That 90’s Show : Work in Progress – Patrick Monahan

Star rating: ****
Compass Comedy at Compass Theatre
Ickenham, Middlesex
Thursday 4th May 2017

Following on from last year’s ‘That ‘80’s Show’ Patrick Monahan skips a whole decade to perform ‘That ‘90’s  Show’. Bear in mind this was a ‘work in progress’ show ahead of showcasing it at the Edinburgh Fringe in August it was very good indeed. After a nightmare journey to the venue, in which anything but progress seemed to be the way of things – with numerous delays and train driver changes galore I imagine Patrick had wished he’d stayed back in the ‘80s!

Nonetheless, accomplished performer that he is, rather than complain and make excuses, he improvised and turned the nightmare journey into a source of great humour and the audience were laughing away from the get go, soon forgetting there’d been a lengthy gap between the previous comedian Juliet Meyers finishing her work in progress show and himself.

Patrick Monahan

Patrick aimed to look at life growing up in the North of England from a generational point of view. Seeking out the age range of the audience, he divided the room into those under 35 and those over that age. It wasn’t quite an even split as all but two were in the over 35’s group, resulting in one 20 year old lad, out with his mum and dad being the star of the show, along with the 33 year old man who’s biggest vice was watching “normal tv”, which Patrick was bemused by the innocence of that being considered a vice. Another honest man sat next to him said his biggest addition was sex. Funnily enough he was less the butt of jokes that “normal TV” man and 20 year old student!

This was a hugely entertaining, funny show, with plenty of belly laughs. As always Patrick created a feel good factor in the air and you feel better about life for being in his presence. If this was merely the ‘work in progress’ I can’t wait to see what the final product will be like in August. Edinburgh Fringe attendees are in for a treat.

That 80’s Show is currently touring nationwide.

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 runs from 4th – 28th August 2017.

Review and Photograph © Tiemo Talk of the Town

The next shows at Compass Comedy are on Sunday 14th May 2017  and Sunday 11th June 2017 @8pm. Tickets: £5.

Sunday 14th May 2017: Headline act Chris McCausland with support from Jayde Adams, Lucy Pearman, Jonny Lennard, Jim Campbell and resident compere Lewis Bryan.

Sunday 11th June 2017: Headline act Rhodri Rhys with support from Thom Tuck, Matt Hutchinson, Lauren Pattison, Rachel Fairburn  and resident compere Lewis Bryan.

Links

  1. Valentine’s Comedy Night – Compass Comedy – review – 16 February 2017
  2. Compass Comedy International Comedy Night – review – 8 February 2015
  3. Comedy Heading in the Right Direction – review – 12 June 2014

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Fans Flock to George Michael Memorial Service

 

There’s a saying in stand up comedy and boxing that timing is everything. It was brilliantly co-incidental timing therefore that less than 24 hours earlier the country  had started rejoicing in a potential future Watford legend, Anthony Joshua, following his stunning heavyweight title victory against Wladimir Klitschko. The day after, 30th April 2017, music fans gathered in Bushey, Hertfordshire to celebrate the life of a bona fide Watford legend, the late pop mega-star George Michael.

Bushey was the Hertfordshire town where George grew up and a public memorial service organised by the George Michael Appreciation Society and St James’s was held at St James the Apostle, Bushey, allowing locals and fans from all over the world to finally pay their respects to the pop legend, four months after his death. Such was his wide appeal, in addition to many locals, fans came from as far afield as Brighton, Kent, Madrid, Malta, Scotland, Switzerland and Wales.

In a moving service led by Father Graham Adamson and Father Neil Kelley, his artistry, musical and philanthropic legacy were fondly remembered. Father Kelley’s humorous and reflective sermon captured the spirit and generosity, as well as foibles of George. Quoting from a famous George Michael song, he said, “You’ve gotta have faith” regardless of whether that’s faith in God, we all have to have faith in some one, something or in humanity.”

An occasion like this, at a packed church on a Sunday afternoon, was a time for reflection, to ask ourselves what our legacy will be. He touched on the fact that “we’ll never know how many lives George Michael has impacted.” This was a nod to the widely reported acts of private philanthropy that came to light after his death, not to mention the huge impact his music and life had on fans world-wide.

The Price of Fame

Fr Kelley observed and asked the congregation to consider that, “with all artists, all creative types, the more they give of themselves to others, the less they give to themselves. Our lives are enriched at a cost to the person giving.”

When interviewed by BBC Three Counties Radio on Boxing Day 2016, one day after George passed away, he refused to get drawn into one particular line of questioning that “George didn’t lead a particularly Christian life,” responding that, “we’re all infallible. All of us are sinners. Which of us would like the intricacies of our personal lives splashed all over the papers?”

