Game by Mike Bartlett, Almeida Theatre, 28 February 2015

This was a truly shocking piece. In a good way.

Shocking, as in, it left us feeling really quite shaken and discombobulated.

In a way, this was immersive theatre. The Almeida was reconfigured, such that the audience was divided into sections in sort-of booths, from which you could see some of the action live and the rest on screens. You have to wear headphones to hear everything, which increases the confusion between the real and the virtual.

The conceit of the play is that some people who cannot afford good housing choose to live in an attractive-looking home, but the price is that they are spied upon by sadistic paying customers who are allowed to shoot stun darts at the residents “for fun”.

It is a horrible thought. The story plays out in interesting ways, not all predictable. The experience is disconcerting, because, as an audience member, you feel somewhat complicit in the voyeurism and sadism playing out before your eyes and on the screen. Occasionally some of the action takes place within your booth itself.

It made us think about the housing crisis, the ways that computer games and so-called reality television are encroaching on people’s lives and more besides.


Excellent resource on the Almeida site about this play/production, including quotes from many reviews and links to full text for some – sparing me the trouble – click here.

We left the Almeida genuinely feeling in a state of shock and spent much of the remainder of the weekend talking about this play/production.

An Almeida special as far as we were concerned.

20th Century Masterpieces For Guitar, Laura Snowden, St John’s Smith Square, 26 February 2015

Just a few days after seeing Miloš at The Wig, Janie and I saw another guitar concert, this time Laura Snowden at SJSS.

A bit unfair on Laura, the comparison. She is very good indeed, but clearly not Miloš level; at least not yet.

Her musical choices were a little tougher too.  I really like the Villa-Lobos guitar stuff, but it isn’t everyone’s taste. None of the stuff she performed would be.

But she plays with great clarity and warmth.

We enjoyed our evening and I vowed to return. So far, just the once and alone to a lunchtime concert – click here. But Janie liked her too.

Janie tends to makes a fuss about traipsing to SJSS, then tends to be pleasantly surprised at how near it is and how easily she can park. This evening was no exception.

Miloš Karadaglić, Wigmore Hall, 22 February 2015

We’d heard great things about guitarist, Miloš Karadaglić, so were really looking forward to this Wigmore Hall concert for some time.

We were not disappointed. He is a wonderful guitarist and the music was simply beautiful.

The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, so we were treated to Petroc Telawny’s introduction pre broadcast, although we couldn’t hear his explanations between pieces at the time.

Still, were able to listen again (and again) afterwards, but sadly the BBC thing is to take the sound links down after a month, so you can’t hear it unless they put the recording up again – click here for BBC details of the concert.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall stub, which includes a full play list including the encore – there’s geeky for you.

Anyway it was all simply delicious music. Miloš came across very nicely as well as being a supreme talent.

I went on-line more or less straight way (after we got home, none of that smart phone during the concert nonsense) to buy/download a couple of Miloš CDs/downloads – Amazon links below (other vendors are available):

Much cheaper now than they were when I bought them.

Darn…but I don’t care. Wonderful albums both – we listen to them a lot.

We booked to see Miloš again last year, but he had to cancel the concert due to injury – apparently he has been grounded for some while. Hopefully just a temporary glitch in his performing career.

A really memorable and wonderful evening of music.

Dinner With DJ, Kim and Micky at Scalini, 21 February 2015

DJ very generously wanted to treat us all to dinner at Scalini. It is hard to refuse such offers.

I suspect we arranged this some months in advance; it is not so easy to get all of us together at the same time these days.

I think it was just the five of us that evening; if one or both of Max and Jo are around they sometimes join such an evening, but that night I think was just five of us.

I’m pretty sure Janie and I stayed at the flat afterwards, as it was deep midwinter and we also had a Wigmore Hall concert the next night.

I can’t remember exactly what we ate and drank; only that we did a bit too much of both and that the evening was very good in all departments.

Janie might remember more and chime in…but then again she might not.

The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 20 February 2015

Janie and I thought this was a really excellent play/production; once again the tiny Hampstead Theatre Downstairs proving to be one of the hottest tickets in town.

Sinéad Matthews is a very special up and coming actress. We first spotted her more than 10 years ago, in The Wild Duck at the Donmar, when she was but a nipper. I don’t think she only does plays named after species of fauna. We have subsequently seen her in Giving, again at the Hampstead Downstairs – click here.

Mercifully the Hampstead now has a good resource for each play/production – click here for The Wasp – as that downstairs space eschews formal reviews and I somehow mislaid the little leaflet thing they give out by way of a programme.

In a way this play is a classic revenge tragedy played out in modern terms in the present day. Perhaps some aspects of the coincidence seemed unlikely when you think deeply about the plot afterwards, but as the story plays out the evening was captivating.

Janie and I like these short plays – 90 minutes or so without an interval – when they are done well such plays/productions keep us gripped from start to finish and we feel thoroughly satisfied afterwards…sans bum ache.

The Wasp deservedly got a West End transfer later that year, but Sinéad Matthews didn’t transfer with it. Nevertheless:

I am pretty sure that Janie and I preceded our Friday evening trip to the Hampstead with a meal at Harry Morgans, so we got home early and thoroughly satisfied that evening.

Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Pizza Express Charlotte Street , 19 February 2015

I think I have explained the background to Ivan Shakespeare memorial dinners sufficiently elsewhere – e.g. click here and look at the second of the three events.

I’m pretty sure we were still going to the now defunct Café Rouge in Maida Vale the previous autumn and I missed the 2014 Christmas bash, which had been a bit shambolic by all accounts, ending up in Pizza Express Charlotte Street.

This February evening was therefore my one and only visit to that Pizza Express.

My post evening note to John Random was the following:


Good to see you and the gang last night.

Many thanks for that wonderful-looking bottle of wine.  Extremely generous of you and quite unnecessary.

Janie and I will save it for a special occasion and enjoy it then…unless the Bulgarian merlot runs out and we need an emergency bottle in a hurry.

With very best wishes


It reminds me that there was another curiosity about the John Random/Rohan Candappa evening a couple of weeks before – click here.

John, knowing little about wine, grabbed a rather long-in-the-tooth bottle of Bulgarian Merlot from his home and brought it for that 5 February evening at my house. We all agreed that the bottle was undrinkable and offered the bottle’s contents to the kitchen sink drain gods.

Being John, he wrote me an own-liver-eating e-mail the next day, also agonising about the fact that he didn’t know that my mum had recently died until some way into the evening.

I responded, amongst other stuff 6 February, specifically on the Bulgarian Merlot:

It was good to see you and do stop fretting about the wine.  But on that note, I do recommend the film Sideways, if you haven’t seen it, a very funny sort of road movie about an introverted wine snob on a California wine tour with his extrovert actor mate.  The wine snob has an irrational thing against the Merlot grape, btw, which happens to have been the grape variety in your Bulgarian curiosity.

So, again being John, he brought me a rather splendid bottle of wine when we met at the Pizza Express for the Ivan Shakespeare 19 February.

The only other matters of note, which emerge from John’s post evening messages, are:

  • Gerry did the quiz;
  • John approved of Pizza Express, but the venue did get moved the next time. That might have been down to Tottenham Court Road Central Line closure more than the venue itself;
  • We all recorded birthday messages for Laurie, John and Jenny’s son, just ahead of his 15th birthday, which Laurie apparently appreciated very much.

Always good fun, Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinners.

Z/Yen Team/Old Team Evening At The Jugged Hare, Chiswell Street, 18 February 2015

OK, this is me being complete rubbish.

The only e-mail communication I can find on this evening is the following note from Linda Cook to me and Michael.

Just to let you know I have organised a night out with the team/old team on 18 February if you are about.

Booked a table at Jugged Hare in Chiswell Street (at Steph’s suggestion) from 18.15.  Expecting about 7/8 people.


It’s in my diary. I clearly remember going. I remember enjoying the evening a lot. Good size of group, got to talk with more or less everyone who turned up, nice place.

Beyond that, a blank. I need help.

Over to other Z/Yensters (current and alum) to fill in the blanks. Otherwise the blanks will remain.


