Aberdeen Man Lost At Sea

Up til now I’ve resisted  the temptation to comment on David Tennant’s back injury and his replacement as Hamlet by understudy Edward Bennett, for fear of looking like a Tennant-obsessive.

However, this headline made me laugh so much that I had to share it.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark?  Ah, that’ll be the silage…

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The One With The Ribbon Drawer

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I think I’ve always liked to have my preferences and prejudices confirmed by what I watch or read.  ‘I wish I’d written that’ I might think while reading a particularly incisive piece of prose.  I hurl abuse at the television and radio when a speaker I disagree with comes on and enjoy a quiet satisfaction when a TV drama accurately reflects my own experience.  The fact that, for me at least, Jonathan Ross will never be the film critic that Barry Norman is has nothing to do with the recent media storm surrounding ‘Sachsgate’ and everything to do with their respective tastes in films.  I’m not sure if what I watch and read defines who I am or if who I am defines my preferences and I’m not even sure I want to spend time unravelling a piece of psychobabble like that.

I’m not sure either that I want to see my life reflected in what I watch anymore.  Let me explain.

The other night I was watching an episode of Friends which, since it aired for the ‘last ever’ time about four years ago has been on one TV channel or another every day since.  This particular episode was one I hadn’t seen before (I’m not what you’d describe as a die-hard fan) and involved Chandler having to tell Monica, his new bride, that as he’d just lost his job, it may not be the best time to try for the baby she wants so much.  Monica, for those of you unfamiliar with the show, is a slightly neurotic, housework obsessive – about as different from me as it’s possible to be, I’d say and yet as Chandler’s explanation unfolded I began to feel a little uncertain.  To console Monica, Chandler appeals to this very obsessiveness.  A baby, he points out, would need a lot of kit and slowly it begins to dawn on Monica that having a baby might not be without drawbacks.  What if, she speculates, the baby got into the ribbon drawer and messed up all the ribbons?  What if, oh horrors, there was no room for a ribbon drawer because the baby’s stuff took up so much room?!

And there it was.  The ribbon drawer.  Clearly, to emphasise the fact that Monica is neurotic, obsessive and just a leetle bit crazy, the scriptwriters had chosen to give her a ribbon drawer, surely something only a sad Jenny-No-Mates would have?

So, now that I’ve tidied my own ribbon drawer and the ribbons are all in nice, colour co-ordinated bundles, I’m off to watch Adam Sandler’s entire back catalogue while reading the Daily Mail.

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A Touch of the DTs

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I’m a worrier by nature and, having booked tickets for the RSC’s most recent production of Hamlet eleven months in advance, I’ve had plenty of time to worry about whether my trip to Stratford with Daisy (her birthday present) would be a success.

First things first.  My worries about the travel arrangements and accommodation were unfounded.  Stratford is not the easiest of places to get to from Edinburgh but, if you don’t mind changing trains twice in central Birmingham and the whole thing taking longer than it takes to get from Edinburgh to London, its painless.  We lucked out with our choice of guest house – I’d unhesitatingly recommend White Sails to anyone visiting Stratford, especially for a special occasion.

However, as the man himself says ‘the play’s the thing’ but, here again, my worries were groundless.  Gregory Doran’s modern dress production was presented with minimal set (although many of the props were lavish) so the performances really had to stand up.  And, my God, they did.  Patrick Stewart as Claudius is a study in urbane restraint.  His style of rule is contrasted with Old Hamlet’s, showing that whereas Old Hamlet was a warrior king, Claudius is a politician, resolving conflict through diplomacy.  In an age where British politicians are allegedly less trusted than at any time in history, this approach to Caludius’ character, upon whose deception and treachery the play turns, gives a fresh, contemporary relevance to the proceedings.  Humour is not something immediately associated with Hamlet but Oliver Ford-Davies’ performance as Polonius, which plays on that character’s long-winded wordiness, is genuinely laugh out loud funny.  In Act 1, while doling out advice to Laertes on how to dress and conduct himself abroad, he plucks a gaudy silk handkerchief out of his son’s breast pocket and, shaking his head, hands it to Ophelia.  At the end of the speech, he presses some money into Laertes’s hand as a final farewell before turning away.  There follows a lovely little bit of business between Ophelia and Laertes, her giving him the handkerchief and him giving her the money, smiling knowingly at each other all the while.  The fact that this takes place behind Polonius’s back neatly underlines the amused affection they have for their father.  I have read some comments from other theatregoers suggesting that Polonius is presented as a diminished figure of fun, but I have to disagree.  As someone in her mid-forties, I thought that the attitudes of the younger characters towards Polonius (everything from amused affection to sarcastic disdain) rang all too true and that far from diminishing Polonius, presented him in a sympathetic, humane light.

As for David Tennant, he is, quite simply, superb.  I know, I know, as a long-time fan I would say that but he truly is.  His Hamlet is tortured by his grief but in no way over-played – I swear the tension in the auditorium was palpable – and manic in his ‘madness’.   His powers as a mimic – he is after all an actor who has built the bulk of his reputation playing in an accent other than his own – are also used to good effect.  He apes the speech patterns and affectations of those around him in a way which is simultaneously funny and incisive. He is possibly never better than during the ‘play-within-the-play’ – while most of the court looks on in bemusement, Hamlet needles and provokes Claudius until we see Claudius realise that the game is up but, ever the consummate politician, he holds things together (just) until the end of the scene, leaving Hamlet exultant.  For me, David Tennant has always been an actor who could provoke the full spectrum of emotions in an audience and he didn’t disappoint although I didn’t actually shed tears (I was in the company of my daughter, who frowns on such behaviour!)

As for those who say that Tennant’s casting is just a cynical attempt to appeal to those reviled groups: the young and the ‘light-entertainment’ audience, I would like to point out that ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, which we also saw and is a TFP*, had a much higher proportion of youngsters in its audience.  Quite frankly though, anything or anyone who can entice the young and non-theatre-goers into theatres is a Very Good Thing, in my book.

Oh, and Daisy had a wonderful time too!  My only problem now is: how do I top this next year?!

 

*Tennant-free production.

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Separated By A Common Language.

You all know how much fun can be had from laughing at old people complaining about how certain words meant something different ‘in their day’? ‘When I was young, gay meant happy’ that kind of thing?

Now imagine you’re at a 13th birthday party.  The birthday girl (she might be your daughter) has just finished opening all her presents.  Keen to see what she’s received, you say:

‘Come on then, show me your booty.’

Cue gales of teenage laughter and a mock-shocked ‘Mother! Please!

Well, when was young…

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Bleurgh!!!

Hands up anyone who’s ever gone on holiday to mainland Europe and, while there, sniggered at an example of pidgin English on, say, a restaurant menu?  OK, so that’s most of us, right?

Well, it would seem that in keeping with a desire to embrace all aspects of continental café culture, the Brits are racing ahead in the “incomprehensible English on a menu” stakes*.  I recently came across this example on a menu in a Premier Inn in York:

Beefburger – 10oz served in a floured bun, topped with salad leaves, tomato and red onion, served with sauteéd button mushrooms, grilled tomato and skin on frits. (Their punctuation and spelling, my italics).

What can they mean?

 

* Having just read this post over here, I feel a bit of a loser for posting this, but I hadn’t posted anything for a while and, frankly, I had nothing else!

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Meanwhile Back At Crime Wave Central…

I would just like to make it clear to the Fates or whoever it is that governs the turn of events that, when I wished for inspiration for a blog post, I did not mean another break-in!

Honestly, can there be anything more embarrassing than having the same police forensic team come to dust your house for fingerprints twice in the space of six months?  Same window (although this time smashed to smithereens)  Still, this time we have a witness and there were blood stains on the window frame, so potential for a DNA match. and all they got was our crappy old laptop (which leaves us with only this even crappier old desktop).

That’s five police call-outs we’ve had this year.  Perhaps we should add the local station to our “Friends and family” list?

Sigh.

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Role Reversal

Every few months there’s an article in the press or an item on the news warning already worried parents about the all the weirdos out there, in cyberspace, just waiting to groom their children online before luring them to some dubious location where unspeakable things will undoubtedly happen to them*.

What I want to know is, where are the corresponding articles advising middle-aged “children” on the best course of action to take when their parents start arranging meetings with people they’ve met online?!

Tomorrow, I’m accompanying my dad to Rosslyn Chapel (not an especially dodgy location!) to meet a couple of German ladies he’s been chatting to online.

I’m really quite proud of him.

 

*I’m not trying to make light of the awful things that do occasionally happen, it’s just that the press coverage of this particular subject really annoys me.

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