Archive | February, 2014

The set-up of Ghost Stories is pleasingly simple but the stories could be more varied

28 Feb

Metro

Chris Levens as Simon in Ghost Stories (Picture: Alastair Muir) Chris Levens as Simon in Ghost Stories (Picture: Alastair Muir)

Theatre review: Ghost Stories, Arts Theatre

Given the vast popular appetite for being scared witless, the ghost story as a genre remains significantly under-exploited in the theatre. No wonder this self-indulgently old-fashioned confection, written by Jeremy Dyson (well known for his work with The League Of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman (Derren Brown’s co-writer), has enjoyed such enduring success with audiences in London, having already had stints at the Lyric Hammersmith and the Duke of York’s before taking up residence at the Arts Theatre.

The set-up has a pleasing simplicity about it. The unbroken 80-minute performance begins with a parapsychology professor named Goodman (Paul Kemp) standing at a lectern and essentially urging spectators to be sceptical about what they are shortly to see. Three supernatural tales are then related by ‘percipients’ – people who claim to have witnessed ghostly goings-on –…

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Album review: Bob Dylan, 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Metro)

28 Feb

Album review: Bob Dylan, 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Metro)

The Full Monty in the West End is life-enhancing – for one night, at least

26 Feb

Metro

Cast of The Full Monty in London's West End (Picture: Johan Persson) Cast of The Full Monty in London’s Noel Coward Theatre (Picture: Johan Persson)

Theatre review: The Full Monty at Noel Coward Theatre

The face and voice of Margaret Thatcher loom large in this tale of out-of-work Sheffield steelworkers who take up stripping to reassert their masculine worth. However, rather than the specifics of late 1980s politics, it’s the lurking presence of the Grim Reaper that really animates this full-frontal, feel-good show.

James Beaufoy’s script, adapted from his screenplay for the 1997 Britflick, is more workmanlike than inspirational. The men’s situations are schematically conceived: one has a problem with his wife; another with his son; another with depression; another with his sexuality. Their members are differentiated with similar diagrammatic precision: one is huge; another is tiny and cowering; one is overexcitable; another is totally dysfunctional.

There are plenty of laughs in Daniel Evans’s slick staging, although the storytelling can feel cartoonish…

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Marc Almond, Lo-Fang and Brad Mehldau: New albums this week

21 Feb

Metro

Marc Almond and John Harle The Tyburn Tree - a dark London song cycle (Picture: Nobby Clarke) Marc Almond and John Harle The Tyburn Tree – a dark London song cycle (Picture: Nobby Clarke)

John Harle and Marc Almond: The Tyburn Tree (Sospiro Noir)
3 star rating

Eighties pop stars have been giving the song cycle a makeover of late. Last year, Marillion’s Fish released A Feast Of Consequences, containing a moving suite about World War I.

Now Marc Almond, with saxophonist and composer John Harle, drops a concept album about the blood-stained recesses of historic ‘Dark London’.

Harle grew up listening to Pink Floyd and King Crimson, and there’s an audible prog-rock influence here, with a gothic-cabaret groove that might remind you of The Tiger Lillies.

The lyrics, penned by Almond or borrowed from the likes of William Blake, recount tales of ghoulish figures from the capital’s past.

If the project has a fault, it’s a lack of tonal variety – it’s almost all shade and no light, straining…

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Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic is a fine revival of apartheid classic

18 Feb

Metro

Tonderai Munyevu as Styles in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic (Picture: Richard Hubert Smith) Tonderai Munyevu as Styles in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic (Picture: Richard Hubert Smith)

Theatre review: Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic

What is your name worth to you? In this classic apartheid-era play from South Africa, a black man has to decide whether to switch identities with a dead man in order to evade the white authorities’ pass laws and find a job.

The script was devised in 1972 by Athol Fugard and its original performers, John Kani and Winston Ntshona.

Unsurprisingly, given this genesis, it’s a real actor’s piece, requiring its two-man cast to effect pin-sharp shifts in tone, moving between a kind of vaudeville-inflected absurdism and tense naturalistic drama.

The action begins in the studio of a Port Elizabeth photographer named Styles, who delivers a humorous monologue about his working life before being interrupted by the arrival of a customer.

The latter gives his…

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Album Review: Lisa Stansfield, Seven (Metro)

16 Feb

Album Review: Lisa Stansfield, Seven (Metro)

Lyric Hammersmith’s Secret Theatre Show 4 is captivating

14 Feb

Metro

Wily operator: Leo Bill  in Ellen McDougall’s Show 4 alongside Adelle Leonce (Helen Maybanks) Wily operator: Leo Bill in Ellen McDougall’s Show 4 alongside Adelle Leonce (Helen Maybanks)

It’s part of the fun of the Lyric Hammersmith’s Secret Theatre season that you’re not supposed to know anything about the play you’re going to watch before the action begins.

As it turns out, the plot of Show 4 is so convoluted and the dystopian retro-futuristic setting so fuzzily imprecise that you probably won’t be much the wiser about what’s going on half an hour in. That’s not a bad thing: thanks to the pacy inventiveness of Ellen McDougall’s pared-down direction, the opacity proves an incentive to keep concentrating.

Nemo (Leo Bill) is a wily political operator who harbours outrageous ambitions behind his bland bureaucrat exterior and who plans to climb the greasy pole of power by deploying the Marilyn Monroe-like charms of his sister, Victoria (Katherine Pearce).

Hayley Squires’s script is loosely based on John…

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