Posted in Ballet

October 14: Dracula:Welcome to D’s

D’s. A sort of steampunk cabaret where boy vampires wear white trousers and girl vampires wear white corsets laced in red. The starring act is Mr D, violin virtuoso, clad in red velvet.

The costumes worn by the non-vampire women were interesting. A range of Victorian style skirts, all brown taffeta and tulle, folded and draped in a variety of styles. The male dancers’ costumes were bland, in the main. There were two very odd characters; a butterfly-man and a very definitely female, striped-tights steampunk character who I believe to have been Van Helsing.

The story was Dracula meets Cabaret. Jonathan Harker is in there, as is Lucy, who gets turned into a vampire (so far so expected). But then Mina doesn’t get turned, Van Helsing doesn’t win the fight and Dracula doesn’t get staked.

There was no set to speak of,and only a few props. Symbolism is always obvious in ballet, but there was some very heavy-handed stuff here, particularly in the way D’s violin bow was used.

I felt the story was a little confused, and would have benefited from being either a “straight” Dracula or an original vampire-chronicles-type story.

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Posted in Musical theatre

August 4: Fun Home

Fun Home is modern musical theatre at its best.

The musical won 5 Tony awards, and deserved them.

On the day I saw it, the three versions of Alison Bechdel were played wonderfully by three terrifically-voiced actors.

Brooke Haynes was excellent as the young Alison. Her loathing of her barrette and party shoes foreshadowed her college coming-out awkwardness cleverly, and her performance of “Ring of Keys” was outstanding. Eleanor Kane was a brilliantly clumsy teenage Alison, and the always-onstage adult Alison was played with wonderful nuance by Kaisa Hammarlund.

The other actors were all excellent, but the three Alison’s were the standout performers for me.

The second central story of Alison’s father wasn’t glossed over, but I feel that perhaps her mother deserved a little more sympathy. Her brothers also disappeared after the school-age phase (but an hour and forty minutes isn’t long enough for all the detail I wanted).

I was moved to tears by the end of the show, and glancing around the sell-out auditorium, I could see I wasn’t alone in that.

I absolutely loved this show.

Posted in Television

June 11: Patrick Melrose

Last summer, I read Edward St Aubyn’s first Patrick Melrose novel, Never Mind, as the first of my SUMMER reading challenge books. It gripped me and horrified me enough to make me buy and read the other four books in the series.

Almost exactly a year later, Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the role of Patrick in an eponymously titled TV miniseries, and plays it masterfully.

The series doesn’t flinch from the abuse suffered by the child Patrick, but thankfully doesn’t feel he need to portray it graphically. A closing door is evidence enough of what is happening.

Events in the books are rejuggled. The series starts with the death of Patrick’s father, and ends with the death of his mother. The optimistic end of the last novel is omitted completely, as is the new-age Irishman’s comeuppance.

There is wit and humour, and darkness.

This series deserves to win awards. I will be terribly disappointed if it doesn’t.

Posted in Theatre

April 27: The War Of The Worlds

I didn’t know what to expect from this production, but what I got was a fantastic performance from a tiny cast of just four, with no set, minimal costumes and props almost entirely made up of kitchenware. There was live music, some clever lighting and sound effects and a lot of jokes. At times I was breathless trying to keep up with the run of sci fi jokes, which culminated in a brilliant representation of the cycling scene from ET the Extraterrestrial, played out whilst dealing with audience participatory heckling. All the jokes and audience participation didn’t move the show away from the original story to any great degree, but instead provided a fantastic night of comedy, music and drama. The highlight for me was the Martian fighting machine which looked to be made out of an umbrella and several pairs of stuffed tights. Brilliant.

Posted in Theatre

April 21: Great Apes

This was an interesting production – a very sparse set, some excellent music and choreographed group actions. An excellent performance of Dr Zack Buster ( the alpha male) by Ruth Lass was the highlight of the play for me. I liked the costumes – the brown harem pants and polo sweaters, the sock-gloves, the short crutches all came together to suggest “chimpunity” cleverly. The female oestrus, depicted by an obscenely pleated pink bumbag affair was ghastly but effective, and overall, the acting skills of the cast suggested ape behaviours very well.

There were differences from the book, as there always are, and I was glad that some of the more extreme behaviours weren’t included.

Overall, I enjoyed the play, and feel it made the story more accessible than Will Self’s very convoluted language in the book.

