29 December 2012

Sauce for the Goose at the Orange Tree

This Winter's seasonal offering from the Orange Tree was the safe territory of a Georges Feydeau farce.

Sauce for the Goose tells the story of a wife who fears for her husband's fidelity and promises that if his infidelity is pr oven then she will do the same as, I am sure you have guessed, is that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

The first complication comes from the fact that two men are seriously interested in this prospect and want to do all they can to convince her.

One of them is a bachelor who plays the field with some vigour and little discretion.  The other is a married man who is easily led astray, though he is normally led astray by first following the woman of its attention through the streets of Paris.

The play opens with said married man following the goose home where, to his surprise and embarrassment, he finds her husband, who he knows.

The story develops from there and, as this is a farce, it involves more and more people and gets more and more complicated. People and in the wrong place with the wrong people for the wrong reasons, or the reasons are right but are misconstrued as wrong.

It is all incredibly funny.

A funny story is a good start but a proper farce needs more than that. And this one does.

The cast, featuring many regulars, is superb. It's unfair to highlight just one of them, but who says life is fair?

Stuart Fox plays Vatelin, the gander, as a bumbling likable man who is swept along by events that he has absolutely no control over. Yes he had strayed but that was on a long business trip to Berlin so was perfectly understandable.

Incidentally some of the complications include "the other woman" and her husband but I will not spoil that surprise.

The theatre plays its part too. The intimacy of the theatre throws you in to the action and being close to the movement makes it more vigorous. It is a simple matter of maths, if the actor is standing in front of you and moves two metres then you have to turn your head to follow but if you are way back in the stall then not even your eyes have to move to follow the action.

And there are the four entrances and exits that could have been designed for farces.

All the reviews that I have seen have been extremely positive, the performance that I went to was enthusiastically received and many of the shows have sold out. This is the Orange Tree doing what it does best and being recognised for it.

28 December 2012

London Nights

One of the good things about going to the theatre or galleries at this time of the year is that it gives you the chance to explore London in the dark where boastful lighting transforms some of the buildings.

The building above is somewhere near Westminster and I came across it when walking to the Tube after a visit to Tate Britain. That part of London looks the most like mainland Europe with tall mansion blocks, shops and offices lined along the streets hiding the squares and courtyards behind them.

This view of the river is just slightly downstream from the Tate Modern and is made the more interesting by the use of red and pink lights playing on Southwark Bridge.

A little further downstream Tower Bridge plays to the crowds with an exuberance of lights. And the crowds do come making good use of Ken Livingstone's path along the Southbank.

This was taken from the end of More London which also has similar views of the Tower of London and of HMS Belfast. The modern office blocks there also do their bit to brighten, smarten and enliven the area.

Any view of London now has to consider the Shard. It features in most views and dominates many.

I took several pictures of it over a couple of nights including a couple that almost made the final selection taken from Borough Market where the cute Victorian buildings are completely outclassed.

I chose this one of the upper section because of the detail in the picture. That quite impressed me given how far away the top of the building is.

The white top contains the observation decks on floors 68, 69 and 72, which open to the public in February 2013.

It is a frightening prospect but I did manage the 100 floors of the Handcock Tower in Chicago and also the 300m of the Sydney Tower so I might just pluck up the courage. One day.

I have always liked walking in London, especially along the Southbank, and the night time is no obstacle to that. Far from it, the darkness gives London a chance to show a different aspect of its complex character.

Kew Gardens for the last time in 2012

According to my records, i.e. this blog, this was my ninth visit to Kew Gardens in 2012 so I am still getting my money's worth from my annual membership.

It is always an easy decision to make to go to Kew Gardens and a much harden one to decide what to do once I get there.

To ring the changes a little I went in at the main gates, now called Elizabeth Gate, off Kew Green and headed for the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

The Orchid Festival starts there in about a month's time but some of the plants were impatient and were already in flower.

The Christmas Holiday drove many families into Kew Gardens and the bad weather pushed them in to the Conservatory so my time there was shorter than I planed. I wanted some peace and the chance to take lots of pictures but this was more like the January sales in a toy shop.

I did not abandon the Conservatory completely and I walked all the way through it pausing by the pond as I did so to take this picture with only a few children in it.

