Friday, 29 January 2010

Marthas and Arthurs

Obviously I'm completely biased because i love Mary (singer, accordion player and general musical starlet) but seeing her play with the Marthas and Arthurs on Wednesday was total heaven. Folksy, heart-warming, can't-help-but-make-you-smile, sweetly tingling, hold-hands-with-someone-you-love, skip inducing, heaven. and actually, even though I'm biased, that actually doesn't mean much because I'm not one to wax hyperbolic about something i don't actually like. (In public I'd stay quiet, in private I'd bitch like someone was about to cut off my supply of nasty turns of phrase. but best not to dwell upon that unsavory side of my character). Anyway, seems like I'm not the only one who thinks they are a bit fantastic; with Daily Candy's editorial on their dinner date proposal (invite them to your dinner party and they'll play for free in exchange for some food and interesting conversation - and sometimes not even the latter) they have been inundated with offers to perform - and rightly so. snap them up pronto, i say. In the mean time, follow their blog. It also rocks.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tights i am currently coveting

Both Daily Candy and The Cool Hunter have the right idea. These tights by Les Queues de Sardines are right at the top of my wish list this week. on sale in Fortnums, which is handy as i work right opposite.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Van Gogh - the Artist and his letters

“Vase of Cornflowers, Daisies, Poppies and Carnations” (1886)

I was completely, wonderfully, overwhelmed by the Van Gogh exhibition at the RA. I’m ashamed to say I really didn’t know that much about Van Gogh – beyond the sunflowers and ear business, which is bit embarrassing really. This exhibition really lets him shine – through both paintings and words as he expresses his commitment, dedication and aggressive exploration of his new found art (he only painted for the last 10 years of his life and died aged 37, his life culminating in a frenzied creative whirlwind that lasted 70 days, during which time he painted at least that many number of pictures). The exhibition takes as its starting point the vast numbers of letters he wrote, mainly to his brother Theo - they are filled with amazingly eloquent and passionate essays exploring and explaining the composition of his work, his creative determination and application of his skill, together with sketches and illustrations (often miniatures of pieces he’s working on) – chalk sketches on backs of envelopes, scenes scratched into the corner of a headed letter, ink drawings on postcards etc (which site next to the finished version in the exhibition). The main themes which dominate his missives: his interest in peasant life, portraiture, his preoccupation with colour (my favourite section of the gallery; the vase of cornflowers, daisies, poppies & carnations literally throws itself at you) group the paintings together, with each room tackling a subject. Surprising things for me included the clear and self-confessed influence of Japanese art on his work, plus the sheer daring of some of his pieces – the bold colour, the madly undulating swirls. the show is fabulously curated – the story comes from the paintings and letters themselves, they can’t help but tell the story, which is so refreshing. I’ll be going again and again, I imagine…

Monday, 25 January 2010

Whip It

Ok, so first off it has to be confessed that i am completely pissed while i write this. even so, it was before i had shamelessly quaffed about 5 glasses of red wine at a book party this evening that i saw Whip It, a totally ACE film starring Ellen Page (of Juno fame) and directed by Drew Barrymore about the wonderful world of ROLLER DERBY (out April). you know, Roller Derby: that violent girls sport which involves skating round a ring in teams while basically trying to shove each other off the skate path with as much undignified loutish thugishness as is humanly possible. All team members (hot girls, natch) are all called names like Iron Maven (here played by Juliette Lewis), Babe Ruthless (Ellen Page), Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore) and Maggie Mayhem (Kirsten Wiig). I'm not sure i can adequately describe my overwhelming adoration of this film. OK yes, it's essentially an adolescent flick about a teenager grappling with parental vs personal expectation, and finding and being true to herself, but my god, it involves women on roller skates wearing sexy punky outfits, covered in tattoos, with goth makeup and being incredibly cool - it's fucking amazing. totally empowering and i am LITERALLY DESPERATE to dig out my roller skates and get all psycho physical and confrontational. female contact sport worth indulging in. unlike something say, like lacrosse - which i loathed and terrified me when i used to have to do it and definitely didn't involve lashings of makeup as part of the uniform. i am thinking roller derby would be THE MOST FANTASTIC theme for a party. or actually the most fantastic thing to actually take up. or at least watch, anyway, courtesy of the London Roller Girls.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Rivals

