Adventures in Birmingham 21st May 11

Ordinarily, I write this 1. when I have time and 2. when I’ve had an extra fun-packed week. In this instance, it’s just one day.

The third weekend on of the month is usually my favourite as more often than not. It starts perfectly on the Friday with what I call my coffee morning, Likemind. On Farmers Saturday, a new tradition is forming with late breakfast (well late for everyone else, normal for me) at Urban on  although it’s very hard to get down to normal Saturday book writing when the delights of 24 Carrots is right outside.

I have added a new regular order to the hot chocolate, cupcakes and coffee – flowers. Just because I don’t (can, but won’t) cook, I can still buy something from the vegetable stand!

Today there is an extra treat as there are special open days at the studios of several talented local jewellers, all part of Open Studios 2011. We loved the new jewellery (and I’m not a big jewellery person, just cannot leave the house without ear-rings & sometimes a necklace is called for) but I do have a huge collection. So there is no justification for buying, despite us seeing gorgeous collections designed by Becca Williams and all the Centrepiece designers. 

After all this excitement, there’s not much time to get ready for my second social outing out of the city centre this year, for my first visit (well first since this habitation in Brum) to the Mac, conveniently placed right by the also convenient Number One bus stop. Before I go in, I note the Edgbaston Cricket Ground refurbishment is coming along nicely; another thing Birmingham is proud off.

Reykjavik, mentioned by a few people on Twitter, is indeed worth seeing. The official description mentions something about a love story taking us through the Icelandic capitol. I can only describe it as a bonkers performance, where we, the audience participate. I mean full participate with costume, lines and movement; we literally move with the performance. It’s a very clever show indeed.

Not as remarkable as the next day’s finale of the English premier football league season, however.

Theatre – Return to the Forbidden Planet

I was alerted to this production via an email to MeetUp and have wanted to go and support Crescent Theatre for some time.

Firstly the theatre is a fantastic gem perfectly placed just at the edge of BrindlyPlace. Secondly this is one of the best productions I have seen at the theatre, any theatre, be it the Hippodrome, Broadway or the West End.

It reminded me of the feel good factor of ‘The Harder They Come’, about a year ago. For that performance, I had no idea how many great reggae tracks I’d forgotten about. This time round, it’s not so much the music, as excellent as it is, it’s the smile factor.

The face ache from smiling starts before the cast had uttered a word; just the stage set had me beaming as if I knew I was settling in for a great treat. For some reason, ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’ had eluded me in youth so it’s a fresh story in my eyes. The space age story being told didn’t really matter; it was excellent delivered by the cast and every song they broke into had the audience in giggles.

My particular favourite was Gary Pucket’s ‘Young Girl’; a song I have recently stated would never be played in today’s politically correct times. And yet here it was in the context of a teen in love with an older man – the Captain of the space ship of course.

Everything about the performance is faultless and the theatre is perfect. I’m already arranging to go back to see Boogie Nights, something that had not appealed to me in a large theatre but I know it will be perfect at the Crescent.

Crescent Theatre

9/10

Smile factor 10/10

Theatre: The Country Girl

Birmingham Hippodrome

It’s after the event as the run has finished but I just had to write a little bit on this production.

I booked tickets months ago so although I read the write up at the time, I had no idea what it was about by the time September crept up on me. I’m quite partial to seeing movies and theatre productions in this way; being completely oblivious as to what to expect without having read the book or seen a screen version.

I was captivated by it, from the impressive start to the soft ending. Maybe it’s because it keeps on moving forward without any slow gaps that some plays have for ‘dramatic’ affect (yawn). The actors are all impressive, not just the leads; Martin Shaw, Jenny Seagrove and Mark Letheren but every single word uttered matters and every gesture sweeps across the stage purposefully.

Set in the 1940s, the story is about a young ambitious, confident director, Bernie (Mark Letheren) keen to have an old time theatre star in his latest play. He has to not only convince Frank Elgin (Martin Shaw) that he can play the part but also his wife Georgie (Jenny Seagrove), AKA the country girl.

Addiction, confidence, adultery; the usual theatrical subjects are all tackled wonderfully with wit and intelligence.

I mentioned the 1940s; well that alone feeds my frock addiction but what really impresses me are the fantastic set changes. Quite frankly, it’s fascinating to watch the actors recreate the beautiful scenery from a small New York apartment, to a theatre rehearsal room to the dressing room in Boston on opening night.

Superb.

9/10     Smile factor 10/10

Hair – the Musical

It’s a deliberate ploy on my part not to find out about the show before I got there, as I try and avoid film reviews before I have watched the movie myself. I may have been in a production of Hair at school or not but my memory definitely has me dancing to Aquarius in primary school. Long colourful scarves and much shape-throwing around the floor was involved.

When I have mention this to people they always ask, ‘they had you naked in primary school?’ No obviously not. Well not that I know of, it was the 1970s.

So all through the first half, I couldn’t help but wonder why there were all clothed. They may have raided my wardrobe as the colourful willowy way-over-the-top super long Merlin-type sleeves were all over the stage. The costumes also reminded me of when I used to patch-up my jeans with patches depicting band’s names, although this was in the 1980s. I don’t wear jeans often enough to wear through them these days but have a desperate urge to start patching them with colourful material anyhow.

So having seen Hair –the Musical, I’m still not sure of the story but loosely it’s about ‘Flower Children’ in 1967 being opposed to being drafted into war.

“The army recruitment office is run by white men, recruiting black men, to go and kill yellow men to defend the country they stole from the red men.”

They are all high, living the free love lifestyle to the full and they’re super funny with it. The naked bit comes at the end of the first half with very much subdued lighting falling.
Even when one of their own appears to join the army, when all else have ceremoniously burnt their call-up cards, the musical frivolities continue.

Hair is funny throughout and the only negative, which stops me from seeing it again, unless I sit right in the middle of the stalls was the constant onslaught of the cast coming into the audience. I don’t like having my space invaded, unless I invite you, stay at arm’s length. No touching, no talking, and no telling me I have to clap my hands. I’m paying you to perform, not the other way round. Their behaviour made me constantly sit on edge and somewhat spoilt my enjoyment.

My companions enjoyed all of those shenanigans though and were even happy to go on stage at the end when invited. A pointless invitation as it meant an anti-climax with the show finishing whilst a large part of the audience was on stage and there rest were getting up to leave. No ‘Aquarius’ finale to be seen.

The talent, the voices and the long hair of every cast member is however, undoubted.

7½/10 (lost a point for over-zealous audience invasions)

Coming back from the theatre on a high factor; 7½/10 (ditto)