Tuesday, December 27, 2005

He IS waspish!

DT's Doctor is a bit of a badass, isn't he?! Fantastic.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Top 100 Family Films

1. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
2. Shrek (2001)
3. Mary Poppins (1964)
4. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
5. Toy Story (1995)
6. The Lion King (1994)
7. Back to the Future (1985)
8. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
9. Star Wars (1977)
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Let's go in Miss World order...

The Wizard of Oz is scandalously low at 10. Everything about this movie is perfect - from Somewhere Over The Rainbow to day-glo sets to Judy Garland to flying monkeys. And it contains one of the most magical moments in film history - when Dorothy opens the door, and steps from black and white into technicolour Oz. Just brilliant.

Star Wars - what's left to be said, really? Harrison Ford puts in the performance of his career, an entire mythology is created so thoroughly that it is absorbed into real life, R2-D2 and C3P0 are a couple of the best side-kicks ever... You just can't tire of Star Wars.

Willy Wonka has always completely passed me by... the songs are cool, and the whistful portrayal of Willy Wonka is interesting, but I've never seen anything special in this film.

It's absolutely brilliant to see Back to The Future at number 7 - higher than I thought it would be, but still not as high as it should have been. BTTF is witty, clever, a great adventure, and has one of the best musical sequences in any movie ever.

The Lion King. Ok, I'm a huge Disney fan - I know I shouldn't be, but I am - and in my considered opinion The Lion King is, *whisper it*, not that great. It's good, don't get me wrong; the moment Simba realises his father is dead is heart breaking, and Timone and Pumba are great, but apart from that I can take it or leave it. Give me Beauty and The Beast, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Mulan or The Little Mermaid any day. (The last two in this list have some of *the* best Disney songs ever, by the way).

Toy Story jostles with Wizard of Oz for my number one - it boasts a brilliant Tom Hanks performance for goodness sake! Give the director an Oscar for that alone. There's no need to wax lyrical about Toy Story, everyone knows it's a masterpiece, but at the heart of it there's this friendship which makes it so special. It was robbed.

Pirates of the Carribean at four? How utterly bizarre, and probably not deserved. I may just be annoyed that so many people who used to not like Johnny Depp because they thought he was weird, suddenly do due to this film... I'm not over that yet. Still, it's great fun.

Mary Poppins, on the other hand, thoroughly deserves its place in the top three: true to the book? Probably not. Still practically perfect in every way? Yes indeedy.

And so to number 2. Now, I have nothing against Shrek. In fact I would say it's a good, if not very good film. It's very clever and funny and cynical and all that. I get it. But is it better than Toy Story? Of course it isn't! It's got a big gaping hole where it's heart should be, for one, and don't get me started on Mike Myers' voal performance - it's weak and totally awkward. As for Eddie Murhphy's Donkey, it's a hundred times better than Myers' performance but a hundred times *worse* than his voicing of Mushu in Mulan when he was playing virtually the same character! Weird. Number two? I'd barely push it into the top twenty.

And it's ET at number 1. I wish I had more to say about this, but the fact is, I've never sat through it properly becasue every time I catch part of it I get bored. And that says it all really.

Google and AOL - an unholy alliance?

I can't pretend to know a whole lot about this, but we all like to think Google's the un-evil company it strives to be, don't we? I mean, you've gotta give credit for the striving at the very least? Last week, I saw a human rights activist's eyes light up as I told him my email address ("Man, I want a Gmail account!") So, while the phrase 'special relationship' to describe the new Google-AOL alliance is a little disconcerting, I'll just plug my ears and pretend it was done solely to keep Microsoft out.

Lalalala....

Tim Berners-Lee gets blogging...

...right here. It's surprising and warming to know that the father of the internet also uses *....* to add stress to a word!

I get the feeling I'll be spending a lot of time here...

The Word Is Not Enough. It came to my attention as Marie agonised over whether's DT ability to name every Doctor Who episode in order makes him more or less attractive...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More Ben Folds discussion...

Deano has readily taken up the 'Ben's an odd one' debate over at Meditations on the Abyss, particularly responding to the point that Ben's gigging crowd remains stuck at 22...

Ben's writing has really matured [...] there's a lot more serious emotional stuff on Songs for Silverman than anything before.
But the fanbase, the fanbase hasn't. A friend pointed out to me the average age of the people at the Birmingham gig – studenty types. If they'd been fans from the start they'd have been singing Underground when they were ten!


It's a strange fact that the fans that turn out to see Ben are always these 20-somethings. This means that he *must* be picking up new, young fans all the time and this really is a hugely rare achievement. And he doesn't 'revinvent' himself, either - the usual reason giving for keeping a young fanbase. So how *does* he do it. That one I'm not really anywhere near answering, other than the hope that it's proof that talent will out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ben Folds - a hero to literally... dozens

A week ago, at this very moment, I was very excited, and I was stood in Brixton Academy waiting for Ben Folds to walk onto the stage. These things were not unrelated. And, amazingly, I was not alone - in fact, within a hundred metre radius I'd say I was in a majority. Unfortunately, a large group of people being excited about, or even, let's face it, aware of Ben Folds is not a very regular occurrence.

And why is this? I don't expect Folds to be filling Wembley, nor would I (or very probably he) want him to, but he has somehow failed to reach a level of recognition, let's say, that his peers - Rufus Wainwright, Antony, Sufjan Stevens - have managed. This has puzzled me for some time, but I think I'm getting my head round it. First and foremost, Ben is not a darling of the critics. Songs for Silverman got 3 out of 5 in pretty much every review I read - "this is Ben Folds' mature album; good songs but nothing special." Even if Ben had been born in Chichester, he wouldn't have won this year's Mercury Prize because, ulitmately, critics don't really care about him. To be fair, it felt like Ben was on the verge of breaking that all-important Radio 2 audience this year with the release of Landed - the video was on TMF of all channels. But it didn't feel right somehow... the fact is, while Landed fit in on Radio 2, Ben is not a Radio 2 kinda guy. He swears like a trooper and comes from North Carolina for goodness sake. And that's what I realised looking round me as I stood waiting for a bespectacled man in his late thirties to bash a perfectly good piano into smithereens. These were not the same people who I'd watched Rufus Wainwright with a week before. These people were English students, not middle-aged doctors and lawyers. And you know why? Cos Ben's a rock star. You wouldn't know it from his outer appearance (Jonathan Ross' description of him as a supply teacher is the best yet) but that's his whole ethos. At how many 'singer-songwriter gigs' would you get a 2000-strong crowd turning the air blue as they sing along with a Dr Dre song turned into a beautiful piano ballad?

In the end, Ben just just can't be placed on the musical map. Anywhere. He's too much of a geek for rock, too rocky for Radio 2 - but if you get it, you get it.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Not long now...



The Doctor's Jedi-tendancies will come out in The Christmas Invasion, it seems...

Oh, and you can get tickets for David's (and his dad's!) appearance on Ready Steady Cook if you're at all interested... ;)

Thanks for both of these, of course go to the most commited and comprehensive fansite on the net - www.david-tennant.com!

Oh, and I also stumbled across the Tennant!Love LiveJournal community (while searching for blogs about Promises, Promises, funnily enough - it's great how these things find you, isn't it?!) which helpfully warns - "Be prepared for unexpected bouts of Tennant!Sex discussion!" Don't say no-one told you...

Promises, Promises - Sheffield Crucible

Last Friday I managed to drag myself back to the Crucible (it's a chore, you realise) to see the only musical Burt Bacharach was ever involved in - Promises, Promises. The papers have been uniformly positive over this, with the Guardian, Metro and Daily Mail all giving it a hearty 4/5, though Alfred Hickling (Guardian) certainly tempers his praise.

To be honest, I'm quite surprised with all these 4 star reviews when the response to Much Ado About Nothing was muted at best. To my mind, Much Ado was by far the superior production, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy Promises, Promises.

The script, by Neil Simon, was certainly the best aspect; witty and playful with incredibly clever word-play throughout. Many of the best lines were throwaways, however, which were over before the audience had time to work them out and show their appreciation (myself included!), which unfortunately made for a rather subdued evening (save a few drunken women behind us who would have found the empty stage funny...!).

Richard Frame played the lead - Chuck, who loans his appartment to his bosses for out-of-office-hours activity in order to climb the professional ladder - and had most of the production on his shoulders. Luckily, he was perfectly cast and very funny.

The wonderful, brilliant, fantastic, Adam Cooper (us dancers are all fans; it's obilgatory) choreographed, and it was obvious that the dancing had been in the hands of someone who really knew what he was doing. Despite the involvement of Bacharach and David this need not be a 60s period piece, and, thankfully, Cooper hinted at classic 60s moves without resorting to parody.

The problems? They're harder to quantify, which seems a bit of a cop-out, I know. The songs themselves, bizarrely, were probably the weakest aspect - perhaps it would have worked better as a play. The plot was also pretty thin and predictable, and lacked the little sparkle and magic you want from a large-cast Christmas musical. Overall - an enjoyable and accomplished production of a very average musical.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Many hits?"

I'd just like to thank everyone who reads my blog, so that I could honestly answer "It's growing..." to this question in a recent interview to help with press and publicity for Stagecoach Youth Theatre York's production of His Dark Materials. :D

It's going to be a great thing to be involved in, to stop being flippant for a moment. SYTY have been granted permission to stage the full 2-part National Theatre production of His Dark Materials - with children playing the children. It's a huge project, and they want national media attention. Well they've come to the right place... *gulp*

What taste!

