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I’ve seen the film. Years ago of course, but remember the brooding Brando and the annoying Blanche who comes to stay with her sister and him in the steamy South. This Young Vic production gave me a different perspective altogether and I empathised completely with Gillian Anderson’s Blanche. The apartment is on a rotating stage in the round and for reasons beyond me it is set in a timelessness of somewhere in the late 20th century rather than the original post war era. That kind of jarred as the attitudes were still very much early 50s.

Anderson started as flirty, fragile and funny with some sharp cracks and coquettish behaviour. And regular snifters to keep her going. Her sister, Stella, accepts the appalling behaviour of her husband Stanley because the sex is so great with him and she enjoys the passion and volatility of their relationship. We have no idea of the personal backstory that led her to marry someone so beneath her social standing, but Blanche holds no punches telling Stella what she thinks of Stan. However, I don’t really feel we got see the menace, the animal magnetism, or relentless abuse and brutish behaviour that was referred to. Occasionally Stan would explode but it seemed to come out of nowhere rather than being a tinderkeg waiting to blow. Or it may be that Gillian Anderson was so much better than everyone else that their portrayals paled in comparison. Her desperation for affection and kindness were palpable and her determination for her world to be magical and joyous childlike. She had huge monologues which kept us captivated as she told the heart-rending tale of her doomed marriage and having to watch all her loved ones die.Stanley insists on telling his sensitive friend who had taken a shine to Blanche all about Blanche’s reality of having lost the family mansion and resorted to prostitution until being sacked as a schoolteacher for sleeping with a pupil and Mitch too abandons her. Later, Stella goes in to labour and Stanley rapes Blanche as if it were inevitable. Obviously this is the way to put a woman in her place. And then of course Blanche continuing to live there is untenable and they arrange for her to be carted off. It’s awful. Tragic. Pathetic. I wept as her illusory world shattered around her  as her sister decided to side with her husband and the nurse tried to heave her up off the floor. Luckily a man came to her rescue. The doctor, gentle, caring offered her his arm so she could leave with dignity. She responded as a reflex and I could feel the gratitude as she hauntingly said she had “always relied on the kindness of strangers.”  I don’t think it was Blanche living in a fantasy world, I think it was Stella and the only way she could maintain it was to obliterate Blanche from her life.

Five starts for Anderson, and four overall.

An Ode by Proxy

September 2, 2014

Someone asked me a couple of months ago if I could write an Ode for their niece. How nice was that? I’d never met her niece but apparently she was having a Bridal Shower (another American import??) and everyone had been asked to say a few words so my gym buddy asked me if I could jot down a few verses. I said I’d need some basic facts about the person in question and then I’d give it a go. But no promises on quality.

I thought it would be really difficult if I didn’t know them, but actually I was able to rattle something off fairly quickly with the information I was supplied with. Perhaps knowing less about the person whittles it down so much I have less to think about! what to put in. The event has now passed and I hear it went down well, so I share it with you all now. Perhaps I could run a sideline business writing Odes….

Ode on the Occasion of Anna’s Bridal Shower

 

And so we are all gathered now

On this sunny August day

To celebrate and raise a glass

Before the great big giveaway.

I know we wish your Mum were here

And she is, in all our hearts,

So let’s make this the finest bridal shower

Ever seen around these parts

Way back in 1988

She did bring you to our worlds

All large and round with big blue eyes

And a mop of raven curls.

You weren’t the easy, placid babe

On adverts far and wide,

No you bawled and screamed all day and night

You just cried. And cried. And cried.

But then you started blossoming,

Loving lots of cuddly toys,

It wasn’t till much later,

You swapped them all for boys.

At school you loved your sewing

And doing craft and art,

You got to go to Uni,

But didn’t like the writing part!

You preferred making, shopping, spending

Buying bags and shoes galore,

Whilst muggins here was working

To raise your dissertation score.

And also whilst at Uni,

You met your Mr Right,

The lovely Mr David Howe

Succumbed without a fight

You work all day at Marks and Sparks,

And design your own creations,

Is all that sewing inside legs,

Good for marital relations?

He’s so lucky to have got you,

You are kind and calm and fun,

You are beautiful from head to toe -

You are the knockout one.

We love you so much Anna

You are great in every way

Let’s raise our glasses one more time

For a fantastic wedding day.

Dishoom. Five stars.

September 1, 2014

So after the fabulous Shakespeare in Love, we walked up the road to Dishoom. A sophisticated curry house. The food was top notch. Really tasty, really tender and served by great staff. Expensive compared to your standard curry house because portions are smaller so you need more of them, but well worth it. The chicken tikka and garlic nan were the best ever. Apparently the prawns were even better. Not to mention the black daal. Mmmmm. And right in the heart of the West End so I know we will be returning. Five stars.

Free Prosecco with our tickets!

Free Prosecco with our tickets!

I have to lay my cards on the table. Shakespeare in Love is probably my favourite film. So it was with some fear and trepidation that I booked this one. It is rotten when the stage show doesn’t live up to the film and vice versa. Think Dirty dancing. Think Commitments. Think History Boys. All three were far better in the first version that I saw them in.

But the reviews for SiL the play were good across the board so I decided to chance it. And I’m so glad we dd. The set evokes the Globe with its balustrades and different levels and the play mirrors the film’s narrative fairly closely but makes a much bigger role for Christopher Marlowe as a friend and mentor to “Will”, both of whom are superb. The first half is the comedy, the second the tragedy and when it works it really works. There are lots of laugh out loud moments and a warmth and wit about the whole piece. The cast are great – and Elizabethan musicians add to the drama – although i wasn’t as enamoured by Viola as I was in the film. It is nearly three hours but it whizzed by. It probably helps if you like Shakespeare -it help you get some of the ‘in’ jokes, but no doubt there were plenty i missed but still rate this as nearly five stars.

We are on the latter half of our week in the Greek Aegean . Known as “Crete part two: escape from Sissi” as we try to forget the ’boutique’ hotel that was more Tesco than teashop and the ‘authentic Cretan village’ it nestled in more Portsmouth than Portobello. But fabulous if you’d been expecting a Premier Inn. But we weren’t so it is a joy to be in a wonderful place with its own beach and water sports. Which we availed ourselves of yesterday hiring a speedboat and its captain to take us on a seaborne adventure and stopping on the way for snorkelling and general cooling off in the blue waters.

And each of us took a turn at the helm. Starting with son who has never even tried to drive a car, but seemed to take to the water with ease whizzing us along the coastline. The daughters pressed the throttle even further and enjoyed the weaving in and out of bays. Cap’n Clarke himself also managed to keep us all afloat and seemed a natural. Then it was my turn. I’ve always loved driving. The dodgems were my favourite fairground ride. I watched rallies as a teen and learnt to drive as soon as I could. I may have mentioned an illegal escapade here.

So it was with no fear that I perched behind the wheel of the beautiful speedboat. Too short to see  without standing up, I focused on the horizon and sped off. Within moments the real captain was trying to help hubby to his feet. He had been thrown upwards so violently by my crashing through the waves that he had “broken his arse’ as he so delicately put it crashing back down on to his seat and thence to the floor. But he gallantly waved me to continue so I did. Pushing the throttle forward again, rising high above the waves, a daughter screamed and threw her Mythos over her sister as she too succumbed to the white knuckle ride that was my driving. The beercan crushed in fear as she too landed on the floor of the boat. Chessington should employ me.

Daytona. Four stars

August 3, 2014

I am not a fan of Maureen Lipman. She routinely plays a stereotypical Jewish mother in a way I do not warm to. But in this three handler although again using the occasional phrase or mannerism as a comedic device , I found her much more plausible and engaging. But the star of the show was the long lost brother. His breathless, excited recounting of his life is perfectly foiled by his brother’s calm repression. The second half picks up the pace and the story keeps us enthralled. The traumas they have been through, the emotions, the passion. And now this. The play raises numerous moral issues and sees how the three of them have dealt with them differently.
We sat in the third row of the stalls and I think that made it all the more enjoyable as it is an intimate play. I’m not sure I would have been as involved in the dress circle. Four stars.

You might think four folk nearer 60 than 50 would take in a theatre trip, maybe a meal and potter home after a civilised cultural evening. But you’d be wrong. In our case we went to the wonderful Globe to see Julius Casesar. The weather had been forecast as dry but the rain lashed down as the plot to kill him evolved. We sat smugly in the dry, but did feel for those standing in a good couple of inches of water. The play was well done. Have to admit I’m more of a fan of the tragedies and comedies than histories and missed the love interest and general banter. But it was good.
We ate in the Swan bar attached to the Globe and headed off along the south bank, stopping at local hostelries and bizarrely bumping in to relatives. We continued on. Over the water to villiiers street to a newish wine bar ( son of Gordon’s). And thence on to the Ship and Shovell. The only pub in two halves. And one of our companions was able to give us a resume of Admiral Shovell himself. Although by this time I was in no fit state to remember it.

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