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Sunday, 24 September 2017

REVIEW: Fever Pitch - the Opera at the Union Chapel

Fever Pitch, the book was rightly acclaimed as a brilliant sport book when published in 1992 and all football fans will understand and the identify with the obsession, passion, commitment and despair that football fans feel for their club . The book covers a period from 1968 to 1992 using 75 matches (mainly Arsenal games) to link to author Nick Hornby's life peaking with May 1989, when Arsenal won the league for the first time in 18 years and made him, a born again member of the church of latter day championship believer. So the challenge was how to compress this into a coherent opera set in a Church?

Composer, Scott Stroman , artistic director of Highbury Opera Theatre, and librettist Tamsin Collison took on the challenge and added the constraints that shaped the production. The venue, the Union Chapel in Highbury is a grand Victorian church with wooden pews and a temporary stage around the large pulpit and is home of HOT. The enthusiastic twenty seven local community adult choir and two children's chorus of twenty are integral to the production. The structure of two forty five minute halves under the huge Highbury clock that marks out the passing of time. Then edited the selection of matches down to a handful of key ones - Gooners first game (in 68) , league cup defeat (in 69), the double winning team ( of 71) , a local derby ( in 81) and the league winning game (in 89). 

Friday, 22 September 2017

REVIEW: Legally Blonde at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley

OMIGOD OMIGOD YOU GUYS! Lucie Jones should win a prize for staring as Elle Woods in the National Tour of Legally Blonde: written by Heather Hatch and music from the man who brought us Batboy and Heathers, Laurence O’Keefe. The energy in the theatre tonight was electric with what was sure to be a high octane journey through Harvard Law School, I was wearing pink and ready to click along with the sorority girls of UCLA’s Delta Nu. 

From the get go the energy bar is set pretty high, girls riding on spin bikes and talking on the phone (Pre-emptively) celebrating Elle Woods and Warner Huntingdon the Thirds’ engagement. Which quickly spirals down hill when he breaks up with her. This set her on a new path, one that will challenge her Disney expectation of the power of love. Through trials (excuse the pun) and tribulations she realises it’s actually a good thing she is doing, practicing law and becomes the serious type of girl Warner laments about at the beginning of the first act. By the end there is cheering, and whooping and a mega mix (why?). Directed and choreographed by Anthony Williams the the use of set is very effective yet minimalistic, just what you need for a tour. 

REVIEW: Story Jam at Albany Theatre in Deptford

A teacher reminded me this week of how distracted we are, how so many things demand our attention from the moment we wake up to when we walk out the door and travel someplace. Story Jam, an event happening once a month until Christmas at the Albany Theatre Deptford and Canada Water Theatre, demands our total attention, as its performers take us through songs about stories and stories about songs. The attention that one storyteller receives is quite magical if you listen to how silent the room becomes, all while offering a fun, scary, surprising and sensual experience.

Our imaginations are also evolving in this new digital century: images are all around us and definitely inform how we imagine things. That is why I loved the amount of details that the storytellers gave us during their stories about faraway lands. From the smell of sheets to the noise that a branch makes, and from the beat of a heart to the image of a bloody hand, we are totally there. Performer Sarah Liisa Wilkinson, the first of the evening, was my favourite as she took us through a first story about womanhood in Romania, and then to Finland with a woman looking for her warrior son. The soothing element is that these stories end well.


REVIEW: The Test at White Bear Theatre

If I hadn't known some of Ian Dixon Potter's previous works, I'd be tempted to be more critical towards his most recent play The Test. 

His strong interest for the extreme boundaries of science has already featured in Tiresia, in which he mentions the processes used by the human body to store knowledge and memory. Another common factor in his plays is the introduction of big ethical questions, which in Boy Stroke Girl focuses on the relative role of gender identification and in Tiresia on the implications of a brain transplant. The Test, instead, elaborates on the controversial influence of Artificial Intelligence on human dynamics. 

In this short but language-heavy performance, the main character is Dora (Natasha Killam), an ambitious female scientist, author of the first AI system provided with an autonomous consciousness. Contravening the instructions of her direct superior (Zara Banks), Dora decides to submit her device, called Mother, to the Turing test, which aims to establish its ability to respond to stimuli following the same behavioural pattern of a human. To do so, she needs free access to the whole internet and, for this purpose, she hires Josh (Duncan Mason), a computer hacker fresh out from prison.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

REVIEW: Five Guys Names Moe at the Marble Arch Theatre

Five Guys Named Moe has been seen in London several times, most recently in 2012 back where it began at Stratford East. This new production of Clarke Peters’ musical based on the music of jazz crossover star Louis Jordan, now helmed by its creator, finds a fantastic home in Underbelly's popular spiegeltent recently relocated and rechristened the Marble Arch Theatre. 

It must be said that the plot of this classic juke box musical is light on the ground; the central character Nomax (Edward Baruwa) has ‘woman troubles’, and has turned to drink to deal with his shortcomings. In an alcohol induced miasma, five Moes – Four-Eyed, Little, Know, Big and Eat Moe – pop out of Nomax’s radio to counsel, encourage and school him in life and love. There isn't much more depth to it than that but in this intimate set up it feels easy to accept this show for what it is; more upbeat concert than storytelling.
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