Literature and the Barbican

Why is the Barbican so amazing?

Because it is the LARGEST multi-arts and conference venue in Europe.

The huge, towering concrete jungle that looks rigid, militant and BRUTALIST in its architecture is actually home to a cultural flowering of art, music, theatre, dance and film!

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Built in London, upon an area desecrated by the Second World War, during the 60s and 70s it began as a residential estate. But it is now so much more than that…

It houses the Barbican Arts Centre, vast libraries, the Museum of London, The City of London School for Girls and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (where one of us got her ‘Grade 8 Performing Arts’, and ‘Shakespeare Award’. Ahem).

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In 2001 the Minister for the Arts awarded the Barbican Grade II listed status.

One can see why.

It is colossal in scale – you can easily get lost inside it. Plus it occupies such a cohesive and all-consuming place in the London skyline. The whole complex is so distinct and seamless that it easily sits apart from all the law firms and towering glass banks full of city boys surrounding it (eww).

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It is also pretty cool that some of the buildings are named after notable British historical literary figures (we are literature geeks after all…) Examples include:

Defoe House – after Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders)

Johnson House – after Ben Johnson (the playwright behind satirical plays Volpone and Bartholomew Fayre)

Bunyan House – after John Bunyan (writer of The Pilgrim’s Progress)

More House – after Thomas More (Tudor period author of the Latin-Utopia)

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AND OBVIOUSLY SHAKESPEARE TOWER…the bard who needs no introduction!

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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.

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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

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/26/theatre-review-a-chorus-line-at-the-london-palladium/