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Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost, Unicorn Theatre - ★★★ - Until January 5, 2020

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Oscar Wilde's “The Canterville Ghost” is a strange piece. Is it for adults or children? Anthony Weigh's adaptation tries hard to make it appealing for a younger audience and it almost succeeds, but parts of the story seem rather too deeply psychological for the target age-group. This production has pace and a clearly drawn plot, and there are some terrific visual images, especially the bed, and the interludes of magic that work well. The premise of an American family moving into a haunted English country house is amusingly created by a believable set of characters. The best performance came from Beth Cordingly as the mother. She captures the character's humour and humanity; Nana Amoo-Gottfried also stood out as the father. The idea of having two grown girls playing the eight-year-old twin boys is fun but sadly many of their words were lost. Safiyya Ingar (the tom-boyish teenage daughter) really shines in her long scene with the ghost; this was the pivotal moment in the pla…

Fiji, Omnibus Theatre - ★★★★ - Until November 24, 2019

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If you can't digest a metaphor this may not be your perfect date night. However, this is an amusing short play that uses gay cannibalism to comment quite cleverly on relationships, communication and social taboos.There is some good fun here and some sharp insights, but the dialogue and situation can sometimes seem a little contrived. One almost hears the writers' tossing about their ideas as they explore the parameters of their subject matter. "That'll work" and it does most of the time, mainly due to some good quips and engaging repartee supported by the strong acting skills that the principals bring to their piece. Pedro Leandro is quite charming as the putative meal plan and Edward Stone manages to make the potential gourmand quite a sympathetic character. The vulnerability/intimacy quiz questions also serve as a good device to bring home the play's message, and Evan Lordan has managed to achieve just the right note of tongue-in-cheek realism that the work…

Cars: Accelerating the Modern World, Victoria & Albert Museum - ★★★★★ - Until April 19, 2020

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If you are an automobile aficionado, don't miss this exhibition! If you're not, don't miss this exhibition! The cars on display are amazing works of art and brilliant expressions of design, but their story also profoundly influenced our notion of time and space, our economy, the world of work, sport and culture in general. In the one hundred and thirty year history of the automobile it is hard to measure the profound effect they have had on society. Cars have provided freedom from previous time constraints for travel or for getting to and from work, thus changing the tourism industry and creating suburbias. Automobiles have caused the redesign of our urban and rural landscapes and created the petroleum economy, making and breaking national economies. They inspired assembly line production in a variety of industries which in turn influenced the development of unions. Cars created fashions and inspired totally new aesthetics, while also becoming symbols of national identity …

High Fidelity, The Turbine Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until December 7, 2019

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This delightful musical definitely makes our top-five list! Nick Hornby's story about the geeky owner of a vinyl record shop and his band of misfit friends is a great start; the addition of good music and smart lyrics bring it to life. Finally, we have a musical with songs that don't all sound the same and lyrics crackling with wit and insight which stay true to character and the plot. "Desert Island Top Five Break-Ups," "Ian's Here," "I Slept With Someone Who Slept With Lyle Lovett" plus the ballads "Ready To Settle" and "Laura, Laura" are just outstanding. The quality of the writing is also perfectly matched by an amazingly energetic cast who just don't stop. The director, Tom Jackson Greaves, does a great job using the limited space available while also bringing some completely believable performances out of his cast. Oliver Ormson is a dynamo, doing a great turn as Rob who can't take responsibility for very much…

Troy: myth and reality, The British Museum - ★★★★★ - Until March 8, 2020

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The story of Troy has captivated people for over three thousand years and this exhibition does a brilliant job of exploring that fascination. Using over three hundred objects borrowed from both private and public lenders the exhibition is broken into three parts: the stories of Homer are retold, the excavation of Troy is explored and the influence of these powerful narratives on the arts is delineated. For those unfamiliar with the Iliad and the Odyssey Part I is a wonderful introduction to them, and for those of us who grew up with these epics it is a delightful fresh look. What great fun it is to see the ancient papyrus of schoolchildren copying out lines from Homer's work and to recognise their place in the long tradition of education that surrounds these great tales. With references to the Aeneid and Greek tragedies Troy's myths are told through some amazingly beautiful pieces, but the exhibition also offers a fascinating look at the search for the real Troy in Part II. Th…

