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Spooks is the most well-made, intelligent, flawlessly acted series the BBC has ever made in my humble opinion. The premise of the series is that it follows the lives of its three main protagonists, Tom Quinn, Danny and Zoe, played by Matthew McFayden, David Oweyelo and Keeley Hawes, all officers within the aforesaid MI5. Each week there is some serious risk to national security that these three contend with. Not wishing to give any of the plots away for those who have yet to see them, the issues are always extremely contemporary and relevant to what is happening now in the UK and the world. For example, there has been immigration issues, northen ireland correlation, the USA and terrorism, to name but a few. While on the subject of the scripts, there is an irony here, in that in one respect, the scripts are incredibly pertinent seeing as they were written a long time before they were broadcast, for which all credit to the various writers, yet conversely some of the episodes contain some of the most ludicrous dialogue ever written. This does not detract from the shows excellence though, needless to say! While still on this aspect of the series, one might imagine that there would be only so many plots concerning MI5 that the creative team could come up with in terms of credible, great television, yet the fact that the second series has just ended after ten episodes, with a third in the making already, refutes this possible criticism. Furthermore i would suggest that they get better and better as time goes on, so one awaits the third series with baited breath. The series is set in London mainly with there of course being other locations used as well, and the filming of the capital especially is breathtaking. There are many stunning frames overlooking the Thames from the South Bank, and indeed the South Bank from the opposite side of the river where the MI5 headquarters are situated. On the subject of the acting, the aforemen
tioned Hawes, McFadyen and Oweleyo and Peter Firth act with such ease and perfection that they out-act many of their contemporaries. There are also strong performances throughout from Jenny Agutter, Nicola Walker and Shauna Madconald, to name but a few. What is so special about Spooks for me? Firstly it is the most exciting series i've ever seen. The action is incredibly fast-moving, with the full impact of events only making complete sense in the last few minutes, thus keeping you on tenterhooks the whole hour. A large part of the pleasure for me derives from the interaction between all the characters in the programme and how this develops over time. The writing and acting is so human and often very touching, leaving me breathless at the end of each week from the mass of emotions i've experienced. The portrayals of life within the security service are also very vivid and seemingly accurate, though of course the humdrum aspects of work would perhaps be more so in real life. It is interesting to note that applications for jobs within MI5 have apparently risen enormously on the back of this series, and frankly i can totally understand that. This is again a point of high credit for the makers of this programme, in that despite many of the negative aspects of such a career being brought to life so vividly, they have made it look so appealing. I hope this opinion has given you some idea of what Spooks is like and that it may tempt you to watch it. I have purposefully not given away any of the plots, as i do not like spoilers personally. I'm sorry if this annoys some people and leads to a far less interesting opinion. For information, as mentioned in passing earlier, there have been two series of Spooks so far, the second one having just finished a few weeks ago, with the first now available to buy. There is also a very good website accompayning this series, which can be found at www.bbc.co
.uk/spooks with all sorts of facts about how the scripts were devised, about life within MI5 and all sorts of other things relating to the series. Highly highly recommended, and needless to say, i anxiously await next year and series three. I always love getting feedback of any sort, so please comment if you read this op, as this is what dooyoo is all about. Thanks Sean
Whatsonstage.com is quite simply a superb website! To elaborate: this website is a place where you can find out about everything that is happening and everything that is likely to happen in the theatre world, as the name implies. It is totally up-to-date, if not ahead of date, so to speak. Things are posted as news as soon as they are announced. For instance in the last few days they have revealed that Matthew Perry(Chandler in Friends) and Minnie Driver are to star in Sexual Perversity in Chicago at the Comedy theatre and that in a mere five weeks time the lovely Kristin Scott Thomas will be in Three Sisters at the Playhouse theatre. It is clear from their exclusive announcements that the people that run this website have many important contacts within the theatrical world, which makes the site very reliable. These are just some of the titbits that can be found out at a moments glance on this website. Here is the