There’s one question that’s been predominant in my thoughts today: as the leaders set off on their final legs of their great campaign tours, some of them are promising to campaign day and night and go without sleep. So, how exactly do you campaign at 3am? Yes, there are a few people working overnight shifts and people who happen to be up at that time for one reason or another, but is loitering around a police officer on a night beat really the best use of anyone’s time compared to sleep?

John Thurso on a casual day.

John Thurso on a casual day.

Nick Clegg’s on a tour of the UK from Land’s End to John O’Groats (both conveniently Lib Dem-held and giving us a chance to review John Thurso’s facial hair at the end of the campaign) which gives me an idea for a fundraising challenge to coincide with the next general election if it goes on the same schedule. If you go at around 20-25 miles a day and stick to the more direct routes on the roads (I was on a more roundabout route), you can walk Land’s End to John O’Groats in less time than it would take to run the entire election campaign. So you could start on the day the campaign begins, get to John O’Groats and still have time to get back and vote. Maybe that’s what I’ll do for 2020, and count the posters on the way.

In local election news, I went to the Meet The Candidates event at the Mercury Theatre yesterday evening, which was an interesting experience even if I didn’t learn that much new about any of them. Indeed, the biggest mystery of all remains to be answered: just who is Ken Scrimshaw, our Christian People’s Alliance candidate? From chatting to seasoned hustings-goers it seems he hasn’t turned up at any of them, which does make me wonder if he’s been Raptured and taken away from search Earthly considerations as elections. So have any of you seen CPA candidates at any time since the election started, or should we be concerned?

For a more detailed analysis of the hustings, see Jason’s report at the Colchester Chronicle. For me, it reminded me why these sort of things are very frustrating to be at when I’m not a candidate as there are so many things I take umbrage with and want to interject into the debate and argue about them. Especially when a discussion about the economy gets derailed by the household fallacy and repeating mediamacro myths straight away, its hard to stay silent. I did manage it, though, and just kept most of my grumbling to angry ranting on Twitter which I hope amused someone.

hugemanateeBig election complaint today: I’ve had several emails from the Lib Dems about Operation Manatee today, and not one of them has used the ‘oh, the huge manatee!’ meme. I mean, what is the world coming to when a party can’t spot the obvious image that all it’s internet-savvy members think of as soon as they see the word ‘manatee’? Unless this is all just a big wind up, and the plan is merely to drop that image on millions of voters on Thursday morning, but with Paddy Ashdown’s head superimposed on the manatee.

Perhaps fittingly as we approach the end of an election that’s revealing all sorts of issues with the way the UK works, today’s one candidate party with a dream of greater things is the Democratic Reform Party. And linking to an earlier election update, their candidate in Lewisham Deptford is a badger. Well, he’s called Phillip Badger, which is close enough, even if he’s not a nocturnal mammal. Their policies are actually what their name suggests – reforming the way Britain works to bring power a lot closer to people – though someone in their party seems to have got a bit carried away when coming up with their ‘Online Parliament’ policy process, which makes the Liberal Democrat one look simple and streamlined. They also appear to have a penchant for stock photography on their website, which does make them look oddly generic at points. Still, good luck to them, and maybe the people of Deptford will rise up and demand reform on Thursday.

Some interesting stuff on Election Leaflets as the end gets nearer – I’d love someone to explain the issues on this one, or point me to somewhere I can find out more, for instance – but today’s featured leaflet has to be King Arthur Pendragon, standing as an independent in Salisbury. Yes, the King Arthur Pendragon often seen protesting at Stonehenge who believes himself to be the reincarnation of the ‘real’ King Arthur, and here described as ‘Titular Head and Chosen Chief’ of ‘the Warrior/Political arm of the Druid Movement’. Which is a much better title than leader of a party, I suppose. He’s stood at elections before, gaining 459 votes in Aldershot in 2001, 581 votes in Winchester in 2005 and 290 in Salisbury in 2010, so he hasn’t yet come close to retaining his deposit, let alone getting himself elected.

Only one more election blog post to go until the day itself! The finish line is crawling closer and we’ll soon find out whether the voting public can match up to the opinion polls, or if we can reject the result as it was a self-selecting sample and therefore not a statistically valid test of public opinion.

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Review: The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s Dracula at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester

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.

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Last night I went to see Hamlet at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre. This was the first presentation from the Mercury’s participation in the interACT international theatre network, produced by the NI Drama Theatre of Skopje in Macedonian with English subtitles.

I could wax lyrical about the performance, but I’ve found this review that echoes many of the same points I’d make, so why duplicate? What I did notice was that the audience was following what was a very powerful performance, laughing at the moments where the director had pulled out moments of absurdity and black humour from the script, notably Hamlet’s meeting with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and a rather amusing twist in the arrival of Fortinbras at the end. I won’t spoil it, just in case you’re going to see it in the couple of days before it ends.

One thing I did notice was that a lot of the international dimension to the setting was kept in, setting Elsinore as a place surrounded by war, and providing an explanation for some of the industrial bleakness of the stage. Claudius is presented here as a sadistic tyrant, chairing a drab politburo high above the ground and it’s hard not to wonder how much the last two decades (and more) of Balkan history influences their perception of Hamlet.

It’s easy to sneer at the idea of a production like this, and I’m quite sure some people saw that the Mercury was presenting this, made up a theory that they’d be following it with the Merry One Legged Lesbians Of Windsor and then ranted about the public sector gravy train or something similar. But this isn’t just some randomly chosen attempt at obscurity and audience alienation, but part of a strategy to show how theatre can help build new relationships across Europe and beyond. Because of this staging in Hamlet – and the exchange tour of Stockholm to Macedonia and Bulgaria later this month – Colchester’s profile as a cultural centre is being raised, and it may provide a springboard for further links in heritage, tourism and trade that could benefit all of us.

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