Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Let the river run: Hiraeth @sohotheatre


Some people are rocks. Some people are rivers. Some people can be rocks in rivers. Some people can be rocks just nearby the river. And so on and so on and so on.

These important observations are about as deep as things get in Hiraeth. The word is Welsh for longing. But notwithstanding the flimsy premise the piece is a sweet-natured, whimsical account of  one woman’s journey from a small Welsh farming town to London.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hammams of convenience: Mozart's Die Entführung @PopupOperaUK


There is something appealingly convenient about the format of Pop Up Opera’s productions. They take witty (and often seldom performed) pieces and stage them in unusual locations, with a modern twist. The convenient part comes in the fact these locations are either close to your place of work, your home et cetera. So by the time Die Entführung came to south east London, I was ready to go.

Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio) is about a hero, Belmonte and his servant, Pedrillo, and their attempts to rescue their lovers, Konstanze and Blonde from an Ottoman harem. Given the popup opera treatment, the harem is now a big brother-like bath house come beauty boot camp where no men are allowed. And no women are allowed to leave (at least until the treatments are complete).



In this production most of the spoken dialogue is removed and in place are some rather witty title cards. The role of the figurehead-dictator Pasha Selim is now an omnipresent big-brother like figure. And Belmonte and Konstanze develop their romance online through some tinder-like encounter.

Naturally there are plenty of mishaps with lovers in disguise, getting bad people drunk and true love winning after threats of mild peril.

But amongst all this shenanigans there is some fine singing. Despite the light subject matter, it is not an easy opera to sing with its enormous range and demands on the performers.  On Thursday night, Eve Daniell as Konstanze managed a number of tricky passages easily.

Emily Phillips as Konstanze’s servant / personal assistant has a wonderful aria where she taunts Osmin the overseer of the boot camp and has a wonderful strong and dramatic voice. And Marcin Gesla with his deep bass deftly managed those unfathomable low notes.

The choice of venue in Bermondsey proved to have some excellent acoustics which helped project the vocals, and the other star of the show was Elizabeth Challenger* as Musical Director and pianist keeping things in time moving along nicely.

Popup Opera is a civilised and informal way of discovering some opera gems. It is touring around the countryside (including a few further dates in London) through to 1 May. Check their website for details as one might just be popping up close to where you live or work... And it would be a shame to miss it...

⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

* correction: initially I attributed Berrak Dyer as MD, sorry about that!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

On target: Shrapnel 34 Fragments of a Massacre @arcolatheatre


Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre by Anders Lustgarten is an angry and sweeping account of the Roboski airstrike that took place in December 2011 near the border of Iraq. Politicians, the military, modernity and the industrial complex are all called into account here.

The startling thing about this piece however is how it shows it is so easy to forget the incident as just another case of collateral damage in a land far away. The relentless coverage of war and conflict framed through two minute television news stories simplifies everything and desensitises you. It also removes any chance to understand the context and history. This piece tries to slap you about and wake you out of such complacency.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A whole lot of soul: Cynthia Erivo in concert


Last Monday night was an opportunity for Cythia Erivo to strut her stuff in her first solo concert. Whether it is a quiet softly sung ballad or belting out a showstopper there does not seem to be anything she cannot do.

She has been a rising star in the West End with stand out performances in The Color Purple, Dessa Rose and Sister Act, but here she was able to showcase a range of musical styles, and her phenomenal vocal range.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Tight spots: Lardo @ORLTheatre

It is not often you get to go to the theatre and get an eyeful of spit, blood and tight-fitting Lycra. But this is the case in Lardo, now playing at The Old Red Lion theatre. It’s a descent into the subculture of Scottish wrestling, its characters and violence.

It is also an immersive experience. Entering the Old Red Lion theatre is like entering into the world of insane wrestling. The performance space is a wrestling ring, the Scottish flag and walls smeared with muck and graffiti.  

There are real stunts and some pretty nifty moves. Audience participation is a given. You will find yourself shouting and booing (whether you really wanted to or not). And even when the play feels like it is losing momentum there is always the next wrestling match that will save it. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Music for desperate nights: Desperate Divas @St_JamesTheatre

Desperate Divas
It was only for one night, but hopefully it won’t be too long before we see the Desperate Divas return (if they can find the time between their busy schedules).

