Friday, 27 July 2012

Play Without Words (Sadler's Wells)

With visions of Mr Alternative Car Park in mind, we've traditionally steered clear of 'dance theatre' down the years. 

So however qualified I might be to comment on drama, I really lack the critical vocabulary to say much about dance.

However, I was so intrigued by Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words, currently enjoying a revival at Sadler's Wells, that I thought I'd make the effort.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Doctor's Dilemma (National Theatre)

George Bernard Shaw's play is an interesting choice to put on at the moment, as the economics of healthcare are probably under closer scrutiny than they have been for nearly 70 years.

However, the NT – mercifully – isn't pressing as hard to make The Doctor's Dilemma as contemporary as its current production of Timon of Athens, even though it involves medics having to decide which lives are worth saving when demand for treatment outstrips resources.

The doctor in the title is Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Aden Gillett), whose cure for tuberculosis has propelled him to the top of his profession.

And his dilemma? With only one place remaining for his treatment, Sir Colenso must decide whether to give it to an ailing but brilliant young artist, Dubedat (Tom Burke), or a kind but poor fellow doctor, Blenkinsop (Derek Hutchison).

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Timon of Athens (National Theatre)

In the programme notes for Nicholas Hytner's modern-dress production of Timon of Athens at the National Theatre, Shakespearean scholar Peter Holland reveals that the little-performed play only just escaped disappearing altogether.

Shoehorned into the First Folio (1623) at the last moment to plug a gap, the play was unfinished, probably never performed and believed to have been co-written with Thomas Middleton.

So if it only just made it onto the ark, is it worth a revival in 2012?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Gerry Anderson's walk for Alzheimer's

(If you want to avoid my self-indulgent flapdoodle, the important bit about sponsoring Gerry and his son Jamie is at the bottom.)

Without wanting to get all John-Boy Walton about it, one day from my childhood remains particularly vivid in my mind and still gives me a wave of pleasure whenever I think of it.

One summer day in 1976 or 1977 when I was 8 or 9, my dad, my brother and I took the short train ride from Chorley to Blackpool for a day out (my mum must have been working).

The destination itself was exciting enough: our seaside trips were usually at sedate Morecambe, where I'd be shoved behind the counter of my uncle's seafood stall while he and my dad stole off to the Palatine or the Queens Hotel for a few hours' froth-blowing.

But it wasn't just the glorious sunshine or the brilliant picnic my mum had packed for us that made the trip so memorable.

While strolling along the Golden Mile we stumbled across Gerry Anderson's Space City exhibition, somewhere underneath the Tower.

I can't even begin to describe how much I loved his series, and as I wandered through what seemed to be room after room filled with costumes, props and beautifulmodels, I was in absolute heaven.

Even now, 30-odd years later, the opening bars of a Barry Gray theme tune still get my heart beating a little faster.

Sadly, Gerry Anderson announced recently that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease 18 months ago.

However, together with his son Jamie, he's taking part in a Memory Walk in October to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society. (Jamie is also doing all three 'marathon' Memory Walks in September)

It's not often you get the opportunity to do something to repay one of your heroes even a little for the pleasure they've given you down the years.

If you've ever enjoyed one of Gerry Anderson's series, please go to Jamie's JustGiving page and make a donation.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Newsroom (HBO, Sky Atlantic)

Now here's a thing for a supposedly avid TV watcher to admit: I've never seen an episode of The West Wing. Not even five minutes, in the background, while I'm waiting for the kettle to boil.

But, of course, I'm fully aware of the status of Aaron Sorkin. I was even lucky enough to see him interviewed at the BFI alongside a screening of The Social Network, which was a bravura piece of screenwriting that deserved the Bafta and Oscar it won.

So, like a lot of people, I was looking forward to The Newsroom, his new series about the crisis facing US TV journalism in recent years. (The opener is set in 2010, as the Gulf of Mexico oil leak, er, came to the surface.)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

It's Dark in London (Festival Village; Oscar Zarate, Iain Sinclair, Stella Duffy, Alexei Sayle)

The other night we went to an event at the South Bank Centre to mark the recent publication of It's Dark in London by indie comics powerhouse SelfMadeHero.

The book is an expanded reissue of a very solid anthology originally published in 1996 (gulp), featuring strips from independent comic luminaries Woodrow Phoenix, Ed 'Ilya' Hillier and Carol Swain, as well as creative teams including Neil Gaiman and Warren Pleece; Iain Sinclair and Dave McKean; Chris Petit and Garry Marshall; and Alan Moore and the book's editor, Oscar Zarate.

Zarate led the event and was joined on stage by Sinclair, as well as Stella Duffy and Alexei Sayle, fellow contributors to the book, which now includes a few additional pieces of prose and poetry.

Monday, 9 July 2012

David Bailey's East End (Compressor House, East London)

Yesterday we took a long trip down the DLR to have a look at David Bailey's East End, an exhibition that opened last week at Compressor House, opposite Royal Albert station.

The 70+ photos displayed range between the early 1960s and the past few years, and fall into what Bailey describes in his notes as three “bursts of photographic energy”.

The first grouping covers the 60s, from grainy black-and-white street photography at the start of the decade to larger evocative colour shots of the working-class social scene towards the end of the decade.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Hit and Miss (Sky Atlantic)

Having achieved a bit of a catch-up on the Sky+ box, we turned our attention earlier in the week to Hit and Miss – Sky Atlantic's recent six-parter starring Chloe Sevigny as a pre-op transsexual assassin (now out on Blu-Ray and DVD).

Ever since Pulp Fiction I've been a bit ambivalent about drama involving hitmen; there seems something a bit uncomfortable about the (usual) equation of 'cool' with a total disregard for the value of human life.

And while the 'Created by Paul Abbott' factor was enough to entice me towards 'series link' (it was written by Sean Conway), for some reason I was still expecting a reheated version of some Nikita-style toot.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the first two eps. For a start, it had totally eluded me that the series was set in Manchester and the surrounding moors, rather than the US.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Chris Ware)

For a few years either side of the millennium I drifted away from comics, meaning that I missed the rise of Chris Ware as possibly the most acclaimed living cartoonist.

I've come across brief examples of his strips in various anthologies (such as McSweeney's 13: The Comics Issue, which he edited), but until this week I'd never tackled his 380-page landmark work, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, which in 2001 became the first 'graphic novel' to win a major literary prize – the £10,000 Guardian First Book Award.

And even though I was familiar with his very distinctive illustration style, the emotional wallop of the book and its constant narrative invention left me breathless – and almost intimidated by the scale of its creator's talent and vision.