Welcome to my latest lockdown roundup. If I wasn’t numbering the weeks in the titles of these posts, I would probably lose track of where we’re up to! But whatever week it feels like to you, I hope you’re all continuing to do well and getting any support you need.
It’s been another relatively normal week for me really, as I haven’t had to go out anywhere, we had our groceries successfully delivered again, and work has been fairly busy. I also worked to clear out a bit more junk in the back garden and the shed this weekend, which has given me some fresh air and exercise, as it’s one of those jobs that we’ve been very gradually doing bit by bit. Once that’s all done, then we’ll have a go at tidying up the garden itself during the summer, while the weather hopefully stays nice. Plus I’ve also been keeping myself occupied with blogging, and enjoying other entertainment that I’m about to mention. So I’m making productive use of my time.
So as there isn’t anything major of note to mention in my introduction, let’s just get straight on with this week’s post and video. The usual disclaimers apply, in that no sponsorship or gifting is involved and all opinions are my own, and I hope you enjoy!
America Visit Anniversary
Before I get into the new stuff I’ve discovered, I wanted to note that this month is an interesting anniversary for me, because it’s now 20 years since I visited America for the first (and so far only) time. My school for the visually impaired in the UK (now known as the WESC Foundation) organised an exchange trip with the Kentucky School for the Blind, which meant some of their students came to visit us, and then a group of us went to visit them in return.
In the first week we did some exploring of our own, before we met any Kentucky students. We started in New York, where we went to the top of the World Trade Center (and 16 months later after 9/11 we realised just how lucky we were to have that amazing experience), went high up in the Empire State Building, and had a long walk through Times Square. Then we moved on to Washington, seeing the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, Capitol Building and other sights. We then had a lovely stay at a youth hostel in the Blue Ridge Mountains, before finally making our way to Louisville, Kentucky. We spent a week with the students, staying at both the school and at some of their family homes, going to classes with them, and exploring attractions such as the zoo and the baseball museum.
I bought a new camcorder especially for the occasion, so was able to get a lot of footage, and I’ve uploaded all of the videos to my Youtube channel, which you can see on my Travel playlist. A couple of them have secondary versions with an audio commentary if you want to hear me talk about them. I still have very fond memories of the trip, and I’m so glad I have all those videos to remember it by.
Back to now though, and I saw another couple of musicals online this weekend.
The first was Cats on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s channel The Shows Must Go On. Having never seen the show or the recent movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so it did seem quite strange at first. But the lovely songs, impressive choreography and elaborate costumes make it worth sticking with, it’s an incredible spectacle. Elaine Paige of course gives a wonderful performance of Memory, which is the only song I’d heard before. I wouldn’t put Cats at the top of my list of favourite musicals like some people do, but it was still fun, and I’m very glad I finally saw it. Now I understand better what it’s about, I think it’s the sort of show that could grow on me further if I watch it again in the future.
The other musical I saw is also weird in its own way, but is completely different from Cats to say the least. It’s not a recent upload either, it’s actually a few years old. But I thought I’d check out Avenue Q when I discovered it was online. It’s rather like an 18-rated edition of Sesame Street or The Muppets, with a lot of adult humour, so it’s not for everyone. But I liked it, I thought it was very amusing, and the songs were very catchy. It’s also unusual in that the puppeteers are as much a part of the show as the puppets themselves, being fully in view throughout, and they’re very good, as were the human characters. So it’s silly but fun, basically, and it does contain a few important messages about life throughout the show too, about how to treat and respect others.
The cast have also performed a special lockdown edition of the song For Now from the show. Which again contains a little adult humour, but it’s still a good song and very appropriate for the world we’re currently living in.
In terms of upcoming events, I thought you might also like to know that The Old Vic are now doing special events online, under the name Your Old Vic. This will include many free videos on their Youtube channel, so make sure you subscribe to that. They’ve already started to share a series of monologues celebrating 70 years of the NHS called The Greatest Wealth.
But they’re also going to publish complete shows like other theatres have been doing. And the first of these will be A Monster Calls, which I saw in 2018 with audio description and it’s a very powerful and emotional production, it’s brilliant. It’ll be available for 7 days from Friday 5th June. They’ve also assured me that they’re working to ensure audio description will be available for these shows, which is fantastic!
However, it’s also important to recognise that The Old Vic is in a “seriously perilous” position right now, so any support you can give them to ensure their survival will be hugely appreciated. It’s all very well enjoying these wonderful performances online, but if we want to be able to visit theatres again when life returns to normal, we need to look after them now.
The fifth season of Outlander finished on Amazon this week, but I haven’t got into this season quite as much. It still looks stunning, the music’s beautiful and the acting’s good, but the story just hasn’t grabbed me very much. It feels like there hasn’t been so much action, and the time travel aspect amounted to nothing of major consequence in the end.
The final episode was also particularly extreme, yet also felt repetitive, in that Claire suffered a very similar fate to that of Jamie and Bree and others in previous seasons, only to a worse degree because they had to try and make it feel a bit different. So although it was still shocking to an extent, I couldn’t help feeling that the show was being unnecessarily violent for the sake of it, as if the writers are ticking off a list of characters that haven’t yet been assaulted in that manner, and it was finally Claire’s turn. I don’t expect her to have it easy all the time, sure, and Caitriona Balfe gave a great performance, but something more original would have been preferable.
Maybe that’s just me though. The early episodes of the season coincided with the panic buying and other issues leading up to lockdown, meaning my mind was never fully on it at the start. which might have impacted my judgement a bit. That said, however, it didn’t pick up even when I was able to focus on it more closely, and it just hasn’t been as memorable or exciting for me this time around. There is going to be a sixth season eventually, which the writers have said they are currently working on even if it can’t be filmed for a while, but I’m not going to bother with it. It’s been an interesting series, but this is the right time to step away from it.
This week I’ve finally got myself up to date with the Hidden London Hangouts series by the London Transport Museum, where they talk about many of the locations on their Hidden London tours. It’s quite a nerdy series, but that isn’t a bad thing at all, and it’s really enjoyable if this is your kind of subject. Having never been on any of their tours – partly because spaces fill up incredibly quickly, and partly because I don’t know if being visually impaired would make it difficult or unsafe – it’s really interesting to hear about the history of those locations and see lots of intriguing photos. Especially for somewhere like Euston, a station that I’m very familiar with in its modern form, but didn’t know about the history and the secrets it has tucked away. It’s fascinating to hear about the many places that were used during the war as well, for one purpose or another. So that whole series is worth a look.
Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe is the first Wipe show he’s produced since 2016, and it was great to see it back. In these shows he looks back at recent events with great observational humour and turns of phrase, and has spoof correspondents like Philomena Cunk commenting on them as well. And this edition was on top form, it was very funny. The tragic side of the situation was rightly acknowledged, but the show was all about finding the humour and the ridiculousness of events, and it worked very well. It would be great if he did another edition later in the year, when there’s bound to be even more to talk about.
In terms of future comedy series, it’s good to see that Series R of QI starts on May 28, and that the first read through for The Goes Wrong Show Series 2 has taken place, so they’re both things to look forward to.
Update (May 24): Here’s the trailer for the new series of QI. Looks great fun as always!
There continue to be lots of funny clips online to lighten the mood as well. They include more videos from commentators reviewing things other than the sports they normally work on, with Andrew Cotter’s Company Meeting and Nick Heath’s Well You Join Me Live
There are also lots of parodies and original comedy songs being posted at the moment. Here’s a list of some of my recent favourites. For each of the channels linked to below, I’ve only posted a few videos as examples, so go and check them out for many others. And don’t forget to check out my Parodies Playlist for many more songs as well.
- Shirley Șerban:
- The Holderness Family:
- The Kiffness:
- Do You Believe In Life After Lockdown? – Cher parody
- Sweet Transvestite by PC Tim Jones – This policeman took a bit of time in his break to perform this Rocky Horror cover. And fair play to him I say, it’s great that emergency workers like him can spend a moment having a bit of light relief in their downtime, given all the exceptional work they’re doing. There’s an even a BBC News article about the video, because he went viral.
- Kiss From A Rose by Seals – This is a silly but clever parody of the song by Seal using footage of actual seals!
Last week I spoke about the incredible music star Kerry Ellis, having written a number of reviews, including one for her latest album. Now this week I’ve started listening to her podcast Keep Calm And Kerry On, where she speaks to fellow singers, dancers, actors, etc, and it’s really good. She’s a very engaging presenter, and her guests are very chatty and open, going into detail about their careers, the struggles they’ve faced and their experiences of lockdown. You don’t have to be into musical theatre to enjoy and understand it either, it’s very accessible and gives a fascinating insight into that industry.
And this week Kerry also joined 22 other West End actresses who have played Elphaba or Glinda in Wicked, to record a beautiful and special performance of For Good, in support of the Make A Difference Trust’s COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund. They would be very glad for any donations to help their important work.
A few other songs that I’ve enjoyed this week include:
- A solo performance of The Big Bang Theory for Live Med Aid, plus a selection of Selfie Cam Jams, courtesy of The Barenaked Ladies. The Big Bang Theory is the only song I know them for, as a big fan of the sitcom, so it’s interesting to hear some of their other songs in this way.
- The Power Of Love by the cast of the Back To The Future musical, which I’d love to see one day.
- All Together Now, a new song by OK Go to help raise money for Partners in Health, as explained in Damien’s letter about the song.
And finally there have been many lovely songs posted in tribute to NHS staff, carers and other frontline workers this week, giving a wonderful message of gratitude and hope, including:
- Dynamite by the cast of Comedy About A Bank Robbery (which I’ve seen before)
- From Now On from the Greatest Showman, performed by West End stars
- Bridge Over Troubled Water sung in Welsh and English by NHS workers, in honour of Llandudno’s Venu Cymru, which is now a temporary coronavirus hospital called the Rainbow Hospital (or Ysbyty Enfys in Welsh). As you’ll notice from the channel and the description of the video, it’s had the approval of Paul Simon himself.
- Strange Old World sung by frontline workers with West End stars Karl Queensborough (Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton) and Paul Wilkins (Marius in Les Miserables).
And that’s it, I hope you enjoyed this week’s varied selection. This coming weekend we have the second Spring Bank Holiday to look forward to, so I’ve got a nice 3 day weekend to relax in, even if I won’t be going anywhere. I have plans for what I might do and watch though, so there should be plenty to tell you about next week. And if you need any ideas of things to do or watch, don’t forget to check out my constantly updated Covid Resources and lockdown playlists. So until next time, take care, stay safe and be well!