Welcome to Afghanistan, based on Lt John Greenwood’s memoir published in 1844, is being revived for a series of performances in December. The show, given a must see review in the Stage at it’s Edinburgh Premiere will be being performed at the following:
7th December. Braintree Arts theatre – Details and tickets HERE
14th/15th December. Three and Ten. Brighton – Details and Tickets HERE
The shows will also feature a poetry set after the interval. Be great to see you there, and please spread the word. It really is one of my favourites….I know that sounds daft as I’ve only done three solo-plays, but I have a real soft spot for Lt John Greenwood. Salut!
Well now, well now, well now. What’s the hell’s happened! I haven’t done a post since April! Lordy lord. Have I been that busy??????
Well, maybe. Also, maybe a bit lazy too. Ah, the life of a poet, the wages are bad but the lifestyles fantastic! There are some new dates I have in the run till Christmas. Not so many of them as I didn’t really know what my show was about while I was booking venues, so it went into a few old favourites, with lovely audiences. I needn’t of worried though. the show had a stonking debut at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.
Why not read the reviews!
“Wickedly, wickedly funny.” Nick Awde, THE STAGE – Full review here
“Gets the audience laughing from the get go.” Steven Fraser, BROADWAY BABY Full review here
I also had a blinder doing my stand up poetry show, The Monkey Poet, which due to the lateness of my writing Love Hurts Actually, is pretty much a greatest hits affair, but I was rewarded with 5 stars in Three Weeks.
“Irreverent, fast, furious and fun. The Monkey Poet is not to be missed.” Elaine Teng, THREE WEEKS Full review here
And Three Weeks also interviewed me before the Fringe here
My upcoming shows are …..
4th October – THE DEN OF VARIETY. Manchester 3MT Theatre, Afflecks Palace Oldham St. I’ll be compereing The Den of Variety. After last times vrilliant night…that’s right, VRILLIANT night (it’s like a punk version of Brilliant, it’s Brilliant but with it’s fingers up!) it is going to be a sure fire blast. Tickets and info here
12th October NEWPORT COMEDY FESTIVAL. I’ll be doing a spot alongside some the bigger and certainly faster-rising names (I hate heights…) at the Riverfront. Not sure who else is on the bill but I know the excellent Pete Firman is!
17th October. LOVE HURTS ACTUALLY at the WOLDS WORDS FESTIVAL in Louth. Brilliant local festival in a lovely town. After last years show I met some lovely locals and ended bollock naked in a hot tub with them. There’s also a curry night on that night!!!!! Exceedingly happy days! Tickets and info here
19th October. LOVE HURTS ACTUALLY at The Jersey Opera House. Really looking forward to my return to this splendiferous venue, and the lovely people of Jersey. Last year after the show I ended up drinking with a load of mixed martial artists (You would be surprised at the people poetry draws) and gatecrashing a Motorcycle clubs party. Cannae wait! Tickets, Info Here
29th October LOVE HURTS ACTUALLY at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, SCARBOROUGH. One of my favourite theatres in the land. Home of the Legendary Alan Ayckbourn. Tix and info here
That’s all for now folks! Speak to you hopefully sooner than I did the last time!
Thurs 18th April sees me at Tongue in Cheek at the brilliant Castle Pub on Oldham St (one of my favourite drinking holes.)
May 1st sees me at Resist Much, Obey Less at the Sandbar, with John G Hall, Rosie Garland, Longfella Tony Walsh, Gerry Potter and more, going to be a great night of Revolutionary Words (incidentally at one of my favourite drinking holes.)
This video was done by Lit NorthWest, they got a boatload of local Poets in and on, go to there Youtube channel to see some great stuff… Coincidentally, the fuggy look on my face is because my shoot was at 9.15am (urgh!!!!!)
Based on the Murder Mystery Double bill currently on Tour – Portrait of the Artist as a Young Simian also contains Requi, a libretto written for Classical Revolution, with music composed by Steve Pycroft. Read more about it by clicking on the cover.
MONDAY – John Hegley & Friends at the Betsey Trotwood in Clerkenwell
http://www.thebetsey.com/ Tickets £8
TUESDAY – Girlfriend in a Comma, Full Stop Cafe, 202 Brick Lane FREE ENTRY
WEDNESDAY – UNCLE ERROL PRESENTS …POETRY JAM.
The Vibe Gallery, Clements Rd, Bermondsley
THURSDAY – BANG SAID THE GUN! £7/£5 Concessions
The Roebuck, Great Dover St.
