Monday, 28 September 2009

Tutti Frutti (1987)

Tutti Frutti is still good but I don't think it's stood the test of time quite so well as other TV series from the 80s, it's not as good as Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983) but then not a lot is.
My favourite characters were Richard Wilson and Katy Murphy, they were great together, I liked how full of hate and disdain she was, she's always been great.
I found Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson's relationship just a bit too weird... I was willing to accept that she was an art school chick and so probably mad and always fancied him 'cause of his talent despite the fact he was a big fat bastard, but I didn't really get how she could fancy him after getting to know him because he was basically insane- Though in episode 5 when her husband who is an actual rapist and wife-beater shows up I suppose I can see how potential-rapist Robbie Coltrane is practically an angel.
The band were good- my favourite was Jakey Pete.
Bit of a downer really though. Not enough comedy to lighten all the horror that seems to happen in Glasgow.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum 1979)

My dad's taste in films is not to be trusted, he seemed to think The Tin Drum was hilarious, I found it deeply disturbing! It was a very creepy very strange film about a boy who decides to stop growing and stay child-like forever. He's obsessed with his tin drum and he has the ability to shatter glass with his scream. I wonder if the book is less disturbing... Probably not. Nobel Prize winner and Academy Award winner, hmm. Well, it was interesting and I did like the subplot with his mother and two fathers, it was only Oskar himself that weirded the fuck out of me.

Spike Milligan's Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall (Cambridge Arts Theatre)

Gone a bit play-mad lately, and it promises to continue when I go to America on tuesday, I've got tickets for three plays and one opera and no doubt I'll get carried away and review the Empire State Building or something... I didn't go up it last time, went up the Rockefeller and got a nice view of the ESB, Kim's apartment apparently looks out onto the ESB, man, I'm excited.
Anyway, Andy and I went to see this nice adaptation of Spike's book the other night, the theatre was pretty empty (shame, people of Cambirdge suck) so half way through we managed to sneak closer than or ten quid tickets allowed and we got a great view.
It's a variety show under the guise of a WW2 variety show, chapters and stories from Spike's memoir about his time in the army are acted out by the five members of the cast and in between- and sometimes during- there are some brilliant jazz numbers as each of the cast plays numerous instruments and can all sing really REALLY well. (I am so turned on by talent.) Of course Spike Milligan was in a jazz band while he was in the army so I reckon it's pretty much an 100% accurate portrayal of the war in North Africa, right down to Hitler singing in his underpants.
There were lots of jokes about Anton Walbrook and the" bloody Warsaw Concerto!" which I was greatly amused by- I particularly liked when the pianist played the concerto and the Nazis and Tommys argued and pushed the piano away, neither wanting anything to do with the awful rot. The boy playing Spike was appropriately mad, the madness of war and the madness of Spike Milligan seemed to come naturally to him, all the cast was excellent.
It was a great play, funny and really cleverly staged, I still felt sad afterwards though, Spike's mental health issues are played out quite seriously and, you know- it's the war. I then dreamt that I was in a one-man show that I'd written about the Holocaust. It was not funny.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A Very Potter Musical

I was tired so I thought, ok I'll watch the first two 8 minute sections on youtube and if it's any good I'll watch a bit more tomorrow. Then I was like, well, I'll watch to the end of the first act... But anyway, I watched it all. All three hours.
Wonderful performances, wonderful script, wonderful special effects, wonderful staging and awesome songs!
The parody condenses all seven Harry Potter books into one jam-packed year at Hogwarts, Harry has miles more charisma as a guitar playing teenager who likes being famous than Dan Rads or book-Potter, I liked this Potter. Ron was good as a constantly eating jack-ass and Hermione and Ginny were good support. But the show belongs to Voldemort and Draco, Voldemort was hot and the girl playing Draco gave an uber-cute performance that made my favourite character even more hilariously weird.
So lets all climb on Rumbleroar's back and don't forget your space suits, we're going to Mars!
Watch on Youtube (You have to watch at least two parts before you really get into it.)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Mother Courage and Her Children (National Theatre)

