Friday 14 September 2012

Disjunctive, cruel and inconclusive theatre

Morning, Lyric Theatre, London

Morning is a play written with in collaboration with teenagers, about teenagers and dedicated to ‘young people’. As with all of Simon Stephens’ plays, it is thought-provoking, cheeky, frustrating and – at certain moments – incredibly scary (It was reviewed at the Edinburgh Fringe by Matt Trueman). It isn’t a brilliant play. It feels a bit too clean and actually a touch too accessible to really weave those terrific webs that Stephens so often ensnares us in. But what Morning does offer is the chance for a younger audience to experience, engage with and enjoy a challenging and genuinely contemporary brand of theatre. The importance of such a generous and powerful project should not be underestimated.

Who really goes to the fringe, where performers, writers and directors are still taking risks? Very few teenagers. When I go to the fringe, I encounter only theatre critics, bona fide theatre obsessives, friends of the specific theatre and friends of performers. Younger audience members, still living at home, mainly go to the shows their parents drag them to. For many, this means a childhood of solid (invariably dull) Shakespeare productions, glitzy West End revivals, sparky but generally insubstantial new comedies and razzmatazz musicals. It isn’t exactly a theatrical diet to get the juices flowing and it’s a relief – and a bit of mystery – that imaginative and innovative young artists still find their way into the industry. Just imagine if more big stages, such as the Lyric, committed to putting on shows like Morning; productions that show teenagers just how weird, unique, playful, suggestive, mind-boggling, sexy and shit scary theatre can be.

The first thing that sets Morning apart from most plays geared towards young people is that it contains sophisticated and ambiguous young characters. I’ve lost count of how many token ‘children’ characters I’ve seen on stage. They’re often either evil or saintly. But the cast of Morning is made up entirely of teenagers and each is as strange and near-impenetrable as the next. Stephanie (Scarlet Billham) is a unique creation; a child who frightens but does not appall. A child who commits appalling acts but still remains sympathetic; who giggles through her pain and whose every laugh rips right through you. She’s a girl turned inside out by the imminent death of her mother, whose emotions have been bent out of shape by a context too complex for her young brain to properly process.

It’s brilliant to see younger actors read Stephens’ sparse dialogue. Often the apparent sparseness of Stephens’ scripts prompts actors to amp up the emptiness and you’re simply left with nothing. Here, the actors pour their heart and soul into every line, buoyantly happy with one word and hideously depressed the next. The result is a dizzying emotional tornado rather than the arid desert that is created by more ‘sophisticated’ approaches to Stephens’ texts. These young actors aren’t afraid of the emotional contradictions or confusions. They aren’t trying to humour or smooth down the ambiguities latent in Stephens’ dialogue. Instead, they absolutely embrace these contradictions and the play is so much fresher, truthful and more lively as a result.

In allowing his younger actors free reign with his dialogue, Stephens is creating a younger generation – of both actors and spectators – who feel comfortable with a new type of theatrical experience; a theatrical generation that does not look for linearity and reason and exposition. In short, he’s helping to allow our youth to instinctively embrace something new; the type of odd, clashing and rather cold dialogue (and surrounding play) that is so common in Europe and yet so rare over here. The type of disjunctive, cruel and inconclusive theatre that actually reflects our times. This type of theatre will, despite the best attempt of many reductive new writing competitions, eventually reach our shores. When it finally gets here, at least some of our performers and actors (thanks to the likes of Simon Stephens and Sean Holmes) will be ready for it.


Till 22 September 2012


Theatre

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Monday 13 August 2012

CW editorial note - 13 August 2012

Performance enhancement

Performance-enhancement

With the London Olympics behind us, Patrice Ellis wraps things up on the CW sports blog, along with our Chinese correspondent Xu Xiangru. And with the Edinburgh festivals in full swing, Matt Trueman reviews a selection of Fringe shows.

13 August 2012


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Waving goodbye to Mr Coubertin’s procession

A final word on the London Olympics

As the Olympics draws to a close the political point scoring begins. The announcement was made to reverse the decision to stop UK sport funding directly from the exchequer. Instead the same funding that was given in the build up to the Beijing and London Olympics (fourfold that of Athens, the next highest funded games) will be maintained until the Rio Olympiad.

While Britain’s 60 plus medal haul at these games has given an undoubted feel good factor that is in line with trends of success that come with hosting the games, I find it worrying that the government feel it a matter of national importance that this success is sustained. As if it would be some kind of disaster should we win a mere ten gold medals in four years time, or even heaven forbid, the solitary gold that came in Atlanta 1996.

It is not so much that I have a particular opposition to the idea of elite athletes on publicly funded programmes, more that both major parties think the public have become hooked on the drug of success and cannot cope without it. Maybe they are right, maybe everyone has blurred the lines between real life and real sport and if that is the case we deserve nothing more than the utter misery we would surely feel when we discover that on the next occasion we may be more suited to the role of plucky finalists or American cannon fodder.

Besides, if the BBC and Lord Coe are right about this inspiration stuff coming from successful athletes then surely inspiration is a finite commodity that we are selfishly hogging. The Brazilians must be simply quaking in their flip-flops at the prospect of Britain keeping all the inspiration for ourselves! Perhaps in a ploy to profit from athletic success we could create a market whereby Brazil can bid to have us invest less in Olympic athletes, thus allowing them to snaffle up some more inspiration for their children.

To end on a slightly more serious note, I should hope that the Legacy of London 2012, if one must exist at all, not be tainted by the doomed task of coercing children to join the local hockey team. It is already plain to see that we live in a worryingly sports mad (myself included) country so if little Timmy would rather not play sport it definitely isn’t due to a lack of exposure. The sporting legacy should instead be similar to that of the 1966 World Cup but grander, a moment that created many happy memories without ‘meaning’ anything greater. When I’m grey and old I want my inspiration starved grandchildren to be green with envy that I was alive to see such a fun two weeks, not to see it as a frivolous waste of money that failed to meet a certain criteria.


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It was the fake cigarette that did it.

I Heart Peterborough, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2-27 August 2012


Peterborough, for me – as, I guess, for a lot of people – is a train station. A bog-standard train station, in fact, with long concrete platforms, white metal stalks, blue corrugated roofing and a WHSmiths. The sort of station that, by saying nothing about a place, tells you all you need to know.

Joel Horwood’s play confirms those assumptions – of overcast, small-town banality – even as it pledges allegiance and affection. It is at once an ode to and a rant against; one clouded by the fondness of formative experiences and the frustrations of clipped wings; one that seems to say, ‘This may be a shithole, but it’s my shithole.’

For a long time, I ♥ Peterborough is harder to pin down. That’s largely to do with Horwood’s direction, which – watched in a certain way, probably the wrong way – makes his text seems more slippery than it actually is. In fact, for the first half, I was utterly adrift in this little shot of bleak tenderness. I didn’t know who was who and what was what.

