Bedtime stories by Richard Armitage

Seems hardly believable that this was just the first part of the evening. With no time to think, process or even really acknowledge we’d spent one hour listening to RA peel the layers of his career we hopped into a taxi across town and found ourselves an an equally welcoming venue, this time a modern art gallery and events center.

It felt almost surreal, we were surrounded by people who had just arrived and were eagerly waiting to see both Richard and the movie, by extremely friendly staff who were offering a trio of lovely little canapes and glasses of fizz. I felt welcome and very comfortable, it was celebratory but in a joyful, friendly way. Canapes of roasted glazed pork belly, salmon pate on a biscuit base and caramelised red onion mini tarts with a dollop of goats cheese mouse on top. Treats, but you know, normal treats 🙂 Not the kind where you wonder what that is and how on earth to pick it up and eat it. I really wished I was feeling better and could have some more. I felt bad to refuse the friendly staff after one little onion tartlet and a half glass of fizz. I hope I didn’t come off as snubbing the offerings which were lovely, but I was just too afraid to upset the delicate balance of my innards, especially since the nap had lost its effect and tiredness was creeping back on me. Afraid I wasn’t the most active conversation participant because in all honesty through the lack of sleep and caffeine (selfimposed by necessity) I concentrated my energies on just taking it all in.
I loved how people had dressed in their ‘good clothes’ for event, like you would for a special theatre outing or your know, celebrate Easter 🙂 No fancy silly evening gowns, just your best Sunday ones 🙂 I suddenly felt guilty about my woolly jumper and skimpy packing. By no means because of the people around me, but because yes, this was an event to celebrate and it deserved way more of my effort! I wished so baldy I’d blinged it up a bit to signal I was chuffed to be there, even happier the film got another chance (and what a chance this was, now knowing that the film won the people’s choice award and Richard won best actor!). Not for the first time that evening I wish I’d prepared…
I was tempted to roam but didn’t want to wonder too far since we didn’t know where exactly in the building the screening would take place and also didn’t know when/where Richard would arrive. The exhibition was very alluring though, a bright open space with plenty of varied exhibits by local artists. Wish there had been more time between the events for exploring, but understandably everyone huddled near the staircase which came from the front and the drinks tables had also been set out next to them. Suddenly there was a buzz and from everyone turning towards the center or the room where the staircase came up it was clear who had arrived 😉 In fact as both him and Fraser hit the top of the staircase they got stuck with people greeting them. We were looking on from the other side of the railing, with some lucky ones having enough presence of spirit to take photos 🙂 All that crossed my mind looking at his back and where his feet stood, 10 cm on the ledge of the staircase with his back to it was how terribly unsafe it was. Finally, to my relief he stepped away towards the tables and everyone moved towards the center of the room.
In the general hubbub I suddenly decided I wasn’t even going to try and get closer as it was nearly 8 and the screening would have to start soon. So instead I went looking for a staff member and asked where we would have to go and they explained that it would be all the way down to an attached part of the building. And I was suddenly very keen to secure a good place for the screening 😉

Just then people were invited to head over and half of our little group headed to the previously indicated lift and there we were among the first getting to the screening room. In fact I walked passed the merchandise table without even looking, which is why it was only Linda later who picked up on the Edge magazine! She mentioned something about interviews in them and kindly got another one and some people managed a few more but since it was cash only and the screening was already about to start no many people I think realised it was actually really interesting materials. I dropped the additional copy Linda bought just behind me on the table and never even opened it, leaving it for later (with relatively funny consequences).


one of my own meager pickings

The room was spacious but the set up was a bit unexpected; chairs in clear plastic had been arranged around neatly set big round tables covered with white table cloths. Clear this was probably often used for formal sit down dinner or the like. In fact Fraser and Richard funnily commented on it before the introduction mentioning that it made it look a bit like a BINGO hall 😉 We did have a good spot in a sort of 2nd row of tables , still pretty close to the screen and not many heads in front to obstruct the view.
The projection screen bas pretty wide and after a brief introduction and a promise of a QA after by Candida Brady, Fraser and Richard inviting us to watch the movie we were off into Urban’s world. The 3 sat at the side at some high chairs for a few minutes and then discretely left. The room was absolutely silent and everyone was engrossed, sound and picture were good and even though I had seen it before my attention was immediately captured.

I was trying to remember or rather detect if anything had been changed in the editing but by the end of it I am convinced any changes were really really minor, in fact nothing stuck out as missing. The titles have been changed but I like the new, more discreet and unassuming version. We’re introduced to the protagonist of the story right away and it feels very unassuming, as if we’ve just stumbled or rather walked in into their daily lives.

I will try not to spoil the story or the film for anyone so will just record some general impressions I had about the feel of it. Tiredness help in switching off any secondary thoughts I might have had about cuts and music and such, I just let the story come to me if you will.

I loved it, it clung to me immediately, even more than the first time and all throughout I kept thinking how much I would want to watch it again, revisit this and that scene, hear certain dialogue again. It’s a great film, a captivating even if very very sad story. You connect to the characters immediately and they hold your interest throughout. Candida Brady’s experience in documentaries really works in making the film feel natural, unforced. It sometimes may feel a bit episodic but that’s the whole point, we see moments in their lives which are sometimes turning points, sometimes stumble blocks. Like people’s lives it’s not a straight narrative like an action movie, it meanders as the characters find their life moving not always forwards or even backwards, but sideways or sometimes just in circles. It’s not a faced-paced bam-bam-bam thing, it evolves and emerges and becomes it with a well managed arc.

It’s neither romantic nor melodramatic and much of the tone is helped by Chop himself being often an observer rather than an active participant. He often lets the children be the story tellers and many times just listens. And when he does talk it is sometimes almost unexpected as it turns out he is a great storyteller himself. He becomes both the children’s and our center of attention, just as Urban is most often himself as well. Nobody feels secondary in the film.

I did wonder if language could be a barrier for the movie, as a lot of slang is used. But I don’t think so, it’s really often not about the exact words people say, especially the kids, it’s about the way they communicate, what they do, how they live. The film has no trouble communicating beyond the words.

