Sunday, January 31, 2010

Theatre: Silence The Musical


The Silence of the Lambs is a movie that calls out for a parody... At least to take the edge of some of its more intense moments. Therefore it was with much anticipation that I ventured to Above the Stag theatre in Victoria to see Silence! the musical. For anyone who has seen the Silence of the Lambs more times than they care to remember, this is a great little musical that doesn't disappoint, which even bases its main theme on what the composers call a "pleasant major mode variation" on Howard Shore's Silence of the Lambs theme. This production in the intimate (or cramped) Above the Stag theatre is full of fine detail from the movie, such as Jodie Foster's inexplicable accent, her lesbian relationship with her roommate, and her cheap shoes...

The music includes such little gems as I can smell your .... complete with slightly suggestive ballet and a tango Quid Pro Quo. Throughout the show a chorus of lambs can be found running on and off stage... The cast were particularly good and managed to keep the laughs coming for the most part.

Probably the only slightly unnerving thing about this show is the venue itself. Given its location, the Stag seems to be a pub that is mostly populated by creepy gay civil servants who would not look out of place in Buffalo Bill's home... And you do have to make your way past them to get to the upstairs space. The entire place also smells like a toilet. However, if you just pretend the grimness it is all part of the atmosphere for the show you'll be fine... It runs all this month and is worth catching...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Theatre: High Society

It was practically a full house on Thursday evening at High Society playing Upstairs at the Gatehouse. That meant that Johnnyfox and I had to sit in the front row to enjoy this high energy and high furniture moving production. It must be hard to work in these productions to dance and sing your heart out, and then have to move the sofas about. When you're not worrying that they will drop a lampshade on you or kick you in the face, the cast in this show are great. And since the music is Cole Porter it is fairly enjoyable stuff it makes it hard to not enjoy it at some level...

On another level it is just an awful musical with a dull book and vaguely appealing characters. It probably was a bad idea to see a show with Johnnyfox that has lines that mention something about stroking her pussy out the back as well. And it wasn't helped by the decision to transplant the setting to England, perhaps so we didn't have to cringe at English actors attempting American accents. The ladies around us in the audience apart from being sympathetic to our tittering also provided some added amusement with their reactions to what was going on onstage, particularly as the evening wore on as being a theatre pub you can bring your drinks into the theatre. They were looking suspiciously like hard core Gatehouse goers... And they had sat well away from where the furniture kept flying in and out. Sort of worth catching... if you steer clear of the exits. Also avoid Finsbury Park when heading home as the vomit matches the floor there and you can go for a bit of a slide... Although Johnnyfox thought that was a tad more entertaining than the show we saw...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Theatre: An Inspector Calls

It's January so it is Get Into London Theatre time... Which is a great way to see a play for a bargain that you might have been ambivalent about seeing previously. One such play I was ambivalent about was the revival of An Inspector Calls, directed by Stephen Daldry. Having now seen it, I still remain ambivalent. Sure I understand how important it must have felt when this production first came on the scene in 1992. Thatcherism was a very recent memory and was a critique of her legacy as much. However eighteen years on, times have certainly changed... And the play feels overproduced and overstaged. And (on the night I saw it...) over-acted...

There is nothing subtle about the JB Priestly's text, which is fine from a historical point of view, but this production decides to ram things home in big large letters, and a tiny little house... And if you aren't being deafened by the nightmare sequence score from Vertigo, you find yourself being moistened by the mist from the rain machine... For a drawing room drama, it all seems like overkill... Still it has proved popular and with Get Into London Theatre prices, it's cheap enough to enjoy being ambivalent. The play runs until March and GILT has been extended now until then too...

Scenes from window shopping in Mayfair Sunday 2


Window Shopping in Mayfair, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Come to think of it, you don't see this either... I couldn't work out where you hit the button to flush...

