A SURE SIGN that spring has arrived is when the first hot-air balloon of the year drifts down the Lea Valley – and when I opened my curtains at seven, there it was, sailing high above the sumac tree. Is anyone else old enough to remember Nimble bread TV adverts… or Fifth Dimension’s Up up and Away…?
It’s a vigorous weekend. I love Marathon Sunday here in London – we have sunshine again, and the central heating has been ceremoniously switched off as of this morning. Well, ok, just switched off. Will Mo Farah triumph? The speed at which those elite runners punish the tarmac makes you wilt just to watch, but I feel most for those noble souls who raise money for charity pounding the streets dressed up as honey monsters or polar bears or the like – after the first few miles all that nylon fur must really start to pong…Talking of people in daft costumes, here’s one to look out for at 4pm today:
Yes folks, Hull City are at Wembley, taking on Sheffield United in the F.A. Cup semi-final, and the winner will come back there for the Final to meet Arsenal. I so want to see and compare the touch-line styles of the two coaches, ebullient Tyneside dancer meets tortured gallic philosopher. But let’s not give hostages to fortune, City have first to triumph today. I shall be glued to the television this afternoon, listening out for Humberside roars on the breeze from the big stadium a few miles round the north-circular road, thankful that the team doesn’t have to be saddled with the American-style handle of “Hull Tigers”, thanks to a decision taken at the F.A. this week. It’s an English football club, for God’s sake, and the sub-title of “tigers” is a handy nick-name,often laden with irony, given the team’s wildly erratic results. The word might look OK printed on a yellow and black home-strip shirt, but the away strip is currently blue, and when did you last see a blue tiger….?
Now,this blog always seeks to support theatre folk in their struggles to earn a crust, or make a difference to the world, or whatever, but this week I left a theatre feeling really, really cross! I just want to note that the people who put together the piece which turned up at the Arcola Theatre last week called “Banksy- the Room at the Elephant” really should take a breath, think hard about their motivation, and then STOP IT.
Seriously, this effort – still I believe on tour, having started life at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory – is an embarrassing disgrace. The first half of the evening is a one-act play reflecting the real-life world of a sad man made homeless after an old agricultural water-tank he’d been living in in Los Angeles had a slogan painted on its outside by the artist Banksy. After the interval a documentary film is shown, telling the background story, including an episode when the presumably well-meaning playwright and documentary-makers arrange for the play’s subject to be taken to Edinburgh Festival to watch the play, and then be given the chance to stand up and “perform” at a fringe theatre. The guy is clearly drunk, is dressed in a kilt, and is surrounded by arty Brits almost swooning with excitement about how “authentic” he is.
Yes, an authentic drunk, swaying and talking slurred nonsense while clutching a beer-can, from whom they would all retreat hastily in any other context. I understand he’s now back in LA, living in a tent. Well, I suppose he gave a lot of self-satisfied pleasure to middle-class creatives in Bristol and Edinburgh. When I was a kid in the 50s a regular feature at Hull Fair was the freak-show tent, with a Genuine Bearded Lady, and the Fattest Man in the World – perhaps the Tobacco Factory is seeking to re-introduce this intriguing lost art-form?
Cheerier news to report is that “Handbagged” has triumphantly survived its transfer from the Tricycle to the Vaudeville, with Marion Bailey and our brilliant Fenella Woolgar still in terrific form as HM the older Queen and the younger Right Honourable Maggie Thatcher respectively. Highly recommended, whatever your political views.
The Tricycle Theatre at Kilburn is on a spectacular curve under Indhu Rubasingham’s direction – “Red Velvet” has been ecstatically reviewed in New York, and looks set to carry on the striking British tradition of plays starting at undeniably left-wing venues going on to generate huge commercial income – “Blood Brothers” (Liverpool Everyman) “The Pitman Painters”(Newcastle Live Theatre) and “Billy Elliot” (Royal Court), etc, etc
In a similar vein, a treat in store for Gemma Arterton fans is that she will soon be re-creating the part played first by fellow RADAgrad Sally Hawkins in the movie “Made in Dagenham” in a new musical – and apparently in the same dress!
And on the smaller screen, it’s a great pleasure on Sunday evenings to see another ex-student, Oona Chaplin, in “The Crimson Field” on BBC 1, evoking echoes of her grandfather, who at the time of the story was already a silent cinema hero, bringing fun and comfort to millions in a war-torn world.
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