The acting is excellent throughout, from dog to kids and adults 🙂 I think people will find a lot to love about Chop, from his quiet observing nature, to his story telling , humour and even his constant smoking. We get to see, hear and enjoy a lot of what we love about Armitage. But I am sure you’ll fall in love with Urban, his mum, the dog and even the van too. People, places, clothes, furniture, everything speaks of poverty but there is a lot to be smiled at and laughed with, a lot of beauty in it. I think the copious amounts of colour, among others in Chop’s and Urban’s clothing help set this stylistic tone. You’ll never think of this film as grey.

But obviously the most powerful thing about the movie is this relationship between Chop and Urban, the quiet, mutual understanding, the strong bond they form where adult/child roles are often reversed, only to emphasize how Urban has become wise beyond his years. Both man and child also have big moments of utter vulnerability.

The script is great, but so is the book and it’s good to see it translate so well to real dialogue. The tone for each character is clearly and consistently set, in fact it very much feels like real life. I feel even stronger than before that this is a story which must be told, must be seen. I feel about this like I did when I watched ‘Broken’ a few months back. Like these are the stories and realities we need to talk and see more of. I don’t know if that will be possible, but this is a film that for me 100% belongs on the BBC. My feeling throughout was : ‘this is the stuff we need to show more of’ , this is where the BBC needs to step in , showing the films which may not be making money or were made on big budgets, but which remind us about the people and lives in this country. It’s not and should not all be about the Crown and superhero movies, although we all need escapisms these days. But those who have the public’s ears and are financed by the public’s money and whose mission is not only to entertain but also to educate and inform have an obligation to speak up and share the stories that money won’t otherwise carry. When if not now is the time to tell these childrens’ stories? Unlike the brief news reports about increasing homelessness or children having to rely on school lunches for food, this little film is impossible to look away from.

It finished leaving a thick, emotion-filled silence, which I think is a very good sign of it’s impact on any viewing public. It gives you a lot of thinking material and I just felt a bit sad, a lot angry, some frustration, some hope , some pride in what everyone has achieved in the film. On a secondary level I also felt vindicated and reaffirmed in why I like to watch Richard Armitage on screen and stage. There is great reward for both mind and heart in watching material that you can connect with deeply told by somebody with his level of sensitivity and detail in acting. Honestly, every time I use the word acting with respect to this film it actually feels wrong. It’s just so real. And I will openly admit that this is the kind of combination of complex role, thoughtful material and screen time I have been starving for.

I was just an observer at the QA which followed since I just couldn’t really get my head out of the film enough to start digging behind the curtain. I’d also had a previous opportunity so it felt wrong to take any more time from others who knew maybe less about it and the people involved. And the questions and answers were very interesting anyway.

Fraser proved to be a very thoughtful and mature young man. In fact the way he interacted with all of us that evening, formally at the QA and personally mingling and talking to us one on one really impressed me. His parents have much to be proud of and he is very conscious of their support. I am sure the decision to play the role 4 years ago, when he was just 12 was not an easy one, probably a very brave one by his parents. And it was a lot to take in, as he himself admitted. Asked, he explained how he read the first 15 pages of the book and stopped, struck by the story and how much he learned during the filming about the lives of kids and adults in the area they were depicting. And then he finished reading it after the filming was done and was struck again.

Both Candida Brady and Richard let him answer most of the questions and he proved a most convincing and articulated advocate for the movie. He was fervent in the importance of doing more to support families and children in poverty and how any one person can make a difference and how we needed to talk much more about the subject.

A lady from the Leeds/Bradford area also wanted to share the fact that she really felt the film was truthful to circumstances and that she appreciated it being seen as years back she had read the book and it inspired her to work in social care.

Candida expressed her thanks for the support the movie has received so far and talked about how close the local community, the children whose lives are depicted and Bernie were involved with it. And also about how important it was to show the lives of people as truthfully as possible, not just as individual stories of poverty and loss but also in the community aspect of living in the area. She also stressed the fact that the stories of these kids often start before they are born, as some are born in prison to women who have been incarcerated for minor crimes, often driven by their partners to commit them.

All 3 spoke about the fact that money is not always the solution of all these problems and although it helps with building structures a lot more in terms of human input and care is needed to help where families are not there or can’t provide the care these children need. Richard also pointed out that they are telling a story but politicians need to find solutions and should definitely visit the areas affected as well.

At which point, since it was already past 10pm and everyone was deeply touched by the subject at hand and also by all their passionate support of the film a moment of silence fell upon us where Richard softly and very tentatively said: ‘is it bedtime?’ There was just that melancholy feeling about the room, but I am glad somebody brought up the courage to not end it just there and lifted the spirits a bit asking about fun moments during filming. Smiles and giggles ensued when Fraser spoke about being in the pub after work all night and Richard raising eyebrows at him.. ‘coke on tap!’ Fraser cheekily replied and Richard remembered with smiles that when they filmed with the dog it was always fun as with him just being a rescue dog and no trained actor one he was very unpredictable. And they both stressed there had been many laughs as there are indeed on screen. Both were fond of a picnic scene under the stars 🙂

Richard deferred to Fraser most of the times, I think both because he was indeed a bit tired, but also because the young man really did say all the right things 🙂 He did have 1-2 interesting thoughts to add. On the subject of what the story is about and what attracted him to it he mentioned how upon reading the book Bernie seemed to have put himself very much in the background but it was obvious he played an important role in the kids lives and made a difference and he really wanted to take the role on to bring that forward. And also in terms of making the difference he stressed the importance of stories being told, not just the ones Bernie tells the kids but also the way he gets the kids to write poetry and tell their own stories to each other. He said this was very important as it gave them purpose, a sense that they and their story mattered too because a big part of their lives previously had been to be ignored by everyone and forgotten. I thought that was a really interesting and thoughtful observation.

He’d also said earlier in the conversation with Caroline Goodall that he enjoyed being Chop and living that relaxed life, sitting there between takes rolling his 20 ciggies a day and not feeling the need to wash (the latter to our horrified laughs!). And also that he enjoyed being part of portraying the relationship between Chop and Urban on screen, that this bond man-child had been a big part of what interested him about the role as well.

I got a real sense that this film really matters to him. Of course the subject plays a big part and the role in getting a message out has been central to what he said about it. And of course he’d like his work to see the light of day but knows this does not always automatically happen. But I think also looking back on it, remembering it, but also seeing some of it again he’s fallen back in love with the movie itself. There was fresh, almost like newly discovered conviction that this is a good film (he said as much) and I think he also likes what he was able to do with Chop and would like it to be seen. I agree, he should be proud of Chop 🙂

Since there were no more questions, Richard took charge of expressing their thanks, including to everyone who had come to attend the screening. But to my surprise even though it was past 10,30pm at this point and everyone was tired they didn’t leave but stayed and mingled with everyone present who wanted to have a chat, get something signed etc.

I checked on our transport and confirmed that it had long gone since I’d not wanted to interrupt anything by running out to make phone calls and couldn’t find a number to text and called to arrange some new one apologising pretending to be tied up in a an event. I felt really bad for standing up a taxi driver who needed the fare and prioritising richarding instead! Luckily , as it turned out later it was the same one who stuck around the area who took us back to our hotel and we bestowed a generous tip for the annoyance caused earlier, phew! Conscience appeased!

Transport distraction dealt with I had no other reason to duck the obvious: Richard was there, talking to people.. what was I going to do? Apart from not having brought a scarp of paper or anything to sign on.. ah, I had the magazine. I looked at the small cue of people patiently waiting their turn..and walked in the other direction! In as.. I don’t know what to say to him, I’m so tired my brain feels foggy, have nothing to ask for… we’ll see how this pans out if there are still people waiting, let’s let everyone else be attended.

So I had a look around to see if Candida Brady has stayed back as well and Fraser and decided I wanted to say how glad I was this got another chance and hopefully more and congratulate him too. And as I found them among a small crowd an idea started to bloom. I flicked through the magazine not seeing much but realised it included the schedule for the festival and with it a small note in a corner on the premiere, with a photo of Anna Friel next to it. I figured it could be nice to have this signed as a small memorabilia for somebody who hadn’t been able to attend it, thankfully I did find a pen in my paperless bag! So thank I did and expressed my pleasure at the screening and how much I enjoyed seeing it again and was keen on seeing it many more times and asked Candida Brady to kindly sign next to the festival schedule and then had a quick chat with the utterly unflappable and lovely smiling Fraser! I said how brave I thought he was in taking the role and that he did a great job of supporting the film and explained I would really love to have his signature as well if he didn’t mind to which he calligraphed rather charmingly an inexperienced initial 🙂 I hope he’ll do well for himself as an actor and I’ll always have the pleasant memories of his 16 young self holding his own with a crowd 🙂

Well now, the signature thing was hardly going to be really nice unless I had all 3 there, so I looked at the cue again and it had gone considerably smaller. I slowly walked over and thought that fate will decide, it’s late and if he goes he goes, if there is nobody else waiting I’ll point the magazine his way. He seemed to be in no rush whatsoever, attentively talking to everyone, signing or photographing as requested, using his long arm to produce lovely selfies with the fans 🙂 Somebody had only the printed event ticket to sign and he saw the price and went: oh..£! He sounded impressed and slightly shocked LOL Richard, there was a small reception, it’s a bit more than a cinema ticket, mate 😉 It’s and you’re worth it though, don’t you worry ;-))))

When my turn came, I pointed to the magazine corner and explained about wanting to possibly auction it off to send the proceeds to actionforchilden (one women executive decision made!) and that because of that I’d kindly asked Candida and Fraser to sign pointing at signatures and if he wouldn’t mind please to do the same. He said that was a beautiful picture of her (Anna Friel) and I said that indeed it was. I have a memory of saying something about Fraser I think and him saying something about Fraser having shown him wrestling videos all the day because he wanted to train for it (Fraser not Rich!) but for the life of me I have no clue if he said it in context or to other people or what, I just remember him laughing and saying that. And he of course cramped his signature very nicely where I had pointed him to LOL… Not saying a single word about the magazine containing: 2 page interview with him, 2 page interview with Candida and 2 page feature on the film… which all would have made more decent places for their signatures than where I had decided to cramp them in my ignorance!!!!

I so wanted to slap myself with the Edge once I discovered it hours later but didn’t because I couldn’t ruin the magazine which I hope will make somebody very happy one day soon and in the process help the people who help the kids 🙂 I regret being so tongue-tied and not actually showing any of the enthusiasm I really felt. I was so afraid of going on too much, embarrassing myself, holding him up at that late hour any longer, etc that I ended up giving back nearly nothing of all the joy I received over the years watching him act or listening to him talk about his work. In the grand scheme of things of course it doesn’t matter and it didn’t really diminish the wonderful experience in any way 🙂 In fact it was so wonderful it kept me awake alongside the rest of the ladies until 3am that night just to keep chatting about it and for further 2 nights once I got home.

There are many thanks I would like to say or words of appreciation but composure sort of got in the way; so unfortunately it’s you the readers who end up on the receiving end of some of it!


Esther’s… but it’s lovely so i had to end with it 🙂

Can’t wait for more of you too met Chop and Urban so we can talk some more.


Let’s ❤ #Shakespeare400


The coming weekend is the big anniversary of Shakespeare’s death 400 years ago.

For those abroad, there will be special online content here (available internationally):

There is a full schedule with timings, all GMT London time that is:

Richard II – David Tennant – free online on demand (international as well)

Update! the Richard II will be streamed at the BBC site linked above, the site only goes live on the 23rd (they have tested it already but check back on the 23rd). As per the site, the Richard II will be available on the site from 10.30pm (BST) on 23rd April 2016.

Among other videos and documentaries from the British Council, the BFI, The RSC, the Globe and the Hay festival the full Richard II play from the RSC with David Tennant will be available for free.


There are also unique insights into playing Shakespeare from Ian McKellen and specifically on Hamlet from Simon Russell Beale and Adrian Lester.

The Royal Opera House makes a contribution on ballet and opera inspired by Shakespeare.

TV & cinemas 

The RSC and the BBC have put on a special party in Stratford, which will be broadcast on TV but also live in cinemas around the country and soon also internationally; worth keeping an eye out for this ( Sat, 23rd April 2016, 8,30pm GMT)

Shakespeare Live! From the RSC

‘From the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, hosts David Tennant and Catherine Tate are joined by Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, Meera Syal, David Suchet, Rufus Wainwright, Tim Minchin, Gregory Porter, Joseph Fiennes, English National Opera, The Royal Ballet and Akala for a very special evening.

Together they mark the life and work of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. This unique event takes place in the presence of their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and celebrates Shakespeare’s extraordinary legacy and his enduring influence on all performance art forms – from opera to jazz, dance to musicals.’

Also on TV …

All manner of special shows, like a Countryfile with Judi Dench dedicated to Shakespeare landscapes.

Re-runs of the Hollow Crown part I (adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, and Henry V) starting with Monday, the 25th of April 11pm on BBC4:

Richard II with Ben Whishaw


Followed next day, same time, BBC4 by Henry IV parts I and Wednesday part II, with Jeremy Irons:


and lastly, Thursday  Henry V with Tom Hiddleston:


London & online later

Shakespeare’s Globe – The Complete Walk

This is a series of 37 videos made for the celebration, each dedicated to a play which will be screen outside on buildings along the Thames during the weekend and will likely be available online after.

Check the Globe Player and the related iPhone app for further details on the videos (i assume shortly they will share the information online as well)

All Shakespeare400 events this year

For a round up of most events around the celebration check this website


So what am i doing?

  • watching the Winter’s Tale ballet at the Royal Opera House twice this week
  • recording the ShakespeareLive! show from Stratford;
  • recording the Countryfile with Judi Dench on Shakespeare
  • recording the re-run of the Hollow Crown part I
  • weather permitting spending the afternoon on the 23rd of April finding some of my favourite Shakespeare bits around The Complete Walk;
  • evening on the 23rd
  • 24th one of my favourite plays – Macbeth with one of my favourite actors – James McAvoy (finally! after thinking i missed out on this 🙂 )


Too much? Not really, not for me at least. The more is see and hear Shakespeare, the more i love him 🙂

‘Urban & shed crew’ – the film

I was lucky enough to be able to see the film twice over the last weekend and I can honestly say I could watch it again, several times and enjoy it just as much. It is just that kind of story and that kind of film – the kind whereby you gain more and more understanding by going back, where you don’t feel the story has been told and it’s the end. You feel compelled to go back for a reminder about the realities it captures but also for the impulse to action it provides. Just as the book it manages not to close the chapter but rather to start a journey.

Films and stories like these are rare in our world of quick fixes and adrenaline trips.

Bernard Hare’s book which underpins the film is not only a very emotional experience; it is an extremely well written book. The pace of his story telling, the balance of moods and tensions, the way he captures the characters, the note of dark but also light humour in the book is so well judged that you can hardly put it down. It’s easy to see why film makers would want to tell the story again but let’s not underestimate the challenge it represents. It’s not just about getting the realities across, it’s getting the tone right to engage people and not alienate them. The combination of the themes around drugs, prostitution, destitution, poverty and the fact that most of its protagonists are children make it almost a ‘catch 22’ in terms of filming. It is incredibly hard for films to go where a news report or a documentary could. Because there are laws in place that protect child actors when they work, some things are just impossible to represent with actors of the ages the characters are in the book. (Which makes it even more frightening, sad and frustrating that you literally can’t act on screen what some kids live through in their daily lives… but such is our reality and our society).

But I can also fully understand why Candida Brady chose to do a feature film instead of a documentary – because these are human stories. It’s not a story about facts and figures or things, although these make a tragic difference in the lives of the people depicted. It’s a story of friendship, caring, understanding and human emotion.

I literally finished reading the book a couple of hours before the first screening so one could say ‘I was heavily under the influence’ 😉 Which is why I am glad I got to see it again the next day with a bit more distance, enough to be able to appreciate the film more for itself rather than in comparison to the book.

My first impression was that the film felt much more upbeat than the book, its message of hope was much stronger. But I am sure my first impression were coloured by the proximity of the book in my mind and the emotions it throws you in. There is a lot of mental ‘wall-punching’ involved during the read so I almost wanted the film to tear into the audience and grip them by their throats 🙂 The need to shake people up and make them see is almost overwhelming.

I am certain after the second watching that the film does that, just not in such emotionally violent ways I felt after reading the book. Which is a good thing! While making people angry and upset may trigger them into action, touching their heart is probably more likely to achieve longer term commitment 🙂

While one can argue about how dark one could make the film, both book and film agree in saying one important thing: one person who cares can change things. And while the environment is certainly violent and volatile on so many levels that is not how help is found or given. Chop doesn’t manage to save some of the kids by violent means or by displaying violent behaviour, quite the contrary! It’s his quiet care and finally his constant determination and emotional connection that  provide a solution.

Listening to Bernard Hare talk in the recent interviews made me really understand this almost as much as reading his book. He’s incredibly warm and soft spoken, but very articulate and clear in what he says and what he means and more importantly for the kids ultimately relentless in his action.

So, the intention of the film to provide a stronger message of hope is ultimately just reinforcing the message of the book. It is as much by design as it is the result of necessary condensation of the written material. You have a few less characters and you sometimes get only hints of vicious cycles which in the book we actually experience repeated over and over. But visual hints work in providing similar context and experience.

Speaking of which the hinting rather than showing may also help in making it accessible to a younger/wider audience. An experienced/older viewer will infer much more than is shown but this way I think it stays within a lower age rating (unless you are offended by swearing… but I should think people should be offended much more by the fact that 30% of children in the UK live in poverty, as Candida Brady pointed out).

I’m less sure about the soundtrack for the film. I like the music but I did feel at times it was too upbeat for the feeling of a particular scene. I preferred the scenes played in silence which let things sink in more and for the visuals and words to impact without giving your mind additional, slightly confusing signals. In some instances however the clash between upbeat music and frightful happenings works well to bring out the contrast. I just feel that this effect should have been used more sparingly. (Cause I just wanted to tap along a few times ;-))

I was happy to see that some slight editing hick-ups I noticed in the screening Saturday seemed to have been ironed out in the version screened Sunday (most of my friends hadn’t noticed these however, I’m just too techy that way maybe ;-)). I liked that they mixed up the shooting techniques a bit and we got staggered images, slow-mo, etc It makes it visually interesting (and it is where Brady’s experience with documentaries nicely shows 🙂 ) . Sometimes like in the trip to Scotland section this creates an almost peaceful, intimate feel by allowing time to pass and other times it is used to comic effect. I really enjoyed the twist on what is an essentially violent moment in a brawl which made us all giggle (nice to see the Armitage teeth all still in place after that 😉 ).

Other times visuals of the same places at different moments in time can be whimsical or profoundly sad and depressing, just like the shed is at the same time sanctuary for the kids but also expression of the lack of a true home. That arch of the 2 scenes was one of my favourite moments in the film.

There are other clever visual solutions in the film too: how do you do a car chase when you can’t afford never ending stretches of road blocked off and you’re not on a highway? Original and funny when it happens in parallel roads 😉

Generally the cinematography is great. All that smoke of all kinds does wonders for the atmosphere. The city, its blocks of flats, graffiti covered walls, derelict churches and rubbish littered green patches create a character all on its own. It is grey and sad but has loads of personality, great locations (especially considering they used a lot of the original ones). The colourful and mismatched clothes of all characters, especially Chop and Greta up the colour factor a lot! (I’m just going to mention a yellow t shirt and a mustard&violet jumper). I really liked what the costume department did, it looked realistic and not too over the top.

Chop’s and Greta’s flats respectively say a lot about the characters without a word being uttered and they make a startling contrast to each other. The wall paper and carpet at the club where Chop plays chess is wonderfully horrible (nice touch having Hare’s chess playing cameo in the background ;-)) and his small flat though cluttered and messy spells home and comfort in big warm letters. You can just see why the kids are drawn to it and feel protected and safe there. The rows and rows of used books that say as much about Chop as his many endless stories are great. As is the big mirror in Greta’s flat which reflects back all the misery around and within :-(.

There is a 90’s feel about the visuals but discreetly so, it’s mostly the cars and the cassette player (remember those?). It does not feel like a story from the 90’s at all and I am glad that is the case, as it is as contemporary today as it was then, sadly.

The dialogue is very close to the book most of the time which is when it works best. There was only one instance I was unsure about, when Chop asks Urban directly if he’s ever been told about dyslexia. While I understand the difficulties of getting that particular problem across in film I think it’s rather unlikely given when Urban has been that he would have ever been told this may be one of the reasons he couldn’t read. I would have preferred that conversation to be had with another adult. But it’s a small niggle and I rather liked the way Chop spots that the boy is probably dyslexic, it’s a discreetly tender moment that happens almost out of the blue and it really clutched at my heart.

There’s strong acting throughout with Anna Friel pulling off a frighteningly convincing portrayal of an emotionally unstable drug addict. She’s the self-destructive force that brings Chop and Urban together. From then onwards the film revolves mainly around the tug and pull between Chop and the kids. He gets pulled in, shelters the kids and tries to give them a safe haven until his own life is almost invaded and falls apart; he feels nearly unable to cope and then rallies again to support Urban. The kids are great and Fraser Kelly is a brave little actor 🙂 His vulnerability pulls at your strings but one of my favourite moments is the one where he threatens Chop to take action himself if he doesn’t do something about his brother’s  heroin addiction. For somebody so young to get across so much restrained violent intent is quite something, well done!

Richard Armitage had quite a hard task in front of him. Hare’s book is rich in detail about the people that surround him, about his beliefs and disappointments, his actions but naturally restrained in revealing Chop’s emotions. You guess a lot by reading and his actions speak louder than his words, still the book is outwards looking towards the people that surround him most of the time. For the film it was Richard Armitage’s job to show us how Chop feels, what his emotional reactions are not just his actions. The book goes more into Chops disillusionment with the system and its failures; this is still present in the film, though maybe not expressed as often. There is one moment that brings it across very strongly however and I liked that line very much when Chop admits to himself that ‘nobody listens’.

There is quite a lot of action in the film and I’m happy to say it happens mostly with the same kind of bitter and dark irony and humour as it does in the book. We laughed quite a lot as life but mainly the kids kept throwing unexpected events at Chop 🙂 Their clever inventiveness and retorts keep things moving.

The heart of the film beats strongest in the long conversations Chop has with the kids and especially Urban. And they are conversations, not just Chop talking at them (although he does do some of that too ;-)). There are moments when he represents a fatherly figure, but that is mostly in providing basic care, putting food on the table and providing a place to sleep.  Most of the time we see friendships emerging and Chop learns as much from Urban and the kids as he tries to teach them.

There’s lovely story telling which is how Chop disguises his attempts at teaching them and there are equally touching moments when the kids’ practical and needs driven common sense brings Chop back to reality and makes him act rather than just talk about things. With Chop they can be kids again and they make him more of a doer than just a thinker 🙂

It’s thanks to these scenes that we get some of the poetry written by the shed crew for the book (and some of my favourites are in there) and Chop’s long winded but wonderful account of his favourite legend: King Arthur. (I can’t say how touched I was when I read in the book that of all the stories he’d read this was his favourite, Chop the idealist 🙂 )

This does slow things down in the film a bit compared to the action packed beginning but I’m hoping for those who haven’t read the book this will be a nice opportunity to listen to an extract of the book retold (the kids do a perfect acting job of looking riveted throughout ;-)).

What I enjoyed was seeing Chop’s reactions reflected in his eyes and face and gestures all the while his words, especially with the kids tried to remain almost neutral, casual thus keeping the dialogue open 🙂 But it is this emotional connection which matters, how much Chop cares in his deceivingly relaxed, understated way. A lot of this emotional exchange with Urban seems to happen at Chop’s doorstep which is a nice little symbol for his heart which he can’t seem to close to the kid, in spite of temporary frustrated attempts to do so.

While the film leaves us with hints that all is not well with the world (babies born with addictions, other kids succumbing to heroin, etc) it does end with a big smile, reflecting I think the compassion and hope the creators themselves have put it in rather than reality itself.

It was easy to see why this message is important on Sunday, when members of the real shed crew reunited to watch the screening . The family like connection that bonds them (including Hare) was instantly obvious 🙂 And it is because this one man cared enough that they were able to be there almost 20 years later.

Oh, and they enjoyed the film a lot! I could hear the heartfelt laughter all throughout and there was enthusiastic applause at the end from all. I got the distinctive impression that they approved of the way their story had been told 🙂

The shed crew enjoyed the film :-)

The shed crew enjoyed the film 🙂

PS I’ve tried to keep this mostly spoiler free, but if anyone who has read the book  or otherwise wants to know more say so.

Of people and products

PopThorin wondering why the forest of plastic trees surrounding him is dancing and singing 😉

Note – click on photos to enlarge

This will be an exercise in writing disciple as much as a post of various thoughts about the recent London Film and Comicon. Was there a question about the difficult part of blogging in the introspection challenge? Another thing still on my to-do list… I’m finding it really hard at the moment to battle tiredness and weariness from working 8-10h in front of a computer in order to turn it on again and sit in front of it again and do some more writing. When often i just want to let my brain cells chill and read or watch TV (not do housework! ;-)). But this is the way things i really want to say remain unsaid so hopefully i’ll get through this today.

‘Cons’….. strange events to be sure. I don’t think they can be put in any particular box and although there are many things about them that make me uncomfortable or sceptical there are also many things about them that make people very happy. I guess one has to attend one to experience it for oneself and decide if it is your cup of tea or not. Like any such Con this one also contained panels for interviews/discussions, photo/signature opportunities and stands with products on sale. For the (extortionate) high level of ticket we paid i expected many more panels but the proportion was only about 10% of the total, with 60% of the photo/signature activities and the rest trading. It ultimately makes sense as it is a business. The Comicon in San Diego is a bigger scale event, but still it is geared towards sales, just less small trader sales and more big studios/channels sales of specific films/series. However that format results in many more panels which is more interesting for somebody more interested in the details than in buying merchandise.

But i had no idea what the format locally would be in London, so it was a trial and you live and learn 🙂

Several things were not quite perfect, like the organisers introducing a new, higher level ticket about a month or so before the event and then putting events in the schedule only available at that level or at an additional cost to the previous top level. As you may easily guess we decided not to pay even more…

There were no maps of the venue to pick up and none given to the high level ticket holders either. There were some on display in some corners, but you had to get to those first. Luckily i have a decent orientation sense.

The cueing system, when applicable was unclear and inconsistent; in some cases we were let through earlier and in some we had to cue. The sound system in the panel space had not been tested properly with the result that announcements about the upper floors came through on the loudspeakers at full volume while some guests were trying to talk to the audience. Guest was not pleased when it happened for the 3rd time…


Well, there were loads and loads and we diligently and in a very organised fashion i might add walked past every single stand in the place. This took several hours and made for very achy feet and sweaty person 😉 Ah did i mention it was really hot and the air-con didn’t really do the job? But at least i wasn’t stuck with a wig and a complicated costumer like some others 😉

Against my initial intention to reign spending in i did buy a couple of small things and collected a few business cards 🙂 But nothing substantial. Interestingly enough although Funko dolls seem all the rage, my Popthorin was unique and i didn’t see another one like him! I also searched all Lego stands but alas, no Thorin either 😦 I did see the newest dwarf collection (minus Thorin) and i have to saw the likeness is amazing and they are very detailed and very very cute! Still on my shopping/wishlist for the near future 🙂

Of all the swords and chains and t-shirts and stuff, there was this one idea  i liked a lot:

wear your favourite book around your neck ;-)

wear your favourite book around your neck 😉

Little pendants, barely 2cm long, made like books with the original covers 🙂 Cute, isn’t it?

There is another thing i bought but it shall be revealed at a later date.

There were the autograph sellers of course, i can tell you the going rate for himself is £25 for a small one and £45 for a A4A size one 😉 The funniest thing of all was on stand where i could see pictures of the guy behind the stall with all these celebrities handing all around the stall. And i wondered what the point would be and why would anyone buy a photo of that man with some famous X or Y?? Until it actually dawned on me he was displaying them as proof he had actually been close to the X or Y and had gotten their signature… riiiiiight. Of no interest to me whatsoever. Unless they would be really old photos of film-stars or singers from the 40’s or such or even older, i have little interest in buying a person’s signature on a photo had nothing to do with me. And i certainly would not buy them from people who are in the business of getting stacks signed for the purpose of profit. I am not opposed to signatures/autographs, i have a selected few, less than the fingers of my hand (except classical music CDs ;-)) but those are in context, i remember the circumstances, the event, the chat that preceded them and some have my name of the person was kind enough to ask for it. They are ‘mine’ 🙂 ie signed for me, even if i was one in hundreds 😉 And i know why i was there and why i wanted that particular thing – essentially tickets or CD/DVDs only – signed. Before this weekend i didn’t have a single signed photo of anybody. Because really the ticket for the event, even crushed in my handbag, or the actual CD or DVD, preferably of something i’ve seen live, is just so much more meaningful because it comes with many memories attached.  So,…


There were so many, the place was packed and it was hard to move and hard to breathe..

Game of Thrones people everywhere..

Game of Thrones people everywhere..

There were quite a few costumes and i’ve seen quite a few intricate ones, GoT themes long dresses seem to be favourites with the ladies and David Tennant’s Doctor is still very popular with the gents 😉 (i guess the fact that the costume is comfortable and not complicated adds to that, but i have to say they did put a lot of effort in the right shoes and the right hair-do and that isn’t easy ;-)) I even went on a quest in my own wardrobe myself and dug out the yet unworn Dr Who t shirt i bought many years ago 🙂 Forgot to take a pic, but it is essentially a black T, with a profile Schattenriss of DT’s head at the front, only filled out with an image of the universe (stars and all that) and a tiny black Tardis flying across it with Rose popping out of it and the words ‘Bad wolf’ scripted in small next to it. Essentially you’d have to really really know your Doctors to recognise it, which is what i liked about it. Still i never wore it before this weekend, when even wearing it i felt distinctively ‘under dressed’ 😉

And annoyed, because i only made the effort as Saturday was due to start very early at 10am with a Dr Who panel, for which we dragged ourselves out of bed only to be kept waiting.. and waiting and.. waiting… only to be told after some 30 mins that the guests had probably gotten stuck in the crowd and never made it. Humph! Not sure what happened but it wasn’t nice. Anyway, water under the bridge (especially since David was not among the guests 😉 ).

GoT panel - Finn Jones, Carice van Houten, Daniel Portman, Keisha Castle-Hughes

GoT panel – Finn Jones, Carice van Houten, Daniel Portman, Keisha Castle-Hughes – Daniel is talking about the hardships of doing a brothel scene

There were a few entertaining panels. The GoT actors raved about the beautiful locations they were lucky to film in and Portman, Scottish 😉 turned out to have a very dry humour 🙂 I watch the series, but am not the biggest fan so didn’t particularly care if Jon Snow was really really dead or not quite yet. Carice giving birth for hours in a dark damp cave to the shadow baby via an inflatable tummy was more fascinating :-p

Speaking of guests, what made me uncomfortable at times was the ‘meat market’ aspect of some things. At least it felt to me like people become very much a product; which in a strict business sense of course they are, but for me it creates difficulties and emotional barriers in the interaction. It is straight forward to buy something from a stand, but how do you deal with the person put on sale in a way that still makes it humanly relevant?