exhaustive list of what this website has to offer to all those interested in theatre, dance and musicals: They rightly call themselves the Home of British theatre at the top of the page that loads initially. At the top of the page is the breaking news section. Today, for example, the Laurence Olivier Award Winners were posted as soon as they had been announced at the awards ceremony. Then comes the prizes and offers section- in this section there are fantastic ticket deals to a whole range of shows in the West End and further afield. At the bottom is a link to the competitions they run. These are always good competitions, some of which are first night tickets to new shows, tickets to award ceremonies, copies of signed books and so forth. They are very easy to enter, you simply have to click on the link at the bottom and fill in some information and sometimes answer a question related to the prize(the answer is always somewhere in the literature about the competition!) This area of the website is highly recomm
ended for anyone interested in theatre. Underneath this section currently is a section called Theatregoers Awards. This is run every year and gives all theatregoers the chance to vote for their favourite show, actor, venue and so forth. These awards are highly valued within the industry, another testament to the excellence of the site. This section will change periodically, with there always being something for the public to get involved with. Then come the reviews of new shows. Shows are reviewed across the country by the whatsonstage team, and are normally worth a read if you're seeing a show. They're informative, well-written and although they're only one persons' opinion, they're normally on a par with the national critics. There is also a section of this part where users can post their own reviews, which as we know from here, we all love to do! There is also an event calendar for the forthcoming months-this can be searched in terms of just months, or more specifically by town or city. This will bring up a list of all known shows due to open in that town or city. Most major cities and towns are listed here. This is also a very useful part of the site for planning and finding out when things are visiting your area of the country. Lastly in the main section of the main page is a feature of the week. This week it is a feature on 'the most famous theatre in the world', being the Old Vic theatre, where it was recently announced that Kevin Spacey would be the new Artistic Director. A real must for all obsessive theatregoers is the section called The Goss. In this area, predictions( which i think must come from pretty much the horses' mouth!) for future stars, shows and so on are posted. Having been an avid user of this website for the last few years, i can say that most of the information predicted within The Goss actually does happen, so this area is highly recommended.
Other services they offer are hotel bookings, restaurant booking, package booking. There is a part called New York Nights, for any of you planning a trip to NY. There is a seating plan function, where you can search for information about a specific venue or play or town and the relevant information will be displayed. There is also a section called The Big Debate, where a topical issue is discussed by anyone interested. You can post your views and write comments about other peoples' views, rather like dooyoo. Each week there is a section called 20 questions, where a star of a show is asked about information relating to their life and the production. These are very interesting and quite revealing. There is a link to many of the previous weeks stars too. One of my favourite sections of the website is the information relating to the Whatsonstage outings that they have. For many of the big name shows, the site organises one outing, with cheap tickets and programmes and normally a question and answer session after the show with either the director or cast or both. These normally sell out very quickly. I haven't actually ever been on one of these outings yet, due to work and other commitments, but i know many people that have and they sound like a fantastic way to meet fellow theatregoers, see a show for cheaper than normally and meet the creative team. It may seem bizarre that this is one of my favourite sections having never been, but i intend to as soon as time allows, and i always check to see when each outing is, and am always very jealous to hear about them from my friends! Again, highly recommended for any fans of theatre and stars! There are no doubt parts of the site i haven't mentioned, but i think i've outlined the main benefits. Whats more, all this is totally free to search. You can also subscribe for free to a weekly newsletter, which will be emailed to you every tuesday with all the main news and
reviews from theatreland, for those of you that may not be able to visit it frequently. All in all, this website beats all competitors like Theatrenow, handsdown. For a comprehensive guide to what is happening in theatre, there is no equal. P.s Apologies for the length of the review, but to do this site any justice, this really is necessary. Happy hunting and seeing.
