Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Mousetrap, Bristol Hippodrome

The 60th year of the Agatha Christie‘s the Mousetrap sees the brilliant murder mystery go on its first tour outside London and land in Bristol. “It’s like a Midsomer Murders” someone said during the interval, “a bit hammy, a bit old-fashioned but fun” said someone else and they had almost no idea while still being spot on.

If you love the ITV3 repeats of Miss Marple and Poirot and the quality of Midsomer Murders when Barnaby was still Barnaby then you will love the Mousetrap.

This is the play that started the rest. There is depth to the characters, a quality to the story that makes you lean in and pay attention and wonder who exactly did it. There must also be some kind of magic that allows the audience to be still mostly ignorant to who was / is the murderer after 60 years and over 25,000 performances.

A guest house is snowed in and a murderer is among the guests. This is a fantastic whodunnit and not one to be missed. When you do go you will be asked to keep the secret of the murderer locked within your heart. For all murder mystery fans I can think of no bigger honour.

For some star-studded action, Bruno Langley from Coronation Street plays the young, newlywed guesthouse owner Giles Ralston, who has recently opened, Monkswell Manor. The rest of the cast are equally good and the stage sets are wonderfully authentic. The couch and armchairs, fireplace and wooden panelling make it look just like a movie set.

mousetrap

Other reviews: Bristol Culture

Runs until May 4 at the Bristol Hippodrome

Things I’ve written recently on other sites

For Help Me Investigate Education I wrote about the new web site data.ac.uk.

I reviewed the Counting Crows for Bristol Culture.

Untitled

The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters

last policeman An asteroid will collide with earth in six months and the consequences will lead to the eventual destruction of all life. There is no doubt about the impact, just the location of the hit. With certain death around the corner suicides start to increase and finding a dead man in a fast food restaurant’s toilet is not unusual. However, policeman Hank Palace senses something strange and decides to investigate this potential murder.

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die? This is the tagline of the book, the first of a trilogy, and a very clever idea.

The execution of the idea is a bit curious because of the combination of alternate pre-apocalyptic society setting, the mystery of the death which Palace is investigating and a possible conspiracy hinted at in the writing. There is also the sense that this is the first of three books so things are left a little unfinished and I couldn’t quite tell which thing were completed.

Palace is likeable and with his focus on solving the murder seems pleasantly normal compared to the rest of society which is understandably falling apart. He is our steady narrator mostly.

It’s a great and original story and presented well. I didn’t particularly like the female characters and I don’t  think Winters is very good at writing them. I originally discovered him from his book Bedbugs and I downloaded a sample. The protagonist is a woman who finds a perfect apartment and she is the only one in her family who can see the bedbugs everywhere. Great idea, very Philip K Dick but the woman just didn’t read very believably to me and I couldn’t finish it. Women seem to be written as ‘other’ and men as normal.

I still want to find out what happens next in the Last Policeman trilogy.

Countdown City’ is the sequel to The Last Policeman, and it’s due in July in the UK.

An allotment in front of St Mary Redcliffe, Ovagrown

There’s a woollen man sitting on top of a door of a house where poet Thomas Chatterton was born in 1752. The man is just sitting there.

A man on a house

The house is opposite St Mary Redcliffe and just next to Portwall Lane very close to Bristol Temple Meads train station. Cars pass constantly.

Reflected St Mary Redcliffe

In front of the house there are three plots. Two of them are dug up and one has overgrown cabbages and other vegetables.

vegetable plots

A plastic covered sheet of paper has a link to a blog (ovagrown.blogspot.com) and includes some pictures of previous produce.

paper in sheets

The blog was last updated in October 2011.

Step up to the plate! A Bristol cookbook with a difference

Step Up To The Plate! is a cookbook with a difference: it is written by people with learning disabilities. The Park Cafe in Kingswood is a project run by Brandon Trust in Bristol where trainees prepare for employment, learning valuable transferable work skills while also gaining catering and retail skills. The Park Cafe trainees have gathered together their favourite recipes and want to share them with you. This book is also their stories, as they grow in confidence, contributing to their local community and living a life.

stepuptotheplate

Published in February 2012 it is available from the cafe and Tangent Books

The Place Beyond the Pines, film review

Schenectady, NY,  is the place beyond the pines but it takes a back seat to the main actors who dominate the story from the start.There’s a bit of an attempt to keep the characters in the background by filming them walking in to their scenes from the back but I don’t think it succeeds.

The focus of the movie on the town rather than the characters lets the plot get away with a lot and the Place Beyond the Pines is a bloody exhausting movie to watch. No explosions or machine guns but it was intense in a way that made the world look different after it ended. It was all about men and fatherhood and destiny and legacy.

Ryan Gosling, as Luke Glaston, is a mythical motorcycle stunt rider set to leave for the next town on his tour when a fling from a year ago shows up and brings an unexpected discovery in the form of a son.

Determined to avoid the mistakes of his own life growing up without a father Glaston goes into overdrive to claim back the woman who is the mother of his child. With no money, no prospects, there aren’t many options.

Gosling and, writer/director of the film, Derek Cianfrance worked together previously in Blue Valentine which was also designed, and laboriously planned and filmed, to savage the emotions. Cianfrance combines mostly surprising but occasionally a little cliched and obvious moments to pretty good effect.

I couldn’t quite get a handle on Gosling’s character and I don’t know if it’s because the charismatic actor is just too likeable or because the story wrote him like that. When Groundhog Day was being cast there was a chance Tom Hanks would get the role but it was given to Bill Murray because Hanks was too nice, it was obvious he would turn out ok whereas with Murray there was always that doubt.

Gosling is lovely, he’s the kind of guy you would let rescue your puppy from a nearby well and then cook you dinner after cleaning your house. I think Cianfrance was very sneaky in putting him in this role for two reasons; 1) because of Drive there were already assumptions about how successful he would be with his stunt driving / riding; and 2) he is so nice that it didn’t matter what the character did, the audience would be predisposed to like him whether he had a billion tattoos and dirty, inside-out clothing or not.

Bradley Cooper on the other hand is utterly, and superbly, believable as insidious, privileged, arrogant good guy/ appointed hero. He is strong, sure of himself and knows exactly what to do. The stilts of privilege see him walking tall and proudly while Glaston and his son are kind of stooped over by the misfortune or lack of opportunity they were raised beneath. The latter are the ones who blend the line of what is morally acceptable and don’t get away with anything.

There’s some very special cinematography by Sean Bobbitt in the fast-paced scenes. There’s a bit of a struggle when it comes to intimacy. You’ll see what I mean. I think Cianfrance would have liked to make the whole thing longer but at 2hrs 20mins it was already long enough even though it didn’t feel like it.

Cleaning the seas, one bottle at a time

The following looks like an ad by Ecover (and it may well be) but it’s also an infographic about plastic in our seas. I am writing a blog post about Ecover Zero and my daughter’s eczema when a friend mentioned this so I thought I would post it. I may get a bottle of washing up liquid in exchange.

I reviewed Ecover Zero a year ago and last week paid £21 for their washing liquid for clothes.

Cleaning the seas, one bottle at a timeCleaning the seas, one bottle at a time. Visit The-Splash for more information and to read our pledge.