‘Cause I gotta have faith

The question of George and his faith is an interesting one. Speaking to fans at the reception held afterwards it was mentioned that he was raised as a Greek Orthodox Christian. His funeral on 29 March 2017 was officiated by the Greek Orthodox Priest Costas Garibaldinos. He was a church goer. I don’t know how frequently, but a source informed Tiemo Talk of the Town that, from time to time, he did attend the St Thomas of Canterbury Church, close to his Goring home. He would sit at the back and leave before the end of the service to avoid any distracting fuss or fanfare over his presence.

There are many that might have deduced from what they knew of him that he was a non-believer, but that doesn’t strike me as consistent with the fact that, in another act of secret philanthropy, he contributed to the renovation of St Thomas of Canterbury Church.

A number of his hits referred to matters of faith. Faith for instance, of course, being an obvious one, though not about faith in the spiritual sense. Three of his faith related songs were beautifully sung during the service by David Jansen, the WHAMTASTIC! tribute act singer. These were ‘Jesus to a Child’, ‘Praying for Time’ and ‘Cowboys and Angels’.

‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ finale to the memorial service

Interestingly his Highgate home is right opposite St Michael’s Roman Catholic church; the Bushey Conservative club where WHAM! played their first gig is next to St James the Apostle Anglican church and the Three Crowns Pub where a reception was held following the service is right opposite St Peter’s Catholic church. The pub was the regular of George and Andrew Ridgley when they were teenagers and is the very place where they formed the group WHAM! back in 1981.

I don’t recall him speaking much about the faith he might have had, but perhaps there was a tension going on between that, his beliefs and the life he experienced which found creative expression in his music and lyrics. One can only speculate that the choice of homes was possibly deliberately, spiritually or sub-consciously a symbol of his search to find solace and meaning in the earthly and spiritual side of his life.

Three Crowns

The post service reception brought together super fans to reminisce and talk about their experiences of George. One super fan, George Michael impersonator, Saf Sathi, came from Gravesend, Kent to pay respects. He certainly had the look of George Michael about him, with his sharp black suit, black t-shirt, close cropped hair style and goatee beard. He said, “I had to be here today to pay my respects.” For many this was a long awaited form of closure on the megastar’s death. Claire T, 42, from Orpington in Kent, said, “I have been in love with George Michael since first hearing his music as a young girl. I visit his Highgate home and memorial quite often. He meant everything to me and I love him so much. I had to be here to show my support.” Such dedication was amazing to hear of, if slightly concerning to say the least!

It was clear speaking to a number of these super fans that it was important for them to be here to try and get a form of closure and to meet with other like minded super fans to share experiences and memories of George. There were many locals present too who shared jokes and laughter about their younger days clubbing and socialising in the local area. Some even attended the same school and pubs, including The Three Crowns, as George and Andrew.

George Michael – WHAM!

David Jansen said, “It was an honour to be asked to sing today by Tracey Wills whom I’ve known for years. I went to the same Bushey Mead School as George and have been singing his music for the past 22 years.”

Co-organiser and Founder of The George Michael Appreciation Society of Bushey (GMAS) Tracey Wills, 45, was inspired to do something after getting a text on the night he died informing her of the news. As a local woman from Bushey, the next day she spoke to Father Kelley, the Rector of her local St James’s Church and they agreed to collaborate to put on some fundraising events and this culminated in the idea of holding this service of thanksgiving and reception. “I was worried the church might be half-empty so was pleasantly surprised to see the church packed out. It was amazing to see people grieving and shedding tears during the service and then being upbeat and singing away at the end to the closing song, ‘Wake me up before you Go Go’ – one of WHAM!’s biggest, most upbeat hits. We hope to do a lot more this year. People have been so appreciative. The phone calls, messages and growth of the GMAS in the past few weeks since it was launched have been amazing.”

This had been a hugely impressive and clearly much valued thanksgiving service and reception to remember the life of George Michael. Hearing that finale in the austere setting of an old church was a somewhat surreal ending to the service. I could never ever have  imagined hearing and dare I admit it, singing along to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go GO’ in a church!! A great, cheerful song no doubt about it, but not one that I imagine will be making it into the hymn books anytime soon!

As I said at the start, timing is everything. As I put the finishing touches to this article on 1st May it was announced that ‘Careless Whisper’ and ‘A Different Corner’ were voted the two most popular ever songs by Smooth FM radio listeners in a poll to find the nation’s most popular songs. All of this is further evidence of George Michael’s huge popularity and contribution to British music.

Review and photographs © Tiemo Talk of the Town

Church video – Courtesy of Stephen Page

Comments from attendees 

If you attended and have any comments on your experience of the day that you’d like to share; or simply have comments on the above review, please feel free to post them at the end of this Blog. Simply scroll down right to the end and leave a comment. That will be much appreciated and it will be great for people to read one another’s thoughts and feelings.

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Candles lit for George Michael at St James the Apostle Church, Bushey

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  

Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

Links:

  1. George Michael’s Devoted Fans Finally Get to Celebrate His Life at Memorial Service – The Sun – 1 May 2017.  Features a photo of this Blog’s Editor, Michael Peters, in the Three Crowns garden
  2. Hundred’s of George Michael Fans Gather – The Mirror – 1 May 2017. Features photo’s of organiser Tracey Wills and this Blog’s Editor, Michael Peters, in the Three Crowns garden
  3. Hundred’s of Fans Bid a Sad Farewell to George Michael in Former Hometown – Watford Observer – 1 May 2017. Features photo’s of organiser Tracey Wills and this Blog’s Editor, Michael Peters, in the Three Crowns garden
  4. Exclusive photographs take inside the thanksgiving service – Arun Kataria, Diocese of St Albans
  5. Careless Whisper tops the chart as Britain’s favourite song – Smooth Radio – 1 May 2017
  6. Have we sacrificed religion for materialism? Battle of Ideas 2012 – review – 4 November 2012
  7. George Michael Symphonica tour 2012 review – 9 October 2012

Tributes outside his Highgate home 

 

Floral tributes outside his Goring-on-Thames home

 

 

Posted in Concert reviews, News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

399 Not Out for Nando’s as it Spices up New Development

Restaurant Rating: ****
Nando’s
The Old Dairy, Victoria Road, South Ruislip, Middlesex HA4 0FY
Review date: Opening Night – Wednesday 12th April 2017

Last week I attended the launch night of the first restaurant to open in the redeveloped Old Dairy Citygrove development in West London. Whilst of course it is certainly not the first Nando’s, it was nonetheless a significant one in a milestone year for the brand.

Nando’s have racked up a seriously big, Brian Lara sized cricket store total of restaurants in the UK. The close of play on launch day, Wednesday 12th April 2017, saw them move on to a score of 399 in the UK with the South Ruislip opening. Not only that is that an impressive number, this comes in their 30th year of business (Established 1987  in South Africa) and exactly 25 years after opening their first in England in 1992, just 8 miles away in leafy Ealing Common, West London.

Speaking to one of their four, yes four, manager’s, Shan, on opening day, he spoke of his pride at the new development especially as there were fears the restaurant and proposed retail development might not have even get underway after having to face a legal challenge from supermarket giant Sainsbury’s. In 2015 their action was defeated in the courts by the local Hillingdon council which paved the way for building to commence.

Fast forward just two years and fitting out took just a swift six weeks from early March to April this year. During the 7-8 week build up to launch day, Nando’s trained a team of entirely new employees who were getting their first taste of working in the catering industry. They have provided a welcome boost for employment in the area by contributing 34  of the anticipated 536 new jobs at this Arla Development.

For Shan, “this is a dream come true and is all down to the full effort and hard work of the dream team, the Nando’s family following the Nando family values of passion, pride and integrity. We are one big family.”

Nando’s Citygrove

Walking into the restaurant you’re immediately struck by its impressive size and wow factor. As with all Nando’s this one has its own unique style and character. It is very much based on South Africa in keeping with Nando’s South African origins. This includes the unusual design of the lights, the art work and the beautiful, melodic South African music playing in the background. Loud enough to be heard but not so loud you can’t hold a conversation. The place has a big, light and airy feel to it. I particularly liked the outdoor dining area and can imagine those tables being extremely popular and hard to come by on very hot days. All in all this helped create a lovely ambiance for dining.

On a more practical, prosaic note, the sink for customers to wash their hands beside the fizzy pop drinks dispensers was a nice idea for the hygiene conscious diner and I’m sure you are one of those if you’re reading this review! If not you know what you have to do after reading this!

The location is different from the usual Nando’s typically located on busy High Street’s or inside major shopping complexes. Currently it is just the third anchor tenant on the Old Dairy site, along with Aldi and B&M. Located on Victoria Road, South Ruislip, it’s just 1/4 mile away and under 9 minutes to walk to, or one short bus stop away, from South Ruislip station (Central line). There is ample free parking there too. Later in the year it will be joined by other restaurants and a Cineworld cinema right opposite (due to open in June/July 2017). Essentially though it is sited in the heart of a fairly quiet, middle class, residential area, which should be great for business.