Strangely i didn't like earl grey as i was growing up, despite the fact that my parents drsnk it. In hindsight i know why that is, it was the brand they drank- i will return to this later on! Twinings Earl Grey tea in this country comes in various formats- there are boxes of fifty and a hundred bags( why so few, we need an industrial box!), there is loose tea and there is also iced tea. Prices vary according to where this product is purchased, but the larger box is normally under three pounds and the loose tea under a pound. This is quite reasonable, when compared to other comparable brands, and is well worth it due to its fabulous taste! Twinings earl grey tea comes from China, and is infused with bergamot oil, commonly found in bergamot oranges and other citrus fruits. It is the bergamot that for me is the defining quality of this lovely tea. Other brands clearly use different types of this oil, and i will refer to this later on. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the history, i will briefly outline it ( fear not, it will be brief). Legend has it that the second Earl was given the recipe for this tea whilst in China in the sixteenth century, and that it has been used ever since. Four centuries of making tea is some accolade, and rightly deserved too. Everyone drinks tea according to their own tastes of course, but most people drink it black or with a little milk. It is not a strong tea and has a number 1 strength, so the more milk the weaker the colour. I drink mine with milk normally. Some people say that they only drink earl grey at specific times of the day, but i have to admit to drinking it all the time, although i do like assam too occassionally. Here's a question that you fellow dooyooers can perhaps answer for me-it is commonly acknowledged i believe that most people do not take lemon with their earl grey, yet in every restaurant or tea shop i go into, i am
asked if i would like lemon? As regards a comparison of twinings with other brands, i find i am always interested in tasting other varieties. Most of the supermarket own brands are about the same price or slightly lower than Twinings, but the taste is bitterer. This is probably because the tea is sourced from countries other than China, and the types of bergamot oil vary. As regards other brands of a comparable standard to Twinings, these vary widly. I recently bought a packet of Dilmah Single Estate earl grey, and found a wider array of citrus fruits in the taste. A disappointing type was Fortnum and Masons, with a very weak flavour- how they can claim to call it earl grey is quite a puzzle, and they are vastly more expensive too. So i remain with Twinings, although the quest continues a pace for one that exceeds this superb quality. Twinings is a very English brand, and encapsulates much of what people think represents Englishness. I am always mocked at work for bringing in my own tea, something that always intrigues me. I find that many places don't sell earl grey of any sort, and abroad, it is often hard to find. There is something wrong with this picture................and i must go amend it! For those of you who haven't tried it, i would highly recommend this tea as a refreshing alternative to whatever you currently drink.
I went to Sadlers Wells Theatre for the first time last friday, to see Opera North's production of Sweeney Todd, and was very pleasantly surprised with both the venue and the even more so, the production! The venue is situated in Islington in London, the nearest tube being Angel, which can be accessed via the Northern Line and the Victoria line as well as frequent bus links from central london.It is very close to Kings Cross and Euston main line train stations too. From the tube station it is literally a few minutes walk. Upon exiting from Angel, there is only one exit, the theatre is reached by turning left and then carrying straight on past the traffic lights for a few minutes. You can actually see the top of the building as you approach it. Unlike many theatres, the foyer is spacious and welcoming, so even though hundreds of people were congregating in the foyer when i went, it was still uncrowded, which was lovely. I work at the RSC in Stratford, which for any of you who have been will know, is quite the opposite, therefore this was bliss! On Friday, and i imagine, normally, there were lots of ushers floating around to assist, were their assistance required, and they were friendly and welcoming. This again, i found charming. As an aside, i think these people were just the kind of person i would employ, were i ever to be employed in such a capacity. The ushers and box office staff were clearly there as a result of an interest in the arts, which is, to my mind, a crucial pre-requisite for working in the arts. The price of tickets obviously depends on the production you attend, but for Sweeney Todd, the prices varied from £5 upto £34, and as a student, there were two comcessionary prices available to me. Considering the theatre was very full, i was pleasantly surprised to find the box office still willing to let me purchase such a ticket. Many venues in London do not take such an attitude, so again i found this sta
nce very pleasing, and not just from the perspective that it saved me money! Another delightful aspect of the building and its operations, was the way in which latecomers were handled. My friend was stuck on the tube, so i waited, and the ushers could not be more friendly and accommodating, informing me of the time we could take our seats, and without any of the oft-experienced vibes emitted at other venues i frequent. The theatre itself has recently undergone an extensive re-build, but it is well-worth it. The seats are comfortable, the acoustics superb, and a well-designed auditorium, which slopes down towards the stage. There is a stalls, two circles, upper and lower and a balcony. I visited all these areas, in the interest of seeing what the view would be like, and was impressed to find that there seemed to be no bad seats, view-wise. This is a theatre that has been carefully designed, taking into account most of the essential characteristics that create a good performance venue. Sadlers Wells is mainly a dance and opera venue, and the production i saw was a musical-cum-opera, and it worked in this space superbly. What a sheer joy, and i mean that sincerely, to find a venue that is well-designed, well-staffed, well-run, and well attended, within easy distance of central london. If ever the chance arises to visit this space, i would highly recommend that you do.
