Monday 27 March 2017

Lots of live music and a secretive cinematic experience...

20th March - 26th March 2017

Moulin Rouge! Secret Cinema

We're back! Now as a freshly minted official Mr and Mrs Culture, so in the break between nuptials and Honeymoon normal service is resumed. So a couple of trips to Hammersmith and one to France in 1899 were our first cultural endeavours as man and wife...

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds

Tuesday night led us to the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith for our first of two visits for the week, for the first tour in the UK of the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds acoustic shows which have been regular occurrences across the pond. This was the second night here for them.

We knew what to expect however via the several live recordings available of previous shows, consisting of mostly Dave Matthews Band material, with a couple of Tim Reynolds' instrumentals thrown in for good measure, some chilled acoustic music was a good to the week.

The Apollo's old school marquee...

The show was all seated and we had some central seats about halfway back which afforded a great view, coupled with the great sound, (something which seems to have improved in recent years at this venue), made for a great show.

It was an earlier start and there was no support, as these shows tend to have a decent run time with an interval, and this was no exception, they took the stage just before eight and played until nearly eleven.

The first half contained a few covers and some more less well known tracks which crop up in this setting, however they lend themselves superbly to Matthews' and Reynolds' obvious chemistry and ability to improvise and make each performance unique. Whilst Reynolds once again showed his immense skill producing a myriad of sounds from his guitar as well as blistering classical style sections and solos showcasing his skill for playing complicated melodies.

After the interval they returned for a storming second half including a couple more covers, The Beatles' 'She's A Woman' being particularly good, and several of the more popular Dave Matthews Band songs including a fantastic 'Jimi Thing', 'Dancing Nancies' and 'You & Me' which all received a rapturous reception.

Reynolds and Matthews in full flow...

They then returned for a three song encore which included their always great cover of 'All Along The Watchtower', (also a standout by the full Dave Matthews Band line up too), and ended with an amazing version of 'Crash Into Me', (a particular favourite of ours), and the perfect end to a rare appearance in the UK.

Hopefully they'll be back soon, as in whatever guise the Dave Matthews shows are always a great experience.

Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox

We returned to Hammersmith on Friday, (along with some friends), to catch the current tour by YouTube phenomenon Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox.

Founded by pianist Scott Bradlee, they perform via a rotating razor sharp band of musicians and vocalists, covers of popular songs re-arranged into a jazz style, (check out their videos).

We were seated roughly where we'd been for Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds so knew to expect a decent view and sound, and were not disappointed.

The evening was hosted by 'femcee' and vocalist Ariana Savalas, which kept the show moving along and gave it a cabaret style feel with hilarious innuendo and crowd participation, which also meant there were no lulls between songs as different performers took their turns.

The vocalists on this tour joining Savalas, included several of the most popular in the Postmodern Jukebox cannon, including Casey Abrams, Von Smith, Aubrey Logan and a surprise appearance from Haley Reinhart.

Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart...

The band in the main consists of a pianist, double bass player, drummer, and a two piece horn section, which are then embellished with a vocalist/vocalists, a tap dancer who performed percussion like runs, and additional horns, (several of the singers also played Trombone, the talent here is incredible), and the jazz arrangements transform the songs to another time and style superbly.

They performed many favourites such as 'Cry Me A River' by Von Smith, 'Sweet Child 'O Mine' by Casey Abrams, 'Give It Away' by Aubrey Logan, and particular favourites of ours 'Creep' and 'Seven Nation Army' which were breathtakingly performed by Reinhart.

The finale of 'MMMBop' and 'Shake It Off' brought all the performers together on stage, and were superbly re-imagined as Grease style shoo-wop songs.

A surprise appearance by Bradlee himself was great too, allowing him to showcase his solo piano mash ups.

The whole evening had a real party atmosphere and with a two hour plus show really made for a great night, which we can't wait to revisit.

Moulin Rouge! Secret Cinema

So our Saturday night consisted of travelling back in time to Paris in 1899 for the latest Secret Cinema production of Moulin Rouge!

This is only going to be a brief review of sorts as it's not right to spoil the secretive aspect of it all.

The venue this time is in East London and has been transformed into a mixture of the narrow streets of Paris, several bars, a large open area with food stalls and cabaret style entertainment, and then finally the Moulin Rouge itself for viewing the film at the end.

