30 April 2015

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas at the Rose Theatre was a good production of a reasonably crafted tale

I had vaguely heard of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas before but had little idea of what it was about so I needed something of a nudge to go and see it.

That nudge came in the shape of actress Rosie Wyatt who I had seen twice at the Soho Theatre, in Blink and Spine, and she had been brilliant in both.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas was touring and there were a few places that I could have gone to seen it but it made most sense to see it at the Rose in Kingston. It is within walking distance after all.

I had to walk briskly though as I looked at the tickets just as I was leaving the house and saw that it started at 7pm, not 7:30pm! I learned later that this was because there were children in the play and they are not allowed to work late. I got there in time for the play, just, but any hope I had of a relaxing drink first was gone. Not really a problem and I was just glad that I spotted the early start time before it was too late.

My seat was in my preferred area Centre Stalls Row A close to the centre (seat A32) which set me back a modest £26. The theatre was pretty full and there were quite a few children in there which was my first clue that this might not be the play for me.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, as you probably know, was originally a best selling book that tells a story about the holocaust through the eyes of two young boys, aged nine, who become good friends despite being on opposite sides of fence at Auschwitz. Their friendship leads to a sad ending.

I've not read the book, and do not intend too, but by coincidence I say the film adaptation a few days later so I can make some comparisons with that.

The play put more of an emphasis on the child's-eye-view throughout, e.g. the young German boy, Bruno, thinks that the Führer is called the Fury and Auschwitz is Out-With. While it was slightly interesting to work out what he meant originally I found that this idea was overplayed and became irrelevant, if not boring. Once we all knew that it was Auschwitz, why continue with the pretence?

Similarly I found it frustrating that the boy did not know who was in the camp or why, which he never found out but we always knew.

That said, the play jogged along nicely, if a play about the holocaust can ever jog along nicely, and the story kept me entertained despite its limitations. The ending rescued things a lot and was far more dramatic, powerful and poetic than in the film. The play came after the film and may have learned some lessons from that.

In a play about the holocaust the characters were always going to be less important than the events but the cast did a good job, though some deserved allowances had to be made for the boys' ages. The boy's mother was especially strong and was given her own plot-line not in the film (though, possibly in the book).

Rosie Wyatt played the family's maid and, being neutral, provided the narrator's role at times. She was the first person to speak in the play and set the scene for us. Rosie can do far better than this but I am sure as a young actress there are advantages that playing in a touring production of a popular play has over playing short runs in small theatres. I hope to see her in something more challenging for both of us next time.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas felt like a play about children for children at times and it told us nothing about the holocaust that we did not already know but it was a good production of a reasonably crafted tale with a strong ending and I was happy with that.

29 April 2015

The Études for Piano by Philip Glass at the Barbican

I am always going to be tempted by a concert of Philip Glass' music whether it is a small opera like The Penal Colony or a large concert piece like Music in Twelve Parts. The Études for Piano fell somewhere in the middle; a happy middle.

I did not know the works at all beforehand though as they were composed by Philip Glass that did not matter. I have a great deal of stuff by him on CD, probably more than for anybody else, except possibly for David Bowie and Neil Young, and I love all of it in all of its forms.

One of my very favourite of these is Solo Piano, because of the simplicity and the purity of the music, so I was even more excited than usual at the prospect of more piano piece.

The clincher, if a clincher was needed, was that Glass would be playing some of the pieces himself.

I had been to the Barbican Hall a few times before, mostly for gigs by the likes of Sparks and Van der Graaf Generator, so I was content to take a seat up in the Balcony. I had been forced, out of desperation, to be up there for a recent Sparks gig and that had worked out

And so I found myself in Balcony seat A33 for £22.50.

I did well to bag that seat quickly as the event sold out. Much like Sparks, Glass is a fringe American act who is surprisingly popular over here.

On the day my planning went a little awry and I went to our Reading office for the day. That was not a problem for getting to the theatre but it did mean that my evening meal was the all too familiar pasty picked up in Reading Station when passing through.

I had been to the Barbican quite a few times before so I knew that I would get confused inside and it took a little exploration to find the box office to collect my ticket and then to find the correct door for the hall. I did not mind that at all as the Barbican is a nice place to wander around and I had plenty of time to do the wandering.

Once I got to my seat I took the usual photo to show the view that I had and, as you can see, it was very good. I was particularly pleased to be able to see the keys which meant that I would also be able to see the hands in motion.

The task of playing the twenty Études for Piano was shared with Maki Namekawa, Timo Andres, Clare Hammond and Vikingur Ólafsson. Musically they sounded similar, as I think they should have done given that they were all playing pieces by the same composer, but there were big differences in the way that they sat (height and distance) and in the way that they moved their arms.

Part of the fun was watching how they each behaved and that included the walk  on and off as well as the playing in the middle. Ólafsson caused some involuntary laughter as he got lost walking off stage the first time.

The concert was split into two halves with ten Études either side of the interval and each pianist playing two piece  in each  half. They playing order was not quite as expected and went Glass (Études 1 and 2), Hammond (3 and 4), Ólafsson (5 and 6), Namekawa (7 and 8), Andres (9 and 10), interval, Hammond (11 and 12), Ólafsson (13 and 14), Andres (15 and 18), Glass (16 and 17) and Namekawa (19 and 20).

I've not said much about the music so far as there is not much that I can say lacking the musical knowledge and terminology to do anything like a forensic analysis. What I can say was that it sounded much like his other solo piano works, and I mean that as a high compliment. It had the familiar, and much loved, structure of subtle changes applied to a rhythmic repetitive base.

It sounded like you expect Philip Glass to sound. This was Minimalism 101 that also managed to be catchy, pretty and was very much appreciated by the packed hall.

28 April 2015

Big Ideas on the politics of personal debt

Some judicious planning meant that I was able to get a good run at attending Big Ideas discussions and at this time I was getting to most of them, mostly by arranging to work in London on the last Tuesday of the month.

The serious talking starts at 8pm, though I like to arrive well before that to secure a decent seat, and that allows plenty of time beforehand to grab some food, almost always a Large Thali at Govinda's just off Soho Square, and I sometimes get time to visit a gallery too.

Our topic this month was "What are the politics of personal debt?" and our leader in the discussion was Johnna Montgomerie, a lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, and a member of the newly formed Political Economy Research Centre. She has published widely on financialisation and household debt. She also managed to get more safely the previous month despite being taken to the wrong tube station initially by some fool (me).

