not a book, theatre

Not a Book: Buffy Revamped

Happy Sunday everyone. Did I spend my Saturday night laughing about Buffy? Yes I absolutely did, and now I’m going to tell you about it!

In Buffy Revamped, comedian Brendan Murphy takes you through all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 70 minutes mainly in character as Spike but he does pretty much play everyone at some point or another. But not Riley. Because there would be no point to playing Riley. He was pointless. Anyway, this is full of 90s in jokes as well as all the in jokes about the show and quotes galore. And you’ll get to do a bit of singing too.

I had an absolute ball – it’s funny and inventive and made me feel just the right amount of nostalgia. It’s fast paced and rattles through the events of the series – at the start you wonder if it’s going to get everything you want it to mention in, but some how it does. It’s not surprise to me that it is off to the Edinburgh Fringe in August because it seems like the perfect fit for it. It’s also touring all over the place before and after that – including a couple of nights in London next week. Well worth an evening if it’s coming near you.

If the apocalypse comes, beep me.

not a book

Not a Book: Tina Turner

It’s Monaco today and the Indy 500, so there is some motorsport in my plans, but I wanted to spend a bit of time today talking about Tina Turner, who died this week at the age of 83.

Obviously she was a musical legend and had a back catalogue where everyone knows at least three songs, probably half a dozen. But she was almost possibly the most famous domestic abuse survivor in the world after she spoke out about the abuse she suffered at the hands of Ike Turner when they were married. There have been movies and documentaries about what went on – I first stumbled across What’s Love Got to Do With It on late night TV when I was in secondary school – but a couple of years ago Tina herself took part in a documentary so if you’re only going to watch one thing make it that. It’s been back on Sky’s documentary channels already this week – so it should be findable in their on demand system in this country, it’s in HBO’s catalogue in the US. Here’s the trailer:

I’m going to leave you with a link to the first ever Tina Turner song that I heard, which is maybe still my favourite. I mean I love Proud Mary, but River Deep Mountain high is something else. If you’re talking about problematic men, this song has a pair of them – not only is it from the Ike and Tina era, but it’s written and produced by Phil Spector. I love the Wall of Sound sound, but it was hard to listen to for a while. But she still performed it – including at her concerts as well as when she was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time – she was inducted twice once for Ike and Tina and once for her solo work. And Spector died in 2021 (while still serving his sentence for murder) and Ike died in 2007 so that’s made a difference for me too.

Oh I can’t resist it. Have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance too. It has Stevie Wonder playing back up in the band. And she sounds amazing.

Thanks for all the music Ms Turner, you’ll live on through it.

not a book, tv

Not a book: Eurovision II (again!)

So Eurovision is over for another year. And what a year this has been – having the contest here has been a real experience, even if the UK entry didn’t do very well. But hey, the host often doesn’t do that great. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway. It was quite a show though – Liverpool did us proud. I’ve put the winning performance at the bottom in case anyone hasn’t watched yet, but I wanted to highlight my favourite bit of the night: the interval act:

Obviously Liverpool has a great musical heritage, and I loved the way Eurovision paid tribute to that in the most Eurovision way ever. If you haven’t watched it, click play and I defy you to be unmoved by it. I loved all of it – and also that Dadi Freyr finally got to perform on the Eurovision stage having been the favourites to win the 2020 contest that was then cancelled because of Covid and then coming back in 2021 only to be unable to perform on the night because of a Covid case in the group. Honestly just wonderful. The best interval act since Mans and Petra did Love Love Peace Peace.

And the other thing that has come out of this week has been the world getting to see Hannah Waddingham do her thing and just loving her. I’m a big theatre nerd as you all know, and she’s been on my radar for years and years now, but it’s only since Game of Thrones (she’s the shame nun) and Ted Lasso that she’s really hit the big time beyond us theatre nerds. And I love it when a theatre person gets the notice they deserve – see Mark Rylance but in a different way for him of course. Anyway, if you watched Hannah this week and wondered what else she can do, have this video of her performing as part of the cast of Spamalot (along with Tim Curry!) at the Royal Variety performance back in the day.

Anyway, here is this year’s winner:

I don’t love Tattoo the way I loved Euphoria so I’m trying not to be bitter that my favourite didn’t win, but I can’t be too angry about being back in Sweden for the 50th anniversary of Waterloo. And what was my favourite I hear you ask? Well, for once my favourite did rather well – even though as usual it was one of the wilder and more “novelty” songs – no not Croatian Monty Python guys (who threatened to perform naked if they one) but Finland and Cha Cha Cha.

