Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Tales From The Road (Part 1)

Right now I am on a UK tour with a band called "The Bottom Line". It has been a while since I did any form of intensive touring, so I wasn't too sure what it would be like, more so as I had only been acquainted with the band for the last 6 months or so and had been told so many stories from the last tour, covering the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly in this case being an overweight promoter, with an over-active sex drive who ended up passing out on her bed naked with a Budweiser bottle up her arse. As comical as all this sounded I was hoping for some relative normality on this tour!

After having the first 2 days of the tour cancelled, due to some really piss poor promoters, who were unable to tell the difference between their arse and their elbows, we set off for the new "day 1" in Pickering, Yorkshire. That was one hell of a drive, from the band setting out to the point where we arrived at the venue it took 8 and a half hours, which is a long time when stuck in the back of a converted ford transit van! More so when we couldn't get the radio to work!

I have to be honest, I rather liked the Pickering show. Sure it is no 02 Academy at "The Rose Inn", but it was a nice intimate little pub venue, with lots of people who as a generalisation would watch all of the bands play and support their scene. The people were all friendly and chatty which was rather nice, even if a large number of them were wasted at the end of the night. TBL's performance as far as it goes was not their best, but people seemed to like them. The drama however wasn't to kick off until long after we had loaded out.

Whilst casually chatting to some of the locals, a huge argument errupts at the door. It transpires this guy who is still casually stood around floored "Big Kev" in one punch, leaving him out cold. I have no idea who Big Kev is, but all I know is his dad is one scary mother fucker. As everyone was saying "that guy best leave before Kev's dad got here". Fortunately for the attacker, he left in the back of a police van before anything more kicked off further. Still a dramatic end to day 1.

We set off for Newcastle the following morning having fixed the radio, but now with a broken TV as after napping on the floor I kinda fell into it and fucked the screen. Remember that promoter I mentioned off of their last tour who ended up with a Budweiser bottle in her bum? This was the same woman who was promoting the next show. When she first arrived, she seemed a nice enough person. Though as the evening progressed it transpired that not only was she as piss poor promoter, she was also a bit of a bitch, trying to wrangle out of the fees she owed the band, and failing to provide the rider of food, water and beer. At the end of the day if you have a contract, it doesn't matter what bullshit you try to pull, you should stick to the deal. Unfortunately because of the low attendance, rather than looking at her faults as the event organiser it was taken out on the band.

We were quite fortunate however as the woman working the door for her had seen our plight and the unjust actions of her boss, and offered to make us some food at her flat after the show, which was such a nice thing to do. I have to be honest, the north generally does seem much more hospitable than the south, as only the day before the landlord at the rose had given up his whole spare house to us in trust, which is quite a bold move as he didn't know us from Larry.

After clubbing until 4am, we head back to the van for the night - 5 guys trying to sleep in a Ford Transit van, it wasn't going to be a comfortable one and truly it wasn't, in fact I think it was the worse nights sleep I have ever had in my entire life. If that wasn't bad enough we woke up in the morning to a parking ticket....Great.

Day 3 saw us reach Birmingham, which for me was less about the show and a chance to catch up with 3 of the guys who I met at Reading Festival. I must admit despite 2 of the bands pulling out and as such the crowd numbers being low, it was a very good night, though for me catching up with Zack, Jord and Juliet was the highlight, it is so good when you get the chance to see old friends on a tour. In all a very undramatic evening compared to the last 2 shows, which was nice. Next up however is Glasgow. This could be interesting.

So that is the update so far from my airbed in some random person's living room in Birmingham. There has been a fight, a broken radio, a broken TV, a really bad promoter, a parking ticket, old friends, new friends and a whole lotta rock n roll! Update 2 coming whenever I next find WiFi!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mud, Beer & Rock n Roll (Part 2)

So you have heard about all the wonderful people who made Reading Festival so good this year, but what about the music? If you are expecting a write up stating how wonderful "Muse" were, then you may as well give up reading this blog right now.... no really... stop reading... Frankly they bore me, I stomached 15 minutes of them before losing the will to live. Sure they are talented musicians, they simply do not inspire me one bit. Sorry! So if you are still here and want me to now tell you how great "The Strokes" are - they are shit... end of, go and cry in the corner or something! In fact how the hell did a band that is so bad get to headline a festival that is so good?

For me the weekend was all about "Flogging Molly" on the Sunday night, hell they may have been on the somewhat smaller "Lock Up Stage", and not even the headline act, but they do know how to put on a show and a half and it goes without saying that the tent erupted when the band played their anthem "Drunken Lullabies". I have always had a love for the lock up stage, in fact I could quite easily stay there for the bulk of the festival! I had been there the previous night for "The Mighty Mighty Bosstones", who I hadn't seen before, or in fact heard. I knew of them, but didn't know what to expect. Frankly they were fantastic, and to have a ska dancing dude on stage for the full set...boy he has stamina! I have always had a love for ska rooted music, a guy called Martin Atkins got me into it back when I used to work for Argos as he loved Less Than Jake, and got me into some of the music I am into today. I wonder whatever happened to Martin?