As always these are my notes relating to the discussion, none of the words are attributable to anybody and all the mistakes are mine.

While there has been an awful lot of discussion about the deficit, the Government's increasing debt, little attention has been paid to household debt which is growing rapidly.

Part of this is a deliberate move by the Government, e.g. in moving some services from the public to the private sectors so we pay for what used to be covered by taxes (university education and prescriptions, etc.) and also by cutting benefits so that people are encouraged to borrow more to maintain their standards of living.

This is creating a personal debt problem that we have no answer to. Johnna's main hypothesis is that we should adopt debt forgiveness programmes, much as we had for many developing countries in the seventies and eighties when it became clear that either they could not pay the loans pack or to do so would cripple them.

I had some sympathy for this idea but the case for debt forgiveness lacked a compelling argument. In order to take action it has to be clear why this is necessary, i.e. it has to be shown that the household debt problem will become a crisis for us all, of the kind of the 2008 banking crisis, rather than just a problem for those individuals in debt.

A lot of the discussion that followed was on the "fairness" aspect of this, such as the fairness of letting somebody off their debt when other people had managed to live within their means. I made the point that I had played by the current rules and had paid for my two sons to go through university without any debt so if all student debt were to be forgiven (written off) then I would be tens of thousands of pounds worse off than if they had taken loans out.

If debt forgiveness is unacceptable then are there things that we can do to stop people getting to this extreme stage? Curtailing the maximum interest rates charged by pay-day lenders might be a help but there are many ways to get into debt, in particular it is very easy to get new credit and store cards.

Giving people more money through, for example, raising the minimum wage significantly, could be another way to reduce the debt problem.

I found the phrase "debt forgiveness" something of an issue. I have no problem with helping people who need help, that is what I hope my taxes and charitable donations do, but "forgiveness" suggests that those in need have knowingly done something wrong.

We spent some time talking about the role of banks in all this, in issuing the loans in the first place, but this strand got somewhat confused as few people there understood how banks work well enough to make meaningful contributions. For example, it was suggested that banks could create loans (assets) without hindrance or risk but this is not the case; if it was then they would be issuing even more loans and not worrying if some were not paid back.

Overall the discussion lacked some direction and faltered on some of the detail but the time spent in the middle territory, the politics of personal debt, was useful and thought provoking. There were definitely some good ideas trying to get out in there somewhere.

In the Making – New Social Housing Projects by Karakusevic Carson Architects

A free lunchtime on a quiet day in the London office gave me another opportunity to walk to RIBA and visit one of their exhibitions. That is always a good thing to do as it feeds the mind and the body equally.

The walk there is about 2.5km, depending on the route, so it took me just under 25 minutes. As always I avoided the main roads (busy and ugly) but was forced to walk through Euston Station as the only way around it is a long way north, fine for just a walk but not so good when trying to get somewhere specific.

The subject of this exhibition was New Social Housing Projects by Karakusevic Carson Architects which interested me for several reasons. All architecture has some interest to me, new developments show the leading-edge of the profession and social housing is a sector that has been too quiet for too long (I blame Thatcher).

In RIBA terms, this was a minor exhibition using what was, essentially, corridor space around the atrium on the second floor (I think) and which is now branded as The Practice Space. It is an awkward space but this exhibition did a good job of using it with information boards on the outer walls of the meeting rooms and models around the atrium and in the open space by the windows.

I was delighted to see so many models as I find them the best way to appreciate buildings in context and the context of buildings is as important as it's appearance. Photographs are good for showing colours but for little else which, as an aside, is why property websites are a poor substitute for pounding the streets.

I did not know any of these schemes, nor any of the places that they were being built, but the models gave enough information about the locations for me to appreciate the character of the area. Most were standard East End (as "standard" is today) with large concentrations of social housing among Victorian streets and with plenty of open spaces.

As the hipsters move to places like Clapton because they cannot afford Camden those that used to live in places like Clapton are being forced further east or out of London altogether. New social housing can help to stem the exodus and so to keep the character that makes London London.

The schemes on show here were all different but tried to meet the same needs of producing good social housing that fitted neatly into the area. This was very different from most of our social housing stock that was built on either greenfield land or large areas of brownfield land created by post-war clearance.

The information boards were good in explaining how the designs had been arrived at and it was good to see the needs of residents at the heart of this. That may seem obvious but places like Battersea are full of blocks of towers that pay no attention to the needs of the people who live there, the insides of the flats may be good but there is nothing, no local shops or transport, outside of their doors.

I was not completely convinced by all the schemes, some seemed more solid and less permeable than I would like, but I am prepared to give the architects the benefit of any doubt by admitting that my views were based on a quick assessment of the limited information provided. Significant developments like these now come with colourful Design and Access Statements that run to over a hundred pages so it is unfair to expect a model to say everything about the development.

However, I was completely convinced about the quality of the exhibition. RIBA knows how to put on a good show that is informative and entertaining, even in a corridor.

25 April 2015

The Thin White Dukes gets the Fox and Duck singing and dancing

Saturday night gigs at the Fox and Duck do not get any better than those from The Thin White Duke who regularly bring their brand of Bowie covers to the venue. It is not just me that thinks this and they always pull in a big crowd. Conscious of this I arrived promptly at 9pm and the place was already very busy. Armed with a Doombar I squeezed into a space well away from the potential dancing zone.

The Thin White Duke opened their set around 9:20pm and the singing started immediately. It still surprises me how many people know the lyrics to even the less well known album tracks and it surprises me more how many of these people could not possible have been born when the songs first came out. I used to think that deep knowledge of Bowie was confined to old people like me who bought every album on the day that it came out and played it to bits.

There is just so much to love in the extensive Bowie catalogue and we were all singing loudly (and mostly badly) along to songs like Cracked Actor, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Lets Dance and Queen Bitch. This singing got even more exuberant for classics like Life on Mars and anything off Ziggy Stardust.

This was a slightly different Thin White Duke with a new bass player and drummer and that may have been one reason for the different sound mix (more rock than funk) and for the extended versions of Golden Years and Fame. I liked the longer songs as they stopped the set from being a relentless string of hit singles.

The only problem was that this took their set dangerously close to the midnight curfew but things worked out and we got the final four fanfare that was expected; Rebel Rebel, Jean Genie, Starman and Heroes are songs to get anybody singing and dancing, especially when warmed up by two hours of excellent Bowie music.

The Thin White Duke are due back at the Fox and Duck on 12 September. I'll be there.

Supreme: Blue Rose is another great read from Warren Ellis

I knew nothing of the history of Supreme before latching on to Supreme: Blue Rose, though I probably should.

Supreme was an the Extreme Studios/Image Comics/Awesome Comics character created by Rob Liefeld and for whom Alan Moore wrote a run in the mid-1990s, and anything with Moore's name attached I should have picked up on.

The name that made me pick up on the new Supreme: Blue Rose series was that of Warren Ellis, a serious contender for my favourite comics writer and an even more serious one for those still writing comics.

The next part of the story is increasingly familiar; Supreme: Blue Rose was published by Image Comics and I bought it digitally to read on my iPad (which I bought three years ago primarily to read comics on).

Also as is becoming the custom, I binge read the seven part series in one sitting. To be honest, I did read issue #1 when it first came out in July 14 but it was a complex story and I was sure to forget some of it so I left it alone to reread it when I had the whole series.

And that tells you the first thing about the story, this was a single story spread over seven issues. One of the things that I like about Ellis is the way he does both single-issue story comics, e.g. Moon Knight, Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. and Transmetropolitan, and also comics with long story arcs, the best example being FreakAngels.

My lack of knowledge of Supreme before reading this series did not seem to be a problem either, much as having read Moon Knight before did little to enhance my reading of that series. There may well have been references to previous plots, events or characters but I did not pick them up and that did not matter.

The story itself was a little weird, which is what was hardly unexpected for an Ellis story (think Planetary) but was also grounded in the real-world (possibly!) which gave it touch-points into normality.

Adding to the weirdness was the wistful, almost ephemeral, art work by Tula Lotay, a new name to me.

The art was coloured subtly which both matched the mood of the piece and also made it very clear that this was not a superhero comic.

The heart of the story was simple enough in that the world needs to be reset from time-to-time and normally this happens without any of us noticing but this time there was a little problem and it needed to be fixed. Trying to fix it, or trying to stop the fixers, was a large cast of characters who spawned their own little stories and who gave their own perspective on events. Not everything seen or heard could be believed, though the car ride to the Moon was real enough.

Reading the comic was like swimming in some goo made by mixing elements of science and magic and it was that swimming experience that I enjoyed so much rather than the path that I swam along. It was more like reading poetry than prose and it had an unusually high word-count for an Ellis book (despite me choosing to show a page that has no words!). In an action comic often pictures are all you need but in the subtle space of Supreme; Blue Rose it was the words that carry the message and the tone.

I would not claim to have understood every detail of the story, and as I said earlier I am sure that I missed some references, and that did nothing to diminish my enjoyment. This was Warren Ellis doing one of the things that he does very well.

There is much to admire about Ellis and one of them is the way that he will take on fringe books like Supreme: Blue Rose when he has also written for the likes of X-Men and Iron Man. And it is comics like Supreme; Blue Rose, and several other Image titles, that have got me so interested in comics again.

24 April 2015

A lively The Car Man thrills at Wimbledon Theatre

Every time I write about dance I say that I should see more of it but, Sadler's Wells apart (and that is not very close) chances are few and far between so I make an effort to get to the ones that I can. This time that effort was forking out £36 for a seat (E23) in the fifth row of the Dress Circle.

It was an easy decision to break my own rules on pricing and seating to see The Car Man again, a show I had only seen once before way back in 2007. Not only had I enjoyed it then but it was by Matthew Bourne and I have loved everything of his that I have seen.

I try to plan my work around my theatre and had booked for a Friday so that I could work at home and then catch a couple of buses into Wimbledon for the evening show, pausing at Mai Thai on the way for something tasty to eat. I like to have a designated restaurant for each theatre that I go to regularly and Mai Thai fits the bill nicely.

In a break from what was tradition I did not go to the pub across the road or to the theatre bar before the show. I was not overly cutting down on my drinking but I was easing one or two out of the schedule just to help.

The view was much better than I expected with my fear of taller people sitting in front of me and I had a good view of the stage with no interruptions.

It had been a long time since I had last seen The Car Man so I sat down ready to be surprised and delighted all over again.

It was described as a reimagining of Carmen, rather than a retelling, and the story was very different. There was a cameo of the original in one scene with some Flamenco dancers in a bar reenacted part of her tragic story.

In The Car Man, Matthew Bourne played to all his strengths with lots of vibrant dancing, mostly in groups and with lots of things going on at the same time all across the stage. It was boisterous, energetic, flamboyant, sexy and huge fun. It may have been inspired by Carmen but there the mood is almost unremittingly gloomy (as the ending is long predicted) whereas here it was mostly jolly, despite some of the dark things that happened.

The poster at the top says it all really and, for once, was a true reflection of what the show was like. This is how I would dance if I could dance, but as I cannot dance like that I'll happily settle for watching other people do so instead.

This was, of course, a dance with a story to tell and there was plenty of acting as well as dancing, as always with Matthew Bourne. And, as with the dancing, this was not confined to the lead roles. This was an ensemble performance and a very good one too.

It was also good to see The Car Man playing to a packed house and showing that dance can be as popular and as entertaining as the familiar musicals that often show up at theatres like Wimbledon.

The only regret from the evening was realising that I had no more dance in my  diary to look forward too. Sadly, that is a recurring problem.

23 April 2015

Master Jan Hus, a song recital by Daniel Dobiáš

I had been active in the British Czech and Slovak Association (BCSA) for many years but recently this activity has been mostly limited to going to a few of the socials and I had not been to one of the more formal events for a while.

Some of this was out of choice, the history of the area does not particularly interest me, so I tend to avoid talks on things like WWII, and some of this was due to calendar clashes, mostly me being forced to work away from London.

If there was one type of event that would grab my interest then that was a concert of some sort and events at the Slovak Embassy were always worth going to for the venue and hospitality.

And so I booked a place at Master Jan Hus, a song recital by Daniel Dobiáš.

As things worked out I was working away that day but Reading is very well served with fast trains to London Paddington and from there it was only a couple of stops on the District/Circle Line down to Notting Hill Gate so I was able to get to the Slovak Embassy in good time for the recital and it was no great hardship to miss the AGM of the British Czech and Slovak Association which preceded it.

I presume that everybody else there knew about Jan Hus but it was all new to me. This meant that I could enjoy learning the story as well as listening to the music.

Having said that I do not normally like history I have to admit that the tale of the martyrdom of Jan Hus interested me. All of those years of listening to In Our Time has had an effect.

