Shakespeare 400 & Southampton

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Minature of Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton
Miniature of Henry Wriothesley 3rd Earl of Southampton

 

I love Shakespeare. Throughout the year Britain is celebrating Shakespeare 400.

Shakespeare died on his birthday, 23rd April 400 years ago. This is also St George’s Day (patron Saint of England). So this weekend there are special celebrations throughout the regions. I am going to many and thought I would highlight Shakespeare and his Southampton connections:

The Earl of Southampton

Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton was Shakespeare’s patron, especially during the era of The Globe theatre. Shakespeare made such a devoted dedication in his sonnet The Rape of Lucrece to Wriothesley, that many thought that there may have been a sexual relationship between the two, though I like others feel that is was just the language of the day.

Tudor Merchants Hall, which was once The Bull's Head. Although Shakespeare's patron The Earl of Southampton, had his seat outside the town, in Titchfield, he attended state functions in the town and is said to have drank here with some of the touring actors.
Tudor Merchants Hall, which was once The Bull’s Head. Although Shakespeare’s patron The Earl of Southampton, had his seat outside the town, in Titchfield, he attended state functions in the town and is said to have frequented this lodging house with touring actors.

Red Lion 1The Earl’s country seat was outside of the town of Southampton, but still in Hampshire, in Titchfield. Although his wife lived there, Henry Wriothesley spent much of his time in London, as did Shakespeare.

The Earl is also believed to have frequented or owned a pub in Southampton’s City Centre where travelling actors lodged. Some say this was The Bull’s Head (now referred to as The Tudor Merchant’s House); others say it was The Red Lion Inn. It was a council chamber where the trial of traitors from The Southampton Plot took place before it became an inn. In Henry V Act II, scene II, Shakespeare has the king sentence the plotters in the Southampton council chamber, then immediately set sail from the port of Southampton for Agincourt. Shakespeare must have listened to the Earl mention the Red Lion or some believe that Shakespeare may have had a drink there himself.

Southampton’s Bargate

Southampton Bargate front view.
Southampton Bargate
Bargate touring strollers area
Bargate touring strollers area

Shakespearean actors have performed at the Bargate and in theatres around the town since Elizabethan times, including Shakespeare’s own touring actors. Every British monarch has passed through this Bargate on their way to Southampton’s Port. Hangings once took place at the Bargate and according to legend The Southampton Plot traitors, that were written about in Henry V Act II, scene II, were hanged here.

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Westgate, where Henry V troops left for Southampton's Port to the Battle of Agincourt
Westgate, where Henry V troops left for Southampton’s Port to the Battle of Agincourt

 

Southampton’s West Gate and Port

The soldiers who boarded ships at Southampton for the D-Day invasion, took inspiration from Shakespeare’s Henry V. Some of Henry V troops passed through Southampton’s West Gate to set sail from Southampton to the Battle of Agincourt.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; 

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

Daring Theatre in Southampton

Ira Aldridge, the first black world famous Shakespearean actor performed in Southampton
Ira Aldridge, the first black world famous Shakespearean actor performed in Southampton

Southampton has a long reputation for modern or innovative theatre, Ira Aldridge is recorded as the first black Shakespearean actor. He had a limited experience of acting when he arrived from New York by ship, on which he worked as crew, in 1824. But following drama lessons and a stint at a University in Scotland, he became one of the highest paid stage actors in the world.

Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth
Sarah Siddons as Lady Macbeth

Ira was especially loved here in the South. He performed on stage in Southampton in the title role of Shakespeare’s Othello in 1828.

Many actresses, such as Sarah Siddons (she frequently visited Southampton and there is a theatre group named after her here: http://www.sarahsiddonsfanclub.org ) and sisters Charlotte and Susan Cushman have said to have performed Shakespearean roles in Southampton in the late 1800s. Women were considered too titillating to be allowed to perform Shakespeare at London theatres at that time and certainly would not have been allowed male roles.

The Cushman sisters, Charlotte and Susan, as Romeo and Juliet in 1846
The Cushman sisters, Charlotte and Susan, as Romeo and Juliet in 1846

Quotes used are from Henry V Act III Scene 1 (Before Harfleur)

Further links: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2NKzPstNLT9cvcYMj9qdtT3/shakespeare-and-hampshire-where-his-footprints-are-lost-in-time

 

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Camden Lock: When is Dinnertime?

