Archive for the ‘Going Out’ Category

Greenwich IMAX

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

I’ve just been invited to a launch screening at the new Greenwich IMAX next Thursday. I can’t go, of course – sadly the whole Anon business gets in the way of such freebies, but I thought you should know it’s coming.

The email I’ve been sent is annoyingly vague. They call it the Odeon Imax, so I’m assuming that it’s at the cylindrical wind tunnel next door to B&Q on the peninsula, but when I looked up the Odeon’s website all it said was that a new IMAX screen was coming – no details. They give no dates for it – save the actual launch screening .

Strangely, when I delved deeper, after the initial ‘it’s coming’ message I found, it suddenly appeared to have already launched – are they quietly testing it out at the moment? Maybe that email was sent to me from another dimension and they’ve had this for years. Have I been sleeping – a sort of Rip Van Phantom? I’ve asked the PR company to furnish me with more details. They probably won’t after I’ve been so rude about their email…

Well, folks. We can’t say we’re stuck for cinematic options. We have the largest screen in Europe at the O2 (don’t sit in the front row of the balcony though) we have the dear little Picturehouse, with its all-embracing screenings for everyone from screaming children through autistic people to the elderly and still has a truly personal, grown-up touch (I confess this is still the Phantom Choice – oh, and if you renew your membership via direct debit, they give you an extra three months on your membership at the moment…)

Sadly for me it also seems to be everyone else’s choice – when I called up to get a couple of tickets for the free screening next Sunday, they’d totally run out. Peter O’Toole+Snowy Picture In December+Free seems to be a winning combination.

But now we have an IMAX screen at the Odeon, which, frankly, needed something to make me want to go. It’s geographically closest to me, but the hoards of teenagers, the general racket in the actual screen(chatting, sweet wrappers, mobile phone conversations – why do these people bother paying to see the movie – they could do all that outside) and the desolate feel it has on a cold windy night means that it’s my last choice just now.

But an IMAX might just tempt me for the big movies. Apparently The Dark Knight was filmed in IMAX, and Harry Potter may or may not be 3D (they didn’t say whether they meant the last HP – or the next…) and if there’s extra, fun, gadgety bits on a film I deffo want to see them. It might have relieved the tedium of the last Batman – which could have comfortably lost an hour and still been wonderful.

I haven’t been back to the Odeon since the bloody awful Popcorn, which I only went to because it was set at – well, at the Odeon in Greenwich, actually. But I will give the IMAX a go, next time there’s a blockbuster that isn’t Madagascar II in town.

Bouncers

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Greenwich Theatre, until Saturday

I first saw Bouncers in the 1980s. It wasn’t in its first flush of youth even then, but it had a vibrancy and immediacy that really captivated me. I was 20 years younger, of course (the age of most of the people in the audience this time round) and I rolled around with laughter at the antics of the four guys who play all the characters with a combination of mime, verse, straight acting and direct address to the audience. Perhaps I saw myself in those gawky teenagers – full of hormonal imbalance and actually giving a damn what other people thought. It might have been created in the 70s, but for me as an 80s teenager, it spoke to me.

I saw it at least twice and the same hazy, rose-tinted memory that tells me that of course I looked great in those enormous shoulder pads, rolled-up sleeves and bouncing, gigantic hair also remembers Bouncers as the ultimate piece of social comment theatre. A lot to live up to, then…

Perhaps before I go any further I had better assure you – I laughed. A lot. Perhaps not like a drain, as I did back when I was a very young student (though the very young students howled this time round too – perhaps it speaks to them too) but enough to thoroughly enjoy the evening.

I didn’t actually dress in 80s-dayglo or dodgy peg trousers, but a small part of me was transported back to the Decade That Taste Forgot (strange, isn’t it – it was only a couple of years ago that we were describing the 70s thus…)and so, I have to say, was the show.

It’s a problem, I guess, with creating the 30th anniversary tour of any show that was such a hit (it won every award going first time around) but has been largely forgotten since. Hull Truck is a solid company with a superb track record and they must have agonised over what to do with this piece which, although carrying universal themes, is, frankly, of its time.

What to do? To present it as a period piece? A time before all bouncers were called “door staff,” and either have shaved heads – or, heaven forbid, are female, in which case they sport a blond ponytail as their only distinguishing feature from the gents. A time when they wore penguin suits, not body armour; bow ties, not little curly walkie-talkie cables disappearing down the back of gigantic necks and had to do press ups in the gym rather than government-controlled courses in crowd management?

Or to try to update it and lose many of the gags about girl bouncers, gay bouncers and fat people in a haze of political correctness?

The company have made attempts to update the play with references to ipods and Primark, but some of their best gags are now cliches – do girls really dance round their handbags any more? We no longer need to be told outright that something is a piece of ‘social comment.’ And unfortunately the smoking ban in July has rendered several jokes redundant at a stroke.

If Hull Truck was creating this piece today, it would be a totally different animal, but many of the essentials remain the same. People still go to clubs to leer at each other, talk to each other, grope at each other. People still have the same insecurities and frustrations, still drink too much.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that the bits that work best about the show are the portrayals of the young folk getting ready for their night out – the boys, gauche, optimistic and full of bravado; the girls, gauche, giggling, and ever-so-slightly bitchy. These are broad stereotypes – and always have been, though I suspect that they are a little ‘innocent’ as portrayals of young people today. Their very innocence though, is touching – from the wide-eyed boys, happy just to get a quick feel, to the girls – Sexy Susie who sells herself far short, Plain Elaine (such a shame) who can’t sell herself at all. The insecurity of youth is never far away and the vignettes still largely work.

I was less convinced with the portrayal of the Bouncers themselves. Maybe they are the bit that it’s hard to update without a serious overhaul, but I just didn’t feel the kind of menace that the ones I saw all those years ago. I vaguely remember that the guys I saw never looked at each other, never showed any emotion at all – not even Lucky Eric in his ‘emotional’ speeches, which I found chilling indeed, and a great contrast to the young people. These bouncers were much more cuddly – human, even. I wasn’t scared of them. Presumably I wasn’t supposed to be.

Ultimately, however, as a vision of British Youth, this still works. The details may have blurred over the years; the increased violence of today skimmed over – the world portrayed here has no mention of drugs, knives or guns – but the insecurities of being a teenager who hasn’t yet found their place in society are still painfully accurate.

Go. Laugh at the fart gags. And remember a time when the ultimate expression of rebellion was to chuck up in the municipal flowerbed.

Greenwich Theatre Autumn Season Preview

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

As you know, I am a big fan of Greenwich Theatre, and I try to go as often as I can. I tend to work on the “use it or lose it” basis, so I often go even if I’m not that interested in the actual show.

Greenwich Theatre isn’t a producing house (with one glorious exception – more about that later)so it gets in good-quality touring shows. It can be a bit hit and miss, but there are generally more hits than misses and whoever programmes it has a good knowledge of middle-scale touring companies and seems to try for a diverse range of productions rather than falling into the provincial theatre trap of safe parlour dramas and ancient farces (though they do occasionally have one or two of those too…)

I’m intending to get to see as many shows as possible this season, and for your delight and delectation, I’m going to AIM to go as early in the run as possible so if I discover a hidden gem (or a total dud) I can let you know in enough time to act on it, but I thought I’d take a look at a few things I’m looking forward to.

I’ve missed The Gruffalo (just forgot it was on, frankly,) and if I make it to the first “grown up show” of the season, The Ballad of James II (an odd choice if you ask me, but what do I know?) it’ll have to be tomorrow night which completely scuppers my intentions to see things early already.

I’m very much looking forward to Bouncers, the Hull Truck legend from the late 1980s. I remember it at the Arts Theatre and howled with laughter at the time but there are a few caveats to this 30th Anniversary tour. First, I was young – I laughed at anything that had rude words in it. Second, it was the 80s – when bouncers still wore dinner suits and not body armour. Third – well, third – it was the 80s, full stop. Can it live up to my memories? I don’t know – but I intend to find out.

Dear Brutus. Hmm. What to make of this? It is, apparently, a ‘lost’ play by JM Barrie with music by Julian Slade, lyrics by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, presumably based on the Julius Caesar quote. I don’t know the history of this, but I associate Julian Slade with the 1950s. Either he wrote this in his late old-age, or it was written in the 1950s and not finished or given terrible lyrics at the time and was a flop. This is either a lost masterpiece pepped up for today’s audiences by Hesketh-Harvey and utterly fab, or it’s lost for a good reason. Will I see it? Of course I’ll see it.

Lisa’s Sex Strike is one of the offerings this season which doesn’t particularly appeal to me. It’s a modernisation of Lysistrata, which makes me almost cringe at the whole “hepness” of it all, but on the plus side it’s Northern Broadside who I’ve enjoyed in the past. I just hope it’s not too ‘worthily’ comic… Bizarrely, as I’m writing this, Blake Morrison who’s written the play(and is local – he lives in Blackheath – and yes his latest book IS on my reading list…) is being interviewed on Womans Hour. I’m ever so slightly more tempted. We’ll see…

I guess a season wouldn’t be complete these days without a Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey might actually turn out to be a better play than it is a novel – I hope so. I’ll enjoy the costumes anyway. I might give Abigail’s Party a miss. I just can’t imagine it without Alison Steadman, narrow-minded phantom that I am, and I wasn’t fond enough of the play to try it without. If you go, send me a review.

Intro to Nitro. Now this I’m really looking forward to. I was gutted that I missed their performance in the summer (I saw them rehearsing on the steps of the Old Royal Naval College and was transfixed.) Several performances. Fab.

Does wanting to see a whole production of a Shakespeare play make me a pseud? It bothers me that Much Ado About Nothing runs just 90 minutes. They say it “isn’t cut-down Shakespeare but a highly theatrical ensemble entertainment with intellectual weight” – sorry? What exactly does that mean? I guess I’ll find out, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a real production rather than some MTV-generation bite-size snippet-fest (if it isn’t that, then it’s been sold badly.)

I’m guessing Jane Bond is a kiddie show. I might leave that one to the parents among you – but there’s no way I’m missing the panto, easily the best show of the year. It’s the only production done “in-house” and if last year’s is anything to go by it’s going to be fantastic. It always used to be done by London Bubble, which was quite good – but the director hates panto (which you could always slightly tell, much as I adore the Bubble) and Natural Theatre took over, which wasn’t quite as good as I hoped. But last year’s, written by Andrew Pollard, was incredible (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I got out of my head beforehand just in case – several people I was with were driving and not drinking and they loved it too) and Pollard who also plays the dame is writing this year’s too. He truly understands what makes panto work and I really can’t wait.

So that’s my autumn entertainment sorted out. As I said, I’ll try to get to most of them early in the run so I can tell you the good ones. But get those panto tickets now…

Indigo 2

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Last week I received a mail from James who’d just been to the Indigo 2, but I decided to hold his thoughts until I’d been myself and could comment too.

I’d chosen the Blind Boys of Alabama mainly because it was an almost guaranteed good night out – they’ve been going for about 900 years and if they don’t know how to work an audience by now…

At the time of booking there was no seating plan of anywhere in the building so I had to take a chance. Just this once, I decided to push the boat out and go for the mysterious ‘King’s Row,’ where, in exchange for money, you too can become a VIP.

You know you’re a VIP because you get to go in a different entrance to everyone else and, when you get in the elevator, someone pushes the button for you (in case you got it wrong, I wonder?) You also get your ticket checked at least four times, but at least it’s by the lovely Stepford Staff who are friendly to the point of obsequiousness.

The bar (read ‘cash cow’) is swanky indeed – all furry tiles, mirrored walkways, retro fittings and circular wooden booths – really very nice indeed, but you don’t really get a chance to enjoy it. The reason is simple.

Unallocated seating. You’ve paid top-whack for King’s Row seats, but once you get in there it’s a free-for-all. Most seats are not bad, some are very good and two (at either end) are utterly appalling (‘restricted view’ is not the word – the speakers COMPLETELY cover the stage and are pointing away from you so you don’t even hear it properly. I’d be furious if the only seat left was one of those two.) This means that you do really need to get there at the time on the ticket, despite its being at least hour before performance, to bagsy seats. For last night’s concert, everyone was very civilised, but I could see fisticuffs at some gigs.

TOP PHANTOM TIP

Bring a woolly as a marker, or make your own portable cardboard “reserved” notice. It doesn’t guarantee your seats would be kept but at least you don’t have to sit there for an hour. There is table service so you could just sit there, it’s a pleasant enough experience and gives you a chance to get to know your neighbours.

You can’t bring glass into the auditorium, but plastic is allowed, and you can either have a bottle of wine put into a jug or kept behind the bar for you. There is only bottled beer available. I did see people downstairs with pints, but couldn’t check the facilities as there was no way of getting down there – they’re totally separate.

This all might sound as though I don’t like Indigo 2 – and that couldn’t be further from the truth. If you can get there early enough to get a good seat (we arrived 15 mins after the doors opened and we had very nice swivellly seats – not the best, but still v. good. The ones on the front of the front row seem slightly better than the ones that have tables, but there’s not much in it) then you’ll have a great time.

The place itself is bigger than I had expected, the sound is good, the view (save those two seats) seems pretty ok anywhere and the whole place itself is fresh, clean and – well – just a good place to see things. Some might find it a bit ‘sanitised’ but it’s horses for courses – there are some great ‘authentic’ venues elseswhere for other nights. This is AEG and they don’t do grunge.

We sneaked up to the Grand Circle to check out sightlines and although the action looked a lot further away (obviously) the seats we checked seemed good.

The Blind Boys themselves were fabulous, rousing Gospel music to warm the cockles of the most atheistic of hearts. The sight of a septugenarian – nay, octogenarian – rabble-rouser being mobbed by girls a quarter of his age will stay with me for some time. And Amazing Grace, House of the Rising Sun-style, the Gospel equivalent to Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’s ‘ One Song to the Tune of Another,’ was both hauting and moving.

Frankly poor Mavis Staples had a hard act to follow. She was full of power as always, but never managed to eclipse the headliner. I’m not sure why they put them on in that order. I had assumed it was so that the older act could get back home to bed, but as we left we found (and congratulated, of course) the Blind Boys drinking in the bar, so that could hardly be the reason.

I can’t comment on the ground floor of the club. Can anyone else?

As promised, here is what James had to say about the first night at the place:

I thought I would let you know what a great night we had at the 02 on Monday evening watching Jools Holland. It was the first time anyone had performed in the smaller Indigo 02 which holds about 2300 people. It is a great little venue with unbelievably acoustics, Jools and his many band sounded great. It was my second time to visit the 02 I went the week before to watch Snow Petrol but the larger arena was half empty and the atmosphere was not that great although the ban were really good. The indigo 02 was totally buzzing and everyone was up dancing and having a great time. I recommend this venue to anyone and the tickets are very reasonably priced.

Mark Steel

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Greenwich Theatre

Mark Steel is probably my favourite contemporary comic. In these days of social homogeneity; a climate where apathy rules over any kind of satire, Mark Steel dares to be angry – and to channel that anger into a humour that is both accessible and human.

It’s profoundly unhip to be Marxist these days, yet somehow Steel manages to carry it off in a way that’s almost impossible to dislike. He’s been a member of the Socialist Workers Party for-virtually-ever which should turn the kind of audiences that were at Greenwich Theatre last night right off (fewer students than I expected; rather more suits – and ties – than he had expected.) But his humour isn’t the kind of in-yer-face-kill-the-bastards violent variety. This guy really wants to understand the world we live in today where, as he pointed out, even the leader of the British Army is politically left of Tony Blair.

What makes his material work, even for people who don’t necessarily agree with him, is his unique way of combining his modern stuff with a real in-depth knowledge of historical events.

Last night was loosely (very loosely) based around The French Revolution, and resembled closely his wonderful Mark Steel Lecture series. The OU took quite a leap of faith getting him to present these – but they are a tour-de-force – light years away from beardy blokes in sandals and jazzy shirts standing in front of graphs. The lectures are hardly PhD level, but contain the enthusiasm and spark that can hook a potential scholar – a fantastic introduction to the subject.

He manages to draw out the quirky stuff, the things that make the people involved human beings rather than Historical Figures, and then, with a final flourish, create modern parallels which make you think.

I don’t get hatred from Mark Steel. He wants to understand the people who do things he disagrees with, and if he’s angry, it’s with systems, not individuals. He adores human frailty and gets great fun from finding the wonderfully contradictory facets of human nature. He was on (almost) home territory in Greenwich (he’s from Swanley, which he admits gets a cheap laugh every time from London audiences.) He was clearly using well-honed material throughout, and the Sarf London gags, I suspect, were also not on their first outing, but who cares when it’s so confidently delivered? Lots of jokes about antique markets and Maze Hill, these age-buffed Greenwich gags rubbed shoulders effortlessly with off-the-cuff things that came to him on the spot. That kind of delivery only comes from years on the coalface of comedy.

There’s comedy on all week at Greenwich Theatre, but I can’t see anything eclipsing Mark Steel’s amiable Angry Man. Let me know if you see anyone else…

The Hound(s) of the Baskervilles

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Greenwich Theatre, The Duchess Theatre

Aaaarrrrooooooo!! Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, eh. They’re just like Omnibuses. You wait ages then two come along at once…

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Greenwich Theatre, SE10

Greenwich Theatre only hosts its own professional productions once a year – the panto. The rest of the year it’s a touring house which means that it’s only as good as the shows that visit it. Sometimes they’re a misfire, but more often than not they’re very good indeed.

This is a stylish production. Gauze flats which, if you sit in the centre of the auditorium look as though they are an open book (not sure whether they’d work so well from the side) serve as a screen for back-projections – generally effective, especially the great animations – it’s very hard to have an horrific beast on stage that doesn’t look daft, but this was actually quite a creepy figure. The other animations seemed to fit well in its Edwardian feel; that they were slightly out-of-focus wasn’t a problem. I’m not convinced that the same out-of-focusness worked for the projections of an open book used the rest of the time. I spent too much time wondering whether this was deliberate so that people couldn’t actually read it during the play – or just out-of-focus. When one’s mind keeps wandering back to a part of the set, then there’s something not quite working somewhere.

The play itself, for the most part, did work. Peter Egan’s Holmes was suitably insufferable – striding and posing and saying unforgivable things to poor old Watson, to whom Phillip Franks gave some real depth. I truly felt for him; he was certainly much more than a mere sidekick in this interpretation, and the balance of the relationship between the pair was much more equal than in many versions. I really got the feeling that Holmes needed Watson, and a couple of the lines left Holmes quite vulnerable – not that that stopped him strutting around and driving everyone mad – as only Sherlock Holmes can.

The other three cast members, as is traditional, played all the other characters. All three gave sturdy performances, though it was never in any doubt who the leads were.

It’s directed by the same guy who brought us The Woman in Black, and there was at least one genuinely creepy moment in it. I wasn’t too sure about the way that sundry literary quotes were shoehorned into the script – they felt like they’d been added for brownie points only – and the ending was bizarre in the extreme; the last line a complete non-sequitur. On the whole, though, this is a stylish, assured production with the well-buffed polish of a show that has been touring for some time. An intriguing ‘control’ show, then, for

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Duchess Theatre, W1

Boy oh boy am I glad I wrote the bit above yesterday morning. I have just realised that seeing two productions of the same story on consecutive days may help basic plot details but in every other respect it’s a very silly idea. A good job, then, that this version of HotB is very silly itself.

I spent the whole of the first half trying to work out why they’d cast a Spanish actor as Holmes. It’s a brilliant decision, thought I, (he is extremely funny) but rather left-field. And if the Peter Egan production had only five actors, it was positively lavish in comparison to the three on stage in front of me here.

It took a little reading up at the interval to find that it’s been created by an established theatre group, Peepolykus, and that regulars would know these guys from previous shows they’ve done together.

It’s wonderfully inventive – has to be, as ‘large budget’ was probably not a phrase bandied about at rehearsals. But, as I was taught at college, constraints lead to creativity, and in this case seeing the nutty ways they got round what might have been problems for anyone else was part of the maniacal fun.

From the moment a splendid fellow in top hat and sideboards steps forward to a series of quite remarkably-produced sound effects, you know you are in the realm of the bizarre. I can’t say that it’s unseen on the West End – the superlative The 39 Steps, currently at the Criterion, which won an Olivier last month, probably paved the way for the go-ahead on this production, but when you have a merry tear running from your eye in the first few seconds of a show, you’re hardly going to complain that there are two silly spoofs in London just now.

Javier Marzan’s Holmes is completely barking mad. There’s no other way of describing it. He makes the most of his heavy Spanish accent, puffing on an enormous curly pipe and wearing a natty deerstalker and caped coat. When he’s “Holmes in disguise,” only the fabric changes, making him a grotty coach driver in deerstalker and cape, and a stinking old tramp in rabbit-skin deerstalker and cape. His “indoor” velvet deerstalker-combo is particularly fetching, and acts as a good sausage receptacle later on (no – you’ll just have to see it…)

Watson in this version is, unlike the sensitive soul portrayed in the Greenwich version, a gaping loon, the Laurel to Holmes’s Hardy. Together they pursue their crazy quarry to, well, a quarry. The “other” characters were fabulously bonkers stereotypes whose gags were seamlessly inserted into the show later on.

I particularly liked the bits where they realised the show was running a bit short (did this start at Edinburgh, I wonder, where all the shows last an hour?) and they tacked on some ‘extra scenes’ which worked superbly well.

Every scene layers on the silliness and, coupled with some clever tricks (one of which I still can’t work out how was done) and inventive performances (Javier Marzan in a frock and beard is worth the entrance price alone) it makes for one of the funniest nights I’ve experienced in some time. Well – since I saw The 39 Steps, actually.

I don’t think this quite eclipses The 39 Steps, so if you’re only going to see one crazed anarchical comedy this spring, see that, but my face ached by the end of this show and I heartily recommend it. Hurry up, it only lasts for 10 weeks, but if you go before 8th May all tickets are £ 20. And the other Hound, at Greenwich only lasts til Saturday, and is also well worth a viewing, so get your skates on…

Note to Greenwich Theatre – get these guys Peepoluykus at Greenwich – they’re fab. Oh – and as a non sequitur to match that of the Greenwich version of HotB, when are you going to get the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain back?

Indigo 2

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Hmm.

I confess I am, in general, quite excited about what’s happening at the Dome (no -I’m not going to call it that stupid corporate name until I really have to) and it’s only because nothing at the Arena appeals to me and I’m not prepared to spend ridiculous amounts on buying a ticket for something I’m not interested in that I’ve not got tickets to the first night(aye, there’s the rub of the whole Phantom gig – I might be able to say what I like about things but I don’t get any freebies.)

But I’ve been uncomfortable about not being there, so when I saw an ad in the News Shopper for the Indigo2 music venue (what are their PR department up to, one wonders – surely you’d have thought they could get a bit of editorial…) I thought I’d book up for something.

I didn’t bother taking the paper upstairs to book – I pride myself at finding things on the net – but after about 20 minutes of floundering around insubstantial websites I gave up and went downstairs to get the address (if you’re interested it’s www.theindigo2.com.) Trouble is, the site looks good – but it misses out what the place actually looks like, so when you come to book you have no idea of where you’re going to be or whether it’s best to sit or stand.

What, for example, is “The King’s Row?” You’ll pay £ 40 for the privilege of sitting there. It says it’s the VIP bit – but where is it? Quite often the VIP areas are just hosting corporate clients who aren’t actually interested in the event so it’s noisy and difficult to see anything for all the horsey people quaffing champagne.

Ticket prices are not cheap. They start at £ 30 for standing, and some of the tables also cost £ 30 – but I can’t tell whether you’d actually be able to see anything if you sat in one – or whether the people standing in front would block your view. The centre seats are £ 35 and there seem to be some more expensive ones at £ 39.50 (only on some ticket websites) which for the extra 50p you might as well sit in that mythical Kings Row.

Its being a new venue, nobody knows. It would have been really helpful to get a seating plan – or even some kind of flowery description. There’s a fairly rubbish artist’s impression which could be bloody anywhere and, er, that’s it. Is there food? Who knows. Is there drink? Probably. Do you have to drink? Only time will tell.

After a lot of faffing around on the ticketmaster site I gritted my teeth and bought tickets – but oh-my-god it hurts. The actual price paid isn’t just the face value, of course.

It costs a whopping £ 4.75 PER TICKET extra PLUS £ 2.75 postage. What are they going to send them in? Gold envelopes?

These extra charges really stick in my craw. And you can’t avoid them because there’s no box office to visit in person. GGGGGRRRRRRR. Presumably once there is a box office they won’t actually be able to charge the postage any more, but I’ll wait to see whether that sodding “service charge” remains.

What I don’t get is why they don’t make the tickets themselves more expensive and hide the “service charge.” (probably some tax-y VAT thing, I guess, but it’s still crap.)

I don’t know any more than anyone else what the Indigo2 venue’s going to be like. But it had better be bloody good for these prices and the amount of time I’ve just spent buying the tickets.

I’ll report further developments as I hear them.

The North Pole

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Greenwich High Road, SE10

A venue on three floors – A young, funky bar on the ground floor, a smart restaurant upstairs and a groovy nightclub The South Pole downstairs.

I first went to the restaurant in the 90s before I moved to Greenwich, for a business lunch, and I guess I’d always associated it with business lunches ever since and not bothered visiting. At the time it had only been open for a week and it was dazzlingly fresh and smart. Giant chandeliers with glass bowls hung from the ceiling, complete with goldfish swimming round and round; large bowls of fresh gladioli stood in the window sills, surrounded by deep swag curtains. I remember wondering at the time how long that all would last – not least because the only way to feed those fish would be to climb on a stepladder, and the only way to clear them out would be to take the whole chandelier down.

There is a separate entrance for the restaurant, but it isn’t always used, so that the way in is through the hip bar below. Richly dark, the partition walls inside are punctuated with water feature windows – slim tanks of underlit water which constantly bubble up creating a virtual net curtain. The main bar is dark and intimate, with light fittings made from pieces of chandelier glass, the “VIP” lounge area at the back louchely furnished with outsize sofas in cowskin. The only things that spoil the effect are the four SKY TV screens constantly blaring out the Live Match, making it impossible to escape from the telly, and totally breaking any funky atmosphere the place might have had.

I did have a little smile at one online review which talks about how some guy had come along to watch a big En-ger-land match and complained at the lack of tasty female talent in the bar…

The way up to the restaurant is via a spiral staircase, lit by disco rope lights, just this side of tacky. At the top, a gigantic old-fashioned chandelier is a very welcome sight.

The atmosphere above is very different to that of the bar . Dark red painted walls and heavy swag curtains at the windows affect a much more classy air, the high ceilings hi-lit by twinkling fairy lights. There are two rooms – one dominated by a baby grand piano, which is played from time to time which is rather nice (personally I’d avoid the Rat Pack tribute evenings where some bloke pretends to be Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra – no one can imitate Sammy – but some people like that sort of thing…) It is, unsurprisingly, decorated with framed black & white photographs of Rat Pack favourites – a slightly tired idea now, but then I guess this was decorated in the 90s.

The “Fine Dining Room” next door is divided with a glass door. The decor is much the same save that the framed pictures have a more botanical theme.

The food is modern European. The menu is appealing, with some really nice options. My companion’s fois-gras was tasty and came with a sauce that virtually saw him licking the plate. Some of the presentation is a bit cliched – am I the only person who’s getting a bit bored of the “tower of food” concept where everything’s placed on top of everything else with an artistic drizzle of sauce – sorry, jus – around the outside? Still, it tasted very good indeed – and you can’t knock that.

The Lamb Chump was equally good – generous portions and nicely presented. My risotto was a little less exciting – a watery basic-stock relying on the flavour of the additions for taste – but it was well-cooked and nicely filling.

The service was sweet and attentive. Our waitress was on her own and only just managing, juggling opening our wine with trying to take a booking on her mobile phone. That’s hardly her fault. She was chatty without being intrusive, friendly and very human. She told us that she’d been attacked on her way home to Brockley so many times that she now gets a cab home when she finishes at 2.00am (not paid for by the management.)

I had noticed that the chandelier in the “fine dining room” still had some (rather murky) water in it and a piece of pondweed floating on top, but no goldfish. Our waitress told us, almost with tears in her eyes, that it had just died. She feeds the goldfish herself and when one dies she gets very upset. She climbs a ladder to get to them, but the water’s not as clear as it could be because she’s not strong enough to lift down the light fitting and has to rely on someone else to do it.
So. Another mystery solved.

I like the North Pole. I wouldn’t visit the bar on an important match day, but the restaurant is still pretty smart (even if the glads have now been replaced by artificial flowers) the food is good and the service very sweet indeed.

Tuesday Nights at Olivers

Friday, March 16th, 2007

You know I’m always moaning that we never know what’s on at Olivers? Well it seems the artists have taken it into their own hands (probably wise) and, on Tuesdays at least we can now find out.

Go to Von Twist’s site to find listings of what he compares every week. I’ll pop along myself when I get a free Tuesday (sadly not for a few weeks just yet…)

Let me know what you think if you go.

www.myspace.com/thetwistacoustic

Tutankhamun Exhibition

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Am I the only one who’s getting slightly cross with the papers at the moment? Have you seen all those headlines about curses and Pharaohs and Domes just because we’re not getting the boy-king’s golden mask at the forthcoming exhibition?

If the mask is too delicate to leave Egypt, as Dr Zahi Hawass says – or even if the Egyptians choose to keep the mask for frankly understandably touristic reasons, it’s NOTHING TO DO WITH THE DOME.

It didn’t go to Philadelphia and we ALWAYS KNEW it wouldn’t be coming here – so what’s the big deal with all the headlines this week? We’ve got everything else – now that we’re not getting the casino – and I personally can’t wait to see the treasures which I didn’t get to see the first time round because I was ‘too young’ and my parents thought I’d want the toilet just as they got to the front of the mile-long queue.

Which is why I thought I’d share a link I’ve just discovered on the 02 (God I hate typing that name) website where you can register your interest in up to 8 tickets for the exhibition. You don’t have to say what day you want to go – or even part with any cash up front, but you will get a unique registration number which will guarantee you get tickets. Given that it’s almost certainly going to sell out, in my book it’s worth signing up even if you don’t know if you’re going yet. I note they’re being somewhat coy about how much the tickets will actually cost…

http://www.kingtut.org/plan_your_visit/london