21 March 2015

More Broken Bones at the Fox and Duck

The last time that I saw Broken Bones at the Fox and Duck was only a few weeks ago and then I commented that I hoped to see their next gig there on 19 July so it was something of a surprise to see them pop-up there again in March. Still, it had been a busy day watching Wales being robbed of the Six Nations Championship and I really fancied a few beers while listening to some good music.

I also needed the walk there, so much so that I took a long route along Dukes Avenue, Riverside Drive, Ham Street, Sandy Lane and Petersham Road. That got me just above my 12k step target for the day and also enabled me to listen to a few of my ten hours worth of unplayed podcasts.

I got to the Fox and Duck around 10:45 while the band were on their interval break so I could settle down with a Doombar before the noise and the dancing started.

I had called Broken Bones grungy before but they sounded more bluesy this time. That might have been their song selection or something to do with my mood. The songs that impressed me the most were certainly the longer slower bluesier ones like Sweet Home Alabama, Pleased to Meet You and Smoke on the Water.

There were some shorter faster rockier numbers too, numbers like Born to be Wild, Jailbreak and, of course, Ace of Spades. It was a good balance of songs and I liked the fact that they played some unusual ones as well as some of the more obvious crowd favourites.

Broken Bones finished on the stroke to midnight refusing the desperate please for another encore, using the completely reasonable excuse of the pub's curfew to do so.

That left me a little drinking up time to catch-up with some locals and I had some quick conversations on health informatics and the correct pronunciation of "Bosham" before walking home, taking a slightly longer route than necessary but a shorter one than I used to get there.

Another fine night at the Fox and Duck and just what I needed at the end of a gruelling day.

14 March 2015

Counterfeit make a strong return to the Fox and Duck

I was lucky enough to catch the first ever Counterfeit gig, which was also at the Fox and Duck, in June 14 but the fates had conspired to make me miss their subsequent returns there. And it looked as though I would miss this one too and not only did I have a theatre date earlier in the evening but it was many miles away in Guildford.

Then a few things worked out for me. The play finished on time not long after 10pm and I got to the station with a couple of minutes to spare before the 20:20 train left, at Surbiton it was another short wait for a 281 bus to Kingston and there it was just two minutes before a 65 came along and took me briskly to Petersham. I arrived at the Fox and Duck just after 11:20pm which gave me forty minutes of music and enough time to drink three pints.

Obviously I cannot comment on the whole set as I only caught part of the second half but what I did hear was a slightly and refreshingly unusual mix of songs that included Pinball Wizard and Purple Rain as well as the more common Whole Lotta Love.

As before the musicianship was excellent from all four band members and even the slight technical difficulty at one point did nothing to spoil the infectious good mood. Just look at the grin on Dave's face in the photo above. I was smiling too.

The cause of the extra smiling at this point was lead guitarist Julia Kurzeja's jaunt into the bar area for her shoeless solo. She tried the table first but that seemed a little risky so she settled for the chair instead.

It was an invigorating and uplifting end to a busy evening and that is all that I could have hoped for. Counterfeit are flagged as one of my favourite bands on LemonRock and I hope to catch another full show before too long.

13 March 2015

Wedding Dresses at the V&A

I will admit that wedding dresses is not the obvious thing for me to go and see an exhibition on but this was the V&A and they do exceedingly good exhibitions on fashion.

I had intended to go to see Wedding Dresses for many months, the exhibition started in May 14 and I knew that it was coming before then, but, predictably, I finally got to see it just two days before it closed in March 15.

I was in London for something else that morning and had taken a day's holiday to take in an exhibition in the afternoon before going to the theatre.

I got to the V&A at 1:30pm and joined the short queue for a timed ticket. The exhibition was clearly busy but was not sold out. I opted for a 2pm ticket to give me time for lunch in the cafe first. After a very leisurely lunch that featured some sort of butternut squash pie, I went in to the exhibition around 2:20pm expecting it to take about an hour which would leave me just about enough time to get to another exhibition at RIBA that was also due to close shortly.

