Call me Russ L

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: November 2014

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, Food, Linklog, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage by Russ L on 29 October, 2014

And with this post, I prove to myself that I am still capable of writing one of these posts. The James Brown Rule appears to be writ large this month – if you really want to see them and they’re particularly old, then make sure that you definitely do go to see them when they come to your area. Because they die. They all die.

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.

(Throughout the month, I think) (EDIT: Nope, it actually finishes on the 1st. Prior to me editing this, then) – Erica Nockalls exhibition @ Havill & Travis Gallery, Harborne, Birmingham – Yer lady who is now affiliated with The Wonderstuff and whatnot. This is a combined-arms operation, where you can bring a pair of headphones (standard mini-jack connection, I’m assuming, but I don’t know about these things nowadays) to examine her paintings and hear her new album at the same time.

Up until the 15th – George Saxon & John D. Briscoe’s “A Record Of Undying” @ Vivid Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – An exhibition showing the ways in which Mr Saxon (consensually) documented Mr Briscoe’s dying and then death. I’m sure there’s a higher-minded way of saying this, but it sounds morbidly fascinating.

Saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd – Dawn French @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – Weird sidewards thought provoked by this – I can’t think of any other comedians with the same name as a nationality. There must surely be loads, though.

Saturday the 1st – “The Hundred Years War” (B2 Stage) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – 40 war poems written between 1914 and 2013. With music and images. This sort of thing is probably very important, given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Saturday the 1st – “Clamber Up The Crucifix” (not sure about a theatre company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – A telegraph operator in the trenches. Possibly giving another meaning to the latter part of the old lineman’s adage of “Up poles and down holes”. Again, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Sunday the 2nd – Holst’s “The Planets Suite” (CBSO Youth Ochestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Just play “Mars” so we can all go home. (Disclaimer: I don’t really mean that).

Tuesday the 4th till Saturday the 8th – “My Perfect Mind” (Told By An Idiot, Young Vic & Theatre Royal Plymouth) @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – Lear, as learned by an actor who had a stroke halfway through. Decay portrayed through decay? Form and content, you see.

Wednesday the 5th till Sunday the 9th – Wagner’s “Ring” cycle (Mariinsky Opera) @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – A full Ring cycle by the Mariinsky opera in Birmingham! Alas, it costs like you’d expect it to (although there is a thing for cheaper tickets here).

Wednesday the 5th – Pam Ayres @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Her teeth are actually fine, you know.

Wednesday the 5th – Billy Idol @ The Academy, Birmingham – After much thought, I have come to the conclusion that I must have some sort of semi-conscious fetish for popular music artistes named “Billy”.

Wednesday the 5th – John Mayall @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – The man who gave Eric Clapton his first big break. That was a long time ago, though, so don’t hold it against him.

Wednesday the 5th – Lacuna Coil @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Spiralling nothingness is an excellent synonym for a goth-metal band name. I’m still looking for a drummer for my Lacuna Coil/Black Sabbath/Carina Round tribute band, who will be called “Lacuna Sunrise”.

Thursday the 6th – Bo Ningen @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Utterly utterly nutterly Japanese pysch-rock loonies. On the bill with Band Of Skulls, who are a quite-good 70s-influenced hard rock band and might be worth seeing too.

Thursday the 6th – Motorhead @ The NIA, Birmingham – What are Motorhead doing playing at the National Indoor Arena, I mean really now. This is going to be uncannily like the “four people and a dog” scene from “Bad News”.

Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th – “This Was The World And I Was King” (Hook Hitch Theatre) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Children use folk music and Robert Louis Stevenson to cope with their father being away at the front. As is becoming my mantra, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Friday the 7th – “Collector Of Tears” (Gobscure) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Tears are collected from various people over the span of four hundred years. That is genuinely a very striking thought.

Friday the 7th – British Sea Power @ Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre Space), near Coventry – With a brass band in tow. I really can see that working well.

Saturday the 8th till Sunday the 16th – The Grand Slam Of Darts @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Obvious YouTube Link is obvious. Is Barry Hearn still alive? His son deals with the boxing now.

Saturday the 8th till Saturday the 15th – “King Lear” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre Company – Cordelia? I barely know ‘er.

Saturday the 8th – The Wailers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Doing “Legend”. On the one hand, this nostalgia-do-an-album-tour bit has gone a bit far when they’re even doing ‘em for best-of albums. On the other hand, it’s The Wailers doing “Legend”. Choices to be made.

Saturday the 8th – The Neville Staple Band @ The Oobleck, Digbeth, Birmingham – This’ll be probably be good, but The Specials themselves are playing later in the month…

Saturday the 8th – Mark Steel @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Theatre Space), near Coventry – So this is a “Back In Town” tour one rather than an “In Town” one, which I think means one with comedic observations about towns in general (such as I saw at The Mac the other year), rather than comedic observations about the specific town you’re in (such as you’d hear on the radio). I think.

Saturday the 8th – Louis Robinson’s Damba La Bamba @ The Symphony Hall foyer in the ICC, Birmingham – I didn’t know about this, but apparently there are a series of musical picnics for 0-7 year-olds, and this is one from your erstwhile Destroyers fella. Damba La Mamba (soy capitan?).

Sunday the 9th – Bellowhead @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Spiers And Boden aren’t together as a duo anymore (which is a shame – I saw them in May and they were ace) but you can still see them as part of Bellowhead, with a cast of thousands of other band members too.

Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th – “Not About Heroes” (Blackeyed Theatre Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Yet again, I will say that this sort of thing is probably very important given that this year various right-wing types seem to have decided that WW1 was actually quite fun after all.

Monday the 10th – “The Trial” (Music Theatre Wales/The Royal Opera/Theater Magdeburg/The Scottish Opera) @ The Rep Theatre (The House), Birmingham – Philip Glass’ opera, built out of Kafka’s “The Trial”. There’s nothing in that sentence that I don’t like.

Wednesday the 12th till Sunday the 16th – Slava’s Snowshow @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – This really is visually astonishing. Worth borrowing a child for an excuse to go and see it, if you don’t have one. And I hate children.

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th – “Miracle On 34th Street – The Musical” (Coventry Youth Operetta)@ The Albany Theatre, Coventry – I dunno if this is your post office version or your bank note version.

Wednesday the 12th till Saturday the 15th – “Othello” (Frantic Assembly/Theatre Royal Plymouth) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – Here sold under the name of “Shakespeare’s Othello”, just in case you were confusing it with… Verdi, I suppose.

