Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Akhnaten at the English National Opera

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Last week I went to the opera, a first for me, as it’s not entirely my thing. I went to see Akhnaten, by Philip Glass, which I rather like for reasons I can’t properly explain. And that’s how he chooses to spell it (rather than the more traditional Akhenaten) – it’s not my typo!

And spoilers follow, so if you don’t want to know the fate of an Egyptian King from 1350BC, or how the opera is staged in London, look away now!

Visually it started very obscurely, with symbols projected onto the curtain. Probably hieroglyphs, but not very meaningful to the non-specialist! The curtain then opened on the death rites of Amenhotep, with the dead king being prepared for his funeral. A surprising amount of juggling! The 3 tier stage had the gods watching from above, juggling what I assumed were the souls of the departed. Nice touch. Also very true to the imagery of the period, where paintings show the gods lined up to watch the ceremony from above. There’s lots more very authentic imagery later on too, where they recreate pictures from the Amarna period – I was impressed by that. 

The first act climaxes with the heart of the King weighing the same as a feather, which is good news for him and allows him to proceed to the afterlife, and coronation of Akhnaten who then unexpectedly renounces the faith of his fathers, and declares his allegiance to a new god, the Aten instead. 

Very stylistic performances, with slow motion movements spreading the action out across the music. The first act also had some gratuitous nudity, as the new king is stripped and reclothed as King – only to be expected from the Arts ūüôā

I’m fairly familiar with the music, having listened to it lots of times. But hearing it live was different – I especially appreciated the tuba, whose power as an instrument was very striking. 

In the second act we finally hear Akhnaten sing, and his counter-tenor voice is strikingly odd, especially in duets with women, where it blends in a most unusual way. We also get amazing stylised fighting, where the jugglers throw clubs across the stage at each other, and each weapon becomes part of their own juggling pattern. They got a big round of applause for that!

Act 2 also includes a massive sun (the Aten)  which dominates the stage, looking at times a bit like the Death Star, and at other times like a production of James and the Giant Peach depending on the lighting. 

Thus ends act 2. 

Act 3 is the tragic ending, the fall of the King as his people revolt (very slowly) against their remote and detached ruler. After the flawless mass juggling throughout, the point where all the balls drop to the floor has a real emotional impact – this is it, it’s broken, it’s all over. And the final contrast between the students throwing rolled up notes at each other contrasts beautifully with the skill of all the previous juggling (it’s a professional juggling outfit by the way, who don’t sing). 

I am still ambivalent about some of the music, but I really like other parts. I have to admit, I wished I could have seen more of the orchestra from my seat. But it was a genuine spectacle, and as someone who likes the music, it was a very good night. For the record, the Guardian reviewer liked it, and the Times reviewer didn’t!

The Opening Ceremony

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I ¬†hadn’t planned to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony. I’m not a fan of organised sport, so obviously the Olympics is not my cup of tea –¬†I generally refer to it as the Great Egg and Spoon Race. But I was working late at home on Friday night, and had come to an end just as I knew it was starting, so I thought I would stick on the tv and give it a chance.

And most unexpectedly, I was impressed. For a start, there was no sport, which was great. It was also uniquely British – no other country would choose to celebrate the things that Danny Boyle chose, and I like that.¬†It was a¬†good show. And most unexpectedly, there was humour. These sorts of things are usually super-serious, nothing but pomp and ceremony, and viewers usually find the humour in it by pricking that pomposity. But the inclusion of the excellent Mr Bean sketch, and the Queen’s parachuting were completely unexpected, and did a brilliant job of lightening the mood and making it less pompous. A great move, and very daring! And full marks to the Queen for joining in.

