Dicktionary Pic of the Day #17.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 17

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.39

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.27

Dicktionary Pic of the day #16.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 16

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 15

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.27

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.21

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan: Book Review


unnamed.jpg

I’m a lifelong McEwan fan, but he has been infuriating me in the last decade with his inconsistency.

I have previously reviewed and lamented Sweet Tooth and Solar – both stinkers, but sandwiched between them was The Children Act, a book of great beauty and provocation.

I’m glad to say that Machines Like Me finds McEwan right back at the top of his game and it’s clear to me that what is making him write his best work these days is moral ambiguity and his adeptness at turning that ambiguity into superb storytelling.  It’s at the heart of  what makes this book, and The Children Act, so great.

The moral conundrum here is truth.

Humanity allows us to decide the difference between ‘white lies’ and despicable self- serving perjury.  But can Artificial Intelligence be expected to compete?

This novel works on many levels.  It’s essentially a sci0fi book about Artificial Intelligence yet it’s set in the past.

A fake past.

1982 to be precise.

A 1982, in which Thatcher has just lost the Falklands War, Alan Turing is alive and kicking, Britain is contemplating a form of Brexit, the poll tax disputes are raging and many of today’s political challenges are being reframed as 1982’s.  Most notably the rise of an elderly Labour leader (Tony Benn) has swept to power on the back of an adoring youth.

It’s playful and brilliant.

McEwan plays with the value of things like money.  Everything seem so cheap: cheaper than the reality of 1982 prices. (The effect of a global recalibration of worth?  It’s unexplained.)

Into a 32 year old dropout’s life (Charlie) arrive, almost simultaneously, a stunningly beautiful but enigmatic 21 year old neighbour (Miranda) and a ‘robot’ of almost perfect physical attributes (Adam – one of 25 AI humanoids – 13 male, 12 female).

Charlie’s bought Adam thanks to an inheritance from his mother and the book explores the relationship between the three main protagonists, but throws in a secondary moral dilemma in the form of a four year old abused boy, Mark, who inveigles himself into their lives.

In Miranda’s past an event of monumental emotional significance has consumed her and the repercussions of this form a significant strand of the moral backbone of the story.

So we have fun (made up history) sci-fi (lite but fascinating in the form of a humanoid robot, whom it turns out is capable of great knowledge – Google, before Google existed- but also a form of moral judgement) relationships (tangled) and simply brilliant storytelling.

The science is interesting, the philosophy just light enough to engage dullards like me and the story so compelling as to turn pages lightning fast.

The whole premise throws up so many genuinely interesting questions that it’s like manna to McEwan who feasts on the riches that his great invention feeds him.

I adored this book.  One of McEwan’s best ever and leaves only Nutshell, out of his 17 novels, for me to read.  It’s a noughties write, so who knows.

 

 

Mouthpiece: at The Traverse by Kieran Hurley


8014.jpg

The tricky disclaimer

I have to first declare my physical challenge with this night in the theatre, one of my favourites, and not previously the purveyor of spasming pain in my right knee.  However, tonight the cramped legroom of Traverse 1 caused me such physical discomfort that I was counting the minutes till the end.

It was probably me, but the seating didn’t help.

The common gripe

This is the second Kieran Hurley show I’ve seen. Square Go by Paines Plough, like this, started brilliantly but seemed to run out of steam.  This less so, but it was a game of two halves for me.  The first pain-free, the secondly most certainly not.

The difficult narrator issue.

Narrated plays when the performers talk about what they are up to as they do it is not my cuppa, I’m afraid.

The describing of structure as the structure unfolds in episodic real time.

See above.

The holding of mirrors up to middle class audiences technique.

Herein lies my real problem with this production.

The performances by Shauna Macdonald and Angus Taylor are both very good and the story is engaging, but it’s about working class (underclass) strife meeting middle class privilege – a bit Pygmalianesque, but trying very, very hard not to be.

This whole ‘theatre-holding-a-mirror-up-to-its audience’ schtick, as we look in on how others live (it happens a lot in black theatre, queer theatre and class theatre) is starting to tire me out.

In this, Hurley intermingles the fortunes of a deprived teenager with a failed but privileged early-middle-aged writer, but in such a way that life starts to imitate art, become art, debunk art and eventually question art to such an extent that I started to run out of emotional connection.

Hurley does his best to take the whole ‘Rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain’ cliche and subvert it, so that Mrs Higgins rapidly descends from hero to villain and Master Doolittle morphs from victim to hero to victim to hero so much that I began to wonder if I was really all that bothered any more.  Or maybe it was the knee.

The site-specific thing

If you haven’t seen it you won’t get this reference.,  But it is very clever.  I liked that.

The Martin Creed references.

You know what, I’m moaning a bit here.  This was a good production.  I’m just a grippy bastard sometimes and it had too many flaws for me.

But, at the end of the day…Everything’s going to be all right.

 

 

 

Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of) at The Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh and on tour: Review


pride-and-prejudice-sort-of_final_image-only_landscape_300dpi.jpg

Nope, I’ve never read P&P.

I’ve never seen any of the movies or the TV adaptations – the nearest I ever got to it was Bridget Jones.

I wouldn’t know my Heathcliffe from my Jimmy Cliff.

And I’ve never read any Jane Austen in my puff – in fact I don’t even know who the bloke is.

But I read the Wikipedia synopsis (a good tip before seeing any period drama IMHO) on the way to the theatre.

I needn’t have bothered, because the storytelling in this truly wonderful production is first rate. I could have gone in colder than a monkey in a Walls factory and still emerged off pat with the storyline.

The cast of many characters (and referenced participants) is significant, and yet you’ll not miss a beat in this rip-roaring triumph of comedy theatre.

The six actors, all female, play 21 different characters plus, let’s call it five, assorted house maids, a total of 26 roles, making an average of 4.33 characters per actor.

That’s a new character for every 5 minutes 45 seconds of run time.  And yet at no point do we lose track of who is who and what is what in this runaway train of a tale.

It’s bawdy, it’s musical, it’s completely hilarious.

The crowd cheered, booed, clapped and rose as one in adulation as the curtain fell at just before 10.30 pm tonight.

The reason for this?  Tori Burgess, Felixe Forde, Christina Gordon and in particular Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Isobel McArthur (the writer) and Meghan Tyler (also a writer – of Fringe First winning Crocodile Fever).

The directing, by Paul Brotherston is miraculous.

We’re treated to Londoners, Scots, Yorkshiremen and women and full-on Northern Oirish characters in a melange of Babelic proportions.

And yet, it all holds together, melds and synergistically builds into a thing so beautifully nuanced, so gut-wrenchingly funny that you wonder how it ever came about.  And still the story remains true and comes through.

Lovers of P&P will have no issue with this translation.

The all-female cast not only allows us a bit of fun with cross-dressing and assumed voices, but also a bit of cheeky girl meets girl, girl is smitten by girl innuendo.

The laugh out loud moments in this are countless.  Five in the first minute alone thanks to Hannah Jarrett-Scott’s complete ownership of her four main characters and her role as narrator in chief.

It’s brilliant.  Just brilliant.  See it.

 

Upright. New TV series by Tim Minchin.


Upright_1_B

I’ll start by confessing that Tim Minchin has done nothing.  NOTHING for me in his fairly long and, largely, highly succesful career, so when it was suggested I watch this I doubted I’d get past episode one.

How wrong could I have been?

By the end of episode eight, binged in two days, the tears rolled down my cheeks.

It’s bawdy, ballsy, rude, ridiculous, hilarious, breathtaking, touching, sincere and is based on a largely unpredictable storyline that twists and turns like a Tasmanian Devil.

It also features a stand out, frankly equal footing, performance by 19 year old Australian actress, Milly Alcock, remember that name, she’s the next Margot Robbie.

A truly excellent TV series, right up there with Succession, Fleabag and Chernobyl as my favourites of 2019.

 

Little Women: Movie Review.


8904500.jpg

I haven’t read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, neither have I seen any of the previous film incarnations of her famed novel, so I came to this with no expectations other than that the cast is stellar and the director, Greta Gerwig, is highly noteworthy. (Lady Bird was superb in my opinion – next up is Barbie, written by Noah Baumbach and starring Margot Robbie – that should be interesting.)

What interested me structurally about the movie is that it is essentially both an autobiography and a fiction – the novel itself is represented as little stories but the narrative describes how the book came about.  For some critics this has been problematic as it requires (or allows if you prefer) a considerable amount of time-switching, that is not always captioned for the hard of intelligence.

The movie is an emotional rollercoaster with peaks of hilarity and depths of real pity as the four March sisters, that make up the main protagonists, live a struggling middle class life surrounded in close proximity by deep poverty and significant wealth.  It is this relationship with money, and the pursuit thereof, that is the central philosophical backbone of the movie and allows for many excellent vignettes and clear messaging that money is not the root of all happiness.

On the side of the rich sit three excellent portrayals; Timothy Chalomet (outstanding as the main love interest Laurie), his wonderful and generous of spirit grandfather (played beautifully and touchingly by Chris Cooper) and the ‘evil'(ish) rich Aunt March (Meryl Streep).  Laura Dern continues her annus mirabilis as the girls’ mother (it complements her performance in Marriage Story.)

More than once the beautiful tableaux’ that Gerwig sets up reminded me of Dorothea Langue’s Migrant Mother.  In that it resonates love and tenderness in the face of adversity.

Migrant_Mother_Nipomo_California_3334095096-37e37c052a0745ba9cf9fae3cc5f967b.jpg

This is a tremendous piece of film making in every way.  It’s funny, moving, beautiful to look at, poignant and thought provoking.

Saoirse Ronan is excellent, as always, but Florence Pugh’s ability to appear both 14 and 26 is even more remarkable.  Emma Watson is solid and poor little Beth is played touchingly by Eliza Scanlen.

Overall it’s a great ensemble production with the real star of the show, Great Gerwig.

Bravo!

 

 

 

Present Laughter at The Old Vic: presented by NT Live.


jpg.jpg

I won’t dwell too long on this because it isn’t easy to see, although I think an ‘Encore’ screening is happening again in Edinburgh, in December.  if it is You MUST go see it.

We saw an NT Live screening of it in Leith on Thursday, and it is fantastic.

Although it’s described as an ensemble cast this is one thing above all others, Andrew Scott.  (You know, the sexy, sorry girls he’s gay, priest from Fleagbag?)  He is screamingly, achingly, outrageously funny in a performance that must shed a few pounds in weight each night.  He must have slept well on matinee days.

It’s a simply miraculous performance with so many nuances that you simply sit mouth agape at times.  The laughter, by now, being too painful.  This must be in line for theatre prizes galore.

Noël Coward’s writing seems incredibly of now, and yet the play was written in 1939.  It’s aided by the gender-swapping of Helen and Joe Lyppiatt, so that Garry Essendine’s central character becomes bisexual (homosexual really) and it’s this confusion over his sexuality that makes it far more contemporary than it might have been.  Indeed In the 1970s the director Peter Hall wrote, “what a wonderful play it would be if – as Coward must have wanted – all those love affairs were about homosexuals”.

Director Matthew Warchus has to take the credit for manifesting the legendary Hall’s vision and for pulling off a series of performances that, despite being wonderfully OTT, fully engage the audience.  In particular the thunderously rousing assault that is Daphne Stillingon (by Kitty Archer) is simply breathtaking.  In no other circumstances would she remotely have got away with it.

Every moment of overacting (that clearly Garry is guilty of on the stage) has a knock on effect on the rest of the cast (when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle,  a storm subsequently ravages half of Europe).

Most notably Garry’s secretary Monica Reed (Sophie Thomson) is simply hilarious and Suzie Toase as Helen (should be Henry) Lyppiatt.

The one calming influence in all this is Garry”s estranged wife, Liz (a beautiful study in arch wit by Indira Varma).

Amidst all this hilarity it’s clear that, hidden by the bravado, Garry is a bundle of self doubt.  Indeed his surname, Essendine, is an anagram of “neediness”.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

A tremendous and exhausting tour de force that deserves all the five star reviews it mustered in the summer.  See it if you can.

 

 

 

 

 

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


Local_Hero_Musical-2.jpg

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.)

 

A ferocious, brutal and hilarious piece of theatre that will take your breath away. Ulster American at The Traverse Theatre from 20 Feb.


Screenshot 2019-02-19 at 17.19.34.png

I saw this at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  It was the best show in The Traverse’s best Fringe for years.  Gobsmackingly brilliant and it’s back with the same cast.  A bigger venue, but what could possibly go wrong?

At the time I described it as the bastard child of Aaron Sorkin, Frankie Boyle (maybe Jerry Sadowitz) and Martin McDonagh.

I can’t recommend it enough.

But it’s sweary, violent, sexist, outrageous, scary, rude, bawdy.  If you don’t like any of those things you’ll just have to fuck off and watch Strictly.  (You twat.)

Cyrano de Bergerac at The Lyceum. Thoughts.


MB2_3637-815x525.jpg

There are two monumental reasons to see this production.

The first is the performance of Brian Ferguson in the title role.  People will be talking about his extraordinary commitment, humour, bravado and energy for many years to come.  It was a pleasure to congratulate him on his performance afterwards.  A complement he accepted with wonderful grace and modesty.

In a dense and complex piece of theatre he carries the show along on shoulders as broad as the Clyde.

That’s not to underplay the ensemble’s performance but the eruption from the audience when he took his solo bow said a lot.

Cyrano de Bergerac | Teaser from National Theatre of Scotland on Vimeo.

