September to December 07
Posted Dec 4, 2007
Random internet surfing can lead to a great night out. My boyfriend was surfing on the net late one night and decided to type in ‘Martha Wainwright’, just to see when her new album was out. It turned out she was playing at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday December 2nd – so he bought tickets. It was a bit of a mystery concert – Martha, along with Teddy Thompson, were the special guests of Shlomo. We had no idea what to expect – neither of us had ever heard of Teddy Thompson or Shlomo - I thought it might be some kind of world music event. We were rather concerned when we first arrived and saw everybody rather smartly dressed that it might be a rather highbrow classical music event. However, we then realised we were in the wrong hall – our concert was in Queen Elizabeth Hall, not the Royal Festival Hall.
An introductory film set the scene - the evening was part of a series called ‘Music through unconventional means’ - Shlomo was a Southbank Artist in Residence. It turned out to be a wonderfully eclectic musical night. Teddy Thompson (a country singer with a beautifully deep rich voice), Martha (folk) and Shlomo all played separately first, so we could hear their differing musical styles.
Teddy Thompson was first up – a country singer with a beautifully rich, deep voice. Shlomo was next, bouncing all over the stage as he used microphones and a loop sampler to turn himself into a one-man orchestra of sound. Finally came Martha with her glorious soaring voice, delighting the crowd with old songs and new.
After the interval, it was time to mix it up. Shlomo and Teddy turned the Bangles’ ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ into a fantastically bizaare song – who would have thought an 80’s classic could sound so daringly funky. Martha improvised a song with Shlomo – if the interplay between the two didn’t look so natural, I would have thought the song had been pre-planned, it was so incredibly other-worldly.. The whole concert proved how different musical styles can be combined to create innovate, uplifting music; the standing ovation Shlomo and Martha created an improvised track – all the performers were natural – lack of rehursral leading to spontaneity, showing raw musical talent.
One Wednesday in November....
I went see the Arsonists at the Royal Court. I studied Andorra for my A-level German, and was keen to see this production. It proved to be a thought-provoking play which worked well on many levels. The play was written by the Swiss writer Max Frisch and was originally aimed at the Swiss who remained neutral in the face of Nazi opposition.
However, the play was re-staged and re-set as an attack on the middle classes who choose to ignore the world outside their snug, white, chrome plated flats - as long as their dinner parties can proceed without interruption, the rest of the world can literally go up in flames.
The actor playing the main character Gottlieb Biedermann (didn’t get a programme was twitching and nervous, a guilty delight to watch and enjoy. Cruel in his business life, he doesn’t think twice about sacking an old faithful employee, leaving him destitute. Yet when uninvited strangers come to his door‘, he is unable to turn them away, although he fears (correctly) they will destroy him.
On 20th September, we went to see his Royal Purpleness at the 02. It was the penultimate concert of his mammoth 21 day run. I have to admit, I couldn't believe how big the arena was – cavernous space.
We were about as far away from the stage as it was possible to be without disappearing up through the roof – but my boyfriend was reassured by the amount of speakers hanging around the stage. When we went to see Bob Dylan at Wembley Arena back in April, we were up in the gods as well – but the acoustics were awful, and Dylan’s singing, never totally clear at the best of times, often descended into strange muffled vowels, as if he was singing through his shirt.
I never like sitting down at concerts, when you are sitting that far away, it’s like you’re watching the action through the wrong end of a telescope. However, this is testament to the power of Prince’s singing – by the end of the concert, all those in our section sitting high up were up and dancing around. When the lights came on, we just moved further down - I remembered reading a review in the Evening Standard that one night Prince played until 1am...unfortunately that night, he didn’t do a repeat performance.
House of the Spirits - Isabelle Allende
Bought as a Christmas present, started reading it at the Big Chill- wonderful book, following generations of a family through years of great social change in an unidentified South American country.
london open day, jules et jim, prince at the 02
Posted Sep 20, 2007
I haven't been around much recently...so here is a mega blog to make up for it!
I had a lovely day last Saturday – it was Open House day in London, where many architectural gems opened their doors to the great unwashed public. ..and it was also the Thames Festival, so the South Bank was packed full of street performers. The sun kindly shone as well, so it felt like everybody in the capital was on one big holiday. We had a nose around the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices – this was made even more interesting by being asked if we’d like to do a children’s quiz as we walked around the building...well, I didn’t need much persuading, then we realised there was the chance to win a prize at the end! So off we went, merrily counting ships in pictures, and finding marble floors, then at the end we were presented with our prizes: medals (saying ‘Young Global Person’, which we proudly wore for the rest of the day), a set of colouring pencils in a wooden pencil case and a wooden yo-yo. We were very happy with all these spoils– probably more so than the real children who took part! The Foreign and Commonwealth offices are truly a magnificent set of buildings – grandiose and opulent were two adjectives which sprung to mind. However, the ballroom in the Lacarno suite (I think it was called) did put me in mind of a Blackpool hotel with its ornate red and gold colour scheme– more shame me!