It was a good day for ska, as earlier that day the somewhat iconic "Madness" had graced the main stage. I really didn't know how well the crowd would take to them, seeing as Reading always attracts a younger crowd, and Madness of course being a band of our parents generation, I feared they might have been snubbed. In fact the complete opposite happened. If it were not for the fact it was broad day light, based on the sheer number of people there to watch them and the response they had, you could have easily have mistaken them for the headliners. The band of course played all their classics, along with some newer numbers. I was really pleased to have seen the band, they really were fantastic and had got me in the mood for the Bosstones later that evening.

It is rare so many pop-punk rooted bands play the main stage, however with "New Found Glory", "The Offspring" and "My Chemical Romance" all playing the Friday, it was quite a day for me. In fact I think in all my time of going to Reading I have never spent so much time on the main stage as I had that day. It was my first time of seeing My Chemical Romance live since 2004, a lot has changed, and I must say I am loving their new tunes, even if that is a shocking thing to admit, am I digging myself a deeper hole if I admit that I sang along to "I'm Not Ok"? There are so many MCR haters, and truthfully I am really not sure what their problem is. They are a great band with a huge following... deal with it!

Just like MCR it had been some time since I had seen "The Offspring" live, I won't lie, I was a little disappointed by their set. There seemed to be a lack of interaction even if the music was good. I love "The Offspring", but honestly I know they can do better, it just felt like they wanted to get on, play, get off and go home. This however was not the case for "New Found Glory", who made the most of their main stage opportunity, I love NFG and the moment the first chord of "Understatement" blasted out of the PA speakers I was in my zone.

It however isn't all about the main stage, I only made one trip to the alternative tent, to see "Tim Minchin" perform. The tent was bursting at the seems, literally there were thirty or more rows outside the tent on top of those who had been crammed in like sardines already. I somehow always overlook this tent, having missed one of my favorite acts "Stephen Lynch" there a couple of years back.

I also managed to catch "Thirty Seconds To Mars" who are now on an indefinite hiatus, looks like I caught them at the right time. Honestly I wasn't blown away by them, but to be fair I didn't expect to be. Another band that did little for me were the former "Pennywise" frontman's new outfit "Black Pacific", just seemed a little average really and the poor attendance reflected that they were nothing on "Pennywise".

I had seen "Pulp" at the "Wireless Festival" in London just the month before Reading. I never had great expectations of them, but had been really impressed by their live set. Needless to say I was keen to do it all over again this festival. There is something about Jarvis Cocker that just makes him the perfect front man now he has matured a little. Ironically it was 17 years to the day from when the band made their first Reading Festival appearance, playing "Common People" for the first time. Who would have thought they would have been playing the same song to a rapturous response all those years later? On the conclusion of their set I was just about able to catch the end of "The King Blues" lock up tent performance, which I thought also was rather good, shame I didn't get to see more.

So overall who was I most disappointed with? It has to be "Jimmy Eat World". I love their music, but their live show seems to lack that interaction with the crowd, I felt so disconnected, and was really looking forward to them as well. Who on the other hand was my festival underdog? This goes to "Frank Turner". I wasn't expecting to like him too much, but he blew me away, to the extent I am planning on seeing him next time he plays the UK!

In all a fantastic festival, and echoing the words of part 1 of this blog, thanks to all of those who made it so special - in no particular order: Jordan, Zach, Gayle, Ross, Allan, Ryan, Nathan, Sam, Ann, Reiley, Bethan, Jonny, Jonesy and anyone else I have forgotten!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Mud, Beer & Rock n Roll (Part 1)

Right, so it is pretty well known that I love acting and drama, however music also plays a huge role in my life. It is what pays the bills, and takes up just as much, if not more of my time than all that performance shizzle. So I guess it is only fair I dedicate some time to write about up about this. The next few blogs will probably cover most of this having just returned from Reading Festival 2011, then in a weeks time I hit the road with a band called The Bottom Line as they embark on their UK tour. So it is a little diversion, but hopefully will remain just about readable.

Anyone who has been to festivals, will have that strange love hate relationship with them, for days you hate the fact you try to sleep in a cold tent, with so much noise you barely get any shut eye at all. The fact that you are dwelling in mud, have to use the worst toilets ever, look like a tramp and don't smell much better. It never feels to great lets be honest. Yet somehow there is that attraction that makes you want to do it again and again, and despite all the complaints and the longing to have a decent shower and to take a crap in a real toilet, you somehow miss it all when you walk away from the festival site for the very last time.

For me festivals are about the friends you go with and the people you meet. I won't lie, you can meet some great people who you never see again, equally if you are lucky you will make some great new friends, and for me it has been a fabulous year for that. (camp word used especially for Gayle). There of course is always the fear that you will be camped next to the festival assholes... and trust me there is enough of them, yet to date I have always been quite lucky.

