Tag Archives: London

Gryphon – Union Chapel, London – 29th May, 2015

Standard

Gryphon, the 1970s, medieval folk-prog band, announced earlier this year that there would be a short tour of the UK. I’m not sure what prompted the tour (they didn’t mention in the promotional blurbs about it being a 40th anniversary of the release of the excellent Raindance album), but maybe they felt it was time to fire up the crumhorns and malleted drums again. They did play a one-off reunion show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2009 – but I wasn’t fortunate to get tickets to that one. I was determined to see one of the 2015 gigs and ordered a set of two for the Union Chapel show in London.

I met up with another Gryphon fan (Pixie did say that she wasn’t really up for the trek to The Big Smoke) and his missus near Soho and we drank a couple of pints at a pub I hadn’t been to – then grabbed a quick tube journey to Islington. I was hungry, so my friend’s wife and I ordered some grub at a Weatherspoons joint, almost right across the road from Union Chapel. The show was meant to start promptly at eight p.m., so we rocked up just before then.

IMG_1454

No sooner had we chosen a pew (literally, it is a still-used place of worship and the seating is in the pews), then the boys filed out to the stage to generous applause. It’s quite a lovely venue – high ceilings and stained-glass windows give a ‘sacred’ air, but somehow, it’s oddly secular at the same time. The band were arranged in front of the massive pulpit, with Richard Harvey on the right side of the stage, sat at a keyboard and Brian Gulland and drummer Dave Oberle on the left. Sandwiched in between were guitarist Graeme Taylor and multi-instrumentalist Graham Preskett. Bassist Jonathan Davie was a bit to the back, behind Gulland.

They opened with an energetic “Renaissance Dance Medley“, which never appeared on an LP – but was played in a BBC session in 1974. They followed that with a nice version of “The Astrologer“, from the first Gryphon LP, released in 1973. Gulland and Oberle traded vocals, as the characters in the song, and the rest of the group backed them through the tricky melody. A lively “Kemp’s Jig” was next, also from the first album. In fact, as Harvey announced in-between tunes, most of the first set would be from the debut. After a really spooky rendition of “The Unquiet Grave” (the tone of the song heightened by the concert setting), Graeme Taylor performed a guitar solo in a ‘mock-classical fashion’, as he put it, called “Crossing The Stiles” (also, you guessed it, from the first album). “Juniper Suite” followed, with Gulland deftly moving from bass crumhorn to harmonium and back. The first set concluded with “Dubbel Dutch“, the lone choice from their second LP, “Midnight Mushrumps“, first released in 1974.

IMG_1457

There was a 20-minute interval for people to head to the bar, or the toilets (or both). We got back to our pews in time for the second set to begin with “Midnight Mushrumps“, the entire 18-minute piece. It was so great hearing it live and almost note-perfect (actually, it may have been, as I’ve only listened to it a small number of times). Gulland again switched between crumhorn and bassoon and Harvey would swap his keyboard for a tin whistle. Spell-binding stuff! An ‘unreleased’ song followed. It’s called “Ashes“, written by Graeme Taylor during the “Raindance” sessions in 1975. Transatlantic Records decided it didn’t fit the album and it was cut from the LP. It was eventually released on the “Gryphon – The Collection II” CD. A nice wistful tune, Brian explained that Graeme wrote it on a nice spring day near to a river, where the recording studio was located it definitely has that vibe to it. It was then “Red Queen To Gryphon Three” time, which I was excited about, as it’s my fave Gryphon LP. First up was a really nice “Lament“, played beautifully, then a “muddle-y” (Harvey’s word) of “Red Queen…” themes. It was great seeing the interplay, particularly between Gulland and Harvey. I didn’t quite catch the title of the final tune in the set, I heard Harvey say something about “our roots” and thought he announced the tune as “Yulattis“, but it may have been “Estampie“, from the first album. No matter, ‘cos it was a great little jam.

The encore was an extended version of “Le Cabrioleur Et Dans Le Mouchoir“, from “Raindance” – it had a nice little rave-up at the coda, with Gulland firing out blasts from a trombone. The crowd (including myself) were on their feet for an ovation. So glad I was able to see them live! The fan I attended the concert with is an old friend of the group and he was able to get me into the after-party in the upstairs floor/bar of the chapel. I said “Hello” to Brian and Graeme and had brief chats with Dave Oberle and Jonathan Davie. Richard Harvey talked for a moment with the bloke I went to the show with, but I didn’t get to talk with him. We left quite late and the tubes had all finished by then, so I got a cab back to Victoria Station, and a coach back to Oxford. All in all, a brilliant show and night! Here’s to hoping they’ll do it again soon (with maybe an Oxford show thrown in).

