Sunday, October 29, 2006

Evil of the Daleks - Live on Stage

Yesterday I had the greatest pleasure in seeing the latest production from Rob Thrush and Nick Scovell live on stage in Portsmouth. Earlier productions were the Doctor Who stories The Web of Fear and Fury from the Deep, but this year they had turned their attention to Evil of the Daleks. If you missed it, then you missed a real treat. The script by Nick Scovell took the basics of the television story and distilled it down into two 45 minute parts which never dragged and never got boring. We're straight into the action as the Doctor (played admirably by Nick Scovell) and Jamie (a brilliant portrayal by John Paul McCrohon) find the TARDIS drawn to an old manor house in 1866 wherein something strange is afoot. They meet the Reverend Edward Waterfield (Lewis Bailey) whose daughter, Victoria (Rosie Grant) has been captured by aliens, and the bullish Theodore Maxtible (superbly played by James George) who invited the aliens in. Of course the aliens are the Daleks, and their first appearance, streaming out of a smoke filled 'cabinet' onto the stage is chilling and effective. Their voices are superb and threatening, and their movement smooth and chilling. Altogether the best use of the Daleks on stage that I can remember and totally putting those of The Ultimate Adventure to shame. The action remains in the house as people are hypnotised and controlled by the Daleks (Phil Cottril's Arthur Terral deserves a mention for his tremendous performance as the schizophrenic Dalek puppet) and Jamie is put to the test to try and rescue Victoria, leading to a first-part cliff hanger as the Daleks sweep in screeching that he will be exterminated. The second half opens with a reprise of the cliff-hanger, but surprise surprise, it's not Jamie who recieves the extermination but Mr Kennedy (Tim Skedge) who had been helping Maxible carry out his plans. With the Human Factor identifed, the Doctor realises that the Daleks were after the Dalek Factor all along ... and we head to a showdown with the massive Dalek Emperor. There was applause as the set opens to reveal this monstrosity swathed in smoke and light and the Emperor proceeds to convert Maxtible into a Dalek. The Doctor is next, but while wracked with pain, the two 'humanised' Daleks come to the rescue and soon the stage is full of pyrotechnics as the Emperor explodes, the Dalek menace is thwarted and the Doctor mutters the line 'the final end' as the production comes to a close. The audience was full of kids who all seemed to love seeing the Daleks gliding about on stage, and the adults appreciated the intelligent script and superb performances from all involved. For a low budget production, it really didn't show, and I give all cudos to Nick and Rob and everyone involved for a superb reinterpretation of one of Doctor Who's most fondly remembered classic adventures. I really hope the team put on something else soon as they are getting better and better and live on stage adds a whole new dimension to the enjoyment of Who. For more information, visit the production website at Cast pics by David C Tozer.

Indian Adventure

Having left work, my first thought was that I needed a proper holiday for a change and so we decided to go to India for about 15 days. This was prompted by a couple of things, first that it's somewhere we've never been and we felt like exploring it a little, and second that it's where Telos' printers are based, and our friends there had been encouraging us to visit them for some time. So we booked it all up and headed off. First port of call was Bangalore, which is where the printers are based. We were met by Anil (our friend who runs the printing works there) and he and his brother Manil looked after us superbly while we were in Bangalore. We did some shopping, saw some sights - visited an art gallery, shopping malls, indoor markets, and had some wonderful meals - and visited the printing factory and saw exactly how Telos' titles are looked after and handled by their 200 or so dedicated and happy workers. Everyone there was so friendly and pleased to see us that we felt really welcome. It was great to see how the books are progressed through the various stages to completion as well. What hit us of course on arrival was the culture shock of India as a place. It's busy ... boy is it busy ... with many, many people living in the cities and on the streets. The traffic was insane everywhere we went. People there seem to drive on the basis of never giving way to anyone, and ignoring any road etiquette whatsoever. This leads to some chaos and traffic jams like you would not believe! Vehicles on the road range from men with handcarts to articulated lorries and everything in between from scooters (often with 3 or 4 people on a single scooter), three wheeled taxis, camels, cows, cars, vans, coaches and lorries. From Bangalore we flew up to Delhi and off the plane were met by our driver for this part of the trip (Mukesh) who drove us on to Jaipur - about 4-5 hours away. Along the way we saw the country, incredible poverty and wealth sitting side by side, and again insane traffic - cows standing in the middle of dual carriageways; cars coming *towards* you the wrong way on a dual carriageway; and as we approached Jaipur, camels and elephants pulling carts of goods and building supplies. Building work seemed to be going on everywhere you looked. If they weren't putting something up, they were pulling it down. And of course the rubble covered the pavements and even the lanes of the roads (cars just swerved around it all). We enjoyed an Indian MacDonalds on the way - something called a McChicken Grill I think - which turned out to be a sort of spiced Korma chicken patty with mint raita and lettuce. Very nice too, if a little unexpected - I was expecting more of a standard chicken burger type thing. In Jaipur we saw the Amber fort - an incredible structure built by the Maharajas of old and decorated in Indian white and black inlaid marble. Very impressive indeed. We spent two nights here in a gorgeous hotel. Jaipur seemed to be a little less frantic than Delhi but nevertheless it was still a busy place. We also visited City Palace which is the present residence of the Jaipur Royal Family. Another place we saw here was an astonomical site developed to tell horoscopes and the time and so on - but all on a massive scale. This is where the world's largest sundial is located, accurate to 2 seconds and you really can see the shadow moving as you watch! From Jaipur we drove to Agra, and of course visited the Taj Mahal. This was an experience in itself, it's a beautiful building - a tomb - and very serene despite the millions of people thronging through it all the time. We also visited Agra Fort here. From Agra we drove back to Delhi and did a quick city tour of some sights there. We visited one of the big Mosques, and saw all the Diwali decorations and fireworks on sale in the many markets. One impressive place here is called Qutb Minar - another ruined site, but with a vast 72.5 metre high tower of stone in the middle. Then it was down to Goa for the second half of the holiday - 7 days relaxing in the sun. By this time we were totally ready for it as the travelling really takes it out of you. As did the hawkers. You cannot go anywhere without having person after person approach you wanting to sell you something or with some scam to get money going on. We were offered beads and chess sets incessantly, and saw women with babies and ragged children at every set of traffic lights begging with hand out and pathetic expressions on their face. It all gets a little too much as none of these people know what 'no' means and you can say it 20 times and they're still tagging along behind you trying to sell you something. One kid even tried to get me to change a pound coin into Rupees on the basis that the coin was no good to him - at least I assume it was a pound coin, they could be making them out the back for all I know. So we got to Goa which is a very different part of India. Wheras in all the other places (Bangalore, Delhi, Jaipur and Agra) the heat was hot and dry, in Goa it's hot and humid. And very, very green. Goa is on the West coast and is beautiful. Lots of palm trees and beaches. We were booked into a holiday village sort of place (Sun Village) which was all inclusive with all meals and drinks in with the price. The place had a nice pool and was about 20 minutes walk from Baga Beach (one of the nice beaches there, sitting on the end of Calengute Bay which as a whole had to be 2 miles long). Up to this point, we'd managed to avoid any health problems, I had even only been bitten by mosquitos twice, however on the first night in Goa my stomach erupted ... thus the second day there I had to spend in bed in our room being very sick and ill and not wanting to do anything. The third day I felt a little better though my 'Delhi belly' persisted until the end of the holiday so despite the fact that all the food and drink (and alcohol) was free at the resort, I couldn't actually eat or drink any of it for fear of aggravating the problem. So I existed on clear vegetable soup, toast and bananas for the whole week. We didn't do much this week. Just sat/lay in the shade by the pool a lot (it was too hot to lie in the sun) and chilled. We did head down to Baga beach one day to see what it was like, and enjoyed a chilled coke in one of the restaurants there as the sun went down. The Indian ocean was so warm as well - warmer than the hotel swimming pool - and full of tiny crabs and things scuttling about all over the place. After the break in Goa, it was back to Bangalore to meet up again with our friends there, and to do some final shopping before the 10 hour flight back to England. It was an incredible experience visiting the country and seeing all the sights and the people. There does seem to be a gulf between the poverty there and the rich, however we heard (and read in the papers) many stories about how the government is trying to tackle the problems, however many of the people on the streets *want* to live on the streets, and when they are given apartments to live in by the government, they just rent them out, pocket the money and continue to live on the streets! There was even a feeling that some of these apparently 'poor' street people earn more money than those in regular employment ... hard to tell really, but a totally different way of life and culture than we are used to in the UK. And I will never complain about UK traffic again - it's calm and sedate and controlled in comparison with Indian traffic. Even trying to get around Hyde Park Corner at rush hour is a breeze compared with trying to navigate a car through a market area in Agra ...