Category Archives: plays & music

Films, music, plays and exhibitions 2016

I saw 12 films in 2016 (1 less than in 2015):

The 5th Way (30/01)

Dad’s Army (17/02)

London Has Fallen (7/03)

Eye in the Sky (21/04)

Florence Foster Jenkins (12/05)

Independence Day Resurgence (29/05)

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (20/07)

The Girl on the Train (15/10)

Inferno (18/10)

Arrival (20/11)

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson (11/12)

I saw 6 exhibitions:

Painting the Modern Garden (RA, 12/02)

Fashion through the times (V&A, 13/02)

Other Worlds: Visions of the Universe (NHM, 30/03)

Georgia O’Keefe (TM, 10/08)

Sicily: Culture & Conquest (BM, 12/08)

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds (BM, 24/08)

I saw the following Plays, Music and Musicals:

Bend it Like Beckham (Phoenix, 13/02)

Rehearsal for Murder (Regent, 20/02)

The Three Degrees (Crewe Lyceum, 09/03)

War of the Worlds (Dominion, 31/03)

The Simon & Garfunkel Story (Crewe Lyceum, 23/04)

That’s Entertainment (Regent, 23/06)

The Go between (Apollo, 8/08)

Joan Collins Unscripted (Crewe Lyceum, 27/09)

David Essex (Regent, 24/11)

August 2016: Culture, Beer and Pokémon Go

As we come to the end of August, and I suppose (sadly), the end of the summer, I thought it would be good to reflect on my activities over the last month.

June and July were characteristically busy, with an EPSRC Panel Meeting, exam boards and External Examining at NTU in June, and a conference in Lyon (see previous post) in July. I also spent some of July starting preparation of a new module I’ll be teaching in the Spring Semester 2017, on Digital Forensics. When August arrived I was ready for a break, and I was in London (with Angela) for most of the week of 8-12 August. The main event of the week was my annual visit to the Great British Beer Festival, but it was not only a week of imbibing (!), as I will describe. On 8 August we travelled to London, and booked into the Tavistock Hotel, which has become our main ‘base’ in London (although the County Hotel is still good for overnight visits, as mentioned later). We had tickets to see ‘The Go-Between’ at the Apollo Theatre, and when we got there we were upgraded to better seats, which was an unexpected bonus. Michael Crawford, who was due to play the main role, was indisposed, but the understudy did a great job. It was a musical version of the book, and very effective too. The GBBF took centre stage for me on Tuesday (although Angela went to the Sicily exhibition at the British Museum, followed by a musical based on the Titanic story at the Charing Cross Theatre, before joining me at the GBBF in the evening). On Wednesday morning we went to the Tate Modern to see an exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. I was glad to see it, but found that I liked some of her work more than others. After the exhibition, I headed to Olympia for the GBBF, and Angela went to see the Sunken Cities exhibition at the British Museum. It was very nice that Angela was able to join me at the GBBF on both Tuesday and Wednesday evening.

Regarding the GBBF, it was as good as ever, with an interesting beer selection, and good food provision. I won’t put my list of beers tried here, but they have been recorded, and are also on my Untappd account, for any fellow beer connoisseurs reading this! My only disappointment was that the Champion Beer of Britain (CBOB) announcement wasn’t made at the opening ceremony on the Tuesday afternoon. Instead we just got the list of finalists, and the results were relayed to us in the evening after they had been announced at the awards dinner. This was a great disappointment, because the Tuesday afternoon session is the Trade session, attended by many from the brewery and pub trade. They don’t all stay for the evening session, and so won’t have been present for the announcement, which when it came was a bit of a non-event. I hope very much that CAMRA return to the previous tradition, as it was a great start to the festival, and something that made the Trade session special.