Put simply, Jan Hus was a campaigned for reform in the established (Catholic) church in much the same way that the more famous, to me, Martin Luther who he pre-dated by a century.

It was a bonus that the words of the story were read by Jolly Thompson who worked on the same project as me in Prague back in the early 90s.

The songs were pleasant enough though I lacked the musical frames of reference to categorise them other than to say that they sounded like I expected songs at a piano to sound like, though it was definitely more Schubert than Swann.

Two other things helped to make the evening pleasurable. There is usually art on display at the Slovak Embassy and this evening was no exception with its display of pictures by Olga Pastekova in a collection called My Shadow, My Friend. As is often the case there, the pieces were quite provocative and I liked them all for that. The Embassy could play safe and show, for example, pretty landscapes, and I admire their courage for daring to be daring.

The final thing was the people. There were many people there that I knew and there was plenty of opportunity before and after the recital for what we now call networking and used to call chatting. There was some drink too which helped the ambiance but was never the point of the evening.

Everything about the evening was pleasant, friendly and charming. Just like I expected it to be.

18 April 2015

The Peter Ackroyd Charity Pub Crawl 2015

I have many interests and do many things related to each of them but in each category there are only one or two things that I call mandatory. For example, I like reading comics and I buy quite a few but the only books that I must get are those written by Warren Ellis.

Another interest is exploring cities on foot and I do a great deal of this by myself at lunchtimes and when on holiday. In this category the one mandatory activity is walks arranged by Minimum Labyrinth. I have been on several, some more than once, and they have all been brilliant.

And so I readily found myself on The Peter Ackroyd Charity Pub Crawl 2015.

It was a re-run of an earlier Peter Ackroyd Pub Crawl that the group had done, but not the one that I went on in 2013. One of the people travelling that day, Rebecca Taylor, had since died of cystic fibrosis and so the 2015 crawl was in her memory and also to raise money for a related charity.

We started at 2pm in Clerkenwell and spent the rest of the long day roaming towards Holborn on a delightfully circuitous route that took in a few sights, far more interesting places that are not really sights as not many people know about them, and quite a few pubs. And a chippie.

Unusually for these tours I knew something of some of the areas having worked in both Clerkenwell (for Charteris) and Holborn (for BT) in previous roles and also because I had been there at other times for other reasons, e.g. LIKE meetings used to be held in a pub on Clerkenwell Green.

I may have known some of the roads and a few of the pubs but the anecdotes that we were regaled with along the way were all new to me and they were what made the tour so special. It was also good to share the journey with other people keen to learn more about the places that they half-knew and wished to know better.

It was not the sort of event where I could take notes and, for some reason, my memories of that day are not all that clear, but I am helped in crafting this post by two useful pieces of technology; my camera captured the interesting places that we visited and FourSquare dutifully recorded all the pubs that we went to, starting with The Old Ivy House.

The pub in the top picture is The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green which was our second port of call. With eight pubs to cover altogether I played safe and had just a half of Kolsch.

Playing safe was forgotten at the next pub, the Dovetail, because they had Fruli Strawberry Beer. This was a Belgian pub and I was delighted to see the display of Tin Tin covers in their original language versions. So much so that I took a rare selfie standing in front of them and I used this later as my Twitter and Facebook avatars.

This photo of our main guide, the loquacious and affable Robert Kingham, was taken outside another pub. This was not on our drinking schedule but Robert found the "Idle Banter" sign too good to miss. We could not have gone in anyway as the pub was shut for the day having no office workers to serve. When I first started work in London, in the late 1980s, a lot of the City was like that and the pubs shut at 9pm during the week too. Now most of London is bustling 24x7 and the pubs stay open even longer than that.

Walking through Spitalfields brought back memories of when I worked for Charteris as we had an office just east of there in Cloth Street. We were a sociable bunch then so I knew most of the pubs and Indian restaurants nearby.

One of these known pubs was the Rising Sun in Cloth Fair and that was our fourth stop. This too was more used to office workers than tourists or residents and we were the only people in there at the time (about 4:30pm). I was pleased to be reminded that this was a Sam Smith's pub so I had a welcome pint of Old Brewery Bitter.

We then hit a series of grand buildings including the Old Bailey, St. Sepulchure's Church and St Bartholomew's Hospital.

It was the later that was attracting the most interest from tourists as this was the roof that Sherlock Holmes did not fall off to his death in the recent TV series, despite appearing to do so.

We had a little period of spotting TV and film locations at that time. The iconic Smithfield Market has been in lots of things and the underground car park on West Smithfield had been used as the entrance to the relocated MI6 headquarters in Skyfall.

We quickly regained our normal terrain and disappeared down narrow paths to find secluded squares, like Gough Square where we found Dr Johnson's house and a statue of his cat.

I had prided myself for having explored that area reasonably thoroughly but a lot of this was new to me, including Boswell House.  Also new to me, surprisingly, was the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street. This is something of a London legend but somehow it had eluded me previously.

The next pub was another London legend, the Cittie of Yorke, and this time it was one that I did know from my days working in Holborn. Another Sam Smiths pub called for another pint of Old Brewery.

The territory was a lot more familiar then as we skirted around Lincoln's Inn Field before popping into another pub I knew from my Holborn days, the Ship Tavern. This seemed to cater mostly for tourists or uncultured commuters and the best draught beer they had was Tribute. So I had a pint of that, it was too late in the tour to worry about pacing. This was pub seven of eight.

Something of a surprise next as we did something even more touristy and went for some fish and chips in The Rock and Sole Plaice in Endell Street, Covent Garden. Luckily they could accommodate both vegetarians and large groups and we settled comfortably into the busy basement. It was about 8pm by then, some six hours after our mission started, and some food was most welcome as there was a noticeable amount of alcohol to soak up.

After that there was just time for our final pub, the Museum Tavern in Great Russell Street, near to the British Museum, obviously. Another pub that I had been to before and an excellent end to the evening thanks to the draught Black Sheep Bitter.

Through all the walking, drinking and eating the curious tales continued, often to the bemusement of other walkers, drinkers and eaters. These tales were the glue that held our passage together as we traversed and explored the still surprising London.

It was a fantastic day out tinged with sadness at the memory of the fellow traveller who could not be with us.

14 April 2015

Game Theory at Tristian Bates Theatre addressed some difficult topics adroitly

To be honest, what first attracted me to Game Theory was my assumption that it had something to do with Mathematics - Game Theory was one of the topics that I studied at university. Further investigation revealed that Game Theory was two plays looking at current ethical issues in medicine. That was interesting enough for me.