Comfort Refresh is another fantastic product from those great manufacturers of cleaning products, Lever Brothers Ltd. They may well be accused of introducing new products into the marketplace too often, but to my mind, if they're as good as this, then long may there be new products sold by them. The product is sold in two sizes, a handy 100 ml bottle, perfect for travel, and a 300 ml bottle. Generally the smaller is £0.98 and the larger £1.98 (well at least where i shop it is!) This isn't at all overpriced, as it appears to last forever, no matter how much you use it! They state on the bottle that it is a ' fabric refresher spray. Neutralises odours, leaving behind the 'just-washed' freshness of Comfort'. This is a very true to the product description. I love the smell of most Comfort Products(sad i know!!), so i love the smell of my clothes after i've sprayed them. The spray is great for re-invigorating (is that the right adjective for this?!) clothes that have been washed, but not worn for a while, and clothes that are not at their best! For the smokers among us, it is just a dream product, it removes this smell that invades all clothes. Obviously this can't be used as a substitute for actually regularly washing clothes, but in this climate of busy lives( well thats my excuse!) it is a great little product to have to hand when you find that you've forgotten to wash something you need. It hasn't yet left any noticeable marks on any of my clothes. My wife, initially very sceptical about it, has now taken to using it too, so that must be a recommendation! There are various items that it can't be applied to : leather and suede, and silk. But otherwise, assumimg you like the smell of Comfort, i know lots of people that don't, then Comfort Refresh is an inexpensive quality fabric refresher.Go get some and smell the difference!(sorry, very cheesy, i'll stop here!)
It is only in the last year or so that i've made friends via the internet, some of which have been by accident, some the result of intentional chatting in chat rooms. I have two pespectives on an online social life, mine which is increasing every day, and my wife's, which is fully fledged! Firstly, mine.....as a result of observing my wife's internet behaviour, i came to be more adventurous in my own surfing and chatting. Most of my use results from actually visiting and chatting on specific sites, as opposed to using ICQ or IRC or yahoo chat rooms, which seems to be the norm. The people i got chatting to therefore, were already those who shared similar interests. Perhaps this is the reason for my subsequent friendships, because there was already common ground, such as the arts, or current affairs, that enabled us to chat about such things. I was wary at first, knowing how i had to be careful with the information i gave out, which for me is difficult, as i'm prone to being very open with strangers! Gradually though, i spent longer talking to these people in and out of these chatrooms and i came to realise that the same rules apply in virtual life, as in real life- the difference being i think, that as humans in the 21st century, i think we find it easier to communicate through such a medium as the internet, where we can be more curious and anonymous, than we do with people we meet in real life. It is this that intrigues me and is indicative of a technology-saturated world, in which emotionally, with mobile-phones, the internet and other forms of entertainment/ communicating meduims, we find it easier to be ourselves( or do we?) This does worry me, but is not totally relevant to this subject, except in my warning- i do think people need a balance in their life. It can be very easy, as i will describe, to spend huge amounts of time surfing the internet, and chatting to people, to the detriment of other areas of life th
at need nurturing and addressing. This is not to say that people should not forge internet friendships, they are great, but as with other aspects of life, they should be done in moderation, so as to avoid what can be an addiction, which can be harmful. Now i can hear many people thinking that i am moaning because my tale concerns my wife's internet use and i feel neglected. This isn't the case; we are very happy, are both students, so our lives can be solitary, another area of life that can lead to increased internet activity. It is just that i see other areas of her life that are neglected, and i think this is a direct result of the amount of time she spends online. I can trace these changes to the time we got our computer, and first went online. Thus i arrive at the connection to my last paragraph, that of how some people find it easier to forge intimate relationships online, than in everyday, 'real life'. My darling wife has pretty much stopped maintaining contact with friends who do not have email and internet use available to them. This i find sad, so this a warning to some of the pitfalls. On a cheerier note, we have both met in person, many lovely people as a result of the internet, and have found the majority to be the same as they were online. We have much fun with these people and now the relationships are carried out on and off line. So, ultimately, online social lives can be great, but just don't neglect other parts of your life that need equal attention, in order that we are balanced human beings.
