What Listening To 10,000 Love Songs Has Taught Me About Love by Rohan Candappa, Cockpit Theatre, 31 October 2017

Ahead of the performance, I went to Don Pepe, where several of Rohan’s friends, but none of the Alleyn’s crowd other than me, were gathering; on my recommendation.

Nick Primmer appeared to be the ringleader of that group; a really pleasant bunch of people. (When have I ever met unpleasant people through Rohan?) We ate light – just a few tapas between us – we hadn’t allowed much time. Then we navigated an inverse Bodmin (everyone wanted to overpay) before heading towards The Cockpit.

I joked that Janie’s and my visit the night before for the jazz – click here – was essential reconnaissance for Rohan’s evening. Strangely, it did help, because approaching the theatre from the north-west side, you need to climb a rather unusual staircase/walkway, which I think the others might have missed but which I realised must be the right way from the previous night’s loop round the estate to get out.

So we were in good time…

…but perhaps Rohan wasn’t. At least, he seemed in no rush to start. We waited for one or two latecomers, getting our number up to perhaps 30 people. Then Rohan said, “I have one or two things to do, so I’d like you all to discuss in pairs the question, ‘what is your favourite song?’, before I start.”

Of course this was a ruse to warm us up.

I was sitting next to John Eltham and Ben Clayson. We decided to break the rules and work as a trio. We quickly concluded that it is impossible to name one favourite song. John suggested that we name a current favourite, or perhaps the song that is occupying our minds most of the time at the moment.

I chimed in with, “in that case, for me it must be Innsbruck Ich Muss Dich Lassen, the Renaissance song I am currently trying to work up to performance standard on my baroq-ulele for the forthcoming Gresham Society soiree.”

That pronouncement seemed to put an end to the conversation in our trio for some reason. Heck, it is a love song, you know? Still, as John said afterwards, “only Ian would say that his favourite song of the moment is a 15th century song.”

Fortunately, around that conversation-stopping moment, Rohan decided that we were all warm enough, so he started his performance.

Gram-o-phone, grandad?

The performance started with Rohan computing that he (and therefore all of us of a similar age) have probably listened to about 10,000 love songs.

Rohan then takes us on a journey through his own coming-of-age and rites-of-passage, using a few well-chosen love songs to illustrate his stories.

I’m tempted to describe it as a sort-of autobiographical cross between a Bildungsroman and Desert Island Discs. But that sounds like a prelude to damning the piece, whereas it is my intention to praise it very highly indeed.

It reminded me a little of Every Brilliant Thing, which Janie and I thought was quite magnificent but when I tried to describe it,  the piece sounds ordinary – click here.

Not that Rohan’s piece is as tight and polished as Every Brilliant Thing…yet.

Anyway, the record in Rohan’s head for his first kiss (and therefore the first record he played to us on the evening) was Heart Of Glass by Blondie.

Rohan explained the Triangular Theory Of Love through the use of Toblerone, so I think that means that the advert I recall saying “do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?” should really have been a question about your last piece of Toblerone.

While Rohan handed around the Toblerone to the audience, a riot broke out.

No, the riot wasn’t a scrap for chocolate-based food amongst a feral, hungry audience; but something seemed to be kicking off on the local estates around the theatre.

“Standin’ at the door of the Pink Flamingo cryin’ in the rain…”

Meanwhile, Rohan pressed on. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye by Soft Cell for an unrequited love episode…there’s a lot of 13th Century troubadour material on that subject, Rohan, if you would like me to dig some out for you…

…and a couple of left-field choices which, very strangely indeed, also coincide with my own coming-of-age stories:

I don’t know whether Rohan’s piece brought floods of memories to other members of the audience to the same extent as it brought such floods to me, but I have now written some 3,500 words of memory pieces since the show in order to capture those recovered memories while they remain fresh in my mind.

Like any good Bildungsroman, Rohan returns to his adult self and thoughts of his parents at the end of the show, with their favourite song, Moon River, proving that you can’t keep a good love song down; be it 56 or 532 years old.

By the time we’d cleared up the room, only a few of us retreated to The Globe pub, but a delightful small group of people it was. A very substantial police presence protected us for the 200 yards or so between the theatre and the pub. Many police in high viz flak jackets felt a little more robust than the theatre’s security; the solitary figure of John Eltham with a label/badge which reassuringly read “security”.

Anyway, a chance to say hello properly to Jan and also to meet Julie, aka the character “Croissanita” from Rohan’s previous show, How I Said ‘F*** You’ To The Company When They Tried to Make Me Redundant – click here for the pilot review of that one.

Ollie Goodwin and I were the last to leave the pub, although most of us left roughly at the same time.

When I got home I felt hungry. All could find easily to hand was a croissant on the breakfast bar and some salami in the fridge. I thought the croissant was most apt, given that I had finally met Croissanita that evening:

But the last word should go to Ollie Goodwin, who has e-mail circulated the following review, which in many ways says as much in 11 words as I have said in 1000:

This piece will resonate with everyone who has ears and genitals

Nightmare In Noddyland, Halloween Night, 31 October 2017

Here in the Hanger Hill Garden Estate (also known as Noddyland) polite children with polite parents dress up and come around “trick or treating” for Halloween, but in truth it is all smiles and treats, no tricks…

…or is it?

The Noddyland Witch Starts Scheming Early For Halloween

Here is the sound of the Noddyland witch preparing for Halloween:

Janie loves Halloween and plans for it well ahead of time.

No Jack O’Lantern Here: Janie Made A Very Girly Jackie O’Lantern

Even our pink flamingo, Flossie Pom Pom, wants a piece of the action.

Flossie Pom Pom, our pink flamingo, getting ready for Halloween…

So keen was Janie to participate in the local Halloween fun, she rejected the opportunity to see my good friend, Rohan Candappa, pilot his new performance piece at The Cockpit Theatre – for the review of my evening click here.

I think the rest of the story is told better with pictures than words – with thanks to Janie and local parents for these pictures.

Matching witch hats
Scary little visitors
Coral hair?
Do you want something, children?
Ah, yes, of course, sweet treats
Forming an orderly queue?
The Noddyland witch with some sweet children…
…and finally with some scary creatures of the night

Jazz In the Round, Sam Barnett Quintet & Interchange, Cockpit Theatre, 30 October 2017

While Waiting For Action

This was a well cool evening of jazz.  An exciting new 10 piece (dectet) of female jazz players supported by a quintet of extremely talented teenagers.

It is all explained in this Jazz In The Round at The Cockpit link – click here.

Just in case they aren’t so good at archiving at The Cockpit, I have scraped the raw HTML so you’ll still be able to read the text at least here.

I happened across this pretty much by chance. Rohan Candappa is going to try out a new performance piece at The Cockpit 31 October, so I looked at the website for the place, as I didn’t know it, although it is more or less “on my manor”.

I spotted this concert and checked out a couple of YouTubes and audio links  for the performers. I liked what I saw and heard – Janie did too – we booked it.

This is the YouTube I checked out for the Sam Barnett Quintet:

I found the following Spotify link for the Interchange/Issie Barrett stuff – click here or below.

First up, the youngsters. Jez Nelson from Jazz FM introduced the acts:

Jez Nelson with the Sam Barnett Quintet

All good musicians, but Sam himself plus the drummer Zoe Pascal were the standouts:

Janie felt that the Sam Barnett compositions were too reminiscent of the greats, e.g. Miles Davis. “Not original enough”, she said. “He’s sixteen years old for goodness sake” was my response to that.

Composing Their Own Stuff

The Interchange dectet also compose their own stuff; not just Issie Barratt but all of them compose. We heard five pieces by five different members of the ensemble. The standout piece for us was Palmyra by Shirley Smart the cellist. All ten are superb musicians. The standouts for me are the multi-instrumentalists Yazz Ahmed, Helena Kay & Tori Freestone, plus the percussionist Katie Patterson.

To add to the arty coolness of it all, Gina Southgate was there, right behind us, painting the ensembles as they played:

Gina Southgate’s jazz art

Slightly to detract from the late-nighter coolness of it all, I was well tired after a weekend of outings and I’m back here again tomorrow, so I fired up my smart phone and pressed the “come and get me” buttons as soon as the gig ended, which slightly curtailed Janie’s chat with Gina Southgate.

Anyway, we’d had a great evening, which we rounded off with some smoked fishes, salad and wine back at the flat, before flaking.