The acoustics in the Olivier Theatre are amazing, I wish I'd seen Oklahoma. Anna and I didn't know what to expect from Mother Courage, I hadn't read anything (they haven't had their Press Night yet thanks to last minute cast changes) and I think we expected a short political piece. It was three hours and twenty minutes long, and every scene had a huge angry musical number in it.
Mother Courage makes her entrance standing on top of a covered wagon that rises up out of huge pit in the ground to flashing lights, the sounds of war and blaring music. She is wearing an impressive frock and singing aggressively into a microphone. Her children pull the wagon in circles around the stage while she belts out her opinions.
Fiona Shaw is possibly the best performer I have ever seen on stage. The role was hers, the play was hers, the stage was hers. She has the most amazing stage presence. I'd heard she was good, but to know her only as an actor who plays silly bit-parts on screen, well, she blew me away. Now I'm not sexist, BUT I've never seen a woman hold the stage like that, she had the stage presence of a man. A really really REALLY good man.
I saw four shows in the last three days, Mother Courage was the first one, it's the one that sticks with me just because Fiona Shaw was so good. I cried at the end.

A Brief History of Scotland: We Done Loads! (Leicester Square Theatre)

My pals done a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival three years ago, they did it again a year ago (tightened it up made it extra good and spicy) It was so good that they got a chance to take their good selves to London for five days only to star in a WEST END SHOW!
A Brief History of Scotland is an excellent little sketch show that I have had the pleasure of seeing, I don't know, about five times. The sketches cover all the essentials; religion, art, technology, literature, etc. My favourite Sketch is still the Trainspotting parody 'Choose Fife' (Well done Paul, you were brill) but I also love the poetry bit where a flustered rhyming McGonagall (the worst poet in Scotland- and possibly the world) introduces sensitive flower Rabbie Burns who turns out to be a disgusting foul-mouthed drunk.
This show worked really really well in Edinburgh, and most sketches translated well to a London stage, a few fell down -not because of the excellent, talented and beautiful cast but because of an international London audience's ignorance when it comes to Scottish history. You really have to have a basic knowledge of what's being parodied to get the most out of this, which of course visitors to Scotland do, but sadly visitors to Leicester Square did not.

All's Well that Ends Well (National Theatre)

It looked magical. Same Art Director in charge of War Horse methinks- silhouetted trees and torn paper all over the place. It was extremely pretty and the performances were all top-notch. I didn't know this Shakespeare, I knew it was supposed to be a comedy (in other words nobody dies) but by the end of the first act I didn't see how it could possibly End Well!! It did end well, I suppose, if being trapped in a loveless marriage means ending well!
The plot is that an orphan girl is in love with a young boy who is called up by the terminally ill King to join the army (which he is super excited about btw) the girl cures the King (her dad was a wizard or something) so to reward her the King marries her to the boy she loves- turns out though he's SO not interested, so he leaves for war hoping that she'll die! She wanders around for a bit, meets a pretty maid and hatches a scheme so that her husband will sleep with the pretty maid (who he totally fancies) but actually he'll be blindfolded and it will be HER! It ends with the husband coming back home to find that his wife is not dead but pregnant so he admits defeat and says "ok, I suppose I'll be your husband."
HORROR! This is not a happy ending!!
I felt so awful for the heroine! Because he was such a shit!! But I realise that in Shakespeare's day the audience reaction would have been the complete opposite! Because she was a tricky woman with lots of schemes! Scheming to be married to him, scheming to trick him into sleeping with her, scheming to trap him in a marriage!! So she would have been the scheming villain rather than him the shit who liked her but ugh, didn't want to marry her!
I guess I felt extra bad because I'm sort of fond of the old schemes myself. If I ever get me a husband it'll be by a scheme.

The Hypochondriac (ETT at the Cambridge Arts Theatre)

Moliere again, Le Malade Imaginaire was his final play. Liverpool poet Roger McGough has adapted Tartuffe in the past but steered clear of The Hypochondriac because he wasn't too keen on the scatalogical. I have to say I wasn't too keen either. Anyway, McGough wrote this translation that was first performed at the Everyman and the silly sod decided to write it in verse.
Yes verse. Rhyming that sometimes got in the way and not like the amusing half-crap-rhymes that were only there for a laugh. The audience was clearly impressed by the rhyming and at first just laughed at the end of every line because amazingly it rhymed with the last. I found that more irritating than the rhyming itself. Anyway, I got into it more than Anna because I do like silliness and I do like rhyme!
But, perhaps because it was Moliere's last play it seemed very very familiar, same old same old. It was a bit disjointed I thought, there were some excellent characters that were only cameos; at the beginning we were presented with the scheming wife's moustachioed lover- he was excellent but then never seen again. The wife herself, once found out was not seen again. The idiot was underused, he was hilarious, instead there was too much of the young (wet) lovers and the sense-talking brother. But Clive Francis and Leanne Best (as the Hypochondriac and his clever maid) were consistently good and Miss Best especially was very funny though at first her very deliberate delivery of the rhyming verse annoyed me I found that in the end it worked best for what was of course just a silly farce.