I set off knowing I would ultimately be camping (different camp word - in the not so gay sense this time) with my mate and fellow music promoter Allan Sargeant. There are two things that are really cool about this, firstly the shouts of "Alan..... Steve" which plagued the site all weekend pretty much drove him insane - it was rather funny I won't lie. Secondly, Allan is great, we have a very similar taste in music, so this was also going to work out well. We were also joined by Jonny - a fellow drama students other half who I have got to know quite well over the last few months, who is one crazy mofo, but an amazing guy and his friend Jonesy. It was all set to be a pretty small circle, so I really wasn't sure what to expect from the camping side of things this year. But this is Reading... expect the unexpected.

The circle soon expanded, with two lads from Birmingham named Zach and Jordan, (who were later joined by Juliet and even later Mickie - she has really cool green hair) and two students from Southampton named Gayle and Ross making up our little collective for 2012. These six were not known to myself or Allan, yet were absolute legends, I could not have asked for nicer neighbours. We all got on amazingly well, shared our alcohol and banter. I can say from the heart that this was the best circle of people I have ever had at a festival, and in my infamous and over used words of this festival huge lad points to all of them (Gayle, Mickie and Juliet included... lad points can be scored by girls also!). So in all before the music had even started I was set for one of the best festivals to date. The people always make a huge difference and I was lucky enough to be camping with the best of the best - absolute legends, all of them!

What I really love about the festival spirit, is you mix with people who in normal circumstances you might never give a chance too, people from different places, different backgrounds and of different ages. It makes you realise that if you treat people for who they are and take them at face value rather than worrying about barriers, you can make some amazing friends. It goes without saying that we are all planning to meet up again next year if not before!

I guess the only thing that went against us at this festival was the weather. There was mud, lots of mud, and where there wasn't mud there was sludgey puddles. Sure, you might say that it can't be a festival without mud, but it gets a bit old after a while, and welly boots are REALLY uncomfortable when you wear them for days on end. It rained a lot on Thursday and Friday, which dragged down the atmosphere a little - this said, Gayle and Ross ended up with their own garden pond by their tent porch - I am sure that is something estate agents look for in houses... water features surely add value to a property?

The circle was sludgy, but that didn't stop the camp fires (I like to burn things) and the chance to have a good time (and a few beers... ok a lot of beers - excluding the beers bought from arenas, I think between us it was something like 14 cases or more). For some reason Saturdays seems to always be the day I pull an all nighter, and this time around it was with Zach, Juliet, 2 new neighbours whos names I forget. The camp fire was epic, I kept it burning for almost 8 hours - thats a mean feet if you are drinking I assure you! Later we were joined by Joe and Alex from the festival campsite assistance team - they were great guys, even though security did have a go at them for hanging out with us for far too long. They joined us again on the Sunday night none the less, kind of gutted I never grabbed their facebook's or something really. They were right legends - never be put off by the Reading campsite staff in the green jackets - they are the cool lot, the reds and whites are the assholes generally.

Soooooo.... BHS 11 item breakfasts for £3.59, far too much money spent on shitty festival food, amazing new friends, legendary old friends, smelly toilets, lots of mud, camp fire stories, lots of beer and plenty of cider. Everything was perfect, now all we needed was the music... but that can wait for another blog. I need to hibernate now to make up for all the lost sleep of the last 5 nights. Part 2 of this blog will follow in the next day or two.

Friday, 24 June 2011

My Disaster

I was dreading the day I dried up in any form of performance. It happens to everyone, and with such a busy schedule, I had a feeling it would be this term. In three of my classes we have an end of term performance of some sort, one of these pieces as mentioned in an earlier blog was a duologue from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3.

I had rehearsed this piece for the dress rehearsal. As we took to the performance area I was relatively confident as I opened with the line "Good day my lord, why at your book so hard?". The scene started to unravel with some great moments. I think every time I have performed this piece I have discovered something new about the characters. Shakespeare uses a lot if imagery and if you can relate to that, I find it really helps.

Now on to Nick, I can't remember what I said about him last time. He is my scene partner, what can I say? This guy lives and breathes Shakespeare. He gets right into the language, and the character. He was familiar with this scene prior to going into this which gave him a head start over me, it also meant I have learned a lot from him. He is very much the underdog of the class, in the sense that he does not shout and scream, rather he has a touch of genius and comes up with things then brings them to life like no other. It is only in working closely with him that I have realised how much more he has in his acting toolbox than I first thought. He is superb, and if he wants to make it in acting, I honestly think he could.

Now back to my disaster. As I hit my monologue, something came over me. I can't really explain it - my focus was lost, I didn't even feel as though I was in the room anymore. Even with the prompts - nothing was there. I know they say a bad dress rehearsal is a good sign... but I am so pissed off like you wouldn't believe. I walked out of the room for a good 15 minutes to mull over the diabolical performance, and although it happens to everyone sooner or later, it just feels awful when it happens to you. I guess I have a week to get it right, but I won't lie, my confidence has taken a huge blow. I was the worst in the class on Thursday, hell even the guy who is usually rock bottom was better than me - and that is saying something!

I must admit, I was hoping this encounter with Shakespeare would inspire me, but I am yet to be convinced. Even seeing Kevin Spacey in Richard III (the play that follows the one I am performing) just two days before hand failed to reach me. Don't get me wrong. you can't fault the acting. I was just not inspired by it. Its long, the plot is unconvincing and a tad predictable at best. I have yet to work out why people see Shakespeare as one of the best play writes of all time. Though this said I did enjoy seeing David Tenant and Catherine Tate in a modernised version of Much Ado About Nothing... much lighter and energetic, but still not the best piece of theatre I have seen.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

And The Winner Is... (BGT The Final - Part 4)

And the winner of Britian's Got Talent 2011 is..... Jai McDowell.

Jai is a talented guy, I can't take that from him. Personally, however I didn't feel he was the strongest performer on the night. For me - if you are looking at the singers, Ronan Parke put so much more into his song - it came right from the heart and really showed off the power he has in his voice. Though really, and as cheesy as this will sound. They are all winnners. I am pretty sure Ronan, New Bounce and Michael will all come out of this with top selling albums and record deals as well as Jai, and I think rightfully so. All of the acts were talented, I am just gutted for little Ronan, as I felt his strength of character alone meant he deserved to win. Even when the news sunk in that he had not won, he was keen to give Jai a congratulatory hug and ensured he thanked everyone who voted for him before publicly congratulating Jai. Never before have I seen someone so valiant in defeat. He just seems such a likable guy!

I guess the biggest shock for me was seeing James Holby come in 8th. I felt he injected more passion into his act than any of the other finalists. I don't think the public necessarily appreciated ballet as much as they could have, as it is a less accessible medium than singing. For me James was a winner, and as long as he goes out with his head held high and keeps doing what he does best, then that is great. I really hope he doesn't get down hearted - remember he is only 11 and he has been through a lot. I really respect him for what he has achieved, and I really hope that he gets something out of the BGT experience.

It was no surprise that bubbly Jean Martyn came last. It has to be horrible to be told in front of the nation that you came 10th, however truthfully I think that is a fair result. Les Gibson's poor take on Simon Cowell landed him in 9th which came as no real surprise, though personally I would like to have seen Steven Hall much lower in the rankings.

None the less a great final, and good to see a singer win for the first time since Paul Potts or whatever he was called all those years ago. But the question now is - when will an act which is not singing or dancing win?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

If Only I Were A Judge (BGT The Final Part 3)

So on to the third blog for the Britian's Got Talent Final. I am writing this as I watch the show on ITV player at an ungodly hour, having successfully avoided all forms of media, so I didn't hear the result! From the previous two articles you will now know that going into this evenings show my favorites were Ronan Parke and James Hobley. Though between either of them and fame stand 8 other contestants all who are after the same prize. I won't lie, I would love to be a judge on that show, as I think between Michael, Amanda and the Hoff they have all been a bit too soft. There are acts that got through the auditions which were laughable and no way deserved to be in the semi-finals.

The first of these was Steven Hall. Quite how he found his way to the fsemi-inal selection I will never know. How he got through that - well thats another baffling question. He just resembles an older family member who has had too much to drink at a party. I honestly believe he makes a mockery of the term "dance", especially when there are real dancers out there who deserve fame much more than he does. If there was ever a glimmer of hope that he would raise his game, this was soon quashed. Sure his movements and lip sync were in time, but the energy levels simply were not there. Remove all the dancers he had on stage with him, the routine to me seemed simpler than his original audition, which is never good. Quite what the judges saw in him I don't know... is Simon turning soft?

Second up - Michael Collings. I really rated him in the auditions. I can't help but think his vocal range is limited, but his song choices work with that - it plays to his strengths. Playing the same song as his audition was wise - and could easily sway the evenings votes. This guy is going somewhere, regardless to whether he wins. I would expect Simon to snap him up win or lose, and I can almost guarantee he will have a cd in the charts in the coming months. Could he win? I don't think so, but he will be a star that is for certain.

Les Gibson following in the footsteps of last years finalist and fellow impressionist Paul Birling was someone who I was unsure about. Sure he is good but was he better than Paul Birling? if I am honest I didn't think so. I think its right that he was given another chance - but would he make an impact this evening? Frankly - no. I thought his Simon Cowell impersonation was sketchy at best, though his take on Michael McIntyre, The Hoff and Louis Walsh were pretty reasonable. Amanda echoed this. Personally I would find it farcical if he ended up in the last three. He is good, but he is not the most talented person in Britain thats for sure.

Now onto one of my favorites - James Hobley. I am so glad that he has got this far, and I sit here hoping that the judges, audience and general public get behind his performance, which was solid throughout with a beautiful ending. In terms of talent, this boy deserves to be number one. He has definitely sent the previous three acts packing in my books. As I said in my last article, what he brings to the stage is a passion that cannot be taught, a passion that shines through in his performances. I really don't know what market exists for a ballet dancer after BGT, maybe a role in Billy Elliot? I really don't know. But this kid deserves to go all the way!

Up next a pianist by the name of Paul Gbegbaje. I think this is an act that could get a bit old, as there is only so much you can do with a piano and stay entertaining. The choice of an original piece is risky at best, and my first impressions listening is that it was nothing special, though as the song came to life, his ability really shone through. Is this a winning performance? Again I have to say, I am really not sure. Of the people I have seen so far, he is in the top 3 but only just with James and Michael Collings ahead of him. However being just half way through the night can he hold on to that place? I really don't think so.

With Ronan Parke up next, Paul Gbegbaje's top 3 slot I felt would be very much short lived indeed. Ronan has such an amazing voice. His audition was phenomenal, which had all three judges on their feet. I just hoped that he would perform well under the stress that the tabloids have caused him in the last couple of days. Ronan lived up to his tag as the bookies favorite with a great choice of song which brought out the best in his voice. It is hard to believe such power could come from a twelve year old. As much as I would like James to win, I can't help but think Ronan has just snatched it - that was simply mind blowing - and those tears after such a great performance show just how much heart he puts in to every song he sings. Watch out Bieber... there is a new kid on the block!!!

Jean Martyn is another of the contestants I have been unsure of. I won't lie, as enthusiastic as she may be, I found her piece messy with the melodies not fitting with the bass notes, and her singing very much mediocre. If I am honest my most hated act of the final - Steven Hall may have been marginally better! Sure - a ton of energy - but it would be better suited to an asylum than a talent contest.

Jai McDowell is up next. Having seen Ronan perform so well, Jai has to really pull out all stops to be the better solo singing act. If I am truthful, I am not sure he has it in him, he always seems so nervous. But who knows he may just pull it off! My first impressions of the song are not that great, but Simon loved it... lets face it if Simon loves a singer their career in music is already made for them. He is good, and just like Michael Collings I feel there is a future for him in music, though I would be shocked if he won this competition.

I am a lover of dance and Razy Gogonea brings a real contrast to James Hobley's ballet routine. Having seen lots of street dancing and body popping in the last few years - he really needs to do a lot to impress. Don't forget the last three years have been won by choreographed routines. For me it is all a bit samey and seems to lack the heart and passion I have seen in other dancers. Razy was entertaining the first time I saw him, but truthfully the novelty has worn off now, and even the use of fire did little to sway my view on this - it was just a means of tarting up a routine I have seen too many times before.

Onto the final act of the night - New Bounce - the only boy band in the final. I am no lover of boy bands usually, as the vocal mixes are generally cringeworthy and the performances are often a bit cheesy. Would New Bounce be any different? They were better than most I will credit them with that. The group harmonies worked, but I wasn't so sure on the solo pieces. It was a worthy performance, but for me not good enough to break into the top three. Just like the other singers tonight, they have a future regardless of the outcome of this show.

So thats my take on the final, and below is how I would rank them based on the evenings performance for what they are worth. I am not a judge I know, but hey its good to have an opinion right?


Ronan Parke
James Hobley
Michael Collings
Paul Gbegbaje
New Bounce
Jai McDowell
Les Gibson
Razy Gogonea
Steven Hall
Jean Martyn

James The Underdog (BGT The Final - Part 2)

So in my blog from earlier today about Ronan Parke I mentioned my other favorite - James Hobley. You just have to read back a few blogs to know that Liam Mower is one of my biggest influences and that I love dance. So for those who know me, it should come as no surprise that I am rooting for James to win also. I honestly couldn't pick between Ronan and James, they both offer something that comes right from the heart and they are living the dream that they want to live, and fair play to them for being so committed at just 12 and 11 respectively.

I have sometimes been a bit skeptical of some of the younger finalists in the past, as I have wondered whether they use the "cute factor" or a tragic back story to win the hearts of the viewers. Take The Cheeky Monkeys from a couple of years back. technically they were nothing special, but they won over the hearts of the nation for being two cute little kids dancing to rock n roll numbers. I felt they got through in place of more talented acts because of the cute factor. i know it sounds harsh - but honestly - were they one of the best 10 acts? I really don't think so. With this in mind I think I am sometimes tougher on the child contestants because I feel they really have to prove their worth more than the adults, to show they have real talent not just a tragic story or a cute face.

Before this years contest I said that I hoped there were less dance acts in the final. This for me was because there have been too many dance troops in the last couple of years. I am of course pleased that dance has become more popular and socially acceptable as I love dance, and I go to some dance shows, but with George Sampson, Diversity and Spellbound winning the last 3 contests, I was adamant I wanted to see something that wasn't dance rooted win. That was until I saw James perform.

My heart stopped for a moment when I his routine started, I genuinely feared people would not appreciate the complexity, skill and passion that ballet dancers injected into their work. As it unfolded I was taken in by the elegance of the routine. For me it didn't matter that he was only 11 - his ballet was first class, and better than some adults I have seen. It appears that he managed to capture the hearts of the audience and of course a tearful Amanda Holden! I honestly believe that it was not his back story that people connected with - rather the passion which moulded every move he made up on that big stage.

Behind all this I was really taken back by the relaxed personality and passion to succeed - he hasn't let autism affect his passion to dance. He hasn't played on the fact that he is autistic to win people over. He has simply let the dancing do the talking. There is a great line in Billy Elliot where Mrs Wilkinson tells Billy that dancing has to come from inside, it can't just be a set of moves strung together. This is exactly what James has done. He has taken that passion and expressed it through dance.

