From Selfie to Self-Expression – Saatchi Gallery

From Selfie to Self-Expression – Saatchi Gallery

I could only manage a taster of Saatchi’s Selfie exhibition as I was running against the clock, closing time being 5 pm, while I was hoping it would be at least 6. My bad. I often stroll around the Saatchi Gallery as it showcases the work of many contemporary artists from all over the world. Still vivid in my mind Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s artwork during an exhibition dedicated to China, 10 years ago. Their work Old Persons Home displayed life-sized statues of elderly and fragile people, closely resembling famous, or rather infamous, world leaders on wheelchairs set on a collision course in a large clinical room in the gallery. World leaders battling it out on wheelchairs despite themselves despite their infirmities, the irony of it all, just brilliant. And the selfie exhibition appears to be just as revolutionary and playful. I particularly enjoyed the interactive room displaying on video selfies painted in the past, or self-portraits as they...
Read More
Obsession, Barbican Theatre

Obsession, Barbican Theatre

What pushes Toneelgroep, a Dutch theatre company, to revive the story behind the neorealist cinematographic debut for Italian director Luchino Visconti in 1943? The story is originally taken from The Postman Always Rings Twice, a novel by James M. Cain, written in 1934, therefore US origins, Italian transposition, a version plagued with censorship and lack of distribution during the fall of the Italian fascist regime. The premises are melodramatic, the story itself and some of the dialogue during the performance feels dated, though the feelings are universal: lust and ambition and the feeling of entrapment that a woman feels, the narrow options at her disposal to get out of poverty, hence marriage to an older man running a restaurant and annexed garage. A dreary life till the arrival of a drifter changes it all. The drifter on stage has the looks of Jude Law, getting closer in his features to Michael Caine in is mature days. The play directed by...
Read More
Caetano Veloso introducing Teresa Cristina

Caetano Veloso introducing Teresa Cristina

Veloso is a superstar and his London concerts attract large crowds, I’m surprised I’m able to grab return tickets the night before the actual concert. It is a double-bill with Veloso introducing  Brazilian Samba star Teresa Cristina. The latter is touring her new album, Canta Cartola, where she pays homage to the great poet Cartola from the Mangueira Samba school. She hits the stage accompanied by Carlinhos Sete Cordas on guitar. The performance is velvety, elegant, theatrical. Cristina’s performance becomes smoother with each song, with each sip in between songs from a glass containing a golden liquid. We are all hoping she is feeding her voice a good, stiff Rum but it is only tea, she reassures the audience. I am not sure we believe her, though. Visually and musically, the whole performance is stunning. Her colourful dress perfectly fits Cristina. her deep, smooth voice, caresses our soul and I feel as if I am in the presence of an...
Read More
I Am Not Your Negro dir. Raoul Peck

I Am Not Your Negro dir. Raoul Peck

I was not aware of the existence of I Am Not Your Negro, when I saw the poster advertising it at the Carolina Theatre in Durham at the beginning of the year. It somehow looked all wrong: a picture depicting James Baldwin, an old b&w picture, his eyes magnified to gigantic proportions. My curiosity was tickled: I learned about the participation of Samuel L. Jackson lending his voice to the documentary, credited in the poster. Somehow, there and then, I had a feeling this was an old production, from the nineties maybe? An old documentary being replayed in this old-fashioned theatre. Then I realised that IANYN was actually nominated for the 2017 Oscars in the documentary category and eventually I caught up with it a couple of days before its London release at the Barbican main cinema, bundled with a Q&A session with the director, Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. During the screening, I see James Baldwyn for the first time, lecturing...
Read More
Room 29, Jarvis Cocker, Chilly Gonzales

Room 29, Jarvis Cocker, Chilly Gonzales

A quietly intriguing “pas de deux” featuring the Canadian pianist, composer and all round bon viveur Chilly Gonzalez and very British Pulp frontman and now broadcaster Jarvis Cocker. The idea for this evening and cooperation between the two men came from a navel gazing stay in a luxurious hotel based in Hollywood, the Chateau Marmont Hotel. It is quite a place to feel sorry for oneself and try to piece one’s thoughts together and finding inspiration from, reconnecting with oneself and the perception of that self at the end of a relationship while at the same time reconnecting with the ghosts of a glorious past, mainly associated with the star-making machine that was the film industry in the thirties. It could have been self-indulgent and decadent and trite, but Cocker’s self-deprecating sarcasm and Chilly Gonzales’s bohemian world-weariness make it funny and likeable while the presence of the dancer Maya Orchin bringing to life the Time Lapse Dance with flowing robes...
Read More
Giant Steps KGL-Teater