The second is the equally extraordinary costumes by fashion designer Pam Hogg.  It looks like this is her first ever theatre commission having dealt with fashion and music – Kylie, Gaga, Siouxsie – for the majority of her much celebrated career.  Some of the costumes in this production simply take the breath away, in particular Roxanne’s, and often they are brilliantly lit by Lizzie Powell to intensify the impact.

They range from the spectacular and dazzling to the brilliantly understated. (When did you last see a Pere Ubu tour T shirt?)

The production is dense, often spectacular, funny, charming and interestingly musical, although unlike the recent Twelfth Night the music here plays a more background role.  I like that in David Greig’s tenure music has moved way up the agenda at The Lyceum.

I’d like to see CDB again because, unlike film adaptations of the play that I have seen, it has far more substance and much more is made of the war which unites the male characters of the cast; the Gascon battalion who are fighting on the Spanish front line.

It’s a five act play (that is often truncated) which means you need to prepare for three hours in the theatre making it something of a feat of endurance – particularly given the fine Scots adaptation, by Edwin Morgan, of what seems almost Shakespearean in its rhythmic verse form.

It’s impossible to catch every nuance and meaning and some of its delight is latching on to Scottish colloquialisms that are entirely out of time and place but wonderfully clever.

This is bold, assured and brave theatre that deserves to be seen.

 

 

 

 

Twelfth Night. An enigma wrapped up in a conundrum: Royal Lyceum Theatre


TwelfthNight-700x70.jpg

Even the bloody poster’s great: by DO in Leith (http://madeby.do)

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”  Act 3.

I urge those potential audience members unfamiliar with this play (like me) to read the Wiki (or other) synopsis two or three times before you come along to this outstanding production, because it is thoroughly deceptive and even more enthralling than Jed Mercurio’s “The Bodyguard” that is thrilling British TV audiences right now.

It’s a Shakespearian comedy, verging, at times, on farce.  And one can immediately understand why Ade Edmondson was cast as Malvalio in last year’s Royal Shakespeare production.  It’s a high comedy role but needs considerable light and shade to work throughout.  Unquestionably this is achieved in bucket loads by Christopher Green here in Edinburgh (transferring as a Co-Pro to Bristol Old Vic for a month from 17 October), he’s the star turn in a simply brilliant ensemble.

He certainly lives up to his famous line…

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

But my God it’s complicated.  Take this for a start.

In Shakespeare’s original (which this stays true to script-wise if not cast-wise).  Viola cross-dresses as a man to chase (but fall in love with) Olivia on behalf of his boss Orsino.   Viola having been cast adrift from her almost identical looking twin brother Sebastian.

Now, get what Wils Wilson does.

Viola is a black female.  That’s fine

Her identical brother, Sebastian, though, is a white female.  So they couldn’t possibly be mistaken as the same person.

Olivia.  That’s straightforward, she’s a white female.  Easy.

Orsino is a black female, not male.

So the love triangle is now three females, two of colour and the “identical twin”, also female, is white.  That makes the finale tricky if you aren’t concentrating.

Let’s chuck in Lord Tobi Belch.  Not a Lord.  A lady.  Which makes his, sorry her, suitoring of the maid, Maria, very 21st century.

I don’t say any of this to pass judgement because it’s a key constituent of what makes this production so enthralling.  But it’s complicated (as if it wasn’t anyway.)

So we have sex and skin colour deviations from the source material but we also, as you might expect, have a time-shift to deal with.  It’s set in the summer of love (1960’s sometime) at a party, or perhaps in a commune, where the bored or drugged partygoers suggest they “do” Twelfth Night.

That then places the musical ensemble, led with gusto by the one off that is Aly Macrae, in a musical nirvana which is a huge opportunity for composer Meilyr Jones (who also plays Curio).

And it has to be great because, after all, as the bard himself says (Act 1 scene 1)  “If music be the food of love, play on.”

It is, and they do.

In fact the music is outstanding, immediately likeable, tuneful and with a real groove (I loved it) and it gifts Curio, Feste (brilliant performance by Dylan Read) and Auguecheek (Guy Hughes) almost unlimited show stopping moments.

Feste had us rolling in the aisles – at one point we were treated to a Marti Feldman moment that is burned onto my retina.

I cared a little less for Dawn Seivewright’s Lady Tobi as I felt it was just a little too 100% full on, although it is a massive performance.

The set design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita – try saying that after a few Chardonnays doll – is enthralling and remains beautiful throughout.

The costumes are triumphal.

And, of course, the whole thing would just be a conundrum wrapped up in an enigma without the brilliant direction and vision of director Wils Wilson.

This is gonna be a great export from Scotland when it hits Bristol later this year.  In the meantime fellow Scots, get yersel’ along.

 

 

 

 

 

PrimaveraSound 2018. The dry year.


IMG_5960.JPG

I now have a close relationship with Heineken 0.0.

Having drunk about 30 bottles of the stuff during Primavera 2018 it was certainly the subject of much puzzlement as my 12 middle aged, wine-soaked compadres tried to understand why on earth I could even countenance a full blown music festival without the aid of alcoholic sustenance.

At 4am each morning (my typical home time) I questioned it myself as cat herding is not a qualification I have gained, nor an occupation I particularly enjoy.  and, for example, Mr McCrocodile’s multiple explanation of the changing of the guard between drummer and guitarist 2/3rds of the way through the Oblivions’ otherwise excellent set – which I did not have the foresight to attend – was another feature of late night sobriety being tested to its limits.

Nevertheless, these minor beefs paled into insignificance when compared to the gigantic gamut of gaiety that was enjoyed in the many, many hours that we strode the palisades of Parc Del Forum in Barcelona’s dock district.

IMG_6086.JPG

Not for me, this year, the sheer animal magnetism that wearing a Corbyn T shirt would bestow upon me.  Nor the orgiastic pleasure of watching a statuesque 56 year old man stride purposefully through a crowd in pristine white jeans.

No, this year was band (and record label) T shirts and Black Cargo shorts all the way.  The shorts spectacularly framing my unusual patina of varicose veins that decorate my left calf, in much the same way that many of my fellow, younger, audience members had opted for an equally eye-catching decoration courtesy of their local tattoo parlour.

George, too, eschewed societal pressure and was much photographed as he paraded the Parc.

image1-6.png

As is customary, each day began with the, now legendary and hotly contested, Sangria Sessions.  A three hour exploration of musical obscurity based around the theme, this year, of colours in song titles and foreign acts (not US or Ireland – to exclude the abhorrent U2).

The vessel for this quality concoction resembled the colouring of the HMFC stand.  A sort of undercoat pink.

image1.png

Quite incredibly, I now realise, Boards of Canada made my list for the second year running.  The only band to suffer this fate and meet, again, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, although they did not suffer the ignominy of a ‘hooking’.  That was reserved in my case for Scritti Politti’s The Sweetest Girl.  The fact that Green Gartside , the singer, has colour in his name met with juristic displeasure.

