Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Last Orders Club

After the gig in Great Torrington in Devon, Mark and I stayed in a lovely little Bed & Breakfast.

I say lovely, the room was tiny and I couldn't use the toilet because I was too big for the bathroom and my knees bashed into the sink; so I had to sit all askew and crush my ball bags as I squatted over the latrine...but apart from that, it was sweet as.

We've stayed at this place before and the real treat is the breakfast, which is top notch and the lovely owners Rudy and Lona.

Lona likes to make chat and she told us about what she was up to the night before (not dogging, don't worry) and this club she is a member of: The Last Orders Club. Basically, a whole bunch of people put money in a pot and in return, they get a name of a famous person who is close to death. Whoever has the name of the one that dies first, gets what's in the pot. Rules are complex but cover stuff like, you can't wager on the demise of someone with a terminal illness already, or you can't have someone shot in order to bring in the wager and if anyone in The Last Orders Club passes away, all the money in the pot goes to charity.

As she told us she seemed quite embarrassed but I thought it was a great idea, it de-mystifies death and brings people together over the unlikely subject matter of the Grim Reaper. It reminds me that before the terror of Christianity came to our shores, the dead were celebrated and kept close to the family home rather than sanctified and placed in special places; thus making death something to be feared.

I'm thinking of starting up my own online Last Orders Club via a blog, any takers?

Monday, 23 February 2009

Amateur Dramatics

The wide eyed wild 1000 yard stare, the frozen smile racked with years of what-ifs and could've beens, the head twisted at a nearly grotesque angle. Make no mistake, this is the face of Amateur Dramatics.

Yet another week of Poles Apart has come and gone, we are now at half-way with four weeks of touring left.

Portsmouth was a winner, nice and busy and a grand old theatre although the digs were something from 1981, not only in decor but quality, our shower refused to work and the one we had to use utilised a unique control system, where you had no control over temperature or volume of water.

Chaos theory in shower form.

How these places survive is beyond me.

Then after the joys of Hampshire we got the blues in Worcestershire as we played Bromsgrove, hopefully for the last time, as this was the first show on tour that sold badly; although the audience that was there were a real treat but I think the people of Bromsgrove will soon lose theatre if they don't back it.

Richmond is always a cracker and it didn't disappoint, although at half-time Mark and I figured that the audience weren't biting but Act 2 was a triumph of audience participation and positive thinking, we Mark scaling the theatre's walls in order to bring members of the crowd together.

The week ended on an odd high at an unexpectedly good venue in Louth, although our audience was the oldest so far of the tour they got into it but the theatre's education and community engagement policy should be a beacon to other Amateur Dramatic Society's out there.

And speaking of Amateur Dramatics, one of my favourite blogs is currently being hi-jacked by a couple of amateurs who drive virtually every comment thread into shutdown. The blogs owner is not one for comment moderation or the removal of unsuitable comments, which is fine but I do worry that the level of quality debate had plummeted under the constant fire of this idiot (who in my opinion should be barred from the blog until he changes his modus operandi) and to a far lesser degree this one.

I myself am staying clear of it for a while, because whether the thread be on the Oscars, Obama or Pakistan; everyone is marred with degeneration and trolling.

Which is a real shame...

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Email of Support Re: Poles Apart

Back off on tour today, to Portsmouth of all places and the lovely New Theatre Royal in what will hopefully be another good week. We're also at the grand and gorgeous Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, Yorkshire, which on a Friday night is bound to be rammed, slightly drunk and laughing.

Before I go, would like to leave you with an email that we received from one of our audience members who helps the Polish workers in her town to learn English. Another proud moment...

Hi,

Just to let you know that Poles Apart should be a training programme for all who work with the newly arrived Poles. Seriously, the way you tackled the issues was FANTASTIC, btw I was the one who 'translated' kulawa which does mean lame or cripple, however, I wonder if you had misread it and it was one of the most frequently heard words of Polish around at the moment!!!

You reallly should consider marketing this both as a theatre experience but elsewhere too.

Bye for now, Hela.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo

I have just finished reading an exceptional book, by the legend that is Craig Murray, that deserves a wider readership than I fear it is getting (you can buy it right here, direct from Craig).

The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, is a wonderful insight into the workings of the Blair British government in West Africa but more importantly, it offers some level of explanation for the raft of failed attempts (or false attempts) at (anti) democracy and (pseudo) self-governance in Africa and just how the entire continent is deteriorating at an alarming pace.

Africa is actually poorer now than it was some 25 years ago and this, shockingly, is in absolute and not comparative terms. The reasons are, of course, complicated and this is not some call for a return to the Empire and colonialism but neither is it as simple as to suggest that it is all the fault of the old occupying European forces.

The issue seems to stem from the hand over of power to totally unsuitable anti-democratic leaders, leaders that suited the West's agenda but leaders not at all suited to the agenda of the people. Most of these had idealistic, Marxist economic schemes that utterly ignored the existing economic frameworks in place and instead indulged in the fantasy of Utopian prosperity via central planning and grandiose industrial projects.

These leaders then repressed their own people, far harsher than the colonial occupiers ever had, banning trade unions, independent news sources and dissenting voices were imprisoned or killed.

This format can be seen all over Africa but it is Ghana's and Africa's first post-colonial leader Kwame Nkrumah, that set the template for others, such as Robert Mugabe, to follow.

