Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Slips and Blips

It seems to be an absolute aeon since I wrote anything about the actual SHOW, which is why I'm here, after all. That's because it's going well, with very healthy houses and not too many hiccups. Not the stuff of entertaining blogging.
However, that's not to say there aren't moments. Rory, in particular, suffers from a type of foot-in-mouth which is all the more agonising for being subtle. He'll mix up names (he has dozens in his speeches) so instead of Harry Blackburn, Marv Watson and Phil Foster we'll get Tony Blackburn, Hank Marvin and Norman Foster. The audience don't notice but we do. Jenny very occasionally forgets the words "cheap and self-indulgent" and will substitute almost anything, from "nasty and selfish" to "I........just don't like it!". Heather's mouth usually behaves, but she makes up for it by tripping down the stairs every now and then, usually when she's got someone in.
How I manage with these rank amateurs is anyone's guess.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Boyz 2 Men

My brother-in-law left yesterday after a crammed two days. We drank beer at luncheon on show days and drank LOTS of beer on school nights, raced go-karts at the DOM fair, ate pretzels, hung out in Sternschanze, did the art galleries and, of course, trawled the Reeperbahn. Well, as Bradley says in the play, "It's there, he's young, so I gave him my blessing".
When we got to Herbertstrasse, the closed street which is basically a block-long brothel and which is verboten to any women visitors and men under 18, we did what hundreds of thousands of men before us have done, and walked down it to have a browse.
This, however, was a wet Wednesday afternoon, and we weren't anticipating much talent to be in evidence. How wrong we were. There were LOTS of women there, and some of them were arrestingly attractive.
And herein lies a thorny problem - do you give in to your strong instinct to almost break into a run (as someone did right in front of us) or take a measured and exaggeratedly carefree saunter whilst having no intention of buying anything?
I've only experienced this sort of dilemma once before - when someone bought me a lap dance at a club without my knowledge, and I found myself in a private room with a girl in a bikini. In the heat of the moment, is it worse to flatly refuse, or to allow the event to happen and live with your conscience afterwards? I opted for the latter, ands excruciatingly embarrassing it was too. I was clutching my beer so tightly she had to prise it out of my grip. Never again.
On the basis that this was the first and last time, however, my B-I-L and I took the more leisurely approach, even pausing to add credibility to the exercise and to more amply appreciate the visuals. We then had a stiff drink and talked about nothing else for the next few hours.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Flug mit Fame

I've noticed this bizarre tendency with some of the "value" airlines lately - the crew on the flight deck seems to have new responsibilities. On Sunday, the captain was telling us all about the tempting range of baguettes and paninis, for God's sake. I kept thinking "Look at the instruments, man, not the menu!". I bet they love having to do that - like Paxman loved doing the weather on Newsnight.
Aside from that (and the crew banging on and on about scratchcards) the Ryanair flight was notable because it was carrying T-Rex back from Hamburg. No Marc Bolan, obviously, and Mickey Finn died quite a few years ago. But the drummer's the same guy. I think.
I knew they were rockers at once, but only because they weren't exactly trying to hide it - I mean, they seemed to be wearing their stage clothes, for a start. And there was the odd medicinal sharpener - and this was at 8am. And they all wore shades. And called each other "man". It was like Spinal Tap live.
I was sitting two rows behind them when either Rob or Graham (they both looked identical) called the cabin steward over and had a discussion about the wine. I couldn't hear much of it (although I was straining to hear) but I swear I heard the steward say, with an air of finality:
"I honestly don't see how it can be corked, sir - it's a screw-top bottle".

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Flight 435

I'm doing my third Ryanair Lubeck-Stansted flight to see the wife and saucepan lids tomorrow. It's a flight which I'm certain has been specifically designed for English party people who have been "giving it large" all night on the Reeperbahn. You can imagine the state of some of the travellers at 8.55am - at least they sleep most of the way. But it works fine for me.
Lubeck airport is not much more than a cow shed - it's almost as bad as the NZ airport Bob Downe describes as "a runway made from a couple of paddocks and a caravan for the terminal". Here's a photo:

Pretty yummy. That brown box is the frontline for border control out of Germany.

I also saw something on the flight that I haven't witnessed since my friend Richard tried it on a flight to Nice in 1982 - a passenger invited one of the cabin crew to SIT ON HIS KNEE! He wasn't English, so he carried it (and the inevitable rejection) off with aplomb. And he continued to watch her retreating bum with undisguised interest every time she had to push one of those trolleys up and down the aisle. I confess I sneaked a bit of a look, too...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Mad Shops

It's finally sunny AND warm here, and consequently a pleasure rather than a trial going for a walk. I trolled along the canal next to Hoheluftbrucke and had a charming song sung to me by a tramp for one euro - including text. Further along I came across a youth theatre which holds its performances in a huge old boat. And all along the canal there were canoes left abeam on the bank, held in place by saplings. Extremely trusting. And nice.

I emerged a long way up Ependorfer Weg, which is our main street, where I have never been before and where I saw the most bizarre collection of shops. See what you think...

It's not just me, is it? A display of handguns is kind of odd, yes?

And for all your miniature terracotta brick needs, visit http://www.teenycolosseum.com/ !

This one isn't on Epperdorfer Weg, but it made me laugh so hard it hurt... boy, have I got friends who would like to pay a visit here!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Lingua Germanica

I'm loving the German habit of sticking words together to make new ones. I guess it makes it a bit cumbersome, but it's very effective. They also love pinching English words - especially to use for new technology, it seems. They call a mobile a "handy", and no-one seems to know why. It's just a word that fits the object well, and that's a good enough reason.
I remember being stunned to learn that the French for pullover is "pull-over" - a word which has no discernible merit whatsoever in English (in my opinion) and therefore one which doesn't really deserve a passport to another language. And then yesterday, amongst the face-parts and clothing items which seem to be crucial in a first lesson in any language, what do I find? Pullover.
Surely, surely, something like woollenitemcoveringshirtandunderclothes would have been infinitely preferable.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Mother Tongue

Jenny, Heather and I are taking the plunge today - we're going to German lessons. Rory has decided to rely on his trusted brand of "Old Man Charm" as he calls it, and will continue to select the youngest and brightest shop assistant in the hope that they speak good English. It's an approach which usually works...
I don't relish being unable to ask for a bucket of water if my trousers are on fire, though, so it's back to the schoolroom for me. I probably won't learn enough today to stand me in excellent stead for "Das Rheingold" at the State Opera at the weekend, but I might just be able to order a glass of wine at the interval. Or rather, intervals.
I've only been to see Wagner once before, at ENO, and I remember calling my then girlfriend (and now missus) Sue at one of the meal breaks to moan about how much longer I was going to have to wait for the "Tristan and Isolde chord" I'd been told about. As Rossini said:
"Wagner - great moments, awful quarter hours".

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


There's a great bit in Nigel Planer's book "I, An Actor" (written in the luvvie persona of Nicholas Craig) where he complains about an actor's lot - it goes something like "...and here's muggins, me, and at the front of the queue yet again for another portion of shit cassoulet". Moments like that are mercifully rare, but I had one today.

Everyone else has been asked, unbidden, to castings for a German Yellow Pages commercial, and it pays a bloody fortune. I confess it was all I could do not to stamp my foot in rage at the sheer injustice of it, and it was only the fact that I want the others to do well that made it even slightly bearable. Sheeeesh.

I guess the shoe's on the other foot, though. I had a casting myself last week, for a eLearning video. As soon as I saw the breakdown, I thought "Nivea Man" - in other words they want that bloke who advertises razors, deodorant or whatever. Definitely not me. "You go, but you know" as I generally say to myself. And so it was. I expect Mr Chiselled will be filming it about now, if he can squeeze it in between his Handsome Lessons.

Rant over.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

A Little Trouble

We've all been suffering a bit from skin dryness and rashes, and we've generally been putting this down to climate/water/terrible cheap shower gel. But I seem to have suffered rather more, and especially in one particular, umm... arena.

On Saturday, then, I had to go see the doctor. Just my luck, it's a woman. But very, very nice and with great English, and it's not too awful when she asks me to show her what the trouble is.

She takes one brief, confident, professional look and announces "it's a fungal infection". I heave a sigh of relief that it's not some insane disease (my mind has been working like yeast, ironically) and she writes out a prescription for whatever the German equivalent of Canestan is. Then she says;

"You should also try a bath in a weak camomile tea solution"
"A bath? A bath?" I say, "Jesus, how many bags will I need for that?".

There's a moment of puzzlement on her face, then it clears.

"No, not a bath for you" she says, and nods towards my belt buckle, "for him".

Thursday, 5 March 2009

No Red Carpet For Me, Then...

The RHOSCARS (see posts passim) are on this Sunday, and it seems my suspicions were totally unfounded. I was to be one of only three other VIP's - along with a cabaret artiste, a costume designer and someone who didn't pop up on Google - and there would have been some pomp and ceremony. To wit - they wanted a biography for a welcoming introduction to the assembled throng, and they asked if I would mind presenting an award. Mind?

Alas, it cannot be. My penguin suit will remain in mothballs for another year and I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed that I'm still an "outstanding alumnus in the field of acting" for 2010. Boo.

Spoke Too Soon

Can you imagine what the staff are like in here?

Shank's Pony

It's got to the stage where I'm in danger of only seeing my flat, the tube station and the theatre. So this morning I took a little walk to Eppendorfer Baum, which I've passed on the tube on the way here from Barmbek.
The route takes you along a wonderful, wide, tree-lined avenue which was once pretty impressive and rather expensive, judging by the grand houses on either side. I say "once" because the elevated section of the underground goes right down the middle of it.

I guess it says something about the egalitarian nature of planning here that you are at just as much risk of having your environment knackered by public transport if you're rich as if you're poor. Can't imagine an elevated railway on Bishop's Avenue, can you?

Anyway, Eppendorfer Baum is very bustling and busy and crammed with shops. There's a great bookshop, in which I felt like a proper ignorant tourist - the sort that cannot even attempt a text in the native language. The staff were not what I was expecting, though. Charming, friendly middle-aged ladies. Compare that with your typical Waterstone's employee (frustrated authors exacting revenge on an uncaring world by being snide to the book-buying public) and I know where I'd rather browse.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


After God knows how long in this business, sometimes I still have no idea what to do with my hands on stage. When I'm not talking, I mean. When you've got lines then you gesticulate and emphasise and drive home salient points, but when you're listening then you either have to hope you have pockets or just stand there like a peculiarly inanimate ragdoll. I'd love to see a speeded-up version of my performance - it must look like a carefully choreographed ballet for hands. I hope it does - I do give it a lot of thought, after all.

There's a great play by Daniel MacIvor, the Canadian playwright, called "This Is A Play" where the actors speak their thoughts on stage, interspersed by the supposed dialogue. It's hilarious - the young male actor strides on, thinking/vocalising "I enter with CONVICTION!" and then trips over his own feet. He then agonises about messing up his big entrance. Anyway, somewhere in this someone says "I take up position centre-stage, plant my feet and wonder...what to do with my hands". So I don't think I'm alone.

This morning's show was a bit tougher than they have been. Mainly a school audience and some pensioners, and the young people were a bit restless. Early in the day, hot lights etc. Still, my flares almost got an entrance round, and the scatological jokes got big laughs.