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P1110321P1110313P1110314Camden Lock’s ‘Global Kitchen’ in London is a great place to go for dinner* or lunch. The market stalls have a plethora or fresh dishes cooked by various nationalities that go to make up London (observed by strict food health regulations). Choose your fare and eat at communal tables under the canopy or by the river. Open 7 days from 10am to 6pm. www.camdenlockmarket.com

 

*When is dinnertime in Britain?  This it depends on which Class you are from.

The upper-classes, including those at private boarding schools have dinner around 8pm and dress up (you’ve seen Downton Abbey?) The day’s feasting order is:  breakfast – morning coffee – lunch – afternoon tea (or tiffin for those returned from the Continent) – dinner.

But for the working classes: including state school children, dinnertime falls somewhere between 12 noon and 2pm. These hours were settled during the Industrial Revolution in the Victorian era. Factory workers would go home for an hour’s dinnertime when the bell rang and be re-fuelled on a big meal for manual labour, served up by a mother or daughter who remained at home slaving over a hot stove. Order: Breakfast – tea break (at work) – dinner – tea (high tea which includes food) – (+ supper for those in heavy manual trades). There were usually stalls selling beer at the end of a shift at the factory gates.

Theatre performers and crew traditionally have their dinnertime in the middle of the day also, so that they fully charged for rushing about the stage in the evening.

For the last few decades however, industries and schools have tried to standardise the hour’s break as ‘lunchtime’. However this is still confusing when for many children of working parents, this may still be their main meal of the day.

This post is part of the WordPress Photo Challenge: Dinnertime. To see others or take part yourself visit: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/dinnertime

Our Southampton Theatre

Mayflower theatre

We are so fortunate to have such a good theatre in Southampton.

Matthew Bourne's ballet Sleeping Beauty
Matthew Bourne’s ballet Sleeping Beauty

Last night I experienced Matthew Bourne‘s interpretation of Tchaikovsky‘s Sleeping Beauty at The Mayflower, in awe and escapist wonder. Life-like puppet babies and swirling punk Valkyries from a touring troupe, filled dark gothic and Nordic-light stage sets. Amazing!

Billed as a gothic romance and choreographed in 2011, this was created at the Twilight years of new-goth interest in vampires, werewolves and Brothers Grimm. I shall write more about this revolutionary choreographer on my other Art So Provident WordPress blog at some point, but I just want to sing the praises of The Mayflower Theatre for pleasing most of the people, most of the time. There are more theatres in Southampton, but The Mayflower is exceptional.

Publicity for WarHorse outside Southampton's Bargate. © Mayflower Theatre
Publicity for WarHorse outside Southampton’s Bargate. © Mayflower Theatre

Je Suis Cecil!

“One of the largest and best loved theatres in the UK with over 2,300 seats. It presents a mixture of spectacular touring musicals – many direct from the West End – dance, opera, drama and ballet through to comedy and pantomime. The theatre has a rich history and is loved by South Coast communities, providing an historic landmark in the city. The programme of productions and events is jam packed all through the year and it boasts sell out performances  regularly.” – A quote from Thomas Miller, whose creative company rebranded the Mayflower Theatre in 2013.

More traditional colours when it was The Gaumont Theatre
More traditional colours when it was The Gaumont Theatre
These days The Mayflower Theatre is painted in clashing colours.
These days The Mayflower Theatre is painted in clashing colours.
Queuing for cinema tickets when it was known as The Empire Theatre
Queuing for tickets when it was known as The Empire

It was first opened in 1928 as The Empire. With the popularity of ‘talkies’ this architectural wonder, became more used as a cinema by 1942 when it was under the helm of the Gaumont Picture Corporation.

Its Gaumont years, when it was taken over by The Rank Organisation (1950-1986) is when I remember the theatre most. It was still mainly a cinema then (three films were shown continually on Saturdays throughout the day) but also used for plays, musicals and concerts. Everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Beatles have performed here alongside local operetta and national opera societies.

The Beatles sat in the stalls of The Gaumont. Big names from Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Led Zeplin all performed here. Top performers were always staged here.
The Beatles sat in the stalls of The Gaumont. Big names from Buddy Holly, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Beach Boys all performed here. Top acts performed here regularly.
Ticket for punk band Siouxie and the Banshees 1982).
Ticket for punk band Siouxie and the Banshees, 1982.