My hasty departure was not so hasty that I missed what they have done to the cacti and succulents at the cooler southern end.

The area has been cleaned out and rearranged as a dry river bed with the cacti and succulents facing off against each other.

This zone looked bit of a mess before and this is a marked improvement.

From there I headed towards the Palm House but, fearing the crowds, I walked around it rather than venture in. With the heavy grey sky behind and seen from this angle, the Palm House adopted an industrial style that is befitting for a machine designed to grow exotic plants.

Leaving the Palm House behind also meant leaving most of the people behind too and I just had trees for company. And that is just what I wanted.

From there I could stretch my legs with some gusto which took me through the Bamboo Garden and the Minka House, around the top of the lake, past the peacocks and back to Victoria Gate.

I tend to walk a reasonable distance when I go to Kew Gardens so I bump in to the Lake regularly and walking around different sections of it always provides something interesting to look at and all the ducks and geese there make this a lively part of the garden.

It was a bleak day and there was little colour to lift the spirits and still Kew Garden worked its magic with its space, variety and touches of the exotic.

25 December 2012

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

Santa brought me quite a few comic books (a.k.a. graphic novels) this year, which was not much of a surprise as I was there when he bought most of them.

The difficult decision was which one to read first. I went for Hilda and the Midnight Giant just because I fancied a shorter and easier read 

Hilda is ostensibly a children's book but I lot of adult reviewers have loved it as much as I do.

It has a little of Rupert the Bear about it with Hilda inhabiting a magic world of elves and giants that live unseen around her just waiting to be discovered to spark a story.

There is also a hint of Dr Seuss with some of the creatures and the general insanity of the setting.

These touch-points help to put the book in context but its strength comes from the things that are unique to it. The strong story has two main themes, one with the elves and one with the giant, that are linked through Hilda. Her character has real depth, unlike Rupert for example, especially in the way that she interacts with her mother and drives the narrative. This alone lifts the book above something just for children, though I am sure that they will love it too.

And the art is simply beautiful.

There is a touch of the Ligne claire about it but with a few more black lines to add detail and shading to the shapes.

I like the use of subtle colours too. The brashness of, say, Tin Tin, is not appropriate for an earthy story. This is fantastical but not fantasy and the art shows that beautifully.

The story has a jaunty pace that is managed through the number of panels on a page. Most have around twelve and at the two extremes one page has fifteen panels and one page has just one.

There are few words and the sample page here is fairly typical in that respect. The balance in favour of the art over the words is just right and helps the story to rattle along.

The story comes with a little surprise at the end. While nothing significant ever happens in Rupert's world here Hilda's does change as one of the story lines reaches a surprising ending.

Hilda and the Midnight Giant is a very likeable book and I liked it enough to buy the others in the series.

22 December 2012

The Changeling at the Young Vic

Another last day performance, this time back at the Young Vic for The Changeling.

As is becoming increasingly usual, I decided to go because of the positive feedback on Twitter. You have to be a little careful about these comment as the venues, naturally, only retweet the positive reviews but it was the nature of the words that the reviewers used that led me to expect something unusual and exciting.

And that is as far as my preparation went. I had never heard of The Changeling so it came as a shock when they started talking in Elizabethan rhythm and rhyme.

The other surprise was that the Young Vic had gone for free seating (no idea why) and those free seats had been rearranged.

I managed to get in to the queue early and after taking an unexpected route in to the theatre I bagged a seat in the front row near the centre.  I had actually got my eye on the second row (that's where I sit at the Riverside) but a woman beat me to the one seat I wanted there. The front row proved to be a good choice.

The plot of The Changeling is simple enough, a young woman is engaged to be married but falls for another man so arranges for the fiancée to be killed by an admirer who expects, and takes, something substantial in return. It does not end well.

There are other things going on too and it is quite a chunky plot to get in to.

The production was weird. We had fights and sex with puddings, exaggeratedly dressed and prosthetically enhanced people, a net in front of the stage and some modern English (e.g. "beat the shit out of them") among the Elizabethan.

All this added a lot of pizazz and humour to a dark story. And it is dark, with large dollops of sex, violence and violent sex. It was like eating a dark choc ice.

