Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Scenes From A Leeds Shopping Centre

Scenes From A Leeds Shopping Centre

Dean and I are out in Leeds spending my money. This works out quite well for both of us: I get new summer things, Dean gets the reflective glow of persuading me to buy dresses even though I already have 26 [yes, I counted].

Early Learning Centre:

I wonder at the ball pool. Dean gets over excited and starts playing with a electric dinosaur. One of the shop assistants comes over to help and demonstrates how it moves on different surfaces. I assume she thinks that we have a baby.

Dean picks up a book that has glove puppet attached to it and starts talking with it in my face.

"The men are the worst aren't they?" Shop Assistant says to me.

"I know" I reply as Dean continues to play with the puppet "I think this is the bit where we need to leave".

I hand over my intended purchase.

"Are you sure you don't want to buy the book - to keep him entertained when you get home?"

Dean chooses this moment to hit the bubble making machine that is balanced on the counter. Bubbles go flying in all directions, clogging up the air.

Shop Assistant and I exchange looks.

"Dean - off to the naughty corner".


M&S:

We are in the underwear department, something I will never again be able to do with a straight face due to a late night drunken conversation which is firmly in the - reasonably small - grouping of things that I have scruples enough not to blog. Plus the M&S underwear department, with its sheer vastness, scares me slightly. I operate on a targeted missions policy only, snatch and grabbing a multiway bra that proudly proclaims to be able to be worn in five different ways and is made entirely of something resembling elasticated foam. Undoubtedly, were I to let it, it would be able to detail WYP fire policy and write my novel for me too.

I am in the business of paying and as I have my 'No, I don't need a bag' bag Dean moves to pack the bra for me.

I'm concentrating on the tricky business of remembering the right four numbers in the right order -

"Corinne - it won't bend!"

I turn and look at the elasticated foam fueled, multiway bra (undoubtedly fluent in Japanese) now in Dean's hands. I try and keep a straight face as best I can.

"That's kind of the point".

The woman serving me laughs. Dean just looks at me. I do the only thing I can do - I smirk.


Topshop:

In order to not only fulfil my resolution that I would buy a new pair of jeans this year but to find something to wear underneath my new not-quite-dress-dress purchased ten minutes earlier in Primark I am looking a jeans. Black, straight legged, reasonably skinny ones that fill me and my thighs with something approaching terror. One of the shop assistants helpfully works out my waist size for me because I do not know it, especially in Topshop sizing which I am particularly dubious about. Jeans in hand I start to move towards the changing rooms.

"Do you want me to hold something?" Dean asks.

I had over my 'I don't need a bag' bag. And my dress bag. And my handbag. And my pashmina. And my coat.

Dean stands in the middle of the shop floor as he becomes a human coat stand.

Satisfied, I turn to go but I can't help a parting shot:

"You're such a good boyfriend".

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Where one of DA's characters is stuck at Headingley and another at Leeds Station

Where one of DA's characters is stuck at Headingley and another at Leeds Station

"So Dean's rain dance worked...x"

"I don't think the game invisible cricket is going to catch on..."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

At Least I Already Have The Wellies

At Least I Already Have The Wellies

After some time of um-ing and a bit more time of ah-ing it seems that my finger slipped and Nik and I appear to be going to V Festival. This means lots of things including, but not limited to: I will finally get to see The Killers, I will get to shriek and be over excited about The Mighty Snow Patrol, I will feel warm and fuzzy and proud of PYFB, I will have to buy a tent, I will have to get over my slight phobia of portaloos and I will have to stay in all of July and eat soup to pay for this.

More importantly the big decision will have to be made: Pac-A-Parka or Kag in a Bag.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Next Step - The OED

Next Step - The OED

Dean: "I'm making up words - like pianistic".

Director Boy: "What does pianistic mean?"

Dean: "It's an adjective - is that right?"

[I beam. He has learnt well].

Dean: "And it means...pianistic".

Me: "You can't use the word in its definition! I've studied dictionaries, I know about this."
[beat]
"Use it in a sentence".

Dean: [triumphantly] "The boy is pianistic!"

[There is a moment of silence as everyone takes this in]

Director Boy: "What, he is a piano?!"