The exhibition was busy but following the slow queue around the outer circle of the lower floor allowed me to see everything and in chronological order too. There were a few other men there, just not very many.

The displays were of typical wedding dresses of the middle class (mostly) and it was interesting to see how the shapes, styles and colours changed over the years. It was also interesting to learn that wedding dresses used to have a life after the big day, much like a smart lounge suit work by a bridegroom today has.

One of my favourite dresses on the lower level was a fairly simple purple dress that looked just like the sort of thing that one of the smart ladies in Lark Rise to Candleford would wear.

Upstairs was a completely different affair and introduced the exotic world of contemporary designed dresses many of which were worn by the rich and famous.

The first of these was the full purple dress worn by Dita Von Teese on her wedding to Marilyn Manson in 2005, as seen in the photo above. Photography was banned in the exhibition (they had a book to sell) but I was able to take this one from outside when sitting among the statues in the long corridor on the ground floor.

A few of the dresses were outrageous, one even upset the bridegroom because of its revealing nature, but most were very pretty and a few were just stunning.

The star of the show, in my opinion, was 'Flower Bomb designed by Ian Stuart which, conveniently, was at the back of the exhibition and so could be viewed clearly from the metalworks section on the first floor.

My objective measure of how much I like an exhibition is the amount of time I spent in there and for Wedding Dresses I expected to take an hour but took almost two. And given that it was not physically a very large exhibition that meant a lot of time looking at and reading about each dress.

The one disappointment that I had with the exhibition was the lack of context. I presumed that most of the examples on the lower floor were typical but those on the upper floor clearly were not so I left not knowing what wedding dresses look like today or what they cost. None of the exhibits had any prices on which surprised me.

It was a fairly exhausting two hours too so I had no option but to go back to the cafe for a pot of tea and the first scone of the season.

That the V&A could make wedding dresses so interesting to me is a testament to their curating skills and reinforced my determination to see more of the same, starting with Alexander McQueen which had just opened.

Why I am not working for the London Borough of Hackney

There was enough going for the Senior Business Analyst / PM position at London Borough of Hackney for me to take a shot at it. I liked the idea of being based in one location in central London, it was a job I had done before at Lambeth and so I knew that I could do it well in my sleep, the London Overground goes directly there from Richmond, it would put me in walking distance of the Arcola Theatre and Hackney is a part of London that I fancied learning more about.

The application process was not that painful (unlike LB Merton) and so I went for it and was not in the slightest surprised to be called to an interview. The email invited me to Hackney on 13/03/2015 09:30 at Robert House, 6-15 Florfield Road, Hackney, London, E8 1DT for a morning that would consist of a presentation (full brief and preparation time will be given on the day), a face to face interview followed by a technical test. The entire process will last approximately 3 hours.

I had to take holiday to go but that seemed a fair investment and, besides, it would give me the afternoon do so something useful, like go and look at wedding dresses.

The travel worked as well as expected and I was there in good time. Time enough to find the place and maybe to have a coffee to.

The problems started with finding the venue. This was clearly the address though there was nothing to say that this was Robert House or that the ICT department had offices there.

I went around the other side of the building looking for the main door. I did not find that though I did find a couple of smokers who explained that this was indeed the front door and they told me that if I looked carefully at the small hand-written labels on the door bells that one did say "ICT".

It would have taken just one person with a little pride in working there to have printed an A4 sheet and laminated it.

Once inside I was greeted nicely and given a cup of coffee while I waited. While waiting I had a look at the notices around the entrance. One promoted some rather bland corporate aspirations. The poster was dated 2005.

I was tempted to leave at that point but I had nothing else to do that morning so I thought that I would go along with it.