The Alehouse, Bjarte Eike & Barokksolistene, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 29 October 2017

We liked the sound of this 17th Century alehouse music concert, described thus:

They will transform our candlelit space into something close to a 17th-century alehouse, with a menu of highly entertaining, touching and beautiful folk music.

So we awaited the concert with rapt attention:

Rapt attention considering the show hasn’t yet started
A Shakespearean pre-show double-selfie

In the first half Bjarte Eike explained the 17th century alehouse music phenomenon to us and demonstrated the fusion of serious and folk music through the material played – several pieces of Purcell for example. Some with Shakespearean themes to make us feel at home; Timon Of Athens, Midsummer Night’s Dream, you get the idea.

In truth, we found the first half of the concert far more to our taste than the second half. The first half had a bit of audience participation with a sea shanty and stuff, but the second half seemed to weird out completely, seeming more like a bawdy modern Gaelic cèilidh than a 17th century alehouse.

Of course this was never really meant to be a truly authentic depiction, but we felt the project must have run out of material that related to its purpose, or simply found that they could only get the audience going by playing more familiar stuff.

It just felt a bit gratuitously bawdy at times and bit of an ego trip for some of the performers to show off their favourite tricks.

Here is a link to the Shakespeare’s Globe page on the event we attended.

Below is a video of the performers taken recently.

This search term – click here – should tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about them, even if you have been afraid to ask.

I must say The Globe rather irritates us now. The bars and other audience facilities are very utilitarian and the bars always seem to have just run out of the thing you want. There’s something a bit amateurish and/or touristic about the whole set up; the prices are far from amateur.

But the setting is superb and was ideal for this concert – or at least what this concert was purported to be.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; an ideal setting for Alehouse music

We enjoyed our evening but we won’t be rushing back, either to Barokksolistene or The Globe.

Of Kith And Kin by Chris Thompson, Bush Theatre, 28 October 2017

Another night at the theatre, another enjoyable evening despite a rather messy play.

We enjoyed Of Kith And Kin, especially once the narrative got past the rather sitcom meets soap opera first act. There were interesting issues and a nice mixture of comedy, tension and tragedy.

But my goodness did we have to suspend belief a lot at times. No amount of desperation, deep-seated psychological damage and troubled back story would, in my view, lead a solicitor to behave as Daniel behaves at times in the second and third acts.

The acting felt a bit patchy too. All three female parts were very well-expressed but the central (male) couple felt a bit weak at times. Perhaps it was the play. Perhaps it was the way the play was directed.

The Bush has published a trailer on YouTube:

The Bush anchor and details can be found by clicking here.

I’ll guess the play will get/is getting mixed reviews – this search term should find whatever is out there whenever you come to look.

Still, we had a good evening.

We met again the nice young chap who sat next to us and chatted with us at The Gate the other week, serving behind the bar at The Bush.

We tried a very tasty Thai takeaway from the Sisters Cafe in Pitshanger Lane after the show.

Albion by Mike Bartlett, Almeida Theatre, 27 October 2017

As  usual for the Almeida, we booked this as soon as it was announced because it sounded very interesting and we normally enjoy the Almeida stuff.

We normally go to a Saturday preview or an early Saturday in the run; this time we couldn’t do those dates, so chose a Friday two or three weeks into the run.

The play/production has had universally good reviews, which sounded like good news, but in truth this play did not really do the business for us. A shame, because the cast were superb, seemed very much a team, the design was stunning and there were some excellent coups de theatre and some very good lines. But the play just didn’t work for us.

To us, the garden was a rather clunky metaphor for that section of the English elite that hankers back to bygone glorious times.  A dramatist’s reaction to David Goodhart’s The Road To Somewhere.  The plot, limited though it was, contained one or two rather predictable twists that were well-signalled in advance and very clumsily explained in arrears.

As King Charles III is Mike Bartlett’s Shakespeare pastiche play, Albion is his Chekhov pastiche. Janie liked neither; I had more time for the Shakespearean style of the King Charles III one (to be Ogblogged in the fullness of time).

We’re not averse to Mike Bartlett – we loved Game and we loved Wild. Bartlett can have such an original voice, I’m not sure why he falls back on pastiche. Janie points out that his pastiche ones seem to be way more successful with critics and the transfer market than the more original ones.

“Most of the theatre audience is naff,” says Janie, with her trademark subtlety and tact.

