Category Archives: Theatre

SHAKESPEARE’S SISTER – A CULTURAL REVIEW

SHAKESPEARE’S SISTER – A CULTURAL REVIEW

Pretty bloody busy for me during October with all manner of cultural exploits. I cannot take full credit for the invites to three of these events though as my wonderful girlfriend Melissa obtained the tickets for the theatre, Gala cinema screening and French Jazz master’s performance. So, a big thanks to her for that. Anyway, here’s some stuff I’ve been up to which may be of interest or may not.

ARCELORMITTAL ORBIT – OLYMPIC PARK

Apropos of just fancying a look about the old East End of London I, Melissa and my son Rhys went to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford and went up and then went down the ArcelorMittal Orbit. It’s a big, metal monster-tower made out of scrap and designed by Anish Kapoor. It’s an incredible engineering feat and the view was breathtaking. Walking down the caged-in metal spiral was pretty good exercise too so a cultural and physically stimulating afternoon was had by all.

OLYMPIC_PARK_3

HAMLET – BARBICAN THEATRE

Sherlock Holmes does Hamlet!  How cool is that!  And yes he does solve the murders!  I really enjoyed this atmospheric production of Shakespeare’s classic existentialist tale of the young Prince seeking revenge for the death of his father. Obviously, the marquee signing of Benedict Cumberbatch raises expectations and he delivers a manic and thoughtful and polished performance. There’s some fine sarcastic bite in his delivery as his Prince veers from confident young clown to depressed and self-destructive lunatic.  At times the pace was breath-taking as the dialogue was spun out a furious velocity while on occasions – not enough for me – the cast slowed to allow the drama to breathe. The set and lighting design was incredible and Cumberbatch is supported by a terrific cast including Ciaran Hinds, Jim Norton, Sian Brooke and Anastasia Hille. I don’t know much about theatre really but this was really rather good I reckon.

JOHNNY MARR AT THE LONDON FORUM

What a great gig at the Forum by Johnny Marr. The former Smiths’ maestro is one of the best guitarists I have ever seen live. Not the strongest of voices but suitable for the style of indie-Dad-rock he performs. There are moments of transcendent genius in his guitar playing which careered across the venue. His solo stuff is musically formidable but of course The Smiths renditions tore the roof off notably: How Soon Is Now and There is a Light That Never Goes Out. He even did a burst cover of Crash by The Primitives. Life is a fleeting affair so one must grasp and grip the rail when greatness comes along. I felt privileged tonight as it was a fine time spent in the presence of a musical genius.

MICHEL LE GRAND – RONNIE SCOTT’S

It was my first time at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club and I was very pleased to hear legendary French composer and lyricist Michel Legrand live before he shuffles off to the great orchestra in the sky. Le Grand composed music from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Yentl (1983); while perhaps his most famous composition was The Windmills of Your Mind. I’ve never liked Jazz yet after Michel Legrand’s incredible musical performance I fully appreciate the tour de force expertise of his creativity and musical brilliance. I still don’t like Jazz but appreciate I was in the presence of a master of that particular art! Even at the age of 83 he was magnifique.

SUFFRAGETTE WORLD PREMIERE GALA – THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

Melissa won us the “red carpet” treatment for this Gala screening of Suffragette (2015) and it was a starry affair with the likes of Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep onstage to present their powerful film to the world.  I didn’t feel that comfortable walking in amongst the West End throng into the cinema as I’m not someone who likes a fuss and I always feel these affairs are pretentious, ostentatious and very much against my hypocritical “socialist” roots. Am I a working class traitor – who knows?  I still enjoyed the free Green and Black’s chocolate which was in the arm of the Odeon Leicester Square chair where I sat.

The film itself is a cracking drama which has fine direction by Sarah Gavron with a simple, yet effective screenplay by Abi Morgan.  It is a worthy cause celebre to film and stands a fine testament to the brave women who fought for the right to vote.  Ironically, there was a protest there from Sisters Uncut about the important issues of this bastard Government’s austerity cuts and here’s to them for making their protest. I would have joined them but was too busy eating chocolate and watching the movie.

NOSTOCK FESTIVAL REVIEW

NOZSTOCK FESTIVAL REVIEW

I was going to include my Nozstock experience in my latest collective cultural review, however, I had such a great weekend that it earned kudos enough for a sole entry into the Captain’s blog.   So, myself, Melissa (the girlfriend) and Rhys (my son and heir) drove up to the Midlands on the Thursday and camped out under the stars amidst wonderful countryside, a sea of tents and a bonanza of musical, artistic and comedic entertainment. Alas, it pissed down with rain on the Friday but Saturday’s glorious sunshine dried out the mud precipitated by nature’s will the day before.  We left the Festival on Sunday but saw so much in our two full days there it’s worth sharing some images and positive words.

Nozstock_Dad_Son
Nozstock_Friday
Nozstock_Melissa_Paul

ABOUT

Nostock is, what I would class, one of the smaller festivals I checked out when booking – maximum 5000 punters – but it was big in ideas and heart.  The comparative smaller size works in its’ favour as it felt local, family oriented and friendly. And definitely NOT part of the big corporate machine where bands perform as part of contracts to shift units. There were local bands for local people as well as bigger name acts such as De La Soul and old-school Motown act Martha and the Vandellas. This was essentially small but a perfectly formed set-up.

Nozstcock_Saturday_TreeofFrogs_2
Nozstock_Raveyard
Nozstock_Saturday_Coppice

THEME

Nozstock takes place on a working farm in Bromyard, Worcestershire but this year they went for a science-fiction theme with which to decorate the various stages and tents and being a sci-fi fan it was quite amusing to see pictures of futuristic robots against a backdrop of verdant pastures.  I mean, it’s not everyday you see a wicker Dalek. But somehow it worked as the design was done lovingly and with much humour. It all added a certain post-ironic charm to the whole affair as these photos show.

Nozstock_Friday_Dalek
Nozstock_Friday_Rainy_Iron_Man
Nozstock_Friday_Sci_Fi_Theme_2
Nozstock_Friday_Sci_Fi_Theme
Nozstock_Bar_Trek

THE ENTERTAINMENT

This had everything you’d want from a festival including: theatre, rock music, dance, rave, cabaret, cinema, food, arts and crafts and you know what apart from a few names on bill (excluding comedians) I knew hardly ANY the artists or performers – and that was fine!  I was more than happy to be surprised in a good or bad way and find fresh artists and musicians to entertain me.

There was a great mix of international, local and new singer-songwriters and bands and a couple really stood out:  Leeds-based Jenova Collective lit up the Friday gloom with their jolly Electro Swing and Raptor rocked the bandstand with an old-school-retro-rock-and-roll!  Beardyman was on WAY too late on the Saturday night but the four tracks I saw of him were fantastic.  Big plus were hip-hop legends De La Soul who stepped into fill the headliner’s Wu Tang Clan’s shoes after their Euro-Tour was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. Great to hear the tunes from Three-Feet and Rising played live and loud!

Nozstock_Bandstand_Raptor
Nozstock_Friday_Rainy_Orchard_Janova_Collective
Nozstock_Friday_Rainy_Orchard_2

We tasted some of the cabaret and cinema stuff including a musical mime adaptation of Holst’s The Planets at the very punny Bantam of the Opera tent.  Furthermore, the comedy I watched on the Saturday was top quality with the gags of Mark Simmons, madness of Phil Kay and everyday yet sharp observations of Seann Walsh being highlights.  There was just a cornucopia of other delights like rap and reggae at the Raveyard; pilled-up rave-hippies at the Tree of Frogs and some really harsh beats in the Bullpen which were like a musical Magnum 45 and took my head clean off.

Nozstock_Saturday_Cut_Caper
Nozstock_Bantam_of_Opera_1
Nozstock_Saturday_LaughStock_4_PhilKay

It was just a great selection of joy and artistry on show. I just felt free from responsibility and even if I didn’t like something there just round the corner was an alternative stage to savour. So many artists and performers to choose from that the organisers deserve great credit for a fantastically curated festival.

Nozstock_Saturday_Sunny
Nozstcock_Saturday_Garden_Stage
Nozstock_Orchard_Saturday

OVERALL 

I had an exciting weekend overall. Despite the rain the energy and fun of the proceedings never dulled and big praise to all concerned.  I must add that the food choices were pretty decent too and we had a lovely cooked English breakfast from the Oatcake stall. Plus there was enough bars serving tasty beer and cider to keep everyone happy!  Incredibly the Portaloos were very clean throughout with none of the horror stories I’ve been experienced at Glasto!

I’ve always loved the Festival experience. You just get a real sense of freedom camping  while at the same time experiencing a cultural oasis of entertainment.  Nozstock is nowhere near as big as say, Glastonbury, BUT who knows one day it may be.  I hope it doesn’t though as it is perfect as it is: a real local, eccentric and energetic bag of fun! Highly recommended!