Tiffany Graves and Anita Louise Combe presented their show last Sunday about love and the fruitless pursuit of it. It was inspired by their real-life adventures dating men (and sometimes the same men). Both are exceptional singers with long careers on the West End. Their voices and be powerful yet nuanced - and when singing together they produced some sublime harmonies in this show.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Fire down below: Hellscreen @VaultFestival @Firehousetweet


Hellscreen updates Japanese writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s tale of  creating artistic hell on earth to the London art scene. It is a high concept treatment with film, music and other tricks creating a few chills in the damp and murky space under Waterloo station. However there are so many different theatrical styles and tricks at work here, at times it feels like they get in the way of telling the story rather than making for a truly gripping piece of theatre.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Another take: This Comedian @EmbassyTea


Idil Sukan’s debut exhibition, This Comedian, is now at the Embassy Tea Gallery through to 8 March.

It is a retrospective of her creative work in production, design and photography in the comedy industry. The varied collection from the last decade includes 200 of Idil's portraits and photographs of live performance.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Romford burning: A Local Boy @ThePleasance


It had only a short run but A Local Boy which concluded yesterday at the Pleasance Islington is a great new piece of writing by Dan Murphy. The dialogue is funny and incisive about the cruel trials and traumas of today's youth, where anything is fair game and everything is online.

It is a world where there is no privacy and sometimes this has unforeseen consequences. This time there has been an incident at the local war memorial in Romford where young people hang out and drink.

Ice cream and other treats: She Loves Me @LandorTheatre


It has been a week since I caught She Loves Me at the the Landor Theatre, but there is something so sweet, perky and fun about this show that it lingers with you long after you have seen it. Perhaps the terrific cast headed by Charlotte Jaconelli and John Sandberg helps. There is so much enthusiasm in the performances that you can't help but like it.

It is a show about mistaken identity, scandal and intrigue. The story revolves around a little shop in Budapest and two of its employees. Although they are constantly at odds with each other, through a personals advertisement, they inadvertently become anonymous pen pals. Soon romance starts to develop. The work is based on a play by Miklos Laszlo that would become The Shop Around the Corner and the inspiration for such films as You've Got Mail.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cold dark killers: Assassins @menchocfactory


Finally caught Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory. This dark and grim piece of musical theatre is re imagined as a funfair where the cast of would-be and actual assassins of US Presidents tell their stories like a bunch of grim clowns. But it comes across heavy handed and lacking much irony.

Staging a musical with this subject matter is always going to be a challenge, but both the material and the production don't really dig too much into the obsessive gun culture that is part of the country's DNA. Compared to The Scottsboro Boys, another musical based on an unpleasant subject, there is none of the bitterness or outrage presented ironically as a song and dance musical.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bare emotions: Gods and Monsters @swkplay


Gods and Monsters, now playing at the Southwark Playhouse is a showcase of incredible performances from its terrific cast and an engaging story. Oh and there is a bit of full frontal nudity too.

Based on the novel Father of Frankenstein (which was also the source material for the film of the same name), the story is a blend of fact and fiction. Age, memory, fame, youth and loss collide in the story of the last few months in the life of English director James Whale.

Whale director and creator of the first two Frankenstein films, had a moderately successful career in Hollywood which enabled him to live comfortably in Los Angeles. He was also openly gay. But following a series of strokes in his sixties, he lost his ability to prevent painful memories from his past flooding back. And without giving too much away, his most successful creation, the monster in Frankenstein, seems to become something far more personal.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Sassy and sexy: Anything Goes @NewWimbTheatre and everywhere @AnythingGoesUK_


Going on a cruise seems like an awful lot of fun if this high spirited production of Anything Goes is anything to go by.

The cast sing and dance their hearts out in Cole Porter's classic musical. There is so much to take in with the fast footed choreography, wonderful performances and imaginative staging.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New cast photos: Shakespeare in Love


New cast photos from the production of Shakespeare in Love are out. The new cast took over at London’s Noel Coward Theatre on 12 January 2015.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Previews of a different animal: Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man


Currently enjoying a popular run on Broadway, Scott Ellis’ acclaimed production of The Elephant Man will transfer to London with the US cast starring Bradley Cooper (in various states of dress and undress), Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola this spring.