 

 

 

I play Nurse advising Juliet. Photo taken from the wings of the Gaumont Theatre Southampton during a performance of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'
I play Nurse advising Juliet. Photo taken from the wings of the Gaumont Theatre Southampton during a performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local societies used the theatre too. At the age of 15 years, I played the go-between role as Nurse to Juliet in Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet. The Mayor of Southampton came to see our Deanery School production at the smaller Nuffield Theatre and thought it was so professional that he organised a restaging of it at The Gaumont. It was sold-out on each of the three performances.

There were two applications to turn the theatre into a bingo hall; one in 1970 and another in 1983. The public objected strongly and there were physical protests at both attempts.

The theatre was reopened in 1987 as The Mayflower. It is now run by an independent trust as a national touring house.

Many talented locals, including children, rehearse as chorus roles to the main touring acts.

The theatre is reportedly haunted by the ghost of an old man who has been seen sitting backstage in a wicker chair.

To read more about its heritage or to book shows visit: https://www.mayflower.org.uk/About_Us/Heritage

Pixie Lott / Mayflower billboard © Southampton Old Lady
Pixie Lott / Mayflower billboard © Southampton Old Lady

 

 

Amazing People Nº4: Julia Hilling (1925-ish – 2015)

Julia Hilling, one of my most charming friends died last August.

Her stage name was Julia Bretton. She began her career at the age of 17 as a Windmill Girl at London’s Windmill Theatre.

The Windmill was known worldwide as the theatre that “never closed” or should that be “never clothed”?  Scantily-clad beauties performed in this basement theatre throughout WWII to keep up the morale of allies and locals alike. It was seen as an important beacon to keep spirits alight during a frightening time and always remained open while bombs dropped.

It was the subject of the award winning film “Mrs Henderson Presents” starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, and is currently being staged as a musical at the Nöel Coward Theatre in London’s West End.

Promotional photo for "Mrs Henderson Presents" at the Noel Coward Theatre, London
Promotional photo for “Mrs Henderson Presents” at the Noel Coward Theatre, London

julia windmill

Julia explained to me how, with the other ‘girls’ she slept at the theatre in their dressing room while performing in revues alongside people like Sir Bruce Forsyth. “We were well looked after and any men backstage behaved very gentlemanly”.

As well as starring in other staged musicals as Julia Bretton, she had minor roles in films (talkies) in the1940s.

She outlived five husbands – all of whom were, “absolutely wonderful! – “I loved them all!”  One of whom is buried in a cemetery in the New Forest, Hampshire, but she could never remember whether it was in Lymington or Lyndhurst.

Julia 4I first met her when I called auditions in the mid-90s. She had retired to live in Spain and I was directing The Sleeping Beauty, a pantomime I had drafted for the Salon Variétes theatre in Fuengirola. Julia was having problems remembering lines and moving around the stage by that time, but she had such audience charisma and was so regal that I gave her the part as the Queen, sat her on a throne and taped her lines to props. She was marvellous and even brought her own little Spanish hairdresser to tidy up her locks while she was off-stage.

Although much older than me, we remained friends as we both had a love of opera and Cole Porter. She did a wonderful rendition of “Mad About the Boy” and she belly-danced at my 50th birthday party. When theatre crowds are renowned to be bitchy, no-one I know has ever heard Julia utter a bad word about anyone.

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In 2005 she, along with other colleagues on the Costa del Sol, was sold a dodgy, equity-release investment package by fraudulent financial advisors. After handing over the deeds to her home in return for living expenses until death, she was only given living expenses by the Rothschild bank for the first two years, then was expected to hand over her apartment. She took all this in her stride and refused to move.

This enigmatic woman deserves to be on the amazing-people-I-have-known list. She had charm, class and even well into her 80s, had sex-appeal.

 

Julia talking to Sid at the Manilla Bar, Costa del Sol 2014
Julia talking to Sid at the Manilla Bar, Costa del Sol 2014

Before I left to return to England she started dating another ‘amazing’ friend of mine called Sid – a famous Talk of the Town pianist who accompanied 1960s divas from Shirley Bassey to Julie Andrews.

Julia had a big sexual appetite apparently, and despite both being in their 80s then, Sid complained about the amount of viagra he was having to take to keep up. Sadly he also died. So she outlived him too.

My biggest memory is bumping into her in a Lidl supermarket one morning. She was wafting around with a trolley, just after opening time, wearing a cocktail dress and full make-up including false eyelashes. “Julia! Look at you –  always so glamorous”  I remarked.

“Oh! I haven’t been home yet, Darling!” She explained: “I’ve been to a party. It lasted all night!”

RIP Julia. Life is a cabaret old chum!

“Time, Gentleman Please!”

The Bent Brief
The Bent Brief closed in early 2015

In response to The Daily Post Photo Challenge: TIME and Pub No 3 in my series

TIME has been called on this popular Southampton pub that had a great reputation for live music. From opera to jazz, it offered a broad range of sounds. One of the pub’s former regulars was blues musician Gordon Haskell.

The highlight of the festive season was their annual pantomime – political satires written by Dr Julie Campbell who lectured at the University of Southampton; performed by students and locals together under the name of the £40 Theatre Company.

The Bent Brief‘s name was coined in competition with another pub further along Lodge Road: The Honest Lawyer (which I posted on the Photo Challenge: Change http://wp.me/p6jveM-gU ). This was due to the number of law firms that used to operate in the area in 1878. My father had been a local and met up with friends in both pubs.

To enter or see others: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/time/

Netflix – The Crown

the-crown-netflixStreets are being blown up in Winchester today – not far from my city in Hampshire, as part of Netlflix/Sony filming a big-budget historical drama series called The Crown.

College Street and Kingsgate Street have all been cordoned off  except for actors costumed in 40s attire, and rubble has been placed outside The Wykeham Arms pub for the re-enactment of World War II scenes.

The Wykeham Arms

The Wykeham Pub and Cornflowers on College Street, Winchester
The Wykeham Pub and Cornflowers on College Street, Winchester

www.dailyecho.co.uk/photographs/news_galleries/2016/january/the_crown_in_winchester

I expect that Hampshire Council will well-paid for this inconvenience – at £100 million, the filming budget is said to be the most expensive television show ever produced in Britain.

My family and friends have travelled to various parts of Britain to work as extras since filming commenced last October. Despite having signed secrecy contracts, the scenes at weddings, funerals and stately homes are all over the internet. Netflix have also released a trailor on YouTube: https://youtu.be/n8Q0bJ_zO7w  More stills appear on https://youtu.be/P8fodkCDKLQ

The first two of an eventual series of six, concentrate on the Queen’s early years, her marriage to Prince Phillip, the death of King George IV, her Coronation and the Blitz. These are expected to be released all in one go this Autumn, after the last series of Downton Abbey has been aired in USA and Canada.

If the Netflix binge-watch is financially successful (and these sort of dramas have world-wide appeal) the next two series will be filmed.

The Crown’s creator is Peter Morgan (of award-winning films The Queen and Frost/Nixon). It stars Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn in the Wolf Hall series) as Princess Elizabeth, Matt Smith (Dr Who) as Prince Phillip and American actor John Lithgow as a very convincing Churchill.

UPDATE 4th NOVEMBER 2016 – The first 10 of the series is being released on Netflix tonight.

Amazing People 5: David Bowie

Everyone seems to be writing obituaries to David Bowie who, sadly, died yesterday, so I will try not to repeat anything from those. I just want to give thanks for the profound influence he had on my life. He gave me belief in myself.

Bowie with the Buzz at Southampton Pier
Bowie with the Buzz on Southampton Pier

I first heard of him around 1965 when David Bowie and the Buzz performed in Southampton. Everyone thought that this androgynous bloke who dressed a bit different was enigmatic. He had one of those distinctive voices too whereby you could still hear his London accent even though he was singing a range of things. In 1969 Bowie wrote Space Oddity in time for the first man on the moon – it had got on Top of the Pops by  1970 and at this time he was wearing ‘really weird clothes’.

I had been brought up in second-hand clothes and had always felt an outsider because of it, so I created my own style. Bowie not only made me feel okay, he made me feel cool. Suddenly I was an ‘it girl’. In the early 70s he was due to back Lou Reed on his Transformer tour at Southampton Guildhall.  Everyone rushed for tickets – mainly to see David Bowie, but I couldn’t get hold of one. I waited outside the Civic Centre and just begged others to sell me their ticket. As one woman had only really wanted to see Lou Reed, she agreed to come out for five minutes and lend me her ticket for one song if I bought her a pack of cigarettes, around 5/- or there-abouts (25p in the new decimal currency).

Bowie was dressed so theatrically – I vowed then to always do the same. The song I listened to?  Life on Mars – which I adopted as if it had been written for me.

life on Mars

Bowie onboard the QE2 Southampton during his Ziggy Stardust tour
Bowie onboard the QE2 Southampton during his Ziggy Stardust tour

It’s a God awful small affair
To the girl with the mousey hair,
But her mummy is yelling, “No!”
And her daddy has told her to go,
But her friend is no where to be seen.
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seats with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen,
But the film is saddenin’ bore
For she’s lived it ten times or more.
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

Sailors
Fighting in the dance hall.
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go.
It’s the freakiest show.
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy.
Oh man!
Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best-selling show.
Is there Life On Mars? 

Later in the early 80s a band consisting of four blokes from Winchester, named 4 People I Have Known, asked me to write them a song. Heavily influenced by Life on Mars, I wrote a song along the lines of:

PERMISSIVE SOCIETY

Just finished with my girl
and I’m feelin’ pretty mean
Went down into town
to watch the silver screen
but its dogs eating children
(can’t remember this bit)
so I pick up someone new and leave
Permissive society, such variety
Man! Is this the only way to live?  
Embarrassing now when I look back, but DJ John Peel liked it and played it his radio show.
David Bowie played at Southampton Guildhall on two or three more tours, but as an art student I couldn’t afford the rocketing prices. I did get all of his albums though and happily moved along all the trends from Glam Rock to Punk to New Romantics with all the glamour and creativity that dressing up and escaping poverty could bring.
Click on this link to hear the Southampton Ukulele Jam session of Ground Control to Major Tom at The Last Night at The Brook 
R.I.P Darkstar

Victorian Festival of Christmas 2015

Oliver characters: Mrs Bedwin, Bill Sykes with his dog Bullseye and Nancy.
Oliver characters: Mrs Bedwin, Bill Sykes with his dog Bullseye and Nancy.

I took part in The Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyard this year. If you have ever wandered why so many British actors get the best parts in Hollywood movies, then perhaps take a look at this year’s festival slide show on YouTube (by photographer Steve Spurgin)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mPDpbDtbO8

Most chimney sweeps were children.
Most chimney sweeps were children.
The prostitutes
The prostitutes
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Mr Darcy, Florence Nightingale, Prince George, Lady Pennywhistle.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Mr Darcy, Florence Nightingale, Prince George, Lady Pennywhistle.
Queen Victoria with John Brown
Queen Victoria with John Brown

With very little rehearsal, over 400 volunteers dressed in Victorian costume to bring this attraction to life, for thousands of tourists from all over the globe.

In the UK, we live and breath theatre from an early age, starting with making costumes to take part in the school’s nativity play. History is now taught by people dressing up and re-enacting the period they are learning about, be it Romans or WWII. To learn Shakespeare for exams we do not just read the play, we act it. More people belong to amateur drama groups in Britain than sports societies.

Portsmouth is the birthplace of Charles Dickens. The Historical Dockyard is where centuries-old ships, such as Nelson’s Flagship The Victory, HMS Warrior and The Mary Rose etc are moored.

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The dry dock is also where parts of Les Miserables was filmed. So all these scenes were brought to life by costumed actors, singers, school groups, historical and Victorian interest societies such as steam-punks or the Victorian Strollers.People from 5 to 80 years-of-age played famous Victorian or Dickensian characters for three full days and with very little breaks. It was in the open air while the tale-end of Hurricane Desmond was blowing a gale and in addition there were a few down-pours.

Suffragettes
Suffragettes

First visitors are greeted by carollers, then those in Victorian Uniforms, dockyard workers, stilt-walking-police, postal clerks, servicemen, sailors. Then by beggars, prostitutes and suffragettes – undertakers, a ruthless judge in a courtroom setting, prisoners, gliding angels, pearly kings & queens singing cockney musical hall ditties, workhouse children being enticed to steal by Fagin and the Artful Dodger, chimney sweeps, a green-gowned Father Christmas. There were snow machines, carousels, a Downton-Abbey type dinner table set with turkey and trimmings, various stage sets. There were three a pubs – one mock, one real with bands singing sea shanties and even an inflatable one. There was a market selling Christmas crafts and fayre from mulled cider to hog roasts.

