Tuesday, 28 November 2017

RIP Bill Cashmore

I have just heard from Stewart Lee's latest mailshot that Bill Cashmore passed away on the 9th of November, aged just 56. Cashmore may not have been a household name, but anyone with a keen interest in comedy in the '90s and '00s will recognise his face from his appearances on Lee and Herring's Fist of Fun, and The Day Today and Brass Eye with Chris Morris. More recently, Cashmore entered the world of politics and stood as the Green Party candidate for Chelsea and Fulham at the last election, as you can see in the campaign photo below.

Cashmore's career started out, like many of his contemporaries (including Nick Hancock and David Baddiel) at Cambridge Footlights. From there he appeared in several landmark comedies of the 1990s, as well as straight roles in The Bill, All Creatures Great and Small (as cricketer Fred Trueman, pictured below) Casualty, and Kavanagh QC.

Cashmore also worked in children's TV, writing and performing sketches on the Saturday morning show Gimme 5 and appearing in the 8th series of the cult children's quiz series Knightmare in 1994, where he played several roles; the menacing Snapper Jack the fool taker (pictured below), Honesty Bartram the potion dealer and Bhal-Shebah the Red Dragon, which he provided the voice for. 

He was also a travel writer with columns in The Spectator and The Sunday Telegraph and a noted playwright, having penned the award winning Daughter,  the much staged Trip of a Lifetime, and An Everyday Actor. His play Him, Her and Them was due to transfer to London's Finbrough theatre at the time of Cashmore's death which came about following an aortic dissection earlier this month.  

Here is one of Cashmore's most famous appearances on Fist of Fun, appearing as The Man in the 'The Tortoise and The Man' sketch from series 1


Monday, 27 November 2017

Theme Time: The Sanderson Pitch - Man Stroke Woman

This takes me back. Man Stroke Woman was a fine BBC3 sketch comedy series featuring an impressive ensemble cast consisting of Nick Frost, Daisy Haggard, Nicholas Burns, Amanda Abbington, Ben Crompton and Meredith MacNeill. The series was directed by Richard Cantor and produced by Ash Atalla, who had just come from The Office. The show ran for two series from 2005 to 2007 and was innovative and fresh enough to break away from most sketch show conventions by containing no laugh track or studio audience and centring mostly around a general theme of relationships, as the show's website put it:

Some people think men are from Mars and women from Venus. Well, this show pits the two together and turns it into sketch comedy. Acted by a troupe of 20 to 30 somethings, the situations all strike close to home, but with a more extreme and comedic bent.

I recently picked up both series on DVD quite cheaply for plenty of laughs and nostalgic feels. Chief among those feels was the show's beautiful theme tune from an unsigned band called The Sanderson Pitch. Back when the show was airing in the mid 00s, the band had a Myspace page and I got quite friendly  with them, chatting back and forth and professing my love for the theme tune, which was entitled Dive. It really is a beautiful song...

Unfortunately, The Sanderson Pitch never got the big success they clearly deserved. The cast of the show have fared much better though, with Amanda Abbington and Nick Frost having both gone on to become household names (though admittedly Frost had already done Spaced and Shaun of the Dead prior to making the show). The rest of the troupe all continue to work regularly; Daisy Haggard continues to be a familiar and beautiful face on our screens, most recently having starred in the hit comedy series Episodes, whilst Nicholas Burns has appeared in Benidorm and in the title role of Nathan Barley, as well as the films The Lady In The Van and The World's End, which reunited him with Frost. Meredith MacNeill starred in the films Confetti and FAQ About Time Travel and appeared as Merry in Peep Show before returning to her native Canada where she now stars in the all-girl Baroness Von Sketch Show. Meanwhile Ben Crompton has starred in several seasons of Game of Thrones as Eddison Tollet, appeared in Ben Wheatley's cult film Kill List and was most recently in an episode of BBC2's very funny Motherland. For me however, he'll forever be Colin, the scally who is perpetually on probation in the BBC3 sitcom Ideal

You can check out several sketches from Man Stroke Woman on YouTube, including this one which also features a pre-fame Miranda Hart

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

RIP Derek 'Red Robbo' Robinson

A belated obituary for British Leyland trade union leader Derek Robinson who passed away on the 31st of October at the age of 90. 

A titan of the trade union movement and a familiar figure in the 1970's, the Morning Star today featured a very good obituary piece from Graham Stevenson, Andy Chaffer and George Hickman, which you can read by clicking here.


