musings, Recipe, Uncategorized

At the Centre of it all

a personal reviewIMG_4013 (1).jpg. Kings Cross Theatre. 3rd November 2016

I told my friend I was going to Lazarus, the David Bowie Musical. She of course looked thrilled and excited for me. “Amazing” she said.

I retorted, “He’s not in it!”

We guffawed; there was some nervous laughter, and guilt. Too Soon? Of course, Too Soon. Certainly Too Soon for me. But the comedy timing was admirable.

The show is playing Kings Cross theatre, bang in the middle of the new thrilling and confusing, unfamiliar and rather jolly. Boulevard. The theatre, a purpose built shed structure, divided in two, one half showing The Tempest (which was Tempting) and the half other Lazarus.

The audience was as you would expect, well healed, nicely dressed, or Dressed Up, with a touch of fervor behind the eyes. Mostly middle aged, some young, a lot of cool and classy.

We are told that the performance is two hours long. No interval. You can leave but you may not be allowed back in (okay, not for 20mins or so). So this led to a “when do we pee” panic – could explain the fervor in the eyes.

As we settle in our seats, we see Michael C Hall wander on to stage and have a little lie down. This is twenty minutes before ShowTime. It is a little awkward. I feel for him, unless maybe it really is the best place for a power nap.

The premise is a loose sequel to Man Who Fell to Earth. Our alien is still trapped on earth, , not getting older, drinking gin, watching TV,  knowing that he can’t get home. He misses Mary-Lou and indeed it would have been nice to see Candy Clark.

The set is the apartment that Thomas Newton never leaves.

The physical propping consists of a rumpled bed and a fridge full of mother’s ruin.

At the back of the stage, the live band play displayed through glass windows.

Centre stage, a screen. Sometimes lots of screens. I thought I was over screens. But I am an idiot.

The projection and visual trickery is  incredible, impressive,  remarkable. I won’t  describe how it works so as not to spoil the surprise and awe. Also, I can’t find the words to get across quite how exhilarating.

I can say there is technical wizardly. The FX are seamless, delightful and surprising. The design is impeccable, the execution effortless. Virtual, physical, ever shifting. A feast for the eyes and ears. Lighting design to delight, that also does a job.

It was actually  raining on the roof which added some pretty special atmosphere.

The whole thing is Magic in a digital literate age.

I had read that this wasn’t the Mama Mia Greatest Hits genre of musical, that the story wasn’t a way to thread a load of songs together.

But it kind of was. Certainly the songs enhanced and punctuated the narrative.

Maybe it is just that Bowie’s oeuvre is so rich, all his songs can work to whatever storyline.

The opening track, the heartbreaking Lazarus, was beautifully performed. When it was released in back in sad Blackstar January, we all retrospectively understood it was about Bowie’s upcoming death. Johan Renck’s visuals enforced that. Now, not so sure.

Now it sounds like it was written specifically for Thomas Newton’s not-old age.

And that is another wonderful Bowie facet. Whatever he writes, you can find some significance that works for you at the time. Lyrics and mood appropriate and ready for anything.

“Kooks” targeted directly at you because you were a different kind of kid.

“Heroes” for our brave troupes.

“Laughing Gnome” a piece of ironic future proofing  theme for Alan Sugar.

“Sue” for me!

Predictably, all the songs were phenomenal. The new ones, the old ones reworked, the classics and the novelty. From a raucous All the Young Dudes to a charming Absolute Beginners. Changes , changed, all for the good.

Somehow all the vocalists captured Bowie’s tone. They never quite made the songs their own, but nor did they mimic. Clear and strong and meaningful. But it is a funny old thing, how singers on the stage take on that Musical style. It was subtle, but it was there, and made me wonder how they would fare on The Voice.

After we were introduced to a China Girl early on, I realised that the staging was littered with references and reverence. I probably missed quite a lot, but that didn’t spoil the ride. Good spotting for the uber hard-core fans, rather than me, kind of superfan, but soft-centred.

The story is a bit silly. The characters are fascinating and often confusing. The pace erratic. Great highs of engagement, sometimes not so much, and there is a proper ending.

Maybe if it wasn’t The Dame I might view the whole as a touch self-indulgent and beside itself. Perhaps I have buttons over my eyes and stardust in my sound and vision. But I don’t think so.

There is so much good and clever and original and slick and powerful and emotional and so damn interesting about it. There are some great moments of levity to stop it taking itself too seriously. The cast do it more than justice, the set design and execution is off the scale. And of course the music.

So I think it would stand alone on its own merits.

