It is half a century since the Beatles sailed off in their yellow submarine to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies. Today there was a one-off screening of the remastered film in Picturehouse cinemas, and I went along to my local (happily air-conditioned) sold out screening.
I wouldn’t normally go to the cinema on a Sunday, still less on a Sunday morning, but this was a special occasion.
The music wasn’t the best of the Beatles songbook, but there were one or two goodies – Nowhere Man and Hey Bulldog are particular favourites of mine, and of course, the wonderful Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was in there too.
The film showed its age, and the age of most of its audience, but there were a fair number of young couples with children at the screening I went to, and they seemed to enjoy it.
It is rare for an audience to applaud a film, but that happened today. I’m very glad I was there to join in.
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.
I’ve never been a fan of “big” musicals (with one or two exceptions- I loved Wicked and Starlight Express). I’m more of a fan of the small and quirky – Grinning Man; Frogs; the Tiger Lillies’ Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
So it was with a lot of doubt that I trotted along to the London Coliseum for Chess. The Colly isn’t the most comfortable of venues, unless you splash out for the posh seats, but I had a good view and some legroom in the circle, even if I was jammed into my seat by strange men on both sides (strange as in strangers, not as in weirdos). I compensated by claiming both armrests.
The set was modern. The show wasn’t. There were some very problematic moments (the Bangkok ladyboys being just one), but also some excellent theatrical moments. The Cirque du Soleil interlude was lovely, the two Russian dance routines were excellent (I really loved the one in Red Army uniforms- don’t judge me).
The orchestra and chorus were fantastic, and what a brilliant idea of having the orchestra above the stage.
The soloists’ voices all stood up well, and Alexandra Burke made Svetlana into a strong character. Finally, Michael Ball. Normally a singer I can take or leave, he really showed that musical theatre is his natural habitat.
I came out feeling energised. Four stars.
This was a slightly odd cross between a concert and a rock gig. The Royal Festival Hall is not designed for dancing in the aisles, and while the acoustic is very good, it doesn’t have the “rock” atmosphere you would expect for a band like this. Having said that, the show was very enjoyable. Amy Lee has the kind of voice that can carry over any backing, and the addition of a chamber orchestra made some old familiar songs interesting. I must admit to having my attention on the drummer for the most part of the show. A good night out, and I got to wear my business tutu.
This week’s cultural outings took me to the Isle of Dogs and Blackfriars, both parts of London better known for commerce than art. Both were fringe performances, both tiny venues and tiny casts, both biographical accounts.
New Diorama Theatre: 12 Million Volts
This was an interesting account of the life of Nikola Tesla, performed with a lot of fast-paced physicality by the cast of three men and one woman, who interestingly, did most of the heavy lifting in the show. There was some very clever use of lighting, including backlighting and projection on a bubble-wrap screen – something I hadn’t seen before. I enjoyed the play, but was disappointed that there was no sign of a Tesla coil.
Bridewell Theatre: Opera in the City Festival
My first “festival gig” was the second biography this week:
Andrew Bain: Lanza
This was less an opera than a monologue with arias. It was sung very well by Andrew Bain, who is clearly a Mario Lanza fan. I like a good tenor voice, and this was very enjoyable, despite a very distracting shirt-buttoning mishap in the first act.
SUMMER book challenge
My second “M” is Montefiore.
I like a tale of Russian intrigue, so I was looking forward to reading this.
It was okay. An easy read, a fairly obvious ending, but I didn’t warm to Sashenka at all, and I didn’t really like the neat way it was all tied up at the end. A bit disappointing, as the author is so lauded.