Rodney Bewes, Mike Hugg and Jimi Hendrix? A Theme Time Special

Following the death of Rodney Bewes yesterday, an anecdote he once shared with Richard Herring has surprisingly come to light; did he once jam with Jimi Hendrix?

As you'll see from Herring's Metro article (click on the link above) Bewes - admittedly no stranger to embellishment - claimed that Hendrix poked his head around the studio door that housed Bewes and Likely Lads songwriter Mike Hugg and asked if he could join them and play on the theme to Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? It's a great story, but it's impossible as not only was Hendrix was dead by then, Bewes wasn't even involved in the theme tune anyway. But, as Herring argues, had Bewes misremembered? Was he really thinking of the psychedelic theme he and Hugg wrote for his overlooked sitcom Dear Mother...Love Albert?

Dear Mother...Love Albert was a sitcom written by Bewes himself based on the letters he wrote his mother back home in the north of England. Bewes starred as Albert Courtney (a nod to his good friend Tom Courtenay?) who moves to London to work in a confectionery company and shares a flat with two girls, finding love with Doreen (played first by Liz Gebhardt and later Cheryl Hall). His letters home are prone to exaggeration (as was Bewes himself in real life, as we have seen). The series ran from 1969 to 1972, but only three series exist as the first was wiped by Thames TV. Hugg and Bewes' theme tune was memorably groovy with the leading man relying on a bottle of port to give him the confidence to get the vocals down. But was Hendrix really there? Have a listen and see what you think...

Out On Blue Six: Grace Petrie

Since seeing her on the Lefty Scum bill, I've become quite besotted with the talents of Grace Petrie. Here's the video for How Long Has It Been? (The Topshop Song). It may be one of her non political songs, but it is still a lovely showcase of her songwriting and vocalist skills. Accompanied by Caitlin Field. Enjoy...

End Transmission

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

RIP Rodney Bewes

I'm truly saddened to hear of the death of another entertainment figure who had the ability to seem so familiar and relatable to us all, Rodney Bewes, who has passed away just days ahead of his 80th birthday. Coming so soon after Keith Barron, it feels like a kick in the teeth.

Hailing from Bingley, West Yorkshire, Bewes will forever be remembered for his performance as the aspirational but ever hapless Bob Ferris in Clement and La Frenais' The Likely Lads, it's subsequent follow up Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads and it's big screen spin-off. For my money, one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time. Bewes certainly felt so too, taking great pride in his association with the series - unlike the snobby attitude that his co-star James Bolam has regarding the show, which has seen him refuse repeats in the past, and continue to consider the show off limits for interviews to this day. Sadly Bewes and Bolam fell out over a misunderstanding after making the film version of the show which arguably stopped any more episodes being made and the rift sadly continued for the rest of Bewes' life. 

Bewes got arguably his first big break with a supporting role in the film Billy Liar, sharing the screen with his then real-life flatmate Tom Courtenay. It was a role that effectively led to him playing Bob Ferris, but away from The Likely Lads Bewes enjoyed a career that included the ITV sitcom Dear Mother...Love Albert, which he co-created and co-wrote with Derrick Goodwin, appeared as a sidekick to children's TV favourite Basil Brush and starred in the films Spring and Port Wine, San Ferry Ann, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, The Three Musketeers, Saint Jack, Jabberwocky, The Spaceman and King Arthur and The Wildcats of St Trinian's and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore.  

The 1980s and '90s saw Bewes appear as a guest actor in series such as Doctor Who, were he played the conflicted Stien in the action-packed Peter Davison serial Resurrection of the Daleks, and the Jimmy Nail detective drama Spender, which returned him to Newcastle, home of The Likely Lads. Much of this latter stage in his career was preoccupied with theatre work, with Bewes appearing in Ray Cooney's farces such as Funny Money in the West End and touring one man shows of Rollerball, Three Men in a Boat and Diary of a Nobody in art centres, theatres and at the Edinburgh fringe. He wrote his autobiography, A Likely Story, in 2005 and is survived by his four children and two grandchildren.

