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Showing posts from July, 2012

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 …