Set-list:

First Set

Renaissance Dance Medley

The Astrologer

Kemp’s Jig

The Unquiet Grave

Crossing The Stiles (Greame Taylor solo)

Juniper Suite

Dubbel Dutch

Second Set

Midnight Mushrumps

Ashes

Lament

“Red Queen To Gryphon Three muddley”

“Eulatis” (Estampie?)

Encore

Le Cabriolet Et Dans Le Mouchoir

Advertisements

Kate Bush – ‘Before The Dawn’ – Hammersmith Apollo – September 12, 2014

Standard

Thousands of words have already been posted and typed and printed about Kate Bush‘s ‘comeback’ shows in London, her first full concerts since the “Tour Of Life” in 1979. Here’s a few more. When she announced the shows in February of this year – it seemed like a hoax. After all, you never can really trust some stories on the internet. I received an e-mail a little while later, with a ‘pre-sale’ code for tickets. I’ve been a big fan of her music since the early 1990s and I didn’t want to pass up the chance to see her live, especially given her reluctance to perform in concert.

KateBushTicket

A guy I worked with has multiple laptops and said he’d scored tickets to very in-demand shows in the past, so I asked him if he could try to get Kate tickets for me. He agreed and to my amazement, got two tickets for the 12th September show!! It cost me a good bottle of wine, but to me, more than worth it. The months ticked by, rumours about special guests were floated around, as well as set list guesses. I wanted everything to be a surprise, so I conscientiously avoided blogs, newspaper articles and teevee coverage – even after the opening show, on 26th August.

Finally, the day arrived – I grabbed the tickets and met my friend in Oxford, for the trip to London. The shows are at the Hammersmith Apollo (or the “Eventim Apollo”, as it’s called now), the very same hall where “The Tour Of Life” show debuted. Kate said she was initially put off playing there, as it had become quite run-down over the years, but changed her mind when she found it was to be completely refurbished early in 2014. We arrived in Notting Hill Gate late in the afternoon and grabbed a quick lunch. We hopped on a bus down to where the venue is, but ended up walking some of the way, as traffic was pretty bad around there.

My friend is partially-sighted and had his guide dog with him. He had phoned the venue to check if they would look after her, while we were watching the show. The staff were quite nice and agreed to do so. We were able to avoid the queue outside and head in to drop off ‘Molly’ (the guide dog). While we were inside, I cheekily asked if we could check the merch table. They said it was fine and so I bought a T-shirt and programme. After that, it was time for a couple of pints in a local pub – then back to the Apollo for the concert!

HammersmithOutside

Our seats were in the upper circle, nearly at the back. The Apollo’s a small-ish venue, so there’s not really any bad seats, per se. Kate had requested that people not take photos or film during the show and it was good to see everyone around us leaving the kit shut off. The stage itself, for the opening, was fairly sparse – two drum kits, a couple of keyboards and guitar and bass set-ups. Above the stage at the back, diamond shapes were arranged in a triangular pattern. The lights dimmed, the band walked onstage and started playing. Not long after, followed by a line of backing singers, Kate sashayed onstage to the rhythm of the tune, which turned out to be “Lily” (first released on “The Red Shoes“, in 1993 – then re-recorded for the “Director’s Cut” compilation, released in 2011). Her voice is still in fine form, even if she can’t quite hit the real high notes anymore. The reception was rapturous and then she ripped into “Hounds Of Love“, the title track from her 1985 (and most well known) album – the place just exploded. She seemed to relish singing it again and the backing band were top-notch. After “Hounds”, she took things down a notch with a nice “Joanni“, from the “Aerial” album, released in 2005. “Top Of The City“, another “Red Shoes” track re-worked for the “Director’s Cut”, followed – the diamond shapes were used cleverly in that one. They were lit up to resemble skyscrapers at night. Somewhat expected, “Running Up That Hill” (also from “Hounds Of Love”) was next and yet again, the crowd were delighted and the tune cooked. I wasn’t sure what she would sing next – I was still thinking maybe “Army Dreamers” or “Breathing” (from her “Never For Ever” album, released in 1980). Instead, she chose “King Of The Mountain“, the only single from “Aerial”, released in 2005. The end section became a rave-up and the band kicked into high gear. At the very end, one of the drummers got a bull-roarer out and after creating its eerie drone sound, the stage went dark.

