Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sushine on Leith

I went to see Sunshine on Leith at my local cinema yesterday (11th October 2013).  Beforehand, I've had heard mixed reviews.  However I wanted to judge for myself.  Subconsciously, I had a feeling I would enjoy it very much especially it being set in Scotland and the wonderful songs by the legendary Scottish Band, The Proclaimers.

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The movie starred Paul Branningan, Freya Mavor, George Mackay, Antonia Thomas, Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks, Jason Flemyng and Kevin Guthrie.  They did a great job with their roles in the movie.  The movie celebrates and explores life of a close family and the three couples that are part of it.  Like life, they experience the good and not so good in their relationship journeys.  It fitted nicely to the incredible songs and music from The Proclaimers.  I loved the optimistic stance from the characters involved.  It made me feel feel good about myself and the opportunities in my future journeys especially next year!

Dexter Fletcher did a great job directing the movie based on the talented Stephen Greenhorn's film script.  A similar vein to Mamma Mia and a movie I highly recommend.  Seeing the movie reminded me of the happy times I had in Leith and Edinburgh from a number of trips I've made to Scotland's capital.  Here, below, are some photos from the special memories made there.

Photos from Leith

Photos from Edinburgh

Friday, 11 October 2013

My Generation

I was very excited seeing this play, set in Leeds and written by Alice Nutter.  I was interested to see how life, especially in a political and social context, was lived by those who pursued an alternative lifestyle than to the one that is commonly associated.  Many misunderstood their beliefs and disapproved their lifestyles.

My Generation spans over 40 years of political and societal events from 1970s up to 2013.  The stories are told by one family and at specific times where a lot of events happened and developed/affected the cultural/social and political landscape.  Four members of the same family tell their stories chronologically.

The story of Cath (Kaye Wragg) highlighted 1977 amidst the Yorkshire Ripper Murders and the rise of Radical Feminism with which she challenged her partner's role within the squat.  It was nice to hear of the Neighbourhoods I know so well, such as Chapeltown, when Cath and Frey (Helen Bradbury) had a ride out.

Mick (Craig Conway) played a pivotal role in supporting the miners' strike during 1984/85 and supported the miners at the picket lines.  The comment Mick made reinforced his belief that many in the mining communities with pit closures would destroy the community and life round the pits despite eventually feeling apathetic about the strike.  This reiterates what Alice Nutter said about that the fight is for the ordinary human beings.

After the interval, we heard Ben's Story (Craig Gazey).  His passion for partying through his experiences of raves including the last free music event at Malvern Hill before large gatherings without a license became illegal.  I was interested hearing the references to techno and its subculture which I knew through its music in the 1990s and the party drugs that were available at the raves.

Finally we hear Emma's Story (Helen Bradbury).  Her story is a very familiar one today.  In 2013 there is still the ongoing economic crisis and cuts to public services affecting families.  She saw families queues at pawnbrokers, a common sight today, and I noticed the lack of community cohesion in comparison to when she was growing up in a communal home.  It seems to be Emma is disillusioned with the present as much as the past.  She's striving for a lifestyle for her and her family, despite the set backs, and is ambitious especially for her daughter and ensures she's well provided.

At the end it was nice everyone to be reunited.  The family and friends who were associated with them since the 1970s got together and had a sing along.  It was very heart rendering to hear them sing with optimism for the past, present and future despite issues.

What Alice Nutter achieved is ensuring the audience is listening to the stories firsthand by those who lived the lifestyles.  Before the play I took some time out to see a photo exhibition by Andrew Bannerman-Bayles and Andrew Medcalf.  The exhibition is curated by East Street Arts.  The photos told me of a story parallel to My Generation about those living an alternative lifestyle and fought to what they believed and not scared of being themselves!

I thoroughly enjoyed this play.  It was nice to hear the stories told by those who I haven't heard from mainstream society, media and so forth and obscured with their negative references about them.  It was important to have learn their aim is about 'ordinary people struggling to be human' (Nutter 2013) and being 'free' without restraint.  Their wish, which I think is very commendable, is to have helped those who have suffered marginalisation and misrepresentation because of not agreeing with the Status Quo.  With West Yorkshire Playhouse support, Nutter reckons, in an interview with Steve Bottoms, that James Brining, the artistic director, is looking for plays which are told by different communities.  I personally welcome this as this enables me to appreciate more the different communities in Leeds with their diverse cultures and interests whether politically and socially.  Also how this shaped the city which I'm very proud of over the past forty years.  I always believe there are at least two sides of the story, which one needs to be aware of about the development, culturally and politically by all.