It may be a coincidence, or part of modern drama theory, but it also had one mad scene with dance and music just like Three Sisters did. This time it was at the wedding and this is what is featured in the poster at the top.

The Changeling did exactly what I hoped that it would do. It told a good story with much imagination in a production that did the unexpected.

21 December 2012

Exploring the history of Richmond Borough

A clever bit of planning brought an interesting afternoon of history and exploration around Twickenham Riverside.

The starting point was the Orleans House Gallery which meant a couple of buses and a short pleasant walk alongside Marble Hill House to the river.

This took me along the hideously grand Montpelier Road where Tennyson used to live and Pete Townsend now does.

Orleans House Gallery is an interesting building with a decorative octagonal room in one corner. I am not sure what this room is used for, if anything, but being pretty is purpose enough.

The main part of the building is a thin gallery space with a thinner gallery space on the mezzanine floor above. It is not a desperately convenient space but it has walls and that is all a gallery needs.

The exhibition that I went to see was called The Building of a Borough.

This looked at how the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames developed from a collection of towns and villages as the spaces between them were filled with new buildings.

The exhibition was structured around these towns, e.g. Whitton, Teddington and Barnes, and explained how they grew and changed through planning and building records submitted to the local authorities.

The plans on display were mostly for buildings of some note, such as a gorgeous art deco cinema, the grand house built for Dr John Langdon Down and the first (1948) Span Estate in Constance Road, Whitton.

Sadly the collection for Ham and Petersham was the smallest on display. There was a scrolling computer screen (briefly) showing other items in the collection, including some from Ham, and these can be searched online on the Richmond upon Thames Local Studies website.

I was interested in these plans of Reston Lodge, one of the many former hunting lodges in the area as I know the outside of the current house well, I've walked and bussed past it hundreds of times.

One of the things that I liked about the old plans was the sorts of rooms that these buildings had, such as a Billiards Room and, my favourite, an Ice Rink!

I also noted the use of "class room" as two words.

Behind the main gallery is a smaller one, The Stables, which had an exhibition of photographs of Richmond people. Most of the expected local celebs were there, such as Bamber Gasgoigne and David Attenborough, but the more interesting pictures were of ordinary people, such as Malcolm from my local hardware shop.

Gallerying over, I walked along the river towards the gardens at York House to see the Naked Ladies playing in the large grotto.

This is one of those ladies trying her best not to fall into the water. There are eight of the overall, and a couple of horses. They are slightly larger than life-size so the effect is quite dramatic. It's just a shame that they are so well hidden, you can walk past on the road and not know that they are there.

Next to these gardens is Eel Pie island that is only connected to the mainland by a pedestrian bridge that rises high to let boats pass underneath.

I associate Eel Pie with music for all sorts of reasons, not least the Eel Pie Club and Eel Pie studios, but that is just branding and neither are actually on the island.

What is there is boat houses and a jumble of working boats moored alongside. This is a working island and looks all the better for it.

The two exhibitions, the walk along the river and the York House Gardens made for a fulfilling couple of hours that even the constant threat of rain could dispel. From there it was a gentle walk away from the river through Olde Twickenhame to the modern monstrosity that is the high street where the buses homeward can be found.


It has taken me a little while to catch up with AvX (Avengers versus X-Men) and I finally got the opportunity to do so on a long train journey to Cardiff and back; that's about three hours each way.

AvX is one of the (too few) titles that Marvel Comics gives you a free digital version when you buy a paper copy. That meant that I was carrying all 13 issues conveniently on my iPad. Rather more convenient than carrying the paper copies around for months waiting for the right moment to tackle them.

AvX is another saga in the style of Civil War and Secret Invasion, though perhaps not quite as all-encompassing due to the scope being limited to the Avengers and the X-Men.

AvX has the Avengers fighting the X-Men over the return of the Phoenix Force. It's a nice idea but played out rather too quickly in just 13 chapters issued over 6 months. A little short for a saga.

And is often the case with Marvel's sagas, nothing much of any consequence happens. Yes some key people die but I expect to see them comeback one day.

There is one other momentous change, undoing one from an earlier saga, but that change has been coming for years and it was just a question of when and how it was going to come about.

What does happen is a neat little story that Marvel pulls out all the stops on by using much of its top creative talent. The writers were Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction and the artists were John Romita Jr., Olivier Coipel and Adam Kubert. All class.

