Harold Pinter – The Birthday Party

Very excited yesterday to get last minute tickets to see Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” at the Harold Pinter Theatre in Panton Street, London. We had 5th row seats in the stalls and were really able to appreciate the work of the amazing cast.

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It’s not often that you get a line-up of such notable names as Zoe Wannamaker, Toby Jones, Stephen Mangan, Peter Wight, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor & Pearl Mackie in one play.

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Newly directed by Ian Rickson of the Royal Court Theatre, this play on it’s original release nearly saw the early demise of Pinter’s career but is now considered a classic. It is still relevant 60 years on. The Birthday Party, set in a down at heel, shabby seaside boarding house is full of tension and menace, the mood broken up by choppy, staccato humorous lines. Slack-jawed Toby Jones is great and Mangan and Vaughan Lawlor as Goldberg and McCann make a fantastic pair of sinister visitors to Meg & Petey’s (Zoe Wannaamaker and Peter Wight) boarding house. Peal Mackie’s character, Lulu initially brings some levity which rapidly disappears. The staging was great too; an uncomplicated set that enabled the superb acting to shine through. The story  is still as unfathonable as the day it was written but this adds to the menace of the script. I’m sure that this is some of the finest drama that you will see in the West End this year.

 

Speed & Style at the V & A

Last weekend I had the fortune to visit the Ocean Liners: Speed and Style exhibition at the V&A. Once again the value of getting a V&A membership was demonstrated. At £89 a year for a member+one you will probably recoup the cost in just two visits to the V&A’s amazing exhibitions and you have the added benefit of using the very plush new Members Restaurant too!

The V & A describe the exhibition as “Experience a unique journey through the design stories of the world’s greatest ocean liners, including the Titanic, Normandie, the Queen Mary and the Canberra, and find out how these impressive vessels helped shape the modern world”. Couldn’t put it better myself!

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just like being at sea!

There’s lots to see. You could easlily spend an hour looking at all the exhibits which range from the fantastic graphics of promotional posters…….

… to artifacts from some of the most beautiful liners in the world including the Titanic.

Slightly macabre is a poster ffrom America promoting a “Titanic Disaster” theme park ride at Coney Island.

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Oh… and don’t forget the Members Restaurant & Bar!!

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Altogether highly recommended.

 

Kate Winslett spotted in Dean Street!

Wandering around Soho (as you do) I came across some of the popular street art of Paul “Don” Smith, in this case a painting of Kate Winslett in a shop doorway in Dean Street.

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Don Smith’s work is some of the most prolific urban art in London. He is best known for his multi-layered stencil portraits like this one and they may be found around Soso and in particular in the East End.

GoGo Penguin at the Roundhouse

Last Thursday I went to see GoGo Penguin (http://gogopenguin.co.uk/) at Camden’s Roundhouse, a lovely venue that I first visited for an “all-dayer” back in 1974 to see Greenslade. Since those days the place has been completely renovated and is now an atmospheric and unusual space.

After a quick trip to the Hawley Arms further up the road for a pint in Camden Town, we arrived in time for the second support act, Bad Honey @badhoneymusic on Facebook (Lydia Clowes, Teresa Origone, Mercy Welbeck and Jaleesa Gemerts) who played in one of the bar areas. If you get the chance to see this act, do. They play a sort of dreamy pop/electronica including some fab covers and held me mesmerised for half an hour. Lydia had the most beautiful, pure tone which cuts through their lush arrangements. On the night she was supported by bass and keyboards, the drums having been pre-recorded. They are not yet signed so if you know anyone……

With great expectation I took my seat (all seated gig in the round, thank goodness) to one side of the stage. Not the best view ever but OK and the clarity of the band’s sound was superb.

 

For about an hour and a half GoGo Penguin played their unique brand of jazz and electronica, each of the three band members contributing to the barrage of mostly lightning-fast drum, bass and piano repetitive patterns. Time went really quickly and the band left everyone wanting more. I treated myself to their new release, “A Humdrum Star” on red vinyl before I left.

 

I’m back!

Having got back on track with my other blog “Londonstoneandmetal”, I decided to re-engerise “Ink” as well. I’m going to change the focus a little and turn it into more of a photo journal. I’ll write about things that I have seen, places that I have been, restaurants I have visited, music that I’m listening to and stuff in general. I hope that appeals. It’s not original by any means but it is personal and it will get me writing again.

