01 May 2007

Professional absurdism

Last week I enjoyed a brief glimpse into the cosy UK celebrity circus, when Richard and I attended a very enjoyable evening recording session for the BBC Radio 2 comedy panel programme, ‘Does The Team Think’. Recorded at the University of London Union theatre, the programme is hosted by 90s comedy stalwart and professional absurdist Vic Reeves. His guest panellists, whose job it is to respond to the ‘Does the team think…’ queries of audience members, had a strong comedy pedigree too. The elder statesman of the team was Paul Whitehouse of ‘Harry Enfield’s Television Programme’ and ‘Fast Show’ fame, now appearing on TV again on the entertaining (but feebly-named) sketch show ‘Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul’. Likeable bald geezer Andy Parsons, sweet-natured fabulist Lucy Porter, muso media radio type Rowland Rivron (formerly of the louche lounge act called Raw Sex on ‘French & Saunders’), and hyperactive posh comedian Michael Mcintyre all provided quality material too. The nonsensical conversations covered the joys of misleading American tourists, the danger of wearing stiletto heels near lazy cats, the lack of upper-class footballers in the Premiership, and how young people should refrain from playing tinny music on buses, and instead sing church madrigals to entertain their fellow passengers.

On the bus back to Victoria after the show a severe-looking mother with three little kids was having trouble keeping them in order, and proceeded to shout down the bus aisle at an errant daughter. “Blaze!”, she cried. “Get back ‘ere!”. I wonder if Blaze will ever become Prime Minister with a name like that.

On Thursday night I ventured into the wilds of the ultra-trendy and knowingly down-at-heel Hoxton for a flamenco guitar recital with my boss Anne and her husband Bob. Melange, the cafĂ© where the recital was held, contained an arty mix of stylish Continentals, who were all enthralled by the playing of the maestro, Tony Rowden. His style of playing was more subtle than the appealingly vigorous jams of Rodrigo Y Gabriela, and generally focused on classical guitar pieces by composers like Scarlatti, detouring briefly into the 20th century to feature some Ennio Morricone. The performance was accompanied by a carefully-chosen blend of tapas and a series of wines hand-picked by an American sommelier with platinum-blonde hair like Aimee Mann’s. Alas I had to depart before the end, so I was unable to enjoy the artisanship of chocolatier Isabelle…

On Saturday I encountered the rare treat of watching Australia batting in a one-day international but actually being able to enjoy it, because New Zealand wasn’t on the receiving end. It was the World Cup Final against Sri Lanka, and Adam Gilchrist’s insane batting masterclass was brutal and audacious. As it turned out, I was glad to have missed the second innings that led to Sri Lanka’s eventual defeat, given the shambolic umpiring that occurred.

On Sunday I went into Pall Mall to photograph some of the supercars lined up on the starting grid for the Gumball Rally charity race across Europe. Not to be content with Ferraris and Posches, two highlights for me were the brushed-aluminium Lamborghini with Arabic plates, and the ludicrously powerful Bugatti Veyron with its shark-mouthed air intake and 400km/h top speed: a snip at a mere £750,000.

Later that evening I took in Clint Eastwood’s WWII film, Letters From Iwo Jima, the Japanese-perspective companion film to the American view portrayed in Flags Of Our Fathers. Based on a story by Japanese writer Iris Yamashita, the film benefits from strong performances, particularly from the versatile Ken Watanabe as the commanding general on the island. The cinematography also impresses, with washed-out colours highlighting the alien environment of the isolated island and counterpointing the grim violence inflicted by both sides. This is a more conventional war tale than Flags, but this is no criticism. Ultimately, the two films complement each other perfectly, combining to create a well-rounded picture of a ruinous and bloody junction of the Japanese Empire’s dying days.
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