Clare In The Cheap Seats

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I really need to make more of an effort; I now have so much to tell you about. I’ve been very lucky to watch some wonderful performances over the past 3 months so I will get straight into my review.

I always like to support amateur artists; the dedication they give to their art is truly incredible. Lakeshore Players are one such group of people and I was delighted to watch their production of Sabrina Fair. Whilst I have heard of the play I have not watched its more famous adaptation, the film. This will soon be rectified as it is waiting for me to watch on my PVR. As for the Lakeshore Players take on the story, it was a hoot. Each performer was excellent and I really did have a great evening. It always amazes me how community theatres can put together such wonderful sets and in a small space such as the stage. Everyone involved with this production did a great job. I sadly missed their next play but I will certainly be back for more.

I moved on from community theatre to those studying Creative & Applied Arts in school. Dawson College in Downtown Montreal was where I went to have A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I must admit, I did not know before the performance that it would be an original dialogue production so it took me a while to understand the Shakespearean language and to my eternal shame, I did not know this story. I got there in the end though and had a blast. Again, the sets were truly marvelous and the whole production crew deserve credit for such a visually memorable show. There are a few more performances in the coming weeks so I will hopefully get back to see them again.

My next night of entertainment came from the Middle East. I am very active in the fight for Palestine and El-Funoun, a colourful dance troupe from the region provided me with a taste of this historical land. To be able to watch such a high-energy group of people was truly inspiring. The itinerary included dances relating to Palestinian folklore, resilience and love. All this came together to produce a marvelous show that will stay with me for a long time.  Here is a little taste of their show:

Another review to follow soon 🙂

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The Rest Of 2014.

Right, I have been ever so busy these past few months so I have lots to tell you about.

ROH

Firstly I start with something that really put a dampener on my Art viewing schedule. Cineplex pulled the plug on screening Royal Opera House performances in September. I was so looking forward to watching Alice in Wonderland in December / January. Sadly I have not been able to find another local cinema (nearest is 100 miles away) hosting RoH performances so I have missed out on Alice and the gang.

SB

Another reason for my disappointment with Cineplex is their rewards card; each time I go to their cinema I collect points towards free tickets. A strange thing happened with this scheme in September. I had collected enough points for a free ticket so I booked myself a ballet as the ticket costs the same amount of points as a normal film but costs $8 more. Off I went to the screening and 10 minutes into the performance I find myself thinking “I’ve seen this before” I was watching Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty and afterwards when I checked my diary I saw that I had indeed watched Sleeping Beauty (traditional) back in April and that too was a free ticket! As with the performance in April I found this one to be a fantastic adaptation of the fairytale, though I am more a fan of the traditional setting.

Medea

My next visit to the cinema was to watch Medea. Someone I know was lucky enough to go and watch this play live. He raved about it so much that I looked it up online and thought it something worth watching and I was not wrong. Like Othello that I watched earlier in the year, the play is given a modern setting. The torment and abandonment is plain to see and everyone involved made this a very successful trip to the cinema.

Paquita

From the cinema I went to the live stage for a visit from the Paris Opera Ballet (a company I once saw live in Paris). This production was 15 years in the making (from the programme notes) and their performance of Paquita was well worth the wait. The costumes were gorgeous and the dancing as I expected from such a talented company. At first I hesitated about buying a ticket as they were pricey but I certainly made the correct decision and my money was well spent.

Kafka

A complete contrast followed, I went from one of the most famous ballets in the world to a performance by an ape. Mind you it was Kafka’s Ape. This Infinite Theatre production was a very cleaver adaptation of the famous 1917 Report To The Academy. The twist in this play was to show how an animal gained humanity and humans become an animal via military corporations only concerned about profit not people. The night ended on a somewhat funny note, it was my first experience street parking in downtown Montreal and I got a parking ticket for entering the wrong bay number. Thankfully the rip-off $53 charge was dismissed on appeal.  that meant I had more money for the Arts.

To Be Continued…

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Summertime In Montréal

montreal-international-jazz-festival

I managed to keep myself busy over the summer months in Montréal, here is what I’ve been up to.

