Last Christmas: Review

Star Rating: ***
Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Emma Thompson and Greg Wise
Screenplay: Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings
Review date: 16th November 2019

The much anticipated early Christmas present for fans of Christmas movies, rom-com’s and the late George Michael/WHAM! is out just in time for this Christmas. Curiously it’s set in 2017 despite a known release date of 2019. Perhaps that’s a nod to George’s untimely death in 2016. George Michael was aware of approved the film being made based on his famous Christmas hit.

Kate, played by Emilia Clarke, 33, (Game of Thrones) is a frustrated young Londoner for whom nothing much seems to go right. She works as an elf in an all year round Christmas shop in London’s Covent Garden.

Things begin to look much brighter when she meets Tom played by Henry Golding, 32, (Crazy Rich Asians) a charming, handsome young man who seems too good to be true. This grows into a yuletide romance between the two with all manner of interesting events in between.

There’s a lot to admire and really enjoy about this movie including the outstanding music from George Michael and WHAM! including over course the title song, though sometimes they did seemed to have been forcefully shoehorned into the movie – as much as a marketing exercise to sell the soundtrack as anything remotely related to the film.

Aside from the music and actors, the major star of the movie is London in all its beautiful night time glory. It was a particular delight to see not just traditional sights – such as Covent Garden and Regent Street, but the many, many beautiful, interesting and far less well known sights.

There were fine performances from Henry Golding and Emma Thompson (co-writer) as Kate’s Yugoslavian mother. She delivered some of the best lines and was a wonderful breath of fresh air and vibrancy to the film.

A disappointment and a big one at that was the relationship between Kate and Tom. Whilst pleasant, amusing and believable enough, I felt that as much as Tom oozed cocky, self-assured confidence, Kate’s performance lacked that sparkle and as a consequence meant there was an absence of genuine chemistry between them. Ultimately I would say that’s just bad casting as Clarke is not exactly known for her romantic comedies or comedic acting skills. However she did provide comedic entertainment in a sense via the considerable hilarity found in the many mishaps of her unfortunate life that is seen spiralling out of control.

There was an attraction between the two but it wasn’t a convincing romantic chemistry a la Julia Roberts-Richard Gere (Pretty Woman) … but then how many have pulled that off? Though their relationship held the interest and kept you wondering where it was leading to, for me that was a major flaw in the movie. It didn’t stop it being a good movie – for it effortlessly held your interest throughout, but it meant it couldn’t be considered a great one.

Another relationship between Christmas shop manager Santa, played by Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians) and The Boy, played by Peter Mygind was somewhat undercooked. There was certainly unexplored potential, both comedic and romantic, with those two characters.

Santa’s relationship with her wayward employee Kate had rather more bite and spiciness to it than even Kate and Tom’s. At times it was more mother-daughter than owner/manager-employee, but fascinating all the same.

The film moved along rather nicely, too nicely at times and lacked dramatic tension. It didn’t seamlessly flow. As with the music randomly shoe horned in, so too were a number of scenes that weren’t really vital to the storyline.

The aspects that focused on homeless were a nice touch and I’m sure George Michael would have approved as he was a big fan of supporting the homeless and occasionally gave exclusive interviews to The Big Issue, as did his sister, Melanie Panayiotou, earlier this month in a very rare interview.

There have been very good movies based upon a band’s music – where the story’s great and sequeway’s nicely with the music – think of A Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles), Mamma Mia (ABBA) and quite possibly Yesterday (The Beatles) and Blinded by The Light (Bruce Springsteen) but regrettably this isn’t one of them. Nonetheless Last Christmas is very watchable and entertaining, with plenty of laugh out loud moments. It’s uplifting too in its message to “look up” and explore horizons beyond the obvious, but this appetising film could have been so much more filling if all the various ingredients were better mixed together.

George Michael was quite the perfectionist – as is evident from his body of music, videos, tours and appearance. This film was nice enough but failed to touch the very high notes of excellence George Michael reached with much of his output. Although he gave his backing and input into the film whilst he was alive I do not believe he would have approved this film going out in his name if he were still alive and the further work needed to make it a far better film would have been insisted upon. Perhaps, like the classic single that inspired the film, it needs a ‘pudding mix’ and/or sequel … Next Christmas or Last Christmas II anyone?

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

If you’ve seen the film perhaps you can add your comments in the section below and discussion can ensue. Spoilers can be revealed as it will be assumed those reading the comments have watched the film.

N.B. Those yet to watch the film – please avoid reading the comments until you have seen the film to avoid any spoilers!

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Walking Good at 80 – Rudolph Walker’s 80th Birthday Celebration

Star Rating: *****
Hackney Empire
Mare Street,
London E8 1EJ,
Review Date: Sunday 20th October 2019

Starring: Caroll Thompson, Chris Tarrant, Curtis Walker, Glenda Jaxson, Janet Kay, Jermain Jackman, Kat B, London Community Gospel Choir, Lurine Cato, Paulette Tajah, Richard Blackwood, Slim, Tobago Crusoe and Victor Romero Evans.

