Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Big Light!

This was written in London at 1.48 am January 1st 2017 – in Los Angeles it is still in the afternoon – 5.48pm.
Happy New Year - Feliz año nuevo.
I remember many years ago – many many years ago – when I was about 20 and still living at home; in fact I was 20. We threw a party and when we threw a party we really did; plenty of ice cream, jelly, custard, cake and lashings of ginger beer!
Well no it wasn't exactly like that; it might have been the year when I had my picture – in full colour – on the front of one of the local newspapers in fact it was, I just looked it up.

There it is, above, and the others in it are my brother (left), a pal called Dave, and the one on the side of the pool was a workmate of my brudder. You've probably seen it before.
I am the one with my mouth open – I had just got in to the pool and the water was cold, hence the grimace which the photographer caught at the right moment which is why it was promoted to the front page. Scene stealing even at that age!
The girl that I ended up with, for a short while anyway, was the one on the left, of the 3 but unfortunately I have forgotten her name. We only went out together for a very short time in any case.
The photo was taken in Wales and we didn't know the girls till this photo was taken but found out that they lived in the same city as we did – Birmingham so dated them there.
Now that was a big digression as it's nothing to do with the party I opened with but I would like to say no I haven't saved the newspaper for all these years, Dave (from the photo) gave me a copy when he came with a few friends to see one of my shows when I came over from Los Angeles to London about 10 years, or so, ago.
So back to the party: as we were living at home we had the party when les parents went out for the night.
Booze was bought, plenty of finger food, the lights were low and various guests sat around in the salubrious surroundings of our sitting room. Music played, not loud rock, but mood music and maybe that was even by Glenn Miller and maybe it was Moonlight Serenade as I had seen all Jack Lemmon's movies in which he was invariably in a bachelor pad in New York, bringing girls back to seduce to the sweet strains of Moonlight Serenade or similar music.
It was in the days when smoking was fashionable and the room was full of smoke and a great ambiance was created.
Saxophones played, trombones augmented and there was a great trumpet solo but out of the corner of my eye I noticed the door opening and a hand moving to the light switch – YES!!!!
The ambiance disappeared as quickly as Sunderland supporters exiting from the football stadium whenever their team was losing.
Mam and Dad stood in the door frame; their evening out had been cancelled and my dad would always have to have the big light on – I don't know why he put it on at that moment but he probably thought that teenagers and their parents were supposed to annoy each other and THE BIG LIGHT would do the trick.
It certainly did.
The party broke up and everybody went home; they started to troop off as soon as the television went on and I think we went to the pub.
Now at this lofty age I empathize a bit more as the older you get the harder it is to see in the dark; salubrious lighting is good to watch TV but not to read.
Many years have gone by since then but at that precise moment, the moment when my dad touched the light switch, he was in charge; he was the main man and the man of the house and all that the 1960s stood for; he wanted to come home and be comfortable and get everybody out. He liked a party, a drink and a sing song but not our kind of party.
Since then he saw the big light in the sky and drifted towards it and so did my mother when they both shuffled off their mortal coils.
I often wonder what they would have made of the Internet and the Intranet and the iPads and tablets and all the other paraphernalia that has made nearly all GPs in this country prescribe Vitamin 'D' tablets to most of their patients due to the lack of sunshine and fresh air.
What'll be next? Rickets?
2016 has been a year of the BIG LIGHT for a lot of famous people. A lot of pop singers, actors and other notorious personalities but have you ever asked yourself why?
Well in the 50s right up to the mid 70s in the UK there were only a few channels on television. And up until 1967 there were no network pop music stations. Pirate radio existed, of course, but you needed to live near the coast to hear them, as most of the stations were on ships surrounding the British Isles.
The other source of music came from squeaky Radio Luxembourg.
Popular at the time was music by artists born around the 1930s; that was 86 years ago. Those artists became more famous than any of the artists before or since. These days there are so many outlets on TV and radio that you can become really famous in Wales, or Yorkshire or even Scotland and Ireland and nobody outside those areas will have heard of you. I mean who is the most popular deejay in any of those places?
Before the 50s and people like James Dean, teenagers were insignificant, in fact it was said that James Dean was the first teenager – even though he was in his 20s.
There was a sudden change when teenagers had more disposable income than in the past. In the UK their parents had no disposable income – get up, go to work, come home, cook and sleep. Then the same the next day – I repeat NO disposable income. The average Joe Bloggs would put everything on the never never; hire purchase, terms – you name it. It is all described in the excellent novel Live Now Pay Later by Jack Trevor Story. I got to know Jack very well in the 70s and later played his father in a TV series called Jack on the Box – he was a chancer and a bankrupt and just the kind of person I like.
Jack Trevor Story.
So for the next so many years we are going to say goodbye to all our heroes if they were born in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s – sad but true. One or two will last longer and one or two will die younger than average.
I mean Chuck Berry is 90, Jerry Lee Lewis around 85 and so is Little Richard!
The first baby boomers were born around 1945 and even though we are living longer and crashing into prostate cancer and/or dementia we will all be gone by the time Halley's Comet comes around again.
and the guitar solo at 40 seconds is great.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