For the first hour I was left in a dark room with some flip-chart paper and pens to prepare a presentation. I know how to do presentations so that held to fear for me but the case study that I had to work on did because it reminded me too much of the mistakes that we made at Lambeth almost ten years previously, the mistake of thinking that using CRM and Biztalk gives you business transformation. The project was to move one specific type of call, missed waste collection, from the department to a contact centre. Nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes, but to call it business transformation was fanciful, not least because missed waste collection is not a business process itself, it is dealing with the failure in the business process of waste collection. What Hackney should be doing is looking to eliminate missed waste collection calls, not to handle them better - doing something wasteful efficiently is still wasteful.

Hackney's lack of understanding on real transformation, and change management which is a key part of it, became more obvious during the interview. I decided to take an arrogant and slightly aggressive approach because if I was going to work there then I had to be sure that I would be allowed to make the changes required. I was slightly surprised that the person attempting to interview me on change management had such a little grasp of the subject and I had to lecture him on continual process improvement at one point, much to the amusement of his colleague. I also had to remind the interviewers more than once that I had published papers on business transformation on slideshare.

The interviewers also made the common mistake of forgetting that they were being interviewed too and they had a job to do to convince me to come and work at Hackney. They did not even try.

The last hour was the most bizarre.

I was left alone in another room, this time with an A4 bad, some biros and a set of questions that seemed designed to have nothing to do with the job whatsoever.

If there was ever a set of questions drawn up by a committee then this was it. The questions ranged all over the place and varied from the simple yes/no type to those that required a longer answer.

I was applying for the position of Business Analyst / Project Manager and was being asked questions on EU procurement rules, ITIL and technical architecture.

Funnier still, some of the questions had simple factual answers, e.g. ITIL definitions, and I was alone in the room with an iPhone. Cheating would have been all too easy. My final comment on my answer sheet was to point this out.

There is no way that these questions could have had a meaningful impact on the recruitment processes and it worried me greatly that Hackney thought that it could.

Apart from the courtesy of the smokers and the lady who looked after me during the morning, nothing about Hackney suggested professionalism. I had not quite finally decided to let them sink on their own as I thought that, given a chance and some support, that I could help them to get things moving in the right direction.

Then I got home and saw the email that they sent me during the morning.

The next stage in the process is Occupational Assessment on Wednesday 18th March 2015. 

I attach…

·         An invitation letter
·         Venue details
·         Guidance sheets for the assessments you will be taking
·         Practice Leaflets for the tests you will be taking (electronic copies released under licence from SHL April 2013) Please see information in Invitation Letter and in 'speech bubble' on each Practice Leaflet as to which tests apply
 If you have any special needs, which might affect your performance in an assessment or interview, please contact the Assessment Team before the day so we can agree what might be done to support you. Please do NOT assume that we will have been given any information about special needs that you have explained on your application
Please confirm that you have received this message and that you will be attending
I look forward to seeing you on the 18th  

The summary of all this was that I was being asked to resit the 11+ by somebody who thinks that using three colours, two forms of highlighting and no fullstops is the way to write an email.

I had a quick look at the test questions and they were as simple as I feared, they were very much at the 11+ level, an exam I passed almost fifty years before going to pass exams at O Level and higher in English and getting a degree in Mathematics. I had also been work at Principle Officer level for thirty years.

In my application I had mentioned things like being Chair of Governors for a school for several years and having articles published in several journals so I had already given them the evidence of my capabilities by giving them facts that were in the public domain and easily verifiable.

I was deeply insulted. It was rather like asking a seasoned F1 driver to take take the standard driving test to prove that they can handle a car. If you do that then then good drivers will recognise the insult and walk away and only those that find driving a little difficult will be prepared to take the test. Hackney has a recruitment process that is designed to deter the best and appoint the mediocre.

I immediately decided to give up on Hackney as a lost cause and I let them know that I would not be taking the tests. We had spent some time in my interview talking about identifying waste in processes while they were oblivious to the considerable waste in the recruitment process that they were using.

Even if I had taken the tests (and more holiday to do so) then that would have told Hackney nothing. Obviously I would have passed impressively but so should everybody else who had been shortlisted. They would have spent time and money to learn nothing, a clear example of waste.

