Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Favourite movie: Mildred Pierce


If you haven't seen this wonderful pic, it's a mature, moody, intelligent take on James M. McCain's psychological thriller. The screenplay is by Ranald McDougall, but William Faulkner also contributed, but kept himself out of the credits. Joan Crawford deservedly won an Oscar for striking a memorable balance between hard ambition and vulnerability. Her mercurial daughter was played by the provocative Ann Blyth, and some of the film's most memorable scenes dramatically work out the relationship and rivalry between the two women. Hungarian-born director Michael Curtiz - who brought us Angels with Dirty Faces, and Yankee Doodle Dandy - shapes the narrative into film noir format with clarity, pace and depth. Overall, this is a moody dark work, lit up by the blazing talent of Crawford, who commands your gaze and attention throughout. Couldn't recommend it more highly. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Favourite Songs: CSS, I Couldn't Care Less

A slice of ephemeral magic from the Sao Paolo troubadours CSS - only these girls could produce three minutes of such edgy, mercurial, moving, perfection. Eternal. 


Friday, March 13, 2015

Looking in Tents: Song Lyrics


LOOKING IN TENTS

You think you're growing?
You think you're growing?
A pear dropping down.
A pear dropping down.
You think you're growing?
You think you're growing?
A pear dropping down.
A pear dropping down.

We are masters of the morning
sewing others' clothes
Peering down wells,
Weaving our own Hells.
Needles made of silver,
breaking Arctic ice.
My parachute's not opening
My parachute's not there . . .

We are masters of the day,
timing others' sets.
Looking into tents,
sweeping up the mess.
Writing with erasers
on tomorrow's papers
Looking down wells
Looking down wells.

You think you're growing?
You think you're growing?
A pear dropping down.
A pear dropping down.
You think you're growing?
You think you're growing?
A pear dropping down.
A pear dropping down.

We are masters of the evening
licking sirloin steaks
Oiling Momma's brakes
Hurting ooh yeh hurting.
Grunting as we come,
and whistling as you leave.
I gave the kid to you.
Yes, I left him with you.

And when the caravan appears
and sunlight stings our lips,
there's singing from the coffin,
singing from the coffin . .

I remember what happened before I was born,
But now I melt - and flee my life,
drifting to be free -
free of myself and my wife.

And when the caravan comes back
with workers bought and sold,
we'll hear songs of the planets
by the young who grew so old.

We are masters now of midnight,
and all we see is gold,
with plastic on the windowsills
and shaking hands and houses,
writing your own lines,
and pressing your own pills.
Reading all the signs:
bells are ringing/ whales are blowing.

You think you're growing?
You think you're growing?
A pear dropping down.
A pear dropping down.
You think you're growing?
You think you're growing?
A pear dropping down.
A pear dropping down.


COWBOY LADY BLUE

Cowboy lady blue
where are you?
where are you?
I rode here just to see your face
Tell me where are you?
Cowboy lady blue
where are you?
where are you?
To see you just for one more time
is all a want to do.

The day you walked into the bar
and slipped onto the stool
and said, hey man, just line them up
I grinned and acted cool.
We drank until we were the last
two real people there
and then you said, now follow me,
ran fingers through your hair.

We rode on in a moon filled night
with galaxies real close,
and shooting stars just flashing by.
You stopped and heaved a heavy sigh,
as we approached the lake,
which shone like one more universe,
as you mouthed a spell or curse,
then we got real high.

Cowboy lady blue
where are you?
where are you?
I rode here just to see your face
Tell me where are you?
Cowboy lady blue
where are you?
where are you?
To see you just for one more time
is all a want to do.

You sang a song of yesterday,
and poked into the fire.
The sparks shot up and joined the stars
in Cassiopeia, just by Mars
There was no end to the universe
or life or love or us;
just breaths, and gasps and endless tales
of men and drugs and saving whales.

You slipped into the warm black lake.
while I made us a bed
You waved and laughed and pointed
to the satellite ahead,
I drifted off, and heard your song
shimmer in the night,
and woke up shivering alone,
 - shivering alone.

Cowboy lady blue
where are you?
where are you?
I rode here just to see your face
Tell me where are you?
Cowboy lady blue
where are you?
where are you?
To see you just for one more time
is all a want to do.


SMOKIN AGAIN

My baby gone left me,.
My baby gone left me
Won't see her no more
Won't see her no more

My baby gone left me,.
My baby gone left me
Won't see her no more
Won't see her no more

Twenty seven years,
full of shared life,
sent down the River Trent
by my ex-wife.

Twenty seven summers,
spent swimming in the sea
Now she's got another,
and she don't want me.

Twenty seven winters
doing frosty walks,
no more stuff like that no more
with pubs, and laughs and talks.

No more holding hands,
or snuggling up in bed,
or laughing at how we used to like
some old Eighties bands.

My baby gone left me,.
My baby gone left me
Won't see her no more
Won't see her no more

My baby gone left me,.
My baby gone left me
Won't see her no more
Won't see her no more

No more falls, and kicking leaves
and smelling burning smoke
or looking on to Christmas,
and meeting up with folk.

No more springs, and smells of grass
and looking at the skies,
and saying things are good
or wiping tears from your eyes,.

No more seasons for us no more;
all of them are done.
No more kisses, hugs, and laughs,
and love, and lust and fun.

My baby gone left me,.
My baby gone left me
Won't see her no more
Won't see her no more

My baby gone left me,.
My baby gone left me
Won't see her no more
Won't see her no more

But now she's gone, I see the world
as it was before.
With countryside, and women, and
some breaking of the law.

And so my friends, I'm telling you,
that if it does and when,
you should shrug it off, and drink some wine
 - start smoking again.

So my baby gone left me,
my baby gone left me,
but I'm smoking again
I'm smoking again

So my baby gone left me,
my baby gone left me,
but I'm smoking again
I'm smoking again

Smokin. Smokin. Smokin. Smokin
Smokin. Smokin. Smokin. Smokin
Smokin again
Smokin again

Smokin. Smokin. Smokin. Smokin
Smokin. Smokin. Smokin. Smokin
Smokin again
Smokin again


PAID MY DUES

I ain't got no money
I ain't got no friends
I ain't got no future
But I got you, baby.

I paid my dues when my life came crashing down
I paid my dues when the earth stopped spinnin
I paid my dues when you walked out of my life
I paid my dues when I go go go go go go . . . .

Remember the day when kissed against the bar
The wine went spinning, and we crashed into a car
Remember the day when we took a lot of of X
remember nights of drinking and of sex sex sex

Remember the day when I shot my brother down
and you hit my station wagon. You hit my station wagon.
Remember the nights when we'd run down to the lake,
and swim until we drowned - we'd go to sleep awake.

Yeh, I paid my dues when my life came crashing down
I paid my dues when the earth stopped spinnin
I paid my dues when you walked out of my life
I paid my dues when I go go go go go go . . . .

All my days are spent digging up the road.
All my nights are spent cleaning up the dishes,
I'd really like someone to share the heavy load,
but that's just me again - me who always wishes.

But since you caught my eye like that,  and smiled the way you do.
The road seems somehow softer, and the dishes look like fishes.
In the bus back home, I can smell your perfume,
and know you'll be waiting in our downstairs room.
But the green bus slipped into a a hole in the road,
and we're upside down and screaming.
The city life is teeming.
We come to stop and pick ourselves to pieces.
With dates and guns and mates and buns and birds and ducks and geeses.

So, I paid my dues when my life came crashing down
I paid my dues when the earth stopped spinnin
I paid my dues when you walked out of my life
I paid my dues when I go go go go go go . . . .

I ain't got no money
I ain't got no friends
I ain't got no future
But I got you, baby.


I WANT YOU TO GO DOWNSTAIRS

Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs.
Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs.
I want you to go downstairs and get my drugs
I want you to go downstairs and do your thing . . .

Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs
Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs
I want you to go downstairs and have some fun.
I want you to go downstairs and get my gun.

When donkeys dream, they dream of hay.
When leeches dream they dream of blood
We humans dream our lives away with hey hey hey hey hey

Monger - I monger.
Danger with a dream.
Longer - I'm longer.
Babe, I'll make you scream.

Singer - a singer
A singer with a song.
Bingo - play bingo
Play bingo. Play bingo. Play bingo.
Play bingo. Play bingo. Play bingo.

Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs.
Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs.
I want you to go downstairs and get my drugs
I want you to go downstairs and do your thing . . .

Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs
Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs
I want you to go downstairs and have some fun.
I want you to go downstairs and get my gun.

When tigers dream - they dream of goats.
When aphids dream, they dream of plants.
We humans dream our lives away with go go go go go go

Lover - I love her
Strawberries and cream
Taller - he's taller
though he won't make the team.

Stripper - a stripper
He strips off all his clothes.
Poker - play poker.
Play poker. Play poker. Play poker.
Play poker. Play poker. Play poker. 

Play bingo. Play bingo. Play bingo. 
Play bingo. Play bingo. Play bingo. 

Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs.
Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs.
I want you to go downstairs and get my drugs
I want you to go downstairs and do your thing . . .

Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs
Oh baby, I want you to go downstairs
I want you to go downstairs and have some fun.
I want you to go downstairs and get my gun.



PLATES

Hey, sugar, let me see your plates,
Hey honey, I wanna swap love for your hates,
When the goose is cooked, and campaign won
Let the sun love the moon, and the moon love the sun.
Hey, sugar I'd love to see your plates.

With the war just won, and the ceiling painted
You is what you is, and ain't what you ain'ted
The feeling's mutual, but the seas on the wane,
The current's too strong. It's waxing my mane.
My main issue in all this is to see where I come,
and having thus done so, to write it all down.
and having thus done so to erase what I write,
and hit myself running, black blue and off white.

Hey, sugar, let me see your plates,
Hey honey, I wanna swap love for your hates,
With the rhubarb cooked, and campaign won
Let the sun love the moon, and the moon love the sun,
Hey, sugar I'd love to see your plates.

With the core just done, and my feeling are sainted
You head my heart down to the ground, and you fainted
The dealing's rooting and the sky's what you gain
The day is too weak and it's starting to rain.
It's a tissue of lies, and and thimble of rum
and having just killed him cos it's his kind of town.
And no string so I can't fly a kite,
I see myself coming, and I'm starting to fight.

Hey, sugar, let me see your plates,
Hey honey, I wanna swap love for your hates,
With the rhubarb cooked, and campaign won
Let the sun love the moon, and the moon love the sun,
Hey, sugar I'd love to see your plates.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, by Thomas Middleton. Rose Theatre.



Thomas Middleton had London in his DNA, and the city he lived and died in was a dirty, cruel and fascinating place. The turn of the century and change of monarch were accompanied by huge confessional, social and economic upheavals, and the rapid growth of an entrepreneurial and urban middle class. The era was beset by horrific plagues every twenty years or so, which wiped out 20-30% of the London population each time. With ongoing growth in economic activity, this meant more demand for less labour, and so even the proles experienced a rise in income and aspirations. Everybody was desperate to climb up from the mud and open sewers, and these people looked up at those with inherited wealth with growing envy and disdain. This after all, was England only thirty years before the Civil War, and the Levellers. As a London intellectual and jobbing playwright, Middleton was grappling with the complex creative destruction whirling around England's capital, which would all end in tragedy. One sensed that Middleton knew this. 

A Chaste Maid in Cheapside was his Abigail's Party - a funny, vicious exposing of the aspirational classes and the seedy urges lying beneath.  Cleverly directed by Jenny Eastop, the Mercurius troupe brought a pared down text to life, with hilarious and surprising results. One sat and chuckled as plot was joined by plot; and the narrative was lost as the pitch rose to a crescendo, leaving us with a marriage - the traditional resolution to Early Modern comedies. One was, however, left rather shaken - and the confusion, sleaze and artifice remained as the laughter and applause died down and we shuffled off into the night. All very Joe Orton - who also used over-complex absurd comedies to unsettle, and swivel the spotlight on his aspirational middle class audiences. It comes as no surprise that Orton was a fan of Thomas Middleton, and acknowledged a debt to his trailblazing work. 

Perhaps then, the play would have been better set in the 1960s than the 1950s, as was the case here. When I read that this production was set in the doo-wop decade, my heart rather sank; but  it worked well visually and musically, and wove some unexpected cultural synergies (flick knives used as combs, twirling skirts . . ).

The acting was utterly terrific. Beth Eyre had a difficult role in Moll, in the sense that she was the love interest in the piece, the sweetheart, but she subverted these expectations well through some clever stances and glances. Stephen Good was wonderful as the successful but naive goldsmith, Yellowhammer, bringing a welcome authenticity amidst the whirling artifice. His wife was played by Josephine Liptrott who gave an engaging and powerful performance of the pragmatic brains in the marriage. Timothy Harker (as Allwit) simply burst onto the stage, effusing glee with his ill-earned lot, and continued to entertain throughout. Fergus Leathem ably played Sir Oliver Kix, one of the undeserving rich, desperate for a son, not because he particularly liked children, but because it would mean a large inheritance. Richard Reed portrayed Touchwood Senior as a louche teddy boy, bringing a sly, lascivious humour to the proceedings. Harry Russell took on the role of  his younger brother, another ted and chancer, but with a just discernible heart amidst the seething moral swamp. The role of Sir Walter Whorehound is a gift for any actor, and Andrew Seddon didn't miss an opportunity to camp up the memorable Falstaffian reprobate. At one point he collapsed into the seat next to my friend and engaged her in smutty Jacobean double-entendres. If only I'd had a glove handy I could have joined the play.

