Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Understudy by David Nicholls Review

This week's novel is David Nicholls' book, The Understudy. I've read Starter for Ten (hilarious) and One Day (loved Emma, hated Dexter, hated the ending), so I thought I should read and review the Understudy, just so I can say I have read Nicholl's complete works.

The Understudy David Nicholls Review
The Understudy chilling with the travel books

The Understudy: Plot

Stephen C. McQueen is an understudy to the famous and handsome Josh Harper. Stephen is a bit of a loser; he's divorced, lives in a fridge-less bed-sit and can only get jobs as a singing squirrel. Josh invites Stephen to a party he is holding, where Stephen meets Nora, Josh's wife and everything gets  a little bit complicated from there.

The Understudy: Best Bits

While it doesn't quite live up to its promise to be laugh out loud funny, some bits are quite amusing. The bit where Stephen steals Josh's Best Actor BAFTA is cringe-worthy, but funny. Stephen's daughter provides some comic relief as only children can when they're really embarrassed by their dad.

The Understudy is an easy read- the plot rattles along quickly and none of it drags. Nicholls is excellent at scene building and his dialogue is very convincing. 

The Understudy: Worst Bits

I hate to admit this, but I really disliked all of the characters. They were all irredeemably irritating in their own ways- Stephen was whiny and self-righteous, Josh pompous and Nora a manic pixie dream girl (this particular type of female character really riles me). I really didn't care about any of them either way and ambivalence is one of the worst emotions an author can provoke.

As for the humour, some of the jokes wear a little thin- especially the repeated comparison to the famous Steve McQueen. The phrase flogging a dead horse comes to mind... Then again, I'm sure he would get it all the time in real life, so it's probably quite realistic.

The Understudy: Fantasy Casting

The Understudy David Nicholls Fantasy Cast
My choices...Hollywood casting director here we come

Just for a laugh, here are my choices for who would play the main characters. Feel free to disagree, but it's just who I imagined when I was reading it:

Stephen: Ben Miller
Josh: Sam Claflin
Nora: Lena Headey

The Understudy: Final Review

Eh. Like Stephen's acting, it was ok, but not spectacular. It didn't "laugh out loud" as the cover promised, but I did finish the book. I personally think it's the worst of Nicholl's books, but being the worst of 3 is not necessarily terrible. If the characters had been a bit more sympathetic, then maybe I would have liked it more. By the end I was hoping for a repeat of the One Day ending, and that's not something that I would have ever thought I would hear myself say.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

New Obsession Alert: Phantom of the Opera

Ok everyone, I have a confession to make...deep breath now...I am obsessed with Phantom of the Opera.

Phew. It's good to get that out.

Now, this Phantom obsession. How did it even come about? I used to turn my nose up at Phantom (can you call it POTO?) and say that it was creepy and weird and boring and now I listen to the soundtrack on repeat and obsessively watch scenes on youtube over and over and over.

How times have changed.

Even as I type this I'm watching a DVD of the 25th anniversary performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Help me someone! The Phantom is indeed iiinsiiiiiiide my miiiiiiimd BA BA BA BA BAAAAAAA!!!! (Sorry...I just had to do that...)

Phantom Of The Opera London Her Majestys Theatre
I've never understood why they use this mask for the posters...

I think my obsession started when I heard All I Ask Of You on a Musicals compilation CD. I thought it was quite sweet (read: heartbreakingly romantic), so looked up where it was from and downloaded the rest of the POTO soundtrack. I must confess, I just can't stop myself from listening to it. I love how 80s it is, how creepy the Phantom is and I especially love how melodramatic it is. 

I do love a good drama queen and the Phantom is a perfect example. I mean, come on, he wears a fedora for goodness sake. I was half expecting him to proclaim himself a "nice guy" at one point, and mention how many times he's been upvoted on reddit... #TeamRaoul


I know this isn't cool to admit, but I like Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Whatever. I'm not ashamed. I saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat for my 18th birthday (helloooo Lee Mead), my sister and I used to love Cats when we were younger (which incidentally is coming back  to the stage in December!!) and Evita is one of my favourite films.

Phantom Of The Opera London Her Majestys Theatre
I liked this stained glass Her Majesty's Theatre sign

I'd never seen Phantom, so it was a natural progression to watch it next. I was a little apprehensive to see it, because I thought that I would either love it or hate it. Thankfully, I loved it! I'd never been to Her Majesty's Theatre before and it's just as beautiful as all the other old London theatres.

The only downside to Her Majesty's Theatre was the seat that I had picked. The ticket said "restricted view" and usually I don't really pay much attention to those warnings. At most you usually have a slightly awkward side view of the stage, or cramped knees but they were not kidding at Her Maj. It is a VERY restricted view. In case you were wondering, I was sat in the Royal Circle, Seat F23.

Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre Restricted View
Stage? What stage? This is not an exaggeration

I know you're not allowed to take photos inside the auditorium, but this photo doesn't show the stage, just the massive pillar in your face. The upside is that you get a decent amount of legroom, but the downside is that you cannot see a thing. Thankfully, the very kind people next to me shuffled up so that I could actually see the stage. If I had remained in F23 I have the feeling that I would have hated Phantom of the Opera because there's no way you can enjoy a musical if you can't see the actors, no matter how much you like the songs.

Talking of the songs, I must admit, while the first half has some bangin' tunes (Music of the Night, Phantom of the Opera, Think Of Me, All I Ask Of You...), the second half is a little light on the bops. It's a toss up for my favourite, but at the moment it's still All I Ask Of You, but the classic Phantom of the Opera is creeping up on it. That being said, I'm starting to appreciate Point of No Return more these days. Maybe because it's especially creepy...

Phantom Of The Opera London Her Majestys Theatre
So creepy and possessive...everything you look for in a man, right?!

After seeing Phantom on stage, and to alleviate my thirst for POTO, I decided to watch the film. I  definitely preferred the stage version. Mainly because it was camper and Gerard Butler kind of annoys me. He wasn't weird enough for me, whereas on stage, you could definitely tell that the Phantom had some issues. "Fear can turn to love," errrr how about no?!

When I saw it, the Phantom, Christine and Raoul were all played by understudies because it was West End Live and I was at the matinee. The understudies were really going for it, which gave the performance some extra oomph. 

(On an unrelated understudy related note- I'm currently reading The Understudy by David Nicholls of One Day fame at the moment and it's...ok. I prefer Starter for Ten, but maybe it'll pick up later. The cover promises that I'll laugh out most I've mildly chuckled...Hmm.)

So, now I'm sitting watching the 25th Anniversary version at the Royal Albert Hall and thinking, well, I'm nearly Phantomed out. I've only got the book left to read,  unless I want to wade into the murky depths of fan fiction. Hmm..maybe I'll stick with the book for the official back story.

Phantom Of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall 25th Anniversary
I really need to get a hobby

Right, well I've rambled quite enough about Phantom of the Opera now. I think I need to take a deep breath and step away from the laptop. 

But, on a final note, if you haven't watched Antonio Banderas singing The Music of the Night, do yourself a favour and watch it now:

Hellooooo Antonio. Ahem. I read that Antonio Banderas was considered for the part of the Phantom and I am so disappointed that he didn't get it and Gerard Butler did (soz Gezza). Although, that did mean he was in Evita, so swings and roundabouts.

Right, that's enough of that now. Promise. This is the point of no return ;)