Hi there, how are you doing? I hope you have had a really good couple of weeks. Mine have been very busy with loads of fun stuff going on. During my school days I never studied any Shakespeare. I did not get to read or see any of his plays. I did however visit Stratford-Upon-Avon for a weekend as a teenager with my Cousins and my Uncle and Auntie. While we were there we did go and see a few Shakespeare related tourist attractions. Then I will be honest I had kind of forgotten about him until Ben Elton did a sitcom based on him starring David Mitchell called Upstart Crow. I guess this kind of got him back in to my mind again. And started me thinking that as a lover of theatre and performance in general. That I should at the very least go and see one of his plays.
A few years ago I went on a tour of the Globe theatre in London. Which is a replica of the very theatre that he used to put his plays on in the capital during the early sixteen hundreds. I remembered from the tour that it was an inspirational and spectacular place. Since that visit it had been in my plans to see a show there. I put these two things together and I decided the only place to see a Shakespeare play for the first time should be the Globe Theatre. I went to see the current version of Much Ado About Nothing. Now the Globe does have basic wooden seating on three levels and also private balcony’s. Traditionally these were for the rich and even for Royalty. While peasants would stand up to watch the action in the yard area on the floor level. I decided that I wanted to do it traditionally this way. Plus I had never stood at the theatre before.
The tickets to stand and watch the play in the yard were just five pounds each. It is an open air theatre by the way, so if it rains you will definitely get wet seeing the show from there. I wanted to have as authentic experience as possible. There was a Mexican theme to this particular production so the staging, costumes and music were adapted for this. But everything else was pretty much directly from the script as written by the great man himself. It did take me a few minutes to adjust to the South American feel of things and to get in to the rhythm of the Shakespeare style speech patterns. But I have to say I absolutely loved it.
The whole cast were fantastic and it was all so cleverly and smoothly done. They pretty much used the whole theatre as their stage and walked amongst us poor people in the yard area, as they would have back when it was originally performed. The story line, plot twists and development of the saga were so good and very easy to follow. Plus it does contains so many laughs. Fair play to the “man” he did pack quite a bit of comedy in to this piece of work. As well as some nice drama and tension. I would without hesitation certainly go and see another performance there. Five pounds for nearly three hours of top class entertainment is exceptional value for money. I am now keen to see more of his work.
I took a trip out to the Brixton area of London with a friend the other week. It is not often I venture that far south of the river but I always think it is good to experience new places. We had a bit of a look round and found a very nice pub to have a pint in. By what looks like a really fancy new flat development. Then we decided to go and get some food. We stumbled across The Blues Kitchen. Which was a place I had heard of before but never been to. As there are actually not that many of them around.
They play Blues Soul and Funk music. And specialise in New Orleans style food. So we are talking lots of barbecue meats and fried chicken dishes. Which we of course took full advantage of. We had a starter that consisted of ribs, wings and sweet potato fries. Then for my main I had fried buttered chicken, which was lovely. Their portions are very generous. I was so full when I left there, I could hardly walk. Plus if you are into you Bourbon. They have the biggest selection there I have ever seen. I would certainly eat there again but they do only have places in Brixton, Camden and Shoreditch.
As I have mentioned before Tony Law was the professional comedian who headlined my first ever stand up comedy gig. I had seen him perform a few times but only doing ten or fifteen minute slots. I had never seen one of his full length shows. I put this right last Monday. When I went to the Soho Theatre in London. To see him do his show from this year’s Edinburgh Festival called “Absurdity For The Common People”. It was my first time at this venue. It is a great place to watch comedy and also it seems to attract a lot of decent comics. When I was waiting in the bar before the show I spotted Alex Horne who had also been doing his show there earlier in the evening.
Tony Law kind of goes against almost every lesson I was taught in comedy school. He is so unique and has his own very well crafted style. You would have to go quite a long way to see such a surreal show covering so many random and historical facts. It is so out there, sometimes it is impossible to tell what he is completely making up and what if anything is actually true. But the important thing is that it is very funny. You are never quite sure where he is going to go and what he is going to do next. He always has on such strange outfits. Sometimes he will reference them and other times completely ignore them. He is a top man to and was very supportive and helpful during my first ever gig. It was great to get to finally see a full show of his.