Hayley Atwell or Marvel's Agent Carter, a really funny lady

Hayley Atwell or Marvel’s Agent Carter, a really funny lady

We didn’t intend to join the photo or autograph cues, however there is a certain freedom at such events to elbow one another and whisper ‘hey, look, that’s what’s his name from that movie’ 😉  And it did turn out the one thing we had in our tickets were some vouchers for autographs and photos. Not enough as it turns out for 2 of each as we were told because individual signatures/photos turned out to be more expensive than the 1 voucher but enough so that we decided it would be unwise to have it as a total loss. We couldn’t bring ourselves to cue for photos. But, while searching for stairs to avoid the cramped and steaming hot lifts to get from one level to another i stumbled upon an open, aired area and suddenly had in front of me a table with people sat for signing and there was one of my Musketeers 😀 Sorry to say Tom Burke/Athos must have been out for lunch, but this one sat at his desk so i walked over to at least give the GoT cue at the next table some competition 😉 (gotta support in house productions too 🙂 ):

The Musketeers with D'Artagnan/ Luke Pasqualino in the foreground. I liked this photo best.

The Musketeers with D’Artagnan/ Luke Pasqualino in the foreground. I liked this photo best because it had all 4 in it.

We chatted a bit about leather costumes in hot summers and nice horses. He thought my name was beautiful ‘ggg’ and i wished for more seasons of the series 😉 And i can confirm he’s got the most chocolatey sparkly eyes and looks even younger in person than on screen. Really nice fella.

Since we still had more vouchers to use we perused the list and decided to intentionally pick one 😀 to do the next day. And i can’t believe i’m saying this, i actually cued for 45!!!!! mins for a signature. Well, i nearly left every 10 min because i was tired and fed up and just don’t have the patience anymore. But just when i was about to say ‘that’s it, you stay here and i’m walking and looking for a place to sit’ i turned toward the exit/entrance/lift and there he came slowly walking along. It seems people didn’t realise he was coming that way as nobody reacted and few people were turned that way so i looked at him and smiled and he looked back and smiled at me all the way. Guess it was worth the wait 😉

Again, i picked a less standard photo, ie not standard for autographs, most in the stacks on offer are against plain backdrops with significant white/grey spaces on the sides so that the actual signature can be more visible. But i just picked the photos i liked best and this one seemed like a lovely portrait:

yes, it is Iain Glen, portraying Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones

yes, it is Iain Glen, portraying Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones

Yet another Scottish actor, i seem to like quite a few of those. I still wonder what drives really busy actors to spend entire days at cons but he certainly seems calm and serene in spite of the masses. He’d been there from about 10 am, had done 2 photo sessions as well and signed the rest of the day, hundreds and hundreds. If i had to take a wild guess he was easily one of the most popular actors there, judging by the never ending cue.

Iain Glen, busy signing and smiling

Iain Glen, busy signing and smiling

Because it was so busy they said no personalised signatures  (few people stuck to it as i realised afterwards) so i stuck to saying i was hoping to see him on stage in London again and he said he hoped so too, soon. But, that smile before he sat down to ‘work’ was worth a hundred signatures 😉

Ah, on a funny note, immediately after as we went in search for a place to sit down we started googling his other films and this photo came up instantly:

Iain Glen in Mountains of the Moon, photo from official site here :

IKR 😀 He’s also aged really well.

Ultimately, because i wasn’t a particular fan of any of the films with panels, the ones i ended up enjoying most were the ones i knew least about, and those were the comics related panels.It has been ages since i’ve read comics but i loved them when i was a kid, Pif and Rahan in French (especially the latter), Donald Duck &co, Winnetou, etc. I must still have a couple of the books at home…

We were quite privileged to have some of Marvel’s UK top artists in attendance and they participated in a variety of individual as well as group panels talking not only about their work for Marvel but also about their other activities, one of which is storyboarding for series and films. We had artists who have storyboarded for several series of Dr Who , including the 11th doctor last one (Matt) and the 2nd series of the 12th doctor (Capaldi) – Mike Collins, Game of Thrones –  William Simpson,  Back to the Future, Star Trek – several versions and much more. They shared not only funny stories from behind the scenes, but also insights into working on set with the director, the actors, the CGI artists, the designers, etc. There was a lot of fascinating discussion about translating movement, spacial organisation into drawings, about learning to draw through the lens of a camera, respecting ‘the line’, about being a crucial trial space for expensive shots and about the excitement of seeing the scene on screen as you have drawn it out 🙂

It was great to then have the same people talk about their work on comics for Marvel, the connections to the heroes on the big screen and the gap between where the comic book universe has evolved to and where it is on the big screen. And luckily they also had their own presentation stands in the exhibition where you could admire some of their actual storyboards for the series as well as original work, inspired by the same characters or completely separate comic universe. If i had walls to fill and money to throw at it, i could have bought some very original stuff. But i have kept in mind for future purchases the artist names, the drawings were stunning and very cool as well 🙂

And i’ve plugged in yet another piece of the puzzle that is the film making process 🙂

I was completely exhausted after those 3 long days and not entirely satisfied, not sure i’d repeat this particular experience. But i’ve learned a few new things, had a few entertaining moments and although this may not be exactly my thing i can see why they are popular as i have seen many many happy people walking away with photos and signatures and all sorts of fan-product. The stuff i took away myself is nice too 😉

Poldark preview with Aidan Turner

BFI preview

BFI preview

Wish all Mondays would end as nicely 🙂

I’ve always been reluctant to go out Monday night but I may change my mind after this if Monday evenings involve a trip to Cornwall. To clarify, this was not an actual trip to Cornwall, only on screen 😉 But I guarantee the views on screen will make you want to visit the actual place!

We were lucky enough to grab 2 tickets for the BFI (British Film Institute) preview of the first episode of Poldark, the new series made by Mammoth for the BBC. This will start airing in early March on BBC One in the Uk and if I understand correctly from June also in the US and more countries to follow. Some of you may be aware of the 40 years older BBC version, but this is not a remake of that series, it is a completely new adaptation over 8 episodes of the books (in this case the first 2 Winston Graham ‘Poldark’ books).

