Tag Archives: Shakespeare

The Return From Oz

Well I thought I would give you a bit of time to soak up my four part Australian adventure. I had a brilliant time there but obviously since I have returned to England things have become a little bit strange. I have certainly never experienced anything like this in my life before. The shear global scale and impact on the United Kingdom of the new Coronavirus pandemic is quite hard to comprehend.

I think personally that we have to listen to the experts and all of the people on the front line battling this thing and do as they say. There are so many mixed messages and incorrect pieces of information on the social media networks. I actually find that scarier than the actual virus. If we do what is asked of us we can all get through this thing together in the shortest possible time.

The plan at the moment is basically to try to control the number of cases in the country. In the hope that we can give the NHS a chance to give the required treatment to anybody who needs it. I appreciate staying in when you feel fine seems ridiculous but no one is exactly sure how long before symptoms show that you can transmit it. We know it spreads very quickly and is a nasty thing as it attacks the respiratory system. That as an Asthmatic is obviously something I am quite concerned about.

We just need to be sensible, follow instructions, social distance and look after each other. The aim of the game is to ease the pressure on the health service so if you or anybody you know requires their help. They will be in a position to be able to treat you in Hospital how you would expect if taken there in an emergency. If this thing continues to spread at the rate it has been they may struggle a little to achieve that, so let’s stick together and help each other out.

Stay at home if you can. If you are a key worker keep doing the brilliant job you are doing. We all really appreciate it. We can win this with a bit of common sense and some big self discipline. Stay safe and more importantly keep joking and having a laugh to.

Neil Quigley Presenter
Neil Quigley Presenter

Right that is the serious bit over but I felt I could not really ignore it and pretend that it was not happening. I would like to also point out that the things I am writing about and the things I have been to were actually a minimum of three weeks ago now before everything was cancelled. I have been closely following the government advice since it was made. Even though I find it slightly difficult to take someone who used to host Have I Got News For You and who got stuck on a Zip Wire seriously but sometimes needs must.

Neil Quigley

I went out for dinner in Berkhamsted about a month ago now. I was invited to a Turkish Restaurant there by a friend. We both wanted to have a few drinks. Initially I was going to get a taxi from where I live to Tring get the train to Berkhamsted and then do the same journey in reverse at the end of the night. However as it turned out the taxi would cost the about same amount as staying at Pendley Manor Hotel, which is within walking distance of Tring Railway Station. It seemed like a complete no-brainer to me, so a night away it was.

I had been to a few works parties and conferences at Pendley Manor but I think this was the first time that I had stayed there. It is a very regal looking building set in beautiful grounds. I cannot think of to many places where Peacocks wander around freely. I am not sure why I see that as a big selling point but for some reason I do. Once I was checked in I did the first thing I always do when I walk in to a hotel room I checked the bathroom to see if it was a shower or bath. I rarely have baths at home now so see this as a hotel room treat. It had a bath which I did take advantage of during my stay.

I walked from the hotel down to the station, which I will confess was slightly further than I thought and caught the train to Berkhamsted. It is only about an eight minute journey. I arrived at the restaurant a bit early but went in and got our table which was booked for six. My friend then arrived we ordered some wine and got the menu. It was the first time I had been to a Turkish restaurant. It is a bit like Tapas in that you order a selection of dishes to share. I must confess as a general rule like Joey from Friends I do not share food but I do make exceptions for these occasions.

Neil Quigley

The food was amazing. The variety of the dishes was fantastic. We had delicious Chicken, Lamb, Halloumi and Butternut Squash dishes. All washed down with a little more wine. I am not saying the portions were generous but it is very rare that I am too full to have dessert. It was a place called Tabure and I would certainly recommend it. When they gave us the bill my friend and I both double checked it as we thought that they had undercharged us. It was not cheap as such but I would say very reasonable for the standard and the amount of food plus the drink prices were fair to.

We left the restaurant about eight o’clock and went down the road to the Kings Arms. We were just chatting and having a few more glasses of wine when suddenly it was one in the morning and they were closing the bar. That is the sign of a good night by the way, if you can suddenly lose five hours in the same pub with no gaps in the conversation.

We said goodbye I got the train back to Tring and then strolled back to Pendley Manor for a good night’s sleep. It is a grand hotel but might be getting a little bit old now. It was a wet night and they had lots of buckets around catching water from the leaks in the roof. However it is still a nice place to stay, it has a cool look and feel to it.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

Again several weeks ago now I went and saw my mate Mike Sterling do a show at the Kenton Theatre in Henley on Thames. I always like to catch his performances when I can. It was a bit of a mad dash to make this one as I was watching Tottenham play Wolves at the Spurs Stadium that afternoon. (Yes it was that long ago Premier League football was still being payed). I made it to the theatre about fifteen minutes before curtain up. That gave me time to order a beer before it started and the same again ready for the interval.

It was a new show he was performing for the first time. He was celebrating the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein and more. He was joined on stage by his long time friend and musical director Toby Cruse, who accompanied him on the piano. It also featured Joanne Pullen who was his “Christine” when he starred in The Phantom of The Opera. They performed versions of these great songs produced by the legendary composers and lyricists as well as explaining a bit about the history of the songs and the relationships of the people behind them.

Mike Sterling

There was also a cameo appearance at the end of the first half from the superstar that is Vince Hill. He did a few songs including the big hit song he had his version of Edelweiss, which was stunning. He is eighty-five years old but his voice, stage presence and mic control is still first class. What an amazingly talented and very lovely man. The whole show was excellent. It is a while since I have been to a concert featuring just a piano and the singers. It does produce a very raw and real feel to proceedings.

I managed as ever to catch up with Mike for a quick chat and a drink after the show at a little bash at one of the wine bars in Henley. I had a busy day the following day, so could not stay to long but it was nice to see him. I also got to have a brief conversation with Toby who had been working the hardest by far as he was playing the piano all night. He is another extremely talented and nice fella. I now look forward to seeing them both perform later in the year, when it is safe and acceptable to put such things on once again.

Mike Sterling and Neil Quigley

I had been to the Globe Theatre during their summer season in the past and always had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I also had a tour around there once I got to see everything apart from one small part as there was something going on in there.

That missing piece of the jigsaw was The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe. It is a smaller inside version of the main theatre in the same style and modelled on a venue of the same era. It is very compact, made of wood and candlelit. The room itself looks stunning!

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

I went and saw William Shakespeare’s The Taming of The Shrew. I never studied the “Bard” at school so I am slowly getting around to seeing some of his plays in later life. The Wanamaker Playhouse is a great setting to watch these productions in to get a feel of what it might have been like seeing them the first time that they were performed. The Staff there are lovely and you can bring drinks in with you, which is handy as the first half of the play was an hour and fifty minutes long.

It is bench seating inside no individual seats so you will have to be a bit close and cosy with your fellow audience members, also there is nowhere really to stick your coats. I ended up sitting on mine. It is worth it though as it is such a lovely setting. The play was brilliant, the cast were amazing. I think it is a good sign that when the near two hour long first half ended I was like is that the interval already? The time flew by. It is a comedy so there were plenty of laughs to.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

The second half was equally as good. I can also confirm for the wine connoisseurs amongst you that they serve a very nice large glass of Rioja in there. It was a wonderful evening, the show, the location and the company I was with. I would happily go back and see something else there in the future.

The night out was rightly rounded off with another drink around Baker Street before we headed home. I fear this looks like the last show I will be seeing for a while, so it was nice to go out on a high.

Neil Quigley

Have fun and we will catch up again soon. Stay safe! Cheers Neil

Much Ado About Nothing

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.

London River Cruise
London River Cruise

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.

The Globe
The Globe

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.

Neil Quigley TV Radio & Live
Neil Quigley TV, Radio & Live

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.

Neil Quigley
Neil Quigley

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.

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots

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.

Ascot with mates
Ascot with mates

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.

Waveley Steamer
Waveley Steamer

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.

Waveley Steamer
Waveley Steamer

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.

Waveley Steamer
Waveley Steamer

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.

Waveley Steamer
Waveley Steamer

Have fun and we will catch up again in a couple of weeks. Cheers Neil