Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Night at the Opera

at Milton Keynes Theatre
On Thursday 19th Match there was a performance by Welsh National Opera of "The Magic Flute" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Interspersing his labours on the behalf of Northampton bus users and his loyal duties as fbb's Northampton correspondent, Alan's been nipping off for a bit of culture.

Every now and then we need a night at the theatre that just makes us smile. Warm, fun and witty, Mozart’s The Magic Flute does just that.

Director Dominic Cooke presents a bold production that combines Mozart’s sublime music with surreal staging featuring an angry lobster, a newspaper reading lion and a fish doubling as a bicycle. A rich mix of comedy, pantomime, philosophy and religion, on a breathtaking Magritte-inspired set, The Magic Flute is an irrepressibly entertaining evening.

Suitable for all the family, The Magic Flute is the perfect introduction to opera, with moments of total enchantment and music that will remain in the memory forever. Come and witness this unforgettable experience.

So Alan went, by bus and train. The outward journey is simple with plenty of buses from the station to Central Milton Keynes.
Once upon a time Midsummer Boulevard was a straight-through road but an extension to the shopping "mall" means buses wiggle via bus-only Lower Ninth Street and a bus-only bit of Midsummer Bvd before reaching stops at or near the Thtr.
And therein lies the snag.

Kick off 1915 : Running time: 2h 50m inc interval.

In fact the performance ended at 2215. Despite the lateness of the hour there is still a satisfactory number of buses back to the station. But any given bus might leave from stop B4 ...
... OR stop C4 ...
... OR stop D4 ...
... OR even stop E4.
And, of course, at 2215 on Thursday it was dark. So which stop do you wait at? Now Alan, like fbb, is both "mature" and a tad on the creaky side. He puts it succinctly. "I am not Mr U Bolt," he cries, with feeling. The sprint distance between B4 and E4 is about 200 yards!

Ideally, in the rose tinted bespectacled world where public transport was easy to understand, there would be a prominent electronic sign outside the Theatre (and elsewhere at the centre) reading:-

 Next bus to railway station 
 Stop B4       at       2233 

But the world is less than ideal, so our canny correspondent prepared himself a crib sheet.

Because timekeeping is not always diligent in the evenings, with early running a greater danger than late, the prudent potential passenger still needs to hover between stops B4 and C4; but to hover intelligently. A mini-sprint to the rarer B4 or E4 might never be necessary.

Alan reports that, on Thursday, all went very well as follows.

A glutton for public transport punishment (or pleasure?) Alan was back at the opera last night; this time Hansel and Gretel.
Maybe he will add a comment to today's blog, reporting on the success (or otherwise) of his un-Bolt-like experiences of yestereve. 

In the meantime, a question. Would more people use public transport if planners and technical folk made it all a lot easier? Would it really be too expensive? A confuser program written by an 8 year old and a few large screens hung up here and there ought not to cost megabucks; it's not rocket science.

And, talking of Customer Service:-
A couple of week ago, fbb was treated to lunch by blog reader Michael Watson. As a sideline, he is Stagecoach South West Managing Director!
Lest any readers who are Stagecoach shareholders should be aghast at this profligate hospitality, it was at a modest caff on Sidwell Street. fbb had sausage and chips and two mugsa!
During a wide-ranging chat, young Michael threw out a challenge. "You should have a look at our new 6/6A (Exeter to Launceston or Bude), we're quite proud of what we have done."
Well, your chubby blogger can never resist a thrown-down gauntlet, so tomorrow, God willing, he sets off on a mega-trip! A full report will follow on Wednesday. 
 Next bus blog : Monday 23rd March 


  1. (Frustrated) Man of Kent22 March 2015 at 09:11

    Actually one of those large signs won't leave you any change from £10,000. Depending on where they are proposed to be sited, the transport authority may
    (a) be asked to provide its own electricity supply (more expense and at least a six month delay)
    (b) fill in all sorts of risk analysis forms/indemnities/spend time addressing minutae that has almost no bearing on the project whatsoever
    (c) be welcomed with open arms and have the screen in place within days.
    Now match (a) (b) and (c) with a hospital, a railway station and a shopping centre. Suffice to say that only two of the above were achieved, and you might be surprised to learn that (c) was the hospital.

  2. Tosh! Big telly screen £1000. Spare laptop from IT department £100 and a few wall brackets plus an internet connection. Total cost less that two grand for an indoor screen. Just get Gerald with a screwdriver and step ladder to fix it up. Don't ask provocative questions, just do it!

  3. Or an e-reader with an auxiliary solar panel and an app to show the data, for even less, if a large screen isn't necessary.