Monthly Archives: November 2010

Forced Entertainment present the thrill of it all at the Contact Theatre

The stage is set with paper palm trees, Five men donned in white tuxes and four women in sequin frocks.  They play out a bizarre vaudeville style performance to Japanese lounge music, whilst wearing cheap synthetic wigs and speaking in distortedly over the top gender evoking voices.  

I shifted nervously in my chair, as I had never heard of Forced Entertainment before and so when our first bubble girl tells us “we’re all going to have a big party,”  I wonder am I safe with my coffee?  The answer turns out to be yes and no.

 The scene is set with cheesy cocktail swinging, a good degree of knicker flashing and groin grinding, and the end credits being rolled out in anticipation, reminding us that this is a show.  In being a show it sticks to the confines of the stage, but it leaves you aware that you could be involved at anytime, and also aware of where this own charade acts out in your life.

“Oops I fell over,” she squeals,

“it doesn’t matter though, I’m made of rubber.” Leaping up, to a kick of her red booted leg.

It’s potentially embarrassing and really really funny.  A character called Terry continues dancing to no music and the performers all manically chase around after the so called party, in search of the “great big amounts of fun,” which leak into the “I’m feeling very depressed,” voice of Tom.  She tells him to buck up his act, as she feels depressed too, “but nobody knows,” she says, with her fake hair and voice and rubbery legs.

“When was the last time you took the time to notice the little blades of grass?” she sweeps the floor, and I cringe at the line, the sentiment that means so much, but sounds so crass on the lips. 

This is exactly what they play with, using the everyday naffness of language to talk in cheap ways about the important things.  The dreams of men’s sweat tasting of champagne and the clouds being made of candyfloss, it points to the quintessential cringe worthy nature of life when forced. 

The performance feels both blatant and subtle at the same time, you are not sure if it is being really clever, or just poking fun.  The feeling it gave me is when I want to think about something that’s really difficult to deconstruct, do it with humour, do it with gibberish, do it with art in any form and then you scrape a little and break it down into a more manageable, but utterly baffling form.

As the show goes on and unravels, so to do the characters of the stage, “say something funny,” Jerry yells at Tom.  “Think of a funny fruit.”

 Tom yells, “Banana,” he scores a nine.  “An apple,” a mere two, my brain scrambles as I instinctively think this is true, I try to make sense of this non sense grading system, I laugh at myself for being human.

The play is just this – a laugh, a study of the idea of play being the action of fun, albeit a poignant one.  It ends in the death of the funny fruit duo, who have a heart attack from the excesses they’ve endured, the taste it leaves is two polar ends of the spectrum, a blurred oneness and they dizzy off stage.

The performance prevoked starkly mixing opinions, as me and Amy both agreed it was quite something, we listened to others who loathed it and retracted the entire piece as gibberish.  Whatever it was it was definitely a lot of what you gave it, context being key, and the context for me sat in the thinking part of my brain that humour and cheap tricks can do.

Forced Entertainment began working together in 1984, they say that, “in the many projects we’ve created we’ve tried to explore what theatre and performance can mean in contemporary life.”

“The work we make is always a kind of conversation or negotiation. We’re interested in making performances that excite, frustrate, challenge, question and entertain. We’re interested in confusion as well as laughter.”


LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip at the Apollo on Monday

It was a smooth move to get seated tickets as we arrived at doors, 7pm, to see Shit Robot.  We could have left home an hour and 45 minutes later, as we hadn’t even realised they were on.  I’ve never sat at the Apollo before and I loved it, because for the first time I could see the stage and the people on it. The night kick started with LCD Soundsystem who have been touring with Hot Chip in toe, they played their last gig together here in Manchester on Monday night. 

LCD kicked off the party that was in free flow downstairs and on the rows in front of us, whilst I stuck to the chicken head bop.  Second song in my favourite LCD one of the moment  Drunk girls, it started to get raucous in the rafters and I enjoyed sitting nicely and seeing everything, whilst tapping my leg and watching as a guy crowd surfed into the bouncers to Yeah, the song that oozes yeahs. 

