Food And Drink: Another August, another Great British Beer Festival, this year celebrating 40 years of operation. Unlike Edinburgh, though, I couldn't tell you exactly how many of them I've been to. If I'm honest about it, not much has changed since last year: craft beer continues to slowly make its presence felt (including a London Beer City bar featuring some of the capital's premier hipster hopheads like Five Points and Redemption), but mostly it's the usual collection of cask ales surrounded by silly hat shops and beer nibble vendors. For the record, I drank Loch Lomond's Lost In Mosaic (5.0%), Gyle 59's Caribbean Cocktail (4.5%), XT's Seventeen (4.5%), Blue Monkey's 99 Red Baboons (4.2%), Redemption's Big Chief (5.5%), Marble Brewery's Imperial Red (9.0%) and Runaway's Smoked Porter (6.0%): meanwhile, The BBG had Great Western's Hopaholic (4.5%), Shiny's Pail Motueka Nelson (4.0%), XT's Four (3.8%), Salopian's Automaton (7.0%), Windsor & Eton's Conqueror Black IPA (5.0%), Smuttynose Brewing Company's Old Brown Dog (6.5%) and Stubborn Mule's Original Chocolate Stout (5.8%). Nothing massively spectacular in that lot - at least, not that I can remember a month after the event - but they were all pretty drinkable. So we did.
Music: The promotional tweet for the most recent music download I bought reads as follows: "The album no one's been waiting for has finally arrived!" They may have a point there - after all, the film Monty Python And The Holy Grail was released in 1975, and has had a perfectly good accompanying soundtrack album for all that time. It's a dialogue-heavy album, though: for various reasons, the music used throughout the movie was all sourced from the De Wolfe library, rather than being specially written. Nevertheless, 42 years later we now have De Wolfe Music presents: Music from Monty Python & The Holy Grail, in which all those library pieces are assembled into a single download. It's a ridiculous thing to do, and yet it works: people of a certain age who've watched the film far too many times will recognise these music cues instantly, and start giggling even though they're totally divorced from the visuals and words that accompanied them. It's possible that the parodic nature of the film means that generic, off-the-shelf music is the only thing they could have used. But it's surprising how well it works in context - for example, the climactic journey to Castle Aaaargh (eds please check spelling) wouldn't be as effective without the epic sweep of Stanley Black's The Promised Land behind it. No physical release is planned, I believe, so you'll have to buy the MP3s using the link at the bottom of the page, or find a stream somewhere. Oh, here's one.
Theatre: Like many people, I first came across playwright Jez Butterworth because of his play Mojo: or more accurately, from the movie he made from it. Twenty years after that, he's one of the biggest box office draws in London theatre - tickets for his latest play The Ferryman are ridiculously hard to come by, much as they were for his previous hit Jerusalem. It's set in Northern Ireland in the early 80s, and tells the story of farmer Quinn Carney (played by Paddy Considine in what I believe is his stage debut), living out a peaceful existence with his ridiculously large extended family. All that changes when Quinn's brother is found dead, the victim of an IRA execution. It's a leisurely three hours long without the intervals, but director Sam Mendes paces it beautifully, the only false step being the suddenness of the climax - you can see why Butterworth wants to accelerate the pace, but it's a little too accelerated for comfort. Considine is as great as usual, but the twenty-odd other people he shares the stage with all get to shine as well. If you want to experience something approaching every known human emotion in a single evening, then the play's run has just been extended to early 2018.