Friday, 4 May 2018

Dangenham Polling Booth Quizzes

I walked into the polling booth yesterday without any sense of who to vote for. Obviously there was never any risk of my voting Tory, but choosing between Labour and the Lib Dems was like a vegetarian being asked to chose between chicken and fish. Homophobe or anti-Semite? And yes, I appreciate that the Lib Dems no longer have a homophobic leader, but I’ve never really forgiven them for having one in the first place, and there is that sense that by voting for them, even in a seat where they’ve traditionally done well, you’re sort of chucking your vote away. In the end they felt like the lesser of two evils, so I went Lib Dem across the board. What clinched it was a video which did the rounds yesterday of Corbyn talking with such vitriol about Israel that I felt it would be almost impossible for him to convincingly claim to be anything other than a massive anti-Semite.

A Lib Dem and a Labour activist were sitting, like gnomes, on deckchairs outside the polling station. I was rather pleased there were no Tories sitting there. Tories don’t bother to come round here. They know better...

I’ve seen two plays in two days. The first, on Wednesday night, was at the Noël Coward theatre, and was called, rather simply, Quiz. Written by James Graham, it tells the story of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire “coughing” scandal, where Major Charles Ingram and his wife Dianna “cheated” the show out of £1,000,000. It’s a very cleverly written piece which examines the court case: the first half, from the prosecution’s perspective and, the second, focussing on the defence. The audience actually gets to vote, twice, on whether they think the pair are guilty. There are keypads for everyone to press and the results come up on screens behind.

It’s a deeply thought-provoking piece and one has to assume that it’s based on truth. I had no idea, for example, that ITV had edited their own evidence tape and then destroyed all the original footage. There are also a series of moral questions which crop up throughout the play. If ITV are happy to create a lottery system where scores of ordinary people are spending thousands and thousands of pounds phoning up the hotline number to become contestants on the show, is it really so bad that a syndicate of people came up with a way to cheat the system? I felt very similarly about Nasty Nick on Big Brother. At the end of the day, you’re playing a game, for good telly, and, actually, the scandal brought a huge amount of publicity to the show when its ratings were flagging. Even if the Ingrams HAD meant to cheat (and the jury is out on that question) was it really any worse than any of the stuff which was going on behind the scenes on the show?

Last night, I went with Ben Mabberley to see Made In Dagenham, performed by third year students from Mountview School at the Bernie Grant theatre in Seven Sisters, which turns out to be a rather charming space. The show was being performed, rather well actually, by a mix of actor-musician students and people on the “straight” actors’ course (as opposed to the musical theatre course - I have no idea whether they were gay or straight, although straight acting students are probably more likely to be straight!)

It was a great production of what I consider to be a deeply flawed show. I felt that it was a missed opportunity when I saw it in the West End. The central character doesn’t sing enough. We never get the impression that the story is actually being told through her eyes. Cameo characters appear, sing songs, and then vanish again. There’s a whole sequence with the Prime Minister which really shouldn’t be there (despite the lad who played the role last night being supremely talented) and even the death of a central character lacks impact.

Worst of all, however, is the way the lyrics scan. It is unacceptable to have lyrics which stress all the wrong syllables. It’s almost impossible for actors (and audiences) to make sense of sentences where the stressed syllables of the word land on soft beats of music... and vice versa. It’s rule number one about song writing and it shows laziness, or worse still, arrogance or lack of awareness, on behalf of the writers. It’s something I don’t always spot in my own writing, so, every time I write a song, I get Nathan to check it over, to iron out the words which don’t stress properly. And whilst Brass languishes without a West End run, and hastily written nonsense like Made In Dagenham gets performed by amateur groups across the country, that makes me incredibly angry!

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