Saturday, 25 October 2014

Life after school

I often find myself, as the average teacher, bemoaning the loss of life my profession brings. The heavy workload, the parents' evening, the exhaustion leads to few opportunities for culture or enjoyment. There's probably a sermon about appreciating what you have and living in the moment in there somewhere. But this isn't the post for that. This is a post of celebration and good news, not of didacticism and moralising. This week...I've had a life! (Hold the press! Front cover scoop!)

Last Saturday, I went to see a performance of Othello at the Nuffield. Admittedly, it was with students, but it was with the sort of students that you just tick off the register to say they're there and you can leave them to their own devices. The production company was called Frantic Assembly, and they try to take plays and make them modern and accessible. They mostly do this through rich, sharp, choreographed sections; grimy sets and modern music.

Steven Miller (who is of Casualty fame - if there is such a thing) played Iago brilliantly. He was sleazy and serpentine, evoking Edenic temptations. The actor who played Othello was not as nuanced, perhaps as a result of his excessively tight trousers. Overall, it was really good and the kids loved it.

Then, Tuesday evening, I went to see another theatre production: Wicked. I saw it in the Mayflower, Southampton. It's the first time I've seen it, but according to my friend who's seen it about eight times, it is a good as in the London theatres. I was also impressed by the friendliness of the staff at the Mayflower. We arrived with about a minute to go, where they greeted us at the door: "Are you Tom and Liz? We have your tickets." Then they showed us to our seats, smiling as they went. The staff at the merchandise stall were chatty and enthusiastic about the products they sold.

Ashleigh Gray as Elphaba, from the Basingstoke Gazette.

The musical itself was fantastic. The story is witty and somewhat moving, with good musical numbers and interesting characters. The lead actors, Ashleigh Gray and Emily Tierney, were amazing in their roles as Elphaba and Glinda the good. The set design was awesome. It was just really good.

Obviously, being a teacher and all, two things in one week is going to be enough. There can't be anymore, right? Wrong! On Wednesday, I went out yet again. This time it was to a pub, not the theatre. It was a friend's birthday/ get together with old PGCE buddies. We went to the Rockstone. The intention was to go to Marshal's but the oven wasn't working, so we got sent to their sister establishment with 20% off. The Rockstone is renowned for its hefty burgers and massive portions. We spoke hilarious rubbish, laughed a lot and I told my classic, grim and somewhat inappropriate anecdote (that I'm saving for my memoirs).

So that was it, surely that was enough culture and socialising for one week. That's what I thought too. But a friend was planning to see Mark Thomas with her dad. Unfortunately, her dad wasn't able to go so I was asked to go instead. 

Mark Thomas is a comedian, political activist and a domestic extremist. Apparently, he has an apron with 'domestic extremist' cross-stitched into it. The first half was his political ramblings and jokes. Highlights include his comment about the pronunciation of the name of UKIP's leader's surname and giving it a definition. The second half was the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award winning monologue, play or retelling of Mark's life as a political activist. The content ranged from exposing the illegal activities of arms dealers to tales of friendship and betrayal. It was well done, funny and poignant.

Now, that is is. I promise. Otherwise it's going to end up as a visit Southampton advert. There's only so much fun boring teachers are allowed to have.

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