Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Alastair on Santa's tired helpers
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michael fallon on Halloween buckets
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Simon Gibbs on My digital photos on his TV
Simon Gibbs on On the rights and wrongs of me posting bits from books (plus a bit about Rule Utilarianism)
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Most recent entries
- Christmas tree with scaffolding
- Santa’s tired helpers
- To Covent Garden (1): The twisty footbridge
- Trousers keyboard
- Cameras photoing the Wheel (in 2007)
- Was Guy’s Tower a key building in the architectural history of London?
- Photo-drone wars to come
- A link and a photo of a photographer
- Matt Ridley on how technology leads science and how that means that the state need not fund science
- Sign blocked by surveillance camera
- My digital photos on his TV
- ASI Christmas Party photos
- Photoing at the ASI party
- Quota roof clutter
- I finally did something for Samizdata
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Theatre
Being the Godfather of Goddaughter 2, who has just started out as a student at the Royal College of Music, is a bit costly, but it most definitely also has its privileges. Yesterday I was kindly allowed to sit in on one of GD2’s one-on-one lessons, and today I got to see (at no further cost) the first dress rehearsal for the College’s production of The Magic Flute. GD2 was not performing in The Magic Flute. She merely arranged for me and various others of her acquaintance to be there, and she watched it along with us. As did many other RCM students by the look and sound of things. GD2’s singing lesson was most encouraging, and the Magic Flute was terrific, truly terrific, reflecting huge credit on all the professionals named at the other end of the above link, who between them set the tone of it.
Michael Rosewell conducted stirringly, emphasising the menace as well as the grandeur and beauty of the music. Jean-Claude Auvray directed wonderfully, with lots of pertinent comic business. Ruari Murchison’s set was dominated by a big, black, modernistic wooden box, with big sliding hinged doors at the front, with little doors in them, and with more doors at the sides and the back. This moved the action along with minimal fuss. They could shut the big doors at the front and do a scene in front of them, while inside the closed box other cast members could then set up the next scene. Since so many of the scenes in this opera are contrivances by some of the characters within the drama, them opening the doors to reveal the next scene made perfect sense. The production reminded me, in its clarity and austerity, of the best sort of Shakespeare productions that I have seen.
The costumes were modern, in a way that illuminated the characters and the various stages their lives were going through, rather than in a way that stuffed Mozart’s story into a specifically different era and made an anachronistic nonsense of it. Mark Doubleday’s lighting emphasised the brightness and lightness of the final scenes, but in the meantime it emphasised what a dark and morally ambiguous story this is, ending up as it does with the hero and heroine joining a religious cult. Tamino and Pamina started out in jeans, then found themselves clad in pantomime hero and heroine costumes, and they ended up power-dressed, City-of-London Moonie/Mormon style, in matching grey suits with, in Pamina’s case, shoulder pads.
Mozart loved being a Freemason, but a modern audience can’t be so unreservedly happy about this particular happy ending. In many ways, this is a story about the triumph of religious fundamentalism over the forces of modernity and of female emancipation. There are numerous references to how women must subordinate themselves to men, with the only Queen involved being the Queen of the Night, the leader of the eventually defeated forces of modernity, individuality, and darkness. These anti-modern references became particularly chilling when spelt out in plain English, in the illuminated surtitles at the top of the stage.
The Three Ladies were dressed to kill at a Premier or a Charity Fundraiser, but not in uniforms, rather as three individuals. The Three Boys, on the opposite side of the conflict from the Three Ladies, were all dressed identically, like Mrs Krankie, being also ladies underneath their boy costumes. All six acted and sang splendidly, individually and as teams.
As for the singing generally, only Sarastro, the leader of the ultimately triumphant cult, needed to be granted a little slack. It was absolutely not his fault that although most of his singing was fine, his voice lacked that final ounce of basso profundity required for those fearsome low notes. This was the one time when you wanted to be hearing one of the half dozen, or however many it is, aging-giant Sarastro super-specialists who roam the earth, bestowing their show-stealing low notes upon rich opera audiences everywhere. But this Sarastro acted very convincingly, especially given that he had less help from his grey suit of a costume than I presume most other Sarastros tend to get, and not much help either from his relatively short stature. Being the one black man on view, on the other hand, meant that he was instantly recognisable. (I want to hear this guy singing other things.) As for everyone else, terrific. This was the first time I have actually seen The Magic Flute on a stage, and I can’t imagine a better introduction. GD2’s mother, who has seen other non-student productions, reckoned this one to be the best. Yes, really.
