Archive | November, 2019


27 Nov

Hunger  ***** 

Adapted by Amanda Lomas 

From the novel by Knut Hamsun 

Directed by Fay Lomas 

This is described as a psychological novel. But it shows how cruelty can impinge on somebody’s brain and turn them mad. 

A young man leaves university with ambitions to be a writer. He has no money to back him up and he tries to get work. Most of the jobs he goes for are gone, or he is considered over qualified.  He has to give up his friends because he cannot afford to drink and eat with them. His landlady has been good to him, allowing him to owe the rent, but finally she is not able to keep him any longer and he has to leave with his few possessions which he has to sell in order to appease his hunger. He has a blanket belonging to one of his friends which he uses as his only shelter when things get very bad for him. He is hungry, but after a time with no food, he can no longer digest any food. He will not tell anybody that he is without sustenance as his pride won’t let him. When he is picked up by the police, he pretends he is dunk and is given a cell to sleep in, but they do not consider allowing him to have the breakfast provided for the vagrants. 

Eventually his hunger is causing him physical pain and he feels that the lack of food is causing his brain to deteriorate. As he becomes more and more vagrant, he finds the world a very cruel place. He gets beaten up, mocked and attacked by strangers. He is arrested but pretends to be drunk so that the policeman doesn’t think he’s just a vagrant. 

 It is a example of urban lack of pity. As soon as it is known that he is a vagrant he is kicked about and bullied by everyone. Just as nowadays people see the homeless and walk on by assuming that they have become that way due to drink and/or drugs. This is not necessarily the case, but I think if free drink and drugs were on offer to someone who is freezing cold and starving, they would be foolish not to accept. 

 Written in 1890, it is just as valid today. Walking down a street in Central London or any large city, you can see the bodies lying in the doorways. It is such a common sight that it is mostly ignored. There are so many of them now and the numbers of the homeless are rising.   

This play should be seen, because it shows how an innocent person can become homeless. Not because of drink or drugs, but because of bad luck. The play has humour, intensity and total watchability.  


22 Nov

IN Long Lane, ner Borough Tube Station there is the Colab Factory. It is not a factory. Once somebody has opened the door to you and you have climbed up the steps there is a door. You open the door and you are in an unnaturally large room. This was the room donated to the Labour Party under Jim Callaghan back in the seventies.

YOu speak to the young woman at the entrance desk. She asks you where have you come from? And gives you a ticket marked The Home Office. She tells you she is not working for the Party, she is an accountant. OK.

In the back of the room there is a small bar and you are offered a cup of tea. It is supposed to be 1979 but the tea is more like 2019 price.

Yes, we are back in 1979, The Winter of Discontent. The Lorry Drivers have gone on strike. They are represented by the Transport and General workers Union – a tough lot. They are hoping that the rest of the workers will join in the strike. And are bargaining for more money all round.

Apart from the price of tea, the illusion is complete. Try to talk to somebody in twenty first century English and they look at you with amazement and reply in seventies terms.

Of course, the drivers of this immersive theatre company are actors, the rest of the people involved in the work are the audience.

We are asked to take over the decision making etc – everyone has always said they could do it better than the politicians – and here we are being asked to run the country or at least avert a strike that would affect the whole of the country.

The show is the brain child of Tom Black, who also plays David, the organiser of the evening. We are asked to save the country and the actors are there to do our bidding but also to explain what is happening and make suggestions, but we are told it is the audience who make the big decisions.

I was there at the matinee with a rather smaller audience than they are used to, it also meant that I was never able to sit around and watch what was going on. I had to be in it.

The evening concluded with the television of a meeting including some of the audience, which is made on the spot in a small studio just off the main room and relayed live to the company.

The television has a real part to play during the happenings as it is turned on to the actual channel of the day and it generally sets up the atmosphere for us with speeches from Margaret Thatcher, leader of the opposition and episodes from a soap opera. Sadly we had no time to watch this or even to sit down.

Nevertheless, apart from all the talk about money and percentages and stuff I cannot follow, it really turned out to be a load of fun and I quite enjoyed giving important jobs in Callaghan’s new cabinet to annoyed delegates over the old fashioned phones.

The actors joining Tom in the show are Beth Jay, Zoe Flint, angus Woodward, Jaya Baldwin, Christopher Styles and Chloe Mashiter

If you have a taste for politics, you will have a really good time.



8 Nov

My very close affiliation with plagiarism was when one of my oldest friends died. This was someone I had known for sixty years – a long time. He was also best friends with Robin who had worked with him on his first West End play. He was a member of our luncheon party. The Round Table, where we all met once a month. He was a heavy smoker and he had the same disease as Robin – now known as COPD.

When he became ill, he was given a few days to live, but he was in the hospice for ten weeks and I visited him three or four times a week.

When he died, the editor of the local paper asked me to do an obituary. I said of course.

I did the obituary and sent it to her by email.

When I opened the paper I saw that my piece had been reproduced almost word for word – just a few paragraph changes and had somebody else’s name attached to it.

I tried to call the editor but she was on leave and the man in the office – whose name was on my piece just laughed about it.

I was heartbroken. I had written about an old friend. Someone I had been close.It was not a good time to make a fuss. His ex wife read the piece and liked it very much. It was only the words she cared about, not who had written it.

I went to the funeral of course. There were only about eight of us there. The memorial was at the Actors Church and I was not involved in it. It was as if our friendship had never existed.


8 Nov

A brand new British musical

The original story by Alick and Suzanne Glass is about plagiarism. It is therefore appropriate that no Sandy Wilson turn is left unstoned! We have some Perfect Young Ladies at a finishing school in France (Paris, not Nice) and the brief appearance of a kind of Madame Dubonnet played by the choreographer Tamsyn Salter.

One of the students, Michelle Grant, is missing from the Spanish class. Mary, her best friend discovers Michelle alone in her room, working on her novel!
Michelle is a modern miss who has no wish to dwindle into Somebody’s wife but has ambitions to be Somebody herself.
One of the Young Ladies finds an ad in Variety asking for original material for movies (along with twenty dollars for expenses) to be sent to a certain Mr Freddy Larceny in Hollywood.
Michelle does so and awaits a reply. Much later, another of the Young Ladies find out that there is a new film to be made with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. The synopsis is Michelle’s story.
A court case accusing Freddy of plagiarism involves a charming young lawyer, Archie, hired by Michelle’s Dad to fight her side against the evil Larceny.

The production at the Other Palace Studio is the play’s very first outing – and there is a lot of interesting material there.
I am sure that all writers have experienced plagiarism. There is nothing much to be done about it except to learn to be a bit more careful and less trusting in the perpetrators. But Michelle is young and she has a loving Father who insists that she should make a real fuss about it.
She sings a moving song about disenchantment beginning ‘When you are young, its hard not to imagine that everyone plays by the rules’
The play is made memorable by the robust and vibrant baritone of Jeremy Secombe who plays the villainous Freddy Larceny. Here is a villain to please any panto audience. Seacombe has a trio of rabble rousing songs. ‘Reputation’ about how important is it for him to conduct his nefarious deals without revealing his true intentions. ‘Paranoia’ is how he intends to attack Michelle by convincing the judge she is crazy. Probably his best number is ‘Don’t mess with Freddy’.
The hero, Archie is played by Ed Wade.owner of a beautiful and perfectly conrolled songing voice and the sort of face that makes you smile. He gets to sing the only love song, which he does with sensitivity and expertise.
Maddy Banks has a refeshing innocence and a gritty determination to get her name on the movie and is partnered very well with Laura Ingram as Mary and later by Ed Wade.
The Young Ladies, some of them recent graduates of acting schools are, I fear, a little over-used and I don’t love their yellow costumes which tend to dominate the studio stage when they perform their energetic routines. They are involved in most of the numbers in Act one, many of which are not necessary to the plot and make the act seem too long. It is in Act Two that everything happens.

I should like to see this piece when it has been played in for a while. The potential is not entirely realised in the current producton. It is a two hour play with 25 songs – far too many musical items as it gives the audience no chance to learn and love any of them.
Every show needs a hit song to hum along as we leave the theatre.

aline waites


5 Nov

Music by Harvey Schwartz Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones

Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate

The most popular musical in the world is I think The Fantasticks. Ewrybody raves about it. Critics and Audiences alike.

I hate to be a spoil sport but I find it annoyingly twee, incredibly irritating. An hour spent with the Fantasticks is like a month of slumber – if you are lucky enough to fall asleep.

You will se by this that the music and lyrics of these people do not fill me with unalloyed joy.

And now ..I have seen something I have been avoiding all my life, knowing I would hate it. For some reason I decided I would at least give it a try.

Some people love seeing things about themselves, and I think this is probably why this dreary play is such a success. These are two people who get married in the 1890s, and carry on living their lives, till 1940, having children having squabbles, having affairs and singing little Nursery Rhyme style ditties about themselves and I want to murder them.
I have nothing against the actors who are asked to portray these characters. Ben Morris, who plays Michael, probably the most hateful, unlovable man in the world, tries to make up for this with his dear little twinkly face. But he is written as a monster and as such is irredeemable.

Gemma Maclean plays Agnes with a pleasing soprano, is an old fashioned housewife in a heavy yellow wig consisting of thick curls tumbling down her back. She wears this through the whole of the show, with no change of hairstyle – well, there isn’t time. The dates flash past. The song ‘I do I do,’ is followed by ‘I love my wife’ and immediately after she appears with a cushion up her frock singing ‘Something has happened’.
The set by Emily Bestow is enchanting. All black and white, with a row of window style rectangles across the backcloth, decorated with little white roses. There is also a beautiful iron bedstead with little white roses and stage left a dressing table (FOR HER) and stage right a desk (FOR HIM).

I suppose it is the sexist attitudes that I find so unpleasant, but maybe it is just something in me that refuses to accept this situation.
Go ahead and enjoy it just as everybody does. It is always a treat going to see a musical at the Gatehouse.
It is certainly worth having a look at it.