Confessions of a Theatre Snob

Saturday, December 31, 2011

In which I admit I don't like Roald Dahl

As is the way of things, Corinne and I are sitting in a pub in York, talking about theatre productions we've seen recently (in her case, the Donmar Richard II, and in mine A Christmas Carol, performed in a room of the pub we happen to be in).

We also talk about things we'd like to see. Henry V next year at the Globe, Timon of Athens at the National for her (ticking another play off the 'list'). For me, Jerusalem, despite my long standing issues with Mark Rylance.

'And there's also 'Matilda'. It's had fabulous reviews, and everyone who I know who's seen it has raved about it. But, it's full of children, and it's Roald Dahl. I really don't like Roald Dahl, I find his stories quite grotesque'.

I also point out that he came along too late for me, but then I know that the child 'me' would have wanted faries and princesses, not his rather bizarre take on the world.

'Ok, so possibly not the best choice for you then'.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dodgy accents, cross dressing, and big frocks

1895, Thor Bridge, Hampshire, the night of the full moon. A gunshot, a locked door, and behind it a woman lay dead. Only the famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, could help to identify the murderer.

There was the American mining millionaire and his estranged daughter. His Brazilian second wife had been murdered, could one of them be the culprit?

There was the South African Miner, what was the connection between these two?

There was the brother of the murdered woman. He’d just arrived from Brazil, and now his sister is dead. Suspicious!

There was the Hungarian Countess, dark, and mysterious. Did she know something about the murder?

There was the governess, living in the house, did she know more of its secrets than she was telling?

There was her best friend, did she have an ulterior motive for visiting at that time?

I’m not telling who did it, but we had fun finding out. For the record, two people correctly identified the murderer.

And, for once, no one got drunk.

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At least this year we weren't knee deep in snow

Last weekend was the Robin Hood’s Bay Victorian Weekend. J and I went two years ago, when I had so much fun that I hatched a plan to hire a cottage, and go for the whole weekend last year. And then the snow came, so we had to cancel, and hold the Victorian Murder Mystery Party at my house, and only wear half of the costumes that I’d planned to wear.

So this year, there were particular things that I wanted to wear; a beautiful black and white dress from an Opera North production, and a violet coat. I also had a skirt bought in the Costume Hire sale, my own blouse, and a hired hat. As Dean also had costumes, and I had costumes for Cat, you could say that my car was rather loaded up.

Having dropped off all the evening wear in Pickering, we headed over the moors, to meet Cat. Thankfully the weather was cold, but bright and sunny. +6 degrees is vastly different to -12 last year.

Meeting Cat in the car park, we headed into the village hall to get ready. It was as I walked across the car park, and ended up chasing my hat, I realised I’d left the hat pins in Pickering. On all the pictures, I’m hanging on to it, so that it doesn’t blow into the sea.

After a quick old time dance lesson, we were joined by K and V, and headed down the hill into the village to find lunch. We quickly realised that it wasn’t very busy. There were a few people in costume, and others who were just looking, but it was much quieter than two years ago. I think the weather last year must have put a lot of people off, both visitors and traders.

As there was a group of us, we quickly drew a crowd of photographers, and at times it was like having the paparazzi around us. At one point as we stood on the jetty (admittedly, a rather fabulous setting) we had drawn quite a crowd, and at this point we were joined by J and P, also in full Victorian costume. As I’m sure you’ll realise, I hated it – though, having seen some of the results, I really need to make sure that I pose!

There was also a Tombola down by the Dock. Oh, the excitement - and I broke my recent run of bad luck by winning four prizes!*

We called into one of the pubs to listen to a Victorian geologist talking about his discoveries, and stopped off again for mulled wine. It was rather quiet, so there weren’t that many other people in costume to interact with, but it was still great fun, and I loved just being able to walk around in full costume – though I think, another year, the skirt would easily take a crinoline underneath it.

*Which is, frankly, the point. I don’t mind what I win, and I’m happy to give the prizes away. It’s the winning of them that counts.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Wherein I learn more than I ever knew about wig dressing

‘What do you mean you don’t know how to pin curl?!’ Dean sounds slightly aghast.

'Well, I don’t!'

A week or so ago, I bought a pretty cheap, and frankly rather chavvy, hair piece from a shop in Hull, more in hope than in expectation that I’d actually be able to wear it. It’s a pony tail, highlighted in brown and blonde, the closest that I could find to my un-natural hair colour. Taking it out of the box, I realised I didn’t have the first idea how to fasten it in to my own hair, which, though longer than in previous years, is still fairly short and layered. I set it aside, and planned on wearing my full wig, in something approaching a Victorian style.

On Friday evening, we’re having a trial run, of costume, accessories, jewels, and, of course, hair. Fuelled by wine, Dean starts twisting my hair into pin curls, prior to attaching the hair piece, clipping it towards the top of my head.

I stand up and look in the mirror. I have a long, straight pony tail hanging from the top of my head*.‘Oh my God, you’ve turned me into Sandy from Grease’. Dean says I look like a bar maid from Corrie.

I ask him to fix it lower, and he re-applies it towards the nape of the neck. It’s amazing. It might be cheap, but, from a distance, it could be my hair. I’m just wishing I’d had it like this a few weeks ago for the play. The fact that this can be done with my hair is a revelation.
I also ask him to dress my full wig, which I’m going to wear for the evening murder mystery, which he does. It’s also not dissimilar to my own hair, and he creates a partly ‘up’ style, with a few trailing ringlets. Perfect. What a star.

