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The Fiona MacCarthy

What pleases and annoys

Instinctive, impulsive, and logical but always passionate and reflective of what I feel here and now.

Individual blogs are in most recent, first sequence and are also grouped in various "categories" which are just to the right & down a bit should you prefer to search that way. Please feel free to add a comment.

Blog restarted June 2018

Ballet or not

Week that was Posted on Mon, March 25, 2019 08:03:08

Ballet Boyz at Northern Stage did not have traditional ballet but I knew that in advance, as did the large and keen audience. As a dance group of nearly 20 years they specialise in contemporary ballet ie very modern. The skills were honed in the school of ballet but delivered in a very modern way.

The performance split to two dance routines was superbly crafted and delivered by a very talented cast of 6, to some excellent music. The first routine was structured around a framed cube allowing an input of gymnastic style moves to the highly synchronised routine that was continuously creative. The 2nd routine was much more sensitive reflecting emotional exchange between the dancers mainly performing as duos.

Dance and Opera North

Week that was Posted on Sun, March 17, 2019 12:19:25

Opera North visit Newcastle twice a year and in a few short
days offer an interesting, professional and downright appealing to eyes and
ears and thoughts, programme. Including dance this time was an imaginative

Last night at Theatre Royal, I thoroughly enjoyed a double

The first was a re-interpretation of the dance component of Prokofiev’s
“Rite of Spring” by Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus who reaches back into
his own cultural past including experience of vodou and then marrying that up
with Russian sentiment from 100 years ago. It was a fabulous performance by an
energetic eager and enthusiastic cast from the Phoenix Dance group wrapped around and into a tale of offerings and
possession, and ultimately finding a better place, so to speak. The discordant
(to first hearing as it does grow on one quickly) music is darn good too and
not just because it caused a near riot when first played in Paris. Live music was and is far superior to recordings. More about the show here

Attending an early show of “Rite of Spring” way back in 1913 was Puccini
whose work included a very funny comedy “Gianni Schicchi” which formed the 2nd part of the entertainment last night. He described the
Prokofiev work as being that of a madman and the music for these two shortish
shows (in one night) could not have been different. Expressions of love and
romance sung in Italian (English subtitles) sound and feel much more intense. The
combination with comedy; magical.

The previous night, I enjoyed in equal measure, Mozart’s
Magic Flute with a cast of nearly 60 plus orchestra who sang beautifully and
enchanted totally this delightful tale.

For all three shows the sets and costumes were excellent. Looking forward to their return visit and programme.

NEXT WEEK’S outings includes Ballet Boyz at Northern Stage

Miners Strike and Rebus

Week that was Posted on Sun, March 10, 2019 08:20:52

Wonderland at Northern Stage

Written by Beth Steel, a miners daughter and directed by
Adam Penford, this is spirited revisiting of what remains a dark and deep scar
in this country’s history. It still divides people at the family level and also
at the political level.

The set was excellent, the acting and singing very good and
there was plenty of historical and personal material delivered well and frequently
with dark humour to make this a very good play.

The first act shows the camaraderie of the miners from their
early training which could be 16 years of age or 14, further back in time. The importance
of burying (sic) personal differences and supporting each other in a life threatening
environment is made clear. The political build up is explained in the limited
time and whilst Scargill and Thatcher are not represented on stage, their views

The 2nd Act shows the lengthy strike started
without a ballot which I believe was an error by Scargill. I suspect he would
have won a ballot and that would have helped carry the country with him
although there is an argument that it might not. From the play and what I read
the police were misused by the government as was the media. People and children
died hardening attitudes. Benefits controlled to squeeze the miners resistance.
Ultimately the power of the Miners Union was broken, communities destroyed and
this has carried through to a very much weakened Trade union movement which has
been silent as a gig economy thrives. It also cost the government a lot more
than they saved in money terms. There was a problem wit the viability and
safety of some mines but ultimately it was a power struggle at the Top.

There was a lot presented in the 2 hours of the Play. My neighbours
in the seats included a Councillor (local government elected office) who at the
interval said that Labour Councillors she worked with were still divided (“blanked”
the other) between those who crossed the picket line and those who did not. On my
other side, two ex miners confirmed that it was a good reflection of what was

Rebus: Long Shadows at Theatre Royal the previous week was
pleasant play featuring Ron Donachie using Ian Rankin’s novel and Rona Munro as
playwright. It was for fans of Rebus a gritty aging (in this case retired) detective
in Edinburgh drawn into a prior case. Ron was very realistic in his portrayal
but there was little extra in Acting and story to appeal, only on to a fan of Rebus.

Next week Opera North are in town and am off to Magic Flute
on Friday and Rite of Spring .

Busy booking for April to June and have booked Bourne’s Swan
Lake already and busy with other plans. Good variety of show by the looks of

3 movies and a play

Week that was Posted on Mon, February 25, 2019 09:12:29

Got to see and enjoy the following Movies and a Play last week:
Green Book
If Beale Street could talk
Can you ever forgive me
Approaching empty (Play)

The first 2 of these movies approach the USA issue of race and its past handling in the “land of the free”. The country and its movie industry is still not at peace and based on the different treatment in these movies and the Oscars last night.

Green Book title name refers to a guide book of accommodation for non-whites in the deep south of USA during the early 1960’s. This movie is said to be “inspired” by fact and the clue to the amount of factual evidence lies therein. It is a sweet and pleasant tale of the interactions between a white driver with a past career as a bouncer and a black piano player who tour the South. These key parts are played very well by Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali and the movie was directed by Peter Farrelly. The interaction between the 2actors and their with the racist south plays to many stereotypes and is often funny and nearly always re-assuring that decency and humanity can win through in movies despite real life. Writing this up from my notes this morning post Oscar night, I can appreciate why it won a vote by what remains a white voting pool. my ranking 7/10

If Beale Street could talk, is a better movie, more used knuckles than soft skin in its treatment of race in the USA. Lead role by Kiki Layne and an Oscar awarded to Regina King as supporting actress playing her mother. The relationship is played between both is played out beautifully. Using a series of flashbacks the romance between Kiki and boyfriend is revealed as she tries to clear his name for a wrongful charge and conviction. Set in the 70’s (not clear from movie), it is critical of a the justice system and far from the “feelgood” of GreenBook. Directed by Barry Jenkins, the music is also very good. my ranking 8/10

Can you ever forgive me based upon factual story, traces the gradual progression a white writer played by Melissa McCarthy (no relation) into crime supported by Richard Grant. Both are excellent in their respective roles as Melissa is initially tempted by poverty (in the USA – tough on poor whites) to create short personal typed messages as might be written by a famous writer thereby becoming collectables for fans of the same writers. The purchasers eventually object and the FBI act. Directed by Marielle Heller. my ranking 7/10.

Live Theatre in Newcastle puts on some great plays. This one was directed by Pooja Ghai and written by Ishy Din. Set in a taxi office in an unnamed Northern city/town in 2013 following the death of Thatcher it looks at the interaction between a group of ordinary folk and their respective struggles to make good financially, taking a risk to garner financial security and the challenge to friendships between them. Thatchers lengthy quote of note “…. no such thing as society. people must look to themselves first…” sets an unmentioned background. The people in this play are doing that and we are frequently warned in the Play not to mix family / friendship and business. Those who follow that mantra do lose out in this Play which prompts for the listener a conversation about a better way. Play justifiably carried a warning on “strong language” which I think was overused. Lesser use can have more impact.

Erasures and Changes

Week that was Posted on Sun, February 17, 2019 07:03:04

Double bill movie time this week:
Mary Queen Scots stirred my Celtic blood and i warmed to Saoirse Ronan’s portrayal in Josie Rourke’s movie.

It is BASED upon historical facts and this alone had my racing for some checking

I liked that the gay and gender aspects are said to be close to the truth

The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth did not happen but I do like the non-arguable fact that for a period of historical time the two countries were ruled by women in a Mans world and one died peacefully (the other killed by the former). Times and life for all was rather ruthless and Im pleased life is more peaceful than as reflected and known from those times.

Movie is worthwhile seeing both in itself and as comparison with The Favourite which remains mine this year to date. My ranking is 3.5 from 5.

“Boy Erased” is based much more on the active erasure of facts of gayness in individuals and the scary fact that some 700,000 have been treated for their gayness in the USA makes this movie an important one.

Based upon a book by Garrard Conley of his personal experiences and directed by Joel Edgerton it deals with what is controversial in the USA and lunacy to most of us in that there are Centres where one can be “cured” of being gay. Rather ironic that the Centre that Conley was forced into by his parents was run by a guy called Sykes (played here by Edgerton himself) later went off and settled down with his husband. At least he found a cure.

Lucas Hedges gives a very good performance and his parents played by Nicole Kidman and Russel Crowe are both very good in the roles. Kidman delivers and impresses beautifully as she becomes aware of what is happening.

Whilst in Liverpool on a very rushed visit i was able to pop into the Tate to see
an exhibition by Fernand Leger including his abstract mechanical paintings and 2 movies which were very interesting to see and experience.
and also South Korean artists Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’s 2012 movie The end of the world- captivating. Time was short and this was close to where I was meeting for work.

Ballet, RSC and a mountain

Week that was Posted on Sun, February 10, 2019 14:09:43

End of festive season declared.
Yes, I know its over and for nearly everyone else its “long over”. However, for me the festive season of over indulgence has continued well into January when saner souls go dry vegan healthy. Not for me these silly short festivals of stomach size enhancing.

Scottish Ballet’s Cinderella at Theatre Royal the Saturday before last, was enchanting charming and delightful. The dancing magical, the sets and costumes beautiful. A special pleasure was the use of humour, slap stick style combined with the ballet. It ws a lovely opportunity to cast my mind free and let it be carried away on a vividly imaginative journey.

Alex Honnold is not a name I’ve come across before but then I’ve not been into climbing mountains without ropes nor with ropes. (acrylic nails is not the only reason). The National Geographic movie “Free Solo” is not intended just for those who want, crave, desire the challenge of life on the edge or what is for most of the time “below the edge” of the top of the mountain and well above the edge at the bottom. And no, its not a steep walking climb but a generally vertical bulging cliff scarce on foot holds. Yes, may have already guessed it was El Capitan in the Yosemite National park. The preparation in detail for the climb is not surprising and we were given a small insight into the workings of his mind literally and less so. The venue for the this movie was the homely and friendly Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay and I will be eagerly back to this venue. Sadly they dont take jam jars any more as a reduction on the admission price (Im told the custom stopped in the 1970s.)

Last night i was entertained by the magic words of a tale about 3 murders, 2 suicides and a teenage romance. Told like that, you might ask why? and there is so much more to Romeo and Juliet than a body count. The setting modern with a versatile steel cube on the stage that was part shed, verandah and general prop. Juliet and Romeo were played superbly by Karen Fishwick and Bally Gill and the production was directed by Erica Whyman. Sampson by Stevie Basaula and the Nurse by Ishia Bennison were two other roles that were also top class. The only negative was that it took my ears the first act to atune to the language of Shakespeare cos those words do not enter my ears too much.

Next saturday am off to “Approaching empty” at Live Theatre


Week that was Posted on Mon, January 14, 2019 12:51:57

Double bill Movie Sunday found me enjoying 2 excellent movies.
Colette has excellent performances from Keira Knightley in the role of an innocent French country girl blossoming into one of France’s greatest female writers as the 19th century ends and the 20th begins. Her skills and talents are encouraged and in turn exploited by her husband played by Dominic West. His sexual antics inside and outside marriage also encourage Colette to explore her own romantic passions along the gender spectrum which blossom as much as her writing career does.
The transformation in Colette is beautiful to observe, the acting top class and the overall movie an 8/10 in my ranking.

Stan & Ollie as played by Steve Coogan and John Reilly was equally enjoyable. Focusing on the latter part of their career when they had reunited in the early 50’s and travelled to UK/ Ireland when many thought they had retired. Like Colette, their earlier career had seen them financially exploited and it was sad to see their UK tour start to near empty houses. But with Laurel’s clever writing and their combined perfect delivery of scenes and words they were a joy to observe. Their wives a good double act off stage in their banter. My ranking 8/10.

