Posts Tagged ‘Crouch End’

Resto 18 Bufala di Londra

June 11, 2018

As any Haringey resident who’s had dealings with the council over arranging a parking permit would testify it is the simple things that are often the most difficult to get right. Similarly, the preparation of a decent pizza and salad would seem to be a task that is beyond some restaurants. Fortunately Bufala di Londra doesn’t fall into that category. In fact on the food side of things it nearly hits Paesano level heights.

Being ravenous helps – after an afternoon of intense theatrical discussion I needed something filling and I’d had my eye on Bufala for some time. The room was fairly quiet on a Sunday teatime but plenty of pizza was going out the door for takeaway, an encouraging sign.

The menu is simple – classic pizzas with no gimmicky ingredients, just high quality Italian produce. I noted that they fermented their dough for 72 hours and started slavering in anticipation. The wine list is strong but with only house white (or red) by the glass. But that doesn’t matter if it’s a good straw coloured Sicilian with plenty of oomph. Some juicy Nocellara olives while we waited was a good idea.

I had a pizza with mushroom, truffle salami and chilli. And it was good. Such chewy dough that would have been a treat on its own without the addition of high quality mozzarella and deliciously bosky mushrooms. The rocket and parmesan salad on the side was big enough to share between two. I’m getting hungry all over again just thinking about it and I’ve only just eaten lunch.

With friendly, efficient service and a good table in the window the only way this meal could have been improved was if the restaurant was at the end of my street rather than being on the wrong side of the tracks.

9/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 17 Khoai Café, Crouch End

June 9, 2018

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After Matthew’s Kitchen I’m slowly munching my way through Topsfield Parade during the Crouch End Festival prep. In fact not prep because my visit to Khoai was a pitstop on the way to the excellent Storm in a Teacup, which acted as a phenomenally good curtain raiser to the dramatic freebies on offer.

And it was a good pitstop too. For my dining companion it was memorable as once being the venue for a date with a man who turned out to be a (fortunately non-lethal) knife obsessive. For me it was memorable for overturning my harrumph at the could be better Kho of the previous week. What Kho got wrong Khoai gets right.

Starting with the service. I was early so the room was pretty empty (I think a younger member of the Khoai crew was doing her homework in one corner) and it was a pleasant thing to be told to sit pretty much anywhere. The room is good for either getting in the window and gawping or tucking yourself away; I did the latter.

A requested cold beer was delivered promptly and I’d slugged it down as the rest of the party arrived. We went for soft shell crab up front then a spicy Bun Hué for me. There was a good amount of crab and rather than any stickysweet sauce  there was a pleasingly simple garnish of fried onions and chilli. I’d gone for the Bun Hué as I fancied a bit of heat and boy did I get it! A rash stuffing of the bird’s eye into the maw of a hungry man brought on a chilli induced apoplexy followed by the enjoyable sensation of one’s mouth returning to acceptability. There were plenty of prawns in there too and the whole thing did what I wanted it to do, i.e. fresh veg, fresh noodles and flavoursome soup.

At around twenty quid a head invlud my drinks in this was not fine dining but it was good value in an area of London that suffers from a slew of hipper places (I think Khoai is family run) that charge a premium for having such crucial things as curated music and cutting-edge fonts on the menu.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 15 Matthew’s Kitchen, Crouch End

June 4, 2018

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Looking to lay in some bait prior to a date with the Players on a Friday night we had a stroll around Crouch End, open to suggestion. Bistro Aix had its door open was a bit Marie Celeste like with music blaring out, provoking us into a rapid retreat.  Matthew’s Kitchen on the other hand looked very inviting with it’s window open onto the street and a friendly smile from the waitress as she showed us into the room. Early on a Friday evening the room soon filled up with a good selection of locals while we looked at the menu.

MK specialises in fish (though you can get meat off the grill if you’re a carnivore and veggie dishes if you’re a herbivore). Smoked mackerel with beetroot and horseradish leapt off the page at me as a good test of a fish restaurant. This warhorse can be memorable or forgettable depending on whether it’s served or cold both in temperature and creativity. I took a main of cod loin with veggies and a bit of mash potato on the side.

