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Showing posts from 2012

Last evil looks: Robert le Diable

Closing night of The Royal Opera's Robert le Diable was a drawn out affair. An opera that was described to me as Mildred Pierce meets The Omen, it could have been half its length if all the repeated phrases were cut. I don't recall ever seeing an audience so restless either who were mostly squirming or fidgeting throughout the four and a half hours of the performance.

Meyerbeer's grand opera was an instant sensation when it first premiered 1831. Full of stuff that packed in the punters - drama, the occult, difficult music - over time it has not aged well. The story is inspired by a medieval legend of the devil's son. Robert, Duke of Normandy, has travelled to Sicily with the hope of marrying Princess Isabelle. But his companion, Bertram (who turns out to be more than just a friend) leads him astray. Cue chivalry, the occult and some incredibly outrageous French knight costumes that could have come direct from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Closing night seemed a st…

Lovely green things: Salad Days

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Salad Days is back at the Riverside Studios and is a delightful antidote to cold wet days in London. The story of a young couple who just recently graduated and find themselves entertaining London with a piano is a bit like the Fantasticks with its ever-so-silly plot, but the performances, inspired production and upbeat nature of the show make for an enjoyable, if slightly overlong show.

It is 1954 and Timothy and Jane (played by the wonderful Leo Miles and Katie Moore) leave university to make their own ways in the world. A chance meeting with a tramp brings the couple together as his street piano gives everyone around them an irresistible and unstoppable urge to dance. Meanwhile the police and the establishment want to put a stop to all this fun. Cue singing and dancing and general silliness.

The production is from opera company Tête à Tête, and so the singing and musicianship is very good. But the ensemble also show a great sense of comic timing and fun in the proceedings which i…

Phone rings, bitch and drink, lose your friends: Merrily We Roll Along

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Merrily We Roll Along, currently playing at the Menier Chocolate Factory near London Bridge is like a bitchier, nastier version of his show Company where Bobby is Frank and a total bastard. It has received great reviews, has a wonderful cast, looks good (well as good as aluminium windows on stage can be when they design feature - but the period is the sixties and seventies so it is appropriate) and sounds great. But for a show that tells the tale in reverse about how a man becomes wildly successful and loses his friends on the way, it is still a tough, bitter sell.

The characters are two-dimensional and shout at each other and even as they move from jaded to optimistic, it still feels unrelenting and repetitive. By the time the upbeat finale comes about (close to the third hour) you may find yourself close to exhaustion (or sleep) to care about it much. At intermission one Sondheimista fan said to me, "but all those lost opportunities and wrong turns... That's life!" Th…

Theatre going and moaning in the cheap seats

Theatre in London is pretty good value for money, particularly if you don't mind trying your luck at the half price ticket booth, trying to get to the theatre by 10am for the few day seats on sale. Many of London's ageing theatres have great seats at a good price if you don't mind a partially restricted view or a bench seat. But it can be a false economy if you find yourself sitting in the theatre with your knees up to your ears because the row in front of you is so close. Or if you are so high and far away from the stage you can't see anything other than a small fuzzy dots which might be either actors or the onset of vertigo.

While there are a few sites out there that review theatres, the information tends to go out of date as theatres are upgraded, so a new website Seat Plan aims to address that. It's launching in the new year and for every review posted by the end of this week, it is offering the chance to win £100 worth of theatre vouchers. 49,000 seats are rep…

Richmond Panto: Aladdin

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Some fun costumes, and a great performance by Tim Vine (pictured far left) as Wishy Washy keep Aladdin at the Richmond Theatre as a sensible evening out for families (or very big kids) who don't mind a mild case of panto over Christmas.

This version of the Aladdin follows a fairly traditional storyline. Aladdin works in his mothers laundry, meets a princess and after stumbling across the lamp with a genie, is granted riches that allows him to marry her. Well he would have married her if that evil Abanazar didn't get in the way. The loose plot is an opportunity to show off some great costumes, sing a few songs and tell a few gags. A few more filthier jokes for older members of the audience (timed to sail over the heads of the younger ones), and a few more modern tunes would have made the show better.

Of course for the younger members of the audience, who were likely to be experiencing their first time at the theatre this did not matter so much. They were hooked on the drama an…

In a damp warm spot: Mydidae

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A day in the life of a married couple, as set in a bathroom is the premise of Jack Thorne's sharp and funny play, Mydidae, currently playing at the Soho Theatre.

This classy little play on the top floor of the Soho Theatre features a fully plumbed bathroom, that  provides the backdrop for a full and frank exploration of a couple and their secrets. Actors Pheobe Waller-Bridge and Keir Charles undress, shave, lust after each other, wash and urinate in front of the audience.

Strangely enough they don't fart in front of each other which was possibly a missed opportunity as there never seems to be a better place to do that than in a bathroom... Particularly if your partner is in it...  Of course once you get past the novelty of the full frontal nudity; the tweaking of the penis, the perky tits and vagina at eye level, it is amazing how it is the intensity of the performances and the intriguing story that holds your attention.

The piece seems an innocent enough premise at first, bu…

Classic songs, breathless dancing, innuendo and long pauses: Kiss Me, Kate

The Chichester Festival production of Kiss Me Kate, now playing at the Old Vic Theatre, has a wonderful cast and thrilling and lively musical numbers. If there is one thing to be bothered by this production it is that between the songs things are not so lively. The dialogue is treated as if it were Shakespeare, and some of it is... Delivered so slowly... And deliberately... That much of the fun feels drained at times from the show. Thankfully there are too so many musical numbers that are well-conceived and performed that you will find yourself waking up to enjoy them.

Star Hannah Waddingham was indisposed last Friday night when I caught this show and so Carolyn Maitland took the lead. Given the show is very traditionally staged (set backstage at a theatre in 1948 the set is backstage at a theatre circa 1948), it was a refreshing opportunity to inject a bit of uncertainty into the evening's proceedings. Cole Porter's musical, while a classic, only has two female roles so it i…

Melodrama and plonk love potions: L'Elisir D'Amore

Laurent Pelly's revival production of Donizetti's L'Elisir D'Amore at the Royal Opera is an early Christmas present full of some fine singing performances and comic turns. The piece moves abruptly from comedy to tenderness and the performers handle this so believably that you find yourself completely drawn into this world of small town unrequited love and quack doctors administering love potions.

Roberto Alagna plays the farm worker Nemorino who yearns for the love of Adina, played by Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. Alagna tackles the role with bounding enthusiasm as he throws himself over haystacks and rips off his clothes revealling some very nice y-fronts and a tanned physique that suggests all that physicality has been paying off. Of course he sounds great too as the simple farm worker who constantly tries for the affection of Adina. Kurak manages to balance what could be an unsympathetic screechy character with one that is tender and nuanced, and reveals early …

Cheap laughs and nothing fancy: Judith Lucy

Judith Lucy is a household name in Australia. She has done a show, she has done films, she is on crap television like the show above. But until the 1 December she is London at the Soho Theatre doing the thing that made her famous in the first place. Stand up comedy. It is just her, a microphone and some very sensible shoes because as she tells the audience, "My feet are fucked!" She is brutally honest too...

Naturally being an Australian act, the audience will be dominated by Aussies desperate for some cultural references from down under (this was part of the incentive to go, along with being reminded of her talent after recently seeing her on film as Merle the racist pub owner in the film The Sapphires). But none of this should put you off.

When Lucy is interrogating the audience she is in her element with her ability to draw laughs out of what could be the most innocent of responses from unwitting audience members in the first few rows of the theatre. You are wise to si…

Somewhere out there in a parallel universe: Constellations

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Nick Payne's Constellations takes a quantum mechanics view of a love story. The basics of this is that in one universe the outcome is A and in another universe the outcome is B. And there begins a story about Marianne and Roland. They meet at a barbeque and develop a relationship. Or in a parallel world they don't as he is there with his wife. She is a scientist and he is a beekeeper in Tower Hamlets (somewhat inspired by London-based urban beekeeper Steve Benbow and there is Constellations honey available in the foyer). And thus begins a series of fragments of a relationship that together tell a story of a number of different possibilities that it could take.

While the premise of this piece threatens to feel repetitive (or at least a bit like Groundhog Day meets Love Story), over its short but perfectly formed running length a range of scenarios play out that simply highlight some of the quirks and eccentricities of their relationship. Holding it all together is the wonder…

Nice nights out: The Magistrate

The Magistrate, which has just commenced playing at the National Theatre, is a big lavish production that feels like part panto and part musical. It is actually a farce written by Victorian actor and playright Arthur Wing Pinero, but under the production values of the National, it is something bigger, brighter and sweeter. The cast look lovely. The set is amazing (it opens and folds over and spins around). And there are a series of panto-like characters that pop out, sing and cavort about as commentary on the piece. Of course it does not help that the songs are superfluous and at the preview I saw, the singing was out of tune and the dancing was out of time. But it all adds to the running time of the show so you can't say you didn't get your money's worth.

The basic premise of Pinero's story is that Mrs Posket (played loudly here by Nancy Carroll), shortly after her first husband passes away, takes five years off her age in order to seal the deal of a second marriage to…

Art: Joe Hesketh A Pendle Investigation

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One of the most famous witch trails in English history, the Pendle witches are recreated in Joe Hesketh's dark and haunting pieces titled A Pendle Investigation. It has been on tour around the country for a while but has come back to London, to coincide with Halloween and give a few lasting chills to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the trials. There is an old pumpkin still hanging around outside the gallery so you may think you know what you're getting into when you arrive. Alas you will be wrong...

Hesketh turns witches and Halloween on its head and gives a contemporary perspective to the violent story of injustice, superstition, rivalry and corruption. It's an ambitious project but Hesketh creates some unforgettable scenes layered with imagery. Alternatively beautiful and horrific, she also likes to thrown in the occasional visual puns such as the justice holding two breasts as the whole trial went tits up, just to throw the viewer off guard. There are layers of me…

On the radio: Radio Times The Musical

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The Radio Times The Musical is in Richmond this week and it is a funny and entertaining enough show. It is set during the Blitz in London as a BBC light entertainment show prepare to undertake a special broadcast that will be heard in America. It is an opportunity to breathe life back into composer Noel Gay's music, who also wrote the songs for the show Me and My Girl. With Gay's songs, a story evolves full of bad jokes, gags and silliness as the star of the show Sammy Shaw, tries to hang on to his leading lady, a new producer fights with the writers for a show that isn't full of smutty innuendo and the need for a show to go out that will lift morale.

This production originated at the Watermill Theatre and follows their usual style where the performers act, dance and play the music. In a show with such brassy and lively numbers it looks great as the cast integrate dancing, music-making and performing so effortlessly. The effect gives things a real buzz. Gary Wilmot in the…

Cabaret: Karen Akers at The Crazy Coqs

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The Brasserie Zedel, run by restauranteurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (of The Ivy, The Woolsey fame) which opened this summer, has given new life and a touch of French glamour to a formerly unloved hotel just off Piccadilly Circus in the heart of the West End. Their cabaret room, The Crazy Coqs is a beautiful art-deco space that is a great way to sample an evening of cabaret.

The last time I saw Karen Akers we were bemoaning that Pizza on the Park was shortly to be closing. But change isn't always a bad thing. Akers act was the same act (or possibly shorter) but in a smaller, classier space with a sensible cocktail it seemed all the more enjoyable. Akers has finished her run but there is great line up of acts running throughout the autumn with shows at 8pm and 10pm (I have also made a mental note to catch Miss Hope Springs some Sunday evening in the not too distant future).

Either timeslot allows for a quick bite at the Brasserie Zedel before or after the show. The spa…

Lookout behind you: Panto season

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Christmas also means that Panto season is coming and aside from the usual blockbusters in the West End or the likes of slightly edgier Jack and the Beanstalk at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, they are designed to lure families in with a mix of childrens comedy and dirty innuendo for the adult members of the audience. Or in the case of Dame Edna's foray into Dick Whittington last season, it was an opportunity graft Edna's material onto a panto format for a new unsuspecting audience...

Others are taking this to another level, with less innuendo and just filth and good ol' vulgarity.

There is Snow White and the Seven Poofs that has its run at the Green Carnation in Soho from early December... Subtitled, "The Climax" it looks like it leaves little to the imagination... With pop numbers and a show billed not for children (or for the faint hearted), it will be fascinating to see what they (ahem) come up with...

The Drama Queens Drag Theatre Company is also produci…

Last chance (for now): The Mystery of Charles Dickens

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The Mystery of Charles Dickens is finishing its run at the Playhouse on 10 November and worth a look if you don't mind watching Simon Callow on stage for a couple of hours. He is great to watch as he has such a marvellous speaking voice. It isn't so much a mystery but a good story telling that takes place as he runs through some rather dramatic points in Dickens's life, interwoven with recreations his readings of his stories, which you learn were quite a sensation.