I went to see the musical Kinky Boots recently. It was another one that had been on my radar for a while. Ever since I saw the cast perform two numbers from it during one of the Sunday Night At The Palladium recordings, I was at. I think I do vaguely remember seeing the film when it came out. Would you believe it was actually released back in 2005. And another fun fact Nick Frost was in it.
The music and lyrics for the musical version were written by Cindy Lauper. It originally opened on Broadway. Where it won a Tony Award. I have to say I thought it was brilliant. It has a great story behind it with a bit of pathos to it as all good plays do. It is very colourful and spectacular. The songs are brilliant. Plus the cast were fantastic. It received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of the performance.
I had a quality day out with friends at the annual Ascot Beer Festival Race Meeting. A full programme of races with an onsite selection of beverages from local brewers. I mean what is not to like? I had not seen all my mates together for a while, so that was brilliant for starters. It was so good to have a catch up and chat. While enjoying the racing and sampling a few of the ales on offer. Luckily for me they had two of my favourite local brewery’s there. So I did enjoy a couple of pints from Rebellion in Marlow and XT, who are from Long Crendon. I did also try an ale from another beer producer, who I had not heard of but who are based in Prestwood.
Mind you I had a terrible day for picking the winners. However I was not alone as we all struggled apart from one of us who managed to get a couple of wins. Two more had some placed horses, so got some money back. Although one of my friends who is not really a gambler managed to put on a five pounds each way bet, which he then got six pounds fifty back from, so despite coming second in the race and sort of winning. He was still three pounds fifty down there. Once the racing was over we just went to one of the pubs in Ascot and had a few more drinks. It was a fun day out with good friends. Which is always time well spent.
The day after the races I had been invited by another mate on his birthday outing. Which was a day trip on the Waverley, the last sea going paddle steamer in the World to Southend-On- Sea and back. I had to catch the boat from Tower Pier in London at nine thirty in the morning.
Which after a day out at the races the previous day was not as easy as it may sound. Anyway I got on board just after nine in the end. It really was an impressive sight as I walked up to the vessel and it looked great against the back drop of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
It has a restaurant, tea room and a couple of bars. On arrival the first thing I did was grab a bacon roll and a cup of tea. I then managed to find the rest of the group with the birthday boy. There were about fifteen of us in the end, I think. We set off down the Thames passing all of those great iconic sights. The boat is so big that they had to raise Tower Bridge for us so we could get under it. Which is possibly a once in a life time thing to pass under it in those circumstances.
There was commentary provided on the things to see as we headed down the river. It was very impressive I thought going through the Thames Barrier. I had never seen it that close up. Inside the ship there was a viewing area where you could go and watch the steam powered engine in action. That was hugely impressive. Its top speed is apparently around twenty-five miles per hour.
They do of course have toilets on board the ship. Now bearing in mind it was about a three and an half hour journey to Southend. I did have to use them a couple of times. I did not mind however as they had port holes in. So you could be at the urinal while looking out and enjoying the views along the river. It was almost therapeutic. When we docked on the pier at Southend and got off the boat.
We had about four hours there. So we tried to do as many sea side style things as possible. We took the train down the pier. Then had fish and chips on the beach overlooking the sea. Played a round of crazy golf. Had a couple of pints in a pub on the sea front. Got an ice-cream. And finally enjoyed a stroll down the pier on our way back to catching the boat.
During the journey back to London I enjoyed the hospitality of the bars on board. Got another fix of the toilets and admired the working steam engine. Making sure I was back on the top deck to enjoy coming up the Thames in the dark and seeing everything lit up. It was a great experience and a thoroughly enjoyable day.
I will be honest it is probably something I would have never of done had I not been invited to. Which would have been a shame, as I really enjoyed myself. After being on a cool boat all day, it made the train journey back from London to Buckinghamshire seem a bit dull.
Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil