Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Week in Performing Arts - 10/5/12

It seems that it’s the season for unlikely musicals. After the news that Bret Easton Ellis’American Psycho is to be turned into a musical, so now comes the revelation that Coronation Street is destined for the same fate. But this isn’t an ordinary musical adaptation – this is a musical designed for arenas rather than proscenium stages, with massive video screens over the stage showing footage from the series, a huge stage and a large cast.

The Corrie musical: 'Street of Dreams' ©ITV

Alex Edwards, a 22 year-old graphic design student from Wakefield, has won the Roses Award for his new project, called ‘Were4 rt thou Rmo?’ Edwards has reduced the language of Shakespeare into text-speak in a flip-book with the text-language alternating with Shakespeare’s actual lines. He says the idea is to make people realize how much easier Shakespeare is to understand when written out in full, and to appreciate the beauty of Shakespeare’s language.

A 23 year-old on a training placement has bagged himself a lead role in a West End show, directed by the renowned British director Peter Brook. Rikki Henry went out to Paris to work behind the scenes at the Bouffes du Nord theatre as part of the Jerwood Assistant Director scheme. He was helping out at auditions when Brook offered him the role. David Lan, artistic director of the Young Vic where Henry will perform later this month in The Suit, was unsurprised, saying that Henry has ‘an instinctive sense of theatre. […] Talent will out’.

Shoreham-by-Sea in West Sussex is the unlikely setting for a new staging of Hamlet from the site-specific company dreamthinkspeak. What is even unlikelier is that is it taking place in a warehouse previously home to a ‘vacuuming solutions’ company, near a rubbish tip, on a dilapidated industrial estate and opposite a scrapyard. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, indeed. Upon stepping inside the warehouse, visitors will experience a multimedia play – like being ‘in a kaleidoscopic, 3D art gallery, or being immersed inside a film’, according to artistic director of the company, Tristan Sharps.

It’s no surprise that this year there will a whole range of Olympics-related performance art. Joe Cutler’s Ping! will be the first piece to be accompanied by a string quartet and 4 table-tennis players. The table-tennis players are ‘the percussion section, but also like dancers’, he says.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Review: Jerusalem Tango

Jerusalem Tango opens a window on to a part of history previously unknown to me: the British colonial presence in Jerusalem after the Second World War, and the story of the King David Hotel bombing. The blurb for this show was promising; it had romance, war, suspense, violence and was based on historical fact. I was excited to see it. I needn’t have been.

Pushed into one of the small studios at the top of the Carriageworks in Leeds, it was clear that New End Theatre had trouble adapting to the space. I can only owe it to a problem with the wings, but rather than change the staging, they had actors just walk across stage whilst another scene was going on, in order to get to the right side for their entrance – presumably hoping that the magic of the theatre, combined with their miming of corridors, would make the audience believe that the character was merely wandering past whilst a dramatic scene raged on inside an adjacent room.

©New End Theatre

This clumsiness also transferred to the performances. The play opens with a Palestinian Jewish woman who seduces a young British officer by inviting him to dance the tango with her at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Although Jenny Leveton as Ziva was by far the strongest actor in the cast, these opening scenes lacked the provocation and passion necessary to make the rest of the plot believable. Ziva was meant to be the self-assured tango teacher, enjoying her seductive mastery over her adopted protégé, and instead they both found themselves stumbling over the steps, perhaps concentrating too hard on the lines being spoken simultaneously. The whole play seemed under-rehearsed, the scenes between Michael Forrest as Albert Corby and Peter Alexander as Sir Henry Gordon suffering from what appeared to be the actors fumbling their lines. Forrest was meant to be the light relief, a ‘salt of the earth’ character who fell off stepladders and then carried an exaggerated limp for much of the play, but his slapstick efforts to draw out humour from certain choice lines fell flat amidst the melodramatic script. He never made eye-contact with the other characters, or looked up properly towards the audience - possibly in order to demonstrate his meekness, but it was quite a frustrating trait as the audience never got the full brunt of his lines.

Staging problems continued with the age-old problem of the desk in an end-on space: just how does one place a desk – with one end towards the audience, on a diagonal, with its longer side facing towards the audience? Never have I seen a set prop so clumsily navigated in a professional production – actors were talking to each others backs, they were walking stiltedly backwards in order to be in a position where they could actually see each other and so give some impression of dialogue. Similarly, on the other side of the stage, the one set prop was a single bed, and some portions of dialogue were played with the two actors sitting with their backs to the audience – this is a convention that can be tolerated, if the conversation is interesting enough and if it is not kept up for too long. Unfortunately neither of these were the case. The script was often melodramatic, with clichéd lines such as, ‘I have to go. They’ll be wondering where I am…’ and ‘I didn’t mean to fall in love with you! But I did’. Joel Parry as Thomas Wilson was the lucky recipient of some of the most cringe-worthy lines, and did little to redeem himself as a character with which the audience could sympathise. His wooden acting was unfortunately held in sharp contrast to his ‘dancing partner’, Leveton, who was much more believable (and, by the way, had an excellent accent).

The playwright had the formidable task of presenting a short snatch of history to the audience and providing them with all the political details required to understand the context of the play. This was mostly achieved, although resulted in some lengthy political diatribes from some of the characters. It is a shame that based on such an interesting premise, this play could have been good. Unfortunately, undermined by a predictable script, flaccid direction and wooden acting, it was an evening better spent elsewhere.

Monday, 7 May 2012

except for when they are of flying, all my thoughts are with you

Just found out a mate of mine does beautiful, talented illustrations and book covers. Of course, if it's at least kind of literary, I'm hooked. Check him out here:

I am counting down the days until these essays are in, and TakeOver starts and I'm still busy but it's good busy rather than stressful busy and I've got good theatre to look forward to and organise. I'm so excited about this festival starting - the other day someone complimented me (on behalf of the rest of the TakeOver team - I had nothing to do with the programming side of it) on our line-up for the festival and it made me stop and think, 'Actually, yeah. We do have an incredible line-up.' What a nice realization to have.
So if you're in York and you're reading this... For goodness' sake, will you just realise how lucky you are and treat yourself with a few tickets before they all run out? 

Kate Tempest's Wasted by company Paines Plough, coming to TakeOver from 24th to 26th May.

In other news, I've found out how to get an incredible amount of likes on your Facebook statuses. 

There's a good marketing tip coming up, so prick up your ears all you PRs and marketeers out there. (The word marketeers always makes me think of meerkats).

Drum roll...

Write a status complaining about the lack of seats in the library and damning all first years who even bother coming to the library in final term. (Pssssh. Like they have any work to do!) You're practically guaranteed upwards of 30 likes - you've got every single third year in the uni on your side.

One more thing. 

Marriage is an expression of and a commitment to a life-long, lasting, loving relationship. Homosexual couples are as capable of loving and being loved as heterosexual couples, and should be allowed to express that love and that commitment in exactly the same way.

If you agree (or even if you don't), fill out the online form, as the government are asking for public opinion on the matter of Equal Marriage Consultation, and I think this is important.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Week in Performing Arts - 4/5/12

The Brighton Fringe is soon to start on the 5th May until the 27th. The three weeks are packed with 681 acts across 193 venues. The biggest arts festival in England is known for its unusual performance spaces – from public lavatories to prisons and churches, the festival is a haven for site-specific performers. More information can be found here.

York’s very own TakeOver Festival at York Theatre Royal is getting underway. Starting on the 21st May until the 9th June, this Festival has a kids half-term festival, a comedy night, ex-Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, and a whole variety of touring shows that have sold out their previous venues. The ‘Best play of 2011’, Philip Ridley’s Tender Napalm, and performance poet Kate Tempest’sWasted, in association with renowned theatre company Paines Plough, are just some of the exciting events coming to the city. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for more details.

©Tender Napalm at TakeOver Festival

This writer spotted Alan Cumming taking a stroll (surrounded by security guards) in London the other week. However, that has little to do with the announcement that the Scot will be returning to his roots by performing Macbeth… all of it. National Theatre of Scotland are doing Macbeth with a twist: set in a psychiatric hospital, Cumming speaks all of the lines himself through his character reliving the story of Macbeth. It’s transferring to New York, and already American critics are getting overexcited.

Bret Easton Ellis’ cult classic, American Psycho, is set to be turned into a musical. The score will be “completely electronic”, and promises to rival another West End gore-fest, Sweeney Todd. Music and lyrics were written by Duncan Sheik, who also wrote for the West End hit Spring Awakening. The production does not yet have a confirmed venue or opening date. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa wrote the adaptation, and says that there definitely will be murders on stage. Suffice to say, “There’s going to be a lot of blood”.

The National Youth Theatre had to be thrown a lifeline by the Arts Council – a fund of £200,000 to help it meet its financial obligations. The organization that kick-started the careers of the likes of Dame Helen Mirren, Orlando Bloom, Rosamund Pike and Daniel Craig is under financial threat due to ‘human wrongdoing’. Cutbacks will take the form of production closures and job losses after the organization “overstretched itself”. It is understood that it is not in danger any more and is working hard to get back on track.
Carol Ann Duffy, ex-Poet Laureate, will retell several folk tales for the stage. Rats Tales is set to be shown at the Manchester Royal Exchange this Christmas. Duffy is collaborating with designer, choreographer and director Melly Still, who has worked with both the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company in the past.

The Tony Awards 2012 nominations have been announced. Predictable results include Nicholas Hytner’s direction of One Man, Two Guvnors, and James Corden’s nomination for best performance by an actor in a leading role in the same play. Clybourne ParkNewsiesOnce and Death of A Salesman crop up several times throughout the nominations list.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

28.3 miles south west

listen to these beats.

keeping on for Barcelona. I gotta lotta plans for my life, trying to make some of them happen.
kinda tired.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

loving much, and experiments in living

'Why should it be essential to love rarely in order to love much?' said Camus.

Look at that handsome man! Camus was well-loved, by literary critics and women alike. He was gorgeous and intelligent, and kept mistresses constantly throughout his married life. I'm reading 'Le Premier Homme' at the moment for an upcoming French exam, and you can see traces of the adult he was to become in the autobiographical work. A footnote early on in the book stipulates that the book should be 'heavy with things and flesh'. Right at the end of the book, he declares how much 'Jacques Cormery', the protagonist (a pseudonym for him) has a 'love of bodies, of their beauty, which made him laugh with bliss on the beaches, of their warmth that never stopped attracting him, with nothing particular in mind, like an animal'. This is a man who delighted in bodies, and love, whether long-lasting or brief. There's nothing sordid in that.

Sartre used to compare writing and love, saying that they came from the same creative process. He and de Beauvoir championed an experiment in living: the open relationship, which was scandalous at the time. In the 21st century climate, with things like girlonthenet, Belle du Jour, Tulisa's sex tape broadcast, and swingers parties or clubs like Killing Kittens in London becoming normalised, then an open relationship doesn't seem that exciting now. But de Beauvoir - author of The Second Sex, the manifesto for the beginning of the women's movement - described her relationship with Sartre as the 'greatest achievement' of her life. And despite all of our desires to have many lovers, to be sexually active - to love often and to love well, in other words - it is still an achievement nowadays to have a long-lasting relationship. What is more of an achievement in this day and age is not to successfully pull off an open relationship where each partner can take their own lovers, but, perhaps, to have a long, happy (possibly monogamous) relationship. That seems to be the more unusual thing. 

A famous Baudelaire quote reads, “Unable to suppress love, the Church wanted at least to disinfect it, and so created marriage.” Baudelaire was a dandy who squandered money and carried on illicit affairs, one of which was with his 'Black Venus', Jeanne Duval. What is it with these French writers? Not to mention Marguerite Duras' 'L'Amant', an autobiographical account of herself as a 15 year old having an affair with a 27 year old Chinese man. Then of course, the quintessential story of the adulterous wife: Flaubert's Madame Bovary. 

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: my module in French Realism is like a course in how to have an exciting sex life.

Chicago review

This sultry jazz musical, full of glint-eyed murderesses and big dance numbers, shot to fame with the 2002 film starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Any touring company will rake in an audience because of the success of Chicago, but will also perform in the shadow of the Oscar-winning film. Unfortunately, this production captured none of the sparkle and sassiness that is such a defining characteristic of the show and remained firmly in the shadow of previous, more successful adaptations.

Hoping to be swept away by the well-known opening number, All That Jazz, I remained uninspired by the lacklustre beginning. The choreography was performed correctly (but this faint praise is all I feel able to offer due to the desperate lack of energy on stage), and Velma Kelly’s (Tupele Dorgu’s) vocals were spot-on, if she seemed to take little pleasure in the performance. Ali Bastian as Roxie Hart had more sass in her performance, lolling sexily off a steel ladder brought on to one side of the stage, and her entrance far outshone that of Dorgu. Bastian in general put her all into the role, and portrayed Roxie with a slightly more wicked twist than I’ve seen in other interpretations, with absolutely no guilt felt towards her maltreated husband Amos, and instead a Machiavellian determination to earn celebrity and fortune.

©Grand Opera House York

The Cell Block Tango was the first song to start to convince me that some of the performers actually wanted to be on stage. The female chorus, notably Genevieve Nicole and Claire Rogers, exploited the more comedic moments of their parts with gusto, earning laughter from the audience. The energy raised from the sexy rendition of Cell Block Tango was unfortunately dissipated by the following song, When You’re Good to Mama, performed by Bernie Nolan as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton. Nolan is no stranger to the UK touring scene, having performed in the lead role of Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, but despite her achingly beautiful singing voice, she had none of the avarice, the double-dealing and the sex appeal that is so important in the role of Mama Morton. Her physicality was static and she looked uncomfortable with some of the more suggestive lyrics, offering an uneasy lean towards the audience with a half-suggestive gesture towards her cleavage. Although I do not doubt the vocal talent of Nolan one bit, I think that the ribald humour and easygoing sexuality of the role didn’t sit easily with her as an actress.

The scenes with Billy Flynn (portrayed suavely by Stefan Booth) were the most reliant on props in this mostly bare touring production. The ensemble girls used luxuriant feather fans (which were accommodated well by the choreography, both encapsulating the seductive style of showgirls and also a humourous slapstick-esque sequence), or small umbrellas to protect them from the rain of glitter floating down from the ceiling. The Billy Flynn scenes were the most glitzy, and really took advantage of the jazzy show numbers and the overall style of the musical. One noticeable aspect of the production was how bare it was – the costumes, hair and make-up were beautifully done, even if there were too many men in leather trousers (can you ever have too many men in leather trousers?), but the staging was simplistic, due, presumably to it being a touring production. Small details like newspapers which were printed only on one side and blank on the other, and an unnecessary proscenium arch that only served to narrow the stage-space, made the performance seem less professional than it should have been. Although the energy did increase over the course of the show, the lifeless beginning is unfortunately the main element to have stuck in my mind, which meant that Chicago just wasn’t as thrilling or sexy as it could have been.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

delighting in the difference

I'm going stir-crazy at home with just essays to do. Worrying a bit about the sheer amount of work I have. Combined with doing TakeOver Festival, job applications, having to dash down to London from York for job interviews and assessment days and then dash up again just to use the library, and you know, having a social life an' all and not being a complete hermit. And all of this on minus-amounts of cash.

I miss last summer, and stealing baths from roadside skips and dragging them all the way to my garage. Lighting candles and bringing in pillows and blankets. So many nights talked through, so many mornings greeted blearily when we opened the garage door and saw a dawn-light - blew out the candles but carried on talking. Still drinking wine. Drinking wine at eight o'clock in the morning on the swings in the local park. Having talked all night, wearing layers and layers and not drunk, any more, just happy. And still so much to talk about!

I need to do something with my life that I'll remember. I need to get out of this damn country or meet some new people or move to London or do something different, for Christ's sake.

 André Breton's atelier.


 I wish I could stop thinking about summers gone, or people gone. It's so distracting, this constant reminiscing. I think it's because right now my routine (and solitude, up on this lonely hill in the middle of the country with only my mother for company, God rest her soul) has got into a steady grind.

I want to be an artist's model forever. I could quite happily spend a lot of my time naked in 30s Paris, drinking at parties with Picasso and Nin and Miller. 