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The Vault beneath The Ned in Poultry, London

I had the fortune to have had a meeting yesterday afternoon in the Members Bar of The Ned, the former Midland Bank HQ in Poultry in the City of London. To the side of the reception desk in the basement, this amazing bank vault can be found. I wasn’t allowed inside but was told that I may take a photo. I’m glad I did. It reminds me of something out of a James Bond film!  Aside from this, the Members Bar is extremely civilised (especially on a wet February afternoon) and they serve a very good cup of English Breakfast tea. There is also a cocktail bar and numerous little cubby holes for tete-a-tetes which no doubt, should they be able to talk, would have some tales to tell!

Not being a regular visitor to the City these days, I had not realised that The Ned was a 5 Star hotel. Passing liveried doormen (who were ultra-polite) one emerges into the enormous former banking hall with it’s black and white tiled floor and green marble columns. The place is alive with the hubbub of both business meetings and tourists taking afternoon tea. Numerous people are obviously waiting for others, not knowing what they look like and staring intently at everyone who enters the lobby , looking for a cue to see if it is the person they are meant to be meeting. A great place for spies I would imagine.

Hampstead Pt3

Arriving at the restaurant door, Cedric was somewhat puzzled. He was sure that it used to be green and now it was all glass and chrome. Also, it looked terribly busy inside. Still, never mind he thought, things change over the years and in this case, although he was yet to find out exactly how, they had changed dramatically. Cedric and Elspeth waited just inside the door for someone to show them to their table. And waited And waited. Eventually something akin to an actor from the Rocky Horror Show, all piercings and black lips and black clothes from head to foot, shimmied up to them.

“Just the two?”

“Two what?”

“People”

“No, I can see what looks like hundreds – have you got a little table in the window?”

“I’ll see what I can do” it said. “It” because as of yet Cedric had not made his mind up whether he had been talking to a man or a woman. Coming back to them the person said “ I’ve found you somewhere nice”.

Grateful, Cedric followed the apparition in black. Elspeth, floaty shiffon-clad and in tow to their table. Not so much theirs as most of the rest of Camden’s by the look of it. There was much huffing and manoevering of shopping bags, buggies, small wayward children, elbows and other assorted limbs. Cedric and Elspeth perched opposite each other on the end of a long polished wooden table. They were also seated on benches and caused quite a commotion trying to get their legs over the bench and under the table so much so that Elspeth ended up sitting on the table with her feet on the bench below. Whilst rearranging herself into something resembling a normal seating position the angel of death returned with a menu. Cedric had in mind something classically French to impress Elspeth. He was having some problem finding what he wanted on the broadsheet sized menu. There appeared to be a lot of soup. And he asked “What are noodles?”. There was a certain amount of mirth around him. Cedric’s normal existence was reserved to a radius of about a mile from his house and tended to be restricted to a well-trodden route and selection of emporia where he did what shopping was necessary.

Hampstead Pt2

Cedric was actually still in the kitchen at the opposite end of the hall, clinging for dear life to the open fridge door which he was hiding behind. In his hand was a chilled bottle of Sancerre, about a third of which he had just necked as fortification for what might be to come. Cedric was no stranger to the bottle as you might have guessed but normally there would have been a certain degree of elegance to way he consumed it. On this occasion though all that went out of the window. A final swig, a quick twist of the screw-top, slamming of the fridge door and then….”Coming my love – I was just looking for my hat”. Elspeth decided to let that go.

Ever since her arrival the evening before she had the feeling that all was not well. Cedric had told Elspeth to take the Tube from her home in gentrified Highbury Fields to Camden Town where he would meet her and the two of them could go to a nice little restaurant that he used to know. Elspeth had arrived early and after exiting the barrier at Camden, decided to wait by the road-side railings outside the station. In the ten minutes that she waited for Cedric, Elspeth was offered a variety of pharmaceuticals – not least amphetamines, LSD and cannabis, so she was informed. She had asked one of the nice young men who approached her if they had any paracetamol as she had the most awful headache. With the rebuff that followed she retrospectively thought that they were a very poor attempt at this new-fangled mobile chemist service. Good idea though although they could have made a bit of effort with the way they dressed.