Giant Steps KGL-Teater

An evening at the theatre in Copenhagen seeking refuge from the bitter easterly wind sweeping the city. The square where the theatre is located is a working site, our first impression is not as dramatic as it should have been. When inside, it is very clear that the tired looking Royal Theatre itself is in desperate need of tender loving care, moreover the remaining seats, leftovers after the locals have chosen the best, are not exactly spectacular… they are spectacularly steep though, but despite it all the dancers work their magic over us accompanied by modern, classical and tribal music. If only the music had been played live, the experience would have been perfect. The program includes three separate choreographic pieces created by 3 very different professionals. The performance of the three pieces is mind blowing in many ways, starting from the monochromatic, visually minimalist, pitch perfect, soothing Infra conceived by Wayne McGregor; followed by the burst of life, joyous...
Read More
Moonlight, dir. Barry Jenkins

Moonlight, dir. Barry Jenkins

I was watching Moonlight just a few hours before it won the Oscar for best film, in an almost totally empty Barbican main cinema room. During the winners’ ceremony, because of an amateur’s blunder, the award was mistakenly given to La La Land and their producer’s acceptance speech was already half way when the mix up was revealed and the real winner, Moonlight, was proclaimed. It is terrible in my mind that Moonlight will be remembered just because of this awkward, dramatic moment, for their momentarily taking the glitz away from the over celebrated La La Land, more than for its own merits. And the merits are many, a wonderful ensemble cast giving their all in a coy story describing bullying and abuse, breaking stereotypes, electrifying. 26 February 2017: Moonlight dir. Barry Jenkins ...
Read More
Grant Lee Phillips – Elgar Room, London

Grant Lee Phillips – Elgar Room, London

Acoustic guitar and, in his words, his finest dungarees for a solo concert in the Elgar room at the historical Royal Albert Hall. This is Grant Lee Phillips in 2017: back to basics, full of life and melodies, travelling by train in between a handful of European cities with his guitar as his only travel companion, entertaining an amused chat with his audience and singing his music, digging deep into his Cherokee roots from his new base in musical, folksy Nashville, Tennessee, producing root music at its best. Phillips was the front man of Grant Lee Buffalo and inevitably the room is full of his loyal fan base. Stripped down, the Buffalo’s cinematic music, and in particular Mighty Joe Moon, sends some shivers down my spine, with Phillips’ voice moving beautifully and painfully between octaves despite a seasonal cold – it must be all the waiting in the cold at train stations, he quips. Amongst the oldies goldies, Fuzzy is an...
Read More

Duke Garwood, Oslo, Hackney

A trendy pub in Hackney with a room upstairs set up for concerts: it is not small, it is not huge, just perfect for Garwood and his music. Duke Garwood describes himself as a hermit, a musical hermit finding music in the meanders of his soul. He has recently traded London for the British seaside and his music has become even more subtle and dark, while the pace has slowed down, as if following the rhythm of the tides. On stage he is accompanied by his trusted, shaman drummer Paul May, the versatile Jonathan Lovecall, who doubled as his opening act, on bass and atmospheric guitarist John J. Presley, while the wonderful Smoke Fairies, would make their intermittent appearance on stage sounding like sirens trying to crash a ship against the rocks, in a positive way. Garwood himself is as brooding and mysterious as his music, an atypical bluesman, an Englishman making honest, complex, poetic music to be peacefully savoured...
Read More
Vanessa Bell, 1879-1961

Vanessa Bell, 1879-1961

Part of the Bloomsbury Group, Vanessa Bell was a domineering creative force in London in the early 20th century. Not as well remembered and loved as her sister, the writer Virginia Woolf, Bell’s career as a painter, feisty amateur photographer, and interior designer is celebrated in the latest exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, a small by London standards but perfectly formed museum. Boasting an enviable permanent collection including several Rembrandt and Murillo, the DPG recently has been featuring a few quirky and interesting exhibitions centred on less known artists including Canadian Emily Carr and Norwegian Nikolai Astrup. Both previous exhibitions were strongly centred on nature as the most powerful source of inspiration, strong in colours and emotions, wild, primordial. Vanessa Bell’s exhibition was equally as quirky and unpredictable. From room to room we discover different sides of an artist, a free thinker, a matriarch, ranging from the sober covers for Virginia Woolf’s self-published books to wildly abstract designs for carpets...
Read More
Martha Wainwright, feat. Ed Harcourt, Roundhouse

