Sunday, 22 June 2014

Friends' reunion and memorial for my brother Nick at Old Thorns

On Feb 1st of this year, my brother Nick, aged 59, sadly passed away. His funeral was held in Munich where he had been living since 1980. Consequently, his friends from the 1960s and 70s were not able to be there to say their goodbyes, so we held a Memorial for him (which doubled up as a 30-40 year friends' reunion) on June 17th.

It was wonderful to see everyone again and hear the fond memories they have of Nick.

That's my mother Pat, my brother Steve and me in the centre (directly behind Tony who's kneeling)
The occasion took place in the Kenwood Suite (by coincidence and not by design!) at Old Thorns, our former family home, now a thriving golf hotel and country estate in Liphook, Hampshire. It's the perfect wedding venue and is so huge now, that it can hold two weddings at the same time! Funnily enough, Old Thorns was where Nick Berney and his bride Angie held their wedding reception back in 1979!

28 July 1979 - the first ever wedding reception at Old Thorns?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

2 Days of Solid Rock! Download Festival & Golden Gods Awards 2014

Alter Bridge after their amazing performance at Download (photo credit: PG Brunelli)
I went to Download Festival 2014 and saw Alter Bridge and Aerosmith - what a show! And hung out with Alter Bridge and Steel Panther backstage. The friends I took with me shouted "I love you" to Steve Tyler as he drove right past us in his chauffeur-driven car, seconds after coming off stage and he replied "Love you more!" What a mind-blowing day! Here are my photos: 

The O2 in London
Then, the following day, I went to Metal Hammer's Golden Gods Awards Show at the O2 where I met Dave Prowse who played Darth Vader in Star Wars and Paul Geary, original drummer of Extreme. The show was hosted by Steel Panther who were outrageous and hilarious (obviously), and the bands I saw perform included Black Stone Cherry, Beowülf and Dillinger Escape Plan, and the rock legends who received or presented awards included Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Myles Kennedy & Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge, Michael Munroe and Michael Shenker. It was an unforgettable night! Here are my photos:

My Golden Gods 2014 wristband

Friday, 6 June 2014

Preview of "Night Will Fall"

Yesterday, I was invited to a preview (the first-ever public screening) of the feature-length documentary "Night Will Fall" at the BFI Southbank. The audience comprised those involved with the making of the film. My father, Leonard Berney, appears on screen many times, giving his account of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.

The film is really quite harrowing and it doesn't pull any punches at all. It gets across in graphic detail what it was like to witness the horrors at the aftermath of the Nazi concentration camps, close up. Just watching it on film was difficult enough, so to have actually been there; to have seen it and smelled it first hand is an experience that is difficult to imagine. 

When the credits had finished rolling and the lights had faded up, the audience were in stunned silence.

Night Will Fall (2014)
Feature Length Documentary
In the spring of 1945, Allied forces liberating Europe found evidence of atrocities which have tortured the world’s conscience ever since. As the troops entered the German concentration camps, they made a systematic film record of what they saw. Work began on a documentary to show the horror they witnessed to the German population.

Sidney Bernstein, chief of the Psychological Warfare Film Section of SHAEF commissioned the film. Those involved in the production included Alfred Hitchcock and renowned editor Stewart McAllister; they produced perhaps the most remarkable testament of the 20th Century. “No German can say he didn’t know” insists the commentary, co-written by Richard Crossman, the future cabinet minister.

These sentiments were judged by the British Government to be unsuitable to the bridge-building mood towards Germany. The film was never shown.

40 years later an American researcher found a rusty can marked “F3080” in the vaults of London’s Imperial War Museum. It was in very poor condition and the last roll was missing, but in 1985 a scratched and blurry copy was shown on PBS in America. Now after three years of work by Dr Toby Haggith of the IWM, the entire film has been fully restored and piece by piece, frame by frame, the lost last reel has been put together from the original shot lists. For the first time in history the completed “F3080” is ready to be shown.

Spring Films is co-producing with Angel TV a 90 minute documentary for theatrical and television release. This documentary, ‘Night Will Fall’ is to coincide with the release of the remastered original film and will tell the remarkable story behind the making of the film, the people involved and the reasons why it was never shown.

Team Credits
Director: André Singer
Directorial Advisor: Stephen Frears
Executive Producer: Richard Melman
Producer: Sally Angel

Angel TV

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Spamalot London: the end of another era

As I went to the opening night of Spamalot at The Playhouse Theatre, London in November 2011, I simply HAD to go to its closing night too. Would've be rude not to! And as usual, I took a few friends along with me. (I have promoted the show SO MUCH over the years on Twitter, Facebook, my blog and virtually to everyone I meet, I really should have worked out a commission deal with the producers back in 2007! I'd be loaded by now! Oh well. That wasn't why I was promoting it. The fact is, Spamalot is the funniest and most brilliant show I've ever seen, and I wanted others to enjoy it too.)

As the title of this blog post suggests, it wasn't the first Spamalot closing night I've been to. I also witnessed the end of Spamalot's run at The Palace Theatre (the executive version) back in January 2009.

With Jodie Prenger in April 2011
Every time I've seen Spamalot, there's always been something different about it; Spamalot never stood still, and last night's performance was no exception. It wasn't seeing the excellent Jodie Prenger (what a voice!) as Lady of the Lake because I saw her in that role at Aylesbury when Spamalot was on tour in 2011. I did manage to say hello to her at the stage door last night though, when she told me how honoured she was to be asked to close the show at The Playhouse. It was lovely to see her again. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a photo with her this time but she did give me a nice hug :-)

The main difference for me last night was to see Robin Armstrong as King Arthur for the first time. He was possibly the first clean shaven King Arthur I'd ever seen. It was so strange for me not to see him say "And then we LEAP out of the rabbit!" Consequently, it was the first time I'd seen Graham Newell in a lead role and I really enjoyed his performance. I thought his bent-over portrayal of Mrs Galahad was hilarious!

James Bisp |Robin Armstrong | Michael Burgen
I was so happy to meet James Bisp, finally. He wasn't on when I saw the show a few weeks ago, and the previous time, I didn't happen to see him at the stage door (which is always a bit of a scrummage - and it's also very badly lit. To The Playhouse management - if you wanted to do something fan-friendly, please install a light back there so we can see who's who!). What a charming fellow! I think his portrayal of Sir Galahad is, or rather was, outstanding! The parts he plays (Dennis, The Black Knight, Sir Galahad) are really convincing; he is such a good actor!

The atmosphere last night was, understandably, more upbeat than usual. However, I was expecting the audience to demand an encore of the finale, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, since it was the last night, but it was not to be!

Graham MacDuff with Harry in 2007,
with me in 2011 and last night

The biggest surprise for me happened not during the show but afterwards at the stage door. I bumped into someone who has become somewhat of an 'old friend': Graham MacDuff (husband of the gorgeous Anna Jane Casey) who has played both Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot over the years. He just popped in last night to see the last show. We first met at the stage door of The Palace back in 2007, in the days when Dennis used to say "Soggy old blondes with their backsides in ponds can't replace the electorate." It was so lovely to see him again and such a nice surprise!

I think last night was the 16th time I'd seen the show. To be honest, I've lost count! If you really wanted to see every blog post of every performance of Spamalot I went to, then click here, but I'd understand if just wanted to see the highlights:

Do you think Spamalot will return next year as part of the 40th anniversary of Monty Python and the Holy Grail? I hope it does!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Spamalot... my 15th time - maybe not my last after all

Spamalot is on at The Playhouse Theatre, London, but not for much longer. (Photo by Hy Money)

Yes, I went to see Spamalot again! This time, accompanied by my friends Sally Western (of Peter Cook 'Green Plaque' fame) and Hy Money (the UK's first female sports photographer and former photographer for Crystal Palace FC).

We had such a great time! I was so pleased to see Adam Ellis again as it was his day off last time I saw the show, much to my disappointment. His portrayal of Prince Herbert is so funny! After the show, we met the cast as they came out of the stage door and luckily, Hy Money took a photo of Adam and me!

Adam Ellis (who plays Prince Herbert and lots of other characters) and me, with the Millennium Wheel in the background (photo by Hy Money)

It was also wonderful for me to see, for the first time, James Bisp in the role of Sir Gallahad (and the Black Night and Prince Herbert's father etc). I was really impressed! What a strong performance! He really brought all the characters to life. Clearly, he has a glittering career ahead of him. I was so looking forward to meeting him at the stage door, but he somehow slipped out, probably when I was chatting to another member of the cast. I think they should come out one by one in an orderly fashion for us fans! It would make things so much easier if the theatre installed a ticketing system like they have at the deli counter in Sainsbury's. I digress.

I did manage to have a little chat with newbies Michael Burgen who plays Patsy, Daniel Boys (Sir Lancelot, Knight of Ni!, French Knight and Tim the Enchanter etc) and King Arthur himself, Joe Pasquale who photobombed a shot of Bonnie Langford and Hy Money I was taking!

It must be pretty scary stepping into a well-established show as the new boy! Respect to them!

Bonnie Langford (Lady of the Lake) and Hy Money being photobombed by Joe Pasquale (King Arthur)
 Bonnie Langford and Hy Money without Joe Pasquale
 Bonnie Langford and Hy Money with Joe Pasquale
I also managed to have a chat with Spamalot veterans Rob Delaney who plays Sir Robin (it was not much more than a "hello" to be honest, unfortunately), the lovely Hannah Malekzad (one of the knights who say Ni! and female ensemble) and the no-less-lovely Robin Armstrong (Sir Bedevere and Sir Galahad's mother etc). The cast are such a friendly bunch of people!

 Robin Armstrong, Michael Burgen and me (photo by Hy Money)
Spamalot closes on Saturday April 12th. How I would love to have a ticket for that performance...!


One reason that Hy Money was keen to meet up with Bonnie Langford was that she wanted to show her some photos she took of the cast of the 1982 performance of Pirates of Penzance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane which starred an 18-year old Bonnie! Hy was a press photographer at the time and had been invited to the show's photocall. And here they are:

Lots of famous faces in the cast of Pirates of Penzance, Theatre Royal, 1982, including Bonnie Langford. Can you name them all? (Photos by Hy Money)