Wednesday 24 May 2017

Some fantastic theatrical drama, comedy and music, plus some live music from a 70s legend's new project...

15th May - 21st May 2017

Those Pretty Wrongs - Thousand Island (Previously Upstairs At The Garage)

Unfortunately we were unable to get to a couple of our planned exploits due to 'circumstances beyond our control', however there was till plenty to enjoy, so...

Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour

To read the description of this play, it may sound a little bizarre...

A group of Scottish Catholic school girls take a school trip to Edinburgh to take part in a choir competition, however they plan to sneak out and explore the nightlife whilst there, involving many strange characters, lots of alcohol, sex and much hilarious profanity, all performed by six hugely talented actresses who play all the roles... Oh and are prone to break into pop songs, mainly by ELO throughout, backed by a three piece band...

Trust us though, it's brilliant...

We had front row tickets in the upper circle and as the Duke of York's Theatre is quite small they were great, you could all the stage and never felt too far away from the action, bargain priced too!

The action plays out on a single set, which comprises a dance floor type area with a stage at the back, which the band inhabit and is sometimes used by the cast, and there is on stage seating available for some audience members at the sides at bar tables.

Although there's singing and songs in the show it's not really a musical, more a play with some songs, and great songs at that. The six girls' voices complement each other very well and the harmonies are superb.

The chemistry between the cast is also evident, you really get the sense of camaraderie between them and they interactions are very natural and just as you'd expect some teenage girls to be, with plenty of crude language and talk about sex and drinking. That's not to say there isn't any drama too, as the characters back stories are explored and it all adds to the richness of the piece as the various lots in life that the girls have been dealt shape their attitudes, behaviours and interactions with each other.

It runs about one hour and forty five minutes with no interval but flies by.

It's overall a touching, frequently hilarious and uplifting evening and well worth seeing, breathing a breath of fresh air into the current theatre landscape. It's on until the 2nd of September.

The Play That Goes Wrong

On Thursday night we decided to take in a play that's been on for several months in the West End now, but we'd never got round to seeing.

Having heard comparisons to 'The 39 Steps' which resided at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus, (currently home to 'Comedy About A Bank Robbery' by the same theatre group as this show), and it's madcap brand of slapstick farcical comedy we were intrigued, as we'd really enjoyed that one.

One of the signs outside the theatre...

This show was at the Duchess Theatre just off Strand, another of the older London theatres which still has a lot of the original features, including the box seats we'd booked for the performance, which were at the back of the circle, however not being a large theatre meant it didn't impede the view at all.

The show kind of starts before it actually starts with 'stage hands' trying to get the set ready with a variety of mishaps and disasters occurring, which at one point involved a member of the audience to be roped in to help much to their dismay!

The premise of the play is that it is a amateur dramatic performance of an Agatha Christie style murder mystery, however cast tensions, hammy acting and a death trap of a set all conspire to make the production a disaster from the off, which just snowballs...

The physical comedy is as much a part of proceedings as the verbal exchanges and it's all executed with gusto by all concerned, in the fine tradition of British stiff upper-lip-ness and carrying on regardless...

If things like 'Fawlty Towers' or 'One Man Two Guvnors' and slapstick comedy floats your boat then you'll get a kick out of this, we do so found it very entertaining.

Those Pretty Wrongs

So on Friday night we headed over to Islington and the newly refurbished Upstairs At The Garage, now known as Thousand Island, (after a cracking dinner at Meat Liquor down the road), to see ex-Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and singer-songwriter/producer Luther Russell in their latest project Those Pretty Wrongs.

The support for this show was by Ned Roberts a British folk singer who p[layed a quite captivating set, and we'll definitely be checking out his stuff in due course.

Although the debut album has a full band sound, these shows are just Stephens and Russell on vocals, with Russell playing acoustic guitar, however the quality of the songs and performance mean that in a way these are the perfect showcase for the material.

During Stephens' time in Big Star he obviously showed he had a knack for harmonies and his songwriting contributions were always strong, something he again showed during the Big Star reunion era and in his brief time with Golden Smog, (a 'supergroup' featuring members of Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks and Wilco to name but a few). In fact they even played a Golden Smog song at this show, for those that care, yeah I know, pretty awesome...

The bulk of the show was a performance of the whole of the album in order, plus the b-side to their initial 7" release, they also squeezed in an Andy Hummel song, (another member of Big Star), and some Big Star tunes too, in fact they played both of Mr C's favourites, 'Ballad Of El Goodo' and the superb 'Thirteen', (Roberts joined in on Harmonica and vocals for the last couple of songs which was great).

