MY GREATEST INTERNET FEAR….

Dear Son,

Here is my considered advice on t’interweb.

I once logged into my ITunes account at the Waldorf in New York (you remember that posh place?) which was a teensy bit of a mistake. Well, I can only imagine it was that, as someone from China then helpfully tried to buy £800 of…whatever you do exactly buy off ITunes – I’ve never understood it really – and when my bank got suspicious of the odd activity they put a halt to my credit card. Yes, we were left stranded in New York with no money. I’m sure you must remember my panic.

Luckily Cathy helped us out and we got round it, but I still imagine a furtive Chinese man sitting in a booth in the lobby of the Waldorf, hunched over his computer, cackling, as he lifts all my info. It’s a disturbing image and is still my greatest internet fear….

So, in a pathetic conclusion, never, ever, EVER, log in to anything important (ie. to do with your money) from an unsecured line. Especially in a posh place like the Waldorf where people sit and wait, cackling.

How do I know you’ll ignore this info? Oh yes, that’s it – you’re my son!

This post is my entry into the Check and Secure challenge. For more advice on family safety online, see Mums on Security

2013 ROUND UP

It was a game of two halves, 2013. The usual crappiness of mental health problems coupled with the excitement of becoming a theatre reviewer. Unfortunately, the first took over the second and I had to duck out. But I had a fabulous – if damned tiring – time while it lasted.

Highlights were Titanic the Musical at Southwark Playhouse and Othello at the National. In fact I seem to have spent most of the year at the National, if not watching a play, then catching up with sleep in one of their lovely big black comfy foyer chairs. But it ended, as I said. It had to. I was going nuts again.

2014 began in a bad way, but new pills have made a big difference. Sometimes I think I should start the reviewing again (the door was left open) but then I remember what a state I got into and it’s a firm ‘no’. I shall pay for my tickets this year and enjoy just sitting watching things, not worrying about the meaning and the message.

NECK ACHE

I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I spent all yesterday asleep, and it still feels like a gorilla is holding my head in his fist.

I used to think it was the walking from place to place that exhausted me so: the standing, waiting for buses and trains (standing because it’s easier than having to sit down and then get up again): the quick hops from one place to another that seemed so close together on the map: the mile long detour round a building to get to the one disabled loo.

Now, I’ve realised it’s the actual sitting in the theatre itself. Because sitting for me isn’t like sitting for most people. Firstly I have to plop myself into the chair. This is no mean feat when it’s a pop up one where I have to get someone else to hold down the seat first, then try not to sit on their hand (especially worrisome with strangers). Then I have to get myself comfortable.

Because of my posture I have problems simply sitting upright. I have to prop myself up with my crutch. This does have one advantage: I’m never accused of hogging the seat arm as both my hands are on the crutch instead, in a desperate bid to keep me upright for an hour, sometimes a lot more.

My fingers soon go numb from hanging on to the arm supporting ring of my crutch. I rest my chin on it to try to get some relief. This is OK if I’ve brought a spare jumper or some gloves with me as I can use them as padding. If not, it gets a bit ‘diggy’ in the old chin!

Then there are the legs. Oh, the legs. The damned bloody legs. What to do with the legs?

crutching at straws

crutching at straws

If I’m lucky, and have got a sympathetic front of house person, I have a front row seat with no leg constriction at all. This is my DREAM every time I go to the theatre, not, as a lot of front of house peeps imagine, because I’m desperate to sit at the front (although I am an ‘up close and personal’ sort of theatre-goer), but because it means I don’t have to sit through the performance wanting to writhe around like a Fury but having to discreetly stretch my aching and yes, HURTING, legs when there’s a loud bit.

My ideal would be a bed in the theatre. But I’m not that silly. My legs are sometimes so painful that I think I’m going to have to walk out. But to do that would mean such a huge kerfuffle that it makes me blanch even to think about it.

And it’s not even that easy when I have quite a bit of legroom if I’m jammed in between two people. I can’t stretch my legs out into ‘their’ space. Sometimes, if they seem nice, I tell them of my problem before the show but do you know how bloody difficult it is to ask someone who’s paid good money for a seat to then give even a little bit of it up for some random idiot sitting next to them? (This only tends to happen if I’ve won tickets to a sold out show and they can’t dump me anywhere other than the original place the tickets were for).

I request an aisle seat. ‘Which side?’ I’m asked. ‘BOTH’, I want to scream! ‘So sit me at the bloody front!’

So, you see, it’s the sitting in the theatre (or on the bus or train, but that’s another blog post) that does me in, makes me so exhausted.

When most people sit, I presume they have a sense of relaxation. Their body goes ‘ahhhhhhhh’ as they take their seat. Mine doesn’t. It’s happy to be off the legs that don’t work properly, but it’s still tense as hell as it knows it’s going to go through more agony.

Because my body doesn’t relax when sitting in a (usually small) seat in the theatre. It cries out in pain. It drains itself of energy trying to shuffle about getting comfy which it should know by now is a lost bloody cause. It gets itself in knots of tension. It uses JUST AS MUCH energy as when it’s crutching it for the bus.

I came out of the National the other day after three and a half hours of Othello. Now, the play seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. The seats were relatively comfortable in that I did have an aisle seat and I was looking down onto the stage. But walking back to Waterloo for the bus I honestly thought I was having a stroke. Something had happened to my neck. I couldn’t move it around. It was stuck and hurting and I was scared.

This has happened since and I realise it’s something I’m just going to have to live with. I can only imagine it’s due to me having to sort of prop my head and shoulders up with my crutch and my neck not taking kindly to this interference.

I’m over 50 now. My body is not catching up with my mind. My mind is getting younger: my body is getting older. My mind is singing ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’: my body is singing ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.

I can’t deal with this. I’m in denial. I can do this. I can’t do this. I can sometimes do this. You’re not really disabled. You’re faking it. You have a life-changing disablility. You need help. You should count yourself lucky. You should see SOME people. You can do that, so you should be able to do this. You’re not in a wheelchair so you’re not disabled. You can manage steps. You can’t manage steps. You can use a bus. You can feed your cats. You faker. You failure. You YOU!

 

LITTLE OLD MISANTHROPIC ME

You can’t go wrong with Roger McGough, can you? And that wonderful poster of a red and white betighted leg crashing down on a ChoccyWoccy cake, promising a riotous night of 17th Century anarchy and wit can’t be that misleading, can it?

a waste of good tights AND chocolate cake

a waste of good tights AND chocolate cake

Yes, and, I’m afraid, yes.

This is the story of a misanthrope, a people-hater, a misery. So naturally I took my mum with me.

English Touring Theatre have now produced three Moliere plays adapted by Roger McGough, a natural choice you would imagine to bring the 16th Century playwright’s playful quippery a little up to date.

The plot itself is slight: Alceste (Colin Tierney) has tired of the superficiality of seventeenth century Parisian salon life and the arch flattery and pomposity that goes with it. So how does he rebel? He stops talking in verse.

Moliere’s original was written in Alexandrines, twelve syllable rhyming couplets, but McGough loosens this up as, he says, ‘the endless thudding rhymes prove soporific to the modern ear’. Rhyming equals class in this piece. The point is brought home by Alceste’s servant who struggles vainly to keep up with the fashion, only to come out with the most daft doggerel.

But Alceste is a Rebel, with a humongous R. His mate Philinte (Simon Coates), the sane, stable voice of the piece, gently mocks his pretentions and points out that this ‘big rebel’ is in love with the universally desired young widow, Celimene, so can’t be that much of a rebel at all.

Set in Celimene’s salon (turned into a garden twice by the odd addition of some camel-shaped topiary), and in a sassed up period dress, this production is, like it’s plot, static. Nout happens. People talk to each other. In rhyme. They flatter each other, they throw barbed compliments at each other. We get the idea: high society is false, a pretence, nothing is real, everything is a show.

Does Alceste’s character manage to cut through this? This should be what the plot turns on but, strangely, the Misanthrope himself is quite a sparse presence in the play. He jumps in here and there with cutting, society-shocking remarks, slyly trying to get the other characters to realise what fops and fools they are, but in the end you find yourself siding with the fops and fools rather than the egotistical Alceste.

10542_full

To be honest, the plot is so slight, the characters so unengaging, the language so ‘wink wink’-ingly knowing, that I felt like I was drowning in custard by the end of it.

And here’s the real problem. McGough’s words are just not funny. They’re not even interesting which is just THE cardinal sin for a bloody poet. “Get thee to a nunnery: are you making fun of me?” gives a wincing flavour. This is just not acceptable punnery even in rep. “He’s the tit at the start of tittle-tattle.” No? Me neither. When the biggest laugh of the night comes from two puppet dogs you know the production’s in trouble.

The acting is adequate, with the stand-outs being the pouffed up Clitandre (Leander Deeny channelling Matt Lucas), and the sweetly shrill Eliante (Alison Pargeter). Tierney unfortunately has a very grating, barking voice, while Harvey Virdi (the rather redundant Arsinoe) is just not good at all.

i'm the only gay in the village

i’m the only gay in the village

Ultimately, this is a one note production. It is a static production. It begins well with an elegant masque, but that really is the best bit of staging you get all evening. The cast stay still. The dialogue stays still. You should stay still in your own house and give this stinker a miss.

Stars there be one * (oooh arrghh, one star)

THE LOW ROAD at the Royal Court

On the bus to the Royal Court I suddenly realised I hadn’t been there for at last 30 years. And I felt so bloody old.

I saw Tracy Ulman and a very young Alan Rickman in a thing called ‘The Grass Widow’ which I can only remember because Rickman was stark naked when the curtain went up.

