Funny Girl. Two stars.

July 23, 2016

Funny GirlI know every professional review gives it four or five stars. And I think it would probably have been better in the more intimate Menier where it started off, but the Savoy is hardly huge. The main trouble is the story is crap. Sheridan Smith (now back in role) is great at what she has to work with, but it is trite, predictable, old fashioned and underdeveloped. Her character (Fanny Brice) is not really likeable. I didn’t give a shit about what happened to her. There were hardly any hard times for us to see her struggle against adversity; one good number where she is a crap chorus girl and one song about “If you ain’t pretty like Miss Atlantic City, then give up”. And her then telling everyone how fantastic she is which to be honest isn’t  very endearing. But she seemingly got a break straight away and then came on to do a number which I honestly thought was meant to show her bombing. How is flashing bloomers funny? But apparently  everybody loved it so she became the star of the show. Her mother and two friends do various numbers well enough, as does her suave lover, but it is tired.It’s not a musical with anything new to offer, or to excite. It felt like we were watching a school production, albeit a good one. Smith is good – and her comedic song as a bride really well delivered, but it wasn’t enough for us to come back for the second half. She’s wasted in this role and deserves better.


Where we spent the second half


Mistress America.One Star

August 15, 2015

Friday night and nothing in the diary meant emergency drills came in to action. Hubby booked us in to see a film with great reviews and on at the Gate – one of those civilised cinemas where you take take your wine inside and it’s still in a real glass not plastic.

After a lovely meal at Granger and Co – lots of interesting ingredients and punchy flavours – we settled in to our seats to watch Mistress America –  a “quirky comedy drama” about an 18 year old student, new to New York who meets up with a 30 year old Manhattanite who is about to become her step-sister.

Nothing about this film rings true. I don’t believe or care about either character. The student looks nearer 30 than 18 and although well acted, the dialogue is so desperately trying to contrive our reactions that it loses any veracity. It’s trying to be deep and meaningful about relationships but comes across as something written by someone who doesn’t really understand how they work – none of it hits home for me. And it also purports to be a comedy, yet falls short on that front too. An occasional smile, but no laughing moments. One star.


Royale is set in the segregated US and follows the true story of Jack Johnson who has the audacity to want to fight the white heavy weight champion of the world so that he can claim the title if he wins. It is beautifully staged and slickly choreographed with a brilliant soundtrack of thuds, stamps and claps to punctuate the story. They do boxing really well.

And the exchanges with his sister had me in tears so it is really worth going to see, but i would have liked even more of that narrative. I think it could have packed an even greater punch. Three plus stars.

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.

Most people think I am loud and lairy. Not backward in coming forward. Full on. Opinionated. Busy. Bossy. Exhausting. There may be plenty more adjectives but I am choosing to ignore them….

However, I also have my alter ego that likes to be alone. Well even that’s not strictly true, but what I want is not to have to talk to anyone. So I don’t mind others being around and about, (in fact I prefer it) but I just don’t want to interact with them for a while. I don’t respond to conversation, I don’t hear what people say. Even if they ask me a direct question. I have kind of ‘tuned out’. I am not bored with them or their conversation, I am just away with myself. And that can seem downright rude so it is often easier to actually be alone. Often with my computer nowadays. Bashing one of these missives out. Writing something else. Doing work. Or just letting my brain float,

I do my best thinking and problem solving when I’m on my own. Not a brainstorming session. Not a meeting. They can be useful for finding out the background and what the issues are, but they are not where I feel I perform best.

I’ll be drafting up one of these posts, or cruising the JohnLewis site, or staring in to space ,or even sleeping and suddenly, from nowhere will come a possible solution to a work problem that I’m not actually thinking about. I will have previously done my basic research on the issue and maybe drafted something. But the real inspiration often comes when everything’s had time to percolate through my synapses unpressured.

So when I appear to be away with the fairies at the dinner table it is just my brain percolating. Brewing something hopefully a little special. That I wouldn’t have come up with if I’d been forced to give an immediate answer. It’s the real benefit of reflection and review – given time we can make things better.

