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Why Woolf Works works

woolfworksIt might seem an odd notion to base a dance performance on three novels by Virginia Woolf, but Wayne McGregor is a choreographer who makes his own rules. He proves that great prose can inspire and captivate in the same way that the rhythmic flow of lyrical poetry can.

Woolf Works was premiered to huge acclaim in 2015 and is divided into three sections: ‘I Now, I Then’ is based on the themes in Mrs Dalloway; ‘Becomings’ takes its cues from the surreal wit & vitality of Orlando and ‘Tuesday’ is inspired by The Waves, Woolf’s most experimental novel.

This final section is also named after the heading to the suicide note Woolf left for her husband. This letter, which begins “I feel certain that I’m going mad again”, is beautifully read by Gillian Anderson as a preface to the profoundly moving conclusion.

The revival of these pieces was a hot ticket at The Royal Opera House but has now reached a wider audience thanks to a live worldwide broadcast in over 1,500 cinemas and more than 35 countries on February 8th 2017. View full article »

A party pooper in La La Land

LA LA LAND directed by Damien Chazelle (USA, 2016)

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Movies don’t exist in vacuums. La La Land is the ideal antidote to the ongoing carnage of Trump.

It presents a cloud cuckoo land where the American dream is alive and skipping with a populace ready to burst into song at the drop of a hat.

Here, a traffic jam on a Los Angeles freeway is an excuse for a spontaneous party.

Here is a glossy world where the chief concerns are the demise of traditional jazz and the difficulty of breaking into Hollywood.

A world in which romance is not dead, racism doesn’t exist and where gender roles are well-defined. For two hours, we can pretend that all is well with the world and can exit the auditorium gushing that they do, after all, still make ’em like they used to.

It’s a movie that forgets it is a musical half way through and remembers just in time to concoct a grande finale but, just to show its post modernist edge, denies us the satisfaction of seeing our hero and heroine dancing off into the stars hand in hand.

In short, the mega-hyped La La Land is plastic, superficial and dumb. The perfect entertainment package served up as opium for the masses. An escapist yarn with the flimsiest of plots that the critics and audiences, desperate for distraction in these desperate times, are gleefully lapping up in their droves.

Not me!  I stand with the party poopers.

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A strong leader stands in an un-drained swamp.

“It’s so easy to laugh,
It’s so easy to hate,
It takes guts to be gentle and kind”
Lyrics by Morrissey to ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths

A recent survey carried out by the newspaper La Repubblica  found that 80% of Italians think the country needs to be run by “un uomo forte” (a strong man). In 2006, only 55% of the populace subscribed to this view while 60% held this belief in 2010.

This rising trend is worrying and depressing on many counts. It indicates that more and more voters are willing to be represented by leaders solely on the basis that they adopt strong opinions and maintain a posture of decisiveness.

On the surface this may seem logical and uncontroversial. After all, who would want a leader to be weak and indecisive? The problem lies with what exactly is meant by the word ‘strong’. View full article »

rockinThe sight and sound of 1000 (or as near as dammit) musicians and singers joyously reproducing some of Rock’n’Roll’s finest moments is a memory that still cheers me to this day. This was the mother of all tribute bands.

What an evening it was on Sunday, 24th July 2016 for the provincial city of Cesena in Emilia-Romagna. Rain had threatened to dampen the event but the God of rock intervened to ensure it stayed dry.

The packed soccer stadium were not denied the pure pleasure of witnessing what the banners billed as the ‘Greatest Rock Band On Earth’.

The hyperbole was more than justified for a unique spectacle first dreamed up by local boy done good Fabbio Zaffagnini and directed with an extrovert flourish by Marco Sabiu.

In the summer of 2015 the massed ranks had played one song – Foo Fighters’ Learn To Fly – which succeeded in achieving the objective of getting Dave Grohl’s band to play a one-off gig in Cesena.

The crowd-funded follow-up project was to play a full stadium concert and its overwhelming success was proof that a combination of big dreams and collective team work can be steered towards positive goals.

cd-coverToday sees the release of CD recorded at the show and endorsed with the affirmative slogans – NO MORE CONFLICTS- PLAY ROCK’N’ROLL – STICK TOGETHER.

A full length video would probably have captured the occasion for posterity more effectively but film of the performance of Smells Like Teen Spirit gives a good flavor and the music alone works surprisingly well in putting across the raw energy and infectious enthusiasm of what was a wondrous spectacle.

A good God is hard to find

A PRAYER JOURNAL by Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2013)

flanneryMy favorite joke about praying is by the surreal American comic Emo Philips (although it’s also been attributed to Al Pacino) and goes: “I asked God for a bike but I realized it doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness”.

I think the Southern Gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor would have appreciated this witticism. She was a staunch Catholic but she also had an eagle eye for life’s absurdities.

As an atheist I am biased, but surely even believers can recognise that praying ought to consist of more that than reeling off a wish list to some kind of celestial Santa.  View full article »

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