Sunday, 22 March 2015

These Trees are made of Blood @ Southwark Playhouse

Thanks to Anthony of our Meetup group, we caught another brilliant play at the Southwark Playhouse. This time the play was held at the smaller of their 2 stages and walking in was such a pleasant surprise.

The entire theater had been converted into an Argentinian Night Club - The Coup Coup Club - the perfect setting for "These Trees are made of Blood" by Theatre Bench The performance was a combination of musical, cabaret and hard hitting drama.

I have never before seen such a powerful piece of Political Theatre.

Recipe for every Fascist Regime -> Self Righteous High Decibel Discourse + Religious Support of Actions + Oppression of Free Speech & Expression. This play was about the disappearance of 30,000 people in Argentina between 1979-1984. But the lessons are every bit as relevant for the World and especially India of today. This was art of a transcendental nature.

The band members welcomed us with some beautifully haunting music and I was completely mesmerized by Anne Marie Piazza's voice and musical capabilities. I finally understood the term "a voice like melting honey". However, hitting the high notes was left to Rachel Dawson who also played a CIA operative and a prosecutor. Josh Sneesby on guitar and keyboards, Neil Kelso on keyboards and doubling up as a magician and mind reader, Eilon Morris as percussionist were all wonderful.

This is definitely a multi-talented cast. Greg Barnett as the Argentinian General was amazing. His justification for his actions was so convincing, that even while hating what he did, his reasons still seemed so compelling as he held forth on why the worst parasite is an idea. Val Jones as Gloria - the frantic yet powerless distraught mother is spot-on. Alexander Luttley initially came across as awkward and then the comic relief, but it takes guts and conviction to put on a performance like his.

Tickets are just 18GBp and the play is on until the 11th of April. I highly recommend watching this one.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

James McAvoy in The Ruling Class @ Trafalgar Transformed

I have never laughed as hard as I did today watching James McAvoy play Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney, the 14th Earl of Gurney.

The Ruling Class is a 1968 British play by Peter Barnes and centers on attempts to cure the new Earl of Gurney of insanity.

The 13th Earl of Gurney accidentally hangs himself during his nightly autoerotic asphyxiation ritual. Having only one surviving son who has been committed to a mental institution, the Earls half-brother Sir Charles hopes to inherit the title and Estate. But is shocked to see Jack at the reading of the Will and even more horrified to learn that his brother has left it all to Jack. Jack is a paranoid schizophrenic who also believes that he is Jesus Christ.

Charles tries to discredit Jack and to prove that he is insane, so he can inherit the tile, but Jack manages to beat him every time through sheer luck and circumstance. Charles even gets his mistress to pretend to be a fictional character "La Dame aux Camelias" (from the novel by Alexandre Dumas / the Opera - La Traviata) because Jack claims that he is married to this character.

Another marriage ceremony is conducted with Charles hoping that Jack can beget an heir and then he can relegate him back into an institution and control the new heir. However, his plan falls apart when his mistress falls in love with James.

Jack then has another psychotic break and begins to think of himself as Jack the Ripper and murders Sir Charles Wife for trying to seduce him and frames the butler for her murder.

The play ends with Jack murdering his wife and taking his seat at the House of Lords.

James McAvoy was brilliant from start to finish, never flagging, his intensity is what carries the entire play.The script by Peter Barnes is fantastic, but you need a talented actor to play the manic lead role and James McAvoy did it to perfection. We were exhausted just watching his energy on stage, how he manages to play this role 6 days a week and twice on Thursdays and Saturdays is nothing short of amazing.

The play is a brilliant mix of satire hilarity and horror which happily directs its barbs towards English nobility.

The first West End revival of this classic cult comedy is directed by Trafalgar Transformed Artistic Director, Jamie Lloyd.

The Trafalgar Transformed Studio is such a lovely, warm intimate theatre, We would love to watch more shows here. The audience is so close to the stage, that it really doesn't matter which seats you get.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Forensics Exhibition - Wellcome Collection

The ads for the Forensics Exhibition (26 Feb 2015 - 21 June, 2015) at all the Tube stations induced us to visit the Wellcome Collection. Yes, I'm a CSI aficionado.

The reviews that we read before visiting said that an hour would be enough to view the exhibition. We spent 2.5 hours, because we found the subject matter so interesting and would have spent much longer, if it wasn't closing up. (On the First Friday of the Month, exhibitions are open until 22:00)

'Forensics: the anatomy of crime’ explores the history, science and art of forensic medicine. It travels from crime scene to courtroom, across centuries and continents, exploring the specialisms of those involved in the delicate processes of collecting, analysing and presenting medical evidence. It draws out the stories of victims, suspects and investigators of violent crimes, and our enduring cultural fascination with death and detection.

The exhibition contains original evidence, archival material, photographic documentation, film footage, forensic instruments and specimens, and is rich with artworks offering both unsettling and intimate responses to traumatic events. Challenging familiar views of forensic medicine shaped by fictions that came out of the sensational reporting of late Victorian murder cases and popular crime dramas, ‘Forensics’ highlights the complex entwining of law and medicine, and the scientific methods it calls upon and create

My favourite parts of the Exhibition were Frances Glessner Lee's "Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death" and the Video Montage of Forensic Evidence given in Courtrooms as seen in TV & Film.

Sejla Kameric's - Ab Uno Disce Omnes - focusing on the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, with its 85 hours of footage and over 30,000 files viewed individually within a working mortuary fridge is haunting, inducing goosebumps and even nightmares. This experience was so haunting, it overshadowed the equally horrifying search in Chile's Atacama Desert for "disappeared" victims of the Pinochet Regime of the 1970's and 1980's.

Famous Murders from British History which were solved using Forensic Evidence like the Ruxton case and the Crippen case also feature heavily at the exhibition.

At the end of it all, we had to stop and sip on a coffee at Wellcome Cafe (managed by Benugo) to absorb all that we had seen, heard and read.

We loved the attached bookshop which has a wonderful collection of books - more than 50% are related to the ongoing exhibitions (Currently Sex & Forensics) - and some very interesting and quirky bric-a-brats.

We'll definitely be back to view the library collection, the Reading Room and the Sex Exhibition. The people behind the Wellcome Collection do a great job of curating very interesting pieces. The number of pieces on display are minimal, but they weave an engrossing story.

Wellcome Collection 
183 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE
020 7611 2222
Entry : Free
Photography : Not Allowed
Monday Holiday
Tue / Wed / Fri / Sat : 10:00 - 18:00
Thursday & First Friday of the Month : 10:00 - 22:00
Sunday : 11:00 - 18:00