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Showing posts from April, 2023

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Belters and bohemians: Opera Locos @Sadlers_wells

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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

Wannabes in the woods: The Retreat @Finborough

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The Retreat takes us back to the Canada of the mid-nineteen nineties—the clothes, the politics, both geopolitical and sexual. But even though it's long before the #metoo era, it has plenty to say about power, business and the lure of showbiz. Jason Sherman's funny script and engaging performances make this piece too good to miss. It's currently having its European premiere at the Finborough Theatre. The play opens with Rachel (Jill Winternitz) not apologising to her boss for equating Jewish settlers on the West Bank as terrorists. As a teacher at a Hebrew school whose pupils have relatives living in the West Bank, this wouldn't go down well. But Rachel has other things on her mind. She has written a screenplay and been invited to what she thinks is a prestigious retreat for aspiring screenwriters. And her father, who fought for Israel, is dying in a hospice. The apology can wait. Perhaps forever. Meanwhile, David (Max Rinehart) and Jeff (Michael Feldsher), two film prod

Scientific pursuits: Family Tree @BrxHouseTheatre

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Family Tree, by Mojisola Adebayo, uses the power of words to weave a story about race, inequality, health and the state of the world from the perspective of black women. It’s provocative, disturbing and methodical in depicting inequality throughout time. But it’s also a celebration of life and thriving in the face of relentless adversity. It’s currently playing at Brixton House . The guide to the story is Henrietta Lacks. Lacks was a black woman who died from cervical cancer in 1951. The hospital that treated her was the only hospital that would accept black patients in the area; it took a biopsy and collected her cells without her knowledge or consent. Scientists found that hers could be kept alive, unlike other cells that only survived for a few days. Today her cells are the oldest and most commonly used human cell line used to test the first polio vaccine, cancer treatments and covid-19 vaccines. The guide, Lacks (Aminita Francis), introduces us to a world where segregation and ineq

Pig In A Poke: Betty Blue Eyes @TheUnionTheatre

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Twelve years after its West End premiere, Betty Blue Eyes seems topical. Back then, the parallels were only about a Royal Wedding, with William and Kate's marriage filling the headlines. Now a musical about conniving members of the establishment , illegal meat trades and shortages of decent food could be set in the present day. Even the Horse meat scandal would follow a few years after its closure. Now in a smaller-scale version at the Union Theatre, it's still funny and silly. And the illegal pigsty is right up close and under your nose in the smaller space of the Union Theatre .  Based on the Alan Bennet movie A Private Function, the story is set just after the Second World War when rationing and shortages meant times were tough. Gilbert and Joyce Chilvers (Sam Kipling and Amelia Atherton) move to a small Yorkshire Town and struggle to make ends meet and gain acceptance. Gilbert has to make do as a chiropodist making house calls to lonely housewives (in 1947, they were all

Unfinished business: Pussycat in Memory of Darkness @finborough

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Shedding light on the origins of the conflict in Ukraine is what you find in Pussycat in Memory of Darkness. It returns to the Finborough Theatre after its original acclaimed run last summer. History can be tricky to grasp in the age of disinformation and flawed democracies. But here, the past and the future that awaits are woven together.  As one woman's account about losing everything, we're introduced to the Donbas circa 2014 with a woman in dark glasses trying to sell a few kittens. Homeless and disoriented, the prospective buyer of kittens remains off stage, asking questions about papers, documents and why she is wearing those dark glasses. And this sets in train the story of a woman in the Donbas. She fought for freedom and saw the collapse of the Soviet Union in the nineties. But now finds herself ostracised and caught up in false narratives and alternative facts.  Written by Nelda Nezhdana and translated by John Farndon, It's harrowing and emotional. But also thou