Urban Dandy was at…

East Pop is a touring showcase of East End artistry. The brainchild of Red Gallery, producers of “East End Promise” an exhibition recording the transformative work s of 1985-2000, the current show explores today’s art scene. Last week we visited the show’s West London incarnation.  This show has currently reopenend as “East Pop Red” as part of the Frieze Art Fair at Red Gallery from 12-18 October before gearing up for further roadshows in Edinburgh and Berlin for starters.

This is an all encompassing event bringing together every form of artist and designer imaginable in a sprawling industrial space. Performance artists, films, an interactive art disco, furniture, installations, prints, painting, musicians, photographs, educational activism, video specs, found art and more including a six-foot orange jumpsuited rabbit “walking the plank”.

Urban Dandy’s visit began tentatively gathering a sense of the exhibit then transformed in to an extraordinary evening. Most artists were on hand and the works are so disparate and well spaced that conversations occured naturally and even privately. It was a strange, almost organic and highly personal event that echoed each visitor’s engagement.

UD donned video-glasses throughout recording every glance and conversation including a discussion about the role of activism in education. Dancing at the art disco, discovering strangely set rooms, curtained off films and provocative installations made for a stimulating time while the banquettes, outdoor seating and even children’s paint area provided ample space and the right atmosphere to digest and rehash.

Too many individual works to cover but participating artists include: Hackney WickEd, RAX, Carl Burgess, Browse, Pure Evil, The Dark Times, Adam Dant, Le Gun, Metric Collective and Gerard Puigmal’s Escapism series amongst others. Red Gallery London successfully deliver a challenging venture transplanting a cavalcade of East End creative talents in a new milieu: the sum
of which is more than an exhibit it’s a proper one-off experience.

Unknown Hell – Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

Pic at Bourj al Barajneh camp, Beirut, which inspired the title ‘Unknown Hell’. Graffiti in foreground is of the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
 

In February 2011 a group of British Labour MPs joined a Parliamentary delegation to Lebanon, home to 400,000 Palestinian refugees. They live in hell, but it is never mentioned in the mainstream media. Click here to read the findings of Gerald Kaufman, Michael Connarty and Jeremy Corbyn.

Unknown Hell

Frozen Moment at the Etcetera Theatre, Camden Town

Up and coming writers show off their work at the annual Camden Fringe Festival this August and Bradley Middleton steals the show with ‘Katherine: a short life’, the story of a 20 something’s suicide and the reaction it generates.

Starting at the end with Katherine’s alcoholic demise, the fast-moving play captures the range and depth of responses to the life and death of a young woman.

The sharpness of Middleton’s writing is matched by the outstanding performance of Molly Harris as Katherine. With unpretentious subtlety neither the writer nor the lead actress allow the audience to fully grasp who Katherine is, instead her innocence and complexity give way to depression and confusion, most disturbingly expressed as a humiliating verbal and physical attack on her domineering boyfriend (Jack McNaught).

Middleton and Harris succeeded in creating an enigmatic Katherine in this short play, but it is the moments of levity that allow the script to flow, providing the necessary contrast to Katherine’s melancholy. Two materialistic and obnoxious former colleagues of Katherine’s (Kim Lyzba and Christina Canning) provide the comedy and are used to good effect as the other end of the spectrum, while Katherine’s mother and brother (Frida Emilie Moss and Sam Kozlowski) give the story balance and substantial depth to the main character.

Added to this are the appearance of Katherine’s long lost friend (Alicia Bloundele), the eerily effective use of a voice recording of Katherine’s therapist expertly exonorating herself for any failings in her own work, and the minimalist use of live musicians.

The success of ‘Katherine’ comes from its nonlinear script, which never confuses but instead grips the audience as the play flows through time, back and forth from hope to tragedy via the mundane reality of suburban office life.

The play ends with a younger Katherine, full of youthful enthusiasm and love, a final twist that leaves the audience feeling that they have witnessed the beginnings of significant careers for both the writer and lead actress.

Director: Alicia Bloundele.

Written by: Bradley Middleton.

On Friday 19th August at the Etcetera Theatre above The Oxford Arms, Camden Town, 4.30pm as part of Kingston University’s MA showcase.

Bradley Middleton’s next play, ‘Misery Tree’, will be on at the Rose in Kingston in November. Watch this space for more info…

In Quest of Conscience: History lost in Translation @Finborough Theatre – 2*

by J. Cavanagh

In Quest of Conscience brings the interviews of extermination camp Nazi Commandant Franz Stangl to the stage.   An intriguing, devastating subject matter yet Gitta Sereny’s interviews, so real on paper, translate poorly to the “boards”.

The four-piece production, made up of Stangl (Martin Buchan), Sereny (Phillipa Peak) plus a male and female chorus (Patrick Knowles & Siubhan Harrison,) fails to augment the text in this adaptation. Stangl’s reflections on his time in command of Sobibor and Treblinka come across as impersonal.  Buchan and Peak do their best to channel their characters but their efforts come across as “acted” and at times under-rehearsed.

The simple set with the leads in conversation across a table from each other in the Dusseldorf jail following Stangl’s extradition from Brazil could provide a stark contrasting backdrop for strong emotion.  The chorus re-enact scenes from Stangls’ past re-creating third party memories: his wife in interview, a priest, a daughter, etc.  The chorus is an effective tool – accent challenges aside – and the play would benefit from Stangl interacting with his revisited past. The chorus, Knowles in particular, energises proceedings but more is required to bring this death laden play to life and connect us to the horrors committed and rationalised by this man.

Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road
London, UK, SW10 9ED
http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Sundays & Mondays until 28 June 2011

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes including interval

Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd: 50 Years for a London Premiere @ The Finborough Theatre – 3.5

The Finborough, a sure bet for fringe theatre, currently delivers top drawer musical enjoyment with a revival of “Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd”.

Beamish (left) & Ashforde (right) in The Roar of The Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd – The Finborough Theatre

Set in the smallest Big Top I’ve ever seen the story is ultimately one of class struggle between the portly officious “Sir” (Oliver Beamish) and the threadbare hungry-eyed “Cocky” (Matthew Ashforde). These two are engaged in an absurd game of hopscotch with ever-changing rules to ensure the upper-hand of the upper-class.  The competition is followed throughout by a chorus of “urchins” part-mice, part-Pierrot who provide dazzling support for whichever player takes the lead.

The 60’s original never gathered the UK momentum required for a West-End run but instead was exported straight to Broadway where the class tale and setting translated as a huge success for its resonance with the struggles of the great depression.  Undeniably dated, stereotypical comedic fodder is provided briefly by “The Negro” a caricature with little more than a hayseed stance and guffaw.  Nice then that Terry Doe, assuming this small role, stunned the room with his show-stopping delivery of “Feeling Good”.

The true standout performance of the evening is delivered by Matthew Ashforde who takes on “Cocky” with gutsy relentlessness. As engaged with the audience as his fellow cast members he embodies the painful trials and pathetic triumphs of this role. His eye-catching panache brings to the production a magnetic pull that kept us drawn to the storyline of reinvention and hurdles.

Superior numbers, tight performances and terrific choreography elevate the night’s entertainment.  The cast deliver with such vivacity that from the very outset we were captivated.  The chorus of singing and dancing urchins outdo themselves with exuberant routines in a set that can barely contain them.  Hoots of hilarity and shouts of bravo echo after each number proving this production a delightful, rollicking evening with an entertainment value exceeding many despite the half-century wait for its London opening.

Finborough Theatre
118 Finborough Road
London, UK, SW10 9ED
http://www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Until 2 July 2011

2 hours including intermission.