One of his worst ideas, that was and still is being copied in other African nations, is the concept of import licences, ie: the government controls who can bring what into the country, tied to over-valued exchange rates. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this breeds corruption, government cronyism and economic collapse.

It also means that for African nations, to trade amongst themselves is virtually impossible, it is easier for them to trade with Europe than each other, in other words, they have destroyed their own regional trade in order to protect private, corrupt interests.

In terms of the West's culpability; subsidised Western farmers who are paid to make more food than we can eat, dumping their excess, cheap food on Africa (under the auspices of feeding the world) has meant that the indigenous farming community has collapsed, whether that be in rice, maize or sugar cane production. And let us not forget the West's obsession with irresponsible lending to African dictators to finance grandiose capital projects, so that via corruption and skimming off of funds, the nation is saddled with even greater debt that the West can use as leverage.

There is clearly hope in Africa but the litany of errors and mismanagement have pushed the continent to breaking point and it will take a change of attitude both within and outside the home of humanity to enable change.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Poles Apart: Latest Trailer!

Another successful week of Poles Apart has passed with great audience turnout and wonderful responses to the work, including in Spalding, of all places, where an orderly queue of Poles formed to have their photo taken with us and to congratulate us on telling the real story of Poland. A proud moment for Mark and I indeed.

This week, the show just kept getting better but I reckon that Spalding is the highlight so far as on Valentine's Night, a great show in Helmsley to a packed theatre, was a little spoilt by two people walking out just as we got to the bit where we join the audience together in a moment of sharing multicultural roots. Mark and I await their letter of complaint to see what the fuss was about.

I must confess, as they flustered their way out I had a dig at them by saying I was glad they were going, rather than having them spoil the atmosphere and the audience responded in a sterling way by engaging even more vigorously in going around the world in 8 minutes.

And below is a real treat, the latest video trailer for Poles Apart that includes live footage shot at a triumphant gig in Darlington.

Enjoy!


Poles Apart Trailer from Andonis Anthony on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Misfits

I've always been a big fan of The Misfits, with Walk Among Us being one of my favourite albums of all time (and if you like any form of punk rock, you should own this by now, totally essential) but I've only just acquired their Box Set which documents pretty much everything they put out and is just getting hammered on my iPod at the mo.

Below is some vids of their top tracks, get into it people...

MOMMY, CAN I GO OUT AND KILL TONIGHT?






Monday, 9 February 2009

Untitled

Alreet!

Back home briefly after a triumphant return to Kendal (we sold more tickets than Zero, can you believe that?) but off on tour again tomorrow for spells in Darlington, Wellingborough, Oldham and Spalding.

The only downer is that I'm spending Valentine's Night doing a show in pigging Helmsley, which is an alright kind of place but not the sort you want to spend Valentine's in if you catch me drift.

Poles Apart is proving to be a big hit with our audiences and especially the vast number of Poles that come to see it, I like hearing them respond to the Polish only jokes that are in Polish (obviously) as the Brits stare on. I've also heard Poles translate them for the English friends they've brought along and clap all the pro-Polish parts where we re-dress the balance and tell the true story of Poland's oppression.

The highlight for me though is the bit where we get the audience up on their feet and they do a little Polish disco dance routine, seeing a hundred people of all ages and types, grinning, dancing and laughing gives me a real buzz.

BTW, anyone seen my massive parking ticket?

Friday, 6 February 2009

Poles Apart Opened Last Night

And we're off, the Poles Apart tour is now officially underway and last night we opened at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, the place was packed and we did a mighty fine show.

Nerves nearly had the better of us in Act 1, which we bolted through like crazy men but a swift talking to in the interval meant we relaxed and enjoyed the Second Act. A game of two halves so to speak.

I think that the size of our house and the volume of Polish people in the audience bodes well for the rest of the run and the Poles in the crowd seemed to love it, although my anti-Russian jokes didn't go down as well as I thought they would, we'll see how they'll fair tonight.

Speaking of tonight, we're in St. Albans and not only is Eva-Jane coming but as are other people whose opinion I care about, so no doubt I'll be wracked with nerves again. Then the week wraps up with a return to Kendal (where we played with Zero), the home of mint cake and hopefully lots of Polish people.

Before I go, I'd like to leave you a great video-mp3-mash-up of the Christian Bale rant, which is currently doing the Internet rounds. And if you want my opinion, Bale is totally in the right to lose his shit.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Live on Polish Television!

Yesterday, Mark and I got back from our live Polish TV debut and we had a right laugh, sometimes the actors life and the adventures it brings are worth all the heartache of the job itself.

We went to Warsaw via Amsterdam (unfortunately with no time to grab a beer) and were put up in a very luxurious hotel, by Polish standards anyway although Mark and I were sharing a room, again and our two single beds were pushed together. Very Brokeback Mountain...

In the morning, after a massive Polish breakfast that consisted of meat, eggs, pancakes and maple syrup we made our way to the studio, which resembled an open plan office, had very bad orange make-up applied (as evidenced above) and Madonna style headset microphones fitted.

After a brief cutaway to us on the sofa, we were moved to the main area, met the hosts and live on Polish TV, were interviewed.

We did very well, I think, we managed to come across okay and not upset anyone, although I did put out an appeal for a Polish bride which thankfully Eva-Jane took in good spirit. Evidence of the main interview is here with Polish translation over the top and the pre-interview skit can be seen here.

I just hope this means that more Polish people will come and see Poles Apart, we could do with spreading the love amongst out Polish friends.

We are on three days...

Bloody hell.