Category Archives: Show reviews

Introducing "Olympics Musings"

I’m freshly back from attending eight separate events at London 2012 in the Olympic park and in four venues outside it. Now, exhausted but very happy, I thought I would set out a few Olympics musings prompted by this terrific experience. I’ll have a go at structuring this, in several installments over a few blog entries, but expect me to drift into stream of consciousness mode at the drop of a hat.

As an intro, here are a few plain facts.

Four of us went: Richard, our seven and eleven year old daughters Emma and Sophie and I (I am a true pedant and see no reason to write “myself” which has crept into common usage in place of “I”).

We applied for tickets via the lottery organised about 18 months ago, obtained 12 sets of tickets, attended 8 (the other 4 went to happy homes, we are NOT responsible for any empty seats, of which we saw very few anyway, OK?)

Richard and I have been to Sydney 2000 and attended a roughly equal number of similar events – an excellent point of comparison (and Aussies don’t despair just yet, two extra gold yesterday, a few days left…)

And now for the important stuff, please countdown with the compere, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, ARE YOU REA-DY, THEEEESE ARE THE EVENTS WE SAW, cue music “We will rock you”.

Day Six 

Four quarter finals men’s badminton doubles at Wembley, including China v China, which turned out to be a master class demonstration match. Denmark, the only non-Asian side in the quarter finals won over Taipei. There were two courts, so two matches going on at once, I enjoyed that!

Two men’s volleyball preliminary matches at Earl’s Court, with Poland v Argentina by far the most partisan we witnessed, I’d say, even including one of the three things we saw involving team GB (basketball).

Day Seven

This was a no live games action day for us and the day France and GB exchanged places in the medals table in the morning a couple of times, before France settled at 5 for a few days (no longer there, sniff) and GB overtook France.

Day Eight

Equestrian jumping preliminaries at Greenwich. 75 toffs on horses, as Richard put it (but the only Royal competing was a Saudi prince, not a HRH Z – this time round – or A – years ago) jumping a dozen wonderfully kitsch fences, designed by someone whose name was repeated loads of times, but that I still have managed to forget.

It was also, of course, the gold rush of Super Saturday, with GB rocketing up to third place in the medals table after a fabulous evening of athletics.

Day Nine 

Two qualifier matches for women’s handball in the Copper Box at the Olympic Park. We missed the first half of Sweden v Korea, because we were enjoying a tour of the Associated Press media centre thanks to dear Aussie friend Ian Cohen, who happens to be a Channel Ten senior sports journalist, and is covering the Olympics, having had no chance to catch his breath after the Tour de France. Then screamed for then sighed over Angola v Brazil. The girls went down fighting, anyway, and seemed to enjoy the crowd support.

Synchronized swimming preliminary technical routine duets at the Aquatics Centre. Still reeling from the shock of hearing Johnny (Halliday for those non French people I have to explain basics like that to)’s wonderfully cheesy rock ballad tones floating over the Greek girls. And, sorry, French folks, I have no idea which song it was.

Two quarter finals of women’s beach volleyball at horse guards parade that evening, well, at 10pm. Both the teams we supported, Germany and the Czech Republic (a nice Czech deputy Chef de Mission who was a bit hesitant in the Tube gave the girls pin badges – we’re easily bought ), lost and the fact that legs or arms were bared or covered had no incidence on the score. I am pleased to assure you that this is now a scientifically proven, indeed evidence based fact.

Day Ten

Women’s hockey prelims at the Riverbank Arena. An average score of 3.5 goals per game, where the Kiwis achieved a goalless draw against Germany, allowing them to get through to the next stage, and the US getting wiped out by South Africa, who knocked 7 in. Do the maths for USA’s score…

And my own personal highlight: these weren’t the most expensive tickets (beach volleyball quarter finals were) but we got to see our two teams play in men’s basket ball, and they weren’t playing each other, how jammy is that? It was a real bum that we had to leave GB v China at half time to make our Eurostar, but I’m so glad it was that match we had to sacrifice, with GB already well and truly trouncing the Chinese giants (in stature, I mean, even if they’re a pretty good side anyway) on the court already, rather than France who kept a timid lead against an on-form Nigerian team.

Sophie had been an enthusiastic participant throughout the games we saw. This match was the one where Emma came down from her I-don’t-do-flags-and-stuff stance and really got stuck in. Richard, WHY didn’t you tell me France were already through to the next stage, and spared me a couple of grey hairs? Got to tick off a young bloke next to me for booing a French free throw to put the player off, though. Told him he was more than welcome to support Nigeria (I would have, except against France or GB!) but it just wasn’t cricket to boo. He looked a bit terrified, and stopped booing! I keep forgetting I’m middle aged…

OK, well I was hoping to tackle some of the topics I wanted to address, like silly rights issues, money money money, the organisation, oh, and sport, stuff like that, but I’m already feeling winded and I guess you might be too. So here’s just a little bit of miscellany in lieu of cliffhanger.