Sensible review bit:

Olivier nominated Clybourne Park writer Dominic Cooke is back at the Royal Court downstairs with a work on similar themes: money and race…and bees.

Set in pre-Revolutionary American, The Low Road tells of a foundling brought up in a brothel who is led to believe his father is a certain G. Washington due to the note left with him when he was abandoned. This tends to get him in and out of scrapes, but his love of money is the root of all his evil and ‘the invisible hand’ of Adam Smith is his mantra.

les miserabees

les miserabees

Indeed, Smith himself, in the shape of a super-laconic Bill Patterson, is our narrator and guide here, popping up at odd moments, commenting idly on the action, giving us a nod and a wink. The plot doesn’t really need this sort of explanation, but it’s always a pleasing moment when Patterson pops into view, even when just mumbling that the props people have left his lecturn in the wrong place.

Jim Trumpett (played with a whiny sense of entitlement by Johnny Flynn) is a kind of Hogarthian rake who lollops through life accruing other peoples’ money and then blithely informing them that he’s only doing them a good turn really, even when he then loses it all.

On his travels he runs into a ‘deef’ (deaf) slave whom he promptly buys, only to find he’s neither deef, nor very good at thinking himself a slave. Very much an Olaudah Equiano figure who’s smarter than your average white bear, John Blanke (Kobna Holdbrook Smith) is a counterpoint to Jim’s grasping, money-orientated character. Blanke is a trapped soul who simply wants to be free: poor perhaps, but free.

When the two stumble upon a community of religious misfits, there is a spirited debate about the free market and whether there is such a thing as society. Jim is very much on his own here, but the debate lights up the stage with the characters all positioned behind a long table, bringing to mind The Last Supper.

all together now!

all together now!

This motif is continued in the second act only this time at a much richer table in a rather well off house where Jim works as the accountant, while John charms the family with his play on the theme of the emancipation of the black man.

Inbetween we have a diversion, but one that echoes the table debates of the first and second acts.

As the curtain rises for the second half, it’s a surprise to be in a modern setting: a conference centre filled with bankers and businessmen, there for a Q&A session which is quite witty in itself but descends into cliche towards the end. I won’t spoil it for you, but the treatment here is heavy handed, a feature of this play. Light touch, heavy touch. Only the light works.

Adam Smith then has a bit of an amble and a ramble and we’re back with Jim and John in the past.

The second half rolls along nicely, in a picaresque sort of way, exploring the same themes of altruism, economics and monetary sharp-practice. The only truly shocking part of the play that makes you sit back and take a breath is when Jim is ‘sold on’. It’s a nasty surprise and after all the chatting and arguing about ‘the invisible hand’ and whether it’s the only way to go, it brings economics down to a very human level with a crash.

And then we come to the very last scene. What to say? It’s frankly odd and stupid and makes no bloody sense at all.

Before the play started I was chatting to the guy sitting next to me and I remarked that the Royal Court looks like it has been riveted together and is quite Tardis-like.

At the fall of the curtain he turned to me and said ‘Your Tardis remark was somewhat prophetic!’

Quite what possessed the director to keep this piece of tosh in I can’t imagine. It’s clunky and says nothing that the rest of the piece hasn’t already covered. If nothing else, I suppose it does round up the theme of bees which runs loosely through the show. I had to look this up when I got home on Wiki, so it might be worth looking up The Parable of the Bees by Mandeville before you set out for the RC.

Overall, I didn’t feel as if I’d wasted three hours of my life watching this, as I had begun to fear towards the end of the first half. Flynn as Jim annoyed the hell out of me, so he did his job well, and the supporting cast of 20-odd ran around playing double that with great gusto but also with clarity.

In all, The Low Road doesn’t quite hit the mark as ultimately we don’t invest in the characters enough, and the ‘protest’ and ‘tardis’ scenes stick out like sore thumbs: sore thumbs with Royal Court sensibilities oozing out of them.

And well, frankly, I just couldn’t get Andy Hamilton’s ‘Revolting People’ out of my head throughout the whole thing….

A crazy little thing called job

Yay! I seem to have gotten myself a couple of reviewing jobs! Proper ones – apart from the bit about there being no pay *sigh*

I am excited and apprehensive in equal measures. My confidence is never good at best, and when I have to begin new things it plummets to a new low.

So I must start doing some proper proper PROPER serious reviews on the blog to get my hand in. The problem is, I like writing the waffly bits between the lines and round the edges more than the actual meat of the review. Perhaps I can include the silly bits in here and save the sensible bits for the stuff for the other websites.

It’s that ‘serious’ bit that really worries me and throws me. I do tend to hide behind a laugh. Then I don’t have to worry so much about people disagreeing with me. It struck me last night that the thing that I hate most in life is ‘being told off’….in general. It makes my skin crawl.

It also struck me that I really underestimate how good I am at beating myself repeatedly over my own head. So I shall bloody well stop it. Now…..

Bang! Oh bollocks.