17 March 2005: John Hegley “Uncut Confetti” – The Guildhall, Derby, England, UK

17 March 2005: John Hegley

“I’m off to see John Hegley”, said I with sense of glee, “Your going to see a weatherman?”, my friend he said to me. “That’s John Kettley, Not John Hegley”, I gave a curt reply. My friend he turned his head to me and looked me in the eye.

And said “Never heard of ‘im”.

Those of you less ignorant than my mate will be familiar with John’s style, those of you who have yet to be enlightened, don’t be put off by my feeble attempt at mimicry.

The tickets for this gig were a very welcome Christmas present from Lisa’s sister as we had missed the Nottingham date, so I was very excited about going to see John Hegley in the flesh even if some of my friends couldn’t get what the fuss was about. The Guildhall in derby is a nice little theatre right in the city center, and as expected, the gig was a sell out.

Slightly the worse for wear, having been drinking almost continuously since the England (4) V (0) Northern Ireland World Cup qualifier game in the afternoon, I wandered upstairs to the venue to catch brief glimpses of the two support bands.

John Hegley is a committed glasses wearer, dog lover, Luton town supporter (we all have our cross to bear!!) and poet. Armed solely with a mike and a mandolin called Steve and no small amount of audience participation, John proceeded to sing songs, read poems and muse upon his life from it’s early beginnings in a Luton Bungalow, through school days, his family life and recent visits to Scotland, New Zealand and Australia.

John seems to be able to pluck things from even the most mundane situations and turn them into little gems of humour that we all can relate to. Sometimes sad and sometimes downright surreal John has a talent that will crack even the most sour faced old maid.

A great night’s entertainment and I got some books signed too, fantastic!

Cheers!

Simon

16 September 2004: The Hound of the Baskervilles – Playhouse, Nottingham, England, UK

I know this is going to sound weird but it’s the truth; the cast for this play consisted of four blokes and three of those played Dr Watson.

It’s hard for someone like me – who is clearly out of his depth here – to describe how it all worked but I’ll do my best. For most of the play, Sherlock Holmes was talking to one or more Dr Watson’s simultaneously, who each took it in turns to respond. The exception was when, for instance, one of the Watson’s put on a pinny to play the housekeeper for a moment or a cowboy hat to play the American. Despite sounding like a schizophrenic’s fancy-dress party, it did seem to work and you soon became accustomed to this unusual delivery.

The story is a well-known one so I won’t say too much about it, nor will I mention the actors because they were all excellent, effortlessly balancing the (implied) horror with occasional humour. However, what I will mention is the venue. Since I last paid The Playhouse a visit a long time ago, it has now been completely refurbished and done to a very high standard. Whereas before it used to appear a little ramshackle and amateurish ( – remember the trip to toilets?), now it is superbly impressive and 100% professional, inside and out.

The Limelight’s bar has undergone a complete transformation into a gleaming restaurant and the old restaurant area has been replaced by a trendy bar/lounge, all of which is decked out in polished chrome, mirrors and wood. The décor continues seamlessly through inside to The Playhouse itself maintaining the feel. The seating is very comfortable, even for a fidgeting six-footer like myself, and the view of the stage faultless. If you ever fancy going somewhere different on a first date, try giving the impression of being cultural and suggest The Playhouse. It’ll work wonders.

The play itself lasted approximately two and a quarter hours with an interval halfway through allowing a quick visit to the bar, however I’ve heard that earlier performances have lasted half an hour or so longer for some reason. Despite this, the play didn’t appear rushed or cut short in any way. There were also some excellent special effects thrown in worthy of a mention, specifically motion and animated backdrops, surround-sound, and atmospheric lighting.

All in all, a great night out and certainly one to keep the other half happy. It makes a change from seeing The Wildhearts at any rate.

@Jimbob247247

11 September 2004: Strangers on a Train – Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, England, UK

It’s been quite a While since I last saw a “proper” play. My last trip to the theatre was the Rocky Horror Show and the time before that was to accompany my old mum to see Singing in the Rain. So it was quite nice to do one of those spur of the moment things and go and see a play on the first night of our holiday in the lakes.

The story is probably best known to most people from the 1951 Hitchcock film starring Farley Granger and Ruth Roman, and is centered around two strangers who meet on a train (strangely enough), both of whom have obstacles getting in the way of their future. These obstacles are the unfaithful wife of one man and the controlling father of the other.

This version was staged in the rather quaint Theatre by the Lake in Keswick which as it’s name suggests is on the shore of Derwentwater.

We were a bit late getting tickets as it was a very last minute decision and ended up sitting on stools in the upper tier of the auditorium, this however was no real hardship as the view was excellent and it was only a short hop to the bar.

The stage design was excellent, the scene changes involved moving the same bits of the set to different positions on the stage and just watching how this was done was fascinating in itself, the lighting effects were also fantastic and I think that this simplicity really added to the dark atmosphere surrounding the play.

The cast were all pretty good actors no one really famous but a few TV and radio credits amongst them (is it just me or do all actors have bit parts in The Bill).

Overall this was good production well worth the ticket price.

Cheers.

Simon