New film blog

I’m sure you all know about my Criterion Collection Blog. As another way to broaden my access to films I decided to go “Region Free”, this means I can play Blu-rays & DVD’s from any country in the world. I can now buy from any Studio / Distributor so I have visited the websites for two British companies, Eureka and Arrow Films.

Both work in a similar way to Criterion, releasing films with lots of interesting and informative Extras. Given the exchange rate here in Canada they can be more a lot more attractive in price compared to Canada/USA releases. In order to keep track of all that I buy and watch I decided to start a new Blog which you can find here

Driving Miss Daisy

Once again I have been able to watch a play courtesy of Cineplex. This performance was filmed during the sell-out tour of Australia and as I have never seen the film starring Morgan Freeman as soon as I saw the advert I thought to myself “I have to see this” Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones on stage, yes please!

They certainly did not disappoint; the play was wonderful. It never ceases to amaze me how theatre can create such a vision with bare minimum props. It was two actors sat on chairs yet in your mind you could see them in a car, stunning !

Jazz Festival

When we first knew we would be moving to Montreal several people told me that the city hosts many Festivals. A quick look at the calendar and I found the Jazz Festival. A lot of the venues were free and even those that had a fee it was still reasonable. We managed to get to see a few acts and had a great day. The best by far was a local band called Waiting Game They have an EP available to download at “name your price” This was something I did as soon as we got home. Check them out !

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Busy Busy Busy !

Again, I am very sorry for neglecting this Blog since April.  The upside is that I have plenty to tell you about.

I’ll start at the Montréal Symphony Orchestra where Mr Clare & I spent an evening listening to:

BRAHMS, Academic Overture
BARTÓK, Viola Concerto
VIVIER, Zipangu
BRAHMS, Symphony No. 3

Our seats where up in the God’s but I prefer that when watching an Orchestra as the sound travels plus you can see each musician playing their part.  From the programme I really enjoyed the Brahms, who doesn’t? I was not keen on the Vivier, sorry it just sounded like noise with too much going on at once and was too long.  I enjoyed the Bartók piece though it was a tad too long.  There must be something about long pieces of music that I don’t enjoy!  All that said, it was an enjoyable evening out at the Orchestra and it was great to finally hear some live music again, you can’t beat it.

Next I was off to the cinema again to catch the encore screening of King Lear starring the marvellous Simon Russell Beale (great Podcast HERE with more HERE from National Theatre Live).  Wow, what a fantastic performance from everyone involved.  I actually think that my lack of Shakespeare knowledge is to my benefit when I go to watch these plays, as I have no spoilers, I felt the same way when I watched the equally fantastic Othello earlier this year (EDIT – I have looked through my Blog and cannot believe I have not told you about this!)  There were EPIC performances by Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear and whilst this particular production had a modern day setting it was nothing less than brilliant.  It was because of this performance that I went back to watch King Lear.  I can honestly say that both of these plays have made we make me want to read the works of Shakespeare in the future, alas, too much to read / watch, so little time, but I will get there one day.

Fast cars in Parc Jean-Drapeau can mean only one thing, Grand Prix time in Montréal. We have both been fans of F1 was years but never took the plunge and attended a race. Now that we have one literally on our doorstep it seemed rude not to go and check out the action. The ticket prices meant it was cheaper to buy a 3-day pass so we missed nothing. It was quite an experience to hear the roar of the engines (and this year they have been turned down), smell the burning rubber and see just how fast these cars move. The best view was from the back row of our Grandstand as we could stand up on the bench and see pretty much all the way down the back straight. We had to arrive at the circuit when the gates opened in order to get these seats as it was unreserved. This meant having to get out of bed very early though this was the only downside to the weekend. I managed to get quite a few photos and they can be viewed at my Flickr

I have a few Criterion reviews to write up on so I will now say Au Revoir from this Blog.

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2014, The Story So Far

Oh my, I have so much to catch up on. I have been to my first Montreal play, been out and about with my camera and caught the National Ballet via the cinema. In between all the above I’ve managed to pack in lots of films.

I’ll start with my first venture into the world of Montreal theatre. I went to the Segal Theatre to watch The Seagull, a new version based on the play by Anton Chekhov. I found it to be an absolute marvel and for the price ($24) it was a bargain. I have bookmarked the theatre (along with a few others) and will keep an eye on their future productions.

My partner & I went to the local Botanical Gardens back in early March to visit the Butterfly exhibition. Butterflies have always fascinated me ever since I was a child. I find metamorphosis extraordinary and love the colours of all the different butterflies and moths. I have posted a few photos here but check out my Flickr page for the rest.

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As I now live in Québec I have decided to learn French. Even with the Liberals regaining power in the Province, French is still an essential tool to living here. I am going to the YMCA and my course starts on 6 May for 7 weeks. Hopefully by the end of June I will have some grasp of the lingo.

As usual, I have been watching lots of films this year. I’ve even managed to catch a few at the cinema in addition to those at home. So far the highlights have been:

Nebraska (cinema)

Her (cinema)

Doctor Zhivago

25th Hour

Ted

Wadjda

A Single Man

The Wind Rises (cinema)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (cinema and my first winner from Wes Anderson. Ralph Fiennes is just marvellous)

Black Rain (Japanese title is Kuroi Ame)

I have also rewatched Deliverance & Gladiator, which are both immense films.

But the winner so far this year and the only film to score 10/10 is 12 Years A Slave. Whilst it is hard to watch in places, this film is an absolute “must-see”

Another reason I have been to the cinema was to watch the Ballet, yes the Ballet. Remember when I posted about the Arts being broadcast into cinemas across the world? Well I have been again, this time to watch Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet. I had actually forgot about this performance so I missed the Live broadcast from the Royal Opera House. Thankfully they have an “Encore” screening and it was to this that I went on 13 April. The bonus for this performance was the fact that it did not cost me a cent; it was free! I collect points every time I visit Cineplex so with all films I have watched, the orders placed to buy DVD’s and movie rentals online, I had more than enough points to be able to exchange for a ticket. Hopefully it won’t be long until I have enough points for another free trip.

So what have I got coming up in the next few months?

Well I will be going back to the cinema in May to watch the National Theatre Live performance of King Lear. Later that month we have tickets to the Montréal Symphony Orchestra; details about the concert are here. There are a few films coming up over the next few months that I would like to go and see at the cinema and I have literally around 30 films recorded from the TV. And lets not forget all the Criterions I have to review. Enough to keep me busy and out of mischief 🙂

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2013 Wrap-up

During my search for activities to keep me occupied I came across a great free concert series held by the Canadian Opera Company.  I am always looking to experience live music and as there was no cost involved I thought I would give it a try.  I decided to attend the lunchtime concert being held on Thursday 28 November.  This short concert introduced me to a very talented young lady by the name of Naghmeh Farahmand.

I knew next to nothing about Iranian music and instruments before the show so when Naghmeh took time to explain the history behind the instruments and their meaning I felt more of a connection with her music.  The concert lasted an hour and 6 pieces were performed.  To find out more about this talented young lady please see her official website For a quick taster please watch the clip below.

In November I went to my 3rd and final Play.  The production was Who’s in Bed with the Butler by Theatre Etobicoke.  As with the 2 other Plays I watched during my 9 months in Toronto, this one was very well received, not only by me, but everyone else in the almost sell-out audience.  I am always amazed at the level of talent on show during these amateur plays and for $25, it was an enjoyable and fun way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.  I am hoping to find a similar scene in Québec.

