owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:58am on 21/04/2016 under ,
I went to my first immersive theatre performance on Friday, a combination of trusting the parameters of something based on The Tempest and supporting a friend. It turns out that immersive theatre, at least this instance of it, is everything I hoped for from LARPs but never quite found there. I loved it. I loved it enough that I went back again, and would go back still more, but the run is only on for two weeks, ending this Saturday, and I can't fit another trip in.

"Such Stuff As Dreams are Made On" is an exploration of the island of The Tempest from many angles all at once, with the original plot underlying it, to give it structure and pacing. Each audience member explores the world as they wish, lurking in the corner of rooms or chasing after specific actors, often with the added challenge of crowded corridors. There is no way to see everything happening, and that gives depth to the world. What were those distant cries? Where are those people rushing? Who is that character?

The set is lushly realized with a satisfying deep level of constructed reality. There is real sand and origami boats, the scent of herbs and the glow of colored glass. And there is the lushly complex soundtrack tying all of the spaces together.

My favorite moments were the intimate ones. Just three of us and an actor. Just me and an actor. All parts of the story braid cohering the island into an atmosphere, into placeness.

Sedos is a long-running amateur theatre company; the "amateur" is why the work they have put into this experience is so transitory. They all have day jobs.

It's too late to buy tickets - they're all sold out - but when I showed up at 6:15 yesterday to queue for returns (cash payment only, £16 full price), I was only the second one there and we all got in.
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:44pm on 10/01/2016 under ,
We had tickets today to go see the Nutcracker, the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum.

Back in December, in preparation, we checked out a copy of Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker from the library, the story of a girl who joins Clara in experiencing much of the plot. We've been reading it (by Grouting's request) on a near-daily basis. This last week, I showed her videos of specific pieces from it, and then the whole of the first act. (Just as well so she could start processing the scariness of the mice.)

Today, we joined [livejournal.com profile] naxos and friends in going to one of the few under-5-friendly performances of it. It was, on the whole, very nicely done, with some truly spectacular dancing and good minor variants on the plot in the first act. The second act, alas, had even less plot than usual.

The audience was chockful of children, and Grouting commentated and questioned the whole way through, but all topically and in a quiet voice. All that preparation paid off. (And no one shushed her, unlike the fairly quiet but unfortunate-in-neighbors two-year-old in our group.)

In case any of you are going and care: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

1. The mouse king survives until the second act, which is great because he's funny and engaging and mischievous, and hitches a ride on a rope dangling from the hot air balloon. The best way to have gotten more plot from act 2 would have been to let him survive EVEN LONGER. But then Clara doesn't kill him or even really injure him; the Nutcracker does it single-handedly. So, Clara loses her best bit of agency.

2. The death is the introduction to the Drosselmeyer Show (aka dance of the National Stereotypes) which follows. He's come along with the hot air balloon for transport to the land of the Stage Show in act 2. Each dance is revealed by a stage within the stage, in echo of the puppet show of act 1. As a result, the Sugar Plum Fairy shows up exactly once in act 2, for her solo number. She's not the host of the land of sweets. And so she loses all her agency.

Dear English National Ballet: Why did you have to make all your plot changes at the expense of your erstwhile female protagonists?
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:46pm on 03/01/2013 under ,
Yesterday, walking down Euston Road, I was surprised to see a man juggling fire, even though it was morning. I'm not sure why fire-juggling does not strike me as a morning activity. It seems a thing of afternoons or evenings.


C. has a question for you: how does one differentiate between pirate and zombie "arr"s?

I postulate that zombie ones have more "gh"s in them.
owlfish: (Canary Wharf)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 03:36pm on 16/05/2012 under

Sometime this summer, London will have a cable car system running across the river. This terminus runs from the Victoria Docks (about a five minute stroll from the Royal Victoria DLR station, more like a 15-20 minute stroll from ExCel) to the south side of the river.

The terminals will be the first stations on the TfL map which are commercially sponsored: this one will be "Emirates Royal Docks", connecting to the O2 on the Greenwich peninsula. There's no current promise that it'll be ready for the Olympics, only "this summer".

I was particularly impressed by the pylons over the Thames. Of course major ships must sail underneath the wires - but I hadn't *really* thought about the consequences of that in terms of their sheer height.
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posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 09:47pm on 01/04/2012 under ,
Way back when I was an undergraduate, [livejournal.com profile] maxineofarc introduced me to a band called Cordelia's Dad. I went to a number of their concerts over my years in Western Mass, not always with her. Their lead singer, musician, and composer was named Tim Eriksen, scholar of early American songs, sacred harp singer, and accomplished folk musician. In terms of accomplishments, he's only added more instruments to his repertoire over the intervening years.

This weekend, he played in Notting Hill as part of the Tabernacle Folk Festival. It was my first time at the venue, a friendly mix of café/restaurant, art gallery, dance studio, and performance space in a sensibly divided-up ex-church. As part of the festival, there were two concerts - we only attended the first, which was mostly Tim Eriksen, but with a sponsored older and young musician collaboration in the middle, and a first-time public collaboration between Eriksen and Eliza Carthy for the last section.

He began with "Farewell to Old Bedford", one of only two songs he performed which I knew from his Cordelia's Dad days. He continued through a largely late eighteenth-century set, with fiddle, bajo sexto, guitar, and banjo. The last song was banjo, an utterly extraordinary performance of virtuoso fingerpicking, which ended with playing off of the resonances between strings, frame, and his deep, rich voice, resonating the instrument beyond his last plucking from behind its soundboard. The bajo sexto was the only instrument he'd traveled with from the US: thanks to luggage restrictions, it was much easier to borrow on arrival.

The set with Eliza Carthy was a fun, somewhat haphazard one, with some prepared songs, and some improvised from common knowledge, including several sacred harp ones. My favorite was a song for which he knew an upbeat version, and she knew a downbeat one, but when her tune was transposed to major, they played nicely off of each other: an ultimately perky song about winter, death, and time to think of the poor.

I'm delighted we were able to go!
owlfish: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:12pm on 19/03/2012 under ,
After the closest thing to a good brunch I've ever had in London, at Nopi, with visiting friends known from Toronto, we walked down toward the Royal Academy to see the David Hockney show. From a distance, Piccadilly looked crowded with a protest, so we took the back streets; but when we made it down to the street, it wasn't that at all. It was a St. Patrick's Day parade.

We caught the tail end of it, and it was as wonderful as it could possibly be. Those last few floats included a shiny troupe of Bolivian(-Irish) dancers and a throng of lively Hare Krishnas, wishing us a happy St. Patrick's Day. There was even a Hare Krishna leprechaun. It was a wonderfully London moment.

A Hare Krishna Leprechaun... )

In other improbable news, the UK actually has a decent song it's entering for Eurovision this year.

[livejournal.com profile] geesepalace headed off early this morning, while the garden was still covered in frost. A little more grading, and it'll be properly spring break for me.
owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:31pm on 11/03/2012 under , , ,
We made our first trip to Westfield City Stratford yesterday, aka what will be the Olympics gift shop, in effect. Restaurant magazine has been covering interesting new concepts there since it opened, and it was a chance to try out a new movie complex.

The mall was very crowded but functional in the late afternoon on a Saturday, but information-gathering while waiting for a transit-delayed C meant I found how to navigate much of the mall from the much more tranquil exterior. The interior has a decent number of comfy seating clusters, especially at the end furthest away from the main entrances; although these are in places that look like they may yet be rented out to stalls and kiosks once the still-fairly-new-mall has filled in more of its space gaps. Waiting, I appreciated the cluster of coffee shops and quick food places right near the front.

Amusingly, there's a "2012 Viewing Platform". I think that would be a fantastic place - symbolically, not in practice - to spend next New Year's Eve, seeing in the wrong year. Really, it's a view out toward the Olympic Stadium for the 2012 Olympics.

Cabana is in one of the cluster of shops outside the main building of the mall (Chestnut Plaza). Two layered, busy, and people-intensive, it's a Brazilian barbecue place, food on skewers, plus sides and starters. It's casual sit-down dining, expeditious and decent. I had a lovely, refreshing coconut drink which was, as C put it, more than the sum of its parts. The starter packet of melting cheese was made interesting by smoked chili oil.

The parmesan-coated pork tenderloin was a taste highlight for me, as were the sweet potato fries - fluffy within, crunchy without. The grilled corn-on-the-cob was negligible, and the sticky short back ribs - C's highlight for their falling-apartness - were well-flavored, but my portion was too gristle-intensive to be much pleasure. Chili cumin lamb offered decent depth of flavor.

A major point in Cabana's favor is that everything we ate had sufficient flavor of its own that the provided house sauces added nothing we needed - spiciness which overwhelmed the flavor range already built-in. We had a very leisurely dinner in all of 45 minutes, in the quieter upstairs section which only has room for tables for two or four.
owlfish: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:26pm on 19/02/2012 under ,
In the last week-or-so, I've seen two stage productions which involved a human in a full-body ape costume. With that strong - if entirely unexpected - commonality, I'm putting them both into one post.

Cirque du Soleil's Totem )

ENO's Tales of Hoffmann )
owlfish: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:06pm on 19/02/2012 under , ,
I had an enjoyable Picocon yesterday, from arriving with flyers to an Indian meal whose most memorable phrase was from an anecdote I've now forgotten, but whose context you can imagine: "There was so little radiation that we could barely see it."

[livejournal.com profile] justinar began the day with a talk on the relationship between reality and story; the value of "trashy" literature; and the difficulty of being susceptible to echoing strong voices in the book she reads. She also introduced a theme ongoing through the day and, thank to reading Ellen Datlow's post related to the subject, my weekend, on how an established author (or editor) can no longer take it for granted that they will continue to receive contracts, from one to another.

Adrian Czajkowski/Tchaikovsky hasn't given up his day job, which is why he can afford to write his ongoing epic fantasy series. He gave us a potted synthesis of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, followed by a nicely-done exploration of the tropes which are current in epic fantasy. A fleeting comment of his on science fiction sparked a fleeting series of thoughts in my mind on a potential academic research project, which was satisfying.

[livejournal.com profile] triciasullivan proved she's just as good at talking without having written her talk out entirely advance as she is at writing talks (as she more cautiously did at a BL panel last year). (Which is to say, she's good at both!) She spoke on experimenting with form and content in her own writing, and in that of others. She likes consciously leaving space for her reader to determine just what happened in her novels, even when that may mean the results are not as sleekly edited as they might otherwise be. She then read us the enthralling beginning of an unfinished and currently-uncontracted novel she's working on. The audience could only hope it will some day be published so we can find out what happened next.

The panel was a challenge. Usually, Picocon's one panel involves the current GoHs, plus all the previous years' GoHs present in the audience. This year, they couldn't find enough chairs, so just had the current three as the panel, who were saddled with "Apocalypses" as the topic. Gamely, they did, in fact, discuss the subject, entirely on topic; but it wasn't the easiest thing to do, and I think Picocon's panel format, whose topic doesn't necessarily relate to what the guests know about, really does work better with the more anarchic, larger size of panel.

Afterwards, loitering at the bar, catching up with friends, and meeting some interesting new people. Good to have seen so many of you there!
owlfish: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 09:47pm on 10/12/2011 under
Coming back from Oxford today, I changed at Oxford Circus. The connection goes past a busker.

As I approached, he was playing away on his guitar, bluesy rock, good, but nothing that particularly grabbed my attention. I wasn't quite as far along the corridor as the pitch when suddenly he stopped playing and walked purposefully along with the flow of the crowd ahead of me, calling out to someone, trying to get them to stop.

It was important enough to the busker that the person he was trying to track down was failing to be connected to until we were all around the corner and halfway down the stairs from where the guitar case, full of donated coins, had been left. The busker's side of the conversation was the only audible side, but he had in his hand an open wallet, full of cards. "It has your ID in it.", he said, taking a couple of tries to successfully hand back to the wallet to the slightly glassy-eyed man who must've tossed it into his case.

The busker asked several times if the guy was okay. The guy seemed vague but nodded. And then the busker said that once, someone else had thrown their wallet, with cards, into his case, and then had gone and thrown themselves under a train.

No wonder it meant so very much for him to track down the next person who'd done it! Buskers, or at least one of them: trying to save lives one wallet at a time.


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