Call me Russ L

Wolverhampton – that’s where it’s all happening

Posted in Books, Music, Stage by Russ L on 2 February, 2012

No, really. I’ve been to four events so far this year, and after this one they all took place in Wolfyhampton.

I made my bi-annual (that’s the “once every two years” one and not the “twice per year” one, isn’t it? I get confused) January trip to see Henry Rollins’ latest spoken word doo-dar on the 19th, at the Wulfrun Hall. All very funny and interesting, as ever, although I do think that this one was the least of three times I’ve seen him doing it. There seemed to be a touch more meanspiritedness than usual this time around, albeit nothing beyond the “aren’t people who say or do this thing that I dislike so styoooopid” that you get from 99% of all comedians (also: mocking people for buying cheap food presumably has fewer class-based implications in America than it does here, but it still does tend to reflexively put my back right up). Minor quibbles, anyway: I like his punk version of “Wicker’s World”. This time we heard tales of snake hunting and rat dinners in India, not being allowed to go anywhere on his own in North Korea, scaring the life out of Dennis Hopper etc.

I saw that Clutch were supporting The Current Version Of Thin Lizzy at The Civic Hall on the 27th, and in a fit of spontaneous general enthusiasm I bought a ticket. Qualms were subsequently had. Thin Lizzy without Phil Lynott – it’s not proper, is it?

Triggerfinger were on first, anyway: a Dutch three-piece made up of a singer/guitarist who looks like he needs to be strapped down during a full moon, a bassist who looks as though he should be saying things like “I’m a big conshert promoter, shee”, and a drummer who was having a lovely old time hitting things with a huge smile on his face. Blues-rock with 80s-metal-style licks, which I moderately enjoyed in spite of it all being very much your typical type of thing. Either I’m getting soft in my old age or the drummer’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Clutch were on then, and I love Clutch. I do think they’re absolutely ace – with this they became the first foreign band that I’ve ever seen a double-figure number of times. I recently described them to someone else as “Intelligent hard rock… mostly just RRRRRRROCK but with some bluesy bits, some southern boogie bits, and some funny-time-signature bits. Punkier on the early stuff (that they rarely play nowadays), too. Often clever/amusing lyrics”, and whilst that may not exactly equate to coherent English it’s probably the best I’m going to be able to do right now. I was pleased to see that a lot of people seemed to know them and be pleased to see them at the start of the set and even more by the end, and of course “Cypress Grove” is always The Most Fun. Well, apart from “Escape From The Prison Planet”, obviously, but they didn’t play that. (Those two videos therelinked aren’t from this gig, clearly, but here’s a poorer-quality one of “Electric Worry” that was).

The Current Version of Thin Lizzy were… very tribute-band-y. You got moments of the multi-guitar magic of old, but mostly it just didn’t feel right. I don’t like to think of myself as an Ad Hominising Ad Hominista, more bothered about who they are than what they play, but I do think that there is more to music than just a mechanistic recreation of a series of notes. Other opinions are available, as your man on the radio says.

I went to The Arena Theatre on the 31st, and found myself goshdarnit shocked to note that they’d changed the seating since the last time I was there (I think. I found myself there pretty regularly at one point, but it’s been ages since then. I’m now wondering whether or not my initial memories were inaccurate).

Such (important, really) matters aside, this was for Blackeyed Theatre performing Steven Berkoff’s stage version of “The Trial” by Franz Kafka – a very stylised setting that in the first five minutes gave me the feeling that it was really going to get on my nerves, but I soon settled into and enjoyed. We had a set made of open wooden frames that functioned well in representing more-or-less anything (doors, windows, furniture, corridors, picture frames, you name it), and five actors (here – I’ve seen stills of it being performed with more), playing a load of parts each. Those not doing anything specific at any point formed a sort of sidewards Greek chorus, singing and doing sound effects. That was really effective.

I particularly liked the performances of Nadia Morgan (very sensual, and I hope I don’t sound too male-gaze-y in that but it does seem like the best way to describe things. It really fit well with the strange ciphers that the female characters of “The Trial” present, anyway) and Derek Elwood (switching forth between camp and stentorian on a sixpence), and I’d recommend the whole thing if you don’t hold that strange view (that many appear to, for some reason) that Kafka must be an extremely sombre business. This was the last immediately local performance, but it’s off and around the country up until the end of March.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – February 2012

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 29 January, 2012

Let’s have a Lots, for the first time in a little while.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.

Tuesday the 31st of January and Wednesday the 1st – “The Trial” (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – K-k-k-kick up a Kafka. This is the Steven Berkoff adaptation (see also the 8th/9th, if that’s pricked up your ears).

Thursday the 2nd till Saturday the 4th – Nick Makoha’s “My Father And Other Superheroes” @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Lessons for the kiddies about the role of fathers and/or the absence thereof.