RIP pet.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Out On Blue Six: Lissie

I guess you know you're getting old when you discover music via trails on BBC1, as often seems to be the case for me these days. The old muso of my youth would shake his head in dismay at me, he really would; he was all over this kind of thing like a tramp on a thrown away Meal Deal. Anyway, this one from Lissie is currently appearing on the trails for the BBC's new adaptation of Forster's Howards End, which I still haven't seen a single episode of yet as I am so behind with TV just now. Is it any good?

End Transmission

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Fact Meets Fiction: Jessie Eden and Peaky Blinders, Part 2

In episode four of season three of Peaky Blinders, there was a mention of Jessie Eden, the real-life Birmingham trade unionist and communist who made her name during the 1926 General Strike. I had previously blogged about this fact meeting fiction moment here, and saw that post gaining much traction in the last fortnight. Well, now I know why: Jessie Eden has become a regular character in the show, making her debut in the season four opening episode which was broadcast on Wednesday. 

Jessie Eden is played by Irish actress Charlie Murphy and her appearance has sparked a lot of interest in the real Jessie, as evinced by articles at Den of Geek and The Guardian, the latter of which features an interview with her daughter-in-law Andrea McCulloch, who had previously posted a message on my earlier blog post.

I was already looking forward to this new season but now, having watched the nail biting first episode and seen Murphy's performance as Eden, I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out even more! It's worth pointing out though that, as with the mention of Eden in the last series, writer/creator Steven Knight is playing fast and loose with history once more: Season four commences on Christmas, 1925 and at this point in her life, Jessie Shrimpton (as she was then known, Shrimpton being her maiden name) was only a shop steward of a small number of unionised members rather than the union leader they are depicting her as - that came much later, in 1931, when she led thousands of women out on a week long strike.

Still, it's good to see both an aspect of social and cultural history and a significant figure in trade union history be given the spotlight they have been unfairly kept away from for so long.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Eichmann (2007)

Known as 'the architect of the Holocaust,' Adolf Eichmann, upon being presented to the world during his trial for war crimes in 1960, appeared a figure of calculating and fastidious grey efficiency. Hannah Arendt, one of the journalists covering the trial, became famous for coining the phrase 'the banality of evil' when witnessing these last days of the facilitator of the Reich's Final Solution. Unfortunately it could be argued that the 2007 film Eichmann, Robert Young's admittedly sincere but occasionally tonally off account of Eichmann's confessions to Captain Avner Less of the Israeli Police Force, is rather guilty of banality itself.

The film takes the form of a legal procedural; placing the young, idealistic Less played by Troy Garity against the weary, duplicitous captive played by Thomas Kretschmann. The main meat of the film is how Less must dig deep to not only confront the physical embodiment of pure evil on a daily basis but also to wring a confession from him. There's also a race against time too, as the press have got wind of a conflict of interest - Less' father was personally sent to his death in Auschwitz by Eichmann.

However, perhaps realising that a film consisting of two men sat opposite one another across a table may be considered boring - even when based on official Israeli documentation about the greatest horror in living memory, director Young and his scriptwriter Snoo Wilson make the fatally offensive mistake of 'sexing' their production up by exploring the rumours that surround Eichmann that are perhaps less than substantiated. The film takes great pains to depict Eichmann as a sexual deviant; his eye lingers on the rear end of an Israeli policewoman and her prominent nipples against the thin fabric of her uniform as he sits in his cell. In the flashbacks, we witness an Eichmann furiously making love to his wife on their first night together in Argentina. Later in the film, when we are shown Eichmann's activities in the war years, we are witness to his liaisons with two mistresses; the first an Austrian Jewish woman and the second a Hungarian Countess who is perversely sexually gratified to hear the details of the Final Solution in some of the film's most unsettling, unsavoury scenes. This opportunity to show tits and arse in such a film is rather tasteless, but it is nothing compared to the unbearably fraught, sickening scene in which the Countess arrives in Eichmann's office with a Jewish baby who she instructs him to kill for her. It's a deeply distressing moment and Eichmann does indeed pull the trigger, but is it true? I can't find anything that truly corroborates it. Perhaps it is the film-maker's intentions to inform us in the clearest possible terms that Eichmann is responsible for the deaths of many babies, children, men and women, young and old. But do we really need informing of that fact? Is it a case of taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut?

The film also suffers from some one dimensional characterisation. This is most noticeable in Less, who is little more than a blank sheet which the film paints with idealism, torture, indignation and a crusading spirit at various stages across the 90 or so minutes. Garity's performance doesn't help lift the character from the plot mechanics he is there to serve either. It's a real shame, as the real Avner Less deserves better. Understandably in its reverence towards the subject the film actually reduces and condescends the Jewish people even further, with each character standing in as examples of the suffering of their people as a whole. 

Thomas Kretschmann however is chillingly convincing in his attempt to bring the familiar film footage and photographs of Eichmann to life. It's a deeply uncomfortable skin crawling performance of ruthless, quiet self entitlement and barely suppressed notions of superiority that actually grow in their appalling captivating manner because Garity opposite him is so empty. Here at least the film does what it sets out to do and details the horror of the man and of what he was responsible for.

Rounding out the cast are Franka Potente as Less' wife and curiously Stephen Fry as the Israeli Justice Minister who places Less in the role of inquisitor. Whilst Eichmann doesn't escape its minimal budget trappings it  is a solid, well made piece as one perhaps would expect from Young, a veteran of TV and similar small budget features. Overall though I'd recommend The Eichmann Show or, most especially, the excellent Conspiracy over this.

Black Rock (2012)

A Lambrini-fuelled city break weekend for the girls would have been a better bet really. Less carnage anyway. Well....just about. Still, I'm down with my crush Lake Bell kicking ass.

Being a firm believer that man is the greatest monster, I rather like survival thrillers actually. Deliverance, Straw Dogs, hell I even like The Backwoods and no sod seems to like that one. Black Rock is a welcome addition to this sub genre because it not only places three female protagonists at its heart, it's also directed by one of the actresses - Katie Aselton - from a story she conceived, and produced by a woman too - Adele Romanski. 

The story concerns three lifelong friends, Abby (Aselton), Lou (Lake Bell) and Sarah (Kate Bosworth) who head out to a remote island they once visited in their youth in the hope of fixing the cracks and fissures in their fragile friendship.  On their first night there, they run into three former soldiers who are hunting on the island and a drunken Abby begins to flirt wildly with one of them, Henry (Will Bouvier). They both retreat into the woods to make out, but when Abby changes her mind, Henry becomes aggressive and tries to force himself on her. Her only recourse is to hit him with a rock, which kills him. Henry's two friends, Alex and Derek (Anslem Richardson and Jay Paulson) quickly become enraged and pretty soon they're hunting down the girls with the sole intention of bloody revenge.

Because this is a film by women and about women, Black Rock has some very interesting things to say which you might not normally find in such a sub genre of horror. Obviously there's the whole symbolism of predatory males, but what's really progressive is that a mainstream popcorn thriller with a target audience of teens and upwards is expressing the universal truth that a woman has the right to say no at any time during a sexual encounter, irrespective of how willing she may have appeared before that point, and more - that the woman should not be judged or attacked as a result. It's also interesting to see scenes of nudity (so often a genre staple in modern horrors/thrillers of this type) occur naturally and convincingly in terms of the plot for practicalities sake rather than any gratuitous need.

And it's all wrapped up in just 75 minutes, which is something I really appreciated, although, to be honest, I would have happily sat through a bit more of a lead-in to the action just to get more of our three leads. Oh well, there's a score from The Kills

Friday, 17 November 2017

The Wall (2017)

Thankfully not a film about Trump’s intentions regarding the US/Mexico border, The Wall is, in fact, a tense, psychological war movie from director Doug Liman.

It’s surprising that the 52-year-old director of such big hitters as The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow and the recent American Made is responsible for The Wall because (and I don’t mean this as a criticism) this feels like the work of a young film school graduate, an extension perhaps of his graduation project. There’s something intrinsically low key about The Wall‘s intimate set-up, and something independently minded about its overall desire to subvert audience expectations that makes it a surprise move from an established action director like Liman. The film’s inherent youthfulness actually stems from Afro-American playwright Dwain Worrell, who was teaching English in China when he sold his screenplay on spec to Amazon Studios in 2014

Read my full review at The Geek Show

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Out On Blue Six: Jim Diamond

Last week on BBC4, the repeats of Top of the Pops had reached the last week in November 1984 when Jim Diamond, the little Scotsman with the big voice, knocked Chaka Khan off the number one spot with his single I Should Have Known Better

The former PhD vocalist's memorable ballad enjoyed just one week at the top of the charts, its brief stay largely down to Diamond himself who - perhaps at the frustration of his record company - spent the week publically requesting fans bought Band Aid's recently recorded charitable venture Do They Know It's Christmas? rather than his own single; "I'm delighted to be at number one, but next week I don't want people to buy my record; I want them to buy Band Aid instead"

It was actually Frankie Goes To Hollywood's The Power of Love that took the following week's number one spot, but Band Aid had their moment taking number one and holding the position for five weeks, becoming the much prized Christmas number one that year. Diamond's hit didn't lose out - it scored the Ivor Novello award that year and the signer's selfless act has been recalled fondly ever since.

