That’s not “pass the mustard”

Louis Theroux

About a year ago, I was stood next to a red carpet, repeating the phrase “it’s a documentary about Scientology” to disinterested tourists who smiled, nodded, and drifted away.  I don’t routinely visit red carpets, but had accompanied Husband and Tim who had tickets to the premiere of Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie.  I did not.

I had lingered after they’d gone in, hoping to get the chance to speak to Louis.  He chatted to the press for a bit before briefly talking to fans who forced themselves upon him, but it wasn’t to be for me.  If you look at the photos from the London premiere, you’ll be able to spot me looking glum in the background, trying to decide if I had time to stop by Tatty Devine on my sad walk back to Waterloo.

Things have now come full circle, with me attending a screening of the film in the Royal Festival Hall alone, without my two compadres.  Circumstances conspired against me, as both Husband and Tim had more exciting things going on, but I couldn’t give up the chance to see the film, plus a Q&A with Louis and director John Dower hosted by Untold Blisses favourite, Adam Buxton.

I had low expectations of the film – I’d read a number of reviews which pointed out that the film doesn’t really add anything to the conversation – but I actually really enjoyed it.  I’m fascinated by the craziness in the Scientology cult, and have adored Louis since his very first Weird Weekends so I couldn’t not enjoy it.  It did feel different to his other documentaries, and the feature-length aspect of it meant that some parts of the story came across as a bit labourious but it there were still brilliant moments to be found.

And some moments were downright disturbing, like the joy Marty Rathbun seemed to get out of roleplaying with “David Miscavige”, and the stalking that the ‘church’ does of Louis and his crew.  It is a fascinating examination of how closed-off they are – I think Louis more than anyone would be willing to show balance but they clearly don’t want to engage with an audience.  It’s a clever perspective for Louis to have – this was just a film about how he couldn’t make a film.

Adam Buxton leading the Q&A at the end was a delight.  The closeness of his friendship with Louis allowed him to be more candid and less scripted, even at one point accidentally comparing Louis to Miscavige and Jimmy Saville.  It was a hilariously awkward moment.

I was a bit disappointed that there were no Scientologist outbursts – I had read reports of that happening in earlier screenings, and I was kind of tempted to meet one (I have knowingly met one – Jason Dohring who has the most intense eyes I have ever seen in my life).  There was a really odd moment at one stage where a whole host of men in white shirts traipsed out all at the same time which freaked me out a little, but it could have been just a coincidence.  I was a tad on edge after that.

Next up – the documentary they told Louis they were making about him.  Can’t wait for that to be released.

The rest of the show is just about Ocado

Rob DelaneyMy second Friday night in a row at a comedy gig.  This week’s venue was very different to the West End Centre in Aldershot – no offence intended to the little West End Centre but The Royal Festival hall is one of my favourite big old halls.  When you get obsessed with something right down to the carpets, you know it’s love.

BFF, Husband, and I were in row LL for Rob Delaney.  Catastrophe has been a highlight of my TV schedule since episode one, and Rob’s 2013 book moved and delighted me in equal amounts.  As it turns out, BFF and Husband did not feel the same about the book, and I did feel a bit bad for dragging them with me (But HEY NOW they’re their own men) as I don’t think any of us particularly had a great time.

We started the evening with a quick and unusually intense dinner at Canteen.  At this point, I’ve given up on trying to have a standard dinner in a restaurant, as there’s always something going on.  This time – a waiter who was happy to silently wait (and stare) as we made dinner choices.

We got to our seats in plenty of time for the support act, Aisling Bea, which I think warrants mentioning as pretty much everyone else was late, chatty, or unable to sit still for the first 50% of her set.  I very much enjoyed her oeuvre but it would have been nice to see her and not the FOOLS wandering around the stalls in front.

Her set warmed me up nicely though, and I was ready for Rob to make me laugh some more.  And whilst there were some chucklesome moments, nothing that made me physically hurt.  It was just a lot of jokes about his penis, his naggy wife, his tiring children, his penis, and more about his penis.

Look, I’m not opposed to a good knob joke, and I like to think part of Rob’s style is a bit of ironic chauvinism (he has called himself a feminist in the past) but I’m not entirely sure the audience thought it was irony.  Most of them could not control themselves.  It all just felt a bit old-school club comedy which I am just not into.

I have got myself into a dangerous position now of demanding all comedians take me to the edge of hysteria.  If tears aren’t rolling down my face, then I just don’t see it as funny so I think I need to reset my expectations a bit.