And this was the worst type of waste as it actually destroyed value. The point of the recruitment process is to find good people so doing something that pisses them off is beyond silly.

Finally, at no point during the process was I asked what I thought about it and, as I had had to explain to them during my interview, feedback is vital in making processes better. Their recruitment process is remarkable awful but if they do no ask candidates about it then they will never find out.

Hackney said that they wanted to transform but nothing in their behaviour suggested that they have the slightest idea what business transformation is or what they need to do to make it happen.

7 March 2015

To Ghent

It probably sounds a tad pretentious to say that I went all the way to Ghent just to see an opera but that is essentially true.

It also gave me a good excuse to spend a few days there exploring the city which seemed like a good idea after I spent a happy week in Brussels, Bruges and Antwerp last year.

The simple plan was to catch the eurostar to Brussels at a sensible time on Saturday morning and then a train to Ghent arriving there late afternoon with time to start exploring the city. The opera was on Sunday afternoon and I was travelling back on Tuesday afternoon so that gave me plenty of time to explore.

The journey to Brussels Midi was uneventful and I had a bit of time there before my next train to eat some lunch. I find Midi depressing in its structure, colour and content but it has one big redeeming feature, the little corner dedicated to Tin Tin.

I had chosen a hotel in Ghent close to the station to make handling bags easier and once settled in I quickly left again for the walk in to the centre. This was about 2km the first km of which was pretty dull. Then I took the hotel's advice and headed off the main road and on to the canal which I followed the rest of the way in.

It was late enough in the day for the light to be fading significantly but that did nothing to dampen the good spirits enticed by the water sprites.

For no logical reason, I had not expected to see so much water or for the waterside to be so pretty. I kind of assumed that all the pretty canals were in Bruges and had not considered that another city close by could share some of its beauty secrets.

The old town proper started with the palace of justice and the public square in front of. A golden barge emphasised the grandeur of the place and tempted me over the bridge.

There were lots of bridges and I spent the next half an hour or so crossing lots of them as the middle of a bridge is the best place to get views like this, a view with two more bridges in it.

The city was lively on both banks. There were plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants, all of which looked busy. There were also seats and steps where people congregated to meet and drink the many cans they had brought.

Just in from one of the main waterways was Korenmarkt (Corm Market, obviously), a large square filled with restaurants. I chose a bistro that had a spare seat inside (it was moving from chilly to cold). It looked like a bit old fashioned but appearances were deceptive and the excellent food was presented in the style of a gasto pub.

When I came out after my meal the sun had all but given up for the day and could only reach the top of the buildings.

The gloom was no excuse for ending the exploration and I continued my wanderings around the centre of the city safe in the knowledge that I would have plenty of time to come back over the next three days if I found something that needed sunlight to be properly appreciated.

I was following an interesting road through the largely car-free centre when a lot of lights suddenly sprung on to highlight the back of the town hall. I learned later that Ghent made a feature of subtle lighting.

Walking around to the square in front of the town hall I discovered this amazing pavillion.

The futuristic wooden roof was a refreshing contrast to the traditional brick and stone buildings around it. Not only did it look great but it had wonderful acoustic properties that amplified the efforts of a busker at one end. I was tempted to shout to test the acoustics myself and it was only the fact that nobody else fell into this temptation that stopped me.

It was a fitting place to end my exploration and from there I walked the 2km or so south back to my hotel.

The first day in Ghent had delivered much and promised more.

5 March 2015

Kill me Now at the Park Theatre was tender in a shocking way

Everything about this evening was a delight.

I think that I have Facebook to thank to alerting me to a performance of Muswell Hill at the Park Theatre (I had seen the play before and Facebook knew that) and that got me looking at the Park Theatre's website, that was a new theatre for me.