The mackerel was only ok – a generous piece of cold smoked fish with plenty of beetroot but not a hint of horseradish in the sauce. I know that horseradish is a powerful beast but I do want to taste it if I’ve ordered it. The cod on the other hand was much superior. Perfectly cooked and just what I wanted. Even better looked the bacon-wrapped monkfish across the way.

A very good Riesling for 30-odd quid was a good accompaniment. I’d go back to Matthew’s Kitchen – for Crouch End on a Friday evening it was very peaceful with a perfect atmosphere for a bright summer’s evening.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Translating Musset

June 3, 2018

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After having had a pretty good experience producing Corbyn Island in 2017 I found myself in the dull gloom of January turning over ideas for the Crouch End Festival in 2018. Again, it being a Festival piece, I wanted something relatively short and preferably fewer characters than the Island. If I was going to be directing it myself (a new experience) I thought it’d be a lot easier with less traffic to manoeuvre on stage.

I’d seen a production of Alfred de Musset’s Il Faut Qu’une Porte Soit Ouverte ou Fermée in Paris the previous autumn in a production by the Comédie Française. A one act two-hander, it concerned itself with an on-off relationship between two French aristocrats at a Parisian salon in the 1840s. The CF had updated it to contemporary France, setting the actor in a sculptor’s studio, while retaining (naturellement!) the original language of Musset’s masterpiece.

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Musset’s Confession – a classic of romantic literature

Further research revealed that de Musset hadn’t written the piece with the intention of staging it at all – rather it was theatre de fauteuil, that is ‘armchair theatre’ written to be read as a literary piece like a novel or a short story. But it had become established as a classic of the French theatrical repertoire by the end of the twentieth century, produced every year by the Comédie Française to the extent that it was part of the social calendar in the early twentieth century.

However, post-World War Two it was performed much less frequently. Presumably the market for rom coms about brittle aristocrats was in decline in the age of Camus, the theatre of the absurd and existentialism. In fact I beleive that the production that we saw was the first at the Comédie Française for some forty years.

So my challenge was how to make it relevant to a Crouch End Festival audience. My initial instinct was to make the couple same sex but to wangle Musset’s text into the correct shape to do that proved beyond my translation abilities. I gave it a few hours of grappling on the commute to Leicester and then gave up.

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The tool’s of the translator’s craft – a biography, an autobiography and a Pléiade edition of the original. All that’s missing is the Chamber’s dictionary.

I then toyed with the idea of just translating de Musset’s original and staging it as a work of art. I would designate a chair in the Great Northern for people to read a printed translation of the play which they could borrow from the bar. But then if I was going to the trouble of translating the play (a much simpler business than tackling Marivaux, though with the peril of ruining the exquisite poetry of de Musset’s language) I did rather see it acted out.

So I needed to find some other way to create tension in the potential pairing (or not) of these two characters. And I think I came up with a good solution. But to find out what that solution was you’ll have to come along to the show!

But I can tell you that I updated the action to 1948 London, with the characters now meeting in a private club on a wet Sunday afternoon.* I’ve added a third character of a barman, played by Ruari Johnson. The female lead is taken by the director of Corbyn Island, Anna Rogers, and a newcomer, Matt Griffin, takes on the role of her suitor.

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Part of the fun of staging a period piece is assembling (and drinking) the props.

This year we’re producing the show as part of the Crouch End Players’ contribution to the Festival with our show running with an original piece of writing by Jen Richardson, The Road Not Taken, as part of a rom-com double bill. Running time will be around an hour in total with a break for drinks.

Performances are again in the upstairs bar of the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who have once more proved to be excellent hosts, and take place on 15th, 16th and 17th June 2018 at 7pm and tickets (which are FREE!) can be obtained by emailing crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. More details are also available at the Festival website.

It’ll be the perfect evening out for World Cup widows and widowers but if you are a football fan don’t worry, the Great Northern will have the games on the big screen in their back garden and the shows are timed to make sure that you miss very little of the action from Neymar and his chums!

#Theatre #Comedy #London

*Yes, I know this has shades of Absolute Hell! But our production has an entirely different sensibility.

The Crouch End Festival

May 29, 2018

Another post very quickly (as no-one likes a whinger) to talk of much more positive things associated with the Crouch End Festival. Last year’s Festival was my first experience of putting on a theatrical show and it was such a tremendously fun thing to do that I’ve decided to do it again.

But I’ll talk of that another time. The purpose of this post is to flag up other shows which are being put on by the Crouch End Players, who are a fine company of individuals who have just come off the back of a very successful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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As part of a double bill with my play, A Door, Jen Richardson (the director of AMND) will star in an original piece of work of her own called The Road Not TakenBoth works are romantic comedies that discuss the nature of love and relationships. And both use the upstairs bar of the Great Northern Railway Tavern as their setting.

Another show that I’ve had a small part in producing (as co-writer with the highly talented Victoria Welsh) is The Trial 3: The Dinner Party. Regular Festival goers may have already seen a previous edition of this show which stages a courtroom thriller as an interactive piece of theatre which lets the audience question the suspects.

While not an official CEP production Storm in a Teacup, created by Sue Irwin-Hunt and Denize Levett, is from the same stable and again is a revival of an established format. It’s an improvisational comedy set in the homely surroundings of the Haberdashery.

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And last but by no means least CEP present What’s the Point?, another original work created by Virginia Vassura and her co-star Caroline Allouf which combines song, comedy, drama and a unicorn to talk about mental health and relationships.

Both The Trial and What’s the Point are to be staged in Hornsey Town Hall so this may be a final chance to get a shufty at the place before it is subjected to the developers. I hope to see you there!

Go to the Crouch End Festival website for details of all timings and venues, and of course to book your tickets! And look around for other great free stuff going on at the Festival. June isn’t only about the World Cup!!

#theatre #comedy #London

 

Crouch End Festival 2018

May 14, 2018

New Writing Image for Programme

Now that A Midsummer Night’s Dream has finished it’s time to flag up my own next production with the Crouch End Players as part of the Crouch End Festival. As part of an evening of new writing I’m directing a new translation of the French classic, A Door (Should Be Either Open Or Shut).

The original is a short play by the Romantic writer Alfred de Musset, perhaps most famous in this country for being the lover of Georges Sand which inspired both of them to write classic memoirs of their time together.

The original concerns the romantic tribulations of a pair of aristocrats in mid-ninteenth century Paris but I’ve updated it to post-War London with saltier dialogue and a real period feel.

The venue once more is the Great Northern Railway Tavern, who were such excellent hosts for Corbyn Island in 2017 and there will be three shows at 7pm on the 15th, 16th and 17th June. Tickets are free and available from crouchendplayers@hotmail.com. It would be great to see you there!

#theatre #London #Musset

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

May 2, 2018

 

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I’d meant to write a post about seeing Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in April but never quite got round to it. So now I can use it as an intro to a forthcoming production of Shakespeare’s classic with which I’m involved on the production side of things.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to see the opera. I love Britten’s music (especially his rarely performed St. Nicholas) but three hours of sung Shakespeare? Mebbe not. As it turned out it was one of the best nights at the theatre for a long, long time. The singing was excellent but what stood out for me was the clarity of the production. This was aided by the way in which Britten had adapted the text – the plot and characters came across with perfect lucidity.

It was also a triumph of stagecraft. The use of bold colour to delineate the different groups in the play (aristos, mechanicals, fairies) had both utility and beauty. When ENO revive it (and I’m certain they will) I’ll be getting another ticket so I can enjoy it again.

But if you need a fix of Shakespeare sooner than that then don’t miss out on the Crouch End Players’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which runs from Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th May. While not having quite the same budget as a West End opera house the same boldness of approach to design and text has been taken, making this a quick-moving, contemporary production.

Details of how to get tickets are on the poster below …

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#Theatre #London

Resto 5 Middeys, Crouch End

February 25, 2018
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Middeys. Or should it be Middey’s? You be the judge.

Saturday morning was set for a Frühschoppen with a visiting Frankfurter so we met in Crouch End at 11 o’clock. Could we find a pub that was open? No we couldn’t. Since the demise of Wetherspoon’s the Broadway has definitively rid itself of working class drinking culture and breakfast beers are off the menu. So we turned to Middeys and a second helping of breakfast to supply the required helping of whoopee soup.

