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A Theatre Cynic Watches: "Annie" St. Albansannie-st-albans-musical-production-operatic-society-review

Remember way back in 2013 when I mentioned that I hate musicals? That's still pretty much the case. There are a few exceptions of course; I love Avenue Q, I imagine I would enjoy The Book Of Mormon if I could actually get tickets for the damn thing and I really enjoyed the St Albans Operatic Society's production of Follies (review on this page).

The Follies one was a bit of a shock as I went into it completely ambivalent but left very impressed with the strong performances, crisp direction and incredibly elaborate set designs.

The idea of reviewing the SAOS' current show Annie scared me a bit because the story of Annie is big, bold and cheerful which can be intimidating for a natural grump like me but I was actually surprised by how relaxed I felt during and after the show.

First to the good stuff, The core performances are excellent. Evie Lilley as Annie gets it just right. Actors who take on Annie sometimes can't stop themselves from turning into smiling lunatics but Evie was great. The performance wasn't too big, she pitched the character just right and, best of all, she came across as natural.

I can't tell you how much of a relief that was. It means the audience isn't watching her intently, they can just sit back and relax. Suspension of disbelief is such an important thing in the theatre. Great stuff.

The second core performance, Daddy Warbucks (Matthew Clothier) Also got the balance spot on. Whether it was as an animated tycoon or a vulnerable man struggling to hold back his emotions, Clothier pulled both extremes off without resorting to caricature or cliches. His accent and cadence was amazing, a genuinely unique sound.

The third and final core performance, Miss Hannigan (Julie Lilley) steals the entire show. Everything about Lilley, from her frighteningly gruff voice to her erratic physical swaying and stabbing motions works. She's so larger than life and terrifying that it really wouldn't have surprised me if she'd eaten one of the children at some point during the show. As perfect a villain as I've seen in years.

The other performances are good to, all of the children (I was watching Team Manhattan) put in a great effort and helped back Annie up by coming across as natural as she did. Roosevelt (Mike Smith) and his cabinet were great, as were the NBC Radio performers (largely the same group of people as the cabinet). The servants were well drilled and painted such a rosy picture of domestic work that it made me want to get my backside down to Butlering school right away (Butlering? Should it be Butlery or maybe Butling? Whatever).

The sets, as usual, were awesome. Particularly good were the pointillist representation of New York (which reminded me of a slightly more detailed Paul Klee painting) and Warbucks' mansion which starts out cold and hollow but gets gradually more colourful and warm as Annie's influence on Warbucks grows.

The Orchestra were stars yet again, maybe it's because I'm not musical in anyway but I always find it incredible that musicians can be so consistent for such long periods of time. I struggle to concentrate on 30 second conversations never mind anything as complicated as reading sheet music.

Now to the not so good stuff. The sound quality coming out of the performers mic's was wildly inconsistent. This is something I noticed in Follies and sadly it hasn't improved here. Some performers would randomly go from barely audible to ridiculously loud in seconds, completely throwing the audience and distracting me from the events unfolding on stage.

The worst affected by this was Grace (Jackie Pulford) who's microphone hissed throughout the entire show, it was almost impossible to judge her performance because I couldn't tell if she was holding back or not for fear of causing feedback. In fairness this may have been because I've gone to preview night on both occasions and the audio levels will probably even out by the time opening night rolls around.

Other than that the show was very good. I genuinely didn't expect to enjoy Annie but I'm happy to report that any fears I might have had about the show being too schmaltzy were totally unfounded. I've once again had my preconceived ideas shattered by a professional and enjoyable production. I really should stop being so bloody wary of everything.

Annie is showing from 28th April – 3rd May 2014

Ticket Information

2 for 1 offer: Two seats for the price of one on all front stalls on Tuesday Evening
All tickets £10 for Wednesday matinee, no other concessions apply.
* Children 16 and under, Senior Citizens, Full-time Students, People with a Disability.
(ONLY VALID for Matinee performance on Saturday 3rd May and the evening performance on Tuesday 29th April)
** All performances, please ask for details when booking.

Booking Options

Alban Arena Box Office


01727 844488




Neutrality be damnedbbc 2 man united tweet

I've heard more than one angry victim describe the media as vultures who target the weak and vulnerable whenever they are in desperate need of a story.

While that is partially true I actually think they're more like sharks than vultures. Yes when they smell blood in the water they come at the victim relentlessly but what people also forget is there is more than one example of the media actually creating the context for the story.

Not only do they go after weakened targets they do on occasion actually weaken them before they have even become a target. Case in point,

Beleaguered Manchester United manager David Moyes is taking flak from all and sundry these days – even the usually neutral BBC Two.

Moyes’ endured yet another miserable afternoon yesterday as his team lost 2-0 at his former club Everton to provide more ammunition for the ‘Moyes Out’ brigade and prompt more trolling of United fans on Twitter.

And even BBC Two, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, joined in with a mischievous dig when announcing news of its snooker coverage.

Now I'm no Man United fan, trust me. As a Liverpool supporter I've suffered my fair share of gloating, vitriol and, every now and then, incredibly offensive comments aimed at Liverpool fans who stand by the families of the victims of Hillsborough from Man United supporters. And while a certain part of me is revelling in the pain some of these arrogant people are suffering the one thing that sours it for me is moments like this.

The BBC (who can be 10 times more arrogant than the worst Man U fan) shouldn't be doing this, even jokingly. I don't know if it's because they feel the need to lighten the image of BBC 2 now that BBC 3's been shit canned or whether there's someone handling the BBC 2 tweets who thinks they're the new Oscar Wilde, but this pretty much goes against they're very strict guidelines of staying neutral in all things.

Yes United have had a crap season by their own lofty standards and yes United fans in their impatience are asking for Moyes' head on a platter but that doesn't mean the BBC should join in to. Especially as the BBC are as guilty as anyone for stocking the fires of discontent amongst fans. By all means point out the mistakes someone makes, by all means analyse their tactics, but when you actively participate in a lynch mob mentality you've crossed a line that no supposedly "above it all" institution should.

You have a very clear and strict mandate, either follow it to the letter or stop making me pay for your opinions to the tune of £130 a year.

Update: Moyes has been sacked less than 12 hours after I started writing this article, If this isn't the main news story in the UK for the next 2 days I'd be very surprised.


Source: Metro

Well colour me surprisedequal-pay

Honestly, if you'd given me a typewriter and 100 days to come up with the most unexpected news stories of the year before they happened I wouldn't have ever thought of something like this.

Aliens making contacttick, People casting off the shackles of work and doing a Forrest Gump Run up and down the countrytick, Men suing a University because they aren't being paid the same as their female counterparts...never would have predicted that.

Twenty-six men working at a university in Wales are suing their employers for more than £700,000 over allegations of sex discrimination and unequal pay.

The men, caretakers and tradesman employed by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, say they have been paid less than female employees in equivalent posts for seven years.

They each argue they have been underpaid by an average of £4,000 a year since 1 August 2007 and are claiming more than £30,000 each in back payments.

In total the 26 men are demanding around £736,000 from the university, as well as future wage increases to put them in line with female colleagues on the same pay grade.

On Tuesday next week an employment tribunal hearing in Cardiff will hear claims from 19 of the men. Depending on the outcome, the other seven may then have their own hearings.

All were originally employed by Swansea Metropolitan University, which merged with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in August last year.

It's worth pointing out that these guys are represented by lawyer and professional pain in the arse Paul Doran, the guy who helped Female council workers in Birmingham win a huge payout for exactly the same thing. While it's a good thing that they managed to level the playing field the knock on effect from that victory is that Birmingham City Council is now £1 Billion in the hole, meaning they've had to make sweeping cuts to basic services which causes huge problems for everyone living in that area.

Do you think Paul Doran cares? There's a possibility he fights these cases because he feels some sort of chivalrous desire to aid discriminated people across the land, but that doesn't ring true when you think about the millions of people he's harming to help a few thousand of their neighbours. Could it be because he enjoys the money and the feeling of being feared by institutions across the UK? If I were a cynic (which, yeah, I am) I'd say that's exactly why he does it.

Good luck with your court case boys, you might think I'd be on your side but I'm really not. I'm of the school that thinks you should count yourself lucky when you have a stable job with a good pension, 6.9% of the country and even more on minimum wage/crappy pay don't have that, me included.


Source: The Guardian


The world of Tron has finally arrived!glow in the dark road lines

The people of the Netherlands are amazing for a number of reasons; they're the tallest nation on the planet, have legal pot smoking cafes and red light districts and their homeland sounds like a place out of The Lord Of The Rings books.

They also gave the world the Spyker C8, one of the coolest and most ridiculous cars of all time. Only someone stoned out of their mind/free to express themselves would create something that insane.

So, in the spirit of all that awesome stuff, let me introduce you to the latest invention from this small corner of the world that only ever seems to churn out things that make you smile:

Glow in the dark road markings have been unveiled on a 500m stretch of highway in the Netherlands.

The paint contains a "photo-luminising" powder that charges up in the daytime and slowly releases a green glow at night, doing away with the need for streetlights.

Interactive artist Daan Roosegaarde teamed up with Dutch civil engineering firm Heijmans to work on the idea.

The technology is being tested with an official launch due later this month.

It is the first time "glowing lines" technology has been piloted on the road and can be seen on the N329 in Oss, approximately 100km south east of Amsterdam.

Once the paint has absorbed daylight it can glow for up to eight hours in the dark.

Speaking to the BBC last year about his plans Mr Roosegaarde said: "The government is shutting down streetlights at night to save money, energy is becoming much more important than we could have imagined 50 years ago. This road is about safety and envisaging a more self-sustainable and more interactive world."

Right, that's it, I'm moving to the Netherlands. I know I only recently moved to St. Albans (one of the nicest places in the world) but do they have glow in the dark road markings? No! All they have is polite, happy go lucky Southerners and a city so chilled out it could be medically classed as being in a coma.

That ain't enough for me anymore, I need weird road markings, animated road surfaces, stoned tourists leering at prostitutes and tulips as far as the eye can see. Yeah it might sound like some sort of weird adventure concocted by the people who animated The Beatles' Yellow Submarine film but I want it now damn it! If wanting roads markings that look like art work created at an illegal rave is wrong then I don't want to be right.


Source: BBC


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