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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

Desperately seeking the West End theatre: another way finding guide...

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Another handy guide has been created to find some of the major London theatres around London, what are the nearest tube stations and how to get from them. Combined with the on-street Legible London signs, there should be no excuse for missing the 7.30 start (unless of course the show starts earlier or you spent more time than you expected dining on the pre-theatre menu)...   Created by TicketTree.com , The Theatre Break Specialists.

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.

Scenes from a Sunday in the park...

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

On a clear day: The View From the Shard

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The View from The Shard opens on Friday and having caught a preview of it earlier in the month, it is worth a look... Even if it is a snowy day... And visibility is poor... There is still a gee whiz excitement about looking down from the London landmark. There is something light and delicate about The Shard that makes it intriguing and not just another tall building. The journey starts with a slightly eccentric tour of London and its people before you are shuffled into one of two lifts to take you to the thirty-third floor. You are told that it will take you at speeds of six metres a second but unlike other tall buildings in London , it is not a glass lift so there is no horror or nausea from shooting up. Perhaps it is the low lighting and video screens of soothing autumnal leaves and snow that does it, but you do not feel a thing. You then have to take another lift to the top which again has soothing music and video screens which takes you to the top. There are a few more stair

Theatre going and moaning in the cheap seats

Theatre in London is pretty good value for money, particularly if you don't mind trying your luck at the half price ticket booth, trying to get to the theatre by 10am for the few day seats on sale. Many of London's ageing theatres have great seats at a good price if you don't mind a partially restricted view or a bench seat. But it can be a false economy if you find yourself sitting in the theatre with your knees up to your ears because the row in front of you is so close. Or if you are so high and far away from the stage you can't see anything other than a small fuzzy dots which might be either actors or the onset of vertigo. While there are a few sites out there that review theatres, the information tends to go out of date as theatres are upgraded, so a new website Seat Plan aims to address that. It's launching in the new year and for every review posted by the end of this week, it is offering the chance to win £100 worth of theatre vouchers. 49,000 seats are r

Cabaret: Karen Akers at The Crazy Coqs

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The Brasserie Zedel, run by restauranteurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (of The Ivy, The Woolsey fame) which opened this summer, has given new life and a touch of French glamour to a formerly unloved hotel just off Piccadilly Circus in the heart of the West End. Their cabaret room, The Crazy Coqs is a beautiful art-deco space that is a great way to sample an evening of cabaret. The last time I saw Karen Akers we were bemoaning that Pizza on the Park was shortly to be closing. But change isn't always a bad thing. Akers act was the same act (or possibly shorter) but in a smaller, classier space with a sensible cocktail it seemed all the more enjoyable. Akers has finished her run but there is great line up of acts running throughout the autumn with shows at 8pm and 10pm (I have also made a mental note to catch Miss Hope Springs some Sunday evening in the not too distant future). Either timeslot allows for a quick bite at the Brasserie Zedel before or after the show. Th

Art and travel: Voyages

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A short walk from Oxford Street into Fitzrovia (and near the famous Newman Street Post Office) is The Piper Gallery , and it is currently showing an exhibition of works by artist Francis West. Called Voyages, it is an opportunity to explore West’s voyages through the series of his works on display. Never mind if you find travel exhausting, each voyage reflects West’s experience of locations. Figurative forms that are in different states of metamorphosis feature throughout, along with combining fragments, dreams and memories. The end result is quite fascinating to look at and admire. Le Désert (2008) West was born in 1936 in Scotland. After moving to London he studied at the Chelsea School of Art (1957-1959). His first solo show was in 1973, at the Hamet Gallery on Cork Street and in 1981 his work was included in the Arts Council’s Hayward Annual. Although grounded in reality, West’s concepts blur symbolic forms with fragments from poetry and historic painting.  It is all on

Life in London: Olympic bubbles and musings

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The Olympics have finished and for those who stayed in London it was a dream. The city was quiet, traffic was minimal, the tube seemed empty when I needed it and people were in a jolly mood. There was some seriously good sport to watch and so in a break from theatre I took the chance to see what drama was on offer of the muscle, sweat and lycra kind.

Life in London: Ring in the show

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It's about to get a bit quiet on the cultural front for a few weeks while some major sporting event takes place in our fair city. However before things calm down culturally, anyone in London this morning should get their bells ready for 8.12am to ring them as part of All the Bells. Of course there are loads of other Cultural Olympiad events, but in a city so full of it, here is one cultural event you could experience in the comfort of your own bed... Whether it is a bicycle bell, a ringtone, an alarm clock or a church bell... Get ready to ring it for three minutes. Don't ask why. It is just culture... And you can say you took part in the big boing...

Compelling tragedies: Otello

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Opening night of Verdi's Otello at the Royal Opera House was a thrilling affair. Passion, rage and jealousy explode from this piece from the start. Conductor  Antonio Pappano  makes the most of both the drama and tenderness of the piece as it ebbs and flows. One moment of intensity and emotion gives way to another so delicate and light. Aleksandrs Antonenko is terrific in the title role as the doomed hero and strikes the right balance and tone between tenderness and fury that makes the drama coherent and believable. There was some fine music making between him and Anja Harteros, who plays Desmemona his wife, as they move from a delicate love duet towards a darker sinister end. It is hard to believe that within two hours they sing about love and then damnation, but here they are complimentary. Lucio Gallo was sublime as the evil Iago who orchestrates it all. At the curtain it was hard to tell whether cheering or hissing at his evil brilliance would have been more appropriate

Architecture so big you can't miss it: The Shard opens

For a dynamic modern-looking building, it seemed like a rather pompous sort of opening for The Shard on Thursday evening. Anyone hoping for a repeat of Deadmau5 at the Millbank Tower would have felt it was a letdown. Still it was a night out with a bit a colour and light so people crowded the bridges near it to see it. Whether the Shard becomes a great building or a great carbuncle is hard to say at this point in its history, but it is certainly something you can't miss on the London skyline now, and one that makes you look at it with some sense of awe. Looking at it up close it appears surprisingly delicate and accommodating to its neighbours around London Bridge. It is open to the public early next year...

Subterranean art: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012

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The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2012 designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei is described as an opportunity to inspire visitors to look beneath the surface of the park as well as back in time at the ghosts of the earlier structures.    With its cork surfaces and dark corners what it really is is the ultimate children's playground. It will be hard to visit it without finding screaming children running about, hiding from each other in the dark corners and leaping over the uneven surfaces. There is place for a good coffee, but this year's pavilion is a cork dungeon for the children. The little buggers will love it... It is open until 14 October.  Be sure to also catch the other free exhibition at the gallery itself - Yoko Ono's To the Light which runs until 9 September.

Pizza and beer for lunch... that sounds good...

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There appears to be a campaign afoot to tempt office workers of London out at lunchtime... For pizza and beer... Notwithstanding that it is an awful lot of carbs, it also sounds like an offer too good to be true. Birra Moretti is a very sensible beer to be drinking anytime of the day... And the video beautifully captures the grim reality of working lunches. Although I don't think I have ever picked up 12 inch sandwich thinking it was a phone handset... Keep an eye out for the experiment as they move across London via the Facebook page ...

Damp June Nights: Liza at the (Hampton Court) Palace

As more than one person noted after Thursday evening's downpour, there was not a dry seat in the house at the end of Liza Minnelli's concert at Hampton Court Palace . Opening the Hampton Court Festival , the steady rain or hour long wait for the train home did not deter fans from jumping to their feet even before she sang. Minnelli being from the old school of singing yourself hoarse does not have much of a high register anymore. While she seems like she sometimes tries to coax some sound out using sheer bloody mindedness, her signature songs don't sound like they used to. Of course her fans probably can't hear like they used to either so that might explained the high ovation quotient from the audience... But it is a shame that she either feels she has to sing them or her fans demand them from her. What is more interesting about her voice now is her incredible lower range. And when she calmed things down and performed songs just with her regular music director Billy