Maurinsky over at Laughing Wild has come to my attention via Lisa, via Shakespeare's Sister: a Ben Folds and Rufus Wanwirght fan who blogs about the wonderful Nellie McKay? How could I not give her a mention?

Monday, December 05, 2005

He's not the Gay Messiah, he's a very naughty boy*

Hey hey.
Due to illness, this isn't going to be as long as my two previous reviews of our very own Gay Messiah in concert, but I'll try to give of a flavour of the gig at Sheffield City Hall on Saturday.

To say he was great is unnecessary, of course, and the band are still wonderful. The wall of sound they create really is something special. Rufus was in a jolly mood, as per usual, and happy to acknowledge those in the front row who'd dressed up in sparkly outfits - he even got the piano moved so they could see him better!

Erm what else. (This is a wonderful blog ain't it?!) Ah yes, The Art Teacher: this time performed with full band. I thought it was going to kill it, but it was fantastic. You simply can't destroy a truly great song, and the Art Teacher is virtually perfect.

And the encore. (*SPOILERS* You really wanna keep this a surprise if you're going to see him on this tour) Last time, we were treated to fairy wings, sparklers and stillettos. How would he top that? Well with a literal visual representation of Gay Messiah of course!! During Old Whore's Diet, the band all went off stage (with, magically, the music still going on...) and came back on in white robes, shuffling into a v formation. Yes, that's right folks, there was a choreographed (and I use the word loosely!) dance sequence. An obviously rubbish but utterly wonderful dance sequence. (Which can and should be downloaded here, from the Amsterdam gig - huge, huge thanks to Blair). Then came the campest crucifixion ever to be represented. Really, what more do you want?!

Massive apologies for the awfulness of this blog :)

*Shamelessly stolen from Mojo

Head in hands moment

Votes so far for Whatsonstage.com Awards.

Best Actor (in a Play)
Brian Dennehy - Death of a Salesman at the Lyric 19.13%
Con O'Neill - Telstar at the New Ambassadors 6.15%
Derek Jacobi - Don Carlos at the Gielgud 22.08%
Kevin Spacey - Richard II at the Old Vic 26.06%
Rob Lowe - A Few Good Men at the Theatre Royal Haymarket 17.23%
Simon Russell Beale - The Philanthropist at the Donmar Warehouse 9.35%

This deserves a 'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!'

Friday, December 02, 2005

That nasty NME again

Sorry for being a few days late, and even more for bringing up this most hated of magazines again, but I just had to comment on the fact that they've voted Bloc Party's Silent Alarm album of the year.

HA! Bloc Party's Silent Alarm??!! Now I'm not going to say whether it deserves that title on musical merit or not, I haven't heard it all (though I find the singles incredibly hard to listen to so I don't really have any desire to). No, the point I'm making is that putting Silent Alarm at number one may just have something to do with the fact that NME backed Bloc Party at the beginning of the year as 'this year's Franz Ferdinand'. By February it was obvious they'd backed the wrong horse - if anyone should have that label (and who'd want it after the woeful singles that have come out off You Could Have It So Much Better...?) it should be Kaiser Chiefs for becoming the cross-over success. But NME are always right, aren't they? And now in years ahead, they can say that they tipped Bloc Party and sure enough they came out with the best album of the year. Whatever.

BBC Drama Awards

As Lisa says, go and do your duty! *CoughCasanovaCough*

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Found while searching for why they call it the Grauniad...*

This raised a chuckle-

Bruce Arthurs:

Not from the press, but I must admit a fondness for an online comment I came across that said:

"I defiantly need a new thesaurus!"

--

* Alan at the same site says -

The name "Grauniad" was invented by the satirical weekly Private Eye in an era when the Guardian had a deserved reputation for lax typo control. Like The Daily Telegraph became the Daily Torygraph.

Evening Standard: The Votes Are In...

And the winner is... commercial theatre, according to the Guardian.

A Midsummer Night's Dream on the BBC

Aside from a wonderful speech from Imelda Staunton and Lennie James doing a good job of Oberon despite woeful dialogue, this really was poor. Boring, bland and completely unmagical. And I thought Much Ado had problems.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Theatre Awards

Lisa has brought to our attention the shortlist of the 51st Evening Standard Theatre Awards which includes rightful nominations for what is very possibly the best production I have ever seen: Michael Grandage's Don Carlos.

Seeing the shortlist reminded me I didn't tell you about the TMA Awards I had the honour of attending as I'm a regional panellist (get me and all that!). Sheffield Theatres, with wins for Ian McDiarmud in Lear, Grandage for Don Carlos and Jimmy Akingbola for Blue/Orange, were successful to the point of embarrassment. Which was wonderful.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Reason to be cheerful

David Tennant tops Broadcast Top 100 TV Talent. That's a lot of t's.

The magazine that made the band that changed the way indie kids dressed. Oh and rejuvinated alternative pop music.

Reading the article on the all-new Strokes today made me want to remind everyone just how important they are for alternative pop music today.

Remember 1998-2000? Remember the crap that passed for popular indie music back then? Remember what we wore??!! Jeans you could house a three-generation family under and a hoodie. Stylish. Oasis, Blur and Pulp were dropping off the scene, and in the musical wasteland that ensued (and I'm talking chart indie here, there's always good stuff operating below the radar) emerged nu-metal. How did we let this happen? Linkin Park's 'In The End' was a number 1 hit for goodness sake!

The came The Strokes, and skinny ties were (re)born. Just look how smart indie kids are today - always wearing a suit jacket and white shirt! And a word to Converse - have you ever thanked The Strokes? The huge rise in sales of your All-Stars is ENTIRELY down to them. Musically, they led the 'resurrocktion', as I believe Zane Lowe dubbed it (who, by the way, also owes his job to the Strokes). They paved the way for all the huge indie bands of today and for the fact that rock outsold pop last year. Without the Strokes being big, the White Stripes would never have been big, the Kings of Leons' stupidly young bearded faces would never have graced MTV2 and the Libertines would never have reacted against the American invasion with an album stuffed with glimpses of King Arthur's albion, the Kinks' sunny afternoons and Chas and Dave's... rabbits.

But they couldn't have done it on their own. Even more important than The Strokes is the magazine that made them - NME. Putting some underground, Velvet's-obsessed group from New York on the cover of their magazine after just one single shows how desperate they were to release the world from the grip of nu-metal, and, seeing as though the second single got to No. 16 over here, it's obvious the buying public were getting pretty bored of the Chester Bennington wail too. But it's not just that - the fact is, NME has a monopoly over the taste of the indie-pop youth which verges on brainwash. It wasn't long before the resurrocktion that the Jack White was NME's whipping boy for saying something along the lines of wishing he could have been a black man in the 1930s so he could play the blues properly. How easily we forget. Even writing a song for Coca-Cola can't take away the cool NME has decided he now has.

But maybe the mighty NME's influence is waining - and it's all down to the dear old t'internet. Arctic Monkeys are, apparently, this year's saviour of rock. I think they're pretty boring myself ('you're from Sheffield? Great, me too....'), but try telling that to their 4718 friends on myspace and all those who went out and bought I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor, getting it to number 1. Despite what they might lead you to believe, this had nothing to do with NME, and everything to do with word-of-mouth and internet savviness. The times they are a-changing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The NME Cool List

Wot, no Wainwrights?! There really is no excuse for leaving out 2005's coolest siblings!

Talking of lists, several 'best of the year' lists are forming in my head as we speak... it's far too much fun!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Harry Potty-mouth

**SPOILERS - but you know what happens anyway, don't you?!**

Honestly! You go to see HP4 for a bit of good clean fun, and what do you get? About six 'bloody's and Ron telling Harry to 'piss off'. It really isn't what one expects.

But besides that, I enjoyed it - though I was definitely a minority among my Potter-loving friends. I'm told they left a lot out, which isn't surprising really, seeing as though it's a stupidly long book, and apparently Hermione's transformation wasn't nearly dramatic enough. But, having never read the books, none of that bothered me. All I saw was a thoroughly entertaining, genuinely scary children's film - and believe me, my expectations weren't high after seeing the first movie and being so bored it put me off seeing the following two. And it takes a lot to unimpress me.
I don't think I'm saying anything novel in proclaiming Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, the star, but he really is; great comic timing and incredibly easy to watch, unlike Emma Watson (Hermione) who really is pretty awful. The moment when it becomes clear she wanted Ron to take her to the ball was unexpectedly moving, but for rest of the film I just wanted to throw things at her. Sorry. As for Daniel Radcliffe, he's obviously getting better, bless him, but he suffers from having such an entertaining 'side-kick'.
Ok, so the acting still isn't up to scratch, but I was entertained for the whole 2 1/2 hours, which is an achievement in itself, the effects were truly stunning (a major gripe with the first film) and there was space for David Tennant and Jarvis Cocker. Really, what else does a children's film need?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Welcome To My World

For being utterly wonderful, David (Duff & Nonsense) and Marie (Struggling Author) are now over there <-------------- ie in my 'Favourite Places' list.

A ramshackle collection of blogging related comments

1)I'm not the most efficient blogger, I realise. I post in fits and starts. Most things I talk about are unashamedly pilfered from Lisa. They're generally a good few days old. And the topics are of little interest to few people other than myself.

