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Showing posts from April, 2013

Not quite jungle red: Britain's Got Talons

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Britain's Got Talons is an interesting concept that explores the bizarre obsession for TV talent shows, the people that make them and the people that show up on them. It is set backstage behind a notorious (and fictional) talent show. When one of the judges is murdered it is left to a lowly office assistant to investigate the murder in between making teas and taking down notes from the producers.

I was curious to see this show partly due to the concept and partly due to the number of evocative words the press release:
"...Things take a sinister twist, however, when one of the judges is found murdered in her dressing room" "Meanwhile, as office assistant Stephen pieces the clues together, the grisly truth behind the show begins to emerge..." and "A gripping tale of deceit, death and duets..." Anything that claims to be gripping, sinister and grisly sounds like a fun show to me...

Although billed as a comedy there are not many laughs in this piece, and…

Quick and not quite magical looks: Die Zauberflöte

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This current sold out run of Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) at the Royal Opera is a curiosity that veers from being full of life to being a drag (and back again). It makes for a night out, but not a particularly magical one. There is some fine singing (although not from everyone) and the occasional wonderful set piece, but the end result is that this production lacks a bit of fun and comedic timing that you would hope to see.

Conductor Julia Jones often takes things at a slow pace which makes the evening seem much longer than necessary. While it gives a new appreciation for the music it does feel at times to be a bit of an academic exercise.

The under-lit production, full of Freemason imagery to labour underscore the plot, does not help and there was a curious choice to make Albina Shagimuratova as Queen of the Night sing her signature aria in act two kneeling on top of a bed (as above). Not quite the grand spectacle I imagined for here, even if she sounds incredible and had the au…

Life in London: stalking spring joggers in spandex

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There is always the thrill of the first sunny and warm day of the year. Sunday just past was that sort of day. As temperatures hit above fifteen degrees celsius, people took to the parks and the streets to enjoy the great outdoors.

And joggers took to the streets to celebrate... Wearing their best synthetic fibres... Shorts and t-shirts were curiously absent.



Brief flames and passion: Nabucco at the Royal Opera

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The Royal Opera's new production of Nabucco has received some mixed reviews - particularly with the sandpit staging - but catching the final night where Leo Nucci was playing the title role, it was clear that fine music making and some extraordinary singing will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The production has updated the period to the twentieth century but for the most part this does not get in the way of the story, or more importantly the singing.

My side view of the production (which restricted seeing the rear projections that "comment on the action") probably helped as it looked like it was pretty busy back there at times to the point of distraction. But it was hard to deny the beauty and power of some of the set pieces, including where Liudmyla Monastyrska as Abigaille sings lit only by flames (pictured above, photo credit Catherine Ashmore).

Death, reflections and reflex actions: Untold Stories

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Alan Bennett's Untold Stories at the Duchess Theatre is an opportunity to sample two short stories from Bennett's life recounting his experiences with his parents. It is an enjoyable and contemplative evening at the theatre. It possibly is a little too quiet and contemplative as I could hear and see a few members of the audience nodding off to sleep in the first, shorter piece.

The play is two snippets from a larger volume of observations and stories of the same name. He wrote it while being treated for cancer and was expecting it to be his final work to be published after his death. As noted at the time of publication it had a valedictory quality to the piece (or a hint of death?). Thankfully the cancer went into remission and he was able to finish the stories, and write some smashing new plays - such as The History Boys. But death still lingers over the work here as it is about recalling times past now that his parents are gone.

Art, death and decay: Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum

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The British Museum's Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum is a wonderful way to start to appreciate the richness and beauty that has been uncovered from these two ancient towns. Over 250 artifacts, some which have never ventured out of Italy are on display and attempt to piece together the ordinary life of the Roman home and the people who lived in them.

There are the obligatory pieces of information that explain the eruption, how it engulfed the cities and how those who were not able to flee died. But what is more interesting than the plaster casts and the bone fragments as others have noted is how you can see firsthand the various lost art forms from the Roman Empire that were rediscovered and reinterpreted from the Renaissance onwards.

Disorder in the house: This House

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This House by James Graham, back for return season at The National Theatre, is a political drama (and comedy) that manages to capture the excitement and the insanity of its time. It covers the period between 1974 to 1979 which was the last time there was a minority government running the country. With a wafer-thin majority the government was not expected to survive and it was the role of the whips, who enforce party unity in voting, to ensure its survival or bring it down.

While it is full of some of the spectacle set pieces of the time such as a near riot in the Commons and Big Ben breaking down, what is more remarkable is how it sheds some light on the relationships that developed in the period both within the parties and across party lines. It is part epic drama with a booming soundtrack supplied by a supporting band, and part series of small scale personal dramas from people passionate about something.

Scenes from a Sunday in the park...

Parks and recreation on a Sunday... As told by Vine...

Taking no prisoners: Gibraltar

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The shooting of three unarmed terrorists by the Special Air Service in 1988 is the backdrop for an analysis of the media, press coverage, spin and counter spin in Gibraltar. Currently playing downstairs at the Arcola Theatre, it is a minimalistic production that blends factual accounts and testimonies with fictional analysis.

It works best when it is a semi staged reading that mixes the mundane aspects of life on the island with its associations with crime, terrorism and other niceties. The history of The Troubles, or whether the killings were lawful are surprisingly less important here than looking at how a news story is given an angle and the search for an understanding about what really goes on.