This may seem like an odd time to write a review of this fabulous film, as it came out in the cinema over a year ago, and has been out on video/dvd for months too. However, i have a justification, that being that it is still in the video and dvd charts, which longevity in itself is enough, and secondly, that it never fails to bring tears of laughter to my eyes. This film really is the best of the so-called british love comedies of the last few years, such as Four Weddings, Notting Hill, and the like, both of which starred Hugh Grant of course. The writing for a start comes courtesy of Helen Fielding, a great writer(read her other books, Cause Celeb is great)in both book form and in newspapers too, so the script is nigh on perfect. Ms Fielding also wrote the screenplay too and was involved with the film in a production capacity, which i believe helps the film to be the classic it is. What does one say about the cast............well there's Hugh Grant giving the best performance of his career for me, there's the excellent Colin Firth, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Neil Pearson, and top of the list, the beautiful and superb Renee Zelweeger. For this film, she put on a lot of weight, and looks stunning. Her accent in the film is perfect; this was my main concern, but she has it down to a tee and doesn't falter once. Renee really plays Bridget superbly, and i hope she and all the others are in the follow up screen adaptation. I don't want to spoil the plot too much, as personally, i like to see films with little knowledge, then there's lots of surprise( of course in this case, thats probably not feasible, but i'll stick to my principles!!), suffice it to say that you experience a whole host of emotions each time you watch it. The video and DVD have some superb outtakes and cut scenes and alternative endings that are sublimely funny. I know i'll be watching this film in many years to come and still enjoying it enormously, and t
hat is my main reason for writing a review so long after it is out! The music has to be commented on, as, after all, it is a large part of the film, and is superb. Luhrman cleverly uses modern music in many of the scenes(the second DVD has lots of interviews with him, explaining how they chose the music and much more). It works so well, the new with the old, my favourite has to be material girl, never ceased to has me in stitches. The soundtrack is available on 2 cd's and are a perfect accompaniment to the film.
As i write this, i am still amazed at the service i've received from CD Wow. I only found out about the company on friday, after reading a new opinion on it from a member here on dooyoo(to whom i am ever indebted). So,i checked them out after reading other people's opinions on them, and found at an initial glimpse, five CD's i wanted, and ordered them. The price is amazing, £8.99 for chart ones,and the price decreasing for older ones. The website may not be anything amazing, but this is frankly irrelevant when prices such as these are found. However, the design is by no means unattractive, and the site is easily navigable, with search facility by artist, or song. This on its own is a big plus for CD Wow. The range isn't amazing, but all chart cd's are there a the price mentioned, and many other ones too. After placing them in your virtual basket, when ready to pay, you proceed to checkout, where i have to say, the ease of it amazed me, and there is a facility to remove any items at this stage. You are here transferred to their Merchant on the web, Worldplay, a secure merchant. This is all carried out with effortless ease, and then you are done. Within half an hour, i had received an email from Worldplay, and CdWow, firstly confirming my payment, then from the company themselves clarifying my order. This is 11.30 pm friday night. When i get up saturday morning, i find three emails from them telling me my purchases have been dispatched. This is only seven hours later, so i'm impressed already. However, as i'd heard that one of the reasons they were so cheap, was because delivery took place from Hong Kong, at anything from 5-7 days, i didn't expect anything. To my immense surprise, i get home today, Monday, to find three of the four cd's on my doormat, each wrapped individually. This means that from ordering them at 11pm friday, just two days later, they are here. This i am so impressed with tha
t words fail me! And all this without paying a penny postage, as one would if ordering from most other online merchants. Well, need i say anymore, if CDWow have the cd i want in the future, then they will certainly be my first port of call. P.s, how did they manage to practically circumvent the normal postal rules? Incredible. *UPDATE* Update 16/02/03 There are now 3 sections to the DVD area of the site and they are all very good. There is a Region Free section, a Region 2 and European section for those without a region free player and a bargain basement section(with some very good deals) This site still isn't beaten by anyone yet as far as i know for both Cd's and DVD's. They also sell cheap region free DVD players so well worth a look. CdWow now sell DVD's as well. They are Region 1 discs though, so will only work if you have a region free player. However, if you do, then this is a real bargain. The DVD's are only normally £14.99 each, which is substantially cheaper than almost anywhere else, either online or off, and with free postage, is even more of a bargain! However, the range is still fairly limited at the moment, with mainly chart ones and new releases, along with a bargain basement of older titles. Highly recommended for those who have a region free player.
