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Showing posts from April, 2020

On This Day: 30th April

A day of contrasts in the years Before The Lockdown... in 2015 I have never been 'to the opera', am not a fan of the big showy traditional musical and 'light opera' or operetta just sounded far too twee. But I'd heard good things about these guys, and I'm (reasonably) I'm open to being surprised by something new so on this day in 2015 I was at the Theatre Royal Bath to see Sasha Regan's All Male The Pirates of Penzance . I loved it! Athletic young men dressed in period frocks is one thing but when played with just the right amount of shared knowingness with the audience it becomes less cringe-inducing and more a joyous celebration. Alongside their cheeky smiles and metaphorical winks to the audience the effortless execution of some quite intricate choreography and being able to reach those falsetto notes so well made for a wonderfully entertaining show. in 2019 In complete contrast Falling at the Ustinov Studio in Bath explored the impac

On This Day: 28th April

It seems I have only been busy once on this day Before The Lockdown ... in 2017 Now, this is an odd one. The Ustinov Studio in Bath has a reputation for the highest quality theatrical productions. In recent years it has brought internationally acclaimed works to the British stage for the first time and hosted some of the best actors in the world to what you might otherwise think is just a small provincial studio space. Clearly not every show will be world class, and not every audience member will love every production but the Ustinov's hit rate is among the very best. On this day in 2017 I saw The Mentor , the first of Daniel Kehlmann's plays to be seen in the UK although he outsells both JK Rowling and Dan Brown in his home country. In the lead role is Oscar winning actor F Murray Abraham, enticed back to a British stage for the first time in ten years. The setup is ripe for satirical comedy, as a brash new writer spends time, supposedly to hone his craft, at the home

On This Day: 27th April

Mental health is something we are all more aware of these days so it's interesting that on this day Before The Lockdown I saw two productions that, in quite different ways, raise issues of mental well-being. in 2012 There are some works that have become 'national treasures' and Abigail's Party is, without doubt, one of those. This production, which I saw at the Theatre Royal Bath, came from the well-regarded Menier Chocolate Factory with an interesting mix of established stage and TV actors, most of whom had significant success in TV soaps. Their familiarity with the heightened domestic drama of a TV soap served them very well in this excellent production. With a wonderfully evocative 1970s kitsch (in today's terms anyway) living room set these (mostly) appalling characters were brought to life as we laughed and cringed in equal measure at how awful their behaviour was. Back then, it was showing off our taste in terrible decor or music choices that we used

On This Day: 25th April

For the last two year, Before The Lockdown, I've found some theatrical entertainment to amuse and entertain me ... in 2018 Local theatre company Black Dog Productions put on Orphan at the Mission Theatre in Bath. A dark and bloody exploration of the nature of friendship (real & obsessive) and guilt (hidden & realised) under the violence and oppression implicit (& explicit) in all cults. It was horrifyingly engaging as the disturbing story of a boy known only as 'Orphan' is revealed to us, and the means by which he seeks justice against those who were knowingly, or not, complicit. in 2019 One of the great things about living close to a visionary and adventurous theatre such as the Bristol Old Vic is that it actively engages and promotes creativity throughout the communities it serves. The BOV has a number of outreach programmes that encourage and help various groups of people develop both their ideas and skills. One such programme is Bristol Fe

On This Day: 24th April

Another triple hit day, I don't think I've found a day across four years yet ... but I'm sure there must be, y'know, probability and all that! Anyway, Before The Lockdown on this day ... in 1999 This is the furthest I have gone back so far and it's quite an interesting one. On this day I was in London to see Rent at the Shaftesbury Theatre. I would actually see this same production again later in the year, for the last performance and then again a couple of years later with a new touring cast. The main motivation for this trip was to see Joe McFadden who had so impressed in recent TV successes The Crow Road and Sex, Chip, and Rock'n'Roll . It had been a smash hit in the US but apparently didn't work quite so well  in London, but I remember enjoying it and although McFadden wasn't perhaps the most convincing lead he had enough charm to carry it off and I thought, as a whole it worked well, and there were certainly some very powerful and e