AvX is a fine comic and a jolly read.

20 December 2012

Here&Now at the Fighting Cocks

My main interest in going to the Fighting Cocks on a Thursday evening was to see the support band, INdisciplineD, and so it was a bonus to also have the much heralded Here&Now headlining.

Their fame had escaped me but not many of my friends and I found myself in a room full of familiar faces.

Wikipedia tells me that they were formed in 1974 and have been associated with Gong so it is even more surprising that I had not come across them before.

There sound is reassuringly psychedelic and spacey with the electronic whoops and tweets brought to the attention of the masses by early Hawkwind.

There is also a surprising (to me anyway) dollop of reggae/ska, The overall result feels like it was birthed in the late 70s from Hawkwind and The Specials. And that's a parentage to be proud of.

I recognised the sounds that they were making but none of the songs. And that was enough familiarity to get me jigging  little if not actually dancing (I don't actually dance).

Other audience members were less restrained, including some I previously though to be "ordinary" people, and it got a little manic on the dance floor, in  good way.

I really loved the music, the way the longer songs were constructed, and the techniques used to produce them. In the top picture the lead guitar is being played with an Allen Key!

The last impression of the evening is of fun. The fun I had listening to the band, the fun they seemed to have playing and the huge amount of fun that the audience clearly had.

Researching Here&Now has proved to be difficult and even had me sending them a friend request on MySpace! I need to find where they hangout on cyberspace to make sure that I learn about future gigs because I definitely want to see them again.

INdisciplineD at the Fighting Cocks

Some forced line-up changes meant that secondSight took a break for a while before re-emerging as INdisciplineD.

Annoyingly their first few concerts clashed with things that I could not get out of and my first chance to catch them was also the most convenient being at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston.

Technically INdisciplineD were the support act but they were the main reason that I was there so I made sure to arrive promptly, which meant leaving the office in Cardiff around 3pm to do so.

That was a good plan as their set started soon after I got my first beer.

INdisciplineD is 2/5 of secondSight, Chris York on vocals and Nick Loebner on bass, with the addition of Barry Woolard on guitar and Sam Dunthorne on drums. The biggest change from secondSight is the absence of a keyboard player which given that most of the bands that they cover had one sounds as though it ought to be a problem, but it isn't.

The sound might be slightly different but the song remains much the same.

This was a shortened support set, it lasted about an hour, and in that time we got some Jethro Tull, Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Porcupine Tree.

This was connoisseurs' prog rock with just a few greatest hits (e.g. Pink Floyd) strewn among lesser know songs.

Their version of King Crimson's Epitaph was my highlight of the evening though the one that I sung along to the most was the crowd-pleasing closer Comfortably Numb.

I missed secondSight and now with INdisciplineD I have a new band to follow. Let's hope that our diaries do not clash as badly in 2013 as they did in 2012.

18 December 2012

Stackridge at The Borderline (December 2012)

I am a relatively recent convert to Stackridge, after a little dabbling in the late 70s while at university, and am making up for lost time by catching them in concert whenever they come close.

If my blog is to believed this was the fifth time that I had seen Stackridge in about four and a half years.

The Borderline should have been easy to get too but for the second time I arrived with the headline act already on stage. This time the excuse was somebody  hit by a train at Earlsfield which, somehow, also screwed by the Richmond/Waterloo line horribly and I got there about an hour later than anticipated.

As with the gig in Sutton in May, this was the new line-up, new sound and new set of songs, some of which are still reassuringly old. The main difference is that the two violins at the back are now one violin at the front and the guitar (and ukulele) duties are shuffled.

James Warren is still the main man and he does most of the talking now that Mutter Slater has gone.

Also there from recent versions of the band are Andy Cresswell-Davis on lead guitars, Glenn Tommey on keyboards and Eddie John on drums. Joining them and taking the front spot is Clare Lindley on violin.

The sound they make has a strong progressive heart, even in their new songs,  with folksy trimmings. In other words they sound much like they always did if slightly less heavy given that they are one guitar down on their peak.

Their appeal is very old school, surprisingly. Whereas bands like Hawkwind can attract the young and the female, the Stackridge audience was almost exclusively fiftysomething men in black leather jackets. I suspect that the few young people who were there came with their dads.

Those dads had a great time, as did we all, and every song was enthusiastically welcomed at the start and cheered at the end. All too soon it was over, especially for those of us who missed the start, and the venues brutal curfew ended the show.

There was an unannounced chance to mix with the band afterwards as they came in to the bar area via the back door but, for once, I had nothing particular to say so did not interrupt them to say it.

The new Stackridge have settled in nicely and everything about the performance was comfortable and assured. And that is enough for me to carry on seeing them.

14 December 2012

Love's Comedy at the Orange Tree

The Orange Tree Theatre delights in putting on plays that nobody else does, and that is one of the reasons why I like it, so when we get a play by Ibsen it is the London premier of an early work.

Not that it really mattered what it was, I go to everything at the Orange Tree. I'd quite like a season ticket then I would be sure of my favourite seat. I got the usual front-row position this time only by making some old people sit closer together than they are probably used to.

It was good to see the theatre so busy, even if the average age is a cause of concern for the future.

Love's Comedy is mostly dialogue to a simple stage suits it. The conversations happen indoors and out and the stage is happy to play both roles at the same time.

There is a large cast of characters and while there is little direct action (this is an Ibsen play) there is much coming and going making use of all four of the Orange Tree's exits/entrances. There is even some movement behind the audience.

This was the fist play directed by David Antrobus a Orange Tree regular as an actor. So it's not surprising that he knew how to make the most of the physical attributes of the theatre.

The cast includes a widowed mother, her two daughters, the three men chasing them and a young couple who have been engaged for some time but who cannot yet afford to get married.

Their conversations are about love and relationships and things that are needed to sustain them.

Most of the characters are young and entering in to relationships for the first time so they are full of hope and good expectations.

They also start to explore the consequences of being a couple and this is particularly acute when we learn that one young man expects to take his wife from Norway to the USA where we can get a better job as a pastor.

Most of the discussion is conventional and practicable but one of the young men, Falk, a poet, questions this and wants to rejoice in the hear-and-now of love rather than plan for its future. One of the daughters, Svanhild, is captivated and they plan to run off together.

It is the story of Falk and Svanhild that the play revolves around but while they are the main roles the play needs all of the other points of view to work.

I have seen plays where some of the characters seemed to be completely pointless, this is not one of them.

It is important not to forget the word "comedy" in the play's title as there is a gentle thread of humour throughout, most of which comes from the silliness of some of the characters.

The play is not perfect though, and you would not expect an early work to be so. The structure is fine but some of the main conversations go on for too long and there are so many of them that it makes the play a little overly long.

The only other problem I had with the play, and it was just my problem, is that Falk looked remarkably like somebody I know and that was very distracting.

But these were two minor problems in a rich play delivered expertly by the whole creative team.

12 December 2012

LIKE Christmas Social 2012

The LIKE Christmas Social 2012 followed much the same format as last year's simply because that one had worked so well.

The plan was to keep it small and informal, much like the monthly talks without the added complication of the talk.

The short summary of the evening would be to say that it was a dinner in the pub where they did all the work. It was the cosy scale and little touches that made it a LIKE event.

Logistics were against me and having booked for the dinner some weeks previously I then found myself working in Cardiff. And ill.

That meant a rush back and an over-running meeting meant that I was lucky to be only one train later than hoped.

The illness also meant that I spent the evenings of the previous evenings asleep when I should have been preparing the quiz, which I had volunteered to produced. As it was I sent the request for contributions just two days beforehand and actually produced the quiz on the morning of the event.

The idea was a variant on the baby photos theme except that the pictures could be any difficult to identify ones so we got things like people in ski gear as well as loads of cute children. Including me. We did a sheet for each person going and asked them to network to find out who each picture was of.

It may have been a little too easy as there were a number of correct answers by the time I arrived. Next year, assuming we do something similar again, then I will do some work with Photoshop to make them even harder.

The first three correct submissions got nice prizes from one of our sponsors.

We also repeated the Secret Santa with a £1 limit that we introduced last year. Again I was late with this and illness kept me out of Poundland (no regrets) but I managed to get a bag of chocolate coins from our canteen on the day. I got a rather nice Santa Claus cake decoration which has been put to good use.

The rest of the dinner followed the expected path with good seasonal food and tons and tons of good conversations. Also as expected it was a difficult decision to call it a night and head home. It was a brilliant evening.

10 December 2012

Utility Industry Achievement Awards 2012

It is about ten years since i last went to a Utility Week Dinner and then I got the dress code completely wrong.

The last one came on the back of a two day conference (normal business dress) and I assumed that the dinner would be black tie so that is all that I packed. I then discovered that we would have free reign over all the amusements at the end of Brighton Pier for which neither suit was appropriate so I made an emergency trip to Next to buy some casual clothing.

This time it was a traditional formal dinner in one of the many Park Lane hotels that specialise in large events like this.

The "black tie" bit worried me a little as while I have thirty or forty bow ties they are mostly floral ones from Liberty.

I assumed that I had a plain black tie but when I came to dress I discovered that was not the case. I settled for the nearest that I have, which is also one of my very favourites, and that is the grey on black Crash design hand-made by Cyberoptix in Detroit.

The evening started with a drinks reception and I was careful to only drink three glasses of bubbly.

We were then called to dinner and finding the table was something of a challenge as tables filled the enormous ballroom and spread out to the mezzanine floor above. There were over 1,300 people there!

Dinner was excellent and was served with great efficiency, if not always strict adherence to the silver-service code, e.g. give from the left, take from the right. I can forgive them for that though as the closeness of the tables meant that it was hard to manoeuvre between them.

Dinner over we had a short cabaret from Siren an energetic all-female string quartet who entertained well enough with some classic tunes played over a loud backing track. They also tried to be a little sultry but were less successful at this.

Then came the awards themselves with Miles Jupp doing the compère role. He made it clear that he know little about utilities or their achievements and managed to be very funny in doing so.

A steady stream of people fought their way to the stage to collect their awards and have their photos taken as proof.

I headed home not long after the awards finished, as I had my alarm set for an early start for Cardiff the next day, but the event was scheduled to run until 2am. Perhaps another year.

9 December 2012

Bourne Legacy

I love the Bourne films, and watch them most times that they are shown on TV, so it was an easy decision to get Bourne Legacy as soon as it appeared on DVD for some early Christmas entertainment.

Rather like Skyfall, it builds on the established canon and creates a creditable platform for further adventures with some new characters. But, unlike Skyfall, it forgets to add a plot or to take the franchise forward. Bourne 4 is a new Bourne 1 that is not as good as the original Bourne 1.

It is slow to get going and slow to introduce the new ideas that really do not require much time to explain as they are essentially the same as the old ideas.

Bourne 4 also lacks charm. We cared about Jason Bourne in the original trilogy, and we cared for the girl too. In Bourne 1 we meet the man before we see the agent. This emotional empathy lifted Bourne above a simple action story yet this has either been forgotten or deliberately dropped. In Bourne 4. Here we only ever see the agent.

Its one strength is its action scenes yet even these rely too heavily on what has gone before. The car chase is the one from Moscow in Bourne 2 and the rooftop chase is Algiers from Bourne 3.

If Bourne 4 were the only Bourne film then it would have some merit. As the prequel to an intriguing Bourne 5 it may still have some. But as a series reboot or a standalone film Bourne 4 misses all the tricks that Skyfall plays so well and emerges as just an average film and a huge missed opportunity.

1 December 2012

The Seagull at the Southwark Playhouse

I seem to have acquired the habit of seeing plays on the last day of their runs, and so it was for The Seagull at the Southward Playhouse.

That is mostly down to my lack of planning so I get to hear about good productions only once they are well in to their runs and my frequent working away means that my trips to the theatre are confined to the weekend, which is when runs end.

I wanted to see The Seagull as it completed by recent run of the Chekhov classics, was getting good reviews (usually four stars, not that I approve of star rating schemes) and it was an excuse to try a new theatre.

The Southwark Playhouse sits in the shadow of the Shard just to the east of London Bridge Station. This is office land but there is enough life their at the weekend to justify keeping most of the restaurants open, including a rather splendid bistro more-or-less across the road from the theatre.

