Wolf Hall: Where has my sexy beast gone? (BBC 2: 8pm Wednesdays)

Aye, four score times more sex’ed Thomas Cromwell didst appear on the page of Hilary Mantel‘s book (OK I’ll stop the half-baked Tudor-talk now) but maybe that was just the “eye of the beholder” syndrome? See, in my version, TC’s hair would be darker & silkier, his nose a bit more crooked & sinister, his lip cru-ell …. I think I gave all the smarts of Mantel’s Cromwell to the visage of an Alan Rickman (circa: “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” in ’91) and now I’m having the Dickens of a time trying to reconcile the bloke on telly aka Mark Rylance with my sexy beast!

A quick squizz to the bible (www.imdb.com) tells me that Rylance has done this sort of a gig before: in film, playing Thomas Boleyn in “The Other Boleyn Girl” in 2008 (with Portman, Johansson, Bana etc.) and a thoroughly enjoyable example of the Bodice-ripper genre it was too.

Which brings me back to Wolf Hall on BBC2. It’s not a Bodice-ripper and neither was Mantel’s book; so who is this version of Thomas Cromwell and am I going to warm to him, as much as I warmed-right-up-to the man on the page?

Well, for one thing I am digging his accent; it’s noticeably thickened and more countrified than his aristocratic work-mates. It immediately locates him outside the King’s traditional circle-of-trust; a fact which Mantel also drums into us on the page – and not something even she could fully convey with words. You really do need to hear it to feel it.

Mark Rylance’s whipped hound-dog expression, is a constant reminder to the violence we all had to endure in the book; that of an extremely violent father battering his boy within an inch of his life. A few wince-y flashes on the screen were enough, thanks, but it is precisely this constant tail between the leggedness which is at odds with the “Hollywood Cromwell” version. I fell in love with my Cromwell because he was shrewd and clever and got away from his drunk-mean Dad, travelled the world, soaked it all in and came home to make big, bloody deal of himself. All because he knew his place and refused to sit in it.

Cromwell was loyal (give or take some shenanigans with his sister-in-law), was a loving-then-much-bereaved husband and father with the midas touch. He was the Tudor Money Saving Expert and signed the King up. If Cromwell was on the US show “The Bachelor” you’d jump up and down screaming “He has the whole package!” Mantel put us in his cerebral cortex (rhymes with Vortex, little else does) and there was no “hang dog” lurking there, just a big ol’ sexy beast. Of course, later on he stitched up one or two innocent people, in a deadly game of “he said, she said” …. but that’s another episode.

Is your Cromwell manifesting on screen, or, doth your eye behold another?

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Running up that Hill; Three rows in at the Kate Bush concert 3/9/2014

Let me state up front – I wasn’t the world’s biggest Kate Bush fan before Wednesday night’s show …  but I kind of totally love her now!! Oh sure, “Running up that Hill” is a favourite of mine (and everyone else as it happened; I’d never seen so many grown men weeping simultaneously as in front of her that night. Come to think of it, people were still weeping on the train on the way home – a dose of Beatle-mania fifty years on) and it sounded every bit as groovy in concert as it did on my car stereo in 198*. But I have to confess, I hadn’t heard about 65% of the material, I reckon, until that night. What an introduction!

Let me also state up front – we were in row “G” – 3 rows from the front. Yep – read ’em and weep, the likes of Bjork (back of the stalls??), Mr Walliams (somewhere else “up the back”??) et al. “Well these are just terrible seats!!!” Cackle, Cackle … Until the guy sitting in front of me told me he had just made the same joke. It was the most thrilling experience of recent years to be so close, nay part of, such a remarkable piece of musical theatre; at times I felt as though she was looking straight at me.

Up on stage, singing, Kate Bush was a ‘powerful figure‘ (quoting my friend Murray, who was actually the one in the fan club who got the great seats and suggested I come along  in the first place), and she was mesmerising even with all the highly competitive activity going on around her. She was graceful and elegant in movement – a little ‘groove’ here and there with her shoulders (a ‘mum dance’ if you will: Why does that happen to us?) but it was her voice which gave your goose its bumps, it was golden. I suspected there was a secret mixing desk somewhere making her voice sound like it had a little ‘MSG’ sprinkled on it – but no, no, no – that’s how good she really sounds. Her concert face was still the same and beautiful – all shy smiles & sad, sparkly eyes. And Hair.

I’m not going to give a run down of the order of events of show – others have done that quite successfully [and let’s face it – you WILL want to be surprised when the DVD comes out]  other than to say there were 3 main segments: “Kate + Band: The Hits!” (No, not WH or Babushka – I didn’t mind and it didn’t seem necessary at the time either) “The Ninth Wave: Search & Rescue” and “The Sky of Honey: Totally Avian!”.

The only extra piece of production I will comment on was “The Technical Hitch”. It’s funny, because even though I go on and on and on and on and on to family ‘n’ friends about how AWESOME the show was, I don’t really pause to mention that the show stopped for about half an hour at a crucial moment, just after the “amateur astronomer” film between “Kate + Band” and “The Ninth Wave” due to a technical difficulty. It was really unfortunate timing as this was THE moment when we moved from a kind of “faux start” to “Now, This is What I Call a Kate Bush Concept” and yes, it would have intensified our surprise if we’d gone straight from one t’other. Rhubarb, Rhurbarb went the crowd, grab another drink, go to the loo, flip through the programe and we were back in business. No matter. “D’you know what?/I love you better now.”

Almost every time KB disappeared from the stage, she was greeted with a standing ovation upon her return. Now, I don’t like to brag (but I’m going to) I’ve been to a few good shows in my time. You’ve got your Madonnas, your Princes, your M.J.s, your James Browns, your Ramones, your Kraftwerks, your Iggy Pops, your Fugazis, your Wayne Newtons (c’mon! it was 80s Vegas!), your George Bensons, your Culture Clubs, your Cures, your Pavarottis (mum made me go), your Cramps’, your INXSs, your U2s (my friend Debra Murphy touched Bono’s boot) your KISSes and my very first show at the impressionable age of 6, your ABBAs, but NEVER, I say NEVER have I seen a reaction to a performance like the one she got. It was worship at the altar of Kate Bush. And if that’s how the all the reviews and reports of her shows come across, they be speaking the truth.

Breathtaking stuff. As Murray said mid-show: “Nostalgia is a powerful thing“. Yes, Kate Bush and her voice were a part of the fabric of my musical youth – but it was her show and the music I was hearing for the first time the other night which really blew me away. No wonder she’s clogging up the UK Top 40 Album charts. She Is Risen.

I loved it. Can’t you tell?

I also liked this review: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/09/tracey-thorn-kate-bush-hammersmith-apollo-ecstatic-triumph-life-s-work

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A member of the “Time Wasters International” group and their fun-dyslexic sister org “Wine Tasters International” – we aim to bring down the gavel of judgement on all the important matters of the day, in the nicest possible way (no need to be rude, most of the time). As well, various musings on relevant Cultural Detritus (yes, that name was already taken). Sometimes though, a person just needs an outlet for a bit of a boo-hoo – so you might have to sit through that too.