Monday, January 20, 2020

Brum's barmy Bolsheviks plan a no-go zone

Image result for car banBonkers Birmingham’s barmy Bolsheviks plan to ban cars from the city centre. They think we’ll all commute by tram or cycle down the Bristol Road on their toytown cycle lanes which at the moment are largely unused.
Admittedly they have been deliberately turning the entire centre of Britain’s second city into a giant car park already, with roadworks more or less everywhere.
That’s why it takes twice as long to get into the city centre as it used to only a decade ago.
It’s nothing to do with the volume of traffic or a growth in prosperity; it’s all about the measures taken to make life as awkward, time-consuming, inconvenient and even dangerous for the average motorist as possible.
This is because the city’s burgers, aided and abetted by the supposedly-Conservative elected Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, want to reduce air pollution, greenhouse gases and all the noxious fumes which they presumably blame for their own delusions.
The best way to reduce emissions from cars is to keep them moving. The worst source of air pollution from vehicles is when they are waiting with their engines idling in long queues.
Birmingham has made pollution far worse than necessary by deliberately setting out to make driving in and out as tedious and slow as possible.
There are queues caused by traffic lights, fatuous 20 mph speed limits and bus lanes everywhere. They are closing down some of the main routes in and out of town. Broad Street is to become a tram-road. They are demolishing the Perry Barr flyover. Now they want through traffic to stick to the ring-road which is clogged and dogged with traffic lights.
They say there will be a public consultation. This is nothing but a sham. Whatever the public thinks, the council’s ‘experts’ have already decided what will happen and no amount of public opinion will change their minds.
After all, they are squandering millions on their cross-city metro system which, far from making Birmingham the ‘modern European city’ of their hype, is calculated to thwart and deny motorists any access to the centre.
Fine if you happen to live there. Fine if you usually take the bus, train, bicycle or even walk into the centre of Birmingham.
But public transport is overcrowded, unreliable and slow. The vast majority of Birmingham commuters - 62 per cent or 222,000 people - travel by car every day.
The anti-car enthusiasts want to force people out of their cars and onto trams, buses or trains. They claim these will be so dramatically improved and it will be such a wonderful new experience we won’t want to go back to our cars even if we could.
Does anybody really believe that? It is far more likely motorists will simply go elsewhere if they possibly can, especially with ‘clean-air charges’ and workplace parking taxes on the way.
It may seem desirable to force motorists to by-pass Brum. If drivers avoid it altogether it would reduce pollution and reduce traffic jams.
But it would be economically disastrous. If motorists avoid the centre if Birmingham it will mean less money is spent in shops, restaurants and theatres.
Worse still, it will force some of the city’s big employers to move out. After all, if their employees can’t, or won’t, travel into the centre any more, they will struggle to recruit and retain staff.
They will move to cities where they are welcome.
We are told everything will be fine thanks to HS2, the high-speed railway line. But a car-ban will make it almost impossible for many people from the Black Country and elsewhere to the West of Birmingham to get any benefit at all from this grossly expensive white elephant.
And, in any case, there is still a chance Boris Johnson’s Government will finally see sense and scrap the whole thing because it will never pay for itself, it will be a railway for the rich only and the place which would benefit most from its development is London.
This is the opposite of what the new Government says it wants to achieve, which is the revival of the ‘left-behind’ Midlands and the North of England.
You could argue that banning traffic from Birmingham will benefit the rest of the region. But closing down the West Midlands’ capital city is a short-sighted, panic-stricken, badly thought-out policy being imposed as an experiment by politically-correct planners.
They clearly dislike cars and the people in them. They think we should all conform to their vision of a car-free city. In their la-la land, loads of smiling people skip in and out of quiet trams onto their bicycles and the sun is always shining.
Reality is not like that. This car-crash policy will destroy Birmingham and take the rest of the West Midlands down with it.
It’s particularly disastrous given that, in 20 years’ time, we’ll all be driving in non-polluting electric cars anyway.
How many serious cities deliberately, methodically, and with malice aforethought go out of their way to destroy their own economies? Only in bankrupt Birmingham could they dream up such nonsense.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Regendering engenders panic at the disco


