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Sing from the heart: Liza Pulman - The Heart of It @riversidelondon

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Liza Pulman is on this week at the Riverside Studios . It’s in keeping with the series of shows that we should have seen two years ago or things that we should have been doing two years ago (if it weren’t for that pesky global pandemic). Her show is called The Heart of It , and there’s a lot of heart in it. Watching Pulman sing a series of classic and perhaps overlooked songs of the past feels like we’re all picking up where we left off. The songs she sings are part of a timeless series of classic standards by the likes of Irving Berlin and Fats Waller. Songs about love, loss and revelation all fit into the category of easy listening, and with her sublime vocals, they are easy on the ear. And they may not be songs for the young, but they are songs for the young at heart. Liza Pulman comes from a show business family. Her father was screenwriter Jack Pulman, and her mother was an actress. Growing up, she sang in a close harmony duo with her sister. She would then train as an opera singe

Cure for all ills: The Paradis Files @graeae

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The Paradis Files takes you back to the salons of 18 century Vienna. Albeit briefly There, Maria Theresia von Paradis is a star composer and pianist. World-famous in Europe, a pupil of the composer Salieri and possible lover of Mozart, if one believes the gossip. And there was one other thing about her. She lost her eyesight at a young age.  This new chamber opera by Errollyn Wallen uses opera to convey the story of Paradis, both her triumphs and humiliations. She was an object of desire and experimentation. This short piece sets out clearly that she had a colourful life. Being the daughter of Joseph Anton von Paradis, Imperial Secretary of Commerce and Court Councillor to Empress Maria Theresa, undoubtedly helped. But as the family sought to remedy her blindness, she was subject to various “cures” by quack doctors.   Wallen doesn't confine the musical style to any particular period. There are elements of classical music mixed with jazz and percussion. And as a chamber opera, there

Bleak house: SAD @OmnibusTheatre

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I get home from seeing SAD at the Omnibus Theatre on the weekend, and a friend is over. "What did you see?" She asked. "Well, I saw a play about a woman who locked herself away in an attic after accidentally killing her mother over Christmas with an overcooked turkey. Meanwhile, the neighbour comes through the skylight for unsatisfying booty calls, and her husband brings up ham sandwiches." I guess sometimes you really can make things up. Victoria Willing's new work weaves together four characters searching for life and meaning as they realise life has passed them by so far despite a series of challenging events.  It's challenging to work out is a black comedy or just a very depressing story about life in London in January. That's the time of the year when the days are short, the parties are over, and the only thing to keep people motivated is some pointless New Years' resolution. But if you have a warped sense of humour, you'll probably enjoy th

Colour and Light: Anyone Can Whistle @swkplay

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What’s hard is simple. What’s natural comes hard, so the lyrics in the title song, Anyone Can Whistle. But this production,  currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse , takes one of the more challenging Sondheim musicals and makes it seem effortless and straightforward to enjoy. And they deliver it with endless enthusiasm and panache. It’s a bonkers story about a town that comes up with a miracle to attract tourists and improve its prospects. Up to this point, the only thing going for it was its sanitarium for the socially pressured (otherwise known as the Cookie Jar). These people, known as the cookies, are non-conformists. Yet they seem to be happier than anyone else in the town. But as the show progresses, its none too subtle digs at religion, authority, politics, and conformism can make your head spin about what institution it is taking on.  The best thing is to let much of the absurdist story fly over your head. After all, even Sondheim critiqued it for being too clever . But t

Pretend it’s a good life: The Marriage of Alice B Toklas by Gertrude Stein @JSTheatre

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It’s tempting to write about The Marriage of Alice B Toklas by Gertrude Stein, which is actually by Edward Einhorn since the former is the title of the play, pretending to be Edward Einhorn who is pretending to be Gertrude Stein. Therefore, I would have to pretend to be Einhorn pretending to be Stein pretending not to be a theatre writer covering the proceedings. But in the interests of clarity and sanity. I won’t be pretending anything further. Except to pretend I was familiar with the works of Stein, which also after seeing this piece, I feel I don’t have to pretend as much.  The novelty of this play, where everything is in the style of Stein, will either amuse or irritate, probably depending on how familiar you are with the works of Stein or willing to embrace them. And the basic facts of their lives are there. However, within the circular dialogue, a story emerges of a woman in the shadows of a genius. It’s making its covid delayed premiere at the Jermyn Street Theatre .  The short

Will you still love me tomorrow: The Woods @swkplay

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In The Woods, conversations drift into seemingly random discussions about seagulls, raccoons, or aliens. Perhaps it's due to the isolation from being set in a remote cabin. But it's also a heterosexual play, so that means there's a man, woman and inevitable conflict. But even if there aren't any surprises in this revival of David Mamet's 1977 work, the performances and the staging keep you focussed on it like you're a voyeur in the proceedings. It's currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse.  The Woods is set entirely at a secluded cabin on the porch of a summer house. It's early September, and Nick seems to have been keen on taking things to the next level with Ruth. Ruth seems keen too since she took the trouble to buy a gift for Nick. But slowly, from Dusk through the night, things begin to unravel. Things that are banal and trivial become blown out of proportion. Sex becomes complicated, and ultimately there's an outburst that takes everything

Previews on Power: Truth to Power Cafe

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Truth To Power Cafe is a part digital and live performance event that’s coming to Huddersfield and South Norwood in London later this month. Using memories, poetry, images and music, it takes stories from local people at each location, asking the question who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’ Be it parents, leaders or a bossy partner. It’s a chance to tell them the truth for once. The concept is a means of conflict resolution and a way of saying something to those in a position of trust or authority who may not want to hear it. Created by Jeremy Goldstein, his experiences frame the start of each performance. He uses poetry, music and performance to talk about his struggles with his father before he invites others to come forward and share their experiences.  Truth to Power Cafe is written and performed by Jeremy Goldstein with Henry Woolf. The event has completed a run as part of Rotherham’s Children’s Capital of Culture Launch. It heads to Lawrence Batley Theatr

Streaming immorality: Is He Musical?

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To coincide with LGBT history month, a digital stream of 'Is He Musical?' is available to stream. A new short musical by Jude Taylor, it covers the secret life of queer friends who partied in 1930s London and is available to stream now until 6 March. Just like the other phrase, "friend of Dorothy," "Is he musical?" is code. After all, it's from a time when the police could arrest you some vaguely defined immorality. The piece doesn't explore why being musical is code for being gay or queer, but a response on Quora from a straight ex-military musical loving man is as good an explanation as any. The respondent suggests that musicals emphasise emotions, which parallels gay men who stereotypically live a flamboyant life.   So with that in mind, the piece is set in London's West End in the 1930s. Lawrence (Barry O'Reilly) arrives on the scene and befriends Wilfred (Teddy Hinde). But the parties and self-indulgent lifestyles can't hide the di