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Showing posts from November, 2013

Free spirits and dark places: Don Juan @cockpittheatre

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Don Juan at the Cockpit theatre is a classy staging of the classic tale from Moliére with some strong performances by its young cast. It is baroque theatre at its creepiest and surrealist. You may find however that in the attempt to play up some of the spookier elements of the story, what ends up missing is the comedy from the tale.

The Don Juan legend of a wealthy libertine who devotes his life to seducing women, pretending to marry them and leaving them when they bore him. In Moliére's version of the story, he has just rejected a woman he led from convent and she promises that he will face heaven's wrath. Escaping pursuit by the woman's brother's who intend to force him to marry or will kill him, he stumbles upon the tomb of a man he previously murdered. Upon entering the tomb and seeing a statue of the man he invites him to dine with him. To his shock the statue nods. The sprits seem to be  conspiring against Don Juan's ways...

Random observations about London: The telephone box

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London is Calling - An infographic by the team at Marriott London Hotels

The Mariott have developed the following info graphic about the red telephone box in London. Telephone boxes are iconic due to their red colour and design. First installed in Kensington and Holborn, these small phone booths have come to be a well-known symbol of London. They were at their peak during the 1980s when there were around 70,000 boxes throughout the country and alongside police boxes were an acceptable form of street clutter.

But their days have been numbered since most people have mobile phones these days and BT cannot flog advertising space on them as effectively as other their more hideous modern designs can since the primary purpose of phone boxes nowadays is advertising.

You can still see the old phone boxes around central London, particularly on Bow Street in Covent Garden where the background image to this blog has been taken. Curiously they have also adapted to the challenge to be places for ad…

Sex, drugs and bewilderment: Keeler

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Keeler, currently showing at Charing Cross Theatre is a theatrical curiosity. Based on Christine Keeler's own book, Truth At Last, it gives her account of the Profumo affair. Fifty years ago this caused a scandal that led to a Secretary of State resigning and ultimately the downfall of a government.

But rather than provide new insight it highlights how insignificant her part was and the events and  those around her were far more interesting. While the intention is no doubt show how events circling around them overwhelmed them, without any understanding about the characters it is difficult to gleam anything but a vague history lesson on the topic.

Jaded and jaundiced encounters: Passing By @TristanBates

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Passing By, a rare revival of an early Martin Sherman play is an opportunity to return to the carefree days of the early 1970s New York. This is a time where being gay could get you arrested and the only disease to fear catching was either hepatitis or gonorrhea. It is a comedy of sorts, but what was groundbreaking at the time was its frank portrayal of a couple who just happened to be gay rather than a play where being gay was the whole point of the play. It is a pity that some of this context is lost in this revival at the Tristan Bates Theatre which may leave you wondering what was the show all about.

Art: Stanley Spencer Heaven in a Hell of War

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Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War presents Spencer's series of large-scale canvas panels depicting life during the war which form part of the Sandham Memorial Chapel. It is a rare opportunity to view them up close at Somerset House and appreciate them for their beauty and modernity.

The panels are based on his experiences as a hospital orderly and as a soldier, focusing on the mundane, the banal and his recollections of his experiences of the time. What is astonishing about the works is how they feel so modern yet also from a different time and place. Everyday activities such as cleaning are elevated to a form of spiritual retreat. Realism and dreamlike settings combine to astonishing effect. The altar, which could not be removed from the chapel is recreated here as well to give a sense of the scale of how the pieces worked together.

Opera Quick looks: Grand drama with Les Vêpres siciliennes #Rohvepres

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It is a spectacular and grand evening at the opera with the current production of Les Vêpres siciliennes. I caught the sixth ever performance of this production at the Royal Opera (which is also being broadcast around the world at cinemas). While it helps to understand the historical context of the thirteenth century French occupation of Sicily, even more important is understanding a grand opera, its characteristics and excesses. Once you accept all this, it is a hell of a night.

The production manages to pare back some of the spectacle in favour of focusing the story on four principals and a story of betrayal and family secrets is brought to the fore. The production is more a commentary on grand opera traditions, but works. Verdi's music with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and conductor Antonio Pappano is so stirring and rousing its tempting to want to join the revolutionaries.

There are two more nights for it to run and a handful of tickets are available. Don't miss…