Archive | October, 2010

Review: the Misanthrope @ Bristol Old Vic

25 Oct

In order to better oneself – you know, culturally – one should regularly take a trip to the theatre to enjoy a play in which one is unlikely to understand all of the words. But what if one doesn’t even understand the title?

Although opening myself up to ridicule I have to admit that upon being asked which play I was going to see (The Misanthrope), and what this meant (the word not my activities), I realised that I actually had no idea what misanthropy was. It is one of those words that you read a number of times, and presume to understand until actually put to the challenge. I had assumed that the definition was just out of reach on the tip of my mind’s tongue, but on later googling said word, I realised that this was nothing but self-delusion.

The definition of a misanthrope – someone who dislikes people in general – is the definition of our protagonist Alceste, a cream-blazered, shouting cynic who spends the play either rallying against social niceties and hypocrisies, or fawning pathetically over his conniving girlfriend, Celimene. Much of the first act of director Tony Harrison’s adaptation of the Moliere classic is spent with Alceste and his more moderate chum Philinte, as they argue tirelessly about the use (Philinte) or idiocy (Alceste) of social conventions.

I was quite astounded at Philip Buck’s (Philinte’s) ability to retain such close proximity to the obnoxious shouty man portrayed by Simon Armstrong. Even from the far reaches of the gallery, Alceste’s over-zealous bitching was giving me cause to hope that his increasingly red face showed signs of an impending heart attack. But, alas, he’d just forgotten to take a breath in between the last fifty words.

Fortunately, the play was rescued by Oronte, a fat man with a shiny bald pate, who brought humour and a break from Alceste’s shouting to the play with his rebuffed declarations of admiration for Alceste’s literary work and an attempted kiss. A woman just behind me practically shrieked at this hint to homosexuality, but she needn’t have worried as Celimene soon entered the scene as the object of both men’s affections.

Dorothea Myer-Bennett was pitch-perfect as the  flirtatious, social-climbing Celimene, whose clever malicious wit would cause her to be both revered and reviled. It was soon clear that Celimene rather than Alceste, was the axis of The Misanthrope, as fighting suitors and jealous women pontificated on subjects of unrequited love, prudeness and sincerity that were mostly brought about by Celimene’s self-serving behaviour.

The Misanthrope is a character-driven play that did not always play on its best characters, and which I felt was not entertaining enough to make up for lack of plot. Celimene is a great Becky Sharp-esque character, with entertaining admirers, but her boring boyfriend, whose errors stem from either the actor or the character or both, is much too prominent.

Many members of the audience audibly found Alceste’s cutting lines hilarious, but I found it all a little try-hard and was constantly distracted by the reddening of his face, as he struggled for air and bile.  I was also distracted by the sixth-former sitting next to me, who insisted on knitting with giant clacking needles throughout the entirety of the play, but that’s another story.

If I were to rate The Misanthrope, I’d probably award it 6 out of 10, but this isn’t that kind of review.



Hipsters: how to define?

15 Oct

Today I came across the title on the Guardian website, ‘why do people hate hipsters? and began to read fervently, hoping for an answer or at least a confirmation of my own thoughts.

A few weeks ago, a friend showed me the ‘being a dickhead’s cool‘ youtube phenomenom, and since then I have contributed to its 3,309,328 views at least six times. What can I say? I can’t get the song out of my head, and I like to feel a part of this new movement against dickheads which summarises rather aptly, all the reasons for my aversion to fashion glasses, loafers, low-cut v-necks on men (eurghh) and jumpsuits.

In the Guardian article, Alex Rayner begins with a snap from Hackney Hipster hate, a blog which chronicles the day to day catwalk of life for many an under-cut, skinny jean-atired hipster in East Landan. His blogs are subject to a healthy level of debate – about 60% find it hilarious, whilst the rest are vitriolic about the blogger’s ‘sad’ life. Maybe they’re upset because they haven’t yet been featured. Who knows?

As for the term hipster, I’m not so sure. Apart from meaning flares in the ’70s, I’ve always associated hipster with a more hippy style, and feel that dickhead is a rather more appropriate, catch-all term to use.

I also find hipster rather limiting. Take for instance, the case of rahs (more appropriate for a Bristol blog): another annoyingly smug group, instantly recognisable by their diction and apparel choices. It certainly wouldn’t be right to call rahs hipsters, but dickheads correlates perfectly. Putting aside the superficial differences between hipsters and rahs (Jack Wills versus vintage, Cath Kidston versus granny’s bone china, Ray Bans versus Chanel and so on) these apparently disparate groups, when further investigated actually share many of the same exasperating attributes..

  1. Innapropriate dress: check (flip-flops in winter for Mr Double-Barrel, Wayfarers in a dark club, in December,  for Mr Hipster)
  2. Desperate to deny middle-class/privileged upbringing whilst being unwilling to give up trappings of said life: check
  3. Smugness: check
  4. Cliquishness: check
  5. Loudly open to disadvantaged and minority groups but in possession of no more than a handful of (mostly token) friends from said groups: check
  6. Hours spent on achieving a ‘just got out of bed‘ look: check










I want  more thoughts on this. Whilst I see and appreciate the arguments against cataloguing people into groups, I personally find the occasional light-hearted stereotype quite helpful, and would like to know how others might refer to the dickheads referred to in this post.

