Archive for the ‘London’ Category

A New Year, A New Play

December 9, 2018

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Having two relatively succesful (Corbyn Island and A Door Should Be Open or Shut) Festival productions under my belt emboldened me to propose to the Crouch End Players committee that we should put on a version of a full length French classic. Seeing a production of Marivaux’s Le Jeu de l’Amour et du Hasard at the Théâtre Saint Martin earlier this year inspired me to tackle another of his plays.

Le Jeu de l’Amour at the Porte Martin, played in a style that Marivaux would have recognised, was outstanding. I had no intention of competing with the French on their own turf. No, I felt that I had to find a way of presenting his work that made it resonate with a contemporary London audience but wasn’t as directly political (or sweary, we’re looking for a larger audience after all) as our update of L’Ile des Esclaves.

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At first glance Les Fausses Confidences – in which a penniless young man who has fallen in love with a rich widow attempts to scheme his way into her heart – can seem a distinctly queasy proposition in these #MeToo (or #balancetonporc) times. To be blunt the way in which the leading man and his ex-valet scheme to serve his master’s interests, if entertaining, is nevertheless difficult to approve of. ‘His rampant mendancity has little jusitification.’ * For some critics, no matter how much they admired Marivaux as a writer such dubious morals ‘gâte toute la pièce’ or ruin the whole play. **

How to get around such a flawed leading man? By updating the action to 1919 and making him a serviceman recently returned from the Great War – our version is called A Soldier’s Song – I hope to have given a psychological motivation for such iniquitous behaviour. Hector (renamed from Dorante in the original) has developed an obsession for Harriet (Araminte, now a wealthy widow and music hall performer) for reasons that are hinted at though never over-explained during the course of the plot, thus elevating him from the rather amoral schemer of the eighteenth century original. Music buffs may also see the resonance in French culture of having a Hector obessed with a Harriet.

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Hector Berlioz – not a stranger to romantic obsession

And to my delight when I discussed the play with the director Victoria Welsh she took on this idea further, situating the play in a much more radical staging than I had envisaged that will reference the original Marivaux production by the Comédie-Italienne that will allow us to see Hector as just as much manipulated as manipulator. But more of that as I trace the development of the production over the forthcoming months.

We are in the process of auditions at the moment and my next blog post will be to give my own take on that process, which was entirely new to me. (Casts for previous shows, excellent though they proved to be, were assembled from the resources available rather than via the luxury of selection). The show will be happening in the last week of March 2019 at the Moravian Church Hall on Park Road, N8. If you’ve read this far please do come along and say hello. Or if you have staged or watched Marivaux yourself I’d really welcome comments and questions on your own experience of Les Fausses Confidences.

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My research into other adaptations, purely to see what had been done recently on the British stage, led me to a version that foreshadows a piece that the Crouch End Players will also produce later in the year. In 1983 Timberlake Wertenbaker translated the play pretty much straight for a production at the Lyric, Hammersmith, giving it the title False Admissions. In the autumn the CEPs will stage Our Country’s Good, her account of Thomas Kennealy’s novel The Playmaker, which concerns a group of officers and convicts putting on a play in colonial Australia. Which goes to show that the Players have a wonderfully diverse repertoire to offer the public in 2018.

* Kenneth McKee, The Theater of Marivaux (Peter Own: London, 1958), p. 211.

** Edouard Thierry, La Revue de France, March15th, 1881.

Sport & Leisure History Seminar Autumn 2018 #6

December 4, 2018

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Monday 10th December 2018

“A Game Was More Than A Game” –Sport, Integration and Interwar British Jewry with Dr Dave Dee

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Our final seminar of the term will be given by Dr Dave Dee from De Montfort University who will talking to us about the sporting experience of British Jews between the wars.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series. For the details of seminars forthcoming in 2019 go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the Past and Present Room on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

 

Resto 41 My Cottage Cafe, Finsbury Park

November 22, 2018

Finding ourselves once again in Finsbury Park on a Saturday it was with a sorry glance that we walked past the now boarded up Walnut to on our search for dinner. Pasta Remoli‘s curious way with food is still quite vivid so we thought we’d try Lebanese at My Cottage Café. As it seems did everyone going to the theatre that evening (we were not) meaning that we were lucky to get two places at a shared table.