Director: Sarah Moore
Producer: Geestor Productions
Comperes: Eddie Nestor & Robbie Gee

Oh what a night sang the Four Seasons back in late December 63. That song title well and truly summed up the spectacular night’s entertainment laid on to mark the 80th birthday celebration for legendary actor Rudolph Walker OBE.

It’s quite something to think that Neville Chamberlain was the Conservative British Prime Minister when Walker was born in September 1939, the year World War II started. Chamberlain resigned in 1940 when he was unable to generate support from the Labour and Liberal Democrats for his stance in the war. He was replaced by Winston Churchill and the rest is history. Literally. Brexit has echoes of this historic period all over it with our current and previous Prime Minister’s unable to secure the backing of the leading opposition parties and replacing one Tory Leader (Theresa May) with another (Boris Johnson) mid-way through an historic national crisis.

I am making the point that the state of the nation 80 years ago was in a similar dire crisis to that existing now (albeit without the life and death consequences of a World War). Anyway, digression over … although a little more on Brexit will follow.

Rudolph Walker

A packed audience of over 1,000 people at the Hackney Empire certainly didn’t get side-tracked by politics as they lapped up a feast of entertainment served up by the cream of the Black British entertainment industry including top comedians Curtis Walker, Glenda Jaxson, Richard Blackwood and Slim who brought the house down with their wickedly funny sets. Curtis Walker was on especially fine form, especially when taking the mick out of his mother in the audience and her response to her husband’s death in 2012. It doesn’t sound so funny at all in Black and White but trust me it was. As she set sail on a post funeral cruise to recover and her son waived her off, she shouted out the name of the Island she was heading to. I won’t repeat it here as it’s a family friendly blog, suffice to say thought, when Curtis mentioned it, it took a moment or two to gradually sink in and then you just saw wave upon wave of laughter reverberate right around the theatre from the stalls to the circle to the upper circle right up the gallery. It was so hilarious it brought tears to my eyes. Walker had been on cheekily edgy form when referring to the no swearing rule for acts but might just have inadvertently crossed the cruise line!

Curtis Walker

That was a feature of the night which went down well with the audience. Slim slipped up once but quickly corrected himself. That was a nice mark of respect for Rudolph Walker and the occasion. That he and everyone else delivered fine performances without having to use profanity just goes to show it’s not necessary and that talented performers have the ability to avoid such language and when doing so, are thereby able to reach out to and be inclusive of a far bigger audience who might otherwise be put off attending live comedy. To curse on stage is actually to curse your audience, even if that is not the intention. There’s little distinction in the impact of a curse word whether deliberately aimed at someone or liberally used for impact in a joke or theatrical scene and I can’t imagine comedians really wish to curse their fans and paying customers but effectively that is what they are doing when swearing.

Richard Blackwood was funny in his relatively short set. However I didn’t quite see the need or expect toilet humour from him – no matter how amusing it was as part of a tangled web of a yarn. It didn’t seem appropriate for this occasion.

All four comedians showed exactly why they are hugely loved on the comedy circuit and despite the nature of some of the material it was great to see Blackwood back doing stand-up again after his recent more serious acting roles in Typical and Eastenders.

I found Blackwood’s comments about the importance of being your “authentic self” quite significant. In a world which wants you to confirm, where your “otherness” be that skin colour or accent can separate you from employment opportunities it’s heartening to see that Rudolph Walker retained his distinctive Trinidadian accent in Eastenders, when he could have been asked to tone it down or lose it altogether to get the role of Patrick Trueman. Being his authentic (literally a true man!) self allowed his acting talent, dedication and professionalism to shine through and enable him to remain a key figure in the show for 18 years since joining the cast in 2001. That’s a very long time in the soap opera world. Blackwood highlighted this amusingly when recalling a scene in the Queen Vic between June Brown (aka Dot Cotton) and Rudolph Walker (Patrick Trueman) when he was trying to quieten her by saying “Oh woman”. It’s the way he said it – not just “oh woman” as the script writer had it but “Oh wooomaan” in a terse Trinidadian accent loaded with meaning and frustration!

Diane Parish and Lindsey Coulson

The Lovers Rock segment was superb with some of the Queens of Lovers Rock performing their greatest hits and getting the crowd up on their feet and joining in – including Caroll Thompson, Janet Kay, Lorna Gee and Paulette Tajah, plus one of the Kings of Lovers Rock, Victor Romero Evans. Although this wasn’t the comedy section of the night Lorna Gee clearly hadn’t read the script and turned the singing segment into a light hearted comedy moment as she bravely struggled to avoid a major wardrobe malfunction whilst singing. Early on in her first song, she had to stop the music, turn round and adjust the top half of her little black dress mid song, then start all over again! Not good as you could sense she was trying to literally reign herself in and be less mobile and expressive than she wanted to be. That’s a pity as her voice was certainly impressive when she hit those high notes.

