All posts by Sean Openshaw

So, You Think You Are Funny?

Right then, deciding to become a comedian

Involves the task of deciding what type you’ll be,

A simple buffoon or a sesquipedalian

Have motives to get you to look at what they see

And method to do that and people they think will agree,

 

If Humour, as such, is the kind you desire,

Discovery leads, simply draw back any veil

To sympathetic audiences who require

Astute observations of life’s epic tale,

A laugh at ourselves when we’re great and when we fail,

 

When Wit is the aim of your smart intervention,

Light up a somewhere, somewhere no-one’s gone before,

Intelligent listeners will get your intention,

Surprise is essential to make its motives sure

And what wouldn’t we give to be witty to the core?

 

Should Satire take your wandering imagination,

You subtly want the world to this time get it right,

The self-satisfied, whether person or nation,

Accentuated absurdly, to great delight,

Are source and cause for satire’s somewhat dangerous plight,

 

If Sarcasm stands at the top of your wish list,

Inflicting a pain on a victim’s essential,

You’ll need a witness, so none of the good stuff’s missed,

A bitter inversion that’s ‘them referential’,

We get it, the victim is inconsequential,

 

Maybe Invective is your way to bring laughter,

You’re out to discredit, someone, or thing, brought down,

The public, in general, the listeners you’re after,

Want direct statements, like directions into town,

Bordering on a brutal or abusive clown,

 

Don’t forget Irony, plenty of mirth power,

Hiding away in exclusiveness’ high chair,

An inner-circle from the same ivory tower,

Very mysterious for those who are not there,

A two-tier joke where neither about either care,

 

And, of course, Cynicism, well worth attention,

Look for the smug and the ones that self-justify,

Then, to the respectable, be sure to mention

An expose of the former’s nakedness by

Sneering, mocking, of humanity drain us dry,

 

Finally, Sardonic fun, at this we’re quite good,

We’re looking here at self-relief, if I may say

And being almost as someone on there own would,

You wallow in pessimism, all is dismay

And God knows how you get to the end of the day,

 

What a palaver, deciding on which way to go,

With different reasons for playing a certain part,

A range of vast provinces, each a world to know,

We all laugh; we don’t all share funny in the heart,

So the mastership of methods is where I’ll start,

Or maybe not.

A Song for Valentine

In a deep, deep cave where my heart’s a slave to love,
No plan that’s obviously right to lead me back into the light,
There’s many like me who cannot see above
Their own impending devastation, trouble fits their situation like that glove
And always those who would feign propose it’s great,
This thing, this all-persistent, non-resistant state,
Some claim experience and croon, some begrudge a word,
Though everything they’re saying is little more than braying,
All sorts of tales they tell, the best that you’ve ever heard,
Who while they say believe us, deceive us,
So we think it through, then we think it’s true, surely someone somewhere knows,
But we still resist when they all insist it’s a fate we can’t oppose,
Yet somewhere there’s something there that’s obviously not deterred
And now comes that awful ache, the second time, maybe third,
So totally dazed and no less amazed to see
Why tales, incredible, may yet suggest the best that we can get,
From a whole life long that was always wrong, from me,
We have to try and look again, we could be crazy, be insane, quite probably,
But loosing the thread of the things we’ve said before
To start a whole new world? We’re not that sure,
Look despite a grand aversion
To what feels like forced conversion,
Just recall in your reversion
More exists than your own version,
Somebody waits for me and there is the one way out,
There’s no use in complaining, there’s no more past remaining,
I’ve gone blind, I’ve lost my mind and quite paralysed with doubt,
It needs a new objective perspective
I admit it’s true that I’m stuck on you and those tales have more within,
That your lovely face and your fond embrace are the way my dreams begin
And the matter’s sure when I close one door that behind the next is you
That we reach the sights from the blissful heights that one gets from being two
The sunshine, the moonbeams, the rainbows, the bright new stars
All mine now I love you and whatever’s mine is ours.

Hamlet – a step too far for some

Amidst the fashionable clamour for authenticity on our stages, Othello should be a black actor, Cleopatra and Juliet should be teenage girls, etc, this production seemed to dismiss such concerns and happily swapped the gender of several main characters.  Now I don’t want to start anything or be dismissed as “Protesting too much”, but even within the parameters of a bold transformation to a Victorian Gothic tale, for Hamlet’s sake, I was left wondering was it too far or not too far?