Posted in Television

April 15: The City and The City part 2

I love China Mieville’s book. It is one of my favourites and one I re-read regularly, and I was very excited to hear that the BBC were adapting it for TV. I wondered how they would show the two cities, and I think they’ve done a pretty good job. I really really like David Morrissey as Borlú. Next time I read the book I know I’ll be imagining him. I downloaded and binge-watched it all, of course, although the series hasn’t finished running on the BBC yet, so no spoilers from me here, but I do have to say that I wish the BBC hadn’t gone for the missing wife angle. The book is so much more interesting without that trope as a main theme.

Posted in Theatre

April 12: Witness For The Prosecution

This is a new production of an old Agatha Christie story. I have seen a couple of TV adaptations of this book, but nothing beats live theatre.

This version is playing in the old courtroom of County Hall, a wonderful space, with the most comfortable seats I have ever experienced in a theatre. I was front row, and the only disadvantage to that was a slightly stiff neck from looking up at actors on my side of the central stage ( if I looked straight ahead, my gaze was level with the actors’ ankles).

The acting was a little on the overdone, but the costumes and clever sound effects provided an atmosphere that made up for it.

This wasn’t “great” theatre, but it wasn’t bad, and whiled away a couple of hours pleasantly.

Posted in Opera

March 31: Coraline

Let me start by saying how much I loved the Barbican Theatre. This was my first visit, and I found the separate doors for each row entrancing. I loved the live video feed of the audience, and it was amusing to see other audience members waving to themselves. The air conditioning was a little fierce, but that bodes well for the summer.

The opera was a little shaky for my taste. I wasn’t really overwhelmed by any of the singers, and I thought the inventor father was a bit silly. I liked Kitty Whately as the mother/other mother, and her bad cold didn’t seem to affect her performance. The music was typical Turnage – no “tunes” for the many children in the audience to take away and sing, and I wish there had been a cat.

The set was clever and made full use of the revolve stage, although I didn’t understand the significance of the large hole in the ceiling.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience.

Posted in Musical theatre

January 12: The Grinning Man

Yesterday, I saw what was possibly the best musical I have ever seen. It had everything: excellent live music (at one point I had a cellist disconcertingly close to my right ear); fabulous set and costumes; excellent singing and acting from a wonderfully diverse cast, and the best multi-layered puppetry I have seen. I loved this show. It brought me to tears in places, and provoked laughter in others. It was gory, and gothy, and quite wonderful.

Posted in books, Gigs, Musical theatre, Theatre

Week 51

It’s Christmas!

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In the week up to Christmas Eve, there was enough seasonal entertainment to exhaust the most hardened pleasure seeker…

Theatre

Wilton’s Music Hall

Piers Torday: The Box Of Delights

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This was a vastly chopped-about version of the story, and was rather difficult for younger children to understand. Some elements were slapstick, some were very frightening indeed, and all were over-acted. The set was clever, and there was some imaginative use of puppets and projection, but overall, the whole thing was grey and misty, and not just from the over-use of haze. I had hoped to be entranced, but it didn’t quite happen.

Gigs that don’t quite fit into categories

Conway Hall

Robin Ince: Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People

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This was a fast-moving but strangely over-running variety show, full of science, comedy , music and a man cooking eggs with a wallpaper steamer. Oddly, this show was the most Christmassy thing I saw this week.  I laughed a lot.

O2 Arena

Disney on Ice:Passport to Adventure

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What it says on the tin. Disney characters on skates. Some of it was good, some a bit long-winded. The Peter Pan section could have been chopped in half without losing anything, and there was room for a bit more Frozen.  It was fun. Children in the audience loved it. I had a problem with the expensive and ridiculous merchandising, but I suppose that’s what it was really all about.

Books

Reading Challenge 

Two more this week, bringing my total up to 96

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I am reading a lot of children’s books lately. (Deciding what to buy young relatives for Christmas is difficult!) I had heard good things about the Velveteen Rabbit, but I was a little disappointed in it. I wanted to learn more about the Skin Horse. I wanted the rabbit to have more trials to overcome. I suppose I wanted a book for the 10 year old me…

Mr Penumbra irritated me intensely. It is ostensibly about a bookshop, but is actually about a Dungeons and Dragons style quest without the dragons, and with added computer nerdery. Not a classic.

#thedarkisreading

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I have never read the Dark is Rising, so this year I joined a Twitter reading group to do it properly. The book begins on Midwinter’s eve, which happened to fall this week. This book won’t be part of my 100-books Challenge, because I don’t plan to finish it before New Year. So far, I am enjoying being part of a pretty large community of readers. Other people’s perspectives are really interesting.