Sunday, 26 February 2017

Sheer Brilliance At The National Theatre

I went to the RSC in Statford Upon Avon quite a few times in the 60s. I was a schoolboy at the time and it was a day out and a fun coach trip but little more than that until, as a seventeen year old in 1970 I saw this production of The Tempest with Ian Richardson as Prospero and Ben Kingsley as Ariel. To say that I was moved would be an understatement - I was blown away. The performance had a huge emotional impact on me and I've waited for almost fifty years to feel that way in a theatre again. In that time I've seen plenty of Shakespeare's plays and plenty of other excellent theatre (most notably Richard Armitage's  The Crucible at the Old Vic in 2015) but none has influenced me like that production did in 1970 - until yesterday.

We travelled to London for the National Theatre's new production of Twelfth Night. We've seen the play three or four times before and it's always been enjoyable but nothing special. But this production was very special.

From the spectacular opening when the steep staircase central to the set became the prow of a ship in a fierce storm it was clear that this was going to be something extraordinary. That incredible set morphed throughput the production into a myriad of sub-sets as the revolving stage revealed surprise after surprise. But a fabulous set does not necessarily make a fabulous event - the cast and direction did that.

The comic roles of Sir Toby Belch (Tim McMullan) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Daniel Rigby) were performed with perfect comic timing and were genuinely funny. Doon Mackichan played the fool Feste in one of the production's role reversals.

Tasmin Greig was the big name draw and brought loads of pre publicity to the production in playing a lesbian Malvolia besotted by her mistress instead of the usual male Malvolio. Tamsin Greig is a hugely talented actor and was totally credible in the role leaving the audience genuinely grieving for her plight - something no Malvoiio has ever achieved in my experience    

But, whilst there is no questioning the power of Tamsin's Malvolia, lesser know actors Tamara Lawrence as Viola and Pheobe Fox as Olivia are outstanding.

I've read several critics' reviews of the production. They tended to be positive but a little stand offish and carped about minor discrepancies or nit picked over aspects of the gender reversal. For me, the only valid criticism lies in the audience response and the response was phenomenal. Rarely have I heard so much spontaneous laughter - the audience was truly rolling in the aisles. I absolutely loved it. Three hours of laughter tinged with some truly soul searching moments of pathos and sadness make this a production not to be missed. Beg, steal or borrow and get yourself a ticket.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Welcome Visitors

We had two very welcome visitors last week when our grandchildren Catherine (4) and Teddy (18mths) came to stay with us for a few days during the half term break. Marion was, as always, incredibly well organised and made sure that there was plenty to keep them both occupied.

Teddy loves playing at cooking so this little stove kept him amused for ages.

There's a very good children's playground near us. Catherine was very adventurous and had a great time going on all of the activities.

She loves crafts and when we told her we would take her to the castle on Friday she made us this picture montage of how she imagined the castle would be.

The castle was holding one of its regular knights activities during half term and the children loved joining in with the sword fighting. All of the kids who attended were impeccably well behaved. Last time we visited some little monsters were well and truly putting the boot in and spoiling the event but the knight in charge was a great instructor and each blow of the (foam) sword was accompanied with a polite "sorry". It was all good fun and nice to see the children also learning a little bit in a talk about becoming knights.

There's a lot of work going on at the castle at the moment so there's not as much to see as usual. To compensate English Heritage have installed this temporary slide. It was a huge hit with Catherine and Marion who rode it together three or four times. 

A sad casualty of the visit was Pop Up Pirate. We bought this game about thirty years ago and it was a huge favourite with both of our children and more recently all of our grandchildren. It gave them hours of fun but when we put him back in his box after Teddy and Catherine left for home on Saturday he finally fell apart and the springs on his mechanism expired. 

We enjoyed a great meal with friends on Saturday evening but then I went and caught some sort of bug or cold on Sunday and found myself in bed with an overwhelming tiredness, a few shivers and a sore throat. It seems to have cleared up now but it's the first time that I've been put out of action by an illness in donkeys' years. I hope its donkeys' years before it happens again.

We've got tickets to see Twelfth Night at the National Theatre on Saturday. It's a play we enjoy and have seen several times (including the famous Ken Dodd's take on Malvolio). This time it's Tasmin Greig's turn to play the part (renamed Malvolia). Being fans of The Archers and Black Books we're both looking forward to it very much. I went to book train tickets on the computer this morning and find that there's still a replacement bus service operating at weekends. The investment in the Senior Rail Cards has been a waste of time and we'll have to drive to London again.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Here Comes The Sun

To say that it has been bitter over the last week or two would be an understatement. The log burner has been working overtime and has kept us snug and cosy in a sort of retirement hibernation as we've busied ourselves with booking a winter sun holiday for next January. I'm pleased to say we've done it and we're off back to Bequia (and for three weeks this time). It's the first time we've returned to the same place for a holiday for a very long time but it was so relaxing that we think it would be very hard to beat.

We've also watched moreTV than is good for us. There's so much choice now with Amazon Prime (when it works), Netflix and Sky. We've seen some rubbish (Cell and Silent House) but two films that were worthy of note are Nightcrawler and The 13th. 

We watched Nightcrawler on Amazon Prime one afternoon (Prime seems to fail in the evening at the moment - hope they sort it out soon). The film is everything it says on the poster and we'd strongly recommend it. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a strange loner (possibly on the autistic scale) whose lack of emotion and feeling enables him to film accidents, fires and murders for local news channels in graphic detail without qualms. It's a sinister and well acted movie that's well worth looking out for.  

Netflix's documentary The 13th which won a BAFTA at the weekend is another excellent movie. In the current political climate, both here and in the USA, its message is extremely relevant and brilliantly presented without being over manipulative.

We haven't been inside all the time. We recently went to yet another brilliant talk at Framlingham College. This time FramSoc members were entertained by the eloquent and very funny Benet Brandreth who spoke at length about the art of rhetoric and, in doing so, cleverly promoted his book The Spy Of Venice a "what if" novel that explores the possibility that Shakespeare visited Venice in his youth and used his experiences there as inspiration for his plays.

We also got to the wonderful Ipswich Film Theatre Trust to see My Feral Heart a story about a young man with Down's Syndrome who loses his mother and consequently loses his independence. It's a very moving little film.

When I said at the start of this blog "Here Comes The Sun" I wasn't only referring to the Caribbean holiday we've booked. Today the sun did indeed show itself here in Framlingham and the temperature gauge rose into double figures for the first time in a while.

It was so mild and sunny on Market Hill this morning that we enjoyed our regular coffee OUTSIDE the Dancing Goat for the first time this year.

The castle was packed with half term visitors (although I have to say that shirtsleeves was overdoing it a bit).

And I managed to take a nice shot of the church beneath a brilliant blue sky.

When I did a bit of gardening later in the day I was treated to my own private airshow as this helicopter performed all sorts of training exercises right above me. I only managed to get my phone camera ready when they had completed a full loop overhead. This was taken as they straightened out.

An exciting end to the week awaits us as two of our grandchildren are going to come and stay with us here in Framlingham on Thursday and Friday. Let's hope that the sun stays out for them and they can go and fight some knights at the castle's half term entertainment.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Crossing Borders

If you follow this blog you will know that last year we celebrated our Ruby Wedding Anniversary. As an anniversary gift my mum and my sister Julie kindly bought us a voucher for a couple of nights away in one of a wide choice of hotels and inns. We decided to save the voucher for early this year and, as we didn't want to drive too far for two nights away, we chose a hotel in North Walsham across the Suffolk border in Norfolk.

We headed out early on Sunday and drove to the Norfolk county show ground just outside Norwich. They were holding an enormous antique fair and we spent a couple of hours looking for a bargain amongst the thousands of items on hundreds of stalls - we didn't find one. 

After a very decent dinner and a comfortable night at the hotel (The Beechwood), we spent Monday exploring the North Norfolk area and had a good look around Holt with its many interesting shops.

Leaving Holt we drove north to the coast and found ourselves in Wells Next The Sea where we had a light lunch in the Grey Seal Coffee Shop. 

I've always been interested in visiting Walsingham having seen a lot of metal detecting finds of souvenirs from pilgrimages to the abbey including an ampulla that I found myself near to Framlingham. 

The abbey grounds are famous for their displays of snowdrops and we were fortunate to find them carpeting the whole woodland surrounding the ruins.

Our friends at our keep fit classes told us not to miss The Gunton Arms near North Walsham.

So on Monday evening we took a short taxi drive from the hotel and enjoyed a fabulous dinner there. My steak was probably the best steak I've ever eaten and Marion too enjoyed a hearty venison stew - a pub speciality. 

We had planned to do some more exploring of the coast on Tuesday but the weather wasn't suitable so we thought we'd check out Norwich cathedral. It's a place we've walked past a few times but this was our first time inside. It's a spectacular building and the best religious site I've visited outside of London. Here are a few photos.

The spire from the cloisters
Stained glass panels
The amazing ceiling

One of the hundreds of medieval carved ceiling roundels
A magnificent medieval panel by a Norwich artist that miraculously survived the Reformation  disguised as a plumber's table

Another major medieval art work.

I loved this Pre Raphaelite style stained glass memorial to Norwich soldiers who were South African War heroes 
Exquisite stonework
More wonderful stained glass
More master stonework
I could have taken a hundred photos.

I've still got a field available to search with the detector so I had a try today. The weather was bitter and I found myself carrying half the field around on my wellies and my detector but I did manage to find a bit.

Here's what I tipped out of the bag. This was from today and a visit last week.

The scrap lead box is starting to fill up again.

The best find was this Edward I silver penny 
Civitas Cantor means it was minted in Canterbury
This white metal cufflink with a glass inset dates to c1650-1750. It's interesting as it still has the link. There are several examples on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database but none with the link.
Artefacts and "partifacts" including a spindle whorl, a bell fragment a couple of lead pot mends, a pot foot and several unidentified bits

Three sixpences, a Charles I rose farthing and an unidentified copper coin 

And, of course, the usual selection of buttons

I think I'll wait for things to warm up and dry out before I head out again.