Delphiniums and Chrysanthemums

I haven’t blogged for days; no, make that weeks. I’ve been busy with lots of work and quite a lot of play. That should be plural, quite a lot of plays, including Matilda, 42nd Street, Translations. I had complimentary tix to the first two. I loved Matilda. The children were amazing. Some looked as though they could have barely started school, but these were professionals giving fine performances and looking as though they were enjoying very minute. I saw 42nd Street with my friend Julia. We were a bit nonplussed by it. As a spectacle it is everything you could ask for and more, the dancers tap their socks off and the set pieces are stunning. But the story. Why would you revive that now? I wanted to stick #metoo hashtags all over it.

Which brings me to Translations at the National which I saw with my friend and colleague Tony. His family is from Mayo, and we often go together to events with an Irish connection, despite digging with different feet as you might say. Tony had see a production of Translations, also at the National, in 1981 and brought the programme along with him. He also bought a programme for the current production and it became very clear the same sources were consulted when the notes were written in 1981 and 2018.

But my goodness, what a production. It was fabulous. Ciaran Hinds has cornered the market for roles as Irishmen of a certain age. To my ear, his delivery owed something to the declamatory style of the late Ian Paisley. It’s part of the Travelex season, meaning we got to watch it in the Olivier for £15 per seat. Good seats, there are no bad seats in any of ten National’s three theatres. The Olivier is based on the theatre at Epidaurus so you can feel yourself a part of a theatre tradition stretching back centuries while sitting on cushioned seats. That last comment is because Octavia and I saw As You Like It at the Globe last weekend. We had seats, and hired the cushions, but it makes you appreciate small creature comforts like seat backs and arm rests.

Octavia and Celia are both away at the moment, which means my two close friends who live close by are absent. MasterB is having to listen to me a lot as I process my days. He’s given me the excuse I needed to write this post by sitting half on me and having a wash. Truly, no one ever lived with a sweeter cat.

The NHS is about to turn 70. There are some in government who would like this to be its last birthday. People who say things like “we can’t afford it” and “people need to be responsible for their own health insurance”. They are either wilfully ignorant or wilfully misleading. Maybe both. Mark Haddon, one of several people writing in the Guardian about why he values the NHS has hit the nail on the head with his piece which you can read here – and please do, especially if you are from the US or another of those countries where private health companies would have you believe the NHS is an unmitigated disaster and you are so much luckier to receive itemised bills for everything anyone does for you from helping you onto a bedpan to heart surgery. Continue reading

Advertisements

Play For Today

My parents weren’t theatre goers. They had neither time nor money, though my father attended music concerts in his youth, and as a pupil midwife my mother enjoyed London’s West End theatres courtesy of free tickets left at the nurses’ home. I got the bug for watching plays via the BBC. There used to a programme called Play For Today. Every week, on Thursday night, I think, there was a new play written for television by writers that included Dennis Potter among others. It was magic. My sister loved the Regents Park open air theatre and introduced me to that, and I became a supporter of my local theatre in Guildford, where five minutes before curtain up for 50p I could get a seat in the house.

Unsurprisingly, in London theatre has been a constant since I moved here.

My friend Tony and I went to see Twelfth Night last night at the Globe. Last year we were blown away by Emma Rice’s Bollywood Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as this is to be her final season at the Globe, we wanted to see Twelfth Night as she has directed it too. I bought tickets as soon as they became available and have been really looking forward to this production.

Most of the audience were enraptured. We less so. After Malovolio had blown his whistle for the sixth time, I wanted to leap on the stage and take it away from her (a female actor is playing the part of the male steward, whereas up river at the National, a female actor is playing Malvolia, the steward’s gender having been changed).

It was a less than subtle production. Emma Rice seemed to have decided to throw everything at this one, and for me it was a case of less would have been more. There were bits I loved; the shipwreck, Antonio rowing through the groundlings in his boat Bewitched, some of the music. There was a lot of music. At one point in Act I, we wondered if the play had been turned into a musical. Twelfth Night is a light, frothy sort of play, to my mind it didn’t need, or deserve, to be whipped up further and half a ton of cherries put on the top.

It’s part of the Globe’s 2017 Summer of Love season. Ironic in more ways than one, but with the upcoming general election on my mind, it’s the disunity on painful display across my country, the distinct lack of love among our separate parts that seems most obvious this summer. The talk is all of a Tory landslide, Labour wiped out, Theresa May measuring up for new curtains at Number 10 and settling in for a long stay. Some of her admirers speak of her as the new Margaret Thatcher, a divisive politician to the power of n, and although Mrs May says she is no Margaret Thatcher, her constant harping on about unity while spelling out policies that obviously divide, punish the metropolitan communities who so stubbornly don’t vote Tory, and reward the Home Counties and shires who do, reminds me of Thatcher’s little speech when she quoted St Francis.

But for those of us who remember the days of Thatcher as leader, and I do with a shudder, we know that unity was the last thing she achieved. My country was riven. There were riots across the country. Greed and ostentatious wealth were praised, poverty was obviously the fault of not believing in Mrs T strongly enough, of being feckless enough to think the weak and the vulnerable were deserving of respect and dignity, of working in the public sector. Continue reading

Alone at the Marina

I had some misgivings about coming East this afternoon. Celia and I went to see It's a Mad World My Masters at the Barbican last night. It's an RSC production, and, like most RSC productions, pretty damn good. Celia is currently a cricket widow with Charlie away in the West Indies, so she is free to be a cultural partner in crime.

The play finished at about 10.15, and by the time we got back to our patch of London it was 11. I was hungry, MasterB needed outside time, so the date had changed by the time I got into bed. Sleep was almost instantaneous, and when the alarm went off at 6.30 I felt quite rested and refreshed. But having been to work, my less than eight hours were catching up on me.

I stopped a couple of times on the journey; provisions and petrol. And took the opportunity to stretch and yawn. We hit patches of slow slow traffic, but by leaving later than I had intended, managed to miss some of the school run rush. All the same, I was aware of having to make myself concentrate, keeping the windows slightly open so a breeze whisked about me. Continue reading

Bowled Over By The Bard

Absent from blogging but enjoying some pre-Christmas culture and seeing Henry IV part one on Monday, and part two last night.

Fabulous fabulous RSC productions with Anthony Sher outrageously good as Falstaff. So good you think you must have dreamt he was that good. The comic timing in the comic bits was brilliant and a wonderful counterbalance to the serious bits. That Billy Shakespeare knew what he was doing.

How Harry Hotspur's wife put up with him I do not know. Short fused doesn't begin to describe him. ADHD at the very least. Continue reading

Theatre Outing

In case any of you were wondering what I went to see last night when I left MasterB in charge of the sofa (and I noticed none of you asked!), it was One Man, Two Guvnors which is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Incidently, MasterB gained full control of the sofa by lying across me when I was sitting on it; lots of purring lots of cuddling; then the penny dropped – he wanted the space to himself. I am so used to sitting on the floor while he stretches out over both cushions that I am doing it now, despite the fact that he is out. Continue reading

Glorious Summer

It has been a beautiful day, and we are at that time of year when our days are long and our nights short, so when the sun shines, summer seems expanded. The poppies are still flowering and the hollyhocks are getting into gear. MasterB is in his element, spending hours in the garden, coming inside to sleep and recharge his batteries.
Going to the theatre twice this week was great, but it has meant tonight I have been bent over my papers in preparation for work tomorrow. I haven’t quite finished, but I am taking a quick break. I still haven’t caught up with the blogs I follow. Hopefully in the next few days. Continue reading

Evening Plans

I’m feeling quite pleased with myself. The flat is a tip, but I have just completed a draft for a presentation I have to give and it is atking shape nicely.
Now to fetch MasterB from the great outdoors, snatch a bite to eat and race out to the theatre. I may leave the bioy outside if that’s what he wants, then with luck, this is how he will be when I go to bed.

Tired

Tired

Night Time in the Garden

Poor NotCat; the warmest day of the year and he has spent most of it indoors. I don’t yet trust him to be outside alone all day and I was out at work. Then I came home, he enjoyed a cuddle and less than an hour’s freedom before he was confined again, so now he is ninjaing about and I’m outside too, keeping him company.

The rest of London is downing Pimms, white wine and lager like there’s no tomorrow. Not all in the same glass of course. Though there’s no accounting for tastes, so I expect that would be someone’s idea of a nice cocktail.

Every bar we went by was full.
Continue reading

Hair 2010

I had a fairly unsophisticated upbringing. Life revolved around school, pets, the Brownies and my close-knit and extended families in my home town and in Ireland, where holidays, when we had them, would be spent in the middle of the countryside.

There were school trips to museums in London, usually the Horniman. There were pantos in the village hall, and once, memorably, my mother took me to see The Nutcracker at the Royal Festival Hall. I loved it. Later I found out she’d been bored silly.

In my early teens, my older sister fell in love with Shakespeare and learned how to book tickets for shows at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre. As a birthday treat she took me to see Ian McKellen playing Hamlet at the Cambridge Theatre when he was the rising star of the RSC. Continue reading