I’ve never been in any of the various incarnation of food outlet in the old ‘lectric board showroom (apparently they’re a source of constant heated debate on the Crouch End Appreciation Zzzzzzocietyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Fazbook page) so this was a new experience for me. A nice big, bright room is what you get – filled on a Saturday morning with the usual CE suspects. But that’s not a bad thing, although it does limit one’s liberty of expression somewhat when you’re surrounded by pre-teens and grandparents.

Prosecco was demanded before we saw the menu and I had a look at breakfast. I didn’t want to go large so went for a sourdough toast with cheese of goat and sundried tomato. It was fine. Across the way the classic 80s combo of baked potato and cheesy beans was a far more substantial affair.

Service was prompt if not disposed to any kind of verbal repartee and for fifteen quid a head the cost was par for this area of London. But we did have to repair to the Queens to get what we had wanted an hour earlier – cold lager, uninhibited, occasionally scabrous conversation and nice’n’spicy nik naks. Such things are too easily taken for granted.

7/10 (docked a point for being undertrapped in the ladies)

#food #London #N8

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

 

The end of Marivaux

June 20, 2017

This being the first time I’ve produced a play I don’t know whether it’s a common phenomenon but I definitely feel like I have a case of post-show blues. From coming up with the idea to adapt Marivaux on a train to Paris in January to seeing the idea realised on stage in June has been an at times turbulent but always rewarding experience. And now all’s to be done is to think about how it went and come up with a new idea for the future.*

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The script – and direction notes

One of the things I was concerned to do in putting the play on was to position it for a twenty-first century audience. This meant throwing out Marivaux’s finale of reconciliation and replacing it with something much angrier. I feared that perhaps I’d misread the level of anger in this country but recent political and social events would seem to suggest otherwise. Although the snap election and its result did necessitate rewrites. And a change in direction for Jeremy’s character, who went from being a simple figure of fun (for some sections of opinion) to a genuinely inspiring figure (beyond his usual constituency) not just in reality but in the way that he/she was portrayed by us on stage.

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Jeremy in inspirational mode in Corbyn Island (© Emma Hare)

I certainly wasn’t the first to see the potential for a socialist reading of L’Ile des Esclaves. It was picked up in the 30s, a time when France was strikingly polarised between left and right, as representing a radical precursor to calls for social reform. But Marivaux was no socialist and definitely no revolutionary. Those on the right could take comfort from his apparent final advocacy of social hierarchy – for him a  paternalistic version of fraternity trumped equality as a means of attaining the common good.

But Alex/Cléanthis, who is the character I most drastically altered, is not content to live within Marivaux’s or Trivelin/Jeremy’s social order. I envisaged someone whose liberalism was more informed by a Thatcherite urge for individual liberty. Someone who chafed at the way in which Thatcher’s opening up of social mobility in the 80s – whether by the breaking down of the power of unions or of the opening up of professional bodies and the City to state school entrants – seems to be being increasingly closed off in our own age.

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Alex has an issue with Jeremy’s pacifism (©Emma Hare)

 

 

 

 

 

Or at least that’s what I thought, I’m sure the audience would have taken various views of what was going on on stage. If the plot lacked clarity then that was purely my fault as a writer, I couldn’t have asked for a more committed group of actors to take on a novice’s work and turn it into a coherent show that got a lot of laughs. I only wish we’d had a couple more nights to iron out the inevitable wrinkles that crop up in the transition from rehearsal to final production.

But I’ve learnt a lot and I’m grateful to Anna, our director and to all the cast for giving up their spare time to make it happen. Now, what next …

I’m also very grateful to Emma Hare for these fantastic images from our preview. I can heartily recommend her to anyone who is looking for a professional photographer.

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Eve and TC have a touching moment in the seduction scene (©Emma Hare)

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TC and Inglis don’t quite see eye to eye (©Emma Hare)

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Douggie doesn’t like the new ending (©Emma Hare)

*I have a couple or few.

If you’d like to read the script of Corbyn Island it can be downloaded here.

