Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Movies: Pina 3D

PINA - Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost - International Trailer from neueroadmovies on Vimeo.

Pina 3D is a tribute to the work of choreographer Pina Bausch and tells of the feelings of her dance company to her unexpected death in 2009. At times it feels more like an embalming than a celebration of her work and her life. You're not presented with any background, or much biography (but it is on the internet), it is about the performance of four of Pina's works intercut with other scenes and anecdotes from the dancers, which are occasionally poignant...

You could be forgiven with all the gloating about 3D coming to the art house movies that this film is any better than the standard 3D fare. Alas it is not. Like all 3D films it is under-lit and like watching a focus group through a two-way mirror, even to the point the smears on the heavy 3D eyewear give the impression of fingerprints on the window pane. For most times dancers in the distance looked blurry and washed out and the movement distorted to the point that I felt I was a stroke patient. Watching the poor quality image was infuriating to the point of distraction.

Only on occasions does it look brilliant and makes use of the format, such as when a woman stands on a chair and dives through a mans arms like a fish, or in the scenes with water or on location in Wuppertal (the suspended monorail makes a few guest starring appearances). These are few and far between however. It isn't particularly sexy or sensual either (notwithstanding the partial nudity, the occasional nipple and obviously fit bodies). For something so fluid and thrilling to see live, it seems a bit plain...

All told it is an interesting failure... You're likely to leave the cinema with your head spinning, but that's the shutter effect from the LCD glasses rather than anything artistic or inspired. See it in 2D.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Overheard at Heathrow

Woman: I wish I bought pyjama pants for this flight...
Man: Vagina pants??
Woman: No pyjama pants...

Theatre preview: Trial of the Mariner

I caught a preview of The Trial of the Mariner at the Hoxton Hall this week. This is a work that is presented by the Lotos Collective and Hoxton Hall, and part of their Rebirth programme. It was not the full performance, but where they had got to so far in their work and it looks set to be an imaginative take on sustainability issues.

Hello Boys (Trail of the mariner preview)As it is an interactive multi-media piece about plastic, there are some creative uses for old margarine tubs, milk bottles, yogurt pots and the like. It was in the bar before the performance where you are greeted with this creation (that should be incorporated into the production in future). She was somewhat menacing yet also strangely alluring with large paper-mache breasts and milk bottle tops for nipples. The Lotos Collective have previously undertaken performances and site-specific projects in London, Naples, Ghana and Beirut and this piece continues along their ethos.

The story is set in year 2111, and a group of desperate sailors embark on a voyage to new land and arrive at a plastic continent, where things are not quite the paradise expected. It is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (not too mention other sources such as Waterworld and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and explores themes around destruction of oceans, climate change, and the final resting place of all those plastic bags...

It is a performance that is an "immersive sensory experience". So be prepared to be pushed around and have a banana or two thrown at you. At one point I couldn't hold a wobble board as I had a drink and three bananas. I don't think I have found myself in that situation at a theatre before and I didn't want to eat the props before opening night. There is dance, circus arts, music and fabulous puppetry involving jellyfish-like creatures. The set is made from recycled materials and built by the local community and schools.

One of the best things about the piece is that you can focus on what you want as the story comes together, set to live music by The Junk Orchestra. Just be ready to duck from time to time when those long tubes of reused plastic come blowing towards you...

It opens on the 7 May. The Hoxton Hall is a great venue and close to a number of sensible bars and restaurants in the East End. It's good good value and worth catching.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Opera last look: Fidelio

I had reservations about catching the final night of Fidelio at the Royal Opera. The bad notices for this production (although not for the performances) had lowered my expectations, but in fact there is much to enjoy about this work, and no doubt explains why it is a favourite among some people.

It is easy to understand why it is still performed. The leading lady gets to disguise herself as a boy, fend off the love interest of a woman, rescue her husband and inspire a minor revolution. All during this there are some very interesting arias to sing, and the second half things get particularly dramatic. It is a rather inspiring work with a strong central character.

