Resident in London

February 15, 2016

As a Christmas present, Madeleine gave me (us!) tickets to see the Residents gig at Hackney Empire last Friday. The only other time either of us had seen them was way back in 1983 at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh when they performed their Mole Show live. We didn’t know each other back then but we both loved the show! As far as I know the only othr concert we have in common like that was a Mother Gong gig at the same venue, although I forget the date.

Anyway, playing hooky and closing the shop on Friday we headed off to the station for the 10.00 train to London, only for it to be delayed for half an hour before leaving, and then even more as the journey progressed towards Berwick. It turned out someone had been killed by an earlier train, causing hold ups all up and down the line. Anyway, it seems that trains can’t make up much time these days and we finally got to King’s Cross around two hours late, tired and a bit annoyed at losing most of the afternoon.
Check into our nearby hotel, and set off after a short rest to top up our Oyster Cards and head for the Hackney Empire Theatre…

The show was great, although I had expected four Residents, not just three!  Less elaborate than the Mole Show, it was essentially a singer, an electronic keyboard/computer guy and a guitarist on stage, with some taped sections of several people relating some specific personal events. IMG_5283.JPG
Great theatre, with good sight lines and sound, although afterwards the merchandise concession was very awkwardly set up between two ascending staircases so people had to lean over the banisters to see or buy stuff! Very confused and I gave up trying to see just what they had to sell that wasn’t immediately obvious. So, no new Residents t-shirt, and my Mole Show one doesn’t really fit any more!!

The following day we were up early and off to South Kensington to see the Cosmonauts exhibition in the Science Museum. This was an excellent event, showcasing the Soviet soace exploration from the very early days through the glory days of the late 1950s and early 1960s to the last days of the USSR and their last cosmonaut finally de-orbiting to land in the newly-formed Russian Federation! Wonderful early sketches, models, etc. leading to newsreal footage, full scale models of various spacecraft and originals of some, all about Laika and the other space dogs, Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova and more.
A Soviet moon buggy – after they cancelled their manned moon mission following the American success, they still went ahead and used what they had already tested to explore the moon’s surface – examples of all sorts of suits, capsules, etc. with various posters and other art depicting their space program.IMG_5292

After that, it was a quick coffee and back to KX to meet a couple of internet friends – local Ortiga, and Nadine, who had flown in from Geneva for a couple of days. None of us had actually met before but Ortiga suggested a tapas restaurant nearby and we all met there for a late lunch that stretched out for hours! That’s tapas for you! Other people took photos but I didn’t, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for them.
Eventually we left there and headed for Waterloo and the nearby Vaults Festival, where there was a play on that M was very keen to see. The venue was a bit difficult to find, being in vaults underneath Waterloo Station itself!IMG_5311
So all four of us ended up going to see it and we all (I hope!) appreciated the festival, venue and also the play itself, a maths-heavy comedy called X + Y. Even the less mathematical among us enjoyed it.  Farewell to Ortega afterwards, but an arrangement to see Nadine the next day.

Sunday was another early start; with breakfast with Nadine, who was flying out after lunch, and then we were off to the Tate Modern and the Alexander Calder (no relation!) exhibition.
11 rooms of his art, from his early wire sculptures and Cirque Calder figures to his Mercury Fountain (photos only) and his big, later mobiles. Great stuff, although the gift shop afterwards was really quite pricey. Lunch with Scott, one of M’s friends from the days of Maths Year 2000, in their restaurant and then a stroll along the Thames to Hungerford Bridge, where Scott deserted us, and the tube back to KX and our train home!
It ran almost to schedule and were home drinking hot chocolate by eleven!



End of the Year!

December 31, 2015

So obviously I never did get around to picking my favourite Fringe shows of 2015. (yet!)
But it’s in to 2016 in a few hours and I’m sure I’ll have much more time for posting here. (well, probably not!)

Anyway, best book of the year?
Very difficult this year, maybe Arcadia by Iain Pears. But there were other very good reads, too, both new and old.

Best film?
I’ve not kept very good notes this year so I don’t recall offhand which films I did see, but Hard to be a God was perhaps the most memorable, if not the most enjoyable!  Best was possibly The Martian. It’ll be up there as one of the best SF films there is in years to come.

Best gig?
The back-to-back King Crimson gigs we went to at the Usher Hall (one in the balcony, one in the stalls). Three drummers! The Sun Ra Arkestra and the Ex both deserve a mention as well.

And best Fringe 2015 show?
Year of the Hare at the Pleasance Dome.
There! Answered!

See you next year, possibly a little more frequently! (but don’t count on it)







Fringe #7

August 31, 2015

The final weekend!
Saturday was a fairly quick exit from the shop after a good day, to see The Year of the Hare at the Pleasance Dome 200 yards away. A burnt out office worker on the way to a meeting injures a wild hare and ends up taking it to a nearby hotel to recover. And then it gets strange! Excellent little production based on a Finnish novel, with a Scottish cast. The ending was inspired, as the actor left the theatre and a video projected on a screen apparently followed him down the stairs and out of the building…
After that it was across to Space at Surgeons Hall and an impulse decision to watch The Bastard Queen. This was a post-apocalyptic play set in a world with only 4 people left alive! It was well acted but had no real ending. And, as end of the world scenarios go, one full of students is to be avoided if at all possible!

Sunday was quite packed. After a coffee and a croissant at Cult Coffee it was off to see Edmund the Learned Pig at Summerhall. It was a play about a failing circus which needed a killer act to revive it’s fortunes but only got a talking pig! Well done, and good fun but the ending was a bit confused, possibly as it seemed to have a strange happy ending tacked on to appeal to children more. And the actors all signed it for the hard of hearing live as they spoke! Some of the audience were very appreciative of this. <Shakes both hands in the air for the effort the cast made to make the performance more inclusive!>
After that it was a stroll across to the Roxy and up two flights of stairs for The Bookbinder’s Tale, a one man show  from NZ about the bookbinding trade and the perils of not doing a good job! Very well done.
Lunch at the Dovecot but no time to see their exhibition as we decided to go to Sweet at the Apex in the Grassmarket and a humorous play about deception and fraud in post war British botany, The Rhum Plants was performed by 4 people all wearing identical suits of thermal underwear/union suits and differently coloured hiking socks. Um, quite odd but a free tot of rum from it’s sponsors (a rum producer) before it began helped the enjoyment!  It was based on a true story about plant collecting on Rhum and apparently we have a book about it at home if I want to know more!
The bank holiday crowds were all becoming a bit much so we ran away (well, took the bus!) to Portobello and a refreshing walk along the sands and prom. Then back in to town eventually and a nice evening meal at a small Turkish restaurant on Leith Walk – Cafe Pera, I think it’s called. During this, I discovered there was a late evening theatre production at Adam House called Mwathirika. We decided to go and hurried there to get there in time…
Mwathirika was an Indonesian puppet play based on the failed coup in 1965 and subsequent anti-Communist purges, etc. that lead to President Suharto gaining power, which he would retain for 30+ years… Very well done, and the Indonesian Ambassador to the UK agreed! (He and his party got seats in the middle of the front row. We had to sit at the end. Very good sightlines anyway!)
It’s all almost over; some venues have transformed back into normalcy already – Space closed up at the end of Saturday night… There are shows I’d quite like to see but neither of us are feeling particularly well today so we’re calling our Fringe & Festival a day and swearing to plan it all better next year!

Once my thoughts have settled, I may do a brief resume of the performances that have stuck with me. A couple are already fading away!


6th Fringe

August 29, 2015
On Monday we went to see The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
We were both fans of the tv series back in the 60s so we were determined to see the film despite fearing the worst! We had both avoided reviews but had a feeling it wasn’t likely to be in the cinemas for much longer.
Anyway, it was really good fun! It captured some of the style and spirit of the original. Not sure how people who don’t know the show would react; maybe it would seem just like another lame semi-comedic spy thriller.
The biggest downside was that it was a set-up movie for a possible franchise which probably won’t happen now so iconic UNCLE stuff like the tailor’s shop entrance to their secret HQ and ‘Open Channel D‘ won’t make it to the big screen. We did get the gadgets and Solo had the classic gun, though! If a second film is made, I strongly suspect that Gaby (Ava in Ex Machina) will be given the code name April Dancer!
(That was the name of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., who appeared in the main series a few times but also had her own spin-off series.)Tuesday was back to the Fringe at the Roxy with a wonderful interpretation of Jurassic Park as a commemorative screening for the Park family’s late mother/wife. (She was a paleonologist and it had been her favourite film). Except they realised too late that the video wasn’t in it’s box. So they had to re-enact it for the other atendees (us, the audience)
The three actors (initially playing two teenagers and their father) were soon switching between their ‘real’ characters and the film characters, together with all sorts of dinosaurs. Done with very few props, it was probably my favourite production so far. The T. Rex and the compy were both done very neatly!

After that we went for a very nice little meal at Heller’s Kitchen and then home…

On Wednesday I went to Tom Neenan: The Andromeda Paradox at the Pleasance Dome which was a one man performance as a 1950s boffin trying to live up to his father’s huge reputation. A gentle parody of 50s and 60 SF like Quatermass (especially ‘and the pit’ ) as he ends up meeting aliens, time travelling and more!  Madeleine was attending a conference in Glasgow and had 12 hour days, including the commute so she missed it!
Thursday was a day off (except for work!) and on Friday we met for a meal at the new Surgeon’s Hall cafe/restaurant 1505 (the date the College of Surgeons can trace their past to) Fairly limited menu but very nice, and then it was off to Infirmary Street and the educational Resource Centre there, back as a Fringe venue after a break of several years and now one of the Greenside venues. The performance was Butterfly, based loosely on Madame Butterfly  and was a dance/mime/physical theatre piece involving butterfly collecting and kite making and flying! The three actors were very good, especially the woman although the music let it down a little with it’s rather simplistic repetitiveness.

One weekend to go.


Fringe 5

August 24, 2015

Dare I say it?

The Ex were excellent!
A female drummer (who also took some vocals) and three guitarists thrashing, picking and shredding their way through a set of hard driving punk rock. Great, messy guitar work and a really good gig. Madeleine bought a recent cd collecting live performances from the past few years but we’ve not yet taken the time to play it.

On the Sunday we finally made it to a Book Festival event – Ken Macleod being interviewed about (and reading from) his and Iain Banks’ recent book of poetry. Nothing particularly new in his answers to various questions but it was a nice event.
Then on to a beer in the tiny little beer garden of the Thistle Street Bar – deserted apart from us! Relaxing and shady, out of the intense sun. After that it was back up to George Street and the New Town Theatre for a production of The Trials of Galileo. This was a one man show by Tom Hardy about his several trials by the Catholic Church for claiming the Earth went around the Sun rather than their position that the Earth was the centre of the Universe and thus the Sun went round the Earth. Very well done.
After this we went up to the BBC site for a coffee and noticed Ron Mael of Sparks being interviewed by Kirsty Wark… Madeleine got a couple of decent photographs. (We had been far to slow off the mark to get tickets for their joint gig with Franz Ferdinand so this was a minor consolation!)

Later in the evening, after a meal at Reverie – excellent fish and chips! –  we were back at Summerhall for Alien Lullabies. This was essentially a bunch of sometimes strange, mainly b&w videos with live vocals over a prerecorded soundtrack. We were both rather unimpressed.


Fringe the Fourth

August 22, 2015

Well, Wednesday’s performance of Terry Pratchett’s Eric at Augustines (aka Paradise Green) was very well done – it was a new company from Durham performing it and, as a first production, they couldn’t have chosen better! As it was a Discworld-related play, it came with a built-in audience and they’ve been pretty much sold out every night of the run! Good, small cast, one of whom, at least, has been a customer in the shop:)

The following night we failed to get tickets for our early evening plan, but the late evening plan was a major success – we went to see the Sun Ra Arkestra at Summerhall. Sun Ra was an iconoclastic jazz musician who happily went his own way for decades with his own ‘arkestra’ and strange beliefs who died in 1993 (but would have been 100 this year)  but his group continues, led by his long time 2nd i.c., now 91 himself!
They’re a big jazz band, with 10 musicians on stage together with a female singer for the bits that more resembled songs! Great playing by them all (and singing) and a really happy atmosphere.
Excellent gig, with people travelling quite far to see them. Several of the band paraded through the audience a couple of times, still playing their various instruments but it was packed and they made quite slow progress!

Friday night’s one event wasn’t technically a fringe/festival performance but it was an obscure film, so it felt a bit like a film festival screening. It was an Arab film called Theeb and was shown to only a handful of people in Cinema One at Filmhouse. It was a little like Lawrence of Arabia, but from the Arab perspective.  In 1916 a British officer hires a guide to take him and his translator through some spectacular scenery for ambiguous reasons and the orphan younger brother of his new guide disobeys his brother and tags along. None of the key characters were very admirable, except maybe the elder brother, and the translator was a cypher, and by the end only the boy is left alive, possibly older and wiser, to return across the desert to the rest of his tribe.
Fortunately, I went for the hoped for scenery of Arabia and wasn’t disappointed – it was the star, really!

And now it’s saturday again and after some personal stuff, it’s off back to the same room at Summerhall and
the veteran anarcho-punk band The Ex. I have a couple of their records from the mid-eighties but I’m a bit rusty on what they’ve been doing since! I think they’ve just released a retrospective cd, so maybe tonight will be highlights from their career! I suspect not though, and might not realise it anyway if it was!


Festival III

August 19, 2015

So, some more shows, some more coffees, pastries and pints!

The Holy Garage pop-up bar in George Street Lane has attracted our attention more than once! The main bar is a recently cleared out triple unit in a small mews lane – so it’s all bare stonework and exposed rafters, with a tiny Barney’s Beer van tucked in beside the temporary bar and dispensing pints!
Outside in the lane, under an awning, there’s a horsebox.  A horsebox fitted out as an absinthe bar!
Overall, it’s a very central location and usually quite mellow, compared to the various tents and marquees not too far away.

On Sunday morning we were up early, had a bite at The Pantry on the corner of N.W.Circus Place and Royal Circus before going along to St. Stephen’s Church, back in the Fringe after an absence of a few years, under the name of Momentum. The show we went to was the Biggest Marionette Circus in the World. And it probably was! Giant puppets of a giraffe, an elephant and a lion, together with smaller puppets paraded and performed in a quasi-circus show targeted at a much younger audience than us!  Afterwards we were allowed to examine the wheeled frames, etc. that the giant puppets were mounted on… Very impressive!

Then it was on up to see Ada at the Bedlam Theatre. But before that, the bus dropped us right outside Checkpoint, the new permanent restaurant in Bristo Place, 30 seconds from the venue! Perfect timing fo a glass of wine and a light lunch. Then across the road for Ada. This was a new student creation about the famous daughter of Lord Byron and her mathematical work. Interesting, but without any particularly new insights.
After that we took a chance on a Free Fringe show at the Counting House – Genesisocide, by Milo McCabe. Very silly, very fast one man show with a convoluted time-travel plot about killing Phil Collins to save his relationship. He made it sound like it made sense!
Finally on Sunday we went to se Phantasmagoria, in a small room in India Buildings (C-Nova). It was a fairly short, very intense piece based on the poem by Lewis Carroll. Initially we all had to sit on the floor as a Victorian Ac-tor prepared to deliver his performance with his manager continually trying to control his very OTT performance…
It’s designed for a small audience (there were 10 of us, but it’s suitable for as many as 14 I believe) and I think all of us got some up close personal scenery-chewing Act-ing during the performance! Interesting fun, and we may go see another of his short shows, in an even smaller room up a tower and set in a lighthouse!

And on Tuesday we saw The Raven, another quite intense piece on at the Space on the Mile. Four actors give a fairly physical performance based on Poe’s poem, involving obsession and black & white photography. Actually, no, not b&w, grayscale!

Also various coffees, beers, fast foods, mingling, wandering, etc.

And, in about an hour, it’s a performance of Terry Pratchett’s Eric in a hall maybe 100 yards away!


Photos may be added later, or see my Flickr stream.


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