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Going back to our week, Angela returned to Keele on Thursday, taking our suitcase (for which I was very grateful). I attended the Thursday afternoon/evening session at the GBBF and stayed at the County Hotel on Thursday evening. On Friday morning I went to the British Museum to see the Sicily exhibition, as this was due to finish on the coming Sunday. It was very good, and I learned some new things, including the fact that the Normans ruled Sicily for a while! It was then time to return to Keele.

I then had a week of catching up on administrative tasks, but on the following week, on 23 August I was back in London for a meeting with my old postdoc supervisor, Richard Catlow, about a 70th birthday meeting I am organising for him next year, followed by another night in the County Hotel. The following day I managed a bonus trip to see the Sunken Cities exhibition at the British Museum, a couple of weeks after Angela. It was simply amazing, and runs until the autumn, so I recommend it if you have a chance to go!

Finally, in the title of the post I mention Pokémon Go. Having heard a lot about it since it was launched in July, I thought about giving it a try, with encouragement from Angela. So I installed it on my phone on 7 August, and have been playing it ever since. It fits in with my enjoyment of travel to different places, and is actually quite educational, since many of the Pokéstops are at places of interest! Angela then joined on 21 August, so we are both dedicated ‘Pokémoners’ now! I suspect I will be writing a further post on the specific subject of Pokémon Go before long.

Films, music, plays and exhibitions 2015

I saw 12 films in 2015, 2 more than in 2014:

The theory of everything (6/01)
Testament of Youth (20/02)
Kingsman (12/02)
Project Almanac (23/02)
Second Exotic Marigold Hotel (3/03)
Spooks: the greater good (12/05)
San Andreas (28/05)
Mr Holmes (23/06)
Man from Uncle (29/08)
No Escape (8/09)
Spectre (26/10)
Bridge of Spies (10/12)

The plays, music and musicals I saw were:

And then there were none (26/02)
Calamity Jane (12/03)
Take That (at Vue cinema) (19/06)
Bend it Like Beckham (27/06)
Glenn Miller Story (30/09)
An Inspector Calls (15/10)
It’s a wonderful life (1/12)
Handel’s Messiah (4/12)
Ukulele Orchestra of GB (8/12)

The exhibitions I saw were:

Sculpture Victorious (15/04) (Tate Britain)
Salt and Silver (15/04) (Tate Britain)
Defining Beauty – The Body in Ancient Greece (16/04) (British Museum)
Barbara Hepworth (12/08) (Tate Britain)
Audrey Hepburn (1/09) (NPG)

Overall a good year, in which we’ve managed several short visits to London, which seems to work well, and which I hope we’ll repeat in 2016.

Films, plays, music and exhibitions in 2014

Compared with 2013, I saw fewer films this year. I started with Last Vegas (on my birthday), and also saw: Devils Due, The Book Thief, Muppets Most Wanted, Rio 2, Grace of Monaco, Earth to Echo, Mr Turner, Paddington and the last of the Hobbit films; a total of 10. Of these, I would mention three as particular favourites: The Book Thief (for its charm), Grace of Monaco (for historical interest), and the blast of the Hobbit films for shear excitement and special effects.

I saw 3 plays in 2014: Blithe Spirit, Black Coffee and Dangerous Corner. All were greatly enjoyed.

I attended 5 concerts (not counting the ones I was playing in, which are mentioned in my general review), and these included an excellent LPO concert at the Victoria Hall featuring the guitarist Milos. The highlight of the year was seeing the Seekers in their 50th anniversary tour in Manchester. Two excellent tribute bands, Abba Reunion and The ELO Experience (an annual event now), and a showing of the Snowman with a live orchestra and soloists made up the rest.

I saw three exhibitions in London during the year. At the British Museum I saw Gems of Chinese Painting and Japanese Netsuke; at the Royal Academy, Dennis Hopper photographs, and at Tate Modern an exhibition of the work of Malevich. Of these, the Dennis Hopper photos were truly memorable.

So, slightly less ‘culture’ in 2014 but not a bad year nonetheless!