On This Day: 22nd April

Ahh, and we have another busy day in history, Before The Lockdown: in 2002 My first visit, of admittedly few, to the National Theatre in London was to see Vincent in Brixton at the Cottesloe. It's strange what, if anything, you remember of a work. Sometimes absolutely nothing or, as with this production, an odd detail like that they actually had a working kitchen as part of the set! Though, to be fair, I do also recall an impressive performance from Clare Higgins as the landlady of the house Vincent van Gogh was staying in. Escaping a traditional Christian Dutch environment to the more progressive and permissive London, Vincent found a muse of sorts, someone who recognised his talent, and also a love interest or two. As I recall it, a gently paced tale of the two lead characters recognising their likely futures one bright and creative, the other returning to a hum-drum day-to-day existence after a brief moment of excitment. This production was also interesting in terms of

On This Day: 21st April

Is anyone sensing a theme in my Before The Lockdown posts? 🤔 Yes, on this day I was, once again, at the theatre ... in 2018 A trip out to the Bristol Old Vic to see a new touring production of A Streetcar Named Desire . A cramped container was essentially the entirety of the set which, with excellent lighting design, provided a physical representation of the constrained lives of our characters that give vent to the despairing anger and, brutally, the sexual violence that is often barely restrained in most of us. By dispensing with the traditional trappings of a 'realistic' set the source and impetus of those raw, searing emotions and the hot, sweaty sexuality at the heart of this classic American story was all the more powerfully captured as we were taken on a dark and explosive journey leading to a devastating conclusion.

On This Day: 20th April

Oops! Data entry is indeed a skilled operation and should not be left to the careless! I was checking  my theatre going records and found an entry for today in 2004. And it's a good one, the world premiere production of the English stage version of Festen , the famous Danish Dogme film! Though, for some reason this time I checked my old ticket stub only to notice that it said 20 March ! I'd obviously typed it in wrong and then never double checked. However ... I am not going back to check everything again, I'm sure it was just a one-off! 😎 So, what did I actually do on this day Before The Lockdown... in 2017 Returning to the Theatre Royal Bath for my third Sasha Regan's All Male Gilbert and Sullivan production, this time it's The Mikado . Apart from just being an entirely male cast, the company also 'reinvent' the operettas to give them a more 'modern' setting ... but not too modern - this one was a vaguely 1950s set school camping trip

On This Day: 18th April

On some days it appears that I just don't go to the theatre, but on others like today, the 18th of April, it's one of thoss lucky days! So, once again Before The Lockdown on this day ... in 2016 What I really love about theatre is the telling of a story, hearing someone's own tale and being given an insight into someone else's life in a way that might also shine a light on my own life, on something I hadn't previously realised. Now, I'm not sure what I could personally take from Forever Yours, Mary-Lou (or À toi, pour toujours, ta Marie-Lou in the original French) at the Ustinov Studio in Bath, but it was story-telling at it's very best. Stripped down to basically just four chairs and judicious lighting this tale of a working class family (now in Dublin, rather than the original Montreal) argued, challenged, consoled each other as they, and we the audience, try to understand the horrific trauma that ripped each of them apart in such different wa

On This Day: 17th April

Well, having taken a rest on 16th April from theatre-going for the last few years, I resume normal service on this day ... but while preparing this day's post I realise something very spooky! On this same day, nine years apart,the two plays I saw were both written by Laura Wade! 😮 So what were they? in 2010 This was actually the first production of Laura Wade's Posh , at the Royal Court, London. Very much an "actors theatre" the Royal Court has seen some of the best talent on it's stages, including many at the start of glittering careers. What we didn't know then was that handsome fellow about town Kit Harrington , in what I think was only his second professional stage role, was already prepping Jon Snow in Game of Thrones! In fact, looking at the cast list now, there are quite a few names that are now frequently seen on TV, Stage, and film. A very British play about the foul underbelly of privilege at the heart of our politics then (and to a larg

On This Day: 15th April

There are surely many days in your life when you were excited by what was going to happen and indeed were excited by what had happened. But, then, many years later you have no recollection of that day at all! I think the 15th of April might have that problem... in 2006 I saw The Cut at the Bristol Old Vic. This is, or rather should be, a significant date for me. It, was, as far as I can tell, my first visit to the Bristol Old Vic, a theatre that has since become a mainstay of my theatrical year. The play was written by a very 'in vogue' writer, Mark Ravenhill and this production was headed by Ian McKellen, an icon of the stage. The cast also included Tom Burke who had so impressed in the TV series State of Play just a few years before. McKellen plays an operative of a totalitarian state, a 'doctor' (a torturer?) who performs The Cut on recalcitrant citizens who need to be made more subservient. Examining his own conscience and then himself becoming a prison

On This Day: 14th April

The Lockdown continues, we're still confined to our own homes and with the people we share the space with. Except for carefully managed essential trips out social activity has become almost entirely virtual. Remembering the times when we could meet people in the flesh, so in those times what did I do on April 14th... in 2008 Having never read the classic Philip Pullman novels and only seen the Golden Compass film released the previous year, I had no idea quite where the story would go when I saw His Dark Materials at the Theatre Royal Bath. It was also my first experience of a youth company, in this case the Theatre Royal Bath Young People's Theatre. An all-round impressive production both in design and performance, the huge cast were clearly at home on the main stage of this historic theatre. Pleasantly surprised by the quality of the show I was also taken aback by the sharp twists in the story that, having only seen the film, I was quite unprepared for. in 2016

On This Day: 13th April

Shocked to discover that I have no record of ever doing anything on April 12th ... well not for the last dozen or so years anyway! Thankfully, 13th April is different and I can tell that: in 2008 I was delighted to be able to witness the phenomenon that is John Otway aboard Bristol's famous floating venue the Thekla . Shortly after I moved to this part of the world I discovered an quite unique comedy, music and theatre venue knows as the Old Profanity Showboat. It didn't last very long but provided a location for many strange and entertaining nights out. The story didn't end and, Bristol being Bristol, the eccentric venue on an an old boat was saved and known simply as the Thekla has been an integral part of the city's nightlife since 2006. And John Otway? Known as "Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure", a unique and charismatic artist who has created some magnificent pop tunes since the 1970s. An ideal fit with the the Thekla. As with all great

On This Day: 11th April

Another day, much the same as the previous and, I dare say, very similar to the next. Yes, staying home, staying safe and protecting my community. Speaking with friends regularly, watching some of the new online theatre broadcasts (must admit to being surprised that they can, actually, work rather well) and doing my weekly stint as a volunteer in our community shop. But in previous years on this particular date ... in 2014 One of my favourite theatres is the Ustinov Studio, part of the Theatre Royal Bath, a small studio space (obviously!) that has an enviable reputation for quality productions. For their Spring 2014 season they put on a series of excellent American plays that had seldom, if ever, been staged in the UK. One of which was A Steady Rain . Taking inspiration from a real-life incident where two Milwaukee police officers returned a distressed young run-away to Jeffrey Dahmer, this two-hander explored issues of morality, trust, loyalty, corruption and betrayal. In

On This Day: 10th April

In recent years I have been able to see much more theatre and these Before The Lockdown memory posts might serve to emphasise what I am missing but I would like to think of them as a warm blanket of nostalgia while we wait out this cold winter of isolation and look forward to a heady summer of new cultural delights. Anyway, on this day... In 2018 In London, returning to the Royal Court for the second time that year after a four year gap to see Instructions For Correct Assembly . A witty and smartly staged comment on what is an age-old desire - that the people we love could be 'better' and more attuned to our own needs. With obvious reference to such familiar tales as The Stepford Wives and more recent TV dramas like Humans it asks what might happen if a family could replace a troublesome child with a 'perfect' synthetic? In 2019 In London again, this time at The Arcola to see a new stage musical of one of my favourite films, Little Miss Sunshine .

