A heady mix of gladiatorial passion and throbbing football was the order of the day with Tamworth downing high-flying Salford City 2-0 at the Lamb Stadium. Salford City had risen phoenix-like in recent years with the unparalleled wisdom and experience of Manchester United’s former poster boys investing in the club. Unphoenix-like but very in tune with the death throes of a stricken grouse on the Glorious Twelfth, Tamworth’s talons were unsheathed and, with little regard for mixed metaphors, felled the northern giants.
But enough of that.
The avian theme continued, however, with our annual pilgrimage to the Forest of Dean with the West Midland Bird Club.
To notch up Hawfinch, Goshawk and Great Grey Shrike before the day was done is always mightily pleasing. Added for extra vim, in the skies above the New Fairy Viewpoint, were a Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Buzzards and Raven.
Also warming up nicely along the viewpoint was a couple of Common Lizards, either very confiding or just too cold to move.
To complement, here’s a lizardy cartoon from the crow Collection:
Its impossible not to enjoy a day out in the spring forest regardless of what may or may not be seen but there’s always something to gladden the eye. The Hawfinches were spied along the treetops at Parkend; the over-wintering shrike (there’s always one) put on an inhibited showing at Crabtree Hill and goshawks plied their distant aerial acrobatics at New Fancy.
The Commitments was on at the Alexandra Theatre, and we squeezed into the restricted leg-room seats to enjoy a hugely entertaining production based on the successful film, which was based on the successful book by Roddy Doyle, which was adapted for the stage, which whatever…
Apart from the usual grumpy tirade about having to pay outrageous extra ticket fees on top of ticket prices and then getting hit by a stealthy transaction fee (for what? For why? For Goodness Sake!) it was surprising not to be subsequently charged an entrance fee at the door and a completion charge to exit at the end of the show!
Tirade over. It was a great show, as summed up by this review by Diana Davies of the Express and Star:
The Commitments, New Alexandra Theatre – review and pictures
These are things we learnt whilst watching The Commitments stage show last night.
Soul is politics, soul is the rhythm of the working people, soul is sex and sex is soul.
Well if soul is sex then I am certainly in need of a rest and a cigarette after watching that performance at the New Alexandra Theatre. That much soul can wear a girl out!
Watching this production of The Commitments is like your best night out with your craziest friends – or family!
Set in Dublin in 1986, young music lover Jimmy decides to form the ‘world’s hardest working band’ to bring soul to the people of Ireland and sets about recruiting band members.
What follows is a cacophony of people shouting and occasionally fighting, oodles of laughs and some fantastic classic soul tunes.
Andrew Linnie who delivers a solid performance as the ambitious young entrepreneur plays Jimmy but he is ultimately the ‘straight man’ to the many colourful characters in the band and the production.
The strangely charismatic, ageing musician Joey ‘The Lips’ who claims to have a musical CV to die for, is back in Dublin to spread the word and love of God – though he spreads the love a little too freely with the girl singers in the band.
The base but annoyingly-talented singer Deco is played by Brian Gilligan. If soul is sex then the velvety smooth seductive voice of Gilligan is the aphrodisiac. His performances of It’s a Thin Line Between Love & Hate and also Try a Little Tenderness send a tingle down the spine that sinks down to your very toenails.
And his irrepressible energy in such upbeat numbers as Proud Mary, Mustang Sally and Papa Was a Rolling Stone is stubbornly infectious.
Sadly Deco is an aphrodisiac that works only if you close your eyes, as the character’s personal habits are as detestable as his arrogance and vanity.
Kevin Kennedy – who for most of Britain will only ever be Curly Watts – brings a lot of laughs as Jimmy’s ‘Da’ despite a dodgy accent, while my favourite character was Mickah, played by Sam Fordham, as the excitable and somewhat menacing ‘security’ man.
The trio of backing singers are played by Amy Penston, Leah Penston and Christina Tedders who, as well as demonstrating some incredible vocals, play interesting, individual characters who have their own influence on the dynamics of the band.
It came as no surprise to see everyone on their feet at the end of the show singing and clapping along – we had been fighting the urge from the start of the show.
Bonus clip: here’s a little taster of the gang from their Dublin show on YouTube:
This month’s Flat Disc Society film, La Strada, is also doing the rounds at the Birmingham Rep this year. So this is the Rep’s own take on it, which, as usual, saves me a job:
Frederico Fellini’s Oscar-winning La Strada is one of the all-time masterpieces of world cinema.
La Strada ‘The Road’, a metaphor for life, is a deeply impassioned tale of love and loss. A journey into the heart of the Italian countryside where Gelsomina, full of the innocent spirit of youth, is bought by Zampano, a travelling street performer, to join his ‘strong man’ act. When the mismatched pair stumble across a ragtag circus and a daredevil tight-rope walker, Gelsomina finds herself caught between the two men, not knowing which way to turn…
Before the main feature, we were treated to a short film, The Vagabond, featuring Smethwick’s very own Charlie Chaplin!
Here’s some pertinent – and handy – photos from the Birmingham Mail website:
It was not too far a venture this month for our monthly walk as we nipped over the border to Warwickshire and stretched our legs around the Studley area.
Here’s Stuart with the particulars:
Map: Explorer 220
Parking: Sports Centre car park, off Pool Road, Studley. Free parking and there are “award winning” toilets a short distance on at start of walk.
Grid reference: SP070636
Post code for satnav: B80 7QU
I haven’t pre-walked the route yet but my route will be roughly south towards Coughton and then north west to Sambourne for lunch at The Green Dragon pub. An excellent pub, which serves well-kept Hobsons and Purity beers.
After lunch it’s east and then north to follow River Arrow back to Studley.
It was a nice, flat walk – none of that hilly nonsense. The Green Dragon pub was interesting in that it was a regular haunt for Brummie comedy actor Tony Hancock – his Mom having been the licensee for a few years.
Once more, I have plundered YouTube for this clip of Hancock delivering one of his more memorable skits: The Blood Donor bit:
Managed to catch the last weekend of the Francis Bacon exhibition – or rather last chance to see his painting, Two Figures in a Room, at the splendid Barber Institute. The painting was on loan from the University of East Anglia, and is the first ever to go on display at the Barber. Here’s the painting and the blurb from the Barber website:
This disquieting image from Bacon’s middle years features two naked figures, usually interpreted as male lovers, and was daring and provocative at the time of its creation, when homosexual acts in private between men were still illegal in the UK. Works by Matisse, Degas and Michelangelo have been suggested as sources for the two figures – and its display among the old master paintings of the permanent collection simultaneously suggests the debt and influence of historic art on modern painters.