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

“Four Seasons” Fireworks in Brockwell Park

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The clocks have gone back, darkness looms over your shoulder earlier than expected, and Hurricane Jude has just destroyed the entire London transport system (it really does only take ONE puff of wind to render venturing out of bed futile).

Yet there is reason to rejoice because we are all on the good side of Christmas! These are the months where fun stuff happens. The run up before January and February suck out our souls.

Halloween has come and gone (although we were too inebriated to document that fully blogwise) and fireworks night has just exploded in a roar of colour in South East London.

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We moseyed along to Brockwell Park, along with 1000s of other families, friends, wailing children and underaged boozed up youths. Although…we were not far off maturity-wise as we shivered clutching our Strongbows and lamenting the fact we had forgotten to buy sparklers.

We want to say a big thank you to Lambeth council for throwing a stellar (get it?) line up of explosions, lights and generally making it looks like little drops of gold were falling from the heavens.

Plus it was all for free! Admittedly, this meant crowds of epic proportions and a great deal of shoving each other in muddied boots but it was well-worth it for a spot of the old British whimsy.

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These days there is a total lack of raging bonfire – complete with Guy Fawkes’s roasting sack-like body. But being peace-loving Kinder we don’t like to see any effigy being used as kindling! Even if it is a tradition that dates back to the 1605 Gunpowder plot (It is a bit of an odd pastime…)

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Lambeth Council chose to opt for a more modern day twist and the mayor announced the onset of a series of songs documenting the turning of the yearly calendar – the progress from spring to winter through a medley of cheery songs (although we did question the inclusion of Greenday’s Wake me up When September ends. Really?)

But top hits of the night had to be Mr Blue Sky (ELO), Here Comes The Sun (The Beatles), September (Earth, Wind and Fire) and California Dreamin’ (The Mamas and Papas).

Dancing around in mud and praising the lord that there was not any rain (…yet still complaining about poor crowd control) made it the perfect crisp autumnal night out in London. And with Brockwell’s elevated position over the rest of London you could see fireworks shooting off all over the capital.

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Our rating: **** 

Anne x

The Bodyguard – first night with Beverley Knight at the Adelphi Theatre

the-bodyguard-original1I’ve always loved The Bodyguard.

Whitney Houston is perfect – not only because of her voice (which is obviously one of the main pulls of the film), but also because of her portrayal of superstar in crisis, Rachel Marron.

And a star in crisis Whitney was in real life too – we all know what happened, and I still can’t really believe that Whitney is gone.

For Whitney/Bodyguard fans, the lines are blurred. Are you watching a story about a singer called Rachel Marron, or are you just watching (and gawping) at Whitney and her amazing voice?

So going to see the stage version of the epic film was always going to be pretty poignant for me.

Rachel’s story is different from Whitney’s – in the film/stage show she’s being stalked, and needs the protection of a bodyguard (Kevin Costner in the film, Tristan Gemmill in the stage show), who she then falls in love with.

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Whitney Houston is one of my favourite ever singers, so I was worried that Beverley Knight, though a national treasure with a ridiculously great vocal range of her own, might not be able to emulate Whitney.

But I was wrong – Beverley lends her own twist to Rachel’s story. She hit every note perfectly – and there are a lot of songs in this play! She doesn’t try to emulate Whitney’s voice, but instead sings in her own incredible style.

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The play has been adapted from the film as a tribute to Whitney, and each of her biggest hits is in it – from I Wanna Dance With Somebody to I Will Always Love You.

The stage show is especially tense when the audience realises that Rachel’s stalker is creeping along the side of the seating.

And it was a huge success – Beverley got the standing ovation she deserved, even before the show was finished.

If you’re into Whitney Houston, and want to celebrate her musical achievments, then this is one musical you will enjoy.

A must-see for Whitney fans.

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R.I.P., Whitney Houston – we will always love you!

P.S. As it was Beverley’s first night in the role, there was a good turnout of celebrities, from Emeli Sande to Shingai Shinowa of The Noisettes… and I found myself sitting next to Mel C from the Spice Girls. Which made me feel the ‘girl power’ even more. Perfect.

Our verdict: ****

Rosie x 

HAPPY 30th BIRTHDAY AMY WINEHOUSE <3

It is hard to find eloquent words that befit the way we both feel about Amy Winehouse and her music. Even thinking/talking about her now gives us goosebumps and brings tears to our eyes. Many a’night we have spent warbling away to her heartbreaking and moving lyricism and soaking up her feisty attitude. Of any troubled celebrity it was ALWAYS her that we prayed would rise like a phoenix from the flames. Yet that was not to be. So in the absence of articulate expression we have found two writers that beautifully express our feelings for this talented young lady. One thing that is for certain – any future generations of our families will be forced to listen to the Winehouse back catalogue for years to come. Musically, she is an artist that we should all feel lucky to have had a chance to witness to in our lifetime…

“Pop music had often cast women as sweet, bright creatures, but Winehouse’s lyrics revealed something mulchier, messier. Here was a woman who refused to conform – not in the eccentric mad woman in the attic mould of Kate Bush or Björk, but a woman who chose to live a little wild, follow her heart and sing of the simple stew of being female. Her songs were filled with broad talk, cussing, drink and drugs and dicks, songs that could hinge on one magnificent, unladylike question: “What kind of fuckery is this?”

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Reposted from Tuesday 26 July 2011 

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“Of course nothing lasts for ever, but some things endure, even as, and maybe because, they haunt . To find a lasting treasure in all the momentary pleasures of the Winehouse oeuvre, all you have to do is listen harder. And then do it again, and keep doing it, until you feel life changing around you”

NICK COLEMAN

Reposted from Sunday 8th September 2013 theindependent.co.uk

Photos:  Max Vadukul©  & Abél Caldéroné©  

Canalival (well, the unofficial one)

We went to Canalival – a flotilla up Regent’s Park Canal – at the weekend, along with around 6000 other Londoners who wanted to make the most of the sunshine.

Well, actually, the official Canalival got cancelled a few days before – something about safety, despite thousands being raised for the event.

So what do you do when something you really, really wanted to go to gets cancelled? You turn up anyway, obviously. We’re young, don’t get mad!

It was an amazing day – sunny, good-natured, and drunken. And for once, we felt like we were connecting with other Londoners – there was a festival vibe to the day, and we spent loads of time chatting to others (mostly because there were so many boats we had no choice but to get to know our neighbours, but it was lovely). And it made us realise how reserved and British we are – why NOT set sail on a canal on a hot summer’s day?!

Check out the day in photos.

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Canalival’s Facebook page is still rife with ‘discussions’, and many an article about the day has begun appearing in the Evening Standard and Time Out.

London’s still busy debating whether Canalival’s attendees are a bunch of ferocious, drunken, law-breaking hoodlums who made a right mess of the canal, or a jolly crowd of opportunists who took to Regent’s Park Canal on a sunny day and did something different. Rosie and Anne think the latter. But we would, wouldn’t we?!*

*And before you accuse of littering, we sorted our rubbish out. And donated our dinghy to a dinghy-less group when we left. Because we’re good like that.

Rosie 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?

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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.

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Our rating:  ****

Anne x

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/15/opera-review-opera-di-peronis-la-rondine-at-factory-7/