Wednesday the 12th – Hannah Silva’s “Schlock!” @ The MAC (Foyle Studio), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The female body reconstructed by means of ripping up and then combining “50 Shades Of Grey” and Kathy Ackers’ “Memoriam To Identity”.

Wednesday the 12th – Ben Frost @ Eastside Projects, Digbeth, Birmingham – Yer man who did the opera version of “The Wasp Factory”, doing an improvised (I think?) bit in collaboration with one Greg Fox of Liturgy, who I know nothing about.

Thursday the 13th – Lady Gaga @ The NIA, Birmingham – Per-per-puh-puh-poker face, Granville.

Thursday the 13th – Cockney Rejects @ The Robin 2, Bilston – I always get them mixed up with Cock Sparrer. With semi-hilarious consequences.

Thursday the 13th – Street Eaters @ Talk Bar, Birmingham – Ferocious punk/post-punky stuff from Californ-I-A. Apparently many of their gigs have been “dense basement shows in the Midwest that turned into swamps; shows in haunted German schools-turned-squats, medieval French catacombs, smoke filled Japanese practice rooms, and abandoned Hungarian aluminum (sic) factories”. I expect this may seem a bit boring to them in comparison.

Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th – Mark Thomas @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – The “Cuckooed” tour, in which he relates the story of BAE Systems employing people to spy on him.

Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th – “Dorothy Towers” / “Only On Sundays” @ The Rep Theatre (The Door), Birmingham – A double-bill with the LGBT residents of a tower block, and the most laddish laddest lad falling in love.

Sunday the 16th – Focus @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Yodeedodleay yodelaey yodelaey etc. etc. etc.

Sunday the 16th – Dr John @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – I am really really looking forward to this one. They call him Doctor John, the… night triiippuh…

Tuesday the 18th till Saturday the 22nd – “Oh What A Lovely War” (The Arcadians theatre group) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham) – This sort of thing is probably very important given that etc etc etc. Alright, you’ve heard it already. It disgusts me, though. I really, really hate that stuff. Shame on them. Also, here’s a play.

Tuesday the 18th – The Roy Wood Rock’n’Roll Band @ The Robin 2, Bilston – It is nearly Christmas.

Tuesday the 18th – Charlie 2na @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – You can tune a hip-hop, but you can’t tune a fish.
Wednesday the 19th till Tuesday the 2nd of December – “The Pool” @ outside Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Big concentric circles that you can jump on to make it light up with different colours. This sounds amazing.

Wednesday theFs 19th till Saturday the 22nd – Welsh National opera @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – I’m not sure what the theme of this season is, but you have Carmen on the 19th and 20th, Mosè in Egitto on the 21st, and Guillaume Tell on the 22nd.

Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th – “Islands” (Caroline Horton & Co/China Plate/Bush Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Studio Space), near Coventry – About offshore tax havens. I don’t approve of them.

Wednesday the 19th – John Shuttleworth @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Oof!

Wednesday the 19th – The CBSO’s “Spirit Of ‘45” @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Not as war-celebratory as the title might suggest. This is a programme of music including Shostakovich’s 9th and the sea interludes from Britten’s “Peter Grimes” (AKA the best opera that they’ve yet come up with).

Thursday the 20th – The Specials @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It’s not quite as exciting as it was a few years ago, when they came back and we were all thrilled that we’d get finally to see The Specials (maybe ‘again’, for those older than I), but still – The Specials~!

Friday the 21st – Robert Plant @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Robert Plant walked past me once. He looked confused. This is a true story.

Saturday the 22nd till Sunday the 29th – “The Judas Kiss” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – David Hare’s play about Oscar Wilde’s life and thoughts after dear old Bosie knifed him in the back.

Caturday the 22nd – The Supreme Cat Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – Catcatcatcatcatcatcat.

Saturday the 22nd – Jim Moray @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – It took until the third time that I’d seen Jim Moray before I could remember anything at all about him. I loved his folksy business from thereonwards, though. So I suppose we all win in the end.

Sunday the 23rd – The Gaslight Anthem / Deer Tick @ The Academy, Birmingham – Two very different visions of Americana.

Sunday the 23rd- “Madama Butterfly” (Ellen Kent International) @ Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – The Ellen Kent production of “La Bohème” that I saw about a year ago was an absolute shambles, but let’s assume that they’re not like that every night.

Tuesday the 25th till Saturday the 29th – “To Kill A Mockingbird” (specific touring cmpany?) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Embarrassing admission #381: I spent a long time assuming that Harper Lee was male, for no reason whatsoever.

Wednesday the 26th – Delain @ The Academy, Birmingham – Noun, Dutch symphonic (sic) metal band. Very definitely not the gerund verb, slowing something down.

Wednesday the 26th – Sharon Van Etten @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – Wonderful singer-songwriter type with a name that always seems really verbally dissonant to me, although I can never understand why. Biblical Dutch forests or somesuch?

Wednesday the 26th – “The BFG” (Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company) @ The Rep (The House), Birmingham – The Big Fu… no, sorry, The Big Friendly Giant.

Thursday the 27th till Sunday the 30th – The BBC Good Food Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I’m really looking forward to the BBC Bad Food Show, which will presumably follow.

Thursday the 27th till Sunday the 30th – Birmingham Tradfest @ various venues in Birmingham, mostly in Digbeth – Loads of Irish folk gigs. Includes Frankie Gavin, but not the one you’re thinking of. Although he might be knocking around, who knows.

Thursday the 27th – Dreadzone @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – This’ll probably be good, but Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry himself is playing about twenty miles over…

Thursday the 27th – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry @ Warwick Arts Centre (Student Union Copper Rooms), near Coventry – Nothing that I could possibly type here would be adequate.

Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th – “Choose Your Own Documentary” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – As the name might suggest, a documentary in which you get to pick between options about what happens next. YOU are the narrative etc. etc.

Friday the 28th – Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – It is still hard to imagine that the fella from The Housemartins is the fella from The Beautiful South, but I do like both.

Friday the 28th – Chas & Dave @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – So, a few years ago they announced their last ever tour.

Friday the 28th – Eliza Shaddad @ Ort Café, Balsall Heath, Birmingham – Folk-blues type in “Doing a gig whilst not being on the same bill as Michael Chapman” shocker.

Satuday the 29th – Revolt @ The Coal Vaults, Coventry – Amazing feminist/LGBTQ gig-come-club-night that everyone should go to. Your line-up for this time is over here.

