As a singer, attending musical events and gigs in London is always top of my wish list but is often forgotten in favour of restaurant reviews. In the past few months I have prioritised performances and I’ve witnessed some phenomenal music and theatre.
Paul Simon and Sting – Paul Simon is one of my all-time favourite singers. His albums were the soundtrack to my childhood, and even now his songs remain top of my ‘most played’ list. When a rare opportunity arose to see him live at the O2, I jumped at it. He took to the stage with Sting and they shared an epic three hour set. It was a well-balanced evening of melancholy melodies and upbeat hits. The Sound of Silence was particularly memorable sung poignantly with only guitar at the front of the stage, and it was impossible not to dance when he performed the African-influenced songs from his album Graceland, complete with full band and gospel choir. Despite being seated in the cheapest seats at the top of the auditorium, I enjoyed every second of this momentous concert, Sting was surprisingly good too! If you ever get the chance to see this legendary man in concert I would recommend doing whatever you can to get hold of a ticket.
Alice in Wonderland – The Old Vic tunnels are a versatile space used for a range of theatrical projects and exhibitions. To celebrate the 150 year anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Les Enfants Terribles have created an imaginative production cleverly transforming this mysterious space into an immersive land of curiosities. As the trains rumble above, you will forget the real world as you follow the whisper of books down the rabbit-hole to meet the Mad Hatter and all his friends. Due to vast popularity, the show has been extended so you can now book tickets until the end of August 2015. Book here.
Sweeney Todd – I almost found out too late about this Sondheim production at The Coliseum, which was only on for a few weeks in April. I am often sceptical about semi-staged shows but with a stellar cast including Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson, I quickly felt involved in the production. The tickets (though pricey) sold instantly, so I queued up very early one morning to get myself a seat. Sitting on the front row, the singing was thrillingly chilling and the acting brilliantly intense. I hate horror films, but would never turn down the chance to see the demon barber of Fleet Street.
On 2nd April Vintage Classics will release a 150th anniversary gift edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with a cover and introduction by designer Dame Vivienne Westwood. The special edition of Lewis Carroll’s classic also includes end papers by the fashion designer, as well as Through The Looking Glass and the original Tenniel illustrations. It is a fitting collaboration as Westwood’s Red Label Autumn-Winter 2011/12 catwalk show was inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Vintage Books said: “From her catwalk shows inspired by Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures to her world-famous British inspired collections, Dame Vivienne Westwood has always seen the world through the looking glass. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of her favourite children’s story she has created a unique front cover and end paper for this very special edition. Vivienne has also contributed an introduction to explain her passion for Lewis Carroll’s classic and how it links to her personal manifesto for change.”
The special edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will be released on 2nd April as a £15 hardback. It is available to pre-order now from Amazon here.
The Royal Opera House cinema’s 2014 year ended with a bang last night with an enchanting performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The three-act ballet, which premiered on the Covent Garden stage in 2011, glimmered on more than 3,000 screens across 24 countries and provided a wonderfully festive evening for every audience member watching. This production seems perfectly tailored for the screen; it’s digital success owed something to the newness of the production, as it combined classical dance, digital projections and mixed media puppets in an original, film-friendly portrayal of the wacky Lewis Carroll story that everyone knows and loves. Another feature of the production that was strikingly right for the screen was the stunning film-like score composed by Joby Talbot. In the exclusive-to-screen introduction to the ballet by Darcey Bussell cinemagoers were transported backstage and were privy to interviews with many of the cast and crew; here we heard from Talbot about the process of creating the score and the interwoven themes that represented each individual character. These insights into the production greatly enhanced the immersion into the ballet that the screening already provides.
The production started in a 19th Century Oxford garden party where the audience are introduced to the characters that are soon to feature as figments of Alice’s zany dream. The attention to detail throughout the entire production was truly astonishing and also lent itself even more to that of a film. The many dreamy backdrops, designed by Bob Crowley were all stunningly executed. He captured the essence of the off-kilter story and made it a piece of ever-changing visual art. The second act was a magical medley of episodes based around the different beloved characters of the classic story. From the tap-dancing Mad Hatter to the exotic and sultry caterpillar, the Royal Ballet left their distinguished stamp on this production. The Mad Hatter’s tea party was a delight to watch and you can also see a Zoo Nation version of it streamed live tomorrow (18th of December) and if not, on stage over the next few days. If you figure out the difference between a raven and a writing desk there, do let me know, as I am still none the wiser, even after Steven McRae’s astonishing tap dance showcase. Eric Underwood’s portrayal of the Caterpillar was captivating and the blue bedazzled ballet shoes of the long caterpillar body were a spectacle in themselves.
The three stars of the production would have to be Zenaida Yanowsky as The Queen of Hearts, most especially for her hilarious yet overwhelmingly skillful ‘tart adage’ at the beginning of the third act. Federico Bonelli, the pin up of the ballet world, played a Knave of Hearts who would melt any wicked Queen’s heart. Finally, Sarah Lamb, the belle of the ballet, played such a beautiful Alice that you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a 1950s screen siren. Her expressive face and lyrical movements brought the sense of innocence needed for a childhood classic like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Please give yourself the Christmas present of catching the relay screening this Sunday (21st) in a cinema near you and keep an eye on the Royal Opera House website for more treats to come. I for one am becoming ‘curioser and curioser’ to see what they have in store for us in 2015.
More information here.
Written by Thoroughly Modern Missy, Angelica Bomford.