But the things that impressed me most were actually towards the end. The choice of people who carried in the Olympic flag was remarkable – when¬†I heard the name Doreen Lawrence, I was really surprised. But I loved that the opportunity was taken to acknowledge people who are actually making the world a better place, as opposed to the Olympics, which is meant to be about that, but isn’t really. We could argue all day about who was or wasn’t worthy of it (probably about Shami Chakrabati), but¬†it was a great idea, and I loved it.¬†And then the inclusion of Mohammed Ali, a man once so great, but now unable to stand on his own, speak, or even smile for the event. The Olympics is all about stronger, faster and higher, but those things are fleeting, and I found Ali’s inclusion a poignant reminder of mortality.

And then I loved the fact that Danny outfoxed all of the bookies by using a group of young athletes to light the flame, rather than any of the famous names from the past. It was nice to beat the media, and do something that no-one expected. And the cauldron was a very nice piece of art itself.

I will of course admit that I didn’t watch all of it – the parade of the nations was¬†more interesting than I had expected, but I still did some wandering in and out at that stage. But I did watch most of it.

So good work Danny, an unexpected pleasure!

Ruddigore

Monday, June 18th, 2012

I had an unexpected pleasure on Saturday, of going to the Grand Opera House in the afternoon to see Gilbert and Sullivans’ Ruddigore. I know! Opera on a Saturday afternoon! What kind of crazy person does that! Well, me apparently. And maybe a hundred other people – I wasn’t there on my own.

I’d seen a few posters around town for this, and after enjoying a Gilbert and Sullivan opera last year I thought I should look into it. But I am disorganised clown, and I didn’t. Then a friend raved about it in work on Friday after seeing it the previous evening. I assumed I had missed my chance, but he pointed out that there was a Saturday afternoon matinee. So with his glowing recommendation, off I went.

The seats in Opera House remain as uncomfortable as I remember. But I really enjoyed my afternoon nonetheless. The spoiler-light summary of the story would be that Rose and Robin find their romance complicated greatly by the fact that he is the rightful Baron of Ruddigore, a title which comes with a curse that he must commit a crime every day or die horribly, by the fact that his friend Richard must always follow his heart wherever it may lead him, and by the fact that Rose must at all times behave properly according to her book of etiquette.

The play opens in the style of a silent film to provide some background, which is very nicely done. The curtain then opens to Rose being awoken by the local girls, all dressed as bridesmaids. As she is the prettiest girl in town, no-one will propose to them until she marries, and so they are all getting increasingly exasperated by her choosiness, and very keen for her to marry as soon as possible. It’s a lovely opening, well sung, with a large cast of bridesmaids, nicely choreographed, and with all the wit we expect from Gilbert and Sullivan.

Ruddigore is not apparently among the most loved of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works, and I freely admit I had never heard of it and recognised none of the songs. But¬†it was exactly what I had expected and hoped for –¬†the tunes are catchy, the lyrics are witty, and there were plenty of laughs. The staging was very good, with the ghostly Ruddigores emerging from their portraits very well, and generally high production values (as I guess they say in these situations).¬†The little orchestra were very good once the clarinet player had sorted out his squeaky reed in the first couple of numbers, and never overpowered the singers.

One song had a surprising update to include crimes such as phone hacking, expenses fiddling, and Greek debts which was marvellous and completely unexpected. But highlight for me had to be the playing of the baron as the classic pantomime villain, with black moustache, top hat, and black cape which was swished and swirled around at every opportunity.

A great afternoon, and not bad value at £20 for a long and lavish show. I loved it, and will definitely seek out more Gilbert and Sullivan.

Prometheus

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Managed to catch Prometheus on Saturday night, Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited prequel to his best film, Alien. Scott had said that he didn’t want to do a traditional prequel that would end at the start of Alien, but wanted to tell a different story that could lead in different directions.

So, how was it? Pretty good I thought. It’s a film that looks beautiful throughout, from sweeping landscape shots to a very nice spaceship, from cool spacesuits to the sort of holographic displays we’d love to have – full marks for design and cinematography. It also has a story, and a compelling one too. Without saying too much, when a couple of archaeologists find the same pattern of stars repeating in ancient paintings from around the Earth, they realise that it points to a destination that may explain the origins of life on our planet. An expedition is mounted on board the space ship Prometheus, with a crew who have various reasons for being there, which takes them to a place that fans of Alien will recognise.

