Posted in puppetry, Theatre

October 12: The Paper Cinema’s Macbeth

My fourth Macbeth of the year, and I have to say, the most imaginative telling of this story that I have ever seen.

The Paper Cinema use pen and ink drawings to bring the play to life. It is a little like shadow puppetry, and a bit like old-style TV animation (think Noggin the Nog). There were some very clever effects using ink dropped into water and 3-D objects, and some very impressive music played on a variety of instruments by just two musicians, who doubled as very clever foley artists.

The play was short (75 minutes), and had no dialogue. Hard to imagine a silent movie of Macbeth without even subtitles, but this little company did and it worked absolutely brilliantly.

I shall be keeping an eye out for more by the Paper Cinema.

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Posted in classical music, puppetry, Theatre

March 20: The Four Seasons

This was my first visit to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, and I found it absolutely entrancing. I loved the candle lighting and the intimacy of the small space. The reimagination of Vivaldi’s music worked for me, and I particularly liked the fusion of harpsichord and synthesised effects. Gyre and Gimbal are skilful puppeteers and brilliant story tellers (I have seen their work before, in the Grinning Man), and the simplicity of the wooden puppets was perfect for this production.

Posted in audio, books, Musical theatre, puppetry, Theatre

Week 50

Theatre

Shoreditch Town Hall

Carl Grose: The Tin Drum

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This was a wonderful production, full of music and humour. The puppetry was excellent, with the transition between puppet miniatures and live-action in the Koljaiczek arson-and-police-chase being particularly inspired. I thoroughly enjoyed this show.

The Tramshed, Woolwich

indefinitearticles: The Magic Lamp

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This was as low-tech as it is possible to be. Two actor-storytellers, no costumes, no scenery, almost no props. The magic came from two old overhead-projectors, some oil, some paper, and a sheet suspended from the ceiling of an empty studio space. The very simple shadow puppetry worked well, and the largely young audience were  engaged for the hour or so that the story took to unfold. This was not sophisticated, but it was enjoyable.

Reading Challenge 

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This now stands at 94. It looks as if I might make it!

This week’s offerings are varied, but do all count among the less-enjoyed volumes this year.

I chose Günter Grass’s Tin Drum because I wanted to find out the rest of Oskar’s story, beyond what was portrayed in the play. I have to say I didn’t really enjoy it. The book was a bleak sideways look at wartime politics, mental ill health, physical disability, religious fervour, nasty sex, sleazy underworlds and black markets, and it was quite a relief when I reached the end.

The Maigret was an irritating mistaken-identity story. Very run of the mill, and not at all gripping.

Thd final book this week was the latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare rewrites, this time King Lear. I don’t like Edward St Aubyn’s work much, but hoped for something better than his usual nastiness. Sadly, the two “evil sisters” showed their evilness through perverted sexuality from page one, and the book wasnt a good version of the play. Only two or three of the characters were recognisable. The Cordelia character’s end seemed completely gratuitous, and Dunbar’s madness seemed to switch off and on too easily. Not recommended.

Posted in books, Cinema, Opera, puppetry, Theatre

Week 47

Ooh, it’s getting cold…

Opera

Metropolitan Opera live in cinema

Thomas Adès: The Exterminating Angel

This is an opera I couldn’t afford to see at the ROH. Luckily, the Met performance was the same production, conducted by the composer, which was a bonus. The opera was another of those modern ones with no memorable “tunes”, but a lot of very difficult, very very high soprano singing, and some wonderful musical moments (a room full of drummers; a string section of miniature violins; a lot of bells). The story is odd, a surrealist nightmare, and I enjoyed it very much.

Theatre

The Puppet Theatre Barge

Wendy Cope: The River Girl

I really enjoy puppetry, and this production was lovely – some beautiful underwater scenes, and a literally breathtaking opening when a huge wave of haze rolled out over the audience. I found some of the puppetry a little clunky (the puppeteer working John Didde didn’t seem to have mastered the art of making a marionette kneel, for instance), but the use of narrative poetry was clever, and I came away from the boat very happy.

Reading Challenge

This is moving ahead slowly. I like Ragnar Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series, and this book brings me up to date with that. I find it odd reading books that have been translated out of order, and I am still very irritated with Ari Thor Arason, but that is part of the experience. No spoilers here – I recommend these books.

Posted in audio, books, Musical theatre, puppetry

Week 41

Last week, I saw The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, wherein the female lead begins as a singer at Wilton’s music hall. By strange coincidence, I was at Wilton’s myself this week, and a wonderful place it is, too.

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Wilton’s Music Hall

Les Enfants Terribles: The Terrible Infants

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IMG_1018The play in question was a sort-of musical, a little like the offspring of  Shockheaded Peter and Oyster Boy might be, if you can imagine that.

The actor-musicians were very good. The story was pretty much what I expected – cautionary tales aimed for a mixed audience. A lot of the action was through ingenious puppetry, which was excellent. The theatre space was fabulous. Seating was more comfortable than I expected, and I had a jolly good time. The only downside was the awful walk from Shadwell along Cable Street. A warning to fellow pedestrians – go via Aldgate East and Leman Street. It won’t be much quicker, but it will be more pleasant.

Reading Challenge

I haven’t managed to actually read anything this week, but I did win a competition to win what I thought was one audio book, but which turned out to be three audio books.

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Posted in Art, books, Cinema, Opera, puppetry, Theatre

Week 9

Theatre

Hijinx at the Little Angel Theatre: Meet Fred

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I vaguely remember going to this little puppet theatre as a child, and the chance to see an “adult” puppet show took me back there again.  The production was very good. The bunraku style of puppeteering gave convincing life to the title character – a hard ask when the character is a naked, featureless cloth doll. The play itself took a hard look at the hard knocks of life, and brought a tear to my eye more than once. I highly recommend this show – it is still touring for a few more weeks, in various venues.

Opera

Live screen from the Metropolitan Opera: Rusalka by Dvorak

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A fun fairytale, loosely based on the Little Mermaid. Brilliant costumes, some excellent voices, good set design, and a chance to see what happens when things don’t go quite right backstage during the interval. This would be a good introduction to opera for newbies and youngsters.

Art

Eduardo Paulozzi ( Whitechapel Gallery)

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Three rooms of wide-ranging offerings from the artist who designed the famous Tottenham Court Road station mosaics. My favourites are the bronze sculptures, but there were also lots of prints, including on textiles, and a projection of Paolozzi’s film, “Bunk”.

Books

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One crime book this week, and one cook book. Dare Me was pretty dire. It featured a lot of cheerleader jargon, which slowed the action down for anyone unfamiliar with cheerleading, like me. The angst of trying to maintain place in a group of “popular” girls came across well, but this was a first-person narration, and that never really appeals to me, even when I like the narrator, which I didn’t in this book.

The Dali cookbook is a huge, lavishly illustrated golden tome, and it has taken me two months or more to do its weird and wonderful recipes full justice. I probably won’t be cooking many of them, but just reading them was oddly satisfying.

Street Art

Boe & Irony: Chihuahua

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A new addition to my collection of pictures of truly awful street art. This giant chocolate-box dog takes up the whole of the end wall of a block of flats in Poplar. I took the picture from a moving bus, hence the odd angle.

Posted in books, Cinema, Opera, puppetry, Theatre, video

Week 6

Culture

Royal Shakespeare Company:The Tempest

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I really wanted to see this particular production, but couldn’t get to it in Stratford on Avon (too far) or on its London transfer (the Barbican, terrifyingly easy to get lost). Luckily, with the wonders of modern technology, I was able to see an encore “as live” performance at the cinema. I loved this. The use of motion-capture for Ariel was inspired, and Simon Russell Beale’s Prospero was perfect casting.

Blackeyed Theatre: Frankenstein

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This was a fairly faithful-to-the-book production, which I enjoyed immensely, despite the theatre being an absolute ice-box. It was probably the coldest day of the year, and there seemed to be no heating at all- fitting for the opening scenes of the play, in the arctic ice, I suppose.

The cast was small (5 actor-musicians), who produced very good weather effects with a range of percussion instruments. The creature was played by a wonderful puppet, animated and voiced by two, sometimes three of the cast working together . This play is likely to go on tour, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Opera North: Das Rheingold

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I love the Ring, and this was a chance to see a new and acclaimed performance of the first opera in the cycle. I had hoped for a more “staged” performance, but I ended up enjoying it very much. I particularly liked the Loki (Loge) in this production, which was broadcast on radio, TV and via various web sites. I chose TV and the comfort of my own sofa. The three “main” works in the cycle are only available online, and I shall watch them at my leisure in the coming days.


The “I don’t know how to categorise this” section

Goldsmiths forensic psychology department: The Accused

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This was an “immersive theatre” event, where the audience played the part of jurors in a murder trial. There was, obviously, a psychology aspect to the event, and it transpired that on the evening I attended, the audience were primed and manipulated to give a “guilty” verdict, which we duly did. The event was a bit of a pick and mix- there was a band, and dancing (with prizes); there was a film, and some good acting (and some not so good, but they were students, so this was to be expected). There were some problems with accoustics, and some confused instructions, which could have skewed the data that was collected. Overall, this was a very interesting evening, and knowing that I can be so easily influenced to give a particular opinion is food for thought.
Books

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Only one book this week ( I’ve been busy), but I am still well on track to meet my target of 100 books by the end of the year.

The Janissary Tree is the first in a series of period novels (set in nineteenth-century Istanbul) about Yashim, a eunuch detective who likes to cook. It was a good story, and I like the protagonist and his sidekick Preen, a transgender dancer of a certain age. I have a particular liking for “cooking” detectives, especially when there is enough description for me to be able to recreate the recipes. I shall read more of the Yashim books, I am sure.

Winner of 2007 Edgar Award