Particular stand outs from the album are the tracks 'Lucky Guy', 'Thrown Away' and 'Never Goodbye', and hearing them live with Jody Stephens' emotive vocals and Luther Russell's backing was a real treat.

We even got to meet them and got a copy of the album signed.

Next week sees a smattering of film talk and some live music, till then, get inspired...

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Some American pop music, some cult cinema, some urban art and some dangerous comedy...

8th May - 14th May 2017

The Art Yard Sale - Jubilee Square, Brighton

After two weeks away on honeymoon, we were back into the cultural flow of things with a varied week of activities, so let's get started...

BUG : American Pop Video Art Special

After taking most of the week to recover from a busy holiday, our first outing for the week wasn't until the Friday, and was a special BUG show by Adam Buxton, (usually held at the BFI), to coincide with the current exhibition there 'The American Dream : Pop To The Present', (which we've got on our list to see).

The show followed the usual format of the regular shows, showing music videos on the big screen, interspersed with info about how/why/when they were made, a look at YouTube commentators views on said videos and Buxton's bonkers skits, all delivered in his usual ramshackle-ish but entertaining style.

We've been to BUG specials before centred on David Bowie and The Beatles, so knew we were in for affectionate tongue in cheek dissections of some of the more amusing aspects of the videos, (whether intentional or not), whilst maintaining a respect for the artistry employed in these mini masterpieces.

The show worked through a variety of genres mainly chronologically and took in some of the biggest names and most well known and loved videos which helped cement the music video as an artistic medium all it's own.

Included were such established classics as Michael Jackson's 'Beat It', Madonna's 'Material Girl', Bob Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', through to more modern efforts such as Missy Elliott's 'Work It' and the a look at the various efforts of viral music video veterans OK Go.

As usual Buxton also managed to scour the YouTube comments section to provide some laughs with just a brief look at the sometimes self-important but always mad as cheese discussions to be found on certain videos, including REM's 'Everybody Hurts' and Katy Perry's comeback single 'Chained To The Rhythm'.

Buxton's ability to intersperse his self made comedic video effects and elements also proves to be one of the format's major selling points as he frequently produces hilarious skits completely out of left field.

This show was only performed a couple of times for this exhibition, although the Bowie special went on to have a life beyond it's BFI debut so who knows if this will transfer too, the next regular BUG55 is at the BFI Southbank in June and is booking now so be quick as it's super popular.

A Clockwork Orange

On Saturday we decided to take in a matinee at The Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square, a great independent cinema which has a great track record for it's eclectic programming, and varied seasons which afford the ample opportunity to catch plenty of bona-fide classics on the big screen.

After catching the theatre version of 'A Clockwork Orange' recently at the Park Theatre, and Mrs C not having seen it properly this seemed like the perfect opportunity to see it, and from a 35mm print no less which is always a worthwhile experience. It was being shown as part of the current 'Stanley Kubrick 1962 - 199 On Film' season, which still has screenings coming up of 'The Shining', 'Barry Lyndon', 'Full Metal Jacket' and 'Eyes Wide Shut' if the idea of big screen Kubrick floats your boat, (which it should!).

It was being exhibited in the larger downstairs screen, which has just been refurbished with new seats.

It's a great little cine-literate cinema with even further savings to be had on ticket prices with one of their very reasonably priced memberships, so a win-win for those who like their cinema, they also screen many films which receive limited distribution in the UK and host other events, for instance at Christmas last year we attended a screening of 'Gremlins' with Zach Galligan in attendance, (out review can be read here).

The print, as expected has all the hallmarks of it's age, but that only added to the experience as it's inherent film quality still trumps a pristine overly cleaned digital presentation any day, especially fitting in that the film grain and dirt added to the vibe that the film gives off too.

Set in an implied dystopian future in England, the film centres on Alex DeLarge and his gang of thugs, known as Droogs, (the film is superbly eloquent it's adoption and seamless use of Anthony Burgess' 'Nadsat' language created for the original novel of the story, which fuses elements of Russian and traditional English dialogue, which is surprisingly easy to understand and has been influential in many other mediums, most notably by David Bowie up to and including on a track on his final album 'Black Star').

It explores their nightly sprees of 'ultra-violence' and delinquency which culminates in Alex suffering betrayal at the hands of his gang, which sets him on the road to prison and a pioneering 'rehabilitation' which is not as successful as initially expected, with troubling consequences...

Mr C had read the novel back in the early nineties while the film was still out of circulation, (it was never banned as often claimed, just withdrawn by Kubrick over knee-jerk accusations of copycat violence and threats towards his family), and had seen it via a copy on VHS obtained via less than ideal channels... However after Kubrick's death in 1999 it was reclassified for release.

The film itself explores themes of morality, psychology and questions whether controls of peoples behaviours or choices is a good thing regardless of the choices a person may be free to make.

Although intended to be in a futuristic setting, the film isn't presented in a science fiction style, however some of the costumes have dated, however the story and themes remain relevant as ever, and whilst it may not be a comfortable watch, hell, not even a full on entertaining watch in the traditional sense it's still powerful and certainly proved Kubrick had the ability to make even the most unpalatable or seemingly unfilmable an very worthwhile artistic reality nonetheless.

Having caught 'The Shining' and '2001 : A Space Odyssey' on the big screen before we can heartily recommend any Kubrick in the cinema setting so maybe give one a go while the season's still on!

The Art Yard Sale

On Sunday morning we set off on a jaunt down to Brighton for the second Art Yard Sale, hosted by Art Republic.

We'd been to the similarly formatted Art Car Boot Fair just off of Brick Lane a few times, however that had become a mad scrum of an event, seemingly by nefarious 'flippers', and last year attended the first of the Art Yard Sales and found it to be a much more sedate and worthwhile experience so were back for more bargains and chances to check out some fantastic new art.

the great thing about the Art Yard Sale is that there plenty on offer which is not only exclusive to the event but also at bargain prices.

Some of the artists involved were Pure Evil, (veteran street artist and print maker who gained popularity after his work appeared on 'The Apprentice'), Dan Hillier, (most recently produced the cover to the debut album by Royal Blood and also provided artwork for Shakespeare's Globe last season), RYCA, (has produced works with Norman Cook and is well known within the 'bootleg' toy market), Louise McNaught , (very talented artist who produces amazingly detailed paintings of animals, we bought a Bee painting of hers last year), Eelus, (a street artists who also produces pop culture influenced prints), Joe Webb, (a collage and print maker who mixes eclectic photos to produce spectacular prints), Roy's People, (an artist who places small figure in otherwise everyday locations to crate mini worlds) and Richard Berner, (a Brighton artists who produced intricate and whimsical drawings) to name a few.

With live screen printing and hand finished original being created on site it always an entertaining event to see the artists in action too.

We splashed out on a few pieces by RYCA, Richard Berner, Dan Hillier, Joe Webb and Roy's People which you can check out below...

Dan Hillier's 'Mother and Child'...

A couple of Dan Hillier mini prints, reminiscent of his work on the Royal Blood album...

A Joe Webb original postcard collage...

A RYCA original acrylic canvas acid face...

A RYCA 'bootleg' droid...

A Richard Berner original 'The Love Shack'...

Another Richard Berner, this time a print of his 'Love' piece...

A Roy's People edition, one of his mini people on a bottle cap...

The event will hopefully be on again next year and many of the artists have stuff available either through Art Republic or their own sites for good prices for getting into buying a bit of art to brighten up those dreary walls or replace that 'Pulp Fiction' or 'Trainspotting' poster from your school days... We've just got to find wall space now... A great day out!

Brian Conley - The Greatest Entertainer (In His Price Bracket)

We were back local on Sunday evening for a show at a local venue, the Beck Theatre.

Having both grown up watching the same Saturday evening TV staples, we were both nostalgic for particular favourite Brian Conley.

We saw his show here last year, and booked again as it was quite honestly one of the funniest nights we've experienced, and this time round didn't disappoint.

Conley has honed his skills performing comedy to a crowd which is evident by his lightning quick retorts and interaction with the audience, which are a little bluer than his television days, but had everyone in stitches with his rapid fire delivery and trademark sarcasm and larger than life personality.

His skits, including the violin performance and his fire eating prove that he has the gift for slapstick and visual comedy too.

He also performed a few songs from his theatre days, including numbers from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', 'Jolson', 'Barnum' and 'Oliver!', and also had a magician who performed a section of sleight of hand magic, which he invaded as his character Dangerous Brian to rapturous effect.

However it's Brian's physicality and his well honed joke telling skills which just prove that his absence from television is criminal and he'd be the perfect host of a prime time show.

Fortunately for us though it means we get to see shows like this which are a great night out.

If you hold any warm memories for Conley's back catalogue then this show is a must see!

Next week's a busy one with a trio of theatre, some live music and some artistic conversation. Until then, get inspired...