Showing posts from November, 2015

The Westbury White Horse

According to my father, the first word I spoke was horse. A strange choice as I don't come from a 'horsey' family, so either I had a grasp of the English language from a very early age, or my dad was telling tales and I burbled 'dada' just like all small people! I say this, but to be fair to my dad, my earliest memories are of horses. I was obsessed with them. One of my earliest memories was being in a hospital riding on an old fashioned wooden rocking horse. My brother was ill at the time, but that is the only thing I can remember, the wooden horse! Unsurprisingly the earliest toy I can remember was a rocking horse I called Bluebell (after the donkey in Ivor the Engine) I still have her, the rockers were removed for ease of storage, but Bluebell remains in the loft, my black and white piebald pony. She taught me all that I know about horses. I wasn't allowed riding lessons as a child, lots of various reasons that I don't intend to go into, but my parents

A Victorian Gothic Revival

I love Gothicism. I grew up wanting to live on the wild Yorkshire Moors, where remote landscapes were the playgrounds of vulnerable heroines, and supernatural occurrences were hard to explain. Vampires and bats held a strange fascination, and quite frankly still do! As a young teenager my brother took me shopping for some new clothes in Manchester to a place called Affleck's Palace. This place was mesmerising and full of the most delightful vintage garments. Black silk, satin and velvet dresses, with long laced cuffs which fell over your hands, all called out to me. Not only that, but gothic architecture was beguiling, grand designs reaching to the heavens, pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, terrifying gargoyles and ornate decorative stonework. I haven't even mentioned the literature or what most people associate with the genre, music! Back in 2002 I read that the National Trust had acquired a property which really interested me! It's a four hour drive down the motorway fr

Bath (Christmas Markets, Fashion Museum & Dr Seward)

I'm not quite sure how I've ended up at the Christmas markets in Bath, I wanted to go to the ones in Vienna! Actually I do know, the times of the flights were dreadful, and the attributable costs seemed rather extreme to what would equate to 48 hours in Vienna, so having heard good reports about Bath, I found a charming and cheap cottage to rent in a nearby village! Now whilst working out an itinerary for my stay, I realised that the 2006 version of Dracula had been filmed in the surrounding area. Obviously I would need to track down these locations as they would make an interesting article for the third issue of TB Online Magazine! (Did I mention that I told Tom about the magazine and he didn't think we would have enough material to fill it?! Oh clearly he does not know about the tenacity of Burketeers!) Once I had located and photographed the area in daylight, I decided I had better check out Bath, and maybe come back later for pictures in the dark to echo one of the

A winter break near Bath (& OMG Tom gets a haircut!)

I'm currently in a place called Batheaston, and I'm writing this whilst maybe a little bit intoxicated, which is probably not a great idea, but non the less I shall plough on! I am having yet another short break, in my mind I'm carrying out research for articles relating to programmes Tom has filmed in. In reality I'm going to the Christmas markets and the Fashion Museum in Bath because I've not been down to this neck of the woods for ten years and I feel I am due a visit again! I am staying in a very cute cottage on the outskirts of Bath. It might be incredibly sad of me, but as I pulled up at the cottage I was delighted to find I'm staying next to a large. Church with an impressive graveyard. There is something about this time of year that makes a misty graveyard an incredibly interesting place to be. First things first, need to grab a few supplies, so I wandered up to the local farm shop. You can tell we are nearing Christmas as there is this intoxicati

Comic Con - Tom goes to Newcastle

I'm sure if my butterfly brain could keep a grip on reality I would come up with a better title, but I have spent the last six hours threatening to sit down and write about yesterday's events at Comic Con and I have failed. I keep getting all excited, doing a silly dance around the living room and then reading Twitter, just in case I missed some gem that Tom said which I may have missed. To be fair I did go missing for 3/4's of an hour and everything seemed to happen during that time. Polly met Tom for the first time and Sharon gave him a Scrabble mug I had designed. If I'm honest I'm glad I wasn't around for the mug unveiling, I'm great at chatting to complete strangers about their lives etc but self-promotion? No, can't do it! I would have died a death as she waved her hands in my general direction saying "Sioux made that"; thank goodness I'd gone AWOL!!! So where do I start? Well unusually for me, let's try the beginning! I was i

Macbeth (film)