Cedric arrived rather worse for wear after climbing the ninety six steps from the Northern Line platform. He didn’t seem to realise that his hat was on backwards making him look rather like a rather effete rapper or that his skin tone was akin to that of an aubergine. He was actually quite proud of himself having made that ascent. Only at the top of the stairs, supported by two kindly London Underground staff, had he realised that he could have used the lift. Brushing aside offers of an ambulance, Cedric tottered rather uncertainly through the ticket barrier and into the waiting arms of Elspeth. A few minutes later, composure regained he took the arm of his friend and they headed for the so well remembered little restaurant that Cedric had frequented in his more youthful days.

Hampstead

Cedric is not the kind of man that you would want to annoy. His normally florid countenance is something to behold but when annoyed it turns into something altogether more unpleasant. It doesn’t take much to provoke him. Cedric is used to having his own way or more precisely, he is the centre of his own and many others’ universe. People who know him tend to tip-toe around him, half scared, half excited to see what may happen next. Today is Saturday, the day that Cedric always drives into Hampstead in his little silver sports car, believing himself to be the coolest person in North London. He may actually have been so at one time, many, many years ago but now, a rather sad, unusual sight in Wayfarers and a dusty pink flat hat, driving in third gear up and down the streets of NW3, he most definitely is not. Cedric does not need to drive to Hampstead; he lives there, between the Heath and the High Street in a big, red-brick Victorian stack of a house with crumbling masonry and rotting window frames – but it is Hampstead. Hampstead is of course de rigeur for Cedric’s “artistic” type. At one time there was much coming and going of friends, mostly from the theatre or the wider world of the arts but most of them now have the structural integrity of Cedric’s house and are likely to crumble away altogether with any protracted journey on a Northern Line Tube journey. So, they stay at home with their two bar electric heaters in drafty apartments nursing half a Guinness and fading memories, leaving Cedric to face the twenty first century alone. Cedric likes to be seen in his little open top car. He is a character, sitting proudly, one hand on the leather-bound steering wheel, the other tucking what’s left of his silver grey hair into his hat and wants to be recognised – as or for what is anybody’s guess.

As well as being Saturday today is rather different. Cedric is beginning to wish it wasn’t. For today, Cedric’s latest lady friend has come to stay for the weekend. Elspeth is a lady of indeterminate age but young enough for Cedric to think he’s onto a good thing. They had met at the bar of the Everyman cinema some months ago following an embarrassing incident involving a glass of house red and a wayward peanut and had since struck up a fairly fluid relationship, suiting Cedric’s rather flighty attitude to the opposite sex. Elspeth’s invitation had seemed a particularly  good idea a few weeks ago when arranged over the telephone and most of a bottle of Claret. Now, he wasn’t quite so sure.

“Come on Cedric, we’ve got shopping to do” called Elspeth from her position by the large front door with its’ cracked stained glass and peeling paint.

“Oh my God” thought Cedric.

Heightened observation

From where I was sitting I could see her fidgeting. Her water tumbler was slowly dripping condensation as she rotated the glass making wet circles on the tablecloth. Her now-wet fingers slipped below the table top and were dried surreptitiously on the overhanging linen. Was she bored I thought..or anxious? She constantly glanced towards the restaurant door. The plethora of smart, shiny shopping bags at her side came in for detailed examination; distractedly, poking and peering within. From the corner of my eye I noticed a policeman pass the restaurant window. Within seconds, the girl had gathered her bags in a flurry of card and cords and she flew towards the door.

The daily commute

 

I’m sure that I’m not alone in this but do you too have a feeling of entitlement on your daily commute? There is a ritual for me every morning at Paddington. The second that the describer board indicates the next suitable train, I join the surge, through the ticket barrier (God borbid that the ticket for some reason delays your progress), down the stairs (I would never under any other circumstances move that quickly, let alone run down stairs!) and scan the carriage numbers facing me. It has to be the “right” carriage (D in this case) and then to “my” seat. Maybe First Great Western could put my name on it. I feel quite affronted should somebody else be sitting in it. Why do we feel that we have a right to what is normal for us? Is it a comfort thing? I suppose we all like the security of normality and predictability. Oh – it’s just me then.