Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Cool Brother Zine: live review: fat white family at citadel

Written for publication in Cool Brother magazine:

Toiling against Acton's unrelenting midsummer heat, we found South London’s naughtiest musical collective, Fat White Family. Frontman Lias Kaci Saoudi took to the main stage set at London’s Citadel festival decked in cargo shorts and a white tee, fated for a mid-set decoration with splashes of beer, cigarette ash and sweat. 

In their earlier days, the band showed a predilection for flagrant nudity and on-stage masturbation, with the New York Post claiming that the Peckham bevy once performed covered in faeces. Thankfully, they seem to have scrubbed up on basic hygiene and socially acceptable presentation as Saoudi enacted a pre-gig freshen-up, moodily airing his pits before 'Auto Neutron' kicked off the afternoon’s jaunt through the six-piece’s lip-curling repertoire, heavy wafts of post-punk mingling with the plumes of a punter’s cigar smoke (it was that kind of clientele). A deliriously full sound, Saoudi characteristically thrashed to the sound of a rogue tenor saxophone. After the afternoon’s anti-climax of indie darlings The Horrors [they turned up twenty minutes late, then proceeded to stubbornly perform only three songs for their main stage slot], it was heartening to be reintroduced to FWF's reinvigorated punk presence as they deservingly graced the main stage.

It's easy to spot the band's influences (The Violent Femmes, The Fall,) but they're keen to distance themselves from contemporaries such as Slaves or The Arctic Monkeys. 'Tinfoil Deathstar' follows, succeeded by 'I Am Mark E. Smith' and 'Heaven on Earth.' 'Cream of the Young' riles the onlookers into a sticky, brawling agglomeration of moshing bodies, the chorus nicely substituting as a chant since 'Football's coming home' was soured by Columbia's fancy footwork.

"We'd like to dedicate this song to the boys in the band!" Saoudi purrs, before launching into a fired-up rendition of 'Special Ape,' flexing the Cockney syllables as he asks nonsensically, satirically, "Why do you look at me up in lying on my bed on my right?", still bopping with a tinnie in-hand. ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’ of Trainspotting T2 fame is next, incrementally punkier but undoubtedly pared back in light of their naked scandals and the regulations of being booked for a mid-afternoon main stage set on the Sabbath day in West London. The afternoon’s orderly anarchism comes to an end with ‘Touch the Leather,’ the final jewel in the sweaty, sticky crown. 

Theatre Review for UnderPinned freelancing magazine: Wise Children at the Old Vic

Written for publication at UnderPinned.co:

CW: On-stage suggestions of sexual abuse, miscarriage, and incest.

Reworking Angela Carter’s 1991 novel Wise Children, Emma Rice’s theatrical imagining of the text is an explosive ode to the carnivalesque and a sensuous, bohemian feast of a pantomime. It’s a haunted fairytale which explores the shades between good and evil with darker moments offset by nostalgic musical numbers. The scene is a Brixton car-park in 1989 and our protagonists are twin sisters Dora and Nora Chance, accompanied by a gaggle of pastel-coloured mime artists and leggy thespians. A live band play a bewitching score in an alcove behind the centre-stage caravan and beneath the bulb-lit lettering of ‘Wise Children’, keeping guard of the pair. We meet the sisters on the day of their 75th birthday when they are unexpectedly delivered with an invitation to a birthday party from their estranged father, the actor Melchior Hazard. ‘There may be trouble ahead!’ the company croons, and the narrative sketches their complex and adulterous lineage, through which we meet a diverse host of eccentric and extraordinary members.

The importance of Shakespeare to the text is an intriguing thread which certainly feels appropriate given the timings of Rice’s departure from the Globe theatre. There’s a disdain for convention and a playful approach to gender and role-swapping with Ankur Bahl playing both the young Melkior and, later, the bratty female RADA student with whom Melchior has an affair. Katy Owen’s portrayal of the bawdy Grandma Chance is particularly worthy of praise and nothing short of comic brilliance. She has a stubborn disposition and as the parental guardian of the young girls, she spends her days drinking stout and delivering life lessons to the girls, most of which are conducted whilst Owens dons a plump (nude) fat suit with tastefully bejewelled areola and pubic region. The play’s set and costume design, overseen by Vicki Mortimer, is a visual pleasure, wonderfully camp and charmingly mismatched; wigs poorly fixed with sagging lace-fronts; ungodly high-waisted trousers and lashings of gender-bending and breaking. The musical number at the beginning of the second act confirms this as they sing, “Girls will be boys when they want their own way . . . there’s a sudden realization at the end of the play, that we’re all a bit distracted by the choice of passageway!”. This is Rice at her absolute finest.

Theatre Review for UnderPinned freelancing magazine; Mrs Dalloway at the Arcola

Written for publication at UnderPinned.co :

This adaptation of Virginia Wolf’s Mrs Dalloway isn’t for everyone. For some, it is a chaotic and claustrophobic clamour of self-indulgent Modernism. For others, it is a chaotic and claustrophobic clamour of self-indulgent Modernism. Attending to Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Brown’, Hal Coase deduces that the text’s primary occupation is that of character formation, with an eye to Woolf’s distrust of “theatrical moments which might deliver the ‘final’ truths of life”. Drawing upon the rich catalogue of writings on and by Woolf, her eccentric creations are tastefully draped in muted beige linens with a background of white drapes. It’s minimalist to the extent that it habitually relies on narrative descriptions to project the image of London. Coase’s refusal to wholly visualise the setting is an abstract and painterly decision which is in keeping with the expressively experimental sentiment of the text but is also, albeit, a little lazy.
Before we meet Clarissa (Clare Perkins), the rest of the cast sketch her character by listing her traits until they grow restless at the redundancy of language and limits of knowledge. “There is never enough of someone to make a judgement”, they surmise. The four cast members disperse like birds into the four corners of the room, playing metropolitan ‘found-sound’ on cassette players in a contemporary flourish. Thus, the character of Clarissa Dalloway is born, clutching (fake) flowers, which she bought herself, against an Yves-Klein-blue canvas; one of few temporal markers. Later, a cloudier canvas is brought out to indicate the fading light.
There are several instances of wrongly executed and misspoken lines and the shaky synchronisation feels indicative of insufficient rehearsal. Despite this, there is a supremely accomplished and nuanced performance from Moody who brings surprisingly humorous tones to the characters of Miss Killman and Mrs William Bradshaw. D’Arcy’s monologue as Rezia is also worthy of note, her musical Italian timbre summoning audience tears as she pleads for her shell-shocked husband’s sanity. In its denouement, the play pulls together its aphoristic threads in the aftermath of Septimus’ death. “To love makes one solitary”, is one, “the people we are most fond of are no good for us when we are ill”. In this, the cynicism of Woolf’s earlier mentioned distrust for theatrically delivered truths is lost, operating more as moral lessons than sardonic phrases.
Whilst it might not be as beautiful as Woolf’s prose, Coases’ theatrical imagining of Mrs Dalloway must be credited for its ambition in adapting such a well-loved canonical Modernist text. The adaptation might not be a meticulous reiteration of the original, it’s every bit as cluttered and befuddled as urban life has always been.