Thursday the 2nd – “Meet The BBFC” @ The Light House, Wolverhampton – A talk from the British Board of Film Classification. Ask them about ‘mild peril’.

Friday the 3rd till Sunday the 5th – “Imaginary Friends” (Somesuch Theatre) @ The MAC (Hexagon room), Edgbaston, Birmingham – In which your man dials a wrong number but your woman at the other end decides to actually talk to him, it seems.

Friday the 3rd – Michael Chapman @ The Station, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Hopefully Janice Long won’t be around to get his name wrong, this time.

Friday the 3rd – The Misfits @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – The current-day version, so they’re without the pompous shortarse. Or without that one in particular, anyway. There may be other pompous shotarses amongst their number.

Friday The 3rd – “Scott Of The Antarctic Centenary Concert” (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – “I’m going out for a walk, I may be some time”. The CBSO will be doing Vaughan Williams and such in front of projections of the fillum. I once saw Einstellung playing in front of the same thing, but this won’t sound like that did.

Friday the 3rd – Sally @ Scruffy Murphy’s, Birmingham – Doooooooooooooooooooooom (etc).

Saturday the 4th – Suggs’ “My Life Story In Words And Music” @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – I expect it’ll be all such as “So then, it being Tuesday, I bought a hat…”

Saturday the 4th – “Watch The Birdy” (Birmingham Rep Theatre) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – About an egg that will not hatch. Wasn’t that “Orson’s Farm”?

Saturday the 4th – Laura Viers @ The MAC (Café), Edgbaston, Birmingham and The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – So she’s playing at The MAC in the afternoon, which will be a free gig for family-type groupings (what with her most recent album being aimed at the kiddies and whatnot), and then in the evening there’ll be a more usual type of thing at The Institute.

Sunday the 5th – Martin Simpson @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – That one who’s got that Dad.

Sunday the 5th – “The Songs And Music Of Bagpuss” with Sandra Kerr @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Although Bagpuss himself will not be there, I am sad to relay. *Stretches* *Yawns*

Wednesday the 7th till Saturday the 11th – “Yes Prime Minister” (I don’t know what the theatre company is called, but it’s the west end production) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – I got the DVD box of the complete “Yes Minister”/”Yes Prime Minister” for Christmas, you know.

Wednesday the 8th & Thursday the 9th – Steven Berkoff’s “Shakespeare’s Villains” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – His one-man show about… well, the title is scarcely cryptic.

Thursday the 9th – “Thirsty” (The Paper Birds) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, BirminghamDrink~!

Saturday the 11th till Saturday the 18th – “Gigglefest” children’s comedy festival @ The Central Library, Birmingham – Comedy aimed at children, that is. Not child comedians drafted in from some sort of sweatshop in Indonesia.

Saturday the 11th – Prizefighter light-welterweight boxing tournament (Matchroom Sports) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Ah, damnit – I love a one-night tournament and this looks like the best instalment of “Prizefighter” yet, but it sold out before I got around to getting a ticket. Oh well. I’m cheering for Mutley but my money would be on Watson.

Sunday the 12th – “John Peel’s Shed” (Show & Tell) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio theatre), near Coventry – The tale of a boy who won a box of records from the eponymic DJ-owned outhouse.

Wednesday the 15th – “The Planet Suite (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – It’s interesting to note that Pluto has both come and gone (planet-wise) since this. Accuracy has been preserved, in the long run.

Thursday the 16th – Richard Herring @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – I’d like to see more comedians named after fish.

Thursday the 16th – GZA @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – I dunno, no Wu-Tang members come over for years and then suddenly you can’t move for the little bleeders…

Saturday the 18th and Sunday the 19th – “Deathtripping” with Lydia Lunch @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – A journey “into the radical manifesto of the Cinema of Transgression, an 80s underground film movement which spawned from New York’s No Wave scene and is characterised by an extreme and satirical take on themes of pleasure, horror, sex and disgust”, if you will. Includes a spoken-word performance from no less than Lydia Lunch on the Saturday night.

Monday the 20th – Kylesa @ The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – Ace metal-headbanging-mad stuff when I saw them years ago. I don’t know about now, especially given that (from glancing around the web) it seems like they’re getting quite popular nowadays.

Wednesday the 22nd till Saturday the 25th – “Hobson’s Choice” (Birmingham Royal Ballet) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – There seems to have been about 381 productions of “Hobson’s Choice” that have played locally over the last couple of years, at the very least. This one here, though, is a ballet.

Wednesday the 22nd – “Stalin’s Favourite” (Theatre Unlimited) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – The first part of a dictatorship-double-bill at The Old Rep. This one concerns what it was like for Konstantin Simonov to be Stalin’s favourite author.

Thursday the 23rd – “Defying Hitler” (Theatre Unlimited) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – The second part of a dictatorship-double-bill at The Old Rep. This one is about your ordinary man trying to live in the Third Reich.

Thursday the 23rd till Saturday the 3rd of March – “Gravity” (Birmingham Rep Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Themes of provocation and science mix. At least two out of every three new plays have to have scientific themes, as any fool knows (not that this is a bad thing).

Thursday the 23rd – Labrinth (sic) @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – He of “Earthquake”, the undisputed winner of the song-most-frequently-played-through-phones-on-buses award of the last year or so.

Saturday the 25th till Saturday the 3rd of March – “The Crucible (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – It does show how times have changed – I go around accusing people of witchcraft all the time and I’m generally just ignored.

Saturday the 25th – Napalm Death @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – I’ll happily make the most of any excuse to link to this.

Sunday the 26th – Subhumans @ The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – I’m telling you, it’s gonna get worse.

Sunday the 26th – William Wegman’s “Woof! Woof!” @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – Video art about HOUNDS.

Monday the 27th till the 3rd of March – “Oleanna” (theatre company?) @ Highbury Little Theatre, Wylde Green, Birmingham – Do you see, do you see.

Monday the 27th – Iron Butterfly @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Dum-dum-dumm, dum-dum dum-dumm dumm dumm dumm…

Tuesday the 28th – Dave Reeves’ “Black Country Dialects” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Yam-yam myths, legends and speech. Yow dow spake as proper like we.

Tuesday the 28th – Mick Foley @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Doing a stand-up comedy/spoken word class of thing, but I’m sure he’d throw himself off a high object if you asked him nicely.

Wednesday the 29th – Beth Jeans Houghton / Goodnight Lenin @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Glam-pop-folk with support from Everybody’s Favourite Local Band (Apart From The Destroyers).

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands – November 2011

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 October, 2011

Cats, hares, tortoises, seabirds and bears of possibly a couple of different types – it’s animal month.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.

Ongoing through the month – “Shout” festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Brum’s festival of Queer/LGBT culture. Includes, amongst many other things, ”A Tale Of Two Symphonies” with the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra (an entity of which I was not aware until just now), and tales of Stevenage.

Saturday the 29th of October until Saturday the 12th of November – “Macbeth” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – I love Macbeth. It’s just so gangsta.

Tuesday the 1st and Wednesday the 2nd – “Stig Of The Dump” (Mind The Gap Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – I loved the book as a child.

Tuesday the 1st – Melvins @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – One of those bands who I like, but don’t like as much as everyone else who likes them seems to like them, so everyone else who likes them doesn’t listen to me properly and just decides that I don’t like them. But I do like them. Just not as much as etc. etc. etc.

Tuesday the 1st – Natty @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Children get your culture, and don’t stand there and gesture or the battle will be hotter.

Tuesday the 1st – Bill Bailey @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Hawk The Slayer’s rubbish (do I make these references a touch too oblique at times?)

Wednesday the 2nd – Motorhead / Anti-Nowhere League / UK Subs @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Motorhead are clever – although they may have been playing more-or-less the same set for 381 years, they always make sure their annual autumn tour is a package-affair with other bands you might want to see. This time it’s all a bit punky.

Wednesday the 2nd – “Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks” (The Foundry Group Theatre) @ The Forrest Arts Centre, Walsall – A comedy about Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks, which is one of ideas that I suspect we all wish we’d had first.

Thursday the 3rd – The Bad Shepherds @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – On their “First Farewell Tour”, which is at least honest.

Friday the 4th till Sunday the 6th – Cake International – The Sugarcraft & Cake Decoration Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I saw the most gorgeous cake that was shaped and decorated like a bunch of roses, recently. I was enormously impressed, it was beautiful.

Friday the 4th – Anna Calvi @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – She’s smaller than you’d imagine, in real life.

Friday the 4th – Toumani Diabate @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Playing his Kora. They should get him on with a choir, then you could have choral kora.

Saturday the 5th – UFC 138 (MMA) @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Heh, a UFC card in Brum and I’m not going. I should be ashamed to call myself an MMA fan or such.

Saturday the 5th – Acid Mothers Temple @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – The over/under on how long they play for is set at 3.5 hours. Put your predictions in now, please.

Saturday the 5th – “The Hare And The Tortoise” (Tutti Frutti Productions & York Theatre Royal) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – Postscript scene here.

Saturday the 5th – An evening of Janacek and Dvorak (CBSO & City Of Birmingham Choir) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Just make sure you get a good seat and don’t have to sit uncomfortably to see, or you might end up with Czech neck. See also the Welsh National Opera entry below if you fancy a bit more Janacek.

Sunday the 6th – Glen Campbell @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – His last ever ever tour ever before retirement.

Sunday the 6th – The Drifters @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Any resemblance to any original band members living or dead is purely coincidental.

Sunday the 6th – Focus @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Dutch yodelling (also: prog-rock).

Monday the 7th – Ghostface Killah @ The Institute (The Library), Digbeth, Birmingham – It’s been a very Wu-Tang-y year in Brum, 2011 has. Assuming he turns up.

Wednesday the 9th till Sunday the 13th – Slava’s Snowshow @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Not just for kiddies, this really is one of the most visually astonishing things that you’ll ever see.

Wednesday the 9th – Guillemots @ The Institute (The Library), Digbeth, Birmingham – Call ‘em a doctor.

Thursday the 10th – The Damned @ The Academy, Birmingham – On their 35th anniversary tour, which is pretty much guaranteed to make some folks feel extremely old.

Thursday the 10th – Paul Murphy @ The ICC (Symphony Hall foyer), Birmingham – Your man from The Destroyers, playing as part of the ongoing Folk For Free series.

Thursday the 10th and again on Saturday the 12th – Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Derrr, derrr, du-duh-duh, derrr, derrr, de-deh-deh, dun dun dun dun der dun dun, dun dun dun dun der dun dun. That’s my transcription of the invasion theme. I’m telling you, sheet music will be a thing of the past once my notation system catches on.

Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th – “The Importance Of Being Earnest” (New Century Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Possibly unfortunate timing, given the recent big Birmingham Rep version of this, but I suppose it could be fun to compare and contrast. Featuring (it appears) suitcases (not handbags) used prominently in the staging.

Friday the 11th – “Fighting The Cuts” (Banner Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently a cabaret performance themed around resistance to the current government. That doesn’t sound like the type of thing you see every day.

Friday the 11th – “Sacred and Profane Love in 13th Century France” @ St George’s Church, Edgbaston, Birmingham – As performed by Sinfonye. What a title, though. What a dream of a title.

Saturday the 12th till Sunday the 20th – Grand Slam Of Darts 2011 @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – So I hear they’re starting to catch up with Phil Taylor nowadays, finally. I’ve always recommended not having heroes.

Saturday the 12th – Opeth @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – There’s always one “band I used to be into but have drifted away from over the years, for no obvious reason” every month, and your Swedish prog-folk-blues-metallers here are November’s representatives.

Saturday the 12th – Bellowhead @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Often said to be one of the best live bands going. I haven’t seen ‘em so I wouldn’t know, but people do say this.

Saturday the 12th – “Breaking Down The Wall” @ New Art Gallery, Walsall – Live poetry, percussion and graffiti. Connected with the Salaam Islamic Arts Festival.

Saturday the 12th – “Play School” (Mid*Point Theatre) @ A.E. Harris, The Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Presented as just as games evening, although I’m not so sure it wont turn out to be something a bit more, well, theatrical. Apparently they will provide board games and organise “low tech sports”. This leaves me wondering what a hi-tech sport might be. Robot Wars?

Sunday the 13th – Thomas Dolby @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Science~!

Monday the 14th till Saturday the 19th – “Keeler” (can’t seem to find the theatre company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – The play about the Profumo Affair that is apparently very well regarded by Christine Keeler herself.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 26th – “Bagpuss” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Bagpuss! He’s so lovely.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – Welsh National Opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – With Don Giovanni on the 15th and 18th, Katya Kabanov on the 16th, and The Barber of Seville on the 17th and 19th.

Tuesday the 15th till Saturday the 19th – “Oh What A Lovely War” (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Hasn’t this been on at The Arena for about fifteen runs in the last few years, or am I just imagining it? I’m not saying that this is a bad thing.

Tuesday the 15th – Wire @ The Institute (The Temple), Digbeth, Birmingham – I’d got the impression from somewhere that this was supposed to be a “doing Pink Flag all the way through” gig, in the way that all old bands do with their great albums nowadays, but it doesn’t look like it actually is. I have no idea where I got that idea from.

Wednesday the 16th – (MF) Doom @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – His name’s, Doom, they wonder who he is but don’t wor, -ry, believe me he’ll get busy. When it comes, to, poetry he’s got plenty, la la laa. La la, la la, la la.

Thursday the 17th to Sunday the 20th – “Autumn Almanac” @ Ikon Gallery, Birmingham – A four day affair with local createurs of sundry stripe. Includes a 7 Inch Cinema film selection (themed around the date it’s on, the 17th of November) and Doom-Tuba courtesy of Ore (they were amazing at Supersonic), amongst many other things.

Friday the 18th – The Beat / The Selecter @ The Town Hall, Bimingham – On my radio in the bathroom.

Friday the 18th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Town Hall, Walsall – Including Martin Gethin’s first local fight in ages.

Friday the 18th – Rihanna @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – And also at the NIA on the 29th. She’ll need a big umbrella indeed if everyone in venues of those sizes are to be invited to stand underneath.

Friday the 18th – The Dwarves @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Once upon a time The Most Dangerous Band On The Planet, then a polite little pop-punk group, and I don’t actually know what they’re up to nowadays.

Friday the 18th – “The Lonely Clouds Of Guernica” (Come As You Are Arts Northwest) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A play concerning the fact (and I didn’t know this one, but it seems hardly surprising) that Bush’n’Blair wanted Picasso’s “Guernica” covered up at the UN when they were a-having wars.

<iSaturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th – The Warley National Model Railway Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Choo-choo and indeed chug-a-puff. Is that Warley as in right here in Sandwell? Cool.

Saturday the 19th – The Supreme Show of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Look at this, I mean really now.

Sunday the 20th – Morbid Angel @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Surely the deathliest death metal that ever died metallically.

Tuesday the 22nd till Saturday the 26th – “The Producers” (West Bromwich Operatic Society) @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – It’d be good if people dressed up for this in a manner similar to how folk do when they go to see “Rocky Horror”, ‘cos then we’d all have an excuse to carry our blue blankets around with us.

Tuesday the 22nd and Wednesday the 23rd – “A Clockwork Orange” (Volcano Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently “Volcano Theatre Sidestep the cult movie and recapture the shock of the original novella”, which is good because I love the book and have never particularly liked the fillum.

Tuesday the 22nd – Beverley Knight @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Our Bev. There may be higher-energy artists and there may be artists in higher heels, but you won’t find a greater combination of the two.

Wednesday the 23rd and on until 2012 – “The Sleeping Beauty” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – From the perspective of the fairy who cursed Beauty to sleep in the first place.

Wednesday the 23rd until Sunday the 27th – The BBC Winter Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Incorporating, pleasingly, The World Cheese Awards.

Wednesday the 23rd – Alabama 3 @ The Academy, Birmingham – Actually, Opeth aren’t this months only candidates for “band I used to be into but have drifted away from over the years, for no obvious reason”.

Thursday the 24th till Saturday the 26th – “Hobson’s Choice” (The Luke Players) @ The MAC (Theatre Space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – I always think “Harold Brighouse” sounds like more of name for a gangster than for a playwrite. ‘Ard ‘Arry Brighouse from Landan taaahn.

Saturday the 26th – Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band @ The Cross, Moseley, Birmingham – Oh, Geno.

Saturday the 26th – Dimmu Borgir @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – It’s billed as “An evening with Dimmu Borgir”, and so I do hope they’ll be taking questions and relating humorous anecdotes about their lives. Whilst wearing corpsepaint.

Saturday the 26th – Martin Carthy @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – If it’s a month with a vowel in it then you can be sure that at least one of the Waterson/Carthy family will be playing somewhere in your county.

Sunday the 27th – Deep Purple @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Plus a full orchestra, ‘cos they’re a bit like that, that Deep Purple.

Tuesday the 29th – Flogging Molly @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Faith and begorrah, you can’t beat a bit of the auld Irish-American punk.

Wednesday the 30th till Saturday the 3rd of December – “Joseph K” (Birmingham School of Acting) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A modernised version of “The Trial”. I am keen on Kafka, kid.

Wednesday the 30th and on until next year – “The Jungle Book” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Bear necessities and Mother Nature’s recipes.

Die Verwandlung

Posted in Stage by Russ L on 15 March, 2008

”As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.” – Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis, 1915.

Ladies and gentlemen, I beg applause for the greatest first line in the entire history of literature. Even if the translation is disputed.

I love myself a bit of Kafka, so I do. I’m a civil servant, after all – I quite often feel like I’m living through The Castle and The Trial in an average working day. When I found out that The Rep was due to entertain Vesturport/Lyric Hammersmith’s Anglo-Icelandic stage version of Metamorphosis I was almost ecstatic. Music from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, too! I would say that someone up there liked me, but Cave would tell me off for believing in an interventionist God.

It was off to The Rep with me on Friday the 29th of Feb, therefore. A two-level set (with the family’s dining room downstairs and Gregor’s bedroom – appearing to be turned on its side for no obvious reason – upstairs) with handholds on the walls allowed Björn Thors to portray the transformed young Samsa without a costume. He appears human to us, but scales the walls and leaps from one piece of furniture to the next in a convincingly animalistic way (I can’t help but note that he showed an impressive degree of stamina, too).

There are obviously 381 entirely different ways to interpret Metamorphosis, but the one laid on thick here was the idea of social groups ostracising elements of themselves for immediate benefit to the rest, and the loss of humanity that is thus engendered. The play finishes with the rest of the family in a vignette of sterile idyll; they relax and throw petals in the dusk, despite the fact that their son is gone, their ideal lodger has walked out leaving ominous threats, and they presumably are still in great financial difficulty. This was (sadly) about the only point where the Cave/Ellis score actually did much beyond melt into the background for me – Cave’s sonorous voice rang out in a plaintive song, and the hollowness of their supposed happiness was emphasised. The Nazi angle (events later to happen in Germany were something this story was so very prescient of when read this way, and of course half of Kafka’s family fell victim to the camps) was emphasised, in the military air of Gregor’s boss, the dark statements of the prospective lodger, and the elder Herr Samsa’s new black-shirted porter’s uniform that he won’t take off (and why not? Work, as the fellow said, makes free).

