Archive for May, 2019|Monthly archive page

Much ado about Bingo, Brighton Fringe Festival, 26 May 2019

I first encountered Lorraine Bowen probably about 15 years’ ago at the Brighton Fringe Festival topping the bill in an evening of cabaret in the extraordinary Spiegeltent. Her act revolves around sing-a-long tunes accompanied by her casio keyboard mounted on an ironing board. Her biggest hit, the Crumble Song, has now, apparently, been translated into scores of languages, two of which, Italian and Japanese, were demonstrated in this performance.

We last saw Lorraine Bowen on a barge on the Thames in 2011 where she performed Polyester Fiesta, a show celebrating 70 years’ of that most maligned of fabrics. I recall we complied with the dress code and won a prize for having done so. More polyester. So it was no surprise that there was lots of polyester on show for this curious – but huge fun – late evening in the Bosco tent (a variant of the Spiegeltent without the spiegels). This was a celebration of bingo – wrapped up in the music and sweets of the 1970s, with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in. There was audience participation, naturally, and prizes ranging from authentic signed photos of Shakespeare himself, packets of Smash potato, a tube of Smarties and a Curley Wurley. You get the idea!

Our host, Boogaloo Stu (Derek Daniels, left) played the ubiquitous night club compere of the 1970s. He was accompanied by pianist, Ronnie Hazelhorn (the surname might be wrong, but I presume he was named after the ever-present 1970s composer, Ronnie Hazelhurst), who was a sensation. On entering the auditorium, everyone received a bingo card and a pen. The card had a combination of 1970s song titles (for example, Save all your Kisses for Me), advertisement jingles (A Finger of Fudge) and Shakespeare plays (Hamlet). Daniels sang all of these as he waited for a line, then two lines, and finally a full house to be called. It was a live “Stars on 45” medley. For those of us who lived through this decade, it was wonderfully cringeworthy. As the words came so easily. There was also a section called Shakespeare or Shakin’ Stevens. This was more difficult than it sounds!

Lorraine Bowen provided a couple of interludes. She sang her Polyester song with audience help. She also revealed a magical London map dress. What she did with Croydon has to be seen to be believed. And of course, the Crumble Song. The Finale was a celebration of Clacton-on-Sea (right).

The show lasted about 80 minutes. It was great. Pure escapism made by three very talented performers. Daniels, in particular, who even managed Wuthering Heights! Eyes Down!

 

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Pond update

Regular readers will know that we built a pond.  My beloved has been working hard to turn it from a wet hole-in-the-ground to a living ecosystem. And what an amazing transformation. Ok, it has become a bit green with algae, as anticipated. However, there is now an extraordinary bit of filter technology at work (top right corner of picture, Oase Durchlauffilter BioSmart UVC, 14000) which is slowly managing algae growth.

There is now an array of water plants, including lilies, establishing themselves in the water.The pond was slightly  extended after my original dig in order to create a few steps on the three sides whose original form created an unhelpful sheer drop. The extension has enabled a few plants to be located around  all sides, not just one.

Stones have been placed on some sacking (which covers residual pvc pond lining). Though that in itself is a bit of a story. The local crows (right) were watching and decided, quite rightly, that sacking is a good building material for nests. It is spring after all.

Birds are, of course, rather privileged in our story. Their ability to scan the environment from vantage points helps in the pond’s development. A few days’ ago the pond was visited by a couple of mallards (left). And the first amphibian has arrived, a newt. One at the moment, but we are anticipating the newt word will get around.

 

 

Plants that are now living in the pond:

 

Just when I thought cigarette advertising was over in Germany…

…JSP is back with its “young people sitting outside” campaign. This bunch are seemingly moving house and having a cigarette in between the heavy lifting. As usual, two are smoking with the others looking on. The strapline does not make any sense to me “Mach den Umzug zum Umtrunk” – is that not something like “make the move to drink?” Whatever, it was not worth waiting for.

A random Saturday in Tate Britain

It must have been 20 years’ ago that I went to the Tate to see the Turner collection. I’d heard about it and thought it about time that I saw the collection for myself. Uninformed and unprepared, I looked at the pictures – particularly the later ones – not with awe, but rather with disdain. Part of the reason for this was my upbringing. My mother was an amateur and self-taught artist. She painted largely from postcards. Hers were the only pictures in the family house. My father framed them for her. Her masterpiece, Chester (left), has pride of place our bedroom. The problem was, however, that my mother’s art informed us more generally about what good art was. Consequently, Turner started okay with realistic landscapes, but went downhill rapidly when he started all of that light and abstract nonsense.

To get to the Turner collection at Tate Britain, one has to walk through the galleries for the 1920s and 1930s. These are two decades that I like a lot, and not just for British art. There are some old friends in there, not least the disturbing “Totes Meer” (right) by Paul Nash. The washed-up planes are a stark reminder war’s destruction; but I like to think that Douglas Adams borrowed this idea for the Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy when Arthur and Ford are rescued by the the Heart of Gold in its infinite improbability mode only to find themselves at Southend, though with the buildings washing up on the shore rather than the sea.

Maybe Nash has some Turner in him? Certainly I like to think that Winifred Nicholson’s “Sandpipers” (left) from 1933 does. Though Nicholson did something that perhaps Turner did not do – he was very much a studio painter – incorporate real sand into his pictures. The abstraction is there, certainly.

Turner’s “The Chain Pier” in Brighton dating from 1828 (right) has all of the Turner qualities. Wonderful light, marine backdrop – here, ships and piers. There are some figures on the ships. The figures in the later abstractions are chilling, ghostly and translucent. For example, “A disaster at Sea” (1835, left) is thought to be the scene of the wreck of the Amphitrite, off Boulogne, whose cargo was 108 female convicts and 12 children, abandoned to their fate by the captain. They were supposed to be going to Australia.

Finally, the most curious of all, Napoleon on St. Helena (right) after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. There he is in full military uniform, as we all imagine him, against a backdrop of extraordinary colour created by an island sunset. Ah, the metaphors.

Dead Can Dance, Hammersmith Apollo, 4 May 2019

It was bucket list time again. I’ve been listening to DCD for many years, always beguiled by Lisa Gerrard’s extraordinary contralto, and Brendan Perry’s velvet baritone. Plus those instruments. And there they are in front of us in that cathedral of music, the Hammersmith Apollo, probably my favourite concert hall. The best seats we could get were upstairs in the circle, but nowhere in this venue is too far away from the stage. It is not a stadium. The acoustics are great – at least good enough for my tinnitus-trashed hearing.

They arrived on stage promptly, Gerrard wearing her trademark flowing robe, quasi-beehive hair and lots of spangly things. Perry doesn’t even try to compete; though the female keyboard player equally wears a long flowing dress, just enough to complement Gerrard and not to out-do. There are five other male players, three dedicated to percussion, another keyboard player and bass. But this lot are multi-instrumentalists and vocalists of the highest order.

I did not try to create my own set list, but I think this one from Nantes is about right. I was wondering two things before seeing them. First, would this be the Dionysus tour – a promotion for their current album which, although good, probably will not go down as their best? Second, will they be generous? The answers were no and yes. In fact, they played only “Dance of the Bacchantes” from Dionysus. The audience were attentive, knowledgeable and appreciative. Gerrard started cautiously. I don’t know much about singing, but voices are delicate things and when one has one like Gerrard’s, I suppose they need warming up before the owner lets rip on songs like “Sanvean” and “Avartar”.

The same could not be said of Perry whose opener, “Anywhere out of the World”, set the pace like a football team trying to tire out the opposition rather than outwit them on the field. His voice started to break up about half way through the set, he left the stage seeking some palliative. “My voice is fucked”, he said as he departed. On his return, the treatment seemed to have been effective. He got through “The Carnival is Over” a song about freaks in the circus visiting his childhood home in East London in the 1970s. As the set list shows, there were two encores. Perhaps one too many for Perry. And this is very much the start of the tour. Fingers crossed for him (a couple of nights’ rest) and future audiences.

That aside, this was one of the most memorable musical performances I can remember, The players generate a consummate sound, very much appreciated by Gerrad who, like a conductor of an orchestra, asks the audience to applaud particular players and sections at the end of the piece. The DCD percussion section is clearly integral. For my untrained ear they were beat perfect.

Two hours in total. Pure pleasure for us, hard work for them.