?

Log in

entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous
Rachael
These are the "leaders" you can play in the four ages in the game Through the Ages:

Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Hammurabi, Homer, Julius Caesar, Moses
Christopher Columbus, Frederick Barbarossa, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo
Isaac Newton, James Cook, Johannes Sebastian Bach, Maximilien Robespierre, Napoleon Bonaparte, William Shakespeare
Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Charles Chaplin, Mahatma Gandhi, Sid Meier, Winston Churchill

There's only one woman in the whole 24. (This doesn't bother me - I just noticed it on about my fourth game and thought it was interesting. I'd probably have been less likely to notice if there were zero women.) I was wondering, if you did want to have more female leaders, who would you put in? Who are the most famous women who ever lived? (I think "famous" is a better criterion than "important", where there's a difference.) The people in the list above have a fairly good case for being the most famous people, apart from Meier, who is there as an in-joke because the game was inspired by Civilization; and perhaps Chaplin, who Alex tells me is Elvis in a different edition of the game, which makes more sense.

Some ideas: Cleopatra; The Virgin Mary; Jane Austen; Florence Nightingale; Margaret Thatcher?

Mary wouldn't really work because she's only famous because of her son, so it would be weird to have a card for her and not for Jesus, unless you came up with a clever game mechanic that was specific to Mary. Austen wouldn't work because she'd be functionally equivalent to Shakespeare.

Thatcher is probably not famous enough outside of the UK. But she would offer potential for snark - there are already some jabs in the game, like if you build the Kremlin or implement Communism, you get some civil or military benefits but your people are less happy, and if you implement Fundamentalism, your military gets stronger but your science suffers. So Thatcher as a leader could give you some civil or economic benefits but make you disband a mine?

What obvious famous women have I missed?

Tags:

11 comments or Leave a comment
Through the Ages
This is a serious, long, resource-management game. I'd got the impression it would be something I would like, but I was putting off learning it until I had the time and energy to cope with a three-hour game plus rules explanation. That finally happened a few weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. It is unfortunately quite long, but apart from that it's a really interesting and enjoyable game of the kind I really like and don't get to play enough of any more (others in this category are Terra Mystica, Tzolk'in, Caylus, and Agricola). Luckily there's an online implementation, so there have been a few evenings recently when Alex and I have played two-thirds of a game in real time, and finished it off as a background activity over the course of the next day. That's less satisfying than playing the whole thing in real time on a real board, but it's a very valuable substitute when you don't have the time. There's also quite a bit of fiddly bookkeeping, so it's nice to have the computer do that.
It has things in common with 7 Wonders, although it's more complicated. There are three Ages, and there's card drafting, and you can build resource-making buildings, which allow you to build the other kinds of buildings, which include point-scoring cultural artefacts, science buildings, military units, and multi-stage Wonders; and if you have a primitive building in a certain category it's cheaper to upgrade it into a more advanced building in the same category.
There are a lot of very interesting mechanics, and lots of different things to balance and juggle, and I like it. The flavour and mechanics are tied together well (I think if you had a list of the real historical people and wonders used in the game, and a separate list of the mechanics those cards provide, you could do a pretty good job of matching them up). And there's pleasing structure and patterns in the set of cards you can play.

Creature College
Alex kickstarted this and we tried it out at GamesEvening this week. There are nine bidding rounds in which you bid for monsters in five suits with various strengths, and every third round you have to fight your neighbours.
I didn't like it. It reminded me of King of Tokyo - I think it's aimed at pre-teens who will be excited about the cool/funny monsters and not care about the gameplay. I felt there wasn't enough game there to justify the length and complexity. To be fair, we did play it 6-player with people who were all new to the game, so it took longer than it otherwise would (1 1/2 hours plus rules explanation; box says 45 mins). The length of the bidding round squares with the number of players: if someone puts a higher bidding token on the monster you wanted, your token is kicked off, and you can put it on a different monster which someone else wanted and kick them off and so on.

Hot Tin Roof
This is about cats, which is a big plus.
It's a nice quick game with simple rules and interesting gameplay. There's a map of disconnected roofs, with places where they can be connected with catwalks. There are five action spaces, and every turn you have to seed all of them with fish coins from your own supply. Then you take one of them and all the fish on it (so the less popular spaces get more attractive over time). Three of them are for placing a pair of cats on a pair of distant roofs, one is for placing a catwalk, and one is for placing a shelter (an ownership marker on a roof, which doesn't affect the catwalk topology). You have to get your pair of cats to meet up (which earns 10 fish and gets those cats back), and you have to pay rent to the owners of any catwalks or shelters you traverse.
You can't take the three cat-placing actions when all your cats are already on the board (you have two pairs of cats), so when everyone's cats are on the board, the coins on those three action spaces pile up, and if you can get your cats back soon you can get a big payout that way.
There are a lot of interesting decisions, and it's quick to play and explain. The only flaw is the visuals. It's very pretty and atmospheric, but they've decided to go for realism over functionality. So the board is drawn at night, and all the player pieces are in realistic cat colours: light and dark grey, and light and dark brown. So it's hard to tell which opponent you're supposed to be paying rent to. It reminds me of La Strada, where everything's in different shades of brown. The other issue with the graphic design is that it's very hard to read the board and tell what's connected to what. It's like On the Underground or TransAmerica in that you want to know which spaces are connected to the general network and which aren't yet, but it's harder to parse that than it is in those games. I'm not sure whether that's deliberate or not - whether it's a graphic design failure, or a deliberate part of the skills needed to play the game.
I'd quite like to make a home-made reskin where the connections are more obvious and the player colours are red, yellow, blue and green. It would be less pretty but more playable.

Tags: , ,

12 comments or Leave a comment
Watched 101 Dalmatians with the girls. I hadn't seen it before. Pongo and Perdita are having their first litter of puppies, with the women of the house in attendance, who come out and report to Roger that there are 8 puppies. But more puppies keep being born and they keep revising their count - 11, 12, 13, 14, 15! which the girls found hilarious.
Then there's a bit of Mood Whiplash - a revised count, "14, we lost one" and they bring out a tiny bundle wrapped in a yellow cloth and hand it to Roger, who sadly opens it to look (not showing the audience). I thought, eek, puppy stillbirth, that's a bit of a heavy topic to explain to the girls. Then Roger tries rubbing the lifeless puppy to restore it to life, and it works, and a little white nose peeps out of the bundle, and they all rejoice and exclaim "15!"
But then when Alex got home, Bethany described the plot to him, and she thought they'd lost the 15th puppy, as in mislaid it. She thought it was really funny that the missing puppy turned up in the very same yellow cloth the lady was holding when she said "We've lost one" - like, it was there all along and the lady didn't realise!
I wonder whether this ambiguity was intentional on Disney's part, so that young children can understand the film on one level and adults on another.

Tags: ,

Leave a comment
Bethany (singing): "Without meee... No one can come to the Father..."
Zoe: "Bethany, who's the Father?"
Bethany: "God."
Zoe: "Oh. But I thought Jesus was the Father."
Bethany: "No, Jesus is the Son."

Tags: , ,

Leave a comment
The Accident - C L Taylor
Sue's teenage daughter is in a coma after being hit by a bus. Eyewitnesses say she looked like she stepped in front of the bus on purpose, and Sue peeks at her diary, which reveals she was hiding some kind of secret, so Sue tries to get to the bottom of it (believing this will help her daughter wake up), but Sue's husband Brian thinks it was just an accident and she should stop upsetting herself by investigating.
Sue is quite a paranoid character and doesn't know who to trust. Is Brian hiding something, or her daughter's school friends, or teachers?
This book was quite good, but didn't stand out as much as some I've read recently. We get flashbacks about Sue's abusive ex from when she was a young woman, and I thought he was badly portrayed - he didn't seem like a three-dimensional person, just a textbook case study of an abuser.
I also disliked the way it wasn't clear what happened at the end, but that's just me, some people like it that way.

The Good Mother - A L Bird
Wow, this is astonishingly good (and quite dark). It's really gripping and really well-crafted, with a paradigm-shifting twist.

Susan wakes up in an unfamiliar locked room, and hears the voice of her daughter Cara from the next room, but doesn't know why she and her daughter are there or what their captor wants with them. She longs for her husband Paul to come and rescue them. As well as Susan's POV, we also get narration from Cara's school friend Alice, and from the unnamed man on the other side of the door. His sections are very sinister. He talks about his obsession with Susan since he bumped into her in the supermarket years ago, the photos of Susan and Cara on his walls, and his sexual desire for Susan - but he doesn't want to take her by force, he wants to get her to the point where she'll choose him willingly, and so he's drugging her food. He talks about how much he longs for them to be a happy family, and he knows deep down this is what Susan wants too even if she won't admit it to herself at the moment. And in fact, although Susan fears and hates him, in the chapters she narrates she finds herself feeling a disturbing undercurrent of desire for him too.
We also get a brief flashback narrated from Cara's POV, where she got into a car with a man who'd told her to look around and make sure her mother wasn't watching. He put his hand on her knee and told her some disturbing things, and took her to a cafe to meet up with another strange man, who kept looking her up and down intently and wanted to get to know her better at his home.

And then there is a huge twist.

I read the book in one day (it was very gripping), and then I literally went back and reread it the next day, because I had to reread everything in the light of the information at the end. It's a masterful piece of misdirection, like The Burning Air.

*** Spoilerific discussion follows - only read on if you don't plan to read the book but want to appreciate the writing craft with me ***
Spoilerific discussionCollapse )

Tags: ,

9 comments or Leave a comment
Primer
I'd heard that this one was complex and hard to follow, so I saved it for a time I was feeling reasonably alert. The actual time travel plot was quite complex, and that was fair enough. But what made it hard to follow was that it was told in a needlessly obscure way, with a lot of important events happening off-camera and having to be inferred. This is orthogonal to the complexity of the plot and the interesting time travel (it would have worked just as well, or badly, in a mundane rom-com or something), and while I like complex time travel if I can follow it, I thought the obscure narrative style was pointless and offputting. Also, the characters all mumbled quite a lot (there was a low-budget home-camcorder aesthetic to it) which made it even harder to follow. I've since read plot summaries, and there's a good story in there somewhere, but it was badly told.

Peggy Sue Got Married
This is about a middle-aged woman in the process of a divorce, who faints at her high school reunion, and wakes up to find herself a teenager again (dating her husband-to-be). It's a good premise, with potential to put right things she did wrong the first time, or learn new things she missed before; but not much of that happens.
I didn't like the character much. She was very drippy. As an adult she moped around and seemed always on the verge of tears, and had to be steered through life by her daughter. As an adult in a teenager's body, she gushed effusively about how amazing and overwhelming it was to see her school friends as they used to be. And then her mother. And then her sister. And then her grandparents. I get it, but it got a bit monotonous. (And it is a criticism of Peggy Sue, not of Kathleen Turner. I liked her a lot in Romancing the Stone.)
I realised partway through that the plot was a bit hamstrung: she had married a jerk who made her miserable, but she couldn't end up not marrying him the second time around, because she had two children whom she loved and missed very much and whose existence she wouldn't want to erase. So she couldn't end up with Michael the intense poet (who, to be fair, turned out not to be that much of a catch, because he wanted her to be one of his multiple wives and work to support him so he could write) or Richard the geek (who was a bit stereotyped, but very likeable: he was always kind and respectful to her, and shared his intellectual passions with her, and as a bonus he ends up rich and famous). Instead the best that could happen was that she could make some changes which would make her future relationship with Charlie a better one. (It worked for Marty McFly's parents.) But that didn't really happen. She was a bit more assertive with him and tried dumping him, but they got back together, he had an entitled yell at her about how he was so good-looking so why wouldn't she want to be with him, and she saw him performing in a gig (which she hadn't seen first time round, as opposed to all his other gigs which she had) and that somehow made her appreciate him in a new way, which I didn't understand. I think the idea was that by going back to when they were first together, she fell in love with him all over again; but it didn't really come across, and there wasn't much about him even as a teenager to fall in love with! (The books What Alice Forgot and The Man Who Forgot His Wife do this much better. Both have protagonists who are going through a divorce, lose their memory, and fall in love with their spouses again. But in those cases the past-spouses are more likeable, and the protagonists were at fault and learn from their experience and grow to treat their spouses better.)
As far as I could tell, she made use of her second chance by trying some things she felt she'd missed out on first time round (namely, smoking pot and shagging Michael) and having experienced them, now felt more willing to settle for Charlie?
It just didn't feel like enough happened in this film, or like her journey to the past had any point to it.
The film naturally invites comparisons with Back to the Future: both were made and set in the mid-eighties, travelling back to high schools in 1960 and 1955 respectively. But BTTF is fun and uplifting, and does very cool things with time travel, whereas Peggy Sue Got Married is a bit depressing and anticlimactic.

Tags: , ,

2 comments or Leave a comment
I played a couple of games on Monday that were new to me, quite quick, and very interesting.

Between Two TownsCities
This is a drafting, tile-laying, town-designing game, where you score points for various properties of the completed town (e.g. offices like to be next to pubs, houses don't like to be next to factories, shops like to be in lines, and so on). If it were just that, it would be a fun but unremarkable tile-laying game. But it has an interesting twist: you don't have a town to yourself, you're collaborating on one town with the player to your right, and another with the player to your left. The drafting mechanic interacts interestingly with this, because you know what tiles one of your neighbours will receive (and the other knows what tiles you will receive). You want to make both towns good, because your final score is the lower of the scores for the two towns you helped build.

TransAmerica
This is a track-laying game, a lot like Ticket to Ride or On the Underground, but much quicker and simpler than either. There's an isometric grid map of the USA, and you have a hand of five cities you want to connect together. But all track, once laid, is communal. So ideally you want to spend your time building the bits only you need, and getting everyone else to build the bits you all need. But you can only build in places which are connected to the location where you started building, so the sooner you connect that up to the rest of the network, the better.
It actually only takes about ten minutes, but the manufacturers clearly thought they wanted about a 30-minute game, so the rules say you play several "rounds" (i.e. reset everything and play the game several times, no continuity between rounds) until someone's lost a certain number of points. (When a player successfully connects their five cities, the other players lose points equal to the total number of steps they were away from connecting theirs. You can't gain points.) If you wanted a really quick game you could just play it once through.

(Edited to correct name of the first game)

Tags: ,

7 comments or Leave a comment
I really enjoy comedy sketches with clever wordplay and puns, and I want to find more!

The Two Ronnies are good. Sketches of theirs I particularly like are Crossed Lines, Mastermind, Fork Handles, Your Nuts M'lord, Swedish for Beginners ("F.U.N.E.X?"), Limerick Writers, and Name Droppers.
Some of Fry and Laurie is good. I saw The Understanding Barman for the first time recently (first half is kind of boring setup, but then the wordplay gets good).
There's also a Stephen Fry monologue I saw once as a kid and haven't been able to track down. I think it was about visiting a vampire's castle. I remember snippets like "the gentlest breeze and the mildest camemberts", "I stopped to pick a buttercup - why anyone would leave a buttock lying around I don't know" and "I couldn't see myself living in a house without mirrors."

Has no one made any of this kind of comedy in the last thirty years?

We quite like Tim Vine, when he's doing the hurricane-of-puns thing. I think we've seen all his acts. But I don't like his slapstick and random songs. Last night we looked up some Tommy Cooper, because I've heard he's similar to Tim Vine, but it looks like he's similar to the bad bits of Tim Vine.

Any recommendations for comedy sketches that are specifically wordplay-based? I'm thinking maybe marnanel, gerald_duck and androidkiller might know some?