It was the fake cigarette that did it. On a raised platform in the middle of the stage, there’s the corner of a living room, wallpapered in ochre florals. It doubles as a stage, lit by two footlights, that could be the corner of a grotty local pub. On it are two men; one sat behind a keyboard, younger, in a sequinned bow tie and bagger blazer; the other naked but for compacting briefs and smeared make-up. The older man puts on a bra, stuffs it with chicken fillets, and slides into an airy satin gown. He pulls out an electronic cigarette, glowing green at the tip.

And, that single act throws everything into question. The e-cigarette represents a real cigarette, right? So by extension the man in women’s clothes could represent a woman. Or, given Scotland’s ban on smoking onstage, the e-cigarette might not be all that problematic – a witty gag, best glossed over – and the man in women’s clothing could represent, well, a man in women’s clothing. You see my difficulty.

Now the dilemma is that I don’t think that was Horwood’s intention as director, but the fluid multiplicity, the shifting sense it caused, was also what I initially loved about I ♥ Peterborough. The staging seemed to turn Horwood’s text inside out and back again. Swirling around in this story – first a love-story between a man and a woman, then another, between father and son – I found this indistinct, expressionistic sense of Peterborough the place poured off the stage. The city was the only thing that felt solid.

And, boy, does Horwood treat it beautifully, skimming through the decades and musical trends, alighting on race riots and ingrained homophobia, sweeping through the identikit high street chains that set up shop. You feel it as a city that dresses to impress, but still looks cheap; one that applies concealer to the cracks, where blood and lipstick blend.  Insular and dysfunctional. Grimy and incestuous and a world in itself, comfortably awful. It is both heart and ♥.

All this seeps out of Horwood’s gorgeous text, swirling and dizzy, like Enda Walsh ripped out of Ireland and replanted in the Fens. It’s full of sumptuous morsels: brick dust on breath, mixed donner smiles, car crashes between legs.

Gradually, for me at least, it coheres into a quietly devastating tale of betrayal; a son, bullied and awkward, who backs his father – both literally, on the keys, and more – and a father, who fails to return the favour the following day, trotting off on the pull instead. Eventually, flight is the only option. Or, as Hew – the distraught son – puts it: ‘Sometimes you have to blow things up, so you can start again.’


Theatre

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Better intentions

The Price of Everything, Northern Stage at St Stephens, Edinburgh / Flaneurs, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2-27 August 2012


There is a curious three-way conversation at this year’s Fringe. In one corner is nihilism, a foreboding sense that we are, shall we say, screwed; that there’s no way out. It’s there in Ontroerend Goed’s All That’s Wrong, in Morning by Simon Stephens and in Rob Drummond’s Bullet Catch. Then, as Andrew Haydon has astutely pointed out, there’s the notion of recovery – a long, slow and rocky process - as found in Caroline Horton’s Mess and Blink by Phil Porter.

Thankfully, the third competitor in this forward-looking rumble is more optimistic. It wants to use the current situation as a springboard to something else, something better. It was to reinvent the world and rewrite the social contract so that kindness governs our behaviour, not suspicion or fear.

What’s interesting is that the two shows I’ve seen that best exemplify this are both performance lectures: Daniel Bye’s The Price of Everything and Jenna Watt’s Flâneurs. I’ve always thought the term ‘performance lecture’ a little odd. Like Miranda Hart (seriously, Matt, Miranda Hart?), part of me just wants to snap ‘It is a lecture. It just is a lecture,’ since lectures are – and, yes, this is inherent within the form – a mode of performance already. Performance lectures don’t look all that different to TEDx Talks or the Royal Society’s Christmas lectures, but the word ‘performance’ somehow makes the whole seem palatable. It takes the edge off. We’re having fun and learning.

Performance lectures also look similar to theatrical monologues in the mould of Mike Daisy or Spalding Gray. The difference, I think, is that they don’t invoke the performer’s subjectivity in quite the same way. They use the trappings of academia – slides and demonstrations and the like – for a semblance of objectivity, so that anecdotes recounting personal experience are primarily used to exemplify and stand-in for something wider. And yet, you could probably smack the term performance lecture on The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs without loss (or gain).

In Edinburgh, both Bye and Watt are using the form in order to preach peace. They use remarkably similar routes, starting from the world as it is and moving towards something utopian and reinvigorated. Bye begins by wittily dissecting the notion of monetary value. He canters through a survey of what things are worth – the elements, organs and raw materials that make up your body, the arts, Fernando Torres and, crucially, milk. With a hint of Dave Gorman, he talks us through an eBay auction for an air guitar that eventually sold for over £800. With an infinite stockpile imaginary friends and the like, Bye claims to have made more than £6000 by, as he puts it, ‘fleecing idiots’.

He didn’t of course, but it nails the point – obvious, but easily overlooked – that value isn’t fixed and that just one person willing to pay over the odds is the motor of inflation. Watt, meanwhile, starts by recounting random attack on her friend Jeremy, on a train, in front of other passengers, who did nothing to intervene. She takes us through her own experiences of Edinburgh in terms of the nooks and crannies, shadowy alleys and pedestrian subways that she’s afraid of: ‘The geography of our daily lives is plagued with violence,’ she says.

Both Watt and Bye want to reclaim the world, to regain control, civility and basic human respect. Bye tried out some random acts of kindness – buying coffee for the person behind him in the Caffè Nero queue, littering a shopping mall with £20 notes and instructions to spend it on a gift for a stranger – and found his faith in fellow man rather dinted. He tells a story, always careful to nod to its fiction, in which transactions are based on giving, fairly, respectfully and gratefully, in the knowledge that one day the ‘favour’ will be repaid. I use quotation marks because Bye’s system is ultimately one of trade without currency and it is no less liable to be exploited. But that’s not the spirit. It shows just how small the step would be if everyone took it together.

Watt’s society of flâneurs – proactive bystanders all ready and willing – works similarly. Like Bye’s system it hinges on community, on everyone jumping on board, so that we all know any intervention will be backed up by others. In both utopian visions, there’s strength in numbers.

In terms of performance, Bye and Watt both exude gentleness. He uses charm and humour, she uses delicacy and charm. You listen because they’re worth listening to and, moreover, because they’re leading by example. Watts admits to her own anxieties about stepping in and how she’s trying to overcome them; Bye’s good deeds work likewise. If they can do it, you think, well so can I.

However, both shows also recognise it’s not enough just to talk utopia into existence. Bye dishes out milk and hands over £20 for an audience member to start another chain of good deeds. Watt passes round membership badges for us to wear, testifying to our willingness to weigh in. Sure, they’re small gestures, but better a small gesture than no gesture at all.

It reminds me of something that Chris Goode said (as so often) about theatre that says and theatre that does. Flâneurs and The Price of Everything do. They might not succeed and they might not overturn the order of things, but they cause small ripples, real ripples, and send you out into the world with better intentions.


