Even Stillness Breathes Softly against a Brick Wall at The Soho Theatre

Brad Birch, writer of Even Stillness Breathes Softly against a Brick Wall, asks his audience a series of pertinent questions regarding the world we live in. His clarity of observation is so startling that one can really relate to his two world weary characters. The couple are given no names, their anonymity making them one of us, any one of the audience. Throughout the script they are merely referred to as “Him” and “Her”; we are voyeuristically looking at a reflection of ourselves in contemporary society – this society of Twitter, Facebook, hardcore pornography, O2 sales calls, meal deals, daily meetings. It is this mockery of societal norms that brings great humour to the play.

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Birch demands “What happens if you just say no?” – no to modern life, no to the daily grind, no to the rat race, and no to the consumer commodities shoved down our throats. That is exactly what Joe Dempsie (Him) and Lara Rossi (Her) do, what none of us are brave enough to do: they rebel. Smashing, destroying, fucking, tearing apart their lives as they know it. All of this incendiary behaviour is a result of the stultifying lives they have led before: Rossi’s character has had to endure vile workplace sexism, Dempsie (of Skins and Game of Thrones fame) has had to spend his days loaning his father money and trying to prove he is not a “c**t”. Eventually their humdrum lives cause them to ask the question: “Are you happy?” The play is evocative enough that it leaves the audience wondering the very same thing.

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Yet Birch offers us an alternative, a chance to see what would happen if we cut the chords connecting us to everyday life. The result is pure carnage, exciting and exotic in its infancy but isolating and destructive in the end. Rossi and Dempsie are entirely believable as an affectionately lacklustre couple and become even more watchable as a loved-up “us-against-the-world” duo. Their tornado of desecration rips through the theatre and brings the distant war they are so used to watching through a TV screen into their very living room. Freedom comes at a scrabbling, animalistic price where the protagonists can no longer form fully constructed sentences. Will they weather the storm they have created or will it tear them apart? The play reveals many of the internal wars inside us all, but proves there are no simple answers.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/31/even-stillness-breathes-softly-against-a-brick-wall-at-the-soho-theatre-review/

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Spike Island – Film review

Manchester, red bricks, mass unemployment and a refusal to accept that life has to be grim up North – this film may be set during Thatcher’s rule but it is also set during the reign of The Stone Roses. We are introduced to a gang of young rascals by the protagonist “Tits”. Tits addresses the audience directly and mirrors the introduction to the similarly Manchester-based series Shameless in this aspect. Indeed, many of the cast are recognisable from British television – the cast of MisfitsDownton Abbey, and Hollyoaks all take up positions as future stars.

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The boys are in a band, Shadowcaster, in homage to their idols The Stone Roses. As time ticks by, the audience realise that every hour is building up to the life-changing moment (and genuine gig) of The Stone Roses performing at Spike Island on 27th May 1990. But none of them have tickets! Thus begins a whirlwind, hare-brained adventure that involves stealing cars, hiding in the undercarriages of coaches and using dinghies to traverse the Mersey. Some events ring true to life and one certainly would have been terrified driving down the motorway full of thousands of cars loaded with “pocketfuls of Es and speed” with I Am the Resurrection blaring.

The film unfolds around the back stories of life in working-class Britain. Tits’ father lies dying in hospital, and the other boys too have their own secret hardships – an alcoholic mother, abusive ex-servicemen dad, unrequited love, a disappearing brother… Their only chance of escape, in this coming-of-age story, is Spike Island. The phrase “It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” is bandied about and the film ends with the boys becoming men after a series of highs and lows. There are scenes some might find clichéd, like the eventual romantic clinch being met with fireworks.

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This is too much of a feel good film to truly register the gritty realities of working class lifestyle – really a light-hearted take on events – and very few of the characters are totally developed, rendering some interchangeable. While many films are based upon obsessions with music (Quadrophenia to The Who, Christiane F to Bowie) this one feels like how Channel 4′s Skins would envisage a jolly trip to see The Stone Roses. The real critics will be those who loved and lived at Spike Island 23 years ago.