The biggest round of applause came at the end for the entire cast, and quite right too. But the Queen of the Night got the second biggest ovation for her famously spectacular and difficult aria, and thoroughly earned it. Sensational. Watch out for her. Papagena also stole every scene she was in, although I didn’t get her name. (Maybe I can later add a link for her too.) Papageno handled his various musical instruments with particular aplomb.
But better than any individual excellence on show was the general air of sincerity, enthusiasm and esprit de corps. As the lady teacher said at the end of GD2’s lesson yesterday, opera has changed from the days when all you had to do was stand there and sing. You have to be able to sing and act, and often to sing in very demanding circumstances. You may have to “sing with your legs in the air” was how GD2’s teacher put it yesterday. There was nothing like that on the stage today, but the director did demand lots of acting of a less undignified sort, and got it in abundance. The show came alive from the first minute, and stayed alive throughout. These young singers are being very well prepared for the sort of careers that most of them will surely have.
I’m looking forward to more RCM dress rehearsals, and hope one day soon to be seeing GD2 in one of them. I am reluctant to enthuse too much about her prospects. Just to say that her voice sounds like a pretty fine one to me, that her teachers and fellow students seem to agree about that, and that she seems to be working hard at learning how to make the best use of it. But, as yesterday’s teacher said, there are a lot of circumstances - some of which you can surely imagine and many of which you can hardly begin to imagine unless you also know one of these singers yourself - that can derail a classical singing career. So, fingers crossed.
I am still waiting for God. But when God returns, he will be different. Major internal organs will have been exchanged for faster and better ones, or that is the idea. But, the new dispensation is taking for ever to arrive.
A new name suggests itself, for the new computer, when I finally get it and get it going.
Late this afternoon I had another go photoing the Ballerina, the idea being to do this photo again, but better.
But then I noticed what comely wenches the statues below her were, photoed them, and then picked one and photoed her with a crane behind her:
What I like about her is that she looks so relaxed and happy about what she is doing, and for that matter about what she is wearing. Pavlova, dancing up above them, looks otherworldly and untouchable. The statues look like girls next door, but really nice looking. To be more exact, they look like the kind of girls you wish had lived next door, instead of the ones who actually did.
When I click on either of the above photos, I get the big versions rotated ninety degrees. All I can say about that for now is: my apologies. It is far too late at night for me to be working out why this happens. Does it happen for you? Comments would help, as would explanations of what I am doing wrong or what is going wrong, or whatever.
Taken a few minutes after I had taken this photo.
I should take that shot again, and get those spy cameras looking like they’re looking right at her.
This, you see, is why I like photoing in London, rather than in foreign parts. In foreign parts it is inconvenient to go back and take a picture again. In London, I can do this.
Trawling through the archives this evening, I came across this fine feline:
Photoed by me, in Battersea, about two months ago.
Back here in evil Britain, hundreds of black cats are being abandoned by their owners because, according to the Daily Mail, these black cats don’t look good in SELFIES (their capital letters):
Today the RSPCA announced a rise in the number of black cats being abandoned by their owners, and attributed it to them not photographing well.
A spokesman for the animal welfare charity said that more than 70 per cent of the 1,000 cats in its care were black, and blamed the trend for people taking pictures of themselves with their phones.
He said: ‘There are a number of reasons for us having so many black cats, including the fact that black animals tend not to photograph as well as other cats with more distinctive markings.
Other cats are also easier to tell apart, he said.
The spokesman added: ‘There is a national problem with rehoming cats of this colour.
‘We really are puzzled as to why this still happens but we would urge people to never judge a cat by its colour and look at its personality instead.’
This story is everywhere. I sense hostility towards digital photography, and in particular towards the evil practice of taking photos of yourself, an evil practice which now has its own word.
However, a selfie is when you take a photo of yourself. Owners are including themselves in their cat photos on incidentally. Often only the cat is in the picture. These photos are not being taken by cats, so they are not selfies.
Cats don’t take photos of themselves. If they had been caught doing this, on video for instance, I would definitely have learned about it and passed the news on to you people. All that is actually going on here is that black cat owners are finding it hard to photo their black cats and are consequently abandoning their black cats, and obtaining other cats, more like the one in my picture above, that are easier to photo. That’s a wicked enough story as it is, without misreporting it and put your mistake in capital letters. Socks, Daily Mail. Pull yours up.
Next up, an Italian shooting champion is on trial for using live cats as target practice. I sense hostility towards shooting champions, but it may just be towards Italians.
Finally, Cats is being revived, in the Millenium Centre, Cardiff:
The highlight of the evening was the singing which included lots of harmonies ...
Which is what you want. What with Cats being a musical show, consisting mostly of people dressed as cats, singing, and trying to be harmonious about it.
Rachel Howells continues:
Cats is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 9th August and includes many matinee showings so you have no excuses not to miss it.
Once again, we see the mainstream media getting their facts in a twist, this time because of faulty grammar. No excuses not to miss it? It would appear that, at least when it comes to their online content, the writing and/or editing at the South Wales Argus has gone to the dogs.
I am very fond of the ballerina statue at the top of the Victoria Palace Theatre. I recently photoed it with a red crane behind it, that being one of my favourite recent snaps.
This afternoon, I photoed it again, again with craneness:
From 1911, the year after its rebuilding to its present design by Frank Matcham, the Victoria Palace had a gilded statue of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova poised above it. This was owner Alfred Butt’s homage to the dancer he had spectacularly introduced to London.
The tribute was not appreciated by the superstitious ballerina, who would never look at her image as she passed the theatre, drawing the blinds in her car. The original statue was taken down for safety reasons in 1939 before the blitz and has completely disappeared. It is not known whether it is in someone’s garden or was turned to wartime military use, such as bullets.
The Victoria Palace moved into the new millennium with an adventurous building programme; enlarging the Foyer, WC facilities and increasing the dressing room space, whilst maintaining all the feel and character of a historic building.
In 2006, a replica of the original statue of Pavlova was reinstated to its original place above the cupola of the Victoria Palace and her gold-leafed figure once again gleams above us.
Blog and learn.
Back quite late from LLFF14, and too tired to say much about that now, other than that I am enjoying it very much. So here instead is a blatant quota photo of some painted people I snapped, down by the riverside, from Westminster Bridge, last Thursday, late afternoon:
It’s a tough life, having a painted face for a living. She’s saying: I’ll be home soon.
I thought about cropping this snap, but if in doubt, not, is my inclination on that.
Photoed by me today:
The golden dancing lady is the one on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre.
And here’s a really good photograph, to make up for the really bad photograph in the previous posting. I say really good photograph. What I mean is a photo taken by me that is okay, of a really good photograph, taken by a seriously Real Photographer. Limited edition, perfect paper, perfectly printed, framed, the works, worth hundreds of pounds:
Yes, it’s Dumbledore, making himself smile for the camera.
At the Do I attended last weekend, just after taking the photo in the previous posting, this photograph was one of the items being charitably auctioned.
This is the first charity auction I can remember attending. But, despite my ignorance of how to do such a Do, let me offer you a tip, for if you ever organise a charitable auction. Be sure to hand round a cash bucket immediately after the auction bit of the evening finishes, to enable all those who feel ridiculously guilty about not having bought any of the things being auctioned to part with a manageable amount of cash, without being encumbered with a unnecessary Thing, or worse, a Complicated Experience. If they had done that at this Do, I reckon they might have increased their money by twenty percent or more. They’d certainly have got twenty quid out of me.
When journeying across the river to Vauxhall, as I often do, I now tend to take the bus, in fact I have been doing this ever since I got my Old Git Pass.
Which means that I have tended to miss out on shots like these:
The circumstance which caused me to shun the bus, despite the extreme coldness of the weather, was all the drama to do with the – see immediately below - cranes.
The Shard one reminds me that I have been watching a lot of Wagner on DVD lately, specifically Gotterdamerung (add double dots to taste). Operas like Gotterdamerung bring out the worst in European stage directors and stage designers. They tend to set the thing, not in the mythic world indicated by Wagner, but in a modern aircraft hanger, space station, hydro-electric power station, typically rather run-down or collapsing.
The architectural clutter in the foreground is provided by a piece of New Brutalism that is now being demolished. Reinforced concrete sometimes looks at its most dramatic when they are trying to remove it. It really puts up a fight, doesn’t it?
Earlier this evening, or last night if you think today begins at 12 midnight (and has thus already begun) rather than when you get up next day (in which case for me it has not yet begun), I went to a Comedy Improv Evening, at the Leicester Square Theatre, in a small downstairs room. It was a laugh, which is what you obviously want with comedy.
The format was clever. They had a interviewer guy, who interviewed a borderline comedy celeb, and then a gang of comedy improvisers improvised comedy, taking their cues from what the celeb said. Then another borderline celeb, then more improv. Then a final borderline celeb, and a fnal dose of improv. It added up to just over an hour.
So, for instance, comedian Nish Kumar, borderline celeb one, talked about how he got a bit bored seeing his face on a poster everywhere in Edinburgh. Yeah, I know, a not very subtle way of saying: I’m doing okay, I’ve got my face up on posters in Edinburgh. But it was okay. And the improvisers did a thing about how Stalin got bored with his face being everywhere.