It was not a big factor in choosing to go to see the plays but the ticket price of just £12 made it an even easier decision to make.

The Tristian Bates Theatre is Central London so obviously I planned to work in London that day and to stroll down after work. Then plans changed and I had to go to Reading which meant dashing there by bus, train and tube instead. Not ideal but it worked OK and in something of the style of a marathon runner I grabbed a pastie at Reading Station and then a beer at the theatre cafe.

As before, my only previous visit to the theatre, I was well positioned when the bell summoned us upstairs for the first play but this time it was a harder choice to make as seating was set up on one side of the stage as well as in front of it. The seats at the side seemed to offer a better view of the stage so I took a front row seat there.

The first play, Membrane, addressed the tricky subject of hymenoplasty (hymen reconstruction). A middle-aged woman approached her doctor to get the surgery done. They knew each other and had been lovers once.

This situation was somewhat artificial, and the play suffered as a result, but it did allow the two of them to explore different aspects of the issue, for example he saw the restoration of her virginity as a denial of their earlier relationship.

From this starting point the theme of deception spread in many directions, from make-up to blow-fish, and brought in the doctor's academic wife in the process. This further reduced the believability of the play but also added to its interest.

Membrane was in three acts, which fooled me and I started to clap after the second. My argument is that if the play felt it was ending then, then it probably should have done so!

Membrane managed to provoke some thoughts and to entertain despite the falseness of some of its premises. A fair result.

It was time for a break and another Japanese larger in the bar downstairs before being summoned back for Mutiny. This was a completely different play but written by the same person, Odessa Celt, and performed by the same cast, Andrew Pugsley, Nadia Shash and Georgina Blackledge.

This story was about a young couple with a new baby discussing the possibility of getting her genetically tested. This would have to be done privately and was not cheap. The father saw this as an opportunity to build the baby's environment to suit their genetic predispositions (making the nurture support the nature) while the mother was not keen to learn what their new baby was likely to die of.

As in the first play, the discussion on the benefits and disadvantages of genetic testing developed and this time the arguments were more focused on just the matter in hand and were helped by having clear protagonists on either side of the argument. The problem for me was that it was not an argument that I was particularly interested in.

Mutiny got its name from the woman's reaction when she appears to give in to the father but had something else in mind. Unfortunately that something was rather obvious and the father should not only have seen it coming, he should have suggested it.

After the second play there was a second interval before the panel session on hymenoplasty. I had not realised that was on, it may have explained the large number of young women in the audience, and I decided to give it a miss. Not only was hymenoplasty a subject that I had no great interest in, I had even less knowledge of it and the thought of being the odd-one-out in the audience did not appeal, that is alright when watching a play but much less so when discussing a difficult gender-heavy subject.

Writing this now, some weeks after the event, I am a little surprised at how negative some of this seems, perhaps I just remember the "bad" parts better, as it was a fine, if not spectacular, evening at the theatre and that is all that I wanted it to be.

12 April 2015

Kew Gardens on a sunny day in Spring

With Spring settled in and the promise of a bright morning it was obvious that I should pay Kew Gardens another visit. So I did.

Broadly speaking, the southern end of Kew Garden has trees and the northern end has flowers so I decided to enter the gardens at Victoria Gate in the middle. From there I walked west towards the river with the plan of then walking vaguely north following the river. I would make the rest of the plan up as I went along letting Kew Gardens guide me.

I soon came to the lake and as it was going the same way that I was I followed it. This is the view I had of it as I approached it with the subtle Sackler Crossing in the middle. It is only the person in  white on the bridge that reveals its position.

The view from the bridge is always worth seeing so I walked on the north side of the lake then used the bridge to cross to the south side. Being Spring the birds were busy, far to busy to pay attention to people walking on the bridge above them.

As always, the view from the far end of the lake was spectacular and it forced me to stop for a few moments to take it all in. The Sackler Crossing is in the picture again but it is harder to see this time.

From the lake I headed to Rhododendron Dell. This little stretch of sunken garden is slightly sheltered and that is enough for blooms to thrive there.

Having emerged from the Dell all the paths seemed to lead towards the Orangery and it seemed sensible to allow them to take me there for the obligatory coffee and cake. While resting there I made my plan for the rest of my visit and chose to follow the outer path clockwise back to the Victoria Gate.

The first place that the path took me was the Duke's Garden where this large Magnolia stole the show.  Everybody passing through paused to look at it and it featured in many photographs, including this one.

Next stop was the semi-walled garden that housed the Plant Family Beds. The familiar beds were there but they had been joined by a few new statues, including this smarty dressed but not very effective scarecrow.

The next surprise was the Waterlily House. This had been closed for a while and had only recently reopened when I paid it this visit. The basics of the building were the same but the inside was completely different.

The plants around the edge had been replaced and the new arrivals were a lot smaller than those the were there before, though I dare say that they will grow in time. Before that happens the Waterlily House will continue to look bright and fresh.

Leaving by Victoria Gate meant walking past the Palm House Parterre, and that is always a good thing to do.

Kew Gardens is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year but a sunny day in Spring is obviously a wonderful time to go.

11 April 2015

Intimate and engaging performance of The Feast at Solhaug at Baron's Court Theatre

I am still not a great Ibsen fan but I appreciate that there is something there, especially after trying Ghosts three times in a year, and so an Ibsen play was always going to catch my attention, even if I then did not go to see the show after all.

The Feast at Solhaug had a lot more going for it that just Ibsen's name; it had never been performed in English before and was on at Baron's Court Theatre which I had not been to before despite it being so close. And it was only £14 which is ridiculously cheap for any theatre.

I had changed trains at Baron's Court many times before but had never explored the area before so I took the opportunity to do so, combined with looking for somewhere to eat. The area around the theatre was full of mansion blocks, much like Kennsington but not quite as posh. Wandering around I came across Queen's Club, famous for its pre-Wimbledon tournament, which I did not know was in the area.

The quest for food did not go that well and I ended up back at Curtains Up, the imaginative name from the pub above the theatre. It was Boat Race day but that means nothing to me so I had not factored it into my calculations. This was something of a mistake as a few hours after the event the pub was still packed and the tables were covered with the evidence of a good time being had by all. Luckily I was able to find a table and to get some food. And a beer.

The theatre was downstairs and it was not obvious where we were meant to queue, or if we were even meant to queue. I checked every few minutes and panicked slightly when the queue appeared and immediately had about ten people in it. I joined them.