The Red Army Choir’s rendition of The Russian National Anthem met a similiar fate, not for its non-adherence to the rules but because none of the douche bags in my company had either the wit OR the wisdom to realise that this was irony in fantastical proportions.

Perhaps those in ‘charge’ could have displayed the same degree of Nazism to the repeated James Brown outings.

Anyway, here are my selections… (you will note in the colours list that three of my songs are by foreign bands and one has a foreign country in their name) – genius on my part.

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.51.29.png

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.51.13.png

Day One

Our festival kicked off – after a relatively short, highly disorganised, but nevertheless excellent lunch at Etapes – we again called it E Taps Aff regularly, as is our want – with a politically charged set from transgender American artist, Ezra Firman.  It wasn’t a festival set in that he chose quite a sensitive selection of numbers and chose not to opt for crowd pleasers all the way.

IMG_5953.JPG

Consequently one of our group dismissed him thus “Some guy in a pearl necklace and lipstick – fuck off.”

Me, I thought it was a pleasing enough, if marginally underwhelming, start and bestow a 7/10.

Next I stumbled upon a set by Kurws – a crazy avante rock band from Wrocław, Poland.  Noisy but good.  But too short a visitation on my part to rate them.

My first Heineken zero was excellent.  Ice cold and refreshing.  Indeed the bottle was caked in ice.  But my second, and most to follow on the first night, were either lukewarm or unavailable.  It has to be said ordering Cerveza Sin Alcohol is likely to be met with a raised eyebrow followed by a frantic search among the fridges – often fruitlessly.

But Heineken is the drinks sponsor and presumably preach moderation?  So why the poor supply?

My tweet that outed them as a bunch of useless wankers, that couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, had the desired effect because clearly the CEO of Heineken Spain read it and ordered a mass chilling.  Days two and three were more than acceptably quality controlled.

Next up. Warpaint. If you put to one side that they ache to be the coolest band on the planet and couldn’t muster a smile between the four of them, even if they had a swatch of my Varries, they were pretty decent.  However, they carry the emotional punch of a fire extinguisher and, for that reason, I can’t find a way past awarding them a 6.

Half way through their set they treated us to a feedback crackle/energy surge that was louder than that volcano in Guatemala exploding.  That did crack the ice-maidenly exterior a little but didn’t quite turn their set into an edition of Loose Women.

Warpaint don’t do chat.  They’re too fucking cool for that.

Tupa Tupa were my next ‘discovery’ on my ‘stage of the week’  The Pro North outpost that’s almost in the sea.  It’s tiny but has perhaps the best acoustics in the whole parc.  I’d recommend it for you next year pop pickers.  Lots of eccentric but usually high quality fare.  I visited several times and Tupa Tupa were one of the highlights.  They are so obscure (Polish) that they don’t even make it to Spotify but I thoroughly enjoyed their set.  7/10.

Next up.  The absolutely guaranteed Marmite set of the week.  Bjork.

IMG_5978.JPG

Bjork, dressed up as a big fanny.

Essentially this was a treatise on environmentalism and involved Bjork striding the stage in shoes that her maw would warn her against, in case she ‘broke a fucking ankle.’

Most certainly, her maw would also have said to her “Bjork doll, you’re no really going out in that pink slimy dress and head mask that looks like an open crotch vagina are you?”

Nevertheless, she did.   In a ‘Fuck you maw, I’ll wear what I like” sort of way.

The show was a full on sexual metaphor, opening with stunning fast frame footage of flowers (mainly orchids – ooh err) bursting fecundly into life with pollen-laden stamen and pistils shimmering and waiting to drop their load.

Accompanied by 7 flautists in equally garish, but slightly less vaginal, pink dresses she treated the audience to something of a concerto for seven flutes with nary a sop to commercialism to be seen.

We did have the flute version of Animal Behaviour dropped in half way through, but that was it.

Cue mass dissatisfaction and “I told you so” comments aplenty.

Me? I fucking loved it.

Contrary bastard that I am.

True artistry from someone not giving a flying fuck but determined to deliver a set that was both uncompromised and dripping in creativity.  One of the highlights of the week.  8.5/10.

She shared the top of the bill with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Slossy dismissed him with a simple ‘Meh” but he was in an obscurist minority.

IMG_5984.JPG

He was majestic.  Striding the stage with so much authority.  So much soul,  So much passion. So much anger.  So much skill (his band is indescribably accomplished).

He invited around 100 of the crowd on stage towards the end of his supreme set and one elderly lady burst into tears and threw herself around him.  It was a moment of magic.  He cultivates these.  Some say he stage manages them – but I don’t care.

For me, this is the greatest performer in the world right now, with a back catalogue that could fuel a 5 hour set without dipping into B sides.

Magnificent. Regal.  Straight 10/10.

A guy in the crowd threw a lump of cheese during the Nick Cave set and it hit a girl standing next to me “That’s not very mature” she screamed.

Whoever followed that was doomed to mediocrity and it was Nils Frahn, who was quickly christened Nosferatu by our ‘gang’, who treated us to a slow build up of Jean Michel Jarre-esque keyboard noodling with no fewer than 8 keyboards.  It was like a  demo in a Yamaha showroom.  But no matter his ability to slip-slide his way about the stage the emotionometer failed to engage and he tinkled away to a fairly non-descript 5/10.

I’ll save my ‘Meh’s’ for the earlier set by The Twilight Sad. 5/10.

As we moved into early morning territory we closed the day with a too mellow Four Tet set that failed to engage.  Disappointing. 5/10.

And so, the trek home.  It’s a shite way to end the night.  Especially if you are Doug’s carer. Albeit, he does what he is told.

We had two such evenings trying to hail Catalonian thieves driving black and yellow cabs.  One asked for 20 Euros for the final 2km of our trip back to Caller De Mallorca, the next 45.  A few seconds later we hailed one with his meter on.  7 Euros.

My ‘every day is a school day’ learning:  How do you make Vegan Cheese?

Take ordinary cheese and throw it away.

Day Two

We were awoken to two earth shattering news stories.

The Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, had been ousted after a vote of no confidence.  But this seemed barely to ripple the surface of the calm Catalonian consciousness.

They officially didnae gie a fuck.

But more significant was the news that…Josh Martin, longtime guitarist for legendary Massachusetts grindcore pranksters Anal Cunt, had died after falling off an escalator.

The band name does carry a degree of respect for its sheer gall and so he was toasted liberally with Sangria.

This wasn’t the only story of death to pervade the week.  Keith ‘I’m a bit of a lassie’ Stoddart was carried sobbing from the Johann Johannsson posthumous tribute by Echo Collective, Dustin O’Halloran and guests playing the late film scorer’s Orphee.

