… it has to be said that New York City is a bit of an assault on the senses. The decibels are way up. Take a taxi, a Lyft or and Uber and the state of the roads combined with the combat-driving technique that obtains in NYC and you get a thrill-ride, that shakes your corpuscles.
The late great Spike Milligan, the man who gave us The Goons, once wrote a satirical piece about traveling on the London Underground in the days when you could smoke cigarettes on busses, in cinemas, on planes and of course on tube trains “… and then to add to the commuters’ relief great clouds of stale cigarette smoke are pumped into the carriages…”
You know you’re in midtown Manhattan because of the distinctive sickly-sweet aroma of strong cannabis. Perhaps we’re all mildly stoned these days because of second hand smoke, and given the news maybe that’s a good thing. Aside from that, the improvised lean-to outdoor dining venues add exotic lights and have put 9th Avenue (where we are staying) into party mode.
Mainly though, it is excellent to be able to report that …
Among other shows To Kill A Mockingbird re-opened a couple of weeks ago at the Shubert Theatre on West 44th Street in New York City. And among other actors, that amazing Broadway veteran Patricia Conolly (full disclosure, she is known to me personally), seen here at the stage door about to go to work, resumes her role as Mrs Dubose.
I was at the dress rehearsal. It was a poignant occasion, 1700 people all in face masks, applauding nearly every entrance and giving the show an enthusiastic standing ovation.
And the show itself? One of the great classics of American literature seems more relevant now than ever.
The burgeoning quantity of online content continues. Social media bursts at the seams. YouTube creaks under a thousand new webinars, and a hundred new podcasts just hit the airwaves in the time it took to read this paragraph.
In this fragmented entertainment environment who could ever possibly watch it all? Time was when theatre in London meant the West End and that was it. A generation of actors-who-couldn’t-wait-any-longer has turned every back room in every pub north and south of the Thames into a black box space, and now every public park and many private back gardens will host solo performances when the spring comes.
Why then, does this blog bring you yet more content?
Because my admiration for those entrepreneurial self-starters of stage and screen is without limit. One such dynamo of energy and invention is Nikki Coble ( ← that’s her website) Out of whole cloth she created – by which I mean she wrote, directed, produced and acted in … yes a web-series called ‘Awkwardly’. And even though this was shot pre-pandemic I mention it here because …
… It’s a brilliant piece of work.
The episodes are in bite-sized nuggets. Each one illuminates a mildly excruciating, awkward encounter from which, one of the principal characters then appears in the next episode where they hand on the story baton to a different character. The process repeats through 20 episodes. A sort of snap-comic ‘La Ronde’. Enjoy them singly or binge the lot..
And this is Nikki telling me stuff from behind-the-scenes:
You can find this splendid series in several places: that website again www.nikkicoble.com where, among quite a few other things Ms Coble also offers a niche long-form interview series with screen creatives called Scribble and Point.
From ensemble to solo, now follows a notice of coming attractions; Mick Millamphy (he has appeared previously in these pages), is, to my knowledge an actor of superior storytelling skills. I saw his solo, “The Cure” directed by the equally gifted Tim Ruddy – we were all in The Seafarer at The Irish Rep. “The Cure” opens with a man experiencing not for the first time in his life, a hangover of biblical intensity.
And if you are a dialect connoisseur: Mick is a native of Cork.
These lads, Mick and Tim, are exactly the sort of boys you want on stage with you in a show. I speak from experience. In The Seafarer there was a line which for some reason or other I frequently forgot to say – it was a senior-moment-preview type experience. Mick who was sat next to me in the scene and who had the next line, was a total gentleman about it. He would leave a fractional extra pause unnoticeable to anyone in the audience just in case memory prevailed. If it didn’t he’d cover with his next line. That’s the guy you want in the foxhole of live performance.
If, as, and when we ever return to what we used to think of as normal, Mick will be bringing us another of his excellent storytelling pieces – watch this space…!
Oh and while we’re at it, just a few more suggestions for content curiosity to pique the pandemic palette:
A niche daily blog from the Upper West Side NYC. Richard Hester, by the way the man who in a professional capacity, knows more about the show Jersey Boys than anyone alive, has been blogging for an impressive 282 days consecutively riffing wittily on life in the current situation. As I told him, he’s knocked out more words than in one of Tolstoy’s more loquacious tomes. His latest post here
Well this item, although produced in the mainstream and therefore not technically eligible for a niche curation like this, should in my opinion, be required viewing for us all. Sir David Attenborough has made what he calls a ‘Witness Statement’ – A Life on our Planet. The fact that I was once paid handsomely to do an impression of the great man at a corporate breakfast for marketing executives is not the only reason I recommend it.
And this is a poem by D H Lawrence called Song of a Man Who Has Come Through. I associate it with the astronomical event that takes place today.
The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at zero degrees Aquarius. We can all watch that for free. It is the first bright star to appear shortly after sunset in the western sky, exact for a day or two 21st December 2020.
If anyone had any doubts that the supply chain is in serious peril, just try to get hold of a jar of Marmite.
When I lived in Manhattan I was close to two excellent retail outlets of traditional British foods: Digestive Biscuits, P G Tips tea, Golden Syrup, Fish n Chips, Sausage Rolls, Tiptree Jams, Bangers … to name only a few … all of these British adaptations of Nectar and Ambrosia could be had at Tea And Sympathy on Greenwich Avenue and Myers of Keswick on Hudson Street.
And I’m delighted to tell you that back in the day I found a closely similar emporium just a mile or two south of West Palm Beach in Florida. More than that: here in Westchester our local supermarket has a discrete section of three shelves dedicated to such British superfoods as Heinz Tomato Soup, Heinz Baked Beans and Hob Nobs.
The relationship between Great Britain and the United States has endured in various forums and alliances since 1776, and it’s my firm belief that if Marmite were more widely consumed in the Americas it could only benefit the Republic. This works both ways of course. For example I have seen baseball played in Regent’s Park, and the ubiquity of the American vernacular now gives us the younger British royals peppering their speech with the word “like”.
I mention all the above because it’s well known that comedy shows are now approximately the only remaining source of genuine news. We know too that the few remaining people who can reliably and regularly speak truth to power are those characters created by gifted comic actors.
To their ranks I nominate my old friend and fellow-student, Matilda Thorpe who “manages” Celia Walmsley-Clarke. Celia’s material is given in convenient bite-size nuggets on Facebook, and this month she has kindly agreed to appear in The Guest Spot here to explain the burden of privilege that is being a member of the British aristocracy.
None of this can disguise the fact that supplies of Marmite have dwindled. The presenting reason is a global shortage of yeast but many of us know that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is to blame.
Fortunately there is a vegetarian alternative from Australia:
If you’ll take a look at the Video page you’ll see an interview with me by Margaret Ledford who helmed the Engage@GableStage project, which has commissioned a series of projects. The short 15 minute film we’re talking about will be premiered exclusively at GableStage.org on Friday September 18th.
So… the focus of this blog… was acting and allied subjects… hmm… the issue, as I’m sure you understand, is that live theatre depends upon lots of paying customers in close proximity to each other and within breathing space of the stage…
No sign of that returning just yet.
In which case what shall we talk about? While you’re here please sign up for the blog so as to find out!