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Land Of The Free

2 November 2017

I have been to Portland before. Portland in Dorset. There is a long strip of shingle called Chesil Beach which floods and cuts it off from the mainland. Ian McEwan used it as the background to some early sixties sexual fumbling but to a teenage boy it seemed like nothing happened there. Nevertheless it still managed to sound not so bad compared to the Portland Oregon of Guardian coffee shop and craft beer repute. The “Keep Portland Weird” sentiment and signs are not only stolen from Austin in Texas but makes it sound like the sort of people who call themselves crazy and are invariably not. Time to find out for myself.

First stop was appropriately what a broadsheet writer would call a “destination hotel”. At McMenamins Crystal Hotel in the Pearl District each room is given over to a particular artist’s song and after being allocated the Gloria by Them room my initial impressions were reasonably relaxed. I didn’t particularly want Van Morrison staring at me but could console myself with the Patti Smith version. It could have been worse. Next door but one My Chemical Romance had moved in. By the time of the “57 (and counting)” businesses boast in the hotel information book I was starting to have my suspicions about the place. A passport to the McMenamin brother’s coffee brand and jam jar to fill with seasonal beer ensured a finger in every cliché but the recommendations for other people’s initiatives I had received everywhere else were nowhere to be found. Apart from the prices it now started to feel like a middle class all-inclusive complex as I attempted to locate the bar named after the mobster Al Winter who ran his empire from here in the 40’s. Eventually I blundered in wearing a dressing gown and my $2 flip flops to get a drink and sit in the saltwater soaking pool so you don’t have to.     

Having a Gang of Four At Home He’s A Tourist room on the second floor was either cranked up post-modern irony or completely clueless but all fed into the feel of an organisation which was appropriating some vague independent credibility for money. I had always taken the song to be a comment on the alienation of consumerism and the passive consumption of culture and if they have got lines like “Down on the disco floor, They make their profit, From the things they sell” emblazoned around the walls of 208 or even their own Crystal ballroom you could almost admire their bottle. So what next for the entrepeneurs in casual trousers? I suggest a fleet of Pixies themed taxis: “Of course we can get you a cab Sir but you might have to wait a little longer for the Monkey Gone To Heaven car”.

Virtually across the road is Powell’s City of Books which takes up a full city block and has claimed to be the biggest independent book shop in the world. There is certainly an awful lot to look at but with their numerous branches including one at the airport and being part of the successful opposition in a state vote to raise tax on business’ whose sales exceed $25 million some have questioned what this really means. Whilst wishing “In Other Words” feminist book shop the best of luck in trying to compete with Powell’s prices it is difficult to have much sympathy for them taking six series of Portlandia to realise their portrayal wasn’t entirely affectionate. Blaming Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein’s biting the hand that feeds you bravura militant cyclist and artisan knot maker for gentrification until the residents of the predominantly black area of Albina that this shop is in said they had started it real life evidence of tying yourself in knots.

For more real independence head north west to the fairground sideshow meets gallery space of the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium. If you can’t enjoy the theremin which produces a flatulent rumble every time someone passes to the alien autopsy which invites involvement you should get inside the simulated burial experience because you are as good as dead. That the Peculiarium is “dedicated to learning and terror” makes it sound a bit like my comprehensive but presents stuff that is much more exciting than anything there in the severed tongue in cheek style of its casket or coffin dichotomy and the unexpected poignancy of a tribe trying to encourage visitors to return with an imitation plane. Disappointingly the ice cream with bug larve dispenser seemed out of action so the Delight which I would have sampled for research was near but yet so far.  

The art on the walls features work from Manchester’s Colin Batty in a style which makes his attraction to film maker Tim Burton understandable while Mike Wellin’s makes the splendid Peculiarium maxim that “Art is anything you can get away with” explicit. Production line landscape paintings rescued from a variety of sources and transformed by the strategic placement of a variety of B movie monsters. 

A gift shop with fridge magnets designed to dress Trump, Hitler or Jesus in a variety of fun outfits is an improvement on a print of an art work on just about anything from a that’s as close as you’re going to get museum and an assistant who can’t get your impulse buys in a bag somehow part of the experience. He proves more adept at a parting photo with a suitably large Bigfoot in the doorway before I emerge into the rain fortified with the fortune teller card knowledge that my lucky Billy Idol song is Eyes Without A Face.

