Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Art in a dark moist place: David Breuer-Weil's Project 4

David Breuer-Weil from Guy Natanel on Vimeo.

London-based artist David Breuer-Weil has taken over the vaults under Waterloo Station with Project 4, an evocative and thought-provoking exhibition about the world, the apocalypse and other social and political considerations. Nothing is small scale here. Everything is big. Most of his paintings are two metres high and four metres long. One giant canvas follows another and as you are drawn into the tunnels under Waterloo Station, they come together to form an impressive spectacle of colour. Interspersed amongst these is Breuer-Weil's sculptures which give the works an added dimension and physicality.

Many Londoners will be familiar with his works, particularly his sculpture. Emergence (see below after the jump) was temporarily installed into Hanover Square in 2012 and Visitor has previously been seen in Golders Hill Park, Hampstead.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New music, new voices: The Route to Happiness

As part of the Landor Theatre's season of new musical writing, this week it is playing The Route to Happiness by Alexander S Bermange. It is an enjoyable three-hander about life relationships and ambition in London... A sort of a boy meets girl meets another girl while trying to succeed in business without really trying story...

It starts with the three characters down on their luck. The young and ambitious Marcus loses his job after getting caught out criticising his boss on social media, the ambitious but somewhat lacking in talent Trinity fails another audition, and writer Lorna who has been unlucky in love is again dumped. They all meet at a wedding and the three start up professional and personal relationships.

Bermange has written for West End shows and the BBC and has a range of musical styles. Here the piece feels like a London take on shows like I Love You Because or I Love You, You're Perfect Now Change. There is no dialogue but instead the story is told through the songs. There is clever music making here, particularly with some complex lyrics and counterpoint singing. And at times you have to listen carefully for the in-jokes and gags fly fast.

The three leads make this show particularly enjoyable. Niall Sheehy as Marcus deftly handles some tricky high notes and harmonies with the two ladies. Shona White as Lorna gets the chance to show off her vocal talents for soaring ballads and despair. And Cassidy Janson as Trinity captures the desperation of the wannabe actress along with a keen sense of musical comedy.

As a work in progress it is interesting to see a new piece of musical theatre with some great songs and some interesting ideas on stage. Although at this stage of its life it at times feels a little too predictable and the characters at times are a little too self-absorbed to sustain interest in a two hour show. There are few surprises in this piece once the characters are introduced and the predictability is only reinforced by the song titles in the programme. All this makes for a nice evening at the theatre that you feel like you have already seen.

It finishes its run on Sunday for now, but one suspects that given there is an interest and no doubt an audience for small-scale musical pieces like this, it is bound to be returning soon and will be fascinating to see where it ends up... Some of the songs would stand up well as jazz standards. The composer notes that the piece is intended for low budget fringe venues but stranger things have happened...

Photo credit: Francis Loney

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Opera: Cendrillon

Cendrillon at the Royal Opera looks great and has a great cast. Joyce DiDonato in the title role is a delight as the strong willed Cinderella. Eglise Gutiérrez as the fairy godmother looks like she would be as much at home on the stage of Priscilla Queen of the Desert as she would at Covent Garden (although she sounded a lot better of course)... She looks like she is having fun waving her wand and watching the magic unfold...

Alas the opera is heavy going for a fairy tale. Part of the problem is that telling the story of Cinderella for three hours requires some memorable music and some frightfully comedy. The direction is somewhat inspired and wrestles out as much comedy as is probably possible. This includes a very wicked Ewa Podles as stepmother. But what is left is a piece that could do with some merciless editing, and perhaps removing a subplot, trimming an aria (or two) and one of the ballet sequences... That would probably make it not just family friendly, but friendly to everyone...

It is also rather brave to stage a show in the summer in this country called Cinderella. I've noticed that people tend to insist (although less so for Rossini's La Cenerentola) that anything called "Cinderella" just has to be a panto and will stubbornly refuse to attend unless it is around Christmas... But it would still make a sensible evening out... There is also a BP Summer Screens presentation of it on the 13 July, so there is a chance to try it before you buy it completely too...

Friday, February 01, 2013

On a clear day: The View From the Shard


The View from The Shard opens on Friday and having caught a preview of it earlier in the month, it is worth a look... Even if it is a snowy day... And visibility is poor... There is still a gee whiz excitement about looking down from the London landmark. There is something light and delicate about The Shard that makes it intriguing and not just another tall building.

The journey starts with a slightly eccentric tour of London and its people before you are shuffled into one of two lifts to take you to the thirty-third floor. You are told that it will take you at speeds of six metres a second but unlike other tall buildings in London, it is not a glass lift so there is no horror or nausea from shooting up. Perhaps it is the low lighting and video screens of soothing autumnal leaves and snow that does it, but you do not feel a thing.

You then have to take another lift to the top which again has soothing music and video screens which takes you to the top. There are a few more stairs to take before you then see all of South London, The City, Canary Wharf and beyond. Well, if the weather is good. There are view screens so you can see what you could see if the weather was clear, or if it were a more interesting time of day (such as sunset or night). It is all very fascinating and even if you can't see much you will be distracted by looking at the building itself and how the glass windows fit together to create the jagged shard-like structure. There is also an upper viewing deck that is open to the elements.

Of course there is no bar or cafe up top so you probably will find that half an hour is enough before heading down and making your way to Borough Market for a sensible coffee... And some hot meat in a bun or something warm... It's a bit chilly up there.

The View from The Shard is open to the public from 1 February and tickets are available from their website... It isn't the cheapest ride up an elevator, but one with such a lure enough people are going to part money to do it anyway...