No one else cared a jot, but, as drink was taken, the gig was mentioned on more than a passing basis.

Get over it Keith, man.

On the way into the Parc on the Friday, and as anticipation for the other Marmite gig of the week, The Arctic Moneys (or ‘Monkeys’ as they are now calling themselves) I was reliably informed by George that “Going to an Arctic Monkeys gig is similiar to voting Liberal Democrat, eating sweetbreads and having anal sex.  Things that should only be done once, with the emphasis on only.”

You’ll find out how accurate his prediction was soon enough.

Lunch was a spectacular treat at the superb Mastico.  Outstanding tapas followed by Squid in its ink and meatballs.  Yes, I know, the picture below looks like the aftermath of a vasectomy gone horribly wrong, but trust me; it was superb.

IMG_5992.JPG

Superb value, especially compared to the lunch the following day, and we will be back there next year.

Musical festivities began with Josh T Pearson.  My pick, and only mine, but I persuaded the troops to join me and he was a winner, not least because he became a close personal friend of Keith’s, albeit in a state of extreme chemical enhancement.

image1-2.png

Madonnatron make it to Primavera Sound

image1-4.png

Mr McCrocodile in enthusiastic puppy pose.

Pearson’s musicality was enhanced further by his verbal frippery.

“I know what you’re thinking, how can someone this good looking write such sad songs but hey ya’ll – models are people too.”

And…

“Y’all know the difference between a Garbonzo bean and a chick pea?  I’d never let a Garbonzo bean all over my face.”

A 7.5/10 for me Josh.

After Josh’s hilarity we tripped over to Waxahatchee.  The lead singer, Katie Crutchfield, is aptly named because she provides a crutch for her all female bandmates who collectively don’t add up to much of any great interest or virtuosity.  She carried the band too much for my liking and despite some good tunes they were out of their depth on the Primavera Apple Music stage and only mustered a 6/10.

On the way to Father John Misty I picked up another great band at the Night Pro stage.  The astonishing lead singer in ‘Austrian’ band Cari Cari was truly remarkable playing, as she did, in the first 10 minutes of the set; vocals, drums, keys, jaw harp, didgeridoo and, I think, flute. A sweet treat and 8/10.

IMG_6008.JPG

Didgeridoo or Didgershenot?

Father John Misty, on the main stage, played a fucking blinder.  Aided by a strangely situated orchestra (downstage left hand corner) which allowed him to handsomely stride the rest of it looking swell but, more importantly, sounding it, and choosing to roll out all of the aces for a banger festival set.  A real highlight.  8.5/10.

IMG_6014.jpg

He was followed by The National.  One word to describe the 30 minutes I endured of this audio equivalent of stagnation.  Boring as fuck!  (That’s three words – Ed. ) 5/10.

IMG_6016.jpg

Next up, and on my own because the second I mentioned the J word (no, not Jizz George, Jazz) I found no sympathisers.  But Thundercat proved to be truly outstanding with a mesmeric performance from him (on his six string bass), his keyboard player and his drummer.  All of whom had learned their craft from Benny Hill’s theme music composer after a large dose of amphetamines. 9/10.

IMG_6018.JPG

Talking of amphetamines, after 16 hours on the lash, and back in the privacy of our communal living space, Mr McCrocodile forcefully informed us, through somewhat mangled consonants, that he could have got any of us anything.  ANYTHING.  We wanted.

(Disclaimer:  Mr McCrocodile neither pushed nor consume anything his schoolteacher, Mrs Mason, would have disapproved of, simply that in late night conversation his imagination ran, albeit slowly, amok.)

Loudly and persistently he proclaimed

“If you wanted some snack, I’d have got you it.”

I’m still not sure if he was referring to Scooby Snacks or heroin.

After Thundercat I made my way back to the Primavera stage for an oddly constructed, but in large part brilliant, set by Charlotte Gainsbourg.  It will definitely make me listen to her latest, excellent album (Rest) more often (in fact I’m listening to it now).  The trouble is she played her best cards in the first half of her set and drifted into her hippy stuff later on.  She went out with a whimper, not a bang, but still merited an 8/10 for her outstanding first half and really good set design.

The night was bubbling up nicely for Idles.  Some of us had already enjoyed their insane leftist rants in Glasgow earlier this year, at The Garage.  But nothing prepared me for what was to follow.

Arriving early I was surprised to make my way to the barrier where I joined Doug in one of his more coherent moments.  Not long after, Stoddart joined the fray.  We were on the rail for what was about to become the biggest mosh pit any of us had ever seen in our lives.

For the next 25 minutes I thought I would die of a heart attack, or trampling following concussion, or blindness because someone crowd-surfing-twat kicked me in the head not once, which would have been fine, but twice.  It was on the second occasion that my spectacles exited face left and found me scrabbling among the gooey detritus of two days of mayhem.

But, as luck would have it, my Gregories survived the trauma and, soon after, I took solace in the sidelines.  Sodden and bleeding profusely from my over-exercised nipples.

“Why don’t you use vaseline?” asked Stoddy.

“I would, but it ruins your T shirts and anyway, my nipples will grow back.” I advised.

(What the fuck are you on about? Ed.)

<< Rewind to 48 hours earlier <<

I’d gone out on the first of my three morning runs in Barcelona.  I was feeling fit after my Edinburgh Marathon exertions of the weekend before and I love running in new places so I managed 5 miles each day in sweltering heat.  As evidenced below.

IMG_5987.JPG

The trouble is, as soon as my nipples make contact with wet cotton it’s as if I’m being attacked by a cheese grater.  Blood normally follows.  It did.

On telling my daughter Ria, in Australia, of my exertions she opined;

“Fucking little bitch, you’re the ‘special’ who goes on runs at Festivals.  You’ll be a vegan next.”

>> Fast forward to Idles again >>

So my nipples are gushing like an elephant on its dabs, my head is pounding from a near stamping to death, my near blindness has only just been avoided and my legs are like jelly.

Then they crank up into Mother.

It’s just brilliant.

A straight 10/10

That was enough for one day.

Nah.

Was it fuck.

Confidence Man.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better it nearly did.

Confidence man.  Australia’s answer to Dollar.  Only good.

ConfMan-920x584.jpeg

Watch the charts folks because they are gonna be massive.

It was late, admittedly – they came on stage at 3am – but I’ve been listening to, and loving, their album since its release in April so there was no way I was missing them.  Mr Peter was in on it too, and Doug.  But Doug had been on something (10 pints of Heineken , a bottle of red wine and an 11th of a bucket of Sangria) that made both knees bend at impossible angles and almost completely fail to support his upper body weight, so he decided instead to sleep from start to finish of this magnificent gig.

I was in no way prepared for just how good Janet Planet, Sugar Bones, Clarence McGuffe and Reggie Goodchild would be (the latter two dressed in black veiled hats like  some terrorist cell from The Marigiold Hotel).