Victorian Dinner Party
Victorian Dinner Party

I was part of Groundlings Theatre that organised around 200 of us. I played an aristocratic snob preaching Victorian manners. “It is the height of rudeness to have one’s elbows on the table.”  At the end of each sketch, Charles the Butler pushes a custard pie in my face. I endured around 40 of those!

Police with penny farthing bicycles.
Police with penny farthing bicycles.
Children learn about Victorian history by dressing up
Children learn about Victorian history by dressing up

The finale each year is a parade lead by a full pipe band in kilts and bear-skins and headed by Queen Victoria. We were not allowed to carry phones and cameras, so I could only took a few snap-shots in the Green Room. Most of these photos are from Portsmouth News.

Father Christmas at the helm.
Father Christmas at the helm.

For more info about Portsmouth Historical Dockyard visit: www.historicdockyard.co.uk

Dismaland – Reply to Banksy & Co

Sunbathing on the beach
Sunbathing on the beach
Bookshop/cafe closure notice
Bookshop/cafe closure notice

Much as I love Southampton, which has some wonderful positive things to offer cruise ship tourists (which I shall get around to writing about more – I am usually a positive person) these are some snaps from my home city in support of Banksy’s Dismaland.

All photos © Southampton old lady

If you have not heard of Dismaland then please do an image search online. This is a ‘bemusement’ park that has been opened up in South-West England, for six weeks, by a group of 59 British artists including: Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo… headed by Banksy. Actors (as disgruntled security guards and staff) and writers have also been employed (Julie Birchill re-wrote a macabre Punch & Judy script).

Homeless youth under The Bargate of Southampton's Medieval wall.
Homeless youth under The Bargate of Southampton’s Medieval wall.

The Tropicana swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, a one-time holiday-haven, has been turned into an anarchistic statement about Western capitalism – A Disneyland gone wrong.

Banksy hails from near-by Bristol. He possibly recalls as a child, summer days on the sands and pier at Weston-Super-Mare, which have deteriorated now. The type of British family that used to spend their holiday here, no longer have money for resorts. Pictures like this can be found at tourist areas throughout Europe. In London, visitors are sad not to meet people like characters from Downton Abbey.

But don’t book £3 tickets on the Dismaland website, or you will just be trolled. The project highlights the down-side of Britain emulating USA-style boom and bust financial strategies. Our boom from the 1990s sub-prime-type/hedge-funding and such, burst its bubble in 2008. Although the Government has announced that the Country is now “doing well” – giving themselves generous pay-rises; people argue that these strategies have little way of ‘trickling down’ any benefit to the common people. There is also a sense of childhood loss, a feeling of being cheated by the false promises of a fairytale with a happy ending.