Comments below please.


Vermin, Room 101 @ The Emporium, Stokes Croft

14 Oct

Pop into the Emporium on Stokes Croft to get a peek at the 101 oil paintings on display from graff artist Vermin (aka Dale Marshall). The exhibition title is a definitive theme: 101 days, 101 paintings, £101 each. Looking around the gallery at the dark slashes and gashes that cut into the canvases like wounds, you can’t help wondering if the confinement of an art studio for 101 days  was the artist’s very own room 101. Maybe that’s the point?

Review: Into the dragon’s lair

12 Oct

Not one to miss out on an opportunity for free entertainment, on reading of the screenings going on at Watershed last weekend, as a part of the bi-annual Wildscreen film festival, I got myself down to the box office with a good fifteen minutes to spare, in anticipation of a busy crowd of nature enthusiasts and freeloaders like myself. At the box office I was offered the choice between the one about the crocodiles, or the one about the hummingbirds. Well of course maneater wins out every time, so I gratefully accepted my complimentary ticket and made my way up to the cinema.

The croc choice, Into the Dragon’s Lair, follows the exploits of two men who would be described, in most circles, as slightly unhinged. Experienced wildlife cameraman Didier Noirot is desperate to get close-up footage of huge Nile crocodiles and former corporate slave Roger Horrocks wants to get closer to nature. Together, they decide to dive deep into the Okavango Delta of Botswana, home to some of nature’s most dangerous creatures. It’s a treacherous experiment that hasn’t been attempted before for obvious reasons. “We know crocodiles will eat man, but we don’t know if they will eat divers. We will find out,” are the comforting words of one of the divers’ assistants.

Into the dragon’s lair is part documentary, part-horror horror film. The tension really is palpable, and I found myself squinting as Didier and Roger swam deeper into dark tunnels shrouded by papyrus, and held my breath as they suddenly glimpsed the end of  a huge gnarly tail and then – even worse – moved round to film the monster’s head. The apocalyptic music was frankly unnecessary – the fear in Roger’s eyes alone conveyed all the music’s contrived trepidation.

Dragon’s lair has previously been broadcast on Discovery channel, and it shows. A naturalistic style – which so often misused, would be perfect here – is eschewed for soundbites, and staid conversation between the protagonists who seem too often to be talking for the camera. Despite this, the film is enthralling and at times, very funny. Roger, who at the beginning, is openly fearful for his life, comes out the other end with a new-found respect for the animals who would have no qualms about eating him. Justification of ill-advised acts has rarely been so mis-placed, as you listen to Roger rationalizing that one is more likely to die in a car accident than in a crocodile dive.

The triumphant last dive sees Roger and Didier following a massive crocodile deep into its ‘lair’ where they finally have the opportunity to collect the detailed footage that they had dreamed of. The men perceive a bond, as Roger repeatedly explains that he felt the crocodile was ‘inviting’ them in. By way of not killing them. From a less informed, but more balanced perspective, one might suggest that the unusually passive croc was either dying or mad. Even Roger’s blind anthropomorphism cannot ignore the fact that these animals with the overwhelming instinct to kill, have brains the size of golf balls. The discernment of a bond that transcends animal-human boundaries begs more than a few questions.




Review: The Bank

9 Oct

I spent much of yesterday daydreaming about my evening – in between the tedious task of letter writing, printing and CV-modifying – and wondering to myself where I could go for a cheap and tasty eat. The age of austerity has hit me this week, so I was trying to think of a really good bargain. I then remembered The Bank – the latest trendy bar to open up on Stokes Croft. It had it’s opening night just a few weeks ago, and I know people who know people there. It’s one of those places where ‘cool’ people from Bristol will go because they know the owners, but fair enough – it’s a nice bar.

Spurred on by the success of Canteen, just a couple of doors down, and the increasing popularity of Stokes Croft as a night-time  destination, The Bank provides a welcome addition to the growing plethora of bars, clubs and cafes in an area of Bristol that has often been best known for its resident homeless and crackheads.

The owners, David Smeaton and James Savage, are also responsible for the Big Chill Bar, The Spotted Cow (a favourite of lbell’s) and The Park, on the Triangle. The owners’ stamp is securely in place at The Bank – it’s another chilled-out, dark but not dinghy bar, with solid earthy seating and a staff of young trendies in short shorts and hairbands. Drinks are pretty reasonable – £3.30 for a Gin and Tonic, £11.50 for a bottle of house wine – if not as cheap as the Canteen’s, but to paraphrase lbell’s favourite saying, as with all life, it’s swings and roundabouts. The Canteen may have a cheaper house bottle, but where theirs is drinkable if already pissed, The Bank’s house white was delicious and dry after only one gin.

You certainly can’t fault the great food deal at The Bank. Every day at any time (presumably this is temporary as some signs claim the deal lasts until 8pm), every pizza and ‘bowl’ goes for a mere £5, and they’re not stingy either!

After some deliberation (all the pizzas sound pretty tasty), it was decided that smoked salmon on a pizza just wasn’t right, so we went for one anchovies, capers and rocket; and one chorizo, semi dried tomatoes, olives, peppers and ground beef.

Both pizzas were cooked to perfection – thin bases, nicely fluffy crusts and the perfect amount of topping, but a slight lack of tastiness did require that significant amounts of salt and pepper were added. It should, however, be noted that lbell is an eater with a penchant for salt and spice, so I don’t want to overstate this comment too much.

The atmosphere in The Bank was just what you would expect: chilled out and cool, but there was certainly a growing buzz by about 9.30pm as it began to fill up and the chatter began to rise. Lbell left at about 10pm, so can’t comment on the remainder of the night (The Bank stays open until 4am during weekends), but can say with certainty that it merits several more visits, and several more gins.

‘Just a bar job’

8 Oct

As a job-seeker with a part-time waitressing job, I – like many people in a similar position – tend to think of bar and waiting work as an easily-got quick buck. Not that the work is easy, but that finding the work is easy – you don’t tend to have to fill out pages of application forms or go for lengthy interviews. In my experience it’s always been: hand in a CV, come in for a chat and you’re pretty much in.

Well, of course we all know that jobs are sparse, and soon to be sparser, but speaking to another Bristol-based friend yesterday, I realised that even the normally easily accessible restaurant/bar sector is now pushing up its demands, in response to growing numbers of people hoping to work in these establishments.

This friend has been keeping me entertained with her endless ‘trials’ for weeks now, so I thought it would be worth making a record of these on here:

1. The Lansdown, Clifton – she was one of fifty people being interviewed for this part-time job in a pub!

2. Hippodrome – a two-hour long interview for part-time front-of-house work

3. Juniper, Cotham – three potential employees trialling together, presumably to drive up standards with competition (ah, capitalism)

4. New bar on the Triangle – a training day with all potential employees

Is it just me, or is this ridiculous? If well-educated and experienced people like my friend have to jump through these kind of hoops just to get some part-time bar work, how exactly does the Government envision people claiming benefits to get back into a work environment they might have been out of for years?

How to cycle

7 Oct


My very own Purple Beauty

Ever since rescuing my Mum’s old Raleigh from garage obscurity two summers ago, I have been an avid cyclist. Not one of those annoying types sporting unnecessary lycra and wierd back pouches, but just your average person getting around on a bike.

It’s so much cheaper than Bristol’s  ridiculous transport system, that now, each time a bike malady forces me onto public transport, I recoil at the (invariably late) driver’s request for £3.80 to travel a mere 12 minutes on a vehicle whose Metro-supply is never assured.

I have always been aware that I am probably a cause of consternation for drivers and cyclists alike – helmet-less, occasionally light-less and nearly always quite slow – but it is only recently, after cycling long distances on a regular basis, that this began to bother me. After one wasted afternoon in the office listening to Radio 4 (and just praying that it wasn’t the day for Gardener’s Question Time), I came across the sad story of a woman whose daughter had died in a bike accident involving a rubbish truck. This spurred me on to do something constructive at work, and so I researched cycle safety practice. But, oh the contradictions!

Do you keep to the left, or will that cause you to get squished by a blind-sighted tall vehicle? Is it more sensible to be careful or aggressive? It seemed that much of the perceived wisdom on this topic went against my unfounded presumptions, so I decided to change my ways.

First, a few simple rules:

Never, but never cycle up the left of a rubbish truck – it will kill you.

Don’t keep to the left if there are railings of death waiting to crush you

No more radio on the bike. Concentrate.

Now I hear from John Franklin, author of Cycle Craft, and guest on today’s You and Yours Radio 4 programme, that cycle lanes are causing 10% of accidents, but I thought they were like a magical safehaven, guarded by impenetrable lines. Oh, the confusion.

I need some advice. Comments required!

How do you do..?

4 Oct

Hello and welcome to Lbellinbristol. As this is my first post I think it fitting to start with a little introductory getting to know you, getting to know me, type stuff. Know what I mean?

So then, this is a blog I hope will inform and entertain (though not necessarily in that order). I also have sincere hopes that as it progresses, readers (who I also hope to progress – from none)  will see a cleverly, aesthetically, stylish and technically superlative blog emerge from the ashes of   the basic pages that currently face them. Unfortunately, I have little-no technical skills, for a supposedly media-savvy young person, and will have to rely on finding someone (not necessarily a man, I’d like to point out) more clever than me to sort the Lbell pages out.

As the title suggests, this blog is Bristol-based, which doesn’t mean that you should log in to see some kind of dullard community website, but that I am taking the opportunity to better myself within a city whose many cultural and other delights, I have largely failed to sample in, well, my whole life. That means you can expect to hear about shows, cinema, new places and all kinds of events and news that go on in or affect B-town.

There will also be news commentary, TV commentary, radio commentary… All kinds of commentary. And I hope it will be answered by readers’ commentary. Only time will tell.

Well, here goes then..