Baby Girl by Roy Williams, DNA by Dennis Kelly and The Miracle by Lin Coghlan, Cottesloe Theatre, 23 February 2008

A mixed bag evening, mostly good stuff in the mix, with three short plays all with a “yoof” theme, at the Cottesloe.

We weren’t going to miss this one. Roy Williams we liked a lot when we first came across him at the Royal Court a few years before. Ditto Dennis Kelly, whose work we’d very much enjoyed at the Hampstead. Lin Coghlan was new to us.

We weren’t overly familiar with Paul Miller’s name as director then, although we had seen his work before and now (writing in 2016) know his work well at the Orange Tree.

Apparently this production emerged from the National Theatre’s Connections programme, getting young people involved in performing, although this production was picked up by and delivered by professionals, albeit some of them very young professionals.

There is an excellent, free RNT education workpack for these plays, which includes synopses and other educational materials to accompany the pieces – click here to download. provides a useful cast & crew list and a short synopsis of each play.

Interesting reviews:

I think we liked the first two plays a fair bit more than the last, but two out of three really ain’t bad for this sort of evening, so we were thoroughly satisfied.

3 Sisters On Hope Street by Diane Samuels and Tracy-Ann Oberman after Anton Chekov, Hampstead Theatre, 22 February 2008

This one didn’t really work for us, despite the good reviews it mostly received.

It was one of those plays/productions that we thought we ought to have really liked, but didn’t much. We like Chekhov. We like Tracy-Ann Oberman (formerly of NewsRevue in our world, Eastenders in most other people’s). It was a superb-looking cast. Lindsay Posner is a terrific director.

The idea of transferring the Three Sisters to the large home of a relatively wealthy Jewish family in austere post-war Liverpool seemed to be up our street. But Hope Street is not our street; not three hours of it anyhow:

Hampstead Theatre stubs don’t go back this far…yet…but Liverpool Everyman one’s do – so there – click here for cast and crew details.

We no doubt ate at Harry Morgan’s before seeing this production, which would at least have got our bellies into the right mode for the three hour “Chekhov meets Wesker Fest” that followed.

The Savages, Unspecified Cinema, 16 February 2008

We don’t go to the cinema all that much. On the rare occasions we do go, it tends to be on an impulse. So most of our visits to the cinema prior to my live blogging (i.e. prior to December 2015) will be lost in the mists of time.

However, my diary for this day reads:

John and Mandy?  Savages

I was a little perturbed by this entry at first. Surely I wasn’t cross with John and Mandy for postponing our get together for a few weeks, especially as it had been put in the diary with a question mark. In any case, I would never describe our friends as savages.

Then I remembered seeing a film named The Savages and discovered that the film had indeed come out around that time. Mystery solved.

Here’s the IMDb entry for that film.

I remember that we both really liked the idea of it – I was just getting used to the idea of having a dependent parent at the time, some 6 months after my father’s death. I suspect that Newsnight Review put us on to it (we do miss that arts programme) and we both would have liked the thought of Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman heading up the cast.

We weren’t disappointed. It was both very amusing and touching. A bit long for the slightness of the story, but an enjoyable couple of hours nonetheless.

No idea which cinema we went to – probably the Vue Acton or whatever it was called back then – still the nearest/quickest to get to at the weekend, even since the move from Janie’s maisonette to the house. Might have stayed at mine and seen this one at The Gate – that’s the other thing we often did back then.

If you haven’t seen it, well worth looking out for when it comes around on the box or through whatever Prime/Netflix type service you use if you are a movie-fiend.

The Masque Of The Red Death by Punchdrunk, Battersea Arts Centre, 15 February 2008

Wow and double wow. This was a Friday evening to remember.

There is an excellent Wikipedia entry describing this outstanding immersive theatre / site-specific installation show, saving me the trouble – here.

The references section of that Wikipedia article has links to most of the hot reviews.

Here also is a link to Punchdrunk’s archive piece on this production.

This piece from the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) site is very interesting.

We went on a Friday evening, so we got to enjoy an after-show party as well as the show.

Naturally we lost each other in the first part of the show; the cast and ushers deliberately separate you to add to the sense of discombobulation and to make you wander around in a less-than linear way.

I managed to find my way to the bar a fair bit quicker than Janie did and ran into Richard Russell (who I used to see regularly at Lambton Place back then) and his entourage. Janie eventually joined us; she had met Richard before, not all that long before in fact, at the Cafe Anglais. She wondered afterwards if “that man is everywhere”; turned out soon enough that he was!

Then a bit more wandering around; I wanted to make sure I’d seen all the action from the earlier part of the show. Then the ushers started to steward us into the more climatic scenes and then to the finale and party, where we ran into Richard and Co. again. They stuck around longer than we did. The live band were very good; I remember them playing Swing Swing Swing with great verve.

An especially memorable show and evening.