As long as I get to do some of the thinking, too.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Week in Performing Arts - 28/3/12

Latitude Festival’s theatre line-up has been announced, and includes theatrical greats such as Paines Plough, last year’s Fringe hit Translunar Paradise, and Complicite, who will be producing a new production called X&Y with company Twin Primes, based on their previous show A Disappearing Number. Pleasance will offer work that is set to run at the Fringe, Forest Fringe returns with a preview of some of its kooky Fringe acts, and other renowned companies such as nabokov, Les Enfants Terribles, Rash Dash and Actors Touring Company are also on the line-up.

Mike Daisey, the man behind The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs (which The Yorker first spoke about here), has recently got under fire as the truth behind his monologue is questioned. Daisey rains down criticism upon the poor working conditions of Apple’s labour force, and has been described as the Michael Moore of the theatre world. However, a recent news article raised suspicions, causing a scandal that trended worldwide on Twitter over the veracity of Daisey’s claims. High Tide Theatre Festival scored the play on their line-up, but since the bad publicity, artistic director Steve Atkinson has made the decision not to retract the space but has spoken out about the furore: "Mike Daisey has chosen of his own accord to remove any content that he cannot verify. […] I don't believe that he set out to purposefully mislead the public to his own ends. […] We need to discuss how truth is positioned on stage from now on. Unfortunately, Mike has become a cautionary tale. He might not have a career after this."

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new Artistic Director has been named. Gregory Doran will be replacing Michael Boyd, and will formally take up the post in September this year. Doran is currently the Chief Associate Director, but has been in the RSC family for 25 years, having originally joined as an actor.

Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie at the Young Vic is the most eco-friendly play in the West End. With rentable programmes, no flyers, tickets or press releases and recycled props and set, the paper output of the production is only 2kg, rather than a West End’s production usual 130kg. In fact, it is more environmentally friendly to go out to this play than it is to stay at home and use up energy – a triumph for arts environment consultancy Julie’s Bicycle and the London Theatre Consortium.

There seems to be no love lost between the lyricist Tim Rice and musical theatre overlord Andrew Lloyd Webber – Rice recently confirmed that he and Lloyd Webber would not work together again. Despite having spawned some of the most successful musicals of the last 40 years, such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Rice remarked that, ‘We’re not relevant as a team any more’.

Roberto Fonseca, a Cuban jazz musician, has been mentioned in this week’s Guardian Cultural Highlights, and is currently touring in Yorkshire. You can see him tonight at York Theatre Royal.

©York Theatre Royal

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Shared Experience's Mary Shelley

Shared Experience are a company with a colourful and varied body of work behind them, including several plays that have literary roots: last year’s Brontë drew on the story behind the Brontë sisters and their turbulent family life. Mary Shelley is another biographical play that similarly focuses on the emotional life of the titular character, and follows her from the age of sixteen, when she meets the passionate and charismatic Percy Bysshe Shelley, through her pregnancies, love life and scandalous literary circles, and up to her imminent success as a writer with her novel Frankenstein.

For anyone who’s seen a Shared Experience production before, this fits right at home with their style, using as it does a mixture of physical theatre and dream sequences integrated into the text. Helen Edmundson’s work is often an adaptation from a novel, or literary-based, at least, and the research that went into this piece was evident. As someone who has always been a fan of Mary Shelley, I was interested to see what they did with the piece, and was not disappointed. Edmundson’s script certainly packs a lot in: Shelley’s life was one of scandal, and provides the perfect basis for a play. The death of her child, her father’s disowning of her, her elopement with the already-married Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her mother’s death were packed into the production, but these tragic situations were lightened throughout with humour weaved into the play. Mr Godwin, Mary’s father, (excellently played by William Chubb) is presented as a rigid, intelligent man with an extremely dry sense of humour, and often the comedic moments of the play stem from him. One notable line is when he turns to his insufferable wife (imagine a Mrs Bennet character, if not ruder and more irritating) after she wails dramatically that he should do something otherwise she could die, and says, completely straight-faced, ‘Yes, Mrs Godwin. You have been tantalizing us with the promise of your demise for several months now and yet here you are, large as life’.

©Shared Experience; Image Credit: Robert Day
The use of set was inventive, with one long, sturdy wooden table in the middle of the stage having multiple uses: one thing that Shared Experience does, and does well, is use the audience’s imagination to add detail to a scene. If they want to stand on top of a table and pretend it’s a horse and cart, a pier, or Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave, then so be it, because it is done with such finesse and absolute belief that any audience will just swallow it up. Lighting was also used effectively, segmenting the stage so that one end of the table became an entirely different room in the Shelley household, or highlighting dream sequences at strategic points in the play.

Kristin Atherton as the title role was, from the get-go, a vibrant centre of the action. Her energy onstage was unfailing, and the audience’s sympathies were always with her. My only criticism is that sometimes her impassioned speeches could be a little overwrought, but not so much as to be irritating: the play reduced me to tears at one point, so she can’t have been doing much wrong. Ben Lamb’s Percy Bysshe Shelley was one that I had to warm up to. Shelley was a charismatic, intelligent man with an incredible capacity for wooing women wherever he went, and yet Lamb’s portrayal was initially unremarkable. The sighs and overbearing attentions laid on him by the women of the play made his effect on women quite clear, but in my opinion he wasn’t particularly charming, although he did seem to ease into the character more as the play went on.

