Posted in Ballet

September 15: The Trocks

I wanted something amusing and not too heavy, and although ballet isn’t my favourite among the arts, this ballet was unlike any other.

The dancing was great. There was a bit of slapstick and a lot of skilful pointe work. Seeing men in tutus was strange for about five minutes, but by the end of the show it was clear it didn’t matter who wore what.

I loved it. And it had the best Dying Swan ever.

As an addition, I’m adding Richard Wilson’s sculpture Square the Block to my collection of street art.

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Posted in Theatre

September 12: Allelujah!

Off to the Bridge again for Alan Bennett’s newest play.

This play portrays old people fairly unsympathetically. I found some of it upsetting, as I always do when dementia rears its ugly head on stage, and it was really heartbreaking when the work-experience oik inadvertently precipitated the death of the civil servant’s father.

The play was dark in that it dealt with an “angel of death” in an NHS geriatric ward, and yet light in its treatment of the geriatrics. The humour was old-fashioned, and one or two of the characters were caricatures.

The set was very clever. Sliding walls produced exact facsimiles of hospital rooms and corridors, and everything was painted that awful cream/green combination that screams NHS.

I wouldn’t say this was a good Bennett play, but it definitely was unmistakable as a Bennett play.

Posted in Opera

September 8: Paul Bunyan

What a busy week!

I like Wilton’s. I just wish it had better public transport connections. Still, it’s usually worth the walk.

As I took my seat, I was a little concerned to see it was almost in the percussion section of the orchestra (the rest of the orchestra were on stage, behind the proscenium arch). In fact, the percussionist pretended to hand a drumstick to my companion, gesturing to the biggest drum and quipping “When I nod, you hit it”.

Happily, the percussion wasn’t overpowering, and in fact, was understated compared to the legendary ENO chorus, who were in excellent voice.

The story draws heavily on American folklore, with some modern jokes (Babe the blue ox being played by a succession of refrigerators, gradually increasing in size being one of the best; the two cooks hiding in the dustbin like Bill and Ben the flowerpot men being another). There was a “Greek chorus” (three women, interestingly, the second time this week), who sang well, and the very large number of soloists were all strong.

The central character never appeared onstage, and was voiced (not sung) by Simon Russell Beale.

The story wasn’t great literature, but the music was wonderful, the singing excellent, and the quirkiness of the performance made for a treat of an opera.

Posted in Musical theatre

September 6: Little Shop of Horrors

I took myself to the open-air theatre in Regent’s Park as a treat. I hadn’t been there before, so didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. The seats were reasonably comfortable, the sight lines were good, there were plenty of options for food and drink, and luckily, there was enough cloud to lessen the impact of the sun. I imagine that a few weeks ago it would have been unbearable to sit in the auditorium for the duration of a show. I chose the right week!

I have seen “Little Shop…” live twice before – once in a tent, with a professional cast and the expected big puppet Audrey 2, and once as a student production, with all main parts doubled up, (ie two people singing at the same time for each role- a very interesting and quite memorable production, particularly as one of the Audrey 1 parts was taken by a young man and played very well).

I’ve seen the film as well, of course, and am very familiar with the songs. Sadly, the audience I was in were a little lacking in the dancing in the aisles department.

This production was excellently kitschy, with a terrific twist on the plant provided by Vicky Vox. The “Greek chorus” (Crystal, Ronette and Chiffon) were very strong, even if nowadays the name joke goes over much of the audiences’ heads.

I particularly liked Marc Antolin’s Seymour, and was sorry to miss Jemima Rooper as Audrey, although her understudy was very good.

I didn’t get to see the full spectacle of the green lighting, as it didn’t get dark enough, but there was a lot of compensatory green smoke and a lot of green glitter and streamers.

I had a lot of fun, and managed to catch a streamer.

