Monday, 24 September 2012

Tower Block

'Not the worst Sunday'

Yesterday, courtesy of free tickets via ShowFilmFirst, we all went to see Tower Block - "we" being myself, hubby, teen and a friend.
The residents of the top floor of Serenity House are waiting to be re-housed by the council and refusing to move. Me, I'd be out of there like a shot as the film opens with a 15 yr old boy being beaten to death outside their doors! The story jumps to a few months later; the murder is still unsolved, the residents are still there and now a gunman is taking potshots at them.
Starring Sheridan Smith, Russell Tovey and Jack O'Connell, Tower Block has a feel of your favourite TV characters being transported into a new situation, a cross between Die Hard and Phone Booth, so being used to seeing her in Two Pints of Lager... Smith's character Becky didn't feel right taking charge of the situation. Lumped together there were a lot of holes in the plot, a lot of things that in retrospect I thought 'why didn't they do such and such' or 'why on Earth did they try that? It was bound to fail'  and the action wasn't quite riveting enough to not let some of these doubts surface while watching. I still enjoyed it and would recommend it as a good evening out, though Sheridan Smith isn't going to replace Bruce Willis.

Then afterwards the Teen started raising a whole new set of questions... She'd enjoyed it immensely and wants the dvd the minute it comes out ... but she thought it was meant to be a comedy!!

Now, I'd seen a short trailer of shootings and screaming and people in fear for their lives plus checked it out on IMDB which describes Tower Block as a 'thriller' so that's what I went along expecting - and that's what I saw. The Teen and friend had no expectations and decided quite early on that they were watching a comedy. There were certainly a lot of funny one-liners  - "Not the worst Sunday I've had" says Tovey's character about being shot at and preparing to jump off the roof - but surely these were in the way of Alan Rickman's Die Hard quips? No says the Teen, even the shootings and all the blood were funny. Funny?? Not to my mind.
We've decided the only thing to do is watch it again. For now 4 stars as thriller, 5 stars from Teen as a comedy!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Theatre for Teens

A more-than-averagely rambling post on a lack of teens in theatre audiences.

Nottingham Playhouse's Skymirror

Last week we won tickets and went to see the Importance of Being Earnest at Nottingham Playhouse. Now, when I say 'we', I mean me, my husband and our 15 yr old daughter. We generally, though not always, ALL go to the theatre together. Spending a week in Edinburgh for its summer festivals between us we went to 5 plays, a steam-punk cabaret, a story-telling, BBC radio recordings, a stunt-cyclist demonstration and a harp recital, but not all of us to each event. It can be difficult to find something that's to all our tastes so we often disagree about how enjoyable an evening it was.
But something that hadn't struck me till my daughter mentioned it, was the lack of other teenagers in theatre audiences. At one of the Edinburgh fringe events, she commented that she was the youngest there but last week in Nottingham she looked like the only person under 25. Why?
Go along to a production of something covered in the National Syllabus - Romeo and Juliet or maybe the up-coming Of Mice and Men - and the audience will be packed with school trips; go along to the Christmas pantomime and even the tiniest of children are there. But anything else and the audience is made up of adults only. Do parents see a theatre trip as a night-out for them, away from the kids? Or do they just assume that teens wouldn't be interested?
I went out to theatres a lot as a teen - at first on trips organised by school but then with my friends, often desperately wanting the play to wind up in time for us to catch the last bus home - but easily as much as I went to the cinema. It isn't that theatre tickets are particularly more expensive than those for the cinema - though maybe an 'Orange Wednesday' type deal would encourage more punters.
Without teens going to theatres now, isn't a risk being run that there will soon be no adults visiting either?

I'm probably going to find no one who agrees, who's always seen theatre audiences crowded out with youngsters but if so PLEASE leave a comment.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Glencoe lochan - a little piece of Canada in Scotland

Walking round this beautiful small loch you might imagine it to be typical of Scottish highland scenery but in fact the area has been landscaped and planted to look like Canada!

I've driven through GlenCoe many times but never stopped to walk around.

In the late 1800s the then landowner Lord Strathcona married a lady of Native American descent from British Columbia. To avoid her missing her home too much, he had this part of his estate remodelled and Douglas firs and other Canadian trees planted. The walk around the lochan is fairly short and flat but very beautiful.

Following the trail uphill through firs, a viewpoint over Loch Leven opens up.
Looking down to Loch Leven

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Sotheby's at Chatsworth

Autumn brings the Sotheby's Sculpture Exhibition back to Chatsworth.
This year, instead of the usual format of varied work from a variety of artists, everything on display was by one sculptor, Barry Flanagan. 

There were a variety of hares, some elephants and a horse.

This is the Nijinski hare - to be found in several sizes and positions...
.... on the backs of elephants...
....balancing on an anvil...

 ..with his twin..

there are bowling hares - on top of the Empire State building

balancing hares...

