I always enjoy reading food blogs, especially when they’re local – but I was exceptionally chuffed to see Leeds Grub blog heading down our way to review Deli Central in Wakefield, just off the Bullring. More of that please!
Some time back my Gaggia Baby-D coffee machine died in a leaky can’t-maintain-pressure-and-piss-water-everywhere way. It was a sad loss mourned in our house given that Gaggia-the-company had also died and been taken over by Philips who weren’t honouring warranties, especially not on the ‘refurb’ unit I owned. I resorted to making espresso on the hob using my Italian espresso pot but I really missed the steamer and the convenience of it all.
Meantime, over on a UK techies maillist there was a discussion of bean-to-cup machines. Nicky and I had a few savings from birthdays and anniversaries and I talked her into letting me buy a DeLonghi-branded Magnifica ESAM4200. That was back in July; I figured I’d let the dust settle before I blogged any sort of review of it, but the short version is that I like it
It’s a nice unit, and tends to do everything for you including cleaning itself (an absolute boon as far as I’m concened – dismantling and cleaning the Gaggia was one of the onerous pains, especially since bits of it weren’t dishwasher-safe). Beans go in the hopper in the top, and it chucks out little coffee-poos into a box inside once finished.
It’s also fast – powerup to dispense is less than 30 seconds, and the steamer is ready within 15s from pressing ‘the button’. Thanks to this, if the daughter forgets to switch it on in a morning (the usual state of affairs) I can still grab a very quick coffee before work. In that regard, it’s quicker than the kettle if a little noisier with its ‘clunk’ and ‘whirr’ and ‘grrrtangfrrrrvvvv’.
As for coffee control itself, it’s pretty flexible – there’s the usual quantity and strength dials on the front, as well as a hidden knob to alter the grinder so the beans can be coarse or fine (I’ve left it on the default setting). It’s consistent and reliable, leaving a rather delicious-looking crema on the top every time. The coffee I’ve been using is the 1kg sacks of beans from CostCo (Starbucks brand) – although if you really want you can use pre-ground coffee just by moving the strength dial all the way back.
There’s a couple of things which are a bit tedious: the grinds disposal bin isn’t big enough so after six or seven shots it still needs emptying; similarly the water tank is a bit small (and it uses water on startup/shutdown to clean itself so doesn’t last very long). Keeping a jug or an old mug under the spout is mandatory as it dispenses a small amount of water whenever it cleans itself and the driptray could get full (and is more hassle to clean than a mug!). It’s a bit noisy, but the build quality is much better than the Gaggia though and seems to cope with the amount of coffee I require it to throw out on a daily basis.
It’s also important to set the water hardness correctly on installation – I waited (well, to be fair I didn’t read the instructions properly) and it nagged me for a descaler cycle after a month when it didn’t need it. Once that was triggered there was no way of telling it to stop nagging without doing a full descale which takes about an hour and requires the DeLonghi-specified descaler solution (or it invalidates your warranty).
If you want one of these units I’d recommend shopping around: for example, John Lewis list them at £399, but I managed to get it sub-£300 by going online to Amazon (though at time of writing they don’t seem to have any available direct). Still, recommended and seems to have been a good buy!
In short, it was utterly mindblowing and Wakefield did us proud (for the most part but we’ll get to that later). Six venues were involved on Saturday: Mustang Sally’s, The Hop, The Graziers, Wakefield Cathedral, Wakefield Town Hall and Henry Boon’s; you needed a wristband to get into each one, which involved forking out the pithy sum of £12 to see 40 acts throughout the day and evening. A phenomenal bargain when you consider some of the acts playing – hell, The Wedding Present would charge that for a single gig. It was all the brainchild of local fanzine editor Dean Freeman and local promoter Chris Morse (aka Morsey), both familiar faces on the scene and both of whom I enjoy a pint with occasionally.
For my initial involvement I’d volunteered to do photography together with a small team of friends – John J, Nicky and Laurie Cooper-Murray (of StageZero photography). Morsey knew I’d lit the Cathedral for the Dr Feelgood gig last year and asked if I’d do the same again for the acts there – no problem, but a few days before the festival started he also asked if I’d got a rig for the Town Hall too. Um, OK, in for a penny and all that
So Saturday came: the first job was rigging up the Town Hall. I got there with Ellie at about 9:30am to find nobody around and the stage in bits… turns out everyone was already running a little bit late! Middy, Harry and the StagePro chaps (who were doing sound for all the venues) showed up presently and I lent a hand lugging stuff around before I had to disappear to deliver Ellie to orchestra practice. Home for a quick shower and change of shirt and I’m off in with the camera kit to get started, calling at The Hop to pick up a press pass and my yellow Long Division t-shirt (photo courtesy of John J).
First band I saw was Blood Oranges, catchy indie-pop up at the Town Hall. Nice guys, very enjoyable and I was pleasantly surprised how many people were there from the start – the Kingswood Suite was almost full already and some foot-tapping going on. Good one. This also gave me a chance to get the lighting right and take the first photos of the day in a non-stressful atmosphere. Earplugs in and off we go!
I figured I should get used to the headline venue, Mustang Sally’s, so strolled down there to catch The Finnlys – again, jangly guitar indie but I find it hard to take a band seriously when the lead singer looks like Roy out of The IT Crowd. The red saturation in the venue was horrendous (quite probably the worst conditions in which I’ve found myself shooting) and we’d already had a stipulation of ‘no flash’ – I did try a couple early on to see what it’d be like but really it was absolutely awful.
The next band on my list was Dinosaur Pile Up. Last time these guys were on at The Hop, John had photographed them and said they were loud – bizarrely this time round they were quieter! This was a distinction which didn’t carry through the rest of the bands upstairs at The Hop: despite sound engineer Tom’s efforts the new PA rig is just a bit too loud for that small room I think. Some work needed.
Once I’d got enough shots there I wandered down to the Graziers (stopping in at the Bull & Fairhouse en-route for a sneaky half-pint with Lisa the landlady). I’ve not photographed down there before and was surprised to find a full stage although there was no lighting which reduced me to the sole gig where I had to resort to flashgun. On-stage was Standaloft, a young rapper beatboxing various comedic songs (and some not so comedic) along to a backing on an iPod. I was pretty impressed actually, not usually my cup of tea but songs which wouldn’t be out-of-place in Joel Veitch‘s repertoire.
A stroll back down to catch my only act at Henry Boon’s: a lass called Clemence Freschard backed by various members of David Tattersall’s band The Wave Pictures. It was packed in there and very little air circulation but I stayed long enough to grab some shots and listen to her singing. Very pleasant stuff, made even more pleasant by the French accent (via Berlin, apparently) – I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. Both Laurie and I didn’t last in there cramped in a corner and disappeared off to the bar to find a quiet half-pint – how the heck Nicky managed to do the whole set of The Wave Pictures themselves I don’t know.
The Wind-Up Birds weren’t on the Long Division band page so I was largely in the dark regarding their style when they hit the stage up at Mustang’s. Not too shabby, quite similar in style to the Cardiacs (the lead singer bore more than a passing resemblance to Cardiacs frontman Tim Smith) and they played an extended set as the subsequent act had pulled out.
I left in time to get up to the Town Hall for one of the bands I definitely didn’t want to miss: Fonda 500. Both John and I had been seriously impressed with this lot when they visited The Hop earlier in the year and we expected a treat. Unfortunately, although the band went through the motions I don’t think the lead singer really wanted to be there and seemed out of sorts consistently stating that ‘this might be our last song’ after the first couple. Boo. Don’t let this minor aberration stop you from seeing them in the future though!
It was at this point I’d got it noted down to go to the Cathedral and set the lighting up for Emmy The Great. Lots of folks told me to try and catch her, and I was fortunate to find the band were soundchecking when I arrived. As I cabled the lights around them I got my own little show which was lovely and I resolved to go back later on and catch at least some of her set. A wander back up Westgate via Subway for a hurried tea, getting goosed by Rachel of Chat Noir who was on a hunt for cheap vodka.
The next ‘must-see’ was Darwin Deez. Pete Fabs (he of Obvious Pseudonym) told me of their stage antics, and they really did not disappoint: choreographed dance moves between toe-tapping bittersweet songs, and the venue was packed out for it. Photogenic guy, I stopped for the entire set and bought the album on my way out: not the first Amazon 1-click iPhone order of the day, certainly not the last.
Back to the Town Hall for I Like Trains. I was still a bit worried about the lighting rig falling over as it was wobbling a bit, but this particular band were somewhat gentler. There wasn’t much illumination to the front of the stage by now owing to closed curtains and some fading light but a few fisheye shots were squeezed out and then dashed back to Mustangs to catch Piskie Sits.