A film of a man calling the coast guard about a ship in distress started up and then I realised she was going to perform the entire “Ninth Wave” section off of ‘Hounds Of Love’. The song cycle takes up side 2 (of the LP), or the second half of the CD, if that’s what you’ve got. A screen at the back of the stage showed Kate floating in water and the image would ‘mime’ with Kate’s actual vocal, which was quite clever. During “Under Ice“, a frozen sofa, lamp and TV appeared on-stage. The back-up singers wore fish-skeleton costumes and at one point, ‘workmen’ walked out and pretended to cut a hold in the stage. “Waking The Witch” featured a priest and the fish-people. I couldn’t tell if the vocal was live, as I suspect getting that ‘stutter’ effect would be difficult in a concert setting. Before “Watching You Without Me“, a surreal living room set glided onto the stage. It looked almost like the cutaway of a ship’s cabin, and it would bob slowly back and forth, as if it were on the sea. A domestic scene was played between a father and son (with Kate’s son Bertie playing the youth). Kate suddenly appeared in the room and then the song commenced. “Jig Of Life” was a rave-up, with the crowd clapping along with the Irish rhythm. Kate’s brother John‘s face appeared on the frozen TV screen to recite the poem that features at the coda. A life-size buoy prop became the centre-piece for “Hello Earth” and for the extended coda, she was carried from the stage, down a ramp, by the fish skeleton people. “The Morning Fog” was simply stunning, the whole band lined up across the stage and when Kate sang “D’you know what…I love you better now“, the crowd roared. The interval was announced and I was still processing what I had just seen. It was incredible – one of my favourite pieces of music performed in concert – worth the ticket price alone.

The second set was also an extended suite – this time “A Sky Of Honey“, the second disc (or LP, if you’re lucky enough to have a copy without paying £200 for it) of “Aerial”. The props for this set included a massive wooden door, lowered to the stage, a wooden puppet manipulated to act like a small boy and a screen made to look like a large painting. While it’s not quite as dynamic as “The Ninth Wave”, the tempo does pick up during the “Sunset” section, which builds into a flamenco-flavoured jam and Kate even let out an “Arrrriba!”. Bertie, who played the part of “The Painter” (originally voiced by Rolf Harris on the album – but as he’s had his….troubles lately…), narrated an extra bit about the moonrise. “Somewhere In Between” picked up the pace again and then the final two sections brought back the ambient feel. The final part, the title track, was another build-up. The band donned bird masks and moved around the stage with Kate. She was chased away, then the stage went dark with the band still chugging away. Suddenly, the panels of the door opened and there was Kate, floating, with huge black wings on her back. It lasted a few seconds and the stage went dark again.

The lights came on, Kate and the band shuffled off-stage. She walked out on her own and to prove she can still do the “girl-and-her-piano” act, played a lovely “Among Angels“, the only song from the “50 Words For Snow” album in the set list. The band returned for the final tune of the night, a rousing version of “Cloudbusting“, first released on “Hounds..” The house lights came on after the ovations and applause died down and we all made our way out of the venue.

The verdict? Well, I enjoyed the show immensely. I’ve seen films of the “Tour Of Life” show in ’79 and while Kate is far less ‘active’ on-stage these days, she still has loads of presence and mostly lets her voice carry the music. She’s retained her sense of the theatrical, as amply demonstrated in the “Ninth Wave” section. For those who showed up to hear the very early stuff – you’ll be in for disappointment – there’s nothing in the set from the first four albums…that’s right, no “Wuthering Heights” or “Wow” or “Babooshka“. I suppose I can’t blame her – her voice can’t really hit the higher registers needed for those tunes and she’s probably sick to death of W.H.

I’m just glad she took the plunge and decided to play live again – mostly by encouragement from Bertie, so hats off to him! it seems to have gone well, so hopefully it won’t be another long stretch of years to see her again.