An Urge to Utter - 2016

I was listening to the radio the other day and the programme was about Harriet Martineau who, from a non-conformist background in Norwich, became one of the best known writers from the nineteenth century.
It doesn't say much about me when I say I hadn't heard of her. But that would be the same to the person in Liverpool who, having heard I was an actor, made it quite clear, and told me so, that she had never heard of me.
Harriet Martineau followed, what is called, neccessitarianism* and had an urge to utter.
Yes – an urge to utter.
I probably have that urge, which is why I write on here now and again. Lots of us have urges to utter and I heard a famous poet on the radio who said that she has been planning a novel for years. You've heard plenty of people say that so what stops them? They have the urge to utter but don't want to be judged too harshly so, even though they write columns and poetry they don't want to be judged for anything of length just in case it's no good.
Harriet Martineau was very controversial and was an early feminist although it seems rather a late date to be an early feminist when the earth has been here for many millions of years. The older you think it is the less religion means to you.
But it's both easy and hard to realise just what a necessitarian actually is; maybe it is someone who looks out to the universe and accepts all the messages they get from it and acts accordingly doing what is necessary - or gets locked up for being a danger to themselves and other people.
Maybe that's why Trump was elected and not Clinton and Brexit was voted for when it seemed that sensible people were voting to remain in the European Community.
In both cases people went in to the polling booth with a pin and stuck it into the space where their hand was guided as if from Mars (what is necessary) – that's the only excuse I can think.
Someone said on the BBC World Service the other night, that in a few months time people will say they saw what was happening and they knew Trump would win. Well . . . .
I know that when I have looked at elections – and I lived in America for five presidential elections – I have noticed that as soon as one of the candidates finds a catch phrase they win. It doesn't happen all the time as with John Kerry when he said help is on the way – it just wasn't good enough to beat Bush who was the sitting president.
Al Gore wouldn't seek the help of President Bill Clinton as he was a bit puritanical and didn't want to be associated with a president who had been impeached even though he was found not guilty, but that catch phrase was there; this time it was fuzzy math when Bush retaliated to Gore's maths.
So as soon as I heard that the catch phrase “inherited from the Labour Government” I knew the Conservatives were going to win each time they have used it. You see each time a catch phrase is used the party or person it is used against doesn't question it; and they should.
In the referendum – a plebiscite which was never ever used here before 1974 – as soon as the leave campaign started saying take back control I knew it was all over. Nobody answered it.
At the moment the government here is trying to take back all the rights we had before the referendum – we already had those rights so why vote to leave? Oh yes!! The same disease America has – immigration. In a country where everybody is an immigrant they were swayed by Trump's rhetoric, the leave campaigners here were swayed by a really evil person called Nigel Farage who warned that millions and millions of immigrants would want to come and live in Britain. Farage is one of those opportunist people that history throws up now and again; the gang of four (here) who left the Labour Party in 1983 to form an alliance with the Liberal Party. (Liberal here, by the way, is not the same as in America but is middle of the road). They were opportunists but as soon as they actually took the opportunity in 2010 and joined with the conservatives it was their death knell as they lost nearly all their seats in the commons last year in the General Election.
As to Trump, he used the same popularist speeches that some people may have had at the back of their minds; people whom you might scratch and they'd be racist. The 'Donald' wasn't in a straight jacket and dictated to by PR men and women or the men in grey suits he was himself. Hillary Clinton wasn't. I noticed two leaders of the Labour Party giving great speeches recently – Ed Milliand and Gordon Brown – but when they were leaders they were puppets.
I am totally against Trump I don't think he has any of the qualifications for the job but he is good on television and that's why he won.
But the good people in America will vote for anything: I remember three years after I moved there, there was an election for the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. The man in office was a certain Sheriff Sherman Block and he was challenged by Lee Baca. The first time the election took place there was no majority so they had to have a 'run off.'
A few days before the second election was to happen the 74 year old Sheriff Block, fell in his bathroom and died.
The run off election took place in November 1998 even though Sheriff Block had died on October 1998. Instead of cancelling the election the authorities allowed it to go ahead and seven hundred and three thousand, one hundred and seventy eight people voted for a dead man. Seven hundred and three thousand, one hundred and seventy eight people.
This year – 2016 – over seventeen million people in Great Britian – seventeen million turkeys, or Santa Clauses voted to cancel Christmas. In other words voted to leave The Common Market or, as it is now called, The European Community. Since then it has been mentioned on the news and in news and current affairs programmes every day – every single day.
And that's the way we end the year – not knowing what we want and we leave 2016 knowing that we lost some great people and the greatest of them all.
Mohamed Ali.

