Sunday, 28 October 2012

In Which There Is Some Great Acting (and Nakedness)

Having spent the morning listening to Rupert Everett talking about his new book, I then spent the evening at Bath Theatre Royal watching him, and others, in David Hare's play "The Judas Kiss"

It was a superb production.It covers two events; the hours at the Cadogan Hotel, immediately before Wilde's arrest for gross indecency, and a similar period at Wilde and Bosie's  home in Naples, immediately prior to their final separation.

Rupert Everett as Wilde
(photo from Bath Theatre Royal website)
Everett is completely convincing as Wilde: witty, satirical and an ultimately tragic figure. Calm in the face of his own impending arrest and disgrace, and Robbie's increasingly desperate attempts to persaude him to flee to the Continent while there is still time, he is moved to tears by the kindness of the Hotel servants.

 Toward the end of the play,we see him refuse his wife's demand to separate from Bosie (knowing this refusal will result in her stopping his allowance, leaving him penniless) only to learn that Bosie is abandoning him at his own family's behest - Bosie, characteristically, tries to disclaim any responsibility for anything which has happened, even going so far as to claim he was 'never an invert' (homosexual) "No," responds Wilde, dryly "Just a very good mimic"
Freddie Fox as 'Bosie' (from Theatre Royal website)

Although Freddie Fox's Bosie is so petulant, hypocritical and spoilt that it is a little hard to see why Wilde would have remained so devoted to him, he is very consistent, and convincing, and is also very beautiful, which of course could explain a good deal! Cal MacAninch was excellent as Robbie Ross, whose good sense, and enduring friendship for Wilde did not seem to be well rewarded, and was at times heartbreaking.

Oh, and the nakedness?  the maid and valet at the Cadogan, in Act One (taking advantage of Bosie's room while cleaning) And Bosie and Galileo (a fisherman of Naples) (Tom Colley), who sleeps with Bosie and makes conversation in Italian with Wilde.

It's ultimately a tragic play, but there are so many entertaining one-liners that it is easy to overlook this, for large chunks of the play.

It's now transferring to the West End, to the Richmond Theatre. It's well worth seeing, if you can manage it.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

In Which There is An Actor

I've written before about the nice people at Topping and Co Bookshop, and the events they organise - there was another one today - they had invited Rupert Everett along (to publicise the new volume of his autobiography, Vanished Years)

I've enjoyed seeing his work on screen, and I had, several months ago, booked to see him in 'The Judas Kiss', at the Theatre Royal, so the opportunity to meet him and hear about the book was too good to pass up!

When I bought my ticket, the event was going to be 'coffee and cake' at the bookshop, but it was obviously more popular than originally expected, as it was moved to the Forum's 'ballroom', which sadly also meant no coffee or cake (never mind. I still have lots of lovely, rich chocolate brownies made for me by my equally lovely (if less chocolatey) brother).

Everett was interviewed by (presumably)someone from the shop, and talked about Noel Coward, playing female roles while at his (all boys) school, and deciding he wanted to grown up to be an actress, and his unnerving experience appearing on the celebrity version of 'The Apprentice' - apparently he'd never seen the programme so didn't know what to expect, and started out deeply confused, having mistaken Alan Sugar for Sid James (which is impressive, as Sid James is dead) and then the horror began, as he found himself on a team with Alistair Campbell, Ross Kemp and Piers Morgan "I felt as if I'd fallen into Hell".

On a more serious note, he spoke about his father's death, the excellent care he had received, and his own assumption that he would die alone and uncared for, on account of not having a wife(!)

He was very complimentary about the Theatre Royal in Bath, and its acoustics, and very rude about journalists (with particular reference to a journalist who quoted him out of context, following Michael Jackson's death, resulting in his receiving death threats.)

In answer to questions from the floor, he said that his ambition is to be able to get the rights to,and produce a TV series of, Greene's 'Travels with my Aunt' ,that he always uses stunt doubles where appropriate, and that he is still insecure about finding work.

Rupert Everett, Bath
He was very entertaining, witty and self-deprecating, and was then chatty and friendly as he signed books for people after the interview.

I had fun. Even without the coffee or cakes.

Friday, 26 October 2012

In Which There Are Many Happy Things

The full title of the post should really be "In which there is family, and art and museums and friends and Rock and food and beer and meeting people and brownies and lots of fun" but that's a little too long.

You see, Wednesday was the day (night) that Amanda Fucking Palmer was performing in Manchester. when the tickets first went on sale, I had to decide between the London and Manchester shows, and picked Manchester because although it involved more travelling, I got to combine the gig with a visit to my brother, and to introduce him and his girlfriend to Amanda's music, which seemed like a good idea!

I drove up to Manchester in the morning, and was able to meet R for lunch (unfortunately, my visit coincided with the only-available-about-twice-year-and-very-useful training day he needed to do, so he couldn't take the afternoon off, which was a shame, but such is life. R works at the BBC, at Salford Quays. It was odd for me to visits the Quays, as they have changed almost beyond recognition since I lived in Manchester - the area was almost all industrial wasteland in my day...

After lunching, I went to look around the Imperial War Museum North -which has exhibitions relating to modern warfare, and in particular to the impact of war, so there were exhibits about victims of shell shock, and trench warfare, and about prisoners of war, and victims of concentration camps, (and those who were involved in liberating them) as well as about more recent events such as the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks. Not an uplifting experience, but both interesting and thought-provoking.

A little later, after nipping back to R's house to drop off my stuff and park my car, I got a tram into Manchester and spent half an hour in the Manchester Art Gallery. I only had time to visit a small part of it, but it was nice. They have some lovely Victorian decor - I liked the fishes and bees, for instance...

There are also some quite nice pictures - I didn't get as far as the Lowrys, but I did see the William de Morgan tiles, which were always a favourite of mine, and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of old and new art - the butterflies are by an artist called Claire Brewster, and are all cut from ordnance survey maps... I liked them a lot!

I didn't get to stay long, as the gallery closes at 5, and I then had to leave, after which I met up with R and his girlfriend, J, for supper (an American themed meal, involving milkshakes)

and then it was time to head to the cathedral. We went via Sinclair's Oyster Bar, which is a lovely looking half-timbered building (built in 1720, and moved a few hundred yards, after the 1996 IRA bomb and subsequent redevelopment of the area) We had some rather nice beer, and met up with my friend Hellie, who was also heading the the gig.

And so - the main event!

AFP watching the stage
I have been to Manchester Cathedral before, for services, but never for a gig - it made for a pretty awesome space.

 Once inside, we spotted Laurie Pink and Essers (which was good, because it turned out that Twitter had been hiding their DM's from me, when we were trying to work out if we could meet up!)

They had cunningly spotted that there was space to stand around the side of the stage, where there was a good view! So we did standing there, too.  There was some brass band going on at the other end of the nave , then the vicar came to welcome everyone. I suspect he doesn't get massive applause and cheering on a Sunday morning, generally...
Friendly vicar says hello

Jherek Bishoff
Then there was music. Jherek Bischoff played - including a piece called 'Cistern' which, he explained, was written in an empty, underground water cistern and rarely performed, but the cathedral seemed an appropriate space to try it in (for the record, it really, really, worked!)

After the second opening act, Amanda Palmer started her own set (having introduced the others) with an a capella version of 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley', sung from the top of the (medieval) rood screen, above an array of painted angels. It was stunning.

She then came down onto the main stage and was, well, Amanda Fucking Palmer. Most of the show involved songs from the new album,  Theatre is Evil, but we also got 'Leeds United'..

It was an awesome night. We didn't stay for the post-show ninja encore outside the cathedral, on account of having to catch the last tram home, but even without it I was on a high.

And when we got back to the house, R revealed that he had specially baked some chocolate brownies for me, as a bleated birthday treat, and he & J stuck candles in them and sang 'Happy Birthday' to me at midnight, which made for a lovely, if slightly surreal end to the day. (plus, I got a whole lot of delicious brownies to bring home)

(more photos, as usual, on flickr

Monday, 22 October 2012


It's less exciting than theatre trips and museums and conventions, but the other thing which I've been doing recently, is to try to de-clutter a bit, and to try to bring myself to get rid of all at least some of the things that I don't use, but have been keeping 'in case they come in handy' or because they still work.

I managed to make a bit of progress this weekend - I was spurred into action by the fact that I'd said I'd take some books for the BristolCon free books table, which was an incentive to sort through my 'books I have very nearly decided to pass on to new homes. any time now, honest' pile, and took one big carrier bag full of SF&F books on Saturday (I looked at the table about an hour before I left, and they seemed to have all been taken, which is good. I like to think they'll all have found loving new homes!).

Sorting through to decide which books were suitable for a Con also gave me the chance to check the status of the other books in the heap, and to sort out 2 further bags full, one of which went to the Oxfam bookshop in Bath this morning, and the other (mostly hardbacks, and some 'as new' YA paperbacks) which is going to go to the library next time I can catch it being open.

I also spent some time on Sunday going through my bathroom cupboard and have binned all the old, part used stuff which I haven't used in the past 12 months, and have sorted the things I'm keeping so that the cupboard is better organised, and, hopefully,I shall be inspired to keep it that way. (Monday was dustbin day, so it's too late for me to change my mind!)

I need to go through my wardrobe and get rid of the things I never wear (or most of them), and free up some space for the things I actually do wear, and then I think the next thing is probably the Cupboard under The Stairs, which has depths I haven't plumbed for years. I should have installed shelving when I first moved in, before I started putting stuff in it. I suspect that if it were properly organised, it'd would probably only be about half full.

I still need to do a lot more work. And this will, I think, include further thinning of the books, but I feel like I have made a good start.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


The 4th annual BristolCon took place yesterday, and this was my 3rd year as an attending member. I didn't get into Bristol quite as early as I'd hoped (thank you, projectile-vomiting cat), so missed the 1st panels, but once I was there, I enjoyed myself.
Stephanie Burgis

I attended several panels, ranging from one about toilets (and other bodily functions) in space, to Women in Sensible Armour, to apocalypses and Steampunk.(separately. There wasn't a steampunk-Apocalypse panel, or of there was, I missed it!)

I also went to the launch party for Stephanie Burgis's new book - 'A Reckless Magick', which is the third in her Regency & Magic series. It was good to meet Stephanie and to hear her read a little from the book, and the wine and home-made cookies were excellent, too!

I was lucky enough to sign up in time to attend the kaffeeklatch with Philip Reeve and Moira Young (at which Ben Jeapes was also a guest) and enjoyed the opportunity to hear them discuss their books and writing styles in a smaller, more informal setting.

Next year's BristolCon will be a week later, which I think will put it on 26th October.

(more photos on flickr)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

In Which there is a comedian

Since I signed up for Toppings of Bath's mailing list, I keep getting invitations to see all sorts of interesting people.

On Tuesday evening I went to the Assembly Rooms, in Bath, to see David Mitchell. I haven't been to the Assembly Rooms for years, and I had forgotten what an impressive set of rooms they are. We were in the ballroom. It does make one feel that one ought to be wearing an empire line dress and carrying a reticule, ready to exchange witticisms with Captain Wentworth or Mr Darcy. However, no dashing Regency gentlemen were to be seen, so we all settled down to wait to hear from Mr Mitchell.

He started by explaining that he is not David Mitchell the novelist, author of 'Cloud Atlas', and asked whether anyone had attended by mistake (one person admitted to having done so)...

This David Mitchell is the comedian - I am mostly familiar with him for being one half of 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' (one of my favourites is here). He has now written his autobiography, Back Story, and read several passages from it, in the course of an interview.

It's probably not a surprise to hear that it is funny...

David explained that he had been going to write a misery memoir, but didn't really have any terrible traumatic childhood experiences to base one on (except for the lobster incident, obviously..)

He read passages from the book about the lobster incident, about his school and about his early experiences as an actor, before answering questions from the audience.

I think the book will be well worth reading, and of course you can also read David's weekly columns in the Observer newspaper.

Thursday, 18 October 2012


I spent the weekend in Dublin, for Octocon, and had a wonderful time.

I arrived (later then planned, due to Aer Lingus) on Friday, and met up with friends SpacedLaw and Raven Books for a meal (and lots of conversation)

The Con started on Saturday, but I skipped the opening ceremony and morning panels, and headed to the National Gallery of Ireland, where I spent a happy hour or so wandering around. They have a Caravaggio, Fra Angelico, an early Van Gogh and a Picasso. I also enjoyed finding some less familiar artists - they Gallery has several works by Jack Butler Yeats - I particularly like the latter, more impressionistic works.('For the Road' was my favourite)

Trinity College
 I also wandered through Trinity College and admired their public art works -

My afternoon at the convention included attending the GoH interview with Liz Williams,and panels about alternate histories, heroism and stoicism, not to mention time spent catching up with friends old and new.

The evening brought a meal out with SpacedLaw, Anabel (and her cousin) and  Ian Sharman at the wonderful 'JoBurger'
Brian J Showers, Deirdre Thornton and R.F. Long - Roots of Irish Fantasy Panel

On Sunday there were lots more panels - everything from the roots of Irish fantasy (Ruth Long had some wonderfully insane books from early 20th C writers) to writing about cultures not your own, when and how a writers words or actions in 'real' life impact on whether you can enjoy his books.

There may also have been quite a large amount of sitting around in the lobby having conversations with other attendees. It was fun.

Spacedlaw and I wound up the evening at The Winding Stair, which is a restaurant with its own bookshop. Or possibly a bookshop with its own restaurant. Either way, the food and wine were delicious.

On Monday morning there was just time to head over to Blackrock to visit Louisa at Raven Books, (and inevitably, to buy some books, before heading back to the airport for my flight home.

It was a lovely weekend, and (as you can see from the pictures) it was even sunny for about half the time!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

In Which There is a Very Nice Man

Michael Palin has been described as the 'Nicest Man in Britain'. I didn't actually meet him, so cannot vouch for his over all niceness, but he is certainly a very entertaining speaker.

He was in Bath on Wednesday evening, promoting his new BBC series, and book, Brazil. He gave us a whistle-stop tour of the country, and visited everyone from Amazonian tribes-people to street poets and the biggest gay pride march imaginable (in which he rode on the Transsexuals'/Transvestites' float, looking and feeling a little under dressed!)

He came across at the talk, in a very similar way to the way he comes across in his TV shows - friendly, self-deprecating, and  amusing. Had the queue been shorter, or the event on a Friday or Saturday evening, I would have stayed and perhaps bought a book to have signed,. As it is, I shall wait and watch the series (which I gather starts in about 2 weeks)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

In Which There Are More Writers

It's been a busy weekend.

On Friday I had tickets for another Bath Kids Lit. Fest event - an event with Johan Harstad, a Norwegian novelist and playwright whose first YA novel, 172 Hours on the Moon has recently been translated and published in English.

I was only able to stay for the first half of the event, as I also had a ticket for the theatre, and I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer. Johan explained that he had been asked to write a book to be given away to children as part of a cultural festival, and that the book turned out more frightening than originally expected, so ended up being distributed to older children than originally planned.

He spoke about his love of horror movies and books, and claimed that his intention in writing the novel was to cause people to be scared of the Moon... I haven't read the book yet, but I think it will be interesting!

from Bath Theatre Royal website
 (Mr Rushworth)
After leaving that event, I walked up to the theatre to see 'Mansfield Park', in a new adaptation fr the stage. I love Austen, but admit that 'Mansfield Park' is my least favourite of her works, partly, I think because it was a set book (with an uninspiring teacher) at A-Level, but also because I find it so hard to identify with Fanny Price, one of literature's wet blankets.

This production has slimmed down the cast of characters - there is no Mr Norris, No Julia Bertram, No Mr Yates, and Dr Grant, Mrs Grant and Lady Bertram do not appear on stage. The play moves quickly, and there is a good deal of humour, but perhaps inevitably, a lot of the nuances are lost.

Most importantly, Edmund's kindnesses to Fanny are limited to providing her with paper to write to her brother, when she first arrives, and ensuring that she is included in the trip to Sotherton, which, combined with his infatuation with Mary Crawford made it hard to see what Fanny saw in him....

However, despite this, the play is entertaining and witty. I may even go back and re-read the novel again.

Michael Morpurgo
On Saturday, I was back in Bath for 2 Kids Lit events, and a separate one run by Toppings (on of Bath's two wonderful independent bookshops)

The first event was Michael Morpurgo, who is the author of 'War Horse', and over 100 other books - his event was at the Forum, which started life as a (fabulously Art Deco) cinema - there were around 1,000 there, more than half of them children.

He spoke about the inspiration for 'War Horse', and claimed that the reason that many of his books feature characters called 'Michael' is because he is "deeply unimaginative". He also commented that there ought to be a requirement to have spent time as a teacher before they could become Education Secretary, and got the biggest cheer of the day!

It was clear that the children in the audience were enjoying themselves, and that Michael was as well!

Anthony Horowitz
Later on, I returned to the Forum for the event with Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider books, and of a series, Power of Five, which he has just completed by writing the 5th and final book, Oblivion. 

Horowitz came across as very enthusiastic about his work, and talked not only about the Alex Rider books, and Power of Five, but also about his TV work on Foyle's War, and about writing the Sherlock Holmes sequel, A Touch of Silk, It was entertaining, but I was left feeling it was all a bit superficial.

The final event which I attended was not part of the Kids Lit Fest, but the separate 'autumn book festival' which Toppings books are involved with. They had arranged for radio 4 presenter, James Naughtie, to come to speak about his book, The New Elizabethans. 

The book is a series of 60 essays, each of which started as the script for a  15 minute radio programmer. Each  essay is about a person (or persons) who are seen as 'new Elizabethans', so they are all people who are, or were, famous or extraordinary during the 60 years of the Queen's reign.

The 'Elizabethans' were selected by a panel, from nominations sent in to Radio 4 by listeners, and ranged from Sir Edmund Hillary, to Sir David Attenborough, to Jocelyn Bell Burnell, to others who were perhaps more unexpected - Simon Cowell, for instance...

Naughtie read several short extracts from the essays, and talked a little about some of the challenges - writing to a very tight deadline, writing about  people whom he knew personally, and so forth. I'm glad a went, although sadly I did have to leave just before the end, in order to catch my train home.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

In Which Shakespeare Happens

Sometimes you have to wait for the Good Things to happen. Way back in February, I saw Stephen Fry tweet that he was going to be appearing at the Globe Theatre, in Twelfth Night, in the autumn. So I rushed off to the theatre's website, booked a pair of tickets, and then asked my friend J if she'd like to meet up and go with me. And then we waited for 8 months, and on Wednesday we both travelled to London to meet up and see the show.

We had tickets for the matinee performance, so had also take the opportunity to book tickets for the British Museum's exhibition 'Shakespeare - Staging the World'.
'The Long View' -Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647
The exhibition uses Shakespeare's life and works as a prism through which to look at the world he lived in, and London in particular, and brings together some fascinating articles, interspersed with videos of actors (including Anthony Sher and Paterson Joseph) performing extracts from some of the plays.

There were maps of London, tapestries of Warwickshire, a 1st Folio, an actual page in Shakespeare's own hand (part of a play about Sir Thomas More) as well as other items with less immediate connections to Shakespeare - including a hand bill for a bear pit (and the skull of a bear!) the eye of Edward Oldcorne (executed for alleged involvement in the Gunpowder Plot)

Reliquary containing right eye of Edward Oldcorne, 1606
And the Funeral Achievements of Henry V (including a decorative shield which is believed to date from the late 1300s - it's just amazing to think that this could have survived so long.

I had slightly mis-calculated how long stuff would take us, so we ended up having to run the last bit to the Globe in order to avoid being late for the start of the show!

We were seated in the upper gallery, which (as the name suggests) is right up at the top of the theatre, but we had great seats (or rather, spaces on the wooden bench!) - right at the front.
View from our seats, during the interval
The show was excellent - it's a very traditional version of the play, with an all-male cast, and full period costume. Mark Rylance (Olivia) was the complete, upper-class lady - dead white make up, huge farthingale - very much the great lady, rather than the young, naive girl she is sometimes played as.
(Photo Nigel R Barklie/Rex)
Olivia glides across the stage (rather like the ladies in 'Trumpton'), making 3-point turns when she needs to turn or sit. There are occasional moments where she slipped over in to pantomime dame, but they were infrequent.

Samuel Barnett's Sebastian and Johnny Flynn's Viola were superb -they were dressed in identical white doublets and hose, with long hair, and managed to make their mistaken identity became believable.
 Liam Brennan's Orsino was very convincing in his (slightly uncomfortable) attraction to 'Cesario'.

Stephen Fry's Malvolio presented as a dry, pedantic bureaucrat, less malignant than the character is sometimes presented as being, arrogant and awkward in his hopes of affection from Olivia, and pitiable in his imprisonment.
taking a bow
In all, it was a highly enjoyable piece of theatre, and while the run at the Globe was fully sold out and has, I think, now ended, the play is transferring to the West End - I'd say it's well worth booking tickets,  if you can. And I very much hope that having returned to the stage after so long, Stephen Fry will be considering more productions in future.