I’ve stolen this from the Observer. I always like to think about what I’d choose if I were important enough to be featured. It’s been such an overcast August and I haven’t been out nearly as much as I would have liked. I’m currently under the weather and feeling sorry for myself but here are a few things I’ve enjoyed lately and perhaps you will too:
I made a trip to Chichester to see South Pacific just for fun, my first theatre outing without being on reviewing duty since things reopened. Daniel Evans’ production is ravishing and I think the score might feature the most standards of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show. The cast is aurally and visually gorgeous. The always delightful Gina Beck played Nellie Forbush while pregnant which is brilliant and Julian Ovenden is pretty damn swoonworthy as dashing Frenchman Emile de Becque. I saw Rob Houchen in The Light in the Piazza at the Royal Festival Hall pre-pandemic and while tenors don’t usually stand out to me (I’m a baritone girl), he certainly did. He’s the perfect Lt Cable. Bloody Mary will never not be problematic but Joanna Ampil must be one of the most beautiful women in the world and it’s a very different portrayal to the usual grotesque/crone (‘Happy Talk’ is very different in context). I had goosebumps from the first notes of ‘Bali Hai’ in the overture and was sobbing at the curtain call due to the brilliance of the material and the experience seeing a full-scale Golden Age musical again. I do hope there’ll be a West End transfer and cast recording. The productions runs at Chichester until 5 September (Alex Young has now taken over as Nellie) and there are a couple of opportunities left to stream it online.
Better Known, hosted by Ivan Wise, is such a simple and enjoyable idea for a podcast: the guest chooses six things that ought to be better known (and one that shouldn’t be so well known). It came to my attention when David Benedict tweeted about his episode (I suppose David and I are ‘colleagues’ since we both write for The Stage but it’s a strange relationship when you’ve never met many of your fellow contributors and they probably have no idea who you are). As per David’s choices, I’ve never seen MGM’s It’s Always Fair Weather and am looking forward to putting that right, and I’d also like to check out the writings of Betty Macdonald. I’d say that Better Known ought to be better known since it’s just the kind of thing I like, yet I hadn’t heard of it. Of course, I’m thinking about what I’d choose if I ever became well-known enough to be invited on.
I also have to recommend Nazir Azfal’s Desert Island Discs interview to anyone who might not have heard it. An amazing person who ought to be the country’s official moral compass.
It was a wonderful surprise to learn that my witterings about Gordon MacRae had been chosen by The Universal Cabinet as their blog of the week. It’s a huge boost to learn that the themes of my project are of interest to someone with no prior interest in G.Mac. This lovely blog provides ‘a daily updating of the intriguing and beautiful’ and is filled with treasures. I enjoyed the post on Abroad and I might give in and treat myself to a copy of Rose Macaulay’s Personal Pleasures.
The TV Show
I was so sorry to hear of the death of Jill Murphy. I plan to write something about Worlds Apart, her lesser-known book for slightly older children soon, but of course The Worst Witch was absolutely formative. I feel very loyal towards the ‘90s series starring Georgina Sherrington as Mildred and Kate Duchene as Miss Hardbroom (and the late, brilliant Una Stubbs as Miss Bat) but I’m finally giving the 2017 reboot a chance and am really quite enjoying it. I particularly like Jenny Richardson as Mildred’s horrid nemesis Ethel – she makes Felicity Jones’s Ethel seem quite pleasant.
I’m so not an exercise person but it really is something I need to dedicate more time to. My friend Sabrina recommended The Body Project to me. I initially wasn’t keen on the idea of a male fitness instructor but was quickly won over by Daniel Bartlett. There’s no shouting or toxic masculinity, just positivity and encouragement. I like how much he likes the word ‘magnificent’.