Friday, 29 September 2006

Teechers In The Middle Of The Road

One reason for my lack of recent Bloggage (have I coined a new word there? Nope!) is the fact that I've been so busy doing dramatic stuff.

For the past couple of months we've been rehearsing 3 separate plays.

I'm stage-managing Teechers, by John Godber. Our lovely friend Clare is directing a gang of 4 talented youngsters for our Youth entry to the Woking Drama Festival. There was a point a week or two ago when it looked a bit touch-and-go as to whether it would all come together in time, but now it looks like the performance this coming Thursday will be a cracker.

I'm also sound designer and operator for The Man In The Middle Of The Road. This is written and directed by Paul Foster who's been with us for a year or so. It's not as light-hearted as Teechers and it features a lead actor who has to perform stark naked for over half the 45-minute play! We'll see how the Surrey theatre-going public cope with that at the Woking Drama Festival on Thursday 12th October.

All this frantic activity means that I haven't been able to give my full attention to The Wind In The Willows, our 'big' show for November. I feel bad about this as I know what it's like, as a director, to have a less-than-complete turnout. Next year I will restrict my activities drastically!

Friday, 22 September 2006

Not Quite "It's A Wonderful Life"

So it appears that slightly camp dancer, Lionel Blair, and screamingly, irritatingly camp 'comedian' Alan Carr have saved a man who was trying to throw himself off Blackpool pier.

Is it only me wondering whether the poor bastard was just trying to get away from those two fools in the first place? He must have had a heart attack when they were the ones that saved him...

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Where Have You Been?

You can now add a map of the countries you've visited to your blog or website.

Click my map below to find out more.

Thanks to One Of Those Allans for the link.

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Wednesday, 20 September 2006


Every year, the 2nd week of August sees two or three hundred amateur drama types heading up to Loughborough University for the annual NODA Summer School.

This year was the 4th time I've been. In previous years I've studied Acting Skills and a directing course (Page To Stage with Ruth Bettesworth) that was enjoyable enough to repeat last year.

This year though I decided to do something different: Theatre Lighting. I'm not much of a "techie" and I certainly quail at having to climb up to the gantry. I usually get half-way up the ladder and then panic and have to be lowered down with ropes and pullies.

The course was most enjoyable. I managed to learn enough that next time I direct a play I'll hopefully be able to make suggestions about the lighting and will be able to understand why some things are impossible (or not!).

The pictures below show one of the 'cameos' that our group put together. We had to devise and light a short scene which used lighting to show a sense of place and the passing of time.

A window pattern on the floor is often achieved using a 'gobo'. This is a metal cutout or template which is placed near the lens of a focusable theatre lantern to achieve a special effect: a window, light dappled through trees, etc. However, in our cameos shown here we decided to use the window built into the scenery like a gobo and simply rigged lights to shine through using different angles and different colours to give the impression of a changing time of day.

Attending the NODA summer school is also a great chance to see old friends from previous years and catch up with what they've been doing since the previous August - usually over a very reasonably proced drink in the student union bar!

Roll-on next year - learning technical skills is all well and good, but I think I missed the performance-related stuff too much.

Why is the title of this piece "hezbollah!"? When you're hanging a light you shout "Heads Below!" to warn anyone standing on the stage. When 2 or 3 of the people on the course come from the north-east, it sounds like "Hezbollah!".

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

You've Got To Be Crazy...

We spent the weekend entertaining Al from Seattle.

Al is an old friend of my Lovely Young Wife. They met in Moscow. The circumstances aren't fully known to me, but I believe that lots of vodka, a bad covers band and some very scary Russian mafiosi may have been involved.

He runs his own company, GreenBuddy, selling a cool little golf tool. He says he's doing "okay", but I reckon he's a multi-millionaire and just likes slumming it with us regular folks!

Windsor Great Park

We spent part of Sunday in Windsor Great Park. It's pretty and you can see the castle, but my real reason for reproducing the picture above is for Delmonti's comment. Click above to be amused.

On Monday we went looking for a vintage drum shop on Lavendar Hill in London. We ended up parking pretty close to Battersea Power Station. This is one of my favourite London landmarks, and as both Al and I are huge Pink Floyd fans so we explored the area for a while.

When I got home I decided that I had to pay my own tribute to Animals. It's a much under-rated album.

Pig On The Wing

Have I done the album cover justice? I hope to
hear from Storm Thorgerson pretty soon, offering me a job...

Monday, 11 September 2006

Will They Have Kids?

Hmmm... A Sudanese man has been forced to marry a goat.

This is an interesting story as it closely mirrors the reasons for my own first marriage.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

A Tale of Two Gigs

Half-Moon Unplugged

Off we went to the Half Moon in Putney on Monday night. We were there to see Mike Halliwell and his band - friends of my lovely young wife. Overall an excellent night. It was an acoustic/unplugged night, so there were about 9 bands/artistes of varying styles and calibres.

The room at the Half-Moon is a decent size, probably holds 150 standing and the crowd of about 50 or so were all quiet and respectful to the acts.

Mike Halliwell (along with Matt on bass, Adam on drums and roadie Nick) was very good indeed. They guys try to gig once or twice a month, at least, and they're well worth catching. If you're going to Cameron and Kirsty's wedding next Sunday (and why wouldn't you be?) then you'll hear them.