The RSC having refused to give me my money back when I asked for it on the grounds that the play ‘King John’ should feature a man in the title role, I forced myself to go and see it for myself.
It stars Rosie Sheehy in the title role but, having sat through the whole thing unlike five people around me, I could find no answer to the overwhelming question: What was the point
casting a woman as the king?
Short, fat little Rosie has a good voice and played the part well. But it was frequently confusing. Was this a woman pretending to be a man? Or a woman pretending to be a man who wanted to be a woman? Or a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman in order to pretend to be a man?
Was s/he flirting with the King of France or was that just pretend? Was none of it ambiguous and should the audience simply take it at face value that King John was simply a man played by a woman as if it made no difference?
The confusion was not confined to the King. The Cardinal is played by a woman as well. A woman with a handbag.
To make matters worse, it is all set in the 1960s and involves a certain amount of bizarre dancing which must be hideously embarrassing to perform. I felt very sorry for the poor cast.
We must conclude the director, Eleanor Rhode, has so little faith in William Shakespeare the only way she could bring herself to stage the play at all was by ripping it up and starting again.
In fairness, most Shakespeare plays are so well-known it is the director’s interpretation, or the actors’ skill, which reveal something new. But a play as obscure and rarely-performed as ‘King John’ has no need of gimmicks and trickery. There is, or should be, pleasure and interest merely in seeing it reasonably faithfully performed.
That hope was dashed the moment Rhode decided to give the lead role to a woman.
If we pretend this has nothing at all to do with Shakespeare then the production is reasonably entertaining aside from the cringe-making dance-moves which would have been embarrassing in any setting.
Without the £15 million of taxpayers’ money the RSC gets every year, they wouldn’t be able to deliver productions like this.
And the reaction of audiences can be seen by the fact that even on a Friday night close to Christmas, there were still plenty of empty seats (the three people beside us left at the interval, two more stumbled out mid-way through the second half).
The poet John Dryden adopted the Thatcherite view of the theatre: ‘The drama’s laws the drama’s patrons give, for we that live to please must please to live.’
In the RSC’s politically-correct socialist utopia, it’s more a question of: ‘The drama’s laws the drama’s luvvies give, for we do what we please thanks to fat subsidies.’

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Regendering in luvvie-land


If you read my previous blog on the topic, you will know I complained to the Royal Shakespeare Company that their production of ‘King John’ featured a woman in the title role and I asked for my money back.
As far as I’m concerned, I was mis-sold my tickets because I expected, when I booked, that a man would play the King.
I reckoned without the widespread theatre policy of politically-correct casting (called, among other things, ‘regendering’). The RSC’s ‘Director for Audiences and Marketing’, Chris Hill, refused a refund though he did offer to swap the tickets for some other (doubtless equally-PC production) as ‘a gesture of good will’. An offer I ignored.

He told me: ‘I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree on your opinions about Eleanor Rhode’s approach to King John who, in her view, cast the right person for the role irrelevant of gender and the production recently opened to some great reviews following its Press Night.’
He then regaled me with what the RSC’s luvvie-in-chief Greg Doran had to say at their last AGM: The first thing to say about Regendering is that it is nothing new. Exactly 120 years ago, this year here in Stratford, on a matinee performance in June 1899, the famous French actress, the divine Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet.  It’s nearly 25 years since Fiona Shaw played Richard II; Glenda Jackson has just played King Lear on Broadway. And it’s a process of discovery we have been on at Stratford for quite some time, including Neil Bartlett’s Twelfth Night in 2007, in which Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek, Fabian and even Viola were all gender flipped. For me, regendering is also an opportunity: opening parts to exceptional actresses, for whom the traditional assignment of roles in the canon leaves little left for them to play.  Sometimes it’s a provocation, sometimes a revelation, but most of the time, you simply don’t notice, or quickly forget, as gender is not necessarily the primary motor of these characters. But it’s an exploration not a policy.’

This is all very well but I would contend most theatregoers don’t want to see our heavily subsidised national theatre companies distorting the world so flagrantly.
I wanted to pursue my complaint through the small claims court but the domestic goddess vetoed the idea. It seems, from a cursory look at theatre reviews, that ‘regendering’ is de rigueur in luvvieland so I am biting the bullet and going to see the damned thing. A review will follow after we have endured it to the bitter end.

Incidentally the production got 4 stars from the ‘Grauniad’ (no surprise there), the ‘Stratford Herald’ liked it but found it confusing, ‘The Times’ awarded 3 stars as did ‘The Telegraph’ which called it ‘jaunty but lightweight’. ‘The Morning Star’, Jezza Corbyn’s top read, might have been expected to be supportive but it concludes: This is essentially directors’ theatre, full of disparate ideas and images which never fully cohere into significant meaning. Poor old Shakespeare.’

Oh and check this out...

 

Monday, December 02, 2019

Christmas in Kabul, 1841

Well the good news is that I have bought into some new promotional thing which is supposed to make sure my book, 'The Trials of Eldred Pottinger', is widely promoted on tinernet.

The bad news is I'm not sure it's any good. Have a look and see for yourself. You're supposed to be able to read some of the pages, listen to a bit of audio (me, reading about Christmas in Kabul) and watch the promotional video.

Oh and feel free to pass it on to friends, relatives and anyone else who might be interested: https://www.book2look.com/book/hJnQ8wYZwK

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Impeachment of Horace Thompson


I've just written a new short story about Brexit: Appalled by the way our politicians have handled Brexit, Walsall plumber Dave Britten is literally dumbstruck. He is so angry he can no longer speak.

The last straw was the arrest and impeachment of the Prime Minister, Horace Thompson, on a charge of treason.

As the liberal remainer establishment goes to any lengths to thwart the will of the people, setting up a Government of National Unity under new Prime Minister Joe Berk, Dave Britten is completely lost for words.

This short story is one of those extremely rare works of fiction written from the point of view of the people who actually want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Download a PDF for free here.

Alternatively, you can buy it on Amazon for a mere 99p.

It’s amusing, which is more than can be said for the Brexit process.

I thought this story would only be viable for about three days and would be taken down last Saturday but the shenanigans in Parliament mean it is still valid as of October 21.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Enemies of the people


The Supreme Court enemies of the people claim in their judgment:
This prolonged suspension of Parliamentary democracy took place in quite exceptional circumstances: the fundamental change which was due to take place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom on 31st October. Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about. The effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme.

Yeah but… no but… I was under the impression our elected representatives had spent the last three years exercising their voice in how that change comes about - or, to be more accurate, trying to ensure that change never takes place.
This court case is just another feeble ploy in the long campaign to prevent the United Kingdom from ever leaving the European Union.
But when these whingeing remainers moan about sovereignty and democracy, please, please, please remember: Parliament handed sovereignty over this issue to the people in a democratic referendum. It is now trying to frustrate their decision and undermine the sovereignty Parliament itself handed over when it voted overwhelmingly for a referendum.
The fact that a majority of MPs don’t like our decision is irrelevant. They must not be allowed to impose a Parliamentary dictatorship on the people.
If they won’t do anything else then they must permit Boris Johnson to hold a General Election so we can clear out all those trying to frustrate the democracy of the people and replace them with delegates who will do as the people have told them to do.

Monday, September 23, 2019

RSC's 'King John' - ridiculous excess

A producer at the RSC has finally responded to my complaint that I don’t want to see a production of King John where the title role is played by a woman. Claire Birch says:

Dear Nigel Hastilow

Thank you for your email and for taking the time to get in touch.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is a national company and is in receipt of significant public funding.  It is our mission to ensure Shakespeare is for everyone and therefore it is our responsibility to reflect the nation in our work from the perspective of diversity, gender, regionality and disability. Everyone feels more connected to the stories we tell if they can see or hear themselves.  

We create a huge range of work here and we accept that not all audiences will like all the choices that we make - be they design, directorial or performance

As we know Shakespeare had boys playing women, we feel certain he would have no problem with women playing roles seen as traditionally male.  The director's approach to King John was not about gender. The play is about politics, wars and family feuds, gender feels irrelevant within this context. Queen Elinor herself says to the Bastard: Bequeath they land to him and follow me? I am a solider and now bound to France.

I would urge you to give the show a chance. We have had fantastically positive responses from audiences so far. 

With best wishes 
Claire 
Claire Birch
Producer


 I’ve replied:

Dear Claire
Thank you for your belated reply.

You say it is your mission to make sure Shakespeare is for everyone and it is therefore ‘our responsibility to reflect the nation in our work from the perspective of diversity, gender, regionality and disability. Everyone feels more connected to the stories we tell if they can see or hear themselves'.
I really do not accept that, in trying to attract as wide an audience as possible, it automatically follows that your work should reflect all the categories you set out in your email. Shakespeare already holds a mirror up to nature without the need for the RSC to cabin, crib and confine him in your organisation’s tedious, politically-correct straightjacket.
How you can possibly ‘feel certain’ Shakespeare would have no problem with women in men’s roles defeats me. You have no way of justifying that assertion beyond pointing out the obvious fact that his female characters were played by boys and young men. 
If the director’s approach to King John is not about gender, why cast a woman as a King when it immediately distracts from whatever her approach is actually about? The quote you supply does not seem to be any sort of justification. The RSC’s tedious policy of gender-blind casting is ‘wasteful and ridiculous excess’.

And claiming you have so far received ‘fantastically positive responses from audiences’ is completely disingenuous given that the play’s first public performance, in advance of its official first night, took place in the evening of the day you sent your email. 
When I booked tickets for King John, I had hoped to see a reasonably straightforward production of a rarely-performed play. I do not believe casting a woman in the title role will add to my understanding and appreciation of the play.
I am well aware that, as one of the many theatregoers who the RSC accommodates under sufferance (that is to say, white, male, elderly, middle-class etc), I realise my opinion is of no significance.
However, had I known the role of the King would be played by a woman, irrespective of how well-received the production might be among the cognoscenti, I would not have wasted £93 on two tickets to see it.

I accept that one should really see a play for oneself before criticising it but there are times, and this is one of them, when I would not have bothered to pay any attention to your production and merely wrung my hands in quiet despair (as I did on discovering the role-reversals in The Taming of the Shrew, for instance). I therefore repeat my request for my money back because, as far as I am concerned, the RSC sold the tickets under false pretences.