Our rating: ***

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/31/spike-island-movie-review/

A$AP Rocky at Brixton Academy

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“It’s about to get a little hardcore in here!” Rocky cautions his crowd. Ignoring the warnings plastered all over the venue – he demands mosh pits and crowd surfing, with the promise that if his fans do it, by the end of the night he will too. The question is, will he actually be brave enough to jump into a swarming mass of braying, adoring fans?

There is a reason behind Rocky’s worldwide adoration. The boy from Harlem released his first full-length album Long. Live. ASAP in January this year and it hurtled to the number one spot in the US. The list of acts he has collaborated with is extensive, including Rihanna, Drake, Skrillex, Kendrick Lamar, too many to mention! He has also created his own record label and clothing line ASAP Worldwide.

Drapes and a giant chandelier hang overhead. Rocky and his cronies are dressed in pure white, with flashing violet lights projected onto them. This fits in with his dedication that his music is for one generation: “No matter white, brown, yellow – we are all purple people.” Purple Swag continues this theme with shout outs to “all the pot smokers out there”. There is no denying that Rocky focuses a lot of his energy on singing about narcotics, women and gold – and the crowd goes wild for it.

Absolute carnage reigns during Rocky’s biggest hit Wild For The Night featuring Skrillex. This song has opened him up to a new dubstep audience and the result has worked with great success. Fuckin’ Problems and Goldie are also hits that see members of the audience rushed out of the mosh pit in states of disarray and quite possibly with injuries. Yet these ailments gain praise from the rapper: “Shout out to that kid crowd surfing over there!”

A$AP Rocky has the potential to become a rap legend and surpass his contemporaries. His dedication and raw enthusiasm when interacting with the crowd proves he is an unstoppable showman (one willing to leap into a tempestuous mosh pit) and he is also a genuinely humble performer. With boyish exuberance and charm, he constantly thanks his fans, grinning with the sheer ecstasy of being on stage. Dedicating the final song to “all the bad bitches in the house,” Rocky and crew appear unable to tear themselves away. Dancing and beaming with delight, he eventually bounds off the stage to almost certainly continue the party elsewhere.

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/24/aap-rocky-at-brixton-academy-live-review/

The Big Wedding – Film review

Director Justin Zackham has set forth to create a huge, all-star, hilarious romantic comedy based upon the 2006 French film Mon frère se marie, but does he succeed? The Big Wedding looks at the trials and tribulations of an extended family coming together to celebrate their adopted son’s marriage. Initially, watching the trailer leaves one in a state of confusion, with its overwhelming list of characters. Actors trying to induce laughter include Susan Sarandon, Robert De Niro, Amanda Seyfried, Diane Keaton, Katherine Heigl, Robin Williams and many, many more.

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As the film unfolds, the confusion dispels and the plot is very watchable. It transpires that Alejandro (Ben Barnes) must convince his adoptive, divorced parents to reunite for one weekend to keep up appearances for his strictly conservative biological mother. The film relies heavily upon jokes around the language barrier between his alcoholic buffoon of a father Don (De Niro) and his American family, contrasting with his ultra-religious Colombian mother and flirtatiously liberal Spanish-speaking sister. Casual racism is typified by the bride’s mother Muffin who is terrified at the thought of having “beige, bilingual children” and the priest (Robin Williams) who congratulates the groom on graduating from Harvard along with the “rest of China”.

Jokes are thrust upon the audience thick and fast, and while they attempt to be risqué, often fall flat and feel inappropriate. The first vulgar joke arrives with ex-wife Ellie (Keaton) stumbling in upon Don about to perform a sexual act on his new lover, who happens to be Ellie’s old best friend Bebe (Sarandon). There are lots of poor attempts at slapstick foolishness: De Niro falling into a pool, or Katherine Heigl being sick down her father’s back. It seems impossible to stumble through any bedroom door in this family home without finding some farcical happening, usually accompanied by overblown sexual noises.

The big revelations come pouring forth on the wedding day. All the scandals: secret pregnancies, illicit affairs, marital reunions, bisexuality and the loss of virginity are grimly predictable. The audience will have seen them numerous times in other wedding comedies. Plenty of these disclosures should have devastating effects on the ceremony, but no one seems to care. Instead, this wacky modern family reunites in its eccentricity and dance together blissfully to Michael Bublé – a clichéd happy ending that one could tell was coming from the opening credits.