Shelley’s shocking and eventful life is a lot to pack into a play, but the script keeps the action moving forward without seeming rushed, and the small cast are a tightly-knit ensemble with no weak links. Shared Experience have triumphed yet again with this fascinating new play, and I urge you to go and see it.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Travelling Light review

Following on from its run at the National Theatre earlier this year, Nicholas Hytner’s production of Travelling Light is touring up the country, and is currently playing at the Leeds Grand. Travelling Light tells the story of Motl Mendl, a young man living in a remote village in Eastern Europe who inherits his late father’s cinematograph. And so begins his fascination with film, which will eventually lead him to Hollywood and to renown as an American film director. The play is told in two time frames: that of Mendl in his village, painstakingly trying to realize his creative ambition surrounded by a group of colourful townsfolk, and that of Maurice Montgomery (Mendl’s assumed American name in later life), looking back on his life and rise to fame.

©National Theatre; Image Credit: Johann Persson
The play begins with a slow reel of film, scratchy and lightspotted, projected against the wooden wall of a house in the village. A figure in darkness turns the lever of the cinematograph, which is placed prominently centre stage throughout the play, while Maurice Montgomery (Paul Jesson) explains that it was with this poor-quality reel of waves crashing silently against a beach that his love of film began. A play so steeped in the history of film must incorporate the medium, and Hytner’s production does this well, with a huge screen upstage, drawing the eye and dominating the set of humble houses in the foreground. The set in the first half shows the shetl (small Eastern European village) where Mendl lived, a cluster of wooden houses or huts that appear Borrower-like, conveying the modest living conditions of the poor townsfolk. This sense of humble beginnings is exacerbated later in the play when almost the entire cast are onstage, squeezed into the kitchen of Mendl’s aunt’s house. The camaraderie amongst the townspeople is something from which Mendl will always be separate: his ambition, his modernity, and his passion for his art all mark him out as different and unused to the narrow-mindedness of the Jewish community in which he was brought up, and this theme of family dysfunction is poignantly manifested most clearly in a dream-sequence scene at the end of the play when Maurice Montgomery comes back to the village and partakes in a small, traditional Jewish celebration with his aunt.

The young Mendl is played by Damien Molony, a recently trained young actor who carries the central character with sensitivity and pathos. His growing love for his assistant, Anna Mazowiecka (Lauren O’Neil), is beautifully realized in a visually captivating scene where the two characters are working together on a film for the village. O’Neil presents Anna as a resourceful and intelligent worker, often proposing the best ideas (such as cutting the film to link two scenes filmed separately – an obvious idea to us now, but a eureka moment onstage) whilst struggling to express her feelings for the talented Mendl. They eventually act on their mutual affection, after a long build-up in which the sexual tension is unbearable, and the scene ends with a striking image: as the cinematograph plays in the background, their kiss is silhouetted against the grainy black-and-white film, until, unnoticed by them, the reel starts to pop and burn inside the cinematograph. Much of the play is presented in real-time, and takes place in exactly the same setting, which although is a strangely honest way of relating the story, has the effect of making it drag. The script here is at fault: Hytner’s direction makes adequate use of any possible rise in tension or tempo, but the pace unfortunately remains the same throughout, and for a long play at two and a half hours, this is no small criticism.

Antony Sher as the endearing and illiterate Jacob Bindel alleviates the lack of pace with his inimitable stage presence. Jacob is the producer for the young Mendl, and bankrolls his ventures. The two clash, and Mendl memorably cries (much to the knowing laughter of the audience) that he can’t wait to work in Hollywood, without Jacob interfering and without anyone nagging him about budget, because “There’s no one like that there!” Karl Theobald plays Itzak, the accountant for Mendl’s films, and his portrayal of the abacus-wielding, methodical, kindly man is spot-on: his awkwardness acts as a foil to Molony’s energy and direction on stage, and he offers well-timed humour at crucial moments. Molony, Theobald and Sher are the major presences in this cast, and their talent and animation on stage make up for the weaknesses in the script.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

toro, toro

York is sunny and gorgeous, I've just spent an amazing few days in Leeds and have nearly finished one essay. I'm alone in the house and am sitting out in the garden in a bikini with a gin & tonic and enjoying the weather, writing alternately: this, my review of Shared Experience's Mary Shelley, a job application and my diary.

I went to Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Thursday, specifically to see the Joan Miró exhibition. I know very little about Miró, although slightly more now, and loved his work. If you've tracked my taste in art through this blog, you'll realise it's all about photography and, in painting, bold brush strokes and heavy on the colour. I know very little about sculpture so wouldn't really say that I have a defined taste in that yet, although am starting to learn a little more about what I like. And I can say that I like Miró's sculptures, but that sounds like a bit of a sheep thing to say if I'm unable to compare it to those of other artists.

The colour of his work is incredible, and it's that which appeals to me. Walking through the exhibition was so evocative of Spain and particularly Pamplona. It was a sunny day and the exhibition is in a small building built with light yellow stone and yellow wood. The conservatory-effect of the tall windows, the watery late afternoon light heating the inside of the walls and the bright colours of the paintings and sculptures made me feel like I was a tourist in some gallery in Valencia after a day's walking, ready to go out and get some tapas, an ice cream, a cool jug of agua de Valencia.

We looked for the repetition of symbols in his work - my friend said that a teardrop kept recurring in his paintings and sculptures; I noticed a sickle shape, like a bull's horns. 

Compare - posters advertising the Fiesta del Toro in Pamplona, and Miró's paintings.