Set list – 13th September, 2014:

“ACT I”

Lily
Hounds Of Love
Joanni
Running Up That Hill
Top Of The City
King Of The Mountain

~”The Ninth Wave“:
And Dream Of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking The Witch
“Domestic Interlude”
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog

“ACT II”

~”A Sky Of Honey“:
Prelude
Prologue
The Architect’s Dream
The Painter’s Link
Sunset
Aerial Tal
Somewhere In Between
“Moonrise Introduction” (Bertie McIntosh solo)
Nocturn
Aerial

Encore:
Among Angels (Kate solo on piano)
Cloudbusting

Theatre Round-Up #111 – Hitchcock-O-Rama

Standard

A little while back I mentioned that I had been to see “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” at the Apollo Theatre (before the now-infamous ceiling collapse). While we were there, Pixie noticed that there was a stage adaptation of Strangers On A Train“, on at the Gielgud Theatre. First published as a novel, written by Patricia Highsmith – then released on-screen as a Hitchcock-directed thriller, we decided to take the plunge and get tickets.

I hadn’t seen a show at the Gielgud and it’s quite a nice space. The stage set had a revolving design that would spin for scene changes, which I thought was quite clever. A read a few reviews in which the person found the set distracting, but I didn’t have that problem. The cast were good, though Laurence Fox played “Guy Haines” a bit too nerdy at times. Jack Huston was excellent as “Charles Bruno” and Miranda Raison was good as Guy’s long-suffering wife, “Anne”. Imogen Stubbs vamped it up as Charles’s mother, affecting a sort of high-pitched gravelly voice.

The first half seemed almost scene-for-scene a run-through of the film, while the second got darker and seemed to take it’s cues from the book, particularly Charles’s quasi-incestuous relationship with his mother and his homo-erotic longing for Guy. He tries to split up Guy’s marriage and destroys Anne’s pregnancy by giving her chlymidiosis (he visits a farm with infected sheep and wears tainted boots into their home). The ending was unexpected and varied a lot from Hitch’s film. Charles and Guy huddle together as Guy’s barn/workshop burn around them. Nice fire effects for that scene as well!

The missus also checked the Oxford Playhouse listings around the same time and noticed a touring production of “Dial M For Murder” was going to be on in February and March. We were curious about how well it would adapt to the stage and duly bought tickets.

Put on by theatre group Fiery Angel and directed by Lucy Bailey – the play is virtually a scene-for-scene re-make of Hitch’s film. The cast were quite good, though Pixie didn’t like the transformation of “Max Halliday” into a dour Scotsman (played by Philip Cairns). Kelly Hotten provided glamourous cool as “Sheila Wendice” (with a proper English accent – as much as I like Grace Kelly, her accent was a bit off in the film). Robert Perkins was quite good as the conniving and domineering “Tony Wendice” – which is a tough role to claim, after Ray Milland‘s in the film. Christopher Timothy (yep, the “All Creatures Great And Small” actor) played “Inspector Hubbard” in a more gruff, ‘East Larndon’ way, unlike John Williams‘s posh, cut-glass manner in the film.

As in “Strangers…”, the stage set was clever and also featured a revolving piece – this time only the sofa. Early in the play, Tony is speaking to an old school acquaintence, “Captain Lesgate” (played by Daniel Betts, who, with his character’s ‘tache and booming voice, reminded me (unintentionally) of Matt Berry as “Stephen Toast“). I was paying attention to the dialogue and only noticed in a break in the talking that the sofa had spun around. The backdrop was see-through, which allowed the audience to watch as characters appeared in the ‘hallway’ outside of the flat.

Two enjoyable plays, but I’ve got my fill of murder-n-plots drama for the moment. Next on the list, I think, will be “The Events“, which will re-open in London in July.

“Strangers On A Train” finished it’s run at The Gielgud in February 2014.
“Dial M For Murder” is a touring production which is on in Newcastle this week.

One Of *Those* Posts – Things I Enjoyed

Standard

I usually avoid doing those “year end” kinda things – ‘cos really, it’s only the year-end in the Gregorian calendar, not in loads of other calendars. Anyway, here’s a list of some things I liked this past spin around the sun. In no particular order or category:

The Summer: Even though I left my job at the beginning of June, I had quite a good summer this year. I visited my family back in the U.S.A. for two weeks – I hadn’t seen them in nine years, so it was a treat to see all the nieces and nephews and my cousins and their little’uns. I also met a friend and did a bit of record shopping, too. Back in the UK, it proved to be a decent time, as the weather (mostly) brought sunshine and warmth. Compared to last year, this year was a model season.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II: I first heard this band through Marc Riley‘s 6Music show a couple of years ago. I kinda liked their strange, psychedelic R&B-influenced sound, but not enough to pick up the first record. Riley started playing the first single off of the new album, “Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)” and it became a near-instant earworm. The album was released in February of this year and I bought it shortly after. I find there’s not a bum track on it – though for those with short attention spans, “Monki” can probably overdo it a bit.

