Author Archives: donbrown

Spring Offensive

This review dates from April 2017 and is the Clapham Omnibus production. It first appeared on the Essential Surrey website.

spring-offensive-sheep_v2-high-res-copyApril runs a guesthouse on the site of an old WW1 field hospital, catering to the ‘war tourists’ visiting the battlefields and graveyards of the western Front.

Despite it being the start of the season, she has only two guests – Pam, who has spent all her adult life living with and caring for her mother, and Tom, a former military man who runs battlefield tours and sells souvenir tat (“we went to Ypres and all I got was this lousy mug”). In this new play by Victoria Willing, we watch the three bicker and quarrel as they await the arrival of other guests and the return of April’s son. As the evening progresses, the atmosphere turns poisonous and we learn more about the motivations, the secrets and the histories of the protagonists. Continue reading

Don Giovanni

This review dates from November 2016 and refers to the Glyndebourne Company’s production at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking. It first appeared on the Essential Surrey website.

don-giovanniTickets for the summer season at Glyndebourne sell out remarkably swiftly, so the opportunity to see the Glyndebourne company on tour is not one to be missed. Last night’s performance of Don Giovanni at Woking’s New Victoria theatre did not disappoint, with a strong orchestra conducted by Pablo Gonzalez, wonderful singing – particularly in the ensemble pieces – and a striking and ingenious staging.

Mozart’s anti-hero is a man with no moral scruple, his catalogue of sexual conquests numbering thousands, and the women he can’t seduce he takes by force. The opera opens with his attempted rape of the noblewoman Donna Anna, whose screams alert her father the Commendatore, whom Giovanni murders – in this production most brutally, battering him to death.

Giovanni and his servant Leporello (a fine performance from Brandon Cedel) flee into the night, leaving Anna (sublimely sung by Ana Maria Labin) and her fiancé Ottavio swearing vengeance on the murderer. The Commendatore will be Giovanni’s nemesis. Continue reading

A Room With a View

This review dates from October 2016. The production was seen at the Richmond Theatre.

a-room-with-a-viewA Room With a View is a visually interesting, but wordy and emotionally unengaging adaptation of the E M Forster novel.

Lucy Honeychurch – a young middle-class Edwardian woman – is visiting Florence with her older, spinster cousin Charlotte Bartlett as chaperone. There are suffragettes on the streets of London, but ‘ladies’ are still expected to follow the Victorian rules surrounding ‘class’, social status and polite behaviour.

In their pensione Lucy and Charlotte meet George Emerson and his father – socialists and humanists, with radical ideas about religion, sexual equality and life. The snobbish Charlotte rebuffs the approaches of the lower middle class Emersons, but Lucy falls for George and, on a day trip to the Tuscan countryside, kisses him. Charlotte is mortified and whisks Lucy away from Florence.

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Extravanganza Macabre

This review first appeared on the Essential Surrey website and is from August 2016.

2892798Extravaganza Macabre” by Little Bulb Theatre at Battersea Arts Centre, is tremendous fun from start to finish, a knowing comedy from a talented cast that mixes music and melodrama and some great jokes and sight gags.

Devised to initiate BAC’s new open-air Courtyard Theatre, the production makes great use of the limited space, the energetic performers appearing and disappearing from all possible entrances around, above and below the performance area.

The setting is that we in the audience are present for a Victorian theatre company’s performance of the melodrama ‘Extravaganza Macabre’, the tale of lovers Ernest and Elizabeth, separated on their wedding day in tragic circumstances, and how, aided by a clairvoyant maid, a chipper cockney orphan boy (called ‘Chipper’) and his dog (called ‘dogdog’, “because he’s a dog”), they overcome the murderous Lord London to be reunited. Continue reading

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Autumn Walks and Tours

 

I’ve scheduled some walks and tours for the Autumn, so those of you who want to have a stroll around some of the key London sites and hear history and tall tales about these places, click on one of the links below.

If you can’t make any of these dates, join my mailing list and I’ll send an email as I add new dates.

cartouche384Sunday morning in the British Museum
8 October and 5 November, 10:30
Discover the treasures of the British Museum, from ancient mummies to monumental sculpture. “Intelligent, articulate and friendly.”
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Discover the City of London
Saturday 14 October, 10:00
Walk the layers of London’s history, from the Romans, through the medieval and the Tudors, to the Victorians and the present day.
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Rock n Roll Soho
Saturdays, 30 September, 28 October, 25 November 10:30
Discover the heart of rock ‘n’ roll London in the ’60s and ’70s – the places, clubs and venues that were the setting for the music that defined a generation. “Fun and informative.”

Michael Fagan and Buckingham Palace

buckingham palace with lifeguardsThere might be red-coated soldiers from the elite Guards regiments standing sentry around it (not to mention large numbers of coppers with Big Guns), but Buckingham Palace isn’t quite as secure as you might think.

Queen Victoria suffered from the attentions of ‘The Boy Jones‘, who broke in on numerous occasions (stealing some of Victoria’s underwear at one point – insert “not amused” gag here). In 1981 three German backpackers, mistaking the palace gardens for Hyde Park, scrambled over the back wall of the gardens and camped out for the night.

But the most significant intrusion of recent times was that of Michael Fagan a 31 year old unemployed painter and decorator, who, in 1982, not only got into the main part of the Palace at least twice, but also managed to find the Queen’s bedroom and woke her up to ask for cigarettes. Continue reading

A sponsored cycle ride – this time it’s personal

prostate cancer uk cycling jerseyOn 30th July – that’s only 3 weeks! away – I’m going to try to cycle 46 miles around London to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. You can give money here.

Three years ago that wouldn’t have been much of an issue. I did a couple of 100km rides and used to cycle 30-40 miles on an average week; training up to do 46 in an afternoon would have been relatively easy. Continue reading

Instagram #1

I’ve been lax at blog posts this year (there are ones coming on the Tudor Pull, Marlborough St Magistrates Court and Michael Fagan, honest), but as I’m out and about on the Blue Badge Guide stuff I occasionally manage to take some pictures and load them up to instagram.

You can follow what I shoot if you look for ‘donbrowndotlondon’, but here’s a selection of recent images from across the capital.

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“Commit no nuisance”

As you wander around London you might see, either on an old sign, or painted up on a wall, the message “commit no nuisance”.  There’s an example below from the sign on the south side of Waterloo Bridge – “2: COMMITTING NUISANCE – no person shall commit any nuisance on any bridge…”

commit no nuisance

Charming, yes? A Victorian injunction to always behave oneself in a pleasant and decorous manner? (The signs and notices are always a good 100 years old.)

Not quite.

What they’re really saying is – “Men, don’t p*** against the wall”

In the days before public toilets (indeed, before proper plumbing in most pubs and houses), the more respectable citizens were frequently up in arms about the ‘lower orders’ relieving themselves in public. You’ll find more about this – and more physical deterrents used to prevent al fresco micturation – in Lee Jackson’s excellent book, Dirty Old London.

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The Beigel Bake

Forget your hipster bars and street art tours, single estate coffee and craft beer, upcycled furniture and bleeding edge fashions, the most compelling reason to visit Brick Lane is the Beigel Bake.

beigel-3Open 24 hours and selling 3,000 beigels a day (as well as platzels, rye bread, chollah, cakes and impossibly retro custard slices), it’s been around since 1976 when brothers Asher and Sammy Cohen stopped working for another brother at the Beigel Shop two doors down, and branched out on their own.

(The Beigel Shop is still going, but, although older, doesn’t match the Beigel Bake. It also is the perpetrator of the almost blasphemous ‘rainbow beigel’.)

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