Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An open letter to the National Theatre

Get a better website. And while you're at it, hire more staff for your box office and install more phone lines.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to join the National Theatre as an Advance Member as it barely cost a thing and it gives you a week's head start on the great unwashed when it comes to booking tickets. As their upcoming season contained the UK premiere of the awards juggernaut August: Osage County as well as the world premiere of a new David Hare play, Gethsemane, not to mention an additional booking period for their runaway hit War Horse, I was expecting it to be busy.

What I did not expect was the frailty of their website. I logged on at a fraction after 9am to book tickets for the first two plays I mentioned in the earlier paragraph. It should have taken minutes, given that I had a specific date in mind for both shows and wasn't going to be trawling through months of performances to get the best seats or anything. at 9:25am, after multiple crashes, freezes, and most frustratingly of all, website time outs that emptied my order and released the seats I was trying to buy, I decided a two pronged attack was in order, and I called the box office. I get a recorded message telling me their opening hours are from 9:30am. Fine. I call back at 9:30am, I get the busy signal. Not an eternal wait in a queue, oh no. I can't even get through. So I put my headset on and constantly press redial with one hand and battle with their website with the other, becoming increasingly vocal with it all as time goes on and people from several desks away are starting to eye me warily, in case I suddenly go all James McAvoy in Wanted on them.

At one point, I'd somehow, thanks to their evil and hopeless website, got 6 tickets in my order for Osage County when I only needed 2 and was completely unable to access the seating plan for Gethsemane. It drove me absolutely fucking NUTS, especially when I decided to approach with caution and book the shows separately only to have the payment page continually crash on me. After my final time out during payment for Gethsemane, when I got the message that my order was empty, I tried very hard not to cry and then went back to the seating plan. The seats I'd been booking are gone. Hmmmmm. I checked my email, lo and behold there is a confirmation email for my failed booking. Whatever. All I know is it's now 10:20am and it's taken me 80 minutes to do what should only have taken 8. And not once did I manage to get anything other than the busy signal on the phone. After this, if the shows are disappointing, I'm gonna torch the fucking building.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I never met a phenomenon I didn't like

I resisted Harry Potter for several years before caving in and becoming an ardent fan. It was the movies of the books that did it. I watched the first one and thought "Wow this is a TERRIBLE movie, surely the book is better" and so I was compelled to find out.

In a serendipitous twist, the latest Harry Potter movie has been delayed by eight months because Warner Bros are a bunch of money grabbing asshats. That left the pre-Thanksgiving weekend wide open and so the Twilight movie ran to fill the gap. I've become increasingly curious about the books but everything I read about them points out they couldn't be aimed at me less. I'm neither a teenager nor a girl. But as I'll be in the US when the film opens and will go to see it so I can see what all the fuss is about, I also caved in and bought the books.

So, like Kaleb Nation, I am also a guy reading the Twilight books. I'm only reading them indoors as I can't be bothered to justify my reasons for reading them to everyone I encounter with a raised eyebrow (which would probably be like, everybody). So in public it's all about the grown up stuff. I'm a teenage girl in secret. So no change there then.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Return to the Homeland

In just under three months, I'm going back to NYC for a 12 day vacation. I'm very very much looking forward to it. In addition to catching up with old friends, eating, drinking and generally making merry, I will of course be catching some shows. When I originally booked my flight, there were just 3 shows I was wanting to see. But wouldn't you know, the number keeps on growing. Currently on the hit list is:

All My Sons. The cast is amazing with one exception. I'll leave it to you to guess who I mean.
American Buffalo. Since I saw Mauritius on my last trip, it seems fitting to see the play which heavily inspired it this time around.
Dividing The Estate. Controversially withdrawn from awards consideration by its author when running off-Broadway, I figure as I'm seeing August: Osage County in London, this will fill that gap.
Godspell. Gavin Creel has never really wowed me but then I've never seen him in anything that would really give him cause to. Maybe this will change it all. Or not.
Gypsy. I missed Bernadette Peters when she did it five years ago, so Patti will be my first Mama Rose.
A Man For All Seasons. I have a sudden intense interest in Henry VIII, so this has become something of a must see.
Pal Joey. With a cast including Martha Plimpton and Stockard Channing, this should prove endlessly fascinating.
The Seagull. Leaving aside my current insane loathing of the title creature, I am just dying to see this. I didn't have a chance to see it in its original sold out London run, and now it's heading to Broadway, the main players intact but for one crucial change. Chiwetel Ejiofor has been replaced by Peter Sarsgaard. I am a HUGE fan of Peter Sarsgaard so I'm even more excited to see this now.
Shrek. I know, I know. This has potential to be absolutely godfuckingawful and I will wait until the reviews from the recently commenced out of town tryout are in before I decide on a ticket purchase.
South Pacific. The big award winner of the 2007 season, this is a seriously hot ticket. So much so that I am going to have to book it pretty much now to ensure I get a seat.
Speed The Plow. My love of Jeremy Piven knows no bounds.
The Talk. He blew me away in Mauritus and so I'm all for seeing Bobby Cannavale again.

Inevitably, I won't get to see all of these. But in an ideal world, I'd fit all these in and more besides. We'll see.....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's a good thing I just had a pay rise

I don't think anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds looking at my blog can not know that I am a HUGE fan of Tori Amos. My devotion briefly wavered with her latest release American Doll Posse, but then right thinking kicked back in, I saw her twice on tour in NYC and was back to the full time devotion of her that has had many of my friends rolling their eyes at me and saying "still?"

Yes, still. The tour for American Doll Posse produced some of the best live performances she's ever done and since every show she does is different, the illegal recordings of her performances have been both plentiful and highly sought after. For the 2005 solo tour to accompany the release of The Beekeeper saw her release six "official" bootlegs, one of which was the London show I attended where she was joined on four songs by a gospel choir and is still one of the best concerts I've ever been to, ever. For the Posse, Amos took it to the next level and recorded 22 of the shows for release, starting with the show the night AFTER I saw her.

These recordings were only available via download to residents of North America and Canada, on a website called Legs & Boots. Not long after the end of the tour, the website closed down and that, I thought, was that. But recently, Epic decided not to renew her contract (hardly a shock since each album she's produced for them has been progressively less successful) and so Tori Amos is finally truly independent and free to do as she pleases. And if you look over yonder at my iTunes purchases, you'll see that one of the first things she has seen to is making all 22 shows available on the iTunes store in Europe, as well as the USA and Canada. Some, though by no means all, have a bonus track from the sound check into the bargain. I am in gay fan boy heaven and while my wallet is going to be hurting, it's going to be worth every penny.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Naked Farmer for August

No, I can't believe it's August either. So here's the pic of the farmer I am going to have adorning my desk for the next 31 days. The past couple of months seem to have demonstrated I did the calendar a disservice back in March when I announced it would all be downhill from there on in. What do we think?