The Meal

Service was impressively fast, with drinks served before my acquaintance had even picked up our cutlery and sat down! The meal followed inside a pretty rapid ten minutes.

I enjoyed butterfly chicken (medium hot) with two sides of rice and mocha peas, which are fresh and healthy minty tasting whole peas drenched in pea mash, parsley, mint and chilli.

I also tried the supergrain which are grains, greens and full of beans with an avocado and buttermilk dressing. That was new to me. It felt and tasted like a very healthy option addition to my meal.

Butterfly chicken, rice and green peas

The food was really delicious, with a lovely, tangy spicy taste to it. I could have done with some more rice, but the portions were typical Nando’s portions, which I guess have often been on the small side and often leave you feeling a bit like Oliver Twist “wanting more!”

I enjoyed washing down my meal with a bottle of their 2M beer, described as a “light, crisp and refreshing beer from sunny Mozambique.” I’d not come across that brand before. I normally associate 2M with tape (or is that 3M)! Either way it had a pleasing light flavour to it that went down very well with the meal and certainly tasted nothing like sellotape! At £3.85 for a 250ml bottle it was somewhat on the pricey side though.

Most of the menu was standard Nando’s but there seemed to be some new additions specific to this branch. I liked the look of the new Trio Burger – Peri Peri Chicken, Halloumi and Mushroom. That will be available until 15th May 2017 or until stocks last so I can only assume it will only remain in the longer term if diners eat enough of it between now and then!

For dessert I enjoyed White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl cheesecake. I had this with cream and found it to be tasty, if a little chewy. It comprises “waves of raspberry sauce swirling through a creamy cheesecake and is lightly caramelised on top.”

This was recommended by our very helpful Waiter Akashai. I also sampled the salted caramel brownie. This rich chocolate brownie had a delicious hint of salted caramel and was absolutely delicious with the ice cream and was satisfyingly filling. Even sexy according to my dining pal! Hmmm. Sexy food? Not heard of that before but will try to look out for and factor that into future restaurant reviews!

On arrival there were a decent handful of diners, but by the time we left there were around nine parties totalling 24 customers. That was good for early evening on opening night. I was told there was a healthy lunchtime trade too. Considering there’s been no advertising that bodes well for the future success, especially when it gets the boost of other stores opening (ASDA is due to open in May/June 2017) and completion of the neighbouring Bellway Homes development.

A slight niggle were the overzealous Waiters and Waitresses, over eager to please on their first day, constantly asking if everything was alright. It was perfectly fine. It just wasn’t necessary to be asked about seven times within an hour by four different people! Many seemed young, inexperienced and were perhaps just following orders and trying to be helpful. They were friendly though so it wasn’t a problem and they seemed genuinely keen to ensure we were enjoying our meal and having a good time. That’s great and in keeping with the Nando’s family friendly ethos. After all they’ve not got to 399 not out by not knowing what it takes to open and run a good restaurant or two.

To reach that number in just 25 years since 1992 is some achievement, averaging 16 per year. That’s quite staggering really as it’s in excess of one a month!! I look forward to dining there again.

Meal for two:

  • 1 x Butterfly Chicken + 2 x sides (spicy rice) – £11.40
  • 1 x Butterfly Chicken + 2 sides (mocha peas and supergrain) – £11.40
  • 1 x White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl with cream – £4.45
  • 1 x Salted Caramel Brownie with ice cream – £2.50
  • 1 x 2M Beer (330ml) – £3.85
  • 1 x Carval Helhos Water (500ml) – £2.35
  • Meal for two with drinks – £35.95 + VAT = £43.14

Photographs and Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town

  • Nando’s Ruislip is open from 11.30a.m. – 10p.m. daily. Seven days a week. 
  • Address: The Old Dairy, Victoria Road, South Ruislip, Middlesex HA4 0FY.
  • Telephone: 0208-841 7337

Links:

  1. This review can also be found on Rate Your Nando’s a great fansite for Nando’s lovers 21.04.17
  2. Surprising New Developments Set to Regenerate One of West London’s Best Kept Secret’s – 21.12.15

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Dog Ends review

Dog Ends
Star Rating: ***
Tabard Theatre,
Chiswick, London W4
Review date: Saturday 8th April 2017
Director: Keith Strachan

To die or not to die, that is the question? That sums up the essential question raised in Richard Harris’ dark comedy, ‘Dog Ends.’  Despite the serious nature of the opening question it’s more of a comedic farce than an examination of existential questions about the right to die. I’m not saying that’s not covered. It is, as you ponder this whilst observing the character’s reactions – mainly nonplussed re either the dog or Granddad, with the exception of son George.