Saturday the 29th – Goodnight Lenin @ The Institute (Library Room). Digbeth, Birmingham – The launch gig for their long, long-awaited album.

Sunday the 30th – Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s “The Movie Doctors” @ Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – Hello to Jason Isaacs etc etc. I don’t actually like films, y’know.

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Reluctantly abandoning the animal title theme

Posted in Combat Sports, Linklog, Stage by Russ L on 8 October, 2012

Question of the day: has anyone ever had both synaesthesia and colour blindness?

Right then so then, I was going to go to the boxing (for the first time in a couple of years) at Walsall Town Hall on Friday the 21st, but found out at a very late stage (very late. The ability to check things on the day they’re supposed to happen is one of the big advantages of these here internets) that the fight between Carl Johanneson and Wassul’s own Martin Gethin had been moved onto a Frizzank Wizzank bill in London. For some reason. That was the end of that plan, then – I wasn’t really in the mood to pay a fortune for the usual 40-36/60-54 stuff.

Martin Gethin did win in the end, though, so there’s some sort of happy ending.

I made one of my (nowadays) scandalously rare trips to the theatre on the afternoon of Saturday the 29th, for Out Of Joint‘s (in association with the Octagon Theatre Bolton and Birmingham Rep and no doubt all sorts of other groovy folks) production of “Our Country’s Good” at The Old Rep. I was familiar with the play but The Old Rep was actually new to me – surprisingly, I’d never been there before this. Once you get in there, it looks uncannily like a theatre that would be called “The Old Rep”. Which must be handy, in its own way.

So, it seems that Thomas Keneally wrote a vaguely-based-in-reality-but-not-quite book called “The Playmakers”. Timberlake Wertenbaker then adapted this book “The Playmakers” into a play. In this book “The Playmakers”, and this play adapted from the book “The Playmakers”, there is a play around which the plot of the book (or play) orbits. With me? Good.

The idea is that the humane commandant of a late 18th century Australian colony wants to see his transported convicts act out a play, to remind everyone around that everyone around is human. Some of his officers are opposed to any such thing happening. This leads us into a meditation on the redemptive power ( a trite phrase but a useful one. Or perhaps I’m just very unimaginative. Well, I’m definitely very unimaginative, that’s beyond dispute. I digress…) of theatre specifically and by extension creative acts in general. One of the officers cack-handedly suggests that the convicts will be improved by repeating lines of elegant language containing noble sentiments, and while that thought is clearly very silly in itself there it may be dimly and distantly related to something helpful if you can manage to both strip away the condescension and look at it obliquely – one thing that theatre (and whatnot else) can do for us is to remind us/make us aware that there are perspectives other than our own, and that our own interior sets of thoughts and feelings are not necessarily the default pattern for all of humanity. That which is different is not necessarily bad. This, as I’m fond of pompously telling people, is a lesson we should continually remind ourselves of.

It would seem to be underlined in this production by the fact that the actors are all playing multiple roles – the solipsism of any given character is completely undercut when you see the actor playing someone completely different two minutes later. Although maybe in practice it was just a pragmatic casting decision. I do not know (or mind).

Our star of the cast, anyway, was Ciaran Owens – his Major Robbie Ross exuded spite from every pore, and gave a thoroughly convincing blarney as the reluctant hangman Ketch Freeman.

I also thought that it was quite nifty that this one was directed by Max Stafford-Clark, who directed the play’s first ever production twenty-five years ago. Wonderfully cyclical.

My one minor complaint (and this is the play, not the production) would regard a missed opportunity – we have, periodically, an Aboriginal character flitting around the edge of things, and we later find that he and his fellows find themselves afflicted by diseases brought over by the westerners. I suspect that there may be a point I’m missing (there usually is at least one), but it doesn’t really go anywhere and seems to be a bit of a waste – somewhere could be gone with this. I did like his “a dream that has lost its way” imagery, though.

I suppose that it would seem appropriate after this play in particular to say that I should get out to the theatre more frequently, but I really should. I end up saying that every time I do actually go, though. I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it, as the lady said.

There have been More Things since I went to that, but I think this’ll do for the time being. Have a few links before I go:

~ The Doctor Who Role Playing Game (a video, not really a game. It tickled me though).

~ The pubs and breweries of the Midlands (via B:INS, years ago).

~ A caricature map of Europe in 1914, based on that 1870 one (via Kottke, years ago).

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

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, Food, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 30 September, 2012

Well, it’s the first time I’ve managed one of these in a long time. It’s a big month, too – it’s not just the Book Festival that one might traditionally have associated with October and the Supersonic Festival that one might associate with October nowadays, although they certainly are both there in all their glory. Have a look.

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.

Up until Friday the 5th (plus other stuff after) – “The Rootless Forest” @ on the cut outside the New Art Gallery/Wharf Bar, Walsall – There’s a wood on a barge that’s been floating down the cut between Brum and Walsall, and will by sitting at the latter end for the first five days of October. It’ll then be planted on solid proper Black Country earth at the arboretum on the 10th, and there are talks’n’such at The New Art Gallery on the 6th and The Birmingham Institute of Art And Design on the 16th.

Ongoing till Thursday the 18th – West Midlands Human Rights Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham and Wolverhampton – Fillums about naughty people. And the victims of naughty people.

Tuesday the 2nd till Saturday the 6th – “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner” (Birmingham Repertory Theatre) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – “What were you thinking about at the time?” “I wasn’t thinking anything, I was too busy breaking in” etc.

Wednesday the 3rd till Sunday the 7th – Horse of the Year Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – A HOYS is a HOYS, of coys of coys.

Wednesday the 3rd – “Not Known At This Address” (Tin Box Theatre) @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – On the subject of letters and their emotive properties, which is a thing I sort-of feel needs to be celebrated even if I never actually do write any letters these days.

Tuesday the 2nd – Dvorák’s 9th “New World” symphony (CBSO) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – An afternoon performance. To be compared with the 24th.

Tuesday the 2nd – Schostakovich’s 7th “Leningrad” symphony (The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The evening performance. Marking 70 years (-ish) since it was premiered. My textual interpretation last year remains the definitive performance during that time.

Tuesday the 2nd – “Seconds Out” (Reform Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Boxing play #1.

Wednesday the 3rd – Carina Round @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Once upon a time my absolute absolute favourite, although I’m nowhere near as fussed nowadays. Still quite fussed, though.

