14 November 2017

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle at Wyndham's Theatre

One of the Google Alerts that I have is for Simon Stephens so I got an early warning of his latest play, Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle, and duly paid £39 for seat A15 in the Grand Circle.

It was ninety minutes straight through which allowed an 8pm start and that gave me plenty of time to go to Govinda's for a curry and Pret for a coffee beforehand.

Surprisingly the theatre was not full and that meant an upgrade from the Grand Circle to the Royal Circle. This has happened to me a few times at theatres and while the upgrade is always nice I would rather that the theatre were full.

The feedback on social media had given me little clue on what to expect so I sat down ready to be surprised.

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle is the tale of two people and they are the only two people who appear in it. He was a traditional seventy year old and she was a flighty forty-something. In almost her first sentence she apologised for he foul language which set the scene for some of Stephens' trademark swearing though there was a lot less than in some other plays.

In some ways it was a simple story about the two people told chronologically but it was delicately spiced with some surprises. The play's title comes from the principle that if you observe an elementary particle you cannot know both where it is and where it is going and the woman remarked that she watched her son so closely as he grew up that she always knew where he was at that time but could not see the direction that he was travelling.

That principle applied to us too, as we played close attention to the characters' words and actions it was not possible to see where their story was going.

Their journey through the hour and a half had a mix of emotions and moods. Most of them were happy and light and there was a lot of proper laugh-out-loud humour along the way. This was especially true at the beginning when they clumsily got to know each other.

Both the stars, Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham, were excellent and made me care about them. I wanted them both to have a happy ending and I was interested in everything that happened to them along the way.

The staging was neat with just a few props, things like benches and tables, rising out of the floor while the walls moved and the lighting changed to show us the different places that the story took us to. It appeared simple, though I am sure that it took clever mechanics and electronics to achieve that, and it was very effective.

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle was an interesting and unusual tale told in an engaging way. I loved every minute of it.

10 November 2017

Hawklords at 100 Club (2017)


Hawklords are one of the select few bands that I try to see whenever they play a local venue, which in recent years has been once a year in November. I saw them at the 100 Club on 8 Nov 14 and 6 Nov 16. They played a different venue in November 15 but I had to miss that as I inadvertently booked a holiday for that time.

All the chatter on social media before the gig was about the absence of long time Ron Tree from the tour and I was curious to see what the line-up would be. In the end there was no surprise and the remaining four band members (Jerry Richards, Tom Ashurst, Harvey Bainbridge and Dave Pearce) shared the duties with Jerry doing the lion's share of the work.

Despite leading the team on both vocals and guitar, Jerry took his usual position on the right of the stage with bassist Tom taking the central position and Harvey on the left. The use of a projector meant that only the centre of the stage was lit and that meant only Tom.

Presumably as part of a deliberate plan, Jerry, Tom and Dave all wore black allowing Harvey's psychedelic shirt to stand out even more than usual despite being in relative darkness.

I took a photo of the setlist before the performance and the only tracks I recognised were Right Stuff and Ejection, both oddly from the Bob Calvert side project Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters which none of Hawklords worked on. There were four (out of seven) tracks from their latest album, Six, and three from their previous album, Fusion.

Not knowing the songs did not matter as the sound and construction were familiar enough. Each new tune and rhythm was quickly learned and enjoyed. This was music to dance to or, in my case, sway slightly from side to side to. At times they sounded more like seventies Hawkwind than Hawkwind do these days.

Hawklords played sixteen songs altogether in a set that lasted almost two hours. You do the maths. It was a mighty fine two hours too with Hawklords doing everything that the enthusiastic (and well behaved this time) audience expected and hoped for. It was a very loyal following too and there was an impressive number of Hawklords t-shirts on show.

I suspect that it will be another year before I will be able to see Hawklords again. Not ideal but far better than not seeing them at all.

9 November 2017

Rules for Living at Rose Theatre was an entertaining romp


Rules for Living sounded like a simple comedy and while I would not normally travel very far to see a play like that Rose Theatre is only a pleasant forty minutes away so I decided to go. I managed to get a seat in the dead centre of the first proper row, A37, for £30.

The situation was simple and familiar, two thirty something sons and their two wives/girl friends and one daughter were visiting their parents for Christmas day. There were a lot of family issues, a failing relationship, jealousy, expectations, abandoned dreams, etc. etc. that were gradually exposed as the day progressed.

The main trick of the play were the rules for living; these were real rules, such as Matthew has to sit down to tell a lie, and they appeared on a display board above the stage. These rules were a good source of humour in their own right, for example, when Matthew was asked an awkward question and he looked around for somewhere to sit then you knew that he was about to tell a lie and that anticipation was part of the fun.

Like a good farce, Rules for Living started fairly slowly as the characters were introduced and the situation was set and then things escalated quickly and deeply. The pictures on the far left and right in the poster above gives some idea of how bad things got, but the journey there, shown in the middle two pictures, was where most of the fun happened as the rules became more complicated and the characters became more extreme. Carrie's robot dance was a joy to behold.

Rules for Living was an entertaining romp through a family's strained relationships given an added twist by the use of real rules.

8 November 2017

BCSA "Get to Know You" Social (November 2017)


This new job (if it still is a new job after eighteen months) is working well for me in that I am working almost exclusively in London and so there is little disruption to my social life. This means that I can go to a lot of theatre and also that I can attend the BCSA "Get to Know You" Socials almost every month. I like that.