A Field In England/Kill List: Pixie and I watched “Sightseers” early in the year and I really enjoyed it, particularly for the performances of Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, as the main protagonists. “Sightseers” was released in 2012, but we missed it in the cinema. Director Ben Wheatley was finishing up “A Field In England” even as were sending the rental DVD of “Sightseers” back. I was back in the UK in time to watch A.F.I.E. on BBC Four in early July and it blew my mind. Set in Civil War-era England, it involves some deserters who are tricked into helping a necromancer into searching for a ‘treasure’ hidden in a deserted field. There’s madness, psychedelic mushrooms and magick thrown into the mix. I thought it was brilliant and I’m definitely buying the DVD. I watched “Kill List” shortly after and while it wasn’t quite as visually arresting as A.F.I.E., the story, in places, seems far more intense. A soldier-turned-hitman gets lured back into the business by his friend and ‘associate’. At first, it seems like a routine mission, but things get progressively weirder as the film goes on. The ending scene is a shocker and it’s wonderfully played and is a genuine “Holy shit!” moment when you realise what has happened. Superb.

Fuck Buttons: I’d heard about them a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t quite sure I’d like their music. I checked out a couple of clips on You Tube, but I filed them in the “kinda interesting, maybe check them out later” dept. This year, they released their third full-length album, Slow Focus. I listened to a few of the new tracks and really liked them – so I bought up the back catalogue (not tough, as it’s only two records so far). At the moment, “Tarot Sport” is my fave, though “Street Horrrsing” has it’s ace tracks, too. I also found out that Blanck Mass is Benjamin John Powers‘s (of F.B.) ambient side project. Blanck Mass’s track Chernobyl was used to excellent effect in “A Field In England”.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time (the stage version at the Apollo Theatre, London): You can read my longer review in the last post. Excellent staging and cast – highly recommended. You won’t be able to see it until the beginning of January, as part of the ceiling in the theatre collapsed during a performance – luckily there were no fatalities.

Leonard Shlain – The Alphabet Vs. The Goddess: I didn’t get to read quite as many books this year as I wanted to – but “The Alphabet…” was quite entertaining and enlightening. I read it while on holiday in the States. Shlain’s theory posits that while worldwide literacy has been very beneficial on the whole, it has also brought subjugation of women in almost every culture in which it’s been introduced. You may not agree with it, and find his research lacking – but I find it quite compelling and very possible. Copies are still available – I bought mine quite cheap off of eBay.

Horrible Histories/The Wrong Mans: H.H. finally finished this year, after it’s fifth series and it’s a shame, because it got better and better as it went along. The song/band parodies were ace and their send-up of “Masterchef”, ‘Historical Masterchef‘, was seriously funnier than most adult sketch shows, to me, anyway. “The Wrong Mans” is a series on BBC Two, that was shown in the early autumn. It stars Matthew Baynton, who was part of the H.H. cast and James Corden. I’m not really a fan of Corden’s, so I thought it could go either way. Luckily, Baynton held his own and Corden’s usual antics were limited to just a few scenes. I thought it was good, for a modern Hitchcock pastiche. There’s not much wiggle-room for a second series – but then, teevee writers can come up with some convoluted shit in order to keep a franchise going. We’ll see…

The World’s End: The final film of Edgar Wright‘s “Cornetto Trilogy” (featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) was released this past year. To me, it didn’t have quite the gut-bust laugh quotient of “Shaun Of The Dead” or “Hot Fuzz“, but it’s still a quality flick. Part 90s nostalgia, part sci-fi and part “you can never go home again” story – it makes a fitting end to the trilogy. I won’t go into plot specifics, in case you’ve not seen it, but I will say that “Fuck off back to Legoland, cunts!” is one of my fave film lines of the last ten years.