Sport plays a huge part of life in North America and Toronto certainly had enough to keep my sport needs satisfied.  I went to 3 Toronto Raptors games and they lost all 3!!!  Granted they were playing Miami Heat (who went on to win the NBA Title that season), Chicago Bulls & San Antonio Spurs but I was still disappointed not to see a win.  It is so typical that since I went to the Spurs match on Dec 10 the Raptors have been tearing up the opposition.  I was obviously a jinx!  I was less of a jinx to the Toronto Marlies, the feeder team for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I never went to a Leafs game as the ticket prices were just ridiculous and frankly, the team is crap.  The Marlies on the other hand appreciated my support and won both the games I attended.  Another cheap way for me to watch some hockey was to go to watch the University teams.  Both Toronto University and Ryerson University have teams and I once again brought them luck.  I also found time to watch a new sport, Volleyball and again, finished with a 100% winning record.  There seems to be a pattern:

Overpaid pros: 0/3 — The B Team / Kids: 6/6

My final event in Toronto was Christmas with The Salvation Army at Roy Thomson Hall.  Christmas is not the same without Carols and this evening was a great way to listen to and partake in the singing.  The concert was led by Marjory Watson, a Scottish soloist, and backed by the Toronto Northern Lights Chorus, the reigning Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus Champions, The Festival Chorus & the Canadian Staff Band. It was a wonderful evening of song and music and a fitting end to my cultural adventures in Toronto.  To cap off the night, it was snowing when I left the theatre 🙂

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The Misanthrope

Once again I found a local play via the TO.Tix website.  This time is was The Misanthrope by Molière.  Unlike the last play I went to see (The Mousetrap) this one was set outdoors.  The setting was the Guild Inn Gardens in Guildwood, on the outskirts of Toronto with the Guild Festival Theatre staging the play.
Before purchasing my ticket I had quickly read a little about the play.  Phases and words like “comedy of manners”, farce and satire instantly appealed to my taste.  So for the price of $24.90 I click “buy”.
On with the play itself and I found it to be everything I thought it to be.  It was a hilarious look at one man’s quest to not partake in any “folly” or fake niceties that was prevalent in 18th Century French aristocracy.  He decides that he will say nothing but the truth.  This leads to all sorts of problems including a trip to court after he insults a fellow member of high society when he writes a love sonnet.  Whilst the words of the sonnet were truly bad, the over-the-top way in which it was delivered made it a highlight of the show.
The main problem our “honest aristocrat” faces is the fact that one person who does enjoy a good gossip happens to be the lady he loves.  She enjoys the high society lifestyle to the full, which means never saying no to a host of suitors who vie for her love and attention. 
As the story unfolds, we see all the backstabbing and bitching that comes with putting on airs and graces instead of being honest.  In the end the truth comes out and everyone is left in no doubt as to where they stand.
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The Mousetrap

What an excellent idea it was to decide to watch this local community performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.  I can fully understand now why this is such a popular play the world over.  I went to the Chicken Coop Theatre (excellent name) production at the Palmerston Library Theatre. 

From start to finish, this play was marvellous, each actor was truly convincing in their role.  I loved the fact that, due to the theatre being very small, the actors actually walked though the audience when going to the “kitchen” or “bedrooms”.

I cannot of course give away the story, that is top secret, but I found the plot to be very convincing.  It really is one of those stories that, when it finally all unfolds, has you going “oh yes, that makes sense”.

I picked up a leaflet for the coming season from Stage Centre Productions, the play was produced with their cooperation.  I quite fancy their upcoming staging of The Unexpected Guest, again by Agatha Christie.  This is not until October though.  If I do decide to go then I’ll be sure to post a review here.

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Snake In The Grass – 20/01/2012

Tonight I shall be watching an amateur play at my local Playhouse

Here is a brief synopsis of the play:

Annabel comes home after the death of her father; his nurse, Alice, alleges he died because Annabel’s sister (Miriam) murdered him. The price of her silence is £100,000 – money they haven’t got. Miriam’s solution is simple; poison Alice and shove her body down the well in the garden, and everything’s back under control; and she does … but it isn’t …..

In fact that’s just the start of a night of horror …..

Ayckbourn like you’ve never seen him; a ‘chiller’ like you’ve never sat through …. If you can sit through it!

I really enjoy a “whodunnit” so this will hopefully be an enjoyable way to spend my evening.

I will write a review over the weekend.

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