While the cast are all pretty good, the show is predictably stolen by Michael Fassbender, who plays David, the ship’s android. It’s partly his fault, because he is very compelling to watch, but the android is also the most interesting character – he is on a ship with his creators, as they seek their creators. He also gets the most interesting conversation in the film, when he asks:

“Why do you think your people made me”

“Because we could”

“How disappointed will you be if you get the same answer?”

(Not a precise transcription, just how I remember it)

And so we have a film with a bit more of a philosophical edge to it, about the relationship between creators and their creations. It is not an action movie, but it is unpleasant and gory in places, just like Alien was. It’s not by any means the best film I have ever seen, and it will never have the place in sci-fi culture that Alien has, but I liked it and I think it’s worth seeing.

And now the spoilers – if you haven’t seen it, then look away now.

 

As I’ve said, I rather liked the film, but a few things about it either annoyed me, or intrigued me. The first is in the setup; at the start, we see our archeologists discovering the address of the alien planet, and a big deal is made of how this is a message or an invitation. But then later they conclude that it’s at best a research station, at worst a weapons research station. So why would the aliens have given that invitation in the first place? Surely they would be more likely to have issued any invitation to their home world. Perhaps deliberate misdirection as a security precaution, but it still seems odd.

And then a thing that intrigued me – my initial doubts were confirmed – the planet they visit is designated LV-223. But the planet in Alien and Aliens is LV-426. So they are different planets – it becomes clear at the end of the film that the alien ship they discovered is not the one that they will discover in Alien, but it was only when I checked at home that I realised that it’s not even on the same planet. Interesting.

And then something else that annoyed me – they cast Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland. Weyland is an old man, Guy Pearce is not – he is a much younger man in make-up. From this, I assumed that he would somehow be rejuvenated at some point, but he wasn’t. So why not just cast an old actor? There are plenty of them about! Unless of course I fell exactly into the trap I was meant to. I kind of disliked that on principle – Where it’s not required, I’d rather see an old actor than a made-up one.

Another question for me was whether they were really correct in their conclusions about it all. Clearly the alien substance does horrible things, but was it actually a weapon? Or was it just biology gone mad? I’ll agree that the Engineer didn’t seem pleased to see the humans, but he only got violent when they started asking the cheeky questions. I don’t know that it was very clear that he was heading to earth to destroy it. I’ll agree that their cargo would not have done humanity many favours, but I don’t think it was clear that this was a plan to harm us. Let a child loose in their dad’s garage full of tools and they’ll damage themselves and everything in their path, but neither their dad, nor the tools, nor the child is evil. I have a suspicion that there could be a director’s cut somewhere that might explain this a bit better. Or maybe it’s just me, but I find it vaguely unsatisfying.

We are also meant to see great significance in the cross, and Shaw’s insistence on wearing it. But there must be a problem there – if she has a Christian faith, she doesn’t have to travel across light years to seek her creator. If she doesn’t have that faith, why is the cross so important to her. She’s clearly believing in something, but it’s not very clear that it’s anything other than a non-specific hope for something after death, as opposed to an actual religious faith.

And then the ending. I love the idea of Shaw and David heading off to find the home of the Engineers. I’m not sure it needs a sequel to tell it, but I like the idea of it, and I like the open-endedness of it. And then we have the birth of what is clearly something related to the familar H.R.Giger alien. Again, an odd thing that the offspring off a giant octopus/squid thing and a largely human looking engineer would be that kind of alien. I can see how it’s great to finish like that, but it seems a bit unlikely.

Enough rambling – bottom line – this seems like the longest review I’ve written in a long time, and that’s probaby an indication of how much I liked the film – well worth seeing I reckon.

Iron Sky

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

I was one of those who fell for the hype, and decided to catch Iron Sky on the single day of its UK release. I had heard a little about it beforehand, but not a great deal, so I came to it fairly fresh at a packed QFT on Wednesday.

Spoiler-free review:

An unexpected film. Unexpectedly offensive in many places, unexpectedly sad in others. Since one of my main criticisms against South Park is that I dislike it because they just want to offend people, the same criticism has to apply here – this is not a film that portrays America in a positive light. It could be argued that politicians and spin doctors are the same everywhere, and that it’s not specifically about American politics¬†¬†and could apply anywhere, but America is the target that they selected, and they hit it fairly hard. But, aside from that, the film has many laugh out loud moments of both subtle and unsubtle humour and an ending that goes from beautiful to unbearably sad in about 2 seconds. Is it worth seeing? I’m honestly not sure I can answer that. I was glad that I saw it, and I laughed at many parts of it, but I’m not quite sure I’m proud of myself for doing so.

The audience in the QFT was in no doubt what they thought of the film, much laughter, and a round of applause at the end. But one friend hated it, saying the acting and plot where both terrible, while my other companion’s thoughts can be read here¬†(I haven’t read that yet, so I don’t know how our reviews compare).

And if you don’t want to know more, look away now!

 

Review with Spoilers:

The film opens beautifully, with America’s return to the moon, and the unexpected discovery of the moon nazis. The special effects go from excellent to cheesy real quick, and it’s fair to say that there’s no real feeling of a lack of gravity on the moon. I guess that’s hard for actors to do without making complete prats of themselves though, so we’ll let that pass. Personally, I found the “albinisation” to be appalling – it is much too close to actual nazi science, and¬†it’s the first thing I would remove from the film. I guess I’m just squeamish – I don’t want these moon nazis to remind me of actual nazis – I just want comedy villains. But this part of the film also contains one of my favourite moments, some quite subtle humour, when Renate teaches her class about the Great Dictator, the¬†“10 minute film” that Chaplin made “in praise of Hitler” – a beautiful bit of spin doctoring! Which reminds me that I ought to see that film someday. I’m sure it’s much better than this one. But I digress…

Once we return to earth, another fabulous moment, when the President starts using the nazi speeches as part of her election compaign. I enjoyed this savaging of the vapidity of modern politics, and there are great laugh out loud moments here. I note at IMDB that the president is never named, which makes it even more cheeky to make her so Palin-esque.

We then move into the war, and things I didn’t like again. When the meteor-blitzkreig begins, we see a huge mushroom cloud above a city, which is then never referred to. I dislike the meaninglessness of such an utterly destructive act; they just moved on to the next scene, as if nothing had happened. The inhumanity of it irks me. But I did like the nazi space-zeppelins, which were very cool.

I loved the point at which the peaceful space programs of the great nations are shown to all be armed to the teeth, and I thought the scene where the weapons unfurl from the Mars exploration vehicle was brilliant. The special effects are also very good here, for a cheap movie, as the forces of earth take on the nazi zeppelins and flying saucers (yes flying saucers! You can’t beat a classic!)

I loved that the nazi super-weapon was powered by an ipad – I thought that was a beautiful bit of irony. And of course it was as over-the top as all super-weapons are. I also liked the name, which was nicely Wagnerian, and very appropriate.

And then the ending. The fight in the UN was excellent. But it was the final scene that reduced our audience to silence, when that beautiful shot of earth hanging in space was unexpectedly marred by the trail of a missile looping up out of the atmosphere and down again to destroy a city, and then another, and then we see the lights go out all over the earth. An unexpectedly poignant ending, to know that as the nazis would have to rebuild on the moon after their destruction, so would the people of earth.

The choice of using actual German actors, and subtitling the German speech was kind of unexpected, and had me moving around to read the words I couldn’t see behind the head of the person in front of me. As I read above, it’s not a film I would wholeheartedly endorse or recommend, but I was glad I caught it, and thought it was just the sort of thing I should write a blog post about!