Hopefully see you there! x
If you can’t make the gigs you can purchase the rather lavishly illustrated book here!!!
This video has just been put up on you tube. Contains the FART heckle!
Three Plays, Two Gigs & Two Graveyards!
Last week saw the Re:Play festival at the Lowry, run in conjunction with The Library Theatre during its period of temporary homelessness. I saw two of the shows there. The first was “Can’t stand up for falling down” by Richard Cameron. The intertwining monologues of three Yorkshire lasses whose lives revolve around one man set in a small village in the 60′s. Beautifully written and realised cleverly using footage from the time to ground us and prove that the sexual and feminist revolution wasn’t in fact liberally spread across the nation. The set was simple, two washing lines, the bedsheet doubling as the screen for projections. It was ensemble theatre at its best. A couple of accents were slightly shaky here and there but the cast were on the whole more than able. The tone was dark but peppered throughout with much needed humourous flourishes. Directed with conviction by Lucy Allan. If this piece is remounted, see it!
The Bubbler was a two hander by Cathy Crabb, cleverly directed by Phil Dennison. Taking place in the Circle Bar in the Lowry, this site specific piece deals with a Cash Convertors Manager having a swift couple after work to vent his spleen, lightening the load before going home. He and the barman have some beautifully written exchanges, and it’s subtley moving. The character of Paul acts as a showcase for Neil Bell’s range, the after work explosion of dark energy a sheer delight, his simmering cynicism at do-gooders, or one in particular, to his eventual two pint ritual completed, the weight of his life dissolved in alcohol, he leaves for home. Dan Street-Brown played the Barman Peter well, a foil for Paul’s outbursts, the calm in his storm, just like a really good Barman should be. And watching as both a person who’s needed, on occasion the two pint ritual before home, (trust me, sales can be a bitch) and an ex-barman, what struck me was the simple reality of the piece. There’s no major reveal, no terrorist’s running in taking hostages or something equally shite, and it plays all the better for it. There are rumours of a remount in the summer and I hope they’re true. This piece deserves a wider audience.
That was Monday and Tuesday taken care of, Wednesday I headed down to London to see Jessica Ruano’s directorial debut, Sappho. Jessica was my Dramaturg on Murder Mystery, more than that, she also gave me the funniest line in the piece. So I was quite excited and with good cause.
“Sappho…in 9 fragments” is a one-woman play written by Jane Montgommery-Griffiths. Sappho today is more known for the Island she lived on, and the description both the island and her name gave to the female equivalent of “the love that dare not speak its name”. For me that’s the crux of the play, the emotional highpoint. Sappho wrote nine books of poetry, all we have left are fragments, and nicknames. Certainly, my spirit would be none too pleased if in the future the shorthand for a shit poem is “a monkey”.
The spirit of Sappho, fragmented, bitter, wholesome, yet not whole holds court to explain what we know, or rather don’t about her. As counterpoint, a young female actor innocently falls in love with an experienced star. Second Skin’s presentation is one of the most dynamic pieces of theatre I’ve had the privilege of seeing. And with the venue holding about twenty people per show, I do consider myself privileged to see it! (The rest of the run is sold out although I believe it’s being extended…it’s a hot ticket folks, get it!)
Victoria Grove gives a powerhouse performance of physical and emotional theatre. There’s an implict danger that the script can be too distant, academic, wordy and worthy, basically, that it’s perfect for a college project, think Brecht plus Berkoff and you get my point. For the first ten minutes or so, that unease runs through the show. Is this good? Or is this going to be a soapy titwank of Luvvy, Dahling and conversations about Lorca and Ionesco? Happily, these thoughts are dispensed with as the play builds a palpable, pulsating rhythm that makes its 70 minute run time fly by. Grove slides effortlessly between characters, acting and reacting so smoothly that the audience never has doubt. The set, a scaffold cube covered with white cloth, in turn, baby, partner, bridal gown, cloak and crisscrossed with ropes, in turn a swing, cuffs, ropes for freedom, ropes for bondage. Jessica’s direction is deceptively unobtrusive resulting in a performance, in such a stylised setting, being completely natural. The music and SFX complement the show completely. The show won a standing ovation from me, the fourth in 25 years…yes, it’s that f*cking good!
Thursday I took a random trip to Highgate Cemetary. Random because a friend and I decided to feed some ducks at the park, the seaguls got most of the bread, but as my friend pointed out, “If the duck’s aren’t going to fight for it, there’s only so much we can do!”. Noticing the cemetary and having some time to kill, we decided to wander inside…this being London, it cost £3. Marx’s headstone was there, and by gum, from the size of it it’s obvious he was very well respected…pity more people haven’t decided to honour him by putting his ideas into practice. We also saw Anthony Shaffer’s headstone, rather crudely with the Sleuth logo carved into it’s back. The biggest surprise was when I noticed Douglas Adams’ headstone. The week before I had taken delivery of the HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy albums (Original Records) which are far superior to radio and tele series (and I’d been after them for ages,) so he was riding quite high in my mind. I tugged a forelock at my hero and walked on.
Returning to Manchester from graveside Thursday night for a rather special gig on Friday at the Ritz. It’d been at least 8 years since I’d seen father’s of space rock Hawkwind. Largely because the last time I’d seen them, they weren’t particularly good, by their own standards, and I’d resolved quite reasonably to live with the memories. However, a band of Ex-Hawkwind’ers built around Nik Turner and Alan Davey were doing a 40th Anniversary gig of the Space Ritual Album, undoubtedly, Hawkwind’s Dark side of the Moon. I’d bought the ticket in September, they were playing near Margate on the Saturday, and then 7 days earlier I’d found Hawkwind were on the night before in Manchester. Well, why not?
Hawkwind are still ably led by Dave Brock, though Mr Dibs and Richard Chadwick share the main vocal duties. They were good, a damn site better than the last time. A fantastic rendition of Damnation Alley was the highpoint of their set. But for me, the highpoint of the night was the opening act, Hawkwind’s Electronics man and Ex-Gong Tim Blake. But, I’ll be seeing them again the next time round as my faith has been restored somewhat.
The major issue with the gig was its early finish time. 9.40pm. They came on stage at 8pm but the Ritz has a curfew time of 10pm thanks to all of the new flats in the area. Sorry folks, but if you live in the city centre, especially above a venue, expect some noise, it’s not like the building was hidden until aftter you moved in, was it? Don’t complain about the music, it makes you look like c*nts. Many venues have been forced to close because of this, the Dancehouse bar being the first one that springs to mind. Of course, they’re being selfish and selfishness was my reason for being annoyed. I had a bus to catch at 5am to get to the other gig and not being an early riser…club followed by casino followed by bus to London, then another to Herne Bay to see Space Ritual Revisited.
Three words sum up this concert…HOLY BEAUTIFUL FUCK!
Nik Turner started the gig by innocuously ambling on stage and explaining the concept behind the original tour. the band are the spaceship. the spaceship’s fuel is the crowds energy. A hippy-ish concept that has no place in our cynical times. The band started, I unintentionally drew contrasts between this gig and Hawkwinds the night before. Hawkwind had the better lights, the better sound, but not the better soul. The spaceships launch was a creaky affair, not aided by the venues inability to put out the houselights, but it slowly broke free of gravity’s embrace, and began to speed…and speed…and hitting Brainstorm it hit the speed of light and the crowd fed the band and the band fed the crowd and all was as Nik said it would be. All it takes is a little faith. If this sounds needlessly biblical or religious, trust me, you weren’t there. At the end of the gig crowd and band were as one. The euphoria took some 2-3 hrs to wear off. This was as close to a religious experience an athiest can expect to get.
I’ve just found out that the Psychedelic Warlords will be playing a mini-tour of this show…SEE IT! http://www.thepsychedelicwarlords.com
I’d heard that one of my inspirations and hero’s, Robert Calvert, whose poetry was surely the first in the UK to be performed in the rock/hippy/happening music setting, and who had the original concept behind the gig, was buried close by. Getting to Minster wasn’t easy but it was enjoyable. A walk on the seafront at Margate and 3hrs later I was stood at his graveside. For those of you that have never heard either the man’s work or even of the man himself, please look him up. His poetry and lyrics make him one of the truly, undeservedly, forgotten. Genius. Below are two of classic songs of his, listen to them, spread the word, dig about, hear some more, check out his poetry, his plays, buy some of his stuff, the stuff you love, trust me, that’ll be a lot, the list of quality Calvert is long!
Then for me, bus back to london and manchester getting in bed for 5am monday morning…As I said, what a week!
As any fule know, before Yule, Peter Jackson returned to the Middle Earth that launched him career wise into the stratosphere. He seems to have landed with a critical bump, though the paying public have made the film a resounding success, $890m worldwide so far. I’ve been a fan of Jackson’s ever since renting a copy of Bad Taste from the local Spar when I was about fourteen. The humour was a perfect mixture of school boy prankings and gross out effects made all the more funny because of it’s DIY appeal, reality here had taken a well deserved holiday. I followed his career progression with interest, he went beyond the splatter to mark himself out as a very talented director indeed. And then came Lord of the Rings. Boom! I have also been a longtime fan of Tolkien’s and, excepting niggling small details, Legolas using his shield as a skateboard etc, the vision that Jackson put on screen was about as best as one could reasonably expect. Hiring two of the artists behind the Tolkien Calendars was a great move, and many images in the film come from the Centenary Calendar, in some respects it’s almost a shooting script. What he did was tap into the fans collected expectation and say, here it is folks, just like you dreamt it would be. And it was. Wow!
And then, there was the Hobbit…
The film is the start of a trilogy. Another trilogy. Hmmm. And, if we are judging it against the literal translation of the Hobbit childrens book, as indeed I judged LoR, it falls waaaaaaay short.
What’s the issue?
Well, unfortunately Peter Jackson had done such a complete and thorough job of presenting middle earth as it was in LoR, that he couldn’t really go back to the middle earth presented in the Hobbit. Surely the two are the same, I hear you say. No, no they are not. Not at all. The Hobbit is as whimsical as Alice in Wonderlad, it is drawn from the same fey fancy, cut from the same cloth, it’s a gingham apron to the Lord of the Rings’ Leather gimp suit. So Jackson has had to go beyond the Hobbit and include the appendices from Lord of the Rings, detailing where Gandalf busied himself on those days he disappeared from the Hobbit’s story.
It’s a mixture between bold move and simply the only one he could make. The Hobbit is a cinematic prequel to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring’s. The tone of Tolkien’s story has no place here. Is it successful? Ask me in two films time. At the end of Fellowship of the Ring, I was convinced, this time, the question will hang until Christams 2014.
The Les Miz film has managed to divide fans and critics, yet garnered a serious amount of award nominations, and is probably going to end up being the UK’s most commercially, and awards-wise, critically successful film ever. This came at a price. A production budget of £61 million surely makes it the UK’s most expensive film ever, and that’s without the marketing dollars! And if someone dares mention that the Pirates of the Caribbean films are British, I shall turn my English nose up at you and walk off.
The division has mainly come down to the acting & the singing (With the exception of critics who start their reviews, “Well, I’ve always hated musicals…” These cretins are evidently not appropriate for the job and I discard their opinions for being less educated than mine, and mines bad). For those that don’t know, the theatrical experience is as big and bombastic and operatic as you can imagine, bigger than you’d expect Pavarotti’s undercrackers to be and with similar subtlety. The music soars, whirls and batters, the chorus work is tremendous. And the acting follows the music, characters are introduced and discarded with crazy speed, broad strokes are broadly used to stamp them in your mind, ’tis a big brush indeed that paints this world and like a good Rolf Harris, we can tell what it is. And we are suitably impressed!
Now we move to the film and keeping our minds with Rolf, here are two more fellows from ‘down under’, Messrs. Jackson & Crowe. I dare say that without them, that £61 million would’ve not only not been there, but roundly laughed at. But what do they bring to the the table. A brooding intensity certainly, and that intensity colours the film and all the characters in it. There is little joy, little bombast in the film, but much wailing and selling of teeth. Everything is in extreme close-up. The streets of Montreuil-Sur-Mer for what was the anthemic “At the end of the day” now takes place in an alley, subdued, darker. Everything about this film is smaller. Much. Yet, obviously, it is magnified. Understandably so, the actors are not on a stage being peered at from the back of the gods, they are being projected upon a fifty foot screen, and every tic, gesture and blink is amplified. With the notable exception of their voices. Their voices recede keeping proportion to their tiny (amplified) gestures, so that in Anne Hathaway’s rendition of “I dreamed a dream” the words are barely discernable from the sobs. And I am not singling her out. It’s across the board. The spoken song, Ron Moody’s trick in Oliver to get around the fact he couldn’t sing, is repeated here. Emotion is at the fore, not the music, nor the words. This does not soar. In the musical, it was the notes hit with power that drove the emotion, here it is reversed, and I for one don’t like it.
However…That may be Cameron Mackintosh’s masterstroke. For here we have a different beast, a different format, a different style and very much a different experience. The film has it’s lovers and detractors. But, those people who have not seen the musical, that enjoy the film, will see the musical. And then they’ll be blown into the stratosphere by the sheer force of voice and song. The bombast and Pavorotti’s goliath undies. The film will whet their appetites, and simultaneously plant a false expectation. Cameron Mackintosh might just have produced the perfect film to show off the magic of theatre.