NB: Pianistic, adjective definition three: Used to describe the type of boy who is tall, thin, has floppy hair and plays the piano. First used Autumn 2006 when Dean and I were overdosing on Kathleen Tessaro's Elegance which, as well as having a scarily accurate depiction of the kind of boy I should have learnt to stay away from [but who I adored anyway], also has a supremely pianistic boy in there too. Predictably, History Boy is currently the best example of this definition of pianistic that either myself or Dean could find.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Director Boy thinks History Boy is DA's version of the Slater family. He may have a point.

Director Boy thinks History Boy is DA's version of the Slater family. He may have a point.

"Did you go to the theatre last night?" Bar Boy asks.

"No, I was working here" I reply handing over a collection of used cups because I am nice (not to mention slightly anal) and still help tidy up even though I could sit in my office and play minesweeper instead. "Why?"

"I just heard that some people had gone" Bar Boy pauses "You know, [History Boy] and I thought...".

Obviously my first response should probably be along the lines that there are lots of things that HB and I do not do together. But why would I do that when I could thrust myself into this mess further?

"He wasn't out last night".

"He wasn't?" Bar Boy looks at me.

"He was at work". I emphasise the last bit because it undoubtedly needs emphasising. I do not add that I remember this because he was wearing comedy socks which I mocked during fire checks.

"But I thought..." Bar Boy is looking distinctly confused as he starts to clean the coffee shop counter.

"Maybe it was another night" I offer, primarily to underline the fact that History Boy does not have to run his schedule past me.

"Maybe..." Bar Boy says as he looks up and, without thinking, presses his spray bottle so that a stream of disinfectant comes hurtling towards me, covering the right side of my jumper.

We look at each other in silence as we acknowledge what has just happened.

"Accident" Bar Boy says, wanting to make sure that this is not added to the bucket on head, tickling and general disruption list. "I'm sure it'll be good for your jumper".

Whether it is good to spend the rest of the day smelling of disinfectant is another thing entirely. I scowl as best I can given that Bar Boy just somehow manages to get away with these things.

"I'll remember this" I say as I walk off with as much dignity as a mildly soggy person can manage.

Just as I get to my office I hear Bar Boy's voice "Sorry [History Boy], I think I just got you in trouble".

There is nothing else I can do, I tap my head against the door.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Between my finger and my thumb"

"Between my finger and my thumb"

"Are you going to be a long time?" J asks.

I am off to give a fire evacuation talk to a group of University students who are performing in the WYP bar in the coming weeks. This is as exciting as it sounds.

"Hopefully not, should take five minutes maximum". This is, of course, as long as I do not stuff up.

"When you come back could you have a read of this short story I've got a critique - I can't find anything to say about it".

"And you thought that I would rip it to pieces?"

"Yes".

It appears that I am cultivating the image of being the Jeremy Paxman of literature well.

I go off and do my talk and am all serious and sensible and do not make any jokes. Given that my usual briefings are of such a nature that one night Bar Boy found it perfectly acceptable to put a (thankfully empty) bucket on my head you can see how I struggle with the seriousness. All in all this is quite an achievement.

When I return I collect the short story and immediately I know what J is on about. It is a masterpiece in technical writing. Of putting the full stops and the commas in the right place. Of controlling sentence length. Of integrating the past and present. Of flights of description that flick off of the page.

Its only problem? It has absolutely no soul. It is so technically correct that its characters are match stick people, their complexities reduced to mere glib statements, painting by numbers. I feel nothing for them. But how do you pin this down in academic terms, in terms meant to aid the writer on what is an Imaginative Writing MA? To tell them to forget some of the technicality, just for a moment, and write something hard and fast, something that hurts them, something that scares them, something that will keep them awake at night. Something that I will read and believe so much that it will hurt me too.

I write a side of A4 on the piece, of dashed notes and questions I'd ask; sections I liked and the bits I didn't. I hand everything back to J as her shift finishes, complete with my assertion that the piece is technically near about spot on but has no soul.

Just as Dean enters the office J asks if I could recommend any Poets she could suggest that the writer of the other piece she has to critique should read. Dean answers for me:

"Where does she begin?"