*No, you don’t get a photo. I have my standards.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eight years on

Corinne and I are sitting in a pub in Lamb’s Conduit Street. She has a glass of wine, but for once, I’m on the lime and soda. We’re waxing a little nostalgic, as I’m describing a recent Griffin gig that I went to (of which no more need be said, other than some things don’t change).

As we sit there, we realise that it’s an important anniversary week.

‘It’s eight years, you know’

‘In some ways it doesn’t seem long, but then in ways it feels longer’

And she’s right. It’s had to believe that it’s been eight years since we met, but then so much has happened, so many things have changed. People have moved away, physically, and in terms of the amount of contact that we have with each other. One person isn’t here any more, and we can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s also the anniversary of loosing her.

But it’s time to raise a glass - of wine, of course, and possibly with a side order of chips – wherever you are, what ever you may be doing, here's to the Northern Division.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

War Weekend

‘We need to go and look for snoods. Now that’s not something you hear us say every day!’

We’re well into the afternoon of our second Pickering War Weekend, and I’m into my second outfit of the day, the first having been great, but far too hot for the unseasonably hot weather. Last year, there had been a distinct nip in the air, and I’d been very grateful for my wool dress and jacket and fox fur, which I ended up loaning to J when she was frozen.

This year, as my main outfit, I’d selected a burgundy dress and coat from Costume Hire, topped with an even more dramatic fox fur, brown felt hat, and the same shoes as last year. It looks great, but I am sweltering. I try to adapt by taking off the coat, but then I’m lumbered with carrying it.
We’d caught the tail end of the parade of war time vehicles earlier, and hit a sea of people as we tried to move from the railway station and up the main street. I’ve never seem Pickering so busy. I’m sure are were more people in costume than last year – and, crucially, more people in ‘good’ costume. A girl is singing into a microphone outside the conservative club, and I know most of the songs she sings.

Pushing our way though, we manage to get into one of the coffee shops after a short wait. I love seeing everyone sitting there, glamorous ladies in hats and men in uniform of smart suits, sipping tea and eating cake. Many of the cafes enter into the spirit, by offering a wartime menu – though sadly not at wartime prices.

There are lots of vintage traders with stalls, where, at a price, you can get a pair of shoes, a uniform from any of the services, a smart little two piece ‘costume’*, and all the accessories. I manage to resist, apart from buying an RAF hat. Not much use without the rest of the uniform, but I have a real hankering to be part of the Air Force next year.

We decide to pop back to K and V’s house for lunch, and on the way meet J and P, who have just arrived. ‘You look like Agatha Christie’, she says. I can’t say it’s the most flattering comparison I’ve ever had, but I know what she means.

Once back, I decide to change into my second outfit, on the basis that it will be cooler. It’s a air force blue dress, with a jacket of my mum’s. I’m wearing my wig, but have caught the back of it up in a snood, and a small blue vintage hat. I’m still wearing the fox fur on top, however.

Heading this time to the station, I meet up with J and P, and we for more tea and cake, before I browse round more vintage stalls, and loiter on the station, waiting for the train to come in so that I can play at Brief Encounter. Only my outfit isn’t as perfect for that as last year’s.

As the shops begin to close for the day, I find my snood on a stall, and we take a last walk up the main street. We see a couple of German officers. It’s a strange, and slightly chilling sight.

Back at the house, it’s time for our Wartime meal. This year we’ve all taken something. V has prepared corned beef hash, and I’ve made a ‘Woolton Pie’, which is basically all vegetables. We decide they must have eaten a lot of carrots and potatoes in wartime, as they are a substantial part of the meal. J has brought red cabbage. As a meal, it’s really very tasty. We’re all full, and tired out by the time we finish it. Going back in time nearly 70 years sure takes it out of you.

Roll on next year.

*My mum always called her suits 'costumes'. I guess a man wore a suit, and a lady a costume.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Wolds Way: finished at last

Back in January, when we started walking the Wolds Way, I said I'd update as we went along (*cough* sorry about that).

Today, we finally finished the 79 miles, on the top of Filey Brigg, the same spot where the Cleveland Way ends.

It's been a walk with some good sections, and some fairly boring ones. Not as strenuous as the Cleveland Way, but with a few very steep uphill stretches.

Where it really let us down was in the quality of the tea shops (when we could find one, they were very few and far between), and pubs. Until today, when first we called in at the charming and quirky Ship Inn in Muston for coffee. Worth a return visit.

When we reached Filey we found ourselves on the West Cliff, an elegant terrace with a bandstand, and, nestled below, next to what used to be a lawn where Queen Victoria once played croquet, was the delightful Cafe Rendevous.

We'd promised ourselves fish and chips as our reward for our achievement, and these were delicious. Fresh, beautifully cooked and very reasonably priced. Washed down with a pot of tea, we then just had to walk along the sea front, and finally climb to the top of the cliff to reach the end of the walk.

And where next? Well, we already have a few ideas.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

The 'bottle it' moment

Every year, on holiday, there is a moment where I consciously think ‘this is the moment I want to save for later’. The moment that I can recall when I’m sitting shivering in the depths of winter, looking out at grey skies, and feeling like it will never be sunny again. I can think back to those saved moments, and remember how it felt. The sun on my back, the relaxation, the experience.

Over the years, they’ve come in various forms. A trip in a boat from Cassis in Provence to the Calanques, drinking a cocktail in Palma. Last year, it was sitting by the sea in Bodrum, eating lunch, with a view of both beach and castle.

This year, it was drinking tea in the garden of La Mamounia. So peaceful, the only sound was the birds in the trees. So quiet too, I started to wonder if anyone could actually afford to stay there. Tranquil, elegant and wonderful. A world away from the hustle and bustle of the Medina. No rush, no hurry, and remarkably affordable.

Sheer bliss