Once allowed inside I saw that the theatre was in the old beer cellar and nothing had been done to hide this. There was seating on three side but the best seats in front of the stage had gone by the time that I got in (the usual few people, many coats situation) so I went to the right of the stage where a front row seat was still available.

One of the early arrivals who claimed many seats was an annoying woman in a bright white dress. It was hard to take a decent picture of the stage with this white dress in constant motion so eventually I settled for this one with her in the top-right corner.

The Feast at Solhaug was very different from every other Ibsen play that I had seen in that it was a brash historical drama rather than a subtle contemporary one. It was more like William Shakespeare than Tennessee Williams.

The beer cellar suited the play well as it already looked medieval in style and was built from crude stone.

At the centre of the drama were a lord and lady celebrating their third wedding anniversary, though he was celebrating it more earnestly and vigorously than she was.

The an old flame from her past arrived and she rekindled her feelings for him but he fell for her younger sister, as did the king's sheriff who was chasing the flame for serious crimes committed against the king. This stew of passions and jealousies was stirred with alcohol until it boiled over messily, as it was always going to do.

The complexity of the relationships and the number of main characters meant that the ending was nicely unpredictable. Some people died, some had other bad things happen to them and one couple managed to live happily ever after. I've found other Ibsen plays to end weakly and unrealistically but that was most definitely the case here.

The acting was good throughout and the intimate setting helped us to feel the deep emotions that the characters were wrestling with. The actor who made the most impact on me was Lucy Pickles as Margit, Lady of Solhaug, and that was probably because she had the more difficult decisions to make, spent more time on stage and was rather pleasing on the eye.

The Feast at Solhaug was a lovely play neatly presented, and it helped that it was below a reasonable pub not that far from home. All in all it was a very pleasant evening.

10 April 2015

The new Space Ritual were very much like the old Space Ritual, I am pleased to say

In November I went to the last ever Space Ritual concert, which was held at the Borderline. Just under five months later I was back there to see the first ever gig from the new Space Ritual.

The band had been forced to have something of a rethink because we all wanted them to carry on and made that abundantly clear at the end of the previous gig.

Apparently the reason for Space Ritual's demise was Mick Slattery's reluctance to tour, rather than because of any nasty personal feuds or irreconcilable musical differences. So it was something of a surprise to see Mick on stage with the band. It transpired that the reluctance to tour meant a reluctance to play away from London so playing with the re-born Space Ritual at the Borderline was not a problem for him and was a pleasant surprise for us.

Also on stage was Mick's replacement, 'Boy Wonder' Stephen Jones. Stephen bowed to Mick's seniority in the band and despite being the new lead guitarist he stood a little behind the man he replaced. This seemed to work well and while I am not expecting Stephen to try and copy Mick he was able to learn something from him by playing on stage together.

The (partial) substitution of Stephen for Mick was the only difference between the old and the new Space Rituals.

The audience was slightly different though. Despite being fairly early somebody had nabbed my usual left-of-centre position and so I decided to take a risk and go right-of-centre instead. That took me away from Mick, Stephen and Chris but it was nice to be closer to Thomas and Gary for a change.

The new Space Ritual sounded very much like the old Space Ritual so everybody was happy.

I did not keep notes at the time or try to get a set list at the end but I think that it is fair to say that all the usual favourites were there. I normally find the older Hawkwind songs sound the best to me so I was a little surprised to find myself enjoying the several songs from their last album (2007's Otherworld) the most.

If anything they jammed even more before and as that is what they do best I was delighted with that. I love the way that they take a song somewhere new and play with it for several minutes before returning back to where they started.

The funky bit where they are lost in the middle of a song is also where the band seems to be happiest and no more so than Gary who bounced uncontrollably despite wearing a suit for the occasion.

Space Ritual were a lot of fun and entertained mightily. Once again that led to hopes of more gigs to come. And next time I'll try and get there early enough to claim my rightful place at the front slightly left-of-centre.

8 April 2015

BCSA "Get to Know You" Social (April 2015)

There was no BCSA (British Czech and Slovak Association) "Get to Know You" Social in March because there was another BCSA event on the second Wednesday and it was easier to skip the social for a month than to move it off it's regular day. That meant that I was even more keen than usual to go there in April.

I decided earlier in the day that as I am cutting down on my excessive consumption of cheese that I would break the habit of a life-time and not have the smazeny syr. That plan worked well.

Luckily the rest of the evening followed its usual pattern too; I had a few Pilsner Urquells before closing the evening with a Zlaty Bazant, there were some regular faces and some new ones there, and we talked about all sorts of things.

The conversations that stuck with me the most, for reasons that only the neurons in my brain can account for, were on skiing (not my favourite past-time), using your iPhone to count your steps (I'm an evangelist) and making aromatic candles in tea cups (I volunteered to provide some unwanted cups).

The point about these evenings are they are informal and anybody can come and go at any time during the evening. We normally have the hardcore, myself included, there by 7pm and the numbers gradually grow through the evening (sometimes people leave too) and there are a dozen or so of us there at 10:30 when the social ends (because that is when the bar closes). The change in people is one of the things that helps to stir the conversations.

The Zlaty Bazant may have been a pint too much as I left my bag in the room with some expensive stuff in it. Luckily I just missed the Richmond train, only by a few seconds, and in the fifteen minute wait for the next one some friends rescued it for me.

The near mishap at the end forgiven, this was another delightful BCSA "Get to Know You" Social and because of that we will keep having them.

6 April 2015

Hawkeye was a good read but not a great one

Hawkeye is one of those comics that I could have started reading earlier as it had got good reviews from the start and was written by Matt Fraction whose writing I had liked in Iron Man (among others). But things do not always work the way that they should and I let it slip.

What got me into the book was a snap sale on ComiXology, as is often the case these days. which offered the first few issues at 79p each. I bought the first five issues as they were the ones included in the first collected edition and so I knew that the story would end at a logical point.

This version of Hawkeye was less of the superhero fighting super villains with the Avengers and more a skilled man fighting petty criminals on the street. With a dog.

It felt very much like Daredevil to me and lacked originality and purpose because of that. The place to find Daredevil stories should be in the Daredevil comic.

There are other Marvel characters who could have fitted well into that world, people like Moon Knight and the Punisher, and I did not see the point of taking Hawkeye out of the Avengers and putting him on the streets.