In truth, the Almeida audience the night we saw Albion was dreadful and irritated us. Older on average than the Saturday night crowd, they seemed especially and unnecessarily elbows-out pushy at the bar and in the queues for tickets/entry. Janie was especially irritated by the woman sitting next to her who took off her shoes and then held us up for five minutes at the start of the interval trying to put her shoes back on her ever so smelly feet.

I had spent an hour before the show saying goodbye (workwise) to Ian Theodoreson at his leaving drinks in The Barley Mow. A shorter play would have probably suited me better on the night. But we have both turned up to theatre after longer, harder days than this; in truth this play/production just wasn’t to my/our taste.

Here is a link to the Almeida information hub on Albion – including links to those rave reviews.

Culture in Crisis: At Home in Syria, Talk With Zahed Tajeddin & Diana Darke, V&A, 23 October 2017

An excellent talk and reception at the V&A – part of the Culture In Crisis series – two contrasting stories about houses in war-torn Syria. 

Diana Darke is an English writer and broadcaster who bought and restored a villa house in the Old City of Damascus some years ago. She talked about the multi-faith, multi-cultural nature of Damascus; we learned that Sunnis and Shias often intermarry in Damascus; those folk are known as Sushis. The old city in Damascus has not been badly damaged in the war, but a corrupt lawyer tried (unsuccessfully) to steal Diana’s house from her. She’s written a book about it – click here – Janie bought the book after the talk.

Janie and I took tea at the Umayyad Palace Restaurant, Damascus, 1997

Zahed Tajeddin is an artist from Aleppo. He bought and restored an old villa house in the old city of Aleppo several years ago. He explained that most of the old city of Aleppo was very dilapidated when he was growing up; his grandparents were the last generation to use those houses as comfortable residences. But a restoration trend had started towards the end of the last century with a few restored and used as restaurants – Janie and I knew about that…

Janie and I dined at the Sissi House Restaurant, Aleppo, in 1997
Janie and I dined at the Sissi House Restaurant, Aleppo, in 1997

…but Zahed chose to buy and restore one to its former glory and residential purpose. His description of the project and his pictures were, for me, probably the best bit of the talk. Of course Zahed’s house has been severely damaged in the war; many of the neighbouring houses have been completely destroyed.

Aleppo street in 1997
An Aleppo Street in 2017

Both stories were fascinating. Zahed’s story is sadder, but both of the speakers demonstrated incredible courage and resilient determination to overcome their respective difficulties. Incredibly, Zahed has already started restoring his house again.

There wasn’t much time for questions, which was possibly just as well, because the few questions that did come up were a bit daft.

There was however plenty of time for a glass of wine and chat after the talk. Janie got to buy the book and chat briefly with both of the speakers, asking them far more sensible questions than those that came earlier from the lecture hall grand-standers. We met a couple of interesting young people; one young Oxford student who wants to go to Syria as part of her studies and one young Syrian student at SOAS.

A fascinating evening, rounded off with some fine sushi from the Sushi Shop in South Kensington…we’re talking Japanese style fish here, not a Damascene mix of Sunni and Shia people.

Christopher Tye and Claude Le Jeune: 16th-century musical radicals, Wigmore Hall, 22 October 2017

I got several e-mails from the Wig slightly changing this concert; at one point swapping an artiste, at another tweaking the programme. At no point undermining my purpose, which was to hear viol music by two Renaissance composers whose viol music I had never heard before.

Here is the Wigmore Hall page on the gig we finally saw.

We really enjoyed our evening.

It was more or less exactly a year ago that we saw and heard Phantasm do a wonderful job of Orlando Gibbons – click here.

In truth, I think Gibbons is the better gig – or at least more to our taste.

The Tye is rather relentlessly somber. But he must  have been a spunky chap. Word on the street is that Queen Elizabeth did not like his playing and sent a verger to tell Tye that he was playing out of tune. Tye sent back the message that it was her ears that were out of tune. I’ll remember that riposte for my baroq-ulele playing and singing.

Still, we preferred the Le Jeune, who was new to both of us as a composer and far more upbeat.

Janie was a little disappointed that the lute was such a bit part for these pieces. We had recently seen Paul O’Dette’s superb solo concert – click here – but of course when the lute was part of an ensemble it tended to have a continuo role in those days.

