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Mona Hatoum, Harmony Hammond, Dóra Maurer - White Cube - ★★★★☆ - Until November 3, 2019

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This is an interesting opportunity to see the work of three women artists who all seek to challenge us in apparently different ways. Mona Hatoum's workexplores the fragility of the planet in her works like Map (mobile)and Hot Spot.She also makes us ponder the transitory nature of human constructions in Remains to be Seen and in works like Hair Mesh brings these same questions to a more intimate level. Harmony Hammond asks us to look at her work from a feminist point of view as she presents large, near-monochromatic works which rise from their frames and hint at an inner reality while offering textured and complex surfaces. Dóra Maurer's exhibition at White Cube coincides with her current display at the Tate Modern and focuses on work which challenges the eye. The shaped canvases use vivid colours to explore perspective and make us question and reflect upon the nature of our own perception. The paintings change and grow as we reconsider the spatial relationships between what is…

Amsterdam, Orange Tree Theatre - ★★★★☆ - Until October 12, 2019

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A mysterious letter from the past which will unravel a story of love, betrayal and survival. This is a great setup for a tale which is bound to capture an audience's interest. The horrors of World War II echo into the present and make us consider the kind of world that we are living in and creating. Amsterdam has a fascinating narrative which resonates relevance to our current situation and connects the past and the present in a fascinating way. The haunting spectre of history is wonderfully invoked in a manner that makes the city come alive and universalises it into our current time and place. The drawback for us was the framework used to tell this gripping, atmospheric tale. The notion of an improvisational drama, which has clearly been written and rehearsed, distracted from the artful counterpoint of past and present senses of identity and political reality rather than complementing them. The constant breaking of the fourth wall with translations and commentary also seemed unn…

Peter Gynt, National Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until October 8, 2019

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David Hare's adaptation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt is a wonderful thing to behold. The dark profundity of the original allegory is not lost but there is a delightful ironic humour and a generous dollop of satire that make a long night in the theatre always entertaining. Peter Gynt's odyssey from Scottish fantasist, to Floridian tycoon and to African prophet is hilarious at the same time as it explodes false values and hypocritical pieties. The questions posed in this pilgrim's progress are nothing less than the very purpose of life and the meaning that is ascribed to death. James McArdle's performance as Peter Gynt is quite extraordinary, and he brings to life what can be a rather two dimensional character. This is a masterful performance and McArdle is well supported by a multi-talented cast who are all pitch perfect. The production values, as always at the National Theatre, are amazing. Strong direction from Jonathan Kent, spectacular set design from Richard Hudson and…

William Blake, Tate Britain - ★★★★★ - Until February 2, 2020

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William Blake's evocative and enigmatic images are ubiquitous and many of them are now recognised from being repurposed in the most amazing ways! This comprehensive exhibition seeks to recontextualise the artist's work. Blake, the student of the Royal Academy; Blake, the husband whose wife worked with him on his art; Blake, the loyal friend and sometimes nemesis of his patrons; Blake, the hard-working engraver striving to make a living and Blake, the inspiration for a younger generation of artists: these are all here. These aspects of the mercurial genius are presented along with that other Blake: the mystic, free spirit, poet, revolutionary and uniquely personal interpreter of Shakespeare, Dante and the Bible. This exhibition brings together all the work we are familiar with including Newton, Ghost of a Flea and Ancient of Days, but there is also some wonderful work that is probably less known such as the self-portrait exhibited in the UK for the first time and Pilgrim's …

Torch Song, The Turbine Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until October 13, 2019

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It is hard to imagine Torch Song without Harvey Fierstein, but this is ultimately the test of whether this is a play or whether it was simply a one man show. Matthew Needham takes on a big challenge and he succeeds splendidly. He makes the role of Arnold his own. Dino Fetscher offers him strong support sympathetically capturing the confusions of social pressure and his bisexuality. Rish Shah creates a charming Alan and Jay Lycurgo captures the impulsive teenager, David. Daisy Boulton is convincing as Laurel, the understanding but not naïve wife, and Bernice Stegers is quite wonderful as Ma. Her fights with Arnold are a wonder to behold. Their exchange of barbs is both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. As a play, Torch Song stands up to the test of time. Its treatment of such issues as bisexuality and adoption of gay teenagers are very contemporary, and its look at the issues of seeking love and developing self-acceptance are timeless. What makes this work so strong is that…

Falsettos, The Other Palace Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until November 23, 2019

