Walter filters – plumbed-in water filters are relatively inexpensive and can help remove lead from water – making it tastier too, which means you’ll want to drink more of it!
Blinds – everyone feels better if they have enough sleep. If you wake up in the night frequently, or during the early hours, try shutting out the light by using good quality blackout blinds or an eye mask.
Allergens – a common cause of allergies are microscopic, eight-legged creatures called dust mites. The best way to remove these irritating creatures is by regular vacuuming but it’s essential to buy the right model – there are machines that are specifically designed for dogs, wooden floors or carpets, for example.
Ergonomics – around one-third of Britons spend more than 10 hours a day seated, according to the British Chiropractic Association. Incorrect posture and the wrong chair can often contribute to back, neck or shoulder problems. Try an ergonomic chair, fitball or specialist cushion support, and if you have a home office, make sure your computer is at the right height – the screen should be level with your eyes. Also buy a gadget that cleans your computer peripherals. Tests show that most are dirtier than the average toilet seat!
Walk-in baths offer greater safety due to a range of key features
Slip-resistant – helps prevent slopping when getting in and out.
Low entry step – a foot (or less) high, for easier access.
Grab rails / built-in safe seat.
Walk in showers have the same type of slip-resistant surfaces and grab rails, as well as:
Low-level of flat shower tray – for easy access
Stairlifts let you stay active at home for longer. They should have:
Seatbelt / sensors – pressure-operated sensors stop the stairlift when an obstacle is detected.
Battery power – avoids the nightmare scenario of becoming stranded on your stairs in the dark during a power cut.
Rack-and-pinion operation – for a quieter, smoother ride.
Out and about
Mobility scooters are available for a variety of uses. A heavy, powerful device, for example, will get up hills and kerbs, but may not fit in your car. Meanwhile, 360 degree swivelling and flip-up arm rests will be key if you have very restricted mobility.
Weirdly, yes. To a scientist, the wetness of a liquid depends on its surface tension – that is, the tendency of its molecules to stick together in a droplet, rather than spread out. Water has a high surface tension (which is why tiny insects such as pond skaters can walk on it), which means, strangely, that it isn’t very wet as liquids go. Many others, including alcohol and acetic acid (vinegar), are much wetter. Water itself can be made wetter, though – by using ‘surfactants’ such as soap, which reduce surface tension.
It has been interesting to observe people’s reactions to the sudden closure of theatres (as well as pubs, restaurants and so on), and it has occurred to me that there are people for whom the theatre, as well as other forms of entertainment, is something that they depend on, at least in part, for their emotional and psychological wellbeing. In many ways, I understand it: there is, for me, nothing quite like the thrill of an excellent production, whether this comes in the form of a blockbuster musical in a large West End venue or a single-performer play in a room on the first floor of a pub.
Reading how distressed some people have become is in marked contrast to my own response, which has veered more towards frustration, and occasional anger, at certain organisations that are withholding refunds, or making it difficult for customers to obtain refunds. It is worth thanking those who have very swiftly acted to provide refunds, and following some very efficient and pleasant experiences I will name and shame (in a positive way), the Premier Inn hotel chain, The Crazy Coqs in London and the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester.
It may surprise some readers to discover I haven’t been depressed or at a loss as to what to do with an increased amount of spare time (something which has become infinite, or at least indefinite, since I am now ‘furloughed’ – there is, undoubtedly, some relief, that my day job employer thinks highly enough of me to keep me on the books, though as the Government points out, there is nothing to stop a company from making redundancies even whilst people are on furlough leave). Perhaps it is something to do with being a reviewer – more often than not, I attend the theatre with a view to casting a critical judgement on a production, which involves, at least for me, an element of being reserved, even cold, though (I hope) never uncivilised.