Well that was the plan anyway. I got there to see Harry and co soundchecking but was distracted by Morsey waving frantically from the other end of the stage to check my phone which read “urgent sarah needs photos at hop quick”. I made a swift exit and dashed across Westgate narrowly avoiding the Saturday traffic where landlord Ian Fisher was waiting for me, “the sponsor for upstairs needs photos, it’s a condition of the sponsorship, it’s rammed up there though…” – hardly surprising since the next act was Los Campesinos! and even I’ve heard of them.
The thought process went something like this: “250 people, I reckon, all squished into a room which wasn’t designed for 250 people. Hardly any aircon, windows wide open. I look across the venue to where I need to stand, co-photographer Jon Pinder has chosen the easy corner near the door and I need to get to the other side. Urgh. Right. Excuse me please mate, can I just get thr… what the f…” I felt myself being bodily lifted up, camera kit and all, raised aloft on a sea of wristbanded hands. It’s years since I last crowdsurfed and at the age of 37 I wasn’t really prepared to do it again. Too bad, the only thing going through my mind was “Er, crap, there’s a wide open window coming towards me, and we’re on the first floor!” – so I nosedived, landed head-first on the aluminium crowdbarrier and almost hoofed the poor teenager behind me in her mush with my boot. But there I was – I grabbed the required crowd photos plus some of Los Campesinos! themselves and reversed the process to get to the door (which was, mercifully, a lot easier).
At that point I’d guess it was around 8:30pm. The Piskies were still on at Mustangs but I had a stinker of a headache by that point, almost a migraine. I wandered outside The Hop and bumped into Dean (Freeman) who commented I didn’t look too well, but I needed to man up and get the Piskies on their largest stage gig. Back at Mustangs the lighting hadn’t improved but there were quite a few folks watching the band, mostly stragglers from the Darwins set or who had arrived early for The Wedding Present. Long-standing drinking buddy Bez had arrived by then and bought me a beer which did nothing to improve the migraine situation but rehydrated me enough to get the shots I needed in the final two songs of their set.
A wander back to the Cathedral to listen to some of Emmy The Great with Laurie. Both Nicky and John were already there: I’d missed a lot of the set plus this migraine was really kicking in by now. Laurie had suggested I chug a can of full-fat Coke and some ibuprofen which seemed to do the trick at least temporarily: I soaked in the beautiful sounds in the Cathedral while dumping off some photos onto the netbook hard disk as I’d run out of CF (or at least the non-Kingston CF, and remember the last time I used those). Some quiet long-lens photos of Emmy, some relaxation, and then I was raring to go again.
Headliners The Wedding Present were trumpeted, not least because it was their first visit to Wakefield in 20 years. I arrived at Mustangs after the set had started and annoyingly I’d already missed my favourite Weddos song ‘Kennedy’. The sound wasn’t fantastic but quite literally the joint was jumping – too much in fact and the bouncers kicked off at the poor punters. While bearing in mind that the bouncers are usually used to a raucous Saturday night Wakefield crowd they were completely out of order – any exuberant pogoing and you got ejected out the back door with a few well-aimed punches from the door-staff at the same time. Very very sad and put a damper on what was otherwise a fantastic day. For my part I was right above where the bouncers were kicking off and managed to get a couple of photos of the ruckus but nothing useful. The gig was stopped while the bouncers were ejected from the premises – I mean, it must be bad for the security staff to get thrown out of the gig they’re meant to be policing!
After all of that, Gedge and co went back on, I took lots more photos, it was pretty good, and once they’d finished I went back outside to find Saturday-night Westgate in its typical unsurprising state of pissed-up perma-tan tarts and Ben Sherman meatheads. A bit of a scene-change. John, Laurie, Jon P, Nicky and I decided it was time for a hard-earned pint and repaired to The Jam Inn (the new chillout bit of The Hop) for a jar of Yorkshire Blonde and a chinwag. Hardcore to the last, Laurie caught Middleman (as they’re “his” band) but I was just too knackered and I’ve seen them before a few times anyway.
So that was my Saturday. We gigged on the Sunday but that was about it – I’d planned some more photos from the Fringe but was just too shattered and I’d got over 20,000 photos to sort through. There’s some good reviews of it all including this one at Sweeping The Nation and Dean’s account of the day from an organiser’s perspective (just in case you think I nicked his idea for this blog, I actually started writing it the day after the festival… best laid plans though, I’ve had a lot of photos to sort and I forgot to take the following Monday off work!).
A selection of photos from the day are being uploaded to my Long Division set on Flickr and there’s some pics from other photographers in the Long Division Flickr Group. Full sets of bands are gradually going up to photos.jml.net as I’m sorting through them. Should be finished in the next few days hopefully.
(A postscript: Monday morning came and a delivery van showed up with a large box of CDs. The moral? Multi-venue festivals and iPhone Amazon 1-click don’t mix. Ouch.)
Nicky and I went to see U2 live last night at Don Valley Stadium, Sheffield. Predicted to be a rather special event with 50,000 of their close mates, we were rather excited and Nicky even wore her Vertigo 2005 t-shirt.
Given I work quite far away on the other side of Leeds I took the train down to Meadowhall (a shopping centre near the M1) where I would meet Nicky and the local tram network could take us to the station. We duly hooked up and had dinner at Yo! before wandering to the transport exchange.
It was mental – long long queues stretching out of the tram terminus itself and snaking round the bus station. Consequently after about 5 minutes we thought ‘sod this’ and walked the mile and a half to the stadium.
We arrived in the middle of a set by local band The Hours, who were OK, and chose a good vantage point (pic here). Principal support came from Manchester-based Elbow – I’d be tempted to think a lot of their stuff was same-y but it sounded good and got the crowd singing along, considering catching them live maybe when headlining at some point.
On came U2 around 8:30pm – I didn’t recognise some of the initial songs, possibly because I’ve hardly listened to the new album, but it didn’t make it any less enjoyable. There was a fair stab at the full card rather than concentrating on the more recent stuff: songs like Sunday Bloody Sunday of course and
The staging was frankly awesome – a five-storey high arrangement in-the-round. The video screen looked like a giant cone and in the precursor to City Of Blinding Lights it expanded out into a giant colander style affair (there’s a pic on U2′s official site here). Actually that doesn’t do it justice, there was a huge spike with a glitter-ball atop – a light show which ranks this gig as the best staged of all time. The band themselves were mobile – they must have been spread at least 30m apart at one point and the drumkit was on a turntable which rotated at various points during the performance.
Having seen U2 before (at Twickenham in 2005) I think this gig was better: it appeared more ‘intimate’ with various bits of chattiness and local quips and felt less ‘preachy’ (something you come to expect from Bono at least). I’m not meaning to put down the charity efforts and the awareness campaigns, but it can be a little too much sometimes… especially at £22 a t-shirt! That’s one way of making poverty history I suppose, I just didn’t expect us to be alleviating Bono’s poverty in that way
While we’re on the subject of money you won’t hear me say this often but I think the ticket cover price of £55 was worth it. The sound quality was outstanding, there were no idiots in front of us taking photos of mobile phones throughout the performance, the average audience age looked to be around 35 and consequently there were fairly few people pogo-ing and smashing into everyone else. The weather held up with clear skies and a slight breeze into the evening. We enjoyed it, it was a damn good show and a lovely experience.
Back at the car after walking to Meadowhell again we fought our way out onto the M1 in just over an hour, returning home by 1am thanks to a few shortcuts through the backwaters of Meadowhell’s carpark network (memo to self: park near the ramp next time).
By this morning a few MP3 copies of the gig had appeared online, ripped from the live Internet audio stream – I’ll have to try and obtain a copy. I suppose I’d better listen to the new album too…
e2a: Twickenham was 2005 not 1995, and there was a spelling mistake. I could go work for the Grauniad, me.
And so last night we went to see the Pet Shop Boys in Manchester, at the Apollo theatre. This was one of two gigs planned in the UK on the Pandemonium tour celebrating their Brits Lifetime Achievement award together with the release of their latest album Yes.
I don’t mind the Apollo as a venue. The sound is usually pretty good (I’ve seen a few acts there including Kraftwerk and The B-52s), there’s a reasonable pub next to where everyone queues, there’s designated areas for aisles, and the loos are kept clean. We were standing down near the stage, probably about 3 or 4 rows back (principally thanks to Mel pushing her way through – an expert in this I think, I’m probably just too polite to try that).
The support act was Frankmusik: I’d never even heard of this guy but wasn’t impressed. The sound production was horrendous, too bass-heavy and you couldn’t really hear any of the keyboard. I suspect it would have been OK-ish if it’d been produced properly yet when I nipped to the loo halfway through the act the gents was full of blokes saying ‘this is rotten, wish I’d stayed in the pub’.
The stage itself was, er, minimal. Or at least it looked so – two stacks of white carton boxes, and a little kitchenette-style place for Chris Lowe to stand with his synthesisers. Over the top peeked an Apple studio display, a Moog Voyager and a couple of drum-pad triggers. At the other end of the stage could be glimpsed another keyboard and a trumpet; roadies dressed in white lab coats and white hard-hats milled around occasionally.
And so onto the Pet Shop Boys. The lights dim, two dancers appear, Neil and Chris come out from behind the white cartons wearing coloured boxes on their heads and we’re into a bass-heavy remix of What Have I Done To Deserve This?. So far, so typically PSB!
The set list featured the entire range of hits, medleys of soundbites (sometimes odd little bits which were only noticeable by the hardcore fans), some surprises (Two Divided By Zero from the Please album, Do I Have To? which was the B-side of the original Always On My Mind 7″ single). An interesting addition was the introduction to …Zero which directly sampled Kraftwerk’s remix track Numbers (latterly from The Mix). In any case, it was a haphazard mix of elements of almost everything they’ve done, a luxury of having a massive back catalogue – and it worked brilliantly.
The minimal staging didn’t last long. During the course of Building A Wall the cartons cascaded down ad-hoc to reveal an even larger back wall, and cartons all over the stage giving the impression of a huge rubble stack. Wow. Chris Lowe’s ‘kitchenette’ lit up in something akin to an up-ended disco dancefloor (or perhaps a massive Rubik’s Cube).
One common element of PSB gigs is the dancers, and these didn’t disappoint: muscular supple accompaniments to each song, with Jealousy and Go West in particular standing out. The white cartons were used for building, throwing, climbing… everything really, all while projections cast video over the scenes. Costume changes every few songs, silver heart-balloons, and two huge glitter-cannons showering the audience towards the end of It’s A Sin (we were picking glitter-strips out of each other’s hair and clothes all the way back to the car).
So what didn’t happen? Notable by their absence were Where The Streets Have No Name and Paninaro (although the introductory timpani was used to introduce Go West – Chris playing drum pads to trigger all sorts of samples as opposed to just having the keyboard and screen as on past tours). Neil’s flambuoyant outfits complemented the scenes (how the heck he switches so fast is a mystery to me), and although Chris came out to join the dancers for a short time, he didn’t sing or say anything – not even miked up this time. So no Paninaro.
It was truly an excellent gig, one of the most enjoyable. The only downside was the badly produced bass which spoiled Being Boring for me, although really that hasn’t stopped me booking tickets already for the gig at the MEN Arena on 20th December. See you there.
Waiting For Godot is one of those plays my father attempted to get through my thick skull when I was young. I remember sitting through a version of it as part of a Beckett television season sometime in the mid-80s and being bored stiff – pretty much how I viewed Hamlet last year.
So, being honest, it was my wife’s excitement and the rather excellent cast which drove me to obtain tickets to see the West End staging of the play last weekend. Of course we had already seen Patrick Stewart in Hamlet (here playing Didi), but he was joined by Ian McKellern (as Gogo), Simon Callow (as Pozzo) and Ronald Pickup (as Lucky).
(Sidenote: Godot itself has been discussed to death elsewhere by people much more qualified than I to give reasoned opinion, so please don’t expect philosophical discourse!)
First off, Ian McKellern was wonderful. I realise Beckett wrote some quite precise stage direction but it was carried off with perfect comic timing. His voice and mannerisms where absolutely spot on. There is little more I can say about that, but I am exceptionally glad I have now seen him on stage.
Simon Callow as Pozzo played, er, Simon Callow. Or maybe Pozzo played Simon Callow playing Pozzo. Or… I don’t know – the role was so suited that it could be any variant really, a role that commanded the bluster for which Callow is so famed.
Lucky’s single soliliquy I suspect is quite difficult to perform (not to say I wouldn’t mind a go) but Ron Pickup did it bang on as well.
Then Patrick Stewart – I’ve not seen him do any comic acting (aside from the odd comedy episode on Star Trek but I feel that doesn’t really count). It was just the right mix of comedy and tragedy in the part although maybe on reflection I felt he hammed it a little at the end of the first half. Nothing to be done.
To be honest, I’m now tempted to dig out the 1977 version (which may have been the one I saw back in the mid-80s on television) and view it with fresh eyes.
Anyway, I suspect the run is sold out now but you should really go and catch it – try and sit fairly centrally in the theatre though as quite a lot of ‘the action’ takes place towards the wings (we were sat at the side of the Royal Circle which meant some rubber-necking and craning was inevitable).
