As much as I like to boast that my job takes me to all manner of exotic locations, most of the time it’s the same few exotic locations: frequently somewhere Scandinavian, with the occasional trip out to the Middle East. This is why all the Monoglot Movie Club pieces that aren’t conceived during a holiday tend to focus on those two parts of the world. (Although having said that… no, let's save that announcement for a month or two.)
Anyhoo: last month, I was in Copenhagen again. I was last there about a year ago, when I reviewed a couple of Danish movies for the good people at MostlyFilm. It's a similar deal for my 2016 trip, although this time around there are a couple of new things to report on. The films I saw on this particular visit are reviewed in a piece provocatively titled Garbage Language For Garbage People: the rest of the stuff I did that week is covered in the Red Button Bonus Content, directly underneath here.
They call it the Annual General Mayhem. (I know, I know.) The BrewDog AGM is one of the acknowledged perks of being a shareholder. Once a year, several thousand of us make the journey to Aberdeen to spend a day in a soulless cavern of a conference centre, listening to business presentations full of bad gags, queuing for ages to get food, and drinking beer. To be honest, it's the last one of those that makes it all worthwhile.
The Belated Birthday Girl and I attended our first AGM in 2012, and I wrote about it in passing as part of the monthly Simian Substitute roundup. In subsequent years, we've tied in the AGM pilgrimage with a visit to one of the Scottish bars as part of the BrewDogging project: Aberdeen in 2013, the DogTap brewery bar in 2014, and Dundee in 2015. It's going to be a similar story for 2016, as along with the AGM - plus a return visit to the brewery to see how that's going - we're also going to pop into the second Aberdeen city bar, which opened late last year in the Castlegate area of town.
Books: In this very spot just 51 months ago, I talked about the first volume of Alexei Sayle's autobiography, Stalin Ate My Homework, and expressed interest in any future volumes he may produce. We now have the second one, Thatcher Stole My Trousers, currently available in hardback or those large format paperbacks you only get at airport bookshops. (The next post on the blog should hopefully explain where I was flying to.) While its predecessor covered Sayle's childhood and teenage years, Thatcher gets to the stuff we really want to know about - the seventies and early eighties during which, as he so modestly puts it, "modern comedy as we know it began at the Comedy Store and for the first few months I kept that place going more or less by myself... You're welcome." I suppose he could have gone for false modesty, but that wouldn't fit with his established stage persona. And this book is at its best as it goes through the process by which he constructed that persona, partly to fit certain practical needs, partly by accident. There are plenty of hilarious and surprising anecdotes scattered throughout - for example, I was totally unaware that Sayle had an early career as a freelance illustrator, and worked on the odd album cover. Presumably if there's a volume three, it'll pick up from the thread that starts developing in the final chapters of this one, where he develops a side career taking acting roles in any film that will pay him. Looking forward to that one in another fifty-odd months.
Music: The video embedded below has been shared by several people over the last week or so, so it's quite possible you may already be familiar with it. It's an all-star performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, from the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in 2004. Tom Petty's singing, Jeff Lynne and Steve Winwood are helping out, and lurking quietly at the back is Dhani Harrison, looking the spitting image of his father George. Watch Dhani in this video. In particular, watch for the glorious smile that breaks out on his face around the 3 minute 20 mark. Because he knows what's about to happen. I've had a smile like that four times in my life - Wembley Arena in 1988, Earl's Court in 1992, Wembley Stadium in 1993, and the O2 Arena in 2007 - and although I'm sad that there won't be a fifth time, I'm eternally grateful for those four.
Theatre: Staying on the subject of people you'll never see performing again. I've written previously about my love for the work of Ken Campbell, and my sadness that The Belated Birthday Girl never got to attend one of his mind-expanding theatrical happenings. But we've now attended the next best thing, and if you can get to the Hampstead Theatre before May 7th you can do the same. Ken is a new play by Terry Johnson, and could be seen as another one of his works where he uses real-life people as characters, like Insignificance or that one about the cast of the Carry On films. Except Johnson has a much more personal stake in this one, to the extent that he's on stage throughout narrating the story of how he got involved in a couple of Campbell's most epic productions. The only other person in the cast is Jeremy Stockwell, another long-time associate of Campbell's, who gets Ken's voice and mannerisms down to a tee. Between the two of them, they depict the anarchic try-anything-once spirit that made Campbell's theatre so thrilling to watch: but they also make it clear that working with someone like that could push you to the end of your tether. Johnson's script is packed with the sort of stories that Campbell used to generate in his wake: some of them are probably lies, which is also completely in keeping with the man. And it all ends with a fiendish theatrical illustration of his maxim "fortune favours the curious," where you get to discover for yourself just how much you really agree with him. Even if you weren't previously aware of Campbell's work, this will arouse your own curiosity for it.