oxford, Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in Whitby, James Joyce wrote in Dublin and his work is damn confusing!! Anyway, The Rivals is the third Restoration Comedy I have seen, I saw Etherege's Man of Mode at the National Theatre starring Tom Hardy and Rory Kinnear, and that was effing brilliant. Wycherly's The Country Wife with Toby Stephens was less memorable, though the sets were psychedelic. Yes, Man of Mode was extremely good, with lavish revolving sets, modern dress and music, it was inventive and spectacular. The Rivals at the Abbey Theatre (founded by Yeats and Lady Augusta) was done with much less expense, with less set and props! But it was perfect.
The company was so good. These actors were fabulously funny (maybe the clown was a bit grating, but hey ho, the American kids in front of us loved him!) everyone was wonderful. Especially Nick Dunning as the father, he had perfect comic timing and Marion O'Dwyer as Mrs Malaprop, a brilliant character to play. Of course Sheridan is really behind it all, the scenes that worked best were the ones when just two actors were on stage speaking at each other- a different battle of wits every ten minutes. Jesus, it was only a preview but they were bringing the house down. It was by far the best production I've seen for ages. Oh, and the costumes were amazing.

Desperate Romantics (BBC2-Tuesdays 9pm)

Oh, so another thing I'm desperately obsessed with is the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (I'm so cool) though I've never been that fond of Rosetti- who seems to be the leader of the boyband in the new television series. The show is written by Blackpool creator Peter Bowker, who has dropped some clangers in his time so we weren't really sure what might happen- judging from the amazing trailer it was going to be great; Rafe Spall as Holman Hunt, Posner (Sam Barnett) of the History Boys playing Millais and some pretty boy playing Rosetti, David Bowie singing in the background, yeah! But how was it going to be done, surely not with Bowie singing all the time? (this is what Anna hoped for) No, thank god, no modern songs playing over the top, but thank god it is not too serious either! It is very good and very funny.
Rafe is a fantastic actor and does comedy very well (I hope he doesn't turn ham one day, remember when Timothy Spall was so good in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and then he got famous and now he's a total luvvie? sigh, the good old days) Sam Barnett is super-duper cute as Millais and even though it's sort of a Posner-role at least he's finally getting a chance to play someone who's not gay! I can't wait to see him and Effie being all cute together- Tom Hollander is fantastically serious as Ruskin, this is also a great change for him, his memorable roles are always so typecast creepy little slime-buckets, he is the straight man and he does it with surprising depth! It's only episode one so I don't know, maybe Aiden Turner as Rosetti (formerly seen in that BBC3 Vampire/Ghost/Werewolf flat-mate show) will grow on me, but I found him sort of wooden and very over the top- it is possible to play a drunken reprebate without going into caricature you know...
Of course another joy for me watching this show is the feeling I reckon my whole family get when we sit down to watch University Challenge and they get twenty or so and I only get the music and picture rounds... I know what they're painting! I can guess what masterpiece they are suddenly being inspired to paint! I am smug.
Catch up on the iPlayer!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Alberto Zago- The Perfect Shoes

Well, I've been on Italian designer Alberto Zago's website and I have to say I hate ALL the shoes, they are equally as hideous as English shoes. BUT today on the walk from the parked car to the door of the Harrogate Gift Fair I found the most perfect pair of shoes; classic design, black suede, not too high a heel, very soft. They are what I have been searching for my whole life, they are the shoes I draw on ladies' feet- half price from the Harrogate branch of Shubert's, reduced from £99 to, well, you do the maths.
Review OVER.
Perfect shoe is photographed on posh box on hideous mismatched bed sheets.
PS Don't worry, there were two of them.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

We (all six of us) went to see HP6 yesterday afternoon, Anna and I are seeing it again tomorrow morning before the schools break up. The reason we have to see it again is because as well as being quite exhausted from the non-stop entertaining, dinner-making and day-tripping we've been doing this week while we had guests (not to mention me sleeping on "the brown" for four nights), the film was so damn exciting and full of "good bits" that I really don't think I took them all in in one viewing!!
Yes, those who know me (which I assume is all who read this blog) know that Harry Potter is high up on the list of Amy's interests, if she was to go on Mastermind then Harry Potter would probably be at least second choice for specialist subject- if not first. Harry Potter is my life. Harry Potter has been my life for ten years. Sure, I might also say that Drop the Dead Donkey is my life- and I frequently dream entirely new episodes and wake up convinced that they resurrected it, and I watched it. Anyway, every time I go on the internet I check (a)my emails, (b)the Jonathan Pryce Appreciation Society message board and (c)The Leaky Cauldron- ie Harry Potter News. So in short, I've been looking forward to this film for AGES.
And oh my god, everyone, almost EVERYONE has suddenly learned how to act!! Even Alan Rickman has learned how to act!! I was so happy! I say I'm a fan of Harry Potter, that doesn't mean I think the films are great- I do think they're great, but I think there's tons of things wrong with them; I can't stand Emma Watson's eyebrow-acting, I didn't like Daniel Radcliffe, I hate how everyone is cast around the mis-casting of Alan Rickman as the 60-year-old Snape, I don't like how certain characters and certain actors are given less screen time than everyone else, and I obviously hate the appalling CGI. BUT I love changes that have been made for the better plot-wise, I love certain kid-actors in them (Neville, Draco, Luna, etc.) I adore Michael Gambon's Dumbledore, I love most of the casting- the mad British ensemble, and I love the running commentaries that me and Kirandeep or me and Anna have developed over the years. The films are fun, but I don't expect good acting or good adaptations after all these years.
The Half-Blood Prince was obviously as good an adaptation as any other Potter film, nice little changes, and big ones!- burning down a significant building to get out of the fact they omitted certain characters that were extremely important to the final book's opening! No building- no wedding! Changing Ginny's character to adapt to Bonnie Wright's flat and uninspired performance, ho hum, it had to be done. She can't be feisty and passionate when the actress is so blah (This pains me to say btw, I've always liked Bonnie's face and was convinced that she'd be great as soon as they let her have some lines, turns out she's the worst and I desperately missed Neville and Luna who were practically cameos). The only thing I really missed from this one is that Uncy Morphin was omitted, he was comedy gold, surely?!
I'm too excited about seeing it again to even try and review this properly, so I'm concentrating on performances- the film as a story was jam-packed and the kids' romances were most entertaining, hilarious, excellent and heartwarming (Ron's and Hermione's anyway) the only criticism I have of the Half-Blood Prince was that when the HBP's identity was revealed I forgot I was supposed to care, because in the book it's all you want to know! Who is he? What is this mystery?! But in the film because so many other exciting things were happening I forgot I was supposed to be wondering who the Half-Blood Prince was. Could have done with a couple more scenes: one of Harry sprouting theories like "maybe it's my mum!" "maybe it's Voldemort!" "Maybe it's Sirius!" whoever, and later a scene of Hermione saying: "Yeah Snape's mum's maiden name," so that people don't leave the cinema thinking, "Snape is royalty!?"
I don't like Emma Watson in any of the film, over acting eyebrows spring to mind, so I wasn't expecting much, but I adored her!! I couldn't believe it! I had tears in my eyes! I felt so bad for Hermione! She was so cute and funny and not stuck-up or anything that Hermione usually is!! They gave her scenes where she wasn't up-herself and in control, she was normal and vulnerable and sad! I thought she was great! Much more like book-Hermione!
Rupert Grint was as usual great, my favourite line after the first viewing was when Harry asks what Ginny sees in Dean and Ron says as though it's obvious: "He's brilliant!" Not enough Luna, though good that they changed some things so she got more screen-time. Fuck-all Neville! Good comic relief though, they'll make sure he's great in the last film. Jessie Cave's Lav-lav was super cute, I loved her scenes but Cormac McClaggen was the fucking BOMB, that guy was brilliant, never before has quidditch been exciting or funny, but he was genius (so was Ron) on a broom, and genius in all his skin-crawling slimy scenes pursuing Hermione.
Draco, who has been my favourite since it began- best child actor, well, I was disappointed that he didn't get more lines, but at least he was there. At least he was always acting in the background, and when he did get to do some acting it was excellent. I didn't like it when he was crying, it made me sad, some girls in the front row laughed and I wanted to shout "Shut up!" it's a shame they didn't keep in Moaning Myrtle, didn't show enough of Draco's human side that he was always on his own crying. The boys playing young Mr Riddle were fab, both really creepy, the little one was scary and the middle-sized one was terrifying!
Now to Radcliffe. There's no doubt he has improved in every film, and no doubt that off-screen he is a charming (though intense and mad) young man, well, suddenly Harry was a charming young man. In fact, when Radcliffe does comedy he is at his best (which is a shame considering all the bad shit that happens to Harry) lots of scenes with Ron- and the scenes with Slughorn when Harry is "high" were fucking hilarious. He was much more Daniel Radcliffe than Harry Potter and I loved it. Luckily though Radcliffe is also good at "pain" and the action scenes were great.
Slughorn may look the complete opposite of his on-page description but it didn't matter, Jim Broadbent played Jim Broadbent as always and was just fine. Helen McCrory wasn't in it enough for me to care about how awful her hair was, Tonks and Remus were cute but not in it enough. As per usual it is down to Rickers to ruin the film with his dramatic pauses and inappropriate hamming.
Will update tomorrow. It was great, but especially if you know the book (and so understand everything they don't explain)- and if you don't know the book by now, why the hell are you going to see the film?!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Don McCullin: In England (Photography- National Media Museum, Bradford)