The week before I was enchanted and captivated by “The Favourite” with superb action from a trio of the finest actresses. The script razor shop and blunt, costumes and sets superb and beautiful photography. My favourite this year at 10/10.

November 17th

Week that was Posted on Sun, November 18, 2018 08:52:24

The MacBeth production by National Theatre at Theatre royal was visually impressive in terms of stage set and disappointing to me at least in terms of characters and their various soliloquys where I had hoped to get a better understanding of their descent through increasing cruelty and madness. Witches confusing but do a lot of running and pole climbing (again a play to the visual senses rather than talking. Second half (acts 4,5) better than first half which also suffered from lack of pace other than for a party (visually good). The beheadings are suitably gory if that is your thing and the so called “post-apocalyptic” setting just a 2-worded expression to use charity store modern clothing ignoring any attempt as to how we got there in time but not dialogue. My eyes were pleased but ears and mind disappointed.

Despite that, it was a great night out with excellent company in Newcastle with several late night establishments in and around Grey St.

Allards on the Quay opened on Friday and I enjoyed lunch yesterday in this impressive looking eating-drinking venue. My selected tapas of white anchovies in chilli and a seared scallops with black pudding and mush peas a delight to the palate and exceeded the ordinariness of the ingredients. A lot of money spent on renovating a spacious venue (2 floors and a cant wait for summer back yard area) with chandelier, stacked shrunken skulls, comfy luxurious seating and a price premium to the rest of Fish Quay which complements the whole area and the already distinctive quality of other establishments. A pub and eating crawl along its length is much more challenging than before.

Next weekend am off to don’t forget the birds at live theatre

From November 10th

Week that was Posted on Sun, November 11, 2018 07:45:04

A delight to the ears and imagination provided by “Under Milk Wood” at Northern stage last night. A Dylan Thomas play originally for radio this time staged with audience wrapped around, featuring 2 narrators to share the dreams and actions of many welsh villagers all within a day from their pre-dawn dreams.
A clever use of video and a variety of sound effects interacting with the narrators as we enjoyed a feast of language sounds for thoughts and actions from the most innermost feelings. Funny and provocative, considerate and caring, people loving.
Next week: am off to a National theatre version of MacBeth at Theatre Royal.

From Nov 4th

Week that was Posted on Sun, November 04, 2018 13:25:32

Point incredibly well made (to me that is; as wiser heads know better) about the importance of Mental Health to us all by “Clear White Light” at Live Theatre (last night), as it weaved a tale of a single frightening first night-shift for a psychiatric nurse on a ward in an ageing neglected hospital (gothic / nhs angle) interspersed frequently with the music of Lindisfarne and based on a poem by Edgar Poe who might feel neglected by the business of everything else that was part of the show. No harm in that (poe angle, that is) me thinks as it was very well acted and played with clever staging and great relevant music. The “point well made” is that a mental health issue can occur in any one of us, at any time probably triggered by some event outside our control. More understanding and concern required as would happen with a physical injury. A personal co-incidence that my next work contract starting Monday is with Mental Health Concern and show ticket bought well before the work contract appeared.

Next week via “Northern Stage” I am off (non-literally) to the Welsh village of Llareggub for a play “Under Milk wood” that was originally written as a radio drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and later made into a film starring Richard Burton with Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole. Is described as a contemporary, technological twist on a classic text and the village name as above has been spelt backwards to protect the simple. But you saw through that ruse?.

On the reading scene (mine) “R.U.R.” by the Czech writer Karel Capek some 95 years ago is intriguingly relevant to the current day in terms of how we interact with robots, those with AI (artificial intelligence) rather than the more simplistic. For Karel, it must have been some amazing science fiction details but his analysis of the ethical issues arising from more intelligent robots was very prescient. (Imagine your best friend spending a weekend with a sex-robot or Don’t!!). Also part of the same book was “the Insect play” where Karel writes with his brother Josef who was himself to die in Belsen later. It is beautifully imaginative story about the interaction of various caterpillars butterflies etc with a tramp. Timeless tale of quality.

