Sunday, 13 October 2013

If music be the food of love, shut up and let me listen to it

Was at the Aldwych Theatre last night for Top Hat, a reworking of the old Astaire/Rogers film. All Art Deco and 20s-glamour escapism, it was the sort of old-fashioned feel-good stuff that goes down well when times is hard, such as they are now.

I did, of course, greatly enjoy the thing. But my missus is quite keen on pointing out that I'm naturally negative, and she's probably right - there is always something. The audience comprised the usual mix of grey hairs, coach-fulls of tourists, couples and family groups. The sort of decent, normal, working British people that occasionally REALLY BLOODY WELL WIND ME UP! God forbid any group who've gathered in the same place with the specific intention of watching artists who can sing and dance fantastically, should sit quietly and actually watch them do so. Oh no. We had, variously, in descending order of wind-me-upness;

First: mobile phones going off, twice, despite the usual reminder to switch them off. The first one had the bloke fumbling around in the dark, trying to locate the off switch on his own phone, and went on so excruciatingly long that somebody behind him eventually shouted at him to shut it up. The second one was even more unforgivable - directly the intermission happened, vast swathes of the crowd were straight on their mobiles. I can't quite imagine what normal Average Joes and Josephines have going on in their lives that's so utterly crucial and urgent that it can't wait beyond the duration of an evening's entertainment. Clearly one of those secret agents/Prime Ministers/whatever forgot to switch theirs off after said interval, because one went off in the second half right in front of the bloke whose phone had so shamed him not an hour earlier. Evidently this individual learned nothing from the first bloke's humiliation and embarrassment. FUCKWIT!

Second: if you find you're unable to go through an entire hour-and-a-bit of each half of a piece of musical theatre without eating, do try not to bring your sweets in the Noisest, Rustliest Bag In The World™, spend 10 minutes passing them backwards and forwards between your family members, and have taken special care to make sure that each individual sweet within the Noisest, Rustliest Bag In The World™ is then wrapped in extraordinarily loud, crinkly wrappers. That way the people in the three rows behind and in front of you will be able to hear the songs and maybe even some of the dialogue.

Third: once the lights have gone down and the singing begins, the show has fucking started! Shut the fuck up, stop fiddling with the binoculars in the seat in front of you (which will not come out of the holder without a quid going in first) and watch the thing. If even the nice, grey-haired, late-middle-aged lady behind you has to lean forward and tell you to shut up, you must realise you were talking at an inappropriate time. Heed her words.

It was a crying shame because it's difficult to concentrate on what's going on in front of you when you're being distracted by what's going on below, behind and to the left of you.

And relax...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

True colours

I've always had, like all the 'bleeding-heart lefties' they so despise, a healthy contempt for the Daily Mail. It's always been a sort of vaguely amused version though, the sort of feeling you get when confronted by somebody whose views on race/immigration/sexuality come straight out of a 70s sitcom. They have, though, these past few days, revealed just how vile they really are.

Last Saturday they ran this article on Ed Milliband's late father, attacking a man who was in no position to defend himself any longer. When Milliband used his right of reply on Tuesday to point out that his father had in fact served this country in the Navy during World War II, and that he did not share the dead man's political ideology, they responded with this. Far worse, though, they printed a picture of the man's grave, with the caption 'Grave socialist', and it emerged they'd sent journalists incognito to infiltrate a Milliband family memorial service, something for which even they have had to apologise, calling it an 'error of judgement'.

Perhaps to bring into sharp focus just how far out of line they are, even Cameron has criticised the piece, saying that if someone attacked his father he'd 'do the same thing' as Milliband, who's demanded an apology. (Cameron, I have to say, has again showed his human qualities with his response to this, just as he did after the rugby player pulled the 'bunny ears' stunt outside Number 10. What a pity his politics are as they are.)

With the exception of that grave shot, the Mail remains unapologetic, and in this whole affair have shown their truest colours in all their infamy. How quick they were to (rightly) criticise people who joyfully danced on Thatcher's grave so recently, and how hypocritical to do so as blatantly as they have on the grave of a political opponent's father.

I'd usually shrink from ever linking to Mail articles on this blog - many of them are simply deliberately provocative, designed to stir up righteous indignation and visits to their website - but these have to be seen to understand the true nature of this rag. I can only hope, in time, that this kind of tactic backfires on them where it really matters; circulation. Regrettably though, I suspect that the type of people who actually buy the Mail wholeheartedly agree with not only the sentiment expressed in these pieces but the way in which they've been expressed at the expense of a dead man's reputation.

Horribly for me, this has resulted in me having to agree with Alastair Campbell, never my favourite Labourite, in calling the Mail 'vile', 'backward' and 'far-right', and suggesting it represents "the worst of British values posing as the best". A plague upon them.

Follow-up edit: An excellent run-down of the generally cheering web-sphere response to this whole thing can be found here. I particularly like the tweets where other people explain how their fathers 'hated Britain' too, especially, "My dad shouted 'Bugger it!' when he couldn't find a car parking space in Hemel Hempstead in 1979."