Monday, August 29, 2011

Edinburgh 2011: Segue Sisters

Looking back at the Edinburgh Fringe there was a lot of fine singing to be savoured. Including from the Segue Sisters, who are a close-knit harmony group with a difference. They ride on personal mobility vehicles. Or rather they would if health and safety rules at the Gilded Balloon allowed. Instead, we have to pretend that they could as they harmonised some thoroughly modern popular tunes of the day against the backdrop of a story involving them going to jail for stealing too many popular songs.

Actually it is hard to believe these sweet lovely girls could go to jail for anything. Well, maybe writing cheesy stories to hang their act off, although they are not the only ones at the Fringe guilty of doing that...

The ladies are lovely whatever they do and perform some great versions of Alice Cooper’s Poison and Lady Gaga’s Telephone. Singing Sweet Dreams by Eurthmics without accompaniment also gave a chance for their vocals to shine. Well worth becoming Facebook fans of them to watch what they get up to next...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Theatre: Grindhouse

From one fringe festival to another, on Monday night I found myself with Johnnyfox at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern catching Grindhouse, an evening of experimental theatre from RE:artzzZ as part of the Hot August Fringe.

Vauxhall around the RVT is an odd place to spend a weeknight. The busy roadway, the sense the venue is boarded up and the empty side streets gives you a hostile vibe about the place. On the other hand, we had it on good authority they serve a good scampi and chips, and you can smell the vinegar from the food upon entering.

As the act prepares to begin, the audience is weirded out by some mortuary chic as the performers wearing various shades of black and grey, walk around the venue staring at the patrons. It is slightly unnerving particularly when you are sharing a plate of scampi, but effective nonetheless. The attention to detail in the costumes were particularly impressive.

Grindhouse consists of two parts. The first part, Dial M, performed by Greg Tate is an engaging one man performance that is unbearably intense at times. It is a story of love, terror and obsession. A lot of obsession. There was a quip about cutting off a clitoris and putting it in a sandwich, and the simulation of a sexual act was hilarious. Whatever the intention of the work, it was clear this character had some unresolved issues with his mother...

Ed Fringe 2011: Briefs

Of all the shows that I caught at the Ed Fringe, one that I had a soft spot for was the boys from my hometown Brisbane Australia performing Briefs. They have taken the circus act and made it dirty. Very, very dirty. Part drag, part circus and part filth they have managed to go to a place nobody else has quite gone before. The circus and burlesque will probably be better for it.

It is an unpolished act, and there are long stretches that could be politely described as, "not connecting with the audiences". But full frontal nudity and Australian cliches aside, it is a showcase for some incredible burlesque and circus acts (along with a slice of life from Australia). It is not all filth and there are some touching moments including where one of their troupe gets a traditional tattoo and a small treat for the audience is offered up at half time. It all makes for an impressive show and a sellout on the night I saw it. Here's hoping they don't quite make it back to Australia yet and manage to get a few dates in London... Or at least come back next year...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Edinburgh reflections 2011: More coverage

After four full days over five days, it was time to bid farewell to Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Fringe (and reviewing for the guys at and The Public Reviews).

Going to the Fringe requires discipline in itself. You need to be able to plan a day of seeing shows, get to each of them in time (and not get lost). And manage to eat and drink something on the way. Sleep is always good too. Adding the requirement to write short and coherrent 200 word review of what you are seen within 24 hours and give it a star rating is really like trying to be too clever for one's own good.

Of course nobody reads the reviews (even the performers in some cases). They only read how many stars it has. And the star system could be quite complicated. Not so in Edinburgh. Arriving here Johnnyfox advised of the tendency for everyone to inflate stars and described it in one of his reviews as "reviewers spunking stars up on the wall in order to be bylined on the posters." Therefore a five-star show would be a four star show anywhere else and so on. So for a show to be one star, it would have to be completely vile.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Edinburgh Reflections 2011: The first 36 hours

The first reflections on the shows seen to date with @Johnnyfoxlondon and a jaded boo following an awful Faulty Towers experience...

  Edinboo: Reflections on a bad lunch and a fringe so far... (mp3)

Meanwhile, I have published elsewhere short reviews of the following shows so far:

More detailed coverage to follow...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summertime: Leave London

1000001536Summertime is a chance to be out of London, which given recent events has been quite a relief. But it hasn't all been muscle boys in tight speedos on beaches of Nice. I am also at the Edinburgh Fringe reviewing for and The Public Reviews. It is a great opportunity to see some strange and interesting shows and meet some rather lovely and talented people.

I will publish and tweet these reviews separately, along with the links to the above sites. I'm up in Edinburgh until Sunday so welcome any suggestions for things I should catch, but at the moment I am on a deadline to publish three more reviews and find a complete stranger who speaks fluent French. Now if I only had my instructions a few days ago when I was surreptitiously taking pictures on the beach... The things we do for cultural inspiration... Now back to the laptop...

Monday, August 08, 2011

Dance: Napoletango

Napoletango is a bit of Argentinean tango fused with Neapolitan songs, movement, flesh and style. Actually there was a lot of flesh and sitting where I was on the last night at the London Coliseum, I had a terrific view of bare breasts and firm buttocks (and the occasional bouncing penis).

But this is a very entertaining show that tells the story of a family from Naples who become a famous tango troupe. It was at it most successful when it was not trying to tell a cheesy story and focused upon the dancing talents of its large cast. The shower sequence and the bed sequences were particularly funny (and exhausting to watch) and combined with a fantastic soundtrack it was a slick and fun night out.

It also helps if sitting on the aisle seats you know a few dance moves yourself. And if you have ever been to a tango dance class the first half of the show where the troupe learn the moves will seem familiar...

This show has been a hit in Italy (the last time I saw a hit show from Italy in London was All Bob's Women) and is the work of Giancarlo Sepe... Look out for future tour dates on their website, if they ever get around to updating it beyond 2010...

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Theatre: Betty Blue Eyes

Finally caught Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello over the past weekend. It is an excellent looking production with a great cast and star performance by a pig that gets wheeled about with what looks like a very long extension cord. The music is fine too. But watching this show is almost as unsatisfying as post-war rations.

What should be a very cracking musical comedy gets bogged down with subplots and misplaced sentimentality. And when the farce finally gets going it is quickly jetissoned as if fun can't be had at the theatre. The central message at the end (and a very English one at that) seems to be by conniving with the corrupt townsfolk you can enter into society...

Perhaps if part of the creative team that managed to suck the life out of Mary Poppins (and drag it out for three tedious hours to boot) could trot off and come back with a shorter funnier version of this show down the line... All the ingredients are there for a smashing show... There is just a bit of swill there too...

Still it is worth a look as it has to be one of the better new musicals to come around these days. Good seats are available from the usual discount venues... There may not have been fare shares for all in post-war austere Britain, but cheap tickets to the theatre have to be the next best thing...? The Novello is one of the better theatres too with its comfy seats and mildly glamourous refurbishment...

Monday, August 01, 2011

Theatre: Four Dogs And A Bone

Thursday evening was an opportunity to catch Rock 'n' Roll Theatre's production of Four Dogs And A Bone at the Phoenix Artists Club.

The play, by John Patrick Shanley (of Moonstruck and Doubt fame), focusses on the business of Hollywood, the backstabbing and shenanigans that go on to get a film made. It is a dark world where bond completion companies, sexual favours and lecherous producers rule.

This piece which runs a little over an hour focuses on two actresses appearing in the film. One is an established theatre actress, Collette (Laura Pradelska) who does not want to become a character actress. The other is Brenda (Amy Tez), an up and coming performer so desperate to be famous she chants daily for it... Each know that slight changes to the script could improve their career prospects remarkably. They enlist the support of the writer and the producer to help secure their aims, with sometimes comic and always engaging results.

The Phoenix Arts Centre, with its low ceilings, ageing theatre paraphernalia and unique artsy smell provides and excellent location for this little show about the seedier side of movie-making. There isn't anything particularly new Shanley's play is saying about the movie business, but with this cast the piece is funny and mildly disturbing. If you are into fringe theatre, it is a funny (and short) night out at the theatre that is hard to beat...

Architecture and Art: Summer Pavilion at the Serpentine

Maybe not so tranquil surrounded by chatty women

This year's summer pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery is a hot noisy affair... Imagine a spaceship has landed in Kensington Garden (albeit one made out of wood) and is about to take off with various plant samples... While Peter Zumthor may have had in mind a tranquil garden and oasis from the rest of the park, in reality the noise is just amplified to unbearable levels with the hoards of people inside. And on a warm day it just feels so much warmer... Still the temporary concrete pathways leading to it are lovely.

Tranquility is better found inside the gallery with Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto's exhibition The Mirror of Judgement. It is  a meditation on religion and faith amongst cardboard and mirrors... It runs until 17 September and is worth a look... Free too...