Theatre

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An unpinnable alien realm

Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice, Underbelly, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2-27 August 2012


Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice sets its audience a puzzle. It is a triptych of short, almost entirely distinct pieces, each with its own style, that seem hazily connected. The challenge is to work out why.

Theatrical triptychs are curious things. In visual art three component parts form a whole; they exist side by side and can be compared in the moment of viewing. In theatre, they take place one after another, usually in a specific order, such that each informs the next and makes you re-evaluate what came before. Captain Ko… does this beautifully; it starts entirely in metaphor and provides the information needed to decode it later on. Three things recur: teacups, flying saucers and time warps.

It starts with a wryly-observed pastiche of a 1970s sci-fi show, in which Captain Jane Ko (Valentina Ceschi) and her sidekick Spark (Thomas Eccleshare) explore a distant world. We get a theme tune and catchphrases, cotton-blue spacesuits and cutesy phazers. The Planet of Rice disrupts their equipment and distorts the usual laws of time and space. Moments start to repeat themselves, confusing the Captain, and the narrative gains an unexpectedly melancholic edge: ‘What the future holds, we don’t know,’ Ko announces, with a pioneer’s puffed chest, ‘but rest assured we are not afraid of it.’

This gives way to Ceschi’s mime solo in which an old woman – a very different type of future – makes a cup of tea, circling the kitchen opening drawers to creaks and fiddling cutlery to tinkles. Like Ko, she gets stuck on repeat, piling up cups on the table, before reality starts to shuffle with fantasy. A drawer opens with a horse’s neigh. Another contains a gun. Synapses short circuit, until an alien approaches and offers a kindly, comforting hug. It’s a truly touching moment, as terrifying as it is tender.

Third comes Sergei Avedyev, a Russian cosmonaut who spent 747 days in orbit and, as contact dwindled while the USSR disintegrated below him, slowly lost track of time. His capsule becomes a world of its own. It’s both thought-bubble and, given his child-like dependence on those back on earth, a womb.

Both Dancing Brick’s commitment to the triptych form and their faith in audiences is really admirable, but the connecting the three threads is its own reward. There’s little added nuance beyond the understanding of dementia in terms of the Planet of Rice, where one’s own world becomes an unpinnable alien realm. Inventively staged though it is, albeit narrating what it might have shown, the third segment repeats rather than develops the central thought.

The main problem, however, is that Dancing Brick’s dedication to their ideas at times allows the theatre to fall out. It’s the second mime sequence that does it. It may provide a lull in time to fit the content, but it’s twice as long as it needs be. By the time we’re out the other side and into the third segment, Dancing Brick have come too close to losing us entirely. It could dearly use an additional layer of self-awareness to poke fun at its own theatrical fixity and avoid the semblance of technical exercise.

The whole is undoubtedly considered, momentarily devastating and fleetingly funny. It just forgets the need to engage in its desire to perplex.


Theatre

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A black hole artwork

Morning, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2-27 August 2012


Simon Stephens’ plays often leave me bruised. The bash me about in my seat, peeling back my abdominals and going to work directly on my gut. I flinch and wince, utterly rapt by the utterable. Morning, by contrast, let me be. Apart from a sharp intake of breath, as a rock smashed into a skull – as represented by a scaffold pole shattering through a plastic bin – I felt relatively at ease in its presence. My stomach intact, not tatters.

Yet when I left the theatre, I walked to the bar unthinkingly, poured a pint of water and stood, cross-eyed and shell-shocked, empty of all thoughts and feelings bar one: exhaustion. Perhaps the Fringe had frazzled my brain and perforated my defences, but Morning wrung me out. It is theatre as carbon monoxide: colourless, odourless and deadly.

Not seeing it coming, then, makes working out how and why it had this peculiar effect difficult. It is unremittingly uncaring. At its centre is Stephanie (Scarlet Bilham), a 17 year-old girl with no trace of basic human compunction or compassion. She does what she feels like with a flicker of thought for others or impact. Part of the golden-ticket generation, she expects bailing out as a birthright and that natural talent (sketching in her case) will see her through. She hands her brother’s iPod Touch to the friend she idolises, Cat (Joana Nastari). ‘Won’t he mind you stealing it?’ Cat asks. ‘Yeah probably.’ At home, upstairs, Stephanie’s mother is in the final stages of terminal cancer.

Stephanie and Cat honeytrap her boyfriend Stephen (Ted Reilly), luring him into the woods with fantasies of a threesome whirring through his brain. There they toy with him, hogtie him and obliterate him; children trapping and tearing the wings off a fly. Why? For kicks? As experiment? Because of mum or social pressures? Rather just because its possible, even because it’s in their nature. Stephanie is a girl, who kills. The world has become a virtual space like any other, in which only I exists, an obstacle to be navigated. The eyes aren’t windows to the soul, because there’s no one eyes to look in. They are one-way windows. Other souls don’t count.

The rest of the play concerns the repercussions. Stephanie carries on as usual, visiting Stephens parents, almost expecting him to reappear as if her actions have had no consequences. Her mother’s death splinters that view of the world. Her realisation that reality comes around and goes around, leads to a final, guttural rant, declaring the world and all its contents shit, that grows from hellish tantrum to nihilistic raving. ‘There is only terror. There is no hope.’

Sean Holmes’ production for the Lyric Hammersmith’s Young Company – an admirable decision in itself on the grounds of refusing to see young people’s theatre as a subsidiary – takes place on a bare stage bar the apparatus of a crime scene, or murder investigation. The world is to be worked out. Cold, bleaching lights spot nothing in particular. A clinical white tent, the sort that house dead bodies in woods, stands to the side. An industrial fridge and a fish tank provide strange trappings of domesticity and a laboratory. At the back of the stage, a technician sits in front of his computer. He hardly moves, only turning round to look at the action occasionally. Mostly he stares at the screen, a picture of atomised, addled and screen-addicted youth. In many ways he is Morning’s pivot.

The writing is even more detached than Stephens’ usual dislocated style. In fact, it feels like notation, almost like Braille. The teenage cast play it seemingly without action or intention. Sentences are blurted at other people. Even expressions of warmth or affection feel like accusatory charges. This is cold, cold and unfeeling.

And yet, I can’t help but feel that it’s tries too hard, so determined to paint the world in shadow that it paints a shadow, but not the world. Stephanie doesn’t feel real, but she doesn’t feel real because she has no humanity, she is motiveless and unrepentant, an idea rather than a person. In the end, I think that’s it: I didn’t believe a jot of Morning, but sitting in its presence – a black hole artwork – utterly eviscerates the viewer. Morning didn’t pound my guts, it ran off with them. When I stood, I collapsed.


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Got that? No. Well tough

As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th 2012, This Show Has No Title, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2-27 August 2012


Daniel Kitson has done it again. What that might mean, I’ve only a second-hand inkling. Despite eight consecutive Fringes, I’ve never yet ‘been Kitsoned’, as he puts it in this brilliantly self-conscious corkscrew of a show. As of 1.52pm… is a picture that contains itself and continues ad infinitum.

On a stripped-back stage, Kitson sits behind a trestle table with a manila folder in front of him. There would have been more: a set – a revolving set no less – projected films and a cast of six, but he and Jen Platt only finished writing it on 1st August. Instead, he’s reading the script: stage directions, character names and all. We’ll just have to make do with imagination.

That script turns backflips with the reflexive flair of Charlie Kaufman. It has three separate layers: Daniel, to be played by Daniel Kitson, sat in an office struggling to write a play; Dan, the subject of that play, ‘a fictionalised version of me played by an actor who is not me,’ who is struggling to write a play with his co-author Jen; and Max, the 70 year-old subject of that play, in hospital explaining his lifestyle of absolute disposability, of taking nothing with him from one day to the next, to his care-nurse Carrie. Got that? No. Well tough, Kitson’s not going to slow down, his uncompromising style is refreshingly extraordinary; he leads, entertainingly enough, that we sprint and squint to keep up. Besides, it only gets more complex.

Because Kitson – the reader – keeps popping out to offer explanatory footnotes about the story behind the story. Because Daniel’s writing Dan and Dan’s writing Daniel – like that Escher sketch of a hand drawing a hand drawing the first hand – and both are writing Max and Carrie into existence, which, in itself, has all the trappings of Kitson’s previous work: ‘vaguely allegorical, quasi-existential’ whimsy. ‘I am sick of the quiet fucking dignity of unwitnessed fucking lives,’ he yells, even as he recites another such life into existence.

This total knowingness – and pinpoint self-satirising – elevates As of 1.52pm above the usual writer’s block stock. So to does it’s extraordinarily considered dramaturgy, largely smuggled in disguised as laughter lines. Daniel’s stalled writing-life, as coffee cups mount alongside frustrations and self-celebration, becomes an imagined slapstick routine, incessantly tumbling from chairs, down blackboards and out of windows. ‘I’ve had a fall,’ runs the punchline of a writer battling to live up to his own reputation.

The question is always ‘What happens next?’ and, in Max’s core character trait, Kitson quiet probes at the idea – and impossibility of – re-invention. Max tags the things he leaves behind, but how – ponders Dan – to tag the tagging implement. How, in other words, do you start afresh without entirely disappearing? In all this, too, is the question of our complicity; Kitson sits there berating us, the fanboy audience, as an idea, yet entirely not meaning it personally. We drove him to this with our incessant demand for more of the same, our critical acclaim, our rabid ticket booking that sees his tickets hoovered up in split seconds, snorted to feed addictions.

In any other hands, this sort of hyper-reflexivity would be an indulgence at best and, more likely, an irritation. Hell, it’s an indulgence in Kitson’s hands, but he’s so knowing, so withering about his own indulgences that it’s just a total, unadulterated pleasure throughout.


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The neatest cycle of power you ever saw

2008: Macbeth, Lowland Hall, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2-27 August 2012


Macbeth. The title of Shakespeare’s most pulse-racing play even sounds like a heartbeat, so how has TR Warszawa’s blockbuster staging managed to make it an easy ride rather than a white-knuckle one?

This is, after all, a production that comes with its own fireball. A surging fog of flame balloons out of the stage, blasting faces in the front row with heat. There are the loud rat-a-tats of sub-machine guns, smoke grenades, flares and, um, short-circuiting tumble dryers, but still there’s all the suspense of a tramp’s trousers. What is it Macbeth says about sound and fury?

That may be the point. Gregor Jarzyna’s production takes place in a vast frontage with oblong prosceniums onto separate spaces in Fort Glamis. It could just as easily be a film set, as a military compound. Hollywood staples abound. A wall of voice-automated television screens displays satellite images and statistics and face-time communications. There are point-blank shootings and stock anonymous henchman, praying barefoot when ambushed. Duncan is dispatched with a single stab to the carotid artery, so that blood spurts out like beer from a freshly-tapped keg. It’s all a bit Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s a valid criticism – the horrors of war replaced by its clichés – but hardly the stuff of visionaries.

In fact, before we even see Cezary Kosiñski’s fixed stare of a Macbeth, he’s painted as a freewheeling maverick, disobeying Duncan’s and-that’s-an-order with schlocky, cocky heroism. Actually, I should say Major Macbeth, who, with his second-in-command Captain Banquo (I know, ridiculous), storms a softly-armoured Middle Eastern compound. Given that Jarzyna’s production premiered in 2008, it at least starts with an edge of genuine – not to mention troubling – prophecy.

Herein lies Jarzyna’s political point: that the West is no more immune to the paranoia and cruelty of dictatorship as those they seek to remove from power. Kosiñski’s Macbeth grows to believe himself a god, invulnerable, thanks to the whisperings of a ghostly Uncle Sam and a carniverous white rabbit. To bear bad news is to take a bullet to the brain and finally, Macbeth remains alone and unguarded in his fortress as Macduff’s army approaches. His head is severed from his body and held aloft, echoing the kills that won him first Cawdor, then crown. It’s the neatest cycle of power you ever saw.

That’s one of two problems with Jarzyna’s production. It suffers from the very thing that it sets out to critique, namely, glibness. But the loss of tension is down to the loss of Macbeth’s timeframe. At a whizzbang 110 minutes, Jarzyna fast-forwards through the plot so that any foreboding evaporates. Tension takes time because suspense needs stillness. Jarzyna just gives us special effects and spectacle.


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Friday 10 August 2012

The London Olympics… as seen from the other side of the world

A Chinese student reflects on what the Olympics mean to the Chinese at a special period in their history

From Sun Yang’s world record in the 1500m freestyle to Ye Shiwen in the women’s 400m individual medley, shocking news has never been far away from the media coverage of these Olympics in China. It is not only the business of medals any more, but much more about how Chinese thinking is developing during this special period in China’s history. The London Olympics is a mirror that reflects recent change of Chinese society and different ways of thinking by people from different classes.

The Chinese are profoundly rethinking what a Gold medal means. In the past several decades it was hugely exciting for the Chinese to obtain a gold medal, primarily because we paid much more attention to winning than other countries. It encouraged us to try our best to win the gold even though it almost guaranteed that there would be cruel personal sacrifices needed to attain it. But it worked. Now China is a clear winner and cannot be ignored any longer.

Nevertheless, some problems and tensions have built up over the years. Many people are beginning to discuss whether Gold medals are the only standard to judge an athlete - and are starting to argue that the spirit of the Olympics is the most important thing. This is a landmark discovery for China, suggesting people are waking up from the crazy golden dream. Liu Xiang’s injury in the hurdles sums it up. As the BBC reported, ‘Many lauded him as a hero despite his failure to progress to the final - unlike the general reaction to his withdrawal in Beijing four years ago’.

