Saturday, 27 February 2010

Treat of the week: The Thirst

Gorgeous London boys The Thirst have been on my radar for a while. The band already have a debut album and if you haven't checked them out, do. In the mean time, here's a little appetizer.

1867 Review

1867, based on an extraordinary figure from America’s past is ironically reflective of modern multi cultural London; an asian director, a white playwright and a predominantly black cast. The play written by Theresa Roche is a play of firsts. This is Roche’s debut inspired by the true story of America’s first female self made millionaire, Madam CJ Walker. Roche and Palladini productions do a good job of breathing life into a story that has gathered dust between the pages of American history books.

Madame CJ Walker was a black woman who made her name and fortune by selling her own range of hair care products and cosmetics. The play centres on Delilah McAndrew, the Walker reincarnation and starts by depicting her humble beginnings and her struggle to create a better life for herself. Delilah, a child of former slaves is a heroine that the audience immediately connects with; an illiterate laundry maid who dares to want the moon. The early part of the play is full of frenetic snapshots of the young Delilah’s life. Projected images hover above as though they too will fill the stage and yet appear conflictingly distant in their black and white style, the set is minimal and actors burst on and off like precocious gusts of wind. As the play transitions from one period of Delilah’s life to another it just gets better and better. By turns comical, heartbreaking and moving. Roche has produced a well written, engrossing play and apart from the occasional slip into an English accent by one or two actors, the performances overall do her writing justice.

The two actresses who play the young and older Delilah Isaura Barbe Brown and Aja Huston give fantastic performances. Tanya Lauretta Duff who plays Victoria Da Silva, a businesswoman responsible for Delilah’s first break almost pulls off a show stealing performance. Houston as Delilah in her womanhood and all it entails captures her spirit, ambition, fearlessness, tenacity and vulnerability. Possessing all the ingredients of a champion, she is brilliantly human and flawed; her battles are not only racial but fascinating from a feminist perspective. She is a woman fighting against the odds, a tireless advocate of black causes who makes her presence felt in the white house. By the end of the play you want to know even more about Delilah; to smooth the peaks and troughs of her character with the palm of your hand, to hold her still. A fitting tribute to Madame CJ Walker, an inspiration the moon still smiles for.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Black Water Rising Review

Rich and absorbing, Black Water Rising is a slick, smart legal thriller. It is an addictive concoction fraught with politics, morality and law. Attica Locke has been lauded for this stylish, literary feast, catapulted into the company of the big guns and deservedly so. Dennis Lehaine and Scott Turow should make room, Locke is a writer to take note of and this is a brilliantly assured debut.

Set in the early 1980s, the novel charts the trials and tribulations of Jay Porter; our protagonist, fully formed and kicking and screaming onto the pages. Porter, a young black activist in the 1970’s is living his dream of becoming a lawyer. But the reality of realising the dream isn’t so sweet. The financial security he’d hoped for buckles in the distance, his clients are of a lower calibre and recognition eludes him. Life and work meanders along until a dramatic incident occurs. Jay saves a drowning woman and in doing so opens the flood gates to a war involving wealthy oil men, the elite of Houston and a battling union.

The novel deftly shifts between the past and the present. Locke is a gorgeous wordsmith who knows how to spin a good yarn. Her screen writing background is evident; the book is filmic, well etched and expertly paced. It refreshingly lacks all pretentiousness, instead cleverly weaves a complex plot with flawed characters that keep you turning the page. Interestingly, she manages the tricky task of capturing the spirit of the 1980’s with an eerily accurate reflection of the social and political climate of the time, all done through the jaded yet idealistic eyes of Jay Porter.

The city she portrays hums to life, the newness of wealthy development areas, the decay of the poorer districts, the seediness of strip clubs and flashy restaurants, all with an anxiety bubbling beneath the surface. A haze of confusion clouds this slice of America, oil money and new technology are bringing an economic boom to some and uncertainty to others. The novel moves between these two halves, those fully exploiting these new opportunities and those excluded from it and wary. Topics such as moral corruption, racism and equality are heavily intertwined in the fabric of the novel, yet in never feels bogged down by it. Not only is it personalised but the social commentary is skilfully despatched through the guise of a thriller. Jay Porter is a man biting the morality bullet. Attica Locke has burst on to the literary scene with a humdinger of a novel and it’s just a matter of time before a screen adaptation beckons.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Spin Spin Spin!

Spin doctors are entrenched cogs in the wheels of politics.I've wanted to shadow a spin doctor for a while. Oh how they run amok during political campaigns! Telling candidates what to wear,where to be photographed,how to play the media game. Drip feeding the public through the press until opinions are swayed.Imagine the secrets they know! This may be warped but there's something interesting about being paid to hone attributes most people find deplorable; deception, manipulation and often total disregard of the truth,presenting interpretations of facts like skilled craftsmen. It just proves how effectively propaganda is used to control the masses,so well done it's almost insidious.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hot Chips

Janelle Monae. Beautiful, futuristic and quirky. Im not sure
what planet she's on but I'd like to go there. If there's any justice
she will be as big as Gaga.

