Thursday, 21 December 2006

Caroline, or Change @ the National Theatre - Lyttelton

Another fantastic show at the National, it's fast becoming my favourite venue. Don't think i've been to a musical in years but the fact that this was written by Tony Kushner swayed me. Found out after that Michael Billington had given it 5 stars in The Guardian (5 stars!! that's so rare, the man is so notoriously difficult to please). Despite all the glowing reviews, half the auditorium was empty which was such a shame. It's a show that really deserves to be seen by more people, I was so moved by the story I had to hold back my tears. Caroline's impotent anger at how her life has turned out coupled with the longing for the return of her son in Vietnam and the loneliness of single motherhood is hardly the such of musicals. The bluesy, soul music just added to the verve and poignancy of her piece. Even in the minor roles, the actors gave such great performances; from the Jewish, clarinet playing father stuck on the stairway pining for his dead wife to Caroline's sassy daughter furious at her mother's silent surrender. The show even had a singing moon, a favourite image of mine harking back to the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

The Seafarer @ the National Theatre, Cottesloe

I'd been looking forward to the new Conor McPherson play for quite a while 'The Weir' being one of the earliest Royal Court production I watched when I first came to London. It was outstanding and such great-story telling that you forgot you were in a West End theatre. The disparate stories became completely intimate and the emotions so intense it was an unforgettable experience.

'The Seafarer' surpassed 'The Weir' - the structure was much more sophisticated and the interplay between the four characters delicately balanced. Conleth Hill (he of 'Stones in his Pocket' fame) especially was priceless conveying a man on the edge of domestic breakdown with comic pathos. Jom Norton playing the blind Richard Harkin made me think of Hamm in Beckett's 'Endgame' (one of my all-time favourite plays). But the play essentially dramatised the individual (represented by Sharky) confronting their demons, facing a final judgement and having to account for past sins, the story fundamentally revolves around Sharky's interior dialogue with the devil whose description of hell was spine-shilling. Massive 'Thank you' to Craig for getting us such great seats - it was Bob's first time at the theatre and I'm so glad it was such a good experience for him.

Friday, 17 November 2006

Comedy Candy @ The Lion, Stoke Newington

After a brief hiatus, last night's return to Comedy Candy was much needed quenching of the comedy thirst. Headlining the show was Richard Herring who strings along a joke and loops it back into itself doubling the silliness and interweaving it like some master gooner. I'm thinking about his potato and apple routine incorporating french school kids.

The two lady comediennes - Caroline Clifford and Holly Walsh were both witty winning over the audience with their dry candour. Will definitely keep an eye out for them. I've watched so much comedy over the years (especially in my month up in Edinburgh eons ago) and some comedian are so formulaic and nondescript blending into the comedy wallpaper, barely raising the obligatory chuckle which escapes from you like a soft belch. I'm thinking about the insufferable twat Rhod Gilbert whose act consists of this basic strand 'oh-listen-to-me-i'm-a-self-deprecating-welshman-just-the-sound-of-my-stupid-accent-should-make-you-laugh'. It is therefore a great relief to know that the comedy future is bright with the likes of Caroline, Holly and Josh Howie who was also on last night.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Orestes presented by Shared Experience @ The Tricycle, London

Electra was really good although I couldn't help thinking that they should have cast someone younger for that role. Same for Orestes - both are good performers. Another encounter with a new play so it was therefore quite invigorating. I realise that I tend to watch certain plays over and over again; e.g. Hamlet - with Toby Stevens, Ralph Fiennes, Adrian Lester or Death of a Salesman or your various Ibsens, plays which I've read or studied and watching it becomes a bit of a Brechtian reconstruction of events with an academic detatchment.

Amongst all other genres of theatre, Greek drama has got great, strong and flawed female characters - Antigone, Medea, Electra, Clytemnestra, Helen of Troy even... Pretty Rad!

Thursday, 9 November 2006

The Power of Art - Rembrandt

Carsten Holler slides @ The Tate Modern

Fantastic fun - it rekindles the glorious childish abandonment that is sacrificed with growing up. The minute it ends you just want to have another go, you want to go higher, you wish it would never end. The long snake-like silvery constructions look quite futuristic but you also felt as if you were being ingested in the belly of some monster out of 'Aliens'. Will try to take a trip there during the weekday when they're less queues.

The Life of Galileo @ The National, Olivier

What a little gem of a play, have watched Brecht's 'Mother Courage' and 'Caucasian Chalk Circle' both at The National but never this one before so it was nice to have an entirely new encounter with fresh eyes. Betrayal, renouncing, recanting,... they all have such potent historical reverberations in modern history.

How do we define this thing called Faith? Is that purely religious? What about the faith that Galileo shows in Science and Reason? The faith that young Andreas shows in integrity and truth that he thinks Galileo exemplifies? What have we got in place of faith if we destroy it? Does knowledge corrupt? Is ignorance bliss? Can Brecht be saying that education teaches you doubt and is therefore a destructive force that makes you question everything?

There is a pivotal scene that takes place in Florence with the Grand Duke's tutors where Galileo insists that the debate be held in plain language so that his craftsman friend who does not understand Latin can follow the arguements. He insists on removing the boundaries that seperate academia from the common people, to bring enlightenment to fellow humans who have been deliberately kept out of the dark. But in the end, in an unexpected twist (perhaps another recantment) the book that he gets Andreas to smuggle out of the country is written in Latin. It also becomes the main reason the book survives as its contents are incomprehensible to the border guards. A play to set you thinking about a whole host of issues. SSB was pretty good, played Galileo with such passion and conviction. Watched him before in the Donmar's 'Uncle Vanya' which suited Chekhov's intimate drama which also had Helen McCrory. I'm now looking to pick up a copy of the play to read through.