I could be needing it as the first port in a storm is another McMenamin’s in an area which makes me think it might have been a curse. I wouldn’t want to doubt that the Peculiarium was opened by an explorer in 1967 but wonder how much longer it can survive the tide of expensive tat and new age therapy outlets that makes up the aptly named Nob Hill area. I negotiated my way through a smog of smugness and small dogs with good grace but failed in my primary mission. For the whole stay I attempted to buy some new music but only managed to find shops selling records for at least double the price of the non-existent CD. Surely most people who like Ziggy Stardust have it by now and if you want to listen to it rather than put it on your wall it would occasionally be better to get two pieces of music for the price of one unless you have more money than sense. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the aesthetic superiority of vinyl but when did the stamp collector wing of the party seize power?

While the impressive looking houses further up the hill were home to the sort of Halloween get ups which made it look like an up market Munster’s film set it was the signs in many of the gardens which said no to hate and welcomed people of all ethnicities that were encouraging. My own unscientific route did suggest however that the only people of colour who are likely to see this will be mowing the lawn around them. Driving a 4x4 that is still emblazoned with Bernie Sanders stickers is one thing but how this translates into real resistance I don’t know. In the few days I was in the country Trump scrapped Obama’s attempts at health care reform, threatened American Football teams with tax raises if their players don’t stand for the national anthem, raised the possibility of revoking the broadcast licence of media outlets that disagreed with him and challenged his Secretary of State to an IQ test after he called him a moron so let’s hope someone does.

On the way is Providence Park which as well as being the site of an Elvis gig was the site of Pele’s last professional game and home to the Portland Timbers and Thorns soccer teams. Unfortunately the moving of the kick off time for television of a game with DC United I was going to attend was one way of making a disillusioned English football supporter feel at home. That the Thorns women’s team get a seventeen thousand average attendance was no use to me as they were in Florida winning the NWSL title.

Reluctantly I enquired about a tour of the ground which after a passive aggressive exchange of emails prior to arrival with Morgan the Events Manager wasn’t going to happen. The tone souring as a price of $5 for a group of twelve in 2013 had gone to a flat rate of £50 in 2016 when the Timbers won the league. After pointing out that I had been to football matches around the world for less than that a reply of “good for you” might have earned begrudging amusement. Instead I was left with a mental image of bog standard Premiership player and Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell sat on his bog wiping his arse with pound notes to demonstrate a footballer’s wealth so maybe Morgan knew how to play these things.

Free of charge is the walk to Forest Park and the Witch’s Castle or more prosaically titled Stone House. On this site in the mid 1800’s Danford Balch hired the magnificently monikered Mortimer Stump to clear the creek around their cabin but after he ran off with Balch’s daughter Anna was shot in the head on his return. Despite Balch doing what most men would do in the circumstances and claiming his wife had bewitched him he himself died in Oregon’s first legal execution in 1859.

A century later the stone structure was built as a ranger’s station on the site before being abandoned shortly after and remaining unused until teenagers understandably took advantage of the remote location to come and get drunk. Nowadays the isolation and the drop in temperature generated by the proliferation of enormous trees generates a distinct atmosphere but the paranormal sites which claim the original dispute gives rise to “wicked laughter” are most charitably hearing the static buzz of distant traffic which only adds to the Blair Witch like feel. The six mile even before you go the wrong way around the trail hungover hike an enjoyable experience even if by the time cramp set in I would have gladly crawled into a battered cab from one of the filler tracks on Trompe Le Monde.  

For full fat supernatural hokum a tour of the Shanghai Tunnels during the “haunting season” was entertaining enough. In the Williamette River docks area are tunnels in which opium dens and bars which existed during prohibition have been unearthed from the foundations of the recent construction boom. A guide who looked alarmingly like the misanthropic magician Jerry Sadowitz took the history to Most Haunted levels before a trap door which he had built from wood in the tunnels was released and a dummy which took some stuffing back in the hole made me think it might be him. This didn’t deter a young woman who collapsed in stages seconds after he highlighted a staircase as a place that spirit contact often occurred from discussing her own supernatural investigator experience moments later. None of which alters the consensus that whilst Portland did have a reputation as a dangerous port and intoxicated people were forced onto ships to act as crew there is little evidence they were dropping through deadfalls or being held captive in these tunnels.

