Monday, 22 July 2013

Our Debut to the Proms

My dream (and my Dad's) is to see the Proms live at The Royal Albert Hall and it finally came true when Dad booked us tickets on the day they went on sale!

The day in July arrived for our first Prom.  We got the late morning train down to Kings Cross.  After arriving and having some lunch at the station, we made our way via a hot bus to Royal Albert Hall.  The journey took us longer than anticipated because of the traffic resulting in some part of the city being cordoned off by the Police for some reason.  Don't think it was anything too serious.

On our arrival at The Royal Albert Hall, we had some some time on hours so we visited the Science Museum for an hour or so.  I'm not a science geek but I do respect it for how it developed the world in the past, present and future.  I studied a fair bit of science in a couple of modules as part of my Humanities Degree.  We chose what exhibitions which were of interest of us and we temporarily went our separate ways.

I particularly enjoyed the exhibition on James Watt, an engineer of steam and a big player during the Industrial Revolution.  The exhibition reminded me some of some similar exhibits I saw at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery earlier on in the year.  He and Matthew Boulton developed the infamous steam engine which became an instant success in the industrial world in the 18th Century.  Watt was also part of the Birmingham Lunar Society who believed in reasoning and experimenting which were qualities of The Enlightenment.  I also visited another exhibition about The Enlightenment and how influential science was then.  In all it was an enjoyable visit to the Science Museum.

It was time for us to take our seats at the Royal Albert Hall for the evening's Prom.  The seats were comfortable enough but it was very hot up in the circle.  I did and do yearn for the building to be least to have air cooling.  Prom No. 10 was delivered by the Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia and directed by Sir Antonio Pappano.

Mozart Symphony No. 35 in D major, K385 'Haffner'

Firstly we listened to Mozart's 'Haffner' Symphony.  The symphony was composed in 1783 and in honour of Sigmund Haffner's enoblement.  Haffner was a family friend and the Symphony was requested by Mozart's father.  Some facts I would like to share is that Mozart composed his first concerto at four years old; first symphony at seven years old; and first full scale opera at 12 years old.  Since his death in 1791, he left over 600 works of music in which has been shared far and wide in the past and present.  Thanks to my friend, Emma McKeating, who shared those.

Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor

Next we had the Piano Concerto starring the Canadian Pianoist Jan Lisiecki.  Schumann composed this popular concerto in honour of his wife, Clara.  I enjoyed this expressive work and led by exceptional and very talented Piaonist.  For the encore, Lisiecki played Chopin Nocturne in C sharp minor.  It was beautiful and he has his recent album dedicated to Chopin music.

Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 in E minor

This 20th Century piece of music was likely to have been composed during his stay in Dresden between 1906-07.  I'm used to listening to Rachmaninov's Piano Concertos so it was a nice change to listen to one of his Symphonies.  I was transfixed with the music from beginning to end and it was well received by the audience. 

The orchestra's final encore was an Italian affair of Ponchielli's La Danza Delle Ore (Finale).

Being Inspired....

It was a great Prom and an amazing evening!  The atmosphere in the Royal Albert Hall was amazing for my first ever Prom! I'm inspired to see more Proms now and in the future.  I'm keener to get into classical music and learn more about the composers and also the talented artists and creative crews who keep their spirit alive. I can see myself seeing more concerts than shows at the theatre in the not too distant future.

On a high we got our late train home back to Leeds and since then my Dad and I have been reliving the memories.  For further information about the BBC Proms please visit their website.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

My visit to Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

 Food for thought by Barbara Hepworth

As well as theatre posts I'm planning to blog about art/creative exhibitions which I've seen whether locally or nationally.  My aim is to eventually have a separate blog devoted to exhibitions.  I really would like to focus on the human interactions experienced from visiting an exhibition and how the arts can influence one's opinions and perceptions.

During June 2013 I paid a visit to the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.  I've always wanted to visit the gallery but not had the opportunity before. I was greeted by an impressive building by the River Calder.  I took tea in its cafe before embarking on the visits to the contemporary art galleries and afterwards visited its cute gift shop to buy some souvenirs of my visits.

Firstly I paid a visit to a visiting exhibition: Works of Haroon Mirza (b. 1977, London) whose renowned for its multimedia work with emphasis on sound, image and shapes.  The works draws one's attention by the means of visual and audios.  I was attracted to the aura of lights and this successfully caught my attention in order for me to engage my thoughts as to what Mirza was trying to achieve.  I didn't pay much attention on the objects themselves but the visuals.  It might suggest that the artist is encouraging visitors to think beyond the 'object' or works with the visuals being a prompt.

I then paid a visit to its 'listening station'.  The 'listening station' was a combination of electrical current sounds and the transmitted River Calder sounds along with the work's lighting.  Again the audio aspect of the work made me again to 'think beyond' and appreciate the unique expressions Mirza was portraying visually and audibly from his works.  His works are displayed at Hepworth until 29th September 2013.

The sensory experiences reminds me of the Olivier Award Winning lighting and staging of the National Theatre's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time which is on in the London's West End.  As leading character of the play is autistic it's interesting how to use the senses including visuals can enhance an autistic mind's in order to interact on the stage and also share with the audiences too.

In all Mirza's works have a 'sensory experience' (Source: Hepworth Gallery).  I feel this would benefit a wide range of audiences especially those who are autistic or experience learning difficulties including cognitive impairment.  I feel the sensory prompts of these works will encourage visitors to think about art and how this would relate to them personally.

Other highlights was looking at the works by James Tissot (1836-1902), Barbara Hepworth (1903-75) sculptures and William Scott (1913-89)Tissot painted to demonstrate the social issues during the Victorian Society. He focussed on costumes and landscapes of contrast from high society to working class! Scott was a renowned abstractor and used simple but iconic items in his work.  He was inspired by Braque and Picasso.  He had a number of struggles including having Alzheimer's but it's good to know that his legacy continues to support stem cell research for Alzheimer's.

I look forward to making a return visit to this wonderful contemporary art gallery.  For further information including present and forthcoming exhibitions please click onto the website.

Hepworth Gallery and the River Calder

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Macbeth, Phantom and War Horse - June 2013

I couldn't think of a short and snappy theme for my recent trip to London so I literally typed what shows I saw! It seems at the moment London is my 2nd home! Since April 2013 I have been down there every month (sometimes twice!) and it looks like a similar trend will follow for the many more months to come!

I went down on the Thursday evening so I could have a relaxing morning before seeing Macbeth at Shakespeare Globe.  I didn't fancy rushing about and it was as well because of delays on the East Coast trains on the Friday morning which would have jeopardised my visit to the Globe! I took the opportunity to book myself a ticket for an exhibition Propaganda Power and Persuasion next month at The British Library.  Being a Humanities graduate this sort of thing fascinates me and what I learnt from my English language studies.

 Bankside, Home to Shakespeare Globe

I made my way to Bankside for the matinee performance of Macbeth.  Please click onto the link for my thoughts about this production.  After the performance and visiting the very crowded theatre shop for souvenirs I made my way to Haymarket via foot as I couldn't face the public transport during rush hour! It was a long walk along the river but I made it! After having dinner with Sophia it was Phantom of the Opera time!

As always I thoroughly enjoyed the performance.  My exceptional highlight was seeing Olivia Brereton (the new alternate Christine) and Antony Hansen (Understudy Raoul and my favourite one!) seeing them performing together.  There was exceptional chemistry between them and I loved how they interacted with one another.  All I ask of you was the best I've heard for a very long time.  I really love how Antony's Raoul is full of love, tenderness and romantic with Olivia's Christine.

 The cast for the performance (28th June 2013)

 Me with Olivia Brereton (Alternative Christine) at Her Majesty's Theatre Stage Door

 Me with Antony Hansen (Understudy Raoul) at Her Majesty's Theatre Stage Door (Taken in May 2013)

I saw Olivia six times as Christine on the UK Phantom Tour during 2012 and 2013 in Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and Liverpool.  So I  was very happy learn she has joined The Brilliant Original cast as the new Alternate Christine.  Considering this is her only 2nd ever professional engagement it shows what an extremely talented performer she really is and also such a lovely person from meeting her number of times at stage doors across the country!

I was looking forward to the love triangle in Wandering Child/Bravo and the Final Lair between the Phantom (Marcus Lovett), Christine (Olivia) and Raoul (Antony). All of them convincingly owned the final lair which led to the difficult choices they all had to face and make.  Definitely the best I've seen! Phantom wasn't disappointing at all this evening! It was very enthralled especially with Antony and Olivia!

Marcus, Olivia and Antony are always very kind to me and it was great catching up with them at stage door afterwards alongside the very friendly cast! I can't wait for more Phantom very soon! My exciting Phantom journey continues strongly as ever after 63 visits!

War Horse at the New London Theatre, Covent Gardens

A fantastic Friday and a superb Saturday was followed seeing National Theatre's Platform Event: Inside The Horse in the morning and watching the matinee performance of War Horse in the afternoon.  Please check out my blog for my thoughts of the show.  After War Horse I braved the busy West End for my hotel to collect my luggage and catch my train home.  Back in London very soon for more adventures.

War Horse!

War Horse at The New London Theatre

I saw this amazing production for the very first time in August 2011 in London.  Since then I've read the book a few times; seen the movie; saw War Horse in concert with a reading from Michael Morpurgo! And also booked a ticket for the forthcoming UK tour at Bradford's Alhambra Theatre next year.

Before seeing Saturday's matinee, I went to the National Theatre's Platform Event: Inside the House at the New London TheatreJimmy Grimes, War Horse's puppetry assistant, presented the session and we learnt about the puppeteering of horses and how these work on stage.  It was such an enjoyable and informative event where there was plenty of interaction between the presenter, puppeteers and the audience.  I highly recommend the event and the next one is schedule in August 2013.  Future dates and further information can be obtained from the website.

I had a leisurely lunch at the nearby Pret a Manger and then returned to the New London Theatre for the matinee performance of War Horse.  Despite battling a cold I was again moved by the amazing Nick Stafford's adaptation and the emotive journey of the relationship between Arthur and Joey before, during and after the First World War.  The drama never ceases to amaze me and I now appreciate more the story's context.  A big thanks to the exceptional cast and creative team.  Further information on the production is available on the website.

Season of Plenty at Shakespeare's Globe!

Shakespeare Globe, Bankside, London

For a very long time, my dream was always to see a Shakespeare play at The Globe.  I was able to fulfill this dream one Friday afternoon to somewhat a mixed (weather wise) June day.  It was exciting to see a play at the very same site of one of London's very first playhouses in replica (since 1997) of what the first Globe Theatre would have looked like.

I chose to see Macbeth from the company's Season of Plenty summer's repertoire.  I studied Macbeth at GCSE level and thought it would be great to appreciate this tragedy.  Soon as I booked my ticket for the performance I learnt Joseph Milson was going to stare as Macbeth.  I saw Joseph as Raoul in Love Never Dies a few times during the Phantom's sequel run during 2010 and 2011.  So I was very happy to have learnt this!

Shakespeare Globe Theatre, London

My view from the Gentlemen's Room inside

I sat in the Gentlemen's Room, situated at the side of the stage, and I was very happy with my seat: plenty of leg room, comfortable chair, and most importantly I was undercover! I didn't even need to hire a cushion which is needed for most of the wooden seats/slips in the auditorium.  There were many standing in the Yard which created a typical Shakespearean feel.  I envisaged a similar atmosphere happening in the days of Marlowe, Johnson and of course Shakespeare.

This production consolidated my awareness of the important and contextual themes which were raised.  These included women's empowerment, superstition and witchcraft, jealously, power and greed with its destructive effects, psychological and emotional issues and the political struggles between Scotland and England at the time.

Joseph Milson was an exceptional Macbeth and fully embraced the spirit of the character as to what I imagined.  I also enjoyed Samantha Spiro as Lady Macbeth; Billy Boyd as Banquo; Gawn Grainger as Duncan alongside the very talented cast and creative team.  What made it special was the traditional costumes the actors wore the use of music to set the moods for scenes - The beating of the drums at the Beginning of the drama to a Highland fling to celebrate The End and forming the Encore.

The weather was mixed for the performance.  Those in the Yard had to keep pulling up their coats' hoods or donning their macs on when the heavens opened! Umbrellas weren't allowed! Still it didn't dampen the wonderful afternoon at Bankside.

I would like to see another production at the Globe one summer in the future.  I'm happy I was able to fulfill another dream!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Beautiful Thing, Beautiful Day, Beautiful Play!

I saw this coveted play recently at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.  I say coveted because it was hard to obtain a ticket.  In fact I had to take an afternoon off work to see the play as the other times I wanted to go were sold out!

Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing was celebrating 20 years of its existence with its first premiere in 1993.  Celebrations were planned for a limited run at the Arts Theatre in London followed by a mini UK Tour in Liverpool, Leeds and Brighton.

