Vigesimal Views

This isn’t quite the blog post I intended to write today.

You see, today is the 20th anniversary of me starting my original blog over at My first post hit the internet at 10.37am on 22nd March 2003. It seems like a long time ago – not least because that day was a Saturday, and the idea that I would actually be out of bed at that time on a weekend seems fanciful now.

Screenshot of Robert Hampton's website as it looked in April 2003, with plain grey header graphics and black text on a white background

The following decade or so was fruitful, but then there was a gap between 30th December 2015 and 31st August 2017 when I deliberately stopped the blog. Even when I started up again at the new address, there were the two rather barren years of 2020 and 2021, when I hadn’t officially stopped the blog but still didn’t write much at all.

I came back in January 2022 promising to write more, and I hope I mostly lived up to that. It helps that, with lockdown restrictions lifted, and now an actual boyfriend to enjoy social events with, I have been getting out a lot more.

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Queer joy

The final show in our London theatrical trilogy was My Son’s a Queer (But what can you do?) at the Ambassador’s Theatre.

Rob Madge has created a one-person show largely based on their family’s home videos, most of which depict Rob’s childhood where they regularly staged shows in the family living room, roping in their tolerant parents to stage parades, re-enact films in the front room and turn the house into Disneyland (complete with theme park rides).

Rob’s school was less supportive. Cuttings from their school reports show exasperated teachers criticise Rob’s flair for the dramatic and difficulty making friends. Thankfully for Rob, their family continued to support them, enrolling them in a stage school. They were soon performing in plays on the West End, including Oliver!, Les Miserables and Matilda. Although it is just Rob on stage throughout, their family is present so much in the videos, that by the end of the show you feel like you know them.

A beautiful, uplifting show that demonstrates how a loving family can make all the difference to a child. The message for parents is one that is more crucial now than ever: allow your kids to be who they are, and to hell with what anyone else thinks. There’s plenty of laughs to be had at Rob’s precocious theatrical adventures, but it’s sure to leave you with a lump in your throat at the end.

My Son’s a Queer (But what can you do?) is on at the Ambassador’s Theatre until 1st April

Set of "My Son's a Queer"


Play number two was a matinee of Noises Off at the Phoenix Theatre. This was the second time in months that we had been to the Phoenix, having seen Come from Away there just last year. We were in almost the same seats too.

Noises Off is, of course, the 1982 comedy by Michael Frayn, going behind the scenes of the production of a comedic play, which becomes even more farcical behind the scenes than it does in front. This new run, for several weeks in February and March, boasted a stellar cast, including Felicity Kendall, Matthew Kelly and the splendidly-named Hubert Burton.

The play starts with Mrs Clackett, the housekeeper, preparing some sardines for tea. It soon becomes clear that all is not well – she stumbles over her lines and gets confused over her props. From the wings comes the booming voice of the frustrated director, Lloyd Dallas, and it’s apparent that we are actually watching a rehearsal of a show. So Mrs Clackett is played by Dotty Otley, who is played by Felicity Kendall. Hope that is clear.

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Pledge of Allegiance

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in London last week, with my boyfriend Ben. Being the theatre-obsessed gays we are, we naturally managed to squeeze three shows into two days.

The first of these was Allegiance at the Charing Cross Theatre. After a run in Broadway in 2015-16, the show has transferred to London for a limited run, with its original star – Star Trek‘s George Takei – returning to his role.

The theatre itself was interesting, located under the railway arches on the approach to Charing Cross station – the play was punctuated by the rumbling of trains over our heads at regular intervals. The seating was arranged in an almost ‘in-the-round’ layout, with the audience either side of the stage. We actually had to walk across the set to reach our seats.

Set of Allegiance, showing barbed wire and huts of an internment camp. The audience sits either side.

Allegiance recalls the tale of the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent who, upon the outbreak of war between the USA and Japan, were rounded up and forcibly relocated to internment camps. The show centres on the Kimura family, who are uprooted from a happy life on a Californian farm to be interned alongside many others in dusty rural Wyoming. Conditions in the camp are severe, with poor food, no medicine and military discipline.

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Own Goal

As Match of the Day goes out on BBC One, chopped to twenty minutes and with no studio punditry or even commentary on the action, here are some random thoughts on Gary Lineker’s tweet:-

  1. He is absolutely correct to point out similarities between the language being used now and that used in 1930s Germany.
  2. He is a sports presenter, so his views on issues outside of the sporting arena are irrelevant to his ability to do his job.
  3. Compare the reaction to that when Andrew Neil regularly spoke out on political matters, including calling Carole Cadwalladr a ‘crazy cat person’ after she exposed Brexit corruption.
  4. If Lineker had gone the other way and praised the government and its policies, there would have been no outrage and no suspensions – Tim Davie refused to deny this when asked about it earlier today. The BBC has capitulated to the right-wing ideologues again.

Lineker will be just fine whatever happens – his skills as a presenter and pundit will have him in high demand from sports channels. The BBC, I’m not so sure about. I cherish it and want to see it thrive, but it has lost its way on matters of impartiality and needs to have a good long rethink of its purpose and goals. A clearout of the Tories at the top couldn’t hurt either.

King Brilliant

Ben was nervous as we took our seats in the theatre. “I hope you like this,” he said. Several times.

It was partly my fault. When we went to see White Christmas a few months back, I mentioned that this wasn’t the sort of show I would normally see. White Christmas is a cosy sentimental, feel-good show – an old-fashioned good time which displays its 1950s origins clearly. I like my musicals contemporary, and ideally full of swearing and gay references. The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, that sort of thing. Less wholesome, more holes.

I did go on to say that I had very much enjoyed White Christmas and was glad we had gone to see it. Nevertheless, my boyfriend was anxious about bringing me to see The King and I. A new production — with her off Call the Midwife in the lead role — but an old show, originally performed on Broadway in 1951.

It’s also Ben’s favourite musical. No pressure then.

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Whale of a Time

The Whale is a new film which released in cinemas a couple of weeks ago, and which I saw last Friday with Ben.

Brendan Fraser plays Charlie, an English teacher struggling with health problems caused by morbid obesity. He makes a living teaching courses online, never turning on his laptop camera. He orders pizza, ordering the delivery guy to leave it outside so he doesn’t have to interact.

Brendan Fraser wearing 'fat' make-up as Charlie in "The Whale"

Brendan’s only friend, Liz (played by Hong Chau) is a nurse who implores Charlie to go to hospital, but he refuses, not wanting to run up debts (that US healthcare system again).

Ty Simpkins plays Thomas, a Church missionary whose first encounter involves seeing Charlie in a compromising position (ahem) and subsequently decides it is his mission to save Charlie’s life, much to the chagrin of Liz who has had dealings with this church before.

Completing the cast is Sadie Sink as Charlie’s estranged daughter, Ellie, whom Charlie has not seen for years and now desperately wants to reconnect with.

The cast is great, but the star is undoubtedly Brendan Fraser, buried under a mountain of latex to make him look morbidly obese. This could easily have been a grotesque disaster, but Fraser gives an utterly compelling performance which carries the film. It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for Fraser’s character, as he wheezes and gasps his way around the apartment, struggling to even stand up. It’s fair to point out that some people have criticised the film for its portrayal of obesity – I suggest you watch and make up your own mind.

The film is set entirely in Charlie’s home, never venturing further than his bedroom or the front porch. This may be because of its roots as a stage play, but the film doesn’t need to go anywhere else. The claustrophobia adding to the tension, as Charlie declines over the course of a week.

Ben and I saw the film in a cinema where we were, shockingly, the only people in the auditorium. The people watching Magic Mike in the other screen missed something special. This film is an amazing experience, well worth two hours of your time. I hope Brendan Fraser, back in a leading role after a long time, gets some awards sent his way.

Liverpool calling

It’s been nearly four months since we got the fantastic news that Liverpool will host Eurovision 2023 on behalf of Ukraine.

Things went a little bit quiet after that. There was the announcement of the production team, and a fantastic New Year’s Eve show with Sam Ryder showing just how Eurovision can boost an artist, if they want it. But if there was activity behind the scenes, not much of it was in the public eye.

Things kicked up a gear on Monday with the unveiling of the theme for this year’s contest, United by Music, and the logo and graphics, which combine the colours of the UK and Ukraine.

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777th Heaven

Banner at Kirkby showing a class 777 train emerging from darkness, with the caption "They're Coming"

It took us over ten years to get to this point.

Britain was gearing up to host the 2012 Olympics when the prospect of a new fleet of trains for Merseyrail was first floated. It was four years later that Stadler was awarded the contract to replace the sturdy but ageing Class 507 and 508 trains.

We waited patiently. The occasional press release gave a tantalising insight into progress. A completed bodyshell, preliminary testing. Things were starting to come together.

As part of the construction process, there was a mockup on display at Birkenhead for a while, to allow “stakeholders” (ugh) to give feedback on the design. I went to see it (OF COURSE) and was impressed by the technology on show and the thoughtfulness that had gone into the design. Wheelchair users, cyclists and prams had been designed in from the start, rather than as an afterthought.

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Empire State of Mind

Empire of Light is a new film recently released, focusing on the staff of a slightly faded cinema in 1980s Margate, which I saw on Saturday night with Ben.

Queen Olivia Colman plays Hilary, the duty manager of the Empire cinema. She is friendly and personable, but also has mental health issues and is prescribed lithium by an uninterested doctor. She spends her evenings alone at home, and at work she forces herself to smile and go along with the banter of her co-workers. She is having an affair with her married boss Donald (played by Colin Firth) who is rather exploiting her vulnerability. Also on staff is Norman, the projectionist, played by Toby Jones.

Promotional image for Empire of Light, showing Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman

New employee Stephen (Micheal Ward) arrives and Hilary becomes rather smitten with him. The two embark on a relationship, but issues arise because of Hilary’s mental health and the racism Stephen experiences in the town, which Hilary finds difficult to cope with. Meanwhile, the run-down cinema is chosen for a gala screening of Chariots of Fire and suddenly a great deal of attention is focused on the venue.

It’s not the most exciting film in the world, but it’s hard not to warm to the characters (well, except for Firth’s sleazy cinema manager, but that’s intentional I think). Colman is excellent as always, and Ward is great too. And the film as a whole looks gorgeous — even the shots in the cinema’s derelict, pigeon-infested restaurant look amazing.

Director Sam Mendes has cooked up a lovely tribute to the classic cinema experience, one that was on the verge of dying out in the 1980s and has now disappeared in the era of the multiplex. Meanwhile, the frank depiction of racist attitudes means this isn’t just an easy slice of nostalgia.

Also — and I hope this doesn’t make me sound too shallow — Micheal Ward gets naked at one point and he has a very nice bum.