* Necessitarianism is a metaphysical principle that denies all mere possibility; there is exactly one way for the world to be.
It is the strongest member of a family of principles, including hard determinism, each of which deny libertarian free will, reasoning that human actions are predetermined by external or internal antecedents. Necessitarianism is stronger than hard determinism, because even the hard determinist would grant that the causal chain constituting the world might have been different as a whole, even though each member of that series could not have been different, given its antecedent causes.
Anthony Collins was the foremost defender of Necessitarianism. His brief Inquiry Concerning Human Liberty (1715) was a key statement of the determinist standpoint.
The Century Dictionary defined it in 1889–91 as belief that the will is not free, but instead subject to external antecedent causes or natural laws of cause and effect.

Friday, November 11, 2016

from the beauty of Kennedy to the Trump waxworks.

I looked in the garden today as the whole country fell silent for the two minute tribute to those lost in wars and conflicts. In the distance there was a pigeon, which appeared to be standing up right in respect as not a word was (or a squeak) spoken. Not even the sound of a child in the distance was heard and the birds gathered around a kind of toadstool out there, eating the bits of scraps we sometimes leave there. Yesterday about twenty gulls must have flown in from the coast with the biggest actually on top of the toadstool; you can just about see it, above, near the base of one of the trees. Sorry the photo isn't that clear.
When the two minutes of silence were up, a shot was fired and all the birds flew away.
From a couple of places they flew in flocks and there was a lot of tiny bird activity too.
This year is also the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme; on the day it started, in July,1916, 20,000 men were killed.
Stop and think about that number.
A few seconds before the first shot was fired, at the Somme, there must have been a lot of bird activity but as soon as it was fired and heard by those birds the Somme must have fallen as silent as our garden did today at 11.02 am and the dawn chorus wasn't heard again till November; four months and over one million killed and wounded. One of those was my granddad, who survived, and no matter how we remember them, and old soldiers remember the battle, it was all for nothing.
Or maybe it brought Europe together eventually, after another war twenty years later, when the Common Market was formed and instead of fighting we all started working and living in each other's countries where we lived and played together in harmony – but you don't believe that do you?
The preachers of hate wanted us out.
When I was listening to the silence, and not John Cage's (4'33”), I thought of the presidential election; the presidential election of 1960 when John Kennedy won and moved his beautiful family in to the White House (Casablanca?) in January 1961; where it would continue the curse that befell them and continued right up to the time when we lived there when John Jr was killed.
But I remember Kennedy's inauguration and the tears in my mother's eyes as Kennedy was an Irish man – Roman Catholic and handsome. I even remember some of his campaigning as he had a profile on his publicity photos on the posters showing the parting in his hair; or the part, as they call it in America.
I knew nothing of his opponent, Nixon, or the arrangement made by Kennedy's crook of a father with Sam Giancana of the Mafia to 'buy Chicago' for his son I just knew that Camelot was moving in to the White House.
But I also remember the tears of pain in my mother's eyes as they laid him to rest after Oswald shot him – and that gave rise to a whole lot of paranoiac conspiracy theories which has made millions for the promoters of such bullshit.

But now, instead of the Camelot of the Kennedys and the beauty and intellegence of the Obamas we have the waxworks of the Trumps – Gawd 'elp us!!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bye Bye Bobby Vee, Strictly and Bake Off.

Look at my desk – up there! - just look at it. I've been so busy I haven't – or hadn't – the time to even clear it. I finished my play and went in to something straight away so just didn't get around to it.
Actually it doesn't look too bad in the photo but between the scanner and the printer there is every draft of my script, various cables, little junctions (or adapters or whatever), blank CDs, blank DVDs and a feather.
So that's why I haven't written a post lately.
What intrigued me, though, was even though I hadn't published a post since September 3, I still get about 30 – 35 views per day; yesterday it was 118 page views, so who are those people who keep faithfully following – or following faithfully? Here look:

and you can see here where a lot of them are going to:

Quite a few things have happened since the last post. Nissan have decided to build two models of their vehicles, in Sunderland, which will make the workforce happy who were devastated by a person called Thatcher some years ago. 
Of course it's not some kind of philanthropic act, the pound is down so they will build the cars from their sterling account and sell them for dollars.
The other thing - Bobby Vee died.
That was a blow, those were my teenage years.
I have liked a lot of music over the years from straight pop right through The Beatles to grand opera and classics such as La bohème and Philip Glass, and jazz like Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis, but there is nothing to compare with a great guitar by Jimmy Reed or Ike Turner. Nothing; but none of it was as much fun as Bobby Vee who was heavily influenced by Buddy Holly. 
Bobby Vee, Billy Fury and all that fun. All gone.
That pop music of the late 50s and early 60s is totally unbeatable.
I remember a girl once – actually she was a dental nurse - who picked a fine time to chat me up, when I was about sixteen. 
She asked me if I liked Frank Sinatra as she had a couple of tickets to see him live, and what did I say? 'I like Bobby Vee.'
I could see her attitude change in a moment – 'who is the bozo who prefers Bobby Vee to Frank Sinatra?' 
Well I did but, since those days, I like Frank Sinatra too.
Amongst other things going on over here is a pop singer had a hissy fit when one of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing gave him a bad review and he walked off never to be seen or heard from again.
Maybe he wanted more money – but from the BBC I couldn't see that happening. I know the dancers don't get very much on that show as they complain, when you meet them, but I should imagine the stars get quite a bit. Not as much as some of the other reality shows that go out on ITV where, in Celebrity Big Brother and I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here go up to about half a million – each – depending on your agent. 
When you consider it though they are long jobs and the real reason professionals do it is to promote themselves.
Half a million is above average but Ann Widdecombe was offered three times that to do I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
A politician called Ann Widdecombe, or words to that effect, was on Strictly Come Dancing a number of years ago and at the moment she is working on a cruise giving two lectures, one on politics and one on Strictly Come Dancing and they are both standing room only. Actors and actresses who have appeared on these shows have done quite well for work afterwards but it's really like selling your soul to the devil and in Ann Widdecombe's place her sole!!
Two of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing do the show live on a Saturday evening here, record the show that goes out on Sunday evening straight after it, then fly out to Los Angeles on Sundays to work on the American version Dancing with the Stars which goes out on Monday evenings (live) and then again they record the results show as soon as the votes are in.
The other show here is The Great British Bake Off, again on the BBC so not much money there again. The series has been bought from the producers by Channel 4 so the BBC have lost out. The chief host is going with it to Ch 4 for many wheel barrows of money leaving the BBC to work on a new show, a rival.
The only thing they (Ch4) haven't taken in to consideration is you can't copyright a format – only the title – so we'll see.
I don't like food shows, but from the bits I've seen it's quite a happy little show and so is Dancing with the Stars Strictly they call it here!!
I know I should protest against all the reality shows, antiques, cooking, dancing, knitting, skating, as they are taking the place of drama, which is supposed to be employing me, but they are cheap shows even though the money is good on the International Commercial ones but the commercials on Channel 4 will be at around £100,000 per commercial slot which – and Channel 4 is a minority channel – is hard to figure.
Talking of the single word identification Strictly: some time ago I was doing a Shakespeare play in the theatre, As You Like It, and when I told a casting director where I was working she asked 'Are you in As You?'
Just couldn't be bothered to say the full title – Strictly off the record.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

George Best; don't die like me!

There he is – up there; George Best – or Georgie. He was an Irishman from Belfast, capital of the so called Northern Ireland. 
He played for Manchester United in the great years with Dennis Law, Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd etc – and I saw them play.
He was called the fifth Beatle – el Beatle; there was a song 'Georgie the Belfast Boy' and he was the first modern celebrity footballer.
Georgie was one of the best players ever to pull on a pair of football boots; he was ahead of his time and played like a lot like players do these days where we see players being trapped in a corner with three others surrounding them then whoosh!!! they beat the three players and glide passed them with the ball.
They get a lot of this from Best and from Johan Cryuff – he of the Cryuff turn.
You can see kids practising this in the parks – the Cryuff Turn and the Best Dribble. Both very exciting things to watch.
But Georgie was shy; in fact he was chronically shy.
One time he appeared in a talk show on the BBC hosted by fellow Irishman Terry Wogan.
Georgie turned up drunk; but what did they expect from someone so shy so chronically shy – maybe even cynically shy?
If he was walking down the street and saw a bus queue on his side of the road he would cross over – a lot of footballers are shy: Bobby Charlton for one – but not as bad as Georgie.
A lot of research has gone in to the chronically shy theory a typical sufferer will retreat to their room – like the pop singer Morrissey. He painted his windows black to keep any light out and have the blinds fully drawn. He didn't really communicate with anybody; he was shy.