This show was first staged in 2000, but has come back for another revival timed to commemorate the 200th anniversary year of Dickens's birth. It is a simple concept with Callow on stage as part teacher, instructor and performer. Written by Peter Ackroyd, who knows a thing or two about London (and Charles Dickens), he manages to distil the interesting aspects of his life and this production keeps things moving at such a brisk pace you can be forgiven for forgetting how many years, books and wives have passed b…

Patter songs: I Love You You're Perfect, Now Change

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A short run of the show I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change at the Riverside Studios Hammersmith is a pleasant enough diversion, although you get the feeling it is more fun performing it than watching it.

Performers must love it as the cast of four manage to sing in a variety of styles from country to cantata. They  also run through a variety of roles from young nervous daters to old Jews at a funeral home (well, it is set in New York). This cast are great and manage to make the most of the material and the comic possibilities. But after awhile it becomes clear there isn't much variety in the work and each song tends to blend together. For the most part they are trite and forgettable. There is an occasional gem such as a ballad in the first half when the girl who finally manages to land a date proclaims, "I will be loved tonight" with such such desperation you are left wondering about her fate. In the second half there is an amusing song about being a bridesmaid, …

Directors, Developers and Swingers: A Chorus of Disapproval

The revival of A Chorus of Disapproval, Alan Ayckbourn's comedy farce about an amateur light operatic society's production of The Beggar's Opera manages to be an agreeable evening out, although it tends to be more smile out loud than laugh out loud. The cast are terrific but the play lacks the pace and the insanity that are hallmarks of a well written farce. On the other hand, for something silly with wife swapping and unlikely male conquests, you probably can't do that much better on the West End right now...

It opens with a successful opening night of the piece with Guy, the lead who plays Macheath, being shunned by the rest of the cast. The piece then returns to the start of rehearsals and traces the path that leads to the opening night.

As a play within a play, the music and story of The Beggars Opera reflects (or perhaps riffs) on the story of Guy, played by Nigel Harman, who arrives in a small town and just wants to please everyone and get over the death of his…

Rough treatments: Dangerous Lady

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Dangerous Lady, Theatre Royal Stratford East's East's new stage adaption of Martina Cole's bestseller is a trashy, violent and funny production that will have you enjoying almost every minute of it.  There are wry observations about criminals, the police and class in this piece. Things are not black and white and what is right or wrong is not always easy to tell. It is a bloody tough life and it is the women who are the survivors and keep things together.

The play opens with an unexpectedly frank depiction of childbirth. Later in the first half there is an intense scene depicting an abortion that had members of the audience so engaged they were screaming out in horror as if they were watching the backyard procedure really take place. There is nothing gruesome on stage, but the production manages to suggest just enough to have most audience-members squirming... or about to pass out...

It is all part of the gritty depiction of the life and times of a London Irish gangland f…

Everything: Taboo

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A smart, slick new production of Boy George's musical Taboo has been playing in Brixton for the past month. What makes this production worth a look is the insanely talented people on stage. Some are even making their professional debut here and in the small yet perfectly formed space of the Brixton Club House (on the corner of Brixton Road and Coldharbour Lane... above the KFC), it makes for one hell of a show.

The story focuses on the club scene in the early 1980s and the rise of the New Romantic movement. It is a journey (of sorts) into fashion, big hair, bitchy  banter and decadent antics. At the centre of this was Boy George and living artist performer Leigh Bowery... The latter role is played by newcomer Sam Buttery who manages to make a larger than life figure rather human and delicate, even when singing a song about Bowery's voracious sexual appetite. Buttery was in the recent BBC chair-swining series The Voice and you get the impression from his performance that he wi…

Opera: Finding Butterfly

The trend of theatre companies to take classic operas and find new perspectives on them continues with The Wedding Collective's latest production of Finding Butterfly. Produced in association with Soho Theatre, Finding Butterfly is a deconstruction and re-imagining of Puccini's Madame Butterfly set in a hospital. Rather than beautiful Japanese screens and gardens, we have Butterfly institutionalised and believing her American soldier will return while doctors and other patients know otherwise. The story of the opera is then told in flashbacks and fragments. It is quite an ingenious concept that is only let down from time to time from some over-staged dramatics and a booming clavinova accompaniment. Both tend to distract you from the sensuality and fine singing that is taking place almost in your lap...