Another standout act included The Ballinsky Project. A guitar/cello duo. Nathan Ball, the guitarist and singer has a voice reminiscent of Cat Stephens' (that's a good thing, by the way) and their songs were beautiful, yet complex. Thoroughly recommended. I've ordered their CD.

Also worth hearing was Rami. This Bob Dylan/Art Garfunkel lookalike sings with a deep American drawl (think Leon Redbone - I think) but is actually English. Which made me think he was a trifle pretentious for a moment - but after listening to his songs I was converted. An excellent guitarist and an adventurous and amusing lyricist. His last song mixed Dylan with Beck and was a marvellous concoction.


The next night we went to see Nizlopi at Koko (formerly the Palace Ballroom) in Camden. This was a different kettle of fish and reminded me why I generally don't like going to 'bigger' gigs.

Let's start with the band as that's the most positive. You'll probably have heard of Nizlopi from The JCB Song which was a number 1 single just before Christmas 2005 and also did the rounds via viral emails for a while previously. Their album Half These Songs Are About You is excellent. Agood mixture of folk, rock and gentle hip-hop styles. Of course, a multi-instrumental album is difficult to reproduce when you are a duo (guitar and double-bass), but they opened the show with a real bang. John (bass) is a superb human-beatbox and so the fast, inventive, excellent bass-playing on the first couple of songs was backed by a really good rhythm. And so were the next two tracks, and the next, and the next.

In fact (and this is my main grumble about the music) ALL the tracks they played, bar one, were re-invented as banging hip-hop tunes. Nothing wrong with ringing the changes and rearranging a few tracks - and the new twist worked really well on, say, six or seven of them, at the most. But applying this template to everything was a mistake. A far better choice would have been to employ a drummer who could take a seat for alternate tracks, or for the 2nd half of the set.

[And, while we're moaning about the hip-hop theme... Let me just say that I do really like hip-hop and I don't believe that there's any shame in middle-class white boys playing and writing it. But... When you're a middle-class lad from Leamington Spa (as Luke from Nizlopi is) there's no real excuse to be talking like you're from the 'Hood in Compton or something. Perhaps this was some sort of Ali G style spoof. But if it was, it didn't work. The well-dressed, nicely-spoken black guy standing in front of me told his friend, "blimey! That bloke talks just like my nephew".]

So... The music. Enjoyable-ish. But the whole night was spoiled by:

1. The appalling acoustics in the venue - come on guys, you've just spent a fortune on new decor, a new bar, new marketing, a relaunch. Couldn't you have spent some money on making sure the sound wasn't so muddy and dirty that it was impossible to hear the lyrics or the between-song banter?

2. The fatuous behaviour of the punters - I'm still at a loss to understand why someone would spend decent money to go to see a band and then spend all their time talking and larking about with their mates instead. That would be OK if they did it somewhere at the back of the hall near the bar, but no, they feel the need to disturb the rest of us. And it's not just a few isolated groups. At times it felt like 1/3 of the audience were more interested in their conversations than in the band they'd paid to see. Twats!

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Ah, Those Long Summer Days...

What long summer days? August was abysmal. Don't argue, you know it was!


Yes, I'm sorry Chuckie, I've been away from here for far too long. Lots to write about, but little time to write in. August saw lots of activity which I will post about over the next week or so. I promise.

So look forward to meanderings about NODA summer school, Wensleydale, my recent birthday and various theatre bits and bobs.

Today's topic of conversation is The Goodwood Revival.

The Revival is a race meeting, held at Goodwood motor racing circuit, near Chichester in Sussex. The circuit is built on the estate of the Earl of March who lives in Goodwood House and also owns Goodwood horse racing course. Lord March owns lots of property. Lots. Vast acres of English countryside.

But he's a good chap because every year he holds two meetings at the motor racing circuit. The Festival of Speed happens early in the summer. I've been a couple of times, but I don't find it that enthralling. Various racing cars charge up a hill course a mile or two long. It's not a circuit, so you see each car once. For about 10 seconds.

No. For me the Revival meeting is much more fun. The Friday is given over to practice laps, each driver trying to set a competitive time; then the races themselves happen on Saturday and Sunday. Each day you'll see around 9 races, plus some parades of cars notable for some reason (this year was a collection of cars raced by US driver Phil Hill in his long, distinguished career).

One of the best parts of the Revival is the fact that everything is done in a vintage style. The circuit closed for 'real' racing in 1966, so all the cars (and the planes and motorbikes - even the course rescue vehicles, fire engines and ambulances) pre-date that year.

The number of people who dress up in period costume is amazing. This year I didn't have time to find something appropriate and I felt out of place even wearing chinos and a shirt and tie.

And although I wasn't dressed in period we certainly arrived in style. I managed to cadge a lift with my friend Alan in his 1953 MG TD roadster (pictured).

But the highlight of any day at the Revival is definitely the racing. The saloon car race is exceptionally good fun. You wouldn't believe that a Mark I Jaguar and an Austin A35 would be neck-and-neck with each other after 12 laps (25 or 26 miles). In previous years I've seen a Morris Minor vying for the lead.

And this year's racing was even better. The Saturday was very overcast and rain fell in showers all day. Which meant the track was damp, but not soaked, all the time. Which, in turn, made the racing even closer and more exciting. And as we had ticket for the Lavant Turn grandstand we stayed dry and saw many cars taking both apexes sideways.

Can't wait until next year!