Martha Wainwright, feat. Ed Harcourt, Roundhouse

Martha Wainwright is the least known member of a legendary family/dynasty in the music business but somehow the shier, most unlikely star and the most interesting from my point of view. On stage, she is mesmerizing, moving, funny, she is an exceptional singer and she drags the audience with her, in her roller-coaster of emotions, all lived very publicly on stage. I had forgotten about her energy, I had forgotten about the high kicks, I had forgotten how she not only performs but IS the music. The facility of her singing voice, the boisterousness of her laughter, the emotional hysteria of her life, her bitching about her lack of success as opposed to her louder than life brother Rufus, but most importantly her music and the music of her mother, so present around her, her looks so much more Kate McGarrigle than Loudon Wainwright. I was laughing with her, I was crying with her, I was dreaming with her. She...
Read More
Shappi Khorsandi, From Morris Dancing to Morrissey

Shappi Khorsandi, From Morris Dancing to Morrissey

Khorsandi is all you can hope for: a witty, positive, unique force not only on the comedy circuit in Britain, Khorsandi is also a writer and just last year published Nina is not OK, about growing up the ladette way in modern Britain. I started following Shappi many years ago on Radio 4: Iranian by birth and heritage, British by nurture, she is a very British voice, more British than the British. Her show is mainly centred on identity and the casual but nasty racism she is still subjected to despite 40 years in this country. This is England, the Clash, Joe Strummer’s voice warns us from the loudspeakers while we get into the venue, the Soho Theatre, a large number of small tables and chairs crammed all over the place. We can only manage two chairs glued to the stage, squeezed against the side wall. I realize my position makes me an easy target and promptly I am singled...
Read More
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer

[pix_dropcap]I[/pix_dropcap] was very much looking forward to viewing the National Theatre’s production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, reprised to remember the author Peter Shaffer who joined the club of celebrities who died in 2016 last June. The production boasts rave reviews and all critics concur in their judgment of Lucian Msamati as a wonderful Salieri, the lead character. I thoroughly enjoyed the production directed by Michael Longhurst, it was all wonderfully orchestrated and the presence of the musicians performing excerpts of Mozart’s music on stage just added to the enjoyment. The orchestration, the costumes, the music, the singing were all top quality but inevitably the production would run into trouble when confronted with Miloš Forman’s masterpiece, the film version of the play, still very much alive in my mind. I was pleased with Adam Gillen’s portrayal of Mozart, very much inspired by Tom Hulce’s irreverent version, but adding a touch of desperate, dangerous, Johnny Rotten’s punk impudent attitude, accessorized with bleached spiky...
Read More
The Imitation Game – Dir. Morten Tyldum

The Imitation Game – Dir. Morten Tyldum

[pix_dropcap]I[/pix_dropcap] finally watched the Imitation Game after a visit to Bletchley Park last year. Living aside the actual merits of the film itself, the most interesting story line was Alan Turing’s personal tragedy being a gay man during a time when it was very illegal not to be heterosexual and historical governments’ tendency to use and abuse people, in this case, their subjects. I was actually surprised that the British government did not execute the scientists involved in cracking the Enigma code so enormously secret their job was deemed to be. Therefore, instead of a life of science and recognition for the work done (having recognized that his groundbreaking work shortened World War 2), and for basically having kick started the invention and constructions of computers, objects that have become so enormously at the core of everything we do, Touring was actually vilified for his being a homosexual and sentenced to hormone treatment to cure him of his ‘evil ways’. The...
Read More
Manchester by the Sea – Dir. Kenneth Lonergan

Manchester by the Sea – Dir. Kenneth Lonergan

[pix_dropcap]B[/pix_dropcap]lown up fantasy movies bore me. Action packed, testosterone driven destructive full features make me cringe. I find most comedies out there cruel, but small almost uneventful insights into the human painful experience fascinate me. I watched Manchester by the Sea at the Carolina Theatre in downtown Durham, a quaint, 90 year old theatre and arts centre surrounded by taller and shinier efforts. The cinema is almost empty, the screen tiny by comparison to the modern multiplexes drowned in highly sugary drinks and suffocated by mountains of crunchy sugary popcorn but definitely more apt to the story unfolding for our prying eyes. I did feel like prying on the characters on screen, their uttermost personal drama laid bare for us. A story of immense, unspoken grief in a community living in sub polar conditions in Massachusetts. It is moving, heart-breaking, funny at times, but most importantly it feels totally real. Death sealed by snow, a teenage boy left fatherless and his...
Read More
The Colors Bar Experience plays Nick Drake

