Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Theatre: All New People

All New People, written and starring Zach Braff is a play that takes place over 90 or so minutes in the dead of winter at a beach house on Long Beach Island New Jersey. Zach's character Charlie is staying at his friends beach house for a few days as he is having a bit of crisis at this point in his life. He is about to end it all, when a real estate agent walks in... Then follows a fireman, and then a high-class hooker his best friend arranged to cheer him up with.

The stage is set for a bizarre and off-beat set of stories and revelations from this collection of four unlikely people. There is a detailed discussion about scabies and debates about the merits of various intoxicating substances. Projections help with the back stories of the characters, but it works best when it is just some off-beat random discussions about matters of trivial importance. Or are they? Whatever the case, the action moves briskly and the laughs are fairly constant.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Theatre: The Shallow End

The Shallow End currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse is an opportunity to revisit this satire on British media with recent events of phone hacking, arrests, resignations and enquiries in mind.

The play is set at the wedding of a media mogul's daughter, who has just brought a broadsheet newspaper and it about to take it downmarket. During the celebrations the axe is about to be weilded on the old guard as debates about about the future of a newspaper in the digital age.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Theatre: Excellent Choice

Excellent Choice - a two-man show by Rob Hayes - is a brief and (ahem) palatable choice to start the evening. Part of the final week of the Vault Festival at the Old Vic Tunnels at Waterloo Station, it is a funny and dark half hour show that goes down very well. The theatre space being slightly damp and a former office within the National Rail archive only adds to its mildly creepy premise.

This short play is about a young man who visits a rather unusual rare wine shop and has some very specific requirements. What seems to be an ordinary transaction quickly becomes something different. The punchline is hilarious (although possibly offensive). To speak more about it would be to give too much away.

What holds it all together is two brilliant performances by Benjamin Dilloway as the customer (above left) and Jeff Rawle as the shopkeeper (above right). Apart from giving the production a bit of class, they play their roles in all seriousness and ignore the fact the other half of the room is full of the audience snickering...

An early evening or matinee treat for a fiver. See it this weekend before it finishes... Bemuse reactions with Adrian, who is from Melbourne and so not aware of the Leake Street phenomenon...

Vault Boo: excellent choice (mp3)


Monday, February 20, 2012

Theatre: Master Class

A passion for life (and music) is certainly a message loud and clear from this revival of Master Class, Terrence McNally's play about the original opera super star Maria Callas who is running a master class for aspiring opera singers. Inspired by the classes she ran at the Juilliard School in New York in the early 1970s, she alternates between being repulsed and intrigued by her students and then caught up in how their performances evoke memories of her past glories.

The play is an opportunity to see Tyne Daly on stage and she delivers a commanding performance as the no-nonsense diva. Dominating, witty with impeccable timing and occasionally vulnerable, her performance is something to be savoured. And it distracts you from being too bothered by some of the other quirks of the material such as occasional overlong scene and superflous characters.

Naturally anything about Callas is going to bring out her groupies en masse (including a variety of homosexual types), but you don't need to be gay or know much about opera to enjoy a story about making an entrance, getting a look and doing things with purpose. The play at its best is an education and an experience. Of course it could all end in tears and you lose your voice prematurely and die of a heart attack at 53, but never mind that. Don't miss it..


Concert: New York Philharmonic at the Barbican with Joyce DiDonato

It is easy to appreciate the music of Berlioz, Ravel, Stravinsky and English Born composer Thomas Adès when it is the New York Philharmonic performing. Part of their residency series at the Barbican, Friday night was an opportunity to be wowed by some impressive musicianship and a passion for music.

You know you're in for something a little bit different when you notice that after taking your seats you're surrounded by various members of the brass section. This was for Adès piece Polaris which had its European Premiere and was a joint commission with the Barbican and New York Philharmonic. It was an intriguing and hypnotic piece, although depending on your proximity to the off stage brass may have swayed your views on it (as no doubt you would not have heard much else). The above video shot for its premiere in New York gives some context to it

The rest of the programme featured Joyce DiDonato in Berlioz’s song cycle Les nuits d’été which gave a delicate and light touch to the proceedings. The concert concluded Stravinsky’s brassy Symphony in Three Movements and Ravel’s mildly erotic (but definitely evocative) Daphnis and Chloe Suite No 2.

Naturally the audience wasn't going to let things rest there and two encores ensued. A great varied programme and a night to remember.

Monday, February 13, 2012

(Silent) Opera: La Boheme

As part of the Vault Festival, which transforms a series of interconnected tunnels underneath Waterloo Station into something theatrical and fabulous this month, I caught a packed production of La Boheme by Silent Opera with @Johnnyfoxlondon.

Like other companies, Silent Opera is about taking operatic masterpieces and adapting them into modern settings. What makes them unique is that they tap into the iPod generation and use headphones to place the performers and the music in real life and odd spaces. The former National Rail plans and drawings archive must fit the latter. With a mix of levels, false ceilings, grimy floors and porta-loos, it is a far cry from the Royal Opera.

Events: Snow Patrol at the O2

One of the great things about London is the range of sensible and not so sensible events on offer at any time of the year. All you need is a decent London Guide to start planning things. A frosty Saturday evening seemed very appropriate to catch Snow Patrol's second of three sellout concerts at the O2.

Snow Patrol are best categorised as an alternative rock group from Northern Island via Scotland (where they originally formed), but they have evolved to be firmly in the mainstream fare and ensuring mega stardom. That isn't such a bad thing as an audience of 15,000 singing (surprisingly in tune) the chorus of their song Run is certainly an experience to take in. It is also amazing to see the glow from hundreds of camera phones across the venue recording footage like the clip above. Given you can't smoke indoors anymore, they are the modern equivalent of the lighter wave.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Opera: La Traviata goes East Londonistan...

La Traviata which is playing Upstairs at the Gatehouse is a surprising treat. One of the most loved and most performed operas with its beautiful music and fully developed characters, in the Gatehouse's intimate space becomes an intensely emotional affair that has the audience alternating between sobbing and cheering.

This is the same company that presented the economic production of Troy Boy last year. Again by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, this new translation and adaptation moves the action into the heart of cosmopolitan East London. Well the part where there are dodgy burlesque clubs and marriages that still need to preserve reputations.

Moving and updating the actions opens up a whole range of  possibilities. Sempre Libera now includes a lap dance on one lucky audience member. Since Anna Jeruc-Kopec who plays Violetta has a great set of legs to match her set of lungs, it came as no surprise when she started to get a good mauling by the audience... They can be funny like that in Highgate.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Theatre: Absent Friends

Wednesday evening was an opportunity to catch the latest revival of Alan Ayckbourn's frightfully witty comedy, Absent Friends, which is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre. There is something about this play that has enduring appeal, even now as a period piece. It takes a particularly English setting of an afternoon tea party and slowly twists it. It is funny and occasionally surprising which makes for a great night out.

The story focused around a tea party organised for Colin (played by Reece Shearsmith), who returns to visit his circle of friends after the death of his fiancee. For a variety of reasons, his friends are more anxious about how to deal with the situation than he is and so the play explores the very English way people deal with grief and loss, infidelities and lost dreams.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Overheard at the gym Tuesday

Man #1: She now has a dog
Man #2: What sort?
Man #1: It's a poodle. A little one. And I don't want it pissing all over my flat.
Man #2: They do that you know. They piss everywhere. And shit...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Theatre: One Man, Two Guvnors, New Cast!

The hit National Theatre play One Man, Two Guvnors has had a cast change and moved theatres on the West End. Is it still as funny? I have no idea about that as I must have been one of the few people who until this week had not seen the previous cast with James Corden. They are off to take this show to Broadway, and this show must be one of the funniest things you could see on the West End right now. If it were funnier previously it would have definitely needed to come with a health warning...

Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, the action is updated from the renaissance to 1960s Brighton with songs by Grant Olding. The update works well with the mad plot and storyline and the costumes and set look great. The music and performance by the resident band "The Craze" gives things and added touch of class.

Keeping the insanity together is former understudy to James Corden, Owain Arthur, as Francis Henshaw. He manages to make the part his own. Sitting in spitting distance to the stage (his spit not mine), you could see how bloody hard he was working for the laughs. And it always helps when the audience members he calls on for the moments of audience participation (or should that be audience lubrication since it does get everyone in the right sort of mood?) give him plenty of material to work with. His rave reviews have not gone unnoticed in his homeland, but one also suspects a new star is in the making as well...

This show has all the elements of a great farce and there are some wonderful moments of physical comedy that will have you in tears of laughter. If you want to analyse it all, there is a chat this weekend with Tony Robinson to do that, otherwise strap yourself in and go for the ride.

And gentlemen... Not that I want to give anything away... But if a gorgeous, hot, single babe sits next to you and starts chatting you up... All may not be what it seems. Which is just as well if you have your own date on your other side.

Don't miss it, or perhaps see it again to catch all the lines you were too busy laughing over to hear...
One Man Two Guvnors is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Day seats available from 10am and there is a tour scheduled for later in the year.