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Archive for May, 2016

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General Election Night, 1983. The staff and diners at the upscale Oyster House restaurant on Jermyn Street, London, are ready for an evening of hard work and hard celebration of the Tory victory, but everything changes when two masked gunmen burst in and take them hostage in the downstairs kitchen. On the outside, the Police mobilise themselves to try and end the siege in the most peaceful way, while on the inside, the hostages realise that they are trapped with a psychopath who is armed and very dangerous.

This book is an undemanding and quick read, which starts with the onset of the siege and then alternates between the current time with the gunmen and hostages in the kitchen, and the past, where one of the gunmen’s back story is revealed in stages until we find out how he came to part of the events. We also have several chapters from the point of view of the Police – in particular that of Sergeant Willy Cosgrove, an honest man with an unusual idea of how to end the siege, and his commanding Officer Petersen, who is perhaps less honest and less bothered about a peaceful ending.

As you might expect from an author who is better known as a food critic, the action is intercut with scenes of cooking some intricate and delicious meals (which seemed slightly implausible  under the circumstances, but just believable enough not to annoy me) – if nothing else, this book has definitely made me determined to try a Rum Baba!

The story moves on at a fast pace, even allowing for the chapters set in the past, which are necessary to understand Nathan, the main hostage taker, whose story is told bit by bit. However, apart from Nathan and his lifelong friend Kingston, most of the characters weren’t that roundly developed. I don’t feel that I knew any more about the two cooks Tony and Stevie for instance by the end of the book than I did at the beginning. That said however, it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, but I won’t post any spoilers here; what I will say is that while I’m not sure I liked it, I definitely wasn’t expecting it, so that’s a good thing.

Overall, I think I probably would read more by Jay Rayner in future, and would probably recommend this novel to fans of thrillers and very dark humour.

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Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Joseph is 46 – yes, 46!! – years old. And, I’m ashamed to say that I have never seen it before today! In fact my only real awareness of the  show comes from Jason Donovan being cast in the lead role in the early 1990s, and the surrounding hoo-ha his casting caused (although he was apparently brilliant and soon silenced his critics).

So I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I went to see the show – I knew the basic storyline…Joseph is given a fantastically colourful coat and ends up as a slave, and there’s loads of music during the story – but that was about it. What I certainly didn’t expect was so much energy, colour and humour. If this show doesn’t make you smile, then you need your sense of humour checking.

X Factor winner Joe McElderry played Joseph, and brought a real freshness and vitality to the role. He also has a beautiful singing voice, shown off to full effect in such numbers as Close Every Door, and Any Dream Will Do. However, his is arguably not the largest part – that would go to the nameless narrator who has the dual task of being on stage pretty much throughout the entire show, yet not getting in the way of the action taking place. Lucy Kay and her stunning soprano voice  accomplished this beautifully.

I loved the array of musical styles, from country to gospel to calypso and some rather amazing Elvis Presley inspired numbers from the Pharaoh, played by Emilianos Stamatakis – who I had never heard of before, but I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that I’ll be hearing of him again…what a talent!

The cast were supported by local schoolchildren who were on stage the whole time and sang along beautifully with the music while remaining observers only to the story. Twhole cast seemed to be having a wonderful time, and so did the audience. By the end of the show, everyone was on their feet, singing, dancing and clapping along.

Truly fantastic, and a show not to be missed.

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The subtitle of this book is ‘The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us’. And that sums up what the book is about. Rather than a history of Hollywood (which is what so many people think of when they think about cinema and film), this book discusses the first time that moving pictures were created, right up to the current day when we are all watching very different types of screens, films can be watched on phones, and people play video games for hours on end.

The basic structure of the book is that each chapter covers one – or a small number – of significant film makers, primarily directors, although Thomson also talks about writers, actors and producers. It’s less a chronological series of events, but more a picture of various people who helped create the movies as we know them today. Thomson covers a lot of French cinema for which he has an obvious passion, as well as American, and also touches on film-makers from other countries, as well as other entertainment mediums that we view on screen (video games, and of course television for example).

Did I enjoy it? Well, sad to say, not particularly. Getting through the book felt like a bit of a slog, although I did enjoy the last quarter considerably more than what came before it. But there’s no denying that it was extremely well researched and written with obvious passion for the subject and I truly feel that the reason I didn’t enjoy it is more down to me than down to the writing. The information given was very dense and there seemed to be so much to take in that I only felt like reading a little bit at a time.

If you are at all interested in the history of movies, I recommend this book, but if you are looking for a bit of light reading, be warned – it’s verbose and throws a lot of information at you!

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