Succession Series 1 and 2. Review.


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And here they are.  All of the pigs in one big poke.

Stupidly I missed Season 1.  For some reason I didn’t zone in on its qualities on first airing and let it go by me.  But the early rave reviews in the national press for Season 2 made me reconsider it and I started again, binging the 20 episodes over the last month or so.

And what a treat it was.

Jesse Armstrong (the show runner) was previously responsible for Peep Show, The Thick of it and even, back in the day, contributed to the excellent Smack The Pony.  He wrote the hilarious Four Lions too.

What this means is that although Succession is essentially a drama it is, in fact, a full blown comic feast with one liners ricocheting across the screen with siege-like ferocity and quantity.

Chief gag thrower is the astounding Keiran Culkin, the weasel-faced runt of the Roy Litter who you’d never tire of punishing, but whose acerbic put downs are guaranteed to split your sides ten times an episode.  he takes particular fun in tormenting the, also excellent, Jeremy Strong who plays his inept, drug-consuming brother Kendall with doe-eyed misery as his privileged life gradually falls into greater and greater disrepair.  He’s a car crash of a human being.

The other comic character who never ceases to amuse with his rhinoceros-skin dimness is Matthew Macfadyen as Tom, the dipstick husband of the power hungry Shiv (daughter of the patriarch from hell Logan Roy – Brian Cox in his greatest ever role).

A good sport in this show is to decide which of these feckless fecks you hate the most.  For not a single one of them has any redeeming features.

That said, my wife had a soft spot for the manslaughterer Kendall and I could at least tolerate the inept (but surprisingly devious) Greig – the limpid cousin.  But that’s it, the rest are as hideous human beings as you could make up.

Or are they made up?

The reality is that this is just a great big mash up of the Trumps, Weinsteins and the Murdochs.

Everything in this cesspit is about power and success.  They are consumed with the need, as a media conglomerate, to acquire more and more businesses and with manslaughter and sexual misconduct (and subsequent cover-ups) thrown into the mix the result is a mosh pit of vanity and greed.

Supporting roles of note go to Helen Hunter who is delicious as the two timing competitor CEO who briefly joins the company.  And the outstanding Peter Freidman as Francis and Jean Smith-Cameron as Gerri – Roy’s Nick and Margaret.

The milf- (or gilf-) like attraction that Gerri has for Roman makes for some of the show’s highlights with truly hysterical moments aplenty.

But at its core, and the bedrock of all that is truly awful in the human race, is the commanding presence of bastard-in-chief, Brian Cox, as the patriarchal Logan who surely has never been gifted a role as meaty as this.  Despite over 200 roles on TV and cinema only once has Cox been recognised at the big ones, a lone nominee in the Golden Globes nearly 20 years ago.  This is surely about to change.  His presence is so all consuming that this has the look of certainty about it.

It’s utterly compelling TV with a cinematic quality and a soundtrack to rival the best that Hollywood has to0 offer.  And, oh, that theme music.  My tune of the year, bar none.

Enjoy!

 

Sir Vince Cable’s valedictory virtuosity.


It may have sported on T shirts for months so it’s not exactly original, but to make it your campaign slogan for a major election is, to my mind, quite the thing.

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Sir Vince has had a relatively short career in the spotlight, despite his years, but this has the campaigning chutzpah of a rebel, a challenger brand – which should be exactly what the Liberal Democrats always should have been.

Anyway Sir Vince I doff my cap to you for this.

I think you will be pleased with the outcome, come May 24th.

Local Hero by Bill Forsyth & David Greig: My Thoughts.


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It was announced that Local Hero could be a possibility while I was still on the Royal Lyceum board three years ago and it seemed like a wild dream, almost a fantasy really; that one of Scotland’s most iconic movies could be turned into a stage play, and a musical at that.

Even though it rates only a solid, but unspectacular 7.4 on IMDB, it has been taken to Scotland’s heart.  I only watched it myself, a month ago, in anticipation of this production finally, miraculously landing.  But I wasn’t overly taken with the movie I have to say.  It has dated and I found too many of the performances pretty easy to criticise and that let  it down. So I approached last night nervously.

There was no need to worry.  This is a smash hit in the making.  The buzz around The Lyceum was palpable and the after show party felt like the West End had dropped into Edinburgh.

The Director is John Crowley for God’s sake – he of the Oscar-nominated movie Brooklyn: the man who has just directed the most anticipated movie (for me anyway) of 2019; The Goldfinch.

The set designer is Scott Pask – Book of Mormon – heard of that?

And, of course, the music was developed and expanded by none other than Mark Knopfler himself.

The cast is not a Take The High Road reunion, indeed only two of the 15 have ever appeared on The Lyceum stage, and have Girl From The North Country, Kinky Boots, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Les Mis, This House, Wolf Hall , School of Rock and Sweeney Todd, amongst many others, littering their CVs.