I seem to be do nothing but going to the cinema. My blog has turned into a film critics ramble! I had heard that the recent film version of Macbeth was really worth watching, and I need to write a play review as Tom Burke was in a stage version of it too, so I thought, hang fire on the play review, watch the film, and then do the two reviews one after the other! Now I love the play of Macbeth, and having watched the film, I'm not sure if that has been a hindrance or not. I'm not sure whether turning Shakepeare's plays into films for the big screen always works. The first change to the script is that we are not introduced to the story by the Weird Sisters incantations, instead we see two distraught parents standing over a pyre containing the lifeless form of a small child, and then the pyre is set alight. From the beginning  we know this is going to be a very bloody film, nothing like the stage play we are used to, and this is the thing, because it is a film dramatic v

Oh, what a feeling (when you're dancing on the ceiling!) Tom & Ali Announce Newcastle Comic Con

Just heard that Tom Burke and Ali Dowling will be appearing at Newcastle Comic Con on 22/11/2015! Cue ridiculous skipping round the house in a demented fashion as I unleash the ten year old child within!!! I can't believe it, I thought seeing him in the summer was going to be it, although I did have my fingers crossed that he may attend a Carol Concert event in London in December, but this is just such an unexpected and fantastic bonus. Only thing is, it's a 200 mile journey (one way) to Newcastle, but there again it was a 200 mile journey to London so really I can't use that as an excuse, although the trip to London is quicker and I can go by train, this time I have to drive over hills and moors. On impulse I have bought a ticket and then started worrying about the practicalities and whether anyone else will be going. I know I have friends in The North who would want to go, but at such short notice and near December, they might already have other plans.  Fortunately by

Suffragette (film)

Spent this weekend catching up with a friend. We decided to while away a dark night by going for a meal followed by a trip to the cinema. We chose the film Suffragette and hoped that Hollywood hadn't changed the course of history as so can often become the case! Carey Mulligan plays the fictional role of Maud Watts, a 24 year old who has worked in the local laundry since she was a child. One day she is asked to deliver a parcel to the West End, and as she does, she is caught up with some suffragettes throwing stones at windows, one of whom (Violet) she recognises from the laundry. Leaving work a few days later, she hears the wife of a local MP encouraging the women to speak out to parliament to help secure the vote for women. Violet advises she will give a testimony to the court, however, she has been badly beaten, and it is decided she would not give the right impression if she was allowed to deliver her testimony, so Maud ends up speaking instead. Having given her testimony,

Crimson Peak (film)

This week I have written four articles for the Tom Burke Magazine, and managed to get two threads running on my blog, which is something of a miracle, because whilst I can use a computer to type, and use various work related packages, I am not a computer expert! I therefore treated myself to a sneaky rendezvous with Tom Hiddleston in an afternoon showing of Crimson Peak. I had heard it was really scary, but I am a fan of anything gothic, so it didn't worry me about going on my own. I didn't realise it would be a private viewing though, I've never had an entire cinema screen to myself before! I must say I really enjoyed the film, but I think that was because I loved the costumes and I really wanted to live in the house, (although I would have needed to get the roof fixed!!!!) As the film neared its end however, I found myself shuffling in my seat thinking, "well things are starting to get a little bit silly now!" This was a shame, because the ending seemed to be

Spectre (film)

Went to watch Spectre tonight...I can't say that I was impressed. I like Daniel Craig, I used to drink in his dad's pub in Frodsham back in the day; I met a couple of actors in there and got their autographs too! So I'm not a huge fan of his, but I like him, and if this was to be his last outing as Bond, then I wanted to come out of the film thinking he had gone out on a high note. I left feeling somewhat disappointed that it was just another formulaic Bond film. I think Sam Mendes did a great job of directing, and visually I enjoyed the film, but I think the script left something to be desired, and I honestly believe half an hour could have easily been cut from the film. It just rumbled on for too long and I could feel myself checking my watch to see how much more I had to endure. I was gripped at the start of the movie; Bond is in Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebrations. The costumes are fantastic, and it doesn't take a genius to work out that Bond is the o

The Doctor's Dilemma - George Bernard Shaw. The Royal National Theatre, July - September 2012.

This play was first staged back in 1906 and centres around Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Aden Gillett ) a doctor who discovers a cure for tuberculosis. The dilemma the title refers to, is to whom the doctor should save when he only has a limited supply of this life saving drug. Should he save the young talented artist, Louis Dubedat (Tom Burke) who happens to be the husband of the prosperous woman he is in love with; or should he save the life of his poverty stricken friend and colleague Dr Blenkinsop (Derek Hutchinson). I found reading the play to be a slow moving affair. Act 1 centres around Dr. Ridgeon's consulting-room. A myriad of doctor's arrive and depart, and the conversation is verbose and becomes increasingly difficult to remember who is who. We are informed that Sir Ridgeon can only treat ten patients. From fifty patients, he selects the ten that he believes to be the most worthy of receiving treatment. He is then approached by Jennifer Dubedat (Genevieve O'Reilly) who

Reasons to be Pretty - Neil LaBute. Staged at the Almeida Theatre, November 2011.

