Roosevelvis by the TEAM, Royal Court Theatre, 31 October 2015

This is a weird show, but in a good way.

Half way through, Janie and I agree that we couldn’t really understand/explain what it all means but that we were enjoying it. At full time, we still felt the same way.

At the simplest level, it is a road trip about a lesbian couple who at times imagine themselves as their heroes, Teddy Roosevelt and Elvis Presley. I’m not sure what Ged and Daisy would think about imaginary characters working through a couple’s issues. We’ll have to ask them.

I guess the play raises questions about gender, identity and stuff, but most of the profundity got lost on me/us in the plots and subplots of the couple and their imaginings as they criss-cross America trying to make their relationship work.

Best I hand you over to others for more substantial analysis – here is the Royal Court stub which is, as always, the best place to start. It was pretty universally well reviewed, so the reviews section of that stub covers pretty much all the bases.

It reminded us a bit of Thelma and Louise, so I was delighted to spot that reference up front in Bill Brantley’s very interesting and informative NYT review from the original New York production – click here. So perhaps we’re not so thick after all.

We really enjoyed the production; it was unusual, entertaining and sort-of thought-provoking. What’s not to like?

A Rare Latterday Visit To NewsRevue, For A Very Good Reason, 29 October 2015

A message from our fellow NewsRevue writing alumnus Colin Stutt to our informal “Ivan Shakespeare” group on 22 October:

In years to come, wise old newsrevue historians will ask the trivia question – which writer once saw one of his sketches performed by his own son in the show?

Answer: MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!   My son and heir Alex is in the current show, which runs up to Sunday 22nd November.  And it’s a good’un too.  So that seems to me like a good reason for us all to get writing again and to think about going along to the show.  Thursday 12th November (9.30) looks like a possible day – if anyone would like to come along, please let me know.

I had already committed to the Tate Modern with Janie for that 12 November date, but an exchange of e-mails with Colin revealed that I was not the only friend of his who wanted to see the show with him, but not on 12 November.

So, a small group of us, including Colin, Mark Keagan and a friend of Colin’s named Vanessa together with a couple of her friends wined and dined at The Bridge House before watching NewsRevue, a couple of weeks before the larger group’s outing.

As coincidence would have it, Alexander Stutt is not only an emerging Newsrevue performer but also an Alleyn’s School alumnus; solid cv, that.

To my relief, Alexander (and indeed the whole show) was very good, so I was able to heap genuine praise upon Colin and (briefly) Alexander, before retracing my steps from years gone by, walking home using that oft-used route.

Dinner With John White At L’Anima, 28 October 2015

John wrote to me a few days before to make the final arrangements for the evening:

I have booked L’Anima, 1, Snowden Street.  Sorry it’s a bit pricey but it has a number of awards and looks interesting.  You can get me back next time!

I sent a spoof “out of office reply”:

Mr Harris has fled the country and henceforth will not be contactable at all. Certainly not until after Wednesday anyhow.

Then I got cold feet, so wrote again:

Just in case my joke email was too obscure, let’s gather at 90 Basinghall Street when our respective meetings are over so neither of us need swear if we overrun. I should be back there 4:30/5:00 ish.

As it turned out, we did both get to Basinghall Street in good time, so we went to the Old Doctor Butler’s Head in Masons Avenue for a drink before wandering off in the direction of L’Anima in Snowden Street.

The food was very good, as was the service but the restaurant is properly pricey with that slightly hermetically-sealed so professional it almost feels clinical way of the better City eateries. Trip Advisor has many good reviews – here.

My abiding memory of this meal was John getting me to witness some legal papers for him…which we did early in the meal to avoid the risk of forgetting to deal with them…but in the end we nearly abandoned those papers in the restaurant – a potential problem that was only just averted as we left, I think by virtue of a waitress spotting the papers on a spare chair at our table.

I’d hazard a guess that the staff are specifically trained to look out for accidentally abandoned business/legal papers as all patrons leave – must happen all the time at that place.

Evening and Morning, Vox Luminis, Wigmore Hall, 25 October 2015

This Sunday evening concert was part of the Henry Purcell season at the Wigmore Hall. Vox Luminis, under the direction of Lionel Meunier, treated us to 17th century English choral works;.

Here is the Wigmore Hall stub for the concert, which tells you everything you might possibly want to know about the artists and the works performed.

We had arranged to take the next day off and this concert was just what the doctor ordered for us at the end of a busy weekend.

Don’t take our word for it; David Truslove of gave the concerta rave review – here.

Lovely stuff.

Deni & Tony’s Wedding, 24 October 2015

This was our first experience of a gay wedding.

The venue was Chiswick Town Hall, but despite the proximity there was no time for a game of tennis before getting into our glad rags and allowing an hour to travel a couple of miles down the road.

Yes, we were there ludicrously early but that gave us the chance to get to meet some of the other guests.

The service was very pleasant. Toni Friend was there; son John kindly came to the town hall after the ceremony to take Toni (and us) to the house for the reception and wedding breakfast; I suppose walking a mile or so in “such shoes” is off limits.

The reception and wedding breakfast were both delightful. First time I have ever been to such an event in a house rather than a function room; it worked really well for this size of group. We met some very pleasant people and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

A link to the few pictures we took – here.

Frank Auerbach and Barbara Hepworth, Tate Britain, 12 October 2015

This was another evening opportunity to see a preview of a Tate exhibition – in this instance the new Frank Auerbach exhibition.

Janie and I were both working that day and arranged to meet at the Tate Britain itself – I got there well early and was glad of the good weather for hanging around early evening outdoors.

Although our main purpose was the Auerbach, we judged that those rooms would be quite busy at first, so went and looked at the Barbara Hepworth first, which we both enjoyed very much.

Indeed the early part of the Auerbach seemed very dark after the Hepworth, but Auerbach is one of those artists who (in my view) got more interesting as he matured, so the exhibition grew on me as we went through the rooms.

We enjoyed a drink and some nibbles in the members’ room after we’d had our fill of exhibits. Well worthwhile, both exhibitions.

A good, informative Tate stub on Barbara Hepworth – here…

…and similarly a good stub on the Auerbach – here.

Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, Royal Court Theatre, 10 October 2015

We were really looking forward to this. While we were unsure about McDonagh’s earlier work, such as The Cripple of Inishman, we absolutely loved The Pillowman and had been hoping to see another new play by him.

We certainly were not disappointed by this play/production. It had us gripped from the start. It is a shocking, at times hilariously funny black comedy about the last hangmen in the UK. The mixture of cunning plot twists and traditional comedic devices works brilliantly. Great cast, great production, what’s not to like?

The Royal Court stub – here – covers more or less all you need to know, including links to the myriad of rave reviews this production justifiably received. 

The production earned a major west end transfer, deservedly.


Ai Weiwei Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, 9 October 2015

As Kim had so kindly joined Janie up to the Tate and the V&A, I thought it was the least I could do to join her up to the RA.

This was to be our first opportunity to take advantage of that membership; so we knocked off work early that Friday and enjoyed an early evening viewing of this exhibition.

We found it very interesting. Some of the works are more challenging than enjoyable to view; others are fascinating and attractive. Ai Weiwei is an intriguing artist.

The RA stub explains it all – here, saving me much effort.

Janie and I enjoyed a drink and some nibbles in the members cafe afterwards. We are looking forward to the new improved version of same promised for next year, much as the V&A and Tate are similarly promising! We join and each of these places vastly increase their bar/cafe facilities…?


Canvey Island, Leigh-On-Sea, Westcliffe & Southend to See Garry & Janice Steel, 3 October 2015

Cousins Garry & Janice were very devoted visitors to mum over the years, especially given the distances involved, whereas I hadn’t been out their way (apart from the occasional funeral) for decades. Janie and I agreed that should change, so we arranged a short trip to the Essex Riviera.

Having enjoyed the movie, The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson – click here, so much, Janie was keen to see Canvey Island along the way.

Garry was not so sure:

Me finks (sic) you’ll be disappointed with Canvey. There may be nothing open after 5:30pm other than a few haunted bars. Brighton is a paradise in comparison. Don’t forget your passport.

Actually our plan was to get to Canvey by 15:00 and visit the Steels that afternoon for the guided tour of Leigh, both of which we did.

Canvey was more interesting than Garry suggested – the mural on the sea wall was a highlight, as was the sight of many locals taking the last remains of the summer sun on what turned out to be a glorious September afternoon.

The Leigh stroll with Garry and Janice was also interesting. I had never been down to Old Leigh before; it is really rather quaint and charming; probably more so for seafaring types than land-lubbers like me and Janie, but still good to see and a nice chance to catch up with Garry and Janice while strolling.

Then back to get our car and then Janie & I checked in to the Westcliffe Hotel – not bad. Later, Garry and Janice picked us up at the hotel and we walked down the road to the Piccolo Italian Restaurant, where they had celebrated their silver wedding anniversary some years ago.

The Steels very kindly insisted that the meal was on them, but I was able to persuade them that I’d like to sponsor a bottle of fine wine, spotting a Brunelli on the menu at (I realised having just been to a Mousse Wine tasting on that very subject) a very low price for such a vintage wine. The proprietor was very impressed that I recognised the wine and the good value – he’d been buying those in their infancy for years. “Game over now” (he told me ruefully).

A very enjoyable afternoon and evening with Garry and Janice.

In the morning, after breakfast and on our way out of town, we diverted a few hundred yards into Southend proper so I could take a look at the house where Jack, Sybil and Norman had lived up on that cliff. Smashing view – a more salubrious-looking property now.

Firebird by Phil Davies, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 2 October 2015

This was a very harrowing short piece, brilliantly done. Deservedly, this one got a transfer to Trafalgar Studios, so there is a good stub to be found with the production details, some interviews etc. We saw the original version at the Hampstead Downstairs, but it looks as though it was a straight transfer, same cast, same production team.

The play is basically about a young girl in Rochdale who is befriended and groomed by an older, Asian man with debts and bad friends. The Children’s Society collaborated on the work, by all accounts.

We saw it on a Friday evening after a poor early evening meal at Harry Morgans. We were talking about it all weekend; it raised such startling issues and was so well acted.

There were also reviews post transfer:

Many more reviews can be found if you google for them using Trafalgar rather than Hampstead.