I saw him once in the car park of The Farmers' Market/The Grove in Los Angeles; he was with a woman and walked with his head down, very tall and the woman was quite short. Don't ask me how I know but the woman would be working for him or related by blood.
Another typical sufferer was one of the boys who massacred his school pals at Columbine School. I don't really know what his name was – something Dickensian like Claybole or Claybold or something like that.
These days the cynically shy have companions in their little rooms and it is the world wide web where they can get information from as to how they can rule or even destroy the world.
Dickensian wanted to kill his teacher and he found a fellow traveller with another obscure name and they were one of first of the many American school massacres.
Kids never change; they can be seen in their rooms, by themselves.
Since the eighties we have known about Aspergers Syndrome and all the other discoveries that our parents never knew: Tourettes, Dyslexia you name it but the Jesuits always claimed that we never change after the age of seven – and we don't.
I met a friend from school when I was in Edinburgh in 2010 (Hi Les) and he hadn't changed. He was still the same fella from school; he had a lot of different experiences since that age, of course, and grown up, but we got on the same as we did all those years ago.
If you are a selfish child you will be a selfish grown up, if you were a bully you are probably being bullied; scared of the dark? You'll be scared of the dark. Not necessarily the dark but some kind of unknown darkness.
A lot of us have seen the 7 UP series – do you remember the kid who didn't like his greens? I always thought he would end up as a mass murderer and when you see him as a 55 year old he is in Australia happily married but . . . there is still something about him that's kind of dangerous; something in the eyes.
But that child, that little Georgie Best didn't have a room to go to so he played with a ball, practiced and practised* which got rid of his shyness for a while till be had to meet people and that's why he had an early death.
He took to the drink, had a liver transplant, had an infection from the drugs he had to take after the transplant – couldn't give up the booze; died early.
The message he left for his fans and friends was Don't Die Like Me
I believe there is to be a documentary film about him which is being premiered pretty soon; maybe then we'll learn more about shyness.

*which do you like better? the British or the American spelling?

Georgie The Belfast Boy
When I saw you, you looked like a diamond
As you played in the dust and the grime
Just a boy from the country of Ireland
And I knew I could make you shine
Coz you move like a downtown dancer
With your hair hung down like a mane
And your feet play tricks like a juggler
As you weave to the sound of your name
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy Georgie, Georgie, keep your feet on the ground
Georgie, Georgie, when you listen to the sound
Georgie, Georgie, put a light on your name
Yeah, yeah, yeah, play the game
Play the game, boy, play the game
Just play the way the ball bounces
And bounce the way the ball plays
Coz you won't have long in the limelight
No you won't have many days
When you live and you play for United
With your life and your blood and your soul
You run and you kick and you fight it
And you learn every way to the goal
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Joy
And they say Georgie, Georgie, keep your feet on the ground
Georgie, Georgie, when you listen to the sound
Georgie, Georgie, put a light on your name
Yeah, yeah, yeah, play the game
Play the game, boy, play the game
Play the game, yeah, play the game
Whoa play the game, man, play the game
Yeah play the game, now, play the game
Play the game, yeah, play the game

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Day the Music Died. By Tony Garnett; A Review