End Transmission

RIP Keith Barron

Sad to hear of the death of TV stalwart Keith Barron at the age of 83.

For over fifty years the Mexborough-born Barron was a mainstay of the box in the corner of your living room, cornering the market in those slightly posh northerner roles, often caught in the midst of a moral crisis. His most famous role was probably as David, the adulterous holidaymaker in the 1980s ITV sitcom Duty Free but he first shot to fame in the 1960s playing Detective Sergeant Swift in Granada's The Odd Man and its follow up, It's Cold Outside, and as Dennis Potter's semi-autobiographical hero Nigel Barton in two ground breaking Wednesday Play's Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton.

In 1989 he played cab driver Tom in Tony Marchant's memorable TV drama Take Me Home before starring opposite Nigel Havers in the ITV adventure series The Good Guys. He also starred in two further sitcoms in the '90s, the historical comedy Haggard opposite Sam Kelly and Reece Dinsdale for ITV and the less-than-successful All Night Long for the BBC in 1994, a series that only I seem to remember in which he played an ex-con who ran an all-night bakery. Other work included roles in Upstairs, Downstairs, Telford's Change, A Family At War, Jackanory, The New Avengers, Doctor Who (memorably playing space-age yachtsman Striker in the Peter Davison serial Enlightenment), Room at the Bottom, Where the Heart Is, Dead Man Weds, Dalziel and Pascoe, The Chase, Casualty, Holby City, Lapland, Being Eileen and DCI Banks. He also starred on the big screen in films such as Baby Love, The Man Who Had Power Over Woman, Nothing But The Night, The Land That Time Forgot, At The Earth's Core and Voyage of the Damned.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

On a Scale of 1 to 10, How Insensitive are the Tories on Grenfell?

Can you believe the Tories are asking Kensington residents, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important the tragedy of Grenfell tower is to them?

Just how insensitive can you get? And this from a Tory government that claims they have learnt from Hillsborough. They are making the same mistakes all over again.

If you agree that this is unacceptable and want to ensure the government do not shirk their responsibilities to the victims of Grenfell and everyone currently living in a residence without sufficient protection at next week's Budget, then please sign this petition

These Dangerous Years (1957)

I watched this one primarily for Carole Lesley (*sighs*) When one character is shown a photo of her, he sniffs 'there's dozens like her in Liverpool' Believe me, there ain't! Worst luck.

The lovely Lesley (a blonde bombshell of many a '50s and '60s British movie, who sadly died of a drug overdose at the age of 38 in 1974 when fame proved elusive) plays the love interest to Frankie Vaughan and These Dangerous Years is definitely a vehicle for the then popular Liverpudlian crooner. The plot tells the story of Dave Wyman, a young delinquent played by Vaughan, and his gang of 'Dingle boys' whose territory is the south Mersey foreshore known as the 'Cassy' (the Cast Iron Shore); the rust-red sands at Dingle Point, which has now been redeveloped as Otterspool Promenade.  This being the late '50s, England still has its National Service and it isn't long before Dave is conscripted into the forces to do his bit. 

Can the army tame this bad boy?

Well initially it seems like they can, as Dave defies all expectations and proves himself a natural soldier, despite his refusal to have his teddy boy haircut shaved off. He's soon promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal, much to the chagrin of Michael Ripper's barrack room bully who sets out to discredit Dave, with tragically fatal consequences. Facing court martial and possibly even the hangman's noose, Dave flees camp and returns to Liverpool, relying on his girl (Lesley) and his fellow tearaways (including Eddie Byrne and Kenneth Cope) for help or maybe even hindrance. But can the regimental Padre (George Baker), who believes in Dave, catch up with him and persuade him to face the music and prove his innocence? 