The Power of Art - Bernini

The If-Comedy awards @ The Garrick Theatre, London

Was at The Garrick yesterday evening to watch 2 comedians I know well and love Stephen K Amos & Phil Nichol. Phil won this year’s Perrier (or Iff-ies as they're now called) and deservedly so as he is extremely funny and one of the most-respected and hard-working comedians on the circuit. But the main thing that gets me and is hence the subject of todays blog-rant is that 2 punters IN THE FRONT ROW walked out of his set. They completely took offence and missed the point of what he was trying to say which is that we should all put our differences aside because at the end of the day we’re all made of the same stuff; underneath all the material trappings, we are intrinsically flesh and blood. If they’d stayed till the end and seen him make his point then they would have learned a little or at least been shown a different point of view. But no, they decided to stalk off in a huff just because he was gyrating his crotch in her face, she was just too small-minded to take it or perhaps she thought she had to appear coy. Hah! When she’s old, withered and grey - she will pay good money to have that experience and will come to regret her priggish behaviour. He probably thought it’d be a chivalrous gesture to defend his lady’s honour by escorting her out of the audience but it was such a futile act because a) she didn’t have any and b) she didn’t just storm off, she milked her exit by bowing and holding her finger up to her mouth in that infantile pose that says ‘I’m-so-hurt-look-at-me-poor-me’. Anyway, they looked pretty dumb and I’m perhaps giving them far too much exposure than they deserve by even writing about them on my little blog. Phil’s comedy does often cross the line, in fact it’s probably more accurate to say that he zig-zags along the zig-zag of good taste and some dumb people will always try to ruin it for the others.

Seduced @ The Finborough Theatre, London

The Devil wears Prada @ Knitflicks - Ritzy Cinema, London

The Power of Art - Caravaggio

The Father presented by Borealis Productions @ The Courtyard Theatre, London

Richard Pryor

The Zed's @ The Albert, Brighton

The proliferation of manufactured, scrubbed up boy bands with their squeaky-clean images has meant that I can never tell one apart from the other.Keane-Monkey-Raconteurs-Editors all seem to sound like Coldplay imitants. Don't even get me started on The Killers who were inspired by Oasis - nuff said. You know their output is going to comprise of big stadium numbers, that they're going to wail with idiotic nonsensical lyrics that could have been written by some spotty, pre-pubsecent schoolboy. Capitalist pop designed to press the right buttons and line the pockets of studio bosses larding it up in their stately Gloucestershire mansions.

My contempt for so much of modern music leads me to embrace the intimate gigs in mangy rooms above the local pub, where you can see the veins popping out of the singer's veins, the drummer showering his kit with sweat, the sideway glances between the lead and bassist, the keyboard player immersed in his keys, trying to unlock some mysterious melody. Zed's music was primal, urgent and most of all honest - with today's postmodern anxiety about authenticity this must of course seem like a spurious statement. But so many bands try so hard to project a certain image, to encapsulate their sound in terms of their fashion and attitudes - striking the obligatory pose for the modern trend (i'm thinking of the newly-formed, full-pouting All Saints raising their manicured fists in support for the Yummy Mummy) and smacking of oppotunism. So hooray for bands like Zed who do not try to be anything other than what they are, who are unashamedly real, who restore the faith you've lost in this cynical age we live in.

Children of Men @ the Barbican Cinema


Princelet Street - Open House

Striplight/The Erroplains


Peggy Sue got Married

Middle America - was curious of see Francis Ford Coppola do a rom com. Much as I like Kathleen Turner, she didn't make a convincing 17 year old though. Nicholas Cage was just a bit whinny and annoying - he seems to play 'types' quite well ( I'm thinking of 'The Weather Man' but the writing in that film was a lot smarter).


Festival by Annie Griffin

02 Sept

Stephen Mangan who plays Sean Sullivan seems to have based his character on Steve Coogan, or rather the Steve Coogan that Steve Coogan wants to let us see. Festival offers a snapshot of what Edinburgh is although I think it also misrepresents it. It is such a cynical take on the whole affair, how does it end? The unhappily married woman runs away with the pretentious Canadian theatre group except she doesn't end up going and there is somekind of horrific car crash. One-woman show girl (ok, I will admit, there are A LOT of one-woman shows up at the Fringe) ends up with the Steve Coogan, I mean, Sean Sullivan character - unlucky her! Ditsy, big-boobed comediene thinks she's won the award but has it cruelly snatched away. Horrid fat Irish comedian walks away with the prize because he's given This Life's Anna great oral sex. If her intention was to de-mystify the whole Fringe experience than fair enough, everyone from insipid amateur performers to sex-starved comedy award panel gets ripped to shreds. But she doesn't capture the mundaness and exhaustion that comes with going up to the Festival. And what was the point of the dying priest storyline?? It was kind of enjoyable in a fascinating way but also quite disparaging. Why did she need to show the other comedian being sodomised whilst desperately trying to convince himself that he was talented?? I winced quite a lot throughout the film but perhaps it was because I found the Sean Sullivan character utterly repugnant.