Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Evita @ The Manchester Opera House

I am not at all a lover of musical.  I love this show though.  Maybe it's the subject matter that drags me in.  I find Eva a fascinating character.  The songs appeal to me.  They have spunk.  I like the battle between Eva and Che.

I haven't seen this musical on the stage for over 20 years.  I have seen the film but it didn't have the same resonance with me.

I was wondering how I'd find it.  I have lived for 20+ years on 2 flawless cast recordings from the beginnings of this show's life.  It's hard to live up to Julie Covington and Elaine Paige.  One of the first things I noticed was how the show has evolved since I've seen it.  The music has a much more Hispanic feel.  Though this felt slightly strange at first it works well in an Argentinian tale.

The cast were pretty good.  The only weak link for me was Che.  He played with sarcasm well but with not enough force or spite for me.  Eva was played well by Abigail Jaye.  She did the iconic role justice.  I just wish the band wouldn't have drowned her out in parts of the earlier numbers.  We had the understudy Juan Peron, Johnathon Tweedie.  Who was perfect in the role.  The stand out performer for me was Sasha Ransley as The Mistress.  She has a wonderful voice and I will try and see more of her in other roles.  After a wonderful performance you were left a little gutted that she wouldn't be on stage again.

The sets were quite sparse and multi usage.  I was quite impressed with how, and the speed in which, they changed them around.  Thus never interrupting the flow of the show.  The lighting was pretty great too.  Mostly used to change the atmosphere on stage.

I wasn't chuffed to see they'd introduced You Must Love Me into the show.  I find it awfully meh.

As ever my favourite song was Rainbow High.  It didn't quite reach the heights I was looking for but it was done very well.

4 out of 5 pawprints  and I think I'll be digging my biographies out again soon :-)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book 33 of the 50 Book Challenge

Murder in the Central Committee by Manuel Vasquez Montalban, 203 pages

Started May 14th, finished May 19th.
Quite a while ago I'd read a couple of this author's books and really enjoyed them.  So I decided to get through the rest.
The books tell the tale of Pepe Carvahlo, a food loving, loose living private detective in Barcelona.  Not long after Franco's death.  The books are interesting for their descriptions of Barcelona, it's foods and wines and a look at the politics of the time.  Usually without getting too deep.

This book was my least favourite of the ones I've read so far.  It is the one most heavily mired in politics.  the politics of the Communist Party. Carvahlo is asked by the Communist Party to discover who murdered their Secretary Genral, in a closed room with a small amount of suspects.  Carvahlo himself is an ex-communist and is therefore reviled by many of those he is investigating.  The politics are not uninteresting it's just that there is too much that over everything else.
It is an interesting tale but I got bogged down by all the political discussion.  Also the book is set in Madrid and doesn't have the same vibe.  There is less discussion of food on a regular basis.  Though there are the typical seductions.
I think if I had a better knowledge of Spanish history under Franco's rule I may have found it an easier read.  That is definitely a knowledge void I need to work on.

2.5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 33, Pages -10,161

Next - The Overlook by Michael Connelly

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Passionate Woman @ Oldham Coliseum

I knew nothing about this before I went in apart from the fact that it was written by Kay Mellor.  I had a inkling that it may be a comedy.

It started off quite well.  The main part of Betty the housewife was played by Kay Mellor herself.  The woman was quite witty and Kay played the audience really well.  At every hint of humour the row of old ladies in front began to compete on who could guffaw the longest.  Something that always irritates the hell out of me.  Mellor was good, she delayed her next line to let the OTT laughter die away so you could hear the next line.

The problems began when the other cast members arrived.  Most were played well but I just couldn't believe how the story was beginning to pan out.  It's the day of Betty's son's wedding.  Her only son who she is supposed to think the world of.

SPOILERS BELOW rollover to read

Instead of helping get her mother to the church and get everything to run smoothly.  The mother of the Groom is in the attic, cleaning and feeling sorry for herself.  Despite pleas from her son to come to teh church she just moan and whines about her own life. This is totally unbelievable if the close relationship that is set up is to be believed.  I can't stand selfish behaviour.  I despise people who try and ruin someone else's happiness or big occasions with it.  Despising the main character of a play, who's designed to win empathy or sympathy is never going to work for me.

In the first act we are introduced to a ghost.  Not that we're supposed to wonder if it's in Betty's head as he has a physical impacton other characters too.  This was the weakest link for me cast wise.  I'm unsure if it was how the role was played or how it was written but it was so lame.

This play didn't work for me on most of it's levels.  As a comedy it wasn't bad.  As a story of the supernatural it was awful.  I expect some kind of atmosphere or presence in those kind of tales.  As a tale to make you sympathise it was terrible.  I just wanted to slap Betty and tell the rest of her family they were daft to let her get away with her behaviour.