The play takes us through a journey about the society we live in today where there are no definitives.  There were a lot of realistic themes raised from the play such as falling in love for the first time, modern family relationships, and sociology such as the working class.  Significantly, it addressed sexuality and how the two boys, Jamie and Ste (Jake Davies and Danny-Boy Hatchard) fell in love and the audience is reminded about this issue that is faced by many in everyday modern society today its effects it has on people involved in their lives.  Also for those who face a similar situation as the boys have the hope and fulfillment that there is there is accepting love out there (and also experience the connection and relief that their partner feels the same way too) which will strengthen once the relationship is established.

Nikolai Foster focuses on the beauty of the characters in Beautiful Thing from falling in love to succeeding one selves despite society's attitude and the prescribed systems that society have put in place.  Personally this play made me aware what many face in society especially sexuality and it even explored my existing conceptions and how these can be adjusted to accommodate and consolidate my roles and responsibilities in a diverse society.  Sadly ignorance prevails and there is a lot yet to be done but what needs to be done to educate and raise further awareness.  On a positive note, compared to 1993, rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people have come a very long way.  There are further developments currently taking place, albeit debate, for those people to be given further rights which many have and in order for them to be more embedded in society.

I thoroughly enjoyed the play.  I love the simple urban setting of a landing walkway of the three flats.  The acting has been impressive by the talented cast including Surranne Jones (Sandra); Jake Davies (Jamie); Zaraah Abrahams (Leah) and Danny-Boy Hatchard (Ste) who kept the spirit of the raised themes and that falling in love and having aspirations are beautiful themes.   Thanks to the amazing creative team including Jonathan Harvey, Nikolai Foster, Colin Richmond, George Dennis and many others.

It's a shame the tour has now finished but there is a digital download of Beautiful Thing available on the website.

Post note: Just want to say a big thanks to my friend, James, who shared his thoughts of this amazing play!

Don't Dream It, Be It!

Rocky Horror Show in Leeds!

I thought of this phrase from one of the Rocky Horror's musical numbers.  The phrase captured the spirit of the show with characters truly being themselves without any restriction.  Surprisingly, I never considered seeing the show seeing, to me at the time, it was a cross over of science fiction/rock and roll which aren't really my things.  However the show was coming to Leeds as part of a 40th Birthday celebration since it's creation in 1973!  I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are big fans of Rocky Horror.  I can now understand from sharing the same vein, seeing the same show again and again, with Phantom.  I was intrigued so I booked myself a ticket for the 5.00pm Friday matinee that week.

I arrive at the theatre inappropriately dressed! Lol!  Many people were dressed up in fancy dress and dressed up as the characters from the show.  To some consolation I wore black trousers and a red top so I was able to get into the spirit of things.  I notice the number of signs of what isn't allowed in the audience as well as the usual prohibitions.  I surprised to see toast listed! I enquired why this wasn't allowed along with other unfamilar things and it all made sense that this was all part of the show!

Soon as the show began I immediately got into the spirit of things.  I was participating in the infamous Time Warp which we all got up for and witnessed full audience participation throughout especially with the musical numbers.  The first Act went so fast and before I realised it was the interval!  Act two continued in a similar fashion with further participation.  During Rose Tint my World/Don't Dream It, Be It I was thinking the song reflects the characters' urges to be themselves including Brad (Sam Attwater) and Janet (Dani Harmer).  Nothing was going to be in their way in order to pursue this! 

The show offered an eclectic combination of science fiction, rock and roll, sexuality, liberation, fun and with some tradition and innocence thrown in.  These themes aren't strange to us today and each one of us have eclectic tastes which makes us unique as individuals.  In my theatre programme, Shaughan Seymour (original Rocky Horror Cast member) accounted that Rocky Horror was 'years ahead of its time' with the fact that many are much more 'open with their sexuality and 'rock 'n' roll and science fiction are just as popular'

The cast was exception especially Oliver Thornton as Frank n Furter and I also enjoyed the other performers such as Dani Harmer (Janet), Sam Attwater (Brad), Philip Franks (Narrator), Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff) and Abigail Jaye (Magenta).

A party atmosphere from beginning to end! Christopher Luscombe, the show's director, said that 'Rocky is a party, it's fun.' and  'Rocky is like a holiday from life' (quoted in my theatre programme)  I can vouch this and so can the many many Rocky Horror fans! I believe the show has something for everyone whether it's to party and/or to think deeply about the issues that rise from the show.  This is probably why the show is celebrating 40 years since it's creation!