Wednesday, April 29, 2015

La vie en rose: Dead Royal @Ovalhouse


Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne truffle boxes are piled up in an apartment. A video is hooked up playing Gone With The Wind. I’ve Seen That Face Before is playing in the background. And then Chris Ioan Roberts as Wallis Simpson vomits pink muck all over blue and white floor.

Is it an aversion to seafood that she does not want to admit for fear of being considered too common? Or was it too many Charbonnel et Walker truffles? Whatever the cause you are left without any doubt that for the next sixty minutes you are in for a show that is going to be camp and dirty.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Flipping hell: A Simple Space @Udderbellyfest @GOM_Circus


A Simple Space, by Australian-based circus troupe Gravity and Other Myths, is the latest round of circus offering at the Udderbelly Festival at the Southbank Centre.

Between the amazing feats of acrobatics you can hear a constant sound. The sound of heavy breathing. It is coming from the stage. This is pretty intense stuff here and the energy and sweat from the performers is audible and palpable. And in the space of the giant purple cow, where you are up close to the performers, it seems much more intense and intimate.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Filthy press: Clarion @arcolatheatre


It’s hard to get out of your head the scenes and dialogue in Clarion, the smart, new, foul-mouthed comedy currently playing at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston. What lingers is not the expected satire of a rabidly right wing tabloid that fills its pages with anti-immigration stories and showbiz fluff. Perhaps in the post phone-hacking days, not much can surprise us about the lengths a tabloid paper goes to get a story. Instead, it is the sensational performances and characters full of anger (and filthy mouths) that will shock and awe you into hysterics.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A gran day out: Animals @Theatre503


There is something dark and unsettling about Animals, a brilliant new play by Emma Adams at Theatre 503. Its frank humour and intense performances from a terrific cast will have you loving every minute of it. It might also have you wondering what your grandmother really gets up to when she tells you she spent most of the day finishing a crossword.

This surreal story set in a dystopian English seaside town where the old people are being displaced by incomers who dress smartly and keep their children in bubble wrap. For them life is a dream. But for anyone past their prime, life is pretty grim and involuntary euthanasia is the norm.

Monday, April 13, 2015

High on the hills: The Sound of Music (uk tour)


Watching The Sound of Music on tour is really an opportunity to indulge in comfort entertainment. As Maria and the Mother Superior in the stage production sing about crisp apple strudel in the early part of the first act you realise that it is a Pavlovian response to get all warm and fuzzy about the show. Apart from getting a taste for strudel it will have you recalling when you first saw the movie... Or first dressed up as Ray (a drop of golden sun) to the first singalong. Everyone did that right?

This is probably a good thing, as take away fifty years of cultural repositioning the show is a bit of a non-event. Take away the film’s lovely Salzburg locations and the long lingering shots between the Captain and Maria, on stage you have the entire romantic plot condensed into a short speech by infant Gretel to Maria towards the end of the first act.

Don't forget to vote: Also Recognised Awards close Friday

Now that the Oliviers are out of the way, Friday is the last day people have to vote in the Also Recognised Awards, set up by the exciting new London theatre resource, My Theatre Mates run by Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock.

The Also Recognised Awards celebrate lesser-known but equally worthy talent in fields overlooked by other awards.

They comprise ten categories including an award for musical direction, which is the the first award of its kind, and recognises how the contribution of musical direction can really set the tone of a show.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I'm OK you're OK: Death Row Cowboy @CourtyardHoxton


Death Row Cowboy, which has just finished a short run at the Courtyard Theatre is a gritty and realistic piece of writing that leaves you wondering if it was based on a real life incident. But of course if that were the case there would need to be a different ethnic makeup of the cast, given that the majority of inmates on death row are not white...

But real life is less important than the character study of the three key people in the piece. Carl, who is on death row, prison officer Bobby and a police officer’s widow Hillary. It is written by Andrew Lynch and Mark McCabe who play Carl and Bobby and serves as a vehicle to explore some intriguing themes on relationships, loneliness, love and regret.

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.