Posted in Cinema

July 6: Swimming With Men

We are in the middle of a heatwave, and the lure of cool water is seductive. I have ordered a swimsuit, and a Hammam towel, but neither has arrived as yet, so no swimming for me. Instead, I took myself to the cinema for the new Rob Brydon film, “Swimming with Men”. (The film incidentally co-stars Rupert Graves, who I like to look at even when fully clothed).

It was a gentle sort of film, very British in its humour. It paid enough attention to the technicalities of synchronised swimming, and enough attention to Eric’s life to make us want him to come through in style.

I enjoyed this film. I liked that the Swedish synchro team the story was loosely based on got to be in the film, playing themselves. I liked that it wasn’t a display of “bodies beautiful”. I liked the fact that the team consisted of older and younger men; men of different social and economic classes; I liked that the gay character wasn’t a stereotype. I’m glad the result of the world championship was what it was (no spoilers).

It was a piece of fluff, but good fluff for a summer afternoon when you have time on your hands and need the cool of an air-conditioned cinema.

Posted in Musical theatre

May 23: The Book Of Mormon

I wasn’t sure that I would like this. Taking the mickey out of a religion, albeit a strange religion, isn’t something that sits well with me. The thing that swung my decision to go was the writers. As the writers of South Park, they are irreverent, but they take on the hard things.

They do that in this musical, too. They address racism, sexism, religious bigotry. The show has a subplot about AIDS and it’s various nasty so-called remedies. There is another subplot about FGM. There is a subplot about “tribal” warlords. Another about homosexuality, another about the loss of religious belief. All meaty stuff, and all delivered through the main plot of missionary Mormons bringing God to “ignorant African villagers”.

I found the depiction of the villagers unpleasant. I didn’t like the main male character’s habit of getting the main female character’s name wrong. (African names are clearly too hard to remember). Having said that. I laughed as hard as anyone else when he called her “Nigel Farage”. And that was what made the whole show problematic. It was very funny, although I found myself hoping no one I knew could see me laughing. The music was good. The dancing was excellent. The voices were good, even if the songs were intentionally terrible.

In the end, I was glad to get out into the open air. My skin felt a bit crawly.

Posted in Gigs, music

May 19: Tiger Lillies – The Devil’s Fairground

Yes, there was a wedding going on, and yes, I watched it on TV, like most other people. But in the evening, instead of going to a party, I went to Wilton’s Music Hall to see the Tiger Lillies performing songs from their new album.

Wilton’s is a perfect venue for the Tiger Lillies. It is crumbling and decayed, a bit like the characters Martyn Jacques sings about. And the band were brilliant as always. But I felt as if there should have been more…spectacle. I wanted more lighting effects, maybe some scenery or projections. A bit more smoke and mirrors. This was a gig rather than a show. There was no real theme, despite the opening number and the words on the poster.

I did enjoy the evening, but I wanted to enjoy it more.

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 books

Week 52

Last entry for 2017. No cultural outings this week – a quiet Christmas, followed by a sick in-between week wherein I am fairly sure I poisoned myself and various family members.

I finished my Reading Challenge!

img_0478Some highlights from the list: Yellow Blue Tibia – probably the best pun in a title ever; King Dido -a historical crime novel I would recommend to anyone; The Night Sessions, excellent SciFiCri.

I won some audio books, all Maigret stories, and listened to some of them; I read a few graphic novels, and some children’s books, including The Dark Is Rising, which I wasn’t supposed to finish until the new year, but I couldn’t resist.

I finally got to grips with Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, and made a dent in the Dickens backlog. There were six cookbooks, and three books I bought because I didn’t think I would get to see the plays based on them, and then actually did get to see them all . There was a new Donna Leon, a new Dave Hutchinson, a new Christopher Fowler, a new Jo Nesbo and a new Ragnar Jonasson (do you detect that I like a crime story?)

Finally, there were two new Hogarth Shakespeares, based on Othello and King Lear.

It was a real challenge to read 100 books this year, as well as keep up my weekly culture outing. Next year’s challenges will be simpler, I think.

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.