Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Monday, 28 June 2010

World Cup Review One

Cor blimey, what a balls-up. Having been rooting for England to top their group so I could watch their second-round match on Saturday night, I was gutted to see the USA's last-gasp goal mean England faced Germany at about the time I was rehearsing and performing in an 'exploded opera' at the Whistable Biennale. CURSES! In the end, it was surprisingly liberating to be given updates by text under my stage desk from a frantic Andy, stationed round the corner in a beachside pub. I made a furtive break for it to the nearest, rather sedate football pub, for five minutes of the second half in which the Redshirted Lions (Andy's now deceased cat, the limping, disturbingly glue-eyed bag of bones Stripe could frighten more savannah-based ruminants) kicked the ball, mostly to each other and EVERYTHING - this, seemingly, was England's purple patch as I saw on the funereal ITV highlights later. Hur hur, what a load of old embarrassing tosh. Fabio really should make a swift exit, methinks; I've always held a candle for Martin 'Gnomic God' O'Neill as a future manager, but now I reckon it's got Harry or Roy's name all over it.

Have been hugely enjoying the World Cup, and can now look forward to a colourful, joyously non-tense rest of tournament. Here's some awards so far:

Most disturbing injury: Gerard Pique looking like an extra from Twilight, thick gloopy blood pouring from his mouth in Spain vs Honduras, then returning to the pitch, mouth gobstopped with tissue in some sort of escape-from-killer-dentist scenario:

Cutest team: The nimbly nippy, bonny lads of Mexico when bouncing all over those French pensioners. Confirmed by my juice-mates when watching the game together on a farm in Worksop.

Dodgiest ref: Until Sunday's games, I thought it was the ref at Brazil vs Ivory Coast, who ASKED Fabiano gigglingly whether he had handballed his 2nd goal or not, live on camera. How was this man not immediately sacked?!

Most notable haircut: Torres' new lopped-off look. Makes me waver in my opinion that short hair is always an improvement. I will have to watch him VERY closely in order to make up my mind.

Disappointment: Wayne Rooney. Andy and I had, probably very unreasonably, pinned all our hopes on Rooners being the Lion King rather than the lumbering Pimba we helplessly watched.

Underdogs: OK, they didn't get past the group stage, but the plucky New Zealanders holding the Italians to a draw was hilarious, and my Kiwi bandmate Lucy's reaction, as I held up my fingers at 1-0 through the recording studio glass, utterly priceless.

Shirtwatch special: Adrian Chiles does make ITV slightly bearable. Gareth Southgate is surprisingly good, though his pink-shirt-with-white-collar-and-cuffs makes Alan Shearer look like a Shoreditch fashionista. Lee Dixon says the most sensible things every time.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


The blending of two of my chief passions doesn't come around very often, so it was down to the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio last night to see 'OperaShots': three nimble operas by feisty, accessible composers, the final piece being Jocelyn Pook's In-ger-land, with my pals Mikhail and Laura Moody performing, plus experimental vocal acquaintances Lore Lixenberg and Olivia Chaney. The opera was a punchily-directed celebration of football chants and songs, vignettes about father-son relationships in football, football as religion, the pervading influence of WAGS on the UK's celebrity culture, and much more. Seven marvellously diverse singers (one mostly performs as rotund sub-bass drag artist Le Gateau Chocolat; YES!) and an instrumental ensemble fling themselves at each other, over bright red sofas, draw chalk pitches and 4-4-2 formations on the stage, whilst films of real fans punctuate the whole thing.

When it began, I had a moment of wondering whether the opera was on the murky side of the fine line between joyously bringing low art ideas in high art contexts and piss-taking. Could this be the stage version of the sort of horrors that spring up from warbling opera divas singing pop? Would I, both a football-lover and an experimental musician cut from the same cloth be up in arms about the portrayal of fans? Thankfully, very soon enough I was easily won over by the very believable passion of the singers, who nailed the teeth-gnashing fervour we all work ourselves up into during a match. Jocelyn got it just right: if you listen really hard sometimes at grounds, you experience this wondrous polytonal, polyrhythmic, polyEVERYTHING mix of vocal sounds, mostly male, with a touch of brass and drums. It takes just a little spit, polish and hot dog juice to fashion it into something credibly artistic which transports that crazedly animal devotion into the theatre.

Best bits were: a chordal version of the reaction to an almost-goal, descending 'ohhh!'s as the singers sank back into their sofas; the chorus-sung narration of England's matches against Argentina in 1998 and 2002, culminating in the men's repeated outbursts of 'THE RE-FER-EE'S A WANKER!!'; and a madrigal based on the Liverpool chant 'Oh, Gerrard, Gerrard, he's big and he's foo-kin' 'ard'. Genius! It was SUCH fun, marred only by the fact that we'd seen only the night before the most lamentable England performance imaginable, and celebrating the triumphs of our then top-form David Beckham, Michael Owen and David Seaman highlighted everything we're missing this year.

An article about the opera lives here.

Inspiring stuff. Makes me think I should really check out Michael Nyman's 'Beckham Crosses, Nyman Scores'. I can see next year's broadsheet culture sections now: 'Renowned composer Kerry Andrew writes experimental musical-theatre work around her devotion to lowly League Two whipping boys, Wycombe Wanderers!'