The point of this section is for us to have the chance to air our views on the best (and the worst) bits of contemporary culture, and this week our chosen topic is...
COOKING WITH ELVIS - WHITEHALL THEATRE
By the end of the first scene of this new play by Lee Hall, I thought it was going to be a crude and bawdy romp with about as much taste as a ready salted hula-hoop sandwich. I thought right.
Fortunately though, "Cooking With Elvis" romps through some quite substantial subject matter and is hilariously funny, pathetic, perverted, sad and darkly disturbing, often simultaneously. The story centres around what could be the ultimate dysfunctional family - a food-obsessed daughter and an alcoholic slag of a mother - constantly at war with each other, and a father trapped in a wheelchair unable to speak or move, although we are treated to some little glimpses of perfection by way of father's Elvis Presley impersonations which seem to constantly take place in his locked in mind.
Interesting as this sounds though, this premise alone would not hold our attention enough and the real sand in the vaseline comes in the form of Stuart, played with much subtlety and equal crassness by Frank Skinner, who shags and swears his way through the entire production, augmenting one of the play's chief themes, greed.
From the start, this story sails the audience down a twisted river of guilt, addiction, deceit, sex, cake and the King himself, who's songs are used as a kind of broken narrative and, more than any other device used in the play, strike home the feeling that all is not what it appears to be. We are bombarded with profanity, philosophy and extremely tense conflict throughout, constantly and rapidly lurching from the sublime to the commonplace - this pathos used to very good effect especially in the scene where a fourteen year old girl, dripping blood, asks us "isn't life wierd?" .
This play has got more to do with the point of living and the futility we sometimes feel than anything I've seen or read in a long time, yet I can't shake off the feeling that I've been here before. We all know the issues and I feel like I should be slating "Cooking With Elvis" for not covering any new ground - as it's ground we've all been down a hundred times before - but still, it seems to me that the journey was never this much fun. My hat's off to Mr. Hall for providing us with an intelligent, funny and very moving play, and to the cast - especially Elvis - who made it all so bloody enjoyable to watch. I give it four JOHNS out of five. JJJJ
John McMenemie Esq. April 2000
THE MILLENNIUM DOME
I'm not sure what the people at the Dome are hoping to achieve, but I was, on the whole unimpressed with my visit to the canvas caper that has, and will continue to, cost millions and millions of pounds. In all fairness I did go on a Sunday, when the queues were enormous and so didn't bother attempting to visit all the zones.
Firstly I managed to get into "Talk", a visit that began with a thinly veiled prelude on how "It's good to talk" and then, to my horror became an all out hard-sell from a certain phone company in which all their latest gadgetry was showcased in museum exhibit style to the soundtrack from E.T. The corporate involvement in the Dome is ubiquitous and most intrusive, with the circumference consisting of an unending series of garish fast food places and company sponsorship of attractions an all too common feature.
With all this corporate dough, very much in line with the Government's private-public funding ethos, it seems strange that the operation has become the financial cock-up that it is. At twenty pounds a go, and with such splendid value merchandise as the Millennium hairband, the only difference from one you'd buy at the chemist for thirty pence being the official bag, a steal at eight pounds, one could be forgiven for wanting a little more for the money.
I then had the joy of "Mind". I grant that this looked stylish, but was rather forgettable and nebulous save for the rather simplistic ecological computer-questionnaire towards the end which attempted to determine broadly, what sort of future the majority would select for the planet. Indeed this, if anything seemed to be what the general message behind it all was.
Ironically, amidst all the one-use containers and styrofoam cups of the outer "Trough-Zone", the people at the Dome are trying to imbue us with a sense of responsibility about our future and make us feel empowered to take this inspiration and change our way of life.
By far the best thing was the show. New circus is very much the cool thing at the moment and this was truly spectacular. Perhaps Mr. Eurodisney will take the essence of this event and use it to make the rest as entertaining. It is what the whole thing lacks.
George Double Esq. Feb 2000