Nemesis, by Jo Nesbo

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

I thought I might have written about the first Jo Nesbo book I read, but it appears I haven’t. I don’t know much about Jo Nesbo, other than the fact he pronounces his name “Yo”, rather than “Joe”, being Norwegian, which I think is a cool name. This is the second book in his series about detective Harry Hole who works in the Oslo police investigating murders. Well, according to something I read, these are actually the 3rd and 4th books, but the first two weren’t translated into English.

The covers of most of his books have a sticker saying “The next Stieg Larsson”, which probably helps his sales figures a lot, being able to cash in on the success of “The girl with the dragon tattoo” et al. They do have a bit in common, in terms of being translated Norwegian books about investigators who are misfits. But other than that, they differ quite a bit.

Harry is a mostly former alcoholic, a detective who does things his own way and doesn’t really get on with most of the police force (now that I write that, it doesn’t sound very original, but it does work, honest). In this second book, he is brought in by the robberies unit because a bank robbery included the murder of a cashier, and an ex-girlfriend commits suicide hours after he is the last one to see her alive. The book entwines the 2 investigations as he pursues the truth through a complex and tortuous path.

I really liked this book, as I liked the first one (Redbreast). Nesbo’s characters are nearly all misfits in some way, from the police to the suspects. There’s not a lot of happiness in his world. But the books are real page-turners, and I sat up fairly late a few nights this week wanting to get to the end.

I’m not a major reader of crime fiction, but I like this. Recommended!

The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

India is a place that I haven’t seen enough of, and don’t know enough about. But at least I’m lucky enough to have been there twice. And let’s face it, you could spend a lifetime exploring India and not see it all – it’s a big place!

“The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone” has been sitting on my bookshelf for far too long (since my last trip to India in fact), but I finally got into reading it this year, and I am really glad that I did. Shashi Tharoor is a former UN diplomat, so he knows India, having grown up and spent much of his life there, but he also has enough of an outsider’s view that he doesn’t assume too much knowledge of the country for the international reader like me.

The book is a series of fairly short and easy to read essays on all of the major subjects of Indian life – politics, religion, history, economics, and of source cricket. What is clear is that the writer has his own opinions on Indian life, and although he loves his country and is very proud of it, he is honest about the good and bad of India in the 21st century. Although this is a forward-looking book, some of my favourite parts were about Indian history – the campaign for independance and the people who led it, the pain of partition, and the politics since then. I’ve always known a little about Gandhi, but not so much about Nehru and¬†others, and I think my next non-fiction reading might be to find out more about them.

If the book has a central message, I think it’s the great diversity of India. When I was there, I was astonished by the profusion of languages as I travelled around, and wondered how a country could stay bound together without a single common language. But perhaps that question says more about me than India;¬†¬†we struggle with division in Northern Ireland, even though it’s not that big and there aren’t that many of us. And Scotland isn’t much better these days…

His answer to that question is that India is at its best when it embraces the diversity that spans languages, religions, castes, ethnic types – pretty much everything. India is proud of its democracy, the massive exercise that ensures that votes are gathered from every corner of the country, and rightly so. And it’s proud of its secular society, where prime ministers, politicians, cricketers, and celebrities come from all of the different faiths.

India¬†will be the most populous nation on earth before too long, and with its combination of science and technological leadership, and a massive diaspora of Indians all over the world, it’s a culture that we need to take notice of.

I really enjoyed this book, and it makes me want to find out more about a country that I have even greater respect for now.

Van Morrison at the Odyssey

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Tonight I got to see and hear Van Morrison live at the Odyssey.¬† What a great¬†night ūüôā

He hasn’t changed since the last time I saw him – he still has no interest in talking (the only words he said all night were to thank the audience, and to get the audience to applaud the band). But he lets his music do the talking for him. As I remember from before, he leads his band all the way –¬†waving at them, pointing, talking to them, directing the music. And he loses himself in it too, the head nodding, and applauding some of the solos.