A highlight of the night was when some of the singers sung personal renditions of Happy Birthday (whoever wrote that must be raking it in with the royalties!!) especially Opera singer Anne Fridal and Paulette Tajah. There was even some musical poetry with a topical, witty and funny Brexit poetic calypso song from Tobago Crusoe. See video below.

An unexpected surprise appeared in the form of TV and radio legend Chris Tarrant! He came on to pay tribute to Rudolph Walker … well only just as Robbie Gee amusingly did his best not to let him get hold of the microphone… the show needed to finish on time after all but Chris was fine, succinct and praiseworthy in his speech.

The acting community was unsurprisingly extremely well represented. With countless Eastenders on stage it’s a surprise we didn’t hear the ‘duff duff’s and that this wasn’t broadcast on the BBC! Diane Parish, Dona Croll, Ellen Thomas, Tameka Empson, Ricky Norwood were all on stage. It was interesting to hear that Ellen Thomas had at various points of her career played Rudolph Walker’s daughter, girlfriend and wife! Not a lot of people can say that!

Victor Romero Evans

The evening showcased the wide range and depth of talent across the Black British entertainment industry. That so many came out to perform and play tribute to Rudolph Walker was a demonstration of the high regard in which he is held. Many commented on how young Walker looked and that must be a tribute to good living, diet and positive state of mind. There’s something in that that we can all learn from as getting to aged 80 is far from guaranteed. Victor Romero Evans pointed out that he always sees Walker smartly turned out, well spoken, never swearing and generally carrying himself well. Romero Evans (whose age is a mystery) is also an evergreen performer himself, who doubtless is a lot younger looking than he really is as he seems to have been around forever too.

I’m sure that many of those who graced the stage would say they owe a debt of gratitude to Rudolph Walker for breaking down barriers and opening doors for them to walk through in their respective careers. One of the main breakthrough shows for Walker was ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ (ITV 1972-76) which Walker said attracted huge TV audiences and was the ‘Eastenders’ of its day in terms of popularity and viewing figures. I don’t know if the title was meant to be a biblical reference but the term ‘Love Thy Neighbour’s appears frequently in the New Testament e.g. Matthew 19:19. “Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The programme was about neighbouring couples – one Black, one White, constantly at war with the battlefield being race and lack of racial harmony between warring neighbours. The same message applies today and I think that’s one of the points the show tried to convey, that people need to love their neighbours irrespective of their racial origins and colour (people in general not just literal neighbours) and importantly, as Walker said, when it comes to our young Black youth and the terrible press they get, “It’s important to celebrate young talent when there’s a powerful media that seeks to stigmatise our young people.”

Ellen Thomas and Dona Croll

The show was not just an occasion to mark Rudolph Walker’s 80th, but equally importantly it’s aim was to raise money for the Rudolph Walker Foundation and it achieved that through raising £2,120 in a raffle. GeeStor Productions put on a super show and it was notable that they also put up a huge video screen on stage and made great use of it to display showreels of Walker’s early life, aspects of his family life, career to date and the live action from the stage. Far too often big theatres fail to think about those in the rear seats for whom the action on stage feels a million miles away and screens make the show more inclusive for all.

Oh what a night indeed. This was one of the best shows I’ve attended in many a year in terms of the wide variety and quality of acts on stage. With that, plus so many BBC stars, past and present, in attendance, this show was most definitely worthy of TV broadcast and I hope it does get shown before the year’s out.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Photographs © Tony Attille

The Rudolph Walker Foundation exists to nurture and develop the creative and technical skills and talents of young people by providing them with equipment and facilities which will enable them to produce and distribute audio visual programmes and other types of digital content relating to their culture, history, music and the world in which they live.

Comperes: Robbie Gee and Eddie Nestor

Links:

  1. To Brexit or not to Brexit – That is the Question? – Tiemo – 29th October 2019
  2. The Rudolph Walker Foundation – RW Foundation

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Any General Election Must Now Include a Referendum

MPs will vote again today on whether or not to agree to the Prime Minister’s offer of pre-Christmas General Election on Thursday 12th December 2019, or even Monday 9th December 2019, the alternative date requested by Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democratic leader.

This must be very tempting if you have your eyes on Boris Johnson’s new job. He’s not yet out of his 6 month probation period (we’ll, if only the role came with that, but that’s another matter altogether) but is clearly keen to put his job out to advert. Either he’s a fool or supremely confident (does the Pope pray?) that he’d win a clear majority that would enable him to (a) Get Brexit Done and (b) more effectively govern the nation and push through his Government’s new legislative bill passed last week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Up till now Labour and other major parties had thus far refused to agree to a General Election until the possibility of crashing out on 31st October 2019 without a deal was taken off the table. Well there’s more chance of Tony Blair returning to lead the Labour party than the UK leaving the European Union (EU) this Thursday! That we could leave never ever seemed remotely likely based on the parliamentary and EU timetable in place at the time Boris Johnson was elected to the top job in July 2019 with a predetermined Halloween extension granted by the EU in June 2019.

