Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

I don’t review shows often here because I rarely see anything I enjoy enough. However:

I went to see Matilda the Musical at the beginning of November, I had been anticipating it for a while, and meant to see it at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon where it premièred last year, being temporarily immersed in Sligo (like water or mud) prevented me. Anyway. I arrived after a mad rush down Earlham Street, and took my seat very conscious that I could be soon very disappointed. I wasn’t.

Matilda the musical is the best night I’ve spent in the theatre, clever, entertaining, original and faithful to the book. It captured perfectly, Roald Dahl’s mischievous humour. I realise by this point that everyone has talked about Bertie Carvel but I have to as well. He turns Miss Trunchball into a fully rounded, utterly despicable, 3D character with every bit as much depth  as Hamlet. Unlike Hamlet, Miss Trunchball is a character you want to watch. Musicals with this level of intelligence and craft are rare, the West End is filled with plotless jukebox musicals, movie adaptations and outdated long runners. It’s great to see something original for a change.

I can’t list everything that I loved about this show, just go see it, I’d imagine it’ll be extending for a few years to come and I can’t recommend it enough.

I sincerely hope that Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly continue to work together, the West End is safe in their hands.

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Last week I went to the Modeselektor gig at the Twisted Pepper in Dublin. I’ll admit that I knew only one of the DJs playing, Joy Orbison, who’s music I follow and enjoy.

I enjoy electronic music, but equally I know that my knowledge is very much limited to what I know and enjoy, as with many NORMAL music listening people, it takes time to discover music in a way that isn’t forced, but serendipitous. I’m not the type of person that sits on my computer all day trying to discover music, I have far too many things that I do, and I enjoy a healthy life away from my computer.

So the Modeselektor gig. Electronic music fanatics believe the electro scene is split in to two groups: them and ‘hipsters’, I had no concept of what a ‘hipster’ is and I’m still non the wiser. So this very black and white electro world apparently has no place for me, the fairly average guy who has many interests, but likes to go and see DJs now and again.

People behave in two ways when they meet people who share a similar interest to them: they continually struggle with that person to demonstrate their superior knowledge while outwardly being friends (like Verruca Salt and Violet Beauregarde), or dismiss their interest as feigned, merely trend following. And this happened at the Modeselektor gig I went to. The friend I went with is INCREDIBLY knowledgable and passionate about electronic music (I personally could not be arsed with that level of dedication) and he met a group of notably older electro fans there, I found their response a little bit surprising, immediately suspicious, immediately making sure it was clear that this was their exclusive club. How far removed this is from the early days of the electro scene fuelled by Ecstacy in an openly accepting environment. I’m not advocating drug taking, but it’s obviously still a large part of the scene, yet without the most essential benefit: acceptance. Like a giant comedown paranoia is seeping through the walls… See here for perfect example from Human Traffic… (Expect strong drug reference and strong naughty language)

I expect electronic music will reinvent itself as it has continued to do over the past thirty/ fourty years or so, and the previous generation will grow beyond a point where they can attend and police gigs in the fascist like manner they do at the moment.

I went to see an amateur production of The History Boys last week, I’d been to see it in Jan 07 at Wyndham’s in London… with Ben Barnes as Dakin… I enjoyed the first act, but the second I found completely absurd, the low point being the moment when Dakin asks the teacher if he wants to ‘suck him off’… I know Alan Bennett is gay, but is it really necessary to force homosexuality on an audience play after play? I mean fair enough if his plays were aimed at a mainly ‘gay audience’, but they’re not. His continual reference to homosexuality frankly wears thin.

Infact the only Alan Bennett play I’ve ever enjoyed was a touring production of Enjoy, which played at York Theatre Royal a few years ago. It was expectedly weird and fairly clever, but even still had a transvestite and gay character. I want to make it clear that I’m not homophobic in any way whatsoever, I just think that it is of no benefit to anyone to present gay/bi/trans characters in a non realistic way, the story (and I’m all about story) loses its credability, it doesn’t ‘normalise’ sexual diversity infact it alienates it further. His play for the National Theatre in 2010 was about an Oxford Don and a rent boy…

I think generally Bennett is overated as a playwright. I didn’t understand the hype that surrounded The History Boys, even when it originally opened. I think to an extent theatre appeals to middle class audiences because they think they have to like certain writers to be considered ‘cultured’, but what happened to the idea that ‘you’re only as good as your last play’? It doesn’t seem to exist with the big name playwrights (Aykborne, Godber, Stoppard included), excluding critics of course.

NB. I preferred the amateur production of The History Boys to the National Theatre production.

Moby popularised electronic music. He did this by creating a very distinct style, with his first successful album Play having a strong ambient feel. This was the worlds first commercial taste of ambient sound, when it appeared in the early noughties it captured the New York/ eastern influenced atmosphere that was impacting western society, a society interested in new age culture. I discovered Moby while I was still at school… For me, a boy never particularly interested in metal and the type of rock that was popular at the time, it was perfect, I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer so the ambient aspect appealed greatly, the richness of the sound, the more sophisticated quality of composition. It was Moby who introduced me to the Electro Genre, an interest which grew wider and further towards the upbeat end.

These days what I particularly love about Moby is the amazing variation of style on each album. My first Moby album was 18, the one after Play, which was heavily ambient then Hotel which again was largely ambient. There was a largeish gap between Hotel and the next new release, and in this time I explored Moby’s back catalogue: I like to Score, Everything is Wrong, Animal Rights and Ambient. This was an entirely new musical education for me as the early albums really help to see the progression in Moby’s work from House towards ambient. Last Night released in 2008 was a tribute to the New York dance scene, a couple of tracks having a heavy disco influence, appealing greatly to House lovers and showing that Moby is a skilled electro all-rounder.

So to the upcoming album Destroyed. Yes an appropriately unusal title, I strongly recommend you download the EP he released, available for free download from moby.com. If this is anything to go by, it promises to be closer in style to 18/ Hotel than the previous two albums Last Night and Wait For Me.  Be The One is a fantastic track and I know that come the middle of May I will be first in line in the music store.

Twenty year old Nicolas Jaar has my respect. The American Electronic music scene seriously lacks the excitement of the European scene, in this one aspect at least, Europe leads the way in creating experimental electronic music, and pushing and evolving the genre it created and nurtured. What interests me inparticular is the grass roots music that is artists at the beginning of their careers pushing their particular sound, a different take on the stuff playing most of the clubs in Germany, London, Paris (and now to an increasing extent Dublin). Ramadanman who I was only recently introduced to definitely does this, I went to see him play a set in Dublin last month, and was inpressed with his distinctive twist on dubstep that he wove into a varied but seamless set.

But New York born Nicolas Jaar creates a sound that is impossible to define, I’m struggling to fit him into a particular category, with a particular genre label because frankly he doesn’t fit into one… This excites me, I think far too many mainstream artists, as they become more established particularly, get scared of being more experimental with their music, of incorporating other sounds, crossing over into other genres and sub-genres, the result of this is fairly ‘samey’ music. Maybe it’s his age then that makes (can I call you Nic?) Nic Jaar’s work so appealing to me? A real wealth of sound across a variety of genres (house, disco, dubstep, bhangra!? et al),  something about being young, indecisive and exploritary, that causes this, but whatever it is, please don’t stop Nic I love it! So maybe the US is finally going to become a challenger to the European scene. What I’d really love to see is a completely fresh scene that is perhaps a little bit less preoccupied with image, because from an outsider that’s how it looks… A music revolution!? Maybe not.

Check out some of Nicolas Jaar’s stuff on youtube…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y_ikBmNeRU&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bmG8hgDyP0&feature=related

I missed the performance by the RSC, but thought I’d read the play anyway. I’m not sure why writers feel they need to swear so much on stage, I find it a bit embarrassing… My language is fairly profane in person, but in my writing I rarely swear, it becomes less believable I think and also restricts the expression and renders if less effective… Interestingly I do think there’s a difference between swearing on stage and on film… As film is (in many cases) supposed to be a visual representation of ‘a life’ or ‘lives’ it sits better, and generally I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if a character came out with a long line of profanities, but on stage it just looks like the writer is trying too hard.

Literally every second word in The Gods Weep is a swear word. Which is most definitely overkill. I found it distracted me from the plot with the result that I didn’t notice it was a reworking of King Lear until the death of the mirror character of Cordelia at the end. On the whole it was a good piece of work, but I wonder how it would have sat with the hideously middle class RSC audiences? Would they have embraced each ‘c word’ as ‘valid vocabulary in the execution of art’? or winced with horror every time? Maybe I’m straying perilously close to being classist. I’ll get off my soap box now. It was good, though maybe fewer profanities wouldn’t be a bad thing…

I went to see John Gabriel Borkeman at the Abbey Theatre on Thursday night. I’m not the biggest Ibsen fan, though I admit that this opinion may be the result of being surrounded by pretentious thesps for far too long, the kind that say ‘Yah! Yah! And did you see Opera North’s Don Giovanni? Frankly I don’t know why they bother, they’re just not The Royal Opera House!’ as they tail off into horse laughing.  I digress… John Gabriel Borkeman was one of the best evenings I’ve spent in the theatre for a long time. I always worry when I see celebrities in plays (it’s almost as if they think the play isnt enough to sell itself -whole different debate), and this cast was stellar; Alan Rickman in the title role, Fiona Shaw as his wife and Lindsay Duncan as his ex-fiance. Fiona Shaw belongs in a league of her own, she embodies a role completely, her voice, her expression, her posture -she never stops acting for a single moment, there really is nobody quite like her. I wondered whether I’d be able to believe Alan Rickman’s acting, having seen him play so many different characters on screen, but it was. He delivered his opening monolgue impecabley, you could have heard a pin drop nobody was moving in the audience. Lindsay Duncan is an interesting performer to watch, she rarely alters her facial expressions, I noticed it in the BBC/ HBO TV series Rome, that she didn’t in that either, which makes it more effective when she plays emotion, it adds a chilling dimention to her performance which is of course perfect in Borkeman as she’s playing a spurned woman reaching later middle age.

My only real criticsm of this production of Borkeman was the snow on stage. I’m a big fan of Snow Business -the company that supplies snow effects for theatre and film, they have machines that can create truly beautiful, realistic snow effects, they’re also pretty much industry standard, so why why why didn’t the design team use them? Huge areas of the stage was covered in polystyrene balls… the type you fill bean bags with, I’ve worked on shows where this is used and it’s horrid stuff that sticks to clothes with static and is really difficult to brush off… And that’s what happened to Fiona Shaw’s costume as she walked around the parlour set (snow was lining the front of the stage). But this is just nit picking really, I can’t honestly say there was an aspect of the production that I didn’t like, definitely the best show I’ve seen in the Abbey in a while.

It’s on for another two weeks… Go see it if you get the chance it’s well worth the money!