You might think that a telling of the story of Cinderella with its gender roles reversed was a thoroughly modern invention. Not so.
The Sidcup Operatic Society's latest production, Mr Cinders, was first performed in the late 1920s and is said to reflect the dying gasps of the 'roaring twenties' before the Great Depression set in. There may be a connection too with the fact that the Representation of the People Act 1928 had just extended the voting franchise in the UK to all women over the age of 21,
granting women the vote on the same terms as men for the first time.
Yet despite the influence of social change, the show is a fairytale comedy musical and aims to entertain. The story is an inversion of the Cinderella fairy tale with the gender
roles reversed - the Prince Charming character has become a modern (1928)
young and forceful woman, and Mr. Cinders is a menial.
See the story of
Cinderella turned on its head set in the 1920s on 12-14 Octoberat the Bob Hope Theatre, Eltham in south-east London at 7:30pm with Saturday matinee at 2:30pm. Tickets are £13.50 (£11.50 concessions Thurs/ Sat matinee) and are available by calling 020 8301 2681, the web via the Bob Hope Theatre or visiting the White Hart pub in Eltham. If you call the above number,
kids can come to the matinee for just £5 and group discounts are
"...The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King."
(Act II, Scene 2)
A lot of
things happened in 1997: Blair brought Labour back from the wilderness, the
death of Princess Di unleashed mass hysteria, UK band Radiohead unveiled their
iconic OK Computer album and …erm, I
started working at Goldsmiths.
else happened too. A small Kentish theatre company put on its first ever
production, Moliere’s Tartuffe, at Boughton Monchelsea Place, near Maidstone.
Now, twenty years later, The Changeling Theatre have begun touring their latest outdoor-theatre production,
that most challenging of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet, directed by Rob Forknall who has directed every Changeling show.
In last Wednesday's (19 July) evening open-air staging of Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest and most quoted of
plays, the backdrop of the towering Severndroog Castle, deep in South-East
London’s Oxleas Wood, provided a fitting substitute for Elsinore, the Danish
royal castle which quietly broods over the tragic play.
Setting the scene: Oxleas Wood, Severndroog Castle
setting’s intimacy immersed and enveloped audience members in the play’s
action. Similarly, the evening breeze rustled the leaves of the surrounding
ancient trees in eerily-timed accompaniment to the wandering Ghost of the late
The story of
the troubled prince struggling to deal with grief and revenge in the Danish
court, the Changeling Theatre's production triumphantly succeeds in that most
difficult of conundrums – just how do you solve a problem like staging a long
philosophical tragedy, with few laughs, in a summer outdoor setting? The answer
production features an excellent cast, creative use of music and scene transitions,
and a clever combination of period and modern costume. The modern world is also
referenced in other witty anachronistic touches – e.g. two characters pausing
for a photo ‘selfie’ on their way out of a scene; and the ‘mad’ Hamlet
expressing his mock-demented state by gleefully sticking stickers on another
character’s back, enlisting the help of a nearby cross-legged child audience
interesting interpretation was borrowing from cinematic visual techniques (only sparingly though - relax!) in which
we had the characters on stage suddenly moving in dramatic slow-motion before casually coming back to ‘normal speed’ again.
The talented young
Manchester School of Theatre-trained actor, Alex Phelps, convincingly carried
off the famously dense rhetoric and discourse of Hamlet’s many soliloquies
including the Bard’s most famous lines:
“To be or not
to be – that is the question:
nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,”
audience, and Hamlet, were enjoyably teased when it came to another set of
well-known lines. The supporting characters persisted in throwing around the
skull, interrupting Hamlet several times from completing his lines:
“Let me see,
and then only
later allowing him:
“…poor Yorick! I knew him Horatio. A fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”
(Act V, Scene
may have mis-remembered the exact break-point here…)
play’s serious content, the cast created a charmed and relaxed atmosphere with
one of the characters even camply chivvying people back from the interval with,
“Come on, come on, hurry up, it’s my big solo!”
And was it my
modern feminist imagination or were there some ironic snorts and gasps at the
“Frailty, thy name is woman!
… a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourn’d longer”
(Act I, Scene
is berating his not-long-widowed mother for re-marrying so soon after her
husband’s death. Hamlet’s mother Gertrude is played very engagingly by multi-talented LAMDA-trained
Sarah Naughton (in action, photo below) who also
excellently doubles-up later as a comic bawdy character.
professional cast also contributed to the excellent ‘soundtrack’ to the
production, arranged by Alex Scott, with many of them taking up various
stringed instruments and a clarinet too.
It may well
have been “madness”, sitting there in a darkened wood at 10pm on an English
evening, “yet there is a method in’t” especially for such an engaging, witty and intelligent production.
(Act II, Scene 2)
production continues at various venues around London and Kent ending in the
grand setting of Pembroke Castle, Wales, on 30 August. Tickets obtainable from the Changeling Theatre website.
The Eltham constituency has been held by Labour's Clive Efford, with an increased majority of 6,296, on a 72% turnout.
The 2015 General Election results show the remarkable extent of the 2017 outcome:
Despite the numbers once it was known there would be no UKIP candidate, despite misgivings about an unconventional Labour leader and despite the area having a EU leave majority, the incumbent MP since 1997 nevertheless managed to win over Eltham's voters.
The local campaigns
The 'snap election' having been announced on 18 April, the Conservatives seemed bright-eyed and bushy tailed announcing Matt Hartley, a locally well-engaged Councillor for Eltham South, as their candidate. After the 2015 election, Hartley had replaced Cllr Spencer Drury (also the previous PCC) as Leader of the Conservative opposition on Greenwich Council. The numbers looked good. May was just setting out on her 'strong and stable' shtick. The polls favoured the Tories by a wide margin. Jeremy Corbyn was being trashed by the press, and few insiders, and Labour seemed the less polished and seasoned performers.
However, Efford's team were straight out of the block the morning after the election announcement, leafleting and talking to voters at Eltham Station. Some commented on the 'Labour machine' but the pic and leaflet above is from the week before the election announcement showing the incumbent MP's engagement with local issues. As it went on, the campaign was marked by upbeat numbers of volunteers turning out, many for the first time, including from neighbouring safer constituencies.
The local Conservatives frequently got in their big guns - Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, Boris Johnson - and seemed buoyed. The strapline 'Standing with Theresa May' featured heavily on local leaflets by the pro-Brexit candidate.
The tide turns
With the 'Maybot' theme ringing increasingly more true in the face of May's refusal to debate, the scripted repetitive answers and the various u-turns especially on social care, it was also the polls which slowly began to look 'weak and wobbly'. The focus and momentum of campaigning altered with each of the terrorist attacks, moving away from Brexit and on to security.
Locally, a hustings event took place in Eltham on 1 June without the Conservative candidate or a representative, leaving only the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates, and the audience, to disagree amongst themselves with Tory policies and proposals without actually hearing from him. It all added to the growing impression, led from the top, that Tories were not willing to show up and debate. At this meeting and elsewhere, Efford's messages on opposition to education funding cuts, local train service cuts and sale of NHS assets were striking home.
In his acceptance speech during the small hours - opening with, "Well, rumours of my demise were greatly exaggerated" - (well, surely he's allowed that...), he gave a coherent speech about why he thought the results went the way they did. Commenting on his view that the government had taken people for granted, "there is only one set of people who run this country and that is the British electorate." Acknowledging that he had had differences with his party leader, he said that the Labour Party had put forward a truly radical manifesto and set of policies and that people respected the decency that had been put at the heart of British politics.
Efford went on to say that respect was due to the Greens who had stood aside in this constituency and that he would honour that decision. On Brexit he was committed to ensuring that Parliament was sovereign and had a proper say in the final outcome. You can watch the results come in, and the speech here:
I'd ended my post on 30 May with Harold Wilson's oft-quoted observation that a week was a long time in politics. And so it has come to pass.
The national 'hung parliament' result has led, as of today, to May intending to form a government to lead the UK "at a critical time" working with "friends in the DUP." So, as numerous others have pointed out:
2015 election: don't give control to Scotland
2016 ref: don't give control to Brussels
2017 election: control to...er..DUP?
In the keenly-contested marginal Eltham constituency, you would
think that the sole hustings would pack a crowd and that all the candidates would treat it as a prime opportunity to
address potential voters and listen to their concerns.Yet the key surprise take-away from the event
last Thursday, 1 June, was the absence of Matt Hartley, the Conservative candidate
seeking to oust Labour’s incumbent Clive Efford.
Despite the good intentions of the organisers, ‘Keep Our NHS Public’, and their organisation on the night, of the
potential 63k electorate, a small-to-medium-sized group assembled in the Progress
Community Hall, Admiral Seymour Rd, in Eltham's historic Progress Estate. As we
sweltered in the small hall on that sunny, balmy evening (hard to believe 5 days later
with rain and 40mph wind currently lashing outside) I learnt that flyers had been distributed
wide and far but there appeared to be little general knowledge of the event. I was emailed a flyer by 'an informant' (ok, my mum-in law) on the Progress Estate before I shared it on Twitter.
The Labour candidate, Clive Efford (above, right), and the Liberal Democrat
PCC David Hall-Matthews (above, centre), took their seats. Calling the assembly to order, the
Chair (above, left) made the surprise announcement at the outset that the Tory PPC was unable
to make the meeting due to a prior business meeting and that no response had
been received to an invitation to send a representative. There were a few gasps,
some further questioning about the absence and a couple of people (that I saw) got
up and left. The absence was all the more significant because it chimed with observations
over the previous few days about PM Theresa May’s reluctance to free debate. It
was announced that the previous Green candidate, Ann Garrett, who had stood aside,
would take the ‘empty chair’ for the evening.
And then we were off. After opening statements from each of
the two candidates, there were pre-written and moderated questions from the
audience with free debate and follow-ups. Too long to write up properly now I’m
afraid, here’s a snapshot of the topics which came up:
funding of the NHS; halting privatisation; mothballing of
parts of the new Eltham Community Hospital; sale of NHS assets under the Naylor Report;
housing problems; alternatives to the first-past-the-post voting system;
whether coalition govts work/are good; South Eastern Trains proposals and the
current consultation; Schools and how they fared in Greenwich under the govt
funding formula; all seemed opposed to proliferation of grammar schools at
expense of others; ending of free school lunches; the rise and fall of the ‘Dementia’
tax; more resources to tracking tax evasion; need for improved social and
elderly care; involving Parliament into the Brexit process; air quality.
There was a lot of agreement on the panel, and amongst the
audience, with some differences of emphasis or method. The older age
demographic of the audience led to detailed discussion about social and elderly
care in particular and some nervous laughter at the grim suggestion that
euthanasia be legalised to give people an alternative to the ‘dementia tax’….
Being the incumbent, Clive Efford spoke articulately about
local issues and often passionately about how he would tackle the issues of
concern. David Hall-Matthews seemed a fair and decent-minded opponent, though
losing his way a little when it got too local ie. at one point referring to Eltham as ‘Remainers’ in the EU ref… It all made for a pretty lop-sided debate. It often felt as
though we were just talking amongst ourselves rather than questioning
Since then Eltham has had a ‘battle of the blondes’ – the Tories
had Boris high-fiving all comers in the high-street the day before while Labour
did their rounds the next day with comedian Eddie Izzard.
Nationally this extraordinary general election took yet
another unexpected and tragic turn – another horrific attack, this time in the
London Bridge/Borough Market area on the evening of Saturday 3 June. I think we’ve all
been through the whole of range of emotions since then – shock, disbelief,
reflection and resolve - but now election has cranked up again in earnest.
Until Thursday/Friday morning then.
Results in South East London’s Eltham constituency are being
Will the Tories succeed this time in picking the still ‘low-hanging fruit’ of
Eltham’s Brexiteers from the long-standing Labour incumbent candidate or
will Labour’s well-regarded Labour candidate manage to hold on to his narrow majority (and add a bit more) despite UKIP’s no-show plumping up the Tory Brexit vote?
Eltham’s candidates for the 2017 General Election are:
The publication of the candidates on 11 May revealed that UKIP would
not be standing this time round - significant because its 6,481 votes will be hotly-contested over. As a reminder, here are the 2015 General Election results:
2015 General Election results
In a further twist, despite there being no formal ‘Progressive
Alliance’, the Greenwich Green party announced it would be standing down to
give Labour's Efford the best chance.
The Conservatives have this time pitched Matt Hartley, Councillor for the Coldharbour & New Eltham ward and Leader of the Opposition on Greenwich Council. He had previously unsuccessfully contended the Greenwich & Woolwich seat.
Clive Efford, first voted in as part of the 1997 wave, continues to stand for the constituency in which he and his family have long lived. He and his campaign team kicked into action immediately and have
been very active on the doorstep and with leafleting. The Conservatives followed
suit with many Tory big guns visiting. The LibDems have brought in a university lecturer and charity consultant David Hall-Matthews. Here are the leaflets:
Eltham is 29th on the Tory hit list precisely because
the incumbent Labour candidate is a) in a marginal constituency having narrowly won
by 2,693 votes in 2015 and b) the Eltham constituency overall voted to leave theEU.
Both were written before Theresa May’s social care blunders
and the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester on Monday 22 May after which
campaigning was halted for a few days.
What has emerged is a changed narrative.
The ‘Brexit election’ has stepped back into the shadows giving way to
a new emphasis on security and generally better poll ratings for Corbyn and Labour Party.
Locally, government proposals for South Eastern trains has played large with locals up in arms over the possible axing of the all local trains to Victoria and Charing Cross, routing them instead to Cannon Street. A consultation is under way about this here, and you can read more about it on the Murky Depths blog
A week is a still a long time in politics and so the results
are not a forgone conclusion, either way...
As the nation joins the newest viral superstar, Brenda, in her reaction to the election announcement, the marginal south east London Eltham constituency is being
keenly watched by locals and national political pundits alike.
Following the surprise announcement by PM Theresa May,
all Brits are now in the midst of their second General Election in two years,
not counting last year’s referendum on the EU.
The announcement of the national election on 8 June 2017
heralds the third act in a bizarre
● First: the 2015
poll-defying election in which David Cameron was re-elected on 7 May 2015 with
a small majority over Labour’s Ed Miliband, the ‘other’ brother who had himself
snatched the Labour leadership from the more likely contender, David Miliband.
● Second: the
11th hour surprise result of the divisive EU referendum. Having won the 2015
election with a manifesto promise of a referendum on the UK’s EU membership as
a political manoeuvre to outflank UKIP and Tory Euro-sceptic right-wingers, the
Referendum was held on 23 June 2016 with lively and sometimes controversial
campaigning from the LEAVE and REMAIN camps with its sad denouement of the tragic
death on MP Jo Cox at the final week.Remainer Cameron resigned hours after the Leave result plunging the already
bewildered country into a Tory leadership contest while it struggled to come to
terms with ‘Brexit’. Former Remainer Theresa May was duly elected and tasked
with being midwife for Brexit. After toting the mantra ‘Brexit means Brexit’
(which nobody could either explain or deny, clever), Article 50 was finally
triggered on 29 March 2017, formally starting the two-year Brexit process.
● Third: Despite
the Fixed Term Parliament Act decreeing May 2020 as the next election date and
firmly denying any contrary intentions, on 18 April 2017 the PM announced the
‘snap election’ for 8 June 2017. Widely believed to be taking advantage of the
huge Tory lead in the polls with difficult times ahead and of the perceived
weak opposition position, May’s fig leaf is that she is seeking a firm mandate
for her Brexit negotiations. And so was born her next mantra: ‘Strong and
And so here we are, a few weeks away from our third
national voting event.
Southward view of road markings linking to Passey Place
Opinions in Eltham are divided over Eltham High Street's latest traffic crossings.
The debate has been a amusing diversion from the general works to improve the High Street running through the south-east London suburban town. The works are part of a £6.6m improvement scheme as part of Greenwich Council's regeneration masterplan for the town centre, a scheme primarily funded by Transport for London.
The stripes on the crossings, which started appearing this month, are either 'puzzling' and 'going the wrong way' or 'funky' and 'splendid' depending on your point of view. Some worried that absent-minded road-crossers might mistake this pelican crossing for a zebra crossing. There was also speculation about what the 'E' might mean - did it intend to pick up on Eltham Palace designs?
Others joked that the markings outside the library signaled free wi-fi:
However, Greenwich Council explained that the novel markings were intended to link the two sides of the High Street in a more user-friendly way and not merely be a 'corridor for motorists.'
Bizarrely, this hot topic even managed to feature in a Daily Fail piece:
'A Book A Month' - collected in a pile under bedside lamp
How many books a year do you read?
I must admit I go through spells - some devouring books, sometimes hitting a dry patch. The trouble is that if I read while I'm doing some creative writing:
a) I find myself fornesically examining what I'm reading rather than purely enjoying it and
b) I'll often find myself too influenced by that writer's style, like a cushion bearing the imprint of the last person who sat on it!
and c) I can't put a book down and find it consumes me, and my time!
Someone I know who doesn't have the chance to read much decided to make a determined effort and try to read book a month last year while taking in some classics he hadn't read. As he finished each one, he collected them in a pile under his bedside lamp (photo above). The books were:
1. Enduring Love - Ian McEwan
2. Orlando - Virginia Woolf
3. The Girl With All The Gifts - M.R.Carey
4. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
5. The Alchemist - Paul Coelho
6. The Odyssey - Homer
7. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemmingway
8. Brighton Rock - Graham Greene
9. Tripwire - Lee Child
10. Brokeback Mountain - Annie Proulx
11. Animal Farm - George Orwell
12. Middlemarch - George Eliot (couldn't fit this on the pile under the lamp!)
I think that's quite an eclectic choice, a good trot through some different literary styles and of different ages. Some he thoroughly enjoyed, other less so.
How did he decide what to read? A combination of personal curiosity, 'best reads' lists, other people's recommendations and what he had at home already.
It would be interesting to see other people's 'book a month' choices....