Scenes from Window Shopping in Mayfair Sunday


IMG_0027, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

You don't see that everyday...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Art and Pornography: Pop Life at the Tate



IMG_1461, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

The Tate Modern's Pop Life exhibition finished today. Basically it was a collection of minge from the seventies onwards with a few bits of Warhol thrown in for good measure... While there was some attempt to put it all into the context of "it seemed like a good idea at the time", it was a pity there wasn't some of this interview with Jeff Koons describing how his then-wife Cicciolina expressed herself with her shaved vagina. This interview was filmed without irony at the time they created the Made In Heaven works that made up one room of the exhibition...

After a while of looking at the artworks (or pornography) it was almost enough to make you want to run away from it all and see some real art... Well at least not art that you could have created yourself with some nifty clippers, a Gillette disposable and a compact mirror. But if you missed it, an intrepid reporter captured it all on Youtube... And at about the speed it should be seen. Tate Shots with Jonathan Yeo also gives it a good wrap up as well, standing at one point strategically in front of something very large and very naughty indeed...

Update: You can also see some of the works at Artsy's Jeff Koons Page

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Theatre Preview: Six Degrees of Separation



Not content with one play this week, Monday night was a chance to catch up with the West End Whingers and troupe to see a preview of Six Degrees of Separation at The Old Vic. John Guare's award-winning play was having its first London revival in 18 years. Variations on the above artwork for this production are on posters across the tube network and they're enough to make you want to go see it... It just looks so terribly sophisticated and smart...

The play has a sort of legendary status, but this is less to do with the play itself... In 1993 it was made into a film with Stockard Channing (reprising her Broadway role) and Will Smith, who largely was remembered for playing a gay character and not being that gay as there was no kissing and not much nudity (it was all a bit no homo)... Shortly after the film came out Kevin Bacon made the statement he worked with everyone in Hollywood and thus gave birth to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon phenomena. Amongst some circles, this became better known than the play itself. So much so that a colleague thought that was what I was seeing...

Anyway, headlining the show is Obi Abili, Anthony Head and Lesley Manville. All of them are excellent in delivering what seems like a series of three-act monologues that make up this show. Abili has no problems playing a gay con man who ingratiates himself into the lives of some rich New Yorkers. There is a large cast on stage at times, but the focus is between the relationship be Abili's character Paul and Ouisa (played by Manville).

As the play was unfolding, the audience's reactions became more and more intriguing... When the character Paul is revealed for who he is, there was an awful lot of tut tutting going on in the audience, especially when there were the gay references. It started after the full frontal nudity (and a rather unconvincing condom) and then reappeared when another character was describing a sexually provocative ride in Central Park... Maybe it was all that talk that just led to the audience just letting their mind go wild a bit too much. On the other hand, there was a lot of tittering during an unfortunate revolve malfunction during a particularly silent and dramatic part of the play so maybe the audience was just badly behaved.

The play runs a sharp ninety minutes without an interval. Afterwards at the bar discussing what we had seen, the troupe had mixed views about it all. Sure it does take characters, build them up and then completely turn them on their head (or show them having sex), but many just found the characters too unlikable... And perhaps a little too gay... When other gay-ish plays such as Public Property and Prick Up Your Ears also have trouble finding audiences maybe gay isn't so fashionable anymore at the theatre. Well at least not when you have to pay £90 for two top price tickets. Here's hoping it finds an audience as gay gore aside, for me this is a great play and a great looking production and a great cast. Worth catching in its run until April 3.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Theatre: The Power of Yes

Despite gusts of wind and snow, what looked like a full house was there on Saturday night to see David Hare's new play The Power of Yes at the National Theatre. Not even freezing conditions could prevent National Theatre audiences from seeing a lecture on the financial crisis. Well we're that sort of audience I suppose.

The Power of Yes has been playing since September, but rather than see it early on in its run and be bewildered about it (such as I was with his Stuff Happens show), I waited a bit, hoping it would be trimmed and better formed by now. It probably was.

David Hare is a bit of a star writer nowadays so it seemed to make sense to make him the focus of the show. Its a show about a playwright trying to understand the credit crunch and the recession of the last two years for a play he is being commissioned by the National Theatre to write. I guess being a star playwright, you can do that sort of thing. Some say Enron the play treats a similar subject matter far more creatively but having not yet seen it, I had to be content with the less inspired premise...

Of course if you were the slightest bit interested in the recession of the past two years, you would be familiar with the subject matter from reading the Financial Times. Although here it seems so much better written... And better looking than a pink sheet with its cool steel set... And sassier. I don't think anyone in the FT used the word cunt to describe the former head of Royal Bank of Scotland.

Of course watching this you could either feel smug and satisfied like all good nights out at the National Theatre can make you do, or feel just incredibly depressed that the economy in Britain is... Stuffed... It was easy to feel both...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

News: The weather

As the Guardian blogged, there is nothing like a cold snap to bring out the cliches... News stories this past week will feature at least one of the following:
  • Talking about the winter spirit that evokes memories of the blitz. Since when is Jack Frost a Nazi?
  • There really is community spirit after all... Although this only occurs after people realise the government is not going to do something for them first...
  • Fear of running out of grit. Birmingham will run out in 48 hours. Death will ensue after.
  • Take matters into your own hands and clear a pavement. And then you will be sued.
Oh and BBC weather reporters must have a dress code for crumpled or ill-fitting suits... Won't somebody think of the dry cleaners?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Weather: Snow Night



The first few flakes of snow began falling around 21:00 in South West London this evening in what promises to be a chilly, snowy and icy week... How heavy it will get is anyone's guess... At the moment the flakes are providing a light dusting of the road and cars parked outside.

With many people expecting the snowfall to arrive earlier and therefore heading home and staying in, it would have been a good night to head out to popular show or restaurant... The only place that still was popular was my gym alas... Well I suppose those New Year resolutions are going to be awfully fresh and raw...

There is something about the snow here that just makes people want to grab their iphone and take really crap pictures of snow falling and twitter about it. Myself included. The Guardian is providing an outlet for all this technological creativity through the UK snow map, which could be a useful tool in understanding weather patterns, or just a bit of fun...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Movies: Nine



Back in London, a good cure for jet-lag is a movie... Although watching the movie musical Nine was probably not the best option... Only curiosity to see if it would get any worse kept me awake. The fatal flaw of this movie is to cast Daniel Day Lewis - a creepy actor at the best of times (as the above interview junket for the film shows) - in a role that required the audience to have some element of sympathy for him. It also doesn't help that in between the musical numbers there is some absolutely dire dialogue mostly set in hotel rooms spoken by actors with outraaaaeegeeshly leeedicrious accents. Best (or should that be worst) is Nicole Kidman's which varies from eeetaylian to okker Aussie mid sentence. It was hilarious even if her screen time was brief.

There are some nice numbers sung by women in various types of pantyhose but after the best number in the movie - A Call From the Vatican - you feel like you could be Penelope Cruz's gynaecologist. Director Rob Marshall managed to strip any sense of sexiness out of Chicago and he again does it with Nine. Even worse is that he allows Sophia Loren (in what could be her swan song) to look like a drag queen. Judi Dench's character has been relegated to costume designer, singing a French song with an English accent or having to speak some pretty cringeworthy dialogue. Other cast members come of slightly better, although here's hoping that no future musicals have songs with lyrics that use "neo-realism"...

A pity really as it probably could have been a better film, even if the show it is based on isn't much of a story it has some great set piece numbers (many of which have been cut for the film or rewritten). Going by the box office takings it will disappear shortly. Go if your curious, or stuck for a decent film at the cinema that isn't a a 3D James Cameron epic... Otherwise look for it on bit torrent...

Overheard at the gym...

White Man #1: Sorry I didn't see you there in the dark
Black Man #2: Hey, I didn't see you in the light...

Scenes from A Church Yard London


IMG_0020_2, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Posted on a wall that borders a church... Interesting thoughts for the new year...