Conditional General Election with Referendum

If I was Labour, Liberal Democratic or Scottish National Party (SNP) leader I’d only commit to a General Election if it included a referendum with a clear set of questions, the result of which would be binding and have to be enacted by the party that is triumphant in the General Election, regardless of whether or not it accords with their party’s position on EU membership. That is the only way to most expeditiously bring closure on the matter which is what both parliament and the electorate wants and seems to be the most practical, sensible way forward that gives the Government and parliament the General Election it wants and the electorate of the United Kingdom a final say in the matter via a referendum, rather than the potential for a General Election followed possibly by a referendum and/or further stasis depending on the outcome of a General Election.

It’s been widely reported that organising a referendum takes a minimum of 6 months. As the Prime Minister believed it was possible on 17th June 2019 to review the major EU-UK agreement reached that day to leave the EU in less than 3 days, I should think organising a comparatively simple and straight forward referendum should not require 6 months and I’m sure can be accelerated to fit in with a General Election.

This referendum should have to include a clear set of questions agreed in advance by Parliament. Tiemo propose the following for consideration:

General Election

1. Which party/candidate are you voting for in the General Election?

Referendum

Please tick one, or more as applicable, of the following:

1. I wish to leave the EU (Brexit) based on the deal agreed by the Government and European Union on 17th October 2019.

2. I wish to leave with no deal by 31.01.20.

3. I request the Government to renegotiate a Brexit deal [Ideally the questions would specify what those new terms are i.e. those that would get through parliament] and leave by 31.01.20.

4. I request the Government revoke Article 50 by 31.12.19 and that Britain remains in the EU if no deal is agreed to leave by 31.12.19.

5. If no deal can be agreed by Parliament to leave by 31.01.20 I request that Britain remains.

6. If a deal agreed by Parliament is not agreed and ratified by the EU by 15.01.20 that the UK should (a) leave with no deal by 31.01.20.

7. If a deal agreed by Parliament is not agreed and ratified by the EU by 15.01.20 that the UK should (b) unilaterally revoke Article 50 and remain by 31.01.20.

8. If none of the above can be agreed that by 15.01.20 I request that a decision on Britain’s future is delegated to the Supreme Court for a final decision, to be ratified unchallenged by the House of Commons and House of Lords, within a month of the Supreme Court decision.

N.B. – If remain is to be an option, it would be better still to list the conditions upon which we wish to remain and start a whole new negotiation on the terms of the UK remaining as opposed to leaving … difficult I know, but this would require the EU to shift its position for it was their previous intransigence that resulted in former Prime Minister David Cameron calling the 2016 referendum in the first place. This might include a request for a reduction in the annual sums of money paid into the EU as well as other regulatory and general EU reforms we would like to see.

I don’t think December is a great month for the nation to be focused on a General Election, for notwithstanding the obvious difficulties, as mentioned above there is no guarantee it will resolve Brexit at all which is an entirely separate issue to the purpose of a General Election. That said and it appears to be heading that way, that there will be a December election as the Labour Leader has this morning agreed to one, I’m certain the nation would consider it a great Christmas present to get Brexit or remain completed so the country can move on.

The EU could have ended this paralysis by declining the further extension agreed on 28th October 2019. The nation had plenty of notice of this week’s deadline. The Government and EU chose to take it right up to the wire. I suspect they’ll do the same again and take it to the new 31st January 2019 deadline rather than looking to get this resolved well before then.

Election Outcome?

Judging by the outcome of recent elections I suspect the outcome will be highly unpredictable. Who’s to say there won’t be a hung parliament? If as is likely, it did become a Brexit v Remain election/referendum by default, technically it should be Conservatives + Brexit Party versus Liberal Democrats + SNP v Labour (whatever position they’re taking). However it is not certain judging by past voting and opinion polling that most Remainers will automatically vote Liberal Democrat to stop Brexit. Why that is, is a whole new debate and one for that party to focus on and look to capitalise on.

Even if the Conservatives win by a landslide it doesn’t automatically follow that Boris Johnson gets his way and that Conservative MPs will simply agree to his deal. So far I’ve seen very little in the way of support, less still anything significant, for the deal.

The Deal

Watching the so called super Saturday debate on 18th October 2019 I recall only a couple of MPs supporting the deal. Assuming that widespread opposition to the deal doesn’t change once MPs have really taken the time to scrutinise it doesn’t bode well for the deal which appears to be is as dead as the former Isis leader Abu Baker al-Baghdadi.

Furthermore, one reason for the delay in approving any deal was to allow parliament sufficient time to scrutinise the agreement, so calling for a December General Election will only serve to remove 6 weeks out of the next 7 weeks for parliament to properly scrutinise the agreement, for if MPs vote for a General Election parliament would be once again suspended for parliamentary business from 6th November 2019 until the date of the election and formation of a new Government.

As parliament has not agreed a deal to leave and blocked a no deal Brexit the default ought to have been remain but parliament is curiously unwilling to follow normal logic.

