Saturday, June 28, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die

Friday night is theatre night! Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die.

As we were going to see a death-themed play, it seemed appropriate to go to a death-themed restaurant for dinner beforehand. Now, there probably aren't many of these in your home town, but Pan De Muerto ("Bread Of Death") has been on the Wellington restaurant scene for a number of years. It's a Mexican restaurant, decorated with imagery from the Mexican Day of the Dead, with which, thanks to our global culture, we're all familiar these days. The food is a cut above your average Tex-Mex, and contained some genuine spiciness (a rare find in Wellington Mexican establishments - I've been sorely disappointed by the likes of La Boca Loca, for instance).

Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die is a new play, set in Wellington. Benedict Cumberbatch is due in Wellington to do more voice-synching as Smaug, the dragon from The Hobbit. Three young Wellingtonian "Cumberbitches" get together, and discuss their obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch, and how they plan to meet him, put on a one-woman show (this is quickly adapted to a three-woman show after the other two object). They discuss how Benedict is going to fall in love with them, and one of them reads from her fan-fiction, which, as is the nature of fan-fic everywhere, is truly dire.

In a rare moment of lucidity, they realise that none of these fantasies is going to happen. They then come up with the only possible solution to the misery that will be caused by Bendict Cumberbatch dating, and then marrying someone else. You guessed it...Benedict Cumberbatch must die.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Equivocation is a play based on the premise that James I asked William Shakespeare (known as “Shag”, short for Shagspeare, in this) to write a play based on recent current events…the events in question being the gunpowder plot. It’s been around for a few years and is now in a New Zealand production at the Circa Theatre, one of Wellington’s smaller theatres.

We toddled along. It’s a long play, so they start at 6:30 in order to finish at a reasonable time. Instead of dining out as usual, we decided to go to the Circa’s in-house restaurant, Encore, for a quick dinner before the 6:30 start. I’ve had a bit of a downer on Encore – I didn’t think much to it last time we went there – but I think it’s improved a little since then. There was nothing wrong with my tarakihi, and they were pretty prompt in bringing it, so we weren’t rushed.

The play was performed on a bare stage with very few props – a desk, a barrel/stool, a couple of other items. It’s also staged so that it moves seamlessly from the actors in Shag’s company being in real life and performing in rehearsals, or acting out drafts as Shag writes them. Shag’s daughter, Judith, provides criticism and counterpoint to the  protagonists, at one point delivering a soliloquy about how she hates soliloquies. Very meta. The 6 actors play a multitude of parts from Shag’s company through to the king, many of the plotters, and other characters.

The king and his minion, Sir Robert Cecil, keep interfering in the creative process – the king in particular insisting on having witches in the play. Meanwhile, Shag is doubting whether it’s a good idea to do current events, the credibility of the plot, and toying with the concept of doing a play about what would happen if the plot had succeeded.  The problem with this is that he’ll be doing a play for a king, in front of a king, in which the king dies…not a good look, career-wise.  

Eventually Shag decides to set it in Scotland, and make it very allegorical. You can probably guess the rest. The king loves it, because it contains witches. Sir Robert loves it, because he gets it. Shag’s company loves it, because they don’t get sent to The Tower. And even Judith likes it (she’s not always been a fan of his earlier work).

Oh yeah, we loved it too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lloyd Cole

The James Cabaret has been around since 1936, apparently. The last time we went there it was called the Front Room, for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent – we saw the John Butler Trio there. Normally a 750 capacity standing venue, for some reason they had decided to make this a sit-down affair: maybe Lloyd Cole judges that his target audience are getting a bit long in the tooth these days? Not something that bothered Nik Kershaw, who is of a similar vintage, when he visited these shores. Seats weren’t allocated so we picked two at the end of a row, to allow easy access to the bar. Then we settled in with a bottle of Tuatara pilsner and a glass of wine.

The show opened with Greg Johnson, a kiwi icon who’s been around for decades; he mostly played a keyboard, but borrowed Lloyd’s guitar for a couple of songs.

Then it was time for the main event. Lloyd Cole performs with an acoustic guitar, and nothing else. Whilst many of the songs were clearly from his post-“famous” period, the style is pretty much unchanged from that we know and love. He played “Rattlesnakes” early, just to give us something recognisable. The other songs are from his collection of 11 solo albums recorded between 1990 and 2013. As he neared the end of the set he threw in a few more of the old classics – Perfect Skin, Lost Weekend and Forest Fire.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Shard

Blondie, Heart Of Glass (early draft)

The Shard Of Glass, or The Shard, is a large pyramidal building at London Bridge. It was still under construction when we left the UK, so we were interested to see how it had turned out. One of the criticisms levelled at it during the planning phase was that it would "ruin the South London skyline". Well, I saw the South London skyline before it was built and frankly, it wasn't up to much...the South Bank and the hideous Guy's Hospital being the two key features.

Look at that skyline...ruined!

More ruination

The Shard is open to the public (for a fee) so we booked online and went up to the viewing platform at the 68th floor, via two lifts. The platforms at the 68th and 69th floors are enclosed, and contain a number of virtual telescopes which can magnify the view in any direction. You can see much further than you can from the London Eye - all the way to the South Downs on a clear day.

A further three stories up is the open platform. It's open to the elements - if it's raining, you'll get wet - but there's plenty of glass to stop you from falling off. You can also look up to the top: