Friday 16 August 2013

Tiny and epic

Missing, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

The experiences of youth are central to the construction of who we are in adulthood. The relationship of our parents, our ideas about love and the songs we sing all become etched into our more mature consciousness, feeding into our own perception of identity and the way we behave. In Gecko’s Missing, the experience of the past becomes essential to the lived experience of the present, in a production which, like our memory, works through images which drift in and out of focus, ebbing and flowing with each particular moment.

Lily is a hard-working businesswoman who gets married during the opening sequence of the piece. The loose narrative then sees her struggle to come to terms with her failing relationship as we watch that of her parents play out pretty much in reverse. The two plots become interlinked, but play out in different speeds in different directions. Finally, during an exquisitely crafted and gently funny scene at the end of the production, her parents meet for the first time. As these memories play out, her soul is also in the process of decay, as her personal understanding of who she is complicates her identity.

This is pretty much all inference, as director Amit Lahav carefully doesn’t give too much away in terms of ‘what happens’, preferring instead to stick to loose phrases, a selection of languages and bold images. Thus, in this show about personal identity, each audience member’s own personal identity will impact upon their interpretation and enjoyment.

This is a world made of gorgeous, visceral images. Two massive treadmills on Rhys Jaman’s surprisingly minimalist set are used throughout, allowing quick shifts in tense and location, ensuring everything is always moving. When they stop, it feels like the whole world has ceased to turn. Chris Swan’s lighting follows similar patterns, ever-changing and allowing the team to hone the audience’s focus. Picture frames with a taut plastic sheet and bordering lights make anything within their borders look like an old photograph, sepia-tones and all; these are snapshots from Lily’s life, moving images trapped in time.

The five performers create a visual language borne out of movement to tell this story. They move from slow, sensuous dances to full-throttle freak-outs, but no matter how fast or slow it is always exquisitely executed. The scenes played in rewind are hypnotic, accompanied by Dave Price’s rich music, which follows the patterns and cadences created by the bodies on stage. They all come together with beautiful synergy, flesh mixed with metal and the real with the unreal.

Missing manages to make the vast, unforgiving space at the Pleasance Dome look both tiny and epic, and everything feels wholly necessary for the telling of this particular story. By creating such a personal but non-specific story, Lahav invites us to place ourselves within this story, and through Gecko’s trademark mix of cutting edge stagecraft and technology makes us realise that memories are all we have.


Company: Gecko
Director: Amit Lahav
Venue: Pleasance Grand till 26 August 2013


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Nods to audience

Shitfaced Shakespeare, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

The premise of Magnificent Bastard’s Shitfaced Shakespeare is well-known by now: a small, classically trained cast perform an extremely trimmed version of a Shakespeare play while one of them is blind drunk. It’s a Fringe favourite now and never fails to raise a smile. This year, the team performs Much Ado About Nothing, taking on the parts of Beatrice, Benedict, Hero, Claudio, Don John and Leonata (the father is now a mother). The evening I saw the show, Beth-Louise Priestley as Hero was the sozzled party.

It’s obviously a riot of a show with many hilarious results (we all sung ‘Happy Birthday’ down the phone to Priestley’s sister, for instance). The sober cast are all well drilled by now, understanding what to do in certain situations and keeping the show from going completely awol. But then even the drunkard normally has a fairly good grasp of what’s going on; through repetition, they’ve clearly managed to make performing the piece second-nature.

On a slightly serious note, I actually think there’s a lot to be said for this irreverent, knowing style of performance, which never pretends (unlike much theatre) to be anything it’s not. After pulling a pained expression, for example, Priestley then looked proud of herself, pointed to her face and shouted ‘Acting’. It’s a tiny gesture, but I genuinely wish we’d get these nods to audience more when at the theatre; we all know we’re watching a performance, so why pretend otherwise?

Punchdrunk could also learn a thing or two from Shitfaced Shakespeare, which allows direct audience involvement to drive the show by giving various members the ability to signal when the drunk actor should take another drink. Obviously, this is merely to raise the hilarity of a show which is already hilarious. It never pretends to be anything its not, and always has a firm tongue in its cheek. Great fun.


Company: Magnificent Bastards
Venue: C Venues till 26 August 2013


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Sunday 11 August 2013

The drone is emasculating

Grounded, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

John Kerry recently pledged to put an early stop to drone strikes in Pakistan. The extent to which you believe this depends on your trust in politicians, but his statement certainly doesn’t mark an all-out end to drone warfare. According to the unnamed Pilot in Grounded, within five years their use will be widespread. And though its contemporary relevance is the reason for its immediate success, the play is also an extraordinarily human account of war and family which has an impact far beyond its resonance in 2013.

George Brant’s play takes the form of a monologue told by Pilot, whose story begins flying planes in live combat missions. After she’s married and had a child, however, she’s shifted from ‘The Blue’ to a trailer in the desert in Las Vegas where she faces ‘The Gray’ for 12 hours a day, flying a reaper drone. Where once she came back home on leave once a year, now she has to readjust on a daily basis.