It was free seating at the theatre so I got in their promptly only to find it in bit of a shambles. There were two shows on in the theatre that night which meant that the bar was too busy to make it worth fighting for a drink and the queue for the show that started first blocked the bar and the passageway to the main theatre. We managed to form a reasonably orderly queue only to discover that another one had formed out of the front door so we were not as close to the front as we though.

Somehow I still managed to get the hoped-for seat in the front row.

This was a modern adaptation though, not having seen the original, it was hard to discern much modern about it. A more experienced theatre goer (more on that later) told me during the interval that the only difference was that they had swapped references to Moscow for London.

The Seagull is familiar Chekhov territory, put a diverse group of people in to a familiar domestic situation, add a little pressure, and mix. Some of the characters are reused from other Chekhov plays, such as the teacher who is disappointing husband and the old ineffective doctor.

The pressure comes from an cross-generation (for those times) romance and the young man frustrated by another's success.

Along the way a seagull gets shot, gets stuffed and becomes a metaphor.

This is Chekhov so emotions sway and the mood is turbulent. There is laughter, surprises, angst and it does not end well for everybody.

I liked the production and the large cast were superb. Matthew Kelly was the only name known to me and he had just a cameo role as the Paracetamol prescribing doctor.

This was a Seagull well worth making the effort to see.

The icing on the cake was spotting Dudley Sutton in the audience, most of whom were far to young to have seen him in Lovejoy let alone any of his earlier works like Under Milk Wood, and carefully manoeuvring a conversation with him at the interval - he was the source of the Moscow/London comment made earlier.

Despite the chaos in the queue and the bar before the show this was another superb evening that demonstrated just what London Theatre can do off the west-end when it puts its mind to it.

A quick dip in the Tate Modern

Despite my disappointment at Tate Britain a couple of days earlier I took the opportunity of going to the theatre in Southwark to pop in to the Tate Modern.

There was a time, a couple of years ago, when I was working about 500m away and was able to go there many times for my lunchtime break. I've since changed projects and the Tate Modern is now well beyond my normal reach so a chance to revisit was most welcome.

As expected, there has been some change since I was last there. The most significant being the opening of more gallery space in The Tanks. This is off the Turbine Hall on the lower level and is a series of brutal concrete caverns. It's all rather lovely.

In one, projectors played patterns on the walls at each end while the viewers were encouraged to walk between them to make shadows on the walls. The first photo is a (very rare) self portrait.

The main space in The Tanks was given over to a number of short films that were played on loops; this is just two of them. The space works brilliantly with the rough concrete making an ideal screen for the films. I spent quite a bit of time in there.

Venturing in to the main part of Tate Modern I headed up to the fourth floor and the Structure and Clarity.

This was a fairly random choice based mostly on it being one of the free exhibitions and the posters suggested some architectural objects. And that proved to be true.

There were several geometric paintings, Miro probably being the most famous artist on show, and I especially liked this large painting by Henri Matisse. It's called The Snail and while I can see that it is the abstract shapes and colours that I like.

But I also like pictures with less colour.

In the same room is a large grey canvass that is called, simply, Grey (Gerhard Richter). And that's all it is. Grey.

There is also this vaguely black painting by Ad Reinhardt.It looks pretty black here but it actually has a three by three grid of slight variations. Those variations make you stare at the painting to find them and then study them. It looks simple but I love it.

There was a lot more to the exhibition than paintings and I struggled a little to pick just two works to give a true flavour of the exhibition.

I liked the photographs by Geraldo de Barros because they were of things that I take photos of, things like roofs, doors and derelict buildings. I preferred them displayed individually though this montage has a certain impact.

Bricks at the Tate have almost become synonymous with modern art and there a couple of exhibits made from them.

The set of plain bricks set as a rectangular pile had some interest but with only one picture to include here I have gone for the more complex columns by Lebanese sculptor ShSaloua Raouda Choucair that she named Infinite Structure.

I also liked her short stack of unusually shaped metal blocks Poem of Nine Verses.

I have tried in just a few photos to show the range of things on show and to give some idea of their variety and why they sparked something within me.

And the news gets better. Tate Modern is a large and exciting gallery which is about to get larger and more exciting. The thirties power station is growing a twisted tower that will roughly double the size of the complex. With the depressing news of arts being cut across the country it is good to hear that they are striving at the Tate Modern.