View From the Crow’s Nest: Life on the Ruby Princess – Part Two

After a flight to LAX, and a night at the lavish Terranea Resort I was ready for a week on the high seas, sailing from the City of Angels, down the Mexican Riviera while sampling the Ruby Princess’s onboard facilities.


Terranea Resort. Photo: Roger Crow


Terranea Resort. Photo: Roger Crow

Curtis Stone’s new eatery Share received plenty of attention, though there was no shortage of whistles and bells surrounding Norman Love’s sweet treats and the latest beds.

(Memo to self: design a belt attachment with wine glass and small plate holder so I can take photos and accept more tasty nibbles like a media friendly octopus).

Photo: Roger Crow

Given the fact my home mattress is like sleeping on a bed of nails, I wasn’t surprised when Princess’s turned out to be rather comfortable.

Share. Photo: Roger Crow

One thing became clear: I was happy to “share” many of the dishes, but the lobster pasta was so mouthwatering, I labelled it “Mine,” when it came to a private dining experience later in the week.

Share. Photo: Roger Crow

As a chocoholic cursed with a palette that usually feels like it’s been mugged, I needed my chocolate fix to be kind while giving me a cocoa hit.

I can’t take any chocolatier seriously since Paul Whitehouse’s sketches lampooning a lascivious choc dealer, but I instantly fell in love with Norman’s finely crafted treats.

Photo: Roger Crow

To be continued…


View From the Crow’s Nest: Life On The Ruby Princess – Part One 

“Target ahead.”
I check the monitor on the bridge and ease back in the captain’s chair, memories of Star Trek episodes wash over me like waves crashing against our hull. One false move and the 3,000 plus passengers and 1,000 crew will have a very bad day. 

At 944 feet long and 118 feet wide, the Ruby Princess could be an unwieldy vessel, but it slices through the waves with the skill of a veteran surgeon, and can turn on a dime, with a little encouragement from assorted thrusters. 


Ruby Princess. Photo: Roger Crow 

Thankfully there’s no battle stations on this bridge. No glaring red light or staggering from side to side like an episode of William Shatner’s 50 year old sci-fi saga. 

The Love Boat courtesy of Aaron Spelling Productions 

It’s more like The Love Boat, that classic US sitcom in which a guest star of the week found romance on the eponymous vessel (and kept this TV addict entertained in the seventies and eighties). 

That “target” is a harmless cargo ship safely in the distance. I snap back into the reality of now rather than some Trek fantasy. 

Star Trek courtesy of Paramount

Hypothetical problem averted, I ease out of said chair for a photo op, and shake Captain Craig Street’s hand, returning my temporary “command” to the man who really knows what he’s doing. 
 Captain Craig Street 

Princess Cruises launched in 1965, a little before Captain Kirk’s debut, and although his five year voyage was interrupted by a decade-long hiatus, even Kirk would be impressed by the skills of Captain Street and company. 
This wasn’t my first experience of luxury cruising having sampled three of Disney’s four ships a few years ago. Now I was keen to see how Princess compared, and as they launched their ’Come Back New’ celebrations in Los Angeles, I didn’t need asking twice when invited to try the new dining attractions and beds. 

LA docks. Photo: Roger Crow

However, I did wonder if I’d just “come back heavier” instead of “new”. 
To be continued…

Mad To Be Normal – A Chat With Writer Director Robert Mullan

I imagine this is a long term project that you’ve been trying to get off the ground for a while. 
If you say so

You tell me. 

I’m attracted to it because I wrote it. I’m interested in Ronnie Laing. I was interested in psychiatry from a very youthful age because of family experiences and then when I went to university to study psychology, I read the books of RD Laing and then when I became a film maker, first a documentary film maker and feature film maker, I always wanted to write about Ronnie Laing, and that’s what happened.   

Robert Mullan, second left. Photo: Roger Crow

And why I’m interested, because he was a revolutionary figure. Most people these days, if they have some kind of psycho neurotic or psychotic illness, depressive illness, are given highly toxic medication. Some get better, some don’t. And what he tried to do was utterly different. He just said “Leave people alone. Give them somewhere safe to stay and you never know. They might get better.”


Photo: Paul Stephenson

How much has the film changed from your original vision due to budget restrictions?
The film was always going to be set at Kingsley Hall, which was built, because the production designer, Selina Norris, is brilliant, so with small resources she’s really built fabulous sets. 

Budget restrictions meant if we wanted to shoot in New York with Elisabeth Moss we couldn’t do that. We had to get around those kinds of things, but nothing essentially has changed. What changes is that you write something and you have brilliant actors, and I don’t just mean Michael Gambon, David Tennant, Elisabeth Moss and the great Gabriel Byrne, but also these people (Jerome Holder, James Utechin, Tom Richards, Lucie Glynn, Adam Paul Harvey). 

Photo: Roger Crow 

As Gabriel Byrne said to me, “We’ve created a whole little community here in two weeks.” You look around and there’s Tom doing his ’Tom thing’, and there’s James doing his Sam thing and there’s Lucie doing her Joan thing. And there’s Paul being Dr Zemmell, and there’s Jerome… 

He said to me “Sometimes you have to get back to the hotel and tap yourself… ’I’m out of there now’.” So the vision’s changed in the sense that they brought all the words to life. 

With thanks to the cast and crew of Mad to be Normal for help with this blog post. 

Mad To Be Normal – A Chat With Producer Phin Glynn: part two

Tell us about the rest of the cast 

Well, Jerome Holder has just finished a film called Dough with Jonathan Pryce. He’s brilliant… he is sort of the guy… actually I won’t give too much away. 

And then we’ve got a couple of actors, James Utechin and Tom Richards. Historically they are theatre actors, but that kind of acting lends itself to a manic environment like Kingsley Hall.  

Then we’ve got Lucie Glynn, who’s done a lot of commercial work in the past. She plays Joan, and is fabulous. 

Phin Glynn. Photo: Roger Crow

You’ve got people like Olivia Poulet, who’s in The Thick of It, and has been around for 20 or 30 years, and is magnificent. 

And then we’ve got Adam Paul Harvey who plays Paul Zemmell, and Zemmell is this character who sort of is the lieutenant to Laing. He’s been acting since he was 14 I think, but it’s great to have him on board because he’s such a professional; he is such a joy to work with.

  Lucie Glynn, Tom Richards and Adam Paul Harvey. Photo: Paul Stephenson

What’s been the most interesting day of filming? 
There were two that stuck out for me. One was the big scene between Michael (Gambon) and Gabriel (Byrne) and David (Tennant), which again I’m not going to go too much into as to what happens. But then there was another one which was a huge ensemble piece. 

 We had all of the sort of inhabitants of Kingsley Hall and there was a party, and you had all these brilliant actors, top to bottom. Everyone who is a major piece of the Kingsley Hall puzzle dancing, and from what made it onto the camera, that’s the most spectacular bit. That was my favourite bit to watch, definitely. That would by default become the best day on set.

  Some of the (tired) cast and director (second left) of Mad To Be Normal, February 2016. Photo: Roger Crow

To be continued…


Mad To Be Normal – A Chat with Producer Phin Glynn: part one

Producer Phin Glynn on the set of Mad To Be Normal, East Yorkshire, February 2016. Photo: Roger Crow 

Why make a film about RD Laing and why now?

Well ‘why’ is a very open ended question. I suppose ‘why RD Laing’ is he’s a fascinating character. He fits into this wonderful space that people are attracted to. He’s an anti hero. 

I think ‘now’, because it’s about time. (Director) Bob (Mullan) will tell you this when you speak to him, he’s been on this for such a long time. He’s been aching for a film to be about him for years and years. 

Photo: Roger Crow 

We spoke to a number of people, especially in Scotland as you can imagine, and said “We’re making this film about a Scottish cultural hero RD Laing, are you interested?” And they said: “Well we get five RD Laing scripts a year. Why would we pick yours?” And it’s a surprising attitude considering that he was such an impactful man.”

A lot of people may not be aware of Laing, so is there an audience?

I wasn’t alive when he was at his most impactful, when he was writing his books and when he was inspiring young men and women around the world, but I have friends who were there and when I discussed making the project with them, they talked about how they used to discuss him in the pub. He’d be a pub subject in the same way one would talk about football or whatever else, and they would discuss Ronnie (Laing) over a pint and a cigarette. 

Photo: Paul Stephenson 

How hard or easy was it to get such a great cast like David Tennant and Elisabeth Moss?

Well the first thing that David said when the project was put to him was that he had always be fascinated by Ronnie (Laing) and he had always been drawn to the idea of playing Ronnie Laing. So it was a role that he had on the cusp of his mind even though he had never expressed it to anyone. When it crossed his desk it was something that immediately stood out. And then after you’ve cast someone like David, I think it opens a lot of doors. 

We got Elisabeth cast rather soon afterwards; Lizzie’s a rather public fan of David’s, so that sort of smoothed that part, then we got very lucky with Michael (Gambon). Then we got even luckier when we were able to add to that with Gabriel (Byrne), so it all came together rather magically, as it does sometimes. Then a lot of the other cast followed, David Bamber and Olivia Poulet. A lot of other wonderful, wonderful actors. 

Blogger on set, Bubwith, East Yorkshire

To be continued…

The Finest Hours – A Review

The only movies I wanted to watch as a kid were films about spaceships, daring pilots and death defying adventures in far off galaxies. 
I had no idea what I’d look for in movies in the future, but watching The Finest Hours and Bridge of Spies, all became clear. Characters with integrity doing the right thing in impossible circumstances. 

The latter was one of my favourite movies of 2015, and the former looks like it will take some beating at the end of 2016’s when a top 10 is assembled. 

Chris Pine is on top form as Bernie Webber, the shy Cape Cod coastguard who falls for a local girl Miriam Pentinen (Holliday Granger). At first he reluctantly accepts her offer of marriage and then heads off on what seems like a suicide mission. 

Casey Affleck is equally good as Ray Sybert, the engineer of a stricken tanker who uses every trick in the book to keep what’s left of his ship in one piece as the elements attempt to sink it. 