LCD played for an hour, with Daft Punk is Playing At My House and You Wanted A Hit, being selected preferences of mine.  Then we saw the frenetic operation to get their kit off stage and Hot Chip’s together.  It was quite something and one of my favourite parts of the latter half of the show, as I failed to be blown away by Hot Chip.

Alexis Taylor came on stage sporting a luminous head band and striped pyjamas tucked into his trainers.  I haven’t got into Hot Chip’s new album One Life Stand, and was hoping seeing it live would make it grow on me, but nah.  It was the old favourites that still got me Over and Over and Ready for the Floor, I just kept seeing Alexis Taylor as Timmy Mallet in those pyjamas, maybe this was my biggest stumble.

Hot Chip finished their set and this was when I started to get excited again, as drums were being carried on stage, could it be    . . . yes, the encore we really wanted?  LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip together.  When Hot Chip were then joined on stage by a Manchester Steel Band.  Now . . . it’s not they were bad, but the question WHY?  I could see James Murphy and Nancy Whang waiting in the wings and . . .  they eventually did it, talk about a bladder buster. 

Whang and Murphy joined Hot Chip on stage and collaborated for a rather lovely rendition of Alessi  Brothers, Seabird

It was great to have the 2 groups together, but LCD were the real headline act that night.  The gig was well worth £25 though as we were there for almost 5 hours, and I only spent 80p on the cheapest drink I got advised there was with flavour, blackcurrant and soda 40p a pint. 

Hope it’s not the last time I’ll get to see LCD Soundsystem, but if it is they live on as good as the first time in memory.

What I talk about when I talk about walking

I love walking, I love walking pretty much anywhere, but I have my favourites and here are a few in no particular order.

1/ The River Mersey – my home turf.  It’s the best path for a Sunday.  It requires much more than just the movement of my legs, as I tend to daydream a lot I need to concentrate enough so I don’t go flying.  Its rocky path and slushy plants, with the overhead flying golf balls mean I have to be vigilant.  This morning on my walk I was accosted by two dogs and to end it I was greeted with 2 scally wagers being put in hand cuffs by the police.  You can guarantee Mr Heron will be sat on some rock or other and the sounds of the distant traffic create a serene setting for autumn.  I love the colour of all the leaves on the path, they are the amberest by far I have seen. 

2/ Wythenshawe Park – It’s huge and I often get lost, I still haven’t discovered where the running track is.  There is the hall, and the petting farm which stinks, it’s a really lovely park to go around and the oriental tree garden is sweet in its understated way.  Wythenshawe was called the garden city because it is so green and many people moved here because of air pollution.  The area may not have the best reputation, but the park is a beautiful place and a good cut through to get to Baguley Tesco

Here’s a little ditty 2 lovely women told me about the park:

Lord Simon gave away

Wythenshawe park

green walkabouts

walk through the green,

a hall to some Chinese plants all yellow

daffodils in spring

Cross a lake a little bridge

a beautiful rose garden

full of beautiful rose

The pigs and the smell

the horses and the chickens

They called it the Garden city

“Come to Wythenshawe for your health”

3/ Mirrlees golf course in Woodsmoor – though I’m not sure anyone uses it as a golf course anymore.  There have been rumours for years that it was going to be built over into a housing estate, but the path is still there.  It holds many memories for me, from riding my first bike, to stumbling back from the bamboo night club in Hazel Grove in the pitch black where I couldn’t even see my own hand if I held it in front of my face.  The more recent days memories are of riding my bike past the wonderful Woodsmoor allotments, past the fishing pond and watching the smoke rise from Stepping Hill’s chimney.  

4/ Happy Valley – this is a great walk as the name suggests, my only problem with it is if I walk from my mum and dad’s house I tend to feel I have done my walk before I get there.  I like a walk you can just walk to and this one tends to be a little far.  It again is a great site for heron spotting and stepping over the river on stepping stones, it tends to be a dog walkers sanctuary, it makes for a beautiful walk and there’s many ways you can take the path. You can go a route to Norbury farm where they have a great little farm shop for lemon curd, coffee, tea and wine.  We won’t be getting our Turkey from there this Christmas though, let’s put it this way I could have a Nintendo Wii for almost the same price.

5/ Middlewood way – a great fat cycle or a lovely stroll.  You’ve got the canal, you’ve got country pubs, ice cream huts, fishing corners, and diversions through Marple or High Lane.  This is my childhood path of all time, as it was the best taking my bike in the back of mum and dad’s car and getting saddled up ready to pedal our way to a Sunday lunch at the Miner’s arms.  Last time we did the trail was in summer mum, dad, Adam and me, got the train to Whaley Bridge, cycled up towards Marple stopped off at The Ring O Bells pub had some dinner and a pint then made our merry way back.  Because it is such a flat ride it was painless to cover 18 miles, even for me and Adam who never ride bikes anymore.  A beautiful place for anytime of year.

Now snuggled up at home its nice to think about being outdoors and not be.

The Social Network

Wednesday evening was my once every six month trip to the Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor, to see the semi new Fincher movie The Social Network, aka the creation of The Facebook and how it dropped the The.

The screenplay was adapted by Aaron Sorkin, of A Few Good Men and The West Wing from the book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal

 Ben Mezrich’s book was released in 2009 as nonfiction, working with Mark Zuckerberg’s co-founder Eduardo Saverin as his main consultant.

The Social Network, is a slick film in true Fincher style and extremely well cast.  Zuckerberg’s screen portrayal by Jesse Essenberg definitely would get the hotter rating score, if we were playing the facemash game, where apparently it all sparked.  Judging by the film’s portrayal of Zuckerberg, this could possibly be enough to top him off on another billionaire rant.


Jesse Essenberg/Mark Zuckerberg
When Justin Timberlake, aka Sean Parker founder of Napster, comes on the scene for their business meeting, they consume uptions of Appletinis and sushi deluxe, this made me sickeningly awe encompassed into this lush way of living and wanting the lavish without the consequence.  Consequentially, it made the sucker in me sympathize with the characters, it doesn’t take much.  The scene where Zuckerberg looks from the outside in, onto a blasted party where no one really gives a damn, made me feel the ache that he probably never has, this is where money perhaps fills the void, or more accurately not looking introspectively or caring to.

The film is based on the lawsuits that ensue after Facebook gets its real face, with the input of Sean Parker and the onslaught of Saverin the original businessman, things turn sour.  As the money and the network grows, so to do the drugs, the drinking, the lack of reality and the underbelly of an altogether different world.  However, their lives were different from the start, with the fraternity nerds of Harvard that subscribe to brawn, brains and dollar bills, holding marketplace value over any feelings for true beauty. 

The film is a great watch and extremely well cast.  It looks amazing and apparently was all shot digitally.  The stylised look of the film coupled with the fitting score of Trent Reznor makes it a great ride through the gritty relationships of the now 26-year-old who is worth $6.9 billion.  It’s a story worth telling and really well done, even if it doesn’t truly match the man behind the face. 

It’s hard to distinguish what is and what isn’t based on truth, but it seems from looking about on the web that there are loose threads that point us somewhere along the lines of what went on.  My favourite scene being about Saverin who was put in the paper for chicken cannibalism, after carrying a chicken around with him as one of those stupid initiations into Harvard’s Pheonix club.  Even though there is no truth behind this, the thought of him being stitched up because he fed the chicken some chicken had me chuckling away in the furry seats of the Savoy. 

Eduardo Saverin: Don’t fish eat other fish? The marlins and the trouts!

The blog that Mark Zuckerberg wrote about his angry split with his girlfriend before the launch of facemash (what went on to become  facebook) is actually the transcript of Zuckerberg’s former live journal blog. Though Zuckerberg said

“The whole framing of the movie is I’m with this girl (who doesn’t exist in real life) … who dumps me … which has happened in real life, a lot. . . And basically the framing is that the whole reason for making Facebook is because I wanted to get girls, or wanted to get into clubs.”

 Whether it’s real or not ceases to matter as it is too confusing and the importance comes back to what the film’s portrayal leaves you with.  The feelings that grabbed my perspective was that yep it’s a bit sickening, and yep it’s way over the top rich, but has the film’s Zuckerberg got what he wanted and what we subscribe to?  the answer seems a likely yes.

Great film and was surprised to see an older more well-rounded, not physically, but actorily wise Justin Timberlake.

Zuckerberg apparently has seen the film and said that everything was fictionalised apart from his wardrobe, which was spot on, and in truth Zuckerberg’s wardrobe was the only redeeming quality for the “asshole” he is shown on-screen to be.

 Mark Zuckerberg: A guy who makes a nice chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair.

Mark Zuckerberg: I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.
Mark Zuckerberg: Did I adequately answer your condescending question?



Back to Blog and how the world has changed

By becksie

Here are 10 ways Becksie’s drinking world has changed since June 2nd 2010:

1. Grindsmith is alas no more, it remains but a very short and treacly memory.  I’m sure we’ll see them back in some shape or form; the coffee was too good for a return not to happen.

2.  There’s a new kid in town, namely, North Tea Power on Tib Street, serving loose tea, espresso tea, green tea latte, tea pigs . . .  tea in every essence you can imagine and the coffee selection is expansive too.  On my first visit I was a little shocked when I ordered Americano only to find it was Tea Americano, so do say if you want coffee.  I had to laugh with my dad, who I took there recently, as he was terribly confused by the bits floating in the percolator.  He thought his tea had been infested with flies, we have both learnt from our mistakes.

3.  The world of supermarket beer is evermore expanding with Morrisons now stocking 3 Brewdogs.  I grabbed a few 5am Saints and Trashy Blondes from the local one in Cheadle last week, £1.59 a bottle.  They also stock Punk IPA, but Tesco and Sainsburys are better for this at £1.37 each.

4.  Tesco have their own Double American style IPA brewed by Brewdog, it clocks up 9.2% and is a denser style than their own Hardcore, but it’s good and when I managed to grab them they were on 3 for £4, so excellent value.  Tesco are also doing a ginger beer that’s really good for this time of year, brewed by the William Brothers it’s got a fiery ginger kick, not like with Crabbies, its full hearted wintry and only 3.8%.  Sainsburys have also got an impeccably good ginger beer, though the front cover designs a bit naff. It’s brewed with the Freeminer’s brewery and it is lovely, bizarrely warming when chilled with a slice of lemon.

5.  My favourite beer for this time of year has to be Dark Star Espresso beer, combining my 2 adorations beer and coffee, it’s the perfect combination.  I picked up a bottle from the newly expanded microbar in the Arndale, their beer selection is really good and keeps growing.  I also picked up 312, goose islands urban take on a wheat beer, and looked longingly at Brewdogs AB04.

6.  Weatherspoons Real Ale festival is running till 14th Nov, and they’ve done a really good job.  You can get three 1/3 glasses for £1.69 and the selection is impressive.  Last week in our local Didsbury branch, we had the Brewdog Edge, woo hoo such a plumy mild 3.2%, a biscuity White Horse Sniveller’s Corner 4.7%, and American Rye Humour beer 4.5%.  Look at the revolving selection they have on here:

7.  I’ve discovered a new coconut water, I think it’s called cocofino, £1.49 from Holland and Barrett. I’ve been getting 2 as its buy one get one half price at the moment.  It’s really nice and comes in a can: toasted coconut you are what my taste buds like.

8.  I dropped off the bus the other week in Rushholme and with a chill in the air I wondered what on earth to drink.  I bobbed into an over enthused sweet delight emporium, although the board sent me dizzy and the array of sick colouring made my hangover swell, I ended up walking out a happy bunny with a tea massala with soy milk in.  Lovely and spicy, but in a soothing way, I went on my merry way to moomin land. (I actually did. I love discovering new drinks.)