Before the play starts there is an introduction by the writer asking the question who invented mirrors, and why did they feel the need? Why do we need to look pretty, why can't we be happy with ourselves just the way we are? Why are we always looking to the future? Why don't we just live in the here and now and enjoy what we have? He creates a series of deep and thought provoking questions, and if we are honest, they will resonant with everyone of us. Whilst we are wanting to look pretty enough to be taken seriously, or at least not laughed at, the fundamental question is, what does it actually mean to be pretty? Greg (Tom Burke) is confronted by his girlfriend Steph (Sian Brooke) that she has heard he has told his friend he doesn't think she is beautiful, but that he wouldn't change her for the world. Greg cannot understand why Steph is so devastated and angry, he doesn't think he has done anything wrong because he loves her despite her looks. He spends the maj

Design for Living - Noel Coward. Old Vic, London September 2010.

A great romantic comedy set around three principal characters, Gilda (Lisa Dillon), Otto (Tom Burke) and Leo (Andrew Scott). Gilda is an interior designer and is in a relationship with a painter, Otto. She previously was intimate with Leo, an author, and Leo and Otto are great friends. The fourth main character  in the play is their art dealer friend, Ernest Friedman (Angus Wright). The play opens in Otto's studio in Paris. Ernest is excited because he has obtained a new Matisse painting, and he wants to show it to Otto. Gilda advises that Otto is ill in bed, Ernest asks Gilda why she hasn't married Otto, and her reply is that she whilst she loves him, she would find being legally tied to him as "repellent". Ernest updates her on the fortunes of Leo, who is apparently making a success of his life in New York, but has returned home and is staying at the very stylish The George V hotel. Whilst the conversation is in full flow, Otto enters from the street carrying a

Restoration - Rose Tremain. Salisbury Playhouse, 2009

I have not found a copy of the play version of Rose Tremain's Restoration, so instead I have read the book upon which the stage play was based. If anyone out there knows where I can obtain a copy of the play, please let me know! The novel, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, follows the voyage of Robert Merivel, as he starts his life in the court of King Charless II. Merivel was a surgical student, however the King employs him to look after his dogs! He falls from grace, and the novel follows his attempts to try to regain favour with the King. It is a journey of self-discovery for Merivel who is a simple character, easily charmed by his opulent surroundings. Merivel is materialistic and in awe of the King and deeply in love with the idea of society and status. The King believes Merivel is a half-wit that he can easily manipulate to his own purposes. This book reflects the contradictions of the time, but it also has a contemporary link with modern society and those who a

Creditors - August Strindberg. The Donmar Warehouse, London September 2008.

The play I read was a version by David Greig.  The play opens in the lounge of a seaside hotel, and the two male characters Adolph (Tom Burke) and Gustav (Owen Teale) are deep in conversation. Adolph is sculpting a statue whilst Gustav watches and passes comment. Gustav, we find, has persuaded Adolph to move from painting to sculpting, but now he is advising that sculpting might not be his genre either. We constantly hear Gustav manipulating Adolph's gullible mind, and conversation turns to Adolph's wife who has gone away for a few days. As we watch the insecurities of Adolph's mind develop, we, as an audience start questioning Gustav's motives. What is his relationship to Adolph's wife? Why is he so intent with filling Adolph's mind with such dark thoughts? Half way through the play we are introduced to Adolph's wife, Tekla (Anna Chancellor) a bright and somewhat flirtatious character. Gustav has left the stage, and so Tekla is unaware of his presence as

I'll Be the Devil - Leo Butler. Tricycle Theatre, London, February 2008

The play was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, as an answer in response to Shakespeare's The Tempest. Is a barbaric journey to 18th century Limerick, south-west Ireland, and covers two stormy nights approaching Easter. The play has a cast of twelve characters, but the from the very start we know this is not going to be an easy play to read. Dermot (Tom Burke) has been placed in standing stocks, so has an uncanny resemblance to the crucifix. He is wearing rags, caked in dried blood, and his eyes have been gouged out. A soldier from the English Army [Lt Coyle] has two illegitimate children [Dermot, and Ellen] via his Irish mistress [Maryanne]. He is due to leave for England, and this abandonment of Maryanne and her children sparks a dramatic series of events. Dermot becomes a mechanism for Maryanne to seek revenge against Lt Coyle. Dermot is caught massacring cattle which are on a farm which had belonged to Lt Coyle's Catholic brother, but had now been commande

