Monday, November 29, 2010

Big Weekend Number 1: Friday 26 Nov-Sunday 28 Nov 2010 - Bellowhead, The Clock (take 2), Stackridge, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

From the sublime to the ridiculous: We're tearing ourselves in all directions over the coming few weeks --- and the logistics are getting scary. I'm getting really cross with myself that I can't actually do all the things I want/need to. Sometimes I look at the maps and the time things take (crucially factoring in the 'Neil and Lisa sense of direction') and it makes me weep.

Still: we've had a good weekend and I can't complain.

Friday: BellowheadIf ever there was something DESIGNED to bring cheer and bounce, the Bellowhead are the ones to do it.

It was like a (almost) two hour workout really, since Bellowhead irresistibly get you dancing (in my case bouncing up and down and jigging about). Third time seeing them, and just as delightful (see previous reviews).

Saturday: The Clock (take 2)It had to be done: we had to go back to see the excellent installation The Clock by Christian Marclay (scroll). Since the logistics of getting to central Brum in the snow (and more crucially back again) in time for our evening commitment was iffy, we were able to offer a friend a much needed trip out and indulged ourselves in both lunch at NAE (Nottingham Art Exchange) AND several hours of the movie extravaganza.

Brain-thrilling stuff.

Saturday: StackridgeTo coincide with friends' wedding anniversary, we attended a gig in Lowdham (that's the other side of Nottinghamshire: can you see why the logistics were getting knotty?).

Stackridge have been around for ages - and that's no bad thing. They're tight players with an excellent sound. They'd played at the first Glastonbury and you may find their song 'Dora The Female Explorer' especially entertaining, depending on your age.

For those unfamiliar with Stackridge, you may nevertheless know this track by the Korgis:

James Warren and Andy Cresswell-Davis formed The Korgis after Stackridge initially disbanded in the late 1970s, but Stackridge has since reformed, taking in a performance at Glastonbury in 2008 and they are currently continuing to tour. With two female fiddle players (who offer much more besides) they're well worth seeing live.

After the gig, it was over to said friends for coffee/tea/mince-pies etc before a later night drive home.

Sunday: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest (film and book)
I've really enjoyed reading the Larsson trilogy, and although the second two films suffer from being made-for-TV (and the inevitable problems of being 2nd and 3rd installments) it was a very satisfying finale to the filmic versions.

In Swedish.

No, I still am not enticed by the big US version forthcoming next winter.

Rapace and Nyquist were as excellent as ever, and it was a very exciting way to spend a Sunday pm.

I then promptly went home and re-devoured the book in one sitting (reading mostly to remind myself of the differences between film and book versions).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Mummers - rescheduled to exactly when I can't attend. GRR!

Drat: had hoped to have alate 'get ass in gear' moment getting last minute tickets for The Mummers gig, due in Nottingham this coming week (it was to have been Wed 24 Nov 2010).

What do I find?

Bloody rescheduled to be the weekend of BAAS when I'm stuck at UCLAN.

Drat (and other stronger words).

Still, on upside (and though I can't believe this had by-passed me before) I have just realised I've been following performer Raissa -- singer with The Mummers -- for longer than I thought.

Her single 'Your Summertime' has been entrancing me since its release in 1996!!!

Raissa - Your Summertime

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Apologies: it's been that time of year when I get ill

Bah. Shiver me body (for that's what I've been doing since Tuesday). Need to head back to work though, despite having the throat of snotness. Bleurgh.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

In Praise of Ian McMillan on Desert Island Discs

A perfect mix of down-to-earth anecdotage and educated cultural awareness, poet Ian McMillan may be accused of being a professional Northerner, but he is a delight.

McMillan's Desert Island Discs today (Sunday 7 November 2010) was a real pleasure.

Most brilliantly, he chose Cage's 4' 33'' as his selected disc from the eight: because it would always sound different (which is true).

UK listeners can probably catch either the iPlayer broadcast, the Friday morning repeat on R4 OR download the podcast version (which limits the music but does have his great stories).

In particular I was very enamored of McMillan's mother who sounds wonderful: she was jailed during the war for going AWOL in order to marry her penpal sweetheart. Awesome and romantic.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Habit of Art - NT touring: Tuesday 2 November 2010 Nottingham Theatre Royal

Sell-out performances meant that I missed seeing The Habit of Art when it was at the National Theatre in London; however, judicious booking of plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal means such potentially missed opportunities are not entirely lost.

The touring version of The Habit of Art arrived in Nottingham last night and runs till Saturday and I would certainly urge people to attend, either here or at one of the following venues (it continues to Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow).

I never used to like Alan Bennett: I think that earlier in my life I found his work too domestic (the monologues never really connected with me). Looking back, I probably just missed the biting edge that his work - with hindsight - I now he has always had. But I do believe that his later career has brought that viciousness to the fore --- and in a good way.

The first piece I truly fell in love with was A Question of Attribution, which I still vividly recall watching on TV. It was about art - though not really of course - which was why I loved it. From that point I felt I was beginning to 'get' Bennett's wicked humour, his misanthropy, and of course the swearing and attitude to sex.

The Habit of Art is a real tour de force: enormously clever in its staging (wonderfully transferred from the capacious National to the more intimate confines of Nottingham's Theatre Royal), it is a truly 'meta' play --- with actors playing actors working through a rehearsal of playing their roles. There's also an especially satisfying and entertaining link to "the production of Uncle Vanya next door". With an engaged audience as well, there's even opportunity for breaking the fourth wall - particularly well exploited by Malcolm Sinclair, whose arch Henry made some beautifully timed glances out to the enraptured attendees.

The play, which dramatises a fictional encounter between the poet Auden and composer Britten, is more than just funny though. It is also incredibly moving and rather profound about a number of issues --- art (in all its forms), relationships (friendly and taboo), and the stages of life (from innocent 'childhood' to old age).

It is a wonderful cast (they were also remarkably charming afterwards as well as I was lucky enough to attend a 'meet the cast' event afterwards) and testament to the talent that the National can draw upon for its touring productions. Desmond Barrit, Selina Cadell and Sinclair head the cast in the three key roles, but EVERYONE plays a great part in the overall tone of the production of this great play. I hope they enjoy the rest of their time in Nottingham and for the remainder of the tour.

If you can, go see this if you haven't been lucky enough already..