Our rating: **

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/15/the-big-wedding-movie-review/

Wyrd at a secret location in Southwark

Immer City are perfectionists. From the moment you arrive at an undisclosed location in Southwark you are completely swept up in the confusion of who is and who isn’t part of the production. Secrecy and mystery are key. Meeting at the crowded Lord Clyde pub in the depths of old London town, you stroll past the graveyards of outcasts from times gone by. Victoria Johnston is first to arrive as Lilith the witch, bedecked in gypsy-like garments of the occult. Gradually, further leaders of the séance appear and explain to a bemused and slightly nervous crowd that we have gathered here tonight to help Jo Warding (Geraint Hill) find out about the brutal killing of his grandfather in a nearby, disused wine cellar.

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Warding’s wife Fiona (Victoria Jane Appleton) is also present in a supporting and convincingly doubtful manner, as well as their drunk, bumbling American friend Ethan (Sam Trueman). Séance leader Dr Isabelle Gowdie (Abi Blears) gives the audience further background information, explaining past horrors of the Southwark area with delight – tales of witches, child prostitution, the bubonic plague and a previous myriad of grisly murders in the very building we are about to be visiting. Last in the motley crew is Amanda (Selma Glasell) who never lets her guise as channeler of the spirits slip – she rarely speaks, greeting you with a fixed stare and mad ramblings. Beware standing next to her for too long, who knows what could happen!

Wyrd-01Entering the disused cellar is a totally immersive experience: every aspect has been controlled to leave you on tenterhooks, with genuine shivers running down your spine. It is dark – there are moments of complete blindness, with the frightful sounds of scratching and screams. There are wonderfully well thought out occult props such as crystals, an altar, sacred oil, candles and wine bottles discarded all over this haunted lair. The rushes of excitement that Immer City have created make it worth skipping a night at the pub or a traditional theatre trip.

Be prepared for jolts of fear as the spirits of the dead enter the cellar, and expect exciting scenes of a sexual and violent nature. If you can cope with these then you are in for a treat! You will leave the creaking haunted house with a thrill that you are unlikely to experience anywhere else…and escape feeling lucky that you got out alive!

Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/04/wyrd-at-a-secret-location-in-southwark-theatre-review/

Pleasure Principle Weekender

Luck was on the side of producers, Numbers and Dedbeat, when they kick-started the festival season with the Pleasure Principle weekender at the end of April. The weather was idyllic for the picturesque setting along the Cornish coastline, not far from the infamous stag weekend town of Newquay. Yet the summery vibes were not always a dead cert with the changeable English weather – hence the wise decision to set their new electronic festival among sprawling caravan sites, converting the usual holiday retreat into three stages, and have an indoor pool party hosted by the maverick mixer Jackmaster himself.

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Notable acts that made it worth the journey were Oneman, with his new spin on old school garage anthems and sets infused with elements of dubstep and grime. Joy Orbison brought extra hype to the Friday night with his future garage tracks that have burst from the underground into huge festival favourites.

Despite the mammoth journey undertaken by many to reach the depths of Southwest England, it certainly proved worth it when the crowd waited with baited breath for headliners TNGHT to hit the Downtown stage on the Saturday. The pinnacle of their set was the intense club favourite Higher Ground, a massive trap track that filled the caravan park with the rumblings of hedonistic bass and catchy vocals. Up next was DJ EZ, champion of the UK garage scene, a man who always keeps his crowd constantly dancing with his selection of classics.

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Sunday night saw the likes of the MBE-bearing David Rodigan bring the weekend to a climactic close. At the age of 61, Rodigan is able to party with the best of them and filled the converted stage into a booming cavern of reggae and dancehall.

With drink prices leaving one aghast (in a good way) and golden sandy beaches within stumbling distance, it would be silly for this festival not to grow with every coming year. And how could anyone resist the allure of caravan parties raging through the night?

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Our rating: *****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/05/03/pleasure-principle-weekender-live-review/