9.  Mulled wine season is upon us, and by God does this make me happy.  I stretch it out more than anyone I know, from now until February.  As I’m going to Berlin in December it will be my on call drink to warm up my hands and my cheeks.

10. Coffee Frescato – had a bad experience in Costa recently and so wrote a dedicated email of complaint, demonstrating my dismay at being given a Frescato of watery consistency with globs of powder and no friggin coffee beans.  If you’ve ever had one you’ll know the new recipe requires grinding the beans, and then you get a little nibble as well as a drink.  They are a slight nuisance when they get in your teeth, as you can’t shift them, but yummy they are.  Anyway they responded and gave me a £10 voucher for their coffee.  As I’d be crazy to go down the ice route at this time of year, though I had one last Saturday, I’m now resigned to sticking with the newish flat white, drink of the season for the time being.

The Caretaker by Harold Pinter at Oldham Coliseum

It’s been fifty years since this play was first performed at The Arts Theatre College in London, and seeing the play last night for the first time, at Oldham Coliseum, showed the timelessness of a good script. 

The play continued to weave its delightfully connotative web, gathering tittles of nervous laughter from the audience, as the subtleties within the play made it impossible to know where we were with the actual words themselves. 

The Coliseum Theatre is better known for sporting traditional panto, as an anticipated yearly fixture in the lives of Oldhamers, but they also offer challenge by embracing different forms of theatre.  Encapsulated in the spirit of Oldham town centre, this piece was a real belter, especially on a wet night in November. 

The London Classic Theatre have revived The Caretaker to be at the centrepiece of their 10 year anniversary and are currently touring with it.  Two original members of the cast remain, Nicholas Gasson as Davies and Richard Stemp as the older brother Aston, and now with John Dorney as Mick.  The acting was powerfully thought provoking, and I overheard two definite traditional pantomime lovers saying, “it was better than they thought it was going to be.”

The great thing about theatre is the capacity to challenge within a live space, you can’t just flick the switch to turn it off.   So when you’ve paid for your season ticket there’s only one choice, go along, and as you have to with a Pinter play, take from it what you will and question what you want.

This is the 6th play Pinter wrote for the stage, embracing the Theatre of the Absurd where all communication breaks down, the madness of men is shown and their desperate need for something. Yet, as the characters of The Caretaker show through their conversation and silence, that need will never be satisfied not even in a pair of shoes that fit.

The play is about “about two brothers and a caretaker,” which it is and all that goes with it. 

Davies is a slippery character who’s the least disturbing to me as I recognize him as more of a stock figure, although he really isn’t – it is only my mind trying to deal with the slipperiness of identity.   He slides revealing his real name is not “Bernard Jenkins”, his “assumed name”, but really “Mac Davies”

Davies makes excuse upon excuse why he can’t get his verification papers from Sidcup, this reassuringly makes him a recognizable type.  Aston is a more discreet character and I was convinced he was going to kill Davies, maybe he will.  I liked Aston, in fact I liked them all and grimaced at their shortfalls as they were splattered in deceit, both from the other characters and in the way that they convinced themselves of lies.  Aston, after being hospitalized for mental illness, whether he was or wasn’t ill, is now all about his shed, “I’ve often thought of going back and trying to find the man who did that to me. But I want to do something first. I want to build that shed out in the garden”

Mick, I understood the least, and am sure I misinterpreted, but my first impressions lingered showing a wide boy with a cracked up view of the world.

The play is a classic with so much remaining unsaid, but it is where the audience fills the gaps, the questions we ask and what we are left with.  I came away questioning, Why shouldn’t we?  Why should we?  What meaning do we make?  And can a man simply live just to build a shed?

Harold Pinter was born on 10 October 1930 in East London.  He wrote twenty-nine plays and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. He died on Christmas Eve 2008.


I recently volunteered for the Manchester Literature Festival, here are 2 posts.  Check out the site for other people’s reviews of the wealth of literary talent that was on display.

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