The Day the Music Died. A Life Lived Behind the Lens. 
By Tony Garnett

This is an absolutely wonderful book by one of the best producers of films shown on BBC Television; it is a must for actors, producers, writers, directors – in fact anyone who has anything to do with the process of film making.
It is not a 'kiss and tell' piece and is wonderfully written with passion and feeling and in some places it is very moving. There is no name dropping, with one exception, nor gossip.
The one exception: I got the feeling that a chapter might have been suggested by the publisher, where Paul Newman is mentioned; as I said wonderfully written, but not that chapter and I don't think he (Tony) liked that period in his life, judging by the writing.
This is a memoir of Tony Garnett; the man, when he worked at the BBC – BBC Television, that is – who turned the drama department in to the National Theatre of Television.
Did the BBC deserve it, or really want it or even earn that phrase or praise?
Tony Garnett certainly deserved the praise for what he achieved there and, in fact, BBC Television Drama is still eating out on the work he did.
He was the producer of The Wednesday Play, so described by the infamous Internet Movie Date Base (IMDb) as a television series.
They were, in fact, ten single dramas (films) starting with Cathy Come Home in 1966 and ending with The Big Flame in 1969. Not forgetting the other IMDb described series called Play for Today, starting with Hard Labour in 1973 and ending with Spongers in 1979.
None of these were, in fact, 'plays' or parts of a series, they were full length single movies. They may have been politically motivated but who would not be politically motivated in the sixties and seventies when people in the UK were living in slums?
Between 1966 (Cathy) to 1979 he produced about 35 full length extraordinary films. Films that would win any award these days and films which never even see the desk of drama commissioning editors any more – and that is a pity.
I'm not saying the BBC doesn't produce good work these days, with the occasional series of Line of Duty and Secret Witness but the single film, the single great modern drama has gone.
In the book you will get to know what happened to the actress Topsy Jane; I remember seeing Topsy Jane in The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner when the film was first released; I didn't notice her in particular, or really understand the film, but later, when I saw it again and appreciated it better, I noticed and wondered what had happened to such an exciting young talent. The IMDb didn't exist and no matter where I looked I couldn't find anything apart from the fact that she had left the movie Billy Liar and was replaced by Julie Christie. There are some distance shots of Topsy still in Billy Liar, so they say, but that was it.
There is a little more information on the IMDb now but this book tells all as Tony Garnett was married to her and, like the rest of the book, it is a very sad tale.
In fact you will wonder, when you read it, just how Tony Garnett even survived and went on to do the great work he did.
His parents both died when he was very young; up to that time his mother would play the piano and the little Tony would dance and sing with her then suddenly, in a very moving and disturbing chapter, he loses them and he didn't sing and dance again; the music had died.
His family was split up, he went to live with an aunt and uncle, whilst his brother lived elsewhere and Tony disappeared in to a world of books. Not Biggles, or the Famous Five, but Freud and on to Marx's Capital (which defeated him) and on the way to books by RD Laing and other psychological and educational writers he devoured the Jacobeans, Shakespeare, the romantic poets and on to English French and Russian novels which must have formed his political ideas and subjects used so usefully later in his producing career.
I have often thought I had a great deal in common with him; I was brought up in Birmingham, albeit it on the other side of the city, and in the book he mentions Oswald Bailey's Army & Navy Store, where I worked in my first job from school; I supported Aston Villa, as he does – he because he lived on that side of the city (I presume) and me because we were Irish and lived in Balsall Heath and Sparkhill. He mentions David Turner (the writer) - I was in his last TV play for BBC.
We are at the other end of the spectrum on lots of other things, maybe because of that slight difference in our ages – seven years.
He mentions The Beatles and says 'I Want to Hold Your Hand was written for twelve year olds' when people of my age, watching them live for the first time, watched them with a male dominated audience (the same age as The Beatles) – at The Ritz, in King's Heath, Birmingham.
However the next time I saw them, at the same venue, they did play to young teenagers and we couldn't hear them, so maybe he has a point.
I believe The Beatles had a great hand in changing society from what it was in the fifties to what it became in the seventies, via the swinging sixties. President Regan always thought he brought down the Berlin Wall but he didn't; it was The Beatles and Levi Jeans.
Just as politicians thought they worked wonders and miracles, when it came to the housing crisis, with the forming of Shelter (the housing and homeless charity) but they didn't; it was people like Ken Loach and Tony Garnett who did more than any politician, in fact Shelter was formed as a direct result of Cathy Come Home.
In this memoir, (and what is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography), there is a chapter on Dennis Potter, another favourite television writer of mine, but Tony Garnett knew him and worked with him and the information therein is very interesting.
I met Tony Garnett once; it was when he was meeting people for a mini series called Law and Order – mini series is the wrong way to describe the classic series that it turned out to be; I wrote a review about it on the infamous IMDb.
Tony was in a BBC office somewhere with the director Les Blair and there was something about them, something I also noticed when I met Mike Leigh. They looked at me and as they did I got the feeling that they were looking in to my soul, examining every part of me to see what they could do with me, where they could fit me in to their scheme of things with their series.
I didn't get in to it and when I saw it, and I still do see it, I could see why; there was nothing in it for me but there was plenty in this book for me. Thank you Tony; thank you for writing it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Last Review of Eddie and a lot more

Hi folks: first of all this is the last review for you to peruse. Now the question is, not to be or not to be, but the reason I put the reviews up warts and all in the first place.
A lot of friends, some who invested in the crowd funding, wanted to see them and I thought it a good way to show them off as they're not bad. Nobody going mad over them but you can see they are, more or less, the same.
But what would happen if they were really terrible? Well the first thing would be I wouldn't give the reviewer free tickets to anything else – that's if there ever is anything else but would I show them off?
Peter O'Toole had the worst notices ever when he did a tour of Macbeth – awful they were so he made the theatre post them outside for everybody to see; used them in advertising and let everybody know. And the result: a huge hit; it was hard to get a ticket the whole things was a huge success; even went to Broadway.
Another play, a musical this time, was slated by the critics; another worst notices ever situation. The director called the Box Office to see how bad the ticket sales were on the second day, as he was going to make arrangements to close the show.
He was told by the box office that the queues were around the block; they had sold out many months ahead. The show: Le Miserables. Twenty odd years later it is still running.
When I first went to Edinburgh with my Irish Show I had a problem with my guitar just as the first night was about to open: I lost my capo and had to use one which would not hold the strings down. The reviewer said I would make a fortune as I would appeal to the old and middle aged but that it was the worst guitar playing he had heard.
I saw him before the notice came out, at a party, and he said he loved the show and thought it would go far – then I saw the worst guitar notice. And guess what I did: I told the theatre to put the worst guitar notice at the front of the theatre; and the result? You guessed; nobody came – I wasn't Peter O'Toole.
Also the fact that my family show was booked in to the 11.30 PM slot. Needless to say I didn't end up there at any of the other Edinburgh visits and they only charged me one week's theatre rent.
That show I had stop every night whilst the cannons fired at the tattoo which was taking place in Edinburgh Castle close by.
My favourite review for Eddie was the first; the first one I posted on here: she seemed to have it down to a tee; she spotted the Irish bits and called my final song Joycian which, to a James Joyce fan, is the highest piece of praise to have – even though the song wasn't by the Genius Jim.
So here is the final review. It won't make any difference to my play. I have received an enquiry about taking the play to America; if that works out I will take it to Santa Monica Playhouse too and then . . . who knows? Let's see if I have to raise any money for it and a lot of other bits and pieces and odds and sods and stress and mayhem – who knows?

This is from

Review: The Two Sides of Eddie Ramone, Jermyn Street Theatre

By James Bell on July 27, 2016 in Theatre
Chris Sullivan as Eddie Ramone in The Two Sides of Eddie Ramone
The Two Sides of Eddie Ramone, is as the title might suggest, a play built on conflict and tension. We see the titular character (played by Chris Sullivan), a formerly popular comedian now consigned to the cruise ship circuit, switch between his interior and exterior facing selves. And, alongside the play’s only other character, his daughter Katie (Shian Denovan), the piece sets up a fraught mirroring of recollections and intentions. Notwithstanding some flaws, the show is a thoughtful look how we build our realities and sense of self.
The subject matter is fiercely interior. The action opens on Eddie rattling through his tired stage performance when he suddenly finds he is having an out of body experience. This capitulates him inside his own head, where he starts to ruminate on his career and family relationships and builds a stylised life story constructed through his curated memories. It is striking that, even during his deepest ruminations, he is still performing to the audience, never quite able to let go of his on stage persona.
Later in the play his daughter joins him and adds her own clashing counter narrative, gradually unpicking the version of events that Eddie has built up in the first act. It is a deft manoeuvre from Sullivan, who also wrote and directed the show, and leaves the audience revising their interpretation to the very end. However some aspects feel a tad convenient and the narrative, trying to pack too much in, verges close to being implausible. The strong performances from Sullivan and Denovan, though, are able to paper over any cracks in the premise’s believability.
Eddie is of Irish descent and the work’s concerns are, too, staunchly in the Irish dramatic tradition. Catholicism, guilt, abuse, alcoholism and fear death are all writ large. The vision and thematic reach are grand in their scope, but there are some aspects of the execution which mean it falls short of its ambition. As the work unfolds entirely as a recollection, its main means of storytelling is through anecdote. These sometimes meander and run away with themselves and you catch yourself wondering what the point of all this exposition is, as it often adds little to the narrative thrust.
Despite a few unanswered questions, The Two Sides of Eddie Ramone’s chief interest is in its thoughtful character studies by the two performers. If you can overlook a few bizarre moments, it’s worth a look for their evocation of a troubled father-daughter relationship and the new light shed on it when it is remembered and retold.

The Two Sides of Eddie Ramone is playing Jermyn Street Theatre until 30 July. For more information and tickets, see the Jermyn Street Theatre website.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Eddie Review - last but one.

This is the last but one review - unless I can find another one. As I said warts and all. This might be warts but . . . look at the last eight words!!!

The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone at Jermyn Street Theatre – Review

July 26, 2016 Last updated: July 26, 2016 1:17 am By Chris Omaweng
The 2 Sides of Eddie RamoneIt’s a good thing, on balance, for The 2 Sides of Eddie Ramone to be nuanced and deep enough not to make it too obvious what precisely those two sides are. This isn’t a variation of Jekyll and Hyde, though if I were to hazard a guess I would imagine there’s a public-facing side and a private side. But even this is too rudimentary a distinction, as there really is no indication of Eddie (Chris Sullivan) being that much different when doing his stand-up routine as opposed to talking in lengthy soliloquies away from the crowds.
Don’t be put off by my description of the soliloquies as ‘lengthy’. I’ve seen a fair number of shows over the years that unnecessarily over complicate things by switching between scenes, backwards and forwards, not in chronological order, and it is hard work trying to untangle a confusing storyline. Here, the simplicity of both the minimalist set and the plot’s linear progression is refreshing. Lengthy, at least as far as this play goes, is good. Lengthy means the audience gets to know both Eddie and his daughter Katie (Shian Denovan) really well, and isn’t expending energy constantly re-orientating ourselves to yet another quick change of scene.
This production does let itself down, however, by being too slowly paced. I would not want to call for a breakneck pace – there are enough plays out there that are in a hurry, thank you very much – but the almost relentless serene and moderated tones, even when Katie is taking the audience on a journey through some rather harrowing personal experiences, makes the play stodgier than the script is. There is no need for melodramatic emotionalism, of course, but being quite so blasé about the tough challenges in Katie’s life makes her character less than fully credible. Okay, these characters are British, and are the epitome of stiff upper lip stoicism, but this is live theatre, and I think the show could have benefited from more of the thoughts and feelings in the script being demonstrably acted out rather than merely described.
The more distressing elements of the plot are balanced out by several excerpts of Eddie’s comedy routines, which were, for the most part, genuinely amusing, if of an outdated style. Not for him the aggressive put-downs and character assassinations of a lot of comedy acts these days, but pleasant jokes. Katie’s choice of career, broadly within the same industry as her father’s, threatens to give the play an aura of self-indulgence. There are some insightful musings on the life of an itinerant entertainer, particularly one with a solo act.
I understand this is not the first production of this show, which has been revised and expanded. There is still yet more room for improvement, but as it is, this is a thoughtful, intelligent and intelligible play.
Review by Chris Omaweng

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review number 2 from Eddie!

Chris Sullivan and Shian Denovan
First rehearsal

Here's another review as threatened, I mean, as promised. This time from Chicago Critic dot com.

The 2 Sides Of Eddie Ramone

By Chris Sullivan
 jMp Company
 Directed by Chris Sullivan
 Jermyn Street Theatre
 16b Jermyn Street, Piccadilly Circus, Lon SW1Y 6ST
 Monday 25th – Saturday 30th July 7.30pm; Saturday 3.30pm
 Running time 75minutes with no intermission                               
You’re Cruisin’, Eddie, Aren’t You?
There’s a strange frankness about Chris Sullivan’s alter ego, as he takes his place at the mike to deliver his cruise comedian’s shtick. I say strange because it soon becomes apparent that what, to his audience, is an accomplished and entertaining stand-up performance, has become to him, a hateful nightly purgatory.
In this day and age, out-of-body experiences have become a staple of psychiatrists, and are not always the weird and slightly frightening conditions so popular with horror film makers. What is different here, is that this is what Eddie finds himself experiencing, without, perhaps, realising that it is what saves him. It is his defence mechanism, enabling him to endlessly keep on churning out the same tired old gags, without blowing his brains out.
This is the second incarnation of The 2 Sides Of Eddie Ramone that I have seen. Previously, at its Edinburgh festival outing, it was Eddie on his own with his demons, and I was moved to write: ‘With flashes of brilliance, mixing comedy and pathos, and with his original and bitingly powerful writing, the redoubtable Chris Sullivan’s performance is his most memorable to date’. He has lost none of this winning emotional cocktail. This version of the play now features Shian Denovan, who plays his daughter, in a beautifully delivered and felt performance.
Whether this two-hander development is the last version of this piece, remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is that the story deserves to go on.
I look forward to the next time, Chris and Eddie!
Saul Reichlin