Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Category


Security Theatre Theatre!

November 26, 2010

Yes, it’s another hilarious, yet slightly whiny, post about stupid people and the rules they love to make up.

So there I was, after work, cycling home past St Pancras Station in London, and I decided to stop and avail myself of one of the consumer outlets therein, in search of comestibles. I chained up my bike outside, thinking that with all the passengers and their luggage scurrying to and fro it would be the right thing to do. Why get in the way of all that activity with my bike when I don’t have to, and who wants a bike in their food shop, right?

A few minutes later I walk out the door, key in hand, ready to pedal off, and a man in some sort of vaguely uniform-ish clothing is poking at my ride. Maybe, I foolishly think to myself, he appreciates fine vintage cycles and was merely admiring it. Or preparing to steal my lights.

“Is this your bike?” he enquired as he saw me approach, key in hand, wearing cycling gloves and helmet. I said that it was.
“You can’t lock it up here.”
“Oh, I just did” I replied.
“If the police found that there they’d cut the lock off it and take it away”
“Um, why?” I asked. “Are they worried that it will expode?” (Note that my bike has no panniers, bags, or any other attachment where large quantities of nitrogen-based fertiliser, or C4 even, could be stored).
“Yes” he said. “They” (yes, the scary mysterious ‘they’) “pack the tubes with explosives.”

Um, how about ‘no “they” don’t’? I wish I could put “citation needed” in superscript on the foreheads of the idiots who say these things.

“So”, I asked him “where does one lock up a bike around here?”
He looked at me blankly.
“I’m supposed to take it inside with me?”
“Yes, that would be the best thing to do” he said, straight-faced.
“So I’m supposed to take my potentially exploding bike onto the main concourse, in the middle of all the people, and not leave it out here where if it exploded it might break a window or leave a hole in the pavement?”
“Yes” he said. “I know it sounds stupid” (I was beginning to suspect that if he actually was bright enough to know that it sounded stupid he wouldn’t try to enforce, it, or even say it).

I told him that what he was doing was not Security, but Security Theatre, but he turned away as his radio came to life.
“Yes, don’t worry, I tracked down the owner of the bike” he said into it. ‘Tracked me down’? Is there such a thing as ‘loitering someone down’? Far more appropriate description of his performance, I would have thought.
I heard the voice on the radio say “I hope you told him the error of his ways.”
“Yes!” I shouted at the radio. “I’m planning to join a theatre troupe!”



June 21, 2009

Today we’ve had tea, poached eggs on toast (with chipotle Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces,) followed by a walk up to the markets, where we bought peas and broadbeans and smoked eel and smoked mackerel and heritage tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala (English-made) and asparagus and strawberries and early-season cherries (bloody great!)

Came home and had oysters, then a pea and bean risotto for lunch. Bloody amazing for about £10 for the two of us.

Just been listening to Cat Empire. It’s a sunny summer’s day (the longest one, it’s the solstice!) and they’re brilliant. I’ve been trying to work out how to define what they do – a bit ska, a bit gypsy, a bit mariachi, a bit wog, a bit of a bunch of other stuff, all fun, all great. Feeling good, sitting in the sun with a drink, couldn’t be better.

Then Cat Stevens comes on- Tea for the Tillerman. Great songs, it has to be admitted, but what a palooka. Sorry, but anyone who can happily commit to a fatwah is in my book necessarily an idiot. Come to think of it, anyone who can happily commit to a religion is in some way deeply defective, as far as I can tell. So the music is poisoned. Such a shame.

Yay for Cat Empire, oysters, peas, beans and rice!


Tell ‘im ‘e’s dreamin’!

December 29, 2008

Or, There’s No Place Like Home.

It’s big, and we finally saw the damn thing. Australia, that is.
Despite Our Germaine, despite The Honourable Peter Costello, BA, LLB, MP, despite a host of people telling us to the contrary, we actually went and saw and judged for ourselves. And lo, it was good!
No, it’s not a documentary, as some seem to have assumed, despite the factual existence of the place in the title.
It’s a rollicking story, sentimental, sympathetic, funny and fictional, though hung on a framework of historical events, in the same way as a zillion other WWII dramas, comedies and romances have been.
I honestly don’t know why there’s been such a white, middle-class backlash against this film (as it seems that there’s been, given at least the two reviewers above,) unless it can be said that they either feel vaguely guilty about being white and middle class, or they just don’t get it.
Baz is telling a meta-story, a story about telling stories, and the importance of telling stories, and the importance of growing up with stories to tell. He has fun with that notion in a filmic way, using the language of cinema, quoting from other big film stories, using broad strokes on a broad landscape, and generally being entertaining. The film is long, but it didn’t feel long – I was never bored. It’s blatantly emotionally manipulative, but that comes with the genre, and I didn’t feel it was cynically so.
I remember seeing Strictly Ballroom at the Sydney Film Festival when it came out, and the horror that surrounded it. It was as though Australians had never heard their own accent played back to them before – the Cringe was palpable! How could that terrible Mr Luhrman portray Australians like this, people were saying, and yet that film has entered the Australian cinematic canon, it has been taken to heart around the world, even in the Mother Country, Our Germaine’s adopted home, the UK TV classic Come Dancing has become Strictly Come Dancing!
Maybe it’s time the cringe was dropped, and it was accepted that if we tell Baz Luhrman he’s dreamin’, that might be a good thing. Even Australians have stories to tell.