If I can’t take my coffee break, something inside of me dies

RFH

A couple of months ago, I was browsing through the Jonathan Groff tag on Tumblr (as one does) and read a reference to a musical he’d just been cast at the Royal Festival Hall.  GROFF IN LONDON!  This was an opportunity too good to miss.  I’ve seen him once before in Death Trap, but there was no singing in that, and my miniature crush on him has only developed tenfold since then, what with me recently binge-watching HBO’s Looking.

I didn’t know much about the musical, other than it being about a window cleaner who decides he wants to… well, succeed in business.  Based on a 1952 book, followed by performances on Broadway and the West End, and a film in the late sixties, the play was reborn a few times with Matthew Broderick, Daniel Radcliffe, Darren Criss, and a Jonas brother, in the lead role – J. Pierrepont Finch, or Ponty.

This was a one night only kind-of-a-deal – I’ve seen this referred to as a concert musical – something which surprised Husband as he assumed that it was part of a longer run.  Nope – just Tuesday night.  I’d managed to get fairly good seats, which was only marred for me by the guy in front who seemed to have a broken neck.  It’s the only was to explain the constant moving of his head from side to side.  But broken neck guy aside, we had full view of the stage, which was set out like a radio play – Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the back conducted by Mike Dixon, and a series of old fashioned microphones at the front for the performers, foley artists at the side.  It made for a really interesting and unique experience.

Ponty belonged to Jonathan for the night, and it really felt like the role was made for him.  Which does come across as quite bitchy seeing as Ponty is quite manipulative and calculating, but there is a wonderful innocence to him as well.  He had an amazing relationship with the audience, frequently conspiring with us – it was ridiculously cute.  During the song “Rosemary”, where he suddenly realises there’s music in the sound of his loved one’s name, he gets a little wave from the conductor – the breaking of the fourth wall was so fun.

The aforementioned Rosemary was played by Cynthia Erivo who was stunning.  Her voice was just something else – it really brought a modernity and youthful edge to the 1960s play.  I’d love to see her again.  Everyone in the audience routed for Rosemary and Ponty, and the cheers when they finally kissed just made them kiss for longer – Jonathan and Cynthia had such great chemistry.

Another standout player was Hannah Waddingham who was laugh-out-loud funny as Hedy LaRue, a nickname I shall give to very many people from now on.  I was surprised how funny the musical was, and although it’s set in a very different era (an era where it’s necessary to sing “A secretary is not a toy”), there were still a lot of very relatable themes.  It had a very Mad Men quality, so it was quite apt that the play was on a few days after the series finale.

The only downside to the performance was the sound – ever so occasionally, the orchestra overwhelmed the singing and it was a bit hard to make out some of the words, but that really is quite nit-picky.  It was just such a treat to hear some live Groff singing.

Part of me is sad that there isn’t a longer run as I’d love to see it again.  But the other part is pleased, as it makes the one night very special for the people that saw it.

The Internet of Women had been activated

I should be packing for holiday which I am going on in two hours, but I’m still so buzzed from last night that I have to post.

A couple of months ago, my BFF and I started on an epic journey to get tickets for the Lena Dunham book launch at the Royal Festival Hall.  I booked out some time in my work calendar and furiously refreshed the booking website, only to find myself 6ooth-ish in the queue.  Sigh.  I settled in to wait watching the numbers very slowly tick down, and then got a text from Tim telling me that he’d somehow beaten me to the front of the queue.  That’s the bloody patriarchy for you.

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Halloween found us sat in the sold out hall – a member of staff had told Tim that we were lucky to get tickets so I was super excited.  The event was initially billed as a conversation between Lena and the legendary Caitlin Moran with the addition of a book signing afterwards.  That was shelved a couple of days before which I was quite relieved about – looking around the hall, I couldn’t imagine how they could possibly have managed a signing.  There were 2500 of us there – how did they ever think we could all get through a signing?

We had a couple of odd moment when we were collecting our books from outside the hall, which has nothing to do with the evening but I feel like they need to be documented.  There was a guy at the table saying to the staff “Oh, so are these free books?” and they were desperately trying to shoo him away.  We grabbed ours and took them over to the bar to photograph (of course) and his friend came up to us demanding to know how she could get a copy.  It was really weird, and even weirder when she took Tim’s book to rifle through.  YOU’RE NOT GETTING A FREE BOOK!  This is the moment I thought Tim had lost his book forever.

LD1Weirdness aside, we took our dead-centre seats towards the middle of the auditorium and waited giddily (to be fair, that was me).  Caitlin came out first, and gave a very loving and reverential speech.

LD2When she introduced Lena, I felt excitement bubble up inside me.  Of course I’d been excited for weeks, but this was finally it, and I turned to Tim to say “ooo, I think I’m getting overwhelmed” (he could tell).  I appreciate that as a white privileged feminist, she is ‘problematic’ for some people, but at her core, she is a young female writer which is something I desperately wanted to be in my youth.  She is living my dream, so to see her on stage in front of me was incredible.

LD3She read a chapter from her book (“Sex Scenes, Nude Scenes, and Publicly Sharing Your Body”) and she reads with such grace and elegance – she’s so incredibly well-spoken.  I’m so glad I heard her read because I’m now hearing the book in my head in her voice when I read, with all her beautiful stress and intonation.

After the reading, Lena sat down with Caitlin for a good old chat.  She was delighted that Caitlin had invited Miranda Hart and various Midwives because it’s one of her favourite TV shows (I’m sorry Midwives, I don’t watch your show so I can’t remember your names).  She was also really pleased that Sarah Millican was there and said she was going to look into her brand of comedy.  It was quite sweet, knowing that these British female ‘celebrities’ were just as excited to be there as we were.  (Richard E Grant was there as well, and a writer from the Guardian who I frustratingly cannot find the name of, plus numerous others I expect).

Lena started off telling us about her day – filming with Jennifer Saunders for Newsnight.  Jennifer was mentioned a few times and she’s an idol of Lena’s – she loves characters where there is a gap between how they see themselves and how they are which is clearly Edina Monsoon all over.  Caitlin then went on to diagnose her with hypermobility and listed symptoms such as an inability to walk in heels and bad reaction to alcohol – I’ll be honest, I did start thinking those symptoms were basically me, so now I have something else to research online.  Caitlin Moran MD indeed.

The issue of how she is supposed to represent every woman was discussed a lot.  She’s expressed frustration at being vilified for various different things, and how she could never get away with being wasted on a golf cart in an airport like a young actor she once saw on the way to SXSW.  The criticism and intrusion she has received is completely ridiculous, the notion that she is purposefully trying to ruin people’s days by wearing ‘awful’ clothes on the red carpet (dresses which I thought were fabulous), the whole intention behind “What was she thinking?!?” as if she is only wearing clothes in some kind of competition with other actors.

She is obviously very aware about the criticism around race, but explained that she can only tell her story and then pave the way for other women to tell theirs which is absolutely true – she only has her version of reality but knows that other women are better placed to show theirs.  She said she wasn’t born knowing everything, and is grateful that so many people have opened her eyes, and if she was the one to start this conversation, she’s happy for that.  The question that was asked by an audience member about representation of people of colour in Girls wasn’t shyed away from but was discussed in a dignified and eloquent way.  Kudos.

LD4It was a largely white female audience which I guess was too be expected.  Husband was concerned for Tim that he’d be overcome with oestrogen but I think he coped ok, despite being hit with a jigsaw and breasts on the way out of the venue.  (Sidenote – I’m so incredibly proud that my BFF is a feminist – there needs to be more men like him).  Some people came in costume including a two separate Mario’s for some reason, but there was no Halloween rowdiness.  The audience was very respectful and eager to listen to everything she had to say – I usually end up sat near chatty, noisy people, but the only time the girls next to me got overexcited was when Lena was talking about her friendship with Taylor Swift (they were big fans).  I think I was the noisy one after dropping a packet of popping candy that Tim had given me.  The shame.  At the end, she received a standing ovation and I was beyond inspired and empowered.  Cannot wait for the new series.

Embarrassingly, after a late dinner at the BFI, we were walking back to Waterloo passed Canteen which is one of our favourite restaurants.  I was waving hello at Canteen (because why wouldn’t I) when Tim pointed out Caitlin Moran was sat in the window.  I then continued waving like a nut because my mind stopped working – we could have ate in the same place as Caitlin!  I sincerely hope she didn’t think I was waving like a demented person at her.  Although, is waving at a restaurant better?

This has turned out to be a bit of a gushing fangirl review, but I can’t help it – I loved everything about last night.  Lena was so heartwarmingly endearing and Caitlin knew all the best questions to ask.  I desperately want to know what shoes she was wearing because I want them, and I can’t wait to read her book this week.  I didn’t quite *meet* an idol last night, but I was just 36 rows away from her and that will do for me.

Happy Birthday Tatty Devine

TD15eJudging by their most recent collection, I have had a mild obsession with Tatty Devine since 2001.  I was very excited when they launched their birthday collection, as it’d give me a chance to pink up some pieces I had missed out on when I was a poor twenty-something.  And even more excited when they announced a pop-up shop at the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank.  My favourite!  I dragged Husband there on our anniversary trip.

I haven’t actually been in a Tatty Devine store which is a fact I find astounding – every time I’ve been near their Covent Garden shop, it’s either been closed or rammed full of people – so this is my first real experience of a shop.  Husband has been into their stores more than I have!  I loved looking at all the pieces, and the Russian Flower collection above looks so beautiful.  And I completely fell for the dalmatian necklace and brooch which I hadn’t seen before and has only just gone online – if I hadn’t taken a photo, I would have thought I dreamt it.