It was a lovely day, and has sent me craving Spain and watching Spanish films and making Spanish food and planning Spanish holidays. Looking forward to Sónar Festival in the summer, a three-day city festival the week of my birthday in Barcelona. Can you think of a better birthday present to myself?

And as promised, my review of Stomp, although the delay in posting means that the link to ticket booking is somewhat redundant, but they're touring so you can check them out on their website.

Stomp - 19th March 2012, York Opera House

Let’s just get one thing straight. I have two left feet. I have no sense of rhythm. I couldn’t even clap in time to John Cage’s 4’33”. And I never particularly minded about not having those skills. Until now. Now – oh yes - now all I want to do is wander around the house making my housemates steadily more irate by dropping cool beats with upturned mugs, run rampage down the street on rubbish day by playing with everyone’s dustbins, sit in the library around finals flicking pages in a nonchalant and rhythmical fashion. This is my dream. And I will clutch this dream to me until that tragic realization, once again, that I was not destined to be a percussive person. At all.

So what, or who, could have torn and replaced the dreams of a little girl who always wanted to be an astronaut?

It was Stomp.

Stomp is a percussive and dance show that has swept the world. There are up to three companies touring and performing in the UK and two American casts touring as well. They’ve even collaborated with The Muppets. Yep. That’s how big they are. Although the show describes itself as physical theatre, on their website they reassure you that Stomp isn’t about music taste, but about rhythm, and that ‘everyone knows rhythm, if only from the beating of their own heart’. (They clearly haven't met me).

My friend and I made our way to our seats in the Grand Opera House – he’d seen it before and had jumped at the chance to see it again - whilst I eyed the set. ‘The set is full of what look like very hittable things’, I wrote knowingly in my notepad. And then the show began, and I gradually forgot to write things down. From the first scene, which starts slowly and then builds, one could discern the mood of the show. One guy comes on stage, idly sweeping and desultorily marking out a rhythm with his broom. He is joined by someone else with a broom, and then someone else, and someone else, until the stage is filled with sweepers, each creating their own rhythm that ties in perfectly with the whole. And the result is not a cacophony, but an electric sound that somehow keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wait for the unused beats, for the drop, for the sudden change in note, for the final, exultant clash. The tempo at which the performers move is incredible: it is a tightly choreographed dance show that creates something new and inventive with each scene, from the most basic starting points. The objects that they create scenes out of include huge metal sinks (complete with marigolds) hanging from around their necks, basketballs, a bin bag full of rubbish including polystyrene cups, plastic bins, mops, sand… the list is endless. And for a 100 minute show without a narrative or any speaking, they need to be inventive to keep the audience’s attention.

The show was very slick in that the different choreographies rolled right into one another, and often incorporated a clean-up from the previous scene’s mess. I would have liked to have seen different characters portrayed with each scene, but instead the audience learned early on which member of the cast would forever play the clown for audience laughs, which guy was the leader of the group and was used as the audience mediator, and which guy was the ‘fit one’ of the group who could impress with his break-dancing skills. The development of character early on was a device that held the show together with a kind of linearity, but it meant that it seemed halfway to becoming a narrative without actually going the extra mile to do so. Aural humour was plentiful, as one would imagine, but the lack of speech in the show meant that the cast relied too much on slapstick and innuendo to provoke laughs. A scene with long rubber tubes as the instrument was obviously bookended by penis humour, in an infantile episode of tube-length comparison. I felt that some of the ‘comedic’ scenes were predictable and overworn, often resulting in my rolling my eyes rather than laughing, and this detracted from – on the other end of the scale – the clever and original choreography.

The choreography is stunning, the rhythmic melodies created sound faultless (to an untrained ear, at least), and the overall visual effect is very impressive. The aesthetic of the show is one of urban decay: the set is comprised of scratched street signs, old bins and saucepans and other aforementioned hittable things, all with a rubbish-tip air to them. The costumes are grey-hued, perhaps slightly ripped, and covered in paint. Everyone looks like a cooler, younger and probably more percussively talented version of the builder that your mum hired to paint the kitchen.

Although I felt that the lack of a narrative really was a lack (and needn’t have been), Stomp was a show that just oozed with talent, and some really spectacular scenes of physical skill. It will be at the Grand Opera House until the 24th March, and you can book tickets here. And now, please excuse me, while I go and annoy my housemates by bashing the crockery.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

pilot - the week in performing arts

As mentioned previously, I've been considering uploading some of my articles to this blog. So. This week's installment of The Week in Performing Arts. The webpage can be found here. Click on my name on The Yorker to see other articles I've written. There will be some reviews coming soon - I saw Stomp at the Grand Opera House York on Monday, the National's touring production of Travelling Light at the Leeds Grand yesterday evening, and have a press night at West Yorkshire Playhouse tonight for Shared Experience's Mary Shelley. It's a lovely theatrical week this week.

The Week in Performing Arts - 21/3/12

Sweeney Todd, a Stephen Sondheim musical, has opened in the West End to rapturous reviews. Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball hold the two main roles, playing Mrs Lovett and Sweeney Todd respectively. Apparently the cast and artistic team are making the show as grisly as possible, and Ball commented on the applause from audience at crucial moments of gore: "Tonight for the first time they clapped when I killed the judge”. The Daily Mail’s theatre reviewer Quentin Letts said ominously, “Sweeney Todd is a dark night”.

©Guardian Ltd.; Image Credit: Tristram Kenton
The National Theatre of Northern Greece has decided to address the economic problems of the country with a new scheme implemented for its upcoming six-week season. Theatregoers are encouraged not to pay for their tickets using cash, but by bringing food. The food will then be distributed around various welfare charities in Thessaloniki. Giannis Rigas, who is the deputy artistic director of the theatre company behind the idea, Social Theatreshop, states, “It's a fair exchange: food for theatre”. Those working on the project will not be paid.

Simon McBurney, artistic director of acclaimed theatre group Complicite, is in the final stretch of his latest project: taking on Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Bulgakov’s work has developed a reputation for being impossible to adapt, but McBurney says that nothing is impossible to adapt, and “In this case, the really tough part is finding Bulgakov's voice”. Andrew Lloyd-Webber ditched plans to make a musical out of the novel, saying darkly, "It's un-do-able. It's just too difficult for an audience to contemplate."

The Royal Ballet are soon to open a new triple bill of shows, including two new works and a revival of Polyphonia. Spoken of as a ‘radical departure for the company’, the work will involve a fusion of pop music (provided and played by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow. Three of the songs are orchestrated by Rufus Wainwright), modern club fashions, and Jungian theory. The Royal Ballet are keeping their cards close to their chest with this one, and speculation abounds, but it’s good to see that they are still promoting their £3 tickets to encourage young people to come.

Dominic Cooke will step down as artistic director of The Royal Court in April 2013 but is planning to start the handover to his successor a year early, so the top theatre is currently sorting through applications. Watch this space for an announcement very soon, we hope… The RSC’s Artistic Director Michael Boyd is stepping down this year, around much conjecture over the identity of his successor. Perhaps Cooke will be taking a trip to Stratford? Executive Director of the Royal Court, Kate Horton, will be leaving and taking up the post of deputy Executive Director at the National Theatre.

Audrey Niffenegger, novelist of best-selling novel The Time Traveller’s Wife (which was then made into a film with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams), will be picking up her pen for The Royal Ballet next season. She will collaborate on ‘Raven Girl’ - a “modern twist on a fairytale”, according to Kevin O’Hare – with the company’s in-house choreographer, Wayne McGregor.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Am toying with the idea of whether to put any journalism of mine up on this blog. For instance, I write a 'Week in Performing Arts' round-up style article for the campus newspaper I'm a part of every Wednesday. I'd like another store for my articles, another way of showcasing them, and it would provide a history for them. But I don't want this to become a theatre blog. I want to write about sex, and nice underwear, and travelling, and books I've read and things I've seen, and PR, and people I've met, and plans for the future. And I want to post nudey photos.

And at the minute, my plans for the future? Without saying too much (I'm not superstitious, but I'll admit that I tend to avoid jinxing stuff, a bit pathetically), I've had a few phone interviews, a few assessment days, a few emails winging back and forth, and a lot of polite handshakes and salutations. Fingers crossed something will come of it, and who knows? Maybe this time next year I'll be working in London in a PR office somewhere. Or maybe I'll be leaning out of the back of a truck in South America, yelling and whooping my head off, with a bottle of tequila in one hand and a novel by Jorge Luis Borges in the other. Who knows.

It's that time of year again when you start planning your summer. I'd love to go back to work in C venues in Edinburgh; it's been one of the best things I've ever done. But I'm loathe to repeat the same experiences, however amazing, because somewhere there is something new that I could be doing. Also I think it may have been one of those summers where everything falls into place: the fact that the people I worked with happened to be incredible, generous, talented people; the fact that I was single (and with that, a sense of freedom); the fact that I met some great contacts while I was there, that I had learnt from my past Edinburgh experience and used it to make this time round so much better. So many good things happened whilst I was there, and so many good things came out of it. I was very lucky with the people I met, and will forever be grateful to a certain few for making that summer what it was.

Speaking of people I met last summer: I'm trying to keep in contact with the two Americans who I couchsurfed with when I was travelling in Pamplona in September. I've been thinking about this for a while: my graduation present to myself will be San Fermin. I have always, always wanted to see the bull run (probably ever since reading Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises), and it's a great festival and there's a lot of merrymaking and happy drunkenness. I want to go alone, although hopefully either couchsurfing again with my American friends or at least meeting up with them, and see who I meet and just experience the festival as only a twenty-one year old can. Cos I'm twenty-one this year. Isn't that the age of invincibility or something?

I guess general news about me: TakeOver Festival 2012, the theatre festival on which I am working at the moment at York Theatre Royal, and which will take place from 21 May to 9 June, is really starting to pick up pace. I constructed a general press release for the festival and have sent it out to all of the local and national press. Now starting to plan press nights with the Events Officer and with the companies, plus constantly reworking and adding content to our website. I'm in charge of the Twitter and Facebook accounts, and seem to be having a whale of a time by myself, tweeting stupid puns into the void. Have a look at some point, just to make that void slightly less void-like. Other news is that I've somehow acquired a boyfriend, heaven forbid. He's absolutely gorgeous. And that's all I shall say on the matter.

Term's finished, I'm prattling away on blogspot rather than doing, oooh, I don't know, ANY of the three essays I need to do over Easter, and I'm gently nursing a hangover with Vitamin C tablets and a lot of household chores. I think I'm going to go to work now.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

From Africa to Malaga

"There is now a great tension between Fred and me; we cannot bear each other's eyes. He wrote something about me so exact, so piercing that I felt invaded in the most secret precincts of my being. His writing about Henry also terrified me, as if he had come too close to my own fears and doubts. He writes occultly. I could barely talk after reading those pages. And he was reading my journal. He said, 'You should not let me read this, Anais'. I asked why. He seemed stunned. He bowed his head, his mouth trembled. He is like a ghost of me. Why was he stunned? Did I reveal the similitude, the recognition? He is a part of me. He could understand my entire life. I would put all my journals in his hands. I do not fear him. He is so tender with me".

If someone read all of my journals, they would know me completely. Or almost. Sometimes I leave things out of my diaries because I know I'll remember the truth and somehow it doesn't need to be written down - it's for my memories anyhow. Sometimes I'll leave it out because I'm embarrassed, or want to present it differently. Mostly I'm just horribly honest. I couldn't imagine the ramifications of someone reading all of my diaries.

My buzzwords of February: recently it's been about new music and new words, and big coffee-table books, and somehow nudity, and smoking, and not sounding like yourself, contemporary dance and Muji notebooks.

I did life modelling the other day. I've always wanted to do it, and I saw the advertisement for life models and thought, If not now, when? You are in your PRIME, Miss Brodie! It was scary. There were only about 13 people there though, and luckily I knew none of them. Fifteen pounds for an hour ain't too shabby. I'd do it again.

It's actually nice to have people look at your body completely unsexually. You're completely bare, curves and all (I lived in fear of someone taking one look at me and saying, "I think I'm going to need some bigger paper") and people are looking, deliberately, at the details of your body and looking down at their paper and then up again, and it's a constant scrutiny. It's not exactly empowering, or revelatory, or a huge confidence-boost, or anything like that that you expect, but I liked it because I like my body and I like nakedness and it's all just quite a bit fun, isn't it.

It's quite hard to justify it.
"You're essentially taking your clothes off for money?"
"That's what strippers do, isn't it?"

And I'll be honest, I do it for the money, not for the joy of it. I just fortunately happen to have very little sense of modesty, and it's one way of earning money and I also happen to have this bizarre obsession with taking my clothes off.

I want this beautiful mug from Muji. And, in general, just to stock my kitchen with stuff from Muji.

Christ, someone get me a Lemsip, I'm dying here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

craving you

Production week again but it's going okay. Birthdays make things better, because there's nothing prettier or more exciting than candles and cake in the dark and people singing. In a black box theatre. And everywhere smells of paint and you've got good music and good people around you.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

new tyres

Today my taxi driver had a go at me for not having new tyres. I simply asked him what the roads were like, amidst all the snow.

Friday, 27 January 2012

mostly rural humming

poplie, urban humming stereo.

God, it's been a mad week. Second night of the pantomime done and dusted, and done well. Over 550 people have seen the pantomime so far - that's an amazing number!
I can't sleep right now. I guess I'm a little wired because of the good show tonight, because I haven't really stopped for days, because I've got an interview in Leeds tomorrow I'm excited for (and should really, really get some rest for).

I regularly read the H+K Web Curios blog, which is so incredibly on the ball and just so damn interesting. I have to stop myself from just lifting content from it and accidentally passing it off as my own. I'm telling you this now so when I link to things that I would only have found because of the H+K blog, I'm basically telling you that it's not because I'm really good at finding quirky things on the internet. It's because I'm a whore for information, and I don't care where I get it from, and I will spread it around like butter on a crumpet. Or like a venereal disease, if we're sticking with the whore metaphor.

And so. This article is so vital for the communications industry that it reaches Biblical proportions. Particularly number 4 in the list. How often do we see those inane 'conversation-starters' on Twitter? I think that IdeasTap, for example, do a good job of connecting with their members. Their engagement with the #fridayplaylist hashtag a few weeks ago had the additional instruction to find songs with instructions in them. (My contribution, if you were wondering: Otis Redding, 'Try A Little Tenderness'). It's not inane, because it's drawing on the already-popular weekly hashtag, but it adds something and makes it more interesting to engage with. I think it coincided with a brief that they were advertising on their site as well.

Do you love visualizations? I bet you do; they're all the rage. I personally freaking love them. I'm not a particularly visual person in terms of learning by images or graphs, as I'm more wordy than that: I read a sentence over and over and I've got it stuck in my brain like some verbal barnacle. But visualizations are so clever. I probably like them in a magpie sort of way: because of the pretty colours, because the pixels move oh so quickly! etc,etc. Take a look at One Hour Per Second. It'll blow your mind. It really brings home just how fucking global YouTube (and, in turn, things like Facebook) are. They will take over the world. No doubt.
(P.S The visualization goes on forever. But hey, I can't sleep right now so what else do I have to do? And the pretty colours... - oooh, look! The nyan cat is farting rainbows!)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Le Premier Homme

Just spending an afternoon reading kinky blogs rather than Camus' Le Premier Homme (which is, nevertheless, very very good).

Click that link - go on. There's a very interesting discussion on the boundaries of degradation and respect/dominant and submissive natures in the bedroom. Both the blogger and her anonymous poster who presents an opposing argument have such valid points, it's hard to know who to agree with. I do feel very strongly that what happens in the bedroom is completely separate from how I would expect to be treated in everyday life, and neither should have a bearing on the other. But then, I only have sex with men intelligent enough to recognise those boundaries and distinctions. And simultaneously, you can't deny human memory. Usually it's a great thing: you look at someone and your knees go all trembly and you can't help but remember the things that you did to each other the other night. But I can understand that that can also be a drawback: you can't forget, can't stop viewing them in the light of those sexy things you did, and so can't draw the line - or can, but it's a wobbly one - under what happens in the bedroom.

Food for thought.

So while you read sexy things, look at some nice photos too, all copyright @BinaryDad.