A United Kingdom

It’s ironic that the Government is officially pro-Brexit and the break up of the European Union (well, for the UK as one key member leaving) yet it doesn’t welcome in the slightest the prospect of Scotland leaving and breaking up the union of the United Kingdom … Stronger Together as they say … yet when it comes to the EU it sings a different tune.

Is Brexit the Best Way Forward?

Without getting into all the immense detail, let’s look at it this way and ask how many of our fellow EU members are trying to leave the EU? The answer is zero. Nil. Nada. 0/27.

What makes the UK so special that it alone should need to get out whilst the other 27 proud nations choose to remain? Have we spotted something the others haven’t?

This doesn’t mean the EU is perfect and doesn’t require reform but if anything the UK’s Brexit stance and negotiating hand would have been far stronger if we’d acted in concert with other nations threatening to or even voting to leave as well. As it is we’ve gone it alone and the remaining 27 have stood firm … stronger together literally and figuratively.

Who Wants to Join the European Union?

Seven countries in fact have applied to join and are currently at various stages of the process of trying to meet the highly complex and stringent EU membership criteria. This shows there must be something about the EU that other countries see as worth joining. If not, why have they applied to join?

The seven include Albania, The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. For some like Turkey, negotiations to join have been going on for the last 14 years since they applied to join in 2005. All have been in negotiations for at least a minimum of 3 years, most for far longer, in one form or another. If it’s taking that long just to join … and align your values and economies with the EU’s we can only imagine how long it is going to take to leave the EU and untangle oneself from such intricate trade, environment and numerous other international agreements.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

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Bob Marley and The Wailers Honoured with Blue Plaque at Legendary SARM Studios

Some people are fortunate enough to earn one honorary Blue Plaque in recognition of their life’s work. Such is the legendary status of Bob Marley and The Wailers, Bob Marley received not just one, but two Blue Plaques in the space of just 4 days last week. Following the well publicised Blue Plaque ceremony on 1st October 2019 at 42 Oakley Street, Chelsea, where Bob Marley lived in 1977, on 4th October 2019, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer received a second Blue heritage Plaque to commemorate the recording of ‘Exodus’ and ‘Burnin’ and further enhance their legendary status thanks to their immense contribution to musical history.

Alexander D Great

Prior to the Nubian Jak Community Trust plaque unveiling, a massive audience of almost 300 people packed into Basing Street, Ladbroke Grove, London W11 to hear fantastic live music and a libation from Niles Hailstones and Alexander D Great, who sang ‘Get up Stand Up’ and ‘No Woman No Cry’ respectively. These were superb, uplifting performances and both artists got the crowd involved in singing along. This helped create a wonderful atmosphere for the occasion.

There were a number of speeches from local dignitaries including the Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea, Cllr Will Pascall, Emma Dent Coad MP for Kensington, plus legendary music producer Trevor Horn. Cllr Pascall said, “It was an honour to celebrate the most successful reggae band in history.”

It’s worth recalling that the legend all started when Neville Livingstone aka Bunny Wailer invited his step brother Robert Marley and close friend Peter Tosh to form a band called The Wailing Wailers. They would become the most important band in the history of reggae music. The main reason for this was that it was 1963 and the music genre of reggae had yet to be invented.

Bob Marley and The Wailers remixed and finished their album’s ‘Catch a Fire’ (1973) and Exodus (1977) inside the SARM /Island Record studios and Bob Marley even lived in an apartment above the studio in 1977 whilst recording Exodus. Exodus was later voted Time magazine ‘Best Album of the 20th Century.’

Many famous records were recorded there including Queen’s ‘News of the World’ which featured the world famous ‘We are the Champions.’ The record breaking hit single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ by Band Aid was recorded at Island Studios in November 1984.

One of the most memorable moments of the ceremony was hearing from Solomon “Sonny” Graham. He introduced himself as Bob Marley’s former mentor and Youth Club Leader at Operation Friendship youth club in Jamaica. Graham was the President of the club. “In a way I rescued Bob and gave him the confidence to believe he was a singer and could make a career from using his voice.” He emphasised that Bob Marley wasn’t a bad or troubled child but the mentor role he adopted filled the void left when one of Marley’s parents left to work in the USA. Graham said it was common for one parent to go abroad to earn a living and send money “back home” to the family. Graham also financed the recording of Marley’s first record. It was a pleasure to hear from someone who knew Marley so well. It felt like you were listening in on history. Although it would have benefited from being a tighter speech that more closely focused on the relevant points he wanted to get across, you could hear a pin drop in the crowd as he spoke such was the attention everyone was paying to his words. That said, he was a gentleman of a certain age with a lot to say and the organisers Kwaku and Nubian Jak had a little trouble getting Graham to wrap up his talk so they could get to the unveiling on time … before sunrise even!