TD15cI’d already made my decision on what I was going to buy, but I had to get Husband to prevent me from buying more as I was quite drunk and my credit card could quite easily have slipped and bought more.  Fortunately for my bank balance, this didn’t happen and I happily left with a Cuckoo Clock brooch and Rabbit in a Hat necklace.  And of course I couldn’t say no to a TD15 tote bag to take it home in.

They’re running a charm workshop in the store over the rest of September and I’d love to go, but I’m not crafty at all so would only make a mess.  I’m happy to leave the necklace making to the experts.

TD15F

Birthday Bonanza – Day Three

The first part of Day Three started at work, but I could make it through the day because I had BFF, Burgers and Bitching waiting for me in London.

BFF and I met at Covent Garden where I marched him down to the Shake Shack.  I’ve wanted to try this place since it opened a couple of months ago – being an Americanophile, I’ve watched with interest as American burger places have starting making their way over here but wanted to wait until the queues died down before trying the Shake Shack.

There are a lot of whingy Brits complaining all over the internet about the Shake Shack, and I think they’re just being horrible snobs for the sake of it.  No, it’s not fine dining, but neither does it promise to be.  I genuinely loved the food, and thought the location was great.

First of all, you queue up to order.  I went for the Shack Burger, Fries, and a coke.  BFF (or Jim as he was later called) had the Shack Stack, Cheese Fries, and coke.  In hindsight, it was quite a lot of cheese.  They take your name and give you a buzzer to let you know when it’s ready, so you can then go over and find a table.  Monday seemed a good night to go as there was plenty of free tables.  I think it could be quite chaotic on a weekend.

buzzer

Whilst we waited, I got to open my present which was AMAZING.  He’d made a book of one of our in jokes and it looks so ridiculously professional.  I showed husband when I got home and he giggled away to himself.  Check all good book stores at Christmas for an ideal Christmas stocking filler.

And then the buzzers went off, and it was time to collect our food from the food hatch.

Shake shack fries

Mmmm, fries

Shake Shack burgers

Mmmm, burger

I really liked the food, particularly the fries, and was happily full at the end of it.  Ignore all the snobs and haters and give it a go.  As it was relatively quiet (other than the opera singer in Covent Garden), we were able to hold on to our table after we’d finished, so we kept chatting for a bit (see above re: Bitching), before I got some Concrete bought for me as a birthday treat.

Shake Shack concrete

Mmmm, concrete

Shack Shake Concrete is a dense frozen custard and we both went for the Union Shake – Chocolatey brownie yumminess.  As much as I loved the concrete, I couldn’t actually taste that much difference between this and ice cream, although my taste buds aren’t that great.  I think it was good we ordered this much later, as it probably would have melted whilst we ate the burgers.

Tim’s bullet points from the meal were:

  • Too many staff and it was creepy when they called you by your name (I don’t agree with the second point)
  • Messy custard presentation which ended up everywhere (yeah, true)
  • The buzzer frightened him when it went off in his hand

Other than that, I think he enjoyed it.

Shake Shack

We finished much earlier than I thought, so after we were kicked out of a closing Paperchase, we wandered about for a bit, peering in the Tatty Devine window and being harassed by a shop assistant outside of a Dead Sea soap shop.  Tim then yelled “Décolletage” at an Agatha Christie sculpture like a french hooligan, we spontaneously fist pumped when he helped a lost tourist find the Foyles which made us both snort with laughter, and a decision was made to walk over to the South Bank.

The South Bank was quiet, so we quickly nipped into the Foyles to soak in the book atmosphere and think about where our book would fit in their shop.

Foyles

I became determined that I would go in my favourite lift on my Bonanza – the Singing Lift in the Royal Festival Hall, but I had completely forgotten how to get there.  I ended up dragging Tim all round the South Bank trying to get to the bloody entrance coming across some incredibly random structures.

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No idea

 And then I found my beloved lift.

Singing Lift

This may look like an ordinary lift…

We went up to the top floor, then down to the bottom, then back up to the second, with it singing to us all the way.  It might be one of the only lifts in the world that tweets.

Then this happened.

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I don’t really know what this was about – I didn’t actually read the text.  But Tim did manage to make this poor woman make the most awful face.

The evening ended at Waterloo station with me confusedly asking Tim if he remembered that time we were in Argentina (I don’t think either of us have been) before he packed me onto the train home.

Three days for a Birthday Bonanza is pretty good going at my age, as is two burgers in three days.