Tag Archives: reviews

ola stranger

5 Jul

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to Secret Screenings – the new(ish) arm of the incredibly popular ‘Secret Cinema’.

For the uninitiated (if there is anyone left out there that hasn’t heard of this great concept), at Secret Cinema you buy a ticket to a film but you don’t know what it is. There’s always a big interactive element to the experience, but you don’t know what it’s going to be and the only thing you know is that it’s going to be pretty special.

The screening last night was of ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ – a documentary about a musical legend from Detroit you’ve never heard of.

With a voice and sound that’s reminiscent of Bob Dylan fused with Nick Drake, yet completely individual, Rodriguez recorded two albums in the late sixties / early seventies which, although a critical success, sold barely any copies. Rodriguez was subsequently dropped by the label and he disappeared.

Yet somehow his albums made it to apartheid era South Africa, where the songs, protest themes and lyrics connected with those that opposed the regime. Unbeknownst to Rodriguez his records sold hundreds of thousands of copies, he inspired a generation of musicians and was literally more famous than the Rolling Stones (he never received a penny for any record sales).

The crazy thing about his huge fame was that no one knew anything about him and legend had it that he committed suicide on stage. This amazing documentary follows two South African fans searching for the Sugar Man and the unbelievable discoveries they made.

All I’ll say is that after we had the pleasure of watching this great film, we were treated to a very very special performance which practically blew everyone in the audience’s mind.


This is one of my favourite songs from Rodriguez – as they say in the doc, one of the saddest, most beautiful songs you’ll ever hear.

Sign up to @secretscreening and @futurecinema on twitter for future events.. And also make sure you go see this doc when it’s released.

happy clappers

23 May

As a self-confessed nerd  i’ll happily admit that I pretty much love the internet..

If you ignore the plethora of porn, the tonnes of trolls or the flocks of fraudsters (so basically I’m asking you to forget 99% of the ‘net), enabling billions of people to publish their thoughts, advice and ideas is amazing.. Pretty much on a weekly basis I’ll see something that friends have recommended or I’ve stumble upon that is brilliant and makes my life easier / funnier / less productive.

Two examples for you all.. As you may have noticed we’ve been doing a little theatre going recently (some good, some bad), and in the process of researching & booking I found these two sites.

Theatre monkey.

 

A friend recommended this nerdy gem to me – although it covers a huge amount of information, I love the venue seat opinions section to each of ALL of the theatre venues in london… I don’t know about you, but when I’m booking seats I spend way too long procrastinating whether a seat is worth the £5 premium.. So having this nerd sage’s advice on where to sit and which are the best seat is a god send..


Audience Club

Now this is something really special.. I’ll be upfront and say there is a waiting list to join, but its worth signing up because when you get on this gravy train there’ll be no looking back..


Have a read of the screen grab, but simply put, as there are always left over tickets at theatres, promoters want to get rid of them so the place is full and this site is where you can get your hands on them for dirt cheap (roughly £2.50 a ticket)… In your face ticket booths!

To join you pay a yearly membership fee (less than £20) and top up your kitty with a tenner.. i.e. Four tickets to a show… so the going to one performance is worth the joining / kitty fee alone!

Cynics might question the quality, but the brilliant thing is that these tickets aren’t for bad shows, crap seats or random pub theatres in Wood Green. We’re talking proper West End “must see” shows, as well as comedy, Opera, Ballet etc.

So happy clapping everyone (Because you can see perfectly and the show cost you less than a pint).

his and hers paris… for a day

19 May

One of those cliche lines Londoners use on visitors when extolling the benefits of living in this beautifully flawed city is its close proximity to Europe and that “it’s so quick and easy to pop across to the continent for a weekend”… In reality we all know that we’re as likely to pop to Barcelona as we’re likely to travel from Brixton to Broadway market to meet a friend for brunch… i.e. not very.

Having cast a very cynical view on how far we spread our European wings, to celebrate the final leg of the His and Hers week of birthdays (Jane’s), we decided to take advantage of the proximity of Paris and take a day trip to visit our Gallic neighbours.

With the trip by Eurostar taking less time and money than it does for me to return home to North Devon (ridiculous I know), by catching a 7.15am train from St Pancras and returning from Paris at 9.15pm, you can pack a lot into a day.. Here’s a little photo journal of our day!

 

Some last minute itinerary planning (please note the homemade Paris “handbook” – one half of the His and Hers has organisational “issues”)

First stop of the day was the Musee Rodin – there were certain tell tale signs that helped us find our way there..

Seeing all of the roses starting to bloom in the garden (or should I say jardin), really made it a special way to start the day

We couldn’t have asked for better weather to appreciate such classic sculptures – Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’

 

And George coming face to face with the realism of Rodin’s work

After the joys of Musee Rodin, we were all in need of a caffeine pick me up, so we hit a cafe to sample a french cappuccino (way too frothy) and catch up on Paris’ view on the morning news..

 

After possibly a little too much caffeine, we got a little childish with our photo ops in Jardin des Tuileries…

A wander down Rue Saint-Honoré via Colette (parting with too much money) and into the Marais…

Taking in the magnificence of the Pl. de Vosges – impossible to do in one photo!

And after a full day of walking, a little respite to take in respective news from across the channel..

We were slightly disappointed in the meagre selection of brie in the supermarket….

But we made do and had quite a piquenique on the Eurostar home!

a bit of culture on the london underground

16 May

I normally cycle to work every day but yesterday I had a meeting in Canary Wharf and the Pashley and I just did not feel up to the crosstown schlep.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in tow (yes, I know I’m late to this party), I was looking forward to spending the journey finding out if Hermione’s Polyjuice Potion would really trick Draco when a member of London Underground staff handed me a copy of ‘World Poems on the Underground’. Poems have been displayed on the Tube since 1986, and this little collection brings together poems from all over the world. Many of the poets settled in London, drawn by its long tradition of welcoming the wider diaspora.

I was completely enchanted from Holland Park to Canary Wharf (except for that hellish rush hour interchange at Bank), and this poem from Barbados was one of my favourites.

Naima

for John Coltrane

 

Propped against the crowded bar

he pours into the curved and silver horn

his old unhappy longing for a home

the dancers twist and turn

he leans and wishes he could burn

his memories to ashes like some old

notorious emperor

of rome. but no stars blazed across the sky

when he was born

no wise men found his hovel. This crowded

bar

where dancers twist and turn

holds all the fame and recognition he will

ever earn

on earth or heaven. he leans against the bar

and pours his old unhappy longing in the

saxophone

 Kamau Brathwaite

 Sometimes catching the Tube isn’t so bad after all.

to read or not to read…

15 May

Reviews. Good, bad or indifferent? Dangerous territory I know, given the main premise of this blog is reviewing stuff to do London…

I will however quickly caveat this statement by saying that the majority of the stuff we cover on here is about loving, not hating.. so if we write about it, presume we recommend it.. no point wasting time by adding to the excessive levels of bitterness already present in cyberspace…

Why then you might ask are the His and Hers coming over all ponderous? Well tomorrow we’re off to see the production of Babel at Caledonian park…

 

Looks pretty epic right? When we saw it and the production team involved – the people behind the epic passion play staged with Martin Sheen in Port Talbot last year, as well as the BAC, Young Vic etc – we booked some tickets straight away (this was about a month ago).

Now here’s the dilemma. Since it opened it has had some of the harshest reviews I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not just talking about the usual suspects being caustic in order to maintain a persona, it’s across the board The Guardian, Torygraph, What’s on stage and even the usually positive blogosphere.

Being somewhat opinionated, I like to make my own mind up about this sort of thing, but my question is this.. Will I still be able to go tomorrow with a truly open mind, not prejudging my experience at all after reading this raft of negativity?

Will I dare to disagree with Deborah “First time commenter” and her uber cultured 13 year olds?!

Only time will tell.. If you see a review on the His and Hers on Thursday then ‘yay’ for Babel.. If not, well you’ll probably be able to guess what we thought…

a tale of two cities

4 May

Part of my job working for a radio station is being able to understand what makes people of all ages and different backgrounds tick… i.e. what floats their boat and if we should start talking or promoting it, will they tune in for longer… or turn that dial?

Reading between the lines I pretty much see this as a permit to be nosy.. in the ethnographic, not the ‘News of the Screws’ sort of way I’ll hastily add.

The factors that shape people’s behaviour are vast and well over my head, but I wanted to share two really fascinating books that give an insight into how the lovely city around us shapes our lives.