..a sculling hare

..and my favourite, the troubador hare

 a horse
and elephants

I think I marginally miss the variety of other years - of having a greater surprise when tracking down the next sculpture and of having some to like and some to think are awful.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Being Lucky #beingearnest

We were extremely lucky yesterday.
We'd been discussing in the morning whether or not we could afford a trip to see The Importance of Being Earnest at Nottingham Playhouse as we'd overspent on our theatre budget during our Edinburgh Fringe trip. Just after lunch I checked Twitter and discovered the Playhouse (@SkyMirror) were running a competition to win tickets! I entered, of course - and then told hubby, just back from the dentists and needing fillings, that he should enter too. He did. And then we sat and waited for 4 o'clock when the winners would be announced.
I saw SkyMirror sending messages to the winners and after several had gone out, assumed we hadn't been lucky, and closed Twitter. Later I decided to quickly check my e-mail - and was stunned to see a Twitter message saying I HAD won tickets - and, quickly checking hubby's account, found he had too!
Then I began to realise we were pushed for time. Dinner wasn't even planned, let alone cooked. Hubby was out jogging. The dog needed his evening walk before being left in charge of the house. We can have an hour's journey to Nottingham depending on traffic and roadworks. I quickly pushed some dinner in the oven, grabbed the dog and took him up to the field, fortunately finding a jogging husband while we were out so we could tell him the exciting news.
Having eaten and changed out of dog walking/jogging gear we headed to Nottingham - only to find the main road closed and traffic being redirected by police! The clock was ticking frantically at this point with traffic barely moving on the diverted route. Hitting another main road into town, we started to move quickly at last and with some luck at traffic lights made it to the Playhouse with more time to spare than we'd expected. A huge sigh of relief!
A day of drama ending with the real stuff, performed by others for our entertainment!

A proper review of The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest at Nottingham Playhouse

In a variety of flukes, I went yesterday to Nottingham Playhouse to see Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
Despite feeling I knew the play from various TV and film productions, I've never actually seen it 'live' so was really looking forward to it - and it totally lived up to my expectations!

The cast were brilliant and the performance seamless - frequently having the audience bursting into laughter. Jack and Algernon horsing around with the cigarette case were amazingly well-timed and I was impressed that anyone who had a 'famous' line delivered it as if fresh and thought up at that moment.
It turned out I didn't know Being Earnest as well as I though though.. By the third act, I'd realised I had no idea how the twists and complications of the plot would sort themselves - though obviously in some way where everyone lived happy ever after. I was surprised to discover how many of Wilde's 'one-liners' came from Being Earnest - I'd assumed for example that it was Wilde himself who carried a diary to have something sensational to read, not a character in one of his plays.

A quick word of praise should go to the set designer, especially for the quick change between Acts 2 + 3.

And, after so many curious venues at Edinburgh Fringe, it was nice to be back in a proper theatre, with proper seats.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A Day Out in Norfolk

Last weekend, our teen was going to visit a friend who lives at quite a distance and we decided to have a day out too. Getting up early to visit friends is far easier than getting up to go to school or even to go on holiday so rather amazingly the Teen was dropped off and we'd travelled an extra hour to arrive at Castle Rising shortly before 11!

Castle Rising is a typical child's idea of how a castle should look - just like those that come from upturned buckets of sand - even with a flag on top.

There are passages and stairways to explore inside....

 ..but remember to watch out for 12th century hazards!

From there we headed north up the coast stopping first at Heacham..... with looming black clouds..

 ...then Hunstanton - where for a while the weather was sunny..

..even though there were still hazards to watch out for!

 Away from the hustle and bustle of slot-machines and chip shops there are strangely coloured cliffs

 and quiet waters

 but the dark clouds were still following us

 so we moved further north to Brancaster Beach with its sands stretching as far as the eye can see.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Three Men In A Boat - Edinburgh Fringe

Another free show, another venue - this time in an empty shop in Princes Mall!

Three Men in a Boat is an adaptation of Jerome K Jerome's book of the same title, written and performed by the rather strangely named Fat-Headed Chunks   - a Cumbrian theatre company. Overworked and overstressed, J, Harris and George, accompanied by Montmorency the terrier, head off up the Thames for a relaxing boating holiday.
An empty shop doesn't seem like the ideal venue for theatre but it worked surprisingly well - my main criticism would be that at times it was a little difficult to see clearly from the back as the 'stage' area wasn't raised.  Even so we passed an entertaining hour in the company of the Three Men and various others they encountered on their journey - all played by four cast members with some quick changes of costume. The story was mainly presented as a narration with interspersed dramatised sections. The venue, set up time etc restricted the use of props and huge sets but it captured the feel of a journey on the river really well.
Definitely a theatre group I'd catch again.

Other Fringe reviews ;
Porphyria by New Theatre Company
Once Upon A Time (In Space) by The Mechanisms
Closer by Rush Theatre Company
Free Fringe Music