Showing posts from February, 2012

Featured Post

Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

At the start of the Opera Locos performance, the announcement says that they really are singing. You could be forgiven for wondering that, given the amplification turns up the backing track and the voices so loud that you can't always tell what's real. But this is a mostly harmless and slightly eccentric blend of opera classics fused with the occasional pop classic. However, recognising the pop tunes would help if you were over a certain age. The most recent of them dates back twenty years. It's currently playing at the Peacock Theatre .  Five performers play out a variety of archetype opera characters. There's the worn-out tenor (Jesús Álvarez), the macho baritone (Enrique Sánchez-Ramos), the eccentric counter-tenor (Michaël Kone), the dreamy soprano (María Rey-Joly) and the wild mezzo-soprano (Mayca Teba). Since my singing days, I haven't recognised these types of performers. However, once, I recall a conductor saying he wanted no mezzo-sopranos singing with the s

Theatre: All New People

All New People, written and starring Zach Braff is a play that takes place over 90 or so minutes in the dead of winter at a beach house on Long Beach Island New Jersey. Zach's character Charlie is staying at his friends beach house for a few days as he is having a bit of crisis at this point in his life. He is about to end it all, when a real estate agent walks in... Then follows a fireman, and then a high-class hooker his best friend arranged to cheer him up with. The stage is set for a bizarre and off-beat set of stories and revelations from this collection of four unlikely people. There is a detailed discussion about scabies and debates about the merits of various intoxicating substances. Projections help with the back stories of the characters, but it works best when it is just some off-beat random discussions about matters of trivial importance. Or are they? Whatever the case, the action moves briskly and the laughs are fairly constant.

Theatre: The Shallow End

The Shallow End currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse is an opportunity to revisit this satire on British media with recent events of phone hacking, arrests, resignations and enquiries in mind. The play is set at the wedding of a media mogul's daughter, who has just brought a broadsheet newspaper and it about to take it downmarket. During the celebrations the axe is about to be weilded on the old guard as debates about about the future of a newspaper in the digital age.

Theatre: Excellent Choice

Excellent Choice - a two-man show by Rob Hayes - is a brief and (ahem) palatable choice to start the evening. Part of the final week of the Vault Festival at the Old Vic Tunnels at Waterloo Station, it is a funny and dark half hour show that goes down very well. The theatre space being slightly damp and a former office within the National Rail archive only adds to its mildly creepy premise. This short play is about a young man who visits a rather unusual rare wine shop and has some very specific requirements. What seems to be an ordinary transaction quickly becomes something different. The punchline is hilarious (although possibly offensive). To speak more about it would be to give too much away. What holds it all together is two brilliant performances by Benjamin Dilloway as the customer (above left) and Jeff Rawle as the shopkeeper (above right). Apart from giving the production a bit of class, they play their roles in all seriousness and ignore the fact the other half of the roo

Theatre: Master Class

A passion for life (and music) is certainly a message loud and clear from this revival of Master Class , Terrence McNally's play about the original opera super star Maria Callas who is running a master class for aspiring opera singers. Inspired by the classes she ran at the Juilliard School in New York in the early 1970s, she alternates between being repulsed and intrigued by her students and then caught up in how their performances evoke memories of her past glories. The play is an opportunity to see Tyne Daly on stage and she delivers a commanding performance as the no-nonsense diva. Dominating, witty with impeccable timing and occasionally vulnerable, her performance is something to be savoured. And it distracts you from being too bothered by some of the other quirks of the material such as occasional overlong scene and superflous characters. Naturally anything about Callas is going to bring out her groupies en masse (including a variety of homosexual types), but you don'

Concert: New York Philharmonic at the Barbican with Joyce DiDonato

It is easy to appreciate the music of Berlioz, Ravel, Stravinsky and English Born composer Thomas Adès when it is the New York Philharmonic performing. Part of their residency series at the Barbican , Friday night was an opportunity to be wowed by some impressive musicianship and a passion for music. You know you're in for something a little bit different when you notice that after taking your seats you're surrounded by various members of the brass section. This was for Adès piece Polaris which had its European Premiere and was a joint commission with the Barbican and New York Philharmonic. It was an intriguing and hypnotic piece, although depending on your proximity to the off stage brass may have swayed your views on it (as no doubt you would not have heard much else). The above video shot for its premiere in New York gives some context to it The rest of the programme featured Joyce DiDonato in Berlioz’s song cycle Les nuits d’été which gave a delicate and light touch to

(Silent) Opera: La Boheme

As part of the Vault Festival , which transforms a series of interconnected tunnels underneath Waterloo Station into something theatrical and fabulous this month, I caught a packed production of La Boheme by Silent Opera with @Johnnyfoxlondon . Like other companies , Silent Opera is about taking operatic masterpieces and adapting them into modern settings. What makes them unique is that they tap into the iPod generation and use headphones to place the performers and the music in real life and odd spaces. The former National Rail plans and drawings archive must fit the latter. With a mix of levels, false ceilings, grimy floors and porta-loos, it is a far cry from the Royal Opera.

Events: Snow Patrol at the O2

One of the great things about London is the range of sensible and not so sensible events on offer at any time of the year. All you need is a decent London Guide to start planning things. A frosty Saturday evening seemed very appropriate to catch Snow Patrol's second of three sellout concerts at the O2. Snow Patrol are best categorised as an alternative rock group from Northern Island via Scotland (where they originally formed), but they have evolved to be firmly in the mainstream fare and ensuring mega stardom. That isn't such a bad thing as an audience of 15,000 singing (surprisingly in tune) the chorus of their song Run is certainly an experience to take in. It is also amazing to see the glow from hundreds of camera phones across the venue recording footage like the clip above. Given you can't smoke indoors anymore, they are the modern equivalent of the lighter wave .

Opera: La Traviata goes East Londonistan...

La Traviata which is playing  Upstairs at the Gatehouse  is a surprising treat. One of the most loved and most performed operas with its beautiful music and fully developed characters, in the Gatehouse's intimate space becomes an intensely emotional affair that has the audience alternating between sobbing and cheering. This is the same company that presented the economic production of Troy Boy last year. Again by  Kit Hesketh-Harvey , this new translation and adaptation moves the action into the heart of cosmopolitan East London. Well the part where there are dodgy burlesque clubs and marriages that still need to preserve reputations. Moving and updating the actions opens up a whole range of  possibilities. Sempre Libera now includes a lap dance on one lucky audience member. Since  Anna Jeruc-Kopec who plays  Violetta has a great set of legs to match her set of lungs, it came as no surprise when she started to get a good mauling by the audience... They can be funny like tha

Theatre: Absent Friends

Wednesday evening was an opportunity to catch the latest revival of Alan Ayckbourn's frightfully witty comedy, Absent Friends , which is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre. There is something about this play that has enduring appeal, even now as a period piece. It takes a particularly English setting of an afternoon tea party and slowly twists it. It is funny and occasionally surprising which makes for a great night out. The story focused around a tea party organised for Colin (played by Reece Shearsmith), who returns to visit his circle of friends after the death of his fiancee. For a variety of reasons, his friends are more anxious about how to deal with the situation than he is and so the play explores the very English way people deal with grief and loss, infidelities and lost dreams.

Overheard at the gym Tuesday

Man #1: She now has a dog Man #2: What sort? Man #1: It's a poodle. A little one. And I don't want it pissing all over my flat. Man #2: They do that you know. They piss everywhere. And shit...

Theatre: One Man, Two Guvnors, New Cast!

The hit National Theatre play One Man, Two Guvnors has had a cast change and moved theatres on the West End. Is it still as funny? I have no idea about that as I must have been one of the few people who until this week had not seen the previous cast with James Corden. They are off to take this show to Broadway, and this show must be one of the funniest things you could see on the West End right now. If it were funnier previously it would have definitely needed to come with a health warning... Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, the action is updated from the renaissance to 1960s Brighton with songs by Grant Olding. The update works well with the mad plot and storyline and the costumes and set look great. The music and performance by the resident band "The Craze" gives things and added touch of class. Keeping the insanity together is former understudy to James Corden, Owain Arthur , as Francis Henshaw. He manages to make the part his own. Sitting in sp