After walking down the South Bank, we took a right through Bear Gardens. What an evocative Elizabethan name that is – it truly takes you back 400 years to when bloodthirsty Southwark was definitely not the place to be if you were of a genteel disposition (it certainly can’t have been a good place to have been a bear!)
Bear Gardens took us to the Rose - the first theatre in England. I have to admit, I always thought the Rose had been filled in as an underground office car park after being discovered when digging the foundations of a new building; but no, English Heritage stepped in to save the day (hurrah!) So now instead of being entombed in concrete, the Rose lies under a dark black sky of reinforced steel...which holds up a twelve story building. When the guide told us that, several of us looked up nervously, imagining all the weight which could crush down upon us. He noticed our concerned gazes, and laughed.
‘Oh, don’t worry,’ he said. ‘Up there’ he said ‘it’s the foundations of the Health and Safety Executive - so if they’re happy, we’re happy!’
Sadly, the Rose has had to be temporarily covered in again – being exposed to 21st century London air was making delicate 400 year old brickwork crumble and disintegrate. The guide told us the archaeologists were not happy upon being told their painstaking excavations had to be covered over with concrete.
‘This is only a temporary measure however,’ he continued ‘we are fundraising so we can open the Rose properly as an archaeological site. We think the Americans will love it – imagine being able to stand on the spot where William Shakespeare once stood.’ Not just Americans, I reflected, looking out over the site, already taking mental photographs of William and I, standing together four hundred years apart.
On Sunday afternoon, I watched ‘Jules et Jim’. I read the book years ago, when I was 11 or 12. I have to admit, the book left me feeling rather ambivalent about the character of Catherine, and wanted to see if the film had the same effect. It had. I remember when I read the book that I really wanted to warm to Catherine – after all, she was a woman living in restrictive times, determined not to conform. She was a bohemian spirit, fighting against the path that was laid out for her as a woman. Yet, she comes across as an arch manipulator, a careless player with emotions. With Jules and Jim, she was choosing to fight against the wrong people.
As far as human relationships are concerned, this is rather a cold film. To care is to be weak, love between man and woman is ultimately doomed. Yet, the parts where it depicted Paris were beautiful; the myth of gay, bohemian cafe society Paris before World War One broke out perfectly captured.
Tonight we are off to see Prince play at the 02. My friend went to see him the other week, and Elton John made a guest appearance – I would be very pleased if that happened, getting two A-list stars in an evening for the price of one!
This is a smiling mummit...
Posted Aug 23, 2007
Well, I'm on the front page, with my article about the film 'This is England' , and I happened to do a search on my name...and I found this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/brunel/A24693410 which is the 'first solo entry roll of honour'... Think I may now have to have some and naturally some to celebrate (like I need an excuse!)
Posted Aug 21, 2007
Yesterday, I finally visited Hever Castle. I've always loved reading about Anne Boleyn, and have been very keen to visit her childhood home. I knew it was originally a medieval castle and was expecting a forbidding grey building, much like Rochester. However, it was surprisingly small and intimate, more like Little Morton Hall, built with wood, wattle and daub rather than stone.
I didn’t realise the house was bought at the turn of the century by the rich American William Waldorf Astor (who had a deep passion for all things English) He carefully restored it from the ruin it had become back to its former Tudor glory, even building a Tudor village around the back of the house.
I went with the boyfriend and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours wandering about with the audio guide firmly clamped to my ear, imagining times past. Just one small gripe - the audio guide wasn't included in the price of admission (£10.50) it was an extra £2.50. At first we were travelling through each together, pressing each number in turn, until it got to the point 'if you would like to hear more about the story of Anne Bolyen, press the green button now.' So of course, I kept pressing the green button, (even though I do know the story pretty well!!) and he sailed off. (he was enjoying himself, he said, but there was only so much history he could take in an afternoon.)
It was a shame about the drizzle - it would have been fantastic to have spent longer in the lovely Italian gardens, filled with 2000 year old Roman and Greek statues. Still – maybe next time!
Posted Aug 9, 2007
Well, I had a wonderful weekend at the Big Chill. They were certainly very lucky with the weather. Ten days before the festival was due to begin, the site was flooded. Now, I love festivals, but I'm very much a fair weather camper and certainly no fan of the biblical floods that have visited Glastonbury on the last couple of occasions. But the sun came out and we danced about and listened to lots of great music including Issac Hayes, Howie B and Joe Driscoll. I had never heard of Joe Driscoll before (indeed, that is one of the joys of the Chill - walking about and discovering new music in a beautiful setting) - but he gave a whole new meaning to the phrase 'one man band'. However, he didn't strap a drum to his back and a harmonica to his mouth. He sampled himself making all kinds of musical noises (percussion, notes, singing, etc) in a variety of styles (reggae, hip hop, funk etc) He played one bit, sampled it and then looped the results, played another bit, sampled it and looped it etc, layering up rich sounds, an orchestra and choir consisting solely of himself.