Saturday, 23 January 2010

Great Theatre

My previous post, when in effect familiarity bred, well not exactly contempt but certainly a touch of boredom, got me thinking about the best theatrical productions I had ever experienced. In almost all cases they arose from the fact that my expectations were not particularly high and then I was just overwhelmed by how good the production or performances were. And again almost all of them had a high emotional content. So what were they? Well here are a few of them.

Tomorrow Was War. This was entirely in Russian, performed at the National Theatre by the Mayakovsky Theatre Company of St Petersburg. We were given headphones and Vanessa Redgrave gave a simultaneous translation in English. After a while I did not need the translation. I was just deeply drawn into the story. Basically the play was about the last year at school in 1938 of a class in St Petersburg. Their carefree final year at school. And for many of them, their final year of life. As soon as they left school they were conscripted into the Russian army. Many died. And the overwhelming emotion was of the hideous waste of lived unfulfilled.

This Island's Mine. This was performed by Gay Sweatshop at the Drill Hall. I remember standing outside the theatre wondering if I would have the courage to even go in. I am not sure what I was expecting. What I got was a wonderful play, honestly performed and which had a huge resonance on my closeted life at that time. Many years later I got the chance to perform scenes from that play at a theatre workshop. And I still have a copy of the play.

La Cage Aux Folles. This was performed at the Wimbledon Theatre by the LT players, an amateur group made up from employees of London Transport. I had invited a large group of friends and was nervous that they might not enjoy it. It was just such fun. Not without important and serious themes, but done with such style and such enthusiasm. I laughed, occasionally cried, and have loved the show ever since.

The Grapes of Wrath. Again at the National Theatre, performed by the Steppenwolf Company from Chicago. Not exactly an enjoyable evening, but certainly a raw and emotional one. A depressing tale brought to life by an great cast and an innovating staging.

Follies. I saw this at the matinee performance on the final day of its run in London's west end. I don't remember much about the production but I remember one performance. Eartha Kitt had been brought in late in the run. She has a minor part, but she had a great song - I'm Still Here. Her performance of that song was electrifying, and she got a standing ovation of at least 10 minutes right in the middle of the production. Julie McKenzie was on stage ready to deliver the next line and had to hang around on stage, not looking very happy, until the ovation for Eartha Kitt died down. And now sadly Eartha is no longer with us.

I have been forunate to have seem many other great productions - Bent, Beautiful Thing, Tectonic Plates, CarMan come to mind. We have bought tickets for the Cheek By Jowl performance of Macbeth in March. Let's hope I might be able to add that to the list of great theatre.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Dying Swan

Well perhaps not dying, but for me Swan Lake has lost its vitality.

I am talking about the Matthew Bourne production - the so-called all-male Swan Lake. We went to yesterday's Sunday matinee performance. This is, I think, the fifth time I have seen this production, so I am a fan. Of course nothing can compare to the first performance I saw. In those days, Adventures in Motion Pictures were a small unsung group of dancers. I had seen them perform in front of about 100 people at the Baylis Thetre doing La Sylphide set in a Glasgow tenement. But of course Swan Lake was a revelation. I remember, on that first occasion, standing up to applaud as soon as the final curtain fell, possibly the first time I had ever given a show a standing ovation without waiting to see if others were doing the same. Yesterday I stayed in my seat.

I suspect that in fact it was not the production that was at fault. It was the audience. For that first performance, the bulk of the audience were gay men looking for a bit of a frisson and then being blown away by the quality of the performance. Yesterday's matinee audience were mainly elderly women in groups, probably also looking for a frisson but then giggling like schoolgirls each time a male swan appeared. That, and familiarity, meant that I was never going to be able to repeat the sheer excitement I felt the first time I saw this production.

That said, the dancing was impeccable, the music is of course fantastic and there was a real power at the end when the prince and the swan meet their end. I am glad we went. And I am sure that anyone seeing this for the first time, would absolutely love it.

Afterwards we used our Toptable points to claim a free meal at Thai Thai in Old Street. The meal was excellent. Despite my comments above, it had been a good day.

Saturday, 16 January 2010


I often think that I was meant to hibernate for a couple of months in the winter. Certainly over the past couple of weeks I have been busy at work but done very little in the evenings or at weekends. But now the snow has gone, perhaps I can get back to golf or tennis and start to get out a bit more.