On This Day: 9th April

Some days appear to have been very idle, others, like April 9th, seem to be rather eventful. In 2005 I believe this was the first " post Harry Potter " performance I saw by any of the main actors from the Harry Potter films. On this occasion it was Sean Biggerstaff  (Oliver Wood, in case you need reminding) in The Girl With Red Hair at the Hampstead Theatre in London. Now, to be honest I don't remember much about it apart from it being a quite evocative of a small coastal Scottish community trying to dealing with their emotions. In 2018 I managed to get a seat at the Theatre Royal Bath to see Mary Stuart one of the biggest hits of the year. At the time I wrote " The reviews are right! Mary Stuart is theatre at it's most beautiful; the exquisite wordplay, the toing & froing of plot and empathy, the superb performances, the stark, focused, staging. " The play opens with the toss of a coin to decide which of the two leads, Juliet Steven

On This Day: 8th April

According to me all my records I did nothing of note on 7th April, which might have suggested that this 'daily' record was unravelling but no! Those empty days just go to prove that I did stuff, real stuff, on other days. That's good, isn't it? 😉 So, for example, I do know what I did on the 8th of April ... In 2019 A most entertaining evening at the New Wimbledon Theatre with the 2 Mouthed Men and their surprisingly good beatbox sketch comedy! That's surprising in the sense that beatbox and comedy sketches aren't words you hear together very often, and certainly not when describing the same thing! Oh, and there were some fine hot guitar licks and rapping along the way as well. You can get a sense of their thing' ...

On This Day: 6th April

Having got the date wrong for the first post in this series, I shall endeavour to double-check every post from now on! Now, for the 6th of April (honest!) On This Day . In 2003 A very fortuitous visit to see a friend in London on the last weekend that The Laramie Project was at the Cochrane theatre. As far as I can recall this was the first time I'd seen a ' verbatim ' theatre production and it was such an incredible piece. The story itself, of how a small middle American town deals with the aftermath of an horrific murder and their own beliefs and prejudices regarding identity and sexuality was emotional enough but then knowing that the "voices" we were hearing were actually those of the real people involved added a whole other level of connection. The production itself, like most verbatim pieces, was quite sparse but there were some moments, of both an individual's own story and of the visual impact of scenes such as the white Angel Action, that

SimAirport: Research for Bristol

In the third episode of my SimAirport series Building Bristol I add the first of many Remote Gates. Before recording that episode I did a little more research to clarify how many gates and stands were in use at Bristol. I found a few more photographs that helped show the arrangement of stands more definitively. In particular this one, that I used within the video, which appears to show all the stands in use though there may be a couple more spaces at the far right-hand : Another couple of photos of the airport show the sheer scale of car parking usage - it is said that the airport company earns more from parking charges than air fees! Bristol Airport Resources For anyone interested in the operation of the real Bristol Airport, I'll keep this post updated to collate the various bits of information I use within this SimAirport series. The main pages I used in planning the series include: https://www.bristolairportspo

On This Day: 5th April

While we are all in 'Lockdown' and unable to enjoy the pleasures of shared social experiences, I thought that for as long as we are isolating ourselves I might look back at what I have done on this day in the past. Not convinced if this is actually good for my mental health or not. I hope it will bring back happy memories and not lead me to despair what I am missing now. Anyway, onto the first On This Day . In 2014 I had just started getting into the habit of going to see as much as I could at the Ustinov Studio in Bath, it quickly became one of my favourite venues for exciting, though-provoking and excellent crafted theatre. On this day I saw The Big Meal - a powerful family drama that felt very real, and is still one of my all-time favourite production. In 2017 I'm starting to recognise the names of theatre companies and making decisions about whether to see a show or not depending on the company producing it. On this day I saw the Headlong produc

A Retrospective on March

This post was going to be mostly a summary of the activity on my YouTube channel in March but I thought I really should address the COVID-19 coronavirus situation and, umm,  got a bit carried away!  You can avoid my ranting about what has happened by scrolling down to the next headline. 😉  The 'Situation' It took a while for us here in the UK to realise but March was the month that everything changed ! After two weeks of 'lockdown' we're becoming accustomed to a new way of life, isolated in our own homes, either alone or with immediate family we are effectively confined within our homes. Unable to physically meet anyone we don't live with, unable to enjoy of the pleasures that come with socialising with our various communities. And then there is the 'knock-on' impact that has on the economy, the businesses, the organisations and institutions that have become an integral part of our way of life. Our governments may try to protect the bedrock comp