Friday, 14 October 2011

One Man Two Guvnors Five Stars

If I told you that the play we went to at The Lowry in Salford last night was a modern recreation of a The Servant Of Two Masters by 18th century Venetian commedia dell'arte dramatist Carlo Goldoni, you'd be forgiven for thinking I had gone all arty farty and intellectual. In fact, nothing could be further than the truth as, despite following the commedia dell'arte structure to the letter, with James Cordon the harlequin figure who interacts between the audience and the players, this is nothing more than a hilariously entertaining, evening of fun. Set in 1960's Brighton with musical interludes from an excellent skiffle group, the play is often pure farce -every character a caricature - every scene played for maximum laughs. The structure is fascinating with many of the devices - mistaken identities, women impersonating men and plenty of audience participation - echoing back earlier than Goldoni's Venice to Shakespeare's Globe where Touchstone and other famous fools were doing similar two hundred years earlier. It has received rave reviews and, for once, these are fully justified. It really is fast moving and extremely funny with a magnificent performance by James Corden who holds the stage for much of the play. It would be wrong to think of this as just a one man show as there are notable over the top performances from Oliver Chris as upper class twit Stanley Stubbers, Daniel Rigby as wannabee  acTORRR Alan and a show stealing reprise of Julie Walter's 'two soups' from Tom Eddon as Alfie the octogenarian waiter. This is heading for the National Theatre next month and I can see Corden and his crew tied up with this show for many months to come. I challenge anyone not to enjoy it.

I would love to have said that the Lowry Restaurant, where we enjoyed a pre theatre dinner, was also worthy of five stars. But, although we have been many times and always eaten well, we felt a little let down last night. That's not to say that the food was not excellent and the service, as always, friendly and helpful. It's just a matter of value for money. We eat out quite frequently and I think we've got a good idea of the going rate. The three course dinner was £21.95 which is about the level I would expect for the venue. But I found it galling to see that bread was an additional £1.50 and other cost cutting measures such as espresso coffees served without the usual addition of a small biscuit. Nit picking? Perhaps. But bear in mind that the food, though finely cooked, is not expensive stuff- chicken, beef stew, smoked haddock not fillet steak or pate de fois gras. The cheese board comprised just a few tiny crackers and three morsels of, admittedly very nice,cheese for a fiver. I didn't want bigger portions, just a slightly smaller bill. Perhaps if the bread had been freely served and the dinner maybe a pound or two less we would have felt that we had better value. I know it's a charity but we donated to the excellent exhibition and felt just a bit overcharged this time.

For my comments on our third film this week, Guillermo Del Torro's dark fairy tale 'Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark', I should really just direct you to those I made when we went to see Paranormal Activity 2. I don't know what it is about films that could be loosely described as 'horror' that attracts total imbeciles to the cinema. I don't know about being afraid of the dark either. There were so many phone screens lit up throughout the film that the screen was aglow with the bloody things. And as for attention span? I don't think that many in the audience (typical age from around fifteen to thirty) could keep still, or keep their mouths shut for more than a few minutes at a time. We complained after Paranormal Activity and got our money back but couldn't be bothered this time as the poor manager already had a queue formed by other disgruntled old (ie over thirty) customers. 

If the audience had bothered to actually watch the movie the would have seen a very dark fairy tale, a little like Coraline in style. I'm not sure that I'l be encouraging granddaughter Rose to believe in the tooth fairy after watching what it is that comes to collect the teeth! The film has not received rave reviews but we enjoyed it very much and, although not overly scary, it is a dark, well made and entertaining tale.

We're off to San Carlo in Liverpool tonight to celebrate the arrival of our friends David and Jane Howarth's new granddaughter. I bet their waiters let us have as much bread as we want.

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