This is one of the plays I've least enjoyed at this theatre.  It does seem I am the minority though as almost everyone else seemed to be having a great time.

1.5 pawprints out of 5

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book 32 of the 50 Book Challenge

The Small Hand by Susan Hill, 167 pages

Started May 10th, finished May 13th.
This was another book swap with  Karode I was interested in reading the book but had always seen bigger books for the same price in the bookshop.  I got  a little tight-fisted about it.

One of my favourite plays is The Woman in Black which I saw before I read the book.  I was slightly underwhelmed by the book.  I took this to be because the play has such a sense of atmosphere.

Then I read this book.  I was a little underwhelmed by this too.  Which is a real shame as I wanted to adore this book.  As I wanted to it's predecessor.  Everyone I know loves the way she writes her 'spooky' stories but there's something which I can't quite put my finger on that takes me out of the story.  I think it may be the way the 'first person' narrates the tale.

This is a clever ghost story.  Not tied to the predictability of a lot that it shares its genre with.  It's not too long so you can fly through it.  It isn't too stylised to make you struggle with the flow.  I just didn't enjoy it as much as I enjoy other spooky tales.  Or as much as I enjoyed Susan Hill's first Simon Serailler book.  I really enjoyed that.  In fact I must pick the rest of the series up.  

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 32, Pages -9,958

Next - Murder in the Central Committee by manuel Vasquez Montalban

Dog Diary vs Cat Diary

 I got this in an email from my Dad.  It's my favourite one of these that I've seen :-)

From a Dog's Diary
8:00 am - Dog food! My favourite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favourite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favourite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and patted! My favourite thing!
12:00 PM - Lunch! My favourite thing!
1:00 PM - Played in the yard! My favourite thing!
3:00 PM - Wagged my tail! My favourite thing!
5:00 PM - Milk bones! My favourite thing!
7:00 PM - Got to play ball! My favourite thing!
8:00 PM - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favourite thing!
11:00 PM - Sleeping on the bed! My favourite thing!

From a Cat's Diary

Day 983 of my captivity.  My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape.  In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet.  I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of.  However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am.  Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight.  I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event.  However, I could hear the noises and smell the food.  I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of ‘allergies'.  I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking.  I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches.  The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return.  He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant.  I observe him communicating with the guards regularly.  I am certain that he reports my every move.  My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe.  For now... Will keep you posted..

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book 31 of the 50 Book Challenge

Doctor Who and the Daemons by Barry Letts, 166 pages

Started May 7th, finished May 9th.

This is another of the books I've read following the Escape to Danger Target novel blog.  I have to sa tht this is my favourite Jon Pertwee TV serial.  Pertwee and Jo Grant have never been favourites of mine.  How can I not like this though.  It's Dr Who and 'Dark Magic'.  I have thios story on VHS and it's beena  very long time since I've watched it. 

This is a much better read than the last Target novel I read.  It has a proper flow and is fleshed out well enough.  I particularly liked the character of Olive Hawthorne.  I warmed to her she was slightly off it but fun.  

I used to like the Doctor's explanations of it not being magic but advanced science.  However this time it felt a little flat.  Maybe I'm getting a little miserable in my old age.  As a child, who this was aimed at, it worked perfectly for me.

The 3rd doctor doesn't come off as quite as patronising in this story.  He doesn't seem to be in it for a huge amount of time.  A lot of it focuses more on the UNIT characters than usual.  It was nice to see a bit more of them for a change.

I enjoyed reading this and I will be reading it again in the not too close future.

4 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 31, Pages -9,791

Next - The Small Hand by Susan Hill

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hamlet @ Oldham Coliseum Theatre

I knew nothing of Hamlet apart from the skull, the quote and it was set in Denmark.  I was worried that the play would be difficult to follow as I hadn't read a synopsis beforehand and for some reason I had it in my head it would be more cerebral than some of his other plays.

The set was very basic.  One was used for the whole play.  This didn't bother me.  I love a lavish set but I also grew up with British 70's sci-fi :-)

The cast were using the multiple role system but they did this very well costume-wise and it wasn't confusing.  The cast did an able job but I have to see I would love to see it done by a more RSC type cast.  If it's on in Stratford I may just have to visit.

The best thing about the play for me was catching the masses of famous quotes.  Most of which I didn't realise were from this play and some of them I didn't even know were ol' Shakey.  My favourites would have to be "Get thee to a nunnery' and "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

The worst part of the play was that I found Hamlet himself very irritating.  He's a faffer not a do-er and I got the urge to slap him into action.

I do want to see this again but not for a few years I think.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book 30 of the 50 Book Challenge

Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood, 246 pages

Started May 1st, finished May 4th.

I'd heard this books described as the 'Cathy Come Home' of the 1930's.  Surely that should be the other way around?  Well anyway, they are very similar works.  They both tell of the miserable life of the working classes and the lack of understanding or help from those above the in the social scale or government.

The book tells the story of Harry Hardcastle and his sister Sally.  Harry begins the tale at the time he leaves school.  His entry into unemployment that for anyone viewing the wider picture is very unlikely to last.  The great sadness of the story is that it's pretty obvious to the reader how it will pan out in the end.  This is at no pint a joyful book.

This had added interest for me as it's set in Salford.  From what I can tell the accuracy is good as the author lived in the area described in the book.  he was a voice for the 'Common Man'.

Although this is not a book to enjoy it's still a good read.  One I think it does us good to read.  It's not 'worthy' and it's not too long.  

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 30, Pages - 9,625

Next - Doctor Who and the Daemons by Barry Letts

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Great Manchester Run: Tuesday,May 15th, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter you'll no doubt know that I was running this race ;-)  I have asked for sponsorship once or twice.

I was terrifically nervous about this race.  I hadn't run 10K until a fortnight before the race.  Then a week before the race I had to drop out of a 5K training race due to suspected shin splints.  Luckily ice and a few days rest enabled me to complete a 10.56K training run the Tuesday beforehand.  On a hilly course as well.

As there are so many people running this race it is separated into stages named 'waves'.  You are put into the appropriate wave to the time you think you can finish in.  My husband was in the first (orange) wave and set off at 10:34am.  I was in a much later wave and was able to meet him as he finished with a time of 47:09.

Then it was over to the mass gathering behind the starting line for my pink and final wave.  There's a warm up held for the runners but in the massive walk to join the back of the queue I missed most of it.  Then it was just a case of standing in the huddle for half an hour trying to keep warm and the nerves at bay.  Once the gun went off (set off by the mens winner Gebrselassie) it's a slow walk to the start line.  Luckily the chip you're given only starts measuring once you cross the mat at the start line.

Once past the start line it's hard to do more than a slow jog as there are so many people.  This spreads out as you get further along the course but I imagine it's a lot less crowded in the faster waves.  As I set off I got a half scare, half thrill of finally setting off on the race that had been hanging over me for months.

That's me in the black not long after crossing the start line.

My plan was to take it slowly and plod through it.  I had a new Garmin watch to help me control my pace which was a life saver.  Normally I start off too quickly and wear myself out far before the finish line.  I thought I would have to take a few walking breaks as I'd never completed 5K without one before.  The course is very flat.  There is hardly any climb at all.  I'm used to training in Oldham where it is virtually impossible to avoid climbs.  So in that way I was well prepared.  As I plodded along I began to quite enjoy it.  On the first long straight you're encouraged along by Bands on the Run, a group playing live music.  

After 4K you come to Man Utd's ground in Old Trafford, quite an inspirational sight the day after their 19th title win.  Around the corner I was given a push by Clint Boon in his Boon Army hut, playing James' Come Home.  That's a feeling I won't forget.  It's in Old Trafford that I began to see how Manchester has changed.  You get a real sense of it's history. Running through what was the world's first Industrial Park you turn a corner to see Libeskind's Imperial War Museum building.  Still shining despite the rainy skies.  Across the road is the Hovis Flour Mill one of Trafford Park's original buildings.

After you once again pass Man Utd's ground it's back onto the long straight again, in the return direction.  Once again Bands on the Run are there for a boost.  It's more or less a long straight road to the finish line form here.  Near the end there is a Bupa Boost Zone where you're offered Jelly Babies. It's the first time in my life I haven't taken up the offer of a Jelly Baby!

My plan was to make it to the end without stopping for a walking break.  At 8K my legs were beginning to get really tired.  I still managed to keep up my pace though.  The worst part was at 800m from the end.  My legs were threatening full rebellion.  They kept going though.  I was ecstatic that I made it to the finish line without having to walk any of the way.  That was a huge milestone for me.  Though it was helped by the flatness off the course.  My only disappointment was my finishing time.  I had wanted to finish in 1hr 20m.  I missed out by 36 seconds.

I have to say that I was surprised at how emotional an experience this was for.  Running through your home city and achieving something you never thought you'd be capable of gives you a real high.

Without my iPod I would have struggled I think.  My Garmin watch was a Godsend, it kept my pace even.  There was very little difference in my pace in each kilometre.

Thanks has to go to my Personal Trainer who has helped with my preparation.  But the major thanks goes to my husband without whom I could't have done it.  He has helped me every step of the way.  Running with me, advising me and being a huge support.

Big thanks to everyone who sponsored me.

Now it's onto next year and hopefully a much better time.....

Have I ever felt more relieved? Doubtful.

Monday, May 16, 2011

'Chernobyl, The Lost Film.'

I was alerted to this via @Mooley on Twitter with a link to the I Have Seen the Whole of the Internet blog.

I'm not sure on the validity of the video and it's facts as I've heard there have been hoaxes by the woman whose website is printed on the video.  It is an interesting watch though and looks pretty real.

It's horrifying footage of men with little or no protection that are doomed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book 29 of the 50 Book Challenge

The Help by Kathryn Stockett, 451 pages

Started April 30th, finished May 1st.

My mum lent me this books and said it was my cup of tea.  Up until then I'd never heard of it.  Once it was in my to read pile I started hearing more about it.  How it had been much discussed over the Pond.  Then I heard there was a film in production.  Meaning it had to be read before anything was released on 35mm spools.

One thing that worried me was a comparison on the cover stating it as up there with To Kill a Mockingbird.  This was dangerous hype for me.  TKaM is a wonderful book in so many ways, not just because of it's 'message'.  Also because of it's characters and how it captures a child's wonder so perfectly.  All the while making you feel you know this town in a part of the world you've never come close too.

I had a similar problem with this as I did with The Front.  It was written as the characters would speak.  I always need a good few pages to settle into this.  It sets me off kilter when on the page.  As is got used to it though I began to warm to the characters.  The characters are two black maids and a society daughter in a Deep South town.  I felt I could understand what made Abileen, a maid and Skeeter, the society girl more than Minny, the other maid.  I felt we saw more of what made these two tick and more of what Minny's actions caused.

I did enjoy the book and I think it's a style of society we'd do well not to forget.  It was nice to hear the story from the side other than that we're used to hearing.  Though I have no idea how accurate these portrayals were.  It was a good read that I enjoyed reading and seeing how things turned out.  I didn't find everything that happened totally believable but as I have no experience I can't know if my thoughts are correct.  It seemed things worked out much nicer than I expect they would have done.

To me this is not on the level of To Kill a Mockingbird but not much is really is it?  Over hyping never helps me enjoy a book or a film but luckily here I got immersed in the story too soon for it to rile me.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 29, Pages - 9,379

Next - Love on the Dole by Walter Greenwood

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Book 28 of the 50 Book Challenge

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, 510 pages

Started April 27th, finished April 30th.

This book had to be read after a podcast I heard with the author by the BBC World Service Book Club.  I blogged about the podcast and it's content here.  The author came across so well and the audience had such a love for this  that it had to be read and soon.  It also stood out as perfect holiday reading.

I thought that I had already started to read this book a year or so ago.  I was wrong, it must have been a book with a similar cover.  I'm not one to usually agree with book or films that are 'over-hyped'.  This one seemed different though.  rather than people telling you how amazingly brilliant it was they tell you how much they love it.  It is an irresistable premise - A mystery, involving books, set in (post civil war) Barcelona.  

Well, I wasn't disappointed.  I loved this book.  Everything about it worked for me.  The dark, Gothic feel of it.  The description of life in Barcelona after Franco has risen to power and how things are done there.  The characters and how well they were written.  There are various characters in the book spanning all types.  All as well written as each other.  There is no schmaltzy goodies vs baddies but believable nice and not at all nice people.

This was meant to be left on holiday for other visitors to the apartment.  It came home, I need to own this book.  As well as force my family to read it so they don't miss out!  It has become an instant favourite which I'm already looking forward to reading again one day.

5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 28, Pages - 8,928

Next - The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book 27 of the 50 Book Challenge

The Front by Mandasue Heller, 392 pages

Started April 26th, finished April 27th.

This was the first of my 'holiday reading' books.  It was one my mum had passed on after she'd read it.  I'm surprised I hadn't heard of the author before as she writes books set in Manchester.  

This is the story of a small group on the lower edges of the class system.  One of whom has the bright idea of robbing the estate shop.  His friends are daft enough to agree to his 'foolproof' plan.  Unsurprisingly not all goes to plan or is as it seems.

As I began this book I found the way the speech was written a little off-putting.  It was correctly written as it would be spoken but it took me a little while to stop noticing the style of speech before what was actually said.  This isn't a fault of the book but a foible I have with any book written as such.  I'm glad to say this wore off as I got further into it.  It then added to the richness of the tale.

The strong point for me here were the characters.  All (sadly) recognisable.  The book is obviously set in the recent past as landmarks in the book no longer exist.  I wonder how much the author experienced the area and the people in it as she writes it very well.  

The story is really easy to read.  I got through most of it on the flight.  It's nice to have a tale written about the less glamourous side of society.  Especially when it avoids criticism and just lays it on the table.  I'm not totally sure about the end of the book and how realistic it is.  It's a satisfying end though with things tied up neatly enough but not totally.  

I will be looking up the author's other works but only when I shrink my 'To read tower'.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Total so far, Books - 27, Pages - 8,418

Next - The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon