Witness for The Prosecution

Yesterday I enjoyed another of London’s theatrical treats. Truth be told, I haven’t encountered much Agatha Christie before, apart from the odd episode of Poirot on TV, so when John suggested going to see one of her plays called Witness  For The Prosecution I didn’t know what to expect. I met him up in Southwark yesterday afternoon, and quite to my surprise he walked me to an old London council building rather than a theatre. What I saw then amazed me: rather than being under your usual proscenium arch, the play was performed in the round, in an old courtroom. The audience was really drawn in to the action – about a man accused of murdering a wealthy old woman he’s been having an affair with in order to get her fortune.

The action took place entirely within the courtroom, so while this made the trial scenes feel very real, when the plot went outside the court case, the audience needed to use a bit of imagination. Nonetheless, the overall effect was really immersive, and the audience was really drawn into the action. I felt very caught up in what these solicitors were saying, and the fate of the guy on trial. It was a really effective, creative use of a space which, in a way, was built especially for dramas like that.

Thanks to my friend john I have had a great couple of days, going to The Globe on Saturday and then to see a quite wonderful piece of contemporary theatre yesterday. It made me think of my drama student friends from university: I could see Ricardio or Rockie directing a production like the one we saw yesterday. If you know where to look, the capital is a creative, inventive space, kind of like a vast university campus. After all, who but a contemporary arts student would think of using an old, probably victorian, courtroom as a theatrical space?

Seeing The Globe again

You know that you live in a great world city when you can just hop on a tube train and go see a Shakespeare play in a replica of the theatre where they were first performed. John  and I went to see The Merry Wives of Windsor  at the Globe last night. He’s over from Poland and suggested we go take in some Billy S, and who was I to decline? It had been a full  eight years since I last visited that magnificent theatre with Lyn Andrejz and Natalia. I just checked my blog archive, though, and coincidentally we saw the same play on the same day of the year. Last night, however, we were among the groundlings at the front  rather than up on the balcony, so it was a completely different  experience: much more visceral and intimate.  It was a much more physical performance last night, with a lot of  singing, dancing and choreography. The Globe is unlike any other theatre  I know, and I came home thinking I had visited one of London’s treasures. Mind you, I better point out that I was rather jammy because I could sit in my powerchair on a metal platform by the stage, while John and those around me had to stand  for  the whole show. Being me often has it’s advantages…

The return of Spitting Image

Although I was too young to get into Spitting Image when it first aired in the eighties, I daresay there’s  never been  a better time for this news  of the revival of the legendary satirical show. As the article says, with absurd characters like Trump and Johnson doing the rounds, this is an era  which virtually satirises itself. Something to look forward to watching, then, if just  to see what the real puppet masters can tell us about the wooden, soulless mannequins currently up on the political stage.

Hooking Charlton Park up with Hebden Green

I had another of my random, crazy ideas this morning. I still like to help out at Charlton Park Academy, a local special school. Believe it or not, I’ve now been volunteering  there for nine years. Heading there this morning, I started to wonder about somehow putting them into contact with my  old special school in Winsford. I haven’t visited Hebden Green in over fifteen years, so it’s probably totally different to the place I  knew; but it seems to me there could be a lot of potential in introducing the schools to each other. Hebden always had a strong communication and AAC focus, something I doubt it will have lost. If that is so, think what both schools could  organise together. As well as that, imagine  what they could generate artistically.

Of course this is just another of my off-the-wall ideas; nothing may come of it,  although Caroline, the lady I work with at school, seemed quite  keen on the idea. I suppose part of me is looking for ways to hook my old world up  with my new one. Yet life has  taught me that there is always potential  for awesomeness.  In establishing links between two fairly unique schools on different sides of the country, who knows where we could end up or what could be created.

Two over-privileged white jerks held to account

With impeachment proceedings finally beginning against trump and Boris’ shenanigans over Brexit slowly being unravelled, it seems  at last  both messes began in  2016 are finally being cleared up. At last the two blonde assholes currently in charge of the UK and USA are being brought to  justice. It’s quite clear both Trump and Johnson are two over-privileged white men with no right being where they are, and  that they both should face justice. In trying to prorogue parliament and in trying to get Ukraine to interfere in US politics, what both men did was clearly unlawful, so let’s hope both spoiled  blonde pricks are held  to account. Rather than being above the law, it’s good to see the law catching both men up.

Project Euphonia

While I could of course post a rant about the ongoing political farce, Caroline, the lady I work with at Charlton Park Academy, has sent me  something far, far more interesting. Google has started to develop speech recognition software for people whose disabilities distort their  speech. According to the link she sent me ”if you have a speech disorder cause by a neurological impairment like ALS or multiple sclerosis, then using Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa will be off-limits to you. In today’s tech environment, that means missing out on a lot.

”That’s why Google is launching a new initiative to make speech technology more accessible to those with disabilities. It’s called Project Euphonia, and it incorporates a wide array of research directions, alongside collaborations with nonprofits and volunteers.”

Google is asking for volunteers whose speech is distorted to go in so it  can model the patterns of  their speech. Frankly though, I’m not sure how useful such an approach would be, since speech like mine isn’t that consistent: I might try to verbalise the same word or phrase twice, but it won’t necessarily sound the same. Nonetheless, this is certainly worth keeping my eye  on: being able to use things like Siri could make stuff much easier and faster.

What has happened to British politics?

At a  time when the Tories are a laughing stock facing their possible demise as a party, Labour not only fail to capitalise, but try to upstage the Tories by having a crisis of it’s own. The majority of labour voters and members want  to remain; Brexit flies in the face of everything the party stands for. Why, then, did it today vote not to openly back remaining in the EU? More to the point, can anyone tell me what the smeg has happened to British politics?

Visiting Kew with John

One of the things I like most about London is the number of ways you can get around. It’s quite a big city, but there is all kinds of public transport you can use to get from place to place. John and I ended up  using three of them yesterday. Lovely, sunny day that it was, we decided a day trip to Kew gardens was in order; but rather than just using the boring old tube to get there, we opted to go by boat up the Thames to Westminster. We could then take the District line down to kew. Although it wasn’t the quickest route, it certainly was pretty: the  city looked stunning in the autumn sunshine yesterday.

We eventually got to Kew at about four, but that still left plenty of time to have a look around before the gardens closed. I’d been there once before on a solo visit last year, but I only got a brief look then. Yesterday John and I started to explore the gardens properly, looking around the famous glasshouses and palaces. I say ‘started to explore’, of course, because the place is so vast that you could never fit it all in  in  one visit. Nonetheless, what we saw was sublime: I especially liked the Japanese pagoda, and the range of plants was truly mindblowing. Kew definitely is one of London’s treasures, and John and I are planning a return visit (perhaps with Lyn) soon.

London’s variety of public transport may be cool, but the range of places you can visit here is even cooler.

Ad Astra sucks

I agree with what Mark Kermode has to say about Ad Astra here, having seen it up at The Barbican with John  last night. I’d only add one detail: Ad Astra is  utter, utter crap. It’s written by someone who is only semi scientifically literate at best, and was so keen to ram Christian dogma down our throats that I almost walked out. And would  someone please explain how that violent monkey   got onto an  adrift space ship?