The play’s critique of gender is highly intelligent. Firstly, Brant subverts expectations by placing a female Pilot on stage, which then means her ‘demotion’ to drone pilot makes more sense as she is believed to need more time at home to care for her child. The fact she is unnamed is also important, allowing her to stand in for a large group of people rather than being a lone individual. More interesting, however, is the way she behaves with her colleagues and with us, projecting a masculine persona when celebrating a win or going out for some beers. She hates the fact that she talks ‘like a mom now - a bullshit one’ and is terrified her daughter will grow up to be a ‘hair tosser’. The highly male-dominated world of the military has made her act like a man. The drone is emasculating.

Throughout, Pilot talks of The Guilty and The Innocent as if they have no bearing on one another. She has been conditioned to think of Us and Them, which is necessary for survival when sat in the cockpit of a fighter jet, but makes less sense when all you get is a grey image on a computer scene. Naturally, these distinctions become less clear throughout, as the distance helps her to comprehend the politics involved in the decisions, with the result of a quite harrowing twist at the end of the play. ‘Same war,’ she says, ‘different desert’.

But the most interesting aspect of Grounded for me is its comment on surveillance. Unlike the thrill of live warfare, she here watches events unfold twice removed: ‘I fly a plane and stare at a screen that stares at the ground’. Throughout, surveillance features heavily, as her husband Eric works for security at the Pyramid in Vegas, meaning their jobs are far similar than they’d like to think. Her discourse when describing people being watched by the camera is much the same as CCTV camera operators, who often make snap decisions about individuals and judge based on appearance. The anonymity of being sat behind a screen means judgements have to be black and white. The turning point, however, comes when the Pilot looks up to a camera in a mall and realises that the person watching her could be all the way in India, as being on the other end of a device forces her to evaluate her position. This is all reinforced by Oliver Townsend’s translucent cube design, which allows us to see in without letting her see out; like those watching drone or CCTV cameras, we have the advantage.

Lucy Ellinson as the Pilot pretends for a long while that it is she who has the power, portraying confidence and gumption, but right from the off it’s clear this character is not as comfortable as she’d like us to think. She stops herself from feeling proud about mastering the drone quickly and has to shift her thoughts in an instant by imagining music. She always lives completely in the moment, until she adds everything up at the end. It’s a quite staggering performance, and one which builds steadily over the course of the play.

Christopher Haydon’s production is one which allows all these aspects of the play to come to light, but it doesn’t just feel like a ‘good play done well’ - it’s far more than this. Townsend’s cube and Mark Howland’s lighting both manage to feel both huge and tiny, and are calibrated smartly to allow us to re-engage with each moment. Add to that Tom Gibbons’ blaring, pumping soundtrack and you get a production which has all the excitement and energy of a battlefield, whilst maintaining all the humanity and character that this play needs to succeed. It’s a necessary, highly intelligent piece of theatre, and reminds us that, in the 12st century, ‘Everything is witnessed’.


Directed by Christopher Haydon
Starring Lucy Ellinson
Venue: Traverse Theatre till 25 August 2013


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Academic performance

Laquearia Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

I don’t doubt the intelligence of Laquearia as a piece of writing. In fact, it’s incredibly complex and thoughtfully written, often reading like an academic essay. But then that’s the problem; though it may be an important piece of criticism, it fails to work theatrically on many levels.

We watch as John Cage and Samuel Beckett play out the game of chess described in Beckett’s Murphy. They sit downstage whilst a Narrator and a Commentator give a running commentary of the events, allowing us to evaluate what’s going on intellectually at every moment. Alongside this game of chess, a score in the vein of Cage’s Reunion is played, activated by a chess board wired up to speakers to mimic the game he played against the Duchamps in 1968.

This lecture-demonstration is an interesting experiment in form, but you need every area of your brain to be engaged to even begin to follow Victoria Miguel’s academic text. The Narrator - played by Philip Kingscott - has the majority of lines and wanders around the stage, script in hand. He fails to really engage with what’s going on intellectually, though, meaning our guide seems just as clueless as us.

The score - composed by Cage, Jacob Carpenter Morris, Marc Thorman and Lynn Wright - is both interesting and annoying in equal measure, never really taking us anywhere and making it all the more difficult to understand the script itself. Indeed, it’s hard to tell that its being influenced by the game of chess being played and could just be a track played from a CD.

I guess the reason Laquearia doesn’t quite work is that, unlike the initial incarnations of the pieces it takes inspiration from, it’s consciously a piece of performance, with ‘actors’ standing in the place of ‘real people’. Thus Kingscott feels less like an intellectual lecturing us and more like an actor reading a script, whilst Allan Scott-Douglas and Paul Birchard - though good - are clearly ‘acting’ a conversation between two great minds rather than actually having it.

Fortunately, we get given a copy of the text on the way out, allowing us to peruse the piece and all its ideas at our own leisure. Whilst we’re in the room at Summerhall, though, it’s difficult to engage, and doesn’t say anything new in its performance that the two pieces weren’t saying already.


Venue: Summerhall till 9 August 2013


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Inherent fear

Ballad of the Burning Star, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

There is no way of accurately or wholly representing the Israeli-Arab conflict on stage. The subject is so fraught with history, with emotion and with complications that there is no way it can be solved with a singular theatre show. Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Ballad of the Burning Star, however, attempts to tackle some of the central questions around the Israeli occupation and Palestinian violence, and on the whole is successful. By pushing through taboos, it suggests that the fear inherent in both sides is what keeps the war going, and that a little compassion would go a long way.