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A lot of theatre draws strength from being strongly rooted in a time and place, but for a piece to last it also has to transcend those dimensions. Falsettos is set in 1978 and 1981, but its relevance endures. This work comes out of a time when society began to acknowledge different definitions of family and gay identity was being forged. Those issues have not gone away, but Falsettos also addresses the timeless questions of building relationships, coping with parents, and the perspective that death brings to all our transient frustrations and obsessions. This production does all of the above with terrific humour, a wonderful score and lyrics and a brilliant cast. Laura Pitt-Pulford defines show-stopper with "I'm Breaking Down" and absolutely embodies Trina. Daniel Boys as Marvin and Oliver Savile as Whizzer hit just the right notes as they struggle to define their connection with each other and Marvin's former wife and son. Their clashes and affection are totally bel…

The Strange Case of Jekyll & Hyde, Jack Studio Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until September 28, 2019

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Ross McGregor offers a fascinating contemporary gloss on the age old questions explored by Robert Louis Stevenson. In both individuals and societies the capacities for violence and hatred coexist with those for love and empathy. How do we repress the former and bring forth the latter? What triggers or exacerbates the expression of one side of this duality over the other? Are the cause and the solution social or scientific? Political experiments like America, with its celebration of personal liberty and proliferation of guns, and scientific experiments resulting in "wonder" drugs and gene modification can have results quite contrary to initial expectations. Dr. Jekyll, the mayor of a small Indiana town is an emblem of both the scientific and social approaches to dealing with the duality of the human condition, and this work reflects the complexity of the question and the dubious nature of the answers. Jekyll is subtly and convincingly played by Will Pinchin in a strong perfor…

The Crown Dual, Wilton's Music Hall - ★★★★☆ - Until September 14, 2019

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Clare Foy and Matt Smith move aside! Writers for Netflix's The Crownyou've been replaced! These two multi-talented actors do all the parts and cover the whole first season in 70 minutes. And, this version's a lot funnier than the original. This is a very clever spoof of the series that has the audience in stitches and it's an amazing demonstration of theatrical timing. The jokes come thick and fast and you really don't require an in-depth knowledge of the series to enjoy the fun. The premise is that Rosie Holt is an actress, Beth, who failed to get the role of the queen in the Netflix blockbuster and Brendan Murphy is Stanley, her part-time agent. They take on the The Crownwith Beth playing the Queen and Stanley doing everybody else (though we must note Beth also does a star turn as the penguin). This is a great evening of silliness and satire, and we thoroughly enjoyed this delightful romp through the monarchy's dramas. Now we want to see Beth's and Stanle…

The Son, Duke of York's Theatre - ★★★★☆ - Until November 2, 2019

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This is another charged work from Florian Zeller. This time the multi-talented writer deals with adolescent mental illness and the challenges that this condition offers his well-meaning parents. The play beautifully captures the sense of helplessness the adults have in the face of the transformation of their son from a happy child to a troubled teenager. The piece artfully traces their emotions as they run a gamut from anger and guilt to hope and denial. Amanda Abbington and John Light do stellar jobs as the mother and father, embodying their concern and bewilderment when confronted by their son's behaviour and mood swings. Is this just adolescent angst and the kind of parent issues that the father himself had, or is it something darker? As they grapple with their questions and self-doubt, the son acts out his condition, vacillating between trying to meet their expectations and succumbing to the darkness within. Laurie Kynaston does a fine job in capturing both the hope and sense …

Nancy Cadogan: Mind Zero, Saatchi Gallery - ★★★★☆ - Until September 22, 2019

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These cool, dispassionate observations conceal more than they reveal. The subjects do not make eye contact and the objects stand alone usually dissociated from their surroundings. Like the kitten in "A Room of One's Own" there is curiosity about, but only very hesitant engagement with the external world. The literary references (books are frequently pictured) and the widespread citations of other artists' work (Matisse, Van Gogh, Hogarth et al.) create an impersonality and distance that may engage the mind, but discourages a more direct emotional response to the work. These are clearly Matisse's goldfish and his palette in many places and there is also a certain Japanese sensibility being evoked. Indeed, the depiction of Fragonard's "The Swing" with its lascivious observer stands in ironic contrast to the distancing observation presented in these paintings. The windows here play with perception. They apparently look out but like the foregrounds the…

Thriller Live, Lyric Theatre - ★★★★☆ - Until April 26, 2020

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For over ten years this is a show that has been providing electrifying entertainment. It is a retrospective of the music that defined a generation. Michael Jackson has become a controversial figure but his music and choreography still amazes and delights. From the early years with The Jackson Five and the catchy tunes of "ABC" and "Blame It On The Boogie" to the experiences that were "Bad" and "Thriller" the vocals and dancing still captivate an audience. These works are performed by probably the hardest working cast in the West End. The energy is nothing short of spellbinding. All of the cast brought themselves totally to this evening, but for us the stand-outs were Vivienne Ekwulugo who has a beautiful voice and a presence that brings amazing depth to MJ's stylings. And then there is Florivaldo Mossi's rendition of "Billie Jean" who's incredible Moonwalk sequences were just amazing! "They Don't Care About Us"…

Appropriate, Donmar Warehouse - ★★★★★ - Until October 5, 2019

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Inheritance comes in many forms: things, buildings, family ties and family history. How do we understand and cope with these legacies? Branden Jacob-Jenkins has given us Southern Gothic family drama with some subtly drawn and nuanced characters who try to deal with the personal and historical past in ways both more and less functional: anger, denial, retreat and possibly redemption. Not clearly understanding our relation to the past and yet somehow burdened by that which we may not be directly responsible for is a challenge faced by all of us. We all must live with the choices made by others in the context of different times and different values. This is the reality that each member of this family tries to deal with in their own way. Monica Dolan is simply amazing as the abrasive and volcanic Toni. She commands the stage with her raw rage and bitter wit. Jaimi Barbakoff as Rachael and Steven Mackintosh as Bo beautifully capture the attempt to bury the confusion and frustrations behind…

Towards Zero, The Mill at Sonning - ★★★★★ - Until September 28, 2019

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Murder and a lovely meal. This is a perfect summer's day served up by The Mill at Sonning and Brian Blessed. His direction captures the fun of Agatha Christie's classic whodunit without ever condescending to it. He hits just the right note of taking the work seriously and winking at the audience as we share a guilty pleasure. Dinah England's set is perfect and completely captures the era while Natalie Titchener's lovely costumes are completely eye-catching. The cast is excellent. Again, it is so easy to overplay or reduce to parody Christie's two dimensional characters, but these actors get it just right! They work within the genre rather than playing against it. It seems almost unfair to single anyone out, but Hildegard Neil as Lady Tressilian commanded the stage as any matriarch worth her salt should. This is a thoroughly first-rate production with an excellent two course meal before the curtain rises. It is probably the best theatrical value in London. Make the …

The Weatherman, Park Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until September 14, 2019

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Weather (n.): short-term atmospheric conditions. Climate (n.): an underlying, long-term state or situation. With some very clever and humorous dialogue and with echos of old bromance films like "The Odd Couple," Eugene O'Hare's brilliant script subtly draws us into the broken lives of his characters. But theirs is a much darker reality than we at first anticipate and this is a play that provokes us into thinking about a very disturbing social issue. Alec Newman is totally convincing as the fastidious O'Rourke who is desperately striving to regain some control of his life and circumstances, while Mark Hadfield does a beautiful job as Beezer, the comic drunk who is the weatherman and survives by reading which way the wind blows. This is a world dominated by the chilling combination of menace and moral sophistry that is represented by Dollar, terrifyingly embodied by David Schaal. The work of Cyril Nri as Turkey and Niamh James as Mara complete a perfect casting. &…

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Ambassadors Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until September 28, 2019

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When you are 13 and ¾ a year can seem like a long time and for Adrian Mole it is certainly an eventful year. But for those of us in the theatre the time just flew by! I must confess I have never read the Adrian Mole stories, but I now certainly intend to. This is West End musical at its best: original, bright, funny and heart-warming. The music is a delight. The libretto is clever and the script is based on a story that speaks to all of us. We have all been 13 and ¾ and we know the angst, the idealism, and the infatuation that comes with being on the brink of entering the often alluring yet somewhat incomprehensible world of adulthood. This is a story for all ages, and the whole cast gets it just right. Amy Ellen Richardson and Andrew Langtree are pitch perfect as Adrian's parents. John Hopkins as Mr. Lucas and Lara Denning as Doreen are simply hilarious! Rosemary Ashe's Grandma and Ian Talbot's Bert ring completely true as the older generation while Cuba Kamanu is a stron…

London Living Large

The City Life Magazine. Reviews and Ratings.