Monday, October 14, 2019

The Real Ale Train at The Watercress Line

Alresford, Hampshire. Saturday 21-September-2019.

The birthday treats continued with a journey aboard the RAT: the Real Ale Train on the Watercress Line. The journey begins at Alresford and shuttles back and forth to Medstead and Four Marks several times with the train swapping ends each trip.

All the stations and rolling stock are done in original, period style as are the staff (volunteers) who are clearly having a good time.

First order of the day, get a round in with our friends Gavin and Tania.

The platform at Alresford; all very "Brief Encounter".

The locomotive coming in for the first leg.

Medstead at the end of the first leg. The station master doing his best skinny "Fat Controller" impression.

Swapping ends at Medstead.

The loco in motion.

Reattaching at the other end for the first return leg.

The bar: four barrels of cask-conditioned ale. Alas I cannot tell you their names but I do remember they were all modest strength, around 3.8 ABV, suitable for full evening's drinking.

Supper was a basic selection at the station buffet back at Alresford: chicken jalfrezi, cheeseburger, chilli con carne and a couple of other choices. All clearly, freshly home made and tasty but they were ultra-restrained on the chilli powder and could have easily upped the heat to some advantage.

 An interior of one of the open carriages.

After several hours and several pints we staggered off home having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Ian McKellen On Stage at the Harold Pinter Theatre

London. Friday 20-September-2019.

A birthday treat for me was a trip to the theatre to see "Ian McKellen On Stage". It was preceded by a really excellent, pre-theatre supper at a Greek fish restaurant Estiatorio Milos, "one of the finest Mediterranean seafood restaurants in the world" [OpenTable].

"Ian McKellen On Stage" was, unsurprisingly, a one man show and it delivered exactly what you would hope and expect: a combination of speeches, recitations, reminiscences and general banter. The first half started with a reading from LOTR complete with the sword Glamdring and Gandalf's hat.

He continued with more readings and biographical reminiscences. His first job after college was at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry where, amongst other roles, he performed in Toad of Toad Hall.

The first theatre production I ever saw was that very same Toad of Toad Hall at the Belgrade Theatre. At the tender age of nine I was taken by my parents, along with my siblings, to this Christmas show. I now know that the part of Chief Weasel was played by a young Sir Ian.

The second half was based on the complete works of Shakespeare using the plays as prompts to anecdotes from his long career.

All through there were lots of jokes and laughs to be had including a slapstick Widow Twanky sketch.

Heather Neil in The I gives it 5 stars: Ian McKellen on Stage, Harold Pinter Theatre, review: crowd-pleasing entertainment of the highest calibre.
"Reviewing Ian McKellen on Stage is, in one sense, like appraising Mount Everest: he is a phenomenon. In another sense, Sir Ian is not like that at all, going out of his way to be available to the adoring patrons filling the theatre, apparently enjoying every minute of up to three hours, from a jokey Gandalf-geared beginning to shaking a collecting bucket at the door as the audience leave. Apparently indefatigable, he can even be found chatting to punters in the stalls during the interval." Full review...
As does Mark Shenton writing for The Stage:
"An unadulterated love letter to the theatre, to the actor's life and the prose and poetry that fuel both, Ian McKellen's latest one-man show is a thing of sheer joy and utter wonder: an act of selfless generosity and warmth in every regard. [...] McKellen is a consummate stage actor, able to speak directly and intimately to every single person listening to his rapt delivery of this rich language." Full review...
On the way out as Sir Ian himself was shaking the charity bucket. As I dropped in our contribution I told him that Toad of Toad Hall was the first time I ever went to the theatre. When I confirmed that it was, indeed, at the Belgrade he shook my hand and said "Good Man!" So that was nice.