In this pared down work, the piece is at its most exciting when the performers playing Suzuki, Butterfly and Pinkerton are on stage, and this production emphasises their roles.…

Art and travel: Voyages

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A short walk from Oxford Street into Fitzrovia (and near the famous Newman Street Post Office) is The Piper Gallery, and it is currently showing an exhibition of works by artist Francis West. Called Voyages, it is an opportunity to explore West’s voyages through the series of his works on display. Never mind if you find travel exhausting, each voyage reflects West’s experience of locations.

Figurative forms that are in different states of metamorphosis feature throughout, along with combining fragments, dreams and memories. The end result is quite fascinating to look at and admire.

West was born in 1936 in Scotland. After moving to London he studied at the Chelsea School of Art (1957-1959). His first solo show was in 1973, at the Hamet Gallery on Cork Street and in 1981 his work was included in the Arts Council’s Hayward Annual. Although grounded in reality, West’s concepts blur symbolic forms with fragments from poetry and historic painting.

 It is all on show in the lovely and seri…

Music: Australian Chamber Orchestra with Dawn Upshaw

An opportunity to see the Australian Chamber Orchestra should not be passed up as they thrilled audiences at Cadogan Hall over the weekend. It was a varied concert that included ACOs artistic director and leader Richard Tognetti's composition Caprice on Paganini Caprices (featured above) and songs by Schumann, Schoenberg and Schubert performed with American Soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Dawn Upshaw's arrival in the second act was warmly received but the star of the show were the musicians or the ensemble of soloists as they are sometimes known, who were full of such passion, precision and energy.  An evening of very fine music making, with an ensemble that moved as one providing a incredible sound. Keep an eye out for future tours via their website.


Surprise the (Piccadilly Circus) Circus is in Town

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Today the streets of central London have been taken over by a pop up circus called Piccadilly Circus Circus. From lunchtime today until the finale at 8pm more than 240 international circus artists including aerialists, high wire trapeze artists, hula hoopers, jugglers, stilt acrobats, not so stilted acrobats, tightrope walkers, looserope walkers, acrobats, Chinese pole artists, Polish Chinese artists, aerial dance performers, contemporary clowns, musicians and the like will be around to distract shoppers and force you whip out your camera-phone and experience it all...

I caught the opera singers and drummers earlier today but events continue throughout the afternoon. The finale at Piccadilly Circus will be where French artists’ Les Studios de Cirque presents the UK premiere of Place des Anges. The piece is about a renegade group of angels who are drawn down to the Earth, and begin to shed their wings, and their feathers fall on the unsuspecting spectators below… With zip wires strung…

Co-op Opera: Don Giovanni

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In a week when Prince Harry's buttocks and a rowdy party were the topic of discussion, the opportunity to see young opera performers in an English modernisation of Don Giovanni cavort and brag about conquests seemed rather relevant. This Don Giovanni may not be royalty but he is a bit of a lad and the women he seeks look like they could be found at a Vegas pool party. It is probably a little too faithful to the Mozart's original which does tend to be confusing, but things move along at a pace you find yourself not minding it too much.

Helping things is the energy and enthusiasm coming from the cast of young opera singers. The Co-Opera Company is made up of members and associate members who wish to pass on their expertise to the next generation of performers. The company exists to provide aspiring artists a start in their career on stage, in the orchestra or behind the scenes. They are into their fourth season and they manage to do with no outside funding.

While perhaps after a …

Hot August Nights: Drag Divas

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If you have been wondering where you could see a live all-singing all-dancing tribute show to the worlds greatest divas performed by a bunch of blokes, then you could do with catching Drag Divas, which is having a short run at the Arts Theatre in Leicester Square. It has been always a bit difficult to see a drag show in central London as the local punters don't seem to go for that sort of thing... But it is great to see there is at least for the moment a place in the West End where you can go for a late night camp fix that doesn't take itself too seriously and gives a touch of hoary glamour to theatreland this summer.

The show is billed as being "Fierce. Fabulous. Fearless" and this could apply to both the divas and the drag performers as they come out and sing live in front of an audience that has already had a drink or three and has been warmed up by drag compere Mrs Moore. But what they may lack in the vocal department, they make up for with some impressive costum…

Life in London: Olympic bubbles and musings

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The Olympics have finished and for those who stayed in London it was a dream. The city was quiet, traffic was minimal, the tube seemed empty when I needed it and people were in a jolly mood. There was some seriously good sport to watch and so in a break from theatre I took the chance to see what drama was on offer of the muscle, sweat and lycra kind.

Art: Yoko Ono smiles and light reflections

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The Serpentine Gallery is currently showing Yoko Ono's To the Light. It is an opportunity to view new installations and films from Ono and escape what has been a busy summer period of sports. One of the things that keeps recurring as a theme is the role of the artist and the viewer, along with perspectives on peace, war and happiness.

It is hard not to like an exhibition that makes you take your shoes off and get lost in a maze to the amusement of others in the gallery, or watch a collection of smooth and hairy bottoms move about.

As the above video clip notes, technology has finally caught up with many of Yoko Ono's more ambitious ideas and this one is to capture the smiling face shot of everyone in the world. You are invited to sit down and have a photo taken and then it will be posted onto the Flickr page for #smilesfilm. It is bound to have you leave the gallery smiling, unless you are horrified by the results of your mug shot blown up on a giant video screen by the door.

Th…

Life in London: Ring in the show

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It's about to get a bit quiet on the cultural front for a few weeks while some major sporting event takes place in our fair city. However before things calm down culturally, anyone in London this morning should get their bells ready for 8.12am to ring them as part of All the Bells.

Of course there are loads of other Cultural Olympiad events, but in a city so full of it, here is one cultural event you could experience in the comfort of your own bed...

Whether it is a bicycle bell, a ringtone, an alarm clock or a church bell... Get ready to ring it for three minutes. Don't ask why. It is just culture... And you can say you took part in the big boing...


Compelling tragedies: Otello

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Opening night of Verdi's Otello at the Royal Opera House was a thrilling affair. Passion, rage and jealousy explode from this piece from the start. Conductor Antonio Pappano makes the most of both the drama and tenderness of the piece as it ebbs and flows. One moment of intensity and emotion gives way to another so delicate and light.

Aleksandrs Antonenko is terrific in the title role as the doomed hero and strikes the right balance and tone between tenderness and fury that makes the drama coherent and believable. There was some fine music making between him and Anja Harteros, who plays Desmemona his wife, as they move from a delicate love duet towards a darker sinister end. It is hard to believe that within two hours they sing about love and then damnation, but here they are complimentary.

Lucio Gallo was sublime as the evil Iago who orchestrates it all. At the curtain it was hard to tell whether cheering or hissing at his evil brilliance would have been more appropriate. Of c…

Horsing around the UK: Dandy Dick

Dandy Dick is a mild Victorian farce that is full of energy and wit that you can't help but have a very civilised time. It was written in 1887 by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and cheap laughs and farce are a priority over satire of witty observations. But it so well-acted and pulled off so stylishly that it is hard not to like, particularly in Richmond Theatre.

It is the fist major revival for forty years and tells the story of a the Very Reverend Augustin Jedd, who after a visit from his gambling mad and horsey sister, risks everything at the races. Cue the shenanigans of mistaken identity, runaway horses, romantic intrigue and mystery. There are some wonderful lines about horse meat that obviously had a more innocent meaning at the time they were written, but viewed from the present day conjure up a variety of interpretations. We weren't the only ones thinking this as one lady in front turned around at the interval and informed us that we had her sense of humour.

The producti…

Last Look: Les Troyens

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Tonight is the last chance to see Berlioz's Les Troyens at The Royal Opera. It is an event: an epic opera with some grand spectacle to match. However at nearly six hours (including two half hour intervals) you do need arrive prepared, which includes familiarising oneself with Berlioz's music. The piece is full of rousing choruses and delicate moments, but as a drama that hangs together like other Romantic operas it is not easy to take in at first listen.

David McVicar's production makes things a little easier to appreciate with the spectacle and astonishing set designs by Es Devlin. Brush up on your Berlioz late Romantic period, refresh your knowledge of Virgil's Aeneid and go along for the ride... It may not come around too soon again...

