June: The stages of life

June brings us up to the half way point of the year so it’s time for the interval, the intermission, the half-time break. So what’s been going on in the closing stages of the first half? Plenty as it turns out.

The headlines have been all about the referendum – the lead up and the fall-out – and we are still waiting to see who will step up to the mark and lead Britain into this next stage of our history. Attending a panel discussion hosted by The Guardian entitled ‘What will the world look like in 2025’ yielded little in the way of answers other than in this world where nothing seems to last, getting skilled in the art of managing uncertainty is a smart thing to do. And while all of this was going on, a new stage closer to home came to pass with a change of ownership at work and new management marking the occasion with a rather delicious cake to welcome us to the fold. I like them already.

This month I also started volunteering again and spent a morning at one of the local secondary schools…with more than 200 fourteen year old girls taking to the stage. This definitely took me out of my comfort zone and at the same time, left me feeling really inspired. More on this in a later post.

I was also delighted with another discovery of the stage variety this month: The Invisible Hand, a play running at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. I even managed to get a little education on high finance as I watched high-flying banker Nick Bright, kidnapped by Pakistani militants, use his knowledge of how money works to stay alive. The cast of four were outstanding and combined with the compelling plot, I found the whole production both gripping and thought-provoking. However it finished at the Tricycle – itself a great find – on July 2nd, otherwise I’d encourage you to book your ticket but you should definitely keep an eye out for another run of this.

Staying with theatre exploits, I enjoyed a couple of previously live-screened plays in the comfort of my local cinema this month. The dark and broody staging of the RSC’s latest production of Hamlet was as one would expect but was also elevated by its militant Africa backdrop as well as by an extraordinary performance from 25-year-old Paapa Essiedu in the lead role.

At the other end of the spectrum, I spent a light-hearted evening with Oscar Wilde’s cast of pretentious yet lovable characters in The Importance of Being Earnest. David Suchet – you may know him as the eccentric Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in many an Agatha Christie whodunnit – sashayed around the stage as the inimitable Lady Bracknell and with witty repartee and oodles of innuendo, it was a very entertaining couple of hours indeed.

I also spent a hour or so wandering in between various stages of Undressed. No not me personally. It’s an exhibition on the history of underwear at the V&A running until March next year. Seeing some of those teeny tiny corsets up there on their podiums made me feel quite Amazonian in stature and also rather glad that I live in an age where I can dress in relative comfort and not have to worship at the altar of society’s [size 6] ideal. The blokes are not exempt from a little vanity either – there were quite a few examples of ahem, shapewear (not to mention that my ‘mens enhancing underwear uk’ google search yielded more than 76,000 results).

But without a doubt, this month’s highlight was The Battle of the Big Bands at Cadogan Hall. The Jazz Repertory Company recreated the famous 1938 battle on the stage at Carnegie Hall, a musical masterclass between the established Benny Goodman and the up-and-coming Glenn Miller. Compere cum clarinet maestro Pete Long (he was absolutely awesome and fairly made that clarinet talk) brought this great rivalry and the eventual changing of the guard to life with his savvy storytelling. With all of my favourites on offer – Sing Sing Sing, Little Brown Jug and In The Mood – the whole night was just brilliant, foot-tapping fun and In The Mood was definitely how I felt going home on the tube.

That, my dear Gidday-ers, was June and as the curtain falls and June takes its bow – having been fun and full of plenty – I’m already off treading the boards into July…

What’s that? An encore you say? Well okay – here are a couple of my commuting gems from Victoria Embankment, the site of many of the Thames’ old landing stages

Have yourselves a fabulous July peeps.

[Exit stage left]

A Penchant For Poirot…

I love a good whodunit. Film, book, TV, play – it doesn’t matter, I love them all. Most of the time it’s a guessing game trying to work out who the culprit is but sometimes it’s evident quite early – whether that’s via masterful deduction a good guess on my part or a through the story itself – but the thrill remains in seeing how the criminal will be exposed.

Christie 1890 – 1976

I have long been a fan of Agatha Christie and it was she who sparked my love affair with novels of the criminal kind long before modern crime writers put their graphic, and often gory, pens to paper. Her ingenious storytelling has me lifting layer after layer of delicious and dastardly detail with every page I turn and her quirky protagonists capture my imagination with their idiosyncracies and perversity.

Christie’s first murder mystery was The Mysterious Affair at Styles and was published late in 1920 in the US (followed by the UK early in 1921). She went on to write over 200 of the little blighters as well as 6 novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. That’s a lot of tap-tap-tapping in my world!

It all started with Parker Pyne Investigates when I was about 11 and I went on to enjoy books, films and plays – like The Mousetrap, which has been running on the West End continuously for 60 years and began life as Three Blind Mice – as Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot were brought to life for me again and again. There’s the international – Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Evil Under the Sun – and the close to home – Murder at the Vicarage, 4.50 from Paddington, Pocket Full of Rye – to name just a few. And having only read/seen 31, I’ve still got quite a few to go.

Suchet masters Poirot’s peccadillos perfectly

This weekend, ITV3 is playing Poirot movies all day every day – I am in heaven. David Suchet is absolutely brilliant as the pernickety Poirot and I’ve managed to add Sad Cypress and The Hollow to my seen/read list today. Death on the Nile is running now but I’ve seen it before and know whodunit so it’s time to check out tomorrow’s TV listings to see what other Christie gems I can add to my cache.

And Mrs McGinty’s Dead is looking promising…