Health lottery advertisement shines bright in bad weather outside Waitrose (a middle class supermarket)
Health lottery advertisement shines bright in bad weather outside Waitrose (an up-market supermarket)
The Royal Pier, which burnt down in the 1970s.
The Royal Pier in Southampton has not been repaired since it burnt down in the 1970s.
Closer view of the pier.
Closer view of the pier.
Prickly Justice
Prickly Justice
Northam Bridge Graffiti
Northam Bridge Graffiti
River Itchen cycle path - west side
River Itchen cycle path – west side
Please return your shopping trolley
Please return your shopping trolley
Riverside apartments (or they could be)
Riverside apartments (or it could be)
Site of television studios - build here please.
Brown site that used to be television studios – build homes here please.
Itchen River from Roman East site
Itchen River from Roman East-side
Council allowed 'graffiti' to encourage cycling complete with chewing gum spots.
Council allowed ‘graffiti’ to encourage cycling. Complete with chewing gum spots.
The sky line
The sky line
Memorial bench at victoria Country Park looking out on Southampton Water
Memorial bench at Royal Victoria Country Park looking out on Southampton Water
Sunbathing II at the waterfront
Sunbathing II at the waterfront
Park restrictions: Do not pass go... Different signs for English and Polish speakers.
Park restrictions: Different signs for different languages
A traditional pub closes every day.
A traditional pub closes every day.
Shirley Park Hotel - closed
Shirley Park Hotel – closed
Tanning salon at what was once the Regent Cinema
Tanning salon at what was once the Regent Cinema
Beauty Parlours in the hope of a change to feel better.
Beauty Parlours offer hope of a change to feel better. Not something I could afford or want.
Jonas Nichols Square (he gave his name to Nicholstown) in the morning.
Jonas Nichols Square (he gave his name to Nicholstown) in the morning.
Where I used to buy vegetables when Kingsland Market was closed.
Where I used to buy vegetables when Kingsland Market was closed.
off-licence in residential area
Late off-licence in residential area
Fly-tipped computer desk in green area
Fly-tipped computer desk in green area
Keep out of here. (Ministry of Defence).
Keep out of here. (Ministry of Defence).
Loose paving slabs all over the City centre - watch your step.
Loose paving slabs all over the City centre – watch your step.
Unfortunate name but yes. Isis 'gentlemans' club - in Southampton's High Street (Above Bar).
Unfortunate name but yes. Isis ‘Gentleman’s’ club – in Southampton’s High Street (Above Bar).
For Your Eyes Only - mens lap dance club on the QE2 Mile
For Your Eyes Only – another club for men (table-dancing) on the QE2 Mile
English Heritage Listed II street with Police car.
Grade II Listed street with house cordoned off for drugs bust.
Empty commerce
Empty commerce
The Cricket Pavilion
The cricket pavilion in a park where cricket is not allowed
A reminder of the Banksy murial that was removed in Southampton
A reminder of the Banksy mural’ that was removed in Southampton

You may also want to look at this YouTube video of buskers Phat Bollard performing ‘Millionaires’ in Southampton High Street (contains swearing): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhQBAu0Yypk

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/phatbollard. Downloads can be found at Bandcamp: http://phatbollard.bandcamp.com.

 

 

 

 

Review: Maxine Peake as Hamlet – Shakespeare ****

Maxine Peak as 'Hamlet' a stripped-bare version of Shakespeare's most versatile tragedy at The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
Maxine Peak as ‘Hamlet,’ a stripped-bare version of Shakespeare’s most versatile tragedy at The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Maxine Peake as ‘Hamlet, which opened at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester last year, is currently touring the UK. Cinema versions are also to tour other countries.

I watched this minimalist, cross-dressed version on television last night. When you cannot afford to go to the theatre much (and us Brits love theatre) Sky Arts is such a godsend.

"To be or not to be..."
“To be or not to be…”

Of all Shakespeare’s plays, the tragedy of this Danish Prince is the most versatile to interpret. Each actor makes Hamlet their own. Stripped to the bare-bones of any set, costumes, props and the cast playing different sexes, races, ages and sometimes more than one role, actors need to be outstandingly good to hold the audience’s attention. All were obviously cast for their amazing ability to act. Not one had help, in their resemblance nor voice, to the traditional characters often played. We had to suspend our disbelief, which could be hard work. As such, this is not one for those unfamiliar with the story.

Synopsis: After murdering his own brother, King Hamlet, the devious Claudius succeeds him to the throne and even marries his widow, Gertrude. Prince Hamlet seeks revenge and sets about to overthrow his evil uncle, which results in tragedy.

Best see Kenneth Branagh’s film version first; then read to play. This is one for Mancunians and those who have seen endless versions. On stage, Benedict Cumberbatch, June Law, Rory Kinnear, David Tennant and Michael Sheen have all played Hamlet recently to varying critical acclaims.

Peake is certainly a star – charismatic and compelling in her fast-paced, fresh and angry-youth interpretation. She is well-deserving of her BAFTA nomination. Full-figured Katie West is not your usual waif-like Ophelia but procures a sense of injustice, Barbara Marten, a little mature in years, comes across more beautiful than voluptuous as Gertude. John Schrapnel, resembling a warm patriarch figure, also had his work cut out to portray the sly Claudius and haunting ghost. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were far from dead in their portrayal by Jodie McNee and Peter Singh. Great performances all round.

4/5 from me.

For the trailer visit: https://youtu.be/q4xVwVwGvPc