Helena Jackson is the Artistic Director at Sleepless Theatre Company, an inclusive company that has committed to always having at least 50% of its performers and creatives identify as D/deaf, disabled or neurodiverse and that is currently developing its interaction with access technologies for audiences. At the moment Sleepless Theatre have programmed with Alex Wood’s debut play, Nine Foot Nine at the Bunker Theatre as part of their Breaking Out season in June before heading up to Assembly for the entirety of the Edinburgh Fringe. Helena shares with us the inspiration behind Nine Foot Nine, a sci-fi feminist piece shortlisted for the 2018 LET Award as well as having a showcase at the Royal Court earlier this year, the current climate of inclusive and accessible theatre, and reminds people that disability is an important part of intersectional feminism.
I attended the first night (18 May) of the production.
La traviata is a dramatic opera that deals ‘with real people and real emotions’, said the music director, Sam Evans, of Hampstead Garden Opera (HGO)’s new production of Verdi’s master opera. It is one of the most performed and has been in the operatic repertoire for more than 150 years. Yet the people who attended its premiere, at La Fenice (Venice) in 1853, did not approve. The censors felt the opera was too contemporary and requested it was set in the 1700s. But regardless of what time and place a director sets the opera, it is Verdi’s rich music and its lead characters which remain timeless.
Review by Tony Watts
Not likely to be seen at your local Odeon on a Saturday evening, particularly as a silent film is not the most obvious medium for opera, this version of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s masterpiece stands out as an oddity in the composer’s output. Presumably conceived as another way of ploughing an already fertile furrow or as a publicity tool for the opera it is broadly a dramatisation of the story of Der Rosenkavalier and boasts a score for orchestra especially written to accompany this one hundred minute version with Strauss drawing on music from the opera, as well as his Couperin Suite and a rather brash newly-composed march.
The Loch Ness monster, the Enfield Haunting, Jack the Ripper… these mysteries remain unresolved. Some say they are hoaxes, myths or unsolvable events, but, either way, there are the likes of Olive Bacon and Dr. Teddy Tyrell who will go where no human has ever gone before to demystify some of Britain’s greatest mysteries.
Having sold-out in Edinburgh Fringe, 2017, Great British Mysteries? has arrived at the Soho Theatre where Olive and Teddy share their curious and nonsensical findings with the London audience. But it doesn’t really matter how ridiculous their findings may sound. Whatever answer they come to it’s bound to be shockingly hilarious and irrelevant.
Review by Tony Watts
The relationship of totalitarian regimes to the arts is malign, politicos wanting to neuter them, fearing freedom of expression as a direct threat to their control of the populace and its communal thought process. Censorship of work, persecution of its creators and campaigns branding it as degenerate are as common in contemporary dictatorships as they had been previously in the dark days of Nazi Germany. The cabaret scene in the Weimar Republic was anathema to the German reactionaries of the time, as Stefan Zweig observed: ‘amid the general collapse of values, a kind of insanity took hold of precisely those middle-class circles which had hitherto been unshakeable in their order.’ Young ladies proudly boasted that they were perverted; to be suspected of virginity at sixteen would have been considered a disgrace in every school in Berlin.’ A 1938 exhibition, Entartate Musik, was mounted by propagandist Hans Severus Ziegler to demonstrate how necessary it was to ban this music, describing it as ‘Un-German’ as it was Jazz-influenced and written by Jewish and black composers: ‘Effigies of wickedness’. It was in this atmosphere of repression that a body of work was created which is explored in a lively collaboration between English National Opera (ENO) and the Gate Theatre, currently enjoying a run at the tiny West London venue until June 9.
American abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko didn’t just paint in red. He painted in delicate golds, cobalt, tangerine and shades of greens, pinks, blues, and dazzling yellows. He produced abstract paintings five to six feet tall, often fuelled by high intensity and historical commentary of socio-political events – the atom bomb, WWII and death camps. He believed that a painting had to measure up the tragic trajectory of human history.