Here’s their website – do check it out: http://www.nozstock.com/

Nozstock_Friday_Rain
Nozstock_Cinema_Empire
Nozstock_Friday_Trojan
Nozstock_LostChildren
Nozstock_Oatcake_cafe
Nozstock_Orchard_Saturday
Nozstock_Paul
Nozstock_Rural_Vision
Nozstock_Saturday_Orchard
Nozstock_Saturday_Orchard_Random
Nozstock_Saturday_Squid
Nozstock_TreeofFrogs_Rave

TO BOLDLY BLOG WHERE NO BLOG HAS GONE BEFORE: A CULTURAL REVIEW

TO BOLDLY BLOG WHERE NO BLOG HAS GONE BEFORE:  A CULTURAL REVIEW

Culturally speaking the title is a lie; I haven’t actually been that bold with my choices this month.  I’ve re-seen a comedy favourite; ventured to a well-known London market; re-watched episodes of a classic TV show and read about a comedic hero from the past. However, sometimes it’s good to review things both nostalgically and with a more mature set of eyes as it often gives a fresh perspective.   In any case the prime directive of this blog is to mainly seek out new stuff and I have done that as well with the playing of a new Zombie videogame and experiencing music I hadn’t heard before. Read on and prosper!

BILL HICKS:  LOVE ALL THE PEOPLE (BOOK)

Bill Hicks is a genuine comedy legend.  I grew up watching his growling, sarcastic, intelligent and damned hilarious comedy routines on Channel Four and subsequently VHS/DVD.  His comedy had this rare ability to take serious subjects and gain great laughs from both ridicule and merely stating honest common-sense truths. Moreover, he delivered his world-view like a raging preacher who, in despair at the world, is willing and begging us to see humanity as he does.  People may say its edgy but it’s done out of a desire for peace and love and Hicks is just incredulous at the insanity of what the more negative aspects of the human race have done to the world and each other.

The book essentially covers his routines, poems, lyrics and interviews in chronological order. Reading his words in print still carries much of the power and many of the ideas as hearing Hicks spit them out live.  In fact, reading in between and outside of the lines I sensed a real pain in a man who was tired of preaching to the morons who just dismissed his grander concepts of peace and equality in the hope of hearing dick jokes.  Hicks did great dick jokes too though as well as the biting political and sociological satire. A black-belt comedian who was not afraid to hit his targets head-on he would cause much controversy when alive and of course it is one of the great cultural tragedies he died so young. This book is NO substitute yet it is far better to have an echo of Bill Hicks’ reverbing in the world than nothing at all.

CAMDEN MARKET, LONDON

I like Camden Market. For me it’s as London as red buses, pie-and-mash and Buckingham Palace. While it’s very much a tourist trap with overpriced grub and general tat it’s a fun trap which has many varied colours, pubs, scents, music, tattoos, clothes, hair-dos, people, weirdos, food and cultures on show that lure you in and distract you before hitting you hard in the wallet. Of course, one can eschew the spending and just take in the sights and that’s pretty much what I achieved when I re-visited the place with my son and had a good look about.  Because as another archetypal Londoner Micky Flanagan says:  “I like a look about!”  And if you like a look about then why not try Camden Market one weekend.

DYING LIGHT – VIDEOGAME – XBOX ONE

First person World War Z type actioner set in a fictional Middle-Eastern city is absolutely brilliant fun. Bit of a slow-burner this game but I have become utterly immersed in the story and missions of this kill-crazy-parkouring-bombing-booby-trapping-zombie-slice-and-dice-fest!   What impressed me most is the expansive nature of the storylines and the intricate tasks at hand plus imaginative ways with which to wipe out the constant stream of zombies. While the human villains are a bit cartoony the actual plot is better than most Hollywood movies and I would recommend this game for anyone who loves fighting monsters and mercenaries equally.

FELIX FOX: A MODERN FOP (ONLINE SCRIBE)

A quick shout out for mate of mine’s blog  http://modernfop.com/   It’s a fine and dandy online novel set on the mean, boozy, cocaine-fuelled, contemporary streets of London and features the anti-heroic antics of fashion assassin and retail worker Felix Fox. Posts go up on a regular basis and they are extremely funny with some dark sarcasm thrown in for good measure. Our pretentious “hero” attempts to further his career and escape the hoi-polloi-working-class roots he was born into while damning the variety of fashion victims he encounters.  If you like the writings of JG Ballard, Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh then there will be something here for you. Do check him out before he’s gets that book deal he surely deserves and you have to pay for the reading pleasure.

NICK MULVEY, SOMERSET HOUSE, LONDON

I was thinking the other day that what my life lacked was access to more young, multi-talented-middle-class-solo-male-singer-songwriters-pouring-out-their souls-on-stage-to-a-mediocrity-seeking public-who-desire-to-be-anaesthetised-and-have-their-thoughts-numbed-by-banality-and-unthreatening-wonder.  And then, just then, my lovely girlfriend said she had tickets to the very fine musician Nick Mulvey.  It was a soppy gig at Somerset House with Mulvey’s twee tones drifting out over the London skyline putting me in a trance like musical methadone.  He has a mercurial voice and is a brilliant guitarist and while I prefer my musical tea a lot stronger it was a blissful night set in architecturally gorgeous surroundings.

PAUL FOOT, SECRET COMEDY SHOW, LONDON

Thought I’d give the wonderfully silly Paul Foot another mention as he is consistently funny in every show I see him in. So do check him out if you like your comedy unpredictable yet structured; silly yet intelligent and seemingly off-the-cuff yet imaginatively written. The latest little secret show I saw him at was a kind of run through some older and newer material and on a scorching hot evening Mr Foot once again delivered a delightfully absurd cacophony of comedy musings, epithets and physical skips down laughter lane.

STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (BLU-RAY)

Having rewatched the whole of the new Doctor Who and delved into the Time Lord’s back catalogue of great episodes via the Horror Channel I gained a thirst for classic televisual Sci-Fi, thus, decided to boldly go back to the original series of Star Trek!  Aah, watching the space adventures of Kirk, Spock, Uhuru, Bones, Chekhov, Sulu, Scotty etc. brought back interstellar memories from my youth and as entertainment now the show definitely stands the test of time (and space!)

It is a terrific show. This, in no small part, is down to a solid premise and rules of the world, wonderful writing and committed performances by an awesome cast notably the Enterprise’s yin and yang: James Tiberius Kirk and Mister Spock played perfectly by Shatner and Nimoy. The storylines and characterisation are always intriguing and on reflection the show was pioneering in regard representations of gender, race and sexuality.

Episodes are deftly written with high concept sci-fi ideas, imaginative alien races and a zeitgeisty approach to the themes of the day which still maintain their power now. I’m halfway through the first season (of three) which has too many fine episodes to mention, including: The Enemy Within (Kirk splits into two different personalities); Mudd’s Women (a critique of quick fix drug therapy and plastic surgery); Miri (a strange world which holds host to children who never grow old); The Menagerie (thrilling episode which foreshadows ideas featured later in The Matrix) and The Conscience of the King (a Shakespearean influenced drama dealing with the pursuit of an intergalactic war criminal.)

Given the show has given birth to all manner of prequels and sequels, and continues to be a multi-billion dollar franchise today, demonstrates the genius and long-standing quality of Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Train To The Stars or as it came to be known: Star Trek. 

THE LAIGHTOLOGUES: A CULTURAL REVIEW

THE LAIGHTOLOGUES: A CULTURAL REVIEW

The last month or so I have been out and about doing bits and pieces from a cultural perspective and jolly good fun was had by all. Here are some of the highlights.

DEMONOLOGUES – COURTYARD THEATRE

Having tasted the greasepaint of such theatrical productions, Oppenheimer and View From The Bridge earlier this year I took in a lower-budget- off-off-Fringe production written and directed by Wendy Metcalf. It was performed by a talented cast of the Boxroom Theatre Company including such thespians as: Rosie Angeni, Tyrone Atkins, Asif Channa, Enid Gayle, Kim White, Mike Stewart and Rob Widdicombe.

Structured within seven magnificent monologues the piece was delivered with palpable conviction by each performer as they embodied the various characters with impressive commitment.  One hears of horror stories of indulgent plays which go on for what seems like days but this theatre production rattled by with energy, humour and pathos in equal measure. I would have loved each monologue to somehow be linked in a narrative sense; however, thematically it was very powerful as a series of outsiders contend with matters relating to:  death, obsession, performance, existential crisis, age, abuse, homelessness and rather peculiarly boxes.  Overall, the writer conjures up some memorable dialogue and characters as the piece delivers moments of humanity which stay with you long after the stage lights have dimmed.


ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS (1994) – JOHN LYDON (with KEITH & KENT ZIMMERMAN)

John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten WAS and still IS one of my heroes.  The working class lad from the deepest darkest London would emerge from the crumbling council houses of Finsbury Park and wreak havoc on the “Establishment” and sacred cows of Western Capitalism; firing a rocket into the cultural vacuum of the late 70s music industry.  This book charts — in his own and other individuals’ words — Lydon’s progress from sick young child to enfant terrible as he became the face and guts of the movement that would become known as PUNK!  No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs is structured in linear fashion via a set of interview transcripts as Lydon and the likes of Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Billy Idol, Chrissie Hynde, Richard Branson and many more give their perspectives of the lies and times of the era.