"Beowulf?" I offer. Byron's Don Juan would be my next automatic suggestion followed pretty swiftly by Hughes's Birthday Letters. Which, I suspect, wouldn't be entirely useful. "What's the poetry like?"

"Have a look" J smiles and pulls the offending lines from her bag. I take them, probably with more enthusiasm than I should be displaying.

"You've got to read poetry aloud" I say to no one in particular. "It's the only way you can truly tell if it works".

I start reading. The language rolls around my mouth, words squelching in the way that only words in poems ever squelch.

"Oooh, she's good" I say enjoying the feel of the language on my tongue.

"That's the problem".

I nod. "There's a level I can't criticise on because I don't write poetry and I'd need to get a book out about poetic structure to comment on its technicality". But I will not be defeated. If there are approximately 75 people in Britain who buy poetry for fun then it remains that I am one of them. Heck, I got a first on a paper where I had to critique Middle English poetry; I refuse to let the 21st century stuff baffle me.

"We need to get past the surface". I'm actually disproportionately excited about this. It is a puzzle to be solved as I begin to pull the poem apart seeing if it stands up. I pull out what I love, the rhythm and the sting of the words. We start to question about some of the dialect and the actual setting of the poem which, with its reference to pound notes, is clearly out of our scope of knowledge.

"When was the word 'quid' first used?". I send it flying out not for an answer but because it is a question that needs answering if the time scheme of the poem is to be correct. And, then, because I am aware that I am starting to sound borderline insane. "You need to get on google and find that out".

I see Dean and J's faces.

"Don't feel bad about bringing it down to individual words, this is what poetry is all about. If it were to face up to academic scrutiny this is exactly what it would get". And because I'm on a roll I don't shut up.

"There's an Andrew Marvell poem which has the word "troopers" in it and it's incredibly important as a word because the poem was written in 1649 and the word itself didn't come into usage before about 1640. Academics love that sort of thing".

I say this as if it is one of the most amazing facts in the world (because I think it kind of is) even as I note my own surprise that whilst I cannot remember the code for the photocopier I can remember the origin of the word "troopers".

Dean and J just sort of look at me.

But I have that feeling again. The feeling I had a week earlier as Val and I sat for a couple of hours and dissected a couple of hundred lines of Romantic Poetry. For quite a while I was happy to be away from this, to read what I wanted to read, to wallow in beautiful trash if I so chose (though, invariably, I didn't having come to believe that I will never have the time to read all the good stuff so why should I bother with the mediocre?), to read without thinking if I so desired. But it has crept back in, I have noticed it shadowing me, noticed as only you can when it is 2.00am and you are teaching History Boy how to pronounce Old English words. Because I miss it. I miss the smell of libraries and old, dusty pages. I miss the sense of adventure, of nourishing yourself with all these ideas and people and words. I miss reaching the other side, spiking your flag in the ground and knowing that you have discovered something afresh. I miss the glorious challenge, knowing that the end result will always be beyond you but going after it anyway.

And, damn it, I was good at it.

I am good at it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On Getting The Jitters

On Getting The Jitters

Why do I love blogs?

Because sometimes, just sometimes, they make you run around your room and whoop with joy because they understand.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wherein I Do Not Always Understand Boys

Wherein I Do Not Always Understand Boys

"Why are glasses which go [I mime the image of a not-quite wine glass because I can think of no suitable word] acceptable but half pint glasses aren't?".

It is 1.30pm in the afternoon and, for once, I will be able to file one of our conversations without using the label 'drunk'. In fact I haven't had any alcohol for two days. History Boy is doing even better on account of having contracted my flu thing and, because he is a boy and therefore dying, actually been to the Doctors and got proper medicine and everything which does not allow him to drink. But, obviously, if we are not drinking then we are talking about alcohol. It's that or Eurovision, and as I have my suspicions that History Boy is not a fan of the latter we're settling on easier territory.

History Boy puts down his (pint glass) of water. This is obviously serious.

"You can have those [he does the international hand signal for the not-quite-wine-glass] because they're the glasses which come with that type of beer. It's part of the brand".

He says this as if it is the most normal, reasonable explanation in the world. I do not point out the numerous holes in this - not least the fact that if this argument were carried through it would mean that if a proper wine glass came as part of the brand it would be deemed acceptable.