The room is bigger than it looks from the outside and the food is more ambitious than the monicker My Cottage Café would have you believe. The last time I was in a Lebanese (insert joke here) it was in Mayfair and I was talking to a tiny, aged Jewish man with a statuesque wife 40 odd years his junior who had been Cy Twombly’s (among others) art dealer in New York. This wasn’t quite the same clientèle, though this being North London theatreland we weren’t short of Jewish company. Just no Naomi Campbell lookalikes. Which was a shame.

The menu was typically east Mediterranean – meze, grilled things and stews – but the cooking was a cut above Petek up the road for about the same price. A massive plus was not being offered death by bread before we’d even ordered. The bread when it came was a refined flatbread in just the right amount. Starters of baba ganouj and okra were excellent, as was the chicken shish. Plenty of heat on the baste meant recourse to a very good Lebanese white was required.

Our table-sharers were a gossipy couple of old baggages who managed to eat three courses before we’d ordered coffee. They indulged in some faux-bants with some fellow codgers across the way and when an elderly lady with an improbably wide Zimmer frame tried to exit the building my neighbour resolutely stared at the wall rather than move her seat. However, ZimmerGal was equally obdurate and deftly span her frame sidewards, all the while scowling at our pair like they’d just shot her cat. The theme from Larry David began to play through my mind.

In five minutes flat the room was empty of theatre-goers leaving just us two to sip a beautiful coffee (which arrived with four baklava) while the waiting staff took a well earned fag break outside. It took a while to get the bill but that was the only fault in an otherwise faultless service.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Sport & Leisure History Seminar Autumn 2018 #5

November 20, 2018

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Monday 26th November 2018

‘A festival of self-punishment’: Englishness, British cycling and the Tour de France, 1918-39 with Dr Neil Carter

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Our fifth seminar of the term will be given by Dr Neil Carter from De Montfort University who will talking to us about a rather neglected era of British cycling history, the 1930s, when Charles Holland and Bill Burl became the first British men to take part in the Tour de France. To find out more read Neil’s abstract below.

In 1937 Charles Holland and Bill Burl became the first British cyclists to ride in the Tour de France. Their presence represented a brief if symbolic moment of modernity for British cycling. This paper examines the socio-economic and cultural roots of this particular episode and how it tapped into changing ideas of Englishness.

The Tour de France, with its modernising tendencies, commercialism and especially its type of racing – massed start racing – offered a stark contrast with British cycling’s overwhelmingly amateur culture, both in terms of ideology and as a voluntary activity. In particular, the time-trial was the main form of road racing in Britain. It embodied an idealised and pastoral vision of England that many of cycling’s administrators and supporters promoted through their writing and images.

During the 1930s, however, British cycling underwent a transformation. Not only was there a boom in the number of cyclists more generally, but a shift in its image reflected the new consumerism of the decade. Moreover, a fashion for massed-start racing, copied from the continent, began with races taking place on motor-racing circuits. As a consequence, there was a backlash amongst cycling’s traditional supporters. Underpinning this resistance was a defence of the time-trial, which reflected wider cultural anxieties within society over the impact of modernity.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series, scroll down for the details of future seminars or go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the Past and Present Room on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

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Resto 40 Thai Granary, Stroud Green

November 12, 2018

Finsbury Park can feel a bit bleak after a few days research in Paris so it was a happy thing that I was invited to dinner by friends to a new (to me) restaurant to get over the post-trip blues.

Thai Granary (or Granary Thai) is a tardis like room. We headed up to the mezzanine inside, which is cosy and looks out on a bijou one table terrasse.

The room was not as busy as it could be on a Friday night in SG, which is a shame as the cooking was first class. A starter of spring rolls (we hadn’t specified but they’d guessed correctly that we were carnivores) crispy and meaty. And I was fortunate to get in on some summer roll action from across the table – they were even better, really fresh and aromatic.

My main was a spicy chef’s special (wish I could remember the name), and I mean spicy, and there was plenty of it. The rice alongside had a good helping of bean shoots (yum) and despite predictions to the contrary I demolished pretty much the whole lot. Helped by a couple of good, cold beers.

At 25 quid a head this was as good value as you’ll get in these parts for this quality. I’ll look forward to another Friday night outing with les Travis soon.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Sport & Leisure History Seminar Autumn 2018 #4

November 3, 2018

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Monday 12th November 2018

‘Motor Sport Through a Lense, and the establishment of a Heritage visitor attraction at Silverstone’ with Professor Jean Williams

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Our fourth seminar of the term will be given by Prof Jean Williams from the University of Wolverhampton. She’ll be talking to us about motorsport and using the rich archive at Silverstone racetrack to explore the history of British motor racing in the twentieth century.

As usual there’ll be a feast of images – I was particularly taken with the Martin Parr-esque depiction of tea in the preview that Jean was able to give me. While there will be discussion of the big beasts of Formula 1, such as James Hunt …

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… Jean will also be opening up the history of women in motorsport.

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Whether you’re a petrolhead or historically curious do come along to what promises to be an excellent talk.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series, scroll down for the details of future seminars or go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the Past and Present Room on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

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Resto 37 Bon Vivant, Bloomsbury

October 29, 2018

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Where does one go when one’s just staggered out of Jean Cocteau’s Orphée wondering ‘What the f*** was going in that thing?’ French I guess, to keep the vibe going. Not too far either if it’s the coldest day of the year and you’ve got a stinking manflu. So we went to Bon Vivant, which has replaced a perfectly good Italian on the corner of Marchmont Street, something I’d slightly held against it when walking past previously.

But rarely does London stay still and BV does a good job of imitating a standard French bistrot. A pungently good French soup worked wonders as a starter. Despite being in the grip of  la grippe mâle. I could taste the garlic and got a good fishy slap around the chops to boot. The Viognier fared less well against such a blast of flavour, I should have picked a red. Good bread kept us going while we waited for the next round.

For main a confit duck leg was good without being to slaver for and came with death by spuds (one of The Fall’s B-sides compilations) but not by vegetables. Some frizzy lettuce made like tumbleweed across the plate before I pronged it and scoffed it. A sticky red wine sauce was excellent, as was the service.

The room was empty when we arrived at 6 on a Sunday but it soon started to fill up with mostly visitors to these shores. The music was all over the place, starting Europoppy and then moving onto to something more soporific. Except for the volume which always stayed just the wrong side of discreet. I could have done with some Georges Delerue, or indeed to keep with the Orpheé theme, some Georges Auric. And what the pre-pubescent boy at the next table made of the rather lascivious décor in the ‘powder room’ I’ve no idea but it wasn’t to my taste. The food, on the other hand, was. Next time I’ll order me own légumes.

7/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Resto 35 Victoria Stakes, Crouch End

October 23, 2018

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Membership of the Crouch End Players entails a gruelling amount of pre- and post-show entertainment that only the strongest constitutions are apt to survive. But it does have the upside of getting to try out the ever-changing restaurant scene in N8. The Victoria Stakes, however, is a stalwart at the foot of Muswell Hill yet curiously I’d never eaten there before.

The room is gastropubby without choring on about it (we dined in the downstairs bar, I think (though I’m not certain) that it’s more formal upstairs). They had a new menu and the staff were eager to know how we liked it. I liked it a lot – solid bistrot style dishes with plenty of options for veggies and vegans.

