Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Scenes from the weekend: Spring muscles

Spring came out in the past week... And on the weekend it seemed appropriate to head the parks with the rest of London... Playing frisbee semi-naked looked like fun...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Quick looks: The Sunshine Boys

The Sunshine Boys opens at the Savoy Theatre towards the end of the April and a new picture of Richard Griffiths and Danny DeVito is out of the duo...

Neil Simon's classic play is about Al Lewis (Griffiths) and Willy Clark (DeVito), a vaudevillian team who grew to hate each other. They are reunited for a television special which is a cue for grumpy old men-type shenanigans.

Griffiths and DeVito certainly look the part, albeit with possibly better dental hygiene than real vaudeville stars... It starts previews from April 27...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quick Art: Contemporary Print Making

This weekend at the Store Street Gallery in Bloomsbury is the second exhibition of contemporary printmaking, promoting it as an art form. It includes a variety of prints by artists Lisa Denyer, Alexander Gough, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Max Lowry, Dénes Maróti, Will Martyr, Andy Warhol and Giulia Zaniol. Venetian artist Zaniol's prints (pictured right) uses a two-plate technique that means no print is exactly the same and the results are quite varied and interesting.

The exhibition concludes Sunday, but be sure to linger around Store Street to sample the other exhibitions and independent stores in the neighbourhood. An oasis in Bloomsbury and a civilised short walk up from Covent Garden or the British Museum...

 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Charity screeners: The Sound of Mumbai


I caught a charity fundraiser for The Sound of Mumbai this week. It is currently available to watch online on More4 within the United Kingdom and tells the story of a slum school choir performing the songs from  The Sound of Music in a major concert hall with a full orchestra. At the heart of the documentary is the optimism of the young singers who have so many hopes and dreams riding on the one performance.

The success of the documentary has led to the start of Songbound which is a music outreach initiative that uses singing to reach out to India's most impoverished children through collaborative projects with schools, choirs and professional musicians. Donations can be made through the website.

Boo impressions follow...

Let the blood run free musical: Sweeney Todd



Stephen Sondheim's Grand Guignol musical-opera Sweeney Todd is back in the West End. This time it is with the versatile (and somewhat unrecognisable) Michael Ball in the title role and Imelda Staunton as Mrs Lovett, his partner in crime. The tale has been told in many forms, and the last time it was on the West End was in John Doyle's wonderfully claustrophobic production where the cast doubled as the orchestra. This time around, this Chichester Festival transfer provides a slightly more traditional staging of the production with a grand set, huge sounding orchestra and elaborate set pieces. Of course it is still probably Victorian London as the story does not make sense in any other period, but you could be forgiven with the odd car, costuming and set decoration that it could also be the 1930s...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Theatre and therapy: In Basildon


In Basildon by David Eldridge at The Royal Court is a brilliantly funny play about a dysfunctional family and an inheritance. Len is on his deathbed and the family gather to say goodbye. His two sisters Maureen and Doreen have not spoken in nearly twenty years. Doreen's son Barry is hoping to get the house as his inheritance so he can start a family. The scene is set for greed, grudges and entitlement against the backdrop of the city of Basildon, a rather bleak looking town created in post war England to house the growing population from London (and featured in the above promotional video).

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Theatre: The King's Speech (in Richmond)

The King's Speech was originally intended to be a play rather than a film, and it you now have the opportunity in London to see it that way. It is a smart looking production with an excellent cast that keep things in focus. The performances by Charles Edwards as the King and Jonathan Hyde as Lionel Logue are central to this and you are on the edge of your seat whenever they are on stage.

Despite projections and visuals which make the piece still feel a bit cinematic, it is the dialogue and the banter between the two men that are key. On one level, the play elaborates and enhances some aspects of the story going beyond what the film covers. But on another level it is also labours them.

The film seemed sharper and more credible. It is a pity that perhaps the stage version didn't re-imagine the story as a three-hander between George VI, Elizabeth and Lionel Logue. The focus of the stories blurs with the cast of supporting (and possibly) superfluous characters.Winston Churchill, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Stanley Baldwin seem to be a comic chorus to the proceedings. Walace and Edward come across as the usual Nazi sympathisers. Nothing is particularly subtle here, and various lines managed to elicit "ooh yes" from the mostly elderly audience...

It isn't Chekov but still it is all a bit of fun and an interesting footnote on historical events. It's currently playing at the Richmond Theatre and will move to London's Wyndham's Theatre later this month, where the revolve will no doubt be built into the stage, rather than giving the impression people are acting on a cliff.

Interval (Bertie) 'boo with @johnnyfoxlondon follows...

Bertie Boo: The King"s Speech (mp3)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Theatre Readings: Open Stage Angelic Tales

As part of its Open Stage programme this year, the Theatre Royal Stratford East is holding a series of readings of new plays this week, curated by Rikki Beadle-Blair. I caught The Miriam Gospel by Ben Fensome on Tuesday which is a surreal roller coaster ride into this history of homosexuality.

Thanks to the internet, you don't need to read a review but can watch the performance below. If you're pressed for time, I would recommend skipping to the monologue by a leopard slug, which comes in at 1 hour 50 seconds. It describes in graphic slimy detail slug sex and is disgusting and not for the squeamish. And I loved it.

This is a series to watch for potential future playwrights and performers. Readings run until Saturday for now but more are to come later this year... It is worth a look and make sure you stay for the post show discussions as they are wonderfully entertaining and insightful about how the actors and writers grappled with the material and got it into shape...

They were encouraging audience feedback and tweets, but @johnnyfoxlondon and I prefer to boo...

#openstage boo: angelic tales - the Miriam Gospel (mp3)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Theatre: The Ladykillers



The Ladykillers, which is playing at the Gielgud Theatre is a surprise treat. Even if you are not familiar with the Ealing comedy with Alec Guinness, the tale of a sweet old lady who is up against a gang of crooks who are using her room to hide out following a heist near Kings Cross is a lot of fun and everything a civilised night out at the West End should be... Murder, heists, little old ladies, car chases and moulting parrots...

How some of the material translates to the stage is often a joy to behold. Actually it is all so enjoyable that you wonder if they took the pace a bit quicker, choreographed the action a bit snappier and occasionally broke the fourth wall it might even be funnier.

Still, everyone is so likable and the performances are wonderful. Particularly by Marcia Warren as Mrs Wilberforce, who creates a wonderful character that is equal parts daft and clever.  And of course the production looks great. People have raved about the set and it is a sight to behold, and it gets its own applause on a number of occasions. You get your money's worth here, and the Gielgud's latest refurbishment gives the theatre an added touch of old fashioned glamour and the bar prices are reasonable too!