Then they had one of those women who had high hopes for herself, having trained herself to do Shakespeare and such, but who now has a job selling eyebrow trimmers or something similar on a TV shopping channel. She was really funny, switching between herself, so to speak, and herself doing her shopping channel spiel. And then they improvved a bunch of act-ors selling each other eyebrow trimmers, in the style of a Shakespeare comedy. How we all laughed.
Those were just two bits I happen to remember. There was lots of other stuff, and never once did I sneak any looks at my watch.
The final borderline celeb was an actor who had been in various movies, doing scenes with famous actors, many of which were cut out of the final movie. Ah the joy of hearing about the misfortunes of others.
It worked well. The borderline celebs got to put their faces about and to be used to get an audience together, but without them having to do lots of rehearsing. And the presumably less well-known performers get a bigger audience.
My two favourite performers, among the gang of improvvers I mean, were Joseph Morpurgo, and one of the ladies, called, although I could be wrong, Idil Sukan. If Idil Sukan was actually a different lady, no matter, because they were all good.
Recommended. But, alas, there is no run for you to go to a later performance in. There was just the one show, and the one I saw was it. Besides which, if you go to another show of theirs, it would be completely different, what with everything being improvised.
At the website of these amusing people, there is, on page one, at the moment, the plug for the show I just saw, already linked to above, with pictures of the three borderline celebs. Where it says What Monkey Toast Is, they describe what they do. (They certainly do not describe what monkey toast is and why they’re named after it.) But where it says “Upcoming Gigs”, there is currently nothing. So, no more shows fixed. But I don’t believe that this will be their last.
I don’t know why they’re called Monkey Toast. I’m guessing comedy troupes are like race horses, in that they have to be called something or other, but the main thing is not to take a name that’s already taken. So, you call it Purple Bilgewater or Our Daughter’s Wedding (a real pop group of former times, that one) or The Funny Peculiars, or some other daft thing that if googled gets you nowhere, simply because you have to call it something and can’t spend all your time arguing about what. As the comedy troupes multiply in number, the names get dafter and dafter, like with the horses.
This posting might have been funnier and shorter if I had worked harder at it instead of just stream-of-consciousness-ing it the way I actually did. But that way it would probably not have been written at all.
A ONE man show is coming to Thame.
Devised, written and starring professional actor Clive Woodward, You, Me, Colin and Helen will be on show at The Players Theatre in Thame on Saturday for one night only.
The show is based upon Clive’s experience as an actor who has worked on major feature films such as The Kings Speech, A Bunch of Amateurs starring Burt Reynolds and Brighton Rock, starring Dame Helen Mirren, TV programmes such as Spooks, Midsommer Murders and Lewis as well as theatre productions, a TV commercial, BBC Radio plays and corporate acting work in role play, films and live events.
Poor chap, having a famous name (which as an actor it would be most inconvenient for him to change), but not being the one who is famous for it.
It reminds me of the guy in Office Space whose name is Michael Bolton. His friends urge him to call himself “Mike” instead, but he refuses.
“Clive” can’t be shortened, or really changed at all. Clivey? I don’t think so.
I get emails every time Clive Woodward gets an internet mention, which is how I heard about this.
Patrick Crozier has just dropped by and says maybe most acting people don’t know who Clive Woodward is. Apart from being Clive Woodward the actor. Maybe so. Thank you Patrick. You just destroyed the point of this posting.
At the top of a London Tube escalator, an appropriate juxtaposition, n’est pas?
Indeed. Another snap taken last night, just before the big advert below:
I like the whiteness, the hinges, the signs, the bike at an odd angle, and the fact that (see sign on the right) that it’s the Noel Coward Theatre.
Here’s the sign, closer up:
Alas, we are once again up against the limits of what my camera can do in artificial light, which this was. Underneath “overbury” it says: “A passion for perfection”.
That bloody Tom Peters has got a lot to answer for.
Incoming from “Tony et famille”, who live in Quimper, Brittany:
I caught Caesar the cat in the act of sneezing on the hot tin roof of our car in Quimper.
According to the date embedded in this picture, this took place as long ago as September 7th 2009, or maybe even July 9th 2009. Yet did the mainstream media pay any attention to this sensational circumstance, either at the time or since? I googled “cat on hot tin roof” but all I got was a lot of drivel about a play. No wonder blogs are taking over the media world.
If you would like to use the pic in your blog the usual fee of 50000 Euros will apply ...
Fine. I’ll settle up in a couple of years, by which time a single figure clutch of our British pounds should more than suffice to obtain the appropriate brick of Euros.