Matt Berry – Witchazel: I’d been meaning to pick this up for a loooong while and was given the CD as an X-Mas gift this year. It’s as good as I’d anticipated and for anyone who digs early 1970s psychedelic/progressive folk and English whimsy, this is a must-have. Berry is a comedic actor who’s appeared in some of the funniest shows of the past five-to-ten years: The Mighty Boosh, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace…and (the somewhat patchy) The IT Crowd. The guy’s also a solid musician and I’ve got his second album “Opium” as well (his first album, “Jackpot“, is waaaaaay out-of-print and you most certainly won’t find it on the interwebtubes or eBay – trust me, I’ve looked). Berry’s newest series, “Toast Of London” was broadcast in the autumn and it looks like a second series has been commissioned. “T.O.L.” uses “Take My Hand“, from ‘Witchazel” as it’s theme tune.

There’s loads more music, some teevee and books I enjoyed – but then this post would be mammoth and would stretch your reading patience to it’s limit. Hope your year was near what you wanted it to be and roll on Gregorian calendar year 2014!

Theatre & TeeVee Round-Up #86

Standard

Good morning, campers! I know – I’ve been neglecting the blog. I couldn’t really find anything exciting to post about. Sure, there’s politics and world events – but there’s thousands of other blogs covering all of that stuff and probably better, too.

A couple of post-worthy subjects cropped up recently, so I’ll natter on about those for a bit.

Pixie and I travelled to The Big Smoke to see the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. It’s at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. Quite a nice theatre it is, too. I won’t provide a lot of spoilers, in case you’re going to see it (and I recommend you do) – but the story revolves around a 15-year-old boy, called Christopher Boone. Christopher seems to have a form of Asperger Syndrome. He attends school and lives with his father. His father has told him that his mother died during a medical operation. One night, he finds his neighbour’s dog dead in her back garden – he is found at the scene by a policeman and taken to the station for questioning.

After he is released, he is determined to find the dog’s killer and starts investigating the incident. What he finds out ends up being far more complicated and he learns more about his life and his abilities than he thought he ever would.

I really enjoyed the adaptation – the cast is excellent, particularly Mike Noble as “Christopher”. He seems to get the mannerisms correct, to me. I’m not an expert on Asperger syndrome, or autism – but like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, it’s a believable performance. Trevor Fox, as “Ed Boone”, Christopher’s father, shows the right amount of compassion and frustration in his role. I do need to give a shout-out to the always amazing Amanda Drew, as Christopher’s mother “Judy” – she gives a heartfelt performance that never drifts into mawkish cloying.

The stage is set up as a huge piece of graph paper, which connects with the theme of Christopher’s interest in mathematics. There’s a lot of physical action in the play – the whole cast act as furniture, or will lift one of the actors to simulate zero gravity, or ocean waves. I thought it was quite clever. There’s also great use of lighting and sound – the ‘cube’ stage is wired for LED lighting and the speakers around the theatre will be set for ‘stun’ during the parts where Christopher is overwhelmed. As I said – I’d highly recommend going to see this show – it’s well-acted and the story really grips you. The current cast will be performing until March 2014.

Perhaps you dig the Scandinavian teevee offerings of late, like I do. If you’re a fan of The Killing, or Wallander, or The Bridge – I suspect you also dig Borgen. The series, about a female Danish politician who becomes the Prime Minister and the effect that has on her family life and friendships, stars the lovely Sidse Babett Knudsen. It is an ensemble cast, so she gets great support from “The Killing” actor Soren Malling, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Johan Philip Asbaek and Lars Knutzon.

The new (and final series, we’re told) sees “Birgitte Nyborg” (Knudsen’s character) working as a consultant for a few different corporations, after her term as Prime Minister ended. She’s also got a boyfriend, an English architect (Nyborg split from her husband in the second series). When she returns to Denmark, she catches the politics bug again and tries to re-join her old party. The new leader doesn’t really want her around – so she challenges him for the party leadership. In a plot development that you could kinda see coming, she loses the bid for the leadership and instead forms her own new party, which ends up being dubbed “The New Democrats”.

Nyborg recruits Parliament outsiders, as well as “Katrine Fonsmark” (Sorensen’s character), a journalist who used to give Nyborg a bit of trouble when she was Prime Minister. Fonsmark has had a child with her lover, Nyborg’s former spin doctor, “Kaspar Juul” (played by Asbaek), but now they are separated and have joint custody of the child. She is attempting to juggle being a mother and her role in the New Democrats, with all of the problems that implies.