The few visitors I have received at home (prior to Covid-19, I hasten to clarify) will have noticed a vast amount of books, magazines and newspapers that have not yet been read, a position exacerbated by the sheer amount of theatrical productions I have ventured out to in recent years, both in London and further afield. I have no regrets about that, and I am reminded of one of the showtunes in A Chorus Line, ‘What I Did For Love’, in which the question is asked, ‘If today was the day you had to stop dancing, how would you feel?’ and the answer comes back, through song, ‘Kiss today goodbye, and point me toward tomorrow.’ And so, the mountains of papers are slowly but surely starting to recede, and the recycling bin is filling up quite nicely.
I had a nice ‘food box’ from Morrisons, the only sort of food delivery aside from takeaways from JustEat and Deliveroo I could get, delivered by DPD on Sunday, with their usual text messaging service to say it would be with me between 11:25am and 12:25pm (it actually arrived at 12:14pm, for those who really want to know), and will find ways of doing something with the variety of products I’ve been supplied with. If you told me even a week ago, I would be making carrot, cabbage and cucumber soup for myself I would have dismissed you for being beyond ridiculous.
But when my thoughts do turn to theatre, there have been some excellent experiences to look back on, particularly now that so many theatre organisations are making some archive footage of productions available. I had no idea what Zoom, Cameo or OnlyFans were before the lockdown – in short, they are amongst the relatively few businesses presumably turning a profit in the current situation – and I am sure there are other services and apps to be discovered in due course. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am just going outside. To put the bins out.
These people don’t send ‘let’s make a plan soon’ emails, ring for a chat or talk about being busy. They only call from the car. When you do see them (which is not that often), they are always on time and good company, because they are not thinking: “Should I be doing something else right now?”
Doctors on call, project managers during a crisis, the sleepers in the Bourne series. PBs need to be contactable wherever, whenever. They can’t be separated from their smartphones, though they rarely speak on them except to say, “I’ll have to call you back.” PBs make you feel anxious and generally let you know they should be somewhere else important. They eat standing up and gallop down escalators.
They are up and energetic, brief and decisive on the phone (in the background you can hear the clacking of a keyboard or running water – these people are multitasking hard). They love to make a plan and will typically offer to go the extra distance (“No, let me pick it up – it’s only half an hour out of my way”). They also have no idea they are busy – this is just “life”, and they thrive on it.
NOT BUSY, DISORGANISED
Always short of breath on the phone, usually late, often in the middle of some drama involving loss of keys or muddling up dates. Quite capable of describing a manicure booking as a “logistical nightmare”. The impression the NBD gives is one of manic busyness, but on closer examination, you discover that while a lot is going on, it’s mostly crisis management, faffing and a lot of sharing.
ABs can’t make a plan for next week until they know how busy they are going to be, even when there is little chance anything will change. They always say they are busy, even when they are actually about to get in the bath. They panic if they have two social engagements in a row and will almost certainly cancel one. Don’t ask them why they can’t commit to X or Y. They feel “really busy”, that’s why.
MYTH: Chicken soup cures a cold
Chicken soup may be warm and comforting but there's no evidence it can actually cure a cold. Although there have been reports of chicken, ginger and some spices being therapeutic, a cold is a virus that just needs to take its course. The fluid in soup can help to replace lost fluid if you have a high temperature but, unfortunately, there are no magical cold-curing properties. Nutrients such as iron can help with immune function but you wouldn't get a significant amount from a bowl of soup, no matter how hearty it is.
MYTH: Carrots help you see in the dark
Vitamin A deficiency causes blindness and first manifests itself as night blindness. It can be easily prevented by a reasonable diet with some vitamin A. Carrots are packed with beta carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the body. However, to say you will see better in the dark if you eat lots of vitamin A is a bit twee. You will see normally if you have an adequate amount of vitamin A, not better. This was World War II propaganda as the Germans wondered why the British pilots were so good at attacking their planes at night. The RAF said it fed its pilots carrots to cover up the invention of radar, used to guide its planes.
MYTH: Chewing gum will stay in your system for seven years if you swallow it
Although chewing gum is indigestible, once swallowed it loses its stickiness and passes through your body much the same as all food, and at the same rate. But it’s not a good idea to swallow chewing gum. It can be a choking hazard, regardless of age.
MYTH: Reading in dim light will damage my sight
Reading in dim light can make your eyes feel tired but it’s not harmful and cannot damage your vision. However, it can cause eye strain so it is important to have your eyesight checked regularly.
MYTH: Sitting on a cold floor gives you piles
An old wives’ tale. Piles (haemorrhoids) are swellings made up of enlarged small veins that can occur in the anus and lower rectum. They may develop for no apparent reason, but constipation and pregnancy are main risk factors for causing piles.
MYTH: Rubbing oil of cloves on the gums can bring relief from toothache
Oil of cloves has been used for centuries as a remedy for toothache. However, the benefits are tough to assess scientifically. When you do a medical study, the patient and doctor shouldn’t know which product they are testing. As cloves taste so strong, they are able to recognise the product. It has a placebo effect and therefore it’s difficult to know what’s a real effect and what’s mind over matter.
TRUE: An apple a day keeps the doctor away
Perhaps the most obvious benefits from eating apples is that they are low in calories (about 95 for an average apple) yet are high in soluble fibre (about four grams per average apple). Soluble fibre helps to prevent gut conditions such as constipation, piles and bowel cancer, and may help to lower your cholesterol level. Regular apple eaters seem to have a reduced risk of developing some cancers and heart disease, too. This is attributed to the rich source of chemicals, called antioxidants, in apples. They are also a good source of vitamin C.
Bladder infections are common among elderly men and recurrent attacks may be linked to kidney stones or prostate problems. These can include an enlarged prostate which affects the vast majority of men in their 80s and older.
Obstruction around the prostate, or a swollen prostate, would cause urine to remain in the bladder, causing an infection. This usually develops quickly and is often a result of dehydration because fewer trips to the lavatory can worsen existing bladder problems. Sufferers are likely to develop a fever quite suddenly, be in pain and feel generally unwell. Often they become confused and disorientated.
The diagnosis of a urinary tract infection is confirmed using a simple urine test. Antibiotics are the first line of treatment and usually work within the five to seven days for younger patients. However, if the infection is causing severe pain and the patient is elderly, hospital treatment is advised. There, intravenous antibiotics can be administered more rapidly, the patient can be quickly rehydrated using a drip and progress monitored more carefully.
The actual cause of an infection is bacteria within the patient’s body which get from their normal home in the bowel to the bladder which becomes infected. Precautions are necessary because such infections may be serious, even life-threatening, without prompt treatment. In rare cases the infection may travel to the kidneys causing kidney failure or lead to septicaemia – blood poisoning.
To the cells, please, officer
Two police officers who stopped at traffic lights were surprised when a drunk climbed into the dark of their patrol car and asked to be taken to the cells. Police in Stockholm said: “He sort of fell into the back seat, but just said he wanted to go and sleep it off in a holding cell. The man was very intoxicated. He was brought in and left to sleep it off. After six hours we sent him home. it was still a lot better than when they pass out and we are forced to carry them away.”
Women cyclists are putting their sex lives at risk by not sitting up straight in the saddle. Placing the handlebar lower than the seat increases pressure on the genital region, decreases sensation and reduces ability to detect vibration, according to a US study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
A barmy booze bar
A shopper was told she couldn’t buy alcohol from Asda, even though she was 39 and with her 70-year-old mother. Francis Fitzgerald could have £300 only if they both had ID, a checkout worker in Canterbury said.
Oh no, no, no
Apparently, there is such a thing as too many orgasms. Kim Ramsey, a 44-year-old nurse from New Jersey, America, feels constantly aroused and is plagued by up to 100 a day, which are triggered by even the smallest of movements. “Other women wonder how to have an orgasm,” she said. “I wonder how to stop mine.”
Walter, Walter everywhere
It can be difficult to agree on baby names, so when Erotides Brandao suggested to her husband Walter that they name their first child after him, he was delighted. In fact, he was so delighted that after their daughter Walterlucia was born, he requested that any other children they had were named after him, too. The couple, from Paraiba, Brazil, went on to have eight more daughters and six sons – Walterlivia, Walterlenia, Walterlonia, Walterlacia, Walterluzia, Walerluana, Walterangelina, Waltersilviana, Walteremanuel, Walterluis, Walteroliverio, Waltermarcelo, Walterlicinio and Walterfernando, as well as Walterlucia. Walter has now passed away but his name lives on with 33 grandchildren also named after him.
Boy racer Heinz Koenig, 19, ended up in hospital after a giant stereo speaker hit him on his head as he braked hard in Bavaria, Germany.
£4 trial is a real steal
A judge hit out after a £4 theft case was brought before him – at a cost to taxpayers of £1,200. John Neligan said magistrates should have dealt with Linda Meehan, 55, who pleaded guilty at Truro crown court.
Beach dummy’s a figure of fun
A beach rescue turned into farce when a person trapped in sand turned out to be a shop mannequin. The ‘emergency’ was a birthday prank, in which the dummy was kneeling with its head buried in the sand with a sign saying: “50 And What?” Police in Bielefeld, western Germany said, “It was clearly intended for a 50th birthday.”
All stories took place prior to the Coronavirus / Covid-19 pandemic.
In a phenomenon known as the Peppa Effect, American parents took to social media with fears that Peppa Pig was turning their children British. Not only were their children speaking with a British accent, but they were also using British English terms such as ‘petrol’ and ‘lorry’ instead of ‘gas’ and ‘truck’.
In 1995, Heinz hid 100 18-carat gold beans in random tins across the UK to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the foodstuff. In 2019, one of those beans went to auction and was snapped up by Heinz itself, which has failed to keep one for itself and had been waiting 24 years for one to come on sale.
On the release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, the film was widely accused of blasphemy and many UK councils banned it. This remained in place in Aberystwyth until 2008, when it was eventually lifted by the new mayor, former actress Sue Jones-Davies. She had played Brian’s girlfriend in the film.
Police were called to a potential murder scene when neighbours heard a man repeatedly screaming “WHY WON’T YOU DIE?” and a child crying in the background. It turned out that the man suffered from extreme arachnophobia and his comments were directed at a spider. The incident report concluded: ‘No injuries sighted (except to spider).’
The American rock band Guns N’ Roses sued a brewery for making a beer called Guns ‘n’ Rosé. They said it had caused ‘irreparable damage’ to their brand.
Several months after a consignment of Nike trainers fell off a ship on the east coast of America last year they have become of unexpected interest to scientists. Oceanographers realised that the shoes responded to ocean currents in different ways, according to whether they were left or right shoes. More left shoes that right ended up in Newquay, and more right shoes than left ended up in the Azores.
A Massachusetts man came home to find that someone had broken into his house and stolen nothing at all. They had just cleaned it. He said, “Nothing was damaged, nothing was taken… just arranged in a really creepy way.” Almost every room had been spruced up, and an elaborate origami rose had been made out of toilet paper.
More than 50 billboards across the UK were fitted with cameras and facial detection software. They can identify the age, gender and mood of the passers-by and then show an advert best suited to the individual walking past.
Residents of Jersey feared a feral chicken outbreak. Because there are no natural predators – such as foxes – on the island, escaped chickens were able to breed rapidly, forming gangs of up to 100 birds, which then took to stalking Jersey’s streets, causing traffic chaos and chasing joggers.
In 2016, a team of scientists travelled to Dominica to study the grip strength of local lizards. They returned in 2019, more than a year after Hurricane Maria had struck the Caribbean island, to find – on what may be an example of extremely rapid evolution – that the latest generation can grip onto surfaces ten times more powerfully than their predecessors.
The people of Preston were asked to vote on the city’s best restaurants. Two hundred were nominated but it was a local branch of Nando’s that came out on top. Mark O’Rourke, whose burger restaurant Don’t Give A Fork was the runner-up, said: “It just makes Preston look bad. Not that it doesn’t anyway.”
Matt Carthy, a Northern Irish MEP, discovered his kids were unlocking his laptop by using an election leaflet with his face on it. He wrote that he wasn’t sure whether he should be proud of his children’s cunning or ‘concerned about the sneakiness’.
County judge Robert George sentenced Missouri deer poacher David Berry to a year in prison. He stipulated that, while incarcerated, the offender must undergo a monthly viewing of the film Bambi.
A 50-year-old Nebraskan man was being rushed to hospital with an abnormal heartbeat when the ambulance hit a pothole. It jolted his heart back to a normal rhythm and saved his life.
A man in Salisbury excused himself from jury duty on the grounds that he was scheduled to be the judge in the case in question. His appeal to be excused was rejected at first, and he was told to apply to the resident judge if he still wanted exemption. He replied: “I am the resident judge.”
A woman who ordered a cake with a picture of singer Mariah Carey on it was presented with one that featured Nobel Prize-winning chemist Marie Curie.
Wedding guests who bundled a bridesmaid into a car for a spoof video caused a police chase. Onlookers in Suedlohn, Germany, thought it was a real kidnapping.
A road menace was arrested for causing crashes to lift his mood. Depressed Song Liu, 31, found he was cheered when he saw a car accident outside his home in Liudian, Liaoning province, China. To recapture the feeling, he put rocks in vehicles’ paths – as ‘it made my heart happy’.
Four robbers dressed in armour and carrying swords and axes got away with £17,000 at a medieval costume festival. The dark knights hit one victim with an axe handle in Bitche, near the German border.
A chipped false nail and a dog with a broken leg are some of the so-called ‘emergencies’ clogging up a hospital’s A&E department. Another patient visited Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, Hampshire, complaining he had red eyes – after swimming.
Race-goer Gary Williams was left with money to burn – when his £200 winnings got wet in the rain and he dried them in the microwave. The 59-year-old forgot about the metal strip that runs through bank notes. “I turned my back and it exploded,” said the tiler from Oswestry, Shropshire.
A police officer thought he had busted a fake passport gang after mistakenly believing all the suspects were named ‘Abu Dhabi’. The officer in Stoke-on-Trent confused the names on the passports with the place they flew to Britain from, according to Police magazine.
A bungling service station worker cost his bosses £10,000 when he mistakenly set the pumps to deliver free petrol. Aurelio Padovano’s slip-up was taken advantage of by 60 gleeful drivers at the Total garage in Bergamo, near Milan, Italy, before it was noticed.
Civil servants have been given a licence to pilfer public funds. Staff were told, ‘if you work hard, you can steal a little – but don’t behave like bandits,’ by Shivpal Yadav, public works minister in Uttar Pradesh, India.
Gardener Graham Coe felt a right dope when he grew some plants – that looked just like cannabis. The 67-year-old’s flowers were only innocent cleomes but he was quizzed by the police after neighbours claimed he was running a drugs factory at his home in Chippenham, Wiltshire.
A confused girlfriend thought her beau’s romantic texts laced with Romeo and Juliet quotes were suicide notes. She called police, but her partner was amazed his texts had caused a drama. “She had not heard of Shakespeare and thought the language used was strange,” said a police spokesman in Milan, Italy.
A teddy soared 43km (27 miles) into the air attached to a home-made balloon. It set off from Brighton and landed in Essex, to the delight of record-breaking owner Peter Brown.
More than 50 firemen arrived to put out three smoking sausages. Gerda Wiegand, 71, was confronted by the crews as she carried the burning bangers form her home in Bergisch Gladbachof, Germany. “You don’t know until you get there,” a fire brigade spokesman said.
An inquisitive deer got into hot water after he wandered into a garden and stepped on a pool cover. The buck was stuck in the pool for four hours until firefighters in Colorado Springs built a ramp and guided him along with a rope. He ran off as soon as he was free.
A thief was arrested after being grassed up by the robotic lawnmower he stole. Keith Herron, 30, broke into a car after stealing the Clever Trevor gadget, which sent out SOS signals in Northallerton, North Yorkshire.
A couple waiting for a courtesy shuffle at Dusseldorf airport were astonished when their own car arrived at the pick-up point. Berndt and Korina Becker thought the vehicle was safely parked during their break. Instead, it had been used as a shuttle service for a fornight and clocked up 400km (300 miles).
A hamster which tried to make a break for freedom survived a 3.6m (12 ft) fall from a window ledge onto a car bonnet – and then gave a cat and two police officers the slip. Rolo was caught after one of the PCs threw her hat over him. He was then returned to his owner in Beddington, Surrey.
A romantic was out of luck after pretending to win the lottery to see if his fiancée would still love hi when she learned the truth. Li Han, 29, was dumped by Liu Ming, 22 – who hit him with a pan in Nanping, Fujian, China.
Train passengers have been relieving themselves in photo booths in Switzerland rather than paying to use station toilets up and down the network. Bosses have had to hire extra cleaners.
Nasal cancer patient Bert Eastham will always be able to follow his magnetic prosthetic nose if he loses it – by sticking it on the side of the fridge. The 64-year-old, from Chorley, Lancashire, found the ideal place to keep his replacement nose after previously putting it in his slippers at night.
A circus tiger brought the show to a halt in Kazakhstan when it relieved itself over VIP guests. Male tiger Kesha was asked to perform a trick but lifted his leg and took aim at parents and children in the best seats. The show, in Ekibastuz, paused for a clean-up… and for the laughter to die down.
A homeowner who thought he had rumbled a burglar in the night found a huge bear rummaging through his kitchen cupboards. “It walked right in,” said Shawn Brennan on Ontario, Canada. “Talk about bravado.”
With church numbers dwindling, Pastor Ralf Schmidt turned to sex to boost his congregation. He held an ‘erotic mass’, complete with pornographic illustrations, to reach out to more Christians in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Karl Weiss thought he was doing a good deed by driving over a ‘dead’ deer he had knocked over to a police station. But the animal was only shocked and jumped around his car after recovering. ‘The deer was uninjured but my car was a right mess,’ said Mr Weiss, 67, from Peine, Germany.
A stunned woman has received a parcel addressed to a property in the West Indies. Clyna Merchant has no idea how the package meant for a home on the island of Nevis 8,530km (5,300 miles) away was delivered to her home in Orton Brimbles, Cambridgeshire.
Like many wealthy two-year-old’s, Oreo had a birthday pool party. But her celebrations were different in one respect – Oreo is a dog. She and 20 of her friends enjoyed cake, snacks and a rib-shaped biscuit in a Delhi resort. “It was like having my daughter’s birthday party,” owner Priyamvada Sharma said.
A hungry thief who broke into a sandwich shop was easily caught – police simply followed his trail of crumbs. Benjamin Sickles, 21, was munching stolen crisps as he made his getaway in Pennsylvania.
A farmer was ordered to get rid of the tinkling cowbells worn by his herd after people living in nearby Stallhoften, Austria, complained. “They couldn’t sleep,” a judge said. “They were at the end of their tether.”
Motorists feared a ‘divine judgement’ was headed their way when 24 tons of pilchards covered a road. In fact, a dopey trucker had spilled the load, in Kolobrzeg, Poland, after driving with the back doors open.
Pepe the parrot has long-suffering spitting feathers – because he keeps screeching taxi bookings he picked up from his former home in a cab office. The yellow-headed Amazon shouts things such as ‘taxi for Lidl’, ‘car one’ and ’10-4’ said owner John McAliden, from Glasgow.
Keeping visitors off the priceless antique chairs at stately homes is a thorny problem. But one attraction has solved it – with thistles. The prickly deterrent is used to protect the furniture at Falkland Palace in Cupar, Fife. “The last thing you want after a nice day out is a sore burn.”
Due to “events, dear boy, events”, certain producers have been scrambling to provide online content to tide audiences over until such time as it is safe theatres and other venues to re-open. One of the first production teams to make their show available to the masses, free of charge, is the team behind Eugenius The Musical. I had intended to see the show during its planned West End run, having secured a transfer from The Other Palace Theatre, but the run never happened in the end: nothing to do with Covid-19, as the run was to have taken place towards the end of 2019. A key investor pulled out at the eleventh hour, and an alternative funding source could not be found in time.
The show takes its audiences back to 1988, when, according to the Space Lord (the voice of Brian Blessed), it was “a simpler time for earthlings where hair was big, colours were neon, and Milli Vanilli pretended to sing. But in the dreams of a boy named Eugene (Rob Houchen), things were far more complex. A disaster loomed as beings far beyond our reckoning invaded!” A world of science fiction, then – well, a superhero, to be more precise, called Tough Man (Simon Thomas) who would take on the Evil Lord Hector (Neil McDermott) in (quelle surprise) yet another triumph of good over evil.
In terms of narrative, then, there isn’t much that can’t be seen elsewhere. But at least this show has the good grace to acknowledge some of the sources of its material, with nods to the likes of Star Wars and at one point, even the stage version of Les Misérables. Eugene is socially distant, to coin a phrase, one of those schoolboys that isn’t part of the in-crowd, like the title character in Dear Evan Hansen, or Jeremy Heere in Be More Chill, or Marty McFly in Back To The Future (the film and/or the musical, take your pick). He does have Janey (Laura Baldwin) and Feris (Daniel Buckley) on his side, the latter displaying some particularly nifty footwork both in ‘Who’s That Guy’ in the first half and ‘No Pants Dance’ in the second.
The songs are, taken together, sufficiently varied in tone and pace. The choreography is sometimes too repetitive, though – I should have done a tally of how many times one of characters’ arms went up in the air with their hands made into fists steadily before the other one did the same but suddenly. Or, as they say on BBC Television’s Strictly Come Dancing, ‘too much armography, darling’. It’s a simple enough action that most of the audience in the front rows followed the cast doing it during at the end of the show, and this musical would appear to have something of a cult following even with its relatively limited exposure on this side of the Atlantic.
Mr Houchen is not entirely convincing as a socially awkward young man, though vocally he is in this recording in fine form, as ever. In Thomas’ Tough Man lies the epitome of bad acting: I hasten to add this is deliberately so for comic purposes, and much humour is derived from Tough Man not delivering lines in the way prescribed by filmmaker Lex Hogan (Alex Bourne). Tough Man’s sidekick, Super Hot Lady (Emily Tierney) is almost as bad (in a sort of Springtime For Hitler kind of way). I have to admit I found it difficult to maintain interest throughout, but this show has the kind of silliness much needed in these unusually difficult times.
Available to view at https://www.facebook.com/eugeniusthemusical/ for a limited time only.
Photo credit: Scott Rylander
The Red Shoes
Whenever I have the privilege of seeing Dominic North in a New Adventures production, I continue to be amazed at how he was born in 1983 and yet still looks like a school leaver. In The Red Shoes, yet another of Sir Matthew Bourne’s dance adaptations of well-known stories, North’s Julian Craster, a composer and musical director, is one of two main love interests of ballerina Victoria Page (Cordelia Braithwaite), the other being the ballet producer Boris Lermontov (Reece Causton). The ending, or rather the end result, at the risk of giving too much away, is pretty much the same as it is in the motion picture. Here, the staging of a train on stage really isn’t bad for a touring production (and I’ve seen a production of The Railway Children in what used to be the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station, in which an actual steam train came rolling in towards the end).
It seems (almost) all about Craster (though there’s some nifty footwork from Liam Mower’s Ivan Boleslawsky too) gliding about the stage composing away like a man on a mission. There are lifts and pulls, struggles and desperation. Lermontov, on the other hand, demonstrates some serious commitment to getting Page back, or at least seeing to it if he can’t have her, Craster can’t either, but otherwise, there isn’t nearly as much for him to do. As with the other New Adventures shows I’ve come across (and there are many I haven’t seen, mind you) this is highly accessible stuff – and highly enjoyable too.
As various people have spoken and written so positively about this Korean movie, it was in the back of my mind of films to check out if the opportunity arose. There is more than a sufficient number of plot twists in this movie, which has some incredible cinematography to enjoy as it follows its characters around. In Seoul, poverty is as abound as it is anywhere else in the world, and the Kims can’t get enough income together to keep themselves going as they would like, so when a neighbour sets a password on her WiFi, the family lose ‘their’ internet connection. Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho) and his wife Kim Chung-sook (Chang Hyae Jin) are doing their best for their teenage children, son Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik) and daughter Kim Ki-jung (Park So Dam), and to cut a long story short, they sneak their way into well-paid jobs with the same employer with, well, trickery.
“Times is hard, sir, times is hard,” as Mrs Lovett put it in the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. (I’m such a theatre buff: this may well be the only commentary on Parasite that references Sondheim.) The family’s creativity and resourcefulness are admirable, so much so that despite the high levels of deceit that occur, one finds it difficult not to sympathise even when they get their comeuppance. And boy, is the price they pay very steep. Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun Kyun), on the other hand, is a business tycoon, whose wife Park Yeon-kyo (Cho Yeo Jeong) is in charge of domestic affairs, including tutors for their children, daughter Park Da-hye (Jung Ziso) and son Park Da-song (Hyun-jun Jung) and a busy social schedule – very much the polar opposite of the Kim family.
There’s a fair amount of moral ambiguity here – yes, the Kims lie, but only to get jobs. It’s not exactly the Great Train Robbery or the Hatton Garden heist. But there is something to be said about social injustice, and this film makes its points clear without a scintilla of preachiness. This was certainly a memorable movie experience.
In the days before theatre became something an obsession for yours truly, I used to watch something called television. One of the series I found rather inspirational was BBC Television’s The Choir, in which choirmaster Gareth Malone set up various choirs in various situations, including the Northolt High School, the Lancaster School (actually in Leicester), the community of South Oxhey in Hertfordshire, and then various workplaces. The fourth series, however, The Choir: Military Wives was probably the most emotional, looking at the lives of the wives and girlfriends of military personnel whilst the lads are away on overseas operations. At the time the war in Afghanistan was still raging, and the show eventually resulted in the establishment of various Military Wives Choirs across the country and elsewhere.
But even without having known all that, the ending of this film, which culminates in everybody coming together and smashing a performance at the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, could be seen from a mile off, and it is absolutely no surprise that a standing ovation ensues. The narrative, broadly speaking, has been done before, in Sister Act: a bunch of ladies who cannot really sing very well eventually do so after much perseverance and disagreement.
It does, at least, portray the sort of nonsense that goes on in military barracks, when Kate (Kirstin Scott Thomas), ‘the Colonel’s wife’ considers herself to have ‘responsibilities’ towards the other people on the base, even stating that Lisa (Sharon Horgan) must step up too, what with her husband having secured a promotion. There’s Jess (Gaby French), the one who doesn’t think she can sing very well but is actually very good, and Ruby (Lara Rossi), who thinks she can sing but really can’t, at least not brilliantly. But I can see why some actual military wives would have nothing to do with their fellow ladies – there is a certain amount of pressure, whether they realise it or not, to conform. That said, it’s a crowd-pleasing charmer and sends one away from the cinema feeling quite warm and comforted.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.