The evening entertainment contained not only the screening, but also a Q&A with main cast – Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark), Eleanor Tomlinson (Demelza Carne), writer Debbie Horsfield and director Ed Bazalgette (the panel was chaired by Emma Kennedy).

First things first, the episode. To give you a tiny idea of what it is like, here’s the trailer:

If you think this is exciting, it was much more so in full! The scenes in the trailer cover episode 2 as well I think. But it’s all there, the detail in interior scenes with really detailed costumes (though not overdone), the right lighting and truly breath-taking views of fields, beaches and costal lines in Cornwall. It will actually be hard to see this on the small screen going forward as it was an absolute pleasure to watch it on a screen that does justice both to the detail and the landscapes. And the sound is excellent, from subtle music to wonderful sounds of hooves thudding on fields and crunching on gravel. Add to this really clear diction and individual voices, each really suited to the personalities they represent.

The hour past in a flash and we were really startled when it came to an end. I’d forgotten this was just a 60 min episode, it felt cinema-film epic… I just wanted it to continue. As far as I can tell the script is good, it’s not too aged historically to make it hard to understand and I think it will be easy on the ears of all English speaking audiences, without feeling too contemporary. Natural, unfussed is the one word that comes to mind. There are enough silences and pauses in dialogue for one to make their own mind about the character and even more, to admire the expression on their faces. And let’s face it the close up to the characters are almost as beautiful as the landscapes 😉 But I think in all cases are talking about good acting here, not standing around looking good.

Ah, and we all really appreciated the subtle and no so subtle humour in the script. Ross Poldark is surprisingly outspoken at times and because it is not overdone or slapstick and delivered naturally, but not too dead-pan it is really effective. You get a sense of a character which is spirited and bright, but not too cocky 😉 And he’s not the only one providing the light elements, there’s a variety of villagers, servants, uncles and cousins, animals 😉 who contribute.

I was relieved to see that it lived up to its marketing hype and I was drawn in immediately and can’t wait to see more. It is good and promises even better things to come.

(click on thumbnails below for bigger versions, sorry they are a bit blurry and dark, my zoom is not the best and the camera ran out of battery as well..)

The Q&A fully confirmed the great chemistry between main characters as well as the good atmosphere within the cast. There are a lot of firsts, a first true leading role for Aidan, a unique developing female role for Eleanor, a first adaptation of books for  Debbie Horsfield. But there is an obvious team spirit there, built through a lot of research and a 6 months location driven shoot. The enjoyment on working on the project is obvious from the affection with which they talk about it and from the friendly banter.

From what I have seen so far, Bazalgette has really done justice to Cornwall, the skies were really dizzyingly deep and you just wanted to tumble in the grass in the fields. The cinematography is beautiful and it adds a wonderful depth to the atmosphere. But the landscape is not a set, it’s a character on its own, the mines are part of it, the houses, the crossroads to home and far away, etc.

There were loads of laughs during the Q&A: about Eleanor really pestering the casting director to be seen as initially they only wanted to see her for the role of Elizabeth; then about her showing up in her brother’s oversized Xmas jumper to the audition; about the health and safety challenges of riding along the coast; about Aidan’s decidedly physical approach to the manual labours of the work (including heaving massive stones on the wall around Ross’ house to the director’s concern about a potential hernia that would kill filming 😉 – they initially gave him polystyrene ones which he refused); about the romantic impact of riding a horse together but the massive discomfort that it creates for the rider in the back ‘ggg’; about the Cornwall sun induced tan (not always …. :-p) ; the casting director having the impossible task of choosing strong and handsome actors for the iconic leading parts and having to settle for ‘just’ good actors ;-); about how a scene really called for shallow waters (you’ll have to wait to see what is meant, suffice to say it caused endless hilarity and Aidan to blush) . Oh and most of the time was spent actually answering questions from the public.

And as you can see from the pic above the public was quite mixed, it was by no means mainly fans.

But it wasn’t all banter, there was a lot of discussion about the potential stress of being pitched against the memories of the very successful previous adaptation (on an aside, Robin Ellis who embodied the previous Poldark was very supporting of the project and will be back for 2 episodes in a role – another aside Robin Ellis is Jack Ellis’ brother – Danforth in the Crucible). About the pressure and the pleasure of playing such a role can bring.. it’s been said often it is a mixture of Darcy, Rochester, Heathcliff, etc and it really is 🙂 Also about what a rewarding character Demelza is, as few female characters in period drama have such scope of growth and development. About the challenges of moving from being almost a boy as Demelza to a married women with children across the story arch. There was also an interesting debate about film vs television and appreciation of great work that is currently being done for TV with a number of really good series on the small screen. Both actors remarked that they felt TV scripts they had seen recently were much better than what they had seen for films for example.

Both actors shared with us some insight about their favourite scenes and what they love most about their characters: Aidan admires Ross’ determination and grit, the fact that he just gets on with it and doesn’t wallow and Eleanor love the growth and fearlessness of her character.

All I can say is they were really warm and funny in person and very compelling on screen. Can’t wait to see more 🙂

As we were making our way to the exit more than 2h 30 min later we bumped into a spontaneous gathering, Aidan had been caught between fans coming back from the gents 😉 He very graciously stopped to sign and take pictures in spite of the late hour 🙂 He’s really sweet I have to say!

We didn’t get out books signed because too many people were gathering, we just looked on a few minutes and left looking back with smile 🙂 Ah the books, we received these for free as part of the presentation pack!

So, look out for this in your TV schedule and make sure you don’t miss it!

To take away - book 1, new issue ;-)

To take away – book 1, new issue 😉

For extra info, pretty spoiler -free there is the BBC media pack. Includes some nice interviews with the cast, writer and director.

And the Radio Times article hidden behind the photo below has more production stills newly released 😉

PS if you are the lady with the red hair in the last pics with Aidan and want me to take down the pics, please say so and i#ll do asap.

PPS  Sorry for no titles, descriptions to photos, the editing and the info it wants does my head in!

PPPS there was a lot of banter about the hair 😉 Aidan said seeing it on screen he was almost sorry he’d chopped it off! LOL