Monday, October 31, 2011

Theatre: Shalom Baby

The message from Shalom Baby, currently running at the Theatre Royal Stratford East appears to be that no matter what the circumstances are, there is always a group of people out there that are beneath you. At a time when people are feeling less sympathetic for rioting chavs, travellers building illegally on green belt land, migration from Europe (or elsewhere) and Broken Britain, it is an interesting topic for reflection.

Shalom Baby is a love story initially set in 1930s Berlin. Events unfold as the daughter of a wealthy Jewish family falls in love with their black "Shabbles Goy", which is a term used to describe people who assist Jews on their Sabbath with tasks they are unable to do within Jewish Law. The play then moves forward to the present day where a mixed-race couple in modern and unprejudiced Brooklyn have to cope with a dysfunctional family unit.

Writer-director Rikki Beadle Blair originally became interested in exploring information about information about black survivors of the holocaust. But the scene is set for a much larger exploration of prejudice, sexuality, family and friendship using a variety of theatrical devices including some thought-provoking poetry. It all makes for a constantly intriguing and entertaining night at the theatre.

Helping to keep things in focus is an incredibly talented cast that make two wildly different families so believable. The story bounces back and forth between each family. And with the seating of the theatre rearranged to be either side of the proscenium, characters run in from the back, climb over the seating and fly (sometimes literally) onto the stage which also helps keep things at a brisk pace.

Depending on which side of the proscenium you sit also gives you a slightly different perspective of the theatre. Although I'm not sure being able to see the sign over the stage door reading "Work sets you free" would be everyone's cup of tea. But there is something creepy about being on the wrong side of the safety curtain. Interval boo reactions with @johnnyfoxlondon follow. Shalom Baby interval musings (mp3)

Shalom Baby runs until 19 November at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Catch it if you can.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Theatre: John Leguizamo Ghetto Klown

John Leguizamo's latest show is in London for the next couple of weeks. It is a chance for him to showcase his ability to impersonate people, dance and tell some pretty funny stories based on his personal and professional life. Relating the experiences of working with Al Pacino, Patrick Swayze and Sean Penn are funny, but it is his personal life stories that are particularly engaging. When he talks about his depression that involves drinking too much coffee and not being able to sleep it, the delivery and visuals take it to a whole new level.

It isn't stand up comedy, it's more intense, it's more personal and as it is so coherent and well written it is much more satisfying. He calls it therapy. Whatever it is, it is good value. And it works really well in the Charing Cross Theatre.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Theatre: Earthquakes in London (National tour)

Earthquakes in London, currently on a national tour, is having a quick stop this week at the Richmond Theatre. It is an engaging and and entertaining take on global warming, political activism and childbirth. It seems even more relevant in the week that the population hits seven billion and the world teeters on the brink of economic collapse that these big issues are up on stage. They are made even more palatable with a great pop/rock soundtrack, dance, movement and some pretty sharp and incisive dialogue. The neuroses of the country are on show warts and all at times, and we're even told that we are all c--ts and / or we are fucked... Now that is my kind of play...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Overheard at the Affordable Art Fair Sunday...

Woman: Oh yes that's my sort of thing
Man: What that?
Woman: Yeah that's my sort of thing when I'm talking about abstract landscapes...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Opera: Der fliegende Holländer

Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) at the Royal Opera is an opera with a long burn. But the story comes together in the last act so quickly, with music so rousing and a production so stylish that it will almost leave you breathless.

The opera tells the tale of the captain and his ghost ship that is doomed to sail the seas forever unless its captain can find a wife once every seven years when the winds will bring him ashore. It is the seventh year and again his ship is washed to the shores of a Norwegian fishing village. The daughter of a ships captain has heard of the tale of the ghost ship and wants to save him, regardless of what her former boyfriend things. It is at times a frustrating opera as there is so little action happening and then there is so much at once. The production updates the time to a late twentieth century period when socialist aesthetics and polyester reign. It is jarring and gives rise to anachronisms about ship sails but as things progress it takes upon a beauty of its own.

Opening night's performance of this austere production included brilliant performances by Egils Silins as the Dutchman and Anja Kampe (reprising her role from the original 2009 production) as Senta. Both commanded the stage and were in fine singing voice. The opera choruses added to the excitement and were worth the price of admission alone and quickly brought things to life.

It makes sense there is no intermission but careful with the pre-show drinks. The temperature inside the theatre seemed to be designed to further evoke a Norwegian fishing village and had me rushing for the nearest mensroom once people were on their feet applauding. Or alternatively dress warmly. The short run concludes on 4 November. Seats were noticeably available on opening night...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Theatre: Backbeat

Backbeat is based upon the film of the same name which is a snapshot of the period when The Beatles were on the edge of stardom. It is also about creativity, artists, relationships and some excellent classic rock and roll music. It is thoughtful and fun, with a talented and good looking cast that can act, sing and play musical instruments and the bar has now been set very high for the jukebox musical.