However, “The play’s the thing.”  The impossibility of certainty, the complexity of action, the mystery of death, the nation as a diseased body, incest, misogyny, senses and symbols.  Such deep themes seemed lost in the air of pantomime, the severe cuts to the action and it all being a bit rushed.

The entrance to the intimate auditorium crossed a rather drably set stage where actors in their places waited like human statues.  In this instance, stage left, two women in black crinoline and a gent in Victorian attire sat around a table.  When the lights went up and the action started, they turned out to be mid séance.  As the ghost of Hamlet’s noble and faultless father (Chris Huntley-Turner) appeared, as spectral and spooky as he should, the statues revealed themselves to be Horatio (Andrew Venning) and in black crinoline, two palace guards.  OK

Hamlet (Jack Baldwin),  a university student, was supposed to be philosophical and contemplative, an enigma.  This Hamlet, however was stuffy, aloof, not mysterious, too Victorian.  I didn’t really care what he was going through.  His soliloquies, some of the most famous in literature, were delivered with what seemed to be a deliberate under-emphasis especially where there should have been an emphasis.  The director maybe?  However, he lost it completely when he was with the lady gravediggers and uttered “Alas poor Yorick, I knew her Horatio”.  It wasn’t only me who groaned, but I just couldn’t begin to imagine him riding on her back.  Look it up.

Claudius (Alexander Nash), Gertrude (Kate Terence) and Polonius (Paul Easom) made themselves known during a royal proclamation, letting the masses know what they already thought, that they’d married too soon after the previous king’s death.  Yes, Hamlet’s late noble and faultless father.

Claudius gave us a few good moments as a villain and a corrupt politician, but nothing of the shrewd, lustful and conniving king he was supposed to be.  It was more like he was doing the day job than responding to a growing and devastating danger.  When he accidentally killed his wife, he sort of shrugged it off.

Gertrude was very convincing as a woman dependent on men for her station.  She portrayed an apt uncertainty in how much she knew about Claudius’ plan or why she married him.  She oozed grace and charm and showed little awareness of her own mind or her lack of moral insight.  “Frailty, thy name is woman,” squealed Hamlet, forcing her to face her behaviour as shaming the whole of her sex.

Polonius was suitably wrong in everything he said, but appeared more as a stern schoolmaster than a sincere father to his children.  His death, behind the arras, barely made the headlines.

Ophelia (Scarlet Clifford) who was not such a maid in her first awakenings to men’s desires as she should have been and her line between sanity and madness was crossed without effort.  Laertes (Robert Welling) who was about as vengeful as Bambi, dallied around a while, engaged in a little swordplay and expired without note.  An underused, but defiantly lascivious Rosencrantz (Katy Daghorn) and a much too twerky Guildenstern (Marie Fortune) (or was it the other way around?) brought in the players (Chloe Wigmore and Amy Christie).  “Man delights not me” states Hamlet.  Just as well, there weren’t any.

I missed the tragedy, the suffering and the catharsis but my guest, who hadn’t seen it before, loved it.  You can’t please everyone.

Hamlet – Prince of Denmark. 

A tragedy by William Shakespeare, 1599.

Director; Andrew Shepherd

Production Company; ACS Random

Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London

02/12/14 – 14/12/14

 

Bettane & Desseauve: saving the best till last, I was seduced by something new

Why chink glasses?  Drinking wine, we usually see the colour, smell the fragrance, taste the grapes and feel the glass, but there is nothing to hear.  So to compliment all the senses, the chink of crystal.  For me, the Third Edition of the London Wine Experience by Bettane & Desseauve at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea was almost as complimentary.

With great expectation and permission to pass the magnificent Mascaro Guardians, the Cultus Deorum exhibits in the basement gallery launched an unexpectedly brutal assault on the eyes.  Blame Cicero.  Mind you, on the way out, they had acquired an eerie beauty.

Inside the tasting rooms, plenty of velvet, corduroy, Feux suede and cashmere and that’s just the men.  Thirty eight exhibitors, stalls on either side of the room, like a street market and in the middle, two rather elegant, giant, decanter shaped spittoons which, I admit, I first thought were Perry sculptures.  Sorry Grayson.

Reidel Glass, the connoisseurs’ choice, was notably missing.  I’d already checked at Peter Jones.  A dazzle of shapes and sizes for every kind of wine.  Only one shape was provided for us, unless you went in for the private tasting master classes, which cost extra, but then you got a fuller range.