But undeniably,

At the Centre of it All is…

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Bowie Buxton Bug BFI and cobbler Bob

Like rings in a tree trunk, you can generally age a fan by which part of Bowie’s career they are most obsessed with. I guessed Adam Buxton accurately at 46. This probably doesn’t work for anyone under 40 and is no way fool proof, but a harmless pursuit.adam-hoxton_1305291946_crop_550x424.jpg

Last week I had the privilege of watching Buxton do Bug on Bowie. I was sitting with ace cutter Miland, who got a shout out for his great work editing the opening compilation, showing Bowie through the ages rather spunkily.

Buxton Bounces on. We already know he is a Bowie obsessive. And he knows that we are. So he apologies for any offence he may cause, and for irreverence, but he knows, and we know, that otherwise this could all get to over emotional.

It transpires early that he is working to the wrong script. This is a shame as he had “written the absolute heck out of it”

So some charming chat while a dongle is produced and Version 3 is printed. And some bants with the audience. In particular a confident chap called Grant who apparently once followed Bowie into a Toy Shop before the bouncers got to him.

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The evening was full of fun facts, and a very personal, and some might say obscure, selection of videos and trivia. Film clips, BBC dramas, and of course Labyrinth.

It was a roller coaster of sadness and hilarity. And a fair bit of hero worship.

So many videos, all with correct reference and reverence to the Directors. From David Mallet in the early days to Johan Renck on Lazarus.

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Back in the day, David Mallet was repp-ed by a friend of mine to shoot commercials. It being the 80s there was a lot of lunch, and I met Mallet a few times, mostly of 5th Floor of Harvey Nics. I remember liking him, finding him really interesting, him being very kind and generous spirited. And me trying to be cool, and smart, and hardly referring to the Bowie videos at all, as if they didn’t matter to me. What I should have done is grab his arm and screamed “TELL ME EVERYTHING”. “INTRODUCE ME!” “GIVE ME SECRETS”. Oh my crass and wasted youth.giphy.gifI have heard a story about the shooting of Ashes to Ashes, not from anyone who would know but just as a juicy story, that a passing dog walker asked who was the cunt in the Pierrot costume. And thereafter that was how Bowie referred to himself on set. I could have asked Mallet about that, couldn’t I?!

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One of my personal deep things to say about Bowie is that there are no bad images of him. Even in his crazy unwell Cracked Actor Period, in ridiculous costumes, and even right at the end. He never looked unattractive. Annoyingly, the video for “Be My Wife” proved me wrong. Never mind.

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Like Adam Buxton, I spent too much time after January 11th surfing the internet, trawling for trivia, clicking on FB links and generally wallowing in anything Bowie Related. Unseen footage, pithy interviews, rare performances, nostaligia.

Buxton of course has turned this into an art form, and created something unique. Part Bug, Part documentary, all entertainment.

I would recommend you check out his youtube channel, where you can find anachingly funny Lego version of David and Angela in a spoof of the Good Life. The Bowies, as the Goods, are debating in their kitchen the next character after Ziggy. Should it be Cobbler Bob or Aladdin Sane?

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And a fabulous cartoon illustrating the recording of Warszawa with Eno, Bowie and CO- PRODUCER Tony Visconti all in boiling animated stick people.

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Buxton shared these and so much more. He performs his fandom in his own unique way. An eye watering song, a bit of Dad Dancing. There were moments of classic Bug-ness as we laughed uproariously and unkindly at comments from the mis-spelling, hardly articulating, misled, great unwashed Bowie Trolls. There were some corkers. Love, hate, bafflement.

The evening went on. We were lucky to have been at this early raw outing of the show. The next time it will be slicker.

It was frankly too long. It was unevenly paced. Self-indulgent. Quite repetitive. And bloody wonderful. I loved it.

Thank You Adam Buxton. Thank you Bug team. And again Thank You David Bowie. Let’s Dance.

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Susie’s Soho

I originally wrote this for NOW. I was inspired  by this lovely link, showing Soho though the decades.

So here is a trip through my Soho in the last few decades.

 Carnaby Street

My next door neighbour had a distant dad. He worked in Carnaby Street. Once every couple of months she was summoned to visit him at his office. I went with her a few times.He would treat her and me to a sandwich from a shop in Fouberts Place. And then go back to work.

We must have been all of thirteen, and co-incidentally, we also took the 13 bus to town. Fouberts, the sandwich shop, is now a burger bar.