A big thanks to talented cast especially the younger members which were played by the Blue Team (Hannah Kilcoyne, Thomas Gould, Hannah Kerr and Leo Mercer).  My Generation is blessed with an fantastic creative team including Harry Hamer, musical director/composer and who was in Chumbawamba with Alice Nutter, Max Webster (Director), Ben Stones (Designers), Charles Balfour (Light Designer) and Ian Trollope (Sound Designer).

My Generation is on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until the 26th October 2013.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

 It's my second time I've seen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd after seeing an Opera North production once in the past.  The joint West Yorkshire Playhouse/Royal Exchange Theatre production is currently on in Leeds and will transfer to Manchester after its run.  James Brining, Artistic Director for West Yorkshire Playhouse, is directing this production following a similar one which he directed at the Dundee Rep.

Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics and Sweeney Todd is based on Hugh Wheeler's book.  Angela Lansbury (known in Murder She Wrote TV series) and Len Cariou starred in the original production.  It became one of Sondheim's popular musicals and subsequent revisions were produced including a Chichester Festival Theatre production in 2011/12 starring Imelda Stauton and Michael Ball.  Many will also know Tim Burton's film adaption starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in 2007.

Brining wanted Sweeney Todd to attract the audience - not just enjoying a classical musical but also to think about the messages raised and how these relate to us in the world today especially politically.  In the programme, Brining discussed this further with Stuart Leeks and how society can make or break people followed by consequences (Brining and Leeks 2013).

It's interesting to see how the staging was set in a modern era which is cleverly designed by Colin Richmond and Chris Davey and set to the original musical score used and directed by George Dyer.  I think it's important for the audience to connect to the social and political context of the musical both in the Victorian times and also today.

I remember, when growing up in the 1980s, the social and political disillusion, the gap between the rich and the poor and the hierarchy of powerful people.  It's only decades later that you realise the corruption and consequences from these issues mentioned especially in the media and also from reflecting on personal experiences.  Sweeney Todd tells the story about being a victim of injustice and the manipulation of power from society and this lead to Sweeney to becoming revengeful to those who were in position of trust to society.  Brining summarised about modernising the production is 'that it has a connection with us at a more immediate societal level' (Brining 2013).

We had an exceptional cast with David Birrell as Sweeney Todd and Gillian Beven as Mrs Lovett.  It was great seeing Don Gallagher (Judge Turpin) and Niamh Perry (Johanna) whom I've seen in Priscilla (2011) and Love Never Dies (2010) respectively.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sweeney Todd and seeing it for the second time has made me appreciate the musical even more.  A big thanks for a great production to both the cast and creative team.  Sweeney Todd is currently running at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 26th October 2013 and will transfer to Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre afterwards.  This production is highly recommended!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Light Night Leeds - 4th October 2013

I participated in my first ever Light Night! It's an arts event held annually in Leeds and where many buildings open their doors in the evening showcasing a variety of art projects from performance to light installations.


Views from Leeds Town Hall's Clock Tower

Just before Light Night began I climbed up Leeds Town Hall's Clock Tower. I had to book at ticket in advance as it's very popular to do!  A bit about the Leeds Town Hall:  The Victorian building was designed by Cuthbert Broderick and built in 1858 (further works were down for another 9 years!).  The Town Hall originally had four court rooms (used until 1992) and prison cells.  Today, it's a working building for Leeds City Council and used for civic events and celebrations.  It was worth the steep climb of 200+ steps for the great views across Leeds.  Afterwards we descended and soon Light Night officially began!

 Sea Interludes Installation, Howard Assembly Room

Another highlight was checking out the Sea Interludes Installation at Howard Assembly Room.  What an incredible installation project! There is this fortilla of boats which you "sail" in while you listened to Britten's Four Seas Interludes from his opera, Peter Grimes.  I loved how the music projected with the image visuals on the sails.  I also loved how the soft but effective lighting portraying the sea and the atmosphere. I spent some considerable time there capturing the mood of the installation and being part of the Northern Seas.  I plan to make a return visit to the installation later on in the month.  

My favourite project was the Momentus Illuminos at the Leeds Civic Hall on Millennium Square.  The building was transformed to a large Potts Clock Face with cogs, levers, chimes.  Whenever the clock chimed every quarter hour, video footage was shown of mechanic people celebrating and getting on with their daily lives in Leeds via movements.  The projection was accompanied by a soundtrack of the clock moving, whirring and chiming.  When the clock struck, music accompanied the mechanic people's activities.  Seeing this amazing illumination made me realise how proud I am of Leeds!

Momentus Illuminos Project, Leeds Civic Hall 

I've checked out some other arts projects.  As much they were innovative and interesting they weren't to my personal taste! Light Night is a great opportunity to celebrate Leeds culture and heritage.  It's an opportunity for Leeds residents and visitors to the city to enjoy what the city has to offer!