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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Kubrick’

Contemporary Music

It was a breath of fresh air to see The Unthanks (well, three of them) stripped back to unaccompanied vocals. The purity of their singing in the gorgeous acoustic of Union Chapel made for a surprisingly varied and joyful evening. There was good support from Lau’s Aiden O’Rourke & Kit Downes with their fiddle & harmonium instrumentals inspired by a book of short stories.

Classical Music

It takes a big imagination to see a 425-year-old accapella vocal cycle as suitable for staging, but Peter Sellers has one, and I have to say it worked. Los Angeles Master Chorale, dressed in shades of grey, moving around the stage as they sang, made Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro at Barbican Hall so much more emotional and captivating, even for a non-believer!

The month ended on a real high with Il Pomo d’Oro‘s concert performance of Handel’s Agrippina at the Barbican with a cast to die for led by Joyce DiDonato. They brought out all the humour and Joyce in the titular role was every inch the manipulative Empress. For once the attempts at characterisation worked brilliantly. In a lifetime of Handel opera-going, this was a highlight.

Dance

There was some stunning visual imagery in Yang Liping – Rite of Spring at Sadler’s Wells, but it was more posing than dancing, very episodic and difficult if not impossible to follow the narrative. The best of Stravinsky’s suite was left out (the last movement) and the false endings became tiresome, as did the milking of bows!

Film

I was worried the combination of biography and fantasy wouldn’t work, but Rocketman proved me wrong. Seven or eight years ago I was impressed by Taron Egerton in the Stephen Sondheim Student Performer of the Year competition. He didn’t win, but he got my vote, and here he is as Elton John. Definitely a film I’d recommend.

Art

The Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum is a fascinating collection of scripts, props, costumes, storyboards, cameras, posters and film clips covering his long but not particularly prolific career. Attention to detail and quality were clearly more important than quantity of output. A genius who made just ten major films but left an enduring legacy.

London is full of blockbusters at the moment and this month, as well as Kubrick, it was Leonardo da Vinci: A life in Drawings at the Queen’s Gallery. There were a lot of them – portraits, anatomical subjects, buildings, plants, some sketches and some maps; little fully finished, but they added up to paint a picture of an extraordinarily talented man.

Swinging London: A Style Revolution at the Fashion Museum trod similar ground to Mary Quant at the V&A but a bit broader, and if anything I preferred it. The Chelsea Set, let by Terence Conran and Mary Quant, certainly had an impact, but I was surprised to see painter John Minton, sculptor Edward Paolozzi and Bernard & Laura Ashley amongst them. All very nostalgic.

Two small exhibitions of modern abstract art at White Cube Bermondsey proved colourful and rather cheery, though you wouldn’t say they were that original. Sarah Morris: Machines do not make us into Machines was very geometric and loud whilst Zhou Li’s Original State of Mind was softer, more organic and impressionistic. I found them both uplifting, though.

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This story has a fascinating history – a 1962 Anthony Burgess novel(la) that became a cult hit, with the final chapter removed by its US publishers – a controversial 1971 Stanley Kubrick hit film, later withdrawn after apparent  ‘copycat’ violence, which Burgess didn’t really approve of  – referenced by rock acts like David Bowie (in his Ziggy persona) & The Ramones in the 70’s – a mid-80’s playscript by Burgess designed to head off others – play produced as a musical in 1990, by the RSC no less, with music by U2’s Bono & The Edge which Burgess also didn’t approve of…..and 20 years on we have the antidote to the musical, a small-scale all-male highly stylised piece ‘without decor’.

Well, I read the book and saw the film & the musical. I also saw a drama school (GSMD) staging of the play (without the U2 music). I had mixed views about the latter three, mostly around the beautification and glorification of violence, and now I have mixed views about this production, though not so much about the same issue (we’ve now had Tarantino, the master of glorification of violence), more about how well it serves the story.

It’s a somewhat prophetic story set in a future where adolescent violence gets out of control and results in government retribution involving brain washing. It uses an invented language, which seemed even harder to assimilate in this production, to create a surreal future dystopian future.

The all-male casting does up the testosterone levels which does aid the characterisation and the violence shocks without glorification. The stylised movement also helps make this appear to be another world. The minimalism (no set or props, simple black clothes) is also fine. It just doesn’t tell the story as well as either the book or the film. It’s also 50 years on from its inception and maybe its a lot less unreal today.

That said, a fine cast of nine actors, only one of whom I’ve seen before, work very hard and do well with the material; I was particularly impressed by Martin McCreadie in the lead role of Alex, a tough one to pull off when most people have the image of Malcolm McDowell permanently imprinted on their brain.

A timely staging and a partial success, I think. I’m not sure this story will ever be served entirely successfully or without controversy, but I suspect Burgess would be happier with this than the others and it is his vision after all.

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