This fear is present from the top of the show, as a female voice informs us that, because this is a show about Israel, someone may enter the auditorium halfway through the show with a bomb. ‘It probably won’t happen,’ we are told, even though apparently, ‘there have been incidents in the past’. And though our rational selves would like to fight against this, there is a small part of us which tenses in fear at these words, as we experience first hand what it’s like to be under threat.

The show then begins proper, as our host for the evening, Star (Nir Paldi in drag, who also wrote and directed the piece) enters and sings a song accompanied by ‘Camp David’ on the drums before welcoming her five backing dancers known as ‘Starlets’. Instantly, we delve into the rhetoric of ‘settlements’ and ‘liberation’ as the discourse surrounding the situation is sent up, exposing each side’s reliance on language as a means of oppression.

The story itself, told with full-throttle energy and constant dancing by Star and her Starlets, is that of a young boy named Israel who grows up surrounded by violence and conflict. Paldi’s character acts as the boy, with his girls (in knowingly sexualised military garb) standing in for family and friends. It all comes to head in a startling moment at the end of the piece, when a choice is made by Israel which has been influenced by every moment in his life up until now. It’s a pretty stunning coup, and leaves you speechless in trying to work out its implications.

Paldi’s presentation in drag is key to the central argument of the piece, which suggests the arguments for and against Israeli actions are wrapped up in a disguise which fails to get to the heart of the issue. All this flair and pizazz distracts from the story Star and the girls are telling, as the focus becomes style rather than substance. Sequences like ‘The Persecution Song’ and ‘Internal Conflict’ smack of propaganda, of manipulative rather than intellectual discussions, but we see that they are far inferior to the naked truth seen at the show’s climax.

Naturally, one’s enjoyment of this piece is going to be determined by personal beliefs on its subject matter, but there’s no denying it offers an almost violently balanced view of the conflict, suggesting that both sides are at fault and that the problem will persist unless children aren’t instilled with fear of the Other from a young age. On the face of it, Ballad of the Burning Star is a seemingly broad and vulgar presentation of a highly complex subject, but in fact there is a lot more depth here than meets the eye, in this sharp and nuanced critique of a war which forever feels completely unnecessary.


Company: Theatre Ad Infinitum
Writer/Director: Nir Paldi
Venue: Pleasance Dome till 26 August 2013


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Theatre for trauma

Have I No Mouth?, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

If I’m being perfectly honest, my heart sank during the first five minutes of Have I No Mouth?. As soon as Feidlim Cannon mentions that his mother (Ann, who appears with him on stage) is interested in reiki healing and colour therapy and that the show would be about ‘healing’, the rational part of me began ringing its alarm bells, expecting a defence of alternative medicines. But the show does nothing of the sort. Instead, it offers an offbeat, deeply felt and theatrical look at the way in which we make ourselves better after traumatic events, considering how the theatre can help in this.

Feidlim lost his father Sean (and Ann her husband) in 2001, and his baby brother Sean about 15 years earlier. This is a show about coming to terms with those losses (they believe the father, at least, could have been saved), and their therapist Erich Keller helps them to understand their feelings about their loss. It begins normally enough, with Keller teaching us how to use an ‘anger balloon’ to relieve stress and the pair naming objects which hold an emotional significance for them, but soon it heads down a bizarre, provocative path as healing and remembering start to become more bound up together.

Through their process of healing, Feidlim begins placing the figure of father onto his psychotherapist, until he actively ‘plays’ the older Sean, complete with boxing helmet and bandaged face, having a ball kicked at him and a pint of Guinness poured over his head. He’s not only a man who helps him talk about it; he is also a surrogate punchbag.

An interesting thread running throughout the show is that of truth. Ann and Feidlim play out conversations on stage where they discuss what did or didn’t happen in the past, and the air of honesty which has already been created means we invest in the argument more because the setup is so much more aware of itself as a piece of performance than a conventional play. Though this has clearly been performed many times before, there’s nonetheless something extremely raw about it. And though the focus is the two Seans, I found myself interpreting the events on stage into something far more personal to me.

It’s difficult to know quite how much Have I No Mouth? is about this mother and son helping themselves understand their losses and how much it is about healing in general, but Gary Keegan’s direction manages to create some powerful images regardless. From ‘a coffin for a baby’ to a game of Operation and a simulated Christmas dinner with cardboard cutouts of children, there is no shortage of visual signifiers. And then, right at the end - releasing a downpour of objects in a way which is becoming rather staple at this year’s fringe - a multitude of balloons cascades over the audience as the anger in the room dissipates and the process comes to an end.


Company: Brokentalkers
Venue: Traverse till 25 August 2013


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Must try harder

Anoesis, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

We all recognise the language of school and exams. Phrases like ’[Name] is a well-mannered, focussed child’ and ‘Must try harder’ are familiar in some way to all of us, and it’s this shared language that Junction 25’s Anoesis Anoesis off. With a young company, it sends up the way our school system works. But Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore’s production never quite takes off, and lacks a central argument on which the various vignettes can be hung.

As we enter the Dissection Room in Summerhall, our names are taken for the ‘register’ and we are given a sticker with our name on. Seating is arranged down too long, tall tables on either side of the room, creating a traverse performance space in the middle. In front of us is a pen and an exam paper. Beside some of us are teenagers in school uniform.

After the register is taken, we begin with section A of the paper. Throughout the ‘exam’ (which has three sections), sketches break up proceedings. One girl talks about what she wants to be when she’s older. An audience member gets told how well he’s doing. The entire cast walk up and down the space to the sound of bass-laden music, falling over occasionally as they struggle to keep going in the everyday drama of school life.

All these ideas are strong, and there are some moments of tenderness and beauty, but they don’t quite come together. We can all agree that there’s lots wrong with the education system and that our school lives make us who we are, but Anoesis touches on these things without interrogating them. If you boil down the actual material on show, there’s not much there (a lot is repeated) and their intrigue doesn’t stretch far beyond the initial idea.

There’s a lot of energy and I genuinely liked the minimalist, stripped back aesthetic and use of microphones, but the lack of substance becomes a little irksome after a while and you can see the potential of the show struggling to get out. Anoesis clearly comes from a place of anger and emotion for Junction 25, but as it stands it needs to do a little bit more work in class if it’s to get good feedback at parents’ evening.


Company: Junction 25
Directors: Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore
Venue: Summerhall till 25 August 2013


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Spin tales forever

Specie, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

[Quick bit of housekeeping: I went to university with some of the people involved in this show and know them pretty well. But that doesn’t change my feelings about the show as I’d be able to tell them if I thought it was pants. Which it’s not.]

How much choice do we have over our own lives? There are many things we can change about ourselves, but there’s one thing which is prescribed from birth and which we can only change through a long and complex process: our sex. In Specie, people can change their sexual organs at will, creating a whole new understanding of gender. In FatGit Theatre’s production, the idea of choice is celebrated and a joyously hopeful ending gives the possibility of a better future.

The story (penned by Joe White) spans a good couple of decades, telling the story of how a young girl (Lily) became a boy (Louis) at the choice of his parents, who wanted to give him the ‘best start in life’. Alongside this main narrative, we also see a selection of meetings of New People Anonymous, all of whom have changed their sex a number of times, meaning we experience both the public and personal ramifications of this new world.

Funnily enough, despite the plot, it’s not really a play ‘about’ gender. Sure, gender features and White’s text sees a few discussions about biology, but in fact Specie touches more on choice and personal agency than anything else. Perhaps, it suggests, in a world which seemingly features too much choice, we are forgetting that there are a few things we have absolutely no say over. A gloriously uplifting ending, complete with multi-coloured balls, subverts all this.

FatGit have matured with this show, with Josh Roche’s direction departing from the grotesquery explored in earlier shows and instead allowing the piece to speak for itself, only adding in more absurd gestures here and there (snappy scene changes and lampshades on heads, for example). The performances are all searingly honest, though there is a knowingness of performance which stops them being too earnest. Shubham Saraf as the lead role is perfectly understated, meaning his moments of outrage become all the more effective.

With a funk-driven soundtrack and plenty of laughs, Specie is a show which makes its point with ease and a lightness of touch. The final monologue teaches us to tell stories in order to give hope - a running theme at this year’s Fringe - and with a wacky but completely beautiful closing image, you want to go out and spin tales forever, if only to make the world a little bit better.


Company: FatGit Theatre
Director: Josh Roche
Venue: Pleasance Dome till 26 August 2013


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Monday 5 August 2013

Beautiful fakery

Long Live the Little Knife, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Even before Long Live the Little Knife begins we are lulled into its world of false realities, as we are handed a programme splattered in paint with a small ‘edition 20/200’ printed at the bottom right. It looks and feels real, but just like the subject matter and form of the piece itself, there are more falsehoods at work than we’d like to believe.

David Leddy (who wrote and directed the piece) here explores the curious urge humans have to have a grasp on authentic objects (such as a wedding ring) and, by extension, works of art; even if the Thing in question may be an exact replica of the original, it’s not quite good enough. The piece uses art forgeries as a central metaphor which is then extrapolated further to contemplate the very idea of theatre itself.

Seats and walls in the studio space at the Traverse are covered in paint-splattered canvas, and on stage the working of theatre are far from hidden, as a desk filled with electrical equipment and papers sits at the front of the thrust. The two performers - Wendy Seager and Neil McCormack - welcome us as we enter. There is no pretence here.

That is, of course, until the ‘play’ begins ‘proper’. Ostensibly, Liz and Jim are having a few drinks with Leddy, and are revealing their secret about being con-artists who specialise in art. It’s presented as a verbatim conversation which has been theatricalised by the playwright, but even at this juncture it’s clear that what we are seeing is unreal. When in a theatre, Leddy suggests, we cannot trust anything, especially if it’s masquerading as ‘real’.

Seager and McCormick flit between locations, narratives, characters and accents with breakneck speed, never maintaining anything for it to be considered ‘real’ and yet presenting each with absolute clarity (like their forgeries). Just like the text, it is impossible to trust them, though their delivery is utterly compelling.

It’s not hard to see why others fall for their ploys. Every shift in scene, lighting change and musical movement is seen to be altered by the on-stage stage manager who also acts as surrogate for Leddy. On his desk are a slide projector and an OHP, with a digital projector being conspicuous by its absence. These two devices somehow feel more real than their computerised counterpart, but of course they’re not; they magnify simulacra just as falsely as any twenty-first century machine. This difficulty in understanding and grasping reality in our current context is highlighted by placing ‘postmodern’ in opposition to ‘genius’ and including the glorious phrasing ‘Metanarrative - get it up ye’ in a way which both utilises and ridicules contemporary discourse about art.

Alongside all this is a critique of free-market capitalism. Art trading is, apparently, one of the few truly deregulated financial markets, and the result is what we see in Long Live the Little Knife. The twist at the end of the piece was, for me, genuinely unexpected, and is as a direct result of the couple’s reliance on anything goes late capitalism. ‘Milton fucking Friedman indeed.

Leddy ultimately concludes that sometimes we have to accept forgery and fakes when entering a theatrical space, though asks us to be weary of them. In Long Live the Little Knife, he doesn’t so much as criticize falsehood as simply ask those partaking in it to be, like him, more honest. It’s a witty, hyper-intelligent play, and gives you the tools to look at your artsy programme in a new light: it may be a fake, but it’s still beautiful. So why does it matter?


Company: Fire Exit
At the Traverse till 25 August 2013


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We need to talk about democracy

Fight Night, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

It’s only really been 200 years since the idea of democracy started to take hold. Before that, we had any number of other systems - monarchism, feudalism, tribalism - which each had their respective pros and cons. In terms of the wide sweep of human history, it’s only fairly recently that we’ve decided a consensus democracy is a Good Thing. And of course, it is. To an extent. But as Ontroerend Goed demonstrate in Fight Night, it has its flaws just like any other system. Time to start talking about it.

(Word of warning. This review is a bit spoiler-y, so perhaps best to read once you’ve seen the show if you plan to.)

The premise is simple: as we enter, each audience member is given a keypad, with which we will vote over various rounds as five candidates get whittled down to one. Our initial votes are based solely on appearance. Then we vote after the candidates give a short speech and tell us their age and relationship status. Coalitions form, loyalties are made, consensus shifts.

These first few rounds are simple enough, and ease us into things by asking us to make snap decisions based on very little info. Slowly, the game becomes more complex, as we begin to question why we vote for leaders when partaking in elections. The ‘blind round’ gives options based on personal qualities (‘Which word do you find most offensive’, ‘How would you describe yourself’, etc), and found myself voting for the ones which were most like me. Do we all look for elements of ourselves in our leaders? Or do we vote based purely on ideas? That’s assuming, of course, that the two are mutually exclusive.

At this stage, the question which perhaps sums up the fundamental problem with our version of democracy is asked: ‘Do you trust the majority of this audience?’ The tone suddenly shifts, and with only three candidates remaining things become more serious. The performers start using the rhetoric of politicians (‘I’m very happy you asked me that question…’ and ‘First of all, congratulations…’) and we are reminded that each candidate is rehearsed. The dogmas and entrenched opinions that they - and by extension we - hold start to become more obvious.

At this stage, I started to question the very validity of this vote, as the figures shown on the screen started to become rounded numbers rather than being decimalised as they were before. Here, it’s difficult not to look back and think ‘Have my votes counted for anything at all? Or is this whole thing rigged?’ It becomes tempting to stop voting, but I made a point to continue to hold a stake in the democratic process. Otherwise, why am I here?

(It’s probably good to mention at this point that, after talking to various people, these rounded figures were unique to the evening I saw the show, meaning that it’s probably not rigged. It also seems that audiences do vote differently each night and, though the whole thing follows a script of sorts, it’s not the same people who progress. I do definitely think there’s some truths being withheld, however, and this only adds to the way in which Fight Night comments on the democratic system, which gives us a taste of choice without ever handing us all the facts.)

The point at which the show becomes really interesting happens when the three remaining candidates give us a trio of options, which basically boil down to your fundamental views about democracy. One asks us to think ideologically, to imagine the power behind all voting for her if we just believe everyone else will, utilising the democratic system but placing on top of it a real tone of hope. Counter to this is the option to abstain from voting, first by pressing ‘9’ and then by handing in our devices, rejecting the system itself. The third option is what could be called the ‘realist’ vote, which recognises the flaws in the system but implores us to use it to make the world better.

Things escalate pretty quickly from there. I decided to hand in my device and then, when invited, to ‘occupy’ the stage to register my dissent. Of course, I was following a candidate just like anyone else, but I had found myself superimposing my general views about democracy and ‘The System’ onto the events in the space, and this seemed the most like What I’d Do. There’s a slight problem, of course, in that many anti-mainstream movements like Occupy don’t actually have leaders, preferring instead to rule by consensus rather than representative democracy, but the act of dissenting remains the same in both contexts.

The audience members still in their seats with keypads are then asked to ‘Vote for your right to vote’, and it’s hard at this time to not feel a bit bad about sitting on the stage. Because, of course, I do believe in my right to vote. But not here, in this system which seemed, to me, to be corrupt and failing. What we’re doing when dissenting is not rejecting outright the system of democracy. We’re just rejecting this system, which only seeks to follow the status quo and maintain order.

Then, extraordinarily, the audience voted for those of us sat on the stage to leave. Fair enough, I guess, but what’s so terrifying about it is that one group of people is telling another people what to do. It shows how easily the majority can gang up on the minority when threatened, and the overlap between democracy and autocracy. Democracy is all well and good, but only when you form a part of the majority.


Company: Ontroerend Goed
Venue: Traverse, until 25th August
Time: Various


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Saturday 3 August 2013

Huge, throbbing heart-strings

Titanic, Southwark Playhouse, London

Are those ropes that the Titanic crew is yanking – or just huge, throbbing heart-strings? This latest musical from Southwark Playhouse is one hell of a tear-jerker. Of course it is. Over 1,500 people died on that fateful journey. It is a very sad and very dramatic true story. But does it have to be so cheesy?

One can see this show going down a storm in America. Indeed, Maury Yeston’s score picked up a Tony Award – and it’s pretty strong, with plenty of pace and swagger. The opening numbers swell with expectation and the later numbers are stretched and tense. There’s also a clever social distinction to the score; the clipped and ordered singing of the first class passengers contrasts nicely with the swelling, passionate songs from the crew down below.

The ensemble numbers are blasted out with great confidence and suggest the grandeur of the Titanic (this ‘floating metropolis’) and the billowing pride of those on-board. Thom Southerland’s production is fluid and confident, as we jump about the ship between first, second and third class. We move efficiently about the cast and crew, learning about the loves they’ve left behind, the shame they’re fleeing from or the success they’re chasing after. 

But everything is exceptionally tidy and Peter Stone’s book, gratingly clean-cut. James-Austen-Murray has a rich and striking voice but his role as the wise ship worker, honest and true, is pretty misty eyed. The third class passengers are uniformly skittish, earthy and passionate. The ship crew are, without exception, deferential and honourable and the first class passengers – as always – are caricatures. Ship owner Ismay (Simon Green) is depicted as an unforgivably smarmy bastard, the tragedy placed almost entirely on his bony shoulders.

A show about the Titanic was always going to be predictable but it would have be nice to have a few surprises along the way; some oddball characters or a few patches of dialogue that didn’t run as smooth as silk. I also could have done without the dancing dead people. As the ship goes under, the lost souls glide about the stage. My heart didn’t soar – it sank.


Till 31 August 2013


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One thing colliding with another

Lauder!, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

Lauder! begins and ends with images of planes crashing into the Twin Towers in various configurations: as speech, using props and played in reverse on a computer screen. And though the show itself is in fact about a child looking for lost persons, the idea of one thing colliding with another thing and causing chaos is one which threads throughout, but in Teatr Hotel Malabar’s production the images swim past without ever coming into focus, and the wealth of visual intrigue is somewhat nullified by a lack of coherence.

Two men tell us stories about one child’s struggle to discover the owner of a key while telling us the story of his family. A frenzied chalk map on the floor is simultaneously Manhattan, the World Trade Center and a family tree, and slowly becomes scuffed throughout the performance, which features frenzied attempts to reconstruct a narrative from very little available material. Puppets, masks and overcoats stand in the place of other humans, whilst a projection gives us images and figures where necessary. An ethereal soundtrack by Charlotte Wilde means that the brutal truth of loss presented on stage is underscored by music which places it in another world.

Marcin Bartnikowski and Marcin Bikowski work up a sweat as they span almost sixty years of human history, and perform in a suitably knowing way considering the hypertheatrical style, but their performances lack heart and precision. When playing this many characters, we need to know to whom we are going and when, and sometimes their focus strays, making it even harder to deconstruct.

Lauder! takes inspiration from Hamlet, with the attempt of one young boy to get to know himself better a clear throughline through both plays. But the scenes chosen to open up to contemplation are the infamous Act Three, Scene One and Yorick, so that all we get is re-hashed jokes about Shakespeare’s meditations on life and death rather than the irreverent insight the piece is attempting.

The production, directed by Michael Vogel, is joyful and innocent but lacks a throughline, either of theme or narrative. One extraordinary moment sees a webcam film a photograph burning, the camera recording the flames licking the paper in such a way that it feels slowed down. The fire continues in a drawer whilst it’s projected onto the screen in the stilted way of Skype conversations. It’s a beautiful, simple image, and manages to capture the notion of destroyed history perfectly. It’s just a shame there aren’t more of them.


Company: Theatr Hotel Malabar
Venue: Summerhall, till 16 August 2013
Time: 16.30


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Sunday 21 July 2013

Between comfort and sorrow

Circle Mirror Transformation, Rose Lipman Building (Royal Court Theatre Local season), London

Five people lie on the floor of a studio, counting up to ten. The scattered bodies look like spilikins, randomly distributed yet crucially interlinked. These five people are playing a drama game, in which they must count to ten without speaking over each other. The silences between the spoken numbers throb with meaning; they are filled with anxiety, hope, frustration and a deep desire to access each other’s inner thoughts.

