Saturday, 28 February 2009
Friday, 27 February 2009
I can see why the hype had built up. The adolescent search for meaning, identity and knowledge is a theme with which every audience member could identify, in their present or in their past. The teenage cast were engaging, with pretty Charlotte Wakefield (Wendla) giving a particularly standout performance with her charming, poised stage presence and beautiful ringing voice that I could have listened to forever.
However, mainly what put us off was the music, some of the singing and the somewhat amateurish choreography. The modern lyrics were incomprehensible, some of the storyline was weird (Wendla asking to be beaten), at times the singing was nasal and out of tune and the dancing/stomping/jumping made it almost like a very slick Rock Eisteddford performance.
Perhaps I would have loved it if I'd been 18....
Thursday, 26 February 2009
The menu is reasonably priced and unexpectedly veers between traditional English pub grub and Spanish dishes. My seafood paella (12 pounds), individually served in its own small paella pan, was full of lively flavours, and the vanilla cheesecake with pomegranate and blood orange (5 pounds) was a deceptively light cake which felled me about an hour later. With our Chiswick Park One Card we got an extra 20% off the total bill, leaving everyone a happy camper.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
On stage, it's hard to capture that kind of atmosphere, although the rotating set of the cut-away country dacha was very inventive. Also, the twist in this story of love and revenge doesn't seem quite so original when you know that the playwright adapted a screenplay written by others.
I have previously been impressed Rory Kinnear in The Revenger's Tragedy and Man of Mode, but in this role I was never really convinced that he once loved Maroussia so passionately that he would fulfil a personal vendetta against her husband. His former love affair just wasn't credible as there was little chemistry between Kinnear and Michelle Dockery. Dockery, whilst quite good, played Maroussia in a very similar vein to Eliza Doolittle in her recent Pygmalion so I found that I was watching her act, rather than be.
All in all, it was a sound production, but not one to get particularly excited about - a shame as the film is one of my favourite foreign films.
Monday, 23 February 2009
The stunning Gordon Ramsay gastropub has been beautifully restored, with gleaming carved pillars, brightly coloured mosaic-tiled entrance and a dark wooden interior. The sedate cream and beige dining room upstairs was more Modern British, like its menu. We had the 2 course special for £15 from the Times, and my thick pumpkin soup and enormous chicken pie with mash were very good. Everyone agreed that all the dishes were well executed and to cap it off, served with friendliness. It was a perfect venue for a cosy Monday night dinner with friends.
Sunday, 22 February 2009
I had low expectations of this film as its title seemed to sell it as a flimsy piece of trashy cinema. So I was really surprised to find myself enjoying the film - it's not all about shopping and being fabulous. Becky Bloomwood has a serious shopping addition which means that she is only happy when she buys things. Her problem causes her to lie and sees her humiliated, and it almost ruins her career, her friendships, her love life and her parents' dream - basically all the things that are important in life. Isla Fisher plays a likeable heroine so you're glad when there's a happy ending and she ends up with a great job, her friends and Hugh Dancy.
On that note, can I just state for the record that in my two years in London I have never met an Englishman who came close to being as good looking and charming as Hugh Dancy. Maybe they only exist in the movies....
- Walead Beshty Fedex Large Kraft Boxes. Mel was incredulous 'You mean the one with all smashed glass boxes???'. Maybe because I was in the midst of packing hell myself, but the identical glass boxes, damaged and chipped as they were sent by Fedex from country to country, aptly reflected the anxiety and general state of fragility I was experiencing through uprooting my life and moving countries (again).
- Loris Greaud Tremors Where Forever. The brainwaves of intense thought transformed into physical vibrations eminating from a dangled octopus of white wires. Wow.
- Simon Starling Three White Desks. The physical embodiment of Chinese Whispers. A Berlin cabinet maker was given a photograph of a desk and asked to rebuild it. A Sydney cabinet maker was given a photograph of the Berlin desk and asked to rebuild it. Finally, a London cabinet maker was given a photograph of the Sydney desk and asked to rebuild it. Again, maybe it was because I was also in a state of transition in my life, but the outwardly similar, but on closer inspection, slightly different, white desks spoke to me about the issues of immigration, other-ness and assimilation.
- Subodh Gupta Line of Control. I had originally thought that this enormous sculpture was of a metal tree, but in fact it was pots and pans and other metal household objects forming a giant mushroom cloud. The exhibition guide said that it represented 'a world constantly being lost or destroyed, only to emerge anew, reconfigured and reconstructed from its own debris'. My interpretation was more prosaic - a sculpture warning of the everyday, ordinary-life impact of a nuclear bomb.
Saturday, 21 February 2009
Everything in The Double Club is....double. The decor is part Congolese (giraffe print stone walls, African tiling) and part Western (original Andy Warhols on the wall). The menu has Congolese dishes on one side, Western dishes on the other. We tried everything on the Congolese menu and while it wasn't bad, it wasn't something I'd be rushing to try again. Let's just say everything was stew and spinach and it cost 26 pounds. The disco normally switches between the happy lingawa to Western techno, although on Saturday night they had a live Congolese act which got the whole crowd bouncing and waving their arms in happy abandonment.
On the weekend it has a good value 3 course menu for 24.50 with Julia Childs' style comfort food. Martin and I experienced the opposite ends of the seafood spectrum. I went for a creamy potato and smoked haddock soup, following by another creamy and buttery fish pie. Martin tried the light potted salmon with toast, and then a small fillet of plaice with shrimps. We both ended with two scoops of chocolatey ice-cream. Not the best food in the world, but a nice place for good solid food.
Thursday, 19 February 2009
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
The glamorous decor was a plush grey with hints of plum reflecting off with mirrors. The service was welcoming and attentive, but not obstrusive. The bread was delicious, they didn't sneer at tap water nor when we ordered to fantastic value three course menu at £15.50. Every dish was carefully presented with delicate flavours, from our thinly sliced tea smoked duck and orange salad, the pork cutlets with mash, and the crowning glory of a bread and butter pudding (chocolate fondant for Riya). At full price, it was wonderful. At half price, thanks to Taste London, it was a miracle. The whole meal, including service, was £8.72 a head.
Sunday, 15 February 2009
The famous River Cafe is a London institution probably because (a) it's not cheap (b) it's hard to get a booking; and (c) it's inconvenient to get to via public transport.
The light and airy restaurant has floor to ceiling windows with views of the murky Thames but why the cobalt blue carpet? That and the long dining room reminded me a bit of a cruise ship.
The Italian food was generally of a high quality and flavoursome. Everyone else loved their dishes, although personally I thought my spinach tagliatelle didn't have enough of an al dente bite and the scallops in my main dish were definitely overcooked and rubbery. The chococlate nemesis was an amazing chocolate cake, almost like a baked chocolate mouse in its pillowy softness. Service was ok and unremarkable.
So the question I keep coming back to is "was it worth it?". I liked it, but at £65 for 3 courses and a prosecco cocktail, I needed to love it. Besides the cache of name-checking such a famous place, I think I enjoyed my food and surroundings equally at Dehesa the day before, at less than half the price. The fact I could think of many other (recession friendly, easily accessible) restaurants I'd rather go to before this one makes me conclude it as a NOT. Controversial, I know.
Saturday, 14 February 2009
As a result of my packing anxieties and mental exhaustion, I didn't have time to study up on the storyline for Rigoletto, which meant the opening scene of nudity, fornication and debauchery was not at all what I was expecting. I also couldn't work out which characters were doing what. Luckily, Shani came to the rescue with an old program so in the interval I studied up on the intrigues of the deformed jester Rigoletto, his beautiful daughter Gilda and the corrupt womaniser the Duke of Mantua.
Ekaterina Siurina's ringing high notes had a beautiful pearly tone that even a recording of Maria Callas (which Shani insisted I listen to) was no comparison for me. Rigoletto also received many 'bravos' for his performance, especially at the climax when he discovered Gilda's body. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of the most recognisable aria in the opera 'La donna è mobile' was marred by memories of the jingle for Leggo's Pasta Sauce ("Leggo's Authentico....").
Friday, 13 February 2009
Shakespeare's text in this play is very difficult to make relevant in today's society. Petruchio's casual misogymy and his cruel humilitation, starvation and torture of Kate in order to 'tame' her are really hard for a modern audience to stomach. This production takes an unusual interpretation; Kate (a brilliantly haughty Michelle Gomez), instead of being submissive and grateful for Petruchio's love, turns into an automaton who does everything at Petruchio's bidding. Her deadened obedience leaves you wondering whether it was truly worth 'winning the wager' if he is married to such a spiritless shell. Then, as Petruchio is stripped to become the vagrant Sly and his stinky clothes are contemptuously thrown back at him, you discover that in fact Kate comes out with the upper hand. This production's fluid time-switching and role-switching gave me a whole new perspective on the play, renewing my faith in its ability to be relevant to gender relations in modern times.
With RSC, you expect the actors to be of a high standard, so the other standout for me was the inventive set. The players spilled out of their truck into a cute candy-cane representation of Italianate architecture, with waist-high buildings transforming into tables and drawers and revealing platters and fruit bowls. A four-sided turning tower took on different edifices of different time periods, from a Renaissance tower to a seedy pole-dancing nightclub. Also, the bright costuming ranged from jewel-slashed breeches to modern day suits and ties as the play progressed.
All in all, a highly enjoyable and engrossing piece of theatre and one of my highlights for 2009. Go and see this!
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
I've never seen Othello before, so before I start, let me just warn any other first-timers that they take a long time to die - 3.5 hours of intense Shakespearean text on a school night is a hard ask. I think it's a play that rewards deep and prolonged study, and a quick scan of Wikipedia on the tube doesn't begin to scratch the surface.
In this production, I thought the stand out performance was Antony Sher's as Iago, Othello's twisted and menacing Ancient. He did fluff his line a couple of times, but he was exciting to watch (Funnily enough I recognised him from The Factory's production of Hamlet, and had thought at the time that he was a talented out-of-work actor looking for a break while pulling pints.) On the other hand, I really disliked Othello. His spitting, drawling and rolling delivery was not just light and shade, but created unnecessary melodrama which distracted me from an already dramatic text.