I think in a society such as we live in now, where materialism is very much in vogue, people are all too ready to pack in relationships and look for greener grass. Yes, a bit of a generalisation perhaps, but look at the divorce statistics- ever increasing;we have to consider why this is. From my experience of friends, a willingness to resolve problems isn't much in evidence. One possible reason why relationships break down more, is because we as humans, are more demanding of our prospective partners than previously, therefore problems emerge more quickly than may have done hitherto. I have friends that have been together for years, have got married, and within eighteen months, are divorced;this i find really strange. Yet very few people i know have attempted to resolve problems through conciliation, yet the figures on a general basis, show a large increase in the use of organisations such as Relate. This is a good reflection on society,and the British in particular, as it seems to me that there is a real stigma attached to therapy and counselling. Possibly, we do not like to admit our problems to others, strangers, i don't know? I think that counselling can be a good option for some couples, but only if certain elements exist between them. Firstly, both parties have to agree on it, and want to attempt to solve problems. Secondly, it is important i think, to realise that the process will be long, as it inevitably takes a while for ones problems to become apparent. Once the preliminary explaining has taken place, many people expect instant solutions, yet i think one of the benefits of seeking this assistance is that often it gets the parties talking to each other, which then results in a perception of problems that may have not been apparent before. This in itself, may be enough, and in some way, we can't expect counselling to achieve everything, as we ultimately have to be prepared to find compromise or solutions. For me, a rec
ent separation from my wife did not include counselling, although i did think it might be a good idea. As it transpired though, i find, in hindsight, that i agree with my wife, in that, we both knew the problems we had, and that if we hadn't sorted them out after this length of time, then counselling wouldn't help. We had just grown apart, and despite still loving one another, being together wasn't and isn't healthy, and we are much better for one another now as friends, although that obviously takes a while to reach that stage. I do still recommend counselling if both parties are prepared to try, if not, then it would be fairly futile, i think. On a general level, we should be more open about our problems, and be more ready to discuss them, and if this means seeking third-party assistance then i see no problem with that. Lack of communication is to my mind, normally the biggest problem, and therefore anything that improves that can only be good. ************Update************ After many months being separated by thousands of miles, i am glad to say that my beloved wife and i are now back together, after finding that we were able to talk about our problems more and find common ground. I think the huge gap apart made us realise that we couldn't live without each other. We are now closer than we ever have been, and are forging ahead with our life together- despite doing this without counselling, my thoughts on the subject remain generally the same, it can be beneficial in the right circumstances.
This may seem a strange subject to write on, now that this season has ended, but don't stop reading here, because if only for future reference, these plays should be seen wherever they are performed in the future. Sarah Kane committed suicide aged 28 in the winter of 1999, leaving a small but crucial collection of plays.The Royal Court, where for a while Ms Kane was writer-in-residence, performed most of her work in her lifetime, and recently had a season of her work, with rehearsed readings and productions of her plays. To coincide with this season, Channel 4 also screened her short film, Skin. The season began in March with a mainstage production of what many thought at its first production in 1998, was mere controversial railings. At its new airing, almost all of the critics that were originally scathing, apologised and loved it.Perhaps seeing it after her death enabled them to view it in a new light. This play and the two rehearsed readings and the final play, 4.48 Psychosis, were all directed by James Macdonald, the director who first staged them too. Blasted has as its main protagonist, a journalist called Ian, a sexist, racist man, but one with feelings. The play is set in a hotel room in Leeds in the midst of a war, and Ian is there with his girlfriend Kate. After a few drinks, the action moves forward to the following morning, where it is fairly clear that Ian has raped Kate, for which she attempts to revenge herself. The play deftly illustrates how human emotion works, and then suddenly, a soldier bursts in, and rapes Ian. The final scene sees Ian, who has had his eyes eaten out by the soldier, being fed and cared for by Ian, a scene truly moving. The space of the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs is very intimate, but the set for Blasted was a hotel room, and after the soldier's entrance, the room is blown up. Sarah Kane managed to convey how war is so much closer, actually in our own rooms, than we ever imagine, and that ultimately, th
e human act of caring for those that have hurt us, restores ones faith in human nature. A truly astonishing play, one which i would recommend to theatre lovers to see whenever it is next performed. I will write about the last two plays and the rehearsed readings in a different op, otherwise this will be interminably long.
The Royal Court Theatre actually is two theatres, the small studio space of the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs and the larger Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. The Jerwood derives from one of their sponsors, who subsidise performances on Monday nights in the upstairs theatre. The Royal Court is renowned for its promotion of new writing, and is the premier venue in London. It is situated in Sloane Square, right next to the tube station. The building itself is lovely and has just been renovated. There is a bar and a restaurant downstairs that i love, the ambience is divine, and the actors from the shows are always in there pre and post performances, which is great if like me, you thrive on that sort of atmosphere. The food is great, not too expensive. There is also a great bookshop, stocked high with every sort of play you could wish for! It is most certainly a popular venue, even for those that aren't actually watching a play, and it is full of trendy, gorgeous people, another plus! As regards the material they present, which is obviously the most important factor, the breadth of new writing is substantial. They have currently just finished a Sarah Kane season, which was mind-blowing, whilst upstairs there was the new play Herons by Simon Usher. A double-bill by Harold Pinter is about to begin previews downstairs, whist Clubland begins its previews upstairs. Its Artistic Director, Ian Rickson, is doing a fantastic job of promoting this country's up and coming playwrights. The Royal Court also has a Young Person's Playwright scheme, and also supports new writing from around the world. Shortly, there will be new plays from Uganda and Palestine. I am totally in love with the Royal Court as you might gather, but my opinion is heartfelt. I really admire the work they stage, and desperately want to work there. Perhaps one day.....
The most recent tickets i bought were for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds,this coming monday at the Brixton Academy. The tickets themselves were £20 each and the booking fee was £4.75 each and this through the venue itself. This is where the real problem lies. The £20 is about normal for an artist of Cave's standing. I paid the same amount to see him at Warwick Arts Centre last year, so this proves that the cost, to see him, is roughly the same from place to place. But the booking fee, which in both these cases was a fifth of the ticket price in essence, seems like a lot to pay. But is it, when you consider their role? Firstly, the venue normally pays substantial sums of money to the artist, as that is how i believe the system works, in order for them to make it worthwhile for themselves. So the venue firstly has to cover its costs of selling the tickets and then presumably the rest is profit.This seems reasonable, as they are also in the business to make money. If we compare these costs to other artists, say Madonna, then a different picture emerges. Firstly, she hardly ever does gigs anymore, so the price one would expect to pay is going to be higher than if she regularly toured. Secondly her price is not actually much more than a few years ago.I bought a ticket in 1990 for her Blonde Ambition tour at Wembley, and i paid £45 for it. So,really, the cost is not that much more, considering her increased popularity, and the scarcity with which she now performs. If we compare her to someone of say Barbara Streisand's stature(and i'm not sure which i would say was the bigger star!), she rarely performs and ticket prices for her concerts start in three figures. On the other hand, i've been to many concerts of small, up and coming bands, and fairly established bands, and paid no more than £10, so it really depends i think on the artist, the venue, the promoter. I would ultimately say that i think pop concerts aren't a rip-off r
eally, when you take weigh up all these factors.