Bits and pieces: World Naked Bike Ride London 2012

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Anyone in Piccadilly Circus Saturday afternoon would have found themselves stopping to appreciate the cheek of several hundred cyclists taking part in the annual World Naked Bike Ride . A clothing-optional event, it aims to promote more sustainable means of transport and a generally more body-positive culture. While the numbers seemed down this year (possibly due to the windy weather that made things a little chilly), they made up for being more colourful and noisier than years past. And there was some unexpected laughs as a family in a car somehow managed to get caught amongst the cyclists. The mother shouting abuse at naked cyclists while their children in the back seats with wide-open stares was an amusing diversion. Of course, the event is so large nowadays that it is still possible for some cyclists to get caught amongst the traffic. Being naked in Piccadilly Circus with hoards of people and traffic around you surely must count as the stuff of worst nightmares, although these Bra

Art in mildly sadomasochistic times: Gérard Rancinan's Wonderful World

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The LondonNewcastle Project Space in Redchurch Street is home to a fabulously frothy and deliciously naughty exhibition of photographer Gerard Rancinan's work called Wonderful World . Rancinan is known for his dynamic and hyper-realistic pieces. Production of one of the pieces on exhibition is depicted in the video clip from French television. It is painstaking and eye-catching work, particularly with half naked models (even if they are wearing cartoon masks and put into positions that echo religious iconography). Wonderful World is the concluding part of his Trilogy of the Moderns. The everyday meets the kinky, pop culture meets street culture and religious icons meet cartoon icons in a series of images that explore the search for happiness (real or drug induced) in a confused and odd sort of world. So naturally it all suits the Shoreditch area well. Beautifully presented with fifteen large images surrounded by props, costumes and other features, it is a lot of fun and tak

Quick tips and leaving London for the weekend

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I'm missing the Jubilee celebrations in favour of a trip to Italy so I will miss the the crowds as they pass (literally) outside my door. However there are plenty of tips for things to do on the weekend including: A handy guide to wake the neighbours up with the Sex Pistols Nudist street parties (well they did it for her 50th and look likely to do it again in E17) Scenes of a messy nature in Soho with various street parties around the gay bars... Of course if you do make it to the South Bank the entire area is heaving with bars and restaurants including the very sensible National Theatre Propstore that serves local beers and is made up of sets and bits from past productions... A nice spot if you can get served... Or grab a seat...

Plays on tour: Is there a (script) doctor in the house?

Doctor in the House has been doing the rounds of major centres this year and is playing at Richmond Theatre this week. Comedian and I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here winner Joe Pasquale plays the lead but he does not quite get the opportunity to let rip as much as you think you think he could or would like to. It's less laugh out loud and more smirk occasionally. Very occasionally. The material has been reworked from its source material and it seems to be missing any sense of bawdiness and adventure that could have made this a bit more fun. Pasquale describes in the above clip that the show will make you come out of the theatre feeling like you had a little hot water bottle down your pants. Well there was a warm feeling in the theatre but it could have been due to the ambient temperatures outside. The cast try their best with the material they have, the set is lovely albeit a bit static since its the same awful med student accommodation in every scene (think Ladykillers of

Opera and horseplay: Falstaff

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The Royal Opera's updated production of Verdi's Falstaff received mixed reviews from the audience on Tuesday night. Most people loved the performances, but when it was time for the production team to head onstage, there were some very audible boos (not to be confused with Audioboos ). The gentleman next to me booed. He had had been tut tutting throughout most of the opera (particularly as the curtain went up revealing a dazzlingly bright 1950s kitchen in the second act), so it probably was not a surprise, but he did it with such gusto the sound reverberated around. It is great that so many people are so passionate about Falstaff. It's a wonderful opera about a man who gets his comeuppance. While the production does update the setting from Elizabethan England to 1950s England, for the most part this change does not get in the way of the proceedings. The final scene in the second act in that kitchen was a little clunky and mistimed so much that it was obvious to most of

Dusk in a muddy park: Babel

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Babel , billed as one of the theatrical events of 2012 (in a year that no doubt will be full of these) is currently playing at Caledonian Park in North London. It's part street theatre, part performance art, part art and craft, part singing and part muddy field. It's a lot of parts but it is a pretty ambitious piece that brings together a story of a city like London where people are from all corners of the world and representing a variety of cultures and backgrounds...