Last Sunday we went to the National Railway Museum in York – not to visit the museum, but to see the York Theatre Royal production of The Railway Children (website here). Most folks are familiar with the book, the film, the made-for-TV remake, however this is the first time I’ve seen a stage version of it and it was most enjoyable.
Firstly, it’s a new adaptation by Mike Kenny. It’s written from the point-of-view of the children narrating the story (presumably retelling as adults, although this is never really established), and features the occasional argument (“No, it happened like this…” “Perhaps you want to tell this bit…” “I’m sure that never happened…”) making it all the more fun. The children feature of course but they’re all played by adults.
This brings us onto the cast – a fabulous line-up with several familiar faces: Marshall Lancaster plays the amiable Mr Perks the stationmaster (the Bernard Cribbins role in the film), an actor who is best known as being DC Skelton in Ashes To Ashes and Life On Mars; Sarah Quintrell (Carrie & Barrie) plays Bobby; Colin Tarrant played Inspector Monroe for 12 years in The Bill… the list goes on. Of course, we turned up to see Robin Simpson – he’s Nicky’s cousin you see
And then there’s the staging. The production takes place vaguely ‘in the round’ – the audience sit on either side (“Platform 1″ and “Platform 2″), with a track running through the centre, across which platforms are wheeled to create several levels – the museum are also very fond of saying that it features a ‘real live steam train’, in this case an 1870 Sterling Single engine, although it makes very brief appearances. At one end of the ‘station’ is a footbridge, and at the other end a ‘tunnel’.
This makes for a fantastic experience! The acting is flawless, the are no ‘curtains’ giving the cast an opportunity to interact with the audience as they enter and exit; the staging is imaginative and even fast flashing lights make us believe an express train is passing through Howarth; the humour and seriousness of each character is perfectly timed. As a measure of how good it is, the play kept both our children transfixed for almost two and a half hours, and left tears in my eyes as the train pulled back out to leave a silhouette of Father in the steam on the platform.
If you’re at a loose end and anywhere near York, make a special trip. It’s on until 23rd August and you can book here – there’s no chance of it transferring anywhere else, it’s been specially designed. Well worth a visit, and if you don’t believe me then read some more reviews.
Wandering up into Clapham Junction this morning to find breakfast I discovered Jack’s Cafe, where for £3.50 I got a full English breakfast and unlimited mugs of tea. Well worth a visit if you’re at a loose end first thing in the morning.
The best review I’ve seen so far – and the least “ooh look it’s Dr Who!” – has been over at The Independent, and Nicky found an article regarding the dialogue cuts which have been criticized in some reviews.
(My scribblings based on the preview we saw before the press launch are here, nyah nyah we saw it before you, etc.etc. ).
The main reason we came to Stratford-upon-Avon this weekend was to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet. It was intended to be a wedding anniversary weekend away for myself and Nicky, albeit a late one since the run didn’t start until this week (and then only in preview). We even joined the RSC to be in with a pre-sale chance of tickets.
The verdict? In short: “Wow”.
The cast is phenomenal. Aside from the much-publicised appearance of David Tennant as Hamlet, the company also featured Patrick Stewart in the role of Claudius (King of Denmark), Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius, and Penny Downie as Gertrude. Other faces were familiar from a variety of film and television roles making the strongest cast I think I’ve ever seen in a production.
I’d seen Hamlet before, produced by a troupe in Castleford of all places – my father took me to see it when I was 12ish I think and I recall hardly understanding it, getting bored and falling asleep. No danger of that here: despite the play being three and a half hours long in total we were continually hanging on the continued tragedy and fall of Hamlet into insanity, the madness and subsequent suicide of Ophelia, the calculation of Claudius and the geriatric amusement of Polonius. This is the sort of production English pupils should see – not the forced reading aloud of cobwebbed books by reluctant children in a classroom (shame on you Mrs Illingworth)!
Despite having a native Scottish brogue, Tennant himself used his ‘television English’ voice which I wasn’t expecting, although it was really very effective. Nicky pointed out it would have been rather odd to have him speaking a different accent to the rest of the company and it may have made some of the 17th-century turn of phrase hard to understand.
Yeah OK, he’s typecast and as a result there are a lot of fans coming to see “David Tennant as Dr Who”. Talking with the barman prior to the performance, he said that it’s fairly easy to tell them because they get bored when he’s not on-stage, fall asleep or yawn. That said I was so wrapped up in the play that I didn’t notice save for the first few minutes of the second half.
The run is sold out, but there are limited numbers of returns available from the box office. If you can get there, go. It’s off to London after this run, there may be tickets still available there.