The Vice is magnificent, a fictional series about the Vice Squad, set in london. Each episode continues into the next one, often with the same actors. The plots are gripping, and even though the subject matter delves into child abuse, exploitation, the typical areas of a vice squad's remit, the intelligent, thoughtful way which the issue is addressed always provides for an hour and a half of intensely watchable television. The cast is superb, with the great actor Ken Stott playing Inspector Pat Chappel, the lead role. A fantastic actor, he always gets so far involved emotionally into every case, sometimes falling deeply for one of the people involved in their investigations, which inevitably leads to complications. The supporting cast are also great, the names of the actors eludes me, but the characters Cheryl,Joe and newcomer Dougie, Pat's colleagues, all have their immense strenghts,which adds up to a series that is instantly addictive. All the action is shot in London, namely Soho, King's Cross and all the other areas of London where vice-related incidents take place, and the camera work and filming is phenomenal, and its great seeing renowned areas of London. I don't know how they do it, because it has to be real London, because you can spot all the areas they use. It adds to the atmosphere of the show. The excellence of it really has to be attributed to the portrayal of the issues and the outstanding acting. I know it may not seem like excellent viewing material but it really is, the relationships between all the characters is fascinating, and develops all the time. It's not actually on at the moment, but i think there are due to be some more soon. They can be bought on video though.....
I've been reading the Indie for about ten years now, and am still convinced its the best broadsheet on the market, despite all its various ownership changes. The reason for this has to be its coverage of news, it is so very unique. If one looks at the front page of the broadsheets, the Independent often has totally different stories, usually some new report, or some news from somewhere in the world. This is what makes it so special. The reporters on the paper are also excellent, with totally unbiased coverage of evevts. This is probably because they still retain their independence, despite the changes. Although it has seen some changes in editorial staff over the years, this is only normal, and it really is not that noticeable. It has a great second section too, consisting of a fascinating letters and comment page, and then a features page, with articles by Deborah Orr, Thomas Sutcliffe, David Aaronavitch, Andreas Whittam Smith, amongst others. Each day of the week, it has either a network, law, theatre, media day, where part of the paper is specifically about that subject. Its Arts Section also remains superb, with interesting interviews and reviews. Friday and Wednesday are the best days for Arts, but there is something every day. The Indie also has one of the best websites i've seen, easily navigable, interesting, just a lovely place to surf to! One of the best things, apart obviously from its writing, is its stance on the royal family; basically it has no time for it, which i admire greatly. Stories often end up just being a small paragraph on one of the latter pages, if at all. Brilliant. So, even though other broadsheets appeal individually for specific things, overall and consistently, the Independent remains the best. Well worth reading for those not initiated yet.
The new album by Nick Cave is phenomenal. If i thought that he couldn't surpass The Boatman's Call, then i am truly mistaken. This album sees Cave in just as broody, reflective mood as ever, yet there is a difference here. As we now know from various interviews given regarding promotion of this masterpiece, He is now married again, this time to Susie Bick. This marriage seems to have made him more secure, yet conversely, on the title track, it is as if he is resigned to the notion of being entwined with this person, rather than being truly enthralled about the prospect. Yet this deceives i think, for the way in which he sings the words reveal a man much contented with his lot. All the songs still contain his (to me) on-going struggle with his faith, and the songs God Is In The House and O My Lord leave me feeling haunted every time, such is the power of his lyrics and his voice. The way he writes and sings make me believe that there must be a god, and i am fairly unsure of my beliefs. The songs still contain references to broken relationships and affairs, but this time there is an upbeat air to all the songs, that leave me feeling the same myself. He has two new musicians singing with him, two sisters, and they are stunning. In particular, the end of Hallelujah, which finds him taking the unusual step of resisting temptation, has these two women almost breathlessly singing on their own. Truly mesmeric, and atmospheric. So, for me, an equally good, if not better album than the last, and i can pretty safely say that if you are a fan, you should most certainly not pass on this beautiful collection of songs. Mind you, most of his fans probably have it already! For those of you unsure about Nick Cave, this is an album full of exquisitely,yet rough feeling songs, that will stay with you and affect you for ever, such is their power and strength.