Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Treading the Boards

This year it would appear to be the year of random theatre.
Although I enjoy the occasional jaunt to the West End, I must admit that I don’t see as much theatre as I would like to. I have the occasional flurry but could not call myself a regular theatre goer. I also much prefer a straight play to some ropey musical which just rips off a film or a pop star of yesteryear. Enough already!
This year, however, I have been to the theatre a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it. And on both occasions I can quite honestly say I have never seen anything like it.
Last month I went to see The Red Shoes at Battersea Arts Centre. A friend invited me along so I decided to give it a go. After getting over some initial confusion (I thought the BAC stood for Barbican Arts Centre, you see) I turned up with an open mind. As we sat in the bar having some pre-show tapas the cast appeared in white vests and y-fronts and a variety of musical instruments. They serenaded us with strange, almost childlike melodies.
It didn’t get any less weird, but was fantastic all the same. Other than the narrator, who was dressed in elaborate drag, the rest of the cast wore simple costumes and used basic props. In silence they performed the tale of a young girl who was made some red shoes which she loved. However, when she wore them, she couldn’t stop dancing. Exhausted, she tried to take them off to find they had become a part of her, and, in desperation, she turned to the local butcher for relief.
My introduction to weird and wonderful performance art did not stop there. A few weeks ago I met a couple of people from the Roundhouse who gave me a flyer for their up and coming production, The Fat Girl Gets a Haircut and Other Stories. I was intrigued by the title and the illustration on the front of the flyer so decided to give it a go.
I was not disappointed. The actors were all young people who had got involved in the Roundhouse two years ago when they were aged only 12 to 15 – making the oldest member on stage today a mere seventeen. The show was made up of 12 short plays, many of which were performed in silence. Although I was often left unsure exactly what each story was about, they were beautifully performed and so emotionally charged and cleverly choreographed that, quite frankly, it didn’t matter. Again, the set was simple, props were kept to a minimum and the pastel costumes reflected the actors' vulnerability and innocence. The live music that supported them reflected the melancholy mood fantastically and the curved walls of the Roundhouse were used to project illustrations and animations that gave the experience yet another dimension. Needless to say, I was impressed.
Alas, some of the audience members were not happy, and I saw quite a few leave. Unfortunately in a space like the Roundhouse there was no way for them to sneak out the back and it was very obvious and distracting – even more so for the actors I am sure, who had to use the same entrances and exits as the early leavers. I couldn’t help but feel outraged on their behalf, especially as such a public snub would no doubt be felt more deeply by such young performers. Alas, you can find good theatre, but there appears to be no escape from bad manners.
Unfortunately The Red Shoes has been and gone, but if any of you fancy something completely different, get your tickets for The Fat Girl. But please don’t blame me if it isn’t your cup of tea. And, whatever you do, please don’t leave early.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Cynical in the City

Three days and counting before the double bank holiday and I cannot wait. Like a lot of people I’ve booked off the three days between Easter and the Royal Wedding/May Day weekend which means I have eleven blissful days away from the office for the price of three. Bring it on.
So, how will I be spending these days of freedom? Well, there will be a trip up to Yorkshire to see Him Indoors’ clan, followed by three days in London pottering to my hearts content. Then it will be the Royal Wedding.
Will I be getting out my Union Jack and hitting the streets of London? Throwing a street party to celebrate? Splashing out on a commemorative teacup? No. I will be escaping to my mum and dad's for the weekend where I will be going to a craft workshop with my mum on Saturday and attending an old chum’s birthday barbeque on Sunday.
I’m sorry but I’m just not into the Royal Family and quite honestly don’t see what all the fuss is about. Thousands of people get married all the time and many of them end up divorced. And, let’s face it, the last two big Royal Weddings didn’t exactly end well, did they?
Okay, so maybe it’s an excuse for a party. But do I really want to head down to Westminster Abbey (I am assuming that is where kick-off will be) to get crushed by hundreds of tourists, pay through the nose to use the loo at the nearest pub and have to queue for three hours to get on a tube home? I don’t think so.
It is quite possible that I am a little cynical about these things. Take two recent sporting events, the Boat Race and the London Marathon. Lots of people turned up to cheer those amazing sportsmen and women on – and trust me, after attempting to improve my running beyond the occasional sprint for the bus, I have much respect for anyone who attempts the latter. But can I really be bothered to get up early on a Sunday morning to watch people running past me? I did consider heading down to the Boat Race this year but, along with the possible disruption caused by the protests, I didn’t fancy getting stuck on the South Bank with a load of Oxbridge types with no means to make a quick escape. As for the protest? Well, I had other plans.
Then there’s the Olympics. According to the government, EVERYTHING is going to be great by 2012 – public transport, homelessness, street cleanliness, you name it, it will be sorted by next year. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath. Nor have I rushed to buy tickets. Despite Mr Johnson’s promises, something tells the that London will grind to a standstill, unable to cope with the sudden influx of people, and travelling anywhere, let alone to Stratford, will become near impossible. So next summer I will be planning my summer holiday to neatly coincide with the mayhem which I predict will ensue.
I know that some people fail to understand my apparent apathy. “What is the point of living in London if you don’t go along to these things?” You might say. And you may have a point. But there is plenty in London that I do enjoy - the galleries, the theatre, the nightlife, the shopping – and take full advantage of. But standing around on the side of the street waving just to catch a glimpse of a couple of aristocrats? I’ll give it a miss, thanks all the same.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Spinning Around