This is proper pop sensation stuff and the Ray Ban crowd went fucking bananas until 4 am when we all crawled back to central Barcelona.

Outstanding.  Another straight 10/10.

On the tram back into town I was chatting to a couple of girls who looked at me open-mouthed.

“Have you been on substances mate?”  They asked.

Merely the drug that is music my dears; merely music.

Day Three

Otherwise known as anticlimax day.

The lunch at the beach front fish restaurant we chose, Els Peixaters for the record, was extraordinary, in that it cost extra and was ordinary.

image1-3.png

Far from put off by price or banality, David indulged in the lobster.  His Amex Card sweating in the sun.

We quickly shrugged this off as the luck of the draw and headed instead towards Parc Del Forum for the final instalments.

First up, former Only Ones’ lead singer Peter Perrett and his two sons and two foxy birds, one of whom, had she have mustered a smile, might have melted our hearts.

By rights Peter Perrett should be toast by now given his well publicised ‘habits’ but he’s still with us and although we had to wait until the last number for Another Girl, Another Planet he treated us to a great set, with a voice that is once again intact and is as distinctive as his stage attire of red leather jacket and red cotton chinos.  A solid 7.5/10.

IMG_6066.JPG

Next up, 70 year old Jane Birkin. (She of “did she or didn’t she while recording Je T’aime with Serge Gainsbourg?” fame, and mother of the previous day’s smash, Charlotte Gainsbourg).

In 2016 the FrancoFolies Festival of Quebec commissioned Birkin to create a ‘Gainsbourg Symphonic’ concert with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and it was this piece that she brought to Primavera.  With a full symphony orchestra her performance was electrifying and actually quite moving, although after about half an hour it was boring as fuck and we left. 7/10.

IMG_6074.JPG

We then squeezed our way into a pretty rammed crowd for Slowdive who were just great.  However the lead singer needs a word with herself.  Her wardrobe mismatching made me look like Oscar de la fucking Renta.

And it’s proof positive that cool tattoos at 18 look uncool at 40 something.  Trust me, and more importantly heed me, on that one my younger friends. 7.5/10.

IMG_6092.JPG

I saw Lorde for about four songs.  Three too many.  She jumped around enthusiastically a lot in a sort of negligee.

It didn’t make her songs any more interesting.  4/10

And the shouty Chilean Rap, jazz, heavy metal combination of Como Asesinar A Felipes lost its ardour after 3 numbers I confess. 4/10

By now I’d been hanging about a bit waiting for Arctic Monkeys (5/10).  Or, as it now seems they call themselves, Monkeys.

(But won’t that just confuse them with THE Monkees? Ed.)

monkeys.jpg

Monkey drumming.

It turned out to be an unwise use of my time as they were disappointing.  Mainly because I could barely hear them.  Maybe my ears had been broken by that Idles kick in the head.  Maybe some sadistic cunt on the sound desk was hypersensitive to sound.  Anyway the crowd chat was louder than Alex Turner’s so I got out of there and reserved, instead, a good spot for OneOhTrix Point Never (7/10) on the far distant Bacardi Live stage.

Now, OneOhtrix Point Never is not just a challenging name but his music is pretty challenging too.  Nevertheless it was an enjoyable half hour and, I felt, a better choice than enduring the remains of the Monkees’ semi-audible climax.

Plus, it gave me a barrier place for John Hopkins; one of my picks of the week.

It was not to disappoint.  A stunning hour of rampant techno in which the entire crowd (well all the people around me) ‘pogoed’ throughout.

The nipples bled again.

The fourth straight 10/10 of the week.

Brilliant.  And we were treated to the classiest majorettes routine I’ve ever seen.

IMG_6121.JPG

And so it ended with Public Service Broadcasting.  Mr McCrocodile on form, setting up Stoddy with a dance (he didn’t want any schnacksch). But we were too far away and too tired/disengaged. 4/10

Day four

Pished with rain.

Went home.

Plane late.

Fuck off Vueling.

 

 

Things I won’t be doing this weekend.


london-1900x1080.jpg

This weekend I won’t be cheering on my daughter at a Cross Fit open competition in Stratford.

This weekend I won’t be walking the canal at Hackney Wick.

This weekend I won’t be having dinner at The First Dates restaurant.

This weekend I won’t be sampling real ales and pizza in The Crate Brewery.

This weekend I won’t be rummaging through the Gods Own Junkyard in Walthamstow.

This weekend I won’t be enjoying a free historical photographic exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

This weekend I won’t be eating Peruvian at Cevicheuk.

This weekend I won’t be wandering hand in hand round the V&A with my wife.

This weekend I won’t be going to a jazz club (possibly Ronnie Scott’s).

This Weekend I won’t be giggling and acting like a doting father with my daughter.

This weekend I won’t be Eating crushed advocate on toast in a bijou flat in Stratford East.

This weekend I won’t be trying lunch at Goat.

This weekend I won’t be taking part in a musical singalong at The Pheonix Art Club in Soho.

This weekend I won’t be visiting the Columbia Road Flower Market.

This weekend I won’t be on a free street Art walking tour in Brick Lane

This weekend I won’t be sampling vegan food at Mildreds

This weekend I won’t be Touring the Houses of Parliament thanks to my local MP.

This weekend I won’t be eating lunch overlooking the Thames in the HoP members restaurant.

This weekend I won’t be viewing London from the Sky Garden in The Shard

This weekend I might be making ANOTHER FUCKING SNOWMAN.

#BeastFromTheEast

 

Pressure. Theatre Review. Kings Theatre Edinburgh and Touring.


20171109_082810-768x660.jpg

Amazingly it’s nearly four years since this play premiered at The Lyceum before transferring to Chichester Festival Theatre.  Written by and starring David Haig it’s a modern day classic.

It tells the story of Dalkeith meteorologist James Stagg and his role as the allies’ choice as chief meteorologist advising on the D-Day operations (overlord) to General Dwight Eisenhower.

What most people do not know is that the weather in the lead up to the operation was flat calm and glorious English summer conditions, convincing his American oppo (Colonel Irving Krick – a bit of a weather celebrity of the day; certainly compared to dour Scotsman, Stagg) that historical precedent suggested almost certain ideal conditions on the day of the attack.

Stagg begs to differ and cites the vagaries of the British summer (four seasons in a day) as reason not to be confident of anything.

What follows is a tussle of intellect, nerve and belief (or otherwise) in the emerging science connected to the then relatively unknown ‘Jet Stream’.

Underscoring the drama is the imminent arrival of Stagg’s second child to his wife, some three hours drive away from the military base in which he has set up his temporary weather station.  His wife is suffering from high blood pressure (see what he did there?) and the experience of their first child’s birth weighs heavily on Stagg’s seemingly inscrutable (some would say curmudgeonly) personality.  Frankly, it’s the last thing he needs in these high stakes times.

