Justitia @ Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre

I was lucky enough to be able to go to the press showing of ‘Justitia’* – the new production by the Jasmin Vardimon Company. Billed as a dance piece, I would say Justitia was more of a movement heavy physical theatre piece – there was a very strong crime story line running through the piece that you don’t often see in modern dance.

The concept of the show was really interesting – exploring the justice system, the audience were asked to be the jury in a murder trial, and were ‘played’ the various scenarios that may have lead to the crime. Being physical dance theatre, this was a hugely evocative and powerful way to explore such themes as rape, crimes of passion, marriage and abortion. There was also a sub-theme running through the whole piece about the power of words. During various scenes the court stenographer’s notes were projected onto a screen, questioning whether something happened because she wrote it or vice-versa. It is safe to say the whole piece had a truly harrowing edge to it.

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The set was phenomenal – there were 3 sections on a rotating platform, a living room, a dining room and one representing the court and a therapy room with chairs stacked into the wall. The space was incredibly well used, with doors allowing seamless movement between sections. Similarly the music was fabulously chosen –  a mixture of well known songs (such as Bridge over Troubled Water) and beautiful electronic music. And the Pac-Man theme song with a dubstep backtrack. That was very cool.

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In terms of the choreography there is very little I can fault. Each character had their own movements, and there were various motifs running through the piece that tied everything together. There was a perfect balance between straight dance sequences, more symbolic sections and proper physical theatre that allowed the story to be told without the audience every forgetting that these are dancers, not actors. My favourite character was the court stenographer. She had a very animalistic feel to her movements – everything was very low and smooth. The murder victim also had a very interesting movement style, which seemed to be based on a 70s sleaze-ball/ breakdancer which made for an hilarious combination. All the dancers were fantastic – it sounds silly but they were just SO physical; jumping, leaping and falling to the floor with incredible ease and lacking any fear.

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What was lovely about this piece, other than the sheer beauty of it, was that the entire company has just moved to Ashford in Kent, where the performance was created. The council has effectively given the company a disused sports centre where they plan to create a dance school and permanent rehearsal space for the company. Listening to everyone talk with such enthusiasm about this project was really inspiring and the work they are planning to put into the area and the community really shows how valuable creative spaces are. I was lucky enough to meet Jasmin, who is a wonderfully gracious and lovely lady, and I really wish them all the best!

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*Justitia was playing just for the week at the Peacock Theatre, but do look out for more performances from this very exciting dance company.

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A Suggestion

I wrote an article for my friend’s online arts magazine Palmarium entitled ‘The Rise of the Fool’. It would be lovely if you could give it a read!

http://www.palmarium-magazine.com/w13-riseofthefool.html

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September 16, 2013 · 5:36 pm

Music of the Moment

After a summer of culture I have got quite a few new top songs, and an old favourite! Here are my top 5 of the moment:

1. Disclosure

After seeing these guys at Latitude, I can firmly call myself a fan! They’re clever brand of electro-pop is great to dance or chill-out to.

2. Matt Corby

I finally got round to buying the Into the Flame album, and as suspected I loved it. My favourite song has to be Resolution.

3. Katy Perry

I fluctuate between loving and hating Katy Perry. But her new song Roar is exactly the version of her I love to see – empowered, talented and with a good message. It is so far from California Girls, or Peacock, and much closer to Firework. Although I have to say the video is a little over long…

4. Ellie Goulding

I don’t normally like Ellie Goulding, but her new album has very much changed my mind. In particular, Anything Could Happen makes me very happy and relaxed.

5. Adele

This month I have spent a lot of time on trains, and my favourite relaxing train music is the sweet tones of Adele’s singing. I love so many of her songs, but one of the best has to be Crazy for You.

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West Side Story @ Sadler’s Wells

I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend to see the Sadler’s Wells production of West Side Story. I am a huge fan of the film version, but have never seen a stage performance, so was really excited to see one of my favourite musicals live on stage.

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I have to say, unfortunately, I was not blown away. Many of the singers were very good, especially Tony and Anita, and the choreography, following the original by Jerome Robbins, was superb. However much of the actual dancing was pretty lacklustre, and the actor playing Riff wasn’t obviously the strongest singer or dancers in the Jets group. Indeed one of the most enjoyable songs was “Gee, Officer Krupke”, in which Riff doesn’t feature. However, the performances were generally strong, and really picked up in the second act. The ending in particular brought me to tears – Maria was exceptionally powerful in the final scenes.

I think my main problem with the stage version of West Side Story is that I just prefer it in film. While the choreography is fantastic, much of the ‘fighting’ requires way too much set up for my liking, and this makes a lot of the main scenes lose pace. It is very obvious where the film has changed scenes around or cut them out altogether, and I think in some places this was for the better. There was a rather strange dream sequence where Tony and Maria envisage a world where everyone gets along. While this is a good message it didn’t seem to fit into the flow of the musical in general. However it did showcase the style of dance that seemed to come most naturally to the cast, which was nice to see.

This review may seem quite negative, but I have to say I did enjoy West Side Story, and I am very glad I have experienced the original stage version. I suspect the problem was just that it did not quite live up to my expectations, and I think that is quite a typical problem with ‘summer stock’ performances.

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

I essentially decided to read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy because I really enjoyed the film, and I always think it’s good to experience a story in all its forms. However, either I had not watched the film carefully enough, or they changed it drastically from the book – there was very little that I could correlate between the book and what I remember of the film.

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Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the book. It is a very cleverly written spy-mystery-thriller, the twists and turns were convincing enough not to be ridiculous. Not only was this aspect of the story really gripping, but the characters were wonderfully explored as well. I built up a sympathy for a lot of the characters, which I think can be an uncommon feature of a book of this genre. In particular, I found I really felt for George Smiley and Bill Roach, the characters who seemed most aware of others. The other aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the feeling of insight you got into the world of the Secret Services. Considering le Carré is writing an almost auto-biographical story of his own betrayal as an MI6 agent in the 1960s, the precision and detail in his descriptions of the workings of MI6 are unsurprising.

Overall I think Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is a really well-written, thrilling book that I just enjoyed a lot!

I have now just started Atonement, by Ian McEwan (continuing the theme of original books of films that I like), so watch out for my review of that!

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Edinburgh #3

The last two weeks in Edinburgh were very busy, and I’m pleased to say I kept to my promise of seeing a lot more shows! I also unfortunately succumbed to the inevitable, and got Fringe flu, but now I am back home and recovering. I have seen a really great mix of shows, so lets get on with the list:

McNeil & Pamphilon Go 8-bit – this was one of our shows that I was very excited to see. Essentially it consisted of a group of comedians playing old video games, drinking and doing forfeit challenges. Despite the fact that I am too young to remember any of the games played (the original Mario Kart, Streetfighter and Bomberman) I got really into the show, shouting and chanting with everyone else.

Ben Moor: Each of us – this is probably my favourite show of the fringe. Ben Moor is billed as a comedian, but the show is more performance storytelling than anything else. All I can really say is that Moor delivers a truly beautiful show, and I am exceedingly glad that he was selling a book of it, because there were so many lines I had wanted to note down.

John Kearns (winner of best newcomer) – I was taken to see Kearns straight after seeing Ben Moor and the contrast was staggering. Equally brilliant, Kearns’ show was a strange mixture of character comedy, stand up and general weirdness – all of which he acknowledges through the show. Even though I didn’t really understand what I had seen, I knew I loved it!

The Wrestling II – The Wrestling is a one off show where comedians and professional wrestlers actually wrestle each other. It is a weird and wonderful combination that makes for a very high intensity night if screaming and laughing.

Johnny & the Baptists – A very good musical comedy show with plenty of talent and laughs! They are also very lovely guys, which always helps.

Cariad & Paul – This improv duo (one of ours) are absolutely fantastic at what they do. Taking one word from the audience as a prompt to get the creative juices flowing, they invent a show based around the development of a few scenes over an hour. Not only does this in itself just blow my mind, but the actual scenes were also really entertaining and different enough that it didn’t ever feel like they were falling back on stock material.

Men – This play was done by TapTap Theatre which is a Bristol based theatre company. The acting and story were all very good, but I found the play in general overly sweary. It very much felt that the writer had equated anger and intensity with swear word, which I often find lessens their effect. However considering the playwright was 20 when she wrote Men I can understand this slightly immature approach to realism.

Bristol Revunions: Elegant Nymphs – One of my very good friends is in the Bristol sketch comedy group, and I was really happy to be able to see him perform! I really liked the show in general, although I think the framing device of having it be Nymphs trying to break out of their stereotype was a bit misused.