Don Juan Comes Back From the War - Odon Von Horvath. Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Nov 2007

Don Juan (Tom Burke) is a lost wandering soul in a desolate Berlin wasteland in the aftermath of the First World War. He was an infamous libertine before the war, with a seductive tongue, surrounded by women, and fleeing from angry husbands! He doesn't try to be sexually attractive, it just happens, women can't help but fall under his spell. He lived through the ravages of war, but now he is suffering with a weak heart, a survivor of the Spanish flu epidemic throughout the country, and still attracting the attentions of many women. After an opening scene of drunken debauchery, Don Juan suffers a heat attack, and the second scene sees our hero recuperating in hospital. Whilst two nurses discuss his infamous history, a woman sneaks into his cubicle and stabs him. Whilst the wound is not a mortal strike, it allows Don Juan to become reflective, to realise that he is now old, mortal, not the young buck he was before the war. He had been hospitalised once before, when a jealous

Glass Eels - Nell Leyshon. Hampstead Theatre, June/July 2007

The play is set in Somerset during a hot August, focusing on the sexual awakening of a young woman brought up in an all male household and the loss of the rural way of life/eel fishing. The central character is Lily (Laura Elphinstone) a 16 year old emotionally fragile girl, battling with her emotions as she comes of age. Her mother drowned when Lily was a child in the river near her home where the eels swim free. She still mourns the death of her mother, and keeps one of her dresses hidden under her bed. Her father finds it difficult to speak to Lily about anything, but especially the death of her mother. Lily finds she can only relate to Kenneth (Tom Burke) a man old enough to be her father, and a family friend who has known her all her life. Lily's mother died when she was child, Kenneth's father died when he was a child. Lily's father is the undertaker, taking on the role of his father before him. Lily is treated as a skivvy, running around after her father, and her

Scenes From an Execution - Howard Barker. Hackney Empire, 2006

This play is set in 16th Century Venice, so for me, I'm already intrigued as I have a prior interest in the history of the Doge and his palace. Galactia, a female painter, is commissioned to paint the Battle of Lepanto. The Doge wished this to be a celebratory canvas of the triumphant victory of the Holy League Alliance, however, as Galactia paints, she is determined that she will stay true to herself and instead depicts a scene of the atrocities of war. She depicts blood and guts and the suffering of the soldiers, which is an embarrassment to The Doge. In real life, The Battle of Lepanto was a horrific battle, and the last major naval battle to be fought entirely by galleys in the Mediterranean. A Venetian colony at Famagusta in Cyprus had been besieged by the Turks, following the fall of Nicosia. The Venetians had surrendered, having been told they could leave Cyprus, however, the Ottoman Commander reneged, imprisoned the Venetians, and beheaded the Venetian commanders. A fle

The Cut - Mark Ravenhill. Donmar Warehouse, London, February 2006

I have to be honest, I have read The Cut twice and I don't really understand it. The play is ambiguous in tone, but it is this ambiguity that causes frustration. It is as though Mark Ravenhill had an idea, but was not able to fully understand where he was going with his thoughts. The play has the bones of something deep and controversial, but it needs some sort of padding out. I felt like it was a wire frame and clay had been added, but no defining features had been carved or moulded into it! The Cut centres around Paul (Sir Ian McKellen), a government official who administers "The Cut" to usually sick people. He is unnerved by the entrance of John, a man who desires to have "The Cut" because he think it will offer him freedom. It is obvious that the outside world believes The Cut will offer some sort of salvation, that it has some merit or virtue in being performed. Paul starts to crack under the strain of his job, and shows that he is tortured by what he has

Incarcerator - Torben Betts. Old Red Lion Theatre, 2005

I wasn't sure what to expect from this play, it opens with a prison officer delivering a monologue about the perplexities that may befall the inmates mind. The play then moves to the first scene where we see a man getting ready to be married. The tone of the play has changed as it is written in rhyming couplets which makes it fast paced, quick, slick, witty. As we go through  the play, we find that it is largely written in these rhyming couplets, and Betts' ability to play with language shines through. The play is akin to Jacobean drama, gone is the romantic love of a Shakespeare play, and instead the rhyming verses are concentrating on the moral corruption of a modern society. It is a modern day darkly domestic tragedy which exposes the complications of wealth, debt and greed; love, sex and adultery. It is often pessimistic in its tone and attitude towards people. The play focuses on six characters, each person given both a name, and a description. The Incarcerator [CHOR