Review of ‘The Accrington Pals’ by Peter Whelan

Pals

I was fortunate to see this play, but it was by almost complete coincidence that I was able to. I was visiting my mother, who lives in Wenhaston, Suffolk, and friends had got her a ticket to see this latest production by the Circle67 theatre group (www.circle67.co.uk). When she told them I was visiting, they kindly got me a ticket too. I saw the play in Bramfield Village Hall, which proved to be a very suitable venue.

The action of the play centres on the Lancashire town of Accrington in 1914, where some 700 young men are preparing to answer Lord Kitchener’s call to form a ‘Pals’ regiment to fight the enemy shoulder-to-shoulder with their friends and relations. It deals with the effect on the local community of the departure of their menfolk, first to training camps in Wales, Staffordshire and Yorkshire, but ultimately to France and the Somme. In particular, we see the contrasting relationships of Eva and Ralph, and of May and Tom. May (Mia Chadwick), is portrayed as a frustrated spinster-like character, who is in love with her young lodger and second cousin,Tom, but is unable to admit it. In contrast Eva and Ralph are enjoying a full-on relationship which was probably not approved of at the time! Other characters include Sarah, who comes across as someone who probably doesn’t take marital fidelity too seriously, and Annie, whose bible-bashing husband has joined the Pals, leaving her with a son to look after, which she seems to struggle with.

The action moves to the Summer of 1916, and the battle of the Somme, where most of the Pals are killed. Back in Accrington their womenfolk struggle to find out what has happened to their loved ones. Eva is central in their efforts to demand the truth from the authorities. At the end of the play we are left wondering what the future holds for the women of Accrington who have lost sons, husbands, and boyfriends on the killing fields of the Somme.

The play is performed on a fixed set, which enables events in Accrington and the Pals regiment to be shown simultaneously. I thought this was very effective. Of the actors, Mia Chadwick was outstanding and convincing in her portrayal of May Hassal. But all the cast performed their roles well, and I congratulate Circle67 for performing this play, which I greatly enjoyed.

From www.circle67.co.uk
From http://www.circle67.co.uk

Films, plays, music & exhibitions 2013

2013 has been a good year for films for me. The ones I saw were: Quartet, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Hitchcock, Song for Marion, Olympus Has Fallen, Les Miserables, The Great Gatsby, Monsters University, White House Down, Diana, How I Live Now, The Fifth Estate, Philomena, Parkland and The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug. This is a total of 16.

It’s hard to decide which was the best, but I was very impressed with the second film of The Hobbit trilogy, was touched by Song for Marion, and was totally blown away by Les Miserables. Lincoln was a convincing portrayal of the great man, and of American history at that time, and for sheer tension and excitement, Zero Dark Thirty, White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen were hard to beat. The Great Gatsby was interesting, mainly because I read it many years ago as a school set text. Diana was enjoyable, with Naomi Watts interpreting Diana’s character very well (certainly it deserved none of the criticism it received!) Parkland was about the JFK assassination from the viewpoint of witnesses at Parkland Hospital, where he was taken. Finally, the film that probably affected me most was How I Live Now, with Saoirse Ronan as an American girl sent to live in England as war breaks out.

Turning to music, I cover my own musical activities in my general review of 2013, but here I mention the concerts and musicals I attended. I saw two excellent tribute bands: Rainy Days and Mondays (The Carpenters), and The ELO Experience, three musicals:  White Christmas, Phantom and High Society, and a ballet (Rite of Spring/Elite Syncopations performed by the Scottish Ballet).

I don’t go to many plays, but in 2013 I saw The Mousetrap (at last), and The Audience (with Helen Mirren).

Finally, I saw some notable exhibitions this year: Roy Lichtenstein (Tate Modern), Life & Death: Pompeii & Herculaneum (British Museum), Lowry (Tate Britain), Laura Knight Portraits (NPG) and Paul Klee (Tate Modern).

So, despite the increasing demands of my job, I haven’t done too badly on the culture front this year!