Overall, then, the quality of acting was outstanding - nuanced, skilled and tuned into the audience. Bravo Mercurius! However, the - the - stand-out performance of the evening went to the marvellous Alana Ross, who played two roles to jaw-dropping effect. As Lady Kix, she simply lit up the Rose with a sassy, mercurial, hilarious performance tinged with desperation. Brilliant. 

This then is a must see. Well done, Mercurius, and you lovely people at the Rose for having the imagination to put this on, and pull it off so well. And thank you to that great Londoner, Thomas Middleton, for writing something so entertaining, so unsettling, so now. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shakespeare and Impermanence: Henry IV Part II, Barbican, and Winter's Rages, Rose Playhouse


Hang on - I thought Henry IV Pt II was meant to be inferior to the first. I mean, that's what critics throughout the ages have said. A couple of weeks back I saw the Donmar's all-female Henry IV, which one might think would span the works equitably - but Part II hardly got a look in, with only a couple of scenes tagged on to bring us to the crowning of Hal. Director Phyllida Lloyd was unrepentant about this, dismissing parts of the sequel as "bucolic meanderings".

Blimey. Well, the RSC folk obviously didn't see it this way, and staged a performance of Part II that rivalled any theatre I have seen in terms of depth, charm and sheer joy. Much of this joy and charm came embodied in Antony Sher's masterful Falstaff, who drank, lied, and confided to the audience with such candour that I was sorry to leave his company. I have now seen Sher's Falstaff in both parts, and I feel like I know him personally. I know I'm going to miss him.

Shakespeare based Falstaff upon Henry V's old friend, Sir John Oldcastle; and this caused something of a spat at the time. Part I was a smash hit, a sell out, but somewhere along the line it is likely that one of Oldcastle's progeny - possibly Baron Cobham himself - watched on with horror at the lampooning of a beloved ancestor. Letters flew, arms were twisted, and Shakespeare felt obliged to include an epilogue to the next play, explaining that Falstaff would be back . . hurrah! . . but, by the way, his character had nothing to do with noble, courageous, honourable John Oldcastle. Mumblings. Snorting. Yeah right. 

Falstaff is great company. He is always up for a party; he drinks continuously and is forever weaving schemes and inventions. Inveterate liar, whore monger, thief - there's little to dislike about him. For instance, in Part 2, he gives a thoughtful speech praising the twofold effects of sherry. I wish more playwrights would explore the subject as eloquently.

As we sat chuckling through Sher's monumental performance, it occurred to me that here Shakespeare had immortalised  a prototype - the roistering soak, who liberates us temporarily from the iron cage of puritanism. In Elizabethan England, with its mutaween, Falstaff was a provocative, and wholly necessary, figure. And so he remains in today's climate of PC, self-censorship and myriad -isms. Falstaff coupling with Doll Tearsheet spawned all the tragic, but challenging ne'er do wells that keep us from turning into automata . . . Oliver Reed, Liz Taylor, Georgie Best, Gérard Depardieu, Jeffrey Bernard . . Talking of which, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell was obviously inspired by Pt 2. Keith Waterhouse merely locked Falstaff into the Boar's Head for an evening, and had him reflecting upon his adventures. I will never think of the Coach and Horses in the same way again.

In my obsessive viewing of Shakespeare plays, I have seen some wonderful performances, but Antony Sher's Falstaff is someone I will never forget. I feel privileged to have met the great man.

Another highlight of this week was seeing "Winter's Rages" at the Rose Playhouse. In this inventive piece, Sophie Kochanowska has cut and pasted together snippets of Shakespeare, and Bard-influenced music to produce a stark, post modern exploration of impermanence. Blioux Kirkby was superb as she played a mentally ill Ophelia, and a fragile, traumatised Ariel; and her singing was rich, alluring and charismatic. Hannah Yip played the keyboards throughout quite brilliantly - in the cold as well. It was, however, Sophie Kochanowska herself who dominated, with the unsettling Drei Lieder der Ophelia by Richard Strauss, and Fear No More the Heat O'The Sun, by Gerald Finzi. Her playing of the youthful, doomed Juliet about to take a sleeping potion was fresh and disturbing. Congratulations to all for highlighting a theme that runs through so much of the Bard's work - impermanence. In many ways, Shakespeare was a Buddhist, and here tonight, as Sophie Kochanoska's singing echoed around the Rose, the truth and tragedy of impermanence was given a voice.

Fresh, disturbing, post-modern . . . how adaptable Shakespeare is. What would Falstaff have made of "Winter's Rages"? Well, he would have enjoyed the singing and the beautiful players . . . but he probably would have disgraced himself, and got himself ejected from the Rose. I'm glad then I left him roaring with laughter in the Boar's Head. More sack, boy . . more sack!!