Kvetch, The Kings Head, Islington

Kvetch, King Head, Islington

Kvetch, King Head, Islington

On Saturday night I saw the Steven Berkoff play Kvetch…..again.

I’d seen a version directed by Britt Forsberg in Brighton in 2010 and this was so good that when I heard The Kings Head in Islington were presenting the play I had to go.

Weirdly I will quote myself here: “The story revolves round a salesman and his wife who are almost paralysed by their fear of what other people may think. The play opens with the salesman heartily inviting his work colleague home for dinner whilst internally dreading the idea that the man might accept.”

The Brighton version was extremely good and I had wondered if I would be disappointed. Hah! If the Brighton version was energetic the Islington version was almost crazed. Directed by Julio Maria Martino, the Kings Head interpretation was high energy but tightly controlled with the acting more closely resembling choreography as the actors fiercely gesticulated their anguish and bile.

Each actor had a painted theatrical mask which, while initially a little odd, came to dramatically portray their angst and paranoia. A minimalist set was imaginatively used and the long thin table served to emphasise each characters isolation while the bedroom scene had the crowd in hysterics.

A definite must see the play runs until the 4th November.

Kings Head Theatre
115 Upper Street
N1 1QN

Phone: 02032868788

Occupy protest at Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Occupy London protestes at St. Paul's Cathedral

Occupy London protestes at St. Paul's Cathedral

On Saturday I visited the Occupy London protest at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’d imagined that as the protesters had set up tents they would be mainly around the back in the gardens but the gardens are closed and padlocked and the protesters and their tents are all around the front and partially along the north side.

Immediately in front of the entrance a few wooden pallets had been piled on top of each other and a bloke stood on top with a microphone and was addressing the protesters and tourists who were assembled on the steps of St. Paul’s. The guy was talking about alcohol. It seems that the protesters have agreed that the protest should be alcohol and drug free but I suspect that some had been breaking the rules hence his speech. After this guy a series of people stood up and gave speeches. They seemed to have created a series of working parties. The woman form the kitchen talked about the times that food was served, a guy from the Tec Team talked about trying to set up a live streaming video link and another guy talked about setting up a Political Tent and where this should be located.

There were people there who were obviously knowledgable about the financial situation and one of the sign proclaimed a very specific demand: “End Fractional Reserve Banking”. Others appeared to be more protesters by temperament. Several people wore V for Vendetta masks which seems to have become a badge of the Anonymous movement. and one guy was dressed in a suit of armour. Other individuals seemed to have their own agendas that may or may not overlap with the Occupy movement. One guy wore a sort of billboard which attacked smoking. I talked to him and he was really just trying to get people to recognise that smoking was dangerous and, perhaps, should be banned. Another American guy was telling bloody curdling stories and seemed to have been at this quite a while. Another guy was dressed in some kind of weird Irish kilt and danced around proclaiming that Israel is a fulfilment if bible prophesy and that Jesus would soon return to become king of the world.

However, there was organisation here. Some of the speakers appeared to be seasoned protesters who had done this sort of thing before and it occurred to me that if you got involved in this sort of protest you’d run into the same problems again and again. It must be quite difficult to harness the energy of the protesters and direct it in a useful way.

Though I do believe that the protesters have a point I did not get the impression that this was a grass roots protest by people who had suffered specifically from the financial crisis. By that I mean that I saw nobody say that they had lost their job or lost their house or had some benefit cut. Whereas the media coverage of the protesters in New York gave me the impression that these people were involved at the Wall Street protests. This may just be a matter of time. As the cuts start to bite the government should be worried that this currently small scale protest might become the focus for a much bigger protest. As one of the protesters pointed out the Lord Mayor of The City of London is due to make a speech at St Paul’s soon and the protest could prove an embarrassment. It’s worth noting here that The City of London is the financial area and that Lord Mayor of The City of London is trustee of St. Paul’s. Perhaps this explains the apparent U-turn in policy toward the protesters?

An odd little hand gesture seemed to have evolved. By waving their hands and wiggling their fingers the protesters seemed to signal agreement and support tot he speakers. At one point a wedding party emerged from the cathedral, all suits and hats and dresses. They stood on the steps surrounded by the protesters while their photographer, amidst a sea of other photographers, made the best of a difficult assignment. The mood was very good natured, the confetti was thrown a cheer went up and the bride and groom swept their way through the crowd. I spoke to one of the guests who said it had been a beautiful ceremony.

Confetti and Protest

Confetti and Protest

The Bride & Groom

The Bride & Groom


hove station

hove station

Occupy London – Hypocrisy & detachment of the establishment

“You can't wash your hands of the consequence of your actions” - What a hypocrite!

You can’t wash your hands of the consequence of your actions - Mathew Hancock, MP

“You can’t wash your hands of the consequence of your actions” said Mathew Hancock MP this afternoon on Radio 4’s PM program. The topic was the financial crisis but Mr. Hancock was not talking about the bankers, he was talking about the protesters!

Mathew Hancock, Conservative MP for West Suffolk, was interviewed by Eddie Mair along with Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK. Mr. Murphy was sympathetic to the protesters, talked about changing the financial system and got in a plug for his book The Courageous State.

Mr. Hancock was not sympathetic and went on to say some very stupid things. He said that it was fair to ask the protesters what they’re campaigning for and how it should be achieved. He said that it was reasonable that they’ve made their point but that now it is time to look forward to the detail of achieving the world that they want to create.

Mathew Hancock was TALKING BOLLOCKS.

Firstly, the idea that the protesters have made their point and should leave him and his buddies to address the situation is self satisfied tosh! If the protesters just pack up and go home then the bankers and the politicians will merely carry on as usual. The current Conservative pre-occupation with getting out of the EU is evidence that the unfairness of the bailout has slipped right off the governments agenda.

Secondly, the idea that it is not possible to protest unless you have a solution is utter rubbish! It is like the triage nurse at a hospital telling a sick man to go away until he had developed a cure for his ailment.

It is an indication of how out of touch our politicians are that Mr. Hanock expects ordinary men and women to do a better job of running banks than those paid millions for their supposed expertise. It was not the job of ordinary tax payers to keep an eye on the banking industry and we should not expect them to set policy but it is their right to protest and make themselves heard so that those who do have the knowledge and the power can recognise their concerns and adjust policy.

However, it was another of Mr. Hancok’s statements that really angered me but first let me tell you about another Radio 4 program over the weekend. In BBC Radio 4’s, The Bottom Line on Saturday Evan Davis interviewed the chairman of a boutique merchant bank, the chief executive of a financial advisory firm and the chief executive of a savings and investment group. When these men tried to dismiss the accusations that the bankers were to blame for the financial crisis Mr. Davis got fairly miffed and stated that just prior to the credit crunch, after a boom which had run on for ten years (and was therefore due to bust), a major bank had lent £40 for every £1 it had in deposits. This meant that if the value of its investments were to fall by just 2% the bank would be insolvent. This is incompetence and complacency on a massive scale. Further, at the same time, while the economy was booming, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was running a deficit. (If you can’t repay debt in the good times then when can you?)

This evening on PM, Mr. Hancock said that the protesters outside St. Paul’s had caused the cathedral to close, losing the church around £20,000 a day, that actions have consequences and “You can’t wash your hands of the consequence of your actions”!

According to Wikipedia, before becoming an MP, Mr. Hanock was an economist at the Bank of England, specialising in the housing market. It is further testament to his utter hypocrisy that he can utter such statements without a hint of irony. This out of touch pillock is quite content to let the politicians and bankers destroy a whole industry then walk away with fat bonuses yet has the gall to accuse others of not taking responsibility for their actions.

Even now, the bankers do not understand that they only have jobs because they were bailed out by ordinary citizens, such as those spending their nights outside St. Paul’s.

Something’s gotta change.

Alistair Darling Quacking Like A Duck

Quack Quack - Alistair Darling speaking at The Old Market

Quack Quack - Alistair Darling speaking at The Old Market

Last Thursday evening I saw the ex-chancellor, Alistair Darling, speaking about his new book: Back From The Brink, at The Old Market in Hove. These talks are organised by City Books, a small but very active, book shop on Western Road.

The room was pretty packed with a few hundred people who had all paid a fiver to see Mr. Darling. He gave a short speech where he summarised his view of the collapse of Western Banks and how he considered that New Labour had rescued the situation. He claimed that at one point “The system had reached a stage where we were within hours of total collapse” and later said that he had “written a cheque for, effectively, 500 billion pounds”.

Not much was said about the cause of the crisis and he took the opportunity to point out some of the more favourable aspects of Tony Blair’s leadership such as reducing child poverty.

He spoke calmly and reasonably and with a trace of wry wit. He seemed to me a sincere politician. As with Jack Straw, people may claim that. though he seems sincere and reasonable in fact, behind the scenes, he is conniving to do so. Like a swan, on the surface complete calm and poise, while beneath the surface there’s frenetic activty. However, after years of the obviously insincere and calculating politicians such as Peter Mandelson, it strikes me that this is a little like the Chinese Room argument in philosophy. Or if you prefer another ornithological analogy: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s a duck. Mr. Darling spoke reasonably and apparently sincerely so perhaps he is a sincere and reasonable man.

In fact I was quite surprised at my reaction. As a serial political ranter, who is quite capable of condemning Tony Blair as the devil incarnate, I found myself thinking more sympathetically about politicians in general and, though Mr. Darling’s manner may have helped this, I think the act of occupying the same room helped establish a more empathic rapport as it allowed the audience to see the man as well as the politician.

After the speech Mr. Darling took questions which were mainly about the financial crisis. He made the point that Germany has benefited from the Euro by having a comparitevly weak currency helping German exports to China and he pointed out that these exports will decline if Germany leaves the Euro. He said “If you want the Euro, you have to accept the consequences of the Euro”. This is a very interesting argument and it made me consider the United States. Though California has screwed its economy there is no talk of California leaving the dollar.

City Books

City Books

London Bridge Station

When they revamped London Bridge station some years back they took down the excellent big board full of departure information and replaced it with giant advertsiing displays. The departure informaiton was then displayed on little screens at awkward angles. The effect was absolutely appauling. I was a commuter at the time and had to scurry into the station and then weave my way through the seething mob to see one of these screens.

I was up there on Saturday night and they have renovated yet again. It seems that this time practicality has trumped advertsiing. They have cleared the whole area in front of the trains from platform 8 up and installed a massive bank of turnstyles. They have also installed the monitors displaying departure information back above the turnstyles.

London Bridge

London Bridge