Tags: ,

19 comments or Leave a comment
Behind Closed Doors - B A Paris

Outstandingly good psychological thriller. It turns out it's currently #1 in Fiction in the Kindle store, and deservedly. I stayed up far too late finishing reading it (and then took about another hour to actually get to sleep, because it was exciting and scary). One of the most gripping and page-turning books I've read, and also very well crafted. Lots of things have multiple meanings - including the title (shudder). The very last three lines of dialogue are just so perfect and understated and expressive (who knew interior decorating could be so sinister).

It's about an emotionally abusive and controlling husband, so be warned if you'd find that too distressing. (He isn't physically violent - he has a threat she fears more than that.) You also might not like it if you only like morally ambiguous villains, because the villain is one of the most thoroughly evil characters I've come across. (He's also quite honest about his evil: he doesn't delude himself that he's misunderstood or pursuing a greater good, he's just evil because he enjoys it. Interesting question whether that's better or worse.) But despite the grim subject matter, the plot is actually pretty fun, if it's not too insensitive to say that - it's full of outwitting and out-outwitting and Xanatos gambits. And the multiple meanings, as I mentioned - he is quite fond of saying things which appear nice or neutral on the surface but which have a darker alternative reading, and lying with technical truths.

Strongly recommended if you like psychological thrillers. Unputdownable, and then stays with you afterwards.

The Accidental Time Machine - Joe Haldeman

A fun time travel story about a grad student whose experimental apparatus vanishes when he presses a button, and reappears N seconds later, where N increases faster than linear each time he tries it. He is my favourite type of sci-fi protagonist, who sets about experimenting with the weird phenomenon he's discovered and exploring its constraints (cf. Jumper). I thought he was too quick to conclude it was travelling forward through time, though, rather than, say, moving into a parallel dimension for N seconds. and then coming back. But he tests his hypothesis with a little chrononaut turtle, who doesn't eat or drink any of the supplied food and water on the trip and seems perfectly healthy - and then he boldly leaps in himself.

It has parallels with Stephen Fry's Making History, in which a failing grad student with a failing romantic relationship finds time travel the solution to his problems.

The thing I didn't like about it was that it's the travelogue-y kind of time travel story, like Gulliver's Travels but with a time machine (or, I guess, the original The Time Machine - I haven't actually read that, but have gathered a bit about it), because they only really go forward in time, so they get to see some socially satirical future societies (technologically regressive theocracy! decadent consumerist utopia!) Personally I prefer the kind of story where time travel is a really integral part rather than just a way to visit new cultures - so, changing the past, paradoxes, seeing your past self, that kind of thing. Back to the Future, basically. (The aforementioned Making History did that pretty well too.)

To Say Nothing of the Dog - Connie Willis
Another time-travel story. Quite silly, with a large helping of Victorian comedy-of-manners. The main characters are time-travelling historians trying to preserve the integrity of the timestream and prevent paradoxes (and working with limited information), but the timestream is almost a character in its own right, exercising a kind of agency and going to quite some lengths to sort things out itself. It was quite fun, but I thought it was longer than it needed to be. It had a similar feel to the Thursday Next series - I think fans of that would enjoy it.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
Very interesting story about a girl who was separated from her sister in mysterious circumstances at the age of five, and doesn't understand why, or if she was to blame.
There is a reveal, and the book does that thing I like where things are written so you read them one way, but want to go back and reread them in the light of the reveal. And there is a very good in-story justification for the narrator to mislead you - it's not just "look, aren't I clever?"

Servants of the Storm - Delilah S. Dawson
YA thriller. I bought it because I was really gripped by the sample chapter, in which teenage Dovey and her best friend Carly are sheltering from Hurricane Josephine, trying to be brave as the house is demolished, and then Carly is swept away by the flood.
I didn't really enjoy the rest of the book as much. I didn't know, or had forgotten, that it was a supernatural thriller. So all these weird things are happening, and I'm looking for and anticipating an explanation, and it turns out it's demons. It felt like a bit of a cop-out. And as Dovey learns more about the demon world and its rules, she even says something like "Demon rules are stupid. It feels like you're just making them up as you go along." And that sums up my own dissatisfaction with the book. Either the worldbuilding was done sloppily, or it was conveyed badly.
One thing I liked was that it's another novel with a strong sense of place - in this case, Savannah, Georgia. This is the only book I've read in the "Southern Gothic" subgenre, but it was so flavourful that I feel I have a good concept of the genre from just one book.

Tags: ,

Leave a comment
Three musicals I love

Les Miserables
Yes, it's very sad. But there's a difference between beautiful sadness and ugly sadness. I hate ugly sadness, and had to read more than enough of it for English Lit, but I'm a fan of beautiful sadness, and Les Mis does it very well. (I assume the historical reality was ugly, but we're talking about the musical.) There are some extremely moving songs in it: I Dreamed A Dream; On My Own; Empty Chairs at Empty Tables; A Little Drop of Rain. And Do You Hear The People Sing? is incredibly stirring.
I first saw the show as a student when I was the hypotenuse of a love triangle, so I was like <3 <3 <3 EPONINE. Now I'm a parent, I can't watch Fantine's death scene without crying - where she's imagining her daughter there with her: "Cosette, it's past your bedtime / You've played the day away / And soon it will be night. / Come to me, Cosette, the light is fading / Don't you see the evening star appearing?"
I find it astonishing that the lyrics are translated from French. They are very impressive, both technically and emotionally. Some of the rhymes in I Dreamed A Dream are so subtle it was years before I noticed them, because there's a whole verse between "He filled my days with endless wonder... but he was gone when autumn came" and "With their voices soft as thunder... as they turn your dreams to shame." And the pinnacle of the show's rhyming virtuosity is, of course, Master of the House, with rhymes internal and external coming thick and fast in a manner almost worthy of W. S. Gilbert (and he wasn't constrained by translation).

Phantom of the Opera
I love Music of the Night, lyrically and musically. A strong tenor belting out the high notes in it. The seductive temptation of darkness in that and Point of No Return. The sad beauty of Think of Me and Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. The soaring splendour and romance of All I Ask Of You. (We had "Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime" printed in the inside front cover of our wedding orders of service :) ) I love the rich, sumptuous, gothy aesthetics, black lace and red velvet and white ruffles.

The Scarlet Pimpernel
This is my all-time favourite. I loved the book as a teenager, and discovered the musical about seven years ago in an amateur production at Anglia Ruskin. It's undeservedly obscure. It was so good that we subsequently drove all the way to a suburb of Birmingham to see another amateur production of it.
It's even better than the book. The songs are excellent, and the characters are more interesting and compelling. (And the twist at the end is different.) In the book, Chauvelin was simply the antagonist, an ugly little man motivated by dislike of Percy and loyalty to the French Revolution. But in the musical, he was also Marguerite's lover before she married Percy, and one of the threats he holds over her is that of revealing this history to Percy. He tries to seduce her back to him - and it's so well done, that if I were Marguerite and I didn't know who Percy really was, I'd be seriously tempted. There's her shallow fop of an aristocratic husband, who apparently has nothing in common with her - and then there's this spirited, darkly sexy ex-lover coming along singing to her about how they used to be young revolutionaries together, and has she sold out? If you listened to the soundtrack without seeing the show, you would probably think his song Where's the Girl? was sung on stage alone, lamenting his lost revolutionary soulmate. But "Where's the girl with the blaze in her eyes? Am I dreaming, or is she beside me?" takes on extra force and resonance when she actually is beside him, and he's singing it to her to try and win her back.

There are so many other good songs in it. Riddle, a trio sung by Percy, Marguerite and Chauvelin, which is kind of fugue-like (I think? I'm not great at musical terminology, but I mean that its structure is patterned and symmetrical). The choreography echoed the musical structure, with the three of them pacing in a figure-of-eight reel and taking turns to come to the front and sing a partial line; and musical form and choreography both reflect the meaning, which is about the relationship between the three of them and how complex and tangly it is. And then Falcon in the Dive, Chauvelin's terrifying song of determination to destroy Percy, with similarities to Javert's Stars.
I love the emotional range in both the book and the musical. Alongside the dark and complex and brooding, you've got the unashamed rousing heroism of Into the Fire, and then the delightfully silly The Creation of Man, which is Percy and his foppish friends prancing around dressing up while singing an defence of male dandyism, with gems of rhyming patter like "Of the goosey and the gander, sir, whose gender is the grander, sir? To render total candour, sir, the splendour is the male's!"

It's interesting comparing this and Les Mis, with their sympathies on opposite sides of the French Revolution. (I know Les Mis isn't "the" French Revolution, but even so.)

Aw, writing this makes me want to find time to listen to the soundtrack again (and music in general). We used to have most of the songs from it in our alarm clock playlist, but haven't made much use of that in the last five and a half years.

Three musicals I was disappointed by

Aspects of Love
I went to see this because I love the song "Love Changes Everything". I like the lyrics, and I love the way it soars and crescendoes through the verse.
It's Andrew Lloyd Webber, and he usually ranges from sublime to cheesy-but-good, so I had high hopes. All I knew about the plot was there was a war involved. I thought it might be about the sadness of lovers separated by war. But it was mostly about people being selfish and unfaithful and rubbish to each other. I don't actually remember the plot now, and I only saw it a couple of years ago. I found it both depressing and boring. The song was the only good thing in it.

We Will Rock You
I had very high hopes for this, because it was written by Ben Elton with music from Queen, and I like both. Ben Elton's novels are both darkly comic and thought-provoking, and I thought this would be similar.
I like Queen, but I'm not a serious Queen fan. I think that's where I went wrong in trying to enjoy this musical. It enshrined the members of Queen, and devotedly dissected the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody like a religious text, trying to find the answer to the mystery they were supposedly a clue to.
It reminded me of the movie Spice World. Within that movie, the Spice Girls were all-important, and the threat of them splitting up was the highest possible stake; but the movie seemed to offer that premise in a tongue-in-cheek, hammed-up way. We Will Rock You seemed to ascribe the same overarching supremacy to Queen, but without the tongue-in-cheek.
It's possible it was tongue-in-cheek but more subtly and I missed it. It's even possible it was intended as a satire of the devotion given to actual religious texts. But the impression I got was of a musical written for really serious Queen fans who really do deify the band, which then ruined a fun song by putting a weight on it which it was never meant to bear.
At the end, there was a standing ovation, and everyone in the audience that I could see joined in except me and the person I'd come to see it with. I felt quite embarrassed, but I really couldn't honestly join in, and I was relieved that my companion felt the same way.

Cats
This was okay, but I expected much better. I'd already read Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and didn't feel the adaptation added much. I like my musicals to have plot; turns out if you take a book of cat poems and set it to music, it doesn't have much.
The rotating set was quite good but not as spectacular as the hype I'd heard.
The best bits IMO are the bits not from Eliot: Memory, and the onslaught of rhymes in Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats.

One musical I'm intrigued by, but sadly probably won't like

Hamilton
Lots of people are talking in really superlative terms about this new musical about one of the founding fathers of American history. And it sounds good, apart from one thing. The musical style is rap, and I really don't like rap. (That's not a racist thing. I disliked rap before I knew it had any racial connotations.) I like melody, and I don't like musical styles that lack it. And people talk about how rappers are skilled wordsmiths because of all the rhyme, but I don't think there's much skill in throwing together a lot of rhyming words when you're not also constrained by metre.
I've even seen people say they loved Hamilton despite not liking rap. But I watched the opening scene on YouTube (sadly now deleted), and was unmoved. Nothing about the music or lyrics grabbed me, and the choreography (which I'd specifically heard good things about, as a reason to watch the video rather than just listen to the soundtrack) was a bit meh too, just lots of people walking around. I liked the costumes though.
What I've heard of the plot (I've tried to catch a glimpse without seeing too many spoilers) sounds interesting, and I like period drama in general. But the musical style is too offputting.
It's a shame - I want to like it, I want to share in what people are enthusing about, but I probably won't.

Tags: , ,

4 comments or Leave a comment