Archive | January, 2014

Re-enactments: It’s all gone Andy Warhol at Shoreditch Town Hall

30 Jan


There’s no danger of nodding off quietly in the back row during this interactive audio performance from ambitious young theatre company Analogue.

That’s in no small part because you’re not only expected to watch but to perform in it as well – the spectators are also the cast.

Audience members are issued with a pair of headphones as they arrive at the entrance to the atmospheric, labyrinthine basement of Shoreditch Town Hall in east London.

Instructions are then fed into their ears across the next 60 minutes as a series of prompts encourage them variously to rub sandpaper between their fingers, clink glasses in a toast and tear up pictures of sandwiches.

Liam Jarvis’s enigmatic tale of alienation is inspired by the postmodern matter and storytelling techniques of the film Synecdoche, New York and Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder. The narrator, who speaks via the headphones, is recovering from a severe brain…

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50 Great Things That Came Out Of The Midlands – 22: Arthur Seaton

30 Jan

Nottingham novelist Alan Sillitoe created the ultimate modern Midland folk hero when he penned his classic Angry Young Man novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958). Anti-hero Arthur Seaton is a fount of thrillingly rebellious quotations. Sheffield musical darlings Arctic Monkeys used one of Seaton’s most resonant phrases as the basis for the title of their album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, while Manc miserabilist Morrissey drew on the novel for his finest lyric, ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’. Which neatly illustrates a general truth: whenever (if ever) you think of something good about the North, it’s usually the Midlands you’re really thinking about. 


50 Great Things That Came Out Of The Midlands – The Sistine Chapel

29 Jan

Did you know that the Midlands is home to what archaeologists have recently dubbed ‘the Sistine Chapel of the Ice Age’? Creswell Crags, an unassuming-looking limestone gorge on the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border, contains the most extensive cache of prehistoric bas-reliefs anywhere in the world. The subject matter of the engraved images – created by modifying the natural limestone topography of the caves – includes animals as well as what appear to be the earliest human nudes in the history of British art. That’s right: Ice Age Midlanders invented BritArt.

Rapture, Blister, Burn, Hampstead Theatre: An engrossing tale of gender politics

27 Jan


Theatre review: Rapture, Blister, Burn at Hampstead Theatre

Gwen (Emma Fielding) is a stay-at-home mum. Things aren’t always easy – she’s had to give up drinking and her slacker college dean husband has a porn addiction – but she is satisfied with the compromises she’s made to keep her family together.

However, when her former roommate, childless academic star Catherine (Emilia Fox), comes calling, her desire for change gets the better of her, and the two women decide to make a trade.

There’s plenty of mischievous wit in Gina Gionfriddo’s seductively ambivalent play about the intellectual contortions of contemporary feminism, as once incendiary conflicting theories are debated with supreme mutual tolerance by three generations of women.

Peter DuBois’s smart staging boasts finely calibrated performances. As empowered ‘raunch feminist’ Avery and Catherine’s Martini-guzzling mother Alice, Shannon Tarbet and Polly Adams add the perspectives of youth and age.

The downside to so…

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You Me At Six’s Cavalier Youth: Bigger guitars, bigger choruses and bigger production

24 Jan


Review: You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth (BMG)

Despite the album title’s suggestion of juvenile insouciance, the Surrey quintet’s fourth outing sees them facing age-related anxieties.

‘We’re not young any more,’ sighs Josh Franceschi on opener Too Young To Feel This Old, while final cut Wild Ones closes with the repeated question: ‘Are we gonna live forever?’

So what exactly does musical maturity hold for a band cherished for delivering carefree blasts of pop-punk?

Bigger guitars, choruses and production appear to be the answer on this hummable  if not quite unforgettable set, recorded in LA and helmed by  Neal Avron (Fall Out Boy).

There are no metalcore vocal guests to counterpoint Franceschi’s Peter-Pan quiver, as on previous album Sinners Never Sleep, but Max Helyer produces a stream of dark-wave earworm guitar lines to stop things from ever getting too blandly anthemic.

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The Body Of An American is an intense two-hander that repays the viewer’s commitment

22 Jan


The longer we live, the more ghosts we have to share head space with. In Dan O’Brien’s play, the main protagonists are brought together by their sense of being haunted.

Real-life war photographer Paul Watson feels ‘owned’ by the dead US soldier whose body he photographed as it was dragged through a conflict zone, while the no less real-life writer Dan O’Brien (a character in his own play) feels haunted by his own younger self.

O’Brien’s intense, garrulous, poetic two-hander is a highly self-referential affair. Although it touches on many topics, including mental health and the ethics of photojournalism, the play is mostly about its own creation. It’s also a prize-heavy affair: the script won the 2013 PEN Award and the Edward M Kennedy Prize, while Watson’s image garnered him a Pulitzer.

James Dacre’s imaginative, minimal staging turns the Gate auditorium into a kind of viewing tunnel. Spectators are seated…

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50 Great Things That Came Out Of The Midlands – 49. Gravity

20 Jan

Midlanders are very grounded people, so it should come as little surprise that it was a Midlander who discovered gravity. Former Grantham schoolboy Sir Isaac Newton first hypothesized the inverse-square law of universal gravitation in his 1687 page-turner Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. As the noted versifier Alexander Pope wrote: ‘Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night; / God said “Let Newton be” and all was light.’ The Royal Society recently named humble Midlander Newton as the most influential scientist of all time (Einstein came second). Beat that, smarty-pants London!