Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theatre: Onassis

After catching Onassis the Play at the Novello theatre on the weekend, I found I rather enjoyed the smooth and dirty talking central character.

On one hand it is a silly play that goes on a bit. On the other hand it is entertaining with some great dialogue and an engaging performance by Robert Lindsay in the title role. And there is also Tom Austen, playing the surly son Alexandro, stripping down to his underwear for a nighttime swim. It all makes for a great night out.

Whether it is a realistic depiction is probably up for debate. The women in his life - Callas and Jackie O - are more caricatures than real people here. And when things start to get interesting dramatically it is another excuse for some Greek singing. Historical moments fly by as the play moves from being set on his boat to his island. It all seems very glamourous. 

There are some great monologues in the play, including one where Onassis talks about how his experience being sodomised as a young man made him better understand what a woman feels like to have him inside her... While out of context it may seem bizarre, watching it slowly unfold. With pauses. On stage. Seemed so masculine... So Greek... So manish... Yet so tender... It was enough to make you want to go out and get some women, or at least do some sort of manly things. I was painting a living room the next day (which surely must count) and I'm sure my roller technique was much suaver for seeing the show.

First impressions are below, but worth catching in its limited run...


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Overheard outside the pub Saturday

Woman (to security): Ooh you have such a big head... And that hat makes you look like a baker...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Overheard at Café Nero Saturday

Woman 1: Aaah know you know her!
Woman 2: Well I do and she's like you and me...
Woman 1: She is?
Woman 2: Yes she's a little bit german a little bit Flemish a little bit Scandinavian
Woman 1: And her husband?
Woman 2: Well she's divorced you know...
Woman 1: Aw such a shame...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Theatre: Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol

I was really in the mood for watching Theatre of Horror at the Southwark Playhouse Thursday evening. Maybe it was the skin biopsy I had a lunchtime that put me in the mood. There I was, watching chunks of flesh being taken out of me and put into little jars, blood dripping down my leg and feeling the stitches forcing it all back together. At one point the doctor said, "Oh you turned your head at just the right time," as I watched a little slice of me going in a jar. The shows were tame compared to all that, but still in the same vein.

The first piece, "The Exclusion Zone" started off incredibly disturbing about a young couple wanting to have some fun in the woods. It was a nice ride until the end song, which was inaudible and hard to understand the connection to the previous twenty minutes.

The second piece "The Unimaginable" was a slightly creepy monologue about people who swipe your children. After mentioning parents who go out to the theatre and leave there children at home, I was half expecting a reference to the Tapas Nine. Alas it was not so topical. After intermission was my favourite piece, "Country". This centred around a woman coming to terms with her dead husband who had just written the latest NHS White Paper. It turns out she was possessed by him and seeking revenge against her left-wing friends. Finally there was "Reanimator" which was a long piece adapted from short stories by HP Lovecraft, but had some fascinating scenes with a dead rabbit and zombie-like resurrections.

Holding the show together were Sarah-Louise Young and various others with songs and belly dancing. While the pieces were a mixed bag and scene chewing abounded, there were a few thrills across the piece and some inventive uses of the space. The Southwark Playhouse also has a great bar and you can take your drinks into the theatre. Grab a drink and go for a slightly disturbing evening. The horror runs through the end of the month.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Life in London: Burglary

Crime in London may be on the decline, but occasionally it does come and remind you its still there.  Over the past weekend someone got into my flat via a suspected unsecured bathroom window and helped themselves to a five year old iPod. I wonder if they will enjoy the over-representation of musical theatre and funky house tracks on it, but who knows. There is also the slight sense of humiliation you feel when burglars have determined the only thing you have worth stealing is a five year old iPod, but that's probably something I can discuss when the victims of crime unit gets in touch.