And the stakes are indeed high.  Bad weather could kill 50,000 allied troops and calling it wrong would be their death sentence.

The play features 12 actors who represent the allied forces in various shapes and forms, but rotates around what is effectively a three-hander between Stagg, Eisenhower and Eisenhower’s English female driver and assistant (not to mention lover) Colonel Sommersby (the excellent Laura Rodgers).

It runs through the emotions and becomes an incredibly tense thriller with its share of laughs.

But at its heart is a superb performance by David Hare that makes you will the unlikely hero on with all of your heart.

The story contains a few twists that I’ll not share here. It’s on in Edinburgh till Saturday and then on tour before opening in London in late March.

February 1-10, Cambridge Arts Theatre
February 13-17, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
February 20-24, Theatre Royal,Newcastle
February 27-March 3, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
March 6-10, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
March 12-17, Theatre Royal, Bath
March 20-24, Richmond Theatre
March 28-April 28, Park Theatre, London
.

Here’s the original Lyceum trailer.

Talking to My Daughter About the Economy (A Brief History of Capitalism) by Yanis Varoufakis: Book Review


cover.jpg

Yanis Varoufakis is the economist that shot to fame as the poster boy of Greek economic fuckwittery.  His job was to unfuck the institutionalised fuckwittery, caused by a seemingly ingrained national sport of ‘not paying tax’, that left the Greek economy as the basket-case of the Euro, in the wake of the economic crisis in 2008/2009.

Varoufakis became Greek Finance Minister in January 2015 and lasted till July of that year.  Not exactly jaw-dropping credentials for being the Oracle on succesful economic strategy.

But he was an academic, so he knew the answers, right?

Frankly, he seems to have been spending his time writing books about his experience rather than actually unfucking up Greece.  And maybe that’s why he only lasted 7 months doing the job.

This is one of the books.

Its construct is as a letter to his, now, 14 year old daughter, Xenia, who lives with her mother in Australia.  One assumes Yanis and Mrs Varoufakis had some sort of marital difference of opinion.

And I’m speculating that Yanis’ wife said to Xenia.  “Darling, let’s get out of this country that your dad is supposed to be unfucking up.  As far as I can see he’s too busy writing books about how the economy got fucked up in the first place to actually unfuck it.  But I’ve heard the Australians understand the economy and we can swap a diet of olives and Retsina for steak and Shiraz.”

Several months later Xenia woke her mum to say.

“Mum, fuck sake, Dad’s written me this fucking 200 page letter about the fucking economy that’s all fucking fucked, instead of fucking unfucking it.”

I mean, if you were 13 years old (then), and on another continent, and missing your Dad would you be high-fiving the entire population of Sydney High School shouting.  “Whoa guys, my Dad just wrote me a 200 page book about Capitalism, what did your Dad do?  Take you to the Melbourne Cup?  Go surfing all weekend?  Barbie like it’s 1999?  Fucking losers!”

So, the reader is treated like a 13 year old girl (who probably doesn’t give a flying fuck about anything other than getting to second base with Bruce) as Yanis explains the principles of Capitalism, and consequently how the economy works.  Why he believes he is qualified to do this, when his only practical experience is of not succeeding in reducing the world’s oldest and most enduring culture to a pile of rotting fishbones, I know not.

Perhaps it’s his academic credentials.

Anyway, he succeeds in explaining what inequality, money, labour, tax, trade debt, profit, and banking are before reaching out to his local pharmacist to ingest a cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs (roughly half way through).

Thereafter, he explores the Oedipal Complex, the Flight of Icarus, The Matrix, ( revisited no fewer than seven times – I mean, nobody on Planet Earth understand The Matrix, so why use it seven times to ‘simplify’ a concept as obtuse as capitalism and the economy),  V for Vendetta, The Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, The Terminator, The Sorceror’s Apprentice, Faust and Doctor Faustus (seven times),  Frankenstein (six times), Harry Potter, Blade Runner, and Star Trek (five times) in an attempt to make the cerebral concept of Capitalism (and the economy) a bit more down with the kids.

The second half of the book would have made excellent arse-wiping material for Salvador Dali.

But the ‘best’ bit of all is his conclusion. (To his then 13 year old daughter, remember.)

In it he postures…

“OK, you will say, you reject the markets-everywhere solution and propose instead the democracy-everywhere alternative (really? is that what she’s grafiti-ing on the walls of Sydney High?). But how on Earth will your democracy save the planet, put the robots to work for us and make money function sensibly and smoothly?  What a great question! (If I say so myself.) While it would take a whole other book to answer it properly, let me offer a hint that may help you write that sequel yourself one day.”

“Aye. That. Will. Be. Right. Dad.  (Says Xenia.) Like I’m gonna write a fucking sequal to Talking to My Daughter About the Economy (A brief History of Capitalism) ‘cos you don’t know the fucking answers yourself (and made silly Brits fork out £12 to not give them any fucking answers – well, at least I got to read the crazy pish for free).”

In his epilogue, like we needed more reading after the previous 80 pages of intellectual wank, he writes this.

“How can Dad have confused me with someone who gives a damn?”.  That is a very, very, very good question and probably the best in the book.

But he ploughs on regardless, sharing with us this earth-shattering hypothesis to conclude.

HALPEVAM.

HALPEVAM is a ‘magnificent’ computer created by a mad scientist (any guess who that might be readers?)

HALPEVAM: Heuristic ALgorithmic, Pleasure & Experiential VAlue Maximiser. (Oh, come on, the acronym isn’t even a fucking acronym, it’s a fucking fag packet doodle.  Let me help you Yanis.  How about: Heuristic Algorithmic Leisue,nValue-Add,  Experiential Pleasure Maximiser?  There: that nearly spells fucking HALVEPAM!

Or how about Bloody Unbelievable Leisure-Life Sensitivity Heuristic Improving Transactional Organ Made Easy To Effect Relaxation?

He explains: “HALPEVAM is the opposite of the horrible, misanthropic machines in The Matrix – it’s the ultimate pleasure machine”.

(You still with us, 13 year old Xenia?  Or are you in a Psychologist’s practice in Sydney asking for information on psychosis ‘for a friend’?)

Poor Xenia.

But, Xenia’s not our problem, Yanis is raking it in and Mrs Varoufakis is presumably on a pretty big financial settlement (if only Greece reported its taxes).

Try it, it’s fun.

 

Three. Is the magic number. Calling all you Intelligent Finance [sic] customers out there.


Is Intelligent Finance the dumbest bank in the world?
Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 08.56.46.png

0845 xxx xxxx. Intelligent Finance’s Home Page and Security Page contact number.