To be fair the tours are a project of the Cascade Geographic Society which is involved with a human trafficking education center so it might be worth stumping up roughly $13 and seeing what you think. On the way to cross the river on the Burnside Bridge there is more people who are clearly in need of physical and mental health care in one place than I witnessed in the likes of San Francisco or New York a decade or so ago. As is often the case in America it seemed to be the Church trying to plug the gaps in a disgrace which is almost certainly going to get worse.

Over the river is the Doug Fir Lounge which before arrival has bells ringing as having been on the site of a punk club but its concert venue, motel and restaurant meets glam truck stop in a Twin Peaks type style just about shows it is possible to build something new and original. Its different uses seeming to attract a healthy mixture of people who wouldn’t usually spend time together.

Further east is the Hawthorne Centre and I must confess to have completely forgotten to look for the pictures behind the bar that give away its masonic past as a group who had been at a retirement do all day were making me feel welcome. Pictures of an enormous salmon complete with teeth marks from a seal that had attempted to steal a fisherman’s catch suggested he wasn’t one of us but the enthusiasm for my ramble about the rain in Olympia making it perfect Nirvana tourist weather was the most empathetic response I got all trip. The kids inside the concert hall part spending more time out of it as it being split in half to stop them drinking meant they were outside doing it and nearly getting run over.

That the United States is big, bad and dangerous to know has produced some magnificently unhinged responses. These contradictions are a huge part of the fascination and the biggest one is that they cause the most consternation. In down town Portland they are in danger of ironing all of these out so everything and everybody who doesn’t fit the plan are pushed out of sight. Go before it is enveloped in beer that tastes like flat Fosters. As for Dorset I haven’t been to Bournemouth for a while.

Not Waving But Drowning

17 March 2017

I had always managed to resist the lure of Thailand with its reputation for bumptious backpackers and sex tourists wearing sandals. In “The Beach” Alex Garland asked “One of these days I’m going to find one of those Lonely Planet writers and I’m going to ask him, ‘What’s so fucking lonely about Khao San Road?'”. From Istanbul to Phnom Phen if you have ever sat in a Cuban theme bar surrounded by Bob Marley tee shirts and thought this could be anywhere then welcome to the mothership. Short hand for the sort of soul crushing hegemony that mainstream guide books have created with their recommendations.

While managing to coincide a visit with a year long period of mourning for the deceased King Bhumibol took the edge off this it only succeeded in bringing the oppressive nature of the military junta to prominence. Thankfully I missed the initial 30-day period when people were to avoid “festivities” and the wearing of black seemed to have taken on cult proportions, but still managed to get caught up in numerous road closures involving forced sit downs as the national anthem played while convoys of cars sped by. One of these may have contained Bhumibol’s son Maha Vajiralongkorn who may have made his pet poodle an air chief marshal in the Royal Thai Air Force but the generals decided to cultivate as a successor. Perhaps predictably this is back firing as Vajiralongkorn seems to fancy ruling like an old style absolute monarch.

The military will still see this as preferable to the alternative power base. It might be difficult to see billionaire and ex Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra as the answer to inequality but his commitment to universal health care contributed to his overthrow. In 2014 the army took over from the dynasty in the shape of Thaksin’s sister Yingluck. That the family draws much support from more rural areas is unsurprising as the levels of poverty increase to match other South East Asian countries the further away from Bangkok you travel.

Within Bangkok the rich avoid the impoverished by using an elevated railway which costs about 10% of the average wage per ticket. To meet their needs work and services have developed in little pockets at Skytrain stations. This is part of a phenomena which is becoming increasingly pronounced in Asia and has been described by Stephen Graham in his book “Vertical” as “class war from above”.

I can’t help wondering whether the amount spent on enormous images of the late king and Sid Little lookalike that are scorched on my retina couldn’t be better spent. Of course it is important to appreciate the culture of other countries but it is difficult to know the Thai peoples view as the countries lese majeste law means anyone who criticises the royals can be imprisoned for up to 15 years. A piece the local BBC service did on Vajiralongkorn resulted in internet access being blocked. While I was there the Thai TV which was on in every bar consisted of the sort of non-stop maudlin music and soft focus poor people greeting that would have made the Soviet Union hierarchy envious.

 

In Bangkok two groups from a different demographic but with much in common illustrate a side of Thailand that doesn’t make the holiday brochures. What is left of the Fort Mahakan community seems to be deliberately hidden away behind advertising hoardings and a citadel which was ironically built to defend the city against intruders. Expect to be greeted by one of the roughly 300 remaining residents at the entrance as they take turns to look out for state officials acting on a royal degree for land expropriation. Then you will be welcomed to see the teakwood homes and the artisan professions that have been here for about 200 years. From the intricately painted bird cages and images of the Por Gae hermit worshipped by performers who may have featured in the playhouse for “commoners” this is living and history. With people happy to share their experience rather than guides telling you what they have read about.

So what have the Bangkok authorities been knocking down houses in the last few weeks for? Only to complete the building of a tourist park with more shops and cafes that you can’t avoid in every high street where we live. Information from the Mahakan Fort Community Committee about similar developments in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and Finland illustrate the global nature of this struggle.

 

If some residents accepted compensation and then offered to return it after seeing the back of beyond they were being moved to it is not surprising. This is a community which still has an area for washing clothes which has never had anything stolen and homes like the one of a lady who goes out to sell fish soup every day but leaves it completely open.

Of course it can be fun to prick the pomposity of the self-styled traveller by being part of a nose to tail guide book convention bearing down on a landmark but maybe we could vote with our feet before colonisation means there is nothing to do but stare at each other and real estate developers. Publishers stress how much they care about carbon footprints but could do more to consider how they cause such a number of actual footprints that they change the whole nature of long standing communities. Maybe nation states and the tourist industry don’t want us to see that there are different and more interesting things to do.

 

Across town and in pursuit of some loud guitars I managed to locate the 24-hour bar and hostel called The Overstay. Open for the best part of a decade and winner of the red rag to a bull name prize for most of them it was described on social media as having line ups that might attract the police. If that meant the turn on a baht coin hardcore of LowFat or garage punk of Deadtown Trash then it was a risk worth taking.

Unfortunately the police had got there before I did: in a dawn raid at the end of October over 100 soldiers, police and a TV channel woke the owner Yuval Schwot before discovering 20 grams of marijuana and scales which he maintained were for brewing beer. The junta order did this after giving the army warrantless search powers without oversight if they suspect criminal activity. It also allowed for the detention for interrogation of anyone they consider may be linked to crime. Exploiting this to its maximum saw half a dozen of the guests test positive for marijuana and given two-week prison rehabilitation centre sentences.

That they came from as far afield as Russia, Ghana, Hungary and Germany was testament to its international feel but on the Friday night when I went people were nearly outnumbered by the homeless dogs which they provide shelter for. A seed of paranoia and intimidation which the authorities have sown meaning that even though the initial period of mourning for the king had passed they were exercising caution by refraining from live bands. This was understandable as the barman who considered himself “resilient” after travelling the world spoke about his fear at being taken into a Bangkok prison cell.

For the police to use the threat of terrorist attacks after bombs in the south of the country as justification for the raid seems as plausible as thinking this about a handful of dope smokers. It’s a state which is flexing its muscles and sending out the message that it will not tolerate dissent. Let’s hope it doesn’t put the Overstay out of business but Yuval Schwot is now awaiting trial for being a drug dealer and running a hostel which “creates instability in Thailand”.  

It was this air of unease generated by such a heavy police and army presence which characterised my stay and seemed more pronounced than countries generally associated with oppressive regimes. That isn’t to suggest not going as the world is so fraught with madmen and contradictions we would all have to go on holiday to Denmark. It’s just worth remembering that behind the land of smiles is sometimes a gun in the back.

Stewart Lee: Leicester Square Theatre, London

11 February 2017

Here we are then. The liberal elite waiting for Lee to impale a post Brexit Britain outdone by an America determined to do everything bigger. Playing to the curse of the comedian’s lot that is the weekend crowd intent on just going out and not hanging on their every word the stage was set for a master class in precision disdain.

I saw Doug Stanhope here on a Saturday night and a crowd that were throwing up before they got in went to the bar when they wanted. Perhaps surprisingly then tonight’s mobile phone warning carried more of the air of the mischief which went on to characterise the set. Lee’s crowd know not to let their guard down completely though. Asking if anyone has a Sky subscription prompting shuffling in seats and showing a sudden interest in the Leicester Square Theatre carpet. I could be wrong but we do look like people who usually enthuse about the production values of “Westworld”.

Digi box and phone dependency were returned to later but more as self-contained pieces than a reference to something from half hour previously which showed we had been paying attention. Indeed they are an integral part of a show which with a backdrop of a thoughtful man staring wistfully onto atomised indifference in Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer above a Sea of Fog” may have been overtaken by world events.

Repetition is used to bludgeoning effect at the start of each act as Lee uses the twisted visions of Farage and Trump and simply swaps names around. Otherwise if the likes of the anti- immigrant powered EU vote makes him feel some of his set seem less important Lee is having his cake and eating it by refusing to let such material go. Thankfully when it’s as good as “Content Provider” this is more than forgivable.

Performing in front of a pile of other comedian’s bargain bin DVDs shows Lee still knows it but he illustrates his own disposability by reference to the BBC’s preference for remakes of “Are You Being Served?” over his cancelled “Comedy Vehicle”. That the organisation prioritises the death of Tara Palmer Tomkinson above that of Hancock and Steptoe writer Alan Simpson is no surprise. Lee’s observation that the criteria for returning stuff that doesn’t work should be widened meant we had to listen to Deacon Blue at the interval. 

The dismissal of “Game of Thrones” could have fell flat because as we had already indicated our contempt for Sky nobody had seen it but as the premise was you could discover all you need to know from a merchandising slogan this was alright. Rational enough as you don’t need to hear Elbow or read an Edith Bowman book to know you don’t want to. His contempt for the under-40s who are attached to a mobile phone and its myriad of solipsistic uses involved the sort of phone fingering visual comedy that Lee is not usually known for.

As close to conventional in delivery as Lee and a lengthy piece on the history of bondage can be proved the highlight of the night. As the work involved in our pervy ancestors getting their own masks and harnesses reached a hysterical pitch it took on the air of a quaint cottage industry compared to today’s Amazon sweat shop society. If everything is immediate even smut has been devalued.

Of course there is a danger with this of lapsing into what a more astute Daily Mail might describe as a “grumpy old polytechnic lecturer”. It’s avoided by a deftness of touch and being very, very funny. All without his characteristic need to deconstruct the material and with such a glint in the eye as to make critics accusation of smugness almost redundant. Perhaps being at his most accessible when not planning to be recorded for TV is the evidence that the old contrariness is alive.

How telling the declaration that “I am coming to hate the character of Stewart Lee” is will only be revealed next time. As he rises selfie stick aloft to obliterate Friedrich’s painting with himself the past months could be the vindication of a misanthrope or fuel for one serous broadside. As to keeping pace with developments, best of luck with that. The vicar’s daughter and a mean spirited, old country, desperately whoring itself around the world’s despots anyone?

 

 

  

Marx, Maradona and Me

13 March 2016

After a short queue with the rest of the proles and a shuffle around Lenin's tomb during which I was told to take my hands out of my coat pockets the sight of a pickled gherkin in a new jacket poured into sometime during 1999 was a little annoying. Having said that what may or may not be Vladimir Ilyich has been stuck in there since 1924 barring a short retreat from Moscow to Siberia during World War II. Presumably to save on air conditioning costs as they could have just stuck him outside there. Indeed this may have been preferable to the period from 1953 to 1961 when he shared the space with Stalin like a stern pyjama less version of Morecambe and Wise. 

Following this and a drive past the former KGB headquarters the Lubyanka some light relief was in order. Being told in an ominous tone that the building had the best views in Russia as you could see all the way to Siberia from the basement came close but it was the sight of the aforementioned Vlad and Karl Marx hanging out on a street just off Red Square which really tickled my fancy. Now as a keen student of political history I knew this version of Zombie Apocalypse was unlikely as they didn't knew each other and Lenin seemed to be telling Karl it was his round next.

It quickly became apparent that these imposters expected to be payed for having their photographs taken.  Now while they debated whether the nearby GUM shop or former State Department Store had any offers on I opted for the role of  KGB operative and got a sneaky picture in. In the words of  sadly defunct agitprop band and full time commie bastards the Redskins “Take No Heroes! Take Only Inspiration”.

In Argentina however Diego Maradona is revered like a god and has a full time impersonator  with his own celebrity status who frequents the barrio of Boca in Buenos Aires. Whether he sports a Che Guevara tattoo like the real thing I don't know but he was outside a bar near the home of Boca Juniors when I was massively overcharged for a drink. This is the Boca Juniors whose derby match with River Plate was abandoned after a member of Bocas most committed followers or  barras bravas sprayed home made mace down the tunnel shielding the away team before they ran onto the pitch.

As a consequence of  the memorabilia inside the bar it was clear the bar staff were also pretty keen and after one attempt to get my money back a rush of adrenalin decided a photograph of  their mate was the only way to recoup some of  my loss. Thinking I was being discreet I took a shot over my travelling companions shoulder before realising he had a face which would have resembled Maradonas if his legendary Hand of God goal had been disallowed.

Now in Argentinian football  there is the concept of viveza or craftiness which is seen as part of the game and applauded. Indeed the somewhat tongue in cheek Church of  Maradona has 250,000 members and its baptism ceremony entails recreating the handball.  Whilst manoeuvring my bemused partner through the crowd with a display of footwork the equal of  Maradonas mesmerising second dribbled goal against England didn't however seem the time to contrast it with a Corinthian spirit of fair play.

Taking refuge in a throng of tango dancers and finding that my previous fleet of foot had deserted me I considered what it was about these photographs that had been strangely satisfying. Finding the world's greatest ever footballers eccentricities and scatter gun anti establishment rants entertaining it wasn't that I disliked the actual man but conversely didn't consider him or anyone else sacred. It was also unlikely to be motivated by my understanding of complex theories of identity. Similarly I had always liked the sound of Samuel Johnson's  “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” and I was really only ever so slightly bothered about England losing 2-1 to Argentina in the 1986 World Cup.   

So why I take exception to these lookalikes while scrupulously observing all other aspects of tourist etiquette seems to come down to their lack of imagination rather than the personalities involved. The wholesale stealing of someone else's persona legitimising the photographs. Its the same “Stars In Their Eyes'” dreariness which leads me to recoil from tribute bands unless I have drunk more than is good for me. Now painting yourself silver and pretending to be a statue before jumping out and scaring a small child is a whole different ball game.

A Steady Rain: East Riding Theatre, Beverley

 

21 November 2015

Who would have imagined it? A theatre in true blue Beverley providing an alternative to the heart warming tales of rugby league folk which has seen Hull Truck's role as a northern cliché generator help to cement the image of the city as some sort of small minded backwater. At a cost of over 1.75 million in bail outs.

Perhaps the people of Hull are proud of their heritage but don't necessarily want to watch their lives distorted back at them on endless patronising repeat and “A Steady Rain” at the East Riding Theatre certainly isn't guilty of that. This is the story of two Chicago cops and a lifelong friendship turned on it's head as a sequence of events drag them further into the void. All the familiar noir tropes are present and correct but at it's best the genre uses this as a framework to dig deeper into the human psyche rather than spread itself flabbily over a larger territory. This is very much a drop of the good stuff rather than the poisonous Sterno or canned heat made from denatured alcohol referenced in the play.

 

 

With Adrian Rawlins as Joey and the Artistic Director of the theatre Vincent Reagan as Denny comprising the entire cast the production has an immediacy which makes it feel personal. This was in no small part down to playwright Keith Huff's dialogue which is relentlessly street smart and evocative as expected of someone who has worked on the likes of “Mad Men”. Further complimenting this and making up the entirety of an experience which moved seamlessly from the rain which was lashing down outside the theatre was the sparse but evocative set design and lighting. In any setting Italian American Denny describing sex with a breast feeding prostitute as a near religious experience would have impacted with Scorcese like force.

The end of the performance was greeted with a standing ovation and much hollering from the man next to me who seemed to have had a cracking Saturday night out. He might be a patron of the Old Vic for all I know with my limited knowledge but the fact we were both there is probably the point. Challenge the snooty vested interests by getting the box set generations attention so the theatre and the balance sheet look a lot healthier.

Many years ago “The League Of Gentlemen” ridiculing the cosy parochial tedium of John Godber prompted a loud cheer from a Hull City Hall crowd but despite relinquishing control after accusations of the truck theatre being dominated by him the perception of the place hasn't changed. “The League Of Gentlemen” skewered small town life with humour and pathos. Since then Hull born Reece Shearsmith has gone on right up until the most recent series of “Inside No 9” to demonstrate the sort of macabre originality that would translate brilliantly to the stage.

Now he has indicated that he would attend a horror festival as part of Hull's City Of Culture year in 2017 so why don't those in a position to do so ask him to curate one or better still put something on for it? After all George Romero's “Dawn Of The Dead” dramatised the stupefying nature of modern capitalism far more excitingly than the usual worthy but dull sanctioned fare. With zombies.

 

 

 

 

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