The play marked the re-opening of the revamped Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. I must say I didn’t notice too much difference inside. The biggest change was an invisible one. The arrival of air conditioning! It was the hottest day of the year (so far) at 21c and so this was most welcome and a refreshing change from the often sweltering conditions that used to be found in the Tabard theatre.

The story initially focuses on middle-aged George, played by Nick Wilton (formerly of East Enders amongst many other shows) who is under increasing emotional and financial pressure looking after his beloved dog. He is introduced by his neighbourhood friend Henry to a vet who can put the dog out of its misery. What he doesn’t realise is that this vet also practices euthanasia!

At the same time his father, played by Bryan Hands, is suffering from old age and not doing too well at all. Suffice to say when the vet comes calling and certain people are missing from the room, we have a recipe for disaster.

Act I was a little ponderous at times and it’s length could have been cut down a lot, allowing the pace to pick up a lot and accelerate much more quickly towards the main action of this Act. It was interesting nonetheless to watch the build up to the inevitable. The play could have given more attention to the dilemma’s and difficulties around looking after an elderly relative without losing the humour of it. I’ve done that and it’s not easy. There can be considerations and decisions to be made re living arrangements – at home or going into care? If at home who cares for the relative or how is the care shared around family members? What’s best for the cared for and how do you do the “right thing”? That’s a debate in itself as what you and others may consider to be the right thing, might not be how the cared for relative sees it and legally have the right to disagree with and over rule anything you might wish to do, even if  it is not in their best interests. There were so many issues that could have been explored before arriving at the dog ends so to speak!

Act II was a lot more lively, spiky and full of witty, dark humour. The delayed response from most of the characters in realising what had happened was implausibly slow, but that helped built a degree of tension and comedy of errors as you waited to see how long it would take for the penny to drop.

Dog Ends is a tasty little morsel of a play, but it could have been far more fulfilling and packed a far stronger bite with sharper editing, more realistic character reactions to events and a deeper exploration of the issues surrounding caring for the elderly, be they relatives or dogs!

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

Photos courtesy of Alastair Hilton

Dog Ends runs from 22nd March until 15th April 2017 at the Tabard Theatre

Links:

  1. Can’t Care Won’t Care – Sophia Walker Edinburgh Fringe play review  – 24.08.15
  2. Do They Really Care About Us? – Tangled Feet ad Watford Palace Theatre review – 26.06.15
  3. A Crisis of Compassion – Who Cares? Battle of Ideas 2012 review – 27.10.12
  4. A Stranger’s Welcome – Tabard Theatre review – 13.06.15
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President Obama: Tribute, Reflections and Legacy

Reach Society
Central London
Friday 27th January 2017

President Obama: Tribute, Reflections & Legacy 

How would you best sum up the achievements and legacy of former President Barack Obama? This is what a group of professional Black men set out to do during a two hour discussion in central London. In a way it was a tribute to Barack Obama that this is what the largest gathering yet for a Reach Society discussion in over 5 years of discussions on topics of importance to the Black community. The discussion, led by one of the Reach Society Founders, Mr Rob Neil, took place exactly one week after Obama left office and was the 61st discussion night and the first of 2017. As such, it was an opportune moment to reflect on Barack Obama’s 8 years running America.

Before you read on you might want to think for a moment about the opening question and more specifically, as attendees on the night were asked, consider what one word alone, for you personally, sums up Obama’s 8 year presidency.  I share the responses from the night at the end of this review.

Initial Thoughts before Obama took office

Discussion commenced with collective thoughts about how people were feeling just prior to Obama taking office on 20 January 2009.

A sense of pride, change and hope were common at the time. Pride at having a new President, America’s first African-American president. Delight in change from the presidency of President George Bush II and hope for a change in America’s fortune. People thought back to how America was at the time. The economy was in dire straits. The economy was in recession with every chance of nose diving into depression. The image of America and respect for the President was at a real low due to the perceived ineptitude of Bush, combined with various military interventions in foreign affairs.

First Term: 2009 – 2013

Moving on to discuss first term achievements, 2009-2013, the biggest single achievement cited was the $trillion economic stimulus to the economy. Initially it created a degree of stagnation as Government offices closed down until Congress accepted and passed the bill to permit Obama’s stimulus package. Once it was agreed, the long term effect was successful, for it worked to really stimulate the economy. Basically, the act single-handedly rescued the US economy and saved the US motor industry, not to mention a number of dependent economies around the world including Great Britain.

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010), nicknamed ‘Obamacare’ was also pushed through. This resulted in 20 million of the poorest having affordable healthcare for the first time. It showed for the first time arguably that the US government cared about the health of its poorest citizens.