Returning back to the West End – after a successful run at the Donmar Warehouse in 2009 and winning six Tony Awards at Broadway – is John Logan’s Red, with director Michael Grandage and legendary actor Alfred Molina. There’s real bite in this 90-minute play – a splash of witty, delicately woven dialogue between the ‘serious’ artist and his young, bright-eyed assistant, Ken (tremendously performed by Alfred Enoch). Red spills the truth on Rothko’s chilling occupation with the art world during a crucial period of the 20th century, while musing, unapologetically, against his assistant on deep ontological questions, such as ‘what is art?’
Nightfall is the part of the day when the sun goes down and the stars begin to appear. Young new writer Barney Norris has created a work that pinpoints a major crisis that has swept the nation. He writes the piece, ‘Ransom Note’ in the Bridge Theatre’s programme notes, which has tropes of a socio-political manifesto, that I deeply relate with. ‘We live in a country that has been stolen from its people.’ ‘The hijacked.’
Following from George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s marvelous production, Written on Skin – which was performed at the Royal Opera House in 2017 – their third opera, Lessons in Love and Violence carries the duo’s (composer and librettist) signature trademark: transcending compelling storytelling with exquisite sound worlds.
Working together, again, with director, Katie Mitchell and set designer, Vicki Mortimer Lessons in Love and Violence conveys a contemporary adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s harrowing play on the reign of Edward II. Written on Skin (see my 2017 review here) has a rich landowner who forces his wife to eat the heart of her secret lover without knowing it. Here the cruelty and abuse ensue when the King’s cold-blooded wife, Isabel (outstandingly performed by Barbara Hannigan) drops a priceless pearl in a glass of vinegar and dangles it, like a carrot, in front of a group of impoverished people.
Molly Chesworth is currently at the Vaults Theatre performing the role of Josie in Teddy. Directed by Eleanor Rhode, written by Tristan Bernays with music by Dougal Irvine, the musical play teleports audiences back into 1950s London where the Teddy culture began. With original songs and performances, Teddy brings to life the post-war energy and celebrates the era with a post-show live-gig. I got to speak to Molly about her journey on Teddy‘s UK tour: how she manages to keep up with the fast-pace demands of her role and how special it is to perform in front of originals Teds. (Read my four-star review of the show here.)
Review Written by Tony Watts
Even given the undeniable merits of the likes of Miklós Rózsa, Bernard Herrmann, Erich Korngold, Elmer Bernstein, Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner and Henry Mancini in Hollywood’s golden age, in more recent times the undisputed master of film music has been the peerless John Williams, whose lengthy career has, to date, spanned more than six decades having begun in the early fifties. Showered with honours, including more than fifty Academy Award nominations (five awards), twenty-four Grammys, seven Baftas and five Golden Globes, his pre-eminence in his field is without question. The long partnership between Williams and director Steven Spielberg has lasted for more than thirty years proving enormously productive. All this coming from a man who, as a youngster, didn’t believe he could make a decent living from writing film music!
Like Trendfem On Facebook
Our wonderful and charming @CubaGoodingJr 'passionately' explains his feelings on performing on London's #WestEnd for the first time 😂— Chicago The Musical (@ChicagoOnStage) June 16, 2018
It'd Be Criminal To Miss Him
🎫 https://t.co/k6BrCAIxoa 🎫 pic.twitter.com/g7elzx4XOh
☆☆☆☆☆ Any opportunity to see #LauraLinney live should be embraced fast. If not, then at least try and read one, or all, of Strout's books. I'm currently reading Anything Is Possible (2018) & I've having difficulty putting it down. @_bridgetheatre trendfem.com/2018/06/my-nam…
☆☆☆☆☆ One can learn many things from @operahollandpk #OHPTraviata stripping an opera of novelty & sensationalism and bringing it back to the text doesn’t render a production boring or unoriginal... when executed well it can do wonders trendfem.com/2018/06/opera-… #OHPYoungArtists
Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have a central twin room available at #edfringe 21-27th £282. Email NICritics@mail.com if you're interested! Please RT :)— NICritics (@NICritics) June 16, 2018