Nubian Jak, Kwaku, Emma Dent Coad MP, Mayor Cllr Pascall, Jay Mastin & Dr Margaret Busby OBE

The evening climaxed with the unveiling of the Blue heritage plaque by renowned producer and owner of SARM West studios Trevor Horn who said “I am very pleased to see a Blue plaque going up on the side of the old SARM West Studios. So much great music was made in the building while it was open for over 50 years as a recording studio. This plaque commemorates my late wife Jill Sinclair who was a long time supporter of the local Jamaican company. She would be happy to see the community being recognised for the music culture brought to the local area.”

It was lovely to hear such an illustrious figure as Trevor Horn talking about re the history of his Island Studios and for instance how it used to be frequented by those he referred to as somewhat shady characters and thus, to him, it looked a little out of place to see someone of the stature of the late George Michael entering the building to record his music. His smash hit debut solo album ‘Faith’ was largely recorded there and in Denmark.

Anthony Wall, Director of BBC documentary ‘Arena: Exodus 30 Years On’, was not able to attend but  sent a message of support saying: “The Wailers are honorary Londoners, they changed the world and their legacy has massively enriched our city. It’s so right that they’re to be celebrated with this plaque and truly apt that it should be at Basing Street, home to so much great music from Island Records.”

Co-organiser Kwaku of BritishBlackMusic.com/Black Music Congress (BBM/BMC), said: “Although the genius of reggae started in Jamaica, I’m glad that we are recognising the London site where the Wailers’ first albums for Island Records were enhanced and mixed, and also the contribution of the British record company that made the Wailers, and Bob Marley in particular, world superstars.

It’s not just a Jamaican story but very much a British story thanks to Chris Blackwell of Islands Records having the confidence to give the band money and tell them to go to Jamaica and record the Burnin and Exodus albums. The world had never heard anything like this. Island Records financed their breakthrough albums leading to them gaining international fame. Both were remixed and finished at SARM.”

Co-organiser Dr Jak Beula CEO of the Nubian Jak Community Trust, said: “In October 2006, with the support of Rita Marley and the Mayor of London, we unveiled the first blue plaque to Bob Marley in Europe. At the time I said about Nubian Jak that “this could be the second trumpet”. 47 plaques later, 2 statues, a board game series with app, and a new groundbreaking documentary in the offing… it still might be!”

Out of more than 900 blue plaques across London, only 4% are dedicated to black and Asian individuals. This is now the 4th to Bob Marley and The Wailers in London. The three others are at Flat 34 Ridgmount Gardens, central London, the place where he first stayed in London; a house he stayed at in The Circle, Neasden, North West London and 42 Oakley Street, Chelsea.

Following the unveiling, many attendees partied the night away at the after party at the nearby Mau Mau Bar on Portobello Road where organisers and hosts Nubian Jak and Kwaku played songs from Exodus and Burnin Fire. So many were packed in the venue it was somewhat overcrowded and a far bigger hall or venue would have been more fitting such as the nearby Tabernacle. It was overall though a fitting finale and musical tribute to Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, for without their creative, original and groundbreaking music this memorable evening would not have been possible.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Photographs courtesy of Thabo Jaiyesimi

Links:

  1. No Woman No Cry sung by Alexander D Great on Basing Street, London W11 4th October 2019 – Courtesy of Sandy Loewenthal
  2. History of Sarm Music Village – Sarm Music Village
  3. ‘Exodus’: Behind The Bob Marley Classic That Still Inspires Movements – By David Sinclair for Udiscovermusic.com
  4. Marley The Movie Stirs it Up – Tiemo review – 31st May 2012
  5. Yardie The Movie – Tiemo review – 3rd September 2018
  6. Operation Friendship – Jamaica

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The Typical Review

The Typical Review
Star Rating: *****
Soho Theatre – Upstairs
21 Dean Street, London W13 3NE
Review Date: 25th September 2019

3rd – 28th September 2019, 14.45pm & 19.15pm (60 minutes). Tickets and information. Sold out. Returns only.

Starring: Richard Blackwood
Writer: Ryan Calais Cameron
Director: Anastasia Osei-Kuffour
Presented by: Nouveau Riche in association with Soho Theatre, HOME Manchester supported by Talawa and tiata fahodzi

The hard hitting new play Typical is in many ways typical of a man’s life, a Black man’s life in particular, in so many ways – how he is perceived by society – women, white men, his peer and the authorities. Yet, at the same time the finale is anything but typical.

The play stars Richard Blackwood in, somewhat surprisingly, his first show at London’s Soho Theatre. Typical is a concise one hour, one man show that takes you through 24 hours of what seems to be a fairly ordinary day and night out that heads inexorably towards a dramatic denoument.

Richard Blackwood

It’s based on the real life story of former paratrooper Christopher Alder, so if you recall his story you’ll know what happens. For those who don’t I won’t spoil it.

Richard Blackwood turns in anything but a stereotypical Richard Blackwood performance. It’s powerful, emotional and really takes you on a journey. The trademark humour and moves are there in the early acts of the play, but in the main Blackwood is playing it straight and is wholly convincing as a late 30’s guy looking forward to a night out on the town with the lads.

Making the wrong decisions can have bad consequences.  Making the right one’s can still have unexpected consequences. What’s a man to do?