Shingai Shoniwa. This woman is so gorgeous she could turn me!
Luvvin her natural do! That hair! Her Afrocentric style, her killer vocals,
her indie rocker vibe. Divine creature.

Florence Welch. Fantastic, what an incredible talent.
Was a fan before the main stream buzz. Luvvin
that flame red hair.A mythical being, She is striking
and unforgettable. To listen to her is to travel between
old and new worlds.

Karen O. Gut wrenchingly charismatic, Here's
Miss O doing her Where The Wild Things are
tribute(she produced the brilliantly evocative
music for the film). Looking decidedly cute.
Normally she's a flame on the stage.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Happy Place

So I met with the lovely Bim today as part of the Precious Online arts critic programme. Her blog Yoruba Girl Dancing is a great read.
We chatted about all sorts and she has a fertile, intelligent mind. She mentioned her "happy place" which had me in stiches and it got me thinking about happy places. You know, the things you do that just give you pleasure and pause reality for a few hours. A bubble in which you can immerse yourself and escape. I love the Coen brothers films and one of my happy places is The Big Lebowski. It never fails to make me laugh every time. The dude, his dysfunctional friends and the shenanigans they find themselves in is hilarious. I watch it sipping smirnoff and eating butterscotch popcorn, chinese take away or ginger biscuits. Also, the film's hapless protagonist the dude is a slob and I can totally relate. I'm a slob at home, sleeping till past mid day on my days off, padding about in my old pyjamas with holes and constantly battling the overwhelming urge to do absolutely nothing. Dudism should be a religion.

Vitamin Intake

Do you take your vitamins regularly? I do.

Vitamins C

Daniel Henney. And on the seventh day God made this beautiful
Korean American man, thank you God.
James Franco. So hot it's ridiculous. He makes my ovaries and
other parts of me twitch. James Deanesque.

Idris Elba. Chocolate this sexy should be a mandatory vitamin
for everyone. Yum.

Vitamins B

Takeshi Kaneshiro. Too much of anything is bad for you.
Not in this case! Exquisite. Don't you wish you were that water?

John Cho. Cute, funny and so badass in Flash Forward it
should be renamed John Forward. Seriously.

Ashley Walters. My My Ashley how you've blossomed
into a gorgeous, sexy thespian. There's a pic of Ashley practically
naked floating around somewhere. Could someone make a chica's
day and send it to me.

Vitamins E
Simon Baker. Should I count all the ways
I like thee? No, I'd be here all day. Saw
Something New and it was all over. Delicious man.

Paul Walker. Is it fair and just that a man be this pretty?
No really is it? Paul never has any roles of substance and well...
I just don't care. I'm too busy drooling.

Daniel Cipriani. Most people don't know that
goregeous Daniel is part black. Rugby shorts
never looked so good. I may actually subject
myself to a game now.

Adam Rodriguez. Crushing on him big time.
A regular fix of him is good for my well being.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Hedda Review

Based on Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s classic 1890 text, a new adaptation by Terje Tveit takes to the stage. Often regarded as the female “Hamlet”, the monstrosity that is Hedda Gabler still fascinates, toying with acquaintances and family members the way a God does with mere mortals. However, at just over two hours long with no interval, cleverly woven intricacies and nuances may go over your head.

Fresh from her honeymoon feeling increasingly restless and discontent, Hedda wrestles with a hungry, dangerous emptiness lying in wait. When a catalyst in the shape of a school friend arrives with news of a former acquaintance, events snowball, spiralling out of control and result in tragic consequences.
The play is atmospheric and disturbing, a feeling of claustrophobia pervades. There are clever metaphorical reflections of Hedda’s cluttered mind including the set. The dim, hollow lighting, that grows appropriately brighter or darker throughout the production, the sea of crumpled white paper on the stage, crinkling with secrets and seemingly closing in, the music, strings like in parts is foreboding, warning signs, the mist effect that shrouds the actors, a cloud hanging over their heads and of course Hedda. It is a delicious, dramatic role; the play is hers, so unapologetically ruthless, so defiantly cruel. There have been many depictions of Hedda Gabler but actress Sarah Head’s portrayal is commanding, restrained and sexy, portraying a woman whose thirst for power and manipulation knows no bounds. This Hedda is not a victim. She sheds new light on the term “alpha female.” She controls her witless husband with an effortless disdain, rips her friend Thea to shreds for daring to have a relationship with writer Eilert Lovborg, the mysterious man from Hedda’s past and for her own amusement, her strange relationship with family friend Brack borders on foreplay, sexually charged and ominous.
Sporadically gripping with some lovely threads, it’s difficult viewing at times purely because it’s too lengthy. It needs either an intermission or cutting down. Some of the more underwhelming scenes could have been taken out to make for a tighter production. This version is stripped of period clutter but still feels weighty. There is no real context as to why Hedda is the way she is. From an audience perspective, she would have been a more rounded character had elements of that been woven in. Ibsen’s play still feels relevant but it would be interesting to see a truly modern adaptation of the play. If like me your concentration span peaks at just over an hour, you may need a back up plan to stop yourself drifting off.

Riverside Studios
Wednesday 3 to Sunday 14th February 7.45pm
Booking: 0208 237 1111
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