Ah, music. It makes the world go round. Or am I getting confused with money? Either way, I like my music, to the point that I think I would give up my sight before my hearing if I had to make the choice, purely so that I could continue to appreciate its mood enhancing melodies. Naturally living in London gives me a wide variety of music at my finger tips. When I lived south of the river I made regular pilgrimages to the Brixton Academy alongside less frequent outings to the Hammersmith Apollo and Wembley. Friends have introduced me to many a smaller venue too, from the basements of pubs to cool Blues bars. The Charlotte Street Blues Bar was one of my favourites – okay, so the music wasn’t exactly cutting edge, but the cocktails were. Sazerac, anyone? I was gutted to hear that it has closed down. One of the most memorable weekends of my youth (don’t mock!) was when I headed west to the infamous Glastonbury. I had an amazing time, the combination of music, sunshine (yes, really!) and beer ticking all my boxes. Although I haven’t been to many music festivals since, I am hoping to re-create that Glasto vibe when I go to see the Kings of Leon at Hyde Park in June. And I have just bought tickets to go and see Seasick Steve and the Electric Ballroom too – the only act that has enticed Him Indoors to anything resembling a gig since I have met him. Again, with the help of a Whiskey Sour or two I am hoping to be transported to my happy place, ideally without the intervention of a paramedic. On Monday night I went to a gig that was a complete freebie. With free food. And drink, for that matter. The venue? The O2. The act? Oh, a little known Australian singer…called Kylie. Yes, you read that right – a good friend of mine works for one of the companies that sponsors the arena and managed to land two tickets in their VIP box. Needless to say, I didn’t turn him down when he offered to take me along. Okay, so I’m not exactly a huge Kylie fan, but I appreciate a nice bit of pop as much as the next person. And, let me tell you, she didn’t disappoint – and neither did her rather tasty male dancers. I think I could get used to the Grecian God look. Especially after a couple of free Hoegaardens. Needless to say, a good night was had by all. It started off with a nice bit of shopping (I am now the proud owner of the Campest Teacup Ever – and for the bargainous price of £5!) and a couple of beers in the VIP lounge where we enjoyed superiorly comfortable chairs. Well oiled, we wandered over to our box to be greeted by a rather charming young man who took our jackets and poured us another beer. After filling our faces (the bagels were particularly good!) we settled down to an excellent show. There was something for everyone (and every sexual persuasion) and Miss Minogue did not disappoint, singing a wide range of her ditties from the late eighties to present day. And, it has to be said, she sang them exceptionally well. What was a real pleasure was to see a world famous musician who seemed genuinely chuffed at her crowds’ appreciation and humbled by her own popularity. I wish I could say the same for lesser established stars I have seen perform live, mentioning no names of course (meat dress, anyone?). I won’t go into anymore details – I wouldn’t want to spoil if for anyone, or bore anyone who isn’t a music fan for that matter. But it just goes to show that, in London, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to have a great time. You just have to know people in high places. Or, in my case, an electrician.

Monday, 4 April 2011

... ;-)

Today is the first day of my new job. It is 11.21am, and I am bored. I know I am going to live to regret saying this – in a couple of weeks I’m pretty confident that I will be running around like a headless chicken. But that is okay. Good, even. I can cope with busy. What I can’t cope with is doing nothing. This doesn’t just apply to work, although I do feel excessively guilty if I am busy doing nothing and getting paid for it. It applies to my own time too. It has got a little bit silly. My diary is full – not necessarily with social events, but also with little reminders of things I “need” to do – writing, going to the gym, calling the landlord, paying the bills, doing the gardening. Even when I read a book in bed it is for my book club or some kind of career development guide. I have heard a lot of people talking about using their time wisely, but I think I have started to take it to the extreme. Even my television viewing is limited to things that I really want to watch. Gone are the days when I used to sit in front of the box in my pyjamas on a Sunday morning. Every now and then I do give myself a bit of time out. Take this weekend, for example. On Saturday I had a Hen Do followed by a Birthday Boogie. After a frantic bit of writing work I headed into town to do some errands before heading south of the river to meet my fellow Hens. We met in The Hope on Wandsworth Common before heading off to You Make a Cake where we, you guessed it, made cakes. Cupcakes to be exact. I have to say I was particularly proud of my pink lemon offerings. Even Him Indoors said they looked professional (like the ones from the Hummingbird Bakery, in fact!). Several glasses of champagne later we headed to another pub in Balham (The Regent) where it was burgers all round, washed down with copious amounts of wine. Cocktails and dancing followed before I headed to Soho and joined in the festivities for my friends’ 31st birthday at Madame JoJo’s. Needless to say it turned into a very late night, and an uncharacteristically lazy Sunday ensued. I finally emerged from my pit in the early afternoon and, after some much needed sustenance, popped down to the supermarket to buy a chicken for a Sunday Roast. One episode of Deal or No Deal and the last in the series of True Blood later and it was about time to go to bed. Had I been to the gym? Nope. Made a start on my next craft project? Certainly not! But had I had an enjoyable weekend? For sure. I know I am not alone. A few weeks ago a friend confessed to me that she sometimes finds herself sat at the bottom of the stairs, trying to figure out what she needs to do next, feeling guilty for finally resting after running around for hours doing the cleaning, the shopping, making dinner. Why do we do this to ourselves? What do we fear? That the world will stop turning if we dare to do nothing once in a while? That we will not succeed, be fulfilled, meet our full potential? I know that my dreams will not be dashed if I take it easy once in a while and that I need to re-charge my batteries every now and then. But I still keep going. I think the real fear is that if I stop, I won’t be able to start again. Which is ridiculous. What is more likely is burnout if I carry on putting so much pressure on myself to be doing something all of the time. So, I have a new plan. Along with my resolution to enjoy London more often and go to all those places I’ve never been to and really fancy, I am going to make myself to nothing once in a while. Maybe for five minutes every day, or possibly for a couple of hours once a week. I haven’t decided yet. But it’s going in my diary, alongside the gym and my writing group. And with the exact same amount of importance.