Nine great Greek lives by Plutarch (nearly 2000 years ago) is generally long on battles treachery spontaneity of actions with inherent non mentioned “luck” as otherwise some of the nine might not have become so well known. The story of Alexander of Macedon who in his short 33 year life conquered Persia from Turkey across to North West India is delivered with a more human touch than the other 8 in terms of eg his adopting of local customs and how this created opposition from his conservative followers before returning us to the battles and plundering.

From Oct 28th

Week that was Posted on Sun, November 04, 2018 13:24:49

Sex murder violence, glorious singing and fab music. Night at home? Of course not. “Tosca” by Puccini at Theatre Royal was a delight in timelessness of what appeals to the emotions and senses. Singing voices of the various leads was out of this world and proof to humble me that its not just London that can be tops.

Earlier in week also enjoyed “Merry Widow” also by Opera North with great and funny singing-script. That’s my Opera for 2018 as Opera North only return in March.

Reading enjoyed this week has been “Irish revolution: 1912-23: Waterford” and gutted (not quite literally) to see that neither my catholic nor protestant ancestors feature. This confirms my atheistic journey as an alternative to their religious anonymity. The book itself was a great analysis of family political and most interestingly for me the struggles of the working people for a decent wage.
“Property” by Valerie Martin was an intriguing portrayal of s slave owning self justification of their property owning rights. Inside the skin of the slave owners (told from the views of the wife of the owner) and repulsed by the attitudes reflected. Cannot reconcile bible handlers-cradlers-huggers with mistreating humans. A worse version of Irish labourers in the other book.

Next week’s play is “Clear white light” at what is my favourite Tyneside theatre “Live theatre”. Gothic tale in austerity setting with music.

From Oct 21st

Week that was Posted on Sun, November 04, 2018 13:22:32

Good night out at “3 Musketeers” by Northern Ballet at Theatre Royal. Some beautiful and excellent dancing, fast paced action and romance story, stunningly beautiful costumes and great sets. Orchestra was great too and truly complemented the choreography.
Next week’s plan is Puccini’s Tosca.

Recent reading has been a biography on the first female cabinet minister of a European (excluding russia) country: Constance Markievicz of Ireland who played a big part in the Easter uprising and in subsequent events. A wonderful colourful dynamic rebel personally and politically.
Also enjoyed was “Ramayana” by Daljit Nagra. a delightful warm story from ancient India and “Secret Scriptures” by Sebastian Barry which is a magical woven tale from ireland over several generations of past lives being remembered: rare for me to find a book that refuses to be put down.

From Oct 14th

Week that was Posted on Sun, November 04, 2018 13:21:31

Laughed quite a bit, smiled a lot but “Vulcan 7” was not “hilarious”: that is (for me) when tears of laughter roll. Starring Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer very well supported by Lois Chimimba (thats the cast) waiting for filming to start on set of a movie (hint in name) on edge of an Icelandic volcano. Their “movie parts” are small and they reflect with competitive sometimes dark humour on their respective careers which have not been stellar in comparison with their youthful dreams. Great acting and delivery however the script could have been sharper, more content rich and less in swearing most of which did not add to the performance (some did). Next Saturday for me is “3 Musketeers” at same venue by Northern Ballet.

From Sept 23rd

Week that was Posted on Sun, November 04, 2018 13:20:40

Four movies and a Play
“American Animals” features a bird and some bird pictures and is wonderful movie on how not to rob some very valuable books about birds and animals. Its based very much on factual idiots (american in this case) delivered in a much better movie than any synopsis might convey of this robber crime genre but might be worth waiting for on the telly some day. The ending allows an opportunity for the actual crooks to open up alternative and insightful views of the roles of the 4 protaginists played by younger men in this most inept intermittently comic actual robbery. 3 stars from 5.

“Lucky” features a wonderful animal called Roosevelt whose liberation antics (he was lucky) are very much an analogy for the challenges in life facing an ageing human star of this movie who is surprisingly called Lucky as has not been for quite some time. Human kindness helps transform the quality of his life. I see many traits of Lucky common to those who might read this. Script, Music, and Camera work are excellent. No other Roosevelts appear. 4.5 stars from 5. PS smokers will enjoy this movie.

“The Rider” is a wonderful movie featuring several horses who are much better looking than the human stars, the main one of whom has to come to term with impact of an accident on his ambitions working with horses. He adapts and all ends….. will not spoil. The script is realistic, camera work excellent, music good. 4 stars from 5.

