A bit livelier this week.
Notre Dame de Paris
Having read reviews of the previous incarnation of this show (years ago, in translation, at the Dominion), I was fully prepared to be disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I was able to follow the French easily, with the help of an occasional glance at the surtitles. The voices were wonderful, especially Angelo Del Vecchio, who played Quasimodo. The acrobatic dancing was brilliant, and I liked the set design a lot. Don’t listen to the critics. This was great.
Ministry of Sound: The Annual Classical
Another exhilarating evening. It’s hard to describe this without going overboard. Suffice it to say that what looked like a pretty normal Festival Hall audience was transformed into a sweating, heaving, dancing mass. I have never experienced anything like it. And the venue must have made so much money at the bar.
Only two books this week.
Head On is the second novel featuring Haden’s syndrome, and was as brilliant as the first. This story is SciFiCri at its best.
The Lost Words is ostensibly a children’s book (and I bought it as a gift for a child), but would be happy on anyone’s bookshelf. It has beautiful artwork, lovely poems and some clever word puzzles. An excellent gift book for anyone.
Another stay-at-home week. Did a lot of reading:
A baby step towards increasing my non-fiction reading. I am a fan of Beatles music, and wish they had made more. This book is very light on text and heavy on what look like not-quite-good-enough-to-print-in-the-paper pictures from press photographers. It’s a collector’s item for avid Beatles fans, but it doesn’t “spark enough joy” to stay on my shelf.
This is the January recommendation of the Short Story Club. It had its funny moments, but the denouement was a little unpleasant. Pure Becket, of course, and both Dante and the lobster make appearances.
I have had this book on pre-order for a long time. It is as much a memoir as a cook book, and gives a readable description of a young woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and her sort-of recovery through food. I thought it might make a good gift for someone I know, but the ingredients Ella uses are on the expensive side, so it probably won’t. There are one or two very good chicken recipes that I will try.
Absinthe is an interesting exercise in not judging a book by its cover. It is not terribly thrilling. There is far too much talking and not enough action, although when there is action it is efficiently executed. The main character has the same name as the author. (In the notes, the author refers to a story about why he used his own name, but doesn’t actually tell us the story as that is “reserved for his live audiences” when he is on tour. Hmm.) In this book we have an older “maverick” detective (sigh) who has to work under a younger female supervisor he doesn’t respect (sigh). There is very little mention of absinthe.
I loved American Hippo. It is an AU western, that might have just happened if a real-life political plan had come to fruition. I loved the characterisation: the wonderful French conwoman who can’t squeeze into an armchair and yet manages to “pass” absolutely when the group need a white man to take a plot point forward. Hero, the protagonist’s true love whose gender is never referred to and who uses “they” as their personal pronoun, and no one ever questions it. The heavily pregnant lesbian assassin. The hippos! This will be a book I read again and again. Brilliant.
My first visit to the Roundhouse, but I hope not my last. Such a great venue.
The Pixies were excellent, but I wish they had included a wider variety of songs in the set list. I was forewarned though, so can’t really complain that it was just a Surfer Rosa show.
Good gig, great evening.
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.