The build up to to the night out was interesting in highlighting men’s shifting priorities as they get older. Blackwood is undettered. He is determined in his ambition and heads out for a good night out to let his hair down and enjoy good music and dancing at a town centre night club.

Blackwood acts alone yet is highly effective in vividly creating the impression of multiple characters being on stage with him and acting out the various dramatic scenes that unfold. These included a number of tense stand offs as well as a slightly embarrassing one on the dance floor. The ex-soldier in him is tested by a group of racist lads. Will he be stereotypical and react or not allow himself to be goaded? The push and pull of growing up means decisions have to be made. The almost innocuous racism there gives no sense of the more serious form of racism and negative perceptions that certain Black men can face in society.

Typical is a tremendously moving, emotional, powerful and typically humorous performance from Blackwood that really captured the tragedy of the late Christopher Alder’s life. It’s a remarkable play from writer Ryan Calais Cameron and following it’s successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 and Soho Theatre I feel it deserves a nationwide tour and return to London.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Typical is on until 28th September 2019. I recommend getting into the theatre early as there’s a surprise on stage before the show starts!

Richard Blackwood can next be seen on stage in Jamaica v The World presented by Comedy Warehouse in London W12 on Sunday 29th September 2019.

 

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The Gospel According to Nick: Christianity and Me

Christianity and Me – Nick Dixon
Just the Tonic at the Mash House
Star Rating: *****
Monkey Barrel Comedy – Venue 515
37 Guthrie Street, Edinburgh EH1 1QR
Edinburgh Fringe Review Date: 10th August 2019

2nd – 24th August 2019, 19:15pm (60 minutes). Age category: 14+. Tickets and information £5 Advance or Pay what you can on the night.

We all have a cross to bear. Nick Dixon wears his proudly as one of the few “out” Christian comedians. In case anyone was in any doubt, in his current offering he is performing the first pro-Christianity comedy show to ever appear at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.

Considering the UK is considered to be majority Christian (51%), non-believers (41%), with the next largest faith group being quite some distance away, Muslim (2.5%) it’s quite an odd contradiction that in his mind he perceives himself to be “doing something so controversial and shameful, he will be ridiculed and hated by the comedy community, his family, and most of the country… With the country divided, relations between men and women breaking down and mental health issues on the rise, Nick wonders whether a return to the principles of Christianity is what the country needs.”

Nick Dixon

The clarity to bring this vision to life was inspired by a dream he had which compelled him to write a show exploring his Christian faith. Despite falling church attendances and rising numbers of non-believers, the UK is still, as mentioned, a majority Christian nation, yet you’d be hard pressed to find evidence of that in Edinburgh despite it purporting to have more churches than any other town or city in the UK. I’ve found much of this year’s festival to be quite dark in terms of the language and material used by a a vast number of comedians, with many swearing like it’s going out of fashion and/or focusing on the more vulgar aspects of life. I’m not saying all shows are like that, more that many comedian’s don’t hesitate to let fly with profanity (whether a little or frequent uses of), which they would easily steer clear of on the radio, most TV shows or in any press articles they get commissioned to write. Not withstanding broadcasting regulations which they choose to abide by, that wouldn’t even happen if the comedian operated from a basis of core values that made regulatory obligations superfluous.

Christianity and Me is a refreshingly brilliant antidote to the anti-Christianity, atheist, agnostic negativity that’s been running amok in Edinburgh this year and for many years. Nick Dixon is positive, uplifting, extremely funny and unashamedly Christian. Though faith is the clear running theme of the show, he comes across as very down to earth, regular guy, who actually isn’t trying to ram faith down people’s mouth or try and convert people. He simply wants to be “the best comedian in the world” whilst remaining true to his faith.

He demonstrates that you can be on top of your game and give an audience a great night’s entertainment without resorting to swearing or material of a sexually vulgar nature. That doesn’t mean his comedy is anodyne in any way, shape or form. Far from it. His set covers relationships, dating, sex, celibacy and popular culture such as Love Island. The difference is he’ll discuss and joke about it, humourously highlighting his own stance on the hot topics of the day. The story about coming out to his dad … as Christian was brilliant.

I liked his quick wittedness, on display when frequently bantering with the two Paul’s in the audience at this show, one sat at the front, another at the back. Backseat Paul was quite a character and the two hit it off together so to speak when bantering about Christian dating apps and the like. That there were two Paul’s in was ironic as St. Paul is said to have “the greatest influence on Christianity. In fact, both Jesus and Paul seem to have equally contributed to Christianity. Paul elevated the status of Christian church as the body of Christ and the world outside as under His judgment. Paul’s works contain the first written account of what it means to be a Christian and thus, the Christian spirituality.”

Dixon described Christianity as being a bit like Manchester United. Once hugely popular and loved by all, now many seem to revel in trying to knock them off their perch.