A quick look suggested that the theatre was well worth a try-out visit and this would be easy to do as it was located very close to Finsbury Park station on the useful Victoria Line. I was struggling to find enough free evenings to do everything so rather than see Muswell Hill again I chose to see Kill Me Now which had the intelligence to describe itself as a "black comedy" which is right in my sweet-spot. It also helped that the cast included Oliver Gomm who I had seen twice previously (Orange Tree and Rose), playing a foppish toff both times.

I booked online at short notice but there was just me going and I was able to bag the one free seat in the front row, A51, for a very reasonable £25. Why pay west-end prices?

I had cleverly arranged to work in London, Kings Cross, that day and, as I had plenty of time and the weather was fine, I avoided the convenience of the tube and walked there. It took me though an hour of time and through places that I did not know well and some I did not know at all. That's why I like walking.

I had made no plans for food and was relying on being able to find something in or near the theatre.

I was delighted to find that the Park Theatre and two cafe and bar areas, on the ground and first floors, and they had a good selection of vegetarian quiches to choose from. I went for the spinach and was further impressed when the accompanying salad included pomegranate. I had a coffee to go with it.

My first impressions of the theatre were very good. I liked the open friendly spaces that included additional seating areas outside of the cafes. I liked the choice of food and drink. I liked the atmosphere and was grateful that I had chosen to go early and so was able to get a seat without too much difficulty. I gave it up later, after I had eaten, to somebody who needed it more than me.

There were two performance spaces at the Park Theatre, called simply Park200 and Park90 to denote their capacities. I was in Park200. From the website it looked much like the Orange Tree with a couple of rows of seating around the stage downstairs and a small balcony above.

Apparently it was normally set with seating on three sides but for this production it was on all four and I had one of the additional seats at the back of the stage. That confused me at first as the two doors into the theatre said what seat numbers they were for, e.g. 1 to 20 and 21 to 40, and my seat, 51, was not included. Having failed to find a third door with my number on it I gave in and asked a member of staff who explained how the problem arose and pointed me to my seat.

The play started with the father helping his disabled teenage son to take a bath and the male nudity set part of the tone for the evening.

Father and son lived alone together, the wife/mother had died, and they got a lot of help from the loving sister/aunt who was a lot younger than her brother. It was a troubled family, because of the boy's condition and the history that caused it and his mother's death, but it was loving and they coped.

The emphasis on the first part of the play was the boy and his passing through adolescence. They key changes where a friendship he developed with another boy at his school and the tablet that his aunt gave him which opened up new worlds to him, including porn.

The new relationship and technology, and his growing maturity, made the boy more able to cope and more keen for independence. He and his friend even discussed living in their own flat together in a scenario that reminded me of Elling.

Then the focus gradually changed from son to father. With the son more able to cope the father was able to think about himself more and he started a relationship. He tried to keep this secret but nobody was fooled by the regular gym sessions.

Then he was struck by a serious debilitating incurable illness and he gradually became the patient while his son, still with his friend and his aunt, became one of the carers.

All this led to why the play was called Kill Me Now.

But the ending, and the strong moral questions that posed, was just one of the great things about the play. While it ended with considerations of death it was a story filled with love and tenderness as a family and their close friends got what they could from the life they had.

There was a lot of humour too, the sort of humour that comes from the way that people naturally behave. There were no tricks, gimmicks or cheap laughs.

There were some very personal moments too including one that had the middle-aged women sitting opposite me cringing in embarrassment. Without giving too much away it was about helping the boy do what boys like to do but which he was prevented from doing by his disability. This scene also got a good laugh from the line, "She does anal." And that was typical of the whole play which combined humour and pathos to explore very human situations.

The human element worked well because all of the cast were excellent.

Kill Me Now was an exceptionally rich and rewarding play that I loved from start to finish even though it drained emotion from me like a parasitic leech.

I hung around the bar afterwards like a seasoned groupie and I got the brief talk with Oliver Gomm that I was hoping for. I like to give creatives personal feedback and they always seem to like receiving it.

Park Theatre had impressed me mightily in all aspects and I added it to my list of special theatres to keep a close eye on with the firm intention of seeing my next play there soon.

3 March 2015

One of Those at the Tristan Bates Theatre was very jolly

I got to make my first trip to the Tristan Bates Theatre thanks to young actress Emma Kelly and Twitter. I had been impressed by her in Play of Thrones and, as I often do with actors, started following her on Twitter where she announced that she would be appearing in One of Those, a comedy, at the Tristan Bates Theatre.

It was also a good excuse to try another new theatre, something that I am always keen to do.

The Tristan Bates Theatre is on the edge of Covent Garden and so a relatively short walk from the office. There was a decent Italian restaurant, Rossopomodoro, nearby so that was dinner sorted.

The theatre is part of the Actor's Centre which also had a cafe area downstairs. I helped myself to a coffee there while waiting for the play to start. We were summoned up the ramp to the theatre by a bell, the same technique used by the Cockpit though their bell is far more impressive.

Good positioning by the bottom of the ramp got me into the theatre before anybody else and I claimed the seat in the middle of the front row. This was something of an ad hoc theatre, more a performance space, with the sort of rows of temporary seating used for events, and at some other small theatres.

The scene was a carriage in a train heading from London to Penzance. In the carriage were two young people who started a conversation.

From this we learned that they both had slightly unconventional lives, she (Emma Kelly) was having a long-term affair with a much older man and he, despite his youth, had a school-aged daughter. They both found things to dislike in the other person's life choices and so the conversation bristled at times before they fought against this and tried to rebuild bridges, only for the cycle to repeat. There were a lot of laughs at their behaviours and I especially liked the point when, in one argument, they got at each other by spoiling the endings of the books that each other was reading.

They arrived in Penzance with their relationship in an uncertain position. He told her which train he would be travelling back on but she did not commit to joining him, but she did not refuse either.

Then there was a short break which mean going back to the cafe/bar to grab a bottle of beer.

In the second half we were back on the London to Penzance train and in another carriage. This one had a middle-aged man and his mistress. Then they bumped into his wife and the game was up. The three-way conversation that followed was one of shifting dynamics with the two women criticising the man at one point and then the married couple siding against the mistress. Like the first conversation, the emotions ebbed and flowed and there was a lot of humour along the way.

It also ended uncertainly, the mistress had gone but it was not clear that the wife was prepared to give her husband a second chance.

In the final neat twist we discovered that the two groups were linked.

One of Those was a jolly play that had some depth too. Everybody played their part well and that made for an entertaining and gratifying evening.

2 March 2015

Theatre In The Pound at The Cockpit (March 2015)

Theatre In The Pound at The Cockpit is such a lot of fun and such extraordinary value that it was staggering (to me) to discover that I had not been there for almost a year. It had taken a Summer break and since then it had either clashed with evening meetings or I had worked at home that day and could not face the journey into Marylebone in the evening. I was very glad to get this opportunity to go there again.

The first part of the plan was to work in London (Kings Cross) that day and then walk to the theatre in the evening, picking up something snacky to eat on the way, as I had done previously. The first part of the plan, being in London, worked well but the second part, walking to the theatre, less so.

I had a rough route in mind and the general plan was to walk more-or-less due West from work to the theatre. But this plan assumed that there would be some roads or paths running East-West which was a sadly mistake assumption so I first found myself walking down Park Village East and Stanhope Street looking for a right turn and then up Albany Street looking for a left turn. The end result of this was that I found myself walking across the top of Regents Park (not in the plan) and running too late to stop for food.

At least I was not locked into a housing estate this time and I got to The Cockpit with just enough time for a Budvar and a packet of Nobby's dry-roasted nuts before heading inside promptly enough to secure a middle of front-row seat. Being prompt was required as the place quickly filled and it was as busy as I have ever seen Theatre in the Pound.