Thursday the 4th till Saturday the 13th – Birmingham Book Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – With loads of interesting stuff, as ever. A couple that jump out at me immediately are Patrick Gale & Femi Oyebode talking about goodness/badness in fictional characters, and David Edgar on the similarities between theatre and poetry.

Thursday the 4th – Coppe’ / DJ Vadim / Modified Toy Orchestra @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – An interesting bill from the good people of Soundkitchen. It appears to be club times rather than gig times, though, so be aware of that.

Friday the 5th till Sunday the 14th – Birmingham Comedy Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – In the eyes of many this is probably the third festival-type-thing that October is particularly known for, but I’m completely humourless.

Friday the 5th – Rory McLeod @ The Station, Kings Heath, Birmingham – That’ll be the singer-songwriter who did the theme music for “Creature Comforts”, not the snooker player.

Friday the 5th – Azealia Banks @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – The more aggressive version of Nicky Minaj, if you like.

Friday the 5th – Rodney Bewes’ “A Boy Growing Up” @ The Town Hall, Stourbridge – That’ll be Rodney Bewes as in the Likely Lad who wasn’t James Bolan. Hide in the church if you don’t want the details of this one-man show spoiled for you.

Friday the 5th – Alex Brockie’s “The Inferno Kid” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – The tale of a poor and broken down ex-pro-wrestler, which is a subject that I find ceaselessly fascinating.

Saturday the 6th – Devon Sproule @ The Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – She just seemed so likeable at Moseley Folk.

Saturday the 6th – Ruts D.C. @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Ruts da capo.

Saturday the 6th – “Roll Out The Barrel” @ The Light House, Wolverhampton – A “civilised Black Country afternoon celebrating the history of the British pub”, with fillums and ales and bacon’n’grey pays.

Sunday the 7th – Napalm Death @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton– They’re supporting Soulfly, but I expect that’s neither here nor there.

Thursday the 8th – Shonen Knife @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Managing to play the ingénue for three decades is a pretty impressive feat, I reckon.

Tuesday the 9th till Saturday the 13th – Puccini’s “Turandot” (Midland Opera) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – That’ll be the one with that “Nessun Dorma” of yours in it.

Tuesday the 9th till Saturday the 13th – “The Plough And The Stars” (Abbey Theatre) @ The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – Seán O’Casey’s Easter Rising play. It caused riots in 1927 but hopefully won’t here.

Tuesday the 9th till Saturday the 13th – “Beautiful Burnout” (Frantic Assembly Theatre Group) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – Boxing play #2.

Tuesday the 9th – Inspectah Deck @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – The rebel, he makes more noise than heavy metal.

Wednesday the 10th – Michelle Shocked @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – It was ages before I had the “oh I see what you did there” moment regarding the “shell shocked” in her name. I’m just not all that quick on the uptake, bless me.

Thursday the 11th and Friday the 12th – “The Good Person Of Sezuan” (MAT & Sister Tree) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Brecht at the Arena #1 (with added Jamaican setting).

Thursday the 11th – Terrorvision @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – Given that they often used to be called “The Slade of the 90s”, this would seem like an apt place for them to play.

Thursday the 11th – John Cale @ The Institute (Library Room), Digbeth, Birmingham – I always get him mixed up with J.J. Cale. It’s as though they did it on purpose.

Friday the 12th till Monday the 15th – Birmingham Zine Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – Zoom towards some ‘zines.

Saturday the 13th – Ray Davies @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – That Kinky fella.

Monday the 15th – Michael Chapman @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Finger-pickin’ good guitar #1.

Wednesday the 17th till Saturday the 20th – “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard (Birmingham School of Acting) @ The Blue & Orange Theatre, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Quite possibly the greatest post-war play, I think.

Wednesday the 17th till Saturday the 20th – “2.8 Hours Later” @ around Brum – A city-wide game where you run around and avoid the zombies. I can’t decide if it sounds fun or irritating, but I’m leaning towards the former.

Wednesday the 17th – Jefferson Starship @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Oi, don’t laugh. They built a city on rock and roll. You and I probably couldn’t build one out of Lego.

Wednesay the 17th – Alexei Sayle @ The Public, West Bromwich – Ullo,ullo,ullo,ullo, Ullo John Got A New Motor. He’s also on at The Wulfrun in Wolves on the 24th.

Thursday the 18th till Saturday the 27th – “Eat!” (Birmingham Rep Theatre & Black Country Touring) @ The Roundhouse, Birmingham – Drama based in submitted personal stories about food and eating. This is the venue, here – it was unfamiliar to me, but maybe you know it.

Thursday the 18th – Mellow Peaches @ The ICC/Symphony Hall foyer, Birmingham – Ace folk-blues stuff and it’s all for freeeee…

Thursday the 18th – Rick Astley @ The Academy, Birmingham – Link as dictated by tradition.

Friday the 19th till Saturday the 21st – Supersonic Festival @ The Custard Factory, Digbeth, Birmingham – Ooh crikey, it’s crept up on me a bit this year. Supersonic is always amaaaazing, anyway, although I expect that anyone likely to be reading this already knows that. This year you’ve got your The Bug, you’ve got your JK Flesh, your Merzbow, your Jarboe, your Zeni Geva, your Modified Toy Orchestra, your Drunk In Hell, your Ore (collaborating with KK Null), Sensational/Torture, Mothertrucker, Lichens, PCM, Six Organs Of Admittance, Islaja, Hey Colossus, SWLLWS, a Black Sabbath-themed walking tour, remote control cars on records, sing-a-long with Kim Gordon, stuff for the young’ins, rituals regarding Brum’s little stream… you name it, you’ve got it.

Friday the 19th – The Drifters @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – You’re more than a number in their little red book.

Saturday the 20th – Down @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I suspect someone will end up regretting having this one clash with Supersonic. Although it’s only a short distance down the road and you could pop out, I suppose.

Saturday the 20th – Soweto Kinch @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Saxomaphone, saxomaphone. Also: MC-ing.

Monday the 22nd till Wednesday the 24th – “Mother Courage And Her Children” (Blackeyed Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Brecht at the Arena #2.

Tuesday the 23rd till Saturday the 27th – “Steptoe and Son” (Kneehigh Theatre/West Yorkshire Playhouse) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (theatre space), near Coventry – HAAAARRRROOOOLD etc.

Tuesday the 23rd – Sparks @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – I’m sure that the town will be big enough for the both of them.

Wednesday the 24th till Saturday the 27th – “Twelfth Night” (Warwick University Drama Society) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio space), near Coventry – Apparently featuring performances inspired by Robert (Anton?) Wilson and music inspired by Tom Waits.