The Colors Bar Experience plays Nick Drake

It is one of those gigs remembering and paying homage to a talent no longer with us, Nick Drake in this case. It could be wonderful, it could be disastrous. I am not fanatical about Nick Drake, I hope the evening will help me learn more about his music. I learn that Drake was a minimalist, he really would not have wanted anything more than his guitar to express his music. So in a way the set up tonight is far too baroque to his taste, but I believe he might have appreciated the new arrangements should he have lived to be an elderly man, though sadly, he did not even make it long enough to join the 27 Club. The band onstage is unconventional, it is not a rock’n’roll set up, it is a chamber music orchestra accompanied by 3 singers alternating on stage, a super long lectern with the lyrics in front of them. Brian Lopez, formerly of...
Read More
Paterson – Dir. Jim Jarmusch

Paterson – Dir. Jim Jarmusch

I rarely miss a Jim Jarmusch’s film. His poetical films have been a source of unadulterated pleasure throughout my adult life. Paterson, his latest, doesn’t come as a surprise. It is an unpretentious lyrical gem, where poetry is the protagonist, simple, naked poetry, encountered in everyday life. In the feature film, the wannabe poet is a bus driver, personified by the totemic Adam Driver, in reality the poems we see being handwritten on screen were written by the poet Ron Padgett. Only Jarmusch’s attentive eye could transform the dreary daily routine of a bus driver into poetry, his notebook as his only allied, a spiteful bulldog as his pet, a sweet but confused creative wife named Laura by his side. The name of the leading lady is not chosen by chance, Laura is the name of Petrarch’s muse in medieval Florence. Paterson is both the name of the protagonist and of the city he dwells, a city in New Jersey...
Read More
Michael Clark Dance Company… to a simple rock’n’roll… song

Michael Clark Dance Company… to a simple rock’n’roll… song

Michael Clark has always been considered the punk leader of the British dance world and in his creations contemporary music is often the protagonist. This time around it is no exception as we experience dance with a spectacular sound track. The performance begins with the apparent calm of Erik Satie, the outsider par excellence of classical music. The dancers, placed against a shimmering brightly coloured background, perform a series of solemn figures and frieze like statues to the music of Donnée Par Fête Des Chevaliers Normands En L 'Honneur D'Une Jeune Demoiselle, their bodies sculpted by the super skinny optical white and black costumes. I am trying to revive the rhythms and movements in my mind and I recall a lot of symmetry and democracy on stage as all the dancers, 4 men and 4 women take centre stage in turns and unexpectedly conclude the first part of their performance with the musical anarchy of Satie’s Ogives. The second part of the...
Read More
Exhibition: Wifredo Lam, Tate Modern

Exhibition: Wifredo Lam, Tate Modern

We are so privileged to live in London and having access to a wealth of art and musical events but the main problem with London is that there is a huge concentration of people living there who want to do exactly the same. Tickets to shows sold out at impressive speed, no matter what your preference is, everything is busy in London. Exhibitions are no better, in fact they are worse as the tourists add their numbers to the millions of Londoners queuing for art. Viewing an exhibition in London is a nightmarish experience. Having to beat the crowds, fighting for a corner free of heads covering the artworks is a horrible experience. I remember a recent Van Gogh exhibition where we felt like runners at the start blocks, starting our visit with the first slot of visitors on a lazy Sunday morning, we ran through the whole exhibition to get some breathing space and viewing space. It was a...
Read More
One More Time with Feeling – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

One More Time with Feeling – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

One More Time with Feeling is a full feature film in 3D shown in selected cinemas and for a very limited time to mark the release of Skeleton Tree, the latest musical creation by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. We managed to secure last minute tickets in our local cinema in Dulwich, London and, though we were deprived of the 3D special effects, the gloomy atmosphere exuding from the picture continues to haunt me still, weeks after watching it. The film focuses on the recording of Skeleton Tree and features interviews with Nick Cave and his family, as well as his fellow Bad Seed and friend Warren Ellis. The picture was shot totally in dark black and white tones. The surreal Gothic setting of Nick Cave’s creations is not surprising, but this time around the whole experience is made more painful by the recent events in the life of Nick Cave. We had left him at the top of...
Read More