Nina Stemme in the lead role was also strong and believable. She spoke on an earlier Royal Opera podcast about the role and she gives the piece a solid foundation. She also looks perfect for the role of a woman who disguises herself as a boy (and she is helped by some rather sensible trousers, jacket and cap)...

At times amongst all this political intrigue and outrage, it seems odd that there is such pretty music and magical choruses. If the music and the drama don't seem to gel, it is an interesting curiosity nevertheless.

The staging could have been much simpler and works better in the second half when things are less complicated. All told, a shame there were empty seats for its final night. Perhaps future productions should be just concert versions as things would no doubt work as well (and possibly be cheaper to mount)...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Scenes from the South Bank: Big Fox

Giant bored-looking fox on the South Bank
Easter weekend feels more like a summer weekend in London. And if you're not at the beach, there is a chance to take in a replica seaside at the South Bank Centre, part of the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, which have now got underway.

The festival celebrations also include a rather large fox near Waterloo Bridge, which looks rather unhappy in this photo... It could be the heat (or what happened to it getting to London)...

Even with the crowds it is worth a look. The festival runs until September. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hot news in London: Gollum to Wed using 'Precious'

Actually when you think about it, it isn't that funny... But after a night out at the theatre and a generous bar I found it hysterical...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Theatre: Clybourne Park

The first thing that strikes you about this Olivier-award winning play is how great the production looks. You feel like you are transported back into the 1950s in a living room fashionable for that time, and populated by people you would expect to see. As the play gets going however it becomes apparent that this is going to be a darkly comic night at the theatre that looks at property, neighbourhoods and the enduring value of real estate... It was worth finally getting a chance to see it before it ends its run...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Music: Michael Feinstein

I caught Michael Feinstein's final concert at the Leicester Square theatre and he is sounding as good as ever. The last time I saw him he was performing with a big band at the Palladium. There was much gushing and gratuitous cameo celebrity appearances. This time around things were much smaller scale and far more enjoyable...

The programme included a selection of songs from the likes of Gershwin and Porter, which is now classified as "The American Songbook" A rather generic label for any song that is old (in danger of being lost), with a pleasant tune, and lyrics that are usually well written.

Overheard in a waiting room...

Woman #1: My idea of heaven is walking around a Marks and Spencers...
Woman #2: I have been quite fond of walking 'round a Morrison's in the past...
Woman #1: Yeah but there just isn't one 'round our way...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Theatre: Thrill Me

Thrill me sounds like the name of one of Max Bialystock's little old ladies with a cheque (or perhaps if it were a little old lady it would be Thrill Me, Kill Me), but there was something intriguing about a musical based on the unlikely subject of a couple of homosexuals in 1920s Chicago who rob and kill for kicks. It is currently playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Opera: The Emperor of Atlantis

Tuesday evening was an opportunity to catch the first preview of The Emperor of Atlantis (otherwise known as Der Kaiser von Atlantis) by Viktor Ullmann. The production is the first from the recently formed Dioneo Opera Company, which is focusing on contemporary and lesser-known works. Based on this production, their future looks very promising.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Last look: Sign of the Times

Maybe it is the wrong time to be making light of long-term unemployment (particularly amongst those over fifty and those under twenty-five), but there was something both amusing and depressing about Tim Firth's Sign of the Times, which closed on Saturday night. It is a pity that it didn't find and audience, but maybe a play about unemployment, decline of industries, the loss of ambition or that hideous poster (opposite) just put people off. Well at least there was a respectable audience there to see it off the West End.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Theatre: Legally Blonde

I finally managed to catch Legally Blonde this week, the musical that channels your inner high schoolgirl almost as successfully as Wicked (albeit without the thrillifying sets or the deafening music), but snaps to the energy of the cast, which still holds up well despite not having Oliver award-winning Sheridan Smith in it.