Pearl Jam @Wiener Stadthalle

Bq_NF5fIcAAZ8kFBrAblWBCUAA89Rb

Pictures (C) 2014 Pearl Jam

Seen: Wiener Stadthalle, Vienna June 25 2014

This entry is going to seem weird to those of you having read the blog so far and for good reason. I usually only write about theatre because that was the original idea and a completely personal thing. I work with movies and TV shows for a living, so this is not something that I am going to comment on.

I also don’t write about live music for two simple reasons: firstly I worked in the music industry for almost a decade, so I might have a skewered view and secondly, having been to a few hundred gigs before I even finished school, it is really hard to knock my socks off.

In this case, I decided to forego the socks right from the start, knowing they would never be found again anyway. Traditionally, the day after a Pearl Jam show is spent with a stupid smile on my face and no voice and it wasn’t any different this time. This is also the reason I decided to break with the usual topic of the blog. Some things just are too good to not be commented on.

Pearl Jam hadn’t been to Vienna since 2006 when one critic rightly remarked ‘the only one not pulling their weight today was the Stadthalle’. Sadly, even though everyone knows it is practically impossible to get a handle on the sound in this venue as soon as you open up the floor and stands completely, nothing is being done about it which caused Eddie Vedder to mention how much the band were looking forward to this gig only to start soundcheck and realise this was probably the second worst sounding venue they’d ever set foot in.

Nevertheless, the room was on fire as soon as the band came on stage and opened with ‘Long Road’, followed up by ‘Can’t Keep’ and ‘Black’ – which would have been held back by most bands for a big sing-along encore – after which EV deduced ‘this is going to be a great night’. And right he was.

Playing ‘Black’ right at the start like this is one of the things differentiating PJ from other bands. There is no fixed set list for an entire tour. Each one is decided on the day (they even stressed out one lucky fan by letting him do one a few years back) and is sometimes changed when things are already in full swing. Most bands can’t do any song requested at the drop of their hats – I have seen too many telepromters, lyric sheets and sheet music on stage to not appreciate them actually knowing their stuff – and still having fun being up there after all these years, swinging from light bulbs and making fun of each other.

Such a swap happened in Vienna this time: a fan in the front row wanted to hear ‘I Got Shit’, so they swapped it for the originally planned ‘I Am Mine’. I love ‘I Got Shit’, but unfortunately, this was the first time my friend to whom ‘I Am Mine’ means a lot saw the band live, so hearing this song would have been the cherry on top for her.

That’s the problem with a band that has such an extensive catalogue though; they could play for a few weeks straight going through all their albums and cover versions (we got a few of those too, ranging from The Beatles, Neil Young or PIL to The Who), and there would still be one missing that you would have liked to hear. I was quite in the mood for ‘Corduroy’ that night, but on the other hand I would probably have blown my voice completely had they played it. Apparently, I am just not built to sing along to 35 (nope, not a typo) songs in a row anymore ;-). I am really looking forward to re-experiencing this show once the official bootleg is released.

Another great thing about PJ: they respect their fans and listen to them (and are concerned about their safety as directing the crowd to move apart the following night at Wuhlheide in Berlin proves). This was the first time the Ten Club offered seats to those of their members for whom things on the floor have gotten too intense (like me) or are just not able to be down there for health reasons. The selection of ladies merch has also gotten better. We were there to pick up our tickets at 3PM and it was fun to see the vast amount of different shirts from all tours and continents trickling in.

There are always fans travelling to several shows, which definitely helps sweep along the audience in usually more reserved towns *cough*Vienna*cough* and it’s fun when everyone starts to mingle and talk while waiting at the 10C entrance or when the gents loo is declared unisex, because there are more for the gents as for the ladies (really, Stadthalle?!).

If I come off as a card carrying Ten Club member now, that’s because I am. I have been a Pearl Jam fan since ‘Alive’ was released and have yet to be let down by the band or my fellow fans.

I have witnessed forum members on their website pitching in when one of us fell on hard times, needed treatment or in the worst cases for funerals. On a way smaller scale, carpooling abroad or pulling out couches is not unheard of. All without the band’s involvement, just because that’s the kind of people that are attracted by them and what they are doing (part of the ticket sales go to the Vitology foundation btw). As my friend observed, ‘Wow, everyone here really likes each other.’.

If you have never seen Pearl Jam live but like that kind of music: do yourself a favour and try to get tickets. Just remember not to wear socks you are emotionally attached to, they will be knocked off.

In the meantime, have a song from their first Album ‘Ten’ (Black, shot by Blanch222) and the current one ‘Lightning Bolt’ (Sirens, shot by Shanti9) live in Vienna. The full set list is in the picture above.

 

 

 

Henry IV, Part 2 – RSC live broadcast

DSCN1793

From Rumour’s tongues
They bring smooth comforts false, worse than true wrongs.

Henry IV, Part 2 – June 18, 2014

Directed by Gregory Doran

Cast: Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Martin Bassindale, Jasper Britton, Antony Byrne, Sean Chapman, Paola Dionisotti,  Oliver Ford-Davies, Nicholas Gerard-Martin, Jonny Glynn, Robert Gilbert, Nia Gwynne, Alex Hassell, Jim Hooper, Youssef Kerkour, Jennifer Kirby, Sam Marks, Keith Osborn, Leigh Quinn, Joshua Richards, Antony Sher, Simon Thorp, Trevor White, Simon Yadoo

This was the second part to last month’s Henry IV Part 1 live broadcast from the RSC. It started once again with Suzy Klein interviewing Gregory Doran, who gave a short ‘previously on Henry IV’ overview followed by a quick analysis of the changing tonality and themes in the second part compared to the first.

I thought the interval interview with Antony Sher was very interesting and maybe gave those in the audience who did not have access to these plays before a glimpse into how an actor approaches a new role. It also showed the drastic difference in voice and speech between the actor and his Falstaff.

The play itself started with a surprise (production spoilers ahead in the following two paragraphs): Antony Byrne came onto the stage in Jeans, t-shirt, biker boots, armed with a mobile phone he promptly used to snap selfies. As much as I roll my eyes over the recent selfie-craze, this was funny and a very current and relevant beginning, fitting brilliantly with ‘rumours’.

Another great moment of interweaving different settings into one scene came later in the play when Henry IV seemingly enters what we see as Mistress Quickly’s rooms where she and Doll are sleeping.

What I said about the company in my review of part 1 still holds up. Almost everyone is pulling their weight, some of the actors reappearing as different characters still panting after a quick change. Unfortunately, Alex Hassel did not convince me at all that this Hal was going to become Henry V. An overtrained lat does not a king make. In fact, it makes you look as if you were constantly bowing (bear with me, I used to do this for a living, so those things still jump out at me) which is not very kingly at all.

On the other end of the spectrum, Antony Bynre’s Pistol was a riot who had the audience in stitches and I thought Paola Dionisotti was a fantastic Mistress Quickly. Oliver Ford-Davies and Jim Hooper were hilarious as Shallow and Silence.

I would love to see this cast do Henry V, but with a different lead actor who can actually make me believe that there are people willing to follow him to their almost certain deaths.

Antony and Cleopatra

DSCN1681
By William Shakespeare
Seen June 1st, 2014 at The Globe

Cast: Eve Best, Clive Wood, Jolyon Coy, James Hayes, Rosie Hilal, Phil Daniels, Paul Hamilton, Peter Bankolé, Ignatius Anthony, Obioma Ugoala, Daniel Rabin, Philip Correia, Jonathan Bonnici, Sean Jackson, Ashley-Curtis Correya, Tim Dewberry, Jason Eddy, Sebastian Hill, Aaron Thiara, Sirine Saba, Kammy Darweish

Directed by: Jonathan Munby

I struggled quite a bit with what to write about this production.

The tickets were a birthday present from my sister after I filled in for someone on a trip with a group of her co-workers on short notice (lucky me) and it couldn’t have been a better way to end this sunny day.

The play was very entertaining, some parts extremely funny and it still had the gravitas it needed in the more serious scenes. Eve Best did not only make one of the male groundlings very happy, but if you ask me in ten years, she (and her ability to hold up poor deceased Antony until a very low flying plane was finally far enough for the audience to understand what she was trying to say in her grief) is very likely the only thing I am going to remember from this production.

Don’t get me wrong, it was very well performed by all involved and The Globe is always worth a visit, but as entertaining as it was, it didn’t stay in my head. I am still trying to decide if I liked the 2012 production of Elektra at the Stratford Festival (Canada), but it stayed with me and I remember a lot of it very clearly. Anthony and Cleopatra? Not so much.

As for visiting The Globe, I think there were several people in the audience that night that did have to think about the play for some time. A visiting group of students was led into the groundlings area when the play had already started and their ‘what the hell is going on here, we thought this was a theatre?!’ faces were hilarious.

The other ones were the French couple in front of us who were frantically trying to read the play at the same time as watching it. In case you are tempted to try that some time: not working.

If you are watching Shakespeare for the first time and are scared of not understanding everything, I would rather advise not to stress it. Just listen to the melody and even if you don’t know some of the words, you’ll instinctively understand what is being said.

Antony and Cleopatra is still on until 24 August. If you are looking for pure entertainment, go get yourself a ticket, it’s absolutely worth it (as is the view when you leave The Globe after the performance. A few teaser pics below.). If you want surprises in staging or thought-provoking new interpretation and the likes, you might want to check the theatre listings again.

DSCN1682 DSCN1694 DSCN1695

Birdland

Birdland
20140606_162557

Another sisterly guest post

 

“Nobody is famous at home, right?”

 

By Simon Stephens

Directed by Carrie Cracknell

Cast: Nikki Amuka-Bird, Daniel Cerqueira, Yolanda Kettle, Alex Price, Charlotte Randle, Andrew Scott

Synopsis: The last week of a massive international tour and rock star Paul, is at the height of his fame. Everybody knows his name. Whatever he wants he can have. He can screw anybody he wants to. He can buy anything he desires. He can eat anything. Drink anything. Smoke anything. Go anywhere. As the inevitability of the end of the road looms closer, and a return home becomes a reality, for Paul, the music is starting to jar.

Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Thursday 29th May, 2014

I was very excited to see that this play was still on at the time I was scheduled to be in London, not only because of the lead Andrew Scott, whom I admire greatly, but also because the Royal Court Theatre has such a rich history, being the theatre where the idea of a National Theatre Company was effectively born by Sir Laurence Olivier et all before finding a temporary first home at the Old Vic. As luck would have it my seat was directly behind the ones dedicated to Sir Laurence and his wife Joan Plowright. But I digress. Sorry about the nerd-out.

Having recently seen a screening of The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime – also written by Simon Stephens – I was expecting something extraordinary, and that is exactly what I got. The writing is very witty, with funny bits and dramatic, moving scenes alike. The set design is very sparse, with swivelling plastic chairs, a shifting archway, and what amazed me the most (caution: spoilers!) a moat around three sides of the stage that fills with murky water in the course of the second part of the play, flooding the front part of the stage as well towards the end. The water creeps up at you as disaster creeps up at Paul.

Birdland is a captivating play from start to finish. It starts off with the lead character Paul, played by the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful (did I mention he’s wonderful? Because he is.) Andrew Scott, turning around and looking right at each and everyone in the audience. And he’s taking his sweet time about it, which inevitably made some people start to squirm in their seats or giggle nervously.

Andrew Scott (the wonderful one) portrays the tormented rock star on the verge of a breakdown with mesmerising intensity. Throughout the play Paul’s world slowly starts to crumble, with Paul alienating everyone around him and in the end not only losing the trust and friendship of his best mate, but essentially risking and losing everything he worked for. Scott is as cocky and arrogant at the start as he is vulnerable and bewildered by his fate towards the end, with a wonderful range of contradicting emotions and actions in between. The scene where an awkward Paul meets his father backstage at his London show is especially moving, showing the boy inside the flamboyant rock star. I also loved Nikki Amuka-Bird’s performance as a hotel employee turned short-time touring companion, and Daniel Cerqueira as the manager and Paul’s father respectively. The acting of the other members of the cast, playing various characters throughout the play, is also solid. Oh, I almost forgot: Andrew Scott was wonderful.

Watch the official trailer:

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
20140606_162658

Sisterly guest post

 

Adapted by Jethro Compton from the short story by Dorothy M. Johnson

Directed by Jethro Compton

Cast: Paul Albertson, Oliver Lansley, Lanre Malaolu, James Marlowe, Robert G Slade, Robert Vaughn (voice), Niamh Walsh, Hayden Wood

Synopsis: When a young scholar from New York City travels west in search of a new life he arrives beaten and half-dead on the dusty streets of Twotrees. Rescued from the plains, the town soon becomes his home as he finds the love of a local girl. This love gives him purpose in a broken land, but is it enough to save him from the vicious outlaw who wants him dead? He must make the choice: to turn and run or to stand for what he believes, to live or to fight… to become the man who shot Liberty Valance.

Park Theatre, Park 200, Wednesday 28th May, 2014

Having heard about the Park Theatre at Finsbury Park around the time it opened and then promptly forgetting about it (it’s an age thing, I guess. My memory is slowly fading, along with my eyesight), I was glad to be reminded by the media coverage of its first birthday party a few weeks ago, with the likes of Ian McKellen, Alan Rickman, Benedict Cumberbatch and Celia Imrie attending. With the theatre back on my radar and my imminent departure to London I checked out their website and was intrigued by both plays currently on. I decided on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and booked my ticket.

What came next has been a wonderful theatre experience.

A Western on stage? And in such an intimate space as a 200 seat theatre in North London? And yet, it works beautifully. The stage design was very well made, the production solid and the cast excellent all around. The play is adapted not from the famous 1962 film with James Stewart, John Wayne and Lee Marvin, but the short story the film is based on. It also introduces an original character. Oliver Lansley is a wonderfully nuanced Ransom Foster, Niamh Walsh a delightfully feisty Hallie Jackson, you really root for Lanre Malaolu’s “Reverend” Jim, and James Marlowe is absolutely excitingly terrifying as the ruthless outlaw Liberty Valance (I will follow his career closely from now on, I suggest you do the same). The story is very well written and equally well told, with fluid scene changes using music and the voice of Robert Vaughn as the narrator.

The Park Theatre itself is a great space with two very intimate theatres and box office that doubles as a café bar. I strongly advise everyone to visit this wonderful theatre, regardless of what’s on, I don’t think Artistic Director Jez Bond and his team can do wrong. And please donate when buying your tickets, they’re ridiculously cheap anyway, and the Park Theatre does not receive public funding.

 

Watch the official trailer: