A brash, attention-grabbing title indeed for this play penned by Joe DiPietro, based upon Schnitzler’s apparently endlessly variable “La Ronde”, this time adapted to a roundelay of erotic encounters amidst a series of urban gay men. DiPietro is ambitious in addressing nearly every concern and conflict that may arise in gay society (generational issues, monogamy vs. multiplicity of partners, revolutions in technology and the effects on dating and self-image, uses of sex, Hiv-status, out vs. in, homophobia both internal and public), but with just a few minutes devoted to each scene, it’s difficult to really dig into the meat of the matter. The exploration of the material overall risks a cursory treatment, despite the energetic labour of the three performers, who portray at least 22 characters between them (previous productions have provided full casts). It’s a risky move, but somehow lends an intimacy to the experience, as if the audience is following iterations of the same soul. I prefer the earlier scenes where everyday men battle it out-later scenes involving minor porn stars, action movie heroes and media figures become too outsized and removed from smaller, blunter truths. The most clever and sound structural device is to have the actor not present in a sequence appear on stage briefly to quote a line presaging the next scene, which provides a continuing and overarching thread throughout the production. There’s plenty of flesh on display, and I leave it to you to decide if it’s essential or entirely gratuitous (although it could be argued the audience is watching a series of mostly intimate moments, so that may be enough justification). It’s bright and breezy, overall, but I believe a greater profundity eludes it. Through 4 December
This brand-new 110-seat studio theatre set in an erstwhile underground parking garage situated on the grounds of the venerable Off-West End fixture the Menier Chocolate Factory is dedicating itself to an adventurous and ambitious thread of programming, for which this terrifically intense, sweaty and disquieting full-length monologue by Phillip Ridley (my favourite living British playwright) is a perfect fit. Ridley is the master of the damaged soul, and in lead character Donny Stixx he reveals a nearly baroque apotheosis of delusion and self-grandeur, that in the way of all great Ridley narrative structure, is beguilingly peeled layer after layer until only the puny, pitiable humanity is left exposed, terrible and terrifying in its vulnerability and pain. Donny prowls the stage from the start, trailing an edge of mania, as if onstage at a comedy club, pushing past punchlines to sudden moments of bilious outrage. He goes on to confess the highlights of his personal history, the greatest verbal devotion given to his apparent ascent to a degree of fame as a magician, all the while disturbing details of familial tragedies such as suicide and heart-attacks barely register as even minor tremors for a detached Donny. As Donny’s maniacal energy builds, actor Sean Michael Verey (hitherto known to me as the winsome lead in BBC3’s sitcom “Pramface”) is tasked with spiraling forth an unwieldy amount of dialogue, and to transition with quicksilver clarity between several different characters from Donny’s life-a task of enormous demand and concentration at which he more than succeeds. At a blistering 75-minute length, there is no escape for the audience; you are trapped within the distorted and anguished mind of an individual in malign pursuit of fame at any cost, corrosively unconscious to reality and his own liabilities (perhaps this is a tale being related to a court-appointed psychiatrist, which grants Donny his master thesis class). By the time Ridley is finished with Donny, he has shifted both perceptually and emotionally degrees from where he started, and by keeping his material focussed in the foundation of human struggle and crisis, you may not forgive Donny his defining act, but you understand and can sympathise with his plight. And Verey’s performance, his awkward physicality, his keen ability to reveal shivers of soul within hysteria, helps greatly in not being able to just turn away from this abrasive individual. I don’t mean to have this sound absolutely dark, as there are several savagely funny passages within the script, and the energy of both the writing and acting is such that you leave the space mightily shaken and stirred in the best of ways. The show runs through 3 December
As you ascend the steep stairwell to this enticing loft space located directly above a sewing shop on Hackney Road, you are gradually enveloped in a bath of pink light, and as you emerge around the corner are immediately confronted by a conference of computer screens on which artist Soda is busily engaged in makeup tutorials, singing sessions, raw confession, unfiltered heartbreak and general comprehensive mediation of self. Inescapably, you feel as if you are wholly immersed inside Soda’s interior world, the painfully personal and the banal equally measured. I’m not certain I can grasp an overarching artistic principle in place, and I’m not sure the material always escapes mere narcissism, but Soda is a qualified phenomenon on social media (Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and has appeared on many a list of influential contemporary artists), so she cannot be discounted. Her work becomes a direct reflection upon the seeming indifference of the current generation between the private vs. public realm, and the thoroughly modern preoccupation of being perpetually available and seen. To an extent, art has always been at the crossroads of self-promotion, commerce and (hopefully) integrity, so online presence is just the most recent iteration of this trait, in fact allowing the personality himself or herself to become the canvas and raw material, to become and control the brand. In any case, it is a brave move to make, as Soda exposes herself to the profound well of loneliness, cruelty, pathology and dysfunction to which the anonymous nature of the internet may give rise, as the barrage of responses to her various media accounts quite clearly divulges. We’re quite a world away from sugar and spice and everything nice, as an antiquated nursery rhyme would have us believe….The exhibition has now ended, but keep this space in mind, as their forthright directive is to feature emerging young international artists, some perhaps for their inaugural British exhibition; the gallery is also committed to an annual summer show in which recent graduates are able to display work on the heels of their degree completions.
I don’t mean to demean or belittle the works on display at this bijou show by New York artist Gallace by naming their greatest asset a supreme serenity-this is not to dismiss the paintings as merely ornamental or frivolous. In her seascapes and studies of buildings (often homes, sometimes beach huts), blissfully undisturbed by human presence, there is a grounded and searching solitude, a respect for the magnitude and fortitude of both nature and landscape. I’m not familiar with her body of work, but in my readings of Gallace’s history, these pieces are in keeping with her major themes and preoccupations (this is the third show that Maureen Paley has devoted to the artist). The buildings, especially, take on a quite forbidding and commanding central space on the canvas, formidable (except for one case) in their lack of visible windows or doors-there’s an unnerving quality of steeliness in not offering any form of entry. Yet the light in each work calms any momentary fissure of tension with its irrepressible warmth and clarity. Upon view, my first impressions of locations were of the New England coastline, so I was quite pleased to discover that it was indeed the very region by which this series was inspired. All the paintings are uniform in size, which imparts yet another tranquil dimension both visual and emotional, and the curating within this small space is a marvel of spatial beats, a visual correlative to poetic metre, with clusters of paintings followed by a slight breath of wall until your eye picks up the next line. This simple structural element works perceptual wonders, providing quite a meditative, softly encompassing flow.
Very rarely do I emerge from a London restaurant proclaiming to be more than fully sated (not because portions are meagre, but in comparison to servings in my native America, size and scale of meals overseas are vastly more sensible), but my breakfast at this fairly new establishment located in an expansive archway space just next to the Vauxhall tube station brought my belt close to burst. To bring a visual image greater clarity, the management states that at 200-feet long, their restaurant is officially London’s longest. The space is styled on a New York brasserie, a bar area running the length of one side, booths and tables running parallel across from it, a continuous row of mirrors just above the seating opening up what could be a fairly narrow spatial. The braces along the arch have been refashioned into elegant, softly curved white statements, a gentle patterned repetition of ovals.
My breakfast burrito, served in a corn tortilla, was a potently dense collaboration of scrambled eggs, beans, creamy cheese with a side of jalapeño salsa, and a side of roasted potatoes and crispy bacon, both appealingly served in miniature skillets, were generously apportioned. My companion had the waffle topped with a rich and dimensional papaya and coconut whipped cream and grilled pineapple. I can’t imagine that these dishes were not representative of the average quantity of food per plate, and as the restaurant shades into lunch and dinner, the offerings range from scallops to squid to mac-n-cheese, items from nearly every conceivable culinary discipline. Brunch is served until early evening on weekends, a deferential nod to the denizens of Vauxhall, many of whom are busy clubbing long into the afternoon hours of Saturday and Sunday from the previous evening. The room in the rear of the restaurant, referred to as Backcounter, is reserved for group events, such as cocktail parties or cabaret evenings. Occasionally, as you dine, you may hear the muted rumble of a train as it passes along the tracks above, the location brought into sudden consciousness.
Update: Sadly, the seesaws referenced in the following post have now ended their run, so must be thought of in the past-tense. At least I’ll provide a few visual images to give readers a sense of them.
Destined to become perpetual fixtures on many an Instagram account (at least through their residences) are these two fixed-time installations, a series of illuminated see-saws in Leicester Square, and a sprawl of Thames-facing outdoor igloo “tents” with a very agreeable all-star visual backdrop of Tower Bridge, the Shard, Hay’s Galleria and City Hall to dazzle patrons’ sightlines. Both will likely feature on many a to-do London list, for visitors and locals alike. Under the aegis of the London Business Alliance (and the first offering in the interactive PLAY AND PAUSE series that will continue in London throughout 2017), Impulse comprises fifteen motion-triggered units that directly respond to active use, wired to a system of LED lights and speakers that pulse in intensity whether on upward or downward motion. Placed in the vibrant gardens of this most central of squares, 1.5 million visitors on average each year, close to the heart of the most spectacular and big-budget venues of the theatre district, these showy and slick pieces are in perfect consort, and will no doubt be enjoyed by kids of all ages, many of them well into adulthood. As for the igloos, they are assembled just outside the new bar-restaurant Coppa Club, and are fully-heated and fashioned with lighting and sheepskin blankets, full tables and foliage; visitors may avail themselves of the full menu, and are even the recipients of exclusive festive cocktail creations. The pods may be booked, and I suspect they will become quite highly desirable destinations the length of the season.
London is thick with food and craft markets presently with a plethora of openings seemingly each and every week. Shoreditch itself, quite greedily, hosts three markets within a small parameter of neighbourhood space (Urban Food Fest, Dinerama and Boxpark create a foodie haven spanning just a few city blocks), and to this emerging sector we can now welcome this new venture just off Southwark Road, a collection of vendors (and one new music space partly founded by a member of Mumford and Sons, and in direct defiance of the recent closure of several long-standing nightclubs and concert spaces in the name of redevelopment) inhabiting a series of railway arches. One may dine globally when inside the main hall, everything from Portuguese tascas to Turkish manti (dumplings) to Spanish and Mediterraneon fare are on offer, not to mention fresh sourdough loaves from Burnt Lemon bakery, as well as the bold, fresh takes on greens practiced by the purveyors of Savage Salads. There are two floors of covered (and comfortable) seating for patrons, as well as outdoor picnic tables and a trestle table just off the bar. Other recent additions to this thriving business ethic include Mercado Market and the Artworks (both in the Elephant and Castle area, and the subject of past posts) and Street Feast Hawker House in Canada Water located over two floors of a former warehouse. A series of creative start-ups have been granted low-rent temporary leases in archways in Loughborough Junction through Meanwhile Space while the local council deliberates repurposing, and a derelict corner of Queen’s Parade in Willesden Green has transformed into a vibrant hub of community workspaces and independent businesses-both welcome and heartening bits of enterprise, and generous gestures that can have a positive impact on (and possibly jumpstart) the fortunes of disenfranchised areas. They may all eventually be colonised by the hipster regime, but for now they grant energy and zip to each zone (a rebuke to the increasing homogeneity of the high street), and in their own way harken back to historic tradition, when local markets filled each city square and pavement with the great life and noise of commerce and socialbility. Next year, even Time Out will join the brigade and open their own mixed-use market (in Shoreditch-of course!), modelled on their very successful venture in Lisbon.