In A Dark Dark House by Neil LaBute, Almeida Theatre, 29 November 2008

This was a very troubling play by Neil LaBute – as his plays so often are. At the Almeida, as LaBute’s plays so often are.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on this production.

The acting was terrific but we didn’t get the same wow factor from this one as we sometimes do with LaBute.

Good LaBute but not the very best LaBute was our verdict. But we were still discussing the issues deep into the weekend.


Kenny Werner & Martin Speake Quartet, London Jazz Festival, Wigmore Hall, 23 November 2008

We have been enthusiasts of Jazz at the Wigmore Hall ever since we saw the Tord Gustavsen Trio at “The Wig” as part of the London Jazz Festival a few years earlier.

This Kenny Warner and Martin Speake concert was very good, although (to our taste) not quite as suited to the Wigmore Hall as the smaller, tighter sound of ensembles such as Tord Gustvsen’s.

But what do we know?

In this excellent review from Jazzwise Magazine – click here – Martin Speake himself says:

‘Even the handclaps sound good in this room’

It does thrill us to witness, so often, performers clearly in awe of the venue and so delighted to be able to play there. It makes us realise how lucky we are to live so close to the place, to be friends of it and to attend so regularly. As I write this note (10 April 2017) I am looking forward to a visit to the Wig this very evening…but for early music, not jazz this time.

Returning to the Kenny Warner and Martin Speake – we actually got the latter in the first half and the former in the second half.

We enjoyed both – I got more out of the Kenny Warner which had a Dixieland sound to it which pleases me more than it pleases Janie.

Still, a lovely way to spend a Sunday evening, especially when you have booked the day off work Monday.

Mountain Hotel & Audience by Vaclav Havel, Orange Tree Theatre, 15 November 2008

It seemed like a good idea when we booked it. Here ‘s a link to the rubric that enticed us, along with the cast and creatives information.

We’d had previous experience of Vaclav Havel’s plays, so shouldn’t have been surprised to find the absurdity a bit lame and the drama weak.

In particular, I thought Audience (about a playwright stacking beer barrels in a warehouse) tame.

So what do we know?

Still, we enjoyed our Don Fernando dinner afterwards and never feel completely let down after an evening at the Orange Tree.

Mountain Hotel and Audience by Vaclav Havel, Orange Tree Theatre, 15 November 2008

This double bill was part of a Vaclav Havel Season that autumn at the Orange Tree.  We only attended this one evening.

Vaclav Havel is one of those writers that you really want to like and there are always some very clever lines and some interestingly weird scenes in his plays.  Yet somehow Havel never quite seems to work for me or for Janie.

Still, we enjoyed the evening.  The Mountain Hotel one was a typically Havel peculiar mix of people thrown together in a hotel garden being absurd together.  I think we even considered sneaking away a half time, but stayed to see what the second play was like.  Audience is a short quasi-autobiographical piece about Vanek, who works in an absurd beer factory.  It did not motivate us to return and see the other short Vanek plays later in the season.

It was all very well acted and well directed; David Antrobus is an Orange Tree regular and is reliably good.

You can read all about it, including who played whom and stuff, here.  Someone at the Orange Tree is doing an amazing archiving job; I am grateful to them.

Michael Billington, a long term Orange Tree fan, is polite but clearly didn’t much like the evening either.

Philip Fisher in the British Theatre Guide is more upbeat about the evening.

Ian Shuttleworth’s FT piece can still be seen archived here.

Gethsemane by David Hare, Cottesloe Theatre, 8 November 2008

This one felt like a hot ticket when we booked it months before and also seemed well suited to my mind set just 48 hours after my Gresham Lecture on Commercial Ethics.

But this play was about the arguably thornier topic of political ethics and political pragmatism.

What a posse of cast and creatives for this one – click here for the Official London Theatre information stub.

I recall being most impressed by the performances and the production. Also, the play did its job of getting me and Janie talking about its big issues for the rest of the weekend. Yet this didn’t feel like premier league David Hare to me; I felt there was something lacking in the play.

It was that sort of play/production – influential people were supposed to talk about it but not all that many people got to see it. Janie and I saw a preview, so had every right to wax lyrical from an informed perspective and from the outset.

What good news for everyone that Janie and I tend to keep our counsel to ourselves on such matters.

Well worth seeing.

State of Emergency by Falk Richter, Gate Theatre, 7 November 2008

A short dystopian piece about lives in a gated community in some future or remote authoritarian place.  Here is a link to The Gate’s stub on this piece.

We have done this sort of play on a Friday evening at The Gate before (and since), because it is sometimes so convenient to see them and stay at the flat on a Friday, but heavy/dystopian drama is not my first choice of activity for a Friday night.

Anyway, beyond our temporal reasons for being unsure about it, the critics also seemed unsure:

The acting was top notch and as always we marvel at the way they manage to turn that small space above a pub into a proper space for drama. But Janie and I concurred with the reviewers about the play.

Not sure whether I cooked or whether we grabbed some Turkish food from the (now late, lamented) Manzara. As I’d delivered my Gresham lecture the night before and (it seems) gone off early on the Friday morning to see clients, I’ll guess the latter and jolly tasty it will have been too.

Commercial Ethics: Process or Outcome?, Gresham Lecture, Barnard’s Inn Hall, 6 November 2008

This was my first Gresham Lecture and by gosh the preparation felt like hard but very interesting work.

A lot of the material from this one ended up in The Price Of Fish.

Here is a link to the lecture – you can watch it, listen to the audio, read the text, download the text, look at the slides, download the slides…

Here’s the Vimeo of it so you can watch from here instead (but for the resources as well, you need to click the above link):

More observant followers of this lecture (e.g. John White) noticed that I strung some lines from songs and stuff through the slides. I made up an iTunes playlist for the lecture – back then, iTunes playlists felt like fun things to try.  Here it is: 

We held a traditional Z/Yen-Gresham reception in the Headmaster’s Study after the lecture. Doubtless someone pointed out my resemblance to the Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare in that room – someone always did. As I explained on Facebook to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death:

After the reception, Michael Mainelli escorted an honoured few of us to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for one of his traditional post lecture meals. Not sure exactly who attended but I do recall Michael, Elisabeth, Kim, Micky, Charlie, Me, Janie and a few others.