It was a smaller group than usual this month which meant that for a lot of the time we could have just one conversation. For reasons that social scientists can probably explain, when we have a dozen or more people we break up into conversational groups of two, three or four people but with seven people we remained in a single group. I liked talking in a larger group as it added more perspectives to the conversation and also meant that I had to do less talking!

This month we talked a lot about bad weather, prompted by various people travelling to Czechia or Slovakia in the next few months. One of those was a first-timer to the socials and Ruzena did a fine job in persuading him to join the BCSA and to come to the following week's Annual Dinner.

Everything else about the evening was enjoyably familiar from the Pilsner Urquell to the Smazeny Syr. I'll be going back on Wednesday 13 December for another helping.

4 November 2017

Brutal Cessation at Theatre503


I had seen Brutal Cessation before, and not that long ago, but circumstances then had not been ideal and I wanted to give it another chance, particularly as it was playing at Theatre503 which is one of my very favourite theatres and is also where I first encountered Milly Thomas (as an actress in Animals). It was a late booking made on Saturday morning for a Saturday matinee performance. £12 secured the deal.

I got to Theatre503 the interesting way which meant catching a slow train to Queenstown Road Battersea then walking back through Battersea Park. The walk was leafy and damp and somewhat directed by the miles of crash barriers assembled for the fireworks display that evening.

The nicely timed walk got me to the theatre about ten minutes before the performance started. Time for a pint and I felt pleased with myself that I avoided that temptation.

Careful positioning in the waiting area got me my usual seat in the middle of the front row. The couple were already on stage but asleep. I kept quiet until the play stared.

Brutal Cessation was a series of scenes between a couple with no sense or suggestion of chronology. They could be played in almost any order. They change in mood from the playful to the threatening to the near absurd. Themes, words and attitudes are repeated, swapping from one person to the other as they do so. It is a study in how two people behave with their loves, fears, humours and failings.

Keeping it all together and making it utterly believable were the two excellent performances by Alan Mahon and Lydia Larson. The little movements and expressions made all the difference.

Without a story, Brutal Cessation required an appreciation of theatre-craft which the audience clearly had and the performance was roundly cheered at the end.

It was the sort of play that I enjoyed but found hard to articulate why afterwards. There is no simple conclusion to the sentence, "You must see Brutal Cessation because ..." but a long sentence would go on to mention the construction, the characters, the dialogue and the relevance.

Despite crossing Milly Thomas' path a few times I had never had the opportunity to speak to her before so I made the effort to do so after the performance. Sadly I was somewhat in awe of her and in a few brief sentences I think that all I did was convince here that I am either an imbecile, a stalker or even both. I hope that I'll get an opportunity one day to try and correct at least one of those impressions.

3 November 2017

Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 1

It was in 1983 that Walter Simonson began his legendary run on Thor with issue #337.

I was readying Thor at that time simply because I was reading everything published by Marvel and DC that was distributed in the UK and Simonson's work blew me away from the start.

I've culled my comics collection a couple of times since then but I have kept all the Simonson Thor issues. He kept on as both writer and artist until issue #367 and as a writer until issue #382.

When Marvel (through ComiXology) had a sale of every issue of Thor I had to get some Simonson issues just to read. The easy way to do it was to buy Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 1 which collects the first year, issues #337 to £348. That is 283 pages of comics genius for a pittance.

Indeed the money was not even a remote consideration. My only concern was whether I would ever find the time to read them again. I hope that I do.

In the meantime I am toying with the idea of buying the next volumes in the Thor Visionaries series. I am particularly keen to read issues #360 to #362, The Death of the Executioner, because that story has stuck with me for over thirty years.


Update: Writing the above left me with no option other than two buy the next two collected volumes which gives me the run from #337 to #369 to reread.

2 November 2017

For Love or Money at Rose Theatre


This is another one that I almost at Rose Theatre because of their bad publicity. I was in the theatre cafe for something else when I saw a pile of leaflets for the show and I recognised Barrie Rutter immediately. I had seen a few Northern Broadsides' touring productions in recent years and that was enough to convince me to see another one. I went for my usual place, A32, and paid £30 to do so.

For Love or Money was an adaption of a French farce, Lesage’s Turcaret apparenty, which meant that I knew what to expect, something funny that would not be too demanding on the intellect. And it was just that.

The situation was a young woman living beyond here means and surviving on the generosity of one admirer, a dubious banker much older than her, while being fleeced by a younger man, a rascal at best, that she had fallen for. That man had a partner in rascality and there were a few other maids and such like.

Most of the humour, and there was a lot of it, came from the larger than life characters who behaved extravagantly and ridiculously. The situation got more interesting too as wives turned up, people pretended to be other people and illicit encounters were recalled.

I went to see For Love or Money for some simple good humoured entertainment and that is exactly what I got.

1 November 2017

I am an ESTP

I had to do a Myers-Briggs test for work and while I am extremely sceptical of such things I took it seriously and answered honestly. As when I did a Belbin test ten years ago, I found the simplicity of the questions difficult given the complexity of real life and in many questions the correct answer would have been, "It depends on the situation", but I had to give one simple numerical score. I tried to answer for an "average" situation but I am not sure that I succeeded.

The end result is that I came out as an ESTP.


As with the Belbin, I recognise some of this but less so. Thinking and Perceiving I have no quarrel with. Sensing is not bad but the word "traditional" surprises me a little. Extraverted I do not get. Some of that is true some of the time but I do not see that as a fair summary.

It did not help that the evaluation tool helpfully listed some famous ESTP people that I could compare myself to.


This was not a good day to be linked to Kevin Spacey.