Lydon doesn’t mince his words in attacking those — notably The Sex Pistols manager Malcolm Mclaren — who he feels done him wrong and that anger propels the book. What struck me was the fragmented set of events and shattered points-of-view which spat and crackled at the time; making one realise that punk rock was not a movement of harmony. Instead it was a splintered faction of ideas, styles, influences that exploded from the depressing financial and social climate of the United Kingdom.  There was no fixed plan or collective movement or love or heroes but a detonation of unrest and youth in revolt and above all else a spark; and the chief spark being Lydon. You may not agree or even like the warts-and-all personality he presents in the book but one must respect Lydon for his vicious honesty. He’s forever the angry iconoclast and one of the great heroes/anti-heroes of British culture; at times infuriating but above-all-else bloody entertaining.

PEAR-SHAPED COMEDY SHOW – FITZROY TAVERN

This comedy night mixing pros, semi-pros, newcomers and general nutters has been going for donkey’s years and proclaims itself to be the “London’s 2nd worst comedy club”!  Despite this P-S has always been one of my favourite and dreaded places to perform comedy.  I have been funny there and also died a few comedy deaths as well but that was part of the fun too.  Run by the legendary comedy duo Brian & Krystal, Antony Miller and a whole host of comedians down the years it came to an end at its current home: The Fitzroy Tavern in Charlotte Street. I went along to say goodbye and thank the club for supporting my comedy ramblings over the years. Safe to say it was all done it the best possible taste and it was a brilliant send-off.  There have been some desperately empty times in that room but this was not one of them as hosts, performers and audience (yes – it had an audience!) all joined together for a fantastic last hurrah. Well, until it starts up again in another room (here’s hoping!)

POLESDEN LACEY, SURREY – NATIONAL TRUST

This gem of a place has all the desires of a lovely afternoon out:  beautiful grounds; pretty gardens; impressive stately home; and over-priced gift and coffee shop.  It’s also got some leg-stretching walks where you can almost taste the serenity. What’s great too is it’s not that far from London either. So you can drive a reasonable distance from the fuel-spluttering-gaseous-urban-corporate-city-poisoned-capital and find yourself in a place of relaxation and historical value. My teenage son said it was “gay” so clearly not a place aimed at kids of his age but younger children, adults, ramblers and history buffs will find something pleasant in this beautiful space lovingly maintained by the National Trust.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT – ROYAL HOSPITAL CHELSEA

I knew very little about Rufus Wainwright when my American girlfriend suggested we go to his live concert. I had heard of his musician-father Loudon Wainwright III and became aware that he was a young musical protégée and in a way a member of American musical royalty, so to speak.  Thus, having brushed up with a “Best-of” album bought on ITunes we headed to the impressively staged outdoor venue set-up at the home of the Chelsea Pensioners: Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Despite the heavens opening and rain bleeding onto a sea of plastic-covered bodies Mr Wainwright delivered a sterling set of beautifully constructed songs from his current and back catalogue. He’s a nervy, neurotic character with a wicked laugh, eager to please and a divine twang in his voice which would suggest he could probably be a great musical comedian too. While containing humour, lyrically, his songs bare his soul while wrapped in a mournful voice which quivers with emotional depth. Safe to say his piano sings a haunting melody although Mr Wainwright certainly picks up the pace with his faithful guitar in hand.

It was a fantastic and memorable performance in the London rain which had scattered by the time he sang the trusty classic Hallelujah.  I have since found out Mr Wainwright’s life had it’s fair share of troublesome situations including drug addiction  and while I didn’t not know this at the time, the way this soulful troubadour sang his heart out you knew. You just knew.

THE THREE DOCTORS: A CULTURAL REVIEW

THE THREE DOCTORS:  A CULTURAL REVIEW

I’ve kind of cheated a bit with the title of this little cultural review as technically there are only TWO proper doctors Dr Who and Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer. However, for me the mastermind behind The Prodigy — Liam Howlett — is a Professor of hard-beat-dance-music. Plus, there’s always a lot of medication knocking around PRODIGY gigs, I imagine, so there you go,THREE DOCTORS!   Of course, Dr Who is NOT a medical Doctor either but he has cured the end of the Earth many times before so that counts as well. Even though he isn’t real. But, who cares!