The bookies favorite may well be Ronan, but no matter where James finishes, I will be proud of what he has achieved not only for himself, but also for ballet - in bringing the genre of dance to a wider audience. Hopefully misconceptions of boys in ballet can be forgotten, and the british public can open their minds to the beauty and elegance of ballet. I know that James can do it justice, and I really hope the public get behind him tonight.

Good luck James!

Its All About Ronan!!! (BGT The Final - Part 1)

So anyone who knows me will know that I am really into Britain's Got Talent. Unfortunately due to all of my commitments I haven't been able to watch it as much this year as I would have liked, though its been hard not to know whats been going on as BGT fever sweep across the nation.

The papers always have a lot to say about the show. How the producers pick the songs and routines etc... Sure it is manufactured, we all know that - its what makes good TV! This doesn't bother me as much as it used to. What I like is the weeks before all the live shows, it is here where ordinary people with extraordinary talents appear (as well as the not so normal people with no talent at all!). During the audition stages we got to see grass roots talent - acts that were from the heart, and not manipulated for the show or the british media. We see real people with real talents.

It was during these stages that a 12 year old boy from Norwich, named Ronan Parke shone through. Had you have missed Ronan back then, you won't have missed him this week as his face has been pasted al over the newspapers amidst allegations that he had been groomed to win this years contest over the last two years by Simon Cowell, a story which both deny. The claims were made in a blog by someone who claimed to be an executive at Sony. Though it is widely believed that this attack was made by fans loyal to Cheryl Cole who was brutally axed from another of Simon Cowell's shows recently.

Reading Ronan's response to these allegations, I now have so much respect for the kid. He has handled the situation like a true professional, and with such dignity. There are many older celebrities who could learn from him! Its great to see that his focus is still on the contest and that he has not been phased by some nasty individual who was intent on soiling his good name.

Do I think Ronan will win? Yes. He has a likability about him, a cool image, a great voice, and a passion for music which comes right from the heart. With great qualities like these, there is nothing stopping him from achieving his dream. Personally based on my love of dance I am tied between Ronan and James. I really like them both, however i think the marketability of music is much greater than that of ballet, which will give Ronan the edge on the public vote. Even if he were not to win, he has a career in music at his feet, and deservedly so. He has wowed so many people already that I see him being as big as Bieber if not bigger. One thing is for sure though, Ronan is a much better singer, and those that hate him are nothing more than jealous of what he has achieved.

The fact is there is a lot of hidden talent in the UK. Sometimes it does take a show like this to get them into the spotlight. No matter what has gone on in the media, nothing should be taken away from the kid. He has worked for hours with a singing coach over the last few years. The has put his heart and soul into every song he has sung, and it is his own self belief which has bought him to the spotlight. Long may that spotlight shine on! Good luck Ronan!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Grease Really Isn't The Word... I Assure You

So they gave us another bank holiday this year, I was only natural use it wisely in meeting a friend, and spending the day in London. Though unlike the other many millions who had descended on our drab and smelly capital city, we were not there for the royal wedding. Rather it was a chance to catch up and see two shows.

I hadn't seen James in almost a year, so we had a lot to catch up on and being the big kids that we are, what better place to do this than the Rain Forest Cafe! They have kitted the place out to look like a rain forest, loads of plants, and models of animals which move. The lights flash when there is a "thunder storm", and all the sound effects are there to go with it. Ok I will admit, it would probably have been cheaper to fly to a real rain forest as the place was hardly cheap... but the food was good, and it was a nicer environment to eat in than the scummy McDonalds you find on every other corner throughout the city. It set up the day and after a brief wander around we head towards our first show of the day.

Knowing it was soon to close our first choice was for the iconic West End Musical - Grease. Well at least we considered it to be iconic as it had survived for so long. Little did we know, we were about to see the theatrical equivalent of a train crash. The first indication that this show was really failing was the door numbers. By 5PM much of the wedding celebrations were over, and whilst some planned to revel into the night, I really didn't expect to see a show this empty. The upper levels were closed and even in the royal circle and stalls the number of empty seats far outnumbered those which were occupied.

The longest overture in the world kicks in, and all sounded good. The band were tight, I recognised a few of the numbers - and though the auditorium lacked atmosphere, I could imagine on a good night this would get the vibe in the theatre going. Though this really is where the good experiences ended. The opening number "Sandy" was simply awful. It seems that the guy playing Danny, and the girl playing Sandy were never taught to harmonise... at odd intervals they even drifted out of time with one another. I have heard drunken football hooligans sing better... well at least in time with one another.

The downhill spiral had started, from here the singing was awful, the choreography a messy. Maybe it was the fact that these actors knew they would be on the dole queue come Monday as the show was just 3 performances from closing. Maybe it was the complete lack of paying customers that bought the moral of the actors down. Though had this have been the case, the paying customers had been robbed of their money, especially the fools you had spent out in excess of £60 for a top priced ticket. I felt robbed having only paid about £22!

Come the interval James and I could bare it no more. We had to leave. It was embarrassing watching actors die on stage like that, not to mention boring to watch. The storyline is less than gripping, but tied in with a poor performance it is verging on being suicidal to watch. I have never walked out of a show before, but this really was awful. Your local primary school could manage something better, I assure you!

The good news however is the show has now closed making way for Ghost The Musical later in the year. No doubt the show will tour, though if you want my advice? Save the money for a show worth seeing.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Gareth Vs Shakespeare

I have never made a secret of how much I have always hidden from confronting the work of Shakespeare. There has always been an element of fear which I have never really understood. It could be the language, the structure or that god damn iambic pentameter he used... I really don't know. None the less I have always progressed in drama in the knowledge that one day I would have to face up to Shakespeare. After all if I want to go further I will have to embrace his work, as it forms a fundamental part of any actors training. Having put it off for so long, I have decided that this summer is my D-Day!

For one of my end of term assessments, we were tasked to take on a duologue. There was no strict guidelines given as to the style of this piece, and I will be honest throughout the lesson I gave it little thought, planning on thinking it through over the long weekend I had ahead of me. I guess had it of been left to me, I would have picked something from a modern play or some text from a musical. Though I guess in hindsight, playing safe will not push me and test me in the same way that taking a risk will. Though it wasn't until the end of the lesson that I realised there would be an opportunity to do this.

Nick Windsor - a fellow student approached me asking if I would be interested in tackling the final scene of Henry VI. The first thing that crossed my mind was "I really didn't know this play". Then it dawned upon me that I really don't know much of Shakespeare's work having avoided it for so long. With the exception of Orthello, I have not read any play in full since senior school, and even then I used to skim read Shakespeare. I got away with copying other peoples work back then so I saw no point in reading the books!

Though what was it that made me come to the conclusion that now was the time for me to tackle Shakespeare in performance? Maybe it was Nick's compliments of my dialect and articulation which won me over, (I do love flattery) but deep down I knew that this was my calling to finally tackle Shakespeare head on. I was also keen to work with Nick having only really started to connect with him at the end of the spring term. Nick is great - very talented, hard working and I feel he has a real connection with classical plays of this sort. If I had to pick anyone in the class to do a Shakespearian piece with - it would certainly have been him. I know he has a love for script work and shares a desire to win, so I am relishing this opportunity.

What's more is I actually have a burning desire to make this work for me. I think previously I would have had a defeatist attitude of "oh well this is my weakness" - but I really don't want this to be seen as me confronting a weakness rather an opportunity for me to impress people in an area I have yet to work in. Whilst classes are not about competition, I really do want myself and Nick to stand out as being the best by a long margin, after all second best is the first looser!

I will no doubt put a write up in a couple of months saying how it has all gone! Who knows, if its good enough there may be a video also! There are just two other videos of me on youtube which I keep hidden from the world. (I challenge you to find them.... it is close on impossible) Though now I am keen to build up a profile of my work, so I am more keen to have my stuff online if I deem it to be of a high enough standard, though I am a tough critic.

This isn't my only confrontation with Shakespeare this term however. In a couple of weeks I start another module which studies Shakespeare in performance. We will be studying "Much To Do About Nothing" and another play which we will read, analyse then see them in performance on the West End. This can only add to my Shakespeare tool box which is currently somewhat empty. I guess I will keep you all updated!

Monday, 21 February 2011


I guess seeing as I started talking about my childhood in my previous blog, its only right I tie up some loose ends which I left open... nobody likes an unfinished story. Though, this said... I would be the first to admit that most of the stories I tell here have some open ends which I rarely go back to, so don't expect me to make a habit of this!

If we all look back at our childhood, there are so many memories. It is fair to say not all of them were great. But part of growing up is facing the bad times whilst basking in the good. Yesterday I mentioned Rufus - the only soft toy I have these days. You may think that someone is too old for a soft toy, and had it had been any old soft toy you may well have been right. Though almost everyone has something tucked away in a drawer or a cupboard which means something to them. Something which has a story, or history to it. Rufus is no exception.

When I was really young, like any kid I liked bed time stories. I am very lucky to have a mother with a creative mind much like my own, she could make any story come to life. However, rather than reading me stories from a book like most parents, my mum would often make them up. I am not sure what inspired her to do so, but I think she tried to relate the theme of the story to something I needed to relate to as a child. Lets face it kids always learn better in a creative environment and I was no different. The stories featured around a dog called Rufus. I really don't remember any of the stories these days, but he was the core character and entirely fictional. There was no dog in our area called Rufus, and if I am honest I don't think we ever established what breed of dog or even what colour Rufus was, he was just a superb character which as a child I loved. The great thing about stories is that you can use your imagination to fill in the blanks and I am sure back then in my mind I could have seen Rufus as clear as day.

A fair few years later when beanie babies were around, my mum stumbled across one... a dog. Anyone who knows what a beanie baby was would know that they all had a tag which had a little story about them, their name and date of birth. For those of you who don't know what a beanie baby was - it was a collectible small soft toy, many of them limited edition - google it... they are rather cute! Anyhow, whether it was fate or coincidence, we will never know. I guess it depends if you believe in fate or not. The shop was filled with these beanie babies, yet my mum was drawn to this one design of dog. A beige/ light brown with dark brown splodges. She picked up and like mothers do, read the cute little story on the tag... what happened next really hit home quite hard, the dogs name was"Rufus", she instantly bought it for me.