We always get a warm feeling with Phantasm. Laurence Dreyfus comes across so nicely and explains things without the slightest note of condescension.

Yes we enjoyed very much indeed. If you have never seen Phantasm live, seek them out. If you live in a remote place, I would recommend the Gibbons as a place to start listening,ahead of Tye or Le Jeune,  but for sure do listen to some…

…and if it is the Tye you fancy, you can click the image below and Amazon it:

Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, Orange Tree Theatre, 21 October 2017

This brilliant show is so difficult to describe without making it sound awful. Hence the big adjective up front to make it very clear that this is a great show and is highly recommended by both of us.

The reason it sounds awful is because it is riddled with audience participation and childish comedy, yet it is about depression and suicide, so could err towards mawkishness.

But it does none of those things – it is simply an hour of wonderful, entertaining stuff.

Don’t take our word for it – this search term finds you zillions of reviews.

Here is the excellent Orange Tree stub on the production.

Janie and I did not get majorly picked on for audience participation (unlike some), but we did get to read out an item each from the list; “Christopher Walken’s Voice” in Janie’s case and “Christopher Walken’s Hair” (must have been type-casting) in mine.

Janie had to ask me afterwards who Christopher Walken is.

Well done Paul Miller and the Orange Tree crowd for grabbing this one and giving it a go at the Orange Tree – just the right size and shape of venue for this piece.

We went for our usual post-Orange Tree Don Fernando meal feeling thoroughly satisfied and thrilled with our evening’s entertainment.

Sunday Lunch/Dinner With Escamillo Escapillo, Lavender, Sue and Alan, The Plough At Cadsden, 15 October 2017

What could be nicer than a family gathering in rural Buckinghamshire for the Sunday repast?

Escamillo Escapillo and Lavender suggested a few possible dates to us. We chose this one because Escamillo’s aunt and uncle, Sue and Alan, were going to be staying with them. We’d met Sue and Alan at the wedding and got on well with them, so this seemed like a great opportunity for a gathering.

The youngsters chose The Plough at Cadsden – just a few miles up the road from their place. Neither Daisy nor I had heard of it, but according to its web site it is “probably the most famous Pub in England” and “[t]he Pub of Choice of Prime Ministers for many decades”.

Indeed, Escamillo took great pride in reporting that The Plough was the very pub in which David Cameron, famously, accidentally abandoned one of his children, a few days after Escamillo and Lavender’s wedding. Daisy and I made a mental note of how many people were in our party and therefore how many people we would needed to count as we left, to ensure that we were still complete.

We had a short debate on what to call the meal in question; lunch or dinner. With three Lancastrians and three southerners at the table, that match was always going to end as a draw. Given the portion sizes in The Plough. it was basically going to be a one proper meal day for all of us, whatever we called it.

We all decided to have a main and a desert, on the advice of Escamillo and Lavender who warned us about the portion sizes and suggested that the desserts were especially sproggy and good; they were right. The main course specials of the day revolved around roasts (surprise surprise on a Sunday). Daisy plumped for lamb while I plumped for pork.  The others went for beef (mostly) or chicken. I went for the death by chocolate brownie and ice cream dessert which was very yummy and was the majority choice. Daisy went for apple pie and custard, which she said was also very good.

At one point Patrick Moore came into the conversation. I mentioned that I had interviewed him in my youth and that I did not remember him being all that impressive. Daisy told me off afterwards for the unnecessarily churlish-sounding comment. In fact, a few days later, I dredged my memory, diary and recording from that 1981 interview, Ogblogging my Patrick Moore experience, including the recording of the interview and including a recantation of my “not all that impressive” opinion – click here.

We talked a lot about cricket over lunch; Alan and Sue are very keen on it. Their reminiscences about the Lancashire leagues of old and their thoughts about the London Cricket Trust project, with which I’m now involved, were very interesting and insightful. We also all talked about county championship and test match cricket rather a lot.

Here is a photograph of all of us at table after the meal, with thanks to the nice waitress.

I am delighted to report that, on leaving The Plough, we took numerical stock and all six of us were still together. No-one got abandoned in The Plough or even in the grounds outside it when we all drove off. This I think proves beyond doubt that we could run the country better than David Cameron and his bunch of cronies.

Anyway, we’d had a really enjoyable meal and get together. I hope we get a chance to get together again soon.