Anyway, wine tasting, as ever, is a subtle and personal interpretation of interplaying elements. The effects of the vineyard, the quality and singularity/blending of grapes, the chalk/clay of the soil, the cultivation and fermentation methods and the ups and downs of the climate.  As a naïve oenologist, or more likely, as a kid in a sweet shop, I won’t judge them, you’ll have to look on www.london.bdwinexperience.com and try for yourself, but the selections were as promised, “Le segment haut de gammes”, premium.

Spanish Cava, French Bordeaux and Italian Grifalco wines jostled with Lebanese Ksara, Greek Ktima Gerovassiliou and Argentinian sparkling Chandon, sister to Moet.  For me, saving the best till last (and with the biggest crowd around the stall), the Taittinger Prestige rose (NV) a perfect colour, the right amount of bubbles and no competition, until the Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc (2005), when now I’d happily pass a magnum of the first for a glass of the second.

Occasionally people talked too much, insisting on teaching the teachers or spouting to the crowd.  One man, seeking the strongest wines with the most tannin, claimed he could permanently change the wine’s molecular structure with a special substance he carried hidden in a small bottle.  An apparent spinoff from secret research into making fuels go twice as far.  He related the procedure’s wine-smoothing effects to a theory that water has memory.    He couldn’t tell us what the substance was because he’d “have to kill us”, but started to lose it when he said it helped women drink more without getting a hangover and  made his dog appear younger by reducing its grey hair.  It was time to move on.  Yet after three hours and all that wine, I hadn’t heard a single chink.

The other father’s day

A happy Father’s Day, wherever you are,

Whatever your reasons for running away,

In some ways you’ll be just like, ordinary,

Except, of course, I don’t know what those ways are,

If I had to make a guess, oh wait, I do,

I’d have to start from the middle of the road,

But even the normal isn’t that easy,

Let’s have a think about what little I know,

TV, stories, books, other men’s role models,

All second hand ideas about a shadow

Of something that everyone is supposed to know,

I hear something that sounds right and think that’s it,

Or that sometimes my father still speaks through me,

Whatever I think he is, is all there is,

I can make little of the little I know,

This is some sort of masochism, or what?

Hand-me-down imaginings get in the way,

My father is nothing like those images,

I must know him from what I know about me,

Even though I don’t like everything I know,

In fact, there’s nothing good in any of this,

Forget it; I’ll stick with what I once thought was true,

That gives me some control over who he is,

But what makes me think I can just fantasise,

If it hurts, so what? It hurts, deal with it,

A runaway father is not the normal,

Think about it for a while, get to know it,

Second-hand shadows might be a place to start,

Then anything anyone says who knew you,

Then maybe I’ll get to see who you are,

As if you can tell what’s what by what’s missing,

Objective, not emotional perspective,

But none of that actually makes a father,

The warmth, smell, sound, touch, safety, fear and pride of dad.

No one with sense

No-one with sense would want to be a celebrity,
Something that those without don’t see,
There is certainly no shortage of new wannabe’s out there,
Who are willing to do a producer, or two,
If it gets them on the air,
In the space of celebrity, the race for celebrity,
No-one with sense would want to be,

Think what it costs, all this celebrity,
The striving isn’t worth the gain,
The road is tearful, fearful, easy to lose your ground
Even when fame is found
And parasitic friends abound,
But keep your smile, you’re a celebrity
And surely all the world’s in awe,
You say meticulous, we say ridiculous,
Your putting it out, strutting about
As if you’ve just been crowned,

No-one with sense would want to be a celebrity,
Something that those without don’t see,
There is only painted beauty and a camera lies as well,
When a shape that might please,
A wiggle and tease, are all you have to sell,
It’s a rough road,
Where every blemish, every wart
And every vice of every sort,
Are on somebody’s camera caught,
Displayed for all to see,
In the light of celebrity, the fight for celebrity,
No-one with sense would want to be,

No-one with sense would want to be a celebrity,
Something that those without don’t see,
Though they say they hate the spotlight,
Recognition floats their boat,
A thunderous applause,
Fans scream themselves hoarse,
Whilst groupies on them dote,
Like addiction,
A case of being very ill,
You know it’s bad but want it still,
A state of me, me, me,
In the scam of celebrity, sham of celebrity,
No-one with sense would want to be.