These Dangerous Years is quite a bit of fun to be honest, and if you're a fan of Vaughan's musical career I imagine it would be even more fun. I'm not really, so I may have fast forwarded through at least one of his shoehorned numbers, but the story surrounding it stands up rather well - indeed, they could have removed all the opportunities to showcase Vaughan's singing and it would have worked fine. The juvenile delinquency storyline is wonderfully evocative of the 1950s (all greased back quiffs, leather jackets, chain smoking and coffee bars) and is one that probably meant a lot to Vaughan who, as a kid, did run around with gangs in Liverpool before finding an outlet in the local boys' club and music. His commitment to ensuring others had the same escape as he did saw him establish the Easterhouse Project in Glasgow in the late '60s in an attempt to secure peace between the warring juvenile gangs of the Scottish city. 

Vaughan's acting may not be award winning, but he equips himself rather well in carrying the film and he's ably supported by the aforementioned Lesley and George Baker, who he shares top billing with, as well as Jocelyn 'Jackie' Lane (once touted as Britain's Brigitte Bardot, she went on to star opposite Elvis in Tickle Me, before retiring from acting in 1973 to marry Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg), John Le Mesurier, Katherine Kath and, all too briefly, Thora Hird.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Out On Blue Six: London Grammar

London Grammar's haunting stripped back version of Chris Isaak's 1989 hit Wicked Game has been used to great effect in the BBC's trailer for the forthcoming fourth series of Peaky Blinders, which commences this week. I cannot wait to be back with the Shelby Clan, but for now, here's London Grammar...

End Transmission

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

I guess A Clockwork Orange is something akin to a movie buff’s ‘Where were you when Kennedy was shot?’ moment. Every self-respecting film devotee from the UK is likely to recall the first time they watched Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece and, if you’re of a certain age, chances are you were breaking the law when you did. Which seems kind of apt when watching this vivid study of a young man who not only likes Beethoven and milk, but a bit of the old ultra-violence too.

Let me explain. If you hail from the UK and you’ve purchased this beautiful, extras packed Warner Bros Premium Collection DVD/Blu-ray/Digital download of A Clockwork Orange or, if you’ve seen it for the first time any time in the last seventeen years (perhaps you saw it on ITV2? The grandmother of Northern comedian Peter Kay did, who claims she famously uttered the maloprop “did you see Stanley Kubrick’s A Chocolate Orange on TV last night?”) you’re not familiar with how surreal that seems to a generation of moviegoers who have gone before you. Kubrick, like Baron Frankenstein fearful of the Monster he gave life to, withdrew his creation from general release within the UK indefinitely in early 1974 as a direct reaction to a growing number of so-called copy-cat crimes and protests from councillors, politicians, the clergy, Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, and, most damning of all, the press. A Clockwork Orange became, to all intents and purposes, a dangerous cult movie.

See my full review at The Geek Show

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Nigel Farage Thinks His Followers Are Idiots

I'm currently reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In it, there's a line of dialogue that goes something like this: "'Intellectual' became the swear word it deserved to be" and that's a quote that immediately springs to mind when I think of the kind of world Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and the Alt Right are trying to create.

This week the World Health Organisation welcomed the decision to ban cigarette sales in the Vatican as of next year, reminding us all that, as tobacco kills 7 million people per year, this is a wise move.

Nigel Farage, a survivor of testicular cancer himself, took to twitter to say this in response:

"The World Health Organisation is just another club of 'clever people' who want to bully us and tell us what to do. Ignore"

For a long time now I've spoken on this blog about 'the rise of the idiots' (a reference to the Chris Morris/Charlie Brooker sitcom Nathan Barley) and I believe it really is coming to fruition with the rise of the alt right, because they are hell bent on making 'intellectual' a swear word; something to discredit, something to hold in utter contempt. They're creating a fairytale world where anyone who doesn't share their world view is a middle class, nanny-state loving, PC-gone-mad snowflake whose read far too many books and never done a decent day's work in their life - it's you against them in a fight for our 'freedoms'. But just what is it that has made them spin intelligence and expertise as a negative, whilst the possession of criticism and contempt for it is a positive trait to any character?

And just why do their followers accept this constant reinforcement of an idea that they are barely educated everymen facing off against 'clever' bullies? Do you have to be an idiot to be a UKIP voter? Nigel Farage seems to think so, and yet consistently calling these voters 'idiots' doesn't actually turn anyone away. In that regard, they really must be idiots then. Either that or people who just don't mind being considered as such.