Corbyn Island – Final script

#Theatre #London

The Crouch End Players and the Comédie-Italienne

May 24, 2017
Corbyn Island with Cast 2

Artwork © Nick Kobyluch

Since translating Marivaux’s comedy L’Ile des Esclaves for the Crouch End Festival I’ve been immersing myself in the culture of the early eighteenth century in France, partly with an eye on working on something more ambitious sometime in the future but also with my mind on costumes for Corbyn Island, the updated version that’s in production with the Crouch End Players. One way I felt that I could tie the modern adaptation to the work that inspired it would be by having two of my modern characters in fancy dress that had a whiff of Baroque France about them.

Naturally my thoughts turned to the Wallace Collection in Marylebone, whose building is a little bit of France in the West End. The 18th Century French rooms I’d tended to skip through on previous visits – all that flouncy, sleazy Boucher is a bit quease-inducing even if you have the reward of the more civilised Watteau alongside.  I prefer the more sober pleasures to be had in the company of Poussin and De Hooch.

So it was a surprise to find that not only did the Wallace have plenty of canvases depicting eighteenth century French fashion it actually had a picture of our antecedents as interpreters of Marivaux, the Comédie-Italiennes.

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The Italian Comedians by a Fountain, Nicolas Lancret

The painting depicts the actors in theatre dress with the stock characters Pierrot and Arlequin most obvious – each in his distinctive costume with Arlequin also masked. Arlequin appears in L’Ile des Esclaves as the slave to an Athenian aristocrat and displays all of the attributes that his audience would expect whichever production he appeared in. He’s a cheeky, rustic joker who has simple tastes – food, drink and the ladies, not necessarily in that order.

In Marivaux’s production he would have been played by Thomassin, the most famous Arlequin of his age and probably the man depicted by Lancret in the painting above. Our own Arlequin (who now goes under the name of TC, a little nod to the Assistant Coach of my football club, Ipswich Town) is played, I have to say magnificently, by Ric Lindley. He doesn’t have to perform the acrobatics that would have been expected of a seventeenth century Arlequin, nor did we direct him to adopt a ‘high-pitched voice like a parrot’ as described as being characteristic of the part by contemporary accounts.* But I think he definitely captures the earthy qualities of Arlequin, as well as his sentimentality and good-naturedness.

Lancret is one of those artists who seems to be permanently overshadowed (like de Hooch by Vermeer) by a more illustrious peer for seemingly no good reason. Watteau of course is the big name here but they had very similar backgrounds starting as apprentices under the theatre scenarist and artist Claude Gillot. For some reason Lancret seems to be treated as the apprentice to Watteau whereas in fact he was much more of a rival. So researching Lancret’s painting was a lot more difficult to do than if it had been Watteau’s. There are (justifiably) books by the yard on Watteau in the library but very little, even in French, on his fellow painter.

Lancret’s ability is shown by many canvases in the Wallace but is nowhere more apparent in London than in the marvellous Gallery A at the National. Tucked away either side of a large canvas from the studio of Boucher (isn’t that telling of Lancret’s neglect, he could probably chat to Guardi about it who has a little picture up the row) are four canvases depicting the four ages of man. Philosophical pieces describing childhood, youth, maturity and old age, they are little gems that deserve a wall of their own.

They also led me to reflect how one would depict the life cycle in the modern age. Childhood and youth separate? It hardly seems that a tot is out of nappies before it is turned into a consumer and given a screen to suck on. But then how to separate youth and maturity when middle-aged men go shopping in the supermarket in leisure wear and spend their cultural capital yarning the ins and outs of superhero franchises. So, it would seem, we go straight from youth to senility. But I digress.

True, Watteau was the pioneer of the fête galante but it was a genre that Lancret developed and proved to be a master of very quickly, as shown by the portrait of the Comédies-Italiennes. The vividness of their characters brought them into the modern age for me as I was standing in the Wallace and gave me the feeling that even if I’ve twisted and mangled Marivaux out of shape as an author, as a company we’re still communicating with these people through four centuries of theatre history and revivifying the roles that they created. It’s a tremendous credit to Ric, Sophie, Richard, Mia, Victoria, Mike, Nadia and Vic that they’ve taken this project on and given it life beyond the page. If only we had Lancret around to immortalise them.

#Theatre #London

*François Moreau, Le goût Italien dans la France tocaille: théatre, musique, peinture (Paris, PUPS: 2011), p. 40


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