Leaving aside my problems with the basic premise of the book, the stories themselves were neat and tidy. This Hawkeye was very human and far from the usual all-conquering superhero, he got himself into lots of scrapes and was beaten-up more than once. "It looks bad" was his catchphrase.

The artwork by David Aja, new to me, fit the gritty style of the book exactly. A little research tells me that he previously worked on similar titles like Iron Fist and, er, Daredevil.

I enjoyed the first five issues but the lack of originality in the scenario meant that I left it there and I have not bought any more issues.

4 April 2015

Hoaxwind get me dancing at The Old Moot House

I would have accepted the invitation to Anna's birthday party at The Old Moot House anyway but I was even keener to go as she had persuaded Hoaxwind to play for her and I had not seen them since they supported Psychedelic Warlords almost a year ago.

The Old Moot House had had a checked history and several names since I moved to Kingston and I had not seen it in its latest incarnation so that was another attraction in going.

I got there not too long after 8pm, the official start time, and the place was already busy. In addition to Anna, who I sought out straight away,  there were several other people there for me to say "hello" to, including most of Hoaxwind.

They hit the stage around 9pm and played two sets with a short break in the middle. The set-list was familiar with a mix of the long classics (Orgone Accumulator, Brainstorm, etc.) and some later and shorter songs from the Calvert period (Death Trap, Urban Guerrilla, etc.).

It was the familiar Hoaxwind sound too thanks to their large cast that featured all the spacey delights of keyboards, sax/flute and electronics, all backed by two guitars, drums and vocals. That was seven people working well together to produce a rich and bouncy sound. It got even better in the second half when they were joined by a violinist.

It was suggested to me by some of the band at half time that they were playing faster than usual so I looked out for that in the second half and, if anything, they seemed to have got even faster! I liked their sound (as always) and there is plenty of room for different interpretations in the Hawkwind universe.

I was too engaged with the music to take a full set-list and when I did note tracks I used just one word to save time and distraction. So my notes of the set were just Orgone, Brainstorm, Hassan, Assault, Spirit, Master and Silver. If you know Hawkwind then you will have no problem adding the missing words.

Many of these songs were absolute favourites of mine and I was singing loudly and badly throughout but it was Master of the Universe that got me dancing in the way that only dads can.

It was yet another fantastic evening from Hoaxwind. It was just a shame that there are not more of them.

3 April 2015

Play Mas at the Orange Tree was neat enough but lacked purpose

My plan to see everything at the Orange Tree Theatre took me to see Play Mas which I would probably not have gone to see if it had been on anywhere else. I have nothing against "wickedly funny, exuberant and poignant" plays but being set in Trinidad meant that I had no connection with the history or culture.

I booked to see it on a Friday evening which is, these days, my usual Orange Tree evening as it is easy to fit in wherever I am working and leaves the weekend free for other things. This Friday was Good Friday so work was not an issue but a routine is a routine.

I am still not used to the new regime with pre-allocated seating and it took some luck to book early enough to claim a front-row seat, A7 for £20.

The theatre I wanted to see had been backing up and this was the fourth play that I saw in three days. One of those had been exceptional (WINK) and another had been very good (Frozen) so Play Mas had some difficult acts to follow.

It started well. The scene was a small tailor's shop where the tailor and his trainee/assistant were doing more talking than working. The tailor's mother was in the next room and kept calling the assistant through to do work for her and shouting to her son to get on with his work. These were the main characters in the play and they were established quickly and believably.

While I would not have called the dialogue between mother and son wickedly funny it was certainly funny and it generated a lot of genuine laughter from the audience.

There was a serious side to their banter too and from their discussion we learned something of the colonial society that they were living in.

This was one of those plays that needed an interval to signal a change of time and of mood. After the break we were in post-colonial Trinidad and, through his connections, the tailor's assistant had risen through the ranks to become chief of police with a rebel problem on his hands.

Some of the points made here were rather simplistic, such as the chief of police's wife insisting on joining him on a trip to the USA so she could go shopping. We also met two foreign investors, messrs Tate and Lyle, which was making a ridiculously simple point ridiculously simply.

There was a story here too and that concerned the rebel forces and that problem was solved at the end of the play at Trinidad's annual festival, the Mas (derived from masquerade).

There were several parts to the play and I felt that some worked better than others. I loved the characters and the way that they were presented. The story and the political commentary behind it I found stale and it told me nothing that I did not already know about colonialism and the imperialism that has often replaced it (Bhurundi is in the news as I write). I could not see what the play was trying to say to educated people in Richmond in 2015.

Play Mas was something of a disappointment, especially when compared to most things that I have seen there and I hope that it remains the exception that proves the rule.

2 April 2015

Abyss at the Arcola Theatre was a little too clever for my own good

My second play in a day about a person who disappeared was less successful than the first, though some of that may have been my fault.

The first play was Frozen which I watched at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park and from there I walked the 4 km south-west to the Arcola Theatre. This took me through some new territory including Clissold Park and Newington Green. My feelings towards this part of East London were not improved by the general sense of decay or by witnessing a minor robbery.

The Arcola Bar was as welcoming as ever and I had a very pleasant pre-theatre session there helping myself to some food, drink and their wi-fi. The food was the same strange combination of crunch stuff, salad and stew that I had had on my previous visit, as I was hoping that it would be.

As usual the place was busy and had a nice arty buzz to it. Park Theatre and Arcola Theatre have two of my favourite front of house areas and that matters when you are travelling as far as I do to get to these places.

We were down in Studio 2 which still had unallocated seating so I got myself ready to move in good time. I saw one or two others do the same but I may have overreacted a little as I was the first one in the queue by a country mile. At least that meant that I got my preferred seat just to the right of the aisle in the front row.

There was not much to see from there, other than a bare table placed at an angle and the back wall strewn with lightbulbs. And that was going to be it for props for the evening.

The main story of Abyss was told poetically, like a modern ballad being enacted for us. I liked that, a lot, for much the same reason that I like Dylan Thomas, the rhythm of words can be as important as their meanings.

In that story a woman went missing and her two friends set out to find her, and that meant enlisting the help of some unusual characters for their knowledge of the town and the women. Structurally it reminded me of The Dog, The Night and The Knife, which I also saw at the Arcola and had loved.

Around this perfectly formed heart grew some strange things.

One of the threads was like somebody reading from the Ladybird Book of Killing and Cooking a Rabbit. This was read to us a page at a time throughout the evening. I never worked out was the point was but it did explain the rabbit mask in the poster above.

