I am a big fan of plays by Mike Bartlett. His tv efforts don’t interest me at all and seem old fashioned and lacking in originality. What I like about his plays are the craft, gimmicks, hooks whatever you want to call them, that keep your attention.

King Charles III had Shakespearian English, Bull had the boxing ring, Not Talking had characters not interacting, Wild had the rotating set and Game had a complete house.

On of his older plays, Cock, has been revived in Chichester after nearly 10 years. It tells the tale of John, in a gay relationship for many years, who, by various events, has sex with a lady and enjoys it. So, he has to make a decision…

Can’t say much more without giving away important points.

So it’s a 95 minute four hander, no scenery (really), no props, no actual mimed actions (so, when someone offers to pour wine, nothing actually happens but it is considered ‘done’).

The short ‘bits’ are separated by red light and noise. It whisks along and is totally absorbing.

What makes it great is the acting by all four, but especially the two young males (Matthew Needham and Luke Thallon) who are stunning.

It’s a funny play, lots of swearing to begin with of course, but it really brings you in. The use of language makes it very naturalistic, or it seems that way.

Do not miss this.

Coming out, two ladies were talking and had the same ideas as me about it, that John should not choose either (you will know what that means when you see the play. Sadly, there is plenty of availability – it would be packed out in London).

First Man review

The film First Man has been released in the UK, and elsewhere I imagine. It is directed by the man who did La La Land, Damien Chazelle and is based on a hefty and rather dull book published in 2005 about the life of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon. It takes us up to just after the Moon trip, so avoids all the fame Armstrong hated so much afterwards.

I saw it in IMAX at my local cinema. It is not 3D.

Armstrong hated the fame his Moon landing generated. People always wanted to know about his experience. They were pleased to meet him, honoured, but for him it must have been a chore. He did what he had to do, then went into academic life, He moved onto a farm, declined interviews and died in 2012.

So what of the film?

Well, the actors really don’t look like the characters they are representing. If you don’t know them, it probably won’t matter, but there were characters in the cast list I had no idea were in the film.

It’s not a Right Stuff movie. It doesn’t celebrate the adventure of going into space. It concentrates on Mr Armstrong. There is some stock footage, and sound, and some effects stuff, but the Gemini 8 problem, for example, where the spacecraft was spinning uncontrollably, is shown by wobbly close ups of rivets and distorted sound.

In fact, more than two hours of unnecessarily wobbly camera work on an IMAX screen is hard to take. People were walking out, perhaps because of that.

Armstrong is portrayed as a very cold fish. The story is told from his first wife’s point of view, and he comes over as an uncaring father. The film has a downbeat ending.

You may enjoy it. I was disappointed.

Alfie rules

Many, many years ago, the BBC realised there was an audience for the old comedy shows like Much Binding…, Hancock’s Half Hour, The Navy Lark, Take it from Here and so on. They were broadcast each night at 11pm, then later the station Radio 7 was set up (at the same time as BBC 6 Music).

Radio 7 did OK, but not as well as expected, nor did 6 Music. I always say it is because people are pretty thick and can’t get beyond counting on one hand, but that’s just cynical. Radio 7 because Radio 4 Extra and does better with the number change.

One of my favourite old comedies, when it was first on and even now, is The Clitheroe Kid. This starred Jimmy Clitheroe as schoolboy Jimmy Clitheroe (let’s call the actor “Clitheroe” and the character “Jimmy”).

Clitheroe made some films, many years of his radio programme and did several seasons of tv. He also did something that seems not to be done these days, summer season at places like Blackpool, Scarborough or Bournemouth.

It seems a bit odd now. Jimmy lives with his dysfunctional family in Lancashire, mother (no father is ever mentioned), grandfather (no other grandparents) and sister. Jimmy is always up to mischief, sometimes quite nasty, and is a bit of a liar. When he is in trouble, his grandfather spanks him. He is always in fights, and grandfather is often drunk. It all seems a bit grim and, well, Northern.

Jimmy is also mean to his sister. You’d like to think that, if she was in trouble, Jimmy would try to help, but you don’t get this from listening to the shows.   As the series went on, she appeared less. Jimmy is selfish, and that’s where the comedy comes from.

But, for me the real star of the show is sister’s boyfriend, Alfie Hall, played by Danny Ross.

He has a way of mixing things up that can be hilarious. I suppose he is Jimmy’s best friend, but also the victim of many schemes.

When Clitheroe moved to tv, Ross was a co-star in the series Just Jimmy. He sadly died at a very young age, barely 45, and I feel his work is under-appreciated these days.

I am wondering now why I enjoyed it so much.

Anyway, while all know episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour, The Navy Lark and others have been made available on cd, The Clitheroe Kid hsn’t.