It was all effective in spite of occasional spots of what definitely felt like over-acting (was it deliberate? It sort-of felt like it might have been). I’m inclined to just put it down to the fact that some plays don’t really lend themselves well to big theatres, and the big booming voices that are thus necessary. I can’t emphasise enough how minor a quibble this is, though, and how nothing was spoilt as a result of it. The tour continues aroundabout the country until the fifth of April I believe, and I’d recommend a look if you get chance.

Dizzle Kenizzle writes about this here.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: March 2008

Posted in Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 26 February, 2008

There’s usually another annual event this month, but it’s been cancelled this year.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.

Tuesday the 26th of Feb till Saturday the 1st of March – ‘Metamorphosis’ (Vesturport Theatre/Lyric Hammersmith) @ The Rep, Birmingham – Kafka with a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. I can barely express how much I’m looking forward to this.

Friday the 29th of Feb and Saturday the 1st of March – ‘Family Snaps’ double-bill: ‘Tidy’ and ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses’ (MDCC Theatre Company) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – “Two plays about guilt, forgiveness and love. Two plays about New Labour, model airplanes and Barry Manilow” they say, by local writers Martin Drury and Elizabeth Parkes.

Monday the 3rd – Autechre @ The Medicine Bar, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Beep beep beep squiggle-scronk vroom vroom blettum blettum vroom vroom blettum blettum.

Thursday the 6th – Capsule @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Finger-lickin’ finger-pickin’ guitar from Jack Rose, psychedelia from Hush Arbors, and post-rock from Cellar Door.

Thursday the 6th to Sunday the 9th – Crufts@ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Dang hounds.

Thursday the 6th to Tuesday the 12th – International Women’s Week events @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – It doesn’t mention it on the website, but apparently there’s an exhibition showcasing work done by various women’s (and possibly LBGT) community groups on the 6th and 7th. Sundry of the plays and events around happening this time are attached to IWW (according to the printed programme, Nowhere To Belong on the 6th, In No Particular Order on the 7th, and the “Mixed Bill Of Dance” on the 12th. The website doesn’t seem to attach any of those to it, but does mention that “It’s My Life” on the afternoon of the 7th is part). I hate to be cynical about anything like this, but it doesn’t bode well for a consciousness-raising exercise to prove unable to make basic information about itself clear and accessible.

Saturday the 8th – ‘An Evening Of Russian And British Romance’ @ St Mary’s Church, Selly Oak, Birmingham – Russian and English songs, music, poetry and food. All proceeds go to St Mary’s Hospice.

Saturday the 8th – Last Night Of The Spring Proms @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – With all the usual LNOTP favourites.

Saturday the 8th – ‘Young Storyteller Of The Year’ @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – Still looking for entrants, apparently.

Saturday the 8th & Sunday the 9th – BEAST @ The CBSO Centre, Birmingham – Birmingham Electro-Acoustic Sound Theatre. 30 channels of speakers with different characteristics are arranged into pairs and placed at chosen points across the room, “to sculpt the spatial and dynamic implications of the music.”

Sunday the 9th – ‘Doomsday’ @ The Barfly, Digbeth, Birmingham – Dooooom metal alldayer, headlined by the awesome Lazarus Blackstar. (EDIT: Or perhaps not – apparently they’re not playing).

Wednesday the 12th – ‘Tangle’ (Unlimited Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry – I saw this at The Rep Door just over a year ago and it was fan-flipping-tastic. Entangled particles, entangled lives, pet grooming, and Great Uncle Bulgaria. There’s a Flash intro to the plot here.

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th – The Cleansing Of Constance Brown (Stan’s Café) @ 38 Floodgate Street, Digbeth, Birmingham – Themes of power, a corridor where it all happens, and limited audience numbers. Tickets via The MAC. (EDIT: Turns out that this is happening at 38 Floodgate Street. See the comments below for more details).

Friday the 14th – Sophie Ellis-Bextor @ The Academy, Birmingham – Here is Throughsilver on the subject of an SEB song that I don’t think I actually know.

Saturday the 15th – Gallhammer @ The Barfly, Digbeth, Birmingham – Sludgy doom metal with strange vocals (a common result of having your bandmembers made up of tiny Japanese girls) and unexpected New-Wave-y bits (possibly also result of same). One of them calls herself Vivian “Depressive” Slaughter. I love that. The surname wasn’t enough, she needed a nickname in the middle too… (EDIT: It appears that they’re supported by The Sontaran Experiment. Between having Paul Catten for vocals and a Dr Who reference for a name, they cannot be anything less than Pure Win).

Saturday the 15th – ‘Road’ (BSS Showbiz Group) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – The Jim Cartwright play in which a drunken tour is given of a derelict Lancashire street. It’s won awards, don’tchaknow.

Sunday the 16th – St Patrick’s Day Parade @ Digbeth, Birmingham – They say the Birmingham one is the biggest in the world outside of New York, but (as has been noted elsewhere) that may be another ‘more cut than Venice’ claim. It’ll be huge, anyway. To be sure.

Thursday the 20th – An Evening With Tony Benn @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – What a man.

Friday the 20th – St Matthew’s Passion (Birmingham Bach Choir) @ The Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The Birmingham Bach Choir’s annual Good Friday performance.

Saturday the 22nd – The Detroit Spinners @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – They’ve been working their way back to you. Babe.

Sunday the 23rd – Enablers @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – This’ll probably (like Thomas Dolby and Pram/MTO/Shady Bard) be another one of those that’ll enable you to wipe out a good chunk of West Mids blogging with one well-placed bomb. (EDIT: Now with added Courteousness).

Monday the 24th – ‘Think No Evil Of Us’ (David Benson) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – David Benson’s funny and thoughtful one-man show about the lives of Kenneth Williams and himself. I am, however, aghast at the £18 ticket price, given that he performs his shows fairly regularly in various Black Country theatres for much cheaper.

Tuesday the 25th of March – “Basil Of The Caribbean” @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – Basil Brush! BOOM BOOM!

Wednesday the 26th – Free Easter Egg Hunt @ Bilston Craft Gallery, Bilston – Free, and all children taking part get a prize. There’s also egg-decoration and storytelling.

Thursday the 27th – Jean Michel Jarre @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Synth Jarre Jarre Synth.

Thursday the 27th – Efterklang @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Their set in November was one of the best of last year. Amazing, beautiful and most of all indescribable.

Thursday the 27th – Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts @ The NIA, Birmingham – I’m given to understand that Phil Taylor has been losing a few lately. Is there nothing that can be relied on?

Saturday the 29th – Nightwish @ The Academy, Birmingham – I’m still not entirely convinced what the point of them is without Madam there. Sold out, anyway, so I don’t suppose it matters too much.

Saturday the 29th – Angrrr Management’s ‘Octagon Club’ (MMA) @ The Glades Leisure Centre, Kidderminster – Headlined by Marc Goddard vs Jacob Lovstad, which is a really well-matched fight if you ask me. (EDIT: Or perhaps not – apparently Marc Godard is out with injury).

Monday the 31st – ‘Gulls, Gulls And More Gulls’ (Steve McGinnis of the West Midlands Bird Club) @ Birmingham Medical Institute, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Caw! Caw! Gulls!

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: February ’08

Posted in Combat Sports, LOTTSADITWM, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 27 January, 2008

More stuff this month, at least. Still mostly gigs, but there seems to be a decent chunk of theatre too.

Standard disclaimers: I can’t ensure that these events will go ahead, that they’ll be good, or that I will be going to them. This is just a list of things I found that looked like they might be interesting, so please do not contact me to ask for your event to be included. That’s not the way it works.

Friday the 1st – “Things That Can’t Be Said” (Re:Volve Theatre) @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A multimedia sort of thing exploring what (supposedly) cannot be said and creating “a visual tapestry of love, life and relationships.” Also at The Arena Theatre in Wolves on Wednesday the 6th.

Saturday the 2nd – Babar Luck @ The Little Civic, Wolverhampton – Completely looney but massively uplifting choons from the ex-King Prawn fella. Gangsta Folk, if you will.

Sunday the 3rd – Municipal Waste @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – Ther-rrraaaassshhh. Possibly the worst venue in which you could ever manage to see The Waste, but still.

Sunday the 3rd – Carmina Burana (CBSO & Choruses) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – You can go either as a punter, or you can actually become part of the ensemble and sing. I think that’s fantastic.

Sunday the 3rd – It’s Just Noise Halfdayer @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Starting at 5:30pm and featuring Blakfish, The Arm, Mills & Boon and many other delights.

Friday the 8th – Dropkick Murphys @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Oi Oi Oirish.

Friday the 8th – KODO @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Here come the drums here come the drums.

Saturday the 9th – The Move @ J.B.’s, Dudley – Or the current touring version of The Move, anyway. Apparently Bev Bevan and Trevor Burton are amongst their number, but Roy Wood isn’t.

Saturday the 9th – Reanimator metal night @ The Bristol Pear, Selly Oak, Birmingham – Birmingham’s main extreme metal put-er on-ers bring you this night, headlined by German thrashsorts Nocturnal.

Saturday The 9th – Authority To Pay Recordings night @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Courtesy o’ Capsule, headlined by Fuck Buttons. It seems strange to get so angry about confectionary.

Monday the 11th – Earth @ The Medicine Bar, The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – In the field of drone-rock, it is not cosmologically incorrect to say that the Earth is older than the Sunn O))). Hyuck hyuck hyuck har har har.

Wednesday the 13th – The Twang @ J.B.’s, Dudley – There would have been some sort of trope here based around “Hang the DJ/Twang The J.B.’s”, but I decided I love you all too much to subject you to something quite so feeble.

Tuesday the 19th – Storytelling Café @ Wednesbury Library, Wednesbury – Tell some stories. Also at the Kitchen Garden Café in Kings Heath the following night, and that one will apparently have an Irish theme.

Tuesday the 19th – “Bacchic” (Actors Of Dionysus) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – ‘The Bacchae’ with aerial theatre (does that mean trapeze?), specially composed music and ‘inspired’ lighting. Sounds interesting at the very least.

Wednesday the 20th – Dillinger Escape Plan @ The Academy 2, Birmingham – This is the one that was originally due to be on the 5th of November and may or may not have been originally due to also feature Meshuggah (it isn’t now). I suppose, as creators of mad fractured music, it seems apt that their gigs have mad fractured arrangements.

Wednesday the 20th to Saturday the 23rd – “Angel House” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Rep Door, Birmingham – How two brothers lives can take very different paths. Written by the highly respected Roy Williams.

Wednesday the 20th to Saturday the 1st of March – Birmingham School Of Acting: Spring 2008 season @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Four different plays over a week and a bit. Including “Prince Pippin’s quest to find personal significance.”

Thursday the 21st to Saturday the 23rd – “Waitress For Godot” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – The Old Joint Stock’s resident theatre company re-lick the obvious Beckett play from a female perspective, involving two women waiting for Estragon and Vladimir. Intriguing.

Friday the 22nd – Megadeth @ The Academy, Birmingham – The ‘Wow, they’re still going! Who knew?’ option for this month.

Sunday the 24th – ISKA International Thaiboxing @ Wombourne Leisure Centre, Wombourne, Wolverhampton – No details or proper link, as ever.

Monday the 25th – Boxing (Pat Cowdell) @ The Burlington Hotel, Birmingham – Usual drill: dinner show, I’ve no idea who might be fighting, etc, etc.

Tuesday the 26th – Mayhem @ The Barfly, Digbeth, BirminghamDon’t approach any of them and ask them if they’re pining for the fjords. Someone I know did this last time they were over here, and they had him ejected from the premises (more things happened but they may be libelous to relate). I’m not joking, this is a true story. Anyway, unholy black metal and so on.

Tuesday the 26th – Eels @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – That recent BBC4 documentary about Mark E Of The Eels’ rediscovery of his grandfather (Hugh Everett III) and his ‘Many Worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics was really good. Ben Swizzle writes about it here. On that note, I’m currently reading Quantum – A Guide For The Perplexed by Jim Al-Khalili and would recommend it to all, explaining (as it does) things very well to simpletons like me as well as being beautifully illustrated. I’m off on a bit of a tangent here, but since this gig is already sold out I expect you won’t mind.

Tuesday the 26th – Rolo Tomassi @ The Little Civic, Wolverhampton – Supporting I Was A Cub Scout, who I once saw supporting Rolo Tomassi (funnily enough) but didn’t think were anything particularly special.

Tuesday the 26th to Saturday the 1st of March – ‘Metamorphosis (Vesturport Theatre) @ The Rep, Birmingham – I’m reeeally looking forward to this: a staged version of the Kafka short story with a score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Get Carina Round and some jalapeno peppers involved somehow and this would include pretty much everything I love in the world.

Wednesday the 27th – “Here Be Monsters” (Rejects Revenge) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – The world’s first steam-powered spaceship, and apparently lots of silliness. Sounds like fun to me. I can’t help be thinking of Werewolves and Queen Victoria, though, getahmean?

Thursday the 28th – Alicia Keys @ The NIA, Birmingham – She wasn’t all that great when I saw her a few years back (well… she’s not the sort of artist you want to have to grin and bare onstage skits from, is she?), but I would assume that by now she has enough material to fill a set without arseing about pretending to take phonecalls from a prop phonebox. And that’d be quite good.

Thursday the 28th – Boxing (First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Black Country vs Birmingham derby! Matty Hough takes on Max Maxwell for the Midlands area middleweight title, and it will be great. Also featuring some of our other local faves like Lyndsey Scragg, Rob Hunt, Dean Harrison, etc.

Friday the 29th – Editors @ The NIA, Birmingham – And so you’d better not make any spelling mistakes.

Friday the 29th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – It’ll never be said in fair England that I slew a naked man, either.

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