Design: Bond's Look at the Barbican (if you can find it)

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Designing 007, Fifty Years of Bond Style commemorates the designs, fashion and brouhaha that goes with the worlds most successful movie franchise. It is currently at the Barbican before touring the world, and I suspect that other venues will do it more justice than the three confusing rooms of the Barbican; with each less successful than the previous. You receive a stamp for each room and if you manage to find everything you should get a reward. The second area is a showcase for the styles created for Bond villains but all the pieces are behind glass boxes that all look alike and face different directions. You will find the bathrooms before finding all the boxes. And in the third room it is unfortunate that the centrepiece is the ice hotel that looked cheap in the film Die Another Day let alone up close. It is a film in the franchise best remembered for the worst CGI in film history. Given the room also includes a large screen showing edited highlights from it, you will not want to st…

Strip show meets drag show meets circus: Briefs

Briefs, the all-male circus cabaret is part circus act, part drag act, part strip tease and part filth. The boys from Brisbane Australia are back in the UK for the next couple of months touring with their show. It is a rough and rowdy sort of show and while it lacks the polish of other circus acts (including Cantina which they follow this week at the London Wonderground on the South Bank), they make up for it in energy, shock value and some impressive acrobatic feats. It is billed as burlesque with balls and there are plenty of them on display, either tucked between the legs or dangled over an unsuspecting member of the audience and a tray of raw sausages... If that doesn't sound like your idea of a good time, it probably is not the show for you. Others will find it a guilty pleasure...

Saturday night's performance had quite a few hen nights in the audience and this definitely is a show for girls who have had too much to drink and want to see full frontal nudity in a mildl…

Architecture so big you can't miss it: The Shard opens

For a dynamic modern-looking building, it seemed like a rather pompous sort of opening for The Shard on Thursday evening. Anyone hoping for a repeat of Deadmau5 at the Millbank Tower would have felt it was a letdown.

Still it was a night out with a bit a colour and light so people crowded the bridges near it to see it. Whether the Shard becomes a great building or a great carbuncle is hard to say at this point in its history, but it is certainly something you can't miss on the London skyline now, and one that makes you look at it with some sense of awe. Looking at it up close it appears surprisingly delicate and accommodating to its neighbours around London Bridge. It is open to the public early next year...

Theatre and c-sections: Birthday

In Birthday, currently playing at the Royal Court, Stephen Mangan plays a man who is pregnant. While this unlikely scenario could lead to a rather dubious evening of entertainment (does anyone remember the film Junior?), Joe Penhall's play presents it in such a way that it all seems so plausible and understandable... And best of all it is hilarious.

The audience on Wednesday night were in stitches throughout this show, including at some rather squeamish scenes of a medical nature that had some men in the audience wincing.

As Ed, the expectant father, Stephen Mangan keeps the audience on side as a slightly loveable modern man while still being a rather disagreeable patient who hurls abuse at staff and his wife. And he has an impressive hairy belly and set of saggy tits. His wife, played by Lisa Dillon is a career woman who can't have another baby. While they wait for hospital staff who are busy with more important patients, the stage is set for some terrific banter.

While the …

Subterranean art: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012

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The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei is described as an opportunity to inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time at the ghosts of the earlier structures. With its cork surfaces and dark corners what it really is is the ultimate children's playground. It will be hard to visit it without finding screaming children running about, hiding from each other in the dark corners and leaping over the uneven surfaces. There is place for a good coffee, but this year's pavilion is a cork dungeon for the children. The little buggers will love it... It is open until 14 October. 
Be sure to also catch the other free exhibition at the gallery itself - Yoko Ono's To the Light which runs until 9 September.

Pizza and beer for lunch... that sounds good...

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There appears to be a campaign afoot to tempt office workers of London out at lunchtime... For pizza and beer... Notwithstanding that it is an awful lot of carbs, it also sounds like an offer too good to be true. Birra Moretti is a very sensible beer to be drinking anytime of the day... And the video beautifully captures the grim reality of working lunches. Although I don't think I have ever picked up 12 inch sandwich thinking it was a phone handset... Keep an eye out for the experiment as they move across London via the Facebook page...

Returning satire: Yes, Prime Minister

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Yes, Prime Minister is back in the West End at Trafalgar Studios following two successful previous runs in the West End and a tour. It is probably good timing in the lead up to the Olympics as no doubt it will appeal to people with a spare night amongst all the other cultural offerings on at present and who have been inspired from walking up Whitehall past all the impressive Civil Service offices to pop on in... 

The original television series was a quintessential satire from the 1980s and ran from 1980 to 1984 as Yes, Minister, and then 1986 to 1988 as Yes, Prime Minister. It was purportedly one of Margaret Thatcher's favourite shows. So anyone keen to wonder what writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn would make of the modern political environment of spin, coalitions, European rules and global recession the answer is here. Sir Humphrey Appleby and Jim Hacker now find themselves dealing with a loan scandal involving illegal workers and sexual favours against a backdrop of global w…