Happy Now? by Lucinda Coxon, Cottesloe Theatre, 9 February 2008

Unusually, we took Phillie to the theatre with us on this occasion. It must have been a long prearranged thing; I think Tony was doing one of his long business trips in the far east, so we had Phillie to stay for the weekend and it was planned far enough in advance for us to book a good Cottesloe production for us all to see.

This was a very good play/production. Funny, thought-provoking and very well acted. Great cast; not least Stanley Townsend, Olivia Williams and Dominic Rowan. Thea Sharrock, who had impressed us so much directing at the Gate, was starting to get higher profile gigs; this being an early example of one of those.

This award-winning play and production has a comprehensive Wikipedia entry – click here, which includes links to some of the better reviews.

Phillie, bless her, unaccustomed as she was to the theatre, was a bit “west-end theatre-ish” at first, talking as if she was in her living room watching TV, until Janie gave her “the look” a couple of times. I think Phillie enjoyed that theatre trip very much.

I’m pretty sure this was the occasion that, afterwards, we went on to Zinc Bar and Grill in Heddon Street.  Now gone, I believe, a couple of reviews of that Conran place survive:

Anyway, Phillie really enjoyed herself that evening – she got quite tipsy at Zinc, as was her wont by then, but the important thing was that she had a good time.

Three Nights Out In A Row, Culminating With Homayoun Shajarian & Dastan Ensemble at Cadogan Hall, 6 February 2008

Barbat Credit to Galassi at the English language Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0
Credit to Galassi at the English language Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 3.0

It was a bit of a social whirl early that week, with two work-related evenings Monday and Tuesday, then an interesting concert Wednesday.

Monday 6 February PEFC Evening at the House of Lord’s

This was a dinner organised by the Programme For the Endorsement of Forestry Certification Schemes (PEFC) about the world’s forest resources. In truth, I don’t remember all that much about the evening. We (Z/Yen and an expert panel) were doing a governance review with PEFC at the time. This event coincided neatly with a day in London with the governance review panel, most of whom attended the dinner in the evening.

I have a vague feeling that Zac Goldsmith might have been the guest speaker for this one, or perhaps I am getting confused with a different evening at the Palace of Westminster. Anyway, my e-mail trail suggests that the evening was a great success.

Tuesday 7 February Monique Gore Evening at the Kiwi Kitchen

This was a fun informal works outing organised by Monique ahead of a relatively long holiday in her native New Zealand.  We went to the Kiwi Kitchen on the North End Road – sadly now closed. It was a fun place and I recall the food being pretty good too. The only on-line Trip Advisor review that I can find (most have been closed down along with the restaurant) says:

“Perfect food, wonderful value for money”
5 of 5 starsReviewed 17 April 2009

Following a trip to New Zealand in January, we were missing the flavours of NZ and since we were in London decided to try out this restaurant. What an absolute gem!!
The food is cooked to perfection and the portion sizes are more than adequate – if you decide to go I would suggest taking a very large appetite!…

My abiding memory was that we had a large contingent of the Z/Yen crowd, not least the UNISON team. Coincidentally, the restaurant had a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc named Unison on the wine list, which I decided we simply had to choose to mark the occasion. It was pretty good wine too.

I wonder whether Monique took any pictures that evening – she often did – if so, I’ll subsequently up one or two of them if she is good enough to provide them.

Wednesday 8 February – Homayoun Shajarian & Dastan Ensemble at Cadogan Hall

Janie and I were keen to try this Persian classical music, so we made an unusual decision to see a concert on a Wednesday evening (Janie treats patients at home on Wednesdays, so is a reluctant traveller into central London for the evening on a Wednesday).

This concert was worth the trip, not least to see/hear unusual instruments such a the barbat and tar (lute-type instruments), kamancheh (a spiky fiddle), tanbak, dayereh, daf, dammam & kuzeh (percussion instruments).

The Dastan Ensemble – click here for website – are a leading ensemble in their field. A fair chunk of London’s Iranian community turned out for this concert, plus a sizeable minority of interested folk like ourselves. Not all of the audience was reverent in the way a European audience would be for classical music; for example quite a few people moved around or made noise during pieces. Similarly, the ensemble had little sense of London concert timing etiquette, performing several encores and thus keeping us at the hall till well after 10:00 if I recall correctly.

We won’t be rushing to see Persian classical again in a hurry; it didn’t float our boat to the same extent as Indian classical (for example) does. But we were both glad to have tried it, even in the middle of a busy week.

The Vertical Hour by David Hare, Royal Court Theatre, 2 February 2008

This was a really good play/production. It was only on at the Royal Court for a short while – so we felt we’d got ourselves hot tickets for this one. Unusually for a David Hare, this one had started in New York 15 months before.

The Royal Court Stub has all the details and the full text of lots of reviews.

The usual suspects all loved it. As did we; great cast, super play.