Happy Birthday Victoria Wood

On 19 May, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Victoria Wood CBE, the English comedienne, actress, singer-songwriter, screenwriter and director. Wood has written and starred in sketches, plays, films and sitcoms, and her live comedy act is interspersed with her own compositions, which she accompanies on piano. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising social classes. Wood frequently works with long-term collaborators Julie Walters, Duncan Preston and Celia Imrie.

Victoria Wood winning 2 BAFTAs in 2007


Victoria Wood started her career in 1974 by winning the ATV talent show New Faces. It wasn’t until the 1980s that she began to establish herself as a comedy star and became one of Britain’s most popular stand-up comedians starting with the award-winning television series Victoria Wood As Seen On TV. Wood began working at the BBC in 1984 and her sketch show Victoria Wood As Seen On TV went into production. Wood chose actors and actresses herself: her friend Julie Walters starred, as did Duncan Preston. Wood’s friend Celia Imrie was also cast, as well as Susie Blake and Patricia Routledge. As Seen On TV was notable for featuring classic sketches such as Acorn Antiques, a spoof of low-budget soap opera and rumoured to be named after an antiques shop in her birthplace. Acorn Antiques is remembered for characters such as “Mrs Overall” (played by Walters), the deliberately bad camera angles and wobbling sets, as well as Celia Imrie’s sarcastic tone as “Miss Babs”. Below is “Episode 1” of Acorn Antiques starring Walters, Imrie and Preston.

Between 1989 and 1999, Wood began to move away from the sketch show format and into more self-contained works, often with a more bittersweet flavour. The television film, Pat and Margaret (1994), starring Wood and Julie Walters as long-lost sisters with very different lifestyles, continued her return to stand-alone plays with a poignant undercurrent to the comedy. In 1998, she wrote her first sitcom, dinnerladies, which continued her now established milieu of mostly female, mostly middle-aged characters depicted vividly and amusingly, but with a counterpoint of sadder themes.

December 2000 saw the Christmas sketch show special Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings, starring her traditional troupe of actors and actresses as well as a string of special guest stars. Here’s her parody of Brief Encounter that was one of the sketches on the show.

Wood wrote her first musical, Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, which opened in 2005 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, for a limited period, directed by Trevor Nunn. It starred most of the original cast, with Sally Ann Triplett playing Miss Berta (played in the series by Wood). Wood played Julie Walters’ character Mrs. Overall for matinee performances.

Wood wrote the 2006 one-off ITV serious drama Housewife, 49, an adaptation of the real diaries of Nella Last, and played the eponymous role of an introverted middle-aged character who discovers new confidence and friendships in Lancashire during World War II. Housewife, 49 was critically praised, and Wood won BAFTAs for both her acting and writing for this drama — a rare double.

In 2007, Wood appeared in her own travel documentary show on BBC One called Victoria’s Empire, in which she travelled around the world in search of the history, cultural impact and customs which the British Empire placed on the parts of the world it ruled. The three programmes covered India, Hong Kong, Borneo, Ghana, Jamaica, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Zambia, finishing at the Victoria Falls.

Wood returned to television comedy for a one-off Christmas comedy sketch-show special, her first in 9 years, titled Victoria Wood’s Mid Life Christmas, transmitted on BBC One on Christmas Eve 2009. The special, which reunited Wood with long-time collaborator Julie Walters, included a spoof of BBC period dramas Lark Rise to Candleford, Little Dorrit and Cranford entitled Lark Pies to Cranchesterford, a spoof documentary following Acorn Antiques star Bo Beaumont (Walters) titled Beyond The Marigolds and a reprise of Wood’s most famous song “The Ballad of Barry and Freda” (“Let’s Do It”).

Wood has received many awards in her long career. In 1997, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Earlier in 1994, she was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Sunderland. She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

Wood has four BAFTA wins from fourteen nominations winning Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1986 for Victoria Wood As Seen On TV and in 1989 for An Audience With Victoria Wood. In 2007, Wood won Best Actress and Best Single Drama BAFTAs for Housewife 49. In December 2011, she received the British Comedy Awards award for “Best Female TV Comic” beating competition such as Sarah Millican.

Wood is a Quaker and a vegetarian, once remarking; “I’m all for killing animals and turning them into handbags. I just don’t want to have to eat them.” She lives in Highgate, North London.

Images reproduced from gaylondontravel.com
Videos reproduced from YouTube/NickLotay and YouTube/cloogle
Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Happy Birthday Nigella Lawson

In this week’s Born This Day series, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Nigella Lawson who was born on 6 January 1960. Nigella is renowned for her flirtatious manner of presenting and has been called the “Queen of Food Porn”.

Nigella Lawson


Nigella Lawson (born 6 January 1960) is an English food writer, journalist and broadcaster. Nigella Lawson is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Vanessa Salmon, whose family owned the J. Lyons and Co. empire. After graduating from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, Nigella Lawson started work as a book reviewer and restaurant critic, later becoming the deputy literary editor of The Sunday Times in 1986. She then embarked upon a career as a freelance journalist, writing for a number of newspapers and magazines.

In 1998, Nigella Lawson brought out her first cook book, How to Eat, which sold 300,000 copies and became a best-seller. She went on to write her second book in 2000, How to be a Domestic Goddess, winning her the British Book Award for Author of the Year.

In 1999, she hosted her own cooking show series, Nigella Bites on Channel 4, which was accompanied by another best-selling cook book. The Nigella Bites series won Nigella Lawson a Guild of Food Writers Award; her 2005 ITV daytime chat show was met with a negative critical reaction and was cancelled after attracting low ratings. Nigella Lawson hosted the Food Network’s Nigella Feasts in the United States in 2006 followed by a three-part BBC Two series, Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen, in the United Kingdom. This led to the commissioning of Nigella Express on BBC Two in 2007. Her own cookware range, Living Kitchen, has a value of £7 million, and she has sold more than 3 million cook books worldwide.

Nigella Lawson has become renowned for her flirtatious manner of presenting, although she argues, “It’s not meant to be flirtatious. … I don’t have the talent to adopt a different persona. It’s intimate, not flirtatious”. The perceived overt sexuality of her presentation style has led to Lawson’s being called the “queen of food porn”. Many commentators have alluded to Nigella Lawson’s attractiveness, and she was once named as one of the world’s most beautiful women. She has been referred to as “stunningly beautiful, warm, honest, likeable and amazingly normal”, as well as being described as having “flawless skin, perfect white teeth, a voluptuous body, ample height and lots of lush, brown hair”. The media has also noted Nigella Lawson’s ability to engage with both male and female viewers; The Guardian wrote, “Men love her because they want to be with her. Women love her because they want to be her”. The chef, Gary Rhodes, spoke out against Nigella Lawson by suggesting that her viewers are attracted to her smile rather than the cooking itself. Despite often being labelled as a domestic goddess, she insists that she exhibits very few of the qualities associated with the title.

Nigella Lawson is also known for her vivid and adjective-filled food descriptions in both her books and television programmes, as one critic summarised, “her descriptions of food can be a tangle of adjectives.” In a study conducted in 2007 on the readability of different recipes, the chatty and florid style of Nigella Lawson’s recipes was judged to be confusing to readers with weak reading skills. Nigella Lawson has also expressed her surprise at how many reviews in the United States have mentioned her class and posh accent.

Comedians and commentators have taken to mocking Nigella Lawson’s style of presentation, particularly in a regularly occurring impersonation of her in the BBC comedy series Dead Ringers, because they perceive that she plays overtly upon her attractiveness and sexuality as a device to engage viewers of her cookery programmes. Impressions by Ronni Ancona that further parodied Nigella Lawson’s presenting style have also been featured on the BBC One impersonation sketch show, The Big Impression.

Image reproduced from 48hours.co.za
Video reproduced from YouTube / MickeyWebb4582
Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

That Awkward Moment

That Awkward MomentThat Awkward Moment stars Zac Efron. It’s mainly about three guys dating and the resulting stories surrounding this. As the title states, you can be sure the dates won’t go smoothly!

Jason (Efron) is in a relationship but doesn’t take it as seriously as his girlfriend and wants to end it. Then you are whisked back to the beginning as Jason explains how he reached his decision to call time.

Enter his two wingmen Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B Jordan). They go out, go to a bar and get girls and each of them deals with the relationships formed their own way. This involves a lot of bedroom shenanigans thereafter.

To me, the whole movie was just an excuse for undressing and getting in-between the sheets. Not really movie gold. The plots were plain and predictable. Mikey leaves his wife, Mikey meets wife, wife tells Mikey he isn’t daring enough so Mikey and wife sleep at her workplace. Really?

Now let’s have a type of farce going where the guys have to keep their relationships secret, lest they break the pact forged to remain single. With such epic plot lines and a massively sumptuous script, I’m surprised more actors/actresses didn’t try to muscle in on the act. I thought I’d seen all the plot lines, I really did.

How are three best friends who see each other everyday supposed to keep secret they are in love? Okay, some of the resultant storylines means some separation of the friends. But why would you keep things from your best friend? I didn’t really find the way it was done amusing or intriguing. The whole point of the movie was not to admit you’re in a relationship?!

The one I feel sorry for is poor Zac Efron. He deserves better to be honest. Stuck with two lumps in some cheap version of the male half of Friends. Man, somebody has to give his guy a break and give him a real story – not a whose sleeping with who oddity!

The whole thing was just confusing; I still don’t see the point in starting in the future, then going back. Why not start from the beginning? There are far too many shows and films like this; frankly, it’s getting a little old. Did Cinderella start with her in the castle, saying to the audience; ‘Now let me show how I got to this castle.’ No, you saw her life before and her rescue.

I can’t low score Zac, I just can’t. Not Efron the man! Therefore, I’m giving 6/10 for bravery and hopefully it lead to better things for him!

Image reproduced from wikipedia.com
Trailer reproduced from Cieon Movies

Get Santa

Get Santa
Get Santa is one of those inevitable Christmas movies that come out at this time of year.

Although this one strays from the usual road by having Santa crash into someone’s garage. Tom (Kit Connor) discovers Santa in his damaged shed with the reindeers on the loose.

Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) needs all the help he can get to make sure he can return to Lapland and complete his job.

This movie is on a par with Nativity 3, with crude jokes and adults with peas for brains. You can see what’s coming miles before it appears on the screen.

I don’t understand the current need to show Christmas movies containing such stupid humour. Just what was the target audience for this film? The kids or adults who behave like kids?

The whole thing was pretty pointless. I’m not even sure who thought of a movie where Santa crashes. I mean why? Also why do we need to see Santa going to jail? What was that about?

The storylines are boring, why is there a motley group in the prison? It was like that IKEA advert where the kitchen is spinning, there’s absolutely no reason for it, you’d never ever want a revolving kitchen so who designed one?

The main problem is this film is competing with many other similar films, one mentioned above. Like its counterparts, the script relies too much on crudeness and silliness to fill the time slot. This film also was slightly darker in tone.

The director does know about Christmas? It Didn’t appear so at all! I wouldn’t like to spend Xmas dinner round his place that’s for sure! Where’s the message about Christmas? If there was one in this offering, it got lost in amongst the inane poop jokes!

The only redeeming feature of this film is Jim Broadbent’s portrayal of Santa. The man shows why he’s a great British asset.

4/10 from me. Jim Broadbent solely saves this film from a much lower score.

If Santa gets presents from someone (as he gets all of ours!) He doesn’t need help, but a decent film writer!

Image reproduced from atgtickets.com
Trailer reproduced from IGN

TV Review: The Venture Bros – What Colour is your Clean Suit?


Adult Swim’s mature animated comedy series The Venture Bros has always ran the risk of having a very niche sense of humour. Much of the show’s hilarity relies on the viewer having seen Hanna Barbera cartoons like Jonny Quest or Scooby Doo and it is entirely possible that members of the viewing audience will be either too old or too young to get all the show’s references. Potentially even more problematic is the fact that Venture Bros creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick have, over the course of the show’s four seasons, developed the programme from its initially simple premise (what if Jonny Quest grew up and became a bitter 40-something) into a massively sprawling narrative with dozens of characters, many of whom are far more focussed upon than the titular Venture Bros. For this reason, it would probably have seemed like a safe bet to imagine that What Colour is your Clean Suit?, the first episode of The Venture Bros’ fifth series, would be something of a back-to-basics exercise; a return to the programme’s earlier and tighter format. Instead, Hammer and Publick have chosen to make their comedy show even more complex to the point that even long time fans of The Venture Bros may feel somewhat left in the dark. In order to fully appreciate just how funny What Colour is your Clean Suit? really is, a viewer not only needs to have followed The Venture Bros from the very beginning but also to have a pretty substantial knowledge of modern “geek” culture. Much of the humour of this first (double-length) episode is based on obscure references to old TV shows and movies that are likely to be adored by the show’s core audience but might serve only to confuse everyone else.

As the episode begins, the sardonic Doctor Venture has agreed to construct shield technology for his far more successful brother. To do this, he gathers many long-time cast-members and orders/pays/bribes them to help him out. He also assembles an army of geeky college interns to do the more dangerous lab work. Almost immediately, the interns begin developing unsightly genetic mutations from their experiments and the Ventures find themselves at war with a mini-society of mutant nerds. Since the antagonists of this episode are mutated sci-fi geeks, it is perhaps no shock that What Colour is your Clean Suit? is filled to breaking point with popular culture references of topics like Star Trek and Indiana Jones. A viewer well versed in all things geek will find the episode to be an absolute treat; a more casual viewer will likely just be utterly baffled. The show’s emphasis on absurd comedy helps to make the humour more universal but it can’t be denied that What Colour is your Clean Suit? is not a jumping-on point for new or lapsed viewers. Fans of adult humour in animation will likely find The Venture Bros as enjoyable as ever in this episode. The show’s animation style remains unique and visually pleasing to watch. There is a lot of visually striking moments that make the episode hard to forget. The deliberately silly idea that a small group of sci-fi geeks form their own society, complete with a mythology and culture, lends itself to some really unique visuals that pay homage to old comics and 70s dystopian movies. The episode’s writing remains tight and intelligent and the season premier’s longer runtime allows for more subtle characterization of the less-important cast members for a change. The voice acting is also exemplary considering that almost all of the show’s massive cast are voiced by the same 2-3 people. For a devoted fan of the show, there is a lot to like. For a newcomer, not so much.

Image reproduced from craveonline.com

Film Review – American Pie: Reunion

With the latest release of the Marvel franchise, Avengers Assemble, hitting our screens last month, it is little surprise that one of the year’s hotly anticipated sequels, American Pie: Reunion, somewhat slipped under the wire. The fourth of the original series, the eight of the overall franchise, this instalment saw all of the class of ’99 return for a cameo-filled romp of middle-aged men, trying to recapture adolescence, rekindling their lost friendships. As a fine blend of sentimentality, humour and awkward situations, American Reunion is a great watch for anybody in search of a good laugh, whether an avid fan of the originals or not.

The biggest drawing point that the film seemed to have was that, unlike American Pie: The Wedding, the entire cast were back, including the much missed Chris “Oz” Ostreicher. However, unlike the film’s trailer suggests, his was the only return that carried much calibre. Token minute-long appearances from great characters, such as Sherman, Jessica and Nadia were rather unnecessary to plot development and very far from the trailer’s original set-up. On first viewing, this was a bit of a disappointment, as the nostalgia that the film encompasses was not all there.

However, after a second viewing, this film really comes in to its element. Less a story about five men in mid-life crises, searching for true love or life’s meaning, the final instalment is more a tale of friendship than any of its predecessors. After settling down, making their names, establishing themselves in routines, the four men realise that it is their friendship with one another that are missing from everything they have.

For those who immediately dismiss sequels, abhorring their attempts to outclass their predecessor, do not be put off by this film. Admittedly, the first film is the champion of the series – not one of the sequels has come close to the magic that that bought to our screen. However, the battle for second place is now hotly contested with this and American Pie 2. Both have their flaws, yet both are wonderfully funny. The final scenes featuring Jim’s Dad, the MILF guys and, this time, Finch’s mum, are hilarious, unprecedented and still reminiscent of the original films.

The biggest negative that came from this film was the constant references to modern times. Where some films use subtle reference to Facebook, or other social networking sites, one of the key elements to this film is the lack of communication between Sean William-Scott’s Stifler and his neglectful friends. It seemed too tacked on, as a way of showing that the characters have definitely progressed from the nineties – something that is not at all obvious from their seemingly unchanged appearances.

This film does a very good job in rounding off the series. Fans who were disappointed with American Pie: The Wedding, and the questionable spin-offs, can rest easy in knowing that their favourite characters can still all get together and produce some of the greatest laughs that will hit our screens this year. This is a recommended must-see film of 2012.

Image reproduced from blueprintreview.co.uk
Video reproduced from YouTube / trailers

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

In the peak of summer, where would you most likely spend your holidays? For a lot of people, skiing in the Alps or sunning on a beach in the Caribbean has a lot of appeal. However for over 20,000 people, it is the capital of Scotland has the biggest drawing point.

Edinburgh. A city of history, a city of culture and for twenty-four days a year, a city of eclectic artistic talent, as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes to town. Filled with varying music, dance and comedy acts, the festival lives up to it’s reputation as the largest arts festival in the world.

Growing in size each year and averaging an intake of just under £300,000 the festival is the place to be for a breakthrough act. Predecessors including Eddie Izzard (comedy), Gabriel Byrne (writing) and UK beatbox champion Beardyman (music) have all had their say at the festival and in doing so, have left big shoes to be filled. Now it is the turn of new acts and fresh faces to leave their mark on their respective artistic world.

The festival gives plenty of support for any act trying to make their name. From debutants, such as the Mugging Chickens comedy troop, to seasoned professionals such as Dizzee Rascal headlining the festival’s musical strand, everyone has a place in the line-ups.

With the festival, boasting 259 venues last year, made way for an astounding 2,453 shows, 1,206 of which were world debuts. And it could be this festival that makes or breaks an act. The multitude of festival awards, prestigious in their nature, can give you that extra credit needed to become a more recognized talent.

If you are looking to attend the festival, fear not, as it will not cost you an arm and a leg to have a good time. Ticket prices will set you back an average of ten pounds for a better known act, the guarantee being that they hopefully know what they are doing.  However there are many fantastic performers which have free, live shows (558 in 2010) and in a lot of these cases, it is the intimacy of these acts makes them all the more enjoyable.

Absolutely Legless - Irish Dancers

This year, remember to look out for some groundbreaking acts: Paco Erhard, the world’s funniest German; Abandoman, a Radio 1 smash-hit hip-hop act; or Irish music, song and dance extravaganza Absolutely Legless. Several acts, debutants and returners alike, have a potential to not only shine but to progress on to greater, vaster plains.

Now in to its 65th year, the festival has a lot to live up to. But with acts travelling from as far as Japan, New Zealand and the United States to try and expand their fan-base, this year’s festival looks set to be bigger, better and bolder than ever before. So don’t miss out, book your tickets early and make your way to Edinburgh for August 5th, for a month’s worth of diverse artistic events you will be sure to never forget.

Image reproduced from sixtblog.co.uk and absolutelylegless.co.uk

3rd August – Comedy Night – London

City Connect supports London events from numerous organisations. We are proud to promote these London events to our City Connect readers making them accessible to all. If you are interested in this London event, either leave a comment below or go to the CitySocialising website. If you have any suggestions for other London events for us to promote, contact us directly.

City Connect highlights the following CitySocialising London event:-

Event Name: Leicester Square Comedy Night

Date: Wednesday 3 August 2011

For more information and to RSVP online visit CitySocialising and sign up for free.

All new members are entitled to attend one free Social when signing up to the CitySocialising site.

Event Description:

If you fancy a top night of laughs, come and join our CitySocialising crowd as we head out for an evening of being entertained by the best in comedic talent in Leicester Square.

We’ll have some seats reserved where a host will be waiting to welcome you when you arrive and settle you in to the Social. (Make sure you check the CitySocialising website before the Social to see who is hosting). Keep your eyes peeled for a CitySocialising logo on the table or ask the venue staff for the table reserved under the name CitySocialising.

Non-attendees will be available to view the guest list 48 hours before it takes place.

Amongst the acts on stage will be Inder Manocha and Rhys Jones.

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Press release: LC