Saturday, December 17, 2005

Edward Scissorhands at Sadlers Wells, London

Director Tim Burton and writer Caroline Thompson's film, Edward Scissorhands, has been adapted for the stage by Matthew Bourne and is being staged, as a ballet, at London's Sadlers Wells theatre. The classic modern fairytale, which starred Johnny Depp, Wynona Ryder and Vincent Price, has been beautifully cast as a ballet, featuring all the colourful charm and quirky humour of the film. Long time Tim Burton musical collaborator, Danny Elfman, provides the musical themes taken from and inspired by the original soundtrack. After acclaimed choreography and staging for dance hits like 'Swan Lake' and 'The Car Man', Matthew Bourne has created a personal triumph, which was many years in development after he was enchanted by the film, one of Burton's early classics.

A brillant treat for all the family, the ballet captures the naive charm and wonder of the film and ably translates its satirical view of 1950s suburban America into elaborate dance sequences, featuring classical ballet moves embellished with motifs from rock and roll. Clever staging enables Edward to cut the neighbourhood bushes into fantasy shapes of stars and dinosaurs before the audience's eyes. Sam Archer, who plays Edward Scisscorhands is dazzling as he dances with the impediment of long metal shears on his hands. Elegant choreography stuns in its precision, as his arms windmill in every direction, but somehow avoid 'cutting' his fellow dancers.

Fans of the film will not be disappointed as key scenes are recreated on stage. The poignant moment when Edward creates an ice statue in the image of Kim is beautifully portrayed here and a highlight for me was the elaborate dance sequence between the two leads with the other dancers dressed as some of Edward's topiary masterpieces. The story is simplified and altered to a certain extent and there is some backstory added to the beginning, but it is absolutely in the spirit of the original.

A great evening out for the holiday season and another artistic triumph for Matthew Bourne. Great too that Tim Burton and Caroline Thompson allowed him to adapt their work and also got involved in the production. This Edward Scissorhands deserves to be produced in many cities across the world.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Magic Numbers, Shepherd's Bush Empire

The Magic Number's brought their bittersweet songs to a wider audience with their recent gigs at the Shpeherd's Bush Empire in London. After excellent support from the Webb Brothers, the band entertained a rapt crowd with the songs from their chart-topping album. In contrast to the smaller gig I saw earlier in the year, it felt less intimate, but it was good to share the feelgood sound with so many fans. Every song was greeted enthusiastically and the same friendly atmosphere was maintained with the band again genuinely pleased and almost slightly surprised to be playing their music to so many people. Fantastic versions of 'Love me Like You' and 'I See You, You See Me' were tempered with the melodic and affecting 'Wheel on Fire' and some more unfamiliar songs from B sides and earlier incarnations of the band.

I can't recommend this band enough. They combine upbeat, melodic songs with dark lyrics about desire and disappointment to produce the must-have British album of the year so far.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bumped into Ben Elton the other day. Always been a fan of 'The Young Ones', 'Blackadder' and his novels and very much enjoyed the stage adaptation of 'Popcorn', a few years ago.

Ben was in good form and is now sporting a writerly black beard. His next project is a sitcom called 'Blessed', which debuts on BBC One on Friday 14th October at 9pm. It stars sitcom stalwart, Ardal O'Hanlon, and Mel Giedroyc of Mel and Sue, as harrassed parents. Ben told me it was inspired by his recent experiences with his own young family. You might remember his book 'Maybe Baby', which covered the conception stage of parenthood and was made into a film with Hugh Laurie, who is now wowing America in medical TV series 'House'.

Quite a departure from the 'Young Ones', although he could have used the title again and a step back to his sitcom roots from his recent novels and work with Queen on the popular musical 'We Will Rock You'.

A friendly guy and a true comic genius, I wish him luck with his new project and will be tuning in to check it out next week.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Slowline delivered another blistering set at the Bull and Gate venue in Kentish Town, London. With this pedigree, they could soon be moving next door to play at the Forum. Check them out while the tickets are easy to get.

A fusion of new wave and mid-90s indie, they deliver melody backed up by a strong rhythm section of drum and bass. The lead singer, although tentative at first with his singing, put in a good show and his playing was excellent throughout.

A strong finish got the crowd moving and the six or seven songs showcased were all well worth getting down on CD. An EP from this band is a must, if they are to push their ambitions a little further.

A forthcoming gig at the Dublin Castle promises to be another treat.

Check out their site at

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow - now on DVD

Superb genre-busting action featuring Jude Law as Sky Captain and Gwyneth Paltrow as Polly Perkins, an inquisitive journalist. Angelina Jolie pops into the film late on as a stiff and rather plump upper-lipped British Air Force commander and former flame of Jude Law's character.

A combination of film-noir, black and white sci-fi like the Flash Gordon or Rocket Man cinema series and all-out actioner and romance, the film manages a great deal of style and invention, while keeping the plotline moving on quickly. It is like nothing you have ever seen and will delight fans of retro / futuristic flying machines and robots. Maybe there is even an influence from Japanese monster movies like Godzilla.

Great performances from Law and Jolie as they camp it up with forties-style British accents and from Paltrow as she plays the dame with a mission and only two photographs left. A good dose of humour keeps the fantastic world the director has created from becoming overwhelming as well as offering up some great film stereotypes, including mad German scientists and plucky backroom boys ready to save the day.

So many films have influenced this creation it is hard to keep track, but it could be described as a combination of the Wizard of Oz, Lost Horizon, War of the Worlds and the Maltese Falcon. This kind of electicism makes for a great and surprising movie and a visual feast.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Royal Shakespeare Company's As You Like It, Wyndham's Theatre, London

I had only seen Sienna Miller in the tabloid gossip columns giving the rather pathetic Jude Law a hard time, so it was a joy to see her in such good form on the stage, which is where she belongs from the evidence of her performance as Celia in this Shakespeare comedy from the RSC.

She sets the stage alight with her performance, which is only matched by her delightful co-star, Helen McCrory, as Rosalind. They both achieve a comic fluidity that illuminates Shakespeare's words and the whole production brings to life the lessons that the playwright can teach a 21st century audience about life and love.

Sean Hughes gives a good comic turn, but his acting is not up to the standard of the other players, although there were plenty of laughs in his slapstick tomfoolery and I retain much affection for him from his early days on Channel 4's 'Sean's Show' and more recently on 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'.

However, a comic actor, who is by no means out of his depth, is Reece Shearsmith. He is a revelation and delivers the famous 'All the World is a Stage' speech with real power and gravitas. His skills from 'The League of Gentleman' are well-used and he is a joy to watch treading the boards. I feel he has a bright future ahead of him as an actor and maybe will be Hollywood-bound soon. Lets hope he doesn't choose to impregnate Courtney Love like one of his more embarrassing comic contemporaries....

The supporting players are also excellent and the play is well-staged and directed. At more than two hours it is a long-haul and like any Shakespeare play, it is well worth geting a handle on the story beforehand, so you can sit back and admire the clever dialogue and rapid-fire witticisms. There is much to amuse a modern audience and the laughs come thick and fast. The cast have great comic timing and are a joy to watch. A wrestling scene shows a certain athletic prowess too.

All in all a great night out. Let's hope Sienna Miller comes to be known for her acting talent rather than her fashion sense or the men in her life. By this performance it is clear that she is not another Liz Hurley.

The Magic Numbers, Cecil Sharp House, London

The Magic Numbers have taken the charts by storm with their feelgood melodies infusing the British Summer with a well-needed burst of sonic sunshine.

I saw them a couple of weeks ago at a small gig at Cecil Sharp House, near Regent's Park in London.

The gig was amazing. Not only did they play for over 2 hours but no one left the hall without a giant smile on their faces. For a band who have only released their debut album a few months ago, it was a feat to keep an audience enraptured for such a long time, but they achieved it with ease.

The songs were recreated with almost pitch-perfect effect and it was clear that the band were enjoying the performance as much as their fans. With a rapport created from their family bonds - the band consists of two pairs of brothers and sisters - they alternately rocked and moved the ecstatic crowd, who shouted all the words back at them with the air of songs that were already firm favourites.

A few imaginative covers propped up a set which ran through almost the entirety of their self-titled debut album. A magic 'Crazy for You' really pushed their abilities and showed Romeo to be a versatile singer, when he could remember Beyonce's words. An acoustic interlude allowed the drummer to retreat for a well-earned fag and a beer and the music was no less affecting for being rendered without electric effects.

Highlights for me, were the magnifcent 'I See You, You See Me', a bittersweet masterpiece of unrequited tension. Hits singles 'Forever Lost' and the new single 'Love Me Like You' went down a storm. Talent betrayed the recent controversial introduction by a Top of the Pops presenter, as the worthless witticism of a coke-snorting B-list wannabe, whose career prospects are as limited as his rather shallow musical perspective. Who cares if the band aren't twig-thin pop stars? The music is all that counts and on this night it lifted the spirits of a few hundred dedicated fans like the early days of a passion that will surely run and run....