Although many comedians might be anti-Christianity, when Dixon asked if there were any Christian’s present, that got one of the loudest cheers of the night. Maybe they’re not quite so unpopular after all.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links

  1. Why I’m Coming out as a Christian on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe – Premier Christian Radio – 13th August 2019
  2. Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews – August 2019
  3. St Paul the Apostle – Encyclopedia Britannica
Posted in Arts and Culture, Comedy Reviews, Comedy Reviews 2019, Edinburgh Fringe 2019 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tiff Stevenson: Mother

Star Rating: ****
Monkey Barrel Comedy – Venue 515
9-12 Blair Street, Edinburgh EH1 1QR
Edinburgh Fringe Review Date: 10th August 2019

Tif Stevenson: Mother can be seen at the Edinburgh Fringe from 2nd – 25th August 2019, 21:15pm (55 minutes) at Monkey Barrel Comedy. Age category: 14+. £10

How do you define being a Mother? Is their only one description – the biological mother or are other, broader definitions equally valid? Is it more important to be a good mother than merely have the title of biological mother, who may not be all that good a parent or even be completely absent from a child’s life? In a very personal and revealing show from Tiff Stevenson she makes clear that from her perspective, there is more than one, binary definition of a mother.

Tiff Stevenson

Whilst yet to give birth to a child of her own and recognising that that ship might be sailing further away, it’s clear that she is content with her lot. She respects and enjoys her important maternal role as step mother to her 11 year old step son who perceives her as mum. That she may not be his biological mother isn’t critical to the positive role she is fulfilling in raising the next generation.

This was a cleverly put together show that within an hour covered not only motherhood, but the fact she’s now 40 and the sound of that metaphorical biological clock is getting ever louder. There’s an added poignancy, for Stevenson had an abortion aged just 17. You sense perhaps the natural regret, with hindsight, of having been that close to becoming a young mum, but choosing to pass on it.

She doesn’t feel left out by this and nor should other non-parents she said as she reminded her audience of the meaningful roles out there for step mum’s, teachers, aunts and influencers on children in so many other ways than that of the traditional mother. It takes a village as they say. One might add that all of the above, except the ticking clock, applies to men too, as many of them, in this era of broken families, find themselves being stepfather’s to children.

Notwithstanding this more serious, reflective subject matter, there was no absence of her purpose for being on stage, for there was an abundance of jokes and wisecracks flowing non-stop throughout the show. This made for a superb, thought provoking night of prime time Saturday night Edinburgh Fringe entertainment. Stevenson’s wonderful array of accents, including American and Russian, were a joy to behold.

On top of this, Stevenson covered white male privilege – the kind that, naming no names here, allows relatively simple, now famous, uneducated men from wealthy middle-upper class backgrounds to repeatedly fail and still get further very good opportunities in life, which just wouldn’t happen if you were working class and female for instance. You might add the same applies in football management when the same faces appear on the managerial merry go round, unless you happen to be a black manager, when one relatively poor season at a club, could spell the end of your managerial career.

For a working class woman she’s doing very well as indicated by her amusing “elephant in the room” story re meetings with LA big wigs.

Although I found the show to be at times overtly crude and sweary, there’s a winning warmth about Stevenson’s delivery that draws you in, as evidenced by the regular smiling as her preferred method of seque-waying between jokes.

Stevenson’s keen to be inclusive which is appealing. She’s a strident feminist but at pains to point out that she loves men and that being pro-feminist doesn’t equate to not wanting the best for men and boys too. After all, what mum doesn’t want the best for her little boy?

One of the most popular, viral, examples of her feminism came through when recounting the story of the coffee shop tweet she posted regarding the Barista who refused to serve coffee to a pregnant woman as he believed it would be unhealthy for her. *** Fact checking alert: The NHS recommendation is for pregnant women to limit themselves to drinking no more than 2 cups a day so the woman may have been within this range. Advice from the American Pregnancy Association indicates that the less caffeine consumed the better … so on balance the man’s advice wasn’t misguided at all – it’s simply that he assumed the woman didn’t know (or knew and wasn’t concerned) and was about to exceed the recommended daily intake. ***  Stevenson unleashed a torrent of invective and humour re this ‘mansplaining Barista’ who she felt went beyond the scope of his role by issuing health advice. Whilst I’m no expert on the subject, a very cursory look into this does seem to indicate the Barista was correct and I’m not sure one needs to be a Consultant or medical specialist to know that caffeine can harm an unborn baby. Accurate knowledge on a subject can come from unqualified sources too, so it seemed but unfair to target him in this way wanting the best for one of his customers.

This was a very funny, riveting hour of comedy in Stevenson’s company. Whilst she may feel the clock indeterminately ticking down, it most certainly is for you too if you haven’t seen this show, as the clock stops on her run at the Edinburgh Fringe on Sunday 25th August 2019. Starting at 9:15pm it’s one of the later shows of the day, so if you’ve had a busy day seeing shows at the Fringe you may need some caffeine to stay awake – pregnant women excepted of course!

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Links

  1. Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews – August 2019
Posted in Arts and Culture, Comedy Reviews 2019, Edinburgh Fringe 2019 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment