Robert Hampton

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21st November 2014

First the ballet, then the inevitable discussion
Posted by at 8.36pm | It's My Life, Stage | No responses

I have never been to a ballet performance before last night. But then I discovered that the English National Ballet was bringing its production of Swan Lake to the Liverpool Empire. It was Mum’s birthday a few weeks ago and I wanted to do something special for her, as well as try something new myself, so I snapped up a couple of tickets.

Our seats were in Row B near the front. So close, in fact, that if the orchestra conductor’s baton were to slip out of his hand, we were at risk of being skewered. We were happy with the view we had, but a woman in the row in front was unhappy as she didn’t have a proper view of the dancers’ feet. Either she wanted to appreciate the technical skill of the dancers, or she was just a foot fetishist; I wasn’t sure.

The show was three hours long with two intervals, so nobody can deny that we got our money’s worth. Going in, I thought that would be a bit on the long side, but that three hours actually flew over quite quickly. I will admit, I didn’t follow the story too closely, but the actual dancing was amazing. I can’t pretend to be an expert on ballet, but the skill and dedication was clear to see – especially in a series of pirouettes which left me feeling quite dizzy by the end.

In a strange way, it made me grateful to be gay. I come from a working-class background in Liverpool – a straight guy in my position would probably never even think of seeing something like this, unless he was dragged under protest by his girlfriend. But I, now comfortable in my sexuality, can sit and enjoy the show without any threat to my masculinity. Ahem.

Oh, and it has to be said: the male dancers’ tights leave very little to the imagination – they cling to the buttocks so tightly, they might as well be naked. It was spellbinding.

30th October 2014

Posted by at 8.21pm | Stage | No responses

Animal Farm poster

I don’t get out as much as I’d like to. Working full time and studying for a degree in the evenings limits the amount of time I have for extracurricular activities. My routine recently has been get up, go to work, go to gym, come home, do a couple of hours of Open University study, (maybe) watch a bit of TV, go to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. There’s not even much spare time to write any blog posts.

The above are all necessary parts of my life, but a bit of variety is needed to spice things up. So on Wednesday evening I arrived at Arts Club on Seel Street. I was there to see Animal Farm, a production of the small Liverpool outfit, Tell Tale Theatre. A bit of culture to break up the mundane week.

Animal Farm is an adaptation of George Orwell’s classic story. My memories of it are mixed. I remember it being a good book, but I read it as part of English lessons at school, which means it has negative associations for me. It was good to put those to bed and watch the show.

The main notable thing about Animal Farm is that nearly of all of the characters are animals. How do you portray that on stage? The solution adopted here is simply to have the cast, wearing normal clothes, depict the animals through their physical movements. It’s a bit surprising and disconcerting at first, but after a few minutes you get used to it. Certainly a lot better than running down to Primark for a job lot of animal onesies, which is what I would have done – and this is why my career as a theatrical producer never took off.

The performances were excellent. Rob Kavanagh is especially good as Napoleon, the leader of the pigs who starts to abuse his power – getting gradually more power-mad and terrifying throughout the show.

You only have one night left to see it, as the last day of the show is tomorrow, October 31st. Some tickets might still be available, either you can buy online or pick them up from the box office on Seel Street. As for Tell Tale, I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next – it might even convince me to leave the house again. 🙂

2nd March 2014

Everyman for himself
Posted by at 6.40pm | Liverpool, Stage | No responses

Everyman Theatre

It’s been approximately five thousand years since the curtain came down (see what I did there?) on the old Everyman Theatre. The venue – which helped launch the careers of Peter Postlethwaite, Julie Walters, Matthew Kelly and Jonathan Pryce, to name but a few – closed in July 2011 for an extensive redevelopment.

Two and a half years later, and the old building has been razed to the ground and replaced by a new structure. What would it be like inside?

Well, they had an open day today to mark the official reopening. I went along with my friend Scott to check it out, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s a triumph.

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5th January 2014

2013 was a big year for…

Matt Jarvis on the cover of AttitudeGAYS! West Ham footballer Matt Jarvis graced the cover of Attitude in just his pants, because homophobia or something. The usually soppy liberal Observer newspaper got itself embroiled in a transphobia row after a Julie Burchill column caused a Twitter storm.

The big news story of the year was, of course, the UK’s same-sex marriage bill. My old Religious Studies teacher (now MP for Southport) declared that he was voting against it. Despite massive controversy and attempts by rebel MPs to derail it, the bill received Royal Assent in July. I like to think it was my vlog on the subject that swung it.

