Monday, June 25, 2012

Subterranean art: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012

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.

Friday, June 22, 2012

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

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...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Returning satire: Yes, Prime Minister

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 warming and financial collapse.

It is a strong cast (pictured above) heading the show. Robert Daws of Outside Edge fame plays Prime Minister Jim Hacker. He alternates between looking Prime Ministerial and looking the fool. Alongside him is Michael Simkins. He seems to bear some resemblance to Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude but as Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby the audience laughs more at what he doesn't say than what he does. There are some moments of great comic timing, although you also couldn't help but wonder if the actors switched roles would it work just as well. Clive Hayward as Bernard and Emily Bruni as Claire the special policy adviser fill out the main cast.

Of course in the years since these characters first appeared there has been numerous other satires such as Drop the Dead Donkey and The Thick of It. Each new show has been sharper and given more edge to political satire (although the unwatchable 10 O'Clock Live show on C4 is a case of possible devolution). Given this, it is disappointing that sometimes the punches are pulled in this show and tend to go for safe targets such as an undemocratic European Union. The best laughs come from some well-placed jokes about the BBC and its self-importance and the civil service padding their incomes and gold plating their pensions. Unfortunately there some less amusing moments involving some stale ethnic references and a "joke" about sex trafficking that could have been left out.

Unlike in the television series, the Prime Minister's wife does not appear which is a shame as it does not give the chance to make Hacker look a bit more human, or to calm things down. While perhaps the edge of the original series is not there, it still provides for an entertaining night out, but perhaps more smirk out loud than laugh out loud as you would expect. The usual discussion with @johnnyfoxlondon ensues on the Audioboo below... Tickets are available at the usual outlets and look out for discounts and offers.

Update: One offer currently running is tickets for £29.50 for Monday-Friday performances as well as Saturday matinee until 31st August. To redeem, customers can either call the box office and quote "Online £29.50" or use the promotion code YESPM when booking online...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Damp June Nights: Liza at the (Hampton Court) Palace

As more than one person noted after Thursday evening's downpour, there was not a dry seat in the house at the end of Liza Minnelli's concert at Hampton Court Palace. Opening the Hampton Court Festival, the steady rain or hour long wait for the train home did not deter fans from jumping to their feet even before she sang.

Minnelli being from the old school of singing yourself hoarse does not have much of a high register anymore. While she seems like she sometimes tries to coax some sound out using sheer bloody mindedness, her signature songs don't sound like they used to. Of course her fans probably can't hear like they used to either so that might explained the high ovation quotient from the audience... But it is a shame that she either feels she has to sing them or her fans demand them from her. What is more interesting about her voice now is her incredible lower range. And when she calmed things down and performed songs just with her regular music director Billy Stritch on piano it was sublime. The above clip illegally recorded at the concert and posted onto youtube (Liza's fans seemed to ignore the no cameras no recording announcements) shows it is the moody and interpretive Liza rather than the brassy Liza that won the audience over...

The festival runs through to 24 June with various artists. It is a civilised place to bring a picnic, particularly since the food options are surprisingly very limited. Of course if you plan to arrive before seven you can clean out Waterloo Station's Marks and Spencer of peppers stuffed with goats cheese and mozzarella balls before the evening's commuters do. Dress warmly and bring your rain jacket with a hood. Anything outdoors in London this month will need it...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bits and pieces: World Naked Bike Ride London 2012

WNBR 2012
Anyone in Piccadilly Circus Saturday afternoon would have found themselves stopping to appreciate the cheek of several hundred cyclists taking part in the annual World Naked Bike Ride. A clothing-optional event, it aims to promote more sustainable means of transport and a generally more body-positive culture. While the numbers seemed down this year (possibly due to the windy weather that made things a little chilly), they made up for being more colourful and noisier than years past. And there was some unexpected laughs as a family in a car somehow managed to get caught amongst the cyclists. The mother shouting abuse at naked cyclists while their children in the back seats with wide-open stares was an amusing diversion.

Of course, the event is so large nowadays that it is still possible for some cyclists to get caught amongst the traffic. Being naked in Piccadilly Circus with hoards of people and traffic around you surely must count as the stuff of worst nightmares, although these Brazilians didn't seem to mind that much...

It may not be art but it is one of the more creative forms of protest to be seen on the streets of London. For those of you that like cycling (and full frontal nudity) there are more photos here...

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Slaughterhouse theatre: Meat

Meat is now playing at Theatre 503 in Battersea. It is part melodrama, part comedy and part lesson in slaughterhouse technique set in the industrial heartland of the north of England.

The story focusses on Vincent, a man who works in a meat processing factory. He has a run in with the local youth yoof and then things get a little messy. Soon as events spiral out of control it becomes a bit difficult to explain to his wife and daughter just what he has been doing working all that overtime. The abbatoir becomes a metaphor for a lot of the things that are going wrong in his town and in his life.

The performances by cast of four are vigorous and intense. Vincent, as played by Graham Turner is a shifty character and he keeps you wondering if the years of experience cutting the carotid artery of animals on an assembly line has given him other ideas about dealing with wild youth on an industrial scale. His wife Tracy Brabin (of the Sainsbury adverts fame) is locked in a power struggle of domesticated proportions and the interplay between them is the focus of the drama. While Ian Weichardt looks way too nice to be a knife-weilding-mugger youth, the choreography between him and Turner in the climatic scene will have audiences on the edge of their seats. It's not gross out violence in the Grand Guignol style, but it still will go some way to explain why the gastro pub downstairs has run out of ketchup.

Part of the enjoyment of this piece is how the story eventually unfolds. Lines that at first could be assumed to be idle banter soon become apparent to be yielding much more. But for a play that gives detailed descriptions about the correct way to cut an animal, it is a shame that a few choice cuts weren't provided to the source material. Particularly in some of the more obvious parts of the story at the begining.

Still, the piece can be appreciated for what it is and playwright Jimmy Osborne is someone to watch. The production is also very imaginatively staged and lit and scenes move back and forth between abbatoir and home. Depicting the work at the abbatoir using pillows and red foam falling to the floor is particularly evocative. And it has some fabulous art work (opposite) of pigs heads and other meaty bits for its poster which puts you in the right frame of mind even before entering the theatre. Worth a look and be sure to eat downstairs at The Latchmere pub as well as they serve a pretty good burger...

Meat runs at Theatre503 in Battersea until 30 June, Tuesday to Sunday. Tickets are £14 with concessions available. Sundays are also pay what you can.

listen to ‘Ab-boo-toir: Meat’ on Audioboo

Friday, June 08, 2012

Art in mildly sadomasochistic times: Gérard Rancinan's Wonderful World

The LondonNewcastle Project Space in Redchurch Street is home to a fabulously frothy and deliciously naughty exhibition of photographer Gerard Rancinan's work called Wonderful World. Rancinan is known for his dynamic and hyper-realistic pieces. Production of one of the pieces on exhibition is depicted in the video clip from French television. It is painstaking and eye-catching work, particularly with half naked models (even if they are wearing cartoon masks and put into positions that echo religious iconography).

Wonderful World is the concluding part of his Trilogy of the Moderns. The everyday meets the kinky, pop culture meets street culture and religious icons meet cartoon icons in a series of images that explore the search for happiness (real or drug induced) in a confused and odd sort of world. So naturally it all suits the Shoreditch area well.

Beautifully presented with fifteen large images surrounded by props, costumes and other features, it is a lot of fun and takes a few good barbs at crap art and celebrity obsessed culture. The exhibition also includes a purpose built set that will serve as the vehicle for the public casting, shooting and unveiling of the final composition in this series on site.

Visitors to the gallery this weekend (9-10 June) will also find themselves auditioning for the casting call. If you have what it takes to make the final tableau you will be initially photographed mug shot style. If you're make it through then the shooting will take place on Tuesday in the gallery. Repeat visits over this month are recommended to savour this part art installation, part film set, part soap opera, part photoshop masterclass...

Work will continue on site through to the unveiling of the finished work at a reception on Wednesday 20th June. Go see it. Get photographed and be fabulously happy, regardless of what chemically enhanced state you may be in. Just don't tell Minnie what they do to Mickey...

It runs from Thursday 7th June 2012 until Sunday 24th June 2012.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Quick tips and leaving London for the weekend

Afternoon delightI'm missing the Jubilee celebrations in favour of a trip to Italy so I will miss the the crowds as they pass (literally) outside my door. However there are plenty of tips for things to do on the weekend including:
  • A handy guide to wake the neighbours up with the Sex Pistols
  • Nudist street parties (well they did it for her 50th and look likely to do it again in E17)
  • Scenes of a messy nature in Soho with various street parties around the gay bars...
Of course if you do make it to the South Bank the entire area is heaving with bars and restaurants including the very sensible National Theatre Propstore that serves local beers and is made up of sets and bits from past productions... A nice spot if you can get served... Or grab a seat...