The rights of homosexuals and lesbians were recognised with legislation passed that legalised same sex marriage. Some saw that as a huge legacy. Others perceived that as a real negative, that went against the grain of an essentially God fearing, Christian nation and all that that means.

It was pointed out that his success was not down to him alone, but a key triumvirate featuring Campaign Adviser, David Axelrod, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and of course President Barack Obama himself at the centre of it all.

Also the selection of notable individuals of colour; Charles Frank Bolden Jr, Head of NASA and the 1st African American; Eric Holder, the 1st African American Attorney General and Justice Sotomayor, the 1st Hispanic/ Latina to serve on US Supreme Court.

Second Term, 2013-2017 and Presidency overall legacy

The symbolism of having a Black President was a frequent theme. There was great pride taken in that achievement, which also smashed the glass ceiling for Black people in a hugely symbolic way. No longer could they or anyone outside of that ethnic group say that Black people could not attain and achieve success in high office. The message of hope in his appointment and the erudite, statesmanlike manner in which he conducted himself was found to be inspirational, effective and powerful.

One of Obama’s most notable achievements was with regard to bringing about significant economic and employment improvements and by doing so stimulated the economy and averted an American economic depression. It’s important to recognise what President Obama inherited and what he achieved after 8 years for the economy and employment, for instance he pared down America’s deficit from 10% in 2009 to 3% by January 2017.

Obama appointed Loretta Lynch to be the 1st African American Women Attorney General and only the second ever African-American to hold the post. The first was her predecessor Eric Holder. She held office from 27 April 2015 – 20 January 2017.

Michelle Obama and her legacy were seen as part of Barack Obama’s too. She left a legacy of increasing access to education for girls and women around the globe. In an age when many girls around the world do not have the same equal access to education that we take for granted in Britain and America, she fervently and passionately highlighted this throughout her two terms as First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). I recall her visits to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) School in particular, as well as visits to Mulberry School for Girls and addressing the Oxford Union as major highlights of her time as FLOTUS. The images of the rapturous reception she received at EGA especially lives long in the memory. Her speech there and at the Oxford Union were memorable and inspiring to those girls and students listening and to those beyond who were able to watch on TV.

Not only that, she represented an idealised what some would say is ordinary black family unity, which to the media might well have appeared extraordinary, but which to many families is completely normal. There was great joy and pride seen in looking at the many 1’000’s of photographs of the couple and their family throughout the 8 years, as if it represented the African-America dream of a married, African-American couple with 2 children. They presented a united front throughout and she embodied the spirit of “behind every great man is a great woman” supporting him. She did that and much more. At a time when the widespread public perception is of the fractured black family unit, countless single mothers out there and an overwhelming image of successful Black men often having non-Black women as partners or wives many found this to be refreshing, something to be extremely proud of. It showed that you didn’t need a white woman to achieve and occupy a certain space in society.

Criticisms

It was stated that there had been some opinions voiced on-line that Obama had done little for Black people. That he had not done enough to curb Police brutality and the out of control gun culture and countless killings. That was shot down by comments stating that this was beyond his power thanks to American’s love affair with guns and the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Furthermore, no other president had been able to tackle this and why was he expected to just because he was Black? People didn’t ask what had President Clinton, President George Bush 1 and II, Prime Minister’s Tony Blair, David Cameron or Theresa May done for Black people, so it was unfair to ask this of President Obama. More to the point, to paraphrase JFK’s famous phrase, this should be more about “Ask not what has my country done for me, but what have I done for my country?” Phrased here as ”It’s not what has Obama done for me, but what has I done with the opportunity Obama has created for me?” It is not the President’s or Prime Minister’s job to sort out African-American lives. It’s their’s. People need to understand the power and limitations of being a political leader. They can only do so much. People have to help themselves as much as a President or Prime Minister can do their part on a wider, macro level of political intervention.

It was said that he lacked a certain common touch and didn’t highlight loudly enough his achievements in office. I would dispute that as first of all it’s not his job to blow his own trumpet! Secondly, I perceived him to speak to the ordinary issues of the day affecting ordinary and poor citizens of the country. He seemed equally at home entertaining fellow political leaders as meeting ordinary Americans at work. As comfortable on a chat show as on a serious political news programme. He was real. He was unafraid to shed a tear and showed he really cared. Too many times he had to address the nation to speak about a mass killing spree and racial tensions over heating. He did so bravely and eloquently, showing that he wasn’t immune to what was happening, be that as a father, a man, an African-American and President. That was powerful beyond words. Who will forget post Charleston church killings when he spontaneously decided to lead the congregation in singing ‘Amazing Grace?

What was especially impressive, not that many people expected any different, was how his presidency on a personal level and governmental level was scandal free throughout his tenure. You can imagine if there was anything the media and public would have had a field day. He didn’t give them that opportunity.