The UK was behind the curve in many ways, as progress was being made around the world. New Zealand legalised gay marriage in April, an event celebrated by an impromptu outbreak of singing. America, as usual, was slow on the uptake, but a big Supreme Court decision in July was a landmark moment, paving the way for future victories.

Elsewhere, however, gay rights were being rolled back. In Russia, a wrestling coach blamed the lack of wrestling at the Olympics on a gay conspiracy. That was amusing to western ears; less funny was the law against “gay propaganda”, which was enacted amidst a wave of anti-gay violence.

On a more positive note, the events in Russia spurred Wentworth Miller into coming out. In fact, it was a notable year for coming out events: Young Apprentice candidate Harry Hitchens came out via YouTube video. Ben Whishaw confirmed tabloid rumours that he was in a civil partnership. And then there was Tom Daley.

Alan Turing was pardoned for his homosexuality convictions, but where was the sympathy for the thousands of other men who were similarly persecuted?

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1st January 2014

Jumpers for Goalposts
Posted by at 9.02pm | Stage | No responses

Jumpers for Goalposts

I had the good fortune to spend a few days in London with Ian for New Year. Like good gays, we took in a play: Jumpers for Goalposts at the Bush Theatre.

The play focuses on a five-a-side football team, playing (and usually losing) in a local gay league. At its heart, though, the football is really just a backdrop to explore themes of friendship, camaraderie and young love. In particular the blossoming relationship between “assistant coach” Danny and the shy, naive Luke, who is plucked from his librarian job to play on the team. It takes Danny ages to pluck up the courage to ask Luke out, but it all goes swimmingly, until Danny’s secret is revealed and threatens to derail things before they’ve even got off the ground.

The cast is excellent, especially Jamie Samuel and Philip Duguid-McQuillan as the two young lovers. A nice additional touch comes from a recording of former BBC Radio 5 Live announcer, James Alexander Gordon, reading out the results of the weekly games between Barely Athletic and Tranny United.

I don’t think it’s too spoilery to say that the play ends with a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s a song which has emotional connotations at the best of times, but in the context of the play’s denouement I found myself choking back tears.

I glanced over at Ian and saw that he had his face in his hands. I wasn’t quite sure why so, as we walked to the Underground station, I asked him about it.

Yes, I’m still having difficulty with that whole “comprehending other people’s emotions” thing.

“Jumpers for Goalposts” ends its run on Saturday, but keep an eye out for it making a comeback in the future. I highly recommend it.

18th June 2013

London Wander Round
Posted by at 9.56pm | Out and About, Stage | 1 response

So what else did I get up to in London? Well…


PastoralI always like to see a play when I’m down in London. This time round I eschewed singing Mormons and naked Italian men in favour of an altogether more sedate affair, Pastoral at the Soho Theatre.

This was a strange story of nature gone mad, following a group of friends who are stranded in their flat when some catastrophe causes plants to grow exponentially and animals to turn feral, destroying anything man-made in their path and leaving people fighting for their lives.

It’s a dark comedy; sometimes very dark – it’s not every day you see the killing and eating of an Ocado delivery man played for laughs – but overall it was an interesting idea, with great performances from the cast and some brilliant special effects (not easy in a small theatre on a tight budget). It was something a little different, and I enjoyed it immensely.

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5th May 2013

A most amazing blog
Posted by at 11.05pm | Stage | 1 response

Friday night I was in London with my good friend Ian Jones, to see The Book of Mormon, a minor production which has gained a small amount of “word of mouth” publicity.

Ian and Robert selfie

Fun fact: we spent so long faffing about getting this photo taken we failed to notice that the interval had ended and everyone else had gone back inside. Luckily we managed to get back to our seats before Act II began.

This is certainly a popular show – I had to book the tickets in September for a May performance. Eight months of anticipation and excitement: could the show possibly live up to the hype? Minor spoilers for Book of Mormon follow.

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27th March 2013

Wilde Life
Posted by at 8.15pm | Stage | No responses

Judas KissThis post contains minor spoilers for the play The Judas Kiss, so you may wish to avoid it if you’re going to see it.

Ian and I didn’t spend our entire weekend riding the rails. We also enjoyed some high culture courtesy of The Judas Kiss, a play at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London until 6th April. It was very much a last-minute arrangement and the tickets we had were “Restricted View”, but for £15 we weren’t about to complain. As it turned out, we were in the Upper Circle and although part of the stage was blocked, we could see most of the action. This proved to be important later on.

The play is about some key moments in the life of Oscar Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”). Act One takes place in a hotel just before Wilde is arrested for gross indecency. His friends advise him to try and get out of the country before the police come for him; Bosie advises him to stay and fight the case. Wilde’s trial ended up with him being sentenced to hard labour in prison. Act Two takes place after Wilde’s release, when he is living in France, destitute. Bosie is with him, although he is far from devoted to Wilde, seeking out other men to play with at the same time, and ultimately deserting Wilde completely.

Judas KissRupert Everett is great as Wilde. After Stephen Fry’s amazing performance in the 1997 film Wilde, I wasn’t sure I could accept anyone else in the role, but Everett pulls it off magnificently. He delivers Wilde’s scathing one-liners with perfect comic timing, but also showing the vulnerable side to the man. The younger cast (including Freddie Fox as Bosie, Ben Hardy as Arthur and Tom Colley as Galileo) are all excellent. Overall, it’s

But more than anything else what stuck in the mind was the nudity… there was a lot of it, and fairly unabashed it was too. There’s a brief glimpse of a man and woman having sex at the start of the show, but then in the second act a man (one of Bosie’s conquests) gets out of bed, wanders around stage naked, then sits in the corner for twenty minutes or so eating a bun (with everything on show), while Bosie and Wilde argue.

This is not a complaint; it was very thought provoking. The thoughts it provoked, well… I couldn’t possibly discuss them on a public web site. In an interview with BBC News, the play’s actors talk about the challenge of being naked on stage. Getting your bits out for an audience – now that’s something which takes real, er… balls.

Anyway, I highly recommend The Judas Kiss (not just because of the nudity, honest). It’s an entertaining two-and-a-half hours, and a salutary reminder to gay men everywhere that, not too long ago, the law looked unfavourably on “the love that dare not speak its name”.

30th July 2012

Countdown to Pride: Queertet
Posted by at 6.58pm | Stage | No responses

Tucked away on the second floor of an anonymous building, located down a little side street off Liverpool’s dock road, behind a McDonald’s drive-through and amidst abandoned industrial units, is The Lantern Theatre.

Tonight was my first time there, to see Queertet, a set of four short plays, each with a gay theme. The show is one of several events being staged as part of the Pride Fringe.

The Lantern is an intimate venue – a little too intimate, perhaps, as we were packed in like sardines and despite the best efforts of an oscillating fan, it got very warm in there. I was seated just a few feet away from the stage, but at times I struggled to see what was going on as the seating isn’t tiered.

The posters mentioned that the plays would be introduced by two people from Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer, but they weren’t there, for reasons which were not explained.

The plays then. Linda & Sue was a story of two women in love, until jealousy rears its ugly head. Half a Bottle Gone follows the events of one night where three friends enjoy a little bit too much wine, which results in some uncomfortable secrets being revealed. Sweats was set in a sauna, with a fun duologue between two regular patrons, who spend the entire play wearing towels (and sometimes no towel – and there’s me without my opera glasses).

The first three plays were excellent, but the finale was a tour de force – Madam Reprobate, an amazing about a university student brings his posh boyfriend to his council estate home to meet his very working-class mother. An amazing sitcom script peppered with filthy one-liners, brought to life by sparkling performance from the three actors, who managed immaculate comic timing despite the music bleeding through from the cabaret bar downstairs. It brought the house down.

Queertet was only on for two nights, last Friday and Saturday, but it was a great deal of fun, and I’d definitely come back to see the next show Grin Productions produce. And it cost just £8 for a ticket. Bargain!

13th November 2011

Dream a little Dream
Posted by at 10.25pm | Stage | 3 responses

Friday night I went with Andrew to see Beautiful Thing at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Nearly two decades after it was written, it’s still surely the finest thing Jonathan Harvey has ever done. His trademark pop culture references perhaps do date the script a bit, but I wouldn’t have wanted them to update it; this is a play that is very much of it’s time (and a namecheck for Bob’s Full House is always going to please me, personally).

I certainly can’t fault this production: it’s well-staged with universally excellent performances, especially from the actors playing Jamie and Ste.

The film adaptation was the first gay-themed film I ever saw, as a 20-year-old proto-gay. I remember racing upstairs with the Amazon package and holding the DVD in my hands, regarding it with the same sense of wonder that Jamie and Ste have for the smuggled copy of Gay Times. I watched the DVD with the remote control permanently in one hand, ready to switch to something more innocuous if my mum barged in unexpectedly, as she had a habit of doing.

The final scene of the play, as with the film, doesn’t fails to bring a tear to the eye.

Anyway, the play is on at the Royal Exchange until 3rd December. I highly recommend you go and see it, but be quick – tickets are reportedly selling out fast!