Auguste Renoir and Louisa Puget...

Throughout the evening as in previous productions scenes are brought to life and there is an overriding feel of the bohemian atmosphere depicted in the film, with the performers especially nailing their roles as characters from the films, the attendees certainly seemed to be up for it too, we only spotted one couple not in fancy dress.

There's plentiful food and drink options, and prices are about on par for any event.

The viewing of the film itself was very well done, and certainly had the crowd involved throughout.

If you've been to a Secret Cinema event before you'll know what to expect, and if you like Moulin Rouge! you'll enjoy this immensely, these factors will determine whether you go or not. It's on until the 30th of April.

Next week's a busy one with some cinematic debate, more live music and some science too, until then, get inspired!

Tuesday 14 March 2017

A cult classic re-imagined on stage, an eclectic mix of art and some splendid live music...

6th March - 12th March 2017

This week saw some diverse art sandwiched between a theatrical interpretation of some cult literature/cinema and some live music. Are you all sitty comftybold two-square on your botty? Then I'll begin...

A Clockwork Orange

So our first outing of the week was all the way over to Finsbury Park to the Park Theatre.

We'd never been here before and had unfortunately chosen a match night too, although this didn't cause too much hassle, just meant the parking needed paying until 20:30, but nothing drastic.

The theatre itself is quite modern and situated away from the high street area, boasting cafe and bar in its foyer too.

There are two spaces here, and we were in the larger Park 200 auditorium, which had stalls and circle seating and a layout similar to the Donmar Warehouse with bare brick walls and exposed metal beams, the only difference really being that it was smaller and the stall seats surrounded all four sides of the stage, so there isn't really an issue with sight lines anywhere it seems. We had second row seats just off centre which afforded a great view of the action and were slightly cheaper too.

Mr Culture is a fan of source material, both the book and the infamous Stanley Kubrick adaptation, (which despite the furore was never actually banned, it was withdrawn by Kubrick himself), so was intrigued to see how this translated to the stage and whether any changes had been made.

Firstly it's performed by an all male cast, (including the very few and far between female roles), and sticks broadly to the story line established in the book. However this production included some more modern versions of the classic Beethoven music synonymous with the film, amongst other modern pop music, and many of the fighting/violet scenes where choreographed with elements of ballet and quite athletic movements.

The whole cast were great, playing multiple parts, (except for Jonno Davies who plays Alex), and the sparse set manages to keep things uncluttered to allow the physical nature of the piece to really take fill the space. The clever use of colour is also notable, with only blacks and whites throughout, with splashes of orange punctuating key scenes. The use of the 'Nadsat' language spoken by the gang members, (slang inspired by Russian), is almost poetic and Shakespearean in it flow and is performed well by all concerned.

The story still maintains it's power today, and the slight updating of it here can only win it new fans. For what seemed like a book which would have proved almost impossible to adapt, this proves that taking risks can pay dividends, much like Kubrick found with his adaptation. For those unfamiliar the story concerns a group of young thugs known as the Droogs, led by Alex, who spend their evening drinking, fighting, stealing and much more besides who eventually tire of being told what to do so turn on Alex who is eventually imprisoned and offered a scheme to 'rehabilitate' him to achieve early release, and the consequences that entails...

However at the end of the day if you're familiar with the source material and like it, or just curious about it then take a punt, it's not going to change the minds of anyone who doesn't admire the origins however.

For something challenging and fresh it's well worth catching if it gets revived or tours as it's only on until the 18th of March.

Gavin Turk : Who What Where When How & Why

Over at the fantastic Newport Street Gallery owned by Damien Hirst is a retrospective of sorts, (I say of sorts as shows here are populated with items in Hirst's own personal collection), of fellow YBA Gavin Turk.

What makes this show such a treat though is the fact that Hirst owns so many of Turk's signature pieces so it doesn't feel like a cobbled together collection of lesser pieces.

The gallery itself won an architecture award in it's year of opening last year, and it's easy to see why. It's been beautifully fitted out with lovely wood and brick finishes in the spiral staircase areas and polished concrete floors accentuate the very high ceilinged rooms, which allows large scale pieces to truly shine with plentiful space, as proved during the previous Jeff Koons show here where a large balloon animal sculpture had ample space to be appreciated.

One of the stairwells...

The first large gallery has a few earlier pieces, including Turk's Hello! magazine of himself, a couple of the tables with the motorised spinning bottle and knife on them, plus a large replica of Turk's signature which has been accentuated with Yves Klein style blue sponges.

Incorporation of popular historical art subjects or popular culture is a common theme within Turk's works.

One of Turk's most famous, (infamous?), if not the most famous is 'Cave'. This was the piece Turk submitted as his final graduation exhibition at the Royal College of Art, (which meant he failed to be awarded his postgraduate degree as the tutors didn't appreciate it), however it has since gained more appreciation and reputation. It' is a blue heritage plaque, such as the ones seen around the country on significant historic buildings and commemorates his presence as a sculptor, and is given pride of place in it's own space.


'Cave' seen from the balcony...

Also on the ground floor are some of the Jackson Pollock-esque paintings which contain more than initially meets the eye...

Up the the second floor and the first gallery presents another iconic set of images within Turk's output, his Andy Warhol aping screen prints of himself as Sid Vicious striking the famous Elvis pose with a gun, plus his Transit van screenprints reminiscent of Warhol's car crash 'Disaster' prints.

One of the Transit van pictures...

The next gallery contains several of Turk's waxworks, most notably the one of him as Sid Vicious 'Pop', plus also several others of Turk in variety of guises such as 'Bum' and those striking poses familiar from the work of Giorgio De Chirico.

The final room contains a host of Turk's painted bronzes, surrounding an appropriated skip in the centre of the room, these various sculptures ranging in size from a single spent match and rotting apple core up to some of his famous bin bags. These sculptures are so well rendered you would be hard pressed to believe that they are not just what they look like.

The final room in the exhibition...

One of the life like bin bag sculptures...
The show has been extended to the 26th of March so not long left to catch it, but anyone interested in the YBA scene and exploration of celebrity and culture should check it out, and it's all free!

Bourgeois/Kusama : Traumata

Over at Sotheby's S|2 gallery in Mayfair, (free to visit just like the exhibitions at their sale rooms, which are always a treat as they afford the opportunity to see works which are usually part of private collections), is a dual show showing works by two very prominent female artists, Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama. Bourgeois even has a room of her work currently installed in the new Switch House at Tate Modern.

Sotheby's S|2 gallery...

The works here represent sculpture and paintings/drawings by both artists and are shown intermingled as they explore similar themes of challenging male domination of the art world and production of art, and also explores the psychological aspects of their careers which form the basis for much of their work. Probably most famously for Kusama who resides in Japan in a psychiatric hospital, by choice.

I found the sculptures by Bourgeois to be the most interesting of here work here, the familiar motif of the spider is present in a small sculpture along with some abstracted minimalist totem like pieces which represented human forms.

Kusama's pieces included some of her phallic fabric works, which comprise stitched phallus' attached to objects such as chairs or shoes and then painted, along with variations on her infinity net series of paintings which are mesmerising in their intricacy and bold colours.

Some of the Kusama sculptures...

This is only a small show, but a worthwhile one, and again affords the opportunity to see works which might night necessarily make it to bigger retrospectives, but are not less relevant to their outputs.

It's on until the 13th of April.

Anna Laurini : The Female Portrait

Anna Laurini's work is quite new, however many people who frequent London itself may be familiar with her works without realising it, as she has been quite prevalent in the last couple of years with street art pieces popping up around town...

One of Laurini's paste ups on Charing Cross Road...

We've become quite taken with her work whenever we see it and more interested in seeing a bit more and finding out who's behind it. The familiar sight of her primarily female faces can be seen on hoardings, boarded up shops and  pasted up on lamp posts or phone boxes quite regularly. However was our first chance to see her work in a gallery setting.

The gallery space is a gallery/members bar called Lights Of Soho, near Piccadilly Circus, which mainly shows works in neon, and for this show Laurini has produced canvases and works on paper to compliment these.

Lights of Soho...

We were also looking forward to this as it was an evening view to celebrate International Women's Day and we had a slot booked with Anna to have our double portrait painted too...

A painted door, representative of Laurini's street work...

Several of the larger canvases...

The venue itself was great, comprising an upstairs bar at the back of the gallery space surrounded by the artworks and various neon signs, and a downstairs bar also decked out with neon and art, drinks were very reasonably priced too.

The large canvases are very colourful and expand on the street pieces nicely, they really need to be seen in the flesh to appreciate fully.

We then sat for Anna who then proceeded to paint us. You can see our finished portrait below, the style is quite reminiscent of Picasso, but to watch Anna work was a joy as her proficiency with a brush was great.

Our finished portrait...

The show's on until the 18th of March so catch it while you can!

The Family Silver

Friday night's jaunt was over to Great Portland Street and a venue called 229, which is attached to the International Students House building there.

We hadn't been here for a few years, however it's a pretty good venue, with good sound too and a reasonably priced bar.

The Family Silver are a three piece comprising Matt Deighton, (originally of Mother Earth, and touring member for Paul Weller and Oasis at one time) on vocals and guitar, Damon Minchella on Bass, (Ocean Colour Scene and The Who), and Steve White on drums, (The Style Council and Paul Weller).

It's fair to say their sound is reminiscent of all of these influences, and that's no bad thing, especially as they are all such great players and songwriters.

The only album thus far, 'Electric Blend', was released in 2015, and they've only played a few gigs as they also all have other side projects on the go too, and it's well worth a listen if any of their past work floats your boat.

The band in full flow...

Live however is where they really shine.

We first caught them last year at Under The Bridge at Stamford Bridge and were blown away so booked tickets for this gig as soon as it was announced.

Steve White's drumming is phenomenal, he even gets a drum solo which is well deserved, while Deighton and Michella complement each other very well, both very animated and they really nail every song. They manage to make a three piece sound like a far bigger band.

They played basically the whole album, plus a new song which is available on a download only EP.

Deighton's stage chat was also great, highly amusing but appreciative.

They haven't unfortunately got any other gigs lined up at the moment, but when they do they're a must see!

That's it for this week, and we're having next week off to tie the knot and finally become Mr and Mrs Culture, so until then, get inspired!

Monday 6 March 2017

Some classic drama, some Shakespeare infused comedic theatre, a touch of street art and some live music...

27th February - March 5th 2017

A theatre-centric week this week with a bit of art and music thrown in for good measure, so on with the show...

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

So Mondays excursion into theatreland was to the Harold Pinter Theatre, just off of the Haymarket. We were here most recently for 'Nice Fish' with Mark Rylance, and before that for 'Sunny Afternoons', although the theatre is back to it's traditional configuration now. Luckily we had also managed to score a couple of proper bargains with £10 fourth row stalls tickets, sold as restricted view/legroom, although this just amounted to not being able to see the very back right hand corner of the stage, (not a problem as nothing happens there anyway, and the restricted legroom is just a column immediately adjacent the aisle seat which causes no issues either). For a play like this which relies so heavily on the performers, seeing them up close really enhances the experience.

There's been a bit of a buzz recently about this play too, as emails have been sent out to ticket holders informing them that food is forbidden to be consumed during the performance, and that late comers will not be admitted until the interval or the extended scene break between acts two and three, (why this is a problem I don't know as quite frankly this should be the rule in all theatres all the time, we've experienced enough bad audience behaviour to back this wholeheartedly!).

The play itself is around three and a quarter hours including the interval proper and mini break, however it never drags and holds the attention superbly.

Having not seen the play before or the movie, a brief read of the synopsis so as not to spoil anything was all we had. It's basically played out over an evening and centres on a middle-aged couple, Martha and George, (Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill) who invite a younger couple, Nick and Honey, (Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots), over for drinks who are new to the university they work/live at, and examines the breakdown of their marriage throughout the evening which also draws in the younger couple and examines their seemingly idyllic relationship also.

This sounds a little heavy going we grant you, and can be, but there is a rich vein of black humour running throughout it all and the crackling script is delivered with aplomb by the whole cast, particularly Staunton and Hill who absolute shine in what can only be considered a masterclass in theatre.

The whole story line builds in tension and drama towards it's big climax which leaves you both emotionally drained but also sympathetic towards the characters and the journey we've taken with them.

This was a preview performance but it was performed impeccably and just proved what seasoned professionals the cast are.

It's on until the 27th of May, and really shouldn't be missed.

The Harold Pinter Theatre...

The fantastic cast of four...

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Our second theatre outing of the week was to The Old Vic for the revival of Tom Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead', another bargain-licious night out as we had scored some of the PwC £10 tickets as this was one of the first five previews, so we had some great seats in row J of the stalls.

Again this is one we haven't seen before, (although Miss Culture studied it in drama darling...).

Described as an 'absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy' this could put some off! It's based around two minor characters from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and expands on the characters through seeing them in the scenes within 'Hamlet' and then what happens to them when not in that story line but 'in the wings' as such, however without any knowledge as to what's going on between their appearances as they have not story line written for them so they are left in a kind of limbo state.

It's quite confusing to try and describe and makes more sense when seen played out, although a knowledge of 'Hamlet' is probably quite important too as it helps keep up with what is playing out in the Shakespeare story line and how things are progressing.

This is quite a high profile revival due to the involvement of Daniel Radcliffe which has drawn in the Harry Potter crowds, which will hopefully be a good thing and get some younger audiences into the theatre.

Along with Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire makes up the lead duo, (we'd previously seen McGuire in 'Privacy' at the Donmar and 'Future Coneditional' at The Old Vic), and once again he was fantastic, providing the majority of the sarcasm and laughs. Radcliffe was also impressive playing the more clueless of the pair, although proved his comedy and acting chops too.

Although the play was stolen in our view by David Haig as The Player, who's exuberant and animated performance stole every scene he was in.

There are lots of laughs which come pretty steadily throughout, although as stated before if Shakespeare and the willingness to embrace the existential nature isn't your thing it could be a little hard going.

The lovely artwork for the show...

However if all this sounds like it floats your boat it well worth catching, although it won't be for everyone.

It's on until the 29th of April, but tickets are selling pretty quick so be fast.

D*Face VNA Ltd Edition Launch

Miss C was out on Thursday night doing some wedding planning related activities so on my way to a gig I stopped by the launch of the limited edition of the latest issue of Very Nearly Almost magazine, featuring street artist D*Face as the cover star, (you may recognise his work from the latest blink182 album cover).

I've purchased the magazine before but haven't attended a launch, however I was keen to get my hands on one of the 150 copies available with screen printed cover and print.

It was being held at D*Face's biker cafe, Rebels Alliance just off of Brick Lane and basically involved joining a queue of other fans, (and some inevitable 'flippers' hoping to buy a copy then flip for a massive profit on eBay).

A D*Face piece outside the cafe...

A D*Face Marilyn Monroe canvas with the iconic wings...

The limited edition in all it's glory...

Anywho, I managed to get one eventually, and didn't have to queue all afternoon like some people did apparently, and thought I'd bring his work to your attention if you like that kind of thing. Enjoy.

Charlotte Carpenter

So after my little detour to Shoreditch, it was on to Dalston and The Victoria pub/venue to see a show by a great singer/songwriter Charlotte Carpenter.

She's released a few EPs up until now, which can be found on the usual places for streaming/buying, my particular favourite being 'How Are We Ever To Know?' from last year.

The Victoria itself is quite a nice chilled venue, a pub in the front and the music is in a room in the back with a stage, quite intimate which was perfect for this type of music and the sound was pretty good too.

Charlotte herself, backed by her band comprising a guitarist and drummer, who also provided some backing vocals, was pretty darn great.

Her delicate but soulful voice compliments the bluesy, stripped back sound which allows the lyrics to shine, but always coupled with a nice memorable harmony.

Charlotte bathed by the pinky lighting...

However that's not to say she doesn't have more up tempo tunes, such as 'Electric' and 'Fire', which showcased a little Fiona Apple in her voice, but all the while showcasing a sound which deserves to be heard and celebrated.

A captivating stage presence...

The more delicate songs also allowed Carpenter to showcase her vulnerability and knack for an affecting story within her songs, such as 'Lately' and 'Contracts'.

Strong songs coupled with a beautiful voice meant the whole gig was captivating and shows that she's a talent to watch out for.

Check the link at the top of the page for more info.

That's it for this week, but next time we'll have some cult theatre, some art and more live music. Until then, get inspired...