So when I say that Ms Rullsenberg is my blogging mentor, I don't want her to take offence... but she may have to do some apologising for the fact that she's the main reason I'm still posting. What I'm getting round to saying, is how happy I was that rullsenbergules.blogspot.com got a mention in the Guardian yesterday. Probably more happy than Lisa herself, but if I don't have my enthusiasm what do I have :)

2)The Guardian's obsession with blogging reached a high point this week (that was a very Have I Got News For You opening wasn't it?!) with its 'The New Commentariat' feature. Having read Normblog a number of times, it was interesting to find out a bit more about Norm (or as I, as a Cheers fan, like to call him, NORM!!) himself. It also tempted me back to the site itself, and I have got to say, I was instantly rewarded with a defence of the semi-colon and a Tom Lehrer mention. Fantastic! I was surprised to see, however that comments aren't allowed. Interested to know whether this is common practice, I looked at all the other blogs mentioned in the feature and found that it's the same over at Oliver Kamm's place. Maybe this is because they get so many visitors, though so do, say, Zach Braff and Morgan Spurlock. But, little as I know about the wider blogging world, the comment part of the blog is, to me, the most important, indeed, it is its very point. It's the 'put your money where your mouth is' part, the part which says 'I may be wrong'. Perhaps I'm getting too wound up about this, and someone will perhaps tell me that there's a really simple explanation. But then, that's what the comment function's there for.

That was a bit serious for me now wasn't it?! I need a lie down... :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Oh this is just getting freaky...

indiepop
You're an Indie Pop Kid. You like songs about
relationships and the prettiness of nature.
You're sentimental, but not certainly not emo.
Oh, and if you aren't an English Major, you
should be.


You Know Yer Indie. Let's Sub-Categorize.
brought to you by Quizilla

Backs...slowly...away... :) I'll stop now...

Isn't it despressing how accurate these can be...?!

... not to say I'm not happy with Schroeder, he's been my favourite for years!

Schroeder
You are Schroeder!


Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Regretted Unkindness

Shakespeare's Sister asks whether we have an unkindness we reget. (Thanks to Lisa for blogging this)

Just a quick point, my 'confession' is quite silly, but I think it's worth sharing nonetheless.

When I was maybe 7 or so, and my brother about 12, we did something pretty harsh, but, I still think, damn funny. You know how big kids always trash sandcastles they see left on the beach? Well now I realise that the child who built it actually never expected to see it again, but that didn't enter our heads at the time. All we saw was big kid destruction, and we wanted to do something about it. Dish out some instant karma. So, we found one of those incredibly prickly bushes that grow on the beach- a sea holly, say - and built a sandcastle around it.

I'm sorry, but that still makes me laugh.... and I can't say I entirely reget it...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Grandoliquent Dictionary

This may not be required for everyday conversation, but it does rock rather.

Favourites:
abacinate -
To blind by putting a hot copper basin near someone's eyes
dolichocephalic -
Having a head that is longer than it is wide
doytin -
To walk about stupidly
undecillion -
A large number - a one followed by either 36 or 66 zeroes [EITHER?!!]
uxorodespotic -
Tyrranical rulership by one's wife

and so on :)

You know you're a Shakey nut when....

... you bubble with pride every time that French gal scrunches up her face in an 'I can't beat Shakespeare' kinda way in the Renault Clio advert.

Oh dear, I just said that out loud.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A few things

1) Please say someone saw the last episode of Love Soup! What happened?! I saw them all except the last one, which was silly. But why did I even like it? I've no idea. It wasn't praticularly funny... and I know that it's cool to love Tamsin Greig but I'm not even a big fan of her. It was just... really pleasant to watch. And for some reason that was enough.

2) Rory McGrath on Qi. Yes, dear, you're very clever. You're not at all like your They Think It's All Over persona. We get it. But please, for the love of all that is good, understand the premise of the show! Just answering straight away does not make for good tv, and I think Mr. Fry is starting to get annoyed. I won't have that.

3) Last night's Shakespeare Re-Told version of Much Ado About Nothing. Overall, I thought it was a wonderfully enjoyable hour and a half's worth of tv, and if we weren't comparing it to anything (like, one of the best love plays in the English language), then there'd be few complaints. In fact, even though we are, I think you'd have to be looking with an overly-critical eye to give it a complete mauling.
Damian Lewis was, I thought, without a doubt the best thing about the show - he managed to capture the essence of Benedick even though neither he nor Sarah Parish were given a very 'sparky' script. They both did their best with what they were given, but the fact is they should have been given better. Lewis, though, made what he said sound ten times better than it actually was - that's a mark of great acting. How brilliant would he be with Shakespeare's words?! I'd love to find out.
Giving 'Don' a weightier reason for wanting to hurt 'Claude' was an obvious change to make, seeing as though his apparent lack of motivation in the actualy play is often cited as one of it's weaknesses. Sometimes changes like this can seem totally unnecessary - making Chris Ecclestone's Iago a neo-Nazi in the TV version of Othello, for example - but it appeared pretty logical here.
From the words 'kill Claude' onwards, it seemed like a race to get to the end within fifteen minutes, but I don't want to be down on something that, in the end, made me very happy for 90 minutes. But maybe Lewis didn't just make the script seem better, but the whole thing...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Probably an old joke, but I liked it...

On Qi on Friday, one question was:

What do you get if you cross a camel with a leopard?

And the jewel in Qi's crown - Sean Lock - replied:

Sacked from the zoo?

Wonderful stuff from a wonderful show.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Too happy...

... about the fact that I now have the internet at my student house... oh how I've missed you... :)

Friday, October 14, 2005

I am...


Which British Band Are You?


Couldn't have put it better myself... I don't know why I blogged this. I need caffine....

Guardian's Readers Recommend

It's FAR to easy to get obsessed with this...

This week, it's songs about hate - how could I not put forward Ben Folds Five's Song for the Dumped?

So you wanted
to take a break
slow it down some and
have some space
well f*ck you too
Give me my money back
give me my money back
you b*tch
I want my money back
And don't forget
And don't forget
to give me back my black T-shirt
I wish I hadn't bought you dinner
right before you
dumped me on your front porch

Delightful stuff. :)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Much Ado About Nothing, Crucible Theatre Sheffield, 30/09/05

Both The Times and The Guardian gave this production mixed reviews, and they were probably judged about right. I however, perhaps just a little biased, would praise higher the parts they liked, and be more tolerant of the parts they didn't.

For example, the watchwomen. No critic seems to have liked this idea, and according to the Sunday Times (sorry I can't find the link) it was 'abysmally acted'. Well that's a tad harsh to put it mildly. Yes, it was silly and a bit random-in-the-new-sense-of-the-word, but I'm surprised the idea has been so badly received. Some of the lines were funnier by being said by women, some weren't. It was an interesting experiment that didn't detract form my viewing personally, but I'd hardly say it was a highlight either.

Then there's the lack of a feeling of tragedy being around the corner. In this production, you never got the impression that the fact that Hero is innocent would never come out - it was just a matter of time. This comedy was a comedy. Some people won't like this at all, I realise, but if its aim were to produce a glorious-looking comedy that was a pleasure to just sit back and enjoy then it succeeded; if it intended to create a real atmosphere of threat and menace in the middle part of the play then it didn't. Claudio was the real reason for this, as he never showed truly deep anger, sadness or, eventually, remorse. Even if the tragedy is not meant to be an important part of this production, you can't just have poor acting.

Luckily there was no danger of that from Sam West's Benedick or especially Claire Price's Beatrice, which was undoubtedly the performance of the night. She's just a complete joy to watch, always filling the stage. The only problem is that she often overshadows everyone else but it's a small price to pay for such a wonderful performance. Her Beatrice is strong-willed and clever, not just 'feisty', and she loves Benedick with the same passion and intensity that she despised him. I absolutely love Beatrice's part and so I loved the fact that she made evey line count. Sam West's Benedick was no playful tease, either, but a soldier through and through. Most of the reviews I've read have mentioned the way he delivers the line 'The world must be peopled' (rocking on his heels as if ordering his troops to go forth and multiply) but that's only because it really is hilarious. As the Times mentions, one of the best scenes in the production is when Benedick is persuaded that Beatrice loves him - perfectly directed and just very very funny.

So, it wasn't flawless by any means, but a beautiful thing to watch and enjoy. And if the phrase 'abysmally acted' can be used for this, I just can't wait for the reviews of Richard II.... I'm setting myself up for a fall, I know....

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More reason to hope...

I don't want to read the review til I've seen it, but thye header for Billers' review of Much Ado bodes well -

A charming, handsome and basically sunny production about a post-war world in which two habitual solitaries find their hearts prised open by passion.


I like sunny. :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dylan overload. But he's worth it.

Lisa's blogged this, and brings together a few other great other blogs on the subject, but one more won't hurt... No Direction Home really was an absorbing three and a half hours, and let's face it, that in itself is an achievement. Then there's the fact that Dylan didn't just tell bare-faced lies (as far as we could tell!) during the interview. We can never get to fully understand him, any more than we can fully understand anyone, but this got pretty damn close. And it showed the idiocy of some interviewers which is always good. How Dylan kept up his witty replies for so long is beyond me, but the drink, the drugs, the booing and the terrible questions were obviously taking their toll by the end. Luckily he still had enough fight in him to make that wonderful final remark - 'I don't believe you....'

Monday, September 26, 2005

Richard II, Old Vic - 24/09/05

Mulling over the performance we'd just seen, Mama Waits said what I'd just been thinking; namely, 'I feel a blog coming on, Anna'.

So, was it especially good, or especially bad?

Well, here's a subsequent conversation, having just discovered that the press/opening night isn't until October 3rd -
Mama Waits: But that means they'll have been previewing for weeks!
AnnaWaits: Well judging off last night, they need it.
Papa Waits: The need more than a few weeks to sort out those problems.

That'd be 'especially bad' then.

Ok, let's get the positives out of the way, first. Trevor Nunn's production was set in the present day, and there were certain aspects of how they used that which I thought worked pretty well. For example, Gaunt's famous 'this sceptre'd isle' speech was done infront of a camera and news reporter. Inevitably, this gives the impression that the speech was pre-prepared and therefore cheapens it. For some, this was no doubt seen as bordering on sacrilidge, but, for this production, I think it worked. We were meant to feel like everyone was performing for cameras, always putting a positive spin on their own cause. From then on, the speech was shown on large screens, edited and rearranged as if it were being used by Bolingbrook's followers as a justification of his war.

The second positive was Ben Miles' portrayal of Bolingbrook, but that's probably best discussed in relation to Kevin Spacey's Richard. So here goes. Spacey's portrayal of the king was far and away the worst thing about this production. Somehow, Kev and Trev had managed to make Richard II - the man, and therefore also the play - completely uninvolving (read - dull.) We literally had no idea why anyone would want to be one of his 'flatterers': he was uncharismatic, a poor speech maker (I know the words are still good, but they were delivered so flatly) and while they threw in a few attempts at showing Richard's fun side (he and his friends go to a club at one point)and his tendency to be childish (he throws the sceptre down when he gets bored of the Mowbray/Bolingbrook dispute), they were complete one-offs. The rest of the time, Kevin's Richard was barely there or just shoutily pissed off. When his followers defected to Bolingbrook, I felt sure it was more to do with the fact that they were a bit bored than that Richard had frittered all their money away.

What showed up Richard's want of character further was that Bolingbrook was a more involving character. Because Miles delivered his speeches so much better than Spacey, he seemed to be the one with wit and charisma, and came off as an all-round nice guy. Maybe that's what Nunn intended, and if so, I apologise for knocking such an unusual interpretation of the character. What I think they were trying to achieve was to give Bolingbrook a kind of Blair circa-1997 sheen and smarminess, but it didn't come off that way. In the end, we didn't feel sorry for Richard, or see that, while his fate was deserved, he still had that sparkle which allowed him to make us pity him. We just wanted to crown King Henry and be done with it.

Overall, the production did nothing to involve you because ultimately you didn't care. You have to want to hear Richard's speeches because that's all that's left of him. He didn't even have that to fall back on in this production. The whole thing made me once again be grateful that I've got the Crucible nearby. People were whooping and clapping (and giving a standing ovation to) Kevin as if he'd just delivered the performance of his life - for his sake I hope he hadn't. I'm not one who dislikes American actors coming over here, in fact I've always fought their corner, so this was pretty disappointing. Some might say that I shouldn't judge a preview as if it were a 'proper' performance, but if that were the case I shouldn't have been charged the 'proper' price for my ticket, either.

Quite glad I went really; I like a good rant.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Super Supergrass video...

If you've ever got a few minutes spare, try and hang around the Amp channel (channel 469 on Sky) for a while, and hopefully you'll bump into the new Supergrass video for their single 'Low C'. It really is an astonishing piece of work.

We're used to music videos and adverts getting all the innovative direction, but that's not what's amazing about this video - it's the fact that it's a mini-documentary about a truly interesting subject, namely Weeki Wachee; 'City of Mermaids' in Florida. Essentially, this is one of those random tourist attractions, but it's a particularly enchanting one. For decades, young women have donned tails and, well, swum about while people watch. It's much more beautiful than I'm making it out to be.... And it's tough too; this is from the above link -

Half the trainees who make it through the formal interview and water auditions never achieve the rank of full mermaid; the year of on-the-job training and the final exam -- holding your breath for two and a half minutes while changing out of costume in the mouth of the 72 degree spring -- finishes many mermaid wannabes.


The director, Garth Jennings has unearthed a real gem, and got some ex-Mermaids, now well into their forties and fifties back into the water. Even though we've only known about these women for under three minutes, it's an emotional moment!

If you get the chance to sit down and watch it, make sure you do.

Doonesbury's back.... *conspiratorial "hmmmmmm"*

So Doonesbury has returned to theguardian/The Guardian/The Berliner Guardian/TheGuardian etc etc... This all seems very 'we're gonna change Coco Pops to Choco Crispies and there's going to be a big outcry and it's not a publicity stunt at all, oh no no no' to me....

Or maybe not.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Oh, and the Berliner Guardian

Reading Lisa's blog reminded me I was going to give my two-penneth (sp?!) about the Berliner. Great size and shape, the layout's good. But the headline font is barely distinguishable from the rest: needs to be bolder. And don't get me started on all the letters kissing the feet (and ass) of the Guardian, heralding the Berliner as a work of art both in terms of content and layout. It's a newspaper like all the rest. Don't trust it.

Spooks

Being excited about a TV programme isn't the coolest thing, I realise, but it's Spooks; I mean, come on.

I missed most of last series being at uni, but me and mum weren't going to let anything get in the way of Spooks time for this double-bill. We taped it while we watched it, in case of interruptions, of course.

It's a good job that, afte the attacks on London, Shining Dawn as a concept was just silly enough to make sure the programmes weren't completely unwatchable. I'm not sure planting random bombs is the most efficient way of wiping out the majority of mankind, but, hey, it worked for the show. Just about. Zafar looks to be a great addition as long as he keeps up his one-liners; seems like there'll be good rapport between him and Adam. Rupert Penry-Jones is just a reliably stunning actor and I'll always look forward to watching him. Good start.

Oooh, tonight's Lost looks at Charlie's backstory: the best so far.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Arcade Fire

Well, what a stunning album - strangely reminiscent of 'Promenade' era Divine Comedy and there's more and more to hear every time I listen to it. Truly an amazing new band - I'm just annoyed they're not going to tour 'Funeral' any more; apparently it's straight back into the studio...

They did find time to pop into the Top of the Pops studio however, and put on the most astonishing television music performance I've seen in a very very long time. Of course, I expected them to be wonderful, but it was the crowd reaction that really surprised me. Half of them had probably never heard of the Arcade Fire, but they applause at the end was absolutely huge - really nice to see. In fact, TOTP had a stupidly strong line up last night: Franz Ferdinand are one of Britain's best and best loved bands, Foo Fighters should have the title of the biggest band in the world (in a perfect world - ie no U2 - they would have), and the Arcade Fire pretty much are the best new band around. Add in a couple of the greatest TOTP performances from David Bowie and Ian Dury and the Blockheads and it all made up for an atypically good TOTP. Let's hope it continues!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I should have put my money where my mouth is... was...

I said Antony and the Johnsons!! I'm really liking what I'm hearing - his album will be bought very soon, along with Arcade Fire's. I know it's shameful that I don't have it already. 'Wake Up' that's on the BBC's Autumn advert is stunning.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Spammers

Grrrr.

Lisa highlighted this. I'm being hit too... As JoeinVegas and others have mentioned, you can now changed your comment settings to include word verification. Seems like a pretty good idea...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sheffield's new superstar...

... in the theatre world, at least, is Mister Samuel West. As new Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres, he's got pretty large shoes to fill because Michael Grandage is, let's face, now untouchable. Southerners will know him as the guy who got Ewan McGregor onto the stage, but up North he's credited with pretty much single-handedly re-invigorating theatre in 'the provinces'. What a horrible, horrible phrase. But anyway, while this is probably to overlook the artistic directors at, say Manchester's Royal Exchange or Chichester Festival Theatre, his influence has undeniably been huge.

So long, Michael; enter Sam. And good luck.

At least he's started off on the right foot because, well, he's the right person for the job. Young, passionate and apparently infinitely knowledgable about plays and playwrights old and very new - two plasy for this season are not even written yet - and, something which we audiences seem to love, also an actor, his appointment to the post was met with, literally, a universal smile. Too many clauses in that sentence. Anyway, my point is that rather than facing a post-Grandage slump, it seems that Sheffield Theatres are only going to get better.

Why am I so sure? Because yesterday I attended a talk by West and Josie Rourke, the director of the first show of the season, Much Ado About Nothing ('yay' - David, 'boo' - Lisa ;)) in which West plays Benedict. They both spoke with incredible enthusiasm and knowledge about the season they have programmed (Rourke is involved as she is Associate Director). Vitally, they have encouraged me and my family to go to those few productions we overlooked in the brochure. West said he didn't want anything as 'cutsie' as a theme for the season, but one has emerged anyway - and that's simply stories that need to be told. War, unsurprisingly features heavily, from 'Romans In Britain' to 'The Long, The Short and The Tall'. It's a fascinating and incredibly challenging season - it seems that West is eternally grateful for Grandage putting him in the position where the audience will go with him 'anywhere', somewhere he seems determined to go.

So what else came out of the talk. Well, the first question asked was about the plays he would not want to leave having not done. West ummmed and ahhhed for a while, saying there are so many, then threw in a casual 'I'd be very surprised if I left Sheffield not having played Hamlet again'. Sam West. Hamlet. IN SHEFFIELD. Eat that, London. Not that it's a competition of course.... Later a member of the audience asked whether West valued the use of 'big names', and, thankfully, he said that while he loved to use the 'top tier' of young British acting, of course he saw the value of bringing, say, Derek Jacobi back - who is very keen to do so, it seems. And his parents....? Well, he didn't want to do it this season, but he could imagine doing Carol Churchill's 'A Number' - Tim West could play the father and Sam could play the three cloned sons. He talks about this, and playing Hamlet, as if it's nothing extraordinary, but there's a glint in his eye.

He knows, and now so do we, that the next few years are gonna be pretty special.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I've read on several occasions, that if you're looking for a singular, Pirates of the Caribbean-esque performance from Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then you're looking in the wrong place.

What? Were we watching the same film? That was one of the oddest performances I've ever come across, and a fabulous one at that. But then, that's just what we've come to expect from Depp, especially when he's teamed up with Burton (more often than not, happily for us). In true hack style, I shall do a "crossed with" comparison - Depp's Willy Wonka is like Ed Wood crossed with Rufus Wainwright. No come back! I don't have a bet with myself that I can crow bar Rufus into every blog, it's the honest truth. I was just thinking how Rufus-like Depp's mannerisms were when my mum leaned over to me and said the exact same thing! Go figure. And then there's a naivety and silliness to the character which reminded me of one of Depp's other fine performances - Ed Wood. Whenever Depp was on the screen, I had a huge, astonished grin on my face. We always applaud innovation and invention in music, we should applaud it in acting.

To be fair, he had a lot to work with, as the script was wickedly funny - but, thank goodness, not in a way which would exclude all the viewers under ten. [rant] That trend in family films is starting to annoy me, because we know it doesn't have to be that way. Shrek could learn a lot from Woody and Buzz. [/rant] And, as with all Burton films, it was treat to look at - his background in design and animation is a great asset. This isn't a perfect film, (a little too 'talky' for the first twenty minutes, for example - film means we can be shown instead of told, guys!) but as is so often the case, Depp has made a very good film great.

Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands are two of the best films of the nineties -long may the collaboration continue, I'm already looking forward to Corpse Bride... well, you can't go wrong with a title like that, can you?!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A few random things...

So, what do we think?

Good suit and Converse, could lose the coat. (Gratuitous Spaced quote - "I think you should burn it, cos if you lose it, you might find it again...") I can't believe I'm discussing the Doctor's outfit... what a difference Russell T makes...

In other news, watched Fantastic Four yesterday. What a great piece of fluff and nothingness! This is not clever or making any statement like the wonderful X-Men movies or (the less wonderful but for some reason rated higher) Spiderman but it's great fun. I think it's had mixed reviews, and I can see why when you compare it to the other comic book films that have come out over the last few years, but it's probably a better *family* film. For me, it was actually Chris Evans (Johnny Storm) who was the star. If was wasn't playing the Human Torch, I'd say he lit up the screen...

And finally: Lost. It's 'coming soon', as we've been told often enough. I've seen a good few episodes of this, and I can recommend it. If you're anything like me, you'll get hooked, but you won't have a clue whether it's actually good or not....

Til next time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mercury Music Prize 2005

Bloc Party – 'Silent Alarm'
Hard-Fi –'Stars Of CCTV'
Kaiser Chiefs – 'Employment'
MIA – 'Arular'
The Magic Numbers – 'The Magic Numbers'
Coldplay – 'X&Y'
The Go! Team – 'Thunder, Lightning Strike'
Antony And The Johnsons – 'I Am A Bird Now'
KT Tunstall – 'Eye To The Telescope'
Maximo Park – 'A Certain Trigger'
Seth Lakeman – 'Kitty Jay'
Polar Bear – 'Held On The Tips Of Fingers'
(nme.com)

So we have the big hitters - Coldplay (yawn...) and Kaiser Chiefs (bookies favourite, and worth it...).

The breaking-through-ers - Maximo Park (quite dull...), Bloc Party (words can't describe my dislike for this band...), Hard-Fi (see Bloc Party), The Go! Team (lots of fun) and KT Tunstall (promising on Jools, disappointing since).

The hyped-to-the-hilt-ers - Magic Numbers (gorgeous) and MIA (probably better than I give her credit for).

The token-other-genres-ers - Seth Lakeman (who knows) and Polar Bear (ditto).

....and the dark horse, in my opinion, Antony and the Johnsons. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but I've a little feeling they've got a chance. The favourites Franz Ferdinand won last year, which may prove unlucky for the Kaisers. It'd be a shame, because Employment's a surprisingly strong album. But song-writerly values are big this year, which hint towards Antony, and, actually maybe more probable, the Magic Numbers. We'll see.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The 'new' Top Of The Pops.

Admittedly, my hopes weren't high for this all-new Top Of The Pops, but that was truly dire. Phil Jupitus looked openly embarrassed to be there (and so he should be, his Breakfast show on BBC 6Music is excellent, however) and the standard of acts was as awful as we've come to expect from recent years. Since the NME put The Strokes on their cover in 2001 there's been a plethora of great bands breaking into the mainstream but somehow this has managed to pass TOTP right by. But, hey, at least we've got old footage of a sub-standard Madness song.

And Bananarama. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. It looked like a French and Saunders sketch. What else is there to say?

Now, some might ask if I felt heartened by the fact that singer-songwriter James Blunt has both number one spots, for his album Back To Bedlam and single You're Beautiful. Well, I'll admit that it's a pretty huge, and, let's face it, bizarre achievement. But no, I can't be heartened by it. People who've bought it will feel proud of themselves for buying 'proper' music and put it next to their Dido album. *shudder* Yes, I know I'm a music snob, but I'm not gonna change. I just wanna educate these people, you know? They're eager to learn, they've made the first step. But, please, step away from that new Stephen Fretwell album, and discover that holding a guitar and looking slightly bored isn't everything there is to songwriting. Realise that talented songwriters actually write tunes - whether that's Martha Wainwright, Dave Grohl or McFly.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh Top Of The Pops. Rubbish.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Anna in 'not wholly supporting something' shocker

NME.com tells me that a free 'London United' gig will take take place this Saturday to show solidarity and to remember those who lost their lives or loved ones last Thursday. Now, of course, I love this idea - if there's one thing London can and has done better than the rest of the world for decades, it's music. But there's only a point in doing this if the gig itself is something that London can be proud of. It's a shame for this to be rushed and half-baked, but, with the uninspiring line up which is confirmed, it looks like that's what London is going to get. I hope I'm proved wrong because I don't like to be down on something that clearly has its heart in the right place. Maybe it'll be Londoners who make this gig great, and worthwhile. In fact, I have no doubt they, we will.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Quasi-intellectualism at its worst coming up...

Ok, below is a classic example of my tendency to enthuse before I think. But you love me for it.

I'm still excited about this Complete Works fest, but 'Welcome To Bardworld', a piece in the Guardian G2 today gives the whole thing a different slant. I was particularly interested in Gary Taylor's perspective, because he's the one criticising the festival. Here's a sample:

Wouldn't you feel a bit cheated if the box of chocolates labelled "English literature" contained only one flavour? The triumvirate of Chaucer, Milton, and Shakespeare has become, increasingly, a Stratford dictatorship. The RSC Festival promises to produce, not only 30-odd plays, but a white paper telling the government how to change the way Shakespeare should be taught in schools. But who has the same kind of resources, or authority, to tell the government how to teach Virginia Woolf? Toni Morrison? Aphra Behn?

And who is going to tell us, or show us, how to perform and teach the rest of the Renaissance? It would be much easier - and undoubtedly more revelatory - to produce a festival of the Complete Works of Marlowe, or Jonson, or Webster, or Middleton. Or Corneille, for that matter. Or Calderon.


I see what Taylor is saying, of course I do. Nick Hornby says in 31 Songs that The Beatles have 'hoovered up' the 60's, that they have become the 60's. In much the same way, Shakespeare has become Renaissance theatre. Scrap that, Shakespeare has become theatre full stop. But, you know, this is no freak accident. The Beatles weren't just good, they were and are important and the same goes for Shakespeare. They dwarf their contemporaries in pretty much every field. Of course some bands and songwriters have written better songs than some Beatles songs. Of course some playwrights have written better plays than some Shakespeare plays, but when you look at bodies of work, they can't be beat.

The big comparison with Shakespeare is always Marlowe, of course, and I as a literature student am constantly being told that Marlowe could have been a better playwright than Shakespeare had he lived. Well, he didn't so that's that. All we can do is look at what he did produce. I'm nowhere near an expert on Shakespeare, and I've only read/seen Edward II and Doctor Faustus by Marlowe, but I haven't seen the quality and beauty of writing in either of those plays which we just expect from Shakespeare. I know they have different writing styles - the 'mighty line' that Marlowe used isn't made for poetry - but... well in the end it's that age-old matter of 'personal choice' of course.

Despite all I've written, Taylor's point can't be ignored. Sometimes we concentrate on Shakespeare cos that's easier. We know what to expect, and we know it'll get bums on seats (not that I am AT ALL against that - use Shakespeare, use Hollywood stars, do anything to get people into the theatre the first time and they might just come back... rant over). But we've got to challenge ourselves too, and that means branching out once in a while.

Too excited about this...!

Yes, my obsessions with theatre, and a certain 16th century playwright have been pandered to by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Because between 2006-7 they, and visiting companies, will be performing every play, sonnet, poem written (or co-written ;)) by the Bard. Sir Ian McKellen as Lear? They've got it. A musical version of the Merry Wives of Windsor? No problem. You want Dame Judi to sing in it?! Fair enough.

Of course, performing the Complete Works of Shakespeare is something the brilliant, and hugely undervalued Reduced Shakespeare Company do every night. But we can't all have their genius.

www.rsc.org.uk
www.reducedshakespeare.com

Friday, July 08, 2005

London

Just a note to say my thoughts are with the blogging community in London. All the best.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

This'll be fun

I just heard on BBC FiveLive that Midge Ure will be supported by the wonderful Eddie Izzard on piano during 'Vienna' at tonight's Murrayfield gig. Fantastic!

An eternal optimist has a good week

Man, what an emotional few days. I'm afraid I've gotta admit that I've cried an embarrassing number of times... and it was the Fresh Prince who was the first person to bring me to tears. Go figure.

Ok, Live 8. Leesa avoided it , but I'm naturally inclined to support these kinds of events; I find it hard to be cynical. Personally, I think I was justified in my optimism - the concert has got the generation forever labeled "apathetic" talking and more important, thinking. I know, cos I'm part of it. Maybe that's not enough. We'll know by Friday. And, you know, it was pretty good as a gig, too. There was an over-emphasis on older musicians - where were Franz Ferdinand, for example, one of the biggest bands behind Coldplay - but when that means Macca singing Helter Skelter is involved, who can complain? And I'm not a U2 fan, far from it, but their set really was awesome. Saint Bob? Well, I don't know, but he has my respect. 'Cept for that awful Golden Circle of course... bad call.

And the 2012 successful bid. Again, I just can't be cynical. I've followed this bid from the beginning, and I'm over-joyed that we've got the games in 2012. Well done guys.

And now it's all eyes on Gleneagles. It's a simple message we've all got - don't let us down.

www.makepovertyhistory.org

Monday, June 20, 2005

I'm not the only one who appreciates the genius of Cap'n Jack...

This is from the Washington Blade, and quoted at GallifreyOne (thanks to Lisa for sending me the link!)

"Captain Jack Harkness is the most singularly unique character I have ever witnessed on television. He likes women. He likes men. He likes — robots. He flies around in an invisible spaceship and swoops out of the sky just in time to stop a bomb, all brawn and machismo, and in the next scene makes a catty little quip and forms an exaggerated 'W' with his fingers. Did I mention that he hides a rather large laser gun in his $#@?"

:)

Great Rufus quote

"I've developed into quite a swan. I'm one of those people that will probably look better and better as I get older, until I drop dead of beauty."

Doesn't that just sum the guy up? Haha, thanks to the Rebel Prince site.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Parting Of The Ways...



I'm sure Lisa will be blogging about this too, but this final episode of Doctor Who deserves as much praise as it will undoubtedly get across the blogging community, and in all tomorrow's papers. If you've taped it, save this 'til later... :)

So, a list of stuff I loved about this:

- Russell T. Davis getting to wax lyrical on his pet subject, religion, and be as intelligent and thought-provoking as we all expect him to be.

- The Daleks being truly scary!

- Billie Piper showing depth of acting I had not thought her capable of (and I'm already a fan).

- We saw Ecclestone excel in 'internal struggle' mode. The Doctor actually *did* surprisingly little in this episode - the action being left to Rose and Jack - but his face-off with the 'false prophet' was gripping. Nothing less than we expect from this exquisite actor.

- Captain Jack. Just generally. What an inspired addition Jack was to this series; another good guy, but one who goes about things in a totally different way to the Doctor. John Barrowman lit up the screen every time he came into view, and Jack's ambiguous sexuality simply twisted further the tangled and bizarre relationships already established. Daring, too for family viewing. He's been a complete triumph in my eyes.

- The Tardis saving the day. Bless it.

- I welled up about four times...! Having the Doctor send Rose home particularly got to me, for some reason!

- Rose and the Doctor's kiss. Me and my mum *literally* cheered. Ok, so ostensibly it was to save Rose from the full force of the Tardis, but it meant more than that and we all know it. Ecclestone and Piper have that rare thing, on-screen chemistry, and I'll miss it enormously next series.

- Leaving Jack behind. What a typically Russell T. Davis moment. Rose and the Doctor have just saved humanity, and they leave their best friend behind - the 'last man standing' without whom they wouldn't have succeeded. It wasn't meant to be 'ironic' on 'funny'. It was simply showing that no-one's infallible.

- David Tennant's entrance. Just perfect. In the listings of the Guardian, it was written "Thanks Russell T. Davis. Bye Chris. David Tennant - don't screw it up." Not a chance.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Ben Folds, Sheffield Octagon: 13/06/05

Put down those tissues, no need to call the President, AnnaWaits is back and blogging.

Haha, ok, so work and a hectic production week (York DramaSoc's production of Steven Poliakoff's Sweet Panic) have got inbetween me and my laptop for a while, but if anything was going to get me blogging again, it was a long-awaited gig from my musical hero, North Carolina-born (but don't let that put you off...) Mr. Ben Folds.

Let me put this gig into context. I have been a fan of Ben since I first saw him on Q channel (this is the only reason I can tolerate its existance, it really is an awful music channel) back in 2001. He had his nose pressed up against the screen and was singing 'Y'all don't know what it's like being male, middle-class and white'. I was hooked. I instantly knew what he was all about - I knew he could really play all those instruments he plays in the 'Rockin' The Suburbs' video, that he was a funny and intelligent songwriter, that he was a complete geek. As my favourite Doctor frequently says on a Saturday evening - 'Fantastic!!'

Fast-forward to 2004 and I have all the albums, a few folders full of *ahem* unofficial releases, an 'Annie Waits'-inspired moniker and, to top it all, tickets for a gig the day after my birthday. Of course, Ben had to go an spoil it all by getting hospitalised with a severe respiratory infection (scroll to near the bottom). Sure, he got it from touring constantly because performing live gets him close to the fanbase he loves, but hey, that's no excuse. :)

So, fast-forward again to June 13th 2005 and you have, well Monday.

There's no point trying to do a *proper* review of this gig, the way I did for Rufus (and Rufus again...!) because, as I said, this is my hero. I can't be objective, I can't remember half of what was played (thank God for theSuburbs and its wonderful webmaster Andy). It was all 'a bit of a blur' as they say.

But enough procrastination, all that really matters is - was it worth the wait? Well of course it was.

It started off as a sit down gig, which was, you know, cool. Ben's getting on, he has a wife, and his twins Gracie and Louie and stuff....

"TELL 'EM TO STAND THE F*** UP, BEN!" Someone obviously wasn't having it. The crowd surges towards the stage and the whole room lifts, the happiness-factor (it exists!) is raised ten-fold. Ben smiles and nods like he's proud that his followers have come to join him - "The people have spoken!" he says, and starts rocking out to the fantastic 'You To Thank'. A few of the vastly-outnumbered audience members not of university age mumble about this having been advertised a 'sit down concert'. No-one cares. No-one cares because all eyes are fixed firmly on one middle-aged guy with thick-rimmed glasses breaking a piano as he hands round the Jammy Dodgers he's just ben given by a fan... a roadie comes on to sort the piano, but Ben's not one for silence. Maybe he'd have told us a story if we'd been sat down, as it is, he drums out the famous riff from Nina Simone's 'Baby Don't Care' and adlibs for a good five minutes, his awesome band jamming with him in an instant. 'Looks like I f*cked up my piano', he sings, and then: ''The folks in Sheffield stand like they hate to sit down'.

We all feel a little proud.

From then on, Ben plays like a man possessed. There's no introductions to songs, just the music. Tracks from 'Rockin' The Suburbs' have the entire audience singing along, just about in tune, and and are shown to be some of the strongest songs he's written. Unfortunately, such amazing piano-bass-drums renditions of 'Gone', 'Zak and Sara' and 'Losing Lisa' among others' show up something that I've been in denial about for a good four years - that 'Rockin' The Suburbs' (the album) is terribly over-produced. I've always liked the fact that RTS is so different from the work he did with Ben Folds Five, but this gig proved what Ben himself has come to realise - that piano, bass and drums is his voice. Lucky he's got such incredible bass (Jared Reynolds) and drums (Lindsey Jamieson) players with him now, then. Forget comparisons with Robert Sledge and Darren Jesse - Ben's new band are integral to what he's doing right now.

What was lovley to see was that Songs For Silverman' tracks were greeted like old friends. 'Jesusland' in particular got a huge cheer, but 'Bastard', 'Landed' and 'Trusted' all got great receptions too. It was an incredibly warm and generous crowd - shouts of 'We love you Ben!' punctuated the evening, and there was none of the constant requesting of 'Rock This B*tch' which has blighted many previous gigs. Instead, the crowd just seemed happy to have such a talent playing for them. When we were invited to request, however, there was of course no holding back. 'The Secret Life of Morgan Davis' was duly played - complete with a huge, adlibbed solo which had a strange trance-music tinge that had the audience ironically shouting 'ooo-wah ooo-wah', as if Ben was dropping beats at Creamfields. A bizarre and perfect moment. Riding the crest of a wave, a hardy soul at the front boldly requests 'Underground' - a huge fan favourite from the first Ben Folds album, which Ben is often a little reluctant to play solo, if only because the backing vocals are so important. But Ben just sits down, smiles and says 'yeah, I can play that'. If you give, you get back. 'I've not played that before on the tour', he says, 'but you guys are really great'.

