Zubrowka – Bison Grass Vodka

£18 from Marks and Spencer

Vodka of Poland

Bisongrass Vodka

Flavoured with an extract of the Bison grass blade, the fragrant herb beloved by the European Bison

40% vol

0,5l

Bisongrass vodka Premium Zubrovka Vodka of Poland

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In Polish it is called Zubrowka but on the bottle its spelt zubrokva. The Polish ‘w’ is pronounced like a ‘v’ so it’s probably just a translation convention as it s bottled in Germany and for the British market so foreigners don’t look like idiots when talking about it and get flak from some pretentious bigot who learnt how to pronounce it just so they could rub it in people’s faces and act as if they are more learned (pronounced learn’ed of course to confirm their pretentiousness). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BBubr%C3%B3wka

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What is bison grass? Is it actually grass? No. It’s a herb. Hierochloe odorata or Anthoxanthum nitens, also known as sweet grass, holy grass (UK), manna grass, Mary’s grass, seneca grass or vanilla grass, is an aromatic herb native to northern Eurasia and North America. In Poland it is known as bison grass. It is used in herbal medicine and in the production of distilled beverages(e.g., Żubrówka, Wisent). It owes its distinctive sweet scent to the presence of coumarin. This variety of buffalo is different from the species of grass commonly known as ‘buffalo’ ( ’Stenotaphrum Secundatum ’) in Australia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierochloe_odorata

On the side of the bottle is a measure of how much is left as if there is some need to be certain of how much you have left. Consumption of another person’s alcohol is a serious matter though I think due to the pale yellow colouration of the fluid and the clear glass of the bottle most people prone to marking the content levels would be satisfied using a marker on the bottle. The bottle is quite unique and no doubt drove up the production costs needlessly compared to other bottles of zubrowka I’ve seen online afterwards.

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It has a nice spicy aroma but quite a kick. However I haven’t drunk spirits for a while so my palate may have gone cold turkey in the passage of time. Due to the burning effect I cannot really comment on the taste right now. Its umami. It smells like paint thinner. (At which point I was beginning to come down with a cold and so my taste buds went into ‘closed for the season’ mode.)

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… Okay so I return to it after a week with a cold and so give reviewing it another go. Swill it around my mouth. Much nicer. Stings the tip of my tongue. Maybe I have been biting the tip of my tongue recently. I accidentally bit the inside of my cheek a few days ago… I take another break before continuing.

I am later reliably informed by a Polish associate that to truly drink this it is essential to drink it with apple juice:

“Zubrowka MUST be drank with apple juice. These two were meant to be together forever and every Pole knows it, and some Brits know it too now, and you’ve just joined the company. They are like yin&yang, Wales&sheep…”

So using some Tesco 100% pressed apple juice I shall try it this cocktail of flavours to experience zubrowka in it’s truest form!

WOOHOO good stuff! Not in the way that alco-pop and WKD try to completely eliminate the taste of the alcohol but instead this cocktail leaves a remaining ‘sense’ of the wodka’s taste and instead, acceptably, takes away the edge of the ‘burning’ effect when it was served neat. Need to be careful of how much to drink as it is 40% proof. ‘But it goes down so easy?’ you say. No, no, you must temper yourself young stallion for this is the way of the dark side and the first step in becoming a stereotype like the ‘tired and emotional’ Boris Yeltsin who could not get off a plane when stopping over in Ireland in September 1994. Get the buzz, maintain the buzz, but do not give into the temptation of thinking drinking more immediately will indefinitely increase the buzz! Resist becoming so numb you forget yourself.

Of course at this point it is important to note Polish wódka, Russian vodka and Ukrainian horilka are not ‘all interchangeable and basically the same apart from where they were made’. Oh no, no, no… never say that… Not unless you want a lecture about who came up with it first and how the others are just inferior versions of one another (and even then not accounting for the Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Czech variants)! That is like saying all Whiskey is the same… well except Jack Daniels which is actually bourbon but got around to being called a whiskey for one reason or another due to Tennessee laws definitions of what whiskey is.

Good stuff but the price is higher than many of the other vodkas on the shelves locally… Likely because it is a ‘premium zubrowka’, the cost of export and it’s unique selling point as ‘bison grass flavoured’ as there are not many other bison grass flavoured vodkas, if any, available at local British supermarkets. Unfortunately this makes it too big an investment for casual consumers, used to paying about half that for vodkas, to risk trying it straight off the shelf without prior knowledge (Unless they are prone to wanting to try random things like myself). It was good to try but there are other things to taste so I shall just chalk it up with the following summary: An interesting taste and worth trying but the next time I go to M&S I won’t be rushing to see if they have it in stock unfortunately (unlike the plum flavoured sake I adored and bought two bottles at a time until they stopped stocking it!). I would definitely try it again though given a chance and if offered it would be very glad to taste it once more… preferably with a good apple juice of course.

On a side note I know that the Oddka brand vodka do a ‘grass flavour’ of their range and had looked at the bottle previously to see if that was bison grass flavour but I don’t remember there being any information regarding it except it was ‘grass flavour’ which was overly vague. Perhaps somewhere down the line I shall try that one and review it as I believe it is only about £8 a bottle since it is British produce.

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Vodka of Poland
GRASOVKA
Bisongrass Vodka
The Original Polish Vodka-Speciality

Flavoured with the extract of the Bison grass blade, a grass which is particularly valued by the bisons living in the forest of Eastern Poland.

Only genuine with the blade of Bison grass in every bottle, giving Grasovka its unique and spicy aroma.

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http://www.grasovka.com
Produced in Poand.
Bottled in Germany.
Diversa Spezialitäten GmbH, D-47493 Rheinberg


Well I was away for a few days, weeks, whatever… had a cold and work things that needed to be prioritised.

The whole ‘list the information off the packaging’ thing I usually do has been intergrated a bit better in this post, I think, but then many of the past few posts were just to keep the blog going. It seems to be becoming a food and drink review blog unintentionally. Well you know what they say ‘life is what happens while you’re making plans’ and I guess the same applies to blogging too…

An interesting fact I discovered was that Żubrówka is the name of the fictional country in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Next time hopefully some theatre reviews.

Marks & Spencer’s Belgian Triple Chocolate Cookies

£2 for one box but £3 if you take advantage of the ever present offer from the M&S range of premium biscuits.

Very rich tasting and the chocolate chunks melt in the mouth. Strong enough you could dip it in tea if that was your thing but crisp enough to have a satisfying bite. Not as soft and chewy as fresh made biscuits of this sort but that is in its favour as they can seem doughy. The chocolate almost instantaneously melts in your mouth as you chew it releasing its rich flavour. Definitely a better all-round biscuit than the crystallised stem ginger ones I bought with them. An indulgent item which lives up to its name.

But onto the important bit and provide you with the box information so you are not stood in the store reading off ingredients and coming across as a bit too obsessive about your diet. Personally I find that with the more enjoyable taste you are also going to pay by it being that much worse for you nutrition wise. This is a ‘treat’ kind of biscuit not something you should be eating every day.

Per cookie 461kJ / 110 kcal
Energy 6% of your RI
Per 100g 2151kJ / 515 kcal

Chocolate cookies with chunks of dark, milk and white Belgian chocolate half coated in Belgian dark chocolate.

Not suitable for nut allergy suffers.

Ingredients: Wheatflour contains gluten, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin) Belgian Dark Chocolate (17%) (Sugar – Cocoa Mass – Cocoa Butter – Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin – Vanilla Flavouring) –– Butter (Milk) – Belgian Dark Chocolate Chunks (13%) (Sugar – Cocoa Mass – Cocoa Butter – Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin – Vanilla Flavouring) – Sugar – Belgian Milk Chocolate Chunks (8%) (Sugar – Dried Whole Milk – Cocoa Butter – Cocoa Mass – Emulsifier: Soya Lecthin – Vanilla Flavouring) – Belgian White Chocolate Chunks (7%) (Sugar – Dried Whole Milk – Cocoa Butter – Dried Skimmed Milk – Emulsifier: Soya Lecthin – Vanilla Flavouring) – Golden Syrup (Invert Sugar Syrup) – Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder – Raising Agent: E450, Sodium Bicarbonate, E503 – Salt. Belgian Dark Chocolate contains Cocoa Solids 46% minimum. Belgian Dark Chocolate Chunks contain Cocoa Solids39% minimum. Belgian Milk Chocolate Chunks contain Cocoa Solids 25% minimum, Milk Solids 14% minimum. Belgian White Chocolate Chunks contain Milk Solids 25% minimum.

For allergens see ingredients in bold.

Not suitable for Nut allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods

Suitable for vegetarians

NUTRITION Serves/Portions: 7
Typical values: Per 100g / per cookie (21g)
Energy kJ 2151 / 461
Energy kcal 515 110
Fat 27.9g / 6g
Of which saturates 17.6g / 3.8g
Carbohydrates 58.1g / 12.5g
Of which sugars 41.2g / 8.8g
Fibre 4.0g / 0.9g
Protein 5.8g / 1.2g
Salt 0.63g / 0.13g

Reference intake (adult) Energy 8400kJ / 2000kcal

Fat 70g Saturates 20g Sugars 90g Salt 6g

STORAGE For Best Before, see front of pack. Store in a cool, dry place. Once opened, store in an airtight container.

125g along side one of those scannable code things and a recycling ying yang arrows sign.

French / NL versions of ingredients are also provided

Made in Scotland.

SC6324
Copyright Marks and Spencer plc
PO Box 3339 Chester
CH99 9QS
United Kingdom

Marksandspencers.com

FSC MIX Paper FSC C002324
Tray – Minimum
50% recycled plastics
Recyclable Carton – Paper – Widely recycled.
Recyclable Tray – Plastics – Check local recycling
Recyclable film – plastics – Not currently recycled


The other box of biscuits along with the ones that had gigner in them. I prefer these ones although the pieces of crystalised ginger were very nice in the others. Marks and Spencers really want you to know how dedicated they are to their civic duty of recycling.

Next time on the misadventures in blogging… we will see. Hopefully on the weekend get around to reviiewng the stage production of The Woman In Black I saw recently.

Belgian Dark Chocolate & Stem Ginger Cookies – Marks & Spencers

£2 for one box but £3 if you take advantage of the ever present offer from the M&S range of premium biscuits.

A nice, smooth, rich tasting chocolate with a biscuit at its core which I personally find perhaps a little too dry. Of course you say that is how all ginger flavoured biscuits taste as they are ‘warm’ tasting but the biscuit seems a little too dry considering this is meant to be a luxury item. If you happen to catch one of the pieces of crystallised root ginger on your tooth it is extremely chewy. The chocolate almost instantly melts in your mouth coating it with the taste of dark chocolate. It is an enjoyable biscuit but as there only seem to be 7 in each pack you will probably find that they are ‘a treat’ rather than something you will buy often. Certainly as I have always seen these premium biscuits in 2 for 1 offers it seems they are successful but not enough to warrant reconsideration on how M&S market them. Like the dark chocolate. Like the chewy stem ginger. The core biscuit is low quality unfortunately…

Nonetheless let me now give you all the information off the box…

Per cookie 386kJ / 92 kcal
Energy 5% of your RI
Per 100g 2159kJ / 516 kcal

Cookies with stem ginger pieces, fully coated in Belgian dark chocolate

Not suitable for nut allergy suffers

Ingredients: Belgian Dark Chocolate (38%) (Sugar – Cocoa Mass – Cocoa Butter – Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin – Vanilla Flavouring) – Wheatflour, Calcium Carbonate, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin) – Butter (Milk) – Sugar- Crystallised Stem Ginger (9%) (Stem Ginger – Sugar) – Belgian Milk Chocolate (Sugar – Dried Whole Milk – Cocoa Butter – Cocoa Mass – Emulsifier: Soya lecithin – Vanilla Flavouring) – Ground Ginger – Raising Agent: E450, Sodium Bicarbonate – Salt.
Belgian Dark Chocolate contains Cocoa Solids 46% minimum.
Belgian Milk Chocolate contains Cocoa Solids 25% minimum, Milk Solids 14% minimum

For allergens see ingredients in bold.

Suitable for vegetarians

NUTRITION Serves/Portions: 7
Typical values: Per 100g / per cookie (18g)
Energy kJ 2159 / 386
Energy kcal 515 92
Fat 27.3g / 4.3g
Of which saturates 16.8g / 3.0g
Carbohydrates 61.5g / 11.0g
Of which sugars 38.7g / 6.9g
Fibre 1.9g / 0.3g
Protein 5.2g / 0.9g
Salt 0.53g / 0.10g

Reference intake (adult) Energy 8400kJ / 2000kcal
Fat 70g Saturates 20g Sugars 90g Salt 6g

STORAGE For Best Before, see front of pack. Store in a cool, dry place. Once opened, store in an airtight container.

125g along side one of those scannable code things and a recycling ying yang arrows sign.

French / Dutch versions of ingredients are also provided

Made in Scotland.

SC6324

Copyright Marks and Spencer plc

PO Box 3339 Chester
CH99 9QS
United Kingdom

Marksandspencers.com

FSC MIX Paper FSC C002324

Tray – Minimum
50% recycled plastics
Recyclable Carton – Paper – Widely recycled.
Recyclable Tray – Plastics – Check local recycling
Recyclable film – plastics – Not currently recycled


A dry,dull, review for biscuits which didn’t make much of an impression on me. They seem quite intent on making sure people now they recycle their packaging. Premium product demanding you agree with the sort of thing which concerns their target market.

Next time more biscuits or something.,, maybe reviews of things I aw in the theatre recently.

I am going to try and do a post a day as I had a bit of a break recently (did I? I’m not sure now…)

Twelve Angry Men

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Angry_Men

Following its record breaking West End run, this powerful new production of Reginald Rose’s gripping courtroom thriller Twelve Angry Men has been hailed as the “classiest, most intelligent drama in the West End”. It brings to the stage the taut brilliance of the 1957 three-time Academy Award nominated film which starred Henry Fonda and is considered to be one of the great ‘must-see’ movies of all time.

A jury has murder on their minds and a life in their hands as they decide the fate of a young delinquent accused of killing his father. But what appears to be an open and shut case soon becomes a huge dilemma as prejudices and preconceived ideas about the accused, the trial and each other turn the tables every which way, until the nail-biting climax…

Tom Conti is one of the most respected and celebrated actors of his generation. Unforgettable as the leading man in hit films such as Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and Shirley Valentine, he has also appeared as a myriad of different characters on both the big and small screens as well as on stage. Recent movies include The Dark Knight Rises and Street Dance. Awards include the Olivier Award and Tony Award for his stage performance in Whose Life is it Anyway? and a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in Reuben Reuben. He and Dame Judi Dench were recently jointly voted the Most Popular Actors in the West End in the last 25 years.

Now it’s your turn to witness a ‘BRILLIANT’, ‘RIVETING’, ‘TRIUMPH’of a show.

The play concerns the deliberations of the jury of a homicide trial. At the beginning, they have a nearly unanimous decision of guilty, with a single dissenter in Juror 8 questioning the validity of the evidence they were presented with in the court room, who throughout the play sows a seed of reasonable doubt. It was first made as a 1954 teleplay by Reginald Rose for the Studio One anthology television series, and was aired as a CBS live production on 20 September 1954. The drama was later rewritten for the stage in 1955 under the same title.

Here is a simple diagram of the stage layout as best I could remember it.

12 angry men stage layout

The blue bars at the top are windows with in the second half have water drizzling down them to represent the ongoing storm outside. The red bars are the tables. The central one revolved during the performance (and the direction is gradually turned in doing a full revolution by the end).The yellow circles with the lines are chairs. The yellow bars are the benches. The green bar is the coat rail. The brown bars are the doors (the left most was a toilet cubicle leading off stage). The triangles are where the lighting pillars were. The hexagon, with a blue circle, was the water cooler. The rounded corner squares with blue inner squares were the wash hand basins where a few conversations occurred as asides between some jurors.

The set design is effective and there is no scenery which blocks you view of events on stage. Similar to a recent production of ‘Dial M for Murder’ I saw there seems to be a trend to rotate scenes on stage to, at best, provide a visually different perspective on events, or worst, keep modern attention deficit audiences visually stimulated. During the intermission there was more than one conversation I heard from other groups discussing how they noticed the central table being rotated and debating whether it was the cast doing this of the turning circle of the stage floor (it was the stage floor which has a rotating circle where the table and chairs surrounding it were placed).

The Cast are: – Juror 1: Andrew Frame, Juror 2: David Calvitto, Juror 3: Andrew Lancel, Juror 4: Robert Duncan, Juror 5: Alexander Forsyth, Juror 6: Mark Carter, Juror 7: Sean Power, Juror 8: Tom Conti, Juror 9: Paul Beech, Juror 10: Denis Lill, Juror 11: Edward Halsted, Juror 12: Gareth David-Lloyd and Guard: Jon Carver.

The performance lasts approximately 2 hours 10 minutes including a 20 minute interval.
This production of Twelve Angry Men was first performed on 4 October 2013 in The HOUSE at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. First performance at the Garrick Theatre: 7 November 2013

Each member of the jury represents a different aspect of society:

Juror 1: The Foreman: (Andrew Frame) The jury foreman, somewhat preoccupied with his duties; proves to be accommodating to others. An assistant high school football coach. Tends to attempt to prevent heated arguments. Ninth to enter a vote of not guilty. He represents the balance of debate within the American legal system where the Socratic Method is employed. Each side gets to voice its side but, unlike the impassioned speeches we are used to seeing in American court room dramas, to be done so in a measured manner of comment and rebuttal. His voting later indicates that not only possible, but reasonable, doubt has been cast on the reliability of the case. Though he represents a balanced view by being told he is an assistant highschool football coach we are also being informed of his character as an individual i.e. he is a team player, an authoritarian who respects the authority of his superiors. This is why he holds out as long as he does until voting not guilty – not because he cannot see Juror 8’s logic but that in a sense he believes as there has been a murderer so there must be a culprit and the song is the only one ever presented during the play. Only when all the evidence is easily challenged and the verdict of guilty will lead a highly likely, if not innocent then at least justified murder done in self-defence, boy to being executed.

Juror 2: (David Calvitto) A meek and unpretentious bank clerk who is at first domineered by others but finds his voice as the discussion goes on. Fifth to enter a vote of not guilty. He represents those in society who fear to make their voices heard and more often than not go with the general consensus which can lead to bad consequences as seen with the people of Germany who did not challenge the Nazi party though many knew what was happening in their name was wrong. To be honest I don’t really remember much of this character ironically.

Juror 3: (Andrew Lancell) A businessman and distraught father, opinionated and stubborn with a temper; the antagonist. Twelfth to enter a vote of not guilty. A person ruled by his emotions and unable to be logically objective as a jury member. He sees the defendant as a potential version of his son and in seeing this wishes to excise the thought of it by punishing him. He therefore is the worst sort of person for jury duty as he cannot view the case by its own merits but rather brings to it all his inherent prejudices which influence his actions. As a businessman he is a respectable member of society so he is worse than some of the more negatively portrayed jurors as there is a façade of respectability when we are often presented with his being the least rational. The end of the first act concludes with him becoming violently angry with juror 8, who has constantly tested him, leading him to shouting ‘I’ll kill him’ while being restrained by other jurors. This declaration proves Juror 8’s point that someone will passionately declare this though it is rhetoric and does not mean the person has any intent in actually doing this.

Juror 4: (Robert Duncan) A rational stockbroker, unflappable, self-assured, and analytical. Eleventh to enter a vote of not guilty. Perhaps the most logical of the jurors but one who needs to have all the evidence be refutable before he will change his vote. In doing this we are shown that although rational he still favours the status quo of believing that as no evidence has been provided in the defendants defence then what does exist must be the only matters considered. This shows the fallacy then of being a completely rational person as, unlike Juror 8 who challenges based on the weakness of the evidence, we find with this character that omission is not taken into consideration. To him only what is presented to him exists and in doing this he is easily misguided for example when the female defendant shows signs of being a glasses wearer but doesn’t do so in court and the matter that she may not have seen what she believes she saw is brought into contention.

Juror 5: (Alexander Forsyth) A soft-spoken young man from a violent slum, in the book a Milwaukee Brewers fan, in the movies and on Broadway, a Baltimore Orioles fan. Third to enter a vote of not guilty. This juror represents empathy towards others in decision making as he can identify with the defendants situation having come from a similar background. He is the one who is first accused of changing his vote due to this and although he is not it is one of the earliest reassessments that occur in the play. Why then did he vote guilty initially? Because of social pressure perhaps? There was a crime there must be a culprit though of course at the end of the play we are only told of and concerned by the decision to acquit the defendant not with who did or did not commit the murder.

Juror 6: (Mark Carter) A house painter, tough but principled and respectful. Sixth to enter a vote of not guilty. He often stands up to others when they become outspoken and aggressive. He is the common man of the play representing that people understand the difference between right and wrong but are ruled over by the majority. He therefore is the middle ground of all the jurors and so it is no coincidence he therefore is the ‘middle’ most vote during the entire process.

Juror 7: (Sean Power) A salesman, sports fan, superficial and indifferent to the deliberations. Seventh to enter a vote of not guilty. A person who does not care for the verdict as long as he gets to do what he wants. He is the most distraught at the start of the play as having to discuss the verdict means he won’t be able to go see the sports game he has tickets for. When during the second part a storm means the game is a wash out he becomes more amicable and quiet. However it should be noted his reason for voting not guilty is not so much out of a belief that the defendant is innocent as much as to ‘tip the scales’ so that he is with the majority and thus ‘hedging his bets’. He therefore represents the sort of person who nowadays can often be heard saying ‘what is the point of voting? It doesn’t affect my life’. A short sighted individual only concerned with their own matters and apathetic to others.

Juror 8: (Tom Conti) An architect, the first dissenter and protagonist. Identified as “Davis” at the end. The first to enter a vote of not guilty thus setting off the events of the play. He sees the flaw in the logic of the evidence provided and does not go with the majority and vote with them for an easy life as others may have. We are told he is an architect, a professional, and in doing so we are presented with the bias of the play unfortunately in that many of the professional people are logical while the working classes are ruled by their prejudices and emotions (with two key exceptions in Jurors 3 (too emotionally guided), 4 (too rational and unable to imagine the alternatives not presented). Of course this is not an ironclad rule and we see during the course of events various facets to each character but it does seem to be an overarching aspect to the play where the working class characters will shout while the professionals will speak far more calmly. It is possible it was just the production I saw which gave this impression however. Juror 8 is the idealised protagonist, a person who will stand for what is right no matter how much opposition there is, who never is really challenged successfully in his views though on at least one occasion he actively antagonises a juror into anger to get the reaction of being told ‘I’ll kill him!’ so he is not without a dark side.

Juror 9: (Paul Beech) A wise and observant elderly man. Identified as “McCardle” at the end. Second to enter a vote of not guilty. Someone who has much life experience and perhaps is suggested to have become more liberal with age. He sides with Juror 8 not completely out of agreement but because there is the possibility of there being something to what he has said in challenging the status quo. He however waits until the secret ballot before agreeing showing us that although the older generation may still have a standpoint to provide the are easily put to one side and require others to be the ‘hot blooded’ individual to cast the first stone. He is a figure of respect throughout the play though it is only in offering support and perspective via his life experience in contrast to the younger members of the jury.

Juror 10: (Denis Lill) A garage owner; a pushy and loud mouthed bigot. Tenth to enter a vote of not guilty. The stereotypical working class figure as written by the middle classes. His saving grace in the play is that unlike the businessman Juror 3 he is not expected to know better and thus although he also allows his prejudice to rule his logic he is more excused for it that the ‘antagonist’ Juror 3.

Juror 11: (Edward Halstead) A thoughtful German watchmaker and naturalized American citizen. Fourth to enter a vote of not guilty. He provides a perspective from outside American society. In practise this shows that when he is presented with a fair challenge to the majority view. The play was originally written in 1957 so it is hard to not assume the character was not in Germany during the Nazi regime. Is this then the playwright’s commentary on how the people of Germany, by now fully aware of the atrocities performed in their name, are not ambivalent to other’s suffering and should not be held personally responsible for what the regime did? He provides wordy contributions as if to enact the freedom of speech he has gained in America which was denied to him in Germany. Though it is not addressed as aggressively as it may have been in a real life version of this situation you can imagine he has faced persecution and prejudice and in doing so can identify with being unfairly judged. He therefore represents sympathy where Juror 5 represented empathy.

Juror 12: (Gareth David-Lloyd) A wisecracking, indecisive advertising executive. Eighth to enter a vote of not guilty. He talks big but his vote is easily changed from one to the next. As an advertising executive we see how easily swayed he is in his opinion in order to appease the majority. He switches it back and forth in a matter of minutes based on only small changes in opinion in the others. The playwright no doubt is commenting on the façade of respectable society which so easily can be swayed by external forces.

The Guard: (Jon Carver). I am not sure if he is the voice at the start of the play, when the ensemble are sat on the benches at the front of the stage ‘in court’ being informed, along with the audience, what their deliberation requires. That it must be a unanimous vote in this case, due to it being a homicide, so they must have unanimous agreement amongst themselves whether the 16 year old defendant is guilty of murdering his father or not. His only real role in the play is to bring on required items like the knife and the floor plan of the apartments.

Review: As it is an ensemble play it feels unfair to cite one person over another as standing out in the play. Indeed, if anything, standing out would be detrimental to the piece. Tom Conti’s voice doesn’t tonally lend itself to doing a satisfying American accent unfortunately although a few of the others also adopt broad American accents that we would associate with the 1950s so it is in keeping with the others. Gareth David-Lloyd, of the more prominent characters, has one of the better accents and I have to admit I would not have realised he was the same person who played Torchwood’s Ianto unless I had seen his name in the brochure.

If I had one criticism it would be the revolving central table. Similar to a recent production of ‘Dial M for Murder’ I saw there seems to be a trend to rotate scenes on stage to, at best, provide a visually different perspective on events, or worst, keep modern attention deficit audiences visually stimulated. During the intermission there was more than one conversation I heard from other groups discussing how they noticed the central table being rotated and debating whether it was the cast doing this of the turning circle of the stage floor (it was the stage floor). It seemed very distracting and, to me, a poor choice as there are multiple other pieces of scenery which remain static throughout the play thus giving the impression the table turning is happening in the reality of the play and not being commented on by anyone as ridiculous as that is to read. Very much in the style of chamber dramas, plays occurring in a single room, there felt no need to include the revolving table.

Regarding the marketing its clear they have superimposed replacement actors heads onto the cast of the original run. some of it is okay but on the whole it all seems slapdash and really makes the posters look ugly thoguh i appreciate it is not as if people will look as closely as I did or actually be bothered about it. I am just one of those people who notices these things and lament the loss of the time when marketing involved more than just using basic photshop skills to edit a photograph while abusing filters and basic typography settings. Film posters are far more guilty of this than stage productions however i will admit.

I enjoyed it as a morality play and felt the cast is quite strong. If you get a chance to see it by all means do though I think it is heavily reliant not only in casting good actors but in them working well as an ensemble so there can be no guarantee that big names will result in satisfying performances. I thought this production did well and certainly has received a wide number of accolades. If you can catch it during its tour it is definitely worth going to see.


Next time on the misadventures of blogging… a food or drink review.

Short Movie Reviews: February 2015

Evil Dead (2013)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_Dead_%282013_film%29

An interesting, but ultimately flawed, attempt to recreate something without understanding what made the originals classics of the horror genre. Directed by Fede Alvarez. It is a modern horror remake of a classic of the genre so it was always going to be difficult for it to stand on its own without severe scrutiny. Guess my reaction. As with all these remakes the original caught the zeitgeist of some aspect of society’s fears. Rosemary’s Baby did it when fears about Satanism were prevalent due to media scares (even the nice old couple next door could be part of a cult), Halloween did it when fear of serial killers in middle America’s suburban ‘white picket fence’ communities was commonplace due to more media scares (if someone goes on a killing spree you won’t be able to stop them) and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ raised fear of how powerless adults were to prevent paedophile access to their children after even more media scares (the murders being in the children’s dreams and caused by a hidden shame). Ultimately this makes me thing the next successful horror series will be about Russian radical Islamist (Chechen?) immigrant terrorists if the media scare trend is anything to go by…

The original Evil Dead was grittier, darker and more bleak than many of its contemporaries (except of course Texas Chainsaw Massacre) but the series is of course best known for Evil Dead 2 (basically the same story but with black humour) and Army of Darkness (basically a comedy adventure with horror elements). The message troughout the series overall was to revel in the absurdity of the situation which had a decidedly H P Lovecraft perspective in how there is little, if anything, you can do to fight it – except of course Ash, an everyman action hero, is placed into the scenario and thus disrupts the usual fatalist tone such stories undergo by their end.

The remake removes this figure we vie for and identify with yet retains, if not embellishes, the ‘tree rape’ scene Sam Raimi has always said he regrets. If anything the sequel is perhaps more influenced by Lovecraft’s tone of fatalism but in having over the top gore it also undermines itself. The trailers, especially the red band ones, gave away everything, and I mean everything, interesting about the film and so it was more a ‘tick the boxes’ process than something to enjoy. The only thing I can say is that applying gender studies to the film we find instead of Ash’s phallic chainsaw finale we get the gynocidal fountains of blood as Mia wrenchs her own arm off unrealistically as she was pinned under the upturned vehicle and she cleaves the demon in twain. I am not sure if the demon was meant to look like her or the girl from the introduction sequence. I swear during the introduction sequence burning the old woman is speaking Welsh. The final scene is just red on red and its hard to distinguish anything really. It’s as if the saw Kubrick’s adaption of The Shining and thoguht the elevator scene needed to be used in other scenarios.

Where the original series was in the tone of the grand guignol, leaving the audience entertained and satisfied, the remake is merely plodding scenes, impressive in their imagery but fatally flawed in their setup, where we just wait to see who survives if anyone and feel a loss of nostalgia when the stinger closes at the end of the credits with Ash speaking the phrase ‘Groovy’. Well made but not something you will bother seeing again.

The Woman In Black (2012)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Woman_in_Black_%282012_film%29

A Classic ghost story masterfully told. It is directed by James Watkins, the screenplay is by Jane Goldman and is based on Susan Hill’s novel of the same name. It is made by Hammer and is a fantastic addition to their back catalogue. A classic ghost story which relies more on its atmosphere than on jump scares (though it uses a few and this is one of the few situations where they are vindicated). Daniel Radcliffe gives a fantastic performance proving he is more than capable of emerging from out of the shadow his role as Harry Potter risked overshadowing his skill. The terribly airbrushed cover photo they insist on using for the posters and DVD cover really doesn’t do this film justice. Hopefully one day they will revisit the marketing and create a more fitting image.

The cinematography is fantastic and it really shows the passion everyone involved had for the project. I have the DVD and the commentary is admittedly quite dull though they do note a few things you may miss and give some details about where they acquired the automatons from. The other extras are nice additions including Radcliffe reading the winner of a ghost story writing competition.

The Rambler (2013)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rambler_%28film%29

Jacob’s Ladder occurring during a road movie directed by Calvin Reeder. I have the DVD which is very bare bones to the point it doesn’t even have subtitles. Either you will love it or hate it. It is not a film that will explain itself to you.

Think of Lynch or Croenburg during the 1980s and you have a good measure of what to expect. It is something you probably won’t fully appreciate on one viewing despite the impression you may get. It deserves more love and is a promising start from its director.

Whats Up Doc? (1972)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%27s_Up,_Doc%3F_%281972_film%29

A screwball comedy directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It is fantastic light hearted fun and did the ‘Manic Pixie Girl’ before that was a thing with the likes of Zooey Deschanel taking on such roles. You can see how Barbara Streisand was the it girl back then.

It is one of the classics of American cinema and easy to follow. It shows how a lot of the ‘screwball comedies’ of recent years don’t quite get that the audience need to like the characters so you can’t just keep having everyone be a sociopathic man child running around causing trouble. Having one in your film works and no doubt they will be a fan favourite but too much exposure is a bad thing in such cases.

The Great Race (1965)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Race

A classic directed by Blake Edwards. I didn’t know of it but caught it on TV. Fantastic fun light hearted fun. The comedic villains inspired Dick Dastardly and Muttley of the Wacky Races. Natalie Wood… speaking Russian for a brief moment 😀 Although it is a bit sad that she is meant to be a suffragette styled Gibson girl and ultimately is left running around in her stockings later on. Also yes Peter Falk (Columbo) is Max the henchman. Oddly it should be noted Max influenced Muttley and Columbo influenced Mumbly (similar to Muttley but a detective) so apparently Hanna-Barbara adored Falk…

A really entertaining film with great set pieces and I actually ended up watching it twice over two days and didn’t mind. There need to be more comedic villains like these even if it seems a bit silly by today’s standard. Good honest clean fun.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Spy_Who_Loved_Me_%28film%29

‘James Bond’d Ocean Adventure’. A James Bond film starring Roger Moore. Features fan favourite henchman Jaws. Barbara Bach is the eye candy this time. This is the one that starts with the ski chase ending in Bond leaping off a cliff and using a Union Jack parachute.

A classic Bond film. What happens? Bond goes around making quips while bedding beautiful women, fighting eccentric villains, going to exotic locales, driving a car that turns into a submarine, drinking expensive drinks. I have no idea it’s a haze… It’s the ‘James Bond and the Ocean Adventure’ entry in the series.

The Wind Rises / Kaze Tachinu (2013)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wind_Rises

Studio Ghibli so obviously the animation is beyond question in terms of quality. Although it is often said to be a biopic of Jiro Hirokoshi, designer of the ‘zero’ aeroplane which the Japanese used during World War II, it is more based on the fictionalised account in the short story ‘The Wind Has Risen’ by Tatsuo Hori, with a few of Hiro’s characteristics like smoking which Hirokoshi did not share.

A beautiful film, but also one that has an ongoing trace of sadness, throughout it. Hirokoshi achieved his dream of designing a world class aeroplane only to see it used as an instrument of war. As people draw parallels between this film and Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement (but he has said that before so no one believes him) maybe Miyazaki also looks wistfully at the Japnese animation industry he has been so influential in and yet perhaps is not proud of playing his part in establishing.

Moonraker (1979)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonraker_%28film%29

‘James Bond In Space’. Roger Moore as James Bond and Henchman Jaws appears again. Jaws gets a girl and presumably burns up in re-entry after the camera gives him a happy ending while elsewhere Q makes a double entendre about Band attempting re-entry as he has sex, on the monitoring system watched by military staff, with the Bond girl of the film.

I enjoyed it but it is one of the more ridiculous entries in the series but at least it realises this and has a bit of fun with the idea.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (2010)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_Be_Afraid_of_the_Dark_%282010_film%29

An excellent dark fantasy film. The sort of thing that is rated for older audiences but is the sort of thing which children will enjoy a few sleepless nights over.

Influenced by Arthur Machen and Algenon Blackwood this lends itself more to the traditional style of horror story combined with fables. A classic film which will only gain more of a reputation over time. I just wish thet didnt put Guillemo DelToro’s name all over it as if it was his work alone when he is just producing it…

She’s The Man (2006)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/She%27s_the_Man

An adaption of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night apparently. If you remember how ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ successfully modernised ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ with strong performances from its leads you can just forget that here.

Amanda Byrnes and the insistence on comedy over narrative lead this from bad to worse. Friends of mine, while severely drunk and not knowing what it was, went to see this in cinema when it was released and immediately regretted it. That was a more entertaining and inspiring a story in that one single line than this entire film. It won’t make people seek out Shakespeare’s work nor will anyone remember it as soon as the credits roll.

Balls Of Fury (2007)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balls_of_Fury

‘Hey guys I have this crazy idea for a film. Chinese triad death tournament but instead of fighting like in Fists of Fury they play ping pong’ that was the pitch and the reaction was ‘duuuuude pass me the roach before I lose my high’.

It has a few good low brow jokes at the start but quickly runs out of idea. Also Maggie Q’s character goes from hating the lead to being literally clinging onto him with her legs over one scene. I know it is meant to be a parody film but if the parodies fail and the narrative drive fail you are just left watching a car crash. Its a 5 minute sketch dragged out. They should have kept Christopher Walken’s involvement out of the promotions as it is too obvious who the big bad is and so the biggest joke of the film ie the xenophobic blind mentor trained a ‘gwai-lo’ as his best student is completely ruined even before seeing the film. If you want to see a film about ping-pong watch the 2002 Japanese film.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_%28film%29

Marvel make a feel good team up film with relatively unknown characters and it works. I think James Gunn worked his magic on this and made a fun film even more successful.

I think what works for it, unlike the sequels of the bigger name films, is it doesn’t take itself seriously, we don’t have expectations of the characters and while it’s never going to be on anyone’s top ten of all time films it is a fun ride which often choses to defy conventions without becoming overly involved in its own narrative mythology. It’s a feel good science fiction adventure film and to be honest what with the Star Wars prequels drowning in their inability to be satisfactory let alone good this film is not only welcome but likely to long outlast the films of Marvel’s big name characters.

Kwaidan (1965)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwaidan_%28film%29

Based on 4 stories from Lafcadio Hearn’s collected Japanese ghost stories. No he isn’t a relation of mine sadly. The stories featured are The Black Hair, The Woman of the Snow, Hoichi the Earless and In A Cup of Tea.

A masterpiece of world cinema. Slow pacing to build the tone of the stories and although you could easily read the stories in a few minutes I feel the film really gives such a heightened experience. Thoroughly enjoyable. I for a long time didn’t really find anything to lure me back to Japanese cinema due to the recent pandering to certain audiences and over use of cheap CGI but this reminds me of the calibre they are capable of. The cinematography alone is worth watching this film.

Ai To Mokoto / For Love’s Sake (2012)

Directed by Takashi Miike. He is never scared of mixing it up admittedly. There isn’t a proper Wikipedia page for the film and little English language information online about it. It is based on a 1970s manga.

It parodies various famous Japanese songs and the entire thing plays up on how ridiculous the entire genre of high school love is. Does it faithfully adapt the manga or is it satirising it? I don’t know as the manga has never been translated, officially or by amateurs, so it is anyone’s guess.

It starts out great with a number of impressive scenes and musical numbers but kind of loses itself by the end with the main guy beating up a hoard of Schoolgirl gang members for about 10 minutes. Basically imagine the supercut of the American remake of The Wicker Man where Nicholas Cage goes around punching a community of women in the face endlessly and you can guess what the end of the film began to look like.

The main guy doesn’t love the main girl. She treats him more as a project to improve him from being the working class ruffian he is in comparison to her upper class privileged background. Long story short the film ends with him knifed by a teacher he punched (actually a famous Japanese wrestler in real life) and bleeds out as he goes to the girl. He dies at the end. He hates the upper class and ultimately it’s because of the girls interfering in his life he is on the verge of death and she hugs him thinking he finally loves her back. It reminded me of Memories of Matsuko… a film which to me should be renamed ‘Hey Suicide is Painless Compared to a Tragic Life’. Go watch it. Then tell me you disagree. The trailer for that is a lie…


‘Oh hey just to keep the blog running over with regular updates why don’t I do mini reviews of films I have seen recently?’

No.

Bad idea. It actually took longer than some of the more considered posts. Not that I consider them for more than a day or two and those ones are obvious. *cough*ultralongFrozenpost*cough*

Next time it will be another random topic.