“Cold wars” is for the linguists (4 european languages at least) or those who okay with subtitles ie can read. Shot in black and white it is very well done looking at love between a Polish couple post WW2. It does not get into the minds of the lovers which is in my opinion a weakness. 3 stars from 5.

The Play this week was “War of the Worlds” at Northern Stage coming soon to a NE regional theatre including Exchange at NS. An excellent cast of 4 with a minimalistic stage deliver a clever north east adaptation of the original WotW. you dont know the story? eeekkksss. 4 stars from 5.

Great exhibition of the North

Week that was Posted on Sun, August 26, 2018 08:28:23

Took two days out this week to enjoy the Design and Art trails of this “Very Good” (my italics) exhibition. Plan to look at the Innovation trail next week.

Its not necessary to follow individual trails and instead to just go to specific venues.

The “App” provides a bit more guidance than the guide book but overall I did not find the information good enough for someone who might by unfamiliar with Newcastle. After 16 years here, the event still offers plenty in revisiting old venues with new exhibits and several new venues too.

The Arts Trail

Starting from Gateshead end and crossing the river back into Newcastle

New Bridge project. (close to metro)
Small in scale, the offer of tea (donation offered but not accepted) was a bonus. The venue is to encourage artists and I hope the centre grows to have a greater diversity of artists. Exhibits of which not many focused on the impact of industrial life and technology upon the lives of people.

workplace Gallery
This venue closed when we visited ie not working although as sign outside

Needle Point or what is really St Marys church
Ignore directions on the App and enter via the car park entrance.
I would normally ignore embroidery but the panels here on display (only till 6th and not the 9th Sepyember) from different parts of the north were really excellent. Why no books for sale on embroidery although books on nearly everything else.

Sage Gateshead
We walked through not stopping for the various Portraits (for adults) and the activities for younger folk.

I do not expect this centre to please me on every level but thee is always somethings to enjoy entertain and inform:

Disappointed that the 10 concrete items, each representing light emitting devices linked with the North, outside have a strict notice about not climbing on them. They look more like fallen chess pieces and are ideal for sitting on.

Level 4 is the most interesting and a diverse eclectic mix of exhibits.

Level 3 “having you on” by Michael Dean is interesting use of rebar (steel bars twisted
to shape) adorned with used packaging and coins. The clue is in the name of the exhibit

Level 2 Suggest visit this first and see the viewing times as the movie is not shown hourly back to back which would be wiser.

Level 1 “our kisses are petals” is pleasant and intelligent use of fabric designed materials.

Food on the quayside
The container thingy on the quayside is a great setting for overpriced and tasty food but its quiet weekdays as most outlets closed coming alive Friday evening and weekends. Will return.

Live Theatre garden
Once you have jumped and selfied on the billy elliot stage, the main art exhibit is in the garden in the corner which might have been sponsored by mi5 due to lack of signage. As rain started to fall, we did not stay to explore.

Side gallery near quayside
Over 3 floors this is a lovely new venue for me with a collection of pictures from times old.

Baltic 39 (off Grey st on “high bridge st”)
Deceptively small entrance but opens up on 4th floor to a large variety of displays that gets one talking and thinking. a real gem of a venue and my first time here – will check out in future.

That concluded our participation in the arts trail and only a few venues were not visited

The design trail was enjoyed !!! earlier in week and included

Hancock Museum. I love the diversity of whats on display here. Not really a great amount of “Design” as overlaps with everything else

Northumbrian university– needs more help on design as what i found was very poor. Too many buildings, too few signs.

Biscuit factory: great commercial displays for sale. Nothing practical in progress to observe

Toffee factory commercial-

Design Centre- entrance layout designed by morons. Gave up as was foot exhausted by now and dispirited by guidance.

The App as used request date of birth which is too much information to provide for its use and even entering year of birth involves scanning month by month back in time- may have been designed by a 15 year old orphan.
Misleading entrances as in St Marys / “Needle points”. Information not really helpful. Only good point is that its better than the guide book.
Both lack a knowledge understanding and appreciation of what each venue offers.

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