He pauses for a second to allow the weight of the issue to settle.

"You can't have a half pint glass -"

He expels the words from his mouth as with the force that I would give to The Daily Mail or We Will Rock You; a bad taste waiting to escape.

"because -"

It lingers. I can tell he is searching for the least offensive word he can muster.

"they're effeminate".

It pings out. But before I can pounce he continues -

"And, anyway, it's a volume thing. You still get a pint in the [international sign for not-quite-wine-glass]. Volume will always win".

This is, of course, from the man with the huge iPod. It strikes me that at some point we're going to have to have a conversation about why size isn't everything.

But, for now at least, I just get to feel smug.

Eurovision 2007 will mostly be remembered for:

Eurovision 2007 will mostly be remembered for:

Mini John Barrowman's bottom, artfully open shirts, the Ukraine's Christopher Biggins in tinfoil, France's stuffed cat, "Shake It Up", bus stops and bare feet, the lack of belly dancers in Turkey that required them to source theirs from Britain, Latvia's G6 losing Eurovisioness marks for not throwing their flowers, Greece's Sakis Lite even though he wasn't full sugar Sakis, Cat teaching us the dance for "Flying the Flag" and us doing it in style during Scooch's performance, eating malteasers in honour of Malta giving the UK 12 points, Terry Wogan being just as much about the blogs as I was and deciding that Tony Blair's real legacy is that we will never again win Eurovision.

All in all? Good night even though Greece didn't win.

Monday, May 14, 2007

There's A T-Shirt In Here

There's a T-Shirt In Here

"Corinne, how do you know so much when you didn't see the Semi Final?"

"I read the blogs - I know everything".

Friday, May 11, 2007

"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"

"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"

I did say I wanted more theatrical magic after seeing Attempts On Her Life and yesterday I duly took a second hit, only in very, very different circumstances.

This time I was downstairs at the WYP (the Courtyard Theatre) watching the matinee of Nothing But The Truth. Nothing But The Truth is a flawed play (an allegation, though for very different reasons, that I suppose could be levelled against Attempts); its structure is obvious, you can see the ending from almost the moment that the play begins and I was unable to work out whether it was the fact that the part of Mandisa Mackay was woefully written or that the actress playing her wasn't really up to much which grated so badly on me.

But, and it is a great big but of Wordsworthian proportions, this play has something to say. Something important, something that deserves to be heard. It is so well located within the world of its central character that what it is saying leaps up, wraps itself around you and breathes life into a world, to a historical past and a not too far away present, that I will never be privy to. For all the possible over-simplification of its structure what the play is exploring is not simple; it is messy and complex. It plays with your mind, with your ideas and, then, sweeps it all into the incredibly believable character of Sipho Makhaya as the seemingly small, idiosyncratic desires of one man come to represent something much bigger. I sat in the middle of D row and cried because, for that second, it made me understand.

And then we come to John Kani. Those odd moments in a theatre when you see an actor hit their stride so completely are one of the reasons why I will return to the theatre time and time again. Last year Judi Dench burned her way into my internal memory bank during Merry Wives and Kani did something remarkably similar on Thursday. During my theatre going life I have seen a reasonable amount of poor actors, a larger proportion of ok actors, a sizable chunk of good actors and a clutch of very good actors. But great actors? They don't come around that often. Those who hold you, electrify you, blow your socks off and have you hardly wanting to breathe in case you miss a moment - no, you don't meet them on a regular basis. And Kani did just that. I believed him so completely, so utterly, that he broke my heart a little. He is the kind of actor who to be in the presence of is to be submerged into something that escapes categorising. He just has - soul.

As he took his final bow I knew - just as you always can tell - that we, this small Thursday afternoon audience, had been part of something very special indeed. Something that I will always remember.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Well, the clouds in the sky...are sadly a condition of life in this land"

"Well, the clouds in the sky...are sadly a condition of life in this land"

Undoubtedly planning a picnic for a May Bank Holiday was tantamount to asking the Gods for a downpour. Since the God of British Picnics was feeling particularly helpful, some high winds were also thrown in. Thus it was without much surprise that I didn't even get to undo my picnic hamper and instead found myself sitting in a pub.

For the first couple of hours I was good [on account of all the various medicines I am taking to combat my nineteenth cold this year] and stayed away from anything vaguely alcoholic.

Then the drinking games began.

And whilst I may be a lot of things when it comes to 'games' I do have an innate sense of fairness.

"I'd better go get an alcoholic drink, hadn't I?"

"Yes" comes the response in resolutely no nonsense terms. And then, after he has thought for a second, "You mean you've been this rubbish and you haven't been drinking?"

I stick my tongue out.

"Look, you've got to explain these games to the lowest common denominator and today that just happens to be me".

Drink purchased, we settle down to play "21" a fiendishly addictive (and impossible) game that involves, erm, counting to 21 but with the added addition of some rules along the way to mess things up.

"To my right - 1".

There is a silence.

M and I look at each other. We're both thinking the same thing.

"Erm, right?"

I catch the look. History Boy raises his right hand.

"I'll start again - to my left, 1".

And so it starts; soon (though not as quickly as you would expect from a group of supposed graduates) we get to the magic "21". Technically the person who says "21" has lost and has to drink alcohol. However, they also get to change one of the numbers in the chain for something else (be it a word or an action). Thus "16" becomes "Guinness", "8" a wave and "6":

"Wooooooo" I say whirling my hand. It is a pathetic attempt at meeting the rule that was created a couple of rounds ago.

"Shameful; you should drink for that".

I attempt to scowl at him but can't, I'm laughing at my own crapness too much.

I feel rather smug when it falls to History Boy to say "21" a few minutes later. He downs half of his pint, then, eyes glinting, -

"4 becomes 7".

There is a collective intake of breath.

"You are actually evil". I wonder why I have never realised this before. From the looks of the rest of the group it is clear that we will not being playing games with him ever again. On the positive side, this level of competitiveness is making me look like a normal, sane human being.

The game continues, slightly more stunted, as we trip over History Boy's trap. The sequence of numbers nears its end.

And then I know what is going to happen. What History Boy is about to contrive.

"18, 19, 20" he says, making it skip one person in the group and causing it to land:

On me.

"21" spills from my mouth. Just for good measure I add "You git".

He smirks. I down the remainder of my drink.

And, from that point on, everything becomes a blur.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Dance Like There Is No One Watching

Dance Like There Is No One Watching

It is another night, another bar, this time a leaving party.

I am sitting at the side of the room doing girl-band-arm-moving dancing when M prods me.

I turn to face her and she points in the direction of the rest of our group who are still on the not-quite-dance-floor. I look at them.

In their midst I see History Boy. Dancing. It is an angular mini explosion, all arms and legs. I can't help but smile.

"And that is your future husband" M says smiling at me.

This is, of course, not true. Everyone (except maybe the man himself) knows that David Tennant is my future husband.

I shake my head, aware there is not much I can do to stop the fairy tale that has been written by our friends. But it is just that - a fairy tale. I wonder for a second what History Boy thinks about all of this, wonder if he knows the extent to which we are being watched, our every move noted and scored.

- And whilst I am here it would be dishonest of me not to wonder what he would make of his erstwhile blog counterpart -

M continues to smirk.

I sit, torn.

Oblivious to his audience, History Boy continues to dance.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

This is me. I am left in charge of public buildings.

This is me. I am left in charge of public buildings.

I open my eyes and look at my bedside clock. It blinks at me.

3:30am.

This is not good. Not good at all.

I move and look down at myself. I am still wearing my dress (though I have thought to take off my shoes). I am not under the covers. My handbag is somewhere to my right.

There is a decision to be made. I need to go to bed. I have to go to work tomorrow.

There is no choice; I must get changed.

I stand up with all the effort that I can muster. Quickly I wish I hadn't as my head swims. I stand for a moment, unsteady wondering if it is worth all of this effort. Maybe I should just keep my clothes on and save hassle in the morning.

But I don't.

I undo the zip of my dress. I move to pull my dress off. Resolutely it stays on.

Pause.

I try again.

It does not budge.

I try to wiggle it off. It is not moving. More wiggling. More not moving. The panic rises that I am 24 years old and stuck in my dress.

What if I can't get out of it? Am I going to have to cut myself free? Worse still, am I going to have to get someone to cut it for me?

[It strikes me here that it is probably a good thing that I am alone, this moment resolutely did not need to be shared].

I try and reaosn why my dress, that came off before I lost some weight, will not come off now. It is too much for my brain. I am frazzled.

I peel off every possible item of clothing that I can get to which might be hindering the dress's passage.

Still nothing.

I stand. Half naked. Dress half off, half on. It is no good.

I stamp my foot and start to cry.

Friday, May 04, 2007

A Tale of Two Productions: Attempts on her Life

A Tale of Two Productions: Attempts on her Life

Less than 48 hours after Katya Kabanova I was in London, sat in the middle of the stalls of the Lyttelton at the National Theatre.

As the cast took their bows the woman next to me proclaimed with relief "Thank God, that's over".

Her companion looked across to her: "That's two hours of my life I'm never going to get back".

Attempts on her Life is certainly an odd play and Katie Mitchell's production is certainly an odd production. There is no real narrative, no characters in the traditional sense, this is not even theatre in the traditional sense (Mark Shenton suggests that it might even be "anti theatre" ). The actors who are not part of the action film those who are (with these actors often being deliberately obscured from the audience). The live images are projected on to a large screen and, if you are to follow, then there is a required amount of watching this screen rather than the actors on stage.

So I wasn't surprised to hear the reaction of the women to my right, or for that matter the slightly muted applause at the end.

But I did feel a strange mix of emotions. It overwhelmed me a little to think that we had been in the same theatre. Attempts is difficult. It doesn't always make sense. The techniques Mitchell and her actors use take some getting used to (and this is me, I like to eyeball an actor). But what happened in that theatre on Wednesday afternoon was something so incredibly special that I can hardly verbalise it. I suspect that this production is the most exciting and thrilling production I will see this year. It curled itself around me, it made me laugh, it made my brain twist and turn, it filled me with delight and, triumphantly, heartbreakingly, it made me cry. This was something so urgent, so visceral that I hardly wanted it to end.

Attempts is about how we construct, how we build a story, how we see people, how we define our age and ourselves. And, maybe ultimately, our inability to ever successfully do so. Maybe it's noticeable that Mitchell's last project for the National was an interpretation of Woolf's The Waves because I couldn't help but see the spectre of Woolf's writing in this play. Can the red dress, the red bag, the hair, the size of the window in our bedroom, say something about us, define who we are? Is our storytelling always doomed to ultimately end in absence rather than presence?

And, beyond this, what might it be to be a woman in this world of ours? A world crammed with flash cars, chocolate, pop songs, genocide, pornography, parties, perfect children, death, red dresses. Fifteen minutes in, if I could have broken myself away from the stage, I would have punched the air in joy. Because I cannot remember the last time I sat in a theatre and thought that these questions where being asked, not about a 19th century woman, but about us.

I honestly didn't expect to love the multi-media aspect of this production - and you have to be willing to put the work in for the first five/ ten minutes to get used to it - but I unashamedly did. And, perversely, this proved to be one of the most overtly theatrical productions I have seen in a while. It was joyous to see the disparity between the reality of what was on stage and the projected images. It embraced the fact that theatre audiences will, if you let them, use their imagination. You suggest where we are and we will go, in a way that no other live medium allows us to. And - listen up Opera North - there was possibly the most beautiful, overwhelming staging of a drowning I have ever seen - and all it took was a bucket of sand, a piece of cardboard being wafted and the sound of water. Delicious.

A couple of high points aside (notably Opera North's The Elixir of Love ) post seeing Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll in January I hadn't really seen anything that had moved me enough to spend the rest of the week buzzing with it. Attempts achieved this and then some.

Undiluted, witty, challenging, theatrical magic. The only problem is that, like a drug, I want more.

A Tale of Two Productions: Katya Kabanova

A Tale of Two Productions: Katya Kabanova

So far in my Opera North excursions there had been the utterly delightful The Elixir of Love, which had me enraptured and not wanting it to end, and the utterly static Orfeo, which had me needing the loo and wondering where the end could possibly have gotten to. I rather hoped that Katya Kabanova would prove to be in the former group rather than the latter. I was in a good mood. I was still full of the joys of Elixir. As a mark of my commitment to this whole 'Coza does Opera' project I had even been listening to Opera when I would normally have been playing Boys with Guitars. I was ready to begin my indoctrination proper.

What I got instead was an hour and a half of one of the most tedium inducing productions I have ever sat through. And remember, I've sat through a lot of student theatre. In Opera terms I cannot talk fluently about the music or the orchestration (the former got the thumbs up from History Boy) but I can comment on the production and what feelings it evoked in me (principally in this case a rather profound sense of boredom).

But the good things first. The cast could sing even if they never particularly captivated me. There was a really cool bit of scenery movement 60 seconds from the end of the production. And? Erm, if you put aside the fact there was no interval, that's about it.

From the first scene the level of depression was notched up to 10. There was no sense of building, no possibility that this tragedy may be averted, or, even better, a pulsating and inevitable surge towards its resolution. There was just unremitting, all encapsulating despair. There was simply nowhere to go. Ten minutes in they had lost me.

Then there was the translation. For reasons I'm not quite clear of the production was sung in English with a translation that was so prosaic that I couldn't quite believe what I was hearing. There was no subtlety or depth to it, let alone any magic or, dare I say it, beauty. I can say with absolute certainty that I would have enjoyed it more in the original language, which gives the license to let it wash over you in a way that a English language production doesn't when you are me and I am all about the words.

In a moment which probably summed up the lack of inventiveness of the production, when the climax of the Opera came, with Katya drowning herself in the way that every good insane woman must do, this was dramatised by her walking into a blue light. I am sorry, is this a school production here? All those trained technical people and paid designers and all you can come up with is a blue light? A blue light?

I did manage to stay until the end (unlike Dean who left after 25 minutes on the pretence of going to the loo and never came back) but I doubt there is much I will remember from this most underwhelming of productions. And, just to add insult to injury, the Grand made me go and get my own plastic cup again.

Maybe reports of my opera conversion were a bit premature.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Where I Get To Peak At What The World Sees

Where I Get To Peak At What The World Sees

We - Dean, History Boy and I - are sat in the corner window at Ha Ha. Even though outside is glorious and we are practically the only people inside I have refused - to History Boy's bemusement - to go and sit in the roped off seating area in Millennium Square due to the combination of the wind, my strappy summer dress and my temporarily straightened hair.

In an hour's time we are due to go and see Opera North's Katya Kabanova in what has become our regular fixture of go see Opera (much of which Corinne will not understand) and then get drunk enough to vomit outside the BBC the next morning. Because, obviously, this is what people do when the go to the Opera. Tonight there is the added component that the Opera we are to see is so offbeat that History Boy, whose knowledge of such matters is bordering on the scary, does not understand it. I cannot see how I am possibly to manage.

To counter this we have decided that getting drunk before the show - as opposed to during and afterwards as normal - is the way forward. We have been here for over two hours. There are a bewildering number of glasses on our table. I have already lost count of what I have drunk. I can almost see my hair being held back in the toilets of North Bar.

Given that Dean has loudly vetoed any discussion involving the (lack of) merits in the great Dickens vs Shakespeare ongoing debate* History Boy and I have instead settled down to argue about The Future of the English Language. I know you are rolling your eyes and willing me to get back to talking about clothes or David Tennant, but, it remains, I find this an incredibly interesting topic. This might be one of the reasons why I am a bit of a Geek.

Because The Future of the English Language is such an exciting subject (in some quarters) I am talking about it with my hands and everything.

At this point Dean spots J, who is joining us in our Opera exploits (if not the drunken bit). All three of us wave and, because it is polite and having an argument in front of Dean about whether the written word is going to be forever damaged by the text message is one thing but having it in front of someone on their first Opera visit is something entirely different, we draw to a close the argument in a way that neither of us quite wins.

J makes her way over to us and I notice that she is smirking.

"What?" Dean asks.

"I was just thinking how pretentious you three look" she laughs.

I do a little scan of our group. I am talking with my hands whilst wearing a 1950's style summer dress. History Boy is wearing a cord jacket. Dean has a pashmina draped around him.

For possibly the first time this evening there is absolutely nothing I can say in response.

*Obviously there is no real debate. Shakespeare rocks. Dickens doesn't.