I was a hungered man and went for the onglet steak. This came cooked, sliced and seasoned to perfection (and I mean perfection, i.e. high end restaurant quality) with lashings of crunchy chips and a satisfyingly hefty lump of watercress on the side. House red didn’t spoil the effect and the only downside was that the bream across the way had plenty of fish but not enough accompaniments.

Service was cheerful and efficient, making the VS a good option if you’re seeing any future CEP productions at the Moravian Hall.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap

Sport & Leisure History Seminar Autumn 2018 #3

October 18, 2018

Monday 29th October 2018

‘American Tourists in Britain in the 1950s: Archetypes, Prejudices and Realities with Dr John Law

It’s a real pleasure to be one of the convenors for the British Society of Sports History sponsored Sport & Leisure History seminar series at the Insitute of Historical Research. And this term we have a diverse range of speakers and subjects to pique the interest of the historically inclined.

Our third seminar of the term will be given by a Dr John Law from the University of Westminster. He’ll be talking to us on a subject drawn from his forthcoming book on Americans visiting or living in Britain in the 1950s and their (sometimes horrified) reactions to what they found there.

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As you can see from the cartoon above that I found on John’s website the American tourist in London often cut a distinctive dash in the urban scene. The paper promises further rich visuals as well as material drawn from archival sources and interviews with US survivors of 50s Britain, its weather, its food, and its hotel rooms.

This is only the one of a number of series of stimulating talks to be held at the IHR in the S&L series, scroll down for the details of future seminars or go to the IHR’s website. The talks take place in the Past and Present Room on the second floor – doors open from 17:15 and the seminar to start promptly at 17:30. I hope to see you there.

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Resto 34 Rosso Pomodoro, Covent Garden

October 14, 2018

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Having been to the extraordinarily good Mantegna-Bellini (I’d say it’s a must see) the previous Friday we returned to the NG for the Courtauld Impressionists. This too is an impressive show. If you haven’t been to either the Courtauld or the National Gallery before. If you have there is literally nothing new to see save for a fancy book created by Mr C to show off his impeccable taste. Since we have a membership for the NG we didn’t have to pay for the tickets (although in a way we kind of had as part of the membership).

There’s a questionable morality around making people (i.e. the British public) pay for something they already own and can usually see for free. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an upside to the sectioning off of these masterpieces behind a pay-wall. Seurat’s Bathers can be revelled in in all its glory without the usual accompaniment of tedious selfie takers and listless tourists getting in the way.

Bringing the two collections together also allows for excellent juxtaposing of works in fresh ways. I was especially struck by two Daumier illustrations of episodes from Don Quixote, especially as the Courtauld’s picture is usually rather inaccessibly hung high up above a chimney breast. But the fact that major paintings like ‘Bathers’ (and many others) are not available to the public throughout the year sticks in the craw somewhat.

So I consoled myself with pizza. Rosso Pomodoro I haven’t been to for some time. They pride themselves on being a Neapolitan outfit and so it was satisfying to get a round of fried stuff to share up front. According to my son Naples is the Glasgow of the south, a place where they’d deep fry their own offspring if they could sell them through a hole in the wall.

The calamari was excellent – squid rings and octopus childers in a fluffy batter. Less enjoyable (though very tasty) was the seaweed croquette. This was more croquette than seaweed. Delicious and fluffy but definitely bringing to mind the potential implications to my arteries of eating so much fatty food.

It was a good job I was hungry as the quattro stagioni that followed was a generous chunk of pizza that overflowed with high quality toppings, especially in the cheese department. The dough is fermented for 24 hours and this tells in the finished product – it’s not often that I want to eat every last portion of a pizza crust but on this occasion I did. Even if ultimately I didn’t manage it; it was with regret that I had to call an end to my struggle.

The service was very good throughout and in seats with a view of the misguided fools queueing to get into Dishoom we were in an admirable place to people watch the parade of human traffic through Covent Garden of a Friday night. It’s worth giving RP a go if you want a change from PExpress.

8/10

#Food #London

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap


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