Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Keeping an audience mesmerised for an hour takes one seriously talented storyteller. Brummie performance poet Polarbear's third full-length show combines directness, affable humour and rhythmic vim, as he considers how the 'me' he once was became the man he is today.

'Old Me' leaps back and forth through episodes from Polarbear's life, some small, some significant, all relayed with remarkable immediacy. He acts out a fight between his father and uncle; recalls the time he and his best mate Andy devised a 'kung fu dance' to impress an older girl; gets wasted in Vegas; argues with the bank manager; decides to move to London; becomes a dad.

Daniel Marcus Clark's gentle score adds just enough to enhance Polarbear's words. Much of the material comes from everyday experience. Reflecting this, the language Polarbear uses is straightforward, yet the way he uses it is anything but. His agile mastery of tempo and mood give certain moments, such as the paternal lesson in following your gut, a vividness that stays with you long after 'Old Me' is over.

Old Me runs until 3 December at Roundhouse.


This review originally appeared in Time Out.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Love Refraction by Patrick Thomas 

Good news - this Saturday the peeps at Outline Editions are launching a special Xmas collection of affordable prints, clothes and accessories by top graphic art talent. The new show, which includes work by Patrick Thomas, Anthony Burrill and Noma Bar, takes place at the Outline Editions gallery on 94 Berwick Street, SohoThe Kate Moross sweater I bagged there last year was a massive hit with my super cool 17 year old bro. Can't wait to see what goodies they have in store this time around... 



George Condo excels at doing the one thing that your art teacher always warned you not to: he paints from his imagination. And it’s the grotesquely comic, brightly coloured portraits for which he is best known which cover much of the wall space at this major retrospective of the American artist’s work, which opened in October.

Whoever is being depicted, the same gurning face stares out at you, covered in oddly shaped swellings, with big flappy ears and teeth where they shouldn’t be. The woman in pearls in Alone and Together (2000) has it, as does the man who seems to be growing out of her head, the Screaming Priest (2004) and the trouserless Stockbroker (2002). Even Jesus (2002) has it. Like Picasso before him, Condo is less interested in his subjects’ differing outer appearance than their shared inner turmoil.

Get up close and you’ll see that, for all its cartoonish aspect, this is the work of a masterful painter, easily as skilled as the canonical artists whose work is alluded to in Homeless Harlequins (2004), Seated Nude (2005) and others. If Mental States is anything to go by, it’s clear that Condo’s imagination is a strange and wonderful place to be. Go see for yourself.

George Condo: Mental States runs until 8 January 2012 at the Hayward Gallery. 

This review originally appeared on The Cultural Exposé


Sunday, 20 November 2011

64-68 Tooley Street. Image: The Victorian Society

It has been compared to New York's Flatiron Building thanks to its striking triangular shape. But while its US counterpart has been designated a National Historic Landmark, the former offices of South Eastern Railway on Tooley Street may be in danger. 

Dating back to 1897 and designed by Charles Barry Jr, it recently featured in the Victorian Society's list of the UK's 'top ten most endangered buildings'. It is now facing demolition as part of London Bridge Station's redevelopment. 

A spokesperson from Network Rail commented: 'We have to find the balance between preserving Britain's railway history and providing a railway fit for the twenty-first century. Retaining this building is simply not compatible with the improvements that passengers and businesses so desperately need.'

Not everyone agrees. Bermondsey Village Action Group has launched a campaign to save both this and another historic structure, the Grade II-listed railway arches on nearby St Thomas Street, which are also under threat. BVAG has put forward an alternative vision to keep the building that involves creating an entrance to the station from the street. Network Rail has rejected their proposal. 

'Everyone accepts the need to rebuild the station, but Network Rail has failed to make a convincing case that the loss of 64-68 Tooley Street is necessary to achieve this,' said Chris Costelloe, conservation advisor for the Victorian Society.

'The Victorian Society wants Network Rail to do a proper feasibility study into the retention of the building. It would make a magnificent entrance to the redeveloped station.' Southwark Council make a decision on December 20. 


This article originally appeared in Time Out. 


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

© Simon Kane

This is 'Yerma' - but not quite as you know it. We begin on Juan and Yerma's wedding night. To the sound of cicadas, on a red sandy set, giggly Yerma (Ty Glaser) tries awkwardly to flirt with her new husband but Juan (Hasan Dixon), tetchy and distant, is not playing.

Years pass and the couple remain childless. Juan is more interested in tending to his flock of lambs than his young wife. Solace comes in a friendship with bawdy, warm-hearted Maria (played by an exceptionally funny Alison O'Donnell) and entertainment in occasional encounters with butcher Victor (Ross Anderson), a burly counterpoint to Dixon's pallid Juan. But Yerma's emptiness is all-encompassing. Increasingly desperate, she seeks help from local wise woman Dolores (Sharon Duncan-Brewster), discovering some difficult truths in the process.

Natalie Abrahami's production, her last as joint artistic director of the Gate, is atmospheric, sharp and at times affecting. But Lorca's 'tragic poem' is almost unrecognisable in Anthony Weigh's new version of the play, so much has been chopped, changed, merged or reworked. In vastly reducing the cast - and with it a sense of the stifling society in which the action unfurls - and in providing a clear answer to the central question of Yerma's inability to conceive, Weigh's script sacrifices the texture and ambiguity that make Lorca's original so powerful.

Yerma runs until 17 December. Visit

This review originally appeared in Time Out.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Image: © Owain Shaw

Garish pink-frocked dolls for the girls, wham bam action figures for the boys. You need only look in a kid's toybox for proof that gender stereotypes persist. Or so' Tomboy Blues' would have us believe.

Combining high-octane, snappy physical theatre and dance with anecdotes, performance duo Rachel Mars and Nat Tarrab explore the experience of not quite fitting the category prescribed.

Tales of battling parents to wear culottes instead of a dress and of yearning for a pair of Spiderman trainers will resonate with tomboys former and current. As will the wider themes of hope, disappointment and the possibility of love, pondered via a vast array of costumes and props, including a clothesline, some killer red heels and a huge elastic band.

But, while visually inventive, the material often feels predictable or simplistic. The lack of decent words to describe female genitalia and the ambiguous attitude girls have to their Barbies have been commented on endlessly. And surely most people in the audience would already consider these gender binaries to be dated. A fresher and more nuanced approach would better match such a complex subject.

This review originally appeared in Time Out.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

 Image: © Kate Moross

'Lagan' takes us channel-hopping through life in contemporary Belfast where, 13 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, much and little has changed.

Ian is heading home at the request of his cake-baking, brass band-conducting mother, Anne. He doesn't yet know it but his teenage sister Aoife is pregnant. When Ian jumps in a cab, attention jumps to its belligerent driver, who has concerns of his own. And so it goes: characters meet, stories overlap then diverge, issues move in and out of focus, the spectre of the Troubles hovers in the background.

Tracey scampers around playing childish games; a jittery Joan (Pauline Hutton, pictured) encounters the ghost of her dead son; Fiona and Emmet meet, flirt, fall in love. The set is sparse, with a few choice objects making it niftily adaptable - it's a boat, a car, someone's front room, a shopping centre - while a cast of four, in identical blue boiler suits, switch between ten roles with panache.

All the performances are witty and engaging, but Kathy Kiera Clarke is particularly good as Anne, syrupy on the surface and steely below. Blurring dialogue and monologue, Stacey Gregg's lyrical, punchy script is a delight. Sombre one moment, laugh out loud funny the next, her writing lends 'Lagan' its urgency and verve.

Lagan runs until 12 November at the Ovalhouse Theatre. Tickets are £14, concessions £7.

This review originally appeared in Time Out

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