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:

Copyright: AnnaWaits 2005

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

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.

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?