The catch 22 of all this of course is that the more insulting and absurdly, wilfully ignorant comments Farage et al makes the more those of us on the left react by pointing out how stupid they are being. And the more we point this out, the more ammo the alt right have in claiming we're part of a 'clever club' who believe they have the power to tell people what to do and think.

It's a vicious circle. But please, if you have ever felt that the politics of Farage and the like personally offer something to you, take a moment to consider how it feels to be basically called an idiot by the man you're giving your vote to. 

Silent Sunday: Remembrance

Saturday, 11 November 2017

RIP John Hillerman

The Texan actor John Hillerman, famous for playing the stuffy former British officer Johnathan Higgins in Magnum PI, has died at the age of 84.

Higgins was the manager of the Hawaiian estate that housed Tom Selleck's laidback PI and became Hillerman's most famous and acclaimed role, bagging five Golden Globe nominations (and one win) alongside four EMMY nominations (and one win). He become something of an honorary Brit, and would go on to play British characters several times (including playing Dr Watson opposite Edward Woodward's Sherlock Holmes in the TV movie Hands of a Murderer) to the extent that he received one fan letter from an Englishwoman who praised him as 'a credit to the empire', he wrote back informing her he was actually 'a hick from Texas'. 

Other roles included the radio show 'tec Simon Brimmer on Ellery Queen and The Betty White Show, whilst he also appeared in films such as Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show and What's Up Doc? Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles, Roman Polanski's Chinatown and Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter

Hillerman retired seventeen years ago setting up home once more in his native Texas and had been in ill health for some time.


Friday, 10 November 2017

Jodie's Doctor Costume Revealed

I just came.

She looks adorable in cropped teal culottes, yellow braces, striped top (anyone else thinking Mork & Mindy or is that just me?), swishy trench coat, blue stripey socks and boots. Oh and earrings too - a first for the Doctor!

Gig Review: Lefty Scum @ Liverpool Everyman, 9/11/17

Having seen and greatly enjoyed Josie Long's stand up in March this year, the minute she announced she was returning to Liverpool to perform at the Everyman, I booked tickets, bagging myself a front row seat. But I didn't just get a night of entertainment from Josie Long, I also got entertainment from the musical comic duo Jonny & the Baptists and the folk protest singer Grace Petrie.

Just what brings these talented performers together? A desire to deliver comedy, music and revolutionary socialism to empower their audiences and make them feel less alone. This was a show that really did prove that we were all in this together. This was Lefty Scum.

It was like Red Wedge, but with laughs and thankfully without Spandau Ballet.

I came to the Everyman last night as a big fan of Josie Long, and I left as a big fan of Grace Petrie and Jonny and the Baptists - artistes whose talents simply blew me away. 

Jonny & the Baptists deliver side-achingly, howlingly hilarious songs about revolutionary swans, UKIP supporting fathers and the joy of Thatcher's death combined with the disappointment that, like Roy Wood's Christmas, it's not something we can celebrate everyday. Bearded, delightfully rambling between songs, and giving their performance great gusto, they're like Tenacious D....but funny and talented, obviously.

Grace Petrie took the stage to point out that she was not actually a comedian, although that didn't stop her having the audience laughing pretty much from that moment on. She blends her charismatic, quippy stage presence with some truly striking, impassioned and honest lyrics that really make you sit up and listen as they detail everything from the insane hang-up our society has with royalty, the Spanish Civil War, her disgust at UKIP and Tory homophobia to the more homegrown nature of the birth of her niece and the issues arising from dating a vegan. These are songs that provoke thought and also amuse, much like Billy Bragg at his best. Petrie delivered a bravura performance, despite her apologies that she was coming down with a cold, her impressive voice booming to the rafters as a clarion call, not to arms as she says in one track, but to give a helping hand. 

And in between these startling talents is Josie Long. Since I last saw her in March, Long has had a tough few months at the hands of some extremely right wing commentators online. She touches upon this situation and how it has affected her in her performance, but she remains an inspiring, confident figure who really is, as her material touches upon, growing in stature. These neo-Nazi alt right hate preachers (and I may have shouted out that they're 'pricks' at this point, oops) have done their best to try and silence Long and many on the left, but she remains unbeaten and unbowed and, if anything, Lefty Scum was a night that told us we are not alone. It was a night that told us that yes, things can be disappointing and disheartening, things can looks scary, unequal and unfair as people are exploited and prejudiced against on a daily basis. But we are not alone. Liverpool, like other gigs along this tour, was sold out; theatres packed with like minded souls who all believe that the world should be a fairer, better place and more, that it can be too. 