It’s a cracking scene – one that fizzes with energy and immediacy and all sorts of subtle revelations about the characters involved. Annie Barker’s compelling play, which plays with and prowls around reality, is packed with similar drama games. It’s set in the summertime in Vermont, where five characters – including teacher Marty (Imelda Staunton; smart, sparky and so reachable) - have gathered for a drama course. All the characters are a little lost and hoping to escape their lives for a while. This play is about what they find while looking in the opposite direction.

Staunton could easily have slipped into caricature, as the ex-hippy drama teacher who just wants everyone to be happy – but her performance, though superficially funny, is so rich that one can see the child her character once was, the old lady she will eventually become. Staunton sets the tone of this piece and it is one of strained optimism and pooling panic. There’s a wistfulness to her character, which suggests that a part of her that is always absent, preoccupied with secret concerns.

Initially, the drama games are light-hearted and very silly. The students walk around the room, responding to Marty’s commands. ‘Start noticing everyone around you!’, says Marty, and everyone stops, looks and stares. At the moment, they are only observing on a superficial level.

With just a few classy touches, director James Macdonald embellishes the play’s embedded themes.  The production takes place in a community centre in Haggerston, so the lighting is crude. Macdonald embraces this limitation and transforms the necessary snap blackouts into a sixth characters in the room. A drama exercise ends badly and Marty peps up the group, ‘Try again!’ The light snaps shut, encouraging us to laugh. But as the drama exercises build in intensity, the black outs begin to feel a tad malicious; they are the doubts in these characters heads, dreams dying and youth vanishing.

Macdonald also lights up the door to the studio, before the scenes begin. The modest little gym, stripped bare except for a hula hoop and exercise ball, glows red with the light of the Exit sign. It is a neat little touch, which hints at the escape that all these characters are looking for. 

Recently divorced chap, Schultz (Toby Jones – so focused that he basically glows) is asked to do an exercise with Theresa (Fenella Woolgar), with whom he has had a brief fling. The couple must repeat two lines: ‘I need you to stay/Well, I want to go.’ This might sound horrifically forced, but the simplicity and emotional honestly of it all stops the device from feeling too manufactured. The intensity that Jones pours into just one line – I need you to stay – is frightening and horribly sad. 

All the drama games begin to shimmer with double, triple truths. Baker sets up the most potent of role play exercises and dares the truth to wriggle free. Marty and her straying husband, James (Danny Webb), mimic young student Lauren’s parents and little flickers of their own anger spark up. James and Theresa share a conversation in gobbledy gook and a not-so–secret heat flares up between them. Marty recites a monologue about Lauren’s life and the missing mother figure, which Lauren (Shannon Tarbet) so palpably desires, hovers about the gym.

The games also play with the idea of memory and lost time. At one point, Schultz tries to get the actors to represent his childhood bedroom. Theresa waves about like a maple tree, James pretends to be the bed and Marty curls up like a cuddly toy. The end result is absurd. ‘That doesn’t really look like my bedroom’, Schultz quietly objects. It is such a sad moment, filled with the certainty of life passing. Things move on and there is nothing – no game and no imagination in the world – that will get those moments back again.

The ideas and people and love that we lose as time passes is like a sad scent that clings – very faintly – to Baker’s play. Sometimes that transience is comforting – at other times, deeply depressing. Drama sits awkwardly and intriguingly in between this comfort and sorrow. Acting is, after all, an attempt to capture what has long since passed; an effort to identify life and hold it aloft. As Baker beautifully reveals in an aching final scene, drama is something we take part in every day, whether we realise it or not; ‘I don’t know. I guess I feel like my life is pretty real.’


Till 3 August 2013


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Under your skin

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, Temple Studios (National Theatre), London

Punchdrunk’s latest promenade extravaganza, The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, feels like getting wasted on exquisite cocktails. There are moments when the spirits, surroundings and atmosphere combine brilliantly and everything feels exhilarating and magical. But there are also times when the dizziness kicks in, weariness floods through the body and you just want to sit down and cry. 

The source text here is Buchner’s ‘Woyzeck’ - an immeasurably better choice than Punchdrunk’s last show, ‘Sleep No More’, which drew on Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Woyzeck is a fragmentary play, so narrative – never a strong point with Punchdrunk – isn’t the priority. Instead, Buchner’s play is all about atmosphere, anxiety, confusion and a gradual overturning of the senses. These are emotions that Punchdrunk excels in with their disorientating shows, more ghost-ride than theatre. 

The canvas for The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable is the biggest yet; a gigantic abandoned warehouse in Paddington – Temple Studios - which was once a thriving move studio until it was mysteriously shut down in the 1960’s. It’s a gaping black hole of a space, which sprawls over four floors; a building that tingles with secrets and a deep sense of loss. The expansive but minutely designed set (Felix Barratt, Livi Vaughan and Beatrice Minns) is so brilliant that there were moments I giggled in astonishment. The space has been roughly divided into two different worlds; that inside and outside the film studio. Outside is packed with ramshackle caravans, spooky forests, flowing fountains, cafes, bars, stores and even a fully functioning cinema. As I said, audaciously sophisticated stuff.

Inside the studio is a world of crumbling glory; weirdly tinted office spaces, dance floors, dressing rooms and countless expansive sets, which feel ghostly in their state of frozen action.  There are also some sinister outdoor spaces, which exist neither outside nor inside the studio but somewhere in between reality and dreams, life and death. 