This morning I thought “It’s champagne time – Intelligent Finance [sic] have, after 3 years of constantly asking them, updated their customer phone number”.
But no, only on 2 of their 3 customer facing pages.
The one when you are actually looking at your account is STILL WRONG.
They’re still Dullard Finance.
Incompetence beyond comprehension frankly.
Screen Shot 2018-02-08 at 08.56.58.png

0345 xxx xxxx.  Intelligent Finance’s Accounts Page, where you can see your balance etc and might decide you need to call them to query something – by now you are through security and, of course, failed to write down the correct phone number while you were there on the assumption that the number would be correct throughout the site.  But, you know when happens when you assume.  Yes,  U make and ASS out of ME

 So, as I entitled this elegant thought-piece, Three. Is the magic number.  As I will leave De la Soul to prove.

The funniest letter ever written?


1140-steve-martin-bow.imgcache.revc63c807e7f6e718afdf7e533128f66c4.jpg

Steve Martin (The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Man with two Brains) was, at one time, the funniest man on the planet.  Sadly that’s no longer the case but, at the top of his game he was killer funny – just watch any of the above movies if you need proof of that.

Or read the letter below to a fan.  He’d long passed the stage where he could write personal responses to fan mail but he could sign them and so crafted this absolute corker  in 1979, the year The Jerk was released.

P.S.  The P.S. kills me.

IMG_4654

Angels in America Parts 1 and 2, National Theatre Live: Review.


Nathan-Lane-Roy-Cohn-and-Nathan-Stewart-Jarrett-Belize-in-AngelsInAmerica-Perestroika-photo-by-Helen-Maybanks1.jpg

Eight hours in a theatre (or in this case my two favourite cinemas; The Cameo in Edinburgh for Part 1 and The Hippodrome in Bo’ness for Part 2) is a daunting prospect, especially when the subject matter threatens to overwhelm you emotionally.

In fact it is a breeze because the writing of Tony Kushner and the direction of Marianne Elliot (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night) pepper this doomsday epic with both humour and beauty (in staging, lighting, sound and movement – it’s a technical masterpiece throughout).

The acting is uniformly brilliant with Andrew Garfield in the lead role of AIDS sufferer Prior Walter.  But the support he gets from Nathan Lane, in particular, is astounding.  Core ensemble shout outs also have to go to the entire cast especially Denise Gough, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and Russell Tovey.

James-McArdle-Louis-and-Nathan-Stewart-Jarrett-Belize-in-AngelsInAmerica-Perestroika-photo-by-Helen-Maybanks1.jpg

Whilst, at times, you might want Garfield to slightly reign in the histrionics (and the fey gayness to be honest) you sit with bated breath waiting for Nathan Lane to go off on vitriolic outburst after hateful rant.  He plays a corrupt, gay bashing (ironic) lawyer who has no limit to what he will do to save himself (he too had AIDS but says it’s cancer, having spent his entire life in the closet, much to the disgust of most of the rest of the male gay cast).  He is the highlight of the show.

Although ostensibly a ‘gay fantasia’ the background of story is built largely on a religious platform.  The AIDS ‘plague’ has clear biblical connotations and the angels of the title are fantastical creations that are there to question morality, justice, belief and whether or not there is an afterlife.

The creation of the ‘main’ Angel played by six dancers/puppeteers and Amanda Lawrence as the angel itself is breathtakingly original and continuously mesmerising.  She’s magic.

I grew up during the ‘AIDS Epidemic’ and my home city of Edinburgh had to deal with an almost unique needle sharing problem, as well as the gay spread of the disease, (It’s well captured in Trainspotting) so, that meant it was as much a heterosexual issue as a homosexual one in Edinburgh,  Consequently, HIV/AIDS was very front of mind in this city.  Another reason that the story strongly resonated with me.

Two of the central characters are Mormons and that particular creed comes in for some pretty hefty slagging although overall you sense that Kushner has deep religious beliefs or at least is hedging his bets on whether there is a God.  The fact that both Louis and Nathan Lane’s evil character are both Jews is also an important part of the storyline and leads to considerable debate about the morals of that belief, compared to Christianity.

Politics, too, feature heavily in the storyline with a clear leaning towards both Socialism and the Democrats that make Reagan (the then leader) an object of ridicule.  Indeed Part Two is subtitled Perestroika with a certain reverence for it’s chief architect Gorbachov in evidence.

One of the lead characters (a gay nurse, Belize) former lover of both Prior (Garfield) and Luois (McArdle) and an ex drag queen is black and proud of it. As he nurses Lane’s character (Roy Cohn) this opens up another topic for Kushner to at times hilariously, at times terrifyingly, exploit; racism.  The man is a pig and it’s all that Belize can do to maintain his dignity and ethical professionalism to tolerate the monster that he tends.  In fact a relationship develops that is, at times, surprisingly tolerant and even tender.

Meanwhile closet gay and Mormon, Joe Pitt (Tovey), married to valium addicted Harper (the superb Denise Gough) is straying into an experimental homosexual exploration of his sexuality with Louis (former lover of both Belize and Prior) this has massive personal  consequences.  McArdle in particular plays a really strong supporting role and has the subtlety to play his part with conviction and sympathy.  He’s the ‘tart with a heart’ but can’t deal with all the consequences of these tumultuous times for the world’s gay population.

It’s complicated.  And that’s why Kushner needs eight hours to unravel the labyrinthian plot and the fundamental BIG questions it tackles, but he does so with great skill and lightness of touch.

The National Theatre are to be applauded for reviving this monumental work.  And it’s to our great fortune that we can experience it (from essentially front row seats) in small movie theatres all over the world.

A production that has wowed audiences and critics alike, I expect to see it pick up many more London Theatre awards.  If you get the chance to see it when NTLive does a reprise, kill for tickets.

Lost false teeth are no laughing matter…


IMG_3341.JPG

My blog, Is this Yours?, has turned up another mystery.

Half a set of gnashers, unencumbered by their owners.

It reminds me of a story about my pal, Ian Sutherland, who once lost his teeth when he sneezed out the window of his delivery van half way down the A1 on the way to Berwick on Tweed.  His choppers lie, waiting to be discovered, on a verge to this day I suppose.

Maybe these are his?

I think it unlikely though, unless deliberate relocation has been actioned by a stranger.

So, who lost theirs on Dalmeny Beach?

Indeed was it on the beach itself that the loss initiated?

Were they vomited down a loo in Fraserburgh and made their way down the East coast of Scotland on tidal streams?

Were they the result of a violent orgasm in the darkness on that very beach, immediately interrupted by an approaching stranger as two middle aged adults sought gratification and had to scarper before they could retrieve their conjugal misappropriation?

Perhaps they simply slipped out of a mouth, unnoticed, during a gentle stroll.

They may have been overboarded by a passing trawler in high seas.

Are they male?

Are they female?

I’ve tried them on, but my own clackers made estimating size a tricky exercise and, besides, they tasted a little brackish.

Do we have any forensic dentists willing to carbon date them for me?

Can the media help me here?