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Berwick Street

My sister was working at a film production company in what I now guess is West Soho. I took my school buddies on a trip to visit her.

berwick-street-market-02l.jpgWe wandered up from Oxford Circus, through Berwick Street, along Brewer Street. We probably got lost. But I loved it. I loved the street market and was amazed to visit the same flower stall that my Mum and her Mum used to go to.

They however were horrified by the grubbiness and the lack of expected glamour.

 

Walkers Court

Home of Raymond’s Revue Bar, but for us, it was the venue for the Comic Strip. Apart from sniggering that we were effectively in a titty bar, we never felt threatened or out of place.

 Lower Regent Street

My first job was in Margaret Street, I don’t think I knew I was anywhere near Soho. And the idea of Noho didn’t exist.

Noho to Woho

I worked in Noho proper for a while, in Howland Street. Easy enough to walk to from home if there was a tube strike (there were lots). The account moved and we moved with it, this time to Piccadilly. Not quite Soho again, but creeping closer.

Far from Soho

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I was secretary to the CDs at a small agency in Farringdon, an area that was really not cool at the time. There were bugger all restaurants and no shops to speak of other than Leather Lane. As a temp it was my task to cater for the in-house lunches. I took a bus to M&S and schlepped large carrier bags back. I got the permanent gig.

Wardour Street 1

There was a headhunter based in the very building I am working in now. He was very pally with an Art Director friend of mine. I asked him once if he could help me to get into a TV Dept. He said “all you little girls want to be PA’s”.

Regents Park

This time an agency buyout brought us back to the West End, North side.  And got me into a TV Dept. So “Ha!”0e1fa3a2a45ffbada618bc60710181ab.jpg

The Creative teams and I used to spend a lot of time walking to and from Soho, to post houses and recording studios. We would stop and see my Mum who worked in Fitzroy Square, and yes, we charged for taxis when we could.

Kettners

 

My sister moved from the vaguely sleazy film wold to work for Peter Boizot at Kettners, which at the time was the hub of the Pizza Express Empire. That dining room with its  faded elegance, the piano, the delicious ceilings. And serving American Hots and Hamburgers with thousand island dressing . We went there for giggly girlie lunches and party dinners and of course lost evenings in the champagne bar. It stopped being a cheap and classy date a long time ago, but we still gathered at the bar. And now it is closed. Another gorgeous building in the hands of Soho House.kettners_2348031b.jpg

Nail Bomb at the  Admiral Duncan

This brings  back really visceral memories.  We had been at Rushes BBQ at lunchtime, and then trotted back to Regents Park. No Twitter, no round the clock news, we must have got a phone call telling us about the bomb._332812_compton300.jpg

I know exactly where we were in the office and what we had been talking about regent– a tricky budget that needed to be inputted on a scary new system.

Such a shock.

Rushes Post Production phoned me at home on Saturday morning asking if we had any playouts due that day. They of course couldn’t get into the building and pre digital, had to find ways of ensuring they know what needed to go out and how to physically get the spots to the stations.

 Covent Garden

Lyceum-theatre-box-office-London.jpgHaving freelanced pretty much everywhere for years, I settled in Wellington Street. Covent Garden felt a bit far away, but again an opportunity for a good satisfying walk to sessions. Looking back, it offered much of what we love about Soho, but with more obvious tourists.

The Wilderness Years

Unknown.jpegWe can draw a veil over time spent in South Kensington, and Canary Wharf. Focus on the more hip stints in Shoreditch and the elegant months in Mayfair.

The good news is as a producer I am never chained to my desk, so can escape to cooler climes. But the travelling, be it cab, tube, bus, or even DLR is dull and time consuming.

Back Home. Wardour Street 2.

And now  I am at Now, happily, elatedly, back in the heart of Soho. And of course Soho is changed, some of it heartbreaking. Berwick Street would not scare any schoolgirls, unless they have a fear of street food and trainer shops.

Those who can’t walk more than 8 steps without a latte have nothing to be scared of. Food from around the world is now available everywhere, and Chinatown, for the time being, is still a place to go for things that smell funny but taste amazing.Unknown-1.jpeg

Stopping at Aesop for a gloop of free hand cream is a fun and fragrant new Soho tradition.

Yes there is a stall selling mops to replace That’s Andy’s, and you can get mass-market greeting cards at Scribbler or personalised online, but without Zest where can you fill your prescription and buy a nodding dog on the same trip.

The essence of Soho, its maze of streets and alleys, remains pretty much untouched (I even found a passage I had never seen before the other day).

 

And some may call the classier boutiques and eateries progress. Sometimes I do.

Some of the sex empires were indeed tasteless and sleazy and exploitative, but the loss of Raymond’s Revuebar and Madame Jojo’s leaves it mark. Apartments built for billionaire businessmen who will never live in them is nothing but tragic, chains selling coffee three doors down from another one of the same franchise are frankly ridiculous.

More and more shops, businesses and independent companies are driven away by the rising rent, and with them the personality that draws me back again and again.

Lets hope that the inevitable doesn’t happen, that it will retain its spirit and individuality, and that it doesn’t get flattened and become Soho Cross. Although it would be quite convenient by the time I want to return on my mobility scooter.

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Good Ol’ David Bowie

 

 

As with pretty much anything Bowie related, I, along with everyone else, think it is speaking only to me and I am the only one with the memories, the emotions, and the connection.

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A case in point is this great cartoon that has been circulating for a couple of weeks.

Undoubtedly, it has touched loads and loads of people.

But I still think, wow it is Charlie Brown and Bowie. My two youthful obsessions. Together. It is speaking just to me.

To be fair, I had discussed this juxtaposition with my buddy Jocelyn at Union Chapel.

Before we saw baleful Charlie Brown on FB.

It had struck me how bizarre it was that in my early teens while I was going to gigs, fantasising about David Bowie falling in love with me on Golders Green Road, and generally chasing boys, I was also completely immersed in the world of Peanuts.

I had one T-shirt that I wore endlessly that said,

“We all need someone to kiss away our tears “

It was blue. I wore it with myIMG_3108.jpg rainbow patterned flares and matching jacket.

I don’t know what happened to it but I did find something close in last years Uniqlo collection which I excitedly bought for my husband. And then realised it was nothing like it and he doesn’t have the right trousers to wear with it.

My grandmother did not teach me to suck eggs. But someone did.
isographpencloseup_1_.jpg.pagespeed.ce.H_E1jmkPnS.jpgAnd I spent many a happy hour carefully blowing out the yolk and white, and then meticulously decorating the shell with tiny drawings of Snoopy in various poses. I used a Rotring pen for the fine lines, and brown ink, which was kind of cool. Then varnish. I didn’t just specialize in dairy products, I also covered sheets of A4 and miscellaneous bits of card to order.

 

I had numerous Peanuts IMG_3106.jpgpaperbacks, and the odd special hardback compilation.

Hard to imagine in the current world of Merch, but anything other than books was ridiculously hard to come by. Once on a holiday in Vienna (where I incidentally contracted shingles after a long walk with a pug dog and a gay friend of my Great Aunt Mitzi) we spied some Snoopy wrapping paper in a shop window. I was so excited but the shop was closed, we were leaving the next day and there was no chance for retail on a Sunday.

I think that Bill or Heinz or Mitzi or someone did eventually post a sheet to me, but sadly I can’t recall at all what I did with it.

Greeting cards were only just starting to get interesting an entertaining.It took decades for the mildly porny and bad taste hilarious personalized collections to hit the shelves.

Back then I took great pride in choosing and sending classy and appropriate cards to my friends and family.

But I got waylaid when Peanuts Cards could be found in WH Smiths, and could not stop buying funny little strips for my pals, to the point of dullness and predictability.

Meanwhile, occupying the same teenage headspace was David Bowie.

000925-Bowie-David-Starman-Top-Of-The-Pops-1972.jpgI was buying all the albums and singles, and doing all the tours – Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, Station to Station.

I was creating scrapbooks of Bowie Cuttings from NME and Sounds and probably Jackie, even buying the newly released Smash Hits just for the pages of lyrics to cut and paste.

I did an art project at school where we were briefed to use papier-mache and painting – mixed media! Mine was a concert hall with the audience heads made of newspaper and paste, and in the centre, a very detailed glam rock band headed by a beautiful skinny man with orange hair. It incidentally sounds much better than it was.

Time moved on. I expanded my gigging chops. Lou Reed, Sparks, Specials, Ian Dury, Clash, Small Faces, The Tubes, Roxy Music, Elvis Costello and many many more through the decades.

There were other cartoons and comic strips too. Archie, Betty and Veronica, Caspar the Friendly Ghost, Top Cat, Wacky Races, and eventually the Simpsons. IMG_3103.jpg

But nothing has ever really touched me and stayed true like the creations of Charles M Schultz and David Bowie.

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12 Angry North Londoners

 

Unknown.jpegLike so many, I am gripped by Making a Murderer.

I am only halfway through, and this may all change (may? the twists come every 8 to 10 seconds), but  it brings to mind the time I did Jury Service in the mid 80s.(Does it, does it really?)