This is a world that has the potential to send anyone insane – not least the audience (all in masks), desperately trying to keep up with the action. There are not one but two plot threads. Punchdrunk has taken the main plot of Woyzeck and doubled it, executing mirrored stories both inside and outside the movie studio. It is an awful lot to keep up with and a genuine burden. There’s an anxiety that lingers throughout, which stops the show from being truly immersive: am I missing the best bits?

If Punchdrunk had just scaled back a little – perhaps kept the same physical scope but stuck to one plot thread – this anxiety might have dissipated and I could’ve lost the plot in the right way. There is a disorientation that comes from a desperate attempt to keep up with things – and then there is a deeper and keener edginess that comes from one’s hold on reality being quietly wrenched away.

I chose to stick, mainly, with just one plot thread – that of Mary (Kate Jackson) and her strung out boyfriend, William (Paul Zivkovich), a manual worker who lives near the studio. This narrowing choice allowed me to focus but it also gave me much more freedom. I lost myself in these characters stories and let the venue take a hold on me. With less to follow, one’s brain is free to roam. Following William and Mary and their fraught relationship, I was distracted by a woodland, full of smoke and mystery. A strange performance, in which a hulking chap gracefully danced about the branches, transported me somewhere surreal and unsettling. I lost my bearings and I began to understand and channel William’s loosening grip on reality. 

No doubt those who stuck more closely with the actors inside the studio experienced similar sympathies. This studio setting – a world in which characters make a living out of imitating others – is a clever backdrop for Buchner’s play. It is a context which has the potential to tap into the fractured souls, which haunt Buchner’s play. But an awareness of the presence of this studio sub-plot – and all that I was missing – kept me hovering above the action, worrying about what I might have missed rather than appreciating what I had gained. 

Deep into the show, I stumbled across a scene for a second time. Zivkovich and Jackson were performing a typically impassioned dance – silent (as is most of this production) but jaunty and frantic. First time round, I became lost in their angry dance. Second time round, I felt tired and lost and thoroughly fed up.

But then an actress grabbed me by the hand and dragged me to a final scene; a visceral, angry outburst that felt like an exquisite release. I stood tucked beneath some scaffolding, this actress so close I could hear her breathing. It felt like being injected with pure drama. Punchdrunk shows might be frustrating and even wasteful sometimes – but they sure do get under your skin. 


Till 30 December 2013


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Saturday 13 July 2013

Mouthpieces

Untitled matriarch play (or seven sisters), Royal Court, London

Bugger. I really wanted to love this. Nikole Beckwith’s ‘Untitled matriarch play (or seven sisters)’ is part of the Weekly Rep at the Royal Court, in which the same ensemble performs six new plays, over six weeks. The Weekly Rep is just one component of Vicky Featherstone’s inaugural season at the Royal Court. This ‘Open Court’ season is also hosting – deep breaths – surprise theatre, big idea nights, comedy events, one-on-one readings with playwrights and shedloads more.

The energy coming off the Royal Court Theatre right now is something else. The venue is sparkling, smiling – opening out its arms and hugging the whole damn lot of us! The space feels different; louder, brighter and much more open. The Court tangibly feels like a theatre that fosters creativity – rather than simply staging it. These are all very, very good signs. But this play, alas, is a bit of a stinker. I haven’t seen such a shrill production in quite some time. The script is so brittle, one is scared to breathe, lest it shatter into a million pieces.

There’s not much to the plot, which is stretched out for far too long. A mother (Siobhan Redmond) gathers her four daughters on the eve of her 55th for a shock announcement: she is going to have a surrogate son! Cue much outrage, confusion and heavily laboured (ha!) soul searching. The characters are thin as hell and essentially just mouthpieces for some mediocre jokes. Laura Elphinstone is such an unusual actress, who always pulls me in, but she’s reduced to a punch-line in this play; the depressed middle child who is always ignored. It generates a few gags at the start but soon gets wearing. Sometimes the jokes are extracted merely from the characters’ names; ‘I was called Mimi because I’m all me me me.’ Just painful.

The actors don’t seem convinced by the comedy and there’s a faintly apologetic air to the whole night. It feels like we’re watching a soon-to-be-cancelled sitcom; even the audience’s laughter sound canned. A few meta-theatrical elements are introduced later on, such as a bored man heckling from the audience. These touches are wildly misjudged. They feel like a mistake – the type of nuanced and thoughtful touch that belongs to an entirely different kind of play. 

Vicky Feathersone hasn’t committed herself to this production, which was only ever going to work if it was painfully over-stated. This is the kind of over-explicit piece that only speaks if it roars. But Featherstone and her actors seem to be straddling the divide, hitting the banter hard at some moments but going for soft intimacy in others. The two tones just don’t get along.

Thank God for Anna Calder-Marshall, who radiates something deeper and stronger than the play itself. Calder-Marshall speaks rarely (she plays an ageing grandma) but she makes her words count. Her monologue is ferocious and honest and moving. She breathes fire over the lot of us: cherish your life while you still can! Too bloody right. Now - how the hell do I find my way out of this theatre?


Till 13 July 2013


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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.

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.