This is an innovative and absorbing production in my favourite auditorium at the NT complex.
Based on the book by Mark Haddon this is a compelling story about Christopher, a teenager with an extraordinary brain, as he tries to discover who killed his neighbours dog. This quest leads him on a remarkable journey, facing demons that are everyday occurrences to the man on the street.
As usual, the set at the Cottesloe for this production is terrific. There is fine use of simple objects, clever choreography and imaginative use of floor space and lighting.
Luke Treadaway delivers a remarkable performance as Christopher. The entire cast are impeccable, delivering words and moves with perfect timing. The direction by Marianne Elliott is dramatic and theatrical in every sense of the word.
This is one of the must see shows at the NT this autumn – you will not be disappointed. And one last hint – don’t leave the auditorium too quickly at the end of the evening…
I was allocated London Ambassador shifts during the ‘transition’ period – between the games (Olympic and Paralympic). This suited me very well – I was “Games Making” during the Olympics and going to many events at the Paralympics. My first shift was on a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon/evening – I donned my uniform and set of to work.
Arriving at Waterloo station I checked in with the station reception then took position at the London Ambassador pod. We were a small team of 4 ambassadors plus a team leader and were quickly fielding questions from travellers, visitors and those who were just interested in what we were doing. The first request for a photo came early on in that first session as did the first thank you for being a volunteer. Everyone was so friendly and smiley – people wanted to chat and talk about their London 2012 experiences. That first session whizzed by. There were lots of tourists in town and we were kept busy, but thankfully not too busy.
Shift number 2 the following day, a hot and sticky Sunday afternoon/evening, was more of the same. Lots of tourists and visitors to help, Londoners who were keen to find out more about the upcoming Paralympics and loads more thank yous
The remaining shifts on the next three days (Monday to Wednesday) brought a different audience to the pod. Commuters also wanted to chat it seemed. Things were no quieter but some of the questions were different. At times I surprised myself with things I know about London, and in particular, travelling around London.
I have all sorts of memories of my shifts at Waterloo station. There was one shift when we noticed there seemed to be a lot of fairly heavily pregnant ladies catching trains to and from the station. On two consecutive shifts we saw countless men and women carrying beautiful bouquets of flowers. London Ambassadors from other sites and Games Makers would often drop by for a chat. We met several volunteers taking part in the Paralympics opening ceremony on their way home from final rehearsals. We chatted with men and women from the armed forces about their London 2012 experiences. I became our team expert on demonstrating how to use the station ticket machines to top up Oyster cards. The two most frequently asked questions were “Where is the toilet” and “Where is MacDonalds”.
I looked forward to finishing my final shift for one reason only – the uniform shirt was made of 100% polyester… I ask you, 100% polyester, in temperatures up to 30 degrees centigrade…
I really enjoyed my shifts as a London Ambassador – I really felt that I was helping people. We were a jolly group at Waterloo station, as seen in this photo taken during shift handover.
Just don’t ask me to put on that shirt again…
Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare is an intriguing and dark play which follows Timon, the darling of society, as he falls into debt and destitution. This Nicholas Hytner production is set in modern times. We are given a glimpse of what is to come before the play really begins as a cardboard city occupies the rear of the vast Olivier stage. This is hidden in the opening scene as we see Timon being feted and fawned upon at an art gallery as he showers his acolytes with gifts.
Simon Russell Beale gives another superlative performance as Timon, revelling in the early scenes where Timon is that man who everyone wants to be seen with then turning in a searing performance an a man embittered with the world once Timon has been shunned and left to live on the streets. Deborah Findlay is excellent as his steward, loyal to the end.
The is a powerful production with a(nother) excellent set in the cavernous Olivier auditorium. Simon Russell Beale really is a “must see” actor of our times.
The Doctor’s Dilemma by Bernard Shaw has almost finished a run at the NT Lyttelton. It is a rather black comedy about the power and ethics of a group of publically perceived eminent doctors. A respected Harley Street consultant, Sir Colenso Ridgeon, has developed a new treatment for tuberculosis but can only admit ten patients to the treatment. His long term friend (and worthy doctor of the poor and needy) is one of the ten – will Ridgeon abandon his friend in favour of a dubious artist whose beautiful wife has enchanted him…
This is an entertaining play which has some very funny moments. Aden Gillett plays Ridgeon with charm and Tom Burke as the rakish artist Dubedat is extremely convincing. Not high drama but an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
My first spectator experience at the Paralympics at London 2012, and what an opener. I was lucky enough to have a ticket for the Olympic Stadium for the first evening session of athletics. The weather was fine, if a little chilly, and the park was heaving.
Arriving early I sat outside the Aquatics centre for a while and was amazed by the noise the crowd inside there was making – I was a good 100 metres away and it was loud. After catching up with a friend who was also at the park I made my way to the stadium – let the action begin.
The stadium was pretty full when I arrived. I took my seat, overlooking the back straight, just as the heats of the Men’s 5000m T54 were beginning. Three heats, with the first three going through to the final plus the fastest loser. In heat 1 Kurt Fearnley of Australia was a popular competitor and controlled the race to qualify quite easily. Heat 2 was a slow race with nobody appearing willing to take things out. Marcel Hug of Switzerland won quite easily whereas Josh Cassidy of Canada seemed to misjudge the race and, in finishing fourth, was out of the final. Heat 3 saw GB star David Weir enjoy a rousing welcome from the crowd. Another cat and mouse affair, the crowd erupted when Weir took the lead on the final lap and roared him home in first place. Hearing the stadium crowd cheering on a home athlete is rather special experience.
I had a fantastic view of the Men’s Long Jump final F42/44 and this was a hugely competitive event. It was won by Markus Rehm of Germany in a new world record distance and only Daniel Jorgensen of Denmark prevented a German clean sweep by claiming bronze – he celebrated with a perfectly executed back-flip! While the long jump was taking place action continued on the track and we were treated to a GB winning performance. Hannah Cockcroft in the Women’s 100m T34 final took the race by storm, winning by over a second in a new paralympic record. Time for the roar of the crowd to fill the stadium again – and a standing ovation for Hannah. It was just fabulous later in the evening to witness her medal ceremony and to hear the crowd in the stadium belt out the national anthem – a proud moment for us all.
There were too many events taking place during the session to cover them all, but I also particularly enjoyed the Women’s Discus F40 final – the winning throwers could hardly contain their delight at their success. It was a wonderful evening at a wonderful venue. I was slightly disappointed that many of the crowd did not stay until the end, but there were enough of us there to make plenty of noise for the for the athletes in the Men’s Discus and Shot Putt finals. It was also good to see Paralympic flame for the first time – quite beautiful.
Another evening out as a bona fide spectator at the London 2012 Olympics – this time for volleyball at Earl’s Court. Entry to the venue was busy but not chaotic. There were many fans outside hoping to swap tickets – it looked like I was heading for a full house.
There were two matches scheduled for the evening – the first two quarter final matches had taken place earlier in the day. The first match was between Poland and Russia – something to send the fans wild. The venue was packed full of Polish fans, flags covered the stands and the fans were very passionate about their team. It felt more like being at a venue in Warsaw than a venue in London!
It was a crazy atmosphere with the fans cheering every point that Poland scored and booing every Russia serve. It was a great game too, very close and much closer than a 3-0 winning score to Russia might lead you to think. I was sad to see that some fans were leaving the venue at the end of this match.
Next up was Germany against Bulgaria and was a much tamer affair, as I had expected once I saw some fans were leaving earlier. To a layman such as me the quality of this game did not seem as high as the first, but that could simply be because it was played in a more subdued environment. As it was, Bulgaria ran out 3-0 winners and didn’t seemed too unduly troubled by the German team.
One of the most intriguing sights for me was the court sweepers and their excellent co-ordination. They appeared at the beginning of each game, during technical timeouts (when either team reaches 8 and 16 points) and during timeouts called by the teams.
They line up in two groups of three, stay in perfect unison and work their way from the front of each side of the court to the back – marvellous…
All too soon it is time for my final shift as a Games Maker at Wimbledon. Another quick sprint through security, a final gift from check-in and I’m allocated to a team on centre court once again.
We’re a small team working on level three at centre court, covering 4 gangways and a couple of stairwells. I volunteer to do the first stint on “circulation” (guiding spectators outside the arena, manning the stairwells etc) so miss the end of the Ladies singles final, which Serena Williams won rather easily against Maria Sharapova. I sneak in to see the medal ceremony though, and stand to attention with the rest of the centre court crowd for the USA national anthem. Next match is the Mens doubles final, and by this time I have finished my “circulation” duties so am now covering a gangway.