I was a young fresh keen TV PA at a multi national advertising agency. There was no reason to refuse. It was only a couple of weeks.

So up I pitch at Wood Green Magistrates Court.Unknown-3.jpeg We are herded into a room and wait for the call up. I have been advised to show some form of individuality, as it makes you less likely to be picked for serious cases. I carry a pink rubber briefcase.

There is  much hanging around.

images-5.jpeg The court I go into has a selection of many barristers all getting to reject two jurors each. It goes on a long time and there is squabbling.

I stand before them and I am approved for service.  The lurid neoprene bag was not frivolous enough.  I represented youth.

The case is the Crown against 10 young chaps. They had allegedly caused an Affray at a party. Tricky  as we don’t actually understand what affray is and why it is an offence. It is one down from Riot apparently.  A bundle. Two of them are up for ABH as well, which feels nastier.

And it begins. Ten barristers for defence (one each) . And one for the prosecution. Which means this case goes on forever. Every witness is cross-examined eleven times.

I decide early on, in my wet liberal  middle-class  way , that the police are in the wrong here. It becomes evident that this was a botched raid. No WPO, no search warrants, a lot of fuss.

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Whenever there was a dispute, and there were many, the jury was asked to adjourn to an airless windowless room. Twelve disgruntled disparates around a table with no distractions. A chap called Alan brought in his Sun, so he had a certain following in the group as they ogled the  Page 3’s.

I had one friend, a chain smoking social worker. And another guy in PR who I met on the bus. We did not approve.

Once, after a baked potato and chilli at lunchtime, I had to urgently go to the loo while in the horrid waiting room. My bottom exploded. Everyone heard. No one said anything.

On and on the case went. We even  had a day trip to the scene of the crime, where the party was held. A tiny flat in Friern Barnet. Proof again that the events could not have happened as described by the officers on site.

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Bachelor Party 1984

Because I was very conscientious, I would often go to my day job really early in the morning  and at the end of the day. Just to keep my hand in. There is nothing like an ambitious 20- something.

Sometimes for whatever reason the jury let off for the day.  One afternoon we were told we may not be sitting the next day because one of the barristers was sick, but to turn up first thing anyway to find out.

I rock up to the courthouse just before 10am  and three of the defendants are walking towards me.
We nod, and they start talking to me. I turn off my Walkman, and they are telling me to go home, the session is cancelled. So I thank them and turn tail and head into town.

Only on the tube does it strike me I have been hobnobbing with the criminals.

I call Wood Green as soon as I get to my desk and get told that yes, I should never have spoken to them let alone taken their word for it,  and it could jeopardise the whole case. Three weeks in and I could be the victim of jury tampering.

Luckily I have been witnessed by someone worthy and the case continues.

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Party Party 1983

Perhaps at this point I need to describe the accused. All male, late teens early twenties, one really good looking, one well dressed (known to us as nice shirt), a few non descripts and a couple of meaner types (the two ABH’s)

They mostly  looked liked guys we would possibly hang out with. And the party sounded like one we could have been to.

shopping_city_wood_green.jpgThe case continues.More commute, lots of Wood Green Shopping Centre, hours and hours tolerating the laddy chat.

The case is drawing to a close. We start chatting to some of the others girls on the jury in the canteen. I am funny. “Just like that Dawn French”. We are suddenly a bit of a gang.

We are instructed after the closing statements to go back to the Room and pick a foreman.

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Twelve Angry Men

 

Alan- TheSun -Man  gets nominated. Obvs. But to my surprise PR pal nominates me. It is put to the vote. My comedy fans vote for me.

I am the Foreman. Blimey.

I have to then admit that I have irresponsibly  left my notes at home that day and borrow someone else’s.

I find out a lot about people. Unlike me and my sweeping opinions and pre conceptions, most of my fellow jurors were meticulous in their study of the evidence. We debated for hours and hours. It was interesting and fulfilling.

The general conclusion was that there was no Affray.

But if that was dismissed then there was no case for ABH, and those two boys were nasty.

We were a hung jury. 10 to 2 for innocence. I stood in the dock in my green fluffy jumper  and told the judge. He said we had to have the full set.

More debate. A bit of manipulation – “ if we don’t reach a conclusion soon we will be put up in a horrid  hotel overnight”

And finally, NOT GUILTY. I said that!images-7.jpeg

It has taken six weeks.

The crew and I retired to the pub and patted ourselves on the back.

We were mostly disappointed that the newly freed chaps didn’t come to join us and buy us copious vodka.

See you Manitowoc County.

 

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