One word to sum up Obama? For me it was thoughtful. I admired his academic, thoughtful style of speaking, be that in a press conference or TV interview. He knew his every word would be pored over so wasn’t afraid to take his time before pronouncing.

Numerous words from the floor summed up his term of office:

Inspirational. HOPE. Restricted. THOUGHTFUL. Success. EXTRAORDINARY. Compassionate. PERSISTENT. Healthcare. VALUES. Liberal. EMOTIONAL. Passionate. TRI-ABULATIONS (trials & tribulations). Brave. MICHELLE. Mixed. ELEGANT. Standard (raising them). CHANGE.

Most President’s and remember there have only been 45 to date, only have a maximum of two terms in office and generally, if lucky, get to leave one legacy. I believe taking the above into  consideration, President Obama has bequeathed America with quite a few legacy’s – a revived US economy, a record 82 consecutive months of jobs growth and falling unemployment, Obamacare, improved status of the office of President, family values, less interventionist foreign policy, gay rights and smashing the glass ceiling for Black people.

President Barack Obama, we salute you.

© Tiemo Talk of the Town

This discussion was chaired and facilitated by Rob Neil. Some of the participants were lucky to get their hands on Ebony Magazine’s President Obama commemorative issue which was published in December 2016.

Reach Society meet once a month and will be holding their 6th annual Career’s Conference on 4th April 2017. The conference aims to inspire young people aged 14+ Over 3,800 have attended the first 5 conferences held.

Links

  1. As Obama Bids Farewell, We all need to say Thank You – Rev Jesse Jackson, The Voice, 8th January 2017
  2. Bye, Bye Barack: The Worst President Ever? – Battle of Ideas 2016 topic
  3. Battle of ideas 2012 Debate – Can Obama Recover to win a Second Term? – 27th October 2012
  4. Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments – Washington Monthly – March – April 2012
  5. Reach Society Career’s Conference Review – 7th April 2013

Posted in Debates, Lectures and Talks, News, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London goes Whoopi for Goldberg Live at the London Palladium: Review

Star rating: ***
London Palladium
London W1
Saturday 11th February 2017

Ahead of making only her second stand up comedy performance in England after a 33 year absence* it was understandable that Whoopi Goldberg might have been a little apprehensive about doing so at one of London’s grandest stages, the London Palladium. I’m pretty sure any apprehension would have evaporated within minutes of appearing on stage as she took in a raucously loud and passionate standing ovation. It was certainly one of the most warmly given greetings I’ve ever come across and the first time I’ve known someone to get a standing ovation before they’ve even told their first joke!!

After the audience settled down she rapidly got into her stride, explaining that she was inspired to do this show, the first of two in one night, by her late mother, who passed away when she was performing ‘Sister Act the Musical’ at the London Palladium in August 2010. She said her mum would have wanted her to return to this very stage again and make her proud.

In a show of two halves, the first 30 minutes was taken up with a fine set of stand up comedy. There was topical political material – a little bit of Trump and Brexit as you might expect. Whilst she didn’t go in too hard on her new President, there was a delicious one liner towards the end of the show when the audience were showing her a whole lot of love. “I really hope you do love me you know, as you never know, the way things are going they might not let me back in and I might be on the next flight back to London!”

She thanked the British women and indeed women all over the world who marched in solidarity against President Trump on 21st January 2017, the day after his inauguration ceremony. She felt touched by that show of solidarity and was passing on the thanks of American women – “They sent me to thank you!”

There was plenty of quite near the knuckle humour too. She joked re the effect the ageing process had on her never regions and how she was once the hottest comedian in the world, but now she’s only the hottest woman in the room because of the hot flushes brought on by the menopause!

The second half of the show, well almost an hour so more like 2/3 of the show was taken up with pre-submitted audience questions. This offered Whoopi the opportunity to regale the audience with anecdotes relating to children, being a young mother, young grandmother and Oscar winning actress.

I loved the story of what happened to her after she reacted to a 5 year old boy annoying her on a train journey. There were some weird and funny questions thrown out – e.g. “If you could remake any of your films which would you do?” She struggled to think of one that she would do again. As people shouted out films titles it was a real trip down memory lane as you recalled all her films – ‘The Colour Purple’, ‘Sister Act I, II and III’, ‘Ghost’ etc… An audience member piped in saying they were all perfect and couldn’t be improved on, so she went with that, which was a good call.

Another asked her if she was made into a soup what sort of soup would she be? She delicately sidestepped that one!

All in all this was a very enjoyable night with an African-American legend of stand up comedy and film. She received a standing ovation at the end, making it an astonishing two in one night.  That comedy stalwarts Helen Lederer and Adam Hills were in attendance at the first and second shows respectively was further evidence of Whoopi’s stature in the field of Stand up comedy. Her mum would have been proud. I hope it’s not so long before Whoopi Goldberg returns to perform again in the UK.

Review and Photographs © Tiemo Talk of the Town

* – See comment below for details on Whoopi Goldberg’s first ever UK stand up show in May 1984.

Links:

  1. Black-ish is the Nouveau Black – Hit US Sitcom – Black-ish – 23rd January 2017
  2. Are we entering a Brave new World that’s Black and British? – 22nd January 2017

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Posted in Comedy Reviews, Comedy Reviews 2017 | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Valentine’s Comedy Night

Star Rating: ***
Compass Comedy
Compass Theatre
Sunday 12th February 2017
Ickenham, Middlesex

Nothing says I love you more than a pre-Valentine’s comedy night out in Ickenham … said absolutely no one except myself! Maybe that explained the unusually, overwhelmingly male audience. The place was pretty full with approximately 90% men. Maybe the ladies were saving themselves for Tuesday night. This was quite some change from the usual female dominated audiences you find at comedy shows.

It made for an entertaining night as the guys often gave as good as they got in terms of wisecracks, creating a jovial atmosphere all round between compere and audience.
Regular Compere Lewis Bryan was superb at warming up the room between acts. He was witty and excelled at getting humour from most audience members he engaged with. We had quite an interesting cross-section of audience members – tube workers, engineers, jet setting Librarians (Singapore and USA!!), accountants, local thespians and even a metallurgist – not to be confused with a meteorologist as Lewis so obviously did!

Compere Lewis Bryan

Compere Lewis Bryan

I loved it when upon realising there was one American in the audience he asked if it’s true that American’s are over emotional and Julie Holmes from Arizona, USA, shouted right back at him “No We Aren’t” in a loud, overly emotional naturally American voice. A brilliantly funny response that had the place in stitches.

Considering it was the start of Valentine’s week, curiously there seemed to be a distinct lack of love in the air. Certainly there wasn’t much that was lovey-dovey from the hard-edged, blunt speaking opening act Sarah Callaghan. She’s a local comedian from the borough of Hillingdon. She had some funny one liners in her show and admittedly some were a little old as I recall hearing them before , but they struck a chord with the audience. The Grand Canyon routine was a particularly good, original one. I think some more levity, less harshness and a slowing down in her delivery wouldn’t go amiss. The coarseness just seemed somewhat uncalled for, especially from the opening performer.

Sarah Callaghan

Sarah Callaghan

Nathan Willcock  wasn’t the night’s headliner but at around 9”6 (or something nearly as ridiculously tall) his head was almost touching the ceiling of Compass Comedy! His set alas didn’t reach the same heights as his head, but the Nat King Cole and Chris Eubank were very good “visual” gags. That’s quite a USP there and if I were him I’d develop a lot more of those and see how many gags he can get out of that set up. The Brexit material was a fine, topical idea, but until Nathan can work up some funnier routines I think that part of the show should Brexit his set for the time being.

Sam Luttit a, young man with floppy hair read a stream of one liners from his notebook. These needed more work to achieve their aim of being pithy, funny, one liners. This was only his 3rd ever gig so good on him for having a go and I’m sure he can only improve on this if he works hard at it. It takes a lot of time writing material allied to plenty of stage time delivering jokes to develop your comedy craft. I think Lewis’ accidental teasing at the changeover was uncalled for considering Sam’s obvious inexperience.

Irish woman Catherine Bohart was very funny. She was composed, polished and confident. I liked her. She chose to “out” herself early one and did some fine stuff on the topic of sexuality. What made it even more interesting and personal was that it was set against the personal backdrop of her having a Deacon for a father! She even talked about – and this surely has to be a first for a comedy gig – transubstantiation – which I’m sure you of course well know is “the change of substance by which the bread and the wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus Christ …!”  Jokes as well as religious education at Compass Comedy! Amen to that. It was a Sunday after all.

Headliner Jay Sodagar was a fine closing act. In what was a mix of newer and experienced comedians he shone out as quite a seasoned, well-travelled comedian. He played on some of the stereotypes surrounding his Asian ethnicity to good effect and was well received by the audience.

It’s always nice to come across new talent interspersed with more more experienced acts too.

Review © Tiemo Talk of the Town

Lewis Bryan photograph courtesy of Julie Holmes

The next show in the current season is on Sunday 12th March 2017, 8pm. £5 entry. Details and on-line booking

Posted in Comedy Reviews, Comedy Reviews 2017 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment