» Reviews ¦ What You Can Get Away With

350x350.fitandcropIt’s been a while since I’ve done a review of anything here, but I wanted to spread the word about this production, in the hope that it might spur some of you into going to see it.

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour are a company that have been producing live versions of 40s and 50s style radio broadcasts – complete with traditional sound effects produced on stage – since 2008. They’ve come together with Colchester’s Mercury Theatre to produce a version of Dracula that’s a fantastic piece of stage comedy.

We’re invited in as the studio audience to watch a BBC radio production of Dracula. The company’s lead performer, Mr Starkey (perhaps better known to my readers as Doctor Who‘s Strax) helps set the scene for us. Some of the regular repertory company’s finest performers will be presenting us with a dramatic presentation of Bran Stoker’s Dracula, and to add some verisimilitude to the performance a real-life Romanian aristocrat, Count Alucard, will be playing the part of Dracula. Meanwhile, outside the studio, Britain is about to be battered by violent storms accompanied by thunder and lightning, and a number of mysterious deaths have been occurring in the vicinity of Broadcasting House…

What follows is two stories in one: the adaptation of Dracula being performed with all the plum tones and ham acting one expects from early radio drama; and the events going on inside the studio as members of the company renew old feuds and start new flirtations, cues are missed, sound effects are generated, and Count Alucard’s behaviour becomes increasingly harder to explain as method acting.

The whole thing comes together to produce a wonderfully funny performance and the cast are all superb in their roles, bringing some perfect comic timing (including some wonderfully comedic pauses in the delivery) and interaction with the audience. My only complaint would be that there are so many different things happening on stage at various times it’s hard to be sure that you’re experiencing everything that’s going on – while your attention is focused on the performers at the main microphone, something else could be going on at the effects table at one side of the stage and with the piano player at the other. It’s all expertly put together, and the escalating level of farce is carefully managed to not overwhelm the story.

I’d definitely recommend going to see this if you can – it’s on at the Mercury until the 15th November (go here to book tickets and find out more) and I don’t know if it will have performances anywhere else afterwards, or if it will just be a little theatrical gem for us in the East to tell you all about.

, ,

I dropped out of the ‘reviewing every book I read habit’ while attempting it last year, and I’m not planning to pick it up. However, I do like writing the occasional book review, and as part of the concerted effort to blog here more often, expect to see the occasional one dotted in amongst the political rants.

A Dance With Dragons is obviously the fifth book in the series, so if you haven’t read the others yet, be warned that there will be spoilers. If you’re watching Game Of Thrones on TV, then this really will spoil you for stuff that’s coming up in the next season. So if you don’t want to know any more, look away now…

Read the rest of this entry

, , ,

2011 books: Catch up

Oops, haven’t written here for a while, and have also slipped behind on the regular reading too. Only three books finished in the few weeks since my last post, and they were:

30) A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin

The longest part yet of A Song Of Ice And Fire, and would perhaps have counted as two books if I wasn’t reading the single Kindle edition. Still very good, and an interesting depiction of a world descending into hell, with each chink of light ruthlessly extinguished as another plot comes to light.

31) Rule 34 by Charles Stross

The sequel to Halting State, Stross returns to near-future Scotland for a crime story that’s equal parts Brookmyre and Orwell. A very interesting extrapolation of current trends in society and policing, laden down with the usual rapid-fire of ideas that you expect from Stross.

32) I, Patridge: We Need To Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge (Armando Ianucci, Steve Coogan et al

The autobiography of a broadcasting legend, whose career I’ve followed since he burst to national prominence on Radio 4’s On The Hour and Knowing Me, Knowing You. It reveals just how this major talent’s career has been blighted by the jealousy of lesser talents and the short-sightedness of broadcasting management (usually at the BBC). Includes a harrowing account of his descent into Toblerone addiction – I, for one, will never look on their chocolate-honey-nougat prisms with quite the same innocence from now on – though needless to say, he has the last laugh.