As Bernie and his small crew set off to brave lethal waves and rescue the tanker crew, back home Miriam, fellow coast guards and families bicker and bond. 

Director Craig Gillespie does a terrific job of fleshing out the love story and emotional elements before throwing a wealth of stunning set pieces at us. 
It crackles with tension and though the 3D version I saw was dark and a little blurry, it scarcely mattered. The movie delivered so many sucker punches, I was emotionally black and blue by the finale. 

George Clooney’s Perfect Storm tackled a similar story, with an annoying resolution. This perfect, stormy movie is everything that could have been and more. 

See it on a big screen before it’s relegated to DVD. You’ll be glad you did. 

Just take a hankie. 

Mad To Be Normal – A Chat With Jerome Holder, Adam Paul Harvey and Tom Richards

  Mad To Be Normal set, East Yorkshire, February 2016

As David Tennant fans wait to see his latest movie Mad To Be Normal, I had a chat with some of his co stars. 

Jerome Holder

How did you get the role?

I met Bob (Mullan), our director, in Philadelphia, in November (2015). He mentioned he was doing this project and he mentioned the cast, and that was it for me. I was sold. I said ‘I’ll do anything in it; whatever you want me to do.’ I was down for it, whatever it was.

Who do you play?

My character’s name is John Holding. In the film it’s classified as him having catatonic schizophrenia, but noone ever really knows why he’s going through what he’s going through.

He goes through electro convulsive therapy, so that sort of renders his personality void. He doesn’t really say much but he breaks through at the end, eventually.

What’s been the most interesting day of filming?

The first day on set we did the ECT scene, and watching it back, it was awful, it was horrible. It brought to light everything we were doing in this film, but that was the best day, definitely.

Jerome Holder, left, with Adam Paul Harvey (third left) and Tom Richards (second right). 

Adam Paul Harvey 

Who do you play?

I play a guy called Dr Paul Zemmell, and Paul is the right hand man to RD Laing. He’s the guy actually running the show while Laing’s going off being drunk and famous and having a really good time, and is actually the one putting in the work and face to face with all the patients, taking all the stress, without any of the fame. He’s essentially one of the only sane people there, including Laing.

Tom Richards


Tom Richards with Michael Gambon

Who do you play?

I’m Tom Richards, playing Raymond, who is suffering from drug induced psychosis, but I think he probably had kind of incipient schizophrenic tendencies anyway which have been triggered by that more than anything. He has grandiose delusions; he thinks he’s Jesus.

He’s ultimately a very gentle man who’s just very frightened basically but can as a result be intimidating; (he) acts pretty strangely in a lot of ways which people can understandably be threatened by.

What sort of research do you do for a film like this?

Well I went and spoke to a friend of mine who’s a psychiatrist about what kind of conditions result in grandiose delusions and what symptoms tend to go along with that. 

I’ve actually had some family connection with paranoid schizophrenia as well which was useful to draw on, and where various things come up, Youtube videos and that kind of thing. I remember watching some videos from Kingsley Hall, which I think we probably all have.

To be continued

Mad To Be Normal – A Chat with Lucie Glynn and James Utechin

David Tennant as RD Laing

February 18, 2016 and filming has wrapped on the Bubwith set of Mad To Be Normal, the period drama which sees David Tennant starring as psychoanalyst RD Laing. I had a chat with some of his co-stars about the upcoming movie. 
Lucie Glynn

What attracted you to the movie?

The script is fantastic and as soon as I read it I knew that I wanted to be involved, and David (Tennant) was really interested already so it was all very exciting straight away, and he loved the script. 

Some of the cast and director (second left) of Mad To Be Normal, Bubwith, East Yorkshire, February 18, 2016. Photo: Roger Crow

Who do you play?

My character is called Joan Walker. She’s borderline catatonic schizophrenic, so she’s almost immobile. She has periods of manicness and hyperactivity.

Lucie Glynn

She’s unpredictable and a very childlike character. She’s always clutching a teddy bear, sucking her thumb and resorting to a childlike state. Very fun to play. I really enjoyed it. 

James Utechin

Tell us about your character

I’m playing a guy called Sam who’s a longer term resident at Kingsley Hall. He’s essentially a mute. Bob (the director) gave me this bit of string to do whatever I want with, so I’ve used that to convey tension, or if I’m angry… Because I’m not using my words at all. 

That’s a lot of fun because i’m from a stage background and that gives me a lot of stuff to do with my face, sort of darting back and forth… if the camera’s picking any of that up, which I think it is. 

Did you have to do much research?
I didn’t know that much about RD Laing, so just reading up on him and watching some YouTube interviews. 

Any favourites that stand out?
There’s a really good one where he’s drunk on Irish television with Gay Byrne. It’s strange having an interviewer called Gay Byrne because we’ve got Gabriel Byrne (in the movie), so that was a bit funny. So far it’s been an absolute pleasure to work on. 

I haven’t done much film before so this has been a wonderful experience. 

To be continued. 


Blogger on the set of Mad To Be Normal