Don McCullin is best known as a war photographer, he started in Vietnam and has done every war since, though lately he's taken to photographing lovely landscapes, can you blame him?
This exhibition in Bradford does not focus on his war work or his new landscapes. There's a mixture of photos from the 1960s up to the present with themes of poverty, crime, class -and a fab one of the Beatles.
There are some concieted quotes stuck around the photos of homeless and mad people from McCullin saying that he didn't want to just take pictures of people he wanted to "get to know them and be a part of their world", even though the photos are amazing I still found them basically exploitative.
The reason for the exhibition being in the media museum was that a small collection of the photographs were taken in poverty striken 1970s Bradford. These photos I found the most terrifying, this is the late 70s, the children in those photographs are the same age as my friends and they're living in what looks like post-war squalor!
Anyway, it was a really good exhibition, with some really memorable photos, if you're going to the imax to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince this week, have a look at the exhibition upstairs, it's free.
(In England is in Bradford until the 27th of September)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Prima Donna (Opera- Manchester International Festival)

Anna and I went to see Rufus Wainwright's debut opera Prima Donna on Sunday, it was the second performance, after opening on Friday night with Rufus sitting in the audience dressed like Verdi and his boyfriend dressed like Puccini.
On Sunday Rufus was dressed like some kind of tramp. The top half was a bit like Jonathan Pryce in the film The Doctor and the Devils a mediocre Burke and Hare flick. big hobo beard, top hat with fly-fishing trunklements on the side, tweed jacket over a gross shirt, pale jeans and roman sandals. He was outside the theatre when we arrived signing autographs etc. it was possibly the highlight of the show.
twelve quid seats with restricted legroom, ah, my favourite. Though actually the legroom was a lot better than I remembered- many moons ago we saw Tommy Steele in Scrooge one Christmas, coincidentally he'll be reprising that role this panto season!- no the seats were good seats, nice view, enough legoom that we only got cramp a couple of times, yeah, fine, it was only the audience around us that were intolerable. I had a loud-eater next to me, it sounded like he was eating in my ear- shudder- Anna had three miserable gay lads who looked thouroughly disappointed throughout, and in front of us was the pièce de résistance; OCD man with theatre-shawl.
The opera we felt could do with a bit more work. Anna insists there were a few good "numbers" and I felt sure when we watched the Imagine special on BBC1 last week that there were some lovely melodies, but I only remember really enjoying the music at one point and that was near the end. I know that opera is obvious written to be performed, to be seen live, but I really thought I'd enjoy it a lot more listening to a recording in the dark. Other noises distracted me, the guy on my left for instance, but creaking sets and people coughing are never good while trying to enjoy classical music. I also found the subtitles very intrusive.
We tried to explain to mother that in the last twenty years- since technology was invented- ALL operas are subtitled (in big theatres), so it was to be expected. But really the French they were singing in was very basic so I knew what they were saying (and the story was self-explanitory anway), and with the subtitles there before the words were sung I found myself predicting the next words instead of listening to the music!! So that was very stupid. Apart from that though I didn't like the big stark set, come on think of something more original than that! The costumes were ok, but did it have to be set in the 70s? Why couldn't it be set anytime? Little bits of staging were clever, but it was only when all five characters were on the stage that it didn't look empty!
And now to the story: predictable, it's like Sunset Boulevard excpet she's not as mental, journalist comes in to interview fading opera star, she falls in love with him, the end.
I don't feel I know enough about opera to say whether the actors were good or not, they all did well- though sometimes couldn't be heard over the music (the orchestra was great by the way!)- but after watching Imagine, and being a fan of Rufus Wainwright for a long time, I have a feeling I would have much prefered listening to or watching him sing the complete score.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth (BBC1)

Tonight we watched three of this week's Torchwood episodes in a row. It was much more exciting this way than Monday and Tuesday's lone episodes. I don't usually watch Torchwood but you know, with no Doctor Who on we've all got a bit desperate- and I had faith that as it was a special, five hours in total, they would have to knock the standard up a bit.
These episodes of Torchwood were really good- a good story I mean. The problems only occurred when there were moments of dialogue unrelated to the children-are-alien-crack plot, ie whenever Ianto talks to Jack in a boyfriend-capacity his character seems to get more and more blah, and nobody cares when he dies.
I like Gwen and I like her average bloke husband, I even ended up liking Ianto's comic relief family, but Ianto and Jack together were so boring! How could a relationship ever have happened between them when Ianto had NO personality!?! Jack is also boring and very one-dimensional for a character who has supposedly broken all sci-fi boundaries or whatever...
The supporting cast and characters on the other hand are what made the five-day special very watchable, I loved the girl who was their spy on the inside, she was the best Torchwood team member. Sea-gully (Paul Copley) was great as a convincing looney, Peter Capaldi was fabulously teary as usual and Nick Farrell was, as usual, confusingly gorgeous as the slimy PM.
Anyway, it is a shame that Torchwood is over after these episodes proved that it wasn't all shite. But I think Torchwood fans probably missed the "sexy banter" and all the inbreeding going on in the office, whereas I appreciated it as a good fun piece of science fiction and felt it was at it's worse when Ianto wasn't focused on saving the Earth and instead was sighing; "Jack, will you still remember me in 1000 years? sob, cry, etc."

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Psychoville Episode four (BBC2)

Great episode tonight. Anna came in afterwards having spent the whole half hour on the computer (presumably looking for Snappy the Crocodile on eBay) and said "Well, there's never enough of David and his mum." Poor Anna.
Yes, what a really good bit of editing, only saw two clever cuts, if we ignore these (as dad did) the whole half hour was in one shot, fab camera work. Really really good, nice afternoon-play/horror film feel to it. And great seeing Gatiss in there with them, ah, memories! I loved the League of Gentlemen, too much I think... I'm not sure how many other girls watched it instead of doing GCSE coursework and thought it was genius. I still go around shouting the orange juice line from the first episode. I mean obviously everyone has their favourite lines, but could I have picked a stupider one!? Ha!
btw, Janet McTeer, David Bamber and Nick le Prevost were perfect as a murder mystery group, of let's face it, failed actors. Didn't like Janet McTeer's death last week- thought that was a bit horrific, glad we only had to hear Nick getting hit by a bus (he sort of deserved it after wearing that sweater-vest). Not looking forward to Bamber's death, I've always liked him...

Jon Richardson and Shappi Khorsandi -Hebden Bridge Arts Festival

Last night for Lauren's Best Ever Birthday (only ruined by having her car broken into and her prized possessions being nicked and all her hard work being deemed pointless- Happy Birthday, Lauren!!) we went to see stand-up comics Shappi Khorsandi (Listen to her new Radio4 show Shappi Talk every Thursday) and Jon Richardson (listen to his radio show on 6music every Sunday). Jon was the main draw for Lauren, and for Anna and I really, I knew Shappi from- as she pointed out- being the Iranian comedienne on Radio4. I've seen Jon a few times at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and have never missed a podcast since they began way back when Mr Howard was co-hosting, oh dear oh dear, he should never have left, he is just not funny enough on Mock the Week (Thursdays BBC2). But Jon was always the best one anyway, and Fordie makes up for anything lost when Russ temper-tantrumed out of there, or whatever happened... We'll never know!
I introduced Lauren to Jon's podcasts a couple of months ago when we were on holiday together, they're very good for long car journeys. And I was thrilled a week later to see that the only comedy act coming to this year's Arts Festival was last night's show- on the day after Lauren's birthday!! Yes!! I have never found an easier present- An easier good present, I should say, it is quite easy for Lauren and I to buy shite for each other, though she's the expert there.
And Jon delivered!! His Edinburgh show is going to be fantastic this year, it was good last year, but I think even better, even more bitter this year.
Yes, these were the previews, Shappi was on first and was very cute and nice to the audience- her set needed a little polishing (that's what these pre-Edinburgh shows are for) but she more than made up for pauses with charm and impressions of her little brother and sister. I overheard her say in the bar to Jon afterwards "I can't believe you've got your Edinburgh show sorted already!" But Shappi, Jon lives alone and works (outside of writing and performing his stand-up) three hours a week on a Sunday morning. You have a two year-old boy, a husband you are obliged to acknowledge and loads of token-Iranian appearances to make on BBC Radio4! Don't worry about it! You were great!!
Jon's set was very tight and very funny. I was really glad we'd sat in the front row, all three of us offered a show of hands when asked who was a perfectionist, and then the majority of us were confused by the follow-up question: "Are you in relationships?" Anna instantly answered "No," while me and Lauren exchanged glances and both thought 'With each other?!' Idiots.
The Picture House was full, which made us think that if Hebden Bridge did organize more comedy then it would be completely worth while, but unfortunately the Arts Festival is made up of the usual Cello recitals and poetry evenings. I have been to three writing workshops in the last week, none have been helpful. As you can see.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Just William TV series announced for 2010.

no. No. NO. I know that child-actors have become more likeable lately, well, some of them, some times, I mean Freddie Highmore was perfectly cast in Finding Neverland as the tragic weepy child- but anything he's done where he's played an upbeat boy was horribly unnerving. The religious one in Son of Rambow is only good as an annoying weirdo and I fucking HATE the kid in Outnumbered we're all supposed to love. I tell you, if I saw that kid, I'd punch him right in his annoying fat face... Ahem, my favourite child actor of recent films is Son of Rambow's co-star with the pudding face (Will Poulter). He'd be a good William.
But no. NO! There shouldn't be a Just William TV series!! They've all failed miserably!! Remember the 90s one? *shudder* he was so clean and smug! Ugh, who was that little twat?! I adore Just William!! It should be made officially untouchable, can't Richmal Crompton's estate do something?! Can't Martin Jarvis do something?!
I mean, Tony Ross is one of my favourite illustrators, but I HATE what he's done to William! That shouldn't have been allowed!! Thomas Henry's illustrations are timeless!! and that image of William (see above) should be the only one that's allowed.
Martin Jarvis is apparently acting as consultant, but what power can he possibly have?! Written by fucking Men Behaving Badly and Reggie Perrin writer Simon Nye?! Fuck, if Martin Clunes is playing Mr Brown the BBC is asking for me to take up a shotgun and kill people.
Obviously I'm going to watch it. But Nothing will ever be better than the books- except on car journeys where you can't read and need Martin Jarvis to read it to you.
"General Malt walking, General Malt walking, ladies and gentlemen."

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Serena vs. Dementieva Semi-Final Wimbledon (BBC1)

Best match of the day!! Three hours long!! So exciting!! It was long enough for me to actually finally grasp the rules of tennis!! By the time Venus came along at the end to thrash the "World's Number One" in under an hour I was scoring better than ol' Hawkeye the umpire (embarrassing match for that munterific Russian).
Yes, this was an amazing tennis match. Serena Williams was fabulous! Dementia(va- the commentators seemed ironically to forget this syllable of her name) was amazingly good, like a cold calculating machine! All pointed and intense, her muscles wirey and gross! And Serena was like Wonder Woman!! Beautiful and feminine- though still huge, strong and able to crush you like a bug!! Argh! I want her! And hearing her [and Venus] speak after their wins, well, those girls are just lovely! Americans know all the right things to say don't they? It's because they are taught public speaking at school over there, they always compliment the other players and they're so humble and charming!! If it was a Scot winning he'd be all like: "Well, the best man won, ps I've never read a fuckin' book!" ( Ha! I don't know really, I'm not swept up in Murray-fever, I don't watch the mens matches- yawn, but I did read in the Radio Times Andy Murray gloating that he's never read a book. What a fucking role model, eh kids?)