, , , , , ,

I think this may be the first time I’ve read a novel by a blogger (as opposed to reading the blogs of novelists) but if others are up to this standard, then I might have to find more.

The Ministry Of Love is, as far as I’m aware, only available as an e-book from Amazon (and for a ridiculously low price), but it might be a good reason to get a Kindle, or at least a Kindle app for some other device as it’s the sort of book that will definitely appeal to the sort of people who read this sort of blog. O’Mahony’s like a benevolent version of Christopher Brookmyre, most notably in the fact that one The Ministry Of Love‘s subplots has wandered straight in from A Snowball In Hell. However, while Brookmyre’s attitude often seems to be that the whole world is going to hell and is only held back by the work of a few decent people, O’Mahony takes a somewhat more optimistic view of the human race.

More after the cut, but there be spoilers for the novel there so don’t read if you want to approach it with fresh eyes. I definitely recommend giving it a try, though – it’s easily worth £1.14 of anyone’s money.

Read the rest of this entry

,

With the Tour de France over for another year, I decided to stretch out the experience of it a little by reading Boulting’s behind-the-scenes account of reporting on the Tour from 2003 to 2010. He’ll be familiar to viewers of cycling on ITV4 as the main field reporter for the Tour de France, and also as the presenter of the Tour Series and Tour of Britain (which means he gives Colchester the briefest of mentions late in the book).

This is the story of how Boulting went from being an out-of-his-depth football reporter dispatched to cover the Tour (the ‘Yellow Jumper’ of the title comes from his disastrous first Tour broadcast) to a passionate fan of cycling. It’s the sort of book that could have descended into Partridgean anecdotage, but while I haven’t checked, I don’t believe ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ features anywhere in the book.

Rather than going into the day-by-day minutiae of each Tour he’s covered, Boulting instead presents a series of vignettes about life on the tour, most of which go on to reveal a much wider picture of one of the world’s largest sporting events. We get to see what goes on to bring the Tour to TV screens worldwide, from how Gary Imlach keeps his clothing crease-free to how much of a task it is to feed a small army of journalists every day. In the process, we see how Boulting goes from being almost entirely ignorant of professional cycling to an experienced and somewhat cynical reporter. Indeed, it’s his honesty that helps to lift this book above the humdrum, and you suspect that if he was working in a sport that wasn’t as routinely scandalous as cycling, his candidness (about doping, the personalities of some of the sport’s stars and the somewhat bizarre world of Team Sky) might see him uninvited from future events.

Boulting’s an amusing writer, and one able to keep perspective on his situation. While there are complaints about what it’s like to live on the road in France amidst a moving army for three weeks, he knows that most of his readers will envy him his job and the privileges that go with it, not pity him for it. The one thing the book lacks, though, is a definite ending. When he talks about the first rumours of Team Sky’s launch in 2008, it’s almost a foreshadowing of the end of an era, but the Tour remains on ITV4, with many of the same team who started covering it on Channel 4 in the 80s still there. For those of us who’ve been watching during those twenty-five years, it’s a good read and recommended.

, ,

Not had much of a chance to read over the last few weeks, and when I have, my time’s been occupied by this rather detailed look at life in Britain during its time as part of the Roman Empire. The focus is a bit more archaeological than historical compared to my usual reading, but still had lots of interesting information about life during the period. Not one to read if you’re looking for a simple history of the period, but the wealth of detail does make it useful and interesting if you have the time.

,

Helping me keep up my average of a book a week this year, The Inheritors is Golding’s second novel (after Lord Of The Flies) and like that, it’s also a look at some of humanity’s darker impulses. Here, though, the focus is on humanity’s beginnings as seen from the viewpoint of a group of Neanderthals encountering this new type of people for the first time. Golding expertly creates a perspective that’s non-human but understandable as what’s effectively a tragedy unfolds through a mutual incomprehensibility and fear. Definitely a classic novel, and well-worth a look.

, ,