Tim Key: Work in Progress – I only saw Tim Key because I had some time to kill while my friend finished her shift, and he wasn’t sold out. I am very glad I did! The show was a mixture of stand up, weird poetry and general bizarreness (including a woman periodically appearing from a mattress on stage and dancing). It was a great show, and I would love to see the finished product.

Bo Burnham: What – I thought Bo Burnham was genius, and he is definitely in the running for my favourite show! His songs are extremely clever, his poems hilarious and his sarcastic and cynical personality really works with my sense of humour.

Take it Interns – this was a musical brought up by a student run production company (1945 productions) from Bristol. Overall I thought it was really good – the story line, following a group of badly chosen interns at an advertising company, was silly and clever at the same time. For the most part the musical performances were solid, although a few of the actors were clearly not natural singers, and some of the harmonies were not to my taste.

Peacock & Gamble: Heart-Throbs – I don’t think this comedy duo are really my thing. Although I generally enjoyed the show, their odd brand of sketch/ double act comedy didn’t really appeal to me on the night. It was really funny though to see them make each other corpse, a part of comedy shows that I often enjoy the most!

Set List (With Paul Foot, Adam Bloom, Ahir Shah, Matt Okine & others) – I really liked the concept of Set List – comedians are given random items from their imaginary set lists and have to perform stand-up about it. The only problem is that stand-up comedians aren’t known for their improv skills, so you get a very mixed bag of success. Luckily on my night a couple people really rose to the challenge, in particular Ahir Shah and Paul Foot.

Beardyman: One Album Per Hour – Pretty much all I have to say about Beardyman is WOW. Not only is he an incredible beat-boxer, singer, rapper, producer and general lovely guy – he can genuinely create a completely improvised album in an hour. It blew my mind.

Fullmooners (Paulmooners) – This was a charity gig for Paul Byrne, Ed Byrne’s brother who was very sadly diagnosed with cancer on the 2nd day of the Fringe. The Fullmooners concept was created by Paul with Andrew Maxwell and so they put a benefit gig together in just 2 weeks. It was a fantastical funny and emotional gig, with many of the comedians giving little speeches at the end of their sets about Paul.

Comedy Countdown – this show is effectively a low budget Countdown with comedians. Paper and a clipboard are used instead of letter cards, and the clock is in fact David Morgan. It was a really fun set up, and yet again, I got far too into the spirit of the game.

Ben Van der Velde: Chain Letter – My final Edinburgh show was that of my now good friend Ben. Part stand-up, part storytelling, Chain Letter is the story of his attempt to reinvent the hand written letter. It was a funny and heartwarming show that left me very happy. A perfect way to end the Fringe!

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Edinburgh #2

This week has felt a lot busier – we have finished with most of the 241 and preview deals so we are trying to get people to part with more money to see the shows – a much harder sell I’m sure you’d agree. Still I have managed to see some shows, and am still impressed with the standard:

Sad Faces… Threw a party – This is one of our shows, but I did manage to catch it and had a great time. The premise is that Sad Faces have thrown a party with the audience as the guests, and it all goes wrong! A really fun show, and you get party bags at the end.

Matt Forde: The political party – a really good satire show from an ex Labour lobbyist who does some spot on impressions!

Greg Proops (podcast recording) – although we didn’t see Proops do his proper stand up, I really enjoyed the podcast recording. He has some interesting opinions and still manages to keep the ‘show’ funny and entertaining despite the slightly odd format. Although I would still like to see his stand up, I definitely think I will be catching up on his other podcasts.
School Night (variety) – the premise for this show is very fun; various comedians come on to ‘teach’ the audience things – we had sociology, French, PE and psychology this time around, and it was really good fun!

Late Night Gimp Fight – this 5 man sketch group make such a fun, ridiculous and weird show! Normal sketch comedy is interspersed with videos made by the ‘gimps’ who help the comedians with scene changes. It is a great late night show to catch if you are looking for something a bit silly!

Hot Dub Time Machine – this is more of a club night, but I think it still deserves a mention considering its popularity. A song is played from every year from the 1950s to now. It was such a fun night; you were twisting, MC Hammer-ing and raving all in one night, it was great! I think the night travels around, so catch it if you can!

Although I have really enjoyed everything I have seen so far nothing has been particularly mind-blowing, I think mainly because I have only seen comedy shows up till now. Luckily my day off is coming up very soon, and I am planning to see a lot more theatre in the next week!

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