There is also a large number of Chinese people who take it to extremes and throw away the national interest completely. This makes those who think that athletes should fight for their country, fight to be first - the very basis of competitive sport - quite angry.

In this Olympics, we saw much more ever than before of individual Chinese athletes. Their tears, sweat, heartbreak. It is not overstating it to say that Chinese athletes do the hardest things to please the whole country, but many in the country are never satisfied. People debated and argued with each other bitterly on the internet. Everyone is questioning and trying to find answers… including me. For some, problems come from failure and success. Sometimes I have thought it is we who are lost. 

From my point of view, this fight to understand sporting values is also reflected the clash between people who believe in Western ‘everything’ and those who start to doubt it. Many people are upset now because they found what they used to worship in the Western model, also has its disadvantages. After watching the UK coverage of our Games, it is hard to say the London Olympics is really fair and that there is no discrimination against China. Some of the coverage appeared to be a strange kind of jealousy: sour grapes.

I am very happy to see what is happening in China now. We are debating and we are moving on. The big question is: is the West equally ready to accept a changing and stronger China… in the Olympics, or in any other field?


Xu Xiangru is a student of architecture and will be moving to Liverpool University in September 2012


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Monday 6 August 2012

Oh, what fun!

A weekend of success for Team GB turns the tide of cynicism

I was going to write something about empty seats but isn’t it interesting how all those problems seem to melt away when we are presented with the opportunity to bathe in other people’s successful pursuit of excellence? Regardless of whether the team GB bubble bursts, Saturday 4 August 2012 is a date now engrained in the national consciousness. Day 8 of the London Olympics will be remembered in years to come on some second rate show on channel 243, but there won’t be a way to replicate the feeling of the Olympics turning into something that is happening in our back garden, and something that we feel a very real part of.

I’m not naive enough to think everyone cares about Ennis and co winning six golds in one day, but in both a quantitative and qualitative sense the public feeling of joy has to be proof that, barring a disaster, the whole bid was worth it. Objectively, the success of an Olympics is judged on transport, stadia, ticket sales and other things that can be illustrated on a graph, but that doesn’t make it memorable. This is memorable.

London 2012 seems to be like an elaborate 40th birthday that you plan far too long in advance. A few months after the invitations are signed sealed and delivered you find out that your hours have been cut, and all of a sudden ordering the ‘deluxe’ buffet from M&S doesn’t seem like such a good idea. When the party comes round it is very pleasant and seems to go well despite running out of cups and having apprehensions. But the one thing that banishes any regrets of hosting such a grand affair is the moment your Uncle Tim climbs, intoxicated, on the garden chair to make an inappropriately emotional speech before crashing through the cheap rotting wood. Hilarity ensues and Mastercard’s ‘there’s some things that money can’t buy’ marketing gurus feel vindicated.

A little extra lottery cash helped with the nation’s ‘priceless’ day, but it was always going to be unpredictable. That the ultimate success of the games from a UK viewpoint rests on something as unpredictable as sporting performance makes the £9 billion spent look like a seriously reckless allocation of funds. But in hindsight (or midsight?) it was a snip.

There is an awful lot that can be said to be unhealthy about the portrayal and reception of the Olympic success, from the distraction away from the truly important issues to the psychology of feeling like a winner, despite doing literally nothing. If there is to be an unhealthy obsession though, the pursuit of excellence – in any form – is surely the best to have.


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Tuesday 31 July 2012

The marmite of ceremonies bows to the 26-course banquet

From the opening ceremony to the Brits in the gym

The one thing about the opening ceremony that I was hoping for was that the person (or as it transpired people) bestowed with the extreme but arbitrary honour of lighting the Games cauldron was not some kid from the East End.  It wasn’t quite a worst nightmare, but it was on the way.

The entirety of the bid to get the games was built on concept of youth, so to have seven teenage sporting upstarts initiating the games is at the very least consistent. But was there really nobody who deserved it more? For a start there are scores of teenagers already at the Olympics representing any nation that competes in anything other than the gentleman’s tripartite of equestrian, shooting and archery. You do not need to be the most imaginative to think of somebody better who has actually achieved something significant already: Rebecca Romero, Roger Bannister, Daley Thompson, Paula Radcliffe or Steve Ovett, to name just a few.

The symbolic importance of the lighting of the cauldron means that this is more than just the cherry on a cake of youth indulging – it is the icing, dusting, jam and chocolate too. Why is it so important to glorify a generation that is yet to do anything of significance? I was 12 (gasp) when London was awarded the games and have been hugely excited by the prospect ever since, but I think I can speak for the majority of Mr Coe’s ‘target audience’ when I say I don’t feel like the games are any more for my benefit than anyone else. I’d in fact go further, and say that having youth rammed down our throats with patronising undertones like a pushy parent is cringe worthy.

The rest of the opening ceremony has divided opinion. Everyone seems obsessed with representation. This page in history was missed out, wah wah wah, it was too multicultural, cry cry cry, what about the rest of the world, boo hoo hoo. Oh do me a favour! Danny Boyle must have known he was going to ruffle some feathers with what he did, so I tip my hat off to him (oh how very ‘British’) for pulling off the boldest ceremony in Olympic history, boldness that has paid off already for one lucky producer with a few wealthy Chinese friends. As the only non-sporting event until the closing ceremony it isn’t supposed to be compared and ranked by others, it was entertaining and celebrational in its own right on a magnificent scale and that is all that matters. Most importantly, though, we can finally get down to the important business of allocating precious medals.

Highlights for me so far have to be performances by the Brits in the gym. At the time of writing the women and men are both safely through to the final of the team events by performing to the upper limits of their ability. One can only hope we underestimate ourselves as even a bronze in either of those events would go down as one of the one of Team GB’s greatest achievements in London, or in living memory. Elsewhere the mixed doubles badminton pairing of Adcock and Bankier looked inspired, even potential winners, in the early games of both opening matches, but they then seemed to crumble under the roars of encouragement and now won’t progress past the group stages. This and the 28th place finish for Mark Cavendish serves as a lovely reminder that there is no such thing as a fairytale for the next two weeks.


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Monday 30 July 2012

Get lost, sentiment!

With the 2012 Olympics now underway, Britain is witnessing what sport is really all about

‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well… Oh, also that parents console forlorn efforts and the thoroughly incapable are allowed to be involved’.
-Pierre De Coubertin,  founder of the modern Olympics movement.

I can’t find any evidence for the last bit, but I think the history books I’ve been reading must have something missing because ‘experts’ keep telling me that there are two particular events that sum up what the Olympics are all about more than anything else. Firstly, the incident of a weeping Derek Redmond being helped to finish his 400m semi final in the 1992 Barcelona games by his father after sustaining an injury halfway through. If Hollywood could stretch this into a feature length film, be sure that it would. Frankly, it is a very nice story about a father-son relationship that can warm your cockles – but that’s it. It’s nice but not the epitome of the Olympic Games.

The Olympics should be sport in its purest form at the highest level, and the presence of a billion TV followers demanding to be entertained should be as insignificant to that as Coca-Cola’s sponsorship or my Mum’s weekly yoga class. The whims and fancies of those not involved are irrelevant to sport, so that people are emotionally attached to something that happened during the Olympics does not make it significant within the Olympics. What Redmond should really be remembered for was running the fastest leg of the British 4x400m relay team that stole the Americans’ moment with a win in the Tokyo World Championships of 1991.

The second event regularly called on is that of Eric ‘the eel’ Moussambani who splashed his way to fame with a time of 1 minute 52 seconds in the men’s 100m freestyle race of the Sydeny Olympics. That is double the time of any of his competitors, and well over a minute outside the world record. Eric had never swum 8 months before the games and that race was the first time he had been in a 50 metre long pool or used a starting block to dive in, the result was that after one and a half minutes, thrashing had turned into paddling which had turned again into vague movements that may or may not propel somebody. The commentator began to question whether he would even finish the race. Thankfully he did and he probably received more attention as a result than any swimmer at the games other than Ian ‘the torpedo’ Thorpe (I wonder if a nickname is essential to success?) but he should never have been allowed there in the first place.

Surely this cannot be what the games are all about though? Colin Jackson on the BBC and Steve Bunce on ESPN certainly seem to think so though, but I think it comes from a complete misinterpretation of what is an unconvincing creed. The most important thing is to take part? Bollocks it is. If that is what you think then what of all this swifter, higher, stronger talk?

Olympians have careers unlike any other. Not many people have a job in which everything that happens for four years can live and die with a single performance. To these people the Olympics are almost pathologically important, which ensures a personal commitment towards a single moment in time unlike any other. ‘The struggle’ is those intermittent four years which, along with luck and talent, will shape an athlete’s fate as they push themselves to go faster, higher and stronger and pursue gold. The glorification of a have-a-go-hero next to the toil and ability of many who have tried and failed to make it to the games seems, at the very least, a lust for x-factor style entertainment above sport.

Unfortunately the International Olympic Committee lauds these moments more than anyone. Derek was paid to share his story by the IOC and Visa in a ‘Celebrate Humanity’ video in 2008 and was part of this year’s torch relay (to run alongside his father of course). Although unpublicised in the same way, a couple more Erics will probably be dotted around London in the same way they were in Athens and Beijing as part of the IOC’s wildcard programme, designed to give tiny nations with no resources for training a chance to take part on the biggest stage, regardless of whether they are capable or not.

The IOC and those that represent Olympic sports should stop their moral mission and realise that everything that will happen over the next month is actually about the people that are in the games striving to be better than themselves and their peers. And if some kind of feel good factor or virtue driven spin off comes from that great, but if not, so be it because good sport is good sport whether spectacular or boring. And I for one will be mounting an effort only just shy of Olympic proportions in following the trials and tribulations of extraordinary people, doing their job amidst the bizarre circus that is 2012. So this is a call to arm(chair)s for all Brits. Call in sick and cancel your holiday. Sport like this has never been seen on these shores and won’t be again during our lifetime. Don’t expect to be thrilled and amazed throughout but know that like any good book the more you invest of yourself in it, the more you are sure to get back.


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Tuesday 17 July 2012

A Nora of extraordinary hidden reserves

A Doll's House, Young Vic, London

It’s Christmas time. As the stage revolves, we’re shown a montage of festive preparation scenes. Nora Helmer dashes about her house, marvelling at her gifts and stashing them away. This is a woman who clearly loves to shop. This is a woman who instinctively keeps secrets. This is a woman who likes to play with fire, munching gleefully on chocolates as her husband – who has banned such extravagances – sits hunched in small dark room next door. 

At first, Hattie Morahan’s Nora resembles a kid let loose in a playground. When her old friend, Kristine (a no nonsense Susannah Wise) turns up, Nora sits by her knee, like a young lass with her mother. The two scamper off to Nora’s bedroom and loll about on the bed, gossiping like teenagers. You can read the whole of A Doll’s House in Morahan’s eyes and, at these early stages, they sparkle with mischief. Morahan’s Nora is the heroine of her own drama and, as she confesses her huge debt problems to her oldest friend, she seems exhilarated by the ghastly drama of it all.

Yet even at her most naive, Morahan’s Nora is gutsy and determined too. When Kristine accuses her of behaving recklessly, Nora proudly stands her ground: ‘People shouldn’t underestimate me, Kristine. You shouldn’t underestimate me.’ Later, when Doctor Rank confesses to Nora that she is dying, she shoulders this burden alone. When he delivers his checked visiting card – a sign his death is imminent – there are few,  loaded moments in which only Nora knows the truth. Morahan’s Nora does not crumble with this knowledge. In fact, she seems positively emboldened by it.

Indeed, this is a Nora who grows stronger as her dilemma deepens; a Nora of extraordinary hidden reserves and hidden selves. Morahan’s voice has the most exceptional range and we’re treated to a virtuoso display, as her voice dips and soars at will. One gets the impression that these voices are just the beginning and that there are hundreds more Noras hiding behind that china-white face, waiting to be deployed when the moment is right.

Perhaps inevitably, the remaining characters seem muted. Morahan’s performance tumbles right out of her – every giggle thickens up her role – and yet all the other actors hold back. Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Ibsen’s script is economical but it is not cold and it is not static – if handled correctly. The confrontation between Kristine and Krogstad (Nick Fletcher) feels stiff and Steve Touissant’s Doctor Ranks is so coiled up that his character, even when at his most vulnerable, struggles to wriggle free.

Nora’s husband, Torvald Helmer (Dominic Rowan) is excruciatingly self righteous and patronising but he is too far removed from everyone else. The scenes between Torvald and Nora, particularly near the end, never fizz as they should. It feels like Nora is talking to a model of her husband rather than a living, breathing chap. 

But it’s still a brilliant conclusion. When Nora eventually turns against her husband, it’s as if all Morahan’s carefully placed character clues are finally strewn about the stage. All those clever little glimpses into Nora’s soul, laid down by both Morahan and her director Carrie Cracknell, suddenly shine with incredible force. As Nora determinedly packs her bags we remember all those times we’ve seen her hunched up in tiny corridors, a prisoner in her home. We remember her peering through the window at her children, as if looking in on someone else’s life. In the wrong hands, this final rebellion can feel quite jarring. With Morahan, it makes absolute perfect sense. 


Till 4 August 2012


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Monday 9 July 2012

Pained but resilient

Macbeth: Leila and Ben – A Bloody History, Riverside Studios, London

LIFT


The title says it all, really: there’s a little bit of ‘Macbeth’ in here and a whole lot about Tunisian politics. Specifically, this Tunisian-French LIFT production (presented by Artistes Producteurs Associés in collaboration with the RSC – boy do they get around) is about Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the recently exiled and imprisoned president of Tunisia, and his wife Leila Trabelsi. Documentary extracts, speeches from professors and abstract visuals help to establish the bloody history of this regime, initiated by President Bourguiba and only heightened by his predecessor, Ben Ali. It’s highly informative and thoughtful – but god damn is it hard work.

