SEARCH
Syal's George Survives WOS Post-S...
BLOGS
Carrie On... She's Back!

Singalong in Halifax

By • West End
I still can't quite believe this happened. On Saturday night I found myself at a Mamma Mia! movie singalong in Halifax Golf Club, joining in with the locals on all the Abba tunes while enjoying their 1970s costumes and a hot buffet of chicken kebabs and moussaka.

It's a real mess, the movie, isn't it, but an enjoyable one, and I still cherish the sight of Meryl Streep singing her heart out on a rock to Piers Brosnan wearing the look of a man who's suddenly remembered he's not wearing socks.

I hadn't seen the film since a press screening before the general release, and I hadn't seen the show since the first night at the Prince Edward. It's great that it's given so much pleasure to so many people, and will continue to do so.

But that's it for me. I'm packing away my flares and spangly waistcoat before I find myself not much liking the music any more. It's one of writer Catherine Johnson's and director Phyllida Lloyd's greatest achievements that they manage to make the ghastly, meaningless Abba lyrics mean something, though I'm not sure what exactly. And I'll watch Meryl Streep in anything. But enough is enough already.

The best part of my evening was talking over the afternoon's game at the Shay with one of Halifax Town's former players, Johnny Cocker. He'd been more impressed by the newly resurgent FC Halifax Town's 2-1 win over Eastwood than I was. But a win is a win and it's not impossible that Town may build on the last two seasons' back to back promotions and claw their way back into the Conference.

They were unceremoniousloy ejected from the Conference four years ago when the club went into liquidation. But new ownership and canny management have seen them climb steadily back up the lower league tree.

Johnny Cocker played left half for the club  -- he was also an English water polo international -- in the early 1960s in the old Third Division North, subsequently the Fourth Division. The pitch was shared with the reserves and the juniors and was often a quagmire.

Today's Shay pitch is superb, and the new stadium, which is shared with the rugby league club, on the verge of becoming a very impressive, well equipped 10,000-seater venue. 
 
For most of the other clubs around them, coming to Halifax is the highlight of the season, their day at Wembley so to speak. And it was good to see the players trying to play football all the way through on a greasy surface and using the wide open spaces to good effect.

Many of my friends in the town had seen Blake Morrison's re-write of Three Sisters for Northern Broadsides at the Viaduct, and much enjoyed it. And soon they will be able to go to the cinema again -- all the old cinemas were turned into bingo halls, then night clubs -- as a hideous new complex rises in front of the town hall; this monstrosity will house not only a cinema but countless new shops and restaurants. One wonders who will go to them; shops and restuarants are closing by the day all over the place.

We drove back down the M1 yesterday morning and I went straight to the BBC to discuss marathon theatre performances with Mark Lawson for Thursday night's Front Row on Radio 4. This is pegged to Friday night's 24-hour performance of the King James Bible show, Sixty-Six Books, at the new Bush Theatre.

It suddenly struck me as I left Portland Place en route to the terrific new early-days Beatles show, Backbeat, that even quite normal length plays are now regarded as marathons. "Oh, it's very long, darling," warned Penny Horner at the Jermyn Street Theatre before Charles Morgan's The River Line; but it's only an ordinary three act play, with an interval, running just two hours and forty minutes.

Ninety minutes, no interval, is the norm these days, alas, and while some short plays are very good, it takes revivals of The River Line and the other notable three-act play in town, The Killing of Sister George -- both, incidentally play their first two acts without an interval -- to remind us that good writing needs time in which to expand (unless you are Beckett or Pinter) and that audiences need intervals to make the show an occasion and to bond with each other in a meaningful way.

Incidentally, I turned up at the Arts last Friday night to be greeted, rather rudely I thought, by the playwright Stewart Permutt demanding to know what I was doing there.

"Good question," I muttered, slightly thrown, "I suppose I'm reviewing the play." "But it's Kol Nidre," exclaimed Stewart, "the biggest night of the year, and you should be at home fasting." "Good point, but I'm not even Jewish."

Stewart was completely flummoxed. "I was sure you were Jewish. You look Jewish and you write Jewish." "Thanks for the compliment, but I'm not even half Jewish. If anything, I'm Irish."

Then of course I turned the tables and asked him what he thought he was doing coming out on this particular night. No answer came the stern reply, and he giggled a bit and returned to his drink.

Many years ago, the producer David Land hugged me, for some reason, at a press reception. "How can you hug a critic?" asked an aghast Robert Fox. "Oh, it's all right," said Land, "he's nearly Jewish."

This was the same David Land who first put Tim Rice in a room with Andrew Lloyd Webber and formed a sub-divisional company called Hope and Glory so that he could answer the phone with the line, "Land of Hope and Glory."


comments powered by Disqus

By providing information about entertainment and cultural events on this site, WhatsOnStage.com shall not be deemed to endorse,
recommend, approve and/or guarantee such events, or any facts, views, advice and/or information contained therein.

©1999-2014 WhatsOnStage.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use & Privacy Policy