But what made this concert special was that he doesn’t have a new album to sell this time round. So instead of new songs the audience doesn’t know, this was mainly old songs that we did know. But not as we know them. His band included a trombone and saxaphone, plus a part time trumpet and keyboard player (an odd combo I thought). So it went from having the feel of a jazz quartet when he joined in on his sax, to a solid horn section backing up the rest of the band (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums and more percussion) with brass stabs. As always, the arrangements were really good, with some really subtle details on muted trumpet and tinkly piano. He started with a great, really fresh version of brown eyed girl with very jazzy horns. My immediate thought was “Wow – he’s still got it. Michael Buble or Jamie Cullum could be singing that arrangement”. And I was really pleased about that, because Van is getting on a bit, but he can still do it. Other classics were Gloria, Tupelo Honey, Moondance, Sometimes we cray, and Have I told you lately. And others I can’t think of right now. All of them reworked and sounding fresh, and unpredictably performed by Van himself, when he gets stuck on a line or a word and uses his voice as an instrument, repeating whatever it is again and again. He’s also very unsentimental with his own songs – a lot of them end very suddenly, with no gradual run down at all.

I’ve got no pictures, because they would have been awful from my phone, because the staff were telling peopple off for taking them, and because I know Van hates that sort of thing. I fully expect to have sore neck in the morning from sitting at an angle for¬†two and a half hours. But I don’t care. I still thank Van Morrison is great.

(And his daughter was pretty good too as a support act – she can sing!)

PS: Double Usefulness also enjoyed the gig, and you can read his review here. It’s probably better than mine ; )

Tokyo Day 5 – The day on tv

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Yesterday (Saturday), I didn’t leave the house, and spent most of the day watching the news on television. The choices were a little tricky – we could watch local television which was in Japanese and therefore really hard to follow, watch BBC World which was in English and easy to follow, but a bit out of date compared to the Japanese, or watch CNN, which made me want to rant about how stupid it was.

So let’s start by getting that off my chest. There’s one quite good guy on CNN, who shows the wind direction around Japan for nuclear fallout – he knows what he is talking about, and he’s quite helpful. But at other times it was completely moronic. They put some quack on who said that recent events had revealed how resilient people were, and how much they could deal with. What kind of recent events? The first world war? The eruption of Krakatoa? The great fire of London? She was a complete muppet. Then we had the surprise news that America had not been asked to lead the relief effort. It really was reported as news that the Japanese government was running the relief and rescue operations. Of course they are!! This isn’t Haiti!! The final straw was last night where the screen banner said “Breaking News: Glued to tv by striking images”. It’s not news that people are watching tv! People watch tv all the time! It’s just pathetic. Anyway, rant over. Suffice to say that CNN doesn’t impress, despite their very slick and glossy presentation, because every so often they make me want to throw things at the television.

Next let’s talk about the BBC. The BBC is of course what I am familiar with, and therefore it brings comfort. I was really surprised to see that it is what was showing in Marty’s building, when he works for an American company. But the BBC has the advantage of being calm, rather than trying to create panic, and was sometimes streaming the Japanese channels, with a translation, so it was up to date. But as time has passed, it has become less useful, as the coverage has become less timely. Also an issue is that BBC World has reverted back to scheduled programming, so yesterday they were showing programmes about tourism in Turkey and safaris in Africa. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that the world news agenda has moved in, and other stories are creeping back, but we still kind of want to know what’s going on here.