Lefty Scum is a show I would heartily recommend you catch - only trouble is, last night's gig was the end of the tour; a triumphant conclusion that the gang should all be incredibly proud of. I only hope that Lefty Scum can become an annual event, to inspire more and more people.

Take heart though, you can catch Grace Petrie on tour with her Lefty Christmas show (gig list at her site here) whilst Jonny & the Baptists are at London's Diorama Theatre throughout December with their Thirty Christmases show, before a short tour commencing in Feb 2018 (gig list at their site here)

I'm off now to listen to the Grace Petrie and Jonny & the Baptists albums I purchases during last night's interval and hoping they all come round again soon!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Out On Blue Six: Until The Ribbon Breaks

For the past four weeks or so now, I've been watching a show called X Company on the History Channel.

The series follows the adventures of five OSS agents who have completed their training at the titular Canadian based Camp X and are now working behind enemy lines in Occupied France during WWII. It's a Canadian show which made its debut in 2015 but has only just reached these shores. It stars a range of Canadian/British/French actors including √Čvelyne Brochu, Jack Laskey, Connor Price, Dustin Milligan and Warrington's own Warren Brown.

So, why am I talking about a TV show in an Out On Blue Six post? Well it's because the closing moments of the first episode featured an unusual and really good cover version of the Blondie classic One Way or Another by British band Until The Ribbon Breaks. I'd never heard it before and I was immediately bowled over. So, by way of a public service, here's a good new show for you to discover and a track you may not have heard before too.

End Transmission

Monday, 6 November 2017

Last Night's Tele: Sheridan, ITV

An old fashioned variety showcase for Sheridan Smith, the Doncaster girl who has come a long way from her days as the star of BBC3 sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. Having wowed the nation with her straight acting roles in must-see dramas such as Mrs Biggs, Cilla, The C-Word and The Moorside, Smith became a West End star when she took the lead role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. A singer since she was a child, it was only natural that an album deal would come beckoning and this one off special was certainly designed to showcase this latest venture from the national treasure.

The elephant in the room of course is that runaway success has come at a price. Last year was a particularly turbulent time for Smith thanks to the death of her much loved musician father from cancer. A hiatus from Funny Girl occurred, as did a spell in rehab. This special could arguably have been the opportunity to show that she has come back stronger and better, but I'm not convinced. Twitter, being the domain of complete and utter bastards, delighted in ridiculing Sheridan's appearance. It's true that she has gained weight (a natural physical reaction to anti-depressants that she may very well have been taking at the time the special was recorded) and it is equally true that she has committed to a lot of tattoos recently and that the make-up and costume department possibly didn't serve her well in the show, but the reaction online made for grim insensitive reading and given that we're talking about someone who is openly admitting to vulnerability after tragic circumstances, it seemed especially cruel. 

And yet, I must tactfully suggest that there was something undeniably uncomfortable about Sheridan here. The interviews between the songs (from a deeply complimentary, gentle Alexander Armstrong) revealed that Sheridan had turned down several offers to make a record previously to the disappointment of her father. Now that he has passed, she confessed it felt the right time to do so and to dedicate the album to him. It's an understandable reaction to the loss she has suffered, but I couldn't escape the sense that this project may just be too much, too soon. Perhaps the clearest answer to this concern is in Sheridan's music; a striking, stripped-down version of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going sees Smith openly weeping as she performs - it's not an act, it's coming from a very real place.

As for the show itself, your enjoyment depends not so much on whether you're a Sheridan Smith fan but on whether you can stomach the kind of show that essentially sees its star sing a medley of musical numbers, classic ballads and chart hits. It's a cheesy affair, the kind of 'extravaganza' that was very much at home in the '70s and '80s. I do wonder if a more An Audience With... format would have suited Sheridan better and I did find it strange that Armstrong's skip through Sheridan's TV career didn't touch upon the show that effectively made her a household name: Two Pints. I know it was a marmite show and that it is probably very out of favour now, but to completely ignore it just seemed wrong.

The highlight of the special has to be the moment when Sheridan, during filming for Cilla, had a night off and brought her friends back to her hotel room for a drunken game of Blind Date complete with the prop department 'Cilla' teeth!