And cracking a problem, having a great idea, finishing a piece of work or even a blog post – they energise me and give me renewed vigour and lust for life.

Nearly as much as a party does.


January 18, 2013

Lovely midweek evening out with female friends. Four of us whizzed home from work, quick change and out to Waterman’s Arts Centre. It is one of the most underwhelming venues in one of the loveliest locations – right on the river Thames opposite Kew Gardens.
It has been an institution for the 25 years we have lived in Ealing and serves the community with theatre, films, music and classes. It used to be a great music and quiz venue but despite its recent refurbishment is still a grim building and not one you want to spend more time in than necessary.
However, we had booked to eat in the Indian restaurant within it. Horrendous tables and chairs in a stark arrangement but surprisingly nice food and the wine of course slipped down a treat. Just the chat and the meal would have been a great evening out but there was more!
We were actually there to see Quartet – Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut which tells the story of the residents of a retirement home for ex- musicians. We have Maggie Smith and her withering looks, Pauline Collins as the sweet, loving dement, Billy Conolly who’s mild stroke has disinhibited him, Tom Courtney, Michael Gambon and the list of stars goes on and on. A very easy, Sunday afternoon movie; trite, cheesy, fairly slow, predictable and shallow story but some humour, lovely snippets of opera and other songs, and poignancy made it perfect fare for my Thursday evening. Although I did have to nudge one of my mates to stop her snoring.
Three stars.

So Wednesday is GBK, Thursday is ROH. I love my life.

Husband has tried to educate me over the years and introduced me to classical music and opera. The latter was something I had pegged as screechy warbling and not something I could spend an evening listening to. But gradually I have become accustomed to it and learnt which composers I like and which I can live without. Which operas I enjoy, and which leave me cold. And over the last ten years we have been lucky enough to see lots of opera as husband is very good at booking all these things. Otherwise it is too easy to come home from work on a cold Thursday evening and snuggle up in front of the TV.

Royal Opera House Paul Hamlyn Hall

Royal Opera House Paul Hamlyn Hall

Those poor folk are trapped in a box on the wall

So arrive in the Paul Hamlyn Hall first and get the obligatory bottle of champagne. This is the area that used to be the Covent Garden flower market and is a room I still adore. Like a huge conservatory. We have perfect seats in the stalls on this side of the House. So that means an easy and rapid path between the bar and our seats. The Opera House is so massive they have to start calling with 15 minutes to go as it can take people that long to get up the five storeys if they are sitting at the top and are in a ground floor bar or restaurant. Wherever you sit are great views and acoustics though. And what is so amazing is that these stars sing entirely without amplification. No microphones. Nothing. And if you could see the size of the palce they are filling, and over the top of a huge orchestra, it is truly inspiring.

enormous venue. The very top (sort of under that arch) can't be seen by those of us in the stalls!

enormous venue. The very top (sort of under that arch) can’t be seen by those of us in the stalls!

La Boheme is one of my favourite operas. But first an announcement. This is never good news. Rolando Villazon (the bubbly Mexican tenor we have come to see) has bronchitis, so the guy he shares the part with will be singing tonight. We are disappointed. We deliberately booked to see Rolando as have enjoyed him before. He has superb physicality as an actor as well as a huge voice.

The enormous velvet curtains open to reveal the attic room the four impoverished artists share.  It is not until Mimi arrives that my first tear falls. She has a beautiful clear voice that immediately connects with me. Wonderful. But the tenor is not igniting the same feelings . His voice is not rich and full enough, not big enough somehow and at times is overpowered by the ever fabulous orchestra. And that is really the over all review – that the production was good but not great. It didn’t have the magic needed. Mimi’s singing never really weakened, even as she was dying, but it was always beautiful. And I sobbed in the final scene as the score sweeps you into the abyss of hopelessness.  It is such a fabulous feeling being completely overwhelmed by music. But only three and a half stars.

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