Some things happen in life which cannot be explained. Some will say it was pure luck, others will argue fate, some may even say it's a sign. I try not to read into things this much, I think if you do things can lose their meaning or importance. For me, instantly this little soft toy symbolised my childhood and the bond that I had and still share with my mum. I am not at all ashamed to still have this connection to my childhood. In fact I am rather proud, so much so when in college we were asked to bring in something that had meaning to us and a story behind it - I brought Rufus.

It is strange in one sense, I am not a sentimental person, though I won't lie... I am a complete softy. I threw away pretty much all the toys from my childhood. But some things are meant to be kept forever and Rufus is one of these. As the saying goes "one persons trash is anther persons treasure".

Sunday, 20 February 2011

When I Was A Kid...

It is really strange how as we grow up our ambitions change, I remember as a kid I always wanted to be a vet. I think I must have spent 5 years of my life with this ambition, maybe more. At least the whole of infant school I was adamant this would be my future. Though equally a part of me realised that I wouldn't be able to do this. I couldn't euthanize an animal. I know in some cases having an animal put to sleep is the most humane thing to do, but part of me still feels it is killing. Even now days I am a huge wuss, I cried my eyes out when our last cat died! I always feared doing having to do this as it was part of a vets job, and I guess that was the reality which meant I would never be a vet. Even in those early years I identified this. It is strange how we have these glimmers of maturity even before we know what the word maturity means.

At the same time I always dreamed of being a star. My parents were huge fans of Status Quo, and they took me to see them once a year at Wembley Arena. I guess seeing the crowds of fans, the lighting rigs, the guitars, the huge stack amps and everything that came with being a huge rock band filled me with envy. I must have been about 8 when I first saw them, though even before that I would be singing along to the Cd's and cassettes at every available opportunity. I guess I was lucky to be exposed to real music at an early age, and to go to a rock show at Wembley on a yearly basis was really something special. My mum has always encouraged me to make music part of my life, and I will be the first to admit that many of her musical influences also brushed off on me.

I remember at about infant school age I would set myself up with cuddly toys in a stage formation whilst tucked up in bed - my bassist to the left, my rhythm guitarist to my right, the drummer and keyboardist behind me. I would then put on the Walkman and believe that I was on stage. But i didn't need the cuddly toys for my imagination to whizz me off to my imaginary rock 'n' roll dreams. Sometimes as I would be listening to the Walkman in the car, and i would imagine that I was the singer in a band. The whole surrounding of the car wasn't even there - I was on a stage, rocking it out to whatever I was listening to at the time. Or sometimes I would even imagine that I was being chauffeur driven (by my dad.... who of course wasn't my dad he was my chauffeur) to the next venue.

I guess you can say I had a creative mind back then which to an extent I still have today. though I assure you the days of cuddly toy rock bands are in the past. I only really have one cuddly toy now days and that is Rufus... maybe I will tell you about him sometime.

I guess this explains why I grew up through my teenage years with an interest in music, which I still maintain today. It would also explain why I have the most diverse mix of music on my iPhone. Literally there is old stuff, new stuff, theatrical numbers, heavy songs and even a poppy number or two. Music was a big part of my childhood, but really that needs to wait for another blog, otherwise I will never get this one finished, and it is already nearing half past 2 in the morning. None the less it was also evident that I would not end up playing in a band (though I did attempt this). I never really had an interest in learning how to play an instrument, so again where would this lead me in the future?

At about the same age as my rock 'n' roll fantasies, I remember having this little story in my head. It was set at my infant school... only there was a fire mans pole down into the foyer, in the lower part of the school. My base was above, I don't remember it being hi-tech, in fact I really don't remember much of it at all. In reality there was no second floor, but that is what an imagination is for. In my dreams there was a second floor, and the only way down to the ground floor was via the fire mans pole. If you are asking yourself how i got up there in the first place? I have no idea, there never were stairs... so again use your imaginations to work this one out! Its frustrating that I don't remember what the stories were about, but i visualised it as a TV show of some sort. I was the hero, the main character, it was great...

So what relevance do these stories have? I guess what it says is that as a kid your mind works on two levels. There is the conscious side of your mind which links things you do in real life with a career. Such as my love for animals and becoming a vet. Then equally there is the subconscious things, events that seem meaningless at the time but in fact carve who you become. I guess from that early age it was clear that I would want to be seen or heard, even if I wasn't the most socially outgoing kid in school. I never at this stage would have thought acting. But hey... that is where it lead me.

These little childish moments which sound oh so cute in fact make so much sense. I clearly longed to be on a stage. At the time I never realised this, they were just childhood fantasies and imaginations playing games. Though really they were telling me something. I went through senior school ignoring much of this. If I am truthful I had no idea what i wanted to do by this stage. The conscious side of my mind was on other matters, combating all the shit you have to deal with as you grow up - puberty is a real pain in the arse, as you have to get to grips with the person you are growing up to be. But that is all part of life.

I guess the moral to this story is that you can choose a career or ambition but in reality the ambition or career chooses you before you even know it!