This is the real deal.  This is monumental ambition for a 600 seat theatre in  Scotland. (Albeit the Old Vic are co-producers).

So, onto a couple of old upturned fish boxes sidle Matthew Pigeon, as Gordon the hotel-owner and chief negotiator, and Ownie (Scott Ainslie) to conclude Ownie’s accountancy requirements with change from a fiver.  If only Gordon had change.

It’s a quiet start that does not prepare you for the technical wizardry that underpins the first showstopper of the night, “A Barrel of Crude”.  And there’s a laugh right from the off. Light humour that litters an excellent script.

Through the opening half hour the lilting lament that formed the musical motif of the movie slips and slides into earshot before finally emerging fully formed.  It’s beautiful.

The story is pretty much as per the movie, but the morals feels somehow even more upfront as we chart the greed of the locals over the environmental consequences of their signing away their home village of Ferness (You can’t eat scenery though).

The big bad American oilman (played impeccably by Damian Humbley) is a great foil to Katrina Bryan’s Stella and Matthew Pigeon’s Gordon in a love triangle that doesn’t really quite come off (that would be my only real criticism of the show).

I particularly liked the movement in this (directed by Lucy Hind).  It’s a play about contrasting scales (big skies, small villages, small-mindedness and big ambitions) and what she skilfully does is play with that scale through subtle but lovely choreography to bridge scenes and dramatise that juxtaposition of scales.  It’s really nice to see great movement that’s NOT trying to be John Tiffany: again.

The dance movement is slick and light of touch.  With a big mixed-age, mixed-size cast that’s no mean feat.

The band is top notch and excellently MD’d by Phil Bateman on keys.

Although the score is inspired mainly by the Celtic canon it succeeds much more than Come From Away (that I saw on Monday) which too draws from that canon – but does it to death.  Here we have ballads, tangos, a bit of rock and roll and, yes, that plaintive motif.

The light and shade in this production’s musical content, for me, frankly blows the multi Olivier-nominated Come From Away out of the water.  Indeed, on every level this is a much more enjoyable evening of theatre – so roll on the Oliviers 2020.

The comparisons can’t fail be made – both are Celtic musicals set in tiny communities, in wildernesses where big America comes to visit.

The Local Hero ensemble is universally excellent, the direction superb but the showstopper of it all is the scenic design.  You’ll need to see it to appreciate it.  I ain’t gonna do it any justice here.  All I’ll say is this.  You haven’t seen the aurora borealis until you’ve seen Local Hero at The Lyceum.

Bravo Lyceum.  Bravo.

The show richly deserves both its standing ovation and the Sold Out boards you’ll find in Grindlay Street for the next six weeks.

(I did take a peek at the website box office and you CAN get tickets for late in the run.  I’d do it if I were you.)

 

“Computer says no” culture alive and kicking at Ryanair.


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Empty.  Like their customer service soul.

If I were attempting some sort of covert or criminal undertaking by attempting to sneak, unnoticed onto the 12:35 Ryanair flight from Stanstead to Edinburgh today the least I could have done was attempt to fake my identity.

Then the sullen ranks of Ryanair’s “customer services” team could at least feel sullied.

But I was too honest for my own good.

Rewind 24 hours.

I’d flown to Stanstead from Edinburgh, using my Passport as photo ID as I headed to an appointment at OIS in Fleet Street to have my Passport checked in advance of my trip to Nigeria next week.

Armed with a bag of application forms, letters of authorization, passport photographs (two of which remained in my possession) and other sundry items of proof of my existence, and tolerable citizenship credentials, the appointment passed without incident.

Relieved of my passport for 48 hours (for official reasons) it wasn’t even then that I realized I had faux passed.  That was the next day on the coach to Stanstead when I realized that with my passport now in the hands of the Nigerian Government I was identity-less, unless you consider;

  • The letter from The Nigerian High Commisssion acknowledging temporary receipt of my passport
  • All my bank cards
  • My boarding pass from the previous day – proving I had travelled from Edinburgh and was simply returning
  • My phone and laptop
  • A printed card with my photo and place of work
  • My Tesco Clubcard

But no, they weren’t to know who I was because I didn’t have

  • A library card
  • A bus pass or
  • A driving licence

Or my passport.

I made the mistake of getting to the airport early and taking the ‘opportunity” to wait for 20 minutes in the Ryaniar “Customer Services” queue (now there is a misnomer if ever you’ve seen one).

As one particularly sullen faced operative finished with the customer in front of me I tentatively stepped forward, eyes wide looking for approval to enter the Stalag.

“No!” she barked.

Not another word or gesture.

It was the end of her shift, it would appear, as she then packed up her ‘stuff’ for the next five minutes before disappearing without a nod, wink or how do you do.

Home, to her loving family for a giggle in front of Pointless.  (A programme she must think, on a daily basis, is a metaphor for her life. )

Upon finally being seen I desperately explained my predicament only to be told

“God, we’re getting everything today, this is all I need.”

The operative, assumed the facial expression of a Wild Boar, speared through the ribcage in a prehistoric hunt with the spear having just missed its vital organs, as she vainly sought advice for a while and eventually said “Well you don’t have ID so you can’t fly”.

She sort of grudgingly suggested I could maybe get an ID from the train station but wryly noted, under her breath, that would mean I would miss my flight before adding “…but you don’t get ID for travel passes, do you, anyway?”

So, I took fortune into my own hands, reasoning that ID isn’t always checked, and even if it was perhaps I’d receive a warmer reception at the Gate.

So I thought I’d just chance it.

After all, it’s not as if I was going to Scotland to do anything criminal or as reckless as bungle its constitution and economy (there are people better at that here in London who don’t need photo ID for that).

Security was a nightmare.  I had left a coin in my pocket that bleeped, but then the full body scanner broke down.

Tick tock tick tock. 

Re-runs of Midnight Express pricking my sweat glands into action.

Nevertheless, thanks to my excellent earlier time-keeping, I got to the gate at the allotted time and tried the old confidently shoving the boarding pass forward whilst moving at speed, without a care in the world trick.

“ID?”

“Ahh. I have a small problem here” I responded. “ I don’t have any.”

“Did you tell customer services this?”

“Yes, but they weren’t very helpful.”  (Unless you consider “the computer says no” as helpful.  Informative yes, helpful, no.)

I got the distinct impression that that was a fatal error (going to the Stalag).

Being honest had cost me my flight.

They didn’t actually say it but they might as well have – “Really?  You didn’t tell customer services, did you?”

In their defence the ladies on the gate at least TRIED to help, but eventually had to concede “the computer still says no.”

They suggested I look for a more sympathetic hearing at Customer Services, ( a sort of Meaningful Vote 2 if you like), so back I trudged only to be met by the stone wall of Gomorrah.

“You don’t have ID?  Then you can’t fly.”

Nothing had changed.  The speaker had spoken.

“How can I get back to Edinburgh though?”

“The train?” she shrugged and at that I left.

£166 later, I got the train.

It’s my fault.  I didn’t figure out that I needed TWO photo IDs to get from Edinburgh to London and back via a Nigerian High Commission Visa office (and it wasn’t on the checklist).

Yes, entirely my fault.

But, you know what, I think with the right attitude and the right people we could have found a workaround. (Seemingly BA have a form you can fill in but no one at Ryanair had heard of such a thing.)

And did I mention the signaling problems between Peterborough and York?

(That wasn’t Ryanair’s fault either.)

 

 

Trump rumbled.


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My face-off with our new Donald Trump toilet brush.  Like the Democrats, I won, just as they did at the Mid Terms.  

New York Times.  25 January 2019.  Day 35 of the Federal shutdown.

He did not get any funding for a wall. And on Friday, he did not advance any new arguments for building one. In fact, many of the claims he made were recycled heavily from previous comments and contained many of the same misstatements and exaggerations.

Also notable was something Mr. Trump did not say, namely that Mexico would pay for the wall, one of the most often repeated, and unsupported, claims he has made on the border funding dispute.

But…

He also indicated that he was open to declaring a national emergency or shutting down the government again if Republicans and Democrats cannot reach an agreement on wall money by the February deadline.

He has agreed to back-pay employees very quickly or as soon as possible.  I suspect Mr Trump has not got a strong grasp on tautology annuls there is a significant distinction between the two.

He thanked and praised the people he had completely and utterly fucked over on a point of principle that the Democrats in the Senate will never give in to,  because it is singularly the most ridiculous policy objective in the modern American history.

On Friday, Mr. Trump praised federal workers as “fantastic people” and “incredible patriots” and acknowledged the toll they had suffered. But several federal employees said they still felt angry after being treated like pawns, they said, in a five-week-long Washington standoff. They said the shutdown had left deep scars on their families and finances and undermined their faith in elected leaders, and in the careers they had chosen.

A Homeland Security policy will certainly be forthcoming in the next 21 days.  Fair enough.  But it will not come in the form of a very big nasty wall.

“Everywhere you go in the world walls work.” he claims in a Watch With Mother speech. Andy Pandy would have been very, very impressed.  Very.

The Guardian reported…

Later on Friday, the president argued that he had not backed down in the feud over wall funding, claiming the agreement “was in no way a concession”.

Ann Coulter, the influential conservative commentator, called Mr Trump “the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States”.

The Telegraph reported…

The president also suggested he was still considering taking unilateral action by declaring a national emergency, which would allow him to use the Pentagon budget to build the wall. However, that would face legal challenges.

Mr Trump said: “I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn’t want to use it at this time.

“They [The Democrats] are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first. We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.

“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”