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Theatre review. “99% Proof”…

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Let me start by saying that I’m not claiming to be a theatre critic or an expert in all things thespian.
Which I know isn’t a very promising start to a theatre review but I don’t often get the chance to meet the writer/director of a play at a party prior to seeing the show, so obviously I wanted to go and support her theatrical debut at the local college’s performing arts centre last night.

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99% Proof is a brand new contemporary musical set in a London of austerity and privation, unemployment and despair, and focuses on the plight of Judin Job, (played with a passionate melancholy by Alex Rushton) a young Jewish man with no family, few friends and no prospects.

Act one deals with his encounters with various Orwellian government agencies, benefit officers from Hell, and rampant bureaucracy, and features the impressively resonant tones of Jack Ince as Guard and a great performance by Elizabeth Daleigh Hayton as the mildly teutonic, barely-repressed benefits office vamp, Go Bells.
As we see Judin being deprived of his basic rights, pushed from pillar to post by an uncaring system and humiliated by being made to wear a yellow star of David, symbol of Nazi-persecuted Jews in the second world war; “the only star you’ll ever win is stuck to your chest with a jagged pin”

Some complex themes are explored here, including institutionalised bigotry, the thoughtlessness of major corporations and the lack of care for those most vulnerable in our society, symbolised by the character of shell-shocked and traumatised returning soldier, Capability Brown, whose appeals to the medical authorities fall on deaf ears. Capability is played by Zack Hazell and his high, clear voice made a perfect counterpoint to the deeper tones of Guard and Judin during the many ensemble numbers.

There are lighter moments though, most memorably in the form of the 999 song, performed with considerable comic élan by Alex Martin as Ms Wackovski, the Tourette’s suffering, eastern European work experience trainee in the Job Centre, and the drunken hen night weaving back and forth across the stage.

All the scenes are played out on an almost blank stage, the different locations being cleverly represented by bespoke projected backdrops created by Royston Harwood, along with minimal props and furniture.

(Having myself been involved in theatrical shows called “Images on a Blank Stage” and “The Very Nearly One Man Mime Show”, I know how difficult it can be to create recognisable scenes with little or no scenery, so it’s a testament to the skill of everyone involved that, looking back on last night’s performance, I can clearly picture Judin’s scuzzy bedsit, the cold impersonal benefits office, and the supermarket in which Judin’s love interest, Astro Turf works as a hugely overqualified shelf stacker.)

Angela Elswood plays Astro, a gutsy character with a powerful voice and positive attitude, who tries to pull Judin out of his self-destructive spiral of misery, aided by CJ, (an upbeat but cynical Nathan Maynard) his roommate whose job mopping floors fails to inspire Judin to get up and get a job himself.

Meanwhile, the CEO of a multinational corporation (Jack Ince, in a dual role) gets into a bar room brawl and accidentally kills a man, having previously been the one to tell Judin that his “only prospects are Murder”.

And in a final double-ironic twist, it’s Judin – now resurrected from his pit of despair by the love of Astro and his love of music – who shows compassion to his one time tormentor, rescuing him in turn from his own demons.

The main characters were very nicely supported by a cast and chorus that gave the show a lively, kinetic energy that belied the small stage, including some nifty moves from the Breakin’ Beats Street Dance crew.

The whole cast and crew should be congratulated on a really well thought out, slickly executed piece of contemporary theatre, and the one who dreamed it all up, writer and director Jennifer Wilkin Shaw should be extremely proud of their performance.

{We were requested not to record the performance, so I didn’t take many photos, but I thought they would forgive this fuzzy curtain-call shot, if only to give you some idea of the room.}

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“Author! Author! – Jennifer, centre, meets her audience.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Arts, Personal anecdote, Theatre

 

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The Tina prize (part three)…

So, a final rundown of a few more things that I have decided deserve the recognition of The Internet Nobody Award.

I don’t go to see nearly as many new movies as I used to, and it’s not just the cost of going to the cinema that’s responsible either.
There just aren’t that many films that I would make the effort to go and see, let alone invent an award for, that I could then tenuously hang a blog post on.
At least with a DVD, if it’s crap, you can turn it off, and the whole thing has cost you two quid. If I pay for two of us to go to see a film, which is a £15 night out straight away, then I’m going to sit through the whole film, no matter how atrocious, just to get my money’s worth.

What this boils down to, is that I’d rather watch a film that I’ve really looked forward to, at home on DVD, in peace, with a drink and a smoke, and put up with the six month period of putting my fingers in my ears and going “la la la la la” to avoid hearing crucial plot details, after friends see it at the cinema.

This year’s ear-fingering wait was instigated by Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, the much-vaunted possible prequel to his 1979 Sci-fI masterpiece Alien.

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I have always been a massive fan of the original film, and especially of the look of the whole thing. This is down, of course, to the genius of artist HR Giger, and the fact that his work was not to be used on the new film made me apprehensive that it would be too stylistically different.
However, due to the clever separation of storylines from any previous timeline, Scott was able to give very obvious nods to Giger’s style, whilst still providing us with a new, rebooted vision of the future.

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The same vast sense of scale, so memorable from the original, pervades the whole film, dwarfing the human players into insignificance against the backdrop of hostile space, and the effects, CGI or not, are spectacular to say the least.

And no, the creatures do not disappoint.

I deplore spoilers, so I won’t say anything about the plot that you can’t gain from the trailer links above, except to say that if you’ve heard it’s a prequel to Alien, then you’re right…and  you’re wrong.

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Any album of the year that I pick as my favourite is unlikely to have featured in The Brits, and is also likely to be the sort of thing that would draw cries of “Turn that shit off!” from my workmates.
However, I am still willing to bet that some of you have some taste, so I would like to present for your consideration, in no particular order;

The epic new album, (III), from Canadian electronica duo Crystal Castles is a distortion drenched delight.

Nebula Dance from dubstep producer Ital Tek, takes the form into more melodic new territory.

An old favourite of mine for many years, Rush released Clockwork Angels, once again proving that, for a band that weren’t broke, they knew not to fix it…

…and a new band making an old noise, Golden Void take the Hawkwind love of Sci-fi lyrics – and their name from one of the space hippies’ old songs – whilst channelling the sound of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath.

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And finally, a quick mention for my favourite blogs.

I’d like to nominate myself, but that probably is taking bias a little too far, so I’ll just say that I have enjoyed posts from all of these;

Daina’s book

Zeebra Designs and Destinations

Cristian MihaI

Gman’s Galaxy

Brian Pigeon

and of course the ever reliable and always excellent Bohemian blog.

Which about wraps it up for my little end of year prize giving.

Hope you find something of interest amongst my recommendations, normal (i.e. who knows what’s next) service will be resumed shortly.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in Blogging, Films, Music, Tina awards

 

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