I always believed that you would know when you were burgled as you would come home and see clothes thrown around, drawers left open, things upended. That is also a bit like what my flatmate's room looks like on a good day but I digress. But returning home on Monday evening I at first did not see anything out of the unusual. Except for the toiletries bag with my electric shaver open on the bed. And then my bottom bedside drawer open. It was empty but that's because since I moved I had not had the chance to fill it with junk. And then noticing my iPod missing from its dock I initially thought, "Why has my flatmate borrowed my iPod?"

After waking my flatmates up Monday evening, we started piecing together a hypothetical scenario of two yoofs climbing through the bathroom window, picking my room (as it was the closest), and so forth. I started to spook my flatmates when I suggested one of them probably disturbed them so they decided to flee before venturing into their rooms. I slept soundly that night as I figured the crime already happened but I'm not sure about everyone else.

Tuesday I found myself at the local police station reporting the crime. As I started discussing the story with the police, neighbours and others, the hypothetical scenario seemed more and more plausible. Although once you report a crime you have to be prepared for the police to make an initial visit, then for someone to do a crime scene investigation and then you get a call from someone offering victim support. It is an impressive service, but it is also exhausting.

The landlord, the caretaker and others stopped by to discuss. Suddenly I knew the neighbourhood. Not a bad outcome for an old iPod. Until they come around again I guess...

Friday, October 01, 2010

Music: Caroline O'Connor

Continuing a season of performers in their prime that have seen Wonder Woman and others grace the West End, it could also be known as "Old broads at the Garrick", I caught the second night of Caroline O'Connor with Johnnyfox and others. Caroline O'Connor, while being world famous in Australia, has also been in a number of West End productions, including the ENO's production of On the Town and Bombshells. This time around it is her on stage with a terrific band and some real nice young dancers. Its a bit cabaret and a bit performance and all brass class.

I realised it has now been ten years since I first saw Caroline O'Connor and she doesn't seem to have changed much at all... She still looks and moves pretty well and still sounds good (if you overlook those occasionally suspect high notes), and is full of such energy and life you can't help but enjoy watching her perform.

In the first half of her show she talked about life growing up in Australia and learning all she could from movie musicals. There was a great film montage of her playing leading ladies from a series of famous movies before breaking into a couple of songs from Mack and Mabel. She also did a great rendition of Zing Went the Strings of My Heart. There were some great jokes and she sent us off to the bar interval on a high.

The second half tended to get a bit bogged down with a set of songs from Cabaret, a rendition of Piaf that threatened to send the audience home with industrial deafness and songs that I couldn't care much about. By the end it felt like an over extended audition rather than a performance. While I love her interpretation of some of these songs, it seems a bit of a shame to exclude music from this century in the set. Maybe the secret to these shows is for them to be ninety minutes without an interval, keeping it short and sharp. It might be also a good idea to throw in a few songs nobody has heard (or can remember) to give it a bit of edge. And next time give O'Connor a venue where she doesn't need a microphone... Actually I'm sure she didn't need it this time either... It runs through this week... Worth going, but bring some earplugs..

Opera: Niobe, Regina di Tebe

A three hour baroque opera on a Saturday night is probably not going to be everyone's cup of tea. I am not a fan of the baroque period of music with all those intricate melodies that go on and on and on... And then repeat... So bearing in mind these narrow-minded preconceived notions, it is somewhat surprising to find how enjoyable it is to sit through Niobe, Regina di Tebe.

There is some fine singing by Véronique Gens in the title role and male soprano Jacek Laszczkowski as the King of Thebes. And it is quite a surprise to hear him sing too. I also enjoyed the slightly comic / malevolent performance by Alastair Miles, who wore a most intriguing costume and gave the production relief and drama. Actually there was enough drama and intrigue in the opera to keep anyone alert and attentive. In the orchestra pit was the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble and they sounded great and even by Royal Opera's usual standards of production design (although Don Pasquale might be an exception) this was a pretty good looking show...

The Royal Opera's behind the scenes video includes highlight from the production. There are two more performances of it and it is worth catching. Good seats are bound to be available given those perceptions are going to be hard to shift in the space of a week... Despite the glowing reviews...