One is based upon a single street in London, and the other on Tokyo. Although far apart and very different, as experiments on cities go, these are two petri dishes that are as good as it gets for a social anthropologist.

‘The Comfort of Things’ by Daniel Miller is a portrayal of one street in modern London. In a city where we interact with our neighbours less, religious and social communities are looser than years gone by when you start to think about it, it can be difficult to describe what defines us and the society around us.

By interviewing thirty households on a single street, investigating what lies behind front doors and importantly the possessions within, the writer creates a great portrait of what matters to us as a modern society in London.

Rather than showing that modern life has been wholly corrupted by consumerism, these brilliantly written accounts frequently demonstrate what we possess actually express our aspirations and importantly cement our relationships with family, friends and thecity around us.

One person describes the importance of their Christmas decorations, and how the tree symbolises their chronology of Christmases. Every year the youngest child of friends and family makes a new decoration to hang on the tree. So they get to plot and remember Christmases across children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

‘Tokyo: a certain style’ is a photographic book by Kyoichi Tsuzuki along the same lines. Showing how our fellow mega city dwellers in Japan live, makes it a great comparison to Daniel Miller’s book.

As one of the most expensive places in the world to rent or own property, apartments in Tokyo are what you could describe as “cosy”.

Getting an insight into how people manage to live and function in apartments so compact that they sometimes don’t have a bathroom or toilet, yet still be able to own SO much stuff blows my mind.

Indulge your nosiness by peeking at the various spaces, this one above of a living /bed/study/dining room of a Manga artist (and no, this isn’t the bedroom of a ten year old boy)..

Originally I actually bought this book for my sister as a present (she’s an interior designer that loves clean, clutter free lines), but I had to buy myself a copy.

Mainly because I couldn’t stop leafing through it before I handed it over, so I had somewhat tarnished that “new” feel to it.. it is a few years old, but should you be able to get your hands on a copy do so.. A great gift for neat freaks, or those that complain that their flat is too small.

give three piece a chance pt.2

27 Apr

Now if you subscribe to the Bertie Wooster school of sartorial styling (technically, I think you can probably only aspire to the Wooster school of style, as actually reaching those dizzy heights is beyond even the most sophisticated gents capabilities), you’ll probably be aware that along with a pair of brogues on your feet and a stiff G&T in hand, the must have accompaniment for any gentleman’s suit is a close clean shave and a quality haircut.

Amongst my more follically challenged friends, I have what they might describe as a very positive problem – lots of very thick, gravitationally opposed hair (sods law says that this post will kick start the onset of my male pattern baldness).

So a good barber that can help with the only element on my head I can easily change for the better is an imperative, which makes Gentlemen’s Tonic hidden away on Saville Row such a find.

I think because it’s nestled within Gieves & Hawkes at No.1 Saville Row, people don’t necessarily know it’s there. So for me who leaves booking appointments to the very last minute it’s one of those rare as hen’s teeth barbers, one where you can call up in the morning and get an appointment for 1pm that lunchtime.

If it wasn’t blatantly obvious from the name of the establishment, Gentlemen’s Tonic caters male grooming needs, and a wide variety at that. From barbershop classics such as traditional wet shaves, complimentary shoe shines to sports massages in a dedicated therapy room, pretty much the only thing they don’t have on site is a quartet.

Apart from cutting hair very well (ask for Mark) it pulls off the male grooming experience with aplomb. Neither too metro-sexual or too “laddie”, its traditional chairs, tiling, pots of barbicide and cut throat razors give the interior a really sharp edge (bad pun I know).

On my last visit I was quizzing Mark about wet shaves and how to shave properly. Given the average man will spend 5 months of his life shaving, I’ve never been taught the proper approach, and after reading Mark’s top tips (given to everyone who has a wet shave) I’ve realised that even if I have umpteen blades on my Gillette razor, I won’t get a closer shave without a few basic skills.

If you’re a lady reading this (firstly thanks for showing interest in this very male focused post), I’d 100% recommend buying a male companion the experience of a traditional barbers wet shave for a present.

I imagine it’s equivalent of us buying you ladies a massage/facial.. it’s pampering, but with an unequivocally masculine edge (there’s really dangerous blades involved.. grrr.). Also for us men it has an added bonus – a perfect excuse not to shave for three days beforehand…