Doubles is always exciting to watch, and the Mens final is a contest between USA (the Bryan brothers) and France (Jo Wilfried Tsonga & Michael Llodra). It’s a close game with some pretty amazing rallies but USA are just too strong and win the match 6-4 7-6. Time for another medal ceremony…
That was the last scheduled match on centre court and we were not sure if another match would be moved on to the court. Some spectators left but many stayed around to see what might happen. Finally we received word that a Ladies doubles semi-final was heading our way – Venus & Serena Williams against Maria Kirilenko & Nadia Petrova. There was a bit of a communication mix-up initially over who might be allowed into centre court to watch the match, but eventually we got word that anyone could come in – all we had to do was to police the crowd and prevent entry/exit during games. Centre court was about half full when the players arrived but during the breaks in the first set we were swamped by spectators from court number 1 and those with ground passes – our section of seating was pretty full well before the end of the set.
It was a real treat to see the Williams sisters play. They are both amazing tennis players – Serena so agile and powerful, Venus so graceful. It was another great doubles match, which Venus & Serena won 7-5 6-4.
And that was it, my final shift was coming to an end. The spectators made their way out and once our section was clear we were free to go. It really has been a fabulous week.
Arriving slightly later than usual for my shift I had to queue for the first time in days to get through security, though only for a few minutes. Once I got to shift allocation I was asked if I would mind being in an orange team again – as if I would mind another shift on court number 1! We followed the usual format of getting a handover from the morning shift team leader, then it was off to man the gangways. This time we were covering gangways on level 3 and I was looking after gangway 11 – directly opposite the umpire so another great view of the tennis.
I was in position in time to see the end of the quarter-final match between Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki – it was a treat to see Serena Williams in action, if only for a few games. Having taken the first set 6-0 Williams cruised through the final few games of the second set and won it 6-3 to progress to the semi-finals.
Next match was a men’s quarter final between Kei Nishikori and Juan Martin del Potro. Having caught a glimpse of Nishikori beating David Ferrer the previous evening it would be interesting to see how he fared here. After an early break each in the first set, del Potro broke again to lead 5-3. Nishikori broke back to 5-4 and the Japanese spectators in the crowd were getting excited. Then del Potro broke again to take the first set 6-4. Del Potro raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set then things went with serve for a while. With del Potro leading 5-3 and serving for the match Nishikori broke back and the set eventually went into a tie break. Del Potro was just too strong though and took the tie break 7-4, booking his place in the men’s semi-finals.
The closest, and by far the noisiest match of the day was the last one, a mixed doubles match between Laura Robson & Andy Murray and Lucie Hradecka & Radek Stepanek from the Czech Republic. The court was pretty full – mainly of union flags! It was a close first set, going with serve until 5 all. Then Robson & Murray broke and served out to take the first set 7-5. The crowd were chanting – things were looking good for the Brits. The second set started well for them with an early break, then Robson served a couple of double faults to allow the Czech pair to break back at 4 all. We were heading into a second set tie break. The crowd did their best to lift the British pair but Hradecka & Stepanek took the tie break 9-7.
One set all in mixed doubles at the Olympic Games means a third set tie break – first pair to reach 10 points. The crowd were going wild at this point, cheering every point. After some early breaks in the first few points things settled before Robson & Murray moved into a 9-5 lead. They eventually won 10-7 to the loudest cheers and a standing ovation.
It really was a great match to finish the day. That is the first time I have seen the partisan British crowd in action at Wimbledon and it was quite an experience. Spectators finally made their way out, after many photo opportunities. Once everyone had cleared the court I took a shot of the end of day activities as the ground staff got things ready to close down.
Back to Wimbledon for my fourth Games Maker shift. Another smooth pass through security and check-in – things have settled now and are pretty slick. At shift allocation I was assigned to a blue team – that meant Centre Court!
Our team gathered and waited for the morning shift team leader to arrive and give us the handover update, then we headed to the court and took up our positions at the gangway. Today I was to work gangway 112 – so close to the court I almost had my nose on the grass! As well as spectators the gangway was used by TV camermen and press photographers but was another fairly straightforward gangway to work during the day.
We arrived during the second match on court – Lleyton Hewitt V Novak Djokovic. At 4 all in the first set it looked like everything was going with serve. Then Hewitt broke Djokovic and served out the set, 1-0 to Hewitt… could he really beat Djokovic? There were a lot of Australians in the crowd who gave Hewitt huge amounts of support. The second set was tense, all went with serve until Djokovic broke to lead 5-3. Hewitt broke back to square things at 5 all then Djokovic broke again to take the second set 7-5. It seemed that Djokovic moved up a gear in the third set as he took it fairly quickly 6-1.
Next up was a much anticipated match – Marcos Baghdatis V Andy Murray. The union flags came out but it was good to see a few Cyprus flags being waved as well. This was the first time I had seen Murray play live, so I was pretty excited too. In the first set Baghdatis won the first 2 games then Murray won the next 3 – this was looking to be a close match. Baghdatis broke again to lead 4-3 then continued to hold his serve to take the first set 6-4. Were we going to see an upset..? Murray seemed to settle himself more in the second set and after the first couple of games continually broke Baghdatis to take the set 6-1. Murray broke Baghdatis again in the first game of the third and final set and held his serve to take the set 6-4 and win the match. British sighs of relief all round.
I covered for a colleague on her break at this point, so enjoyed the view from the other side of the court for around half an hour – and took the opportunity to take a photo between matches.
Now it was time for the ladies, a third round match between Daniela Hantuchova and Caroline Wozniacki. After a couple of early breaks in the first set things went with serve until Wozniacki broke again to lead 5-3 and then took the set 6-4. There had been a bit of a scare early in the first set when Wozniacki went crashing into the chairs by the umpire and had to apply some ice to her leg, but she was clearly not suffering from an injury. Wozniacki was another who then stepped up a gear and took the second set fairly easily 6-2.
That was the final scheduled match on court, but there were still matches taking place on the outdoor courts which needed to finish. No one was sure if any of those matches would need to be completed on centre court, so, just in case, the roof was closed and we sat around and waited for an update. Finally word came through that the match between David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori was heading our way from court number 2.
Not much policing of the crowd was needed at this point. Anyone could come into centre court to see the end of the Ferrer V Nishikori match, all we had to do was to keep the two rows of seats allocated to press photographers clear. The officials and players arrived, the score was 5-4 to Nishikori in the third set with games going with serve. Were we in for a late night thriller? Sadly no – for the first time in the third set Nishikori broke Ferrer’s serve to take the match 6-4 in the third. All that waiting and effort for half a dozen points! It was a thrill to be on court with the roof closed though and by the time we left the venue there were no queues for the shuttle buses so I took a leisurely ride towards home for a change.
After a day away from the action it was back to Wimbledon for my third shift as a Games Maker. I arrived in plenty of time and got through security and check-in pretty quickly. At shift allocation I was assigned to an orange team – I was heading to court number 1 for the day.
Once the full team had arrived we received a handover update from the morning shift team leader then took our places at the gangways around the court. I was on gangway 34, so at one end of the court. There had been some rain delays earlier in the day but play was just about to resume.
On court there was a Men’s singles match in play – Jo Wilfried Tsonga V Milos Raonic. It was one set all and Tsonga was leading 2-1 in the third. Working the gangway was fairly straightforward. Most spectators had been there for a while so knew where their seats were and we had a pretty good section where the spectators generally understood the tennis etiquette of leaving or taking their seats only when the players changed ends.
We were not expecting the current match to turn into a marathon. Neither of the players could break serve – even the umpire sounded weary when the score reached something like 18 all in the final set. Eventually Tsonga broke Raonic’s serve and won the third set 25-23 – apparently the longest tennis match in Olympic history at 3 hours and 58 minutes.
The next match featured Heather Watson against Maria Kirilenko. The crowd on court number 1 had thinned a little by this time, no doubt exhausted by the Tsonga V Raonic match, but there were lots of union flags being waved. This match went pretty much to form, with Kirilenko winning in straight sets.
The remaining matches that had been scheduled for court number 1 had already been reallocated elsewhere so, after making sure our area was clear of spectators and there were no abandoned possessions amongst the seats, we headed over for our team debrief and then it was time to head home. A fabulous day.