So what about the Japanese media. Well, it is different to ours. The news presentation is much, much less slick. Where CNN and the Beeb have fancy computer graphics for maps and diagrams, the Japanese have pictures on bits of card to hold up. And even after 24 hours, the Japanese presenters are much less confident, sometimes even flustered. I know this is probably because people are constantly firing bits of paper at them, and they can’t use the autocue, but sometimes it has looked a bit like the placement students have been put in charge. Especially the guy with the tie hanging off him (I reckoned his wife would kill him when she saw him). And don’t get me started on the experts and managers who were doing live press conferences – some of them were just terrible. One guy had a dozen microphones, but still couldn’t speak clearly enough to be heard. And didn’t realise there was writing on the back of his page. They moved to other speakers at that press conference, one of which just didn’t say anything, and another who mainly said Oooh and Ahh. I know I don’t speak Japanese, but it was fascinatingly unprofessional, and not at all what we would get in the UK.

Another difference in the presentation style was that all of those experts giving press conferences were wearing properly technical looking uniforms, which does inspire confidence that these are people who know what they’re talking about (when they manage to talk), instead of just putting suits in front of the camera like we would.

But the best part was the television presenters wearing helmets in case the studio roof came down.

This was last night. They were still at it today.

This I do find interesting. If BBC newsreaders were wearing safety helmets, viewers would assume the world was ending. In fact, they’d assume the world had already ended. Here, it’s seen as a perfectly reasonable precaution in case the roof comes down. It’s also interesting that some people in the studio are wearing them, while others are not. Maybe people sitting in different places at different levels of risk depending on what’s above their heads.

But ultimately, we had to turn the news off, and watch something else instead. As human beings, we can only take so much relentless bad news, especially when there’s no new information, just an endless re-stating of what has already happened (the earthquake and tsunami), and what might happen (the reactor problems). I have to admit that we watched Glee and the Big Bang Theory, and felt a whole lot better.

Doctor Who Live

Monday, November 8th, 2010

On Saturday night I went to see Doctor Who Live at the Odyssey in Belfast.

I will admit that I was a little excited by the prospect. I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for a long time, way back to when I was young, and it was all very scary. The earliest episode I can remember is City of Death, an excellent Tom Baker story shown in 1979, when I would have been six according to my calculations. Since Doctor Who was never repeated back then, I read a lot of books instead, to find out about all the adventure I missed. I still buy the odd one.

When Doctor Who got so much publicity last Christmas, I rejoiced.
“YES!” I said to myself. “Vindication at last! Now the rest of the world finally understands that Dr Who is important”.
Or words to that effect. And it is important! Dr Who’s rebirth represents the triumph of something that is quintessentially British – the triumph of the little guy¬†against overwhelming odds, by being clever and a little bit cheeky. In nearly all of the US sci-fi shows, there is a sizeable crew who work together to solve problems, and behind them the resources of the USA, or the Federation or whatever. Whereas Doctor Who only ever has a small cast – the Doctor and one or two assistants, working on their own, defending the downtrodden, fighting injustice, and almost always trying to avoid violence. I like that approach a lot.

So yes, I am “a bit of a fan”, and was quite excited to be going to the Odyssey, dressed in my extremely long Tom Bakerish scarf.¬†So what was it like?

Well, it was based loosely around the Jon Pertwee story Carnival of Monsters, where an alien has captured a series of the Doctor’s adversaries, and is showing them off for the entertainment of the audience. Vorgenson, is played by Nigel Planer, a not insignificant actor in his own right. The evening is then an opportunity for the audience to “ooh” and “aah” at the appearance of their favourite monsters as they roam the arena, while a live band plays the music associated with each villain.

The monsters are well done, gradually building up to the Cybermen and Daleks at the end. And the music is good too, brilliantly conducted by a very energetic guy who I suspect was Ben Foster, who usually works on the Doctor Who music. They also had a choir along with them, including a soprano who song some of the hauntingly beautiful stuff that featured in the show two years ago. And they brought along Nick Briggs to play Winston Churchill, and provide live voices for the Daleks. So far so fanboy. So what did I really think?

Well I had a blast.¬†¬†If I had been 10, I probably wouldn’t have calmed down for a week. As it is, I’m 37, and I was pretty much calmed down a day later. But it take take a day.¬†There’s a lot of sheer joy in just experiencing it, and to be honest I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

4 stars ūüôā