Houses of Parliament Tour, Foreign Office Open House Weekend

You can tour the Houses of Parliament in August and September when the Lords and Politicians are on holiday. Anna and I went on thursday, it was most interesting. The only bit we were allowed to take photos of was the entrance hall that has been there since the 1000s, everything else was built in Victorian times and so was all gold and sparkly- though the main bit you see on telly (The Commons Chamber) was designed by the guy who designed the red telephone box. House of Lords was super sparkly though!
Lots of fab rooms, huge ones with paintings of past kings and queens- a nice cute one with the Tudors all around the picture rail, and HUGE murals of the battle of Trafalgar. Also, as you might expect there are statues of past prime ministers everywhere and the most horrific one was of Thatcher, the artist who sculpted it said that he did it so that when the revolution comes there'd be something to pull down. Ho ho ho. Anyway, worth a visit, very interesting.
We also dashed around the Foreign Office, this weekend was Open House Weekend where the public get access to all sorts of interesting buildings that are usually private. Well, The Foreign Office wasn't as exciting as all that. Victorian again, really nice indoor courtyard and lots of Venitian looking rooms, but only one really big impressive bit (The State Stair) -too many plebs wandering around.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Philipa Pearce Memorial Lecture: 'What is Children's Poetry For?' (speaker Michael Rosen, Homerton College)

The Difference

In Glasgow
The hotel gave us something called
In Edinburgh
The hotel gave us the same stuff
and it was called:
'Skincare Bar'.

Michael Rosen gave an interesting lecture, focusing on the decline of teaching and the hideous rise of children as statistics. And then he signed my book afterwards, I wish I'd had my tape of The Michael Rosen Rap with me for him to sign, I remember all those poems off by heart. I told him that I was going to stand up in the lecture and shout "Get out! Get out! The Skyfoogle has escaped!!" I also told him that the Skyfoogle has haunted Anna her entire life. She never got the joke.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

My Favourite Brunette (1947)

I watched this Bob Hope film while eating my breakfast and then decided to carry on watching because some of the lines cracked me up as well as the visual gags. I especially liked the scene where Peter Lorre kept sneakily placing the jewelry box in Bob's path only to have him miss it every time.
Bob Hope is a baby photographer whose office happens to be next door to the office of a private detective. ho ho ho, classic.
"I woke up with a lump on my head the size of my head."
The one-liners were great but I just loved the way he described everything, those voiceovers can be so blah in old murder movies, but Bob's commentary was top-notch.
"It was one of those real swanky joints where they eat mink for breakfast."

Wide Saragasso Sea (book by Jean Rhys and drama BBC4)

We watched the 2006 drama of the Jane Eyre prequel a couple of nights ago, Anna's been on a Rafe Spall kick since the Desperate Romantics ended (I thought it was quite disappointing when they stopped focusing on Holman Hunt and Millais and turned William Morris into a weirdo). So we watched the drama and I felt it was all over extremely quickly. It began quickly, they were married within the first ten minutes, and then it suddenly ended after only an hour and twenty minutes.
I read the book, to see if it was anything like it. Turns out it's almost exactly the same. The only thing they left our was Antoinette's childhood, which is a shame because you get now why Rochester's such a prink, but not really why she "goes mad"... This isn't something that happened overnight, there was a lot going on there. Well, they talk about it, but not as much as in the novel.
I liked the book better, though I don't usually like to read things that are in first-person I thought it worked well, it felt isolated and weird just reading the two sides of the story. I especially liked how Rochester was never referred to by name, but you knew it was him. I pictured a young Toby Stephens rather than Rafe 'cause he was an excellent (though stunningly handsome) Rochester in 2006's Jane Eyre- sorry Rafe! You were really much better suited to the role. I didn't picture Rebecca Hall, even after watching her do a really good job in the drama, I think I pictured her more obviously mixed-race White Creole, rather than the way Rebecca Hall is, which is shiny white- thought turns out her Mum is opera singer Maria Ewing, who is much more how I imagined Antoinette!!
Anyway, it wasn't really my kind of book, but it had to be read, we can't be Bronte experts and not bother with the most famous and successful fanfic of all time!!