The little things – Fancy dress

What IS it with the British and dressing up?  Foreigners are both perplexed and amused by this (as with many things British, I have to say) and I for one don’t know why this is a peculiarly British trait. From Morris dancers to French maids outfits (hell, what I am talking about, something as passé as a French maid outfit? Chelsea strips for aging politicians at parties with Berlusconi and Mosley, more like), from runners dressed up as vegetables for charity fundraising to a man in drag jumping out of a plane in the middle of the opening ceremony, from Lords shuffling about in daft Order of the Garter gear to the still omnipresent grey-skirt-or-trousers-with-school-approved-top-and-tie dutifully worn by schoolchildren, the nation has a very rich tradition of dressing up. Faintly disquieting to my mind, but hey, plenty of skeletons in the French closet too. Each to their own and all that.

Anyway, fancy dress has a natural, welcome and very entertaining place during the Olympics. My gold medal goes to the team of Wallys (as in “Where’s Wally?”) at the beach volleyball, the silver to the horseguards (I think that’s what they were, alternative suggestions on a postcard, please) at the equestrian jumping, and bronze to the guy in the Poland match with his home made eagle’s wings. The only reason he gets bronze is my soft heart. As a very probably non-British person, he should be disqualified, but then that’s the problem with these judging based events…

All photos: Richard Wilkinson, except the Wallys (I took that one)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a cold and slightly wet Paris

Because a book club friend had recommended this, but I couldn’t go on the day she suggested, yesterday I booked myself a seat for a Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed in English by the Tower Theatre Company, at the Théâtre de Verdure in the Bois de Boulogne. Yes it was a weekday, but my work prefers to give me loads of holidays rather than pay me any “overtime”. So a few deadlines to be met over the past couple of months means me time and a few outings to Paris, of which this was one.

I talked to a friend I haven’t seen in years (an ex colleague) about the play, she could make it too, so we met at this theatre in the Pré Catelan, she having braved the Bois de Boulogne on foot from the bus stop, me having braved it from the relative safety of my car. As I was wasn’t sure where I was going, and my GPS decided it no longer knew where it was the minute I entered the Bois de Boulogne (perhaps my GPS is a prude?) I had to keep going slowly to read the signs, which was instantly interpreted as kerb crawling…
Anyway, we both really enjoyed the play from our front row seats. The majority of the audience was made up of students, but they were attentive and enjoyed it too, especially Bottom’s heavy comedy.  I liked the girls, especially Hermia, who I think has the best part in the play. It was in period costume, although of course with Shakespeare, it’s always a fine debating point what “period” means, in this case a bit of the Elizabethan age for and a bit of pseudo ancient Greece. The open air setting is lovely, with a weeping willow becoming a prop, a hedge hiding a singer. I thought the actors played well and of course, the play’s the thing. 
The only downer was the weather, not so much the rain (a few drops now and then, but everyone was prepared with raincoats and hats) but I just wasn’t dressed warmly enough… The Tower Theatre Company proudly says on its website that in 20 years of doing these shows in Paris, they have only  cancelled a performance twice because of poor weather. The staff assured me that, so long as there is an audience, there is a play. The audience in this case was certainly happy to stay, but I have to say I felt for the fairies in their floaty dresses, and I’m sure part of the reason why the ladies were so glad to get married was because they got to wear a shawl for their nuptials…  

Sylvie Guillem and Pippi Longstocking

A little procrastination before I attempt to catch up on reviews of books I’ve read over the past few months: a dance review.
I saw “6000 miles” recently, the mixed bill dance show starring Sylvie Guillem, co-produced by her too I believe. I went with my sister, my usual ballet companion – our birthday and Christmas presents these days are mostly tickets for dance shows, and I highly recommend this strategy.

Sadly, this was the slightly truncated show, without the Mats Ek/Sylvie Guillem duet, as Mats Ek was otherwise engaged for just two nights of the “6000 miles” run at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, which is where I saw the show.

Well, the first piece, danced by Nicolas Le Riche and Sylvie Guillem was technically brilliant from both partners, a truly virtuoso performance, but it failed to really stir me. It was highly enjoyable to watch such perfection, but I gained rather more emotion from the second piece danced by Ana Laguna (whom I’d seen dance with Baryshnikov a little while back) and I forget which other dancer.

I had great expectations of the third piece, warmly appreciated by a friend, which was the Guillem solo. Well, after Sylvie emerged from the magic mirror (more on that to come), I instantly thought “Pippi Longstocking” and could not get over the image for the rest of the piece. Shame, but take a look at these pictures and you must see what I mean? The long red hair in a sticky-out plait (ok, so Sylvie has one to Pippi’s two), the clunky shoes, the ungainly skirt and top, even down to the visibly muscly legs to match Pippi’s incredible strength…
I must add, however, that I was completely fascinated and enchanted by the magic mirror aka video screen on stage. Having just attended a conference on augmented virtual reality, I realise that this must be quite basic technology (I don’t think you’d risk anything else on stage), but it was 100% effective and beautiful. The screen/mirror/thingy was a free standing device of about human height, placed halfway down the stage. It was both something that gave you a black and white image of what was behind it (Sylvie Guillem dipping in and out of this filmed space) and also showed what must have been recorded images: a group of people – oh and a dog – that looked like they belonged to the same 1950s-ish slightly East European community as the soloist. Utterly entrancing.
All in all though, a four star rather than five star for me, because I wasn’t as thrilled as much as I was by, say, Eonnagata (also with Guillem in it).