Peace at Rough Trade East

No wristband, no entry. Anyone hoping to get in last minute to see Peace playing live had better think again; this band are on the cusp of big things. Named by NME and BBC as ones to watch in the coming months, many hope that this four-piece will be the much needed injection of life into the indie scene.

Their whimsical lyrics of love (“follow baby we gon’ live forever”) and masterful guitar control mean that they have hits already beginning to gain mainstream recognition. Their debut album In Love was released earlier this week, produced by Jim Abbiss, who has helped bring Adele and Arctic Monkeys to the forefront of British music. With this kind of backing Peace are on to a winner.


Much has been said about the music that has influenced the band. They swing between moments of instrumental similarity to current bands such as Two Door Cinema Club and Foals, yet their songwriting sets them apart and is certain to get the girls swooning: “you could be my ice age sugar; you lay me down and make me shiver” (Wraith). Loyal fans of the band get increasingly worked up upon hearing the never-ending list of artists Peace are compared with. Indeed, there are so many comparisons that it would be unfair to say that they have directly plagiarised anyone. They are a swirling composite of all that is good about indie music, spanning the decades.

Throughout their performance there is a lot of hair swaying about the record store venue, partly from the long-haired, vintage-clad band members, but mostly from the small cluster of dancing teenage fan girls boisterously trying to catch the guitarists’ attention at the front of the stage. They are not alone in dancing to this accessible indie: the excitement surrounding this quartet is infectious, particularly with their performance of Bloodshake. Hands fly into the air as brothers Harry and Sam Koisser, Douglas Castle and Dominic Boyce sing of “hearts in ecstasy”. It really does look like they are about to kick-start a summer of love.

Our rating: ****

Anne x


A Chorus Line at the London Palladium

The phenomenally successful A Chorus Line hasn’t been seen on the West End since 1976. Fast-forward to 2013 and things have changed with the show’s arrival at the London Palladium.

chorus line

The stage is stripped back to minimalist production values: although A Chorus Line self consciously reflects the world of show business, it’s not about the glitz and glamour of Broadway; it explores the struggle and endurance required behind the scenes.

Innovative storytelling of down and out, washed-up dancers and their plight won the original musical nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Seventeen anonymous auditioning dancers are thrust out of the shadows into the spotlight. Zach, the dictatorial director (John Partridge – famed for his role of Christian in Eastenders), disappears offstage and his commanding voice booms throughout the recesses of the theatre, forcing the dancers to divulge their secrets. The London cast perfectly demonstrate the battle taking place within a performer’s psyche: they squirm, they lie about their ages and when Zach pushes them for answers they show reluctance to divulge their past lives: “Do you wanna know about all the wonderful and exciting things that have happened to me in my life?…Or do you want the truth?”

Characters that begin as mere numbers fill the show with their melancholy, explaining how performing has acted as balm to salve old wounds: “Everyone is beautiful at the ballet”. The audience witness the shattering of the American dream in the cases of Sheila, Cassie and Val. At thirty, Sheila, already world-weary, uses sexuality as a crutch to cope with being past-it; Cassie laments that she has been reduced to a “dancing band aid” instead of a Hollywood starlet; Val sings about the intensive cosmetic procedures she has undergone in order to fit the ideal image in Dance: Ten; Looks: Three.

Fittingly, in today’s media climate of delighting in downfall, Cassie proclaims that the obvious progression of showbiz careers only result in “getting fat and going crazy”.

The staging means that the chorus moves together either in discord or perfect symmetry (such as in the luminous finale One). The manipulation of lights and mirrors adds to the sense of a multitude of homogeneous nobodies, at other times it multiplies one cast member into a multifaceted star, the audience reflected back at them, perhaps showing what could have been. An absolutely amazing production.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

The Lamplighters at The Tabard Theatre

“That’s the reality of murder!” proclaim the cast of Glenn Chandler’s The Lamplighters. Chandler, a veritable fountain of knowledge when it comes to criminal psychology, is the BAFTA award-winning mind behind the longest running TV detective series in history: Taggart.

Entering the creaking Tabard Theatre, located above the 1880’s pub of the same name, he is happily greeting guests filing into the small space to the sound of whistling Cumbrian winds.

The first scene is one of disarray, mirroring the mental state of the former-policeman turned drunk, Frank (Mark Forester-Evans) who convincingly bumbles around his country farm house like a “loose cannon”. Fast paced humour ensues as Frank and his former colleague John (Shane Armstrong) exchange barbed remarks about their shared past – a past about to return and remind them of their misdemeanors.

It’s a testament to the writing and performances that the cast are able to fuse black comedy with moments of genuine fear and obsession. The final member of the trio is Alan (Stewart Marquis). Unlike the other two he’s yet to fall victim to alcohol or anger, however, the catch-line “three strokes and you’re out” hilariously betrays the ill-health and cerebral accidents  that have beset him since the murder of a mother and her two children ten years ago.


Haunted by their failure to solve the case they meet on the anniversary of the family’s deaths to try and solve the mystery. It becomes a tradition, “like Christmas”, as they are drawn back to the scene like moths to a flame. The murders have deeply affected all of their lives.

There are strong performances from everyone, including Tara Howard’s well-calculated movements and condescending looks as the crusader of the play Jo. Praise should be given to Scott Oswald’s quivering demeanor which gradually disappears as his character Billy seizes control.

lamplighters McBurney-and-Jo

The plot’s twists and turns have you guessing until the end, where you are left feeling that the reality of murder is that its effects are widespread and inescapable.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

Purity Ring at St John at Hackney Church

The title of this concert could be misconstrued. The etymology of Purity Ring harks back to chastity bands worn by wholesome American teens to promote sexual abstinence. With this in mind, and the knowledge that this Canadian music duo were performing in a church, it seemed questionable whether alcohol would even be served. This was a foolish concern: the bar was heaving and beer supplies diminished before the band had even stepped onstage.


Megan James’ haunting vocals were punctuated throughout by expertly timed drum beats and periods of emotive silence building to crescendos during which the entire church was bathed in colour. Corin Roddick’s manipulation of light and sound, on his individually crafted drum kit, added an epic element to the evening.

Formed in 2010, James and Roddick have hand-crafted their own costumes and a quirky drum kit consisting of suspended egg-shaped orbs. This all makes sense when you hear that they are described as creators of “dream pop” and “witch house” music.

Witch house music in a church? Despite the darkness that their lyrics are infused with, the setting at St John at Hackney complemented the music perfectly. The venue added to the ethereal nature of the performance; lights cascaded over tomb stones, candelabras and the imposing church organ. Whether the crowd was overwhelmed by the cavernous pillared ceilings, or whether the soundscape was too dream-like, is unclear, but people remained resolutely still as they watched the stage. Recognisable singles such as Belispeak and Obedear surprisingly failed to cause a stir. Their cover of Soulja Boy’s Grammy filled the nave with the resoundingly unsure lyrical questioning: “Is it not good enough? Am I not good enough?” Here, James seemed to be demanding an answer from the crowd, her voice drowning in the percussion as she emotively sang: “Tell me what do you want from me?”.

Only with their last song, the much-lauded Fineshrine, was the audience eventually ready to celebrate: kissing, clapping and dancing in unison. This was the song that they were waiting for. Upon its completion Purity Ring dimmed the lights and just like that, having been given the answer that they were waiting for in Grammy, and with no encore, they were gone.

When seeing them live: ***

When listening to the album: ***** 

Anne x

Opera di Peroni’s La Rondine at FACTORY 7

It is clear from the moment that you enter FACTORY 7 that Opera di Peroni has one objective: the fusion of tradition and modernity. Breathing new life into this enduring tale of love and loss is a challenge that director James Hurley and Go Opera have undertaken with gusto. It is their aim that this niche market attracts a new audience, but have they succeeded?

Opera Di Peroni, an immersive reimaginingof italian opera

With their help, La Rondine has descended from the lofty heights of Covent Garden and Italian opera houses; The Swallow is now nesting within the stripped-back confines of a Shoreditch warehouse.

You immediately feel a sense of involvement in the production when wandering amid the scenery. The audience becomes part of the furniture in the lives of Puccini’s reanimated characters; at times it feels as though you are voyeuristically watching people’s lives played out in an IKEA showroom. What could be more modern? It’s like reality television in an even more palpable dimension as one of the protagonists brushes past you. Yes, this is an immersive experience – do expect to find yourself pushed out of the way by Magda or Lisette, as they flounce through the crowd.

Magda’s character has been given an overhaul from courtesan to modern day celebrity behemoth: “the Monroe of the 21st century”. Instead of selling her body, Magda has scarified every facet of her soul at the altar of “celebrity”.

The cast keep up an energetic performance that spirits you across the factory floor for each act. Kwes, the music producer, ensures that he matches the traditional orchestral instruments with his own flashes of modernity as the characters dance the night away in a club under shimmering lights.

This is not just opera anymore, it’s an experience. The crowd whisper to each other as they crane around lampshades and other spectators to catch glimpses of the cast members as they fly around the room.

And for anyone scared by the prospect of opera, you have no reason to fear: the English translations are kindly projected onto the bare-brick walls.

Opera Di Peroni, an immersive reimaginingof italian opera

Our rating:  ****

Anne x