Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Bourne to Boogie**

I watched Billy Elliot on Sky this week, mainly because my channel-hopping finger was too tired to move. It led me to wonder why ballet routinely fails to show its ‘muscularity’, instead appearing as some airy-fairy undertaking with slips of girls prancing around in net curtains*. I suspect this is partly because it is a bit of a minority interest to see it live, and as a rule it doesn’t translate at all well to tv.

We’re back to my obsession with this live performance thing aren’t we? Although I haven’t seen a huge amount of traditional ballet, those productions I have seen have always been a seriously physical experience, none of which comes across unless you are actually there. The one exception that I can think of is the Matthew Bourne Swan Lake, where you can actually see all those muscles working, even on the telly, and I love, love, love it for the combination of muscles and music.

Of course, this is what is chosen for Billy Elliot. Much as I enjoyed it, I found myself wondering whether it would have been braver to show Billy in a different production, or whether that particular ballet is the only one which doesn’t have a shorthand implication of campness? Of course, this is a nonsense, as the Matthew Bourne version abandons the traditional story for that of a doomed gay love affair. I then got myself tangled up in what this meant for Billy Elliot (are we supposed to take the meaning that ballet is or isn’t just for girls and gays?) and I disappeared in a puff of gender confusion...... Actually, I just went to bed.

*As a small girl, one of my fantasies was to be a ballerina in miles of tulle, despite the fact that I had the co-ordination of a fairy elephant. Nowadays my fantasies would probably involve the male dancers and less prancing.

** I hope that the puns will stop when I 'mature' as a blogger. Until then, sorry!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll*

I was channel-hopping last weekend and caught a bit of Pop’s 50 Most Annoying Moments. I had my own annoying moment when they stated that politicians claiming to be fans of rock bands is ‘annoying’.

Whilst I wouldn't argue with the basic premise, the reason this was annoying was apparently that David Cameron, Gordon Brown or indeed anyone over 40 wouldn’t like, or even have heard of, the Killers or Arctic Monkeys. I was so incensed I spat out my cocoa and my nightcap fell off.

Clearly the majority of oldies such as myself won’t know about the up and coming bands and trends, or understand the minutiae of what’s in or out for each youth tribe, but the popular end of indie-ish rock, which tends to be the politicians choice, uses the same language of guitar rock and R&B that anyone born after 1940 recognises. When a band makes it big, even those without their finger on the pulse are going to respond. I remember catching the Arctic Monkeys when they played Top of the Pops for the first time. I was cooking, and it was on in the background, but I stopped everything and stood saucepan in hand in the middle of the kitchen, blown away by their energy and freshness – I bought the album (the old fashioned way on CD) the next day. Similarly the Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers are currently my music of choice for dancing to in the kitchen. They are lumbered with the uncool fans of my demographic (which will kill their credibility) simply because they have made it big**. I defy anyone who loved guitar based rock and pop music, whether it be The Clash, The Who or Bruce Springsteen in their youth NOT to enjoy these bands at some level, even if it is just picking out influences and instances of theft.

Spin-doctoring makes any of these ‘my favourite tracks’ exercises suspect, in that no politician in their right mind would produce a list of personal favourites about anything without running it past their PR Advisors, and that IS annoying. I do have a problem with Gordon Brown loving the Arctic Monkeys – I would have thought Snow Patrol would be more his cup of cocoa, but who knows what he, or anyone else listens to in their private moments. Personally, I have an inappropriate secret weakness for Eminem.

Even more annoying is the idea that politicians have to bother with these types of publicity exercise at all. Who cares what they listen to or watch? I don’t care if they share my interests as long as they do their job well enough to ensure that all art forms are encouraged and everyone can follow their own preferences.

* I did think about giving this piece the title ‘It’s All Rock and Roll to Me’, but I thought quoting Billy Joel would probably date me sooooo badly that no-one, including myself, would be able to bring themselves to read it.

** Of course, the fact that I like these bands virtually guarantees that the over-40's will be their *only* fan base

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Why oh why?

I started this blog because… erm, actually I don’t know why. It seemed that virtually everyone I know in the online world has had a go, some burning bright for a short while, then vanishing in a puff of smoke, others managing to be consistently thought provoking, enjoyable or just plain funny over the long term, and some of these have become an integral part of my day. I didn’t aim to emulate those, as I *do* have some grasp of reality after all, but I thought if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon soon, I never would.

I didn’t have any strategy or policy, and decided I would write about anything that took my fancy. As it turns out, as yet I have felt uncomfortable blogging about anything personal, even though I don’t think anyone I know is reading this. I also haven’t blogged about the political things that make me shout at the telly, or the strange and funny things that happen in my day. Instead, I seem to be using this as an online diary to dump the things I haven’t had an opportunity to say in person or online elsewhere.

So, I suppose it turns out that the aim of this blog is to witter on about things I can’t persuade anyone else to listen to…. Not terribly encouraging, but I suppose according to much of the printed press, that is all blogging is anyway. Although I don’t agree with the criticism that blogging routinely receives, thinking about it, many (although not all) of my favourite blogs are by people who are also professional or published writers of various kinds in their 'real' lives, which suggests that I am making a quality judgement based on a similar criteria. That no one gets paid for the blogs I read also highlights that money doesn't necessarily make an engaging writer, but I think we knew that anyway.

So, it turns out that my blog is the egocentric type, but at least it’s the type that journalists hate, so it’s not all bad.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Boys will be girls will be boys ...

Whats on Stage awards were announced last week, and amongst the awards was Propeller's performance of Twelfth Night at The Old Vic. Guardian review here . I had forgotten about this in my review of the year, but I don't know how.

I went to see it with Ms Skeadugenga, and it was a very impressive production indeed. All male, which I think is the best way for this particular play to be cast*, it had some fantastic performances, notably Feste, played by Tony Bell, and Viola, played by Tam Williams.

Tony Bell managed to neatly sidestep all the problems of being a Shakespearian clown, and particularly endeared himself by rebuking the audience with 'keep up' when we were being particularly slow. Apparently he also played a blinding set in the foyer during the interval, although I missed it, being busy with the icecreams.

I remembered Tam Williams as the doomed recruit in The Trench, but here he played a wonderfully well defined girl, managing the whole clever-cleverness of boy plays girl pretending to be boy, without too many coy asides to the audience.

Great stuff, and the award is well deserved.

* thinking about it some more, I would love to see an all female version though. The Globe did some experiments with all female casting a few years ago, and although some reviewers did comment on an air of jolly-hockey-sticks, it was still a good idea - pity I missed it.