Wednesday the 24th – Eddie Reader @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – She has been foolish too many times, now she’s determined she’s gonna get it right.

Wednesday the 24th – Rolo Tomassi @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Do you love anyone enough to… alright, I’ll stop.

Wednesday the 24th – Dvorák’s 9th “New World” symphony (Dresden Symphony Orchestra) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – To be compared with the 2nd.

Wednesday the 24th – Rosemary Hawthorne’s “The Knicker Lady” @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – A comic exploration of the history of underwear (in aid of Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice).

Thursday the 25th – Alice Cooper @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – He doesn’t have cable? What a dumbass.

Thursday the 25th – Seth Lakeman @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Oh, Kitty Jay. (Edit: He’s at Warwick Arts Centre on the 11th, too).

Friday the 26th – Lionel Richie @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – I know I’ve said it a million billion times before, but it’s true nevertheless: he looks like a crocodile.

Saturday the 27th – Don McLean @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – That good ol’ boy, drinking Whisky and Rye.

Saturday the 27th – Efterklang @ The Warwick Arts Centre (Butterworth Hall), near Coventry – Efterklang with an orchestra will be a magical thing, it really will. This is one of the big tips o’the month from me.

Saturday the 27th – Immortal Technique @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – I am all about the Marxism in hip hop.

Saturday the 27th – Wizz Jones and John Renbourn @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Finger-pickin’ good guitar #2 and #3.

Saturday the 27th – Nicky Minaj @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – The less aggressive version of Azealia Banks, if you like.

Tuesday the 30th till Friday the 2nd – “Schroedinger” (Reckless Theatre) @ A.E. Harris, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Inside the cat’s box.

Tuesday the 30th till Saturday the 3rd of November – Johan Strauss’ “A Night In Venice” (Tinker’s Farm Opera) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – A modern dress version, with references to Berlusconi and such.

Tuesday the 30th – Every Time I Die @ The Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton – I remember one time that I saw this lot back in the day, when the singer’s pupils were so dilated he could probably see into the future. It was hilarious.

Tuesday the 30th – Goodnight Lenin @ The Institute (Library room), Digbeth, Birmingham – They’re supporting a band called Dry The River and I don’t know anything about all that, but it’s Goodnight Lenin.

Tuesday the 30th – Sauna Youth / Cold Pumas @ The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham – SY: rambunctious garage punk. CP: wall-of-echoey-sound post-punk and my favourite band name I’ve heard in ages.

Wednesday the 31st – “Der Golem” film showing plus improvised organ from Nigel Ogden @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Horror film plus live music #1.

Wednesday the 31st – “The Phantom Of The Opera” plus the Midlands Fretted Orchestra @ The MAC (theatre space), Edgbaston, Birmingham – Horror film plus live music #2.

Wednesday the 31st – Steve Tilston @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – In a break from the usual rule, there doesn’t seem to be any of the Carthys/Watersons playing in the West Mids this month (ah, there probably are. I’ve most likely just missed ’em). Have a Tilston instead.

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

Posted in Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 28 February, 2012

Oh mercy, there’s one thing I don’t like about March but so very many good things during this March in particular. So very many. Lots of walking tours, lots of opera, lots of HOUNDS, lots of everything.

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.

Until Saturday the 3rd – “Ministry Of Meh” (Belgrade Senior Youth Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – About the fact that the West Midlands is apparently the “obesity capital” of Europe. I did not know that (although these things are usually based on a survey of about four people).

Thursday the 1st till Saturday the 10th – “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (Blue Orange Arts) @ The Blue Orange Theatre, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – Go Wilde in the country Jewellery Quarter.

Saturday the 2nd – Mel C @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your erstwhile Sporty Spice.

Friday the 2nd – “Time Gentlemen Please!” dance event @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Hip-hop and folk dancing all together: “Clog, Sword and Morris meet B-boying, Popping and Krump”. It may or may not be wrong of me to immediately want to say “En garde, I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style” (and then make a load of slashing noises) when I think of sword dancing next to hip-hop.

Saturday the 3rd – Wagner’s “Tristan Und Isolde” (CBSO/CBSO Chorus) @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – This will be the first opera that I’ll ever have seen live twice, fact fans.

Saturday the 3rd – Great Gran’s Great Games” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nan’s swimming, for ages four and up.

Saturday the 3rd – Joe Cutler’s “Ping” (The Coull Quartet) @ The Warwick Arts Centre, near Coventry – Music for quartet and four table tennis players. No, really.

Monday the 5th – Teeth Of The Sea @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham
The psychedelic industrialistas who were, according to me and various others, the best band of Supersonic last year.

Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – Welsh National Opera mini season @ The Hippodrome, Birmingham – Continuing what has turned out to be a very operatic month indeed (see also the 3rd and 21st), here you have La Traviata on the 6th and 9th, Beatrice And Benedict on the 7th, and The Marriage Of Figaro on the 8th and 10th.

Tuesday the 6th till Saturday the 10th – “The Diary Of Anne Frank” (Touring Consortium Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – I can’t pretend that the idea of a big-stage version of Anne Frank in a big-stage theatre that normally has musicals and glossy “shows” strikes me as an enormously good idea, but you never know. There is potential for it to be interesting.

Wednesday the 7th till Saturday the 10th – “The Glass Menagerie” (Dudley Little Theatre) @ Netherton Arts Centre, Netherton – Which of the Williams’ is the best at Tennis? Why, Tennessee Williams, of course (arf).

Wednesday the 7th – Chris Wood @ The Red Lion, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Awake, arise, you drousy sleepers.

Thursday the 8th till Sunday the 11th – Crufts @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – HOUNDS.

Thursday the 9th and Friday the 10th – “Mummy Mafia” (First Floor Theatre) @ The Drum, Newtown, Birmingham – In which the posh mothers don’t like the ordinary ones. It’s mommy mafia round here, we’ll have you know.

Thursday the 8th – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Blimey, that is a soul-funkin’ lot of days and nights.

Friday the 9th till Saturday the 17th – St Padraig’s Day Festival @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham – With the parade itself on (helpfully) the 17th. (EDIT: And by ’17th’ I mean ’11th’, obviously).

Friday the 9th – Fairport Convention @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – A Fairport gig, a Fairport gig, the first one of the year (Disclaimer: it’s probably not really their first gig of the year).

Friday the 9th – The Presidents Of The United States Of America @ The Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton – Your first peach-related band of the month.