Frankenstein, Richmond Theatre - ★★★ - Until November 23, 2019

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Within the framework of the horror genre, Mary Shelley explores profound questions that remain amazingly relevant to contemporary society. It is almost hard to credit that, as part of a contest, an eighteen year old young woman living on the brink of the scientific revolution was able to anticipate so many of the issues that still trouble us today. If there is a God why does he seem to assume so little responsibility for the happiness of his creations? In a world of genetic engineering, science can do so many things, but should it? What are the responsibilities of the privileged to those less fortunate? Mary Shelley gives us a lot to ponder. However, in this production it remains unclear why she is introduced as a character and narrator of the action. Her presence does not really take us into her creative process and her commentary serves mainly to interrupt the action and distract from the viewer's involvement. Her frequent asides and often cruel mockery of her own characters see…

Anselm Kiefer: Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot - White Cube - FREE - ★★★★★ - Until January 26, 2020

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Anselm Kiefer is a contemporary art giant. This post World War II artist's reputation is based not only on the ambition of his ideas but also on the sheer scale of his paintings. White Cube’s aircraft hangar-like spaces provide an appropriate venue for his new work. The thinking behind the pieces is equally heavyweight. Kiefer is referencing disparate ideas and concepts, including mathematical string theory, astronomy and mythology. What holds the world together? If this sounds daunting, it’s simply about making visual the idea that everything - from past and present - is connected. But the work itself is most compelling on a material level. Enormous canvases reveal their secrets slowly. Paint is combined with straw, branches, burnt books or even an axe! These works reward close inspection: it is exciting to speculate on the physical process of their creation. In the Gordian Knot series, familiar Kiefer winter fields are now overlaid with grids or nets. The central ‘corridor’ sugg…

Orphée, London Coliseum - ★★★★★ - Until November 29, 2019

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Once again ENO has taken on a very difficult piece, but here the nettle is firmly grasped and a mesmeric piece of music theatre results. Netia Jones' outstanding new staging of Philip Glass' 1993 opera, which is itself closely based on Jean Cocteau's 1950 film, asks us to ponder whether life is a dream and questions whether art seduces one away from real human concerns. Conductor Geoffrey Paterson gives us every nuance of the subtly expressive vocal and instrumental writing which includes musical echoes of Nadia Boulanger and Darius Milhaud. Lizzie Clachan's expressionistic sets retain a dream-like quality in Act One with everything sliding slowly across the stage. When we go to the Underworld in Act Two moving walls are covered with drifting projections of catacombs. The singing is excellent throughout with a big cast led by Nicholas Lester as Orphée and Sarah Tynan as Eurydice. However, the voices that particularly stood out for us were those of Jennifer France and N…

Touching The Void, Duke of York's Theatre - ★★★★ - Until February 29, 2020

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In life there are struggles or challenges we choose and there are those that are thrust upon us. The first act of this play deals with the former, Joe Simpson's decision to climb a mountain in the Peruvian Andes. This is a decision few of us would dare to make and many of us simply don't understand. The second act of this play deals with the challenge of survival, a struggle we must all come to terms with although seldom in the dramatic form in which it is presented here. When we question why people undertake daring and dangerous acts, the answer never seems completely satisfying to those of us who are risk averse like Joe's sister. However, this remarkable piece of theatre shows that those who take on such challenges by choice might have the very spirit that allows one to succeed when struggles come unsought. This production is a gripping glimpse into a real life determination to survive in the face of unbelievable adversity. It is not easy to translate the idea of climbi…

Slipped: Cinderella... Rebooted! - Royal Vauxhall Tavern - ★★★★ - Until January 8, 2020

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Seriously sick of 'Secret Santa'? This Xmas, why not get the office gang together and go to the RVT's wonderfully rude and sassy panto. This is not Cinderella as you might remember her. The unexpurgated version is a lot more fun and has better shoes! From Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to "Annie" and Adele there are more pop culture references here than in Kim Kardashian's tweets. The punch lines never stop coming and just when you've gotten one gag, you realise you've missed the next one. The song parodies are all clever with singing and choreography that are first-rate. The high-energy cast left us exhausted from laughing, and, of course, fromshoutingthe characters' catch phrases, plus warnings to our heroine. The audience is always kept involved and time flies at an amazing pace. Richard Watkins' Prince Charming was spectacularly over the top and really got things pumped up while Grant Cartwright as Cinderella was suitably coy ... not! Robe…

Prix Pictet 2019: Hope, Victoria & Albert Museum - FREE - ★★★★★ - Until December 8, 2019

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The theme for this year's Prix Pictet is "Hope" and from over 600 nominated photographers the judges narrowed their short list to twelve whose works are on display in this not-to-be-missed exhibition. The artists presented a wide variety of nationalities but they are united by the high quality of their work. In the end, the judges selected Joana Choumali from Côte d'Ivoire as the winner of the ten thousand Swiss franc prize. Choumali's series, Ça va aller ('It will be ok'), 2019 is a beautifully innovative and striking series of embroidered photos. While we totally agree with the judges' choice it seems almost unfair to have to single out one winner from such an outstanding group of submissions. Ireland's Ivor Prickett gives us photos from Iraq and Syria that are incredibly moving and Namibia's Margaret Courtney-Clarke's stunning compositions are a wonderful evocation of the land and people. Rena Effendi from Azerbaijan takes us into a har…

Shook, Southwark Playhouse - ★★★★★ - Until November 23, 2019

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This is an amazingly realistic look at three teenaged lads awaiting imminent parenthood, whilst incarcerated in a young offenders institution. Brilliant writing and acting lift this piece well above the usual 'prison play.' The irony of young people being taught to nurture who have never been nurtured becomes a devastating condemnation of how some of the most vulnerable in today's society are treated. Samuel Bailey's play, which won the 2019 Papatango prize for new writing, veers successfully, if sometimes uncomfortably, between laughter and tragedy. The dialogue is sharp and true. Cain, for whom anything is an improvement on life outside, is played with fantastic energy by Josh Finan; he is wound up so tightly he seems constantly about to explode; the speed of his delivery and his physicality are astounding. Josef Davies as Jonjo brilliantly conceals his inner turmoil and hopeless search for love behind a stammering facade. Ivan Oyik is tremendous as Riyad, ostensibly…

All's Well That Ends Well, Jermyn Street Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until November 30, 2019

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All's Well That Ends Well is often labelled a problem comedy, and it certainly offers a problem for contemporary audiences and sensibilities. It tells the story of the unrequited love of the virtuous Helena for the rather shallow Bertram and really makes us question why she abases herself to pursue this unworthy object of her affections. Tom Littler tries to address this issue in a wonderfully economical production using just six actors. He does so by focussing on Helena's reaction to the trauma of her father's death and frames the story with her memories. She acts in response to her loss and to her need to belong. Hannah Morrish excels as the lovestruck Helena, and Gavin Fowler is equally strong as the callow Bertram. Robert Mountford is delightful as Bertram's friend of bad influence whose exposure as a coward makes the protagonist reconsider his behaviour. Miranda Foster is simply outstanding in her multiple roles as The Countess, Queen and Widow. She creates clear …

Stop Kiss, Above The Stag Theatre - ★★★★ - Until November 30, 2019

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Callie reports on the traffic from a helicopter. She is separated from the world below and from herself until she is forced to confront life and her assumptions by Sara. In contrast, the latter has taken control of her life by moving to New York City and becoming deeply engaged as a teacher of under-privileged children. Diana Son gives us a very well written and thoroughly engaging work. From the initial meeting of the two women through their developing attraction the relationship is touchingly and humorously presented. The choice of narrative technique creates a tension and a sense of foreboding that would have been lost in a more linear telling of this love story. It ensures that the audience's attention is riveted even as we know what inevitably will happen. While there is a serious political point being made here, Son wisely lets the audience draw it out, concentrating on creating plausible characters while avoiding a polemic. Suzanne Boreel as Callie gets it just right with …

Leonardo: Experience a Masterpiece, National Gallery - ★★★★ - Until January 12, 2020

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This is a unique exhibition focussing on a single painting: the National Gallery's version of The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition takes us into the provenance of the work from its commission by the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception of the church of San Francisco Grande in Milan to its placement in that setting and to its eventual arrival in London in 1880. The technical research by the National Gallery in 2005-6 and the further work in 2008-10 also inform the exhibit. In a series of six rooms we explore the amazing mind of the artist and the evolution of this masterwork. We begin with mirror images of Leonardo's journals leading us into the conception and process of the master as he developed his sense of vision and perspective. We are invited to experience how light and shade can be played with and to see how Leonardo might have explored his creative options. We are urged to consider his analysis and treatment of his subject and also his choi…

London Living Large

The City Life Magazine. Reviews and Ratings.