Midweek Eurovision

Tom Dice Well as usual I am behind with my theatrical posts but here we are on Semi Final 2 Day for this year’s Eurovision! Excitement tingles the spine, only tempered by the memory of the appalling BBC3 reception we suffered on Tuesday night, thus having to decamp to the inlaws to watch it and thereby missing the first four songs. This reception lark had better improve or else we will be driven back to the welcoming wallet I mean arms of Sky Heaven Help Us All.

Hera Bjork Tuesday night’s show was highly entertaining though. Tom for Belgium and Hera for Iceland were on excellent form and deservedly went through. Thea for Malta performed wonderfully well but the song is a snoozefest and she wasn’t helped by Big Bird. Similarly Poland’s song was destroyed by what frankly appeared to be Marcin’s overtures to a sexual assault on his poor backing dancer. And as for Russia… well I know it’s meant to be tongue in cheek humorous, but even after a friend explained it in great detail, I still don’t get the joke.

Jon LilygreenAnyway, really excited about tonight as we have Jon for Cyprus who lives in Wales and Niamh for Ireland who lives in Northern Ireland, thus we have at least two UK representatives tonight! I have to say I like both their songs very much and think they will do themselves proud, I will be very surprised if they don’t qualify – watch this space. Niamh Kavanagh “It’s for you” for Ireland is particularly satisfying. On the other hand when I try to think of “Life Could be Better in Spring” I realise I am actually remembering the Belgian song.

It kind of grieves me to say it but the Dutch entry is growing on me. Paula and Ovi Sieneke sings a daft song but the barrel organ background is strangely uplifting. I am also looking forward to seeing the Romanian dual piano go up in flames, whether Safura will trip down the stairs, what’s going to grow out of an Armenian apricot stone and wondering whether Marks will stock a range of Lithuanian underpants. Only in Eurovision!

Review – Travels with my Aunt, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 13th May

Travels with my Aunt One look at the programme reveals its cast of four men, so where’s the aunt? Well this cast play over 25 characters of all sexes, races and nationalities, and the sense of fun this generates makes this a terrific production of Giles Havergal’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel.

All four actors are dressed as the staid nephew Henry to the enigmatic Aunt Augusta, and all play that role from time to time – frequently at the same time, which is a neat trick. But then one becomes the aunt, another the aunt’s “friend”, another a girl on the train, another a CIA agent – ah yes, we’ve already duplicated. It’s very lively and entertaining, keeps you on your mental feet as an audience, and tells its rather intriguing and exciting tale at a splendid pace.

Miltos Yerolemou It’s also very inventively designed. You’re greeted by a stage full of suitcases of all sizes, and quickly you realise that many of the suitcase facades are doors to a variety of outside worlds. No wonder the theatre called on the good people of Northampton to surrender their unused suitcases.

James DukeThe cast are all great, but I particularly liked Miltos Yerolemou, great in the RSC’s recent Twelfth Night, whose character of Wordsworth was a long way from the Lake District, and James Duke who most astonishingly flitted from being the staidest Henry to the untrustable CIA agent in the blink of an eye. I hope this production gets seen elsewhere as it’s a huge effort to go to for just 2 and a half weeks in Northampton. (Not that we’re not grateful, keep up the good work!!)

Review – Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker at the Derngate, Northampton, 5th May

Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker I’d not seen this dance company before but had heard Very Good Things about them. And what a smashing bunch they are. Fantastic dancers, tight choreography, athletic performances, inventive staging. Particularly for me, after the interval, when they danced with mirrors. It’s impossible to describe, you have to see it for yourself; but the level of trust between the members of the company must be vast, you could see how just one foot wrong could put a whole sequence completely out.

It’s a simple idea, but not one I’ve seen before: dancing in front of a mirror, and when the dancer moves slightly to the side, a dancer behind the mirror continues their reflection. Fabulously effective.

Added to all this, dancing with knives!! They looked damn sharp too.

Pity this excellent show didn’t stop the guy in front checking the football results constantly on his Blackberry, or the two ladies further down the row continuing their conversation throughout the whole show (at top volume, obviously, otherwise they couldn’t have heard each other over the backing track); there was a grumpy woman to our side who was most put out at our request to sit in our own seats which she was obstructing; and the woman behind me who had draped her coat over the back of my seat – I gave her plenty of time to remove it while I took my coat off before sitting down but she chose to ignore it, so I plonked myself firmly against my back rest and creased it as much as I could. About five minutes later she seemed to notice and asked me to move so she could remove it.

Is it time for an acceptable audience behaviour code of conduct to be applied? Quick, please, before I turn into a Grumpy Old Man.

UK Eurovision Preview Party Sunday May 2nd, Shadow Lounge, Soho

UK Eurovision Preview partySurnames removed to protect the innocent.

So Mrs Chrisparkle and I had a quick nap in our hotel room after seeing Shirley Valentine, and then a Marks and Spencer Chicken Salad (and I had a Pork Pie too) before meeting Michelle and going to the Shadow Lounge for the UK Preview Party. This is the third such event, in a smaller venue this time; while the first party had been a relative financial success (ie I think it didn’t make a loss) the second was not so successful and the prospects for a third looked in doubt; step in John and Paddy to come to the rescue.

Niamh KavanaghAt the front of the queue to get in, we met David, who was even earlier in the queue, and then a strange Welshman starting quizzing us about what we were going to see. He must be the real person on whom Gavin and Stacey’s Uncle Bryn is based. Then Niamh popped her head out of the front door and gave us a wave – I gave her a wave back – and unfortunately didn’t get to speak to her again (yes I was the only person to miss out on that pleasure, regrettably).

Jon LilygreenEventually we got in, and we spent the evening with (deep breath) Adam, Adam, Mark, Michael, Andy, Liam, Tiina, Tristan & his lady, Dean, Gerry, Paul, Rory, John, Richard, Chris, Juha, David and Andrew Schlagerboy, Mark, John, Robin, Monty, Nico, Franko, Iain, Jody, Adrian, Tom, Paul… there will be others, sorry if I have missed anyone.

Paula and Ovi First up was Jon Lilygreen and the Islanders, a band from Newport representing Cyprus, who got on famously with everyone and had a raw appeal, having and giving out lots of fun. Then we had Paula and Ovi from Romania, who suffered from bad microphonage unfortunately (but I still think their song is great!); Josh Dubovie Josh for the UK sang his song and it was the first time I had heard the new version, which I think is an improvement (although I still don’t like the end) – Josh is an excellent singer and comes across as a really nice guy; and finally Niamh for Ireland, who has rapidly become at least two nations’ favourite Eurovision singer and held us all in the palm of her hand. All the acts were introduced by Paddy in his own inimitable style.

A bit too crowded for Mrs C and I to venture on the dance floor but it was great to meet up with friends and enjoy the vibe. Less than three weeks to go before the first Semi Final!! Need to start preparing the party!

Review – Shirley Valentine, Menier Chocolate Factory, 2nd May

Shirley ValentineThis production is in rep with Educating Rita, and the two make an interest contrast. I’m glad I saw Rita first, as I quickly realised Shirley is a vastly superior play. It’s written with such delicate anguish; the character of Rita is only very lightly fleshed out in comparison with Shirley. And with it being a one woman show, where all the other characters come to life by her account of them, it’s reminiscent of that old saying that radio is better than tv because the pictures are better. This play exercises our imaginations in a most rewarding way.

Meera Syal And then we have Meera Syal. Wow. What a performance. She doth bestride the stage like a colossus. She does run the gamut from A-Z. But primarily, the way she connects with the audience is absolutely superb. You quickly forget this is a play – you really believe she is taking you privately into her confidence. And technically, it’s brilliant. Acting and using props at the same time is a big ask. Cooking a full meal and acting is beyond the call of duty!

Whole hearted recommendation. I don’t suppose it will transfer but it’s a real tour-de-force.