Steph e-mailed in to say:

I’ve got nothing with which to fill the blanks, I’m afraid! I just remember a very pleasant evening and tables made of wine barrels… (I think).

I also spoke with Ben about it and he said more or less the same thing as Steph.

Linda suggests a reason for our poor memories, but then adds some helpful material:

Maybe too much red wine.  Well, I can’t quite remember either…

…Ben, Richard, Ellie, Steph, Mary, you, me…Clive Hyman definitely…

…not sure if Mark, Cristiano and Sonya were there (have acceptances from them but…)

Yes, I recall having a good long chat with Richard and Ellie that evening in particular. But it was one of those evenings when you get to speak with everyone for a while. Like musical chairs but without the music.

Further updates will be gratefully received.

How to Hold Your Breath by Zinnie Harris, Royal Court Theatre, 14 February 2015

I have written elsewhere about the Vicky Featherstone regime at the Royal Court seeming to have a relentlessly miserablist agenda.

Janie and I don’t mind gloomy stuff. Crickey, you wouldn’t choose the sorts of theatre that we choose if all you wanted was feel good rom-coms and musicals. But relentless and extreme miserablism?

I can’t remember quite such a quintessentially down-hearted play as How to Hold Your Breath for a long time.

Part of the problem I had with it was my inability to buy into the notion that a financial crisis might have a young, successful, professional Northern-European (presumably German) woman descend from yuppydom to prostitution/migration in but a few days.

Yes of course it is meant to be an expressionistic-type dream play. But to suspend belief sufficiently to buy into a thesis (but for fortune, it might be Europeans desperate to migrate to Africa and the Middle East, not the other way around) it needs sufficient plausibility, which this lacked.

So instead of making its worthy and at times interesting points about inequality, economic power and migration well, it seemed to ram them down our throats to the extent that I (and Janie agreed) almost wanted to throw the metaphorical babies out with the bathwater. Which is a horrible way of putting it, given this play’s unsettling and shocking denouement.

All a great shame because the cast were excellent. Maxine Peake really can act; indeed all of them can. The design was stylish; it was just the unsubtle play that didn’t do it for us. We normally like Zinnie Harris’s plays; we just didn’t like this one.

I can’t remember how we tried to make ourselves feel a bit better with food afterwards – probably Ranoush shawarmas or possibly Mohsen’s Iranian-style kebabs.


Little Light by Alice Birch, Orange Tree Theatre, 7 February 2015

Janie and I were on a bit of a roll at that time, as was The Orange Tree.

Little Light by Alice Birch – click here for the Orange Tree resource on that production – was really good.

In some ways this was yet another family drama, but it was very well written and performed. It kept us awake and interested throughout.

Plenty of one-liner reviews in the Orange Tree link above:


Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Xenia Löffler, Wigmore Hall, 6 February 2015

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin…but in Berlin!

We have been keen on the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin for many years now after first seeing them at the Wigmore Hall yonks ago – March 2001 – and then several times since. We even went to see them when we were in Berlin – see above and click here for the Ogblog piece.

As for Jean-Guihen Queyras, I shall forever associate him with our trip to Burgundy in 2008, in particular the day we visited the Bresse services to taste their coveted Poulet-de-Bresse (possibly the best service station dish in the world) and then on to Bourg-en-Bresse where by chance I bought, amongst other music, Queyras’s recording of the Bach Cello Suites – click here for Ogblog of that trip… 

…or here to a link for that wonderful Bach Cello Suites recording, which I still listen to quite often, indeed I am listening to it as I type…

…but I digress…

Click here for a link to the stub for the delightful Wigmore Hall concert we went to see on 6 February 2015.

These work wonderfully for us on a Friday evening, as long as we are sufficiently disciplined to stop working early enough and get to The Wig without a rush; on this occasion we were.

The concert was mostly Vivaldi, with one religious Caldara work thrown in for good measure. Not only were the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and Jean-Guihen Queyras superb (we were expecting plenty), but also Xenia Löffler – principal oboe for the Akademie – was also excellent.

Janie and I both loved this concert too.