As was the case with dreamthinkspeak’s, The Rest is Silence, it’s assumed the audience will know their Shakespeare. Those who don’t will be completely baffled. Familiar scenes and phrases from Macbeth bubble up in odd places but they’re often hard to spot. You’ll need to read the surtitles pretty carefully and try not to be bothered by them constantly dropping out of synch with the show. It’s a bit like a really elaborate treasure hunt, in which the gems are very hard to find and invariably soaked in blood. 

There are plenty of sign posts along the way, supposedly there to tease out the parallels – but all the signs point in different directions. In attempting to say an awful lot, Lofti Achour’s production risks saying very little indeed. The production opens on a woman with a bag on her head, screaming like a banshee. One assumes, then, that this show will focus on the repression of women in the Arab World, channelling those ideas through Shakespeare’s tragedy. One assumes wrong.

This angle is pretty quickly dropped. The focus shifts again. In an odd twist on the porter scene, we see a henchman chat, glibly, to an imprisoned man, streaked in blood. Perhaps this production will focus on the parallels between Shakespeare’s bloody rulers and Ben Ali’s vicious regime? A walk on role from a professor temporarily confirms this, when he muses: ‘Muslims became convinced the sword was the only way to solve their differences.’

But then the production veers off again, now focusing on the strange power that Bourguiba still holds over his predecessor, Ben Ali. This has promise – after all, the idea of regal ghosts haunting their successors has a rich, Shakespearean twang to it. There’s a wonderfully weird scene, in which a larger than life model of Bourguiba taunts Ben Ali, mocking his achievements. But this idea is sustained only for a few minutes before the show scampers off again, eagerly in pursuit of other ideas.

The most effective scenes are the seemingly slight ones – the simple scenes that, almost incidentally, throb with immediate meaning. There are a number of wrenching songs that say far more about Tunisia and its trapped citizens than the rest of the show put together. The style of singing – the same singing you hear calling people to prayer at mosques – pulses with revealing contradictions. That searing wailing sounds pained but resilient, too.  It’s a little bit ugly but there’s also a raw beauty and power to the music, which screams out on behalf of all those citizens who have neither the strength or means to make themselves heard.


Run over


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Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Marxists Online
Marx, Engels, Lenin and beyond

New Left Review, international Leftist journal

Mute Magazine, culture and politics after the net

Red Pepper, influenced by socialism, feminisim and environmental politics

Dissent Magazine, US Leftist journal for the clashing of strong opinions

And its counterpart, Commentary, general, yet Jewish

Granta, magazine for new writing

Wikipedia, ze internet encyclopedia

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online, all things philosophical


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Contemporary Writers
New writers, new works, databased by the British Council

Pen Pusher
London-based free literary magazine

Story
Celebrate the short story!

Orange Prize
Only the fairer sex need apply

Man Booker Prize
Literary Prize of the Finest Quality

Granta
The up and coming speak

The Bookseller
Infused with news from the world of books

International Pen
Writers around the world campaign for freedom of expression

Serpent’s Tail
Independent publisher for experimental voices

Random House
Fiction from the biggest publisher around

Edinburgh Book Festival
Books books and discussing books galore

Jewish Book Week
Celebrating, discussing and critiquing Jewish Lit


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Marxists Online
Marx, Engels, Lenin and beyond

New Left Review, international Leftist journal

Mute Magazine, culture and politics after the net

Red Pepper, influenced by socialism, feminisim and environmental politics

Dissent Magazine, US Leftist journal for the clashing of strong opinions

And its counterpart, Commentary, general, yet Jewish

Granta, magazine for new writing

Wikipedia, ze internet encyclopedia

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online, all things philosophical

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Music scholar Cara Bleiman takes a look at the political potential of music past and present in an essay, striking chords

Sarah Boyes asks What Does Music Mean? in a Battle in Print

Frank Furedi looks at the role of truth in music over recent years

Gramaphone Magazine
Established, incisive classical music magazine

BBC Music
Listen by genre and read all about it!

British Music Information Centre
All about 20th and 21st century music

Classic,net
Heady internet resource for exploring all things classical

Royal College of Music
Events, research, hire a musician

tradmusic.com
Scottish, Irish and World music resource

Music Manifesto
New Labour dumbing down music education

Busk Action
Small group with BIG aims to deregulate busking

Royal Albert Hall
Classical music and shows

English National Opera
Britain’s only full time repertory opera company!

Royal Opera House
Music, ballet, theatre and a very big building

No Music Day
Imagine a day with no music…


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

London and online galleries

National Gallery
Royal Academy of Arts
TATE ONLINE
Serpentine Gallery
V&A Museum
Saatchi Gallery
The world’s interactive art gallery
Eyestorm
The leading online retailer of limited edition contemporary art
Ascot Studios Art Gallery
One of the leading independent art galleries in the UK

Other resources

critical network
Forthcoming Events and Exhibitions
WRITING FROM LIVE ART
A Live Art UK initiative

Art Monthly, taking art apart since 1976

Artangel
pioneering a new way of collaborating with artists and engaging audiences


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

London and online galleries

National Gallery
Royal Academy of Arts
TATE ONLINE
Serpentine Gallery
V&A Museum
Saatchi Gallery
The world’s interactive art gallery
Eyestorm
The leading online retailer of limited edition contemporary art
Ascot Studios Art Gallery
One of the leading independent art galleries in the UK

Other resources

critical network
Forthcoming Events and Exhibitions
WRITING FROM LIVE ART
A Live Art UK initiative

Art Monthly, taking art apart since 1976

Artangel
pioneering a new way of collaborating with artists and engaging audiences


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

London and online galleries

National Gallery
Royal Academy of Arts
TATE ONLINE
Serpentine Gallery
V&A Museum
Saatchi Gallery
The world’s interactive art gallery
Eyestorm
The leading online retailer of limited edition contemporary art
Ascot Studios Art Gallery
One of the leading independent art galleries in the UK

Other resources

critical network
Forthcoming Events and Exhibitions
WRITING FROM LIVE ART
A Live Art UK initiative

Art Monthly, taking art apart since 1976

Artangel
pioneering a new way of collaborating with artists and engaging audiences


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Music scholar Cara Bleiman takes a look at the political potential of music past and present in an essay, striking chords

Sarah Boyes asks What Does Music Mean? in a Battle in Print

Frank Furedi looks at the role of truth in music over recent years

Gramaphone Magazine
Established, incisive classical music magazine

BBC Music
Listen by genre and read all about it!

British Music Information Centre
All about 20th and 21st century music

Classic,net
Heady internet resource for exploring all things classical

Royal College of Music
Events, research, hire a musician

tradmusic.com
Scottish, Irish and World music resource

Music Manifesto
New Labour dumbing down music education

Busk Action
Small group with BIG aims to deregulate busking

Royal Albert Hall
Classical music and shows

English National Opera
Britain’s only full time repertory opera company!

Royal Opera House
Music, ballet, theatre and a very big building

No Music Day
Imagine a day with no music…


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

BBC News
Economist.com
CNN
Guardian ‘comment is free’
Telegraph blogs
Times Online blogs
bookforum.com
Arts & Letters Daily



Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

London and online galleries

National Gallery
Royal Academy of Arts
TATE ONLINE
Serpentine Gallery
V&A Museum
Saatchi Gallery
The world’s interactive art gallery
Eyestorm
The leading online retailer of limited edition contemporary art
Ascot Studios Art Gallery
One of the leading independent art galleries in the UK

Other resources

critical network
Forthcoming Events and Exhibitions
WRITING FROM LIVE ART
A Live Art UK initiative

Art Monthly, taking art apart since 1976

Artangel
pioneering a new way of collaborating with artists and engaging audiences


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Music scholar Cara Bleiman takes a look at the political potential of music past and present in an essay, striking chords

Sarah Boyes asks What Does Music Mean? in a Battle in Print

Frank Furedi looks at the role of truth in music over recent years

Gramaphone Magazine
Established, incisive classical music magazine

BBC Music
Listen by genre and read all about it!

British Music Information Centre
All about 20th and 21st century music

Classic,net
Heady internet resource for exploring all things classical

Royal College of Music
Events, research, hire a musician

tradmusic.com
Scottish, Irish and World music resource

Music Manifesto
New Labour dumbing down music education

Busk Action
Small group with BIG aims to deregulate busking

Royal Albert Hall
Classical music and shows

English National Opera
Britain’s only full time repertory opera company!

Royal Opera House
Music, ballet, theatre and a very big building

No Music Day
Imagine a day with no music…


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

London and online galleries

National Gallery
Royal Academy of Arts
TATE ONLINE
Serpentine Gallery
V&A Museum
Saatchi Gallery
The world’s interactive art gallery
Eyestorm
The leading online retailer of limited edition contemporary art
Ascot Studios Art Gallery
One of the leading independent art galleries in the UK

Other resources

critical network
Forthcoming Events and Exhibitions
WRITING FROM LIVE ART
A Live Art UK initiative

Art Monthly, taking art apart since 1976

Artangel
pioneering a new way of collaborating with artists and engaging audiences


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Contemporary Writers
New writers, new works, databased by the British Council

Pen Pusher
London-based free literary magazine

Story
Celebrate the short story!

Orange Prize
Only the fairer sex need apply

Man Booker Prize
Literary Prize of the Finest Quality

Granta
The up and coming speak

The Bookseller
Infused with news from the world of books

International Pen
Writers around the world campaign for freedom of expression

Serpent’s Tail
Independent publisher for experimental voices

Random House
Fiction from the biggest publisher around

Edinburgh Book Festival
Books books and discussing books galore

Jewish Book Week
Celebrating, discussing and critiquing Jewish Lit


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

BBC News
Economist.com
CNN
Guardian ‘comment is free’
Telegraph blogs
Times Online blogs
bookforum.com
Arts & Letters Daily



Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Battle of Ideas

Institute of Contemporary Arts

Intelligence Squared

Gresham College

LSE Public Lectures

Fabian Society Events

Exhibitions and Talks at the British Library



Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for this year’s Battle of Ideas festival.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

Internet Movie Database
IMDB - does exactly what it says on the tin

BFI
British Film Institute’s Finest

BFI’s Sight and Sound
World cinema eating its heart out

They shoot pictures, don’t they?
Dedicated to the art of directing

Barbican Film
Some of the most innovative films in town

ICA Film
Independent, political and art-house gorge-fest

National Media Museum
Not nearly as bad as it sounds

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Music scholar Cara Bleiman takes a look at the political potential of music past and present in an essay, striking chords

Sarah Boyes asks What Does Music Mean? in a Battle in Print

Frank Furedi looks at the role of truth in music over recent years

Gramaphone Magazine
Established, incisive classical music magazine

BBC Music
Listen by genre and read all about it!

British Music Information Centre
All about 20th and 21st century music

Classic,net
Heady internet resource for exploring all things classical

Royal College of Music
Events, research, hire a musician

tradmusic.com
Scottish, Irish and World music resource

Music Manifesto
New Labour dumbing down music education

Busk Action
Small group with BIG aims to deregulate busking

Royal Albert Hall
Classical music and shows

English National Opera
Britain’s only full time repertory opera company!

Royal Opera House
Music, ballet, theatre and a very big building

No Music Day
Imagine a day with no music…


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Music scholar Cara Bleiman takes a look at the political potential of music past and present in an essay, striking chords

Sarah Boyes asks What Does Music Mean? in a Battle in Print

Frank Furedi looks at the role of truth in music over recent years

Gramaphone Magazine
Established, incisive classical music magazine

BBC Music
Listen by genre and read all about it!

British Music Information Centre
All about 20th and 21st century music

Classic,net
Heady internet resource for exploring all things classical

Royal College of Music
Events, research, hire a musician

tradmusic.com
Scottish, Irish and World music resource

Music Manifesto
New Labour dumbing down music education

Busk Action
Small group with BIG aims to deregulate busking

Royal Albert Hall
Classical music and shows

English National Opera
Britain’s only full time repertory opera company!

Royal Opera House
Music, ballet, theatre and a very big building

No Music Day
Imagine a day with no music…


Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Marxists Online
Marx, Engels, Lenin and beyond

New Left Review, international Leftist journal

Mute Magazine, culture and politics after the net

Red Pepper, influenced by socialism, feminisim and environmental politics

Dissent Magazine, US Leftist journal for the clashing of strong opinions

And its counterpart, Commentary, general, yet Jewish

Granta, magazine for new writing

Wikipedia, ze internet encyclopedia

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online, all things philosophical

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

Culture Wars in association with the Battles in Print, specially commissioned essays for the Battle of Ideas festival, with 2010’s essays now online.

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

Internet Movie Database
IMDB - does exactly what it says on the tin

BFI
British Film Institute’s Finest

BFI’s Sight and Sound
World cinema eating its heart out

They shoot pictures, don’t they?
Dedicated to the art of directing

Barbican Film
Some of the most innovative films in town

ICA Film
Independent, political and art-house gorge-fest

National Media Museum
Not nearly as bad as it sounds

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.

BBC News
Economist.com
CNN
Guardian ‘comment is free’
Telegraph blogs
Times Online blogs
bookforum.com
Arts & Letters Daily



Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.


The Stage
Theatreland’s newspaper

Theatre Monkey
What theatregoers tell you that box-office staff do not

National Theatre
What’s on: plays, exhibitions, music

Royal Shakespeare Company
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

 

Like what you see? - keep it that way, support Culture Wars online review.