We all feel a little smug.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

10 Things I've Never Done

Suggested here (many thanks!)

I've never...

1) Finished an Austen novel (not Austin as I previously put...!)

2) Been on a plane

3) Been out of Europe (as a result of 2), unsurprisingly!)

4) Been on a rollercoaster that goes upside down (you and me both, Leesa!)

5) Learnt to play a musical instrument (recorder does not count, as it seems to be obligatory at primary school)

6) Listened to the whole album 'Grace' by Jeff Buckley, despite being told I'd love it. From what I have heard, I doubt it.

7) Been to a Ben Folds gig (yet)

8) Dyed my hair

9) Forgotten a friend's/family member's birthday... as far as I'm aware ;)

10) Got into Coronation Street. Thank goodness.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"And one more thing, before we go round again..."

The must have tee for any self respecting Rufus fan:

http://www.artapart.com/cgi-bin/DS5_transfer.asp?save=AC78BOA7

Copyright: AnnaWaits 2005
;)

I'd thought of the phrase a while ago, but I was reminded by Jane Doe's post over at rufuswainwright.com.

They'll be flying off the shelves in no time.

Rufus Wainwright, York Grand Opera House: 16/05/05

Yes, it's this guy again. But he's worth it, believe me. In fact, don't believe, just get over to Amazon; buy, listen, and fall in love.

Two shows on the same tour may be extravagant for a student, but I couldn't have Mr. Wainwright come to York and not make some sort of effort to see him. The show had been sold out for weeks, but many phone calls and visits to the box office finally paid off when, at 5:30 on the evening of the performance, the staff took my phone number in case a ticket became available. Two hours of staring into a coffee cup at Burger King later, I was sat in the beautiful auditorium of the York Grand Opera house, finally getting excited about a gig I had never really believed I would get to. Yet there I was, surrounded by an audience of 40 and 50-somethings, all into their music, a Bob Dylan collection at home and a son away at university (this I gleaned from one conversation, but it seemed representative).

Last time, I was on such a high about Rufus' performance that his opening act didn't get into my blog. Joan Wasser - performing under the name 'Joan As Police Woman' - has an undeniably remarkable voice; it soars and reaches places it shouldn't be able to, quite frankly. The lyrics to her piano or guitar led songs (she's one of those sickening mulitinstrumentalists) are very funny at times, mainly poignant and important and, wonderfully, generally not as obscure as a woman with her obvious intellect could get bogged down in. Melodically, her tracks are far from straightforward, though and therefore quite difficult to listen to and fully 'get' on first listen. At this gig, I recognised melodies from the Nottingham show, and it started to come together. She's a great talent, undoubtedly, and has a great, endearing stage presence, both "as" police woman, and as a backing vocalist when Rufus comes on.

Rufus himself was on top form, once again, but this was a different Rufus to the one we saw sighing, laughing to himself about saying "I'm in the R0bin Hood hood!". Nottingham Rufus was playful and fantastically camp throughout. York Rufus was Rufus as stand-up comedian. On various occasions he strutted from his piano to the microphone, grabbed it with one hand, thrust the other into his pocket and launched into a shaggy dog story about his childhood or some obscure musician's declining fashion sense: "He started wearing really standard clothes. There's one picture of him with jeans and a t-shirt and just an enormous brooch. Hence the small brooch today". Of course, Rufus...

The music was as brilliant as ever - the band is stunning; especially, I must say, the inventive drummer and the backing singers. Rufus' backing vocals are hugely important to his sound, and I often think they get the best part in many of the songs! The highlight of the evening was probably the breathtakingly huge 'Beautiful Child' from Want One - quite literally breathtaking for Rufus, who had to calm himself with a few huge gulps of air before settling into 'Memphis Skyline'. Rufus isn't mainstream, and most probably never will be, but you wouldn't have known it from this evening. The first few bars of 'Vibrate' were met with whoops and cheers, as though Paul McCartney had just launched into 'Hey Jude' and the audience collectively shuffled with excitement as 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk' began. In fact the only time Rufus seemed close to losing the audience was when he told us that the Yorkshire Pudding he'd had that day was "awful"! That's blasphemy, and was met with the boos it deserved.

As for the thong, the baby boomer audience didn't know where to look.

I've said it before, and I'll say again, but with Rufus Wainwright, you certainly get your money’s worth. High campery, a comedy routine, and, most important of all, over two hours in the company of a man who is quite possibly the finest songwriter of our time.

Monday, May 23, 2005

'Journey's End' and 'Comedy of Errors'

Quite a cultural weekend this, attending as I did two plays in as many days. Heaven really.

The first was First Worls War play 'Journey's End' at the Sheffield Lyceum - it's on tour now, but this is the production that got rave reviews in London and I can certainly see why. The cast is extremely strong and there was certainly not a single duff performance this evening. The cook, Mason was really very blackly funny - reminiscent of the leader of the firing squad in Blackadder which can't be a bad thing. Officer Osbourne, or Uncle as he is known to the other men, is a wonderful character - warm and completely understanding of how everyone else feels. One of the other officers finds it funny that Osbourne is reading 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', and laughs when he reads the 'He doth the little crocodile..' poem. 'What's the point in that?!' he asks. 'That's exactly the point' Uncle replies. The roar of gunfire at the end was devastating - it can't possibly help us understand what it must have been like for these men, but, loud to the point of shaking our seats, it was devastating nonetheless.

A million miles away from the trench was Saturday's 'The Comedy of Errors' at the Sheffield Crucible. The Crucible has blossomed under Michael Grandage and it's a real shame that he is leaving, though I have high hopes for his successor as Artist Director, Sam West - I can't think of anyone I'd rather have taking over the reins quite frankly. 'The Comedy of Errors' is the last production under Grandage, though he is not personally directing it. Nevertheless, I was really hoping that he would go out on a high.

At first, I have to admit, I was a little worried. This production is set in a highly camp and stylised 1970's Hollywood (there is an Ephesus sign somewhat similar to one we can see in LA...). Wile I'm far from a purist when it comes to Shakespeare, I wasn't sure that this was particularly working. It reminded me of some rubbish daytime soap - Sunset Beach sprang to mind - so was the director showing a lack of confidence in the play itself? That wasn't my main concern, however. I was more worried about the fact that they hadn't gone far enough. Just putting on a jumpsuit and platforms doesn't actually say anything, or add anything to the story. There has to be something more! Luckily, it came in the second half, and then some. It starts with a Staurday Night Fever style dance, the comedy sidekick Dromio gets to sing the blues, and a chase scene is set to TV cop-show music. THAT'S what I wanted! This is not a 'great' production - the acting was decent but not spectacular (though admittedly, this is hardly Shakespeare at his best) - but it was certainly a whole lot of fun and I'd go again in an instant. In fact, I plan to.


www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Simon Pegg answered my question! Ages ago!

As an avid fan of the wonderful Spaced, I was very excited around the time Shaun of the Dead came out. So excited, it appears, that when I submitted a question to Web Access on the bbc film site I completely forgot to go back and check whether it was answered. You perhaps won't be too surprised to learn that it was, and I only stumbled across it today! So here it is:

You've recently been involved with (and excellent in) From Bard To Verse on BBC3 - do you reckon 'serious' acting is something you'll want to do more of? Anna Lowman

SP: I haven't seen that! I don't know if that was any good. Or my performance. I don't think serious acting or comedy acting are particularly estranged. It’s all about conveying emotions in whatever way. I find serious acting slightly harder because you can't rely on the little tricks and techniques that you use to make people laugh. Whereas you'll find that most serious actors find comedy harder. But, yeah, I'd love to do some serious stuff.


How insightful of me... :)

it's HERE if you wanna read the whole thing.

Oh and tonight's Doctor Who was emotional stuff. How people can not see the good in this show is beyond me.

Monday, May 02, 2005

More Ben and Rufus thoughts

I am pleased to announce that there is more to find in 'Songs for Silverman' than I thought there was going to be. Two songs which completely passed me by during my first few listens have become favourites - 'Trusted' and 'Time'. Because you have your 'ooh, this is Ben's grown-up album- head on when you listen, you miss the fact that - while the 'silliness' is left out, the humour is not. 'You To Thank' and 'Trusted' would, I think, fit on any other Ben Folds/Five album. I still don't know whether I prefer SFS to 'Rockin' the Suburbs', or any previous album, at the moment I'm just enjoying it for what it is.

As for Rufus, well my love for this artist grows with every listen. I went into Boarders today, and Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk was playing (they're having a Rufus push at the moment because he plays York [where I was, surprisingly!] very soon). It lifted my spirits no end, and I felt I had to go and congratulate someone for playing 'Poses'. The lady at the desk was very happy to have made me happy!

What I really want to say, however, is that if Rufus ever lost the ability to play/sing/write (let's hope not), then he could always make his living as a model. Not because he's incredibly pretty, anyone can be that (well, not anyone but you know what I mean) but because of the way he can look into a camera. It's really quite extraordinary -




See what I mean?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Ben Folds: "Songs for Silverman"

I instantly like Ben's new album... and that's got me worried. The albums I truly love generally take some time to grow on me. I didn't get Ben Folds Five's The Unauthorised Biography of Reinhold Messner for weeks, and Rufus' Want Two seemed to me incredibly hard to listen to when I first got it. These are now two of my favourite albums - they're near-perfect.

So when the first track on Songs For Silverman, 'Bastard', left me slightly deflated, I was optimistic. I obviously had a winner on my hands. But, much to my disappointment, it quickly got much better. In fact, the second track, 'You To Thank' is nothing less than brilliant; it has classically Foldsian lyrics about diving into marriage too early (just a tad auto-biographical then), and a middle-8 to rival any Ben has written before.

From there, the album goes downhill, filled as it it with immediately likable songs. How dare he.

'Gracie' is a beautiful song about Ben's daughter - if she doesn't appreciate it already, she soon will. Half lullabye, half 60s girl group pop perfection, this track has the prettiest melody Ben has written in a long time, and can a father really be any more complimentary than to say "You're not a baby, Gracie, you're my friend" ? True, this is qualified with "You'll be a lady soon, but until then you gotta do what I say", but all in all this is the perfect antidote to the Wainwright family issues flying round right now.

'Landed' and 'Give Judy My Notice' are obvious single tracks - the latter of which first appeared on the Speed Graphic ep and stood out a mile. In its first incarnation it was a simple piano-and-voice ballad - a gorgeous one - but here it has been given the country treatment. That sounds awful, and it almost is, but luckily, 'almost' is the operative word, because this is actually one of the best songs on the album. This improvement to an already excellent song shows how Ben's new band, with Jared Reynolds on bass and Lindsay Jamieson on drums, have a great part to play in his future work. This being said, Ben's own piano work on Songs For Silverman is something that hits you straight away - 'Landed', for example, is a standard song made infinitely better by the intricate piano that runs through it.

The only complaint I have about this album is that the songs are stylistically a little same-y. 'Rockin' the Suburbs' is criticised for being shiny and over-produced, but it has a variety (which may come down to something as prosaic as the use of a wider range of instruments) which is perhaps lacking here.

But then again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Overall this is a strong, lyric-driven album that has it's fair share of 'future classics', and which, despite my opening gambit, does, I feel, have room to grow on me yet.

www.benfolds.com
www.benfolds.org/forum

Friday, April 22, 2005

The blogger community

Well, it seems it does exist, just like the Guardian told me. Lisa Rullsenberg has added me to her blogroll, and what an honour that is. In return, her blog is at the head of my new 'Favourite Places', as a blog which deals with Rufus and Casanova deserves lots of recognition. What a warm fuzzy feeling I have.
Thank you.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Rufus Wainwright, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, 13/04/05



"This next song," says Wainwright, furrowing his brows in an attempt to keep a straight face, "is a hit". The dead pan expression quickly turns into a little giggle and trademark flick of the hair. The song in question, 'The One You Love' is certainly the most radio-friendly track on Want Two, and it did get a few plays on radio, but Rufus isn't huge; not just yet anyhow, and if I'm representative of his following, the fans don't want him to get huge. This genius songwriter, singer, and general entertainer is too good to be shared. If this gig proved anything, however, it was that you don't have to be on CDUK to be a real star. Because that's undoubtedly what he is - he had the audience of sensitive indie-types eating out of hands.

Let's start with what's really important - the music. Rufus is quite simply a stunning songwriter. He knows when to be grandiose, when to be understated, where to pitch songs that lie in the many shades of grey between the two. It is to his absolute credit that the quieter and more reflective songs are just as involving as the Broadway glamour of '14th Street', for example. Indeed, many of the highlights for me personally came when Wainwright was left on stage with only his piano for company - 'The Art Teacher' is a heartbreakingly simple song about childhood loves which had the audience transfixed, and the track which deals with his relationship with his father, 'Dinner At Eight' is deeply moving. Of course, the big numbers play equally well - 'I Don't Know What It Is' and 'Beautiful Child' (about a "happy apocolypse") evoke whoops and cheers normally reserved for Earl's Court. The set list may not have been to everyone's taste, packed as it was with tracks from his latest album Want Two, but for me it was perfect. It showcased what an utterly wonderful lp his newest is, while still fitting in pretty much every other song a fan could have wished to hear, from 'I Don't Know What It Is', to 'Across the Universe', to 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk' - played despite being resquested in a particularly drunken and obnoxious fashion earlier - "I've payed good money for this! Play Cigarettes and Alcohol!' The audience joins Rufus in a collective shake of the head.

If exquiste songwriting is not enough for you, however, Rufus has a fabulous stage presence. He's laugh-out-loud funny, cheekily telling the audience during the encore that his backing singers had spotted some cute guys in the front row. "And I agreed," he smiles, "There's some real Robin Hoods out there!" 500 female faces drop - "and some Maid Marians" he concedes with a sigh. I'm not suggesting all of the comments were off the cuff, but when your host is this entertaining, who cares? He's not afraid to be controversial, either, introducing 'Gay Messiah' by saying that he'd better play it quickly whilst there's no Pope...

The zenith of Rufus-as-showman, however comes in the encore. Rufus is jigging along nicely to 'Old Whore's Diet' when he reaches down and takes off his boots. Then his jacket. Then his shirt. Then his... is that a thong? Wait a minute, they're all doing it! With the crowd barely noticing the transformation, suddenly the whole band is in bras and fishnets, and pirate costumes. While Rufus slips into some shiny red stillettos, a red-wigged roadie bestows upon him fairy wings and a sash. He is Rufus Wainwright no more - he's Miss Nottingham! Of course! Now, anything goes, glo-sticks are waved and Miss Nottingham, apparantly having as a good a time as the audience screams "I'm gonna die!" when he realises that the sparklers he's holding are burning worryingly low... Then, the mania passes as quickly as it had arrived. Miss Nottingham takes off his wings, wraps a bathrobe around himself and sits down to play another good ten minutes.

"I aim to please" he says coyly, flicking back his floppy fringe one last time. He has certainly succeded.

http://www.rufuswainwright.com/

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Doctor Who. Yes, really.

My cultural blog, then, which I'm aiming to keep relatively reverent, if only because all this stuff might be useful to me in the future. Well, you never know. (Please look out for my gratuitous use of the word 'otherness'),

So, why am I starting with a TV programme?

Well because the re-starting of Doctor Who felt, bizarrely, important. Not bizarrely for Doctor Who fans, of course, who have been waiting for this event all their days, but for everyone else. I, for example, have never to my knowledge, seen more than a neat thirty Dalek-filled seconds of the series on "I *Heart* 1970s", but I've gotta say I was pretty excited. Scrap that, I was damn excited. True, this was mainly because of the casting of the Doctor himself - Christopher Ecclestone. Ecclestone! Playing the Doctor! The guy I've seen on stage! Playing the Doctor! I love TV. And I want everyone else to love TV too. So getting a "proper" actor to play this icon of Saturday night, family-oriented television made me very happy. People will take it seriously! Hoorah! Some people's enthusiasm may have been dampened by the casting of Billie Piper as the Doctor's assistant, but not mine. Billie! Playing the Doctor's assistant! The 'Because We Want To' girl! Playing the Doctor's Assistant! For some obscure and basically paradoxical reason, having Ecclestone as the Doctor made me yearn for a bit of dumbing down. This is TV dammit! Of course, what I really, secretly wanted, was a bit of magic. The Shakespearean actor and the tween idol defying the nay-sayers and coming up with a piece of fried gold.

And by George, they've done it! Of course I was inclined to like the series. I wanted to like the series. But you could say, then, that I was putting myself up to be disappointed, and I wasn't. Disappointed, I mean, and that equals success in my book.

I've read two things about the opening episode which annoyed me a little too much.

1) That the Doctor is "pointlessly Northern" (this from The People paper, I believe, who do not even deserve a link due to this comment). How can anything, anything be pointlessly northern? Since when has anything needed a reason to be Northern? A ridiculous comment. And this whole issue was negated by a single wonderful response to Rose's question - "If you're an alien, how come you sound like you're from the north?". The Doctor looks indignant - "Lots of planets have a north!"
2) That there is nothing more annoying than Christopher Ecclestone attempting to be impish (this from The Guardian who can have a link because the rest of the review was informed and interesting). I don't agree. He's wonderfully manic! Excited about danger! A proper hero! Grabbing Rose's hand and dragging her towards freedom and uncertainty with a grin on his face. This Doctor is not annoying, he is almost perfectly pitched, and this comes 90% from Ecclestone, though he always credits the writing (which is, admittedly, very witty). He switches from the sublime (eg a speech about being able to feel the earth rotate) to the ridiculous (eg negotiating a peace deal with a huge blob of living plastic) with ease and pulls off both with equal success.

As for Billie as Rose Tyler, I have few complaints and many things to praise. Lets do the complaints first. Well, complaint singular, in fact, as she doesn't do frightened particularly well. Luckily, Rose can generally look after herself, getting into the Doctor's good books in the first episode by saving his life. She does 'normal', however, very well. Once the Doctor has earnt her trust, she talks to him about 'fings' as if she's known him all her life. After coming back to earth after seeing its destruction hundreds of thousands of years later, this brief discussion (paraphrased, I'm afraid) takes place:
Doctor: So where d'you wanna go now?
Rose: . . . . can you smell chips? I really want some chips!
Doctor: Me too, as long as you're paying.
Rose: Some date you are!
It's little moments like this where Piper excels - she makes Rose undeniably human and as such highlights the Doctor's otherness. (10 points!)

I'm loving this series, and will miss Christopher Ecclestone when he leaves after just 13 episodes. But it's a hugely heartwarming show which proves that family T.V. can have weight and importance and good helping of silliness.