staged events, part the second

December 4, 2008

So, still buoyant from our happy time at the Gielgud theatre, we went a couple of weeks later to the Mad Max inspired Millenium Dome, now much more branding-consciously called the O2 Arena, essentially a yurt on steroids filled with American-themed steak-and-cocktail eateries, drinkeries and clubbings. With a stage of some sort attached. We were there to see Monkey: Journey to the West, a production of the ancient Chinese story of the Buddhist priest Tripitaka (or more properly,  Xuanzang) and the Monkey King, Sūn Wùkōng (or Qítiān Dàshèng, “Great Sage, Equal of Heaven”) and their journey to India to collect the famous three baskets of sacred scrolls (the actual tripitaka, which gave the priest his honorary name.)

The story has been a staple of Asian legend for hundreds of years, and was brought to my attention by the Japanese TV series made of it between 1978 and 1980. I didn’t get around to looking up the printed translation until about 4 years ago. A very fun read, so I was very pleased to hear of the new stage production here.

Especially pleased because of the creative team behind it: Chen Shi-zheng, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, very stylish gents all, in their fields. So off we went to the cultural Arena, or more precisely, to a second sub-tent ’round the back of the main über Petri dish. I have to say I was impressed. I think it was the first theatre performance I’ve seen where I thought I could sit through it all again straight away (over 2 hours plus intermission!)

There were subtitles to read (it was all performed in Mandarin, the cast being mostly, if not entirely Chinese), though not many, but with so much going on on stage that I was torn between keeping my eyes riveted to the antics and acrobatics and flicking them offstage to the projected text on either side.

The first half focussed on the birth and life of Monkey, and the eventual formation of Tripitaka’s expeditionary troupe, much the way the translation I read did. If you’re more familiar with the TV show this will come as a bit of a revelation, as it glossed over that bit in the intro, then got down to what happens after the intermission of the stage production, the battles with the monsters (which makes it perfect TV fodder – the Chinese original had 81 Monsters of the Week already written in!) Eventually the troupe makes it, despite all adversity, to the temple which is their destination, to pick up the scrolls and be blessed by Buddha. Yay!

Apparently they do travel back to China, sacred scrolls in hand, where Tripitaka spends the rest of his life translating, reciting, and teaching them, but that wasn’t covered in this production. Phew.

Excellent staging and all ’round production values, I thought, though I’m far from an expert. Two thumbs up.

That’s two wins from two performances! Just before xmas, we have cheap tickets to Spamalot. We’ll see if we can get the hat-trick. Wish us luck…


staged events

December 3, 2008

Well, we’ve braved the theatre twice in recent days, much to our surprise!

Neither of us are big fans of stuff on stage, but we found, in the cornucopia that is London, a couple of things to tickle our fancy.

Me personally, I find all that stagecraft guff a bit heavy on the “stagey”, and a bit light on the craft. Like the production of The Glass Menagerie we saw here in a West End theatre last year. The critics, amateur and pro alike were falling over themselves (maybe each other, I don’t know, I didn’t get that close) to laud its virtues, whatever, and however thin, they may have been. “Yawn”, I say, “yawn” again. Just not my scene. Plays? Emotional drama on stage? I see over-wrought waiters in tights (or whatever the costumes might be.) For emotion, give me the gritty close-ups of film (or real-life, even) any day.

If you’re going to entertain me, make me laugh, I say! Even bitterly, in recognition of human foibles and follies. Dazzle me with wordplay, thrill me with gymnastics, but don’t try to embroil me in the emotional intrigues of characters (people I don’t even know, or like!) because I’ll be yawning all the way to the tube-station.

So, back to the main story, first up we saw The wonderful Bill Bailey, who was already familiar from stage and screen – if you don’t know him there’s plenty to find on Youtube for a glimpse into his quirky and deconstructed world (“how many amoebas does it take to change a lightbulb?”*). There’s not much I can say about him that can’t be gleaned from the online recources, except that if you get a chance (and you’re into that sort of thing) go and see him. He’s my kind of funny.

More in the next instalment, coming soon…

*one – no, two- no, four! – no, eight…