They won the popular vote, but the juries didn’t go for them so we’ll see you in Sweden next year Eurovision fans!

not a book, tv

Not a book: Eurovision

It’s the start of Eurovision finals week again – except for my friends who are super fans, it’s two weeks this year because they’re already up in Liverpool because this year we have a home Eurovision – sort of. After Ukraine won last year, the UK is hosting the contest because of the war and Liverpool is going all out.

I’m not going to Merseyside, but I am looking forward to seeing all the pictures from the people who are. And my Eurovision season is already underway – the team I was on won a Eurovision quiz a few weeks back, which was very exciting even if I can’t claim that much credit (I only got one question that no one else on the team did!) but I’m not massively across all the songs yet – but that’s what the semi finals are for for me!

If you’re a fan enjoy this week – and let me know your favourite this year in the comments!

not a book, streaming

Not a Book: Keep Sweet

I only got two thirds of the way through the first episode of Keep Sweet the first time I tried to watch it – despite thinking I was prepared for how grim that would be given that I’ve read Under The Banner of Heaven and Educated and listened to the whole series of Unfinished: Short Creek. It took nearly nine months for me to come back to it – because if there’s one thing that the second half of 2022 and the start of 2023 has been for me it is a test of my resilience. But I did come back to it, and now I have some thoughts to share.

So Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is a documentary series about the Fundamentalist Mormon Church, focusing on the rise (and fall) of their leader Warren Jeffs. Now given that I’ve already mentioned several other things based around this group, it may seem odd to describe them as secretive. But they are – and the only reason we know what we do is because of people who have started to speak out after leaving the religion and the court records around the trial of Warren Jeffs.

The FLDS are a polygamist group and there is a lot more to unpack about them than you can fit in one four part documentary series. If you already know a bit about them, you’ll notice that there are some bits missing from this, or that the reality isn’t quite as neat as the documentary makes it seem. But I liked that uses the women who were affected to tell the story and explain what it was like to grow up in a cult, why they believed what they did and how they escaped or broke free. As I mentioned at the start of the post, the first episode is quite grim, but if you can cope with that, it gets easier – or at least you know what you’re dealing with. If you are interested in religion in America, cults or the like, this is probably going to be at least slightly of interest to you if you haven’t already watched it.

That first weekend I started watching it was actually the weekend that it was released, so you you might now have to search for it on Netflix because as we know the algorithm prioritises the new. And there is always something new on Netflix – the latest being a documentary about the Waco Siege, which I will probably also watch at some point.

And before I go – if this is of interest to you as well as the posts I referenced at the top about Educated and Short Creek, I’ve also written about Murder Among the Mormons, The Eyes of Tammy Faye and slightly tangentially Bad Bets and The Cult of We.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

not a book

Not a Book: Private Lives

This week we’re back in the theatre as we had a wonderful night at Private Lives last weekend and it’s been a while since I talked about a show.

For those who have never come across Noel Coward’s comedy, it is about a divorced couple who meet each other again on their honeymoons with their new spouses. Over the course of three acts you observe their stormy relationship – and the contrast with the people they have chosen for their second attempt at matrimony. At this point I’m going to take the opportunity to quote a bit of Gaudy Night at you, because it sums up the situation nicely, although as you can see Harriet doesn’t fancy a relationship like Elyot and Amanda’s at all – and of course it would be very tiring.

Otherwise one would get the sort of couple one had in Private Lives, who rolled on the floor and hammered one another when they weren’t making love, because they (obviously) had no conventional resources. A vista of crashing boredom, either way.

Gaudy Night, Dorothy L Sayers

In the new production at the Donmar Warehouse, Elyot is played by Stephen Mangan and Amanda by Rachael Stirling and they really do go for each other when they’re not intertwined on the sofa. The physical violence between the couple is the bit that can feel the most dated (it was written in 1930) but if the chemistry between the leads is right, they can carry you through it – you believe in the rollercoaster highs and lows of their relationship. In Stephen Mangan’s hands Elyot is more of a faded charmer with a wicked sense of humour than a dashing rake and Stirling’s Amanda is a woman who is fed up with being expected to stick to the conventions. It’s darker but it’s funny and the ending is brilliant.

It’s been a decade since I last saw Private Lives – that time with Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor (which I enjoyed so much I went a second time with the family)and it’s a lot of fun to see a familiar text being polished up and exhibited afresh. The third act in particular has plenty of opportunities for interpretation. It was Him Indoors’ first time seeing any show more than once and it was fun to hear his thoughts on seeing something done differently. I think he preferred this version – I can’t decide, so maybe I should just go and see it again, again? Extraordinary how potent cheap music is…

Happy Sunday Everyone

not a book, streaming, tv

Not a Book: Our Flag Means Death

It’s Sunday again and time for me to talk about something that isn’t a book again, and today it’s Our Flag Means Death – which is a comedy series about pirates very loosely based on a real life pirate.

It’s the early Eighteenth Century, and Stede Bonnet is tired of his comfortable life as a husband and father on Barbados and buys a ship and runs off to be a pirate. Except that he’s a really, really bad pirate. Like terrible. He has no aptitude for killing and his ship is outfitted for luxury rather than anything else. When we meet him at the beginning of the series, his crew are so fed up of him that they’re considering mutiny, but decide that he’ll manage to get himself killed soon enough. Except he doesn’t and soon he and his crew come across the notorious pirate Blackbeard, and they make a deal – Blackbeard will help Stede become a better pirate and Stede will teach Blackbeard how to become an aristocrat. Except it’s not as simple as that. Oh and it’s a romantic comedy.

If you’re struggling to get your head around all this, and I’ll admit I’m not doing a very good job of explaining it (luckily the first series came out in the US a year ago, so I’m hoping some of you will already have watched this and have thoughts to share), but you’ve probably spotted Taika Waititi in the trailer, and he’s also an executive producer. So the easy way to describe this is to say think of the same sort of humour as What We Do in the Shadows, but with pirates in the 1700s (and not a mockumentary). The episodes are only 25 minutes long, they’re very easy to binge and if it works for you (and it really works for me!) it will leave you with a big smile on your face.

If you’re in the UK, the first series is available on the BBC iPlayer to watch now. If you’re elsewhere in the world, you’ll need to look for it on a streaming service – probably whatever HBO Max is called in your territory. Series two has finished filming but there’s no news yet on a release date for it.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

announcement, tv

Magpie Murders redux

It’s Easter weekend everyone and if you’re looking for something to watch – and in the UK – the Magpie Murders is being shown on TV at last. The second episode is on this evening but the whole series is on the iPlayer already. I hadn’t realised this was happening until I saw a trailer for it before Match of the Day last weekend, so apologies for the slightly late notice. I wrote about the adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s book last year when it was on BritBox – you can read that review here.

Have a great weekend everyone.

not a book

Not a Book: Darren Hayes

You know how there are some songs or albums that can transport you back to a place or a time? Well Darren Hayes does that for me. I’m about to date myself a bit, but Savage Garden were the soundtrack to a lot of my teenage years. Sitting studying in my room, if I wasn’t listening to football commentaries on 5live I was probably listening to their second album, Affirmation.

One of my non-book New Year’s resolutions this year was to take the opportunity to go and do things and not say “maybe one day”. Well this ticket was already in the (virtual) ticket box at the turn of the year, but it is still a part of that. Darren Hayes last toured 13 years ago – and I thought it might never happen again. I have seen him before but was in 2006 – and a lot of things have changed since then – songs that were still new back then are now classics. Or at least I think they are. I bought the ticket months ago when they first went on sale because it’s been so long who knew when there might be another opportunity – his husband may be British but he is an Australian who has lived a lot in LA. Take your chances while you have them. The tour is called Do You Remember and is marking 25 years in music (gulp) and honestly, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

I was meant to be going with a friend, but tonsillitis meant that I ended up solo, which given how emotional the whole thing made me is probably for the best as he might have wanted to disassociate himself from the snotty mess sitting next to him. I know I’m a crier, and I get emotional when good things happen (from athletes I like winning medals, to being offered a job I want) but this was something else. The best I can describe it is imagine going to see the artist who did your favourite teenage album a couple of decades on and then instead of doing obscure cuts or remixes, they play all your favourites, no messing around with them and sound just as good as they did on the record (but live!) – well this was that for me.

My photos may be pants and part of that is because I was at the top and the back, but it’s mostly because I was enjoying the moment and watching it unfold and I didn’t want to watch it through a phone screen when it was happening in front of me. I made some videos too but they’re even worse because I wasn’t actually watching what I was filming, I was watching the stage!

I have a few more “if not now when” things planned this year and if they come anywhere close to being as good as this, it’s going to be a great year. Now excuse me, I’m off to listen to the Affirmation album again.

Have a great Sunday everyone!