Tomorrow we head to Sadlers Wells to see the Matthew Bourne Swan Lake. This will, I think, be the fifth time I have seen it. And afterwards we are taking advantage of my Toptable points to get a free meal at Thai Thai in Old Street.

This morning, though, it is raining, so I have not yet left the flat. Perhaps I need a couple of photos from our recent trip to Malaga to cheer me up. As you can see, I experimented over New Year by not shaving.

Monday, 11 January 2010


I didn't sleep well last night. And I've had a busy day. So I am now feeling very tired. I don't want to write the blog. I just want to go to sl........

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Be Where You Are

It was all going to be so different this year. There I was with a day off on Thursday and a list of things to do. Did I do them? Well, not exactly. I got up later than usual, spent too long on the internet, read some magazines, spent more time on the internet, went to Sainsburys, spent more time on the internet, watched TV, went to bed. In other words I frittered the time away. Fritter, fritter, fritter.

And in between times, I checked and responded to work emails. So much for dirfferentiating work, rest and play.

And it is a double whammy. Not only did I waste time, but now I am wasting time getting upset that I wasted time. But none of that alters the fact that I am where I am. Or as Buddha put it 'As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you may lose most of your life.'

So I will put Thursday behind me. Well I have no choice, I can hardly put it in front of me! Now I will head out and get on with today. The first day of the rest of my life.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


My mother was very ill in the first 6 months immediately after I was born. She had to spend most of that time in hospital in Inverness and I was looked after primarily by my grandparents who lived in a house called 'Benview' in Craigellachie 60 miles away (there was a lovely view of Ben Rinnes from the house).

They lived in that house throughout my childhood, and although I do not really remember my first 6 months of life there, I do remember with affection the numerous weekends we spent at Benview with my grandparents throughout my early childhood.

On our drive south on Boxing Day we went through Craigellachie. We discovered that Benview is for sale. If only I could afford it. It would be great to be able to own my grandparents house and to use it as a holiday cottage for visits to the highlands of Scotland. I cannot do that, but it is a nice dream. Here is a picture of Benview.

More photos in the snow

A couple more pictures which I took on our drive through Scotland on Boxing Day.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Driving in the snow

Our drive back from Scotland at Christmas was not too bad. Some snow through Grantown and down A9 from Aviemore. This allowed me to take some interesting photos which I can now upload -

Friday, 1 January 2010

Hello 2010

At the stroke of midnight, we ate 12 grapes, as is custom in Spain, one for each stroke of the clock. We were in a restaurant in the Chueca area of Madrid. We´d had a good evening - a good meal and interesting conversation, as interesting as my Spanish allowed, with those on neighbouring tables.

And now we have arrived by train in Malaga for a couple of days. The flat is fine, the weather is okay and my thoughts turn to 2010 and my hopes for the year ahead.

I won´t exactly be making a list of resolutions. In any case these would be much the same as those in previous years. I simply want to kick-start my life and, particularly, to get things into a correct balance. Work, rest and play. Last year these rather morphed into each other. I want to manage my time better and keep work, rest and play separate.

When I am at my paid work, I need to concentrate better on that. Other domestic work at home needs time dedicated to it. I must ensure that a spend sufficient time on play, whether it be golf, tennis or just getting out and about in the fresh air. And I need to realise that it is okay to rest. I can watch television, though sparingly. I can surf the internet, but with self-control. I can sometimes simply listen to music and let my mind wander. I don´t need to feel guilty about doing nothing, provided that I have been doing things when I was supposed to do those things.

I will devote time to others, but also time to myself. I won´t let others get to me and won´t be too hard on myself. Wherever I am, I need to just be where I am, accept where I am and not wish I was somewhere else.

In 2010 I will buy a new car and maybe move home. I must sort out my finances so that I can plan for the years ahead. I will do some travelling. I will do my best to be a good person and to accept the inevitable slings and arrows when they arrive. And I´ll have some fun.

Tomorrow the sun is due to shine and I hope to go down to the beach and spend a few hours just reading over a beer or two at a chirrunguito somewhere along the Malagueta. Planning the year ahead can start on Sunday. Doing it can start on Monday.