Saturday the 10th – The Stranglers @ The Academy, Birmingham – Your second peach-related band of the month.

Saturday the 10th – “Bite Size” (various theatre companies) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Lots of short plays, throughout the days. Well, it’s only one day, but that didn’t rhyme.

Sunday the 11th – Cannibal Corpse @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Those sensitive purveyors of songs about hammer-smashed faces and suchlike.

Monday the 12th – Mark Lanegan @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – You do have to wonder what he actually did to those poor trees.

Tuesday the 13th till Saturday the 17th – “Waiting For Godot” (A Talawa Theatre Company/West Yokshire Playhouse) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Nothing, as ever, to be done.

Tuesday the 13th – Joan Baez @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – The night they drove ol’ Brummie down.

Tuesday the 13th – “The Ethics Of Progress” (Unlimited Theatre) @ The Warwick Arts Centre (studio), near Coventry – Quantum for the perplexed. Although that was by somebody else.

Wednesday the 14th till Sunday the 18th – the Flatpack Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The vaunted, feted, celebrated annual festival of films and film-related doings, courtesy of those good folks at 7 Inch Cinema. The line-up abounds with huge amounts of stuff, not least Laurel & Hardy in a church, films on a boat, biking, cinematic remixes, the best film ever made, digital projectors, psychedelic music, Yam-yam-ery, magnets and magic lanterns, and oh so much more.

Wednesday the 14th – The Three Degrees @ The Jam House, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham – (Insert stock grumble about The Jam House here).

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 1st of April – Still Walking Festival @ various routes around Birmingham – A festival of walks (in the sense of “guided tours around places”, not in the sense of “keep fit”. Although it no doubt will help with that if you go on enough of them).

Thursday the 15th till Saturday the 17th – “The Big Bang” science & engineering fair @ The NEC, Marston Green, BirminghamScience~! For free. Free science.

Thursday the 15th – Chris Addison @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Although I don’t know what he’s doing here, given that they were meant to be filming a new series of “The Thick Of It” aroundabout now (and, much as I hate to say it, that’s altogether more important).

Friday the 16th – “Undefeated” boxing bill (Coldwell Boxing) @ The New Bingley Hall, Hockley, Birmingham – Headlined by a local derby between Jamie Ball and Nasser Al Harbi for the English light-middleweight title, which sounds suspiciously like a proper fight.

Friday the 16th – The Spaghetti Western Orchestra @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Doing Morricone and such. (Edit: just realised that this is part of the Flatpack Festival, as above).

Saturday the 17th – The Dubliners @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Every year they play at Brum town hall for St Padraig’s day, every year I think “surely that’ll be the best gig ever”, and every year I fail to get around to getting a ticket before it sells out.

Tuesday the 20th till Friday the 23rd – “Ann Boleyn” (ETT/Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – *Counts on fingers* … beheaded?

Tuesday the 20th and Wednesday the 21st – Harold Pinter double bill (European Arts Company) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – With The Dumb Waiter and The Lover.

Wednesday the 21st till Saturday the 31st – Jonathon Dove’s “Life Is A Dream” (Birmingham Opera Company) @ The Argyle Works, Bordesley Green (or is this still Digbeth?), Birmingham – Right, seriously now: even though there’s Flatpack and Crufts and everything else this month, this is the big one for March (and quite possibly all of 2012). And that’s no insult to any of the other lovely things going on. This is a new opera based in Calderon that has been specifically written (by Jonathon Dove, libretto by Alasdair Middleton) for the Birmingham Opera Company, whose performances place you in the midst of an immersive world rather than have you sit there looking at a stage. Go go go go go to this, you will not regret it.

Thursday the 22nd – The Four Tops / The Temptations / Tavares / The Crystals @ The NIA, Birmingham – It’s a soul bonanza.

Friday the 23rd till Friday the 30th – “Irminsul: You Are Lost” @ Perrott’s Folly, Edgbaston, Birmingham – A collaborative art project (full list of artistes at that link), and also a good excuse to go up Perrott’s Folly, which you don’t get absolutely every day (although there have been a few things there before).

Friday the 23rd – Syleena Johnson @ The Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Tonight, she’s gonna let go. (EDIT: Note well, if it’s important to you for transport and such – it’s a club-night type of gig and Syleena will be on later in the night).

Friday the 23rd – Boxing (Frank Warren Promotions/First Team Promotions) @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – Headlined by Enzo Maccarinelli vs Shane McPhilbin for the British cruiserweight belt.

Friday the 23rd – Dave Swarbrick @ The Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton – The usual “any given month must feature at least one of the Watersons/Carthys” rule seems to be having a rare break, so have someone affiliated with them instead (see also the 7th).

Saturday the 24th – Discharge @ The Ballroom, Birmingham – Why?

Saturday the 24th – Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) @ The NIA, Birmingham – No longer featuring Nate Marquardt. Let’s hope someone else does the Gouveia finishing sequence instead.

Monday the 26th till Saturday the 31st – “Spamalot” (theatre company?) @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – It is a silly place.

Wednesday the 28th – “I, Bertolt Brecht” (Fuschia Films & Media) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – A documentary play about the fella, based on experiences with his own theatre company.

Thursday the 29th till the 8th of April – Fierce Festival @ various venues in Birmingham – The annual art/performance art festival, and another one with countless things of interest: here we have one-to-one book readings (intense), guided tours of Berlin in Birmingham, HOUNDS, Viking funerals of your personal messages, and going off into the unknown under a blindfold.

Thursday the 29th – The Osmonds @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Apparently their last ever UK tour. Cra-zy Hor-ses WAAAAAAA~! WAAAAAAA~!

Thursday the 29th – “Coffin Up” (Village Idiots Mask Theatre) @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – What happens when a funeral director can’t get enough business by ordinary means.

Friday the 30th – Grouper @ Vivid, Digbeth, Birmingham – That would be the American ambient lady Grouper, not the local covers band who have (for some reason) decided to use the same name.

Friday the 30th – The Selecter @ The Robin 2, Bilston – Just a simple show, on their radio. Although this is a gig, at The Robin.

Friday the 30th – The Destroyers @ The Prince Of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham – The new album is out!

Saturday the 31st till Saturday the 7th of April – “The Pillowman” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Martin McDonagh’s tale of authoritarian interrogation. “You wrote that so it was you what done it.”

Saturday the 31st – Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” (Heart Of England Singers) @ Shirley Methodist Church, Shirley, Birmingham – O Fortuna, Velut Luna, and on you go.

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).

2011 End-Of-Year Count: Theatre

Posted in Stage by Russ L on 31 December, 2011

Hmmm. After last year’s completely pathetic performance, I did better for about half a year before falling back into a pattern of not going to any plays. I don’t know why, given that it’s something I do enjoy, but there we are.

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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.

Lots Of Things To See And Do In The West Midlands: September 2011

Posted in Books, Combat Sports, Films, LOTTSADITWM, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 31 August, 2011

There really is a lot this month, with a whole metric heap of interesting events (and the customary Brum tendency to describe most of them as ‘festivals’, whether this is in the least bit sensible or not). I’ll warn you, though – the sheer amount of good stuff means that there will be date clashes, and plenty of them.

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.

Already started and ongoing – “Home Of Metal” @ lots of different venues in Birmingham and the Black Country – The big celebration of the fact that Heävy Metäl came from hereabouts continues. A metric bagful of different things are happening so it might be easiest for you to just look at the listings (or the map), but the fun includes Judas Priest stage costumes at Walsall Leather Museum, Bat Walks at Haden Hill, and some actual real metalbashing.

Thursday the 1st till Saturday the 3rd – Debbie Tracey’s “Death Of A Beauty Saleswoman” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Gaining the world and losing it again in the comedy world of cosmetics.

Friday the 2nd till Sunday the 4th – The Moseley Folk Festival @ Moseley Park, Moseley, Birmingham – Another strong line-up this year, with Billy Bragg, Tinariwen, Pram, Badly Drawn Boy, Gruff Rhys, Michael Chapman, Eliza Carthy and loads of others in beautiful Moseley Park. I’m actually looking forward to this more than that other Brum festival I normally look forward to so much, this year.

Friday the 2nd till Sunday the 4th – Brum Punx Picnic @ outside The Adam & Eve, Digbeth, Birmingham – Involving English Dogs, Eastfield, Rotunda, Poundaflesh and a cider-barrelful more. See also the 9th and 30th for more Digbethy punk (well, actually, there are always punk gigs in Digbeth all the time, just keep your eyes open if you’re interested).

Friday the 2nd – Dolly Parton @ The LG Arena, Marston Green, Birmingham – Fresh from giving out books to the children of Rotherham. No, really.

Friday the 2nd – “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” (Townsend Productions) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – I may be the only lefty in the world to consider the book massively over-rated, but this two-hander stage version could nevertheless be of some interest.

Saturday the 3rd/10th/17th/24th – “Project Pigeon” events @ New Art Gallery, Walsall – Over the four Saturdays you have (respectively) a talk, an exhibition, film showings and an auction, all of our feathery friends.

Saturday the 3rd – “The Owl And The Pussycat” (Hiccup Theatre) @ The Library Theatre, Birmingham – Acting, music, puppetry and two entirely endearing creatures. I’d like to see The Monkey And The Capybara staged too.

Sunday the 4th – Jimmy Cliff / Toots And The Maytals @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – I really, really wish this wasn’t at the same time as Moseley Folk. But it is. So there we are.

Sunday the 4th – Ian McKellan @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – Apparently he started his acting life at the Belgrade in Coventry, so here (fifty years on) he’ll be reminiscing and answering questions. Hopefully with “What I do is, I pretend to be them.”

Sunday the 4th – The Rotary Club Country Music Festival @ Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Yes, that’s The Rotary Club Country Music Festival, held at The Botanical Gardens. I think this proves that you can string any possible sequence of nouns together and come up with something that actually does exist in the world.

Sunday the 4th – Handel’s “Dido And Aeneas” @ The Conservatoir, Birmingham – The opera being operated by students from the Conservatoir.

Monday the 5th – Public Enemy @ The Institute, Digbeth, Birmingham – Doing “Fear Of A Black Planet” all the way through, because apparently now all bands that have been around for more than ten years are legally and morally obliged to do a tour where they perform one of their albums in its entirety. Should be good, though.

Tuesday the 6th until Tuesday the 4th of October – The West Midlands Human Rights Film Festival @ various venues in Birmingham and Wolverhampton – Showing “a range of films that investigate the notion of human rights in the 21st Century as measured against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Apt, just lately, given that a lot of people seem to have suddenly decided that they want coppers to be allowed to stamp on their heads.

Wednesday the 7th – Daniel Martin Moore @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – If the Moseley Folk Festival wasn’t enough folk for you folks, then here is some more folk (of the American persuasion).

Friday the 9th till Saturday the 22nd of October – “The Importance Of Being Earnest” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – A Handbag etc etc etc. See also the 17th.

Friday the 9th – Varukas @ The Old Wharf, Digbeth, Birmingham – Y’see, I told you – there’s punk in Digbeth, all the time. This might help, now that I think about it.

Saturday the 10th till Saturday the 17th – “Talking Heads” (Crescent Theatre Company) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – The vaunted monologues by Alan “Gordon” Bennett.

Saturday the 10th and Sunday the 11th – Artsfest @ lots of places in Birmingham – It’s the annual free Artsfest and, typically, we’re only a fortnight away and it’s still a bugger to find out what’s actually happening. Guillemots are playing though, apparently, and I’ve no doubt that the CBSO will be doing the big proms-y bit with fireworks.

Saturday the 10th – Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA) @ The NIA, Birmingham – Headlined by Jim Wallhead vs Frank Trigg and Paul Daley vs Jordan Radev, which is actually quite good when you think about it.

Saturday the 10th – Jazzie B @ The Hare And Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham – Your man there from Soul II Soul. I assume this would be a DJ set, although I can’t find anything that tells me for certain.

Saturday the 10th – “The Boat That Oxjam Brum Rocked” @ starting outside the Canalside Café, Birmingham – A gig for charidee… on a boat! I don’t know who’s playing, but who cares? It’s on a boat. That’s the attraction.

Saturday the 10th – Switchblade @ The Wagon And Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – The flyer I picked up says “Swedish veteran drone duo from a bleak punk landscape”. You just try and tell me that doesn’t sound enticing, go on, you just try.

Monday the 12th till Friday the 17th – “The Pitmen Painters” (National Theatre) @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – I’m surprised that you can actually see the paintings down a mine.

Thursday the 15th – Cosmo Jarvis @ The Rainbow, Digbeth, Birmingham – Your indie-teen version of The Streets. That wasn’t actually meant to sound like an insult.

Friday the 16th – “Showstopper! The Improvised Musical” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – Apparently it does exactly what it says on the tin.

Friday the 16th – “Mr Edgar Allan Poe’s Terrifying Tales” (Tin Shed Theatre Company) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Poe by candlelight.

Saturday the 17th of September till Saturday the 22nd of October – “Travesties” (Birmingham Rep Theatre Company) @ The Old Rep, Birmingham – Following on from “The Importance Of Being Earnest”, here we have Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties” at the same place with the same cast.

Saturday the 17th – The Women Chainmakers Festival @ Bearmore Mound Playing Fields, Cradley Heath – In honour of the 1910 Mary MacArthur strikes. Apparently this has been at the Black Country Museum in previous years, but they’ve chosen to stop hosting it because they’ve decided that the union presence there was getting too uppity (sorry, ‘political’). Disgraceful stuff from an institution I normally like a lot.

Saturday the 17th – Pow-Wow Literary Festival @ The Prince Of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham – Talks and speakers all day, about matters literary. There’s also a Capoeira demonstration. For some reason.

Saturday the 17th – “Off The Cuff” (Offstage Theatre Group) @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Improvised comedy business with the audience shouting out suggestions etc, but apparently there are free Jaffa Cakes too. That’s every bit the endearing bonus that it’s calculated to be.

Sunday the 18th – Bearwood Shuffle @ Lightwoods Park, Bearwood – We didn’t come here looking for trouble, we just came to do the Bearwood Shuffle. Free live music at the bandstand in the middle of the park, headlined by Aziz.

Sunday the 18th – The Digbeth O’Lympics @ various places in Digbeth, Birmingham – Usually involving snail racing and welly wanging and whiskey drinking and so on.

Sunday the 18th – Gary Numan @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – He really didn’t look very well in the backing videos used on Battles’ last tour, but presumably that was intentional.

Sunday the 18th – Rick Wakeman @ The Town Hall, Birmingham – Keyboards and capes.

Tuesday the 20th till Saturday the 24th – “The Jungle Book” (Birmingham Stage Company) @ The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham – Taking after the Disney one, it looks like, although I expect it won’t have the songs from that. Or will it? I love me some “Bear Necessities”, as all right-thinking folk do.

Tuesday the 20th till Saturday the 24th – “Hobson’s Choice” (All & Sundry Theatre) @ The Crescent Theatre, Birmingham – Give ’em the boot.

Wednesday the 21st – Susan Murray’s “Photo Booth” @ The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham – Solo comedy show based on 25 years of collecting passport-sized photos of people.

Thursday the 22nd – Sham 69 @ The Robin 2, Bilston – There’s gonna be a Bilston breakout.

Friday the 23rd – Boxing (Dave Coldwell promotions) @ The Tower Ballroom, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Headlined by everyone’s fave Max Maxwell versus one Martin Robins, and also featuring quite a few debuting fighters.

Friday the 23rd – Julian Sands’ “A Celebration Of Harold Pinter” @ The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry – So the story goes that Pinter’s illness left him unlikely to be able to speak at a charity reading, and as such he trained this Sands fella up to take his place. He now continues to read in (as it says on the tin) celebration of the master. Apparently this is also directed by John Malkovich, which is certainly a thing.

Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th – Miniatura International Dolls House Show @ The NEC, Marston Green, Birmingham – I don’t really know anything much about miniature/dolls houses, but I do always think they’re very clever.

Saturday the 24th – The First Bite Theatre festival @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Thirteen short plays/performances (from a variety of local groups) performed in different places throughout the MAC.

Sunday the 25th – Echo And The Bunnymen @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – Spare us The Cutter. Well, actually, no – play it, please.

Sunday the 25th – Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick @ The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – More folk etc etc.

Wednesday the 28th – Martin Simpson @ The Red Lion, King’s Heath, Birmingham – That bloke who’s got that Dad (also: even more folk etc etc etc).

Wednesday the 28th – Josh T. Pearson @ The Glee Club, Birmingham – Yeah man dang ol Texan fella from Lift To Experience solo stuff I tell you hwhat.

Wednesday the 28th – “Macbeth” (Icarus Theatre Company) @ The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – I love “Macbeth”, it’s just so gangsta. This is, apparently, an appropriately violent production of it. But then…

Wednesday the 28th – Guy Masterson’s “Shylock” @ The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton – … speaking of Shakespeare in Wolverhampton on the 28th, here you have a one-man show in which Tubal from “The Merchant Of Venice” takes us through the history of anti-semitism.

Thursday the 29th till Sunday the 2nd of October – Harmonic Festival @ mostly at The MAC, Edgbaston, Birmingham – Outre jazz craziness. This includes an eleven hour long piano performance and a trumpety quartet influenced by Meshuggah, things I can’t help but approve of.

Friday the 30th – GBH @ The Wagon & Horses, Digbeth, Birmingham – Rity babies attacked by cats.

Pay attention now, this is important

Posted in Stage by Russ L on 2 March, 2011

I first saw Stan’s Café’s The Cleansing Of Constance Brown a couple of years ago, and I thought it was amazing. It’s now back in Birmingham and I was really keen to see it again.

It’s made up of a series of striking vignettes of power and powerlessness, both big and small, all performed in a corridor with the far wall (the wall with the vanishing point in the middle of it as you look down the corridor lengthways. Does that make any sense at all?) moving back and forth to expand and shorten it. This variously (and very convincing) portrays an office, a hallway in a block of flats… ah, loads of things. They’re only little sketches, but they’re very well-observed and acted – the characters all feel entirely believable and real even if only seen for 30 seconds. A lot of the scenes elide smoothly into one another – the drunken office party turns into Abu Ghraib without showing the joins, for example (and that was still very disturbing on my second time around).

“Dreamlike” is the word that occurs, thinking of the flow of it all and the way that disparate things link perfectly without having any obvious connection. This is, in fact, probably the thing most akin to a dream that I’ve experienced in any creative form outside of literature.

There were, alas, only eleven people in the audience at the 8:30 performance last night, and worry has been expressed before about the ticket sales. I don’t know what to say about that, other than “Go! Make sure you go to this!”

There are two performances per day carrying on up to the 19th (not Sundays or Mondays), and you can get your tickets from here. If you go, you won’t regret it; if you don’t and it gets cancelled due to insufficient interest, I’m shooting the puppy.

(EDIT: There’s a short list of links to things others have written about TCOCB here. A mini-collective memory, of sorts, if you will).