So far, the new series seems up to the standard of the other two. I suspect Nyborg will attempt another bid for P.M., but I also suspect she won’t be elected a second time. Still, it’ll be interesting to see the dynamics in the new party unfold and see if her relationship with the architect brings her lasting happiness. Sorry for the spoilers, but I suppose if you’ve been watching it, it doesn’t matter.

“Love And Information” – The Royal Court Theatre – October 4, 2012

Standard

Pixie and I made a trip to The Big Smoke last week to see Caryl Churchill‘s newest play, “Love And Information“. It’s being put on at the Royal Court Theatre, until 13th October.

We checked out the Museum Of Natural History for a couple of hours, grabbed some dinner at Pizza Express on King’s Road, then got to the Royal Court with enough time to get our seats…

…except I booked our tickets for the afternoon matinee show, not the evening one. Yep – shoulda checked my confirmation e-mail, but I was sure I booked for the evening show. Panic ensued – but luckily, enough people didn’t turn up for us to grab a couple of spares. We had to pay for the spares, as the show was sold out, but the seat I got was in the front row – so that was a sweet upgrade!

I’d never seen a Churchill play before this and this one’s a bit of a non-traditional work. The play doesn’t have a narrative structure as such. It’s set up into seven ‘blocks’ of scenes, or vignettes. Each block does seem to have a theme, about either love or information, or sometimes both. I didn’t get a program for the show – so there are possible names for the scenes. Some reviews I’ve read have attributed names, but I’m not sure if that’s the reviewer’s suggested titles.

The set resembles a white-tiled box and all of the action takes place inside of it. The vignette lengths vary, from under a minute to about five minutes. Some are set outdoors, some in offices or homes. The 16-strong cast all play various roles and none of the characters have names or recur in the work. A vignette will finish, the stage goes dark, some sound effects or music plays, and then new characters appear in the space. It’s almost like channel-surfing, or watching YouTube clips on a tablet. You don’t get any background on any of the scenes and it leaves you to try and work out a possible back-story. A few of the them don’t require it, as it is plain what the circumstances are.

Amanda Drew and Rhashan Stone in one of the scenes from Caryl Churchill’s “Love And Information” at the Royal Court Theatre

There’s a lot of humour throughout the play–in one scene, an old woman is told the number of words for “table” in various languages and concludes with “Well, it still feels like a table.” In another, a man and a woman are in a gym and he is expounding on another woman he knows. His female friend in the gym grows more exasperated as the conversation continues. It turns out the man is talking about either a computer, or a virtual ‘girlfriend’ he has online. One vignette has people playing a word game with a phrase in a book, utilising the words “door”, “mountain” and “girl” – the concluding phrase one of the characters says is “The girl couldn’t get through the door because she’s as big as a mountain.”

There’s also confusion, depression, madness and fear. Another vignette, which I thought was about a politician, has a man and his wife holed up inside a house. The press are outside and are badgering him for a quote. He finally relents and says some nonsense, but doesn’t feel any better for saying what he did. A family watch a wedding video but discover they can’t actually remember anything about the actual day – only what is on the tape/CD. In both a sad and somewhat funny scene, a woman stops taking her medication and tells her boyfriend that the traffic lights at the end of their road are giving her signals that he is evil. A man and a woman are playing a memory game and she suddenly has a memory, perhaps long suppressed, of her late father.

Laura Elphinstone and Justin Salinger in another scene from Caryl Churchill’s “Love And Information” at the Royal Court Theatre

Each ‘block’ is assigned a number, except for the very last scene, called simply “+”. The entire cast are assembled in what looks like either a waiting room, or departure lounge of an airport or bus station (I thought it was the latter). A man is testing a woman on trivia, and slips in a question about her loving him. At first, she pretends she didn’t hear it, but a few minutes later responds in the affirmative. While it’s not the smoothest summing up of the play, it’s a lovely moment and lets you go out on a high, after the heaviness of some of the scenes.

The cast are all excellent, given that they’ve got to create believable characters, sometimes with only a few lines to work with. I especially liked Rhashan Stone, Susan Woodward, John Heffernan, Linda Bassett, Amit Shah and Amanda Drew (natch!). I thought the scene transitions were clever and the co-ordination involved in swapping props and actors in “the cube” seemed impressive to me.

If you’re into unconventional theatre, you will probably enjoy “Love And Information” – if you’re looking for straight-forward narrative, probably best to look elsewhere.