THE DOCTOR WHO EXPERIENCE – CARDIFF

Doctor Who is a cultural phenomenon.  The character and show have been on BBC Television (aside from the mild 90s hiatus) for 50 years, yet, in between that there were still audio recordings and novelisations of his adventures.  Over half-a-century he has become a worldwide sensation and one of the most adored and recognised cultural icons; and he’s completely fictitious. Dr Who does NOT exist!  He is a story; a myth; a character who has risen and regenerated from the grave many times; a character who performs miracles; has disciples and is an imagined hero who is worshipped by many followers all around.  Now, Dr Who has a Church!  It’s in Cardiff. Who knows how Dr Who will be seen in 2000 years?  Stranger things have happened.

TheDoctorWhoExperience_Paul_Monsters

The Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay is a wonderful pilgrimage for fans of the show.  I heartily recommend it if you want to see a plethora of old Tardis’, sets, costumes, monsters etc.  The setting is a huge aircraft hangar which houses everything Whovian from past to present and I just felt a wonderful sense of nostalgia plus wonder at the imagination and work which has gone into creating the TV show and Whoniverse as a whole.  I heartily recommend the Dr Who Experience if you love the show. Even the silly, little interactive tour you get at the start where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor himself guides you through a perilous journey is a laugh.  Great fun for big and small kids of all ages!

TheDoctorWhoExperience_InnerTardis_2

OPPENHEIMER – VAUDEVILLE THEATRE 

Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer:  a father of peace or maker of death?   One would argue that he’s both!  Indeed, this wonderful piece of theatre attempts to answer this complex and many other fascinating questions about the man whose work led to the United States unleashing nuclear hell on Japan during World War II.  Being about physics and science stuff this could have been a very dry and dusty play but it was produced with such verve and energy as it collapsed a key period of Oppenheimer’s life into a brisk few hours of performance. But it wasn’t; quite the opposite in fact.

oppenheimer

The production bounced and sang with some wonderful scenes explaining the physics, politics and personalities of the time.  The many Scientists and Military personnel are shown struggling with the logistics and ethics of the time; none more so than Oppenheimer himself. I mean he wanted to be remembered as a pioneer but he knew it would be to some cost; and so it proved. On the other hand, from another perspective, his and his teams’ actions COULD have saved lives.  John Heffernan as the genius, philanderer and bon vivant Oppenheimer is incredible. He lights up the stage like a firework bursting with sparkle then darkens it with shadow as he battles both his doubt and demons.   Of course, I know the physics were far more complex but I congratulate the writer for making the subject interesting again and hanging it all on such an intriguing and complex character and period of time.

THE PRODIGY – ALEXANDRA PALACE, LONDON 

Life is an interesting experience. I’m not looking forward to death. And I certainly won’t be able to look back on it. Also, some people don’t like the idea of getting old.  I don’t mind it. Because as I have got older I have started to like loads of things I didn’t used to like OR was indifferent of.  Coffee is one of those things. I love coffee. The Theatre is another thing I really enjoy now.  And the dance-electronica-hard-beat-kings-of-Essex The Prodigy are another cultural phenomenon I used to dismiss but now recognise as great music!

the-prodigy-4f6281b971542

I have my son to thank for my new found admiration of The Prodigy.  He started listening to them a few years ago and while I knew of their existence I have firmly — aside from a couple of Chemical Brothers albums — been a straight guitar-based-indie-listener as a rule.  But having bought Their Law: The Singles, The Day is My Enemy, Invaders Must Die and the under-rated Always Outnumbered – Never Outgunned I became very impressed by the group.  To create pulsating, punkish and heart-racing music of their kind and last from the late 80s to now I think shows a great level of ability and commitment to creation.

The gig at Ally Pally itself rocked and the crowd loved every moment of the brilliant lightshow, crunching guitars, pounding drums/beats, driving basslines and frontmen Keith Flint and Maxim screaming and goading the crowd into euphoric submission. Special praise for the architect of the operation — Liam Howlett —  who has found a very successful formula and has a tremendous back catalogue of tracks to work with. Howlett bleeds, sutures and threads the sounds together with the skill of a musical surgeon. If that doesn’t make him a kind of Doctor I don’t know what does!

 

SYMPHONY FOR THE DEVIL: CULTURAL UPDATE

SYMPHONY FOR THE DEVIL –  CULTURAL REVIEWS

I’ve been very busy culturally speaking this year and here’s a rundown of the various things that I have experienced in the last month or so.

BOROUGH MARKET – LONDON SE1

boroughmarket

If you’re ever starving and skint (on a weekend) and near Borough Market then go there!  You can live like a King or Queen (of Lichtenstein – don’t get carried away!) on all the samples they give away from: cheese to meat to oils to bread to, curries to burgers to scotch eggs to cakes and so much more.  If you have money and DON’T want to live like a tramp then fill your boots; just don’t wear them after. Shut-up – it’s  a metaphor.   What I’m saying is the food is AMAZING – it’s an epicurean delight!

CONFLICT, TIME, PHOTOGRAPHY – TATE MODERN

This fascinating photographic exhibition showed past and present images of war ordering them as per their chronological occurrence.  It was an intriguing idea and many of the works were very moving indeed bringing home the horror of the multitude of conflicts humans have perpetrated on themselves.

dresden-after-allied-raids-germany

DEAD RISING 3 – XBOX ONE

From proper war to zombie warfare on the Xbox One, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing this videogame in my down-time.   It’s a stylish no-nonsense kill-fest with a reasonably coherent narrative unlike the mental horror game Evil Within.  Set during 2021 you are mechanic Nick Ramos, an unlikely hero, and you must get out of the quarantine zone (established in Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2) while battling hordes of the undead and the military and SAVE your disparate rag-tag bunch of fellow survivors. It’s bloody brilliant and as you’re a mechanic you get some amazing hybrid weapons and vehicles to massacre zombies with!

Dead_Rising_3_Cover_Art

LONDON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA – FESTIVAL HALL

Myself and my girlfriend once again went to a follow-up concert entitled: Rachmaninoff: Inside Out featuring the compositions of the great Russian genius. I have to admit that having been to a couple of recitals this is just not my bag. I appreciate the wonderful talent on show and the incredible ability of the orchestra but I find the experience TOO passive and without narrative.  I love classical music in films, radio, via the IPOD and even in adverts but not in the live environment. Weird!

THE OFFICE – AN AMERICAN WORKPLACE – FINAL SEASONS

After my comedy binges of South Park and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia in the last couple of years I set about watching all 200+ episodes of this amazing ensemble comedy giant starring Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski and Rainn Wilson my favourite character Dwight K. Schrute. Of course, it used the British comedy classic as a springboard but for pretty much most of the episodes it was just gloriously funny. I think it peaked around Season 7 and lost something when Michael Scott left but the final seasons still had some wonderful times and gags and events. It was all wrapped up with many happy endings by the finale and will stand as one of the consistently great comedies of our time, in my opinion.

SPANDAU BALLET,  BRIGHTON CENTRE

To cut a long story short I went to see Spandau Ballet in concert in Brighton. No, I haven’t lost my mind because I went as a new romantic gesture for my girlfriend. I basically took one for the team guys! But you know what they were absolutely fantastic and a testament to the professionalism and talent of Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, Tony Hadley, John Keeble, Steve Norman et al that they delivered a powerful show full of hits from their illustrious past. I personally prefer their early Depeche Mode synthy stuff over their slushy ballads but overall it was a highly entertaining concert.

STEWART LEE’S COMEDY VEHICLE SEASON 3 (DVD)

Preaching to the converted here but if you like Stewart Lee’s comedy then I’m sure you’ve seen this DVD of his 3rd season for the BBC. Comedy Vehicle 3  mixes incredible stand-up rants, opinions and intellectual ideas and routines with fine sketches/short films; all interspersed with Lee verbally sparring with another comedy legend Chris Morris.  32-Carat Comedy Gold!

A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE – WYNDHAM THEATRE

**SOME SPOILERS**

Oh this was just terrifically meaty drama.  I haven’t been to the theatre much in recent years but I was right in the heartland of culture here with a sinewy, socio-familial-gut-wrenching story driven by jealousy, self-destruction, masculinity-in-crisis, lust etc.

The setting is New York, 1955, and Arthur Miller’s emotionally complex script shadows Eddie Carbone, a longshoremen at the docks, as he comes to terms with the chaos of family life, hiding immigrant ‘cousins’ from overseas, and the fact his adopted ‘daughter’ is fast growing into a woman.  As Carbone attempt to control those around him his family are pushed further and further away until one act of treachery leaves him stranded socially and politically.  Mark Strong is incredible as the docker Carbone as he sees all he loves slip from his grasp and he is ably supported by Nicola Walker who plays his wife.

The sparse set made me feel like I’d walked into an intimate, yet  souped-up rehearsal and the ending was something to behold as the family literally go to hell in the final moments.  The play, not surprisingly,  has just won Olivier Awards for acting and direction by Ivo Van Hove.

RINGERS AND SINGERS: A CULTURAL REVIEW

RINGERS AND SINGERS: A CULTURAL REVIEW

February 2015 has been a wonderfully diverse month culturally for me.  I have tasted the peak of perceived high culture with a visit to the Festival Hall and have also plumbed the depths of low culture with a visit to a Wrestling event and even lower with Quint Fontana’s guttural and scurrilous Pop Pals!

I jest of course as all events were culturally rewarding and provided an interesting juxtaposition for my latest blog piece which combines little reviews of some stuff I’ve been gone and done recently.  I have also watched loads of films as well but will deal with those in my February edition of Screenwash.

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING STORY – ALDWYCH THEATRE

I’m not a massive fan of musicals per se but as a Valentine gift for my girlfriend (yes – I have a girlfriend now and she’s real) I bought her tickets for this show. Oh, and I went along too. It’s the story of Carole King and her rise from 16 year-old novice songwriter to the heights of fame as a solo artist. Singularly, and with her husband Jerry Goffin, she wrote a litany of hit records including: Up on The Roof, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, The Locomotion, Natural Women, I Feel The Earth Move, Pleasant Valley Sunday, You’ve Got a Friend and many, many more.

King is clearly a genius and her album Tapestry would become one of the biggest albums of all time. The musical is a joy and while I wanted a bit more about the relationship breakdown and Goffin’s depression it’s all about the songs really. In Beautiful you get hit after hit after hit brilliantly performed by the young, talented and energetic cast.

BRITISH EMPIRE WRESTLING – TOOTING TRAM AND SOCIAL

This was the first time I’d seen a Wrestling show and it was really entertaining.  I was really impressed by the mixture of physicality alongside loads of variety with male and female comedy characters, villainous wrestlers and proper athletes battering each other round the ring in a series of tremendous bouts.  There was an element of theatricality and pantomime but also genuine pain as there were no holds barred in many contests. It’s pretty cheap too so do check out their events. Next one is at the end of March.

POP PALS WITH QUINT FONTANA – STAR OF KINGS, KING’S X

Lounge loser extraordinaire Quint Fontana hosts a karaoke event with a difference as “stars” from the pop world (or are they comedians in disguise) perform before a joyous (i.e. drunk) audience in a King’s X basement.  It’s brilliant fun and Quint is a despicably funny host as he sups on his Tyskie beer, goads the audience and banters with the pop guests which included Ronan Keating, Jason Donovan and Christine Aguilera. To be honest it’s worth going just to see Quint have his nightly nervous breakdown!  Awesome!

RACHMANINOFF: INSIDE OUT –  FESTIVAL HALL

This was almost cultural overload as I tasted my first quaver of a classical musical concert at the Festival Hall.  Performing with grandstanding gusto the London Philharmonic soared with a virtuoso performance of Rachmaninoff’s greatest hits and music which I came to recognise from David Lean and Noel Coward’s story of understated love – Brief Encounter (1946).

With no actual frame of comparative experience I can only say that it was hugely enjoyable evening and one which was not only aurally pleasing but visually interesting too as the orchestra and conductor brought home the stunning compositions with incredible timing. At times I wondered about the musicians and characters performing (could make an interesting comedy or drama)  and felt giddy at the wonder of the music. Although that could have been the heavy cold I had at the time.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR UPDATE

During February Spurs had some vital fixtures and after a stunning last-gasp win against North London rivals Arsenal we unravelled slightly where results were concerned. Harry Kane’s brilliant header proved to be our last winner in February as Spurs went out of the Europa League on aggregate to an efficient Fiorentina team in Florence.  We started well but could not break them down.

In between we scraped a 2-2 draw with West Ham after fighting back from 2-0 down. Biggest blow was losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup at Wembley. Mourinho set his team up solid from the start and while competed until the final whistle, our usual match winners Kane and Eriksen could not get us over the line.  After the highs of crushing Arsenal the bitter lows of defeat hit hard. We have 12 games in March to get into the top four or it’ll be more trips to Cyprus, Kazakhstan and Madagascar in the dreaded Europa League.

US OFFICE – NETFLIX BINGE-ATHLON

I have had to move twice recently due to reasons beyond my control so no longer have Sky Television beaming it’s entertainment juice into my living room and brain. Thus, I have gone back to my favourite online channel www.netflix.com and FINALLY began catching up with the The Office (US version)!  And oh my god it is genuinely one of the funniest and style-diverse situation comedies I’ve seen.

It uses character, songs, slapstick, embarrassment, gags, pranks, horror and pathos to propel it’s narratives as the employees of Dunder Mifflin get themselves into all manners of scrapes and cringeworthy situations.  Some great cameos too (I’m up to Season 6 now) as Amy Ryan, Idris Elba, Kathy Bates and even Christian Slater have popped up in episodes.  Anchored brilliantly by an ensemble cast notably Steve Carell as Michael Scott and my favourite, Rain Wilson as Dwight Schrute, this is comedy performance and writing of the highest order. Just TOO funny.