The play was also very physical, I would say over physical to the point to distraction. I did not mind some of the running around the table to represent searching the town for the missing woman, or some of the climbing on to the table even though that was clearly an unnatural thing to do, but I completely missed the point of the bars that the cast sometimes performed minor circus pieces on.

Where I will accept that some of this may have been my fault was that it had been a long day with another play earlier and lots of walking (I first walked to Park Theatre from Kings Cross) and as Abyss failed to grip me completely I did loose some attention towards the end, possibly enough to miss the point of some of the strange things happening but I suspect not.

Physical theatre is hard to get right, especially when there is not a right. For example, I loved the movement in Wink but hated it in Mies Julie. I did not like it here either though I am sure that other people did.

In the end, the superfluous bits that I thought were over-clever had more of an impact on me than the poetic elements and I found Abyss something of a disappointment.

Frozen at Park Theatre was excellent voyeuristic horror in the style of Silence of the Lambs

Something about Frozen appealed to me but I had to work hard to get there. Or rather, I had to skip work to get there.

I was in our Kings Cross office only to discover that all telecommunications were out (it was the Holborn underground fire) so there was no point me being there. And I had theatre booked that evening so I did not want to go all the way back home just to do a couple of hours work before turning around and coming back again.

The solution was simple and brilliant. A quick phone call to the Park Theatre confirmed that they had good wi-fi and that there were seats available for that afternoon's performance. So off I set, walking (of course) the 4.2km to boost my daily step count.

I got there well before the lunchtime rush and while there were a few people in, mostly working, I was able to find a good spot near to a power supply and set to work with my first latte of the session.

I had a welcome distraction about an hour later when I got an email from somebody at the Park Theatre asking about Gift Aid on a recent donation. I replied and pointed out that I was actually in the theatre and a few moments later I was talking to Dorcas Morgan, the Development Director there. I was pleased to be able to tell her personally that I love the set-up there.

I had about four hours to fill before the show and that meant more lattes, a quiche for lunch and some work. Actually the work went as well as it would have done had I been in the working office.

At 3pm I moved into their smaller studio. Park90, for Frozen. It was not sold out but I still did well to get a front-row seat.

I knew Frozen was about an abducted child but I had no idea of how it would be approached.

There were three narratives, the mother's, the killer's and a psychologist's. Their stories were told to us directly except for when they coincided and then we watched their conversations. It's a style I had seen used several times recently and I think that it works well, it is certainly better than inventing an artificial reason for one character to reveal his/her thoughts by talking to somebody else.

An obvious reference point for this was Silence of the Lambs, and there were further echoes in the language, and I offer that comparison to show how good Frozen was rather than to suggest any derivation.

All of the stories were dark, though some were darker than others. The mother revisited her decision to send one of her daughters (and which one she chose) on an errand, the psychologist had her own skeletons relating to a colleague who had just died and, not surprisingly, the serial killer's life was almost relentlessly dark from being abused as a child through to his killing spree.

The stories were told through a series of generally short scenes which kept the pace going and switching between the characters helped to vary the mood. When done correctly, i.e. it is not over-contrived, then that approach keeps you engaged in the story and immerses you in the story. It was done correctly here.

One slight reason for going was to see the psychologist, Helen Schlesinger, whom I had seen play the Queen at the Rose Theatre, and while she and the mother both played their parts well it was Mark Rose as the unrepentant and calm killer who dominated proceedings. I tweeted something at half-time about him playing the part a little too well for my liking! His was the main story of the three, and rightly so.

Because of the subject matter it was never going to be an unhappy or uplifting play and I was more than happy to settle for tense, dark and gripping instead. Frozen was brilliant.

I hung around for one final latte after the show and, as hoped, managed to grab a quick word with Mark. I remarked on his heavily scrubbed look and he said that he liked to leave his character firmly behind in the theatre and to emerge as himself. I could see why you would do that.

In one way you could say that there was nothing special about Frozen but that would be to miss the point that so many parts of it were very good that, working together, produced an exceptionally good drama. I am not convinced, though, that a Thursday afternoon was the most sensible time to enter that world!

1 April 2015

WINK at Theatre503 pretended to be simple but was simply brilliant

WINK was one of those plays that reminded me just how innovative and sparkling theatre can be. This is exactly what I go to the theatre for.

The blurb introduced the two characters as "John is a 27 year old teacher who probably wasn’t allowed to teach at an all girls’ school and Mark is his 16 year old Olympic porn watching pupil." That sounded sufficiently off the wall to interest me. Theatre503 has never disappointed me, and has often delighted me, so it was an easy decision to go and see WINK.

I picked a day when I could arrange to work in London as that made the travel arrangements easier. In the end I complicated them a little by leaving work promptly (!) and going to the Saatchi Gallery in South Kensington first (walking to there from Victoria) and then walking from there to Battersea.

I arrived at the Latchmere pub in plenty of time to eat, a decent Mushroom Wellington, and have some beer before moving to the theatre's waiting area upstairs where I was early enough to get a seat at the table next to the entrance.

This clever planning failed me when a young group arrived late, positioned themselves at the front of the informal queue and then claimed the whole of the front-row. This forced me into the unfamiliar territory of the second row where I actually had a very good view of the stage, possibly better than that from the front row! This did not stop me from making loud remarks about people pushing in.

All was well once the play started.

The stage was clean white and all that ever filled it were two men. I do not recall any props being used other than mobile phones.

The story was interesting enough, the school boy looked up to his teacher as a role model and through the use of social media gradually wove his way into his teacher's life, though his wife, with  dramatic consequences.

The story was good and the way is was told was fantastic. The style was mostly narrative, that is the two men spoke directly to us to say what happened or what they were thinking. For most of the time these were solo narratives. At times the two characters came together and then the scenes were acted and we watched. I saw three plays in about a week done this way so it must be a thing.

The dialogue was crisp, bouncy and fluid. It drew me into the story with its attention to detail and realism and it kept me interested with its change of pace and mood. The scenes whizzed by seamlessly as the story gathered pace and depth. It was a great story and I liked the way that it was told.

Adding to the considerable enjoyment were a couple of nice touches in the production. There were odd sparkles of music and movement, the later consisting of the two men moving slowly dance-like around each other. It sounds corny but it worked and it worked well to capture the mood of their relationship.

In fact everything about the production worked very well indeed and that made WINK exceptional. There were lots of people making it so and chief amongst those were the two actors, Leon Williams and Sam Clemmett, who both made me care about their lives.

I already though a great deal of Theatre503 and WINK raised the standard even higher.