I had no idea what was going to be on the bill and the board was not much of a clue. There was a printed programme too but I only looked at that afterwards to remind me what I saw.

First up was Room, a strange almost wordless piece performed by three young women in long white nightgowns who apparently call themselves Created a Monster. This was physical theatre bordering on dance with the story told mostly by movement.

They used few props, a white line on the floor marked the room, a wooden frame was a window and a hatch, and there was a pair of shoes. The other items, like the pictures, were all mimed.

I could not claim that I knew what was going on all the time but the simplicity and strangeness captivated me and I liked it a lot. The audience feed back in the short discussion session after the performance was positive too though in a room full of drama students and graduates (my guess) it was not surprising to hear some suggestions for improvements too. Room was a great start to the evening.

Songs my Mother Taught Me was something very different again. This was a one-woman show with narration and song. The premise was the funeral of Esme Campbell a former singer in Melbourne. We heard first from one of her daughters who told us something about her relationship with her month and then sang a Dvorak song. The second woman told a sadder story about how this funeral reminded her of the death of her son and his funeral.

The intention was to grow this by adding two more voices and to develop it in to a cabaret act. It worked for me.

Another Time was a piece by a group of drama students that looked back at the war in Bosnia in 1992. I struggled with this one as it seemed to be saying nothing new about the conflict and was not saying anything in a new way either.

I also struggled to follow all of what was going on, especially when we had one person sitting in a car to the side while the murderous events went on in the centre of the stage. We learned in a response to a question from another confused audience member that the car driver was looking back in time to when he was in Bosnia in 1992.

This was the low-point of the evening and, even so, it was quite watchable.

The Club was the play from a play within a play. Here two upper-class people pretended to be of a lower-class somewhat unconvincingly while pursuing romantic interests. There was some role-swapping with the man who was pretending to be the man-servant to an Arthur Dent character who was actually his.

It was a somewhat obvious piece, as farce often is, and it was rescued from simplicity by some fine acting and a few good lines.

Of course seeing the play within a play told us nothing about the play but this was a reasonable divertissement and it ended the first half nicely.

Time for another Budvar.

The second half opened with Testimony in which two men from the opposites sides of the street find themselves in jail together and being looked after by a very disinterested jailer.

The rich banker and the homeless man did not get on at all well and there was much amusement from the way that they spoke dismissively of each other. The homeless man was relentlessly happy and used to the situation while the banker tried to use his money to find a quick way out of the cell.

This was a nice little piece that was, again, well acted.

As I said in the discussion afterwards, I groaned when Swans started. The premise here was of a young woman meeting her boyfriend's mother for the first time. This is a situation that comedy has covered many times before.

But not like this. The dialogue soon leapt away from the obvious age-gap gags and went in all sorts of unexpected directions, including an explanation of what MILF means and the mother posing almost seductively for the girl's camera. The surprises kept going and the dialogue kept sharp.

I loved it.

The team who brought us Another Time in the first half closed the show with Identity. Having called Another Time the low-point of the evening it is only fair to say that Identity was the undoubted high-point. It the most complete work that we saw (not that complete works are what Theatre in the Pound is about) and I found it the most fulfilling.

Again the basic premise, modifying people's memories with technology, is hardly new but this way of telling that story was.

We met a number of people who had been, or were contemplating, being altered and they told us their reasons for doing so. At one extreme it was to forget a murder but most of the other reasons were more domestic in nature.

This gave each member of the cast to show-off for a while as they told their story before returning to the back of the stage. Though not directly part of what was happening in the centre of the stage, those at the back held a series of still poses. It was things like that which added to the richness of the performance and mad it so rewarding.

A real high-note on which to end the main part of the evening.

Then it was back to the bar for a final Budvar and some brief conversations with the creatives, most of which consisted of me saying how much I liked their work and them smiling demurely and saying that was sweet of me.

I spent the best part of four hours wallowing in theatre and talking to the people who created it. And all for a pound (plus the beers). The evening really was a good as that sounds.