The linguistically challenged Mrs Malaprop, whose fabulously decorative language is famous for its misapplication of vocabulary, is one of my favourite comic creations ever, perhaps even more so because i always call my sister Kelsey Mrs Malaprop, for her similarly enthusiastic yet habitually misfired deployment of words. Anyway, Celia Imrie's robust realisation of this character was one (and only one) reason why i thoroughly enjoyed this revival (the first in London for over 10 years) of
Sheridan's the Rivals at Southwark playhouse. It's a play which i fundamentally don't think you can go much wrong with - its gentle satirisation of notions of love and the social games we play in pursuit of the the perfect partner is pretty timeless: that ideals of love supplant realities, neuroses thwart relationships, and gossips and meddlers hinder more than they help... etc, anyway, this off West End production was a pretty straight production of the 18th century play (save some rather fun touches like a period re-interpretation of Beyonce's All The Single Ladies as an intro ditty which the cast danced to) that really let the actors shine - which they absolutely did with gusto: the essentially stock characters took on a real verve and passion. and despite being pretty budget (best not to look too hard at the details of costume or set, and zone out the rumbling trains travelling above) it reveled in the comedy and was incredibly funny - filled with personality and warmth. Definitely a play that shouldn't be relegated to the shadows of the London theatre scene.

Friday, 22 January 2010


I have to say, i was very pleased I saw the almeida's production of 1920s thriller Rope (the one Hitchcock subsequently made into a film) with Sam because he definitely made me get a lot more out of it than i would have done had i not discussed it with him afterwards (short attention span and shallow dependence on the cheap thrill of unexpected twists to blame for the waves of frustration i felt when left to my own devices). I did enjoy it, but struggled with its linearity, initially not quite appreciating the artful use of suspense and value of the moral about-turn of one of the central characters hitherto committed to decadence, moral vacuity and fun. practically everything interesting i came to appreciate owes a great deal to him, while the trivial flashes of appreciation i attribute wholeheartedly to myself - such as the fact that i intend to update my exclamatory vocab with fabulous 1920s lingo: 'excruciating' (as in: what an excruciatingly funny table); 'abysmal' for terrible; 'weird' for things that really aren't; and 'lamb' (as in: he's such a lamb - a good one oft forgotten). I also think it would have positively influenced me had i known at the time of watching that it was based on a true story. somehow the almost grossly theatrical nature of the plot - an arrogant young student and chum kill a man, then invite his father and friends round to take supper around the chest where the body is concealed, all simply to satisfy their vanity (they believe they can get away with it) - would have been more shocking and dastardly had i known it was real(ish). Even so, it still managed to be both very funny, suspenseful and moralistic. i loved the skittish 20s wit, mocking the vapid and vague conversations of the characters and their meaningless life of privilege. i loved that lots of it pretty much took place in the dark (shadows certainly). i loved that the octagonal chest was mirrored in the floor of the stage, and the 8 characters, i loved the turns of phrase and the fatuous and pompous conversations. i loved that it was in the round - so you could scrutinise every move anyone made - and that despite his best intentions, the murderer never had anywhere to hide. Bertie Carvel's performance as pompous old queen Rupert was also completely amazing, and definitely worth going for. overall, i was pleased i went. must rent the film.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Last night was the first in a series of literary soirees called 5x15, an event organised by Rosie Boycott and her daughter and held at the Tabernacle, in Notting Hill. The idea stemmed from a conversation held over a glass of wine at The Tabernacle about how nice it would be if someone would tell them a story while they sat there and drank; a short, punchy story. And so 5x15 was born, where five thinkers stand up and tell a story in 15 minutes to the assembled drinkers. The effect is a bit like a 'thinker's cabaret'. It's an ideal set-up; if you like the story you can buy the extended version (their book) from the makeshift Lutyens & Rubenstein stall in the hall after the event, if not, you only have to suffer the boreathon for 15 minutes. the opening storytellers were Rupert Sheldrake talking about morphic resonance - more interesting than it sounds, trust me; Hannah Rosthchild talking about her idiosyncratic and eccentric aunt's fascinating relationship with Thelonious Monk, Jack Klaff's quite frankly incomprehensible story about, well, actually i still don't know, and don't care for that matter so long as it came to an end; Hanan al-Shaykh chutzpah tale about her rebellious, impetuous mother, who bucked the system in 1930s Lebanon; and Sara Wheeler who regaled us with stories from her intrepid trip round the arctic (so good i bought Magnetic North following the talk).

I thoroughly recommend the eve - £15 well spent. the next one is on the 22nd, i can't go, but i'm definitely going on the 13th March i think (or thereabouts) - speakers include Beth Orton and Deborah Moggach - two people whose work i adore.

The Misanthrope

I'm not really one for box sets. or war films. so i was mightily surprised to find myself drawn into the DVD black hole that is the 11 part box set of WWII drama Band of Brothers two Christmases ago, thanks to my sister Kelsey. There my Captain Winters/Damian Lewis obsession was ignited, and the flame of undiminished adoration continues to feverishly burn to this day. As a consequence, DL's presence as the misanthropic titular character, Alceste, in Moliere's play (currently at The Comedy Theatre) very nearly threatened to be too much for me to handle but, as it turned out, the production was so sharp, so funny, so acerbic, so quick steppingly socially, culturally and morally pertinent, with its attack on our phoney, fawning, two-faced celebrity obsessed culture that i was actually barely distracted at all. And, dare i say it, Keira Knightley very much contributed to this overall show of excellence. i know: shocker. Not only did she convincingly pull off an American accent, but she also delivered contemporary rhyming couplets without sounding like prat. Hats off. Rhyming 'lines of coke' with 'Baroque' convincingly is no mean feat. and, from my privileged position in a box (i had unknowingly booked seats for two days earlier than i showed up, so bought two standing tickets hoping the theatre manager could slip me into a box and the last minute, which happened - hurrah) i can say she looked great up close - completely absorbed in her character, the snake-tongued starlet Jennifer whose wittily bitchy diatribes against her friends and colleagues reveal her and her lover's two-peas-in-a-pod perfection.

Lastly, a moment about the fact that the play is in verse - featuring lots of rhyming couplets, half rhymes and internal rhymes. i very nearly went into anaphylactic shock at first - contemporary dialogue, complete with swearing, in RHYME? spare me the pretentiousness, please. but then i rather warmed to it. ok, it's not natural, exactly, but the language itself is, and the self-consciousness of rhyme fits so well with celebrity world created on stage - writers, actors and critics who are aware of every word that's said in art and life, as well as every flick of the hair, arch of the eyebrow. Crimp manages to use rhyme so artfully - never wasting the emphasis which inevitably rides upon each highlighted word. i was speechless by the finale. completely didn't want it to end... to which end Laura and i went for a don't-want-the-night-to-end drink afterwards where we then drank too much. clever.

Friday, 15 January 2010

la Clique


Ursula Martinez

Unnecessary nudity. Crude humour. Pornographic magic. Men writhing around to music like Bad Things (had to download that the moment i exited, sad loser that i am) while suspended from the ceiling in a cage. Leopard-print-catsuit clad girls hula hooping. Obviously La Clique is so up my fucking strasse it's a wonder i haven't run off to join them... my god this show is totally life-affirming, heart-racing and invigorating. it manages to be sexy, funny and fresh with virtually zero cringe factor, which you might have though was tricky when a girl's doing a magic show in the buff, pulling red hankies from her punani, or there's some guy dressed as Freddie Mercury doing a choreographed juggle to Queen songs. It should also be pointed out that this formula can go suicidally wrong, as evidenced by my experience outside Battersea Power station about a year ago, where i saw the similarly conceived Madam Zingara, which was so abysmal that i wanted to hang myself from its velveteen big top with one of the overabundant feather boas. the good thing about La Clique is there's an enormous cast, so you get completely different people performing every night. the exception that proved the rule of universal excellence the night i went was the Swedish magician/clown. but then i FUCKING HATE CLOWNS and general clowning around, so that was no shocker. apparently there's a term for it. fear of clowns: Coulrophobia.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


I felt very well-prepared for seeing Red at the Donmar. Not because i particularly know anything in-depth about Rothko (the subjet of the play), but because I've just dyed my hair an interesting shade of cherry/wine and went to the play wearing a self-created original blend of burgundy and vermilion lipstick, with my nails painted rouge-noir. a casual coincidence, but a rather fabulous one i thought. anyway, solipsistic obsession with my colour-coordination duly appreciated, i concentrated on the play, which i utterly loved from start to finish (despite the fact there were braying audience members to my left who were DOING MY HEAD IN, cackling like banshees, grrr).

For some reason i had thought the play was about the relationship between Rothko and his assistant, but it's not, although they are the two characters in the play; their relationship is a device rather than a reality. Set over two years in Rothko's studio, while Rothko was fulfilling his Seagram commission to paint several murals for The Four Seasons restaurant, it's about the artist's relationship with his art - and art in general. His relationship with colour - the pulsating vibrancy of shades of red, the fear of black - which he fears can swallow life. His uncomfortable relationship with fame. His ying/yang, Apollo/Dionysus, order/chaos relationship with life - with other artists - like Pollock, with colour, with emotion. His patronising distaste for his surrealist and modernist forebears, his outraged and unimpressed disdain for the new generation of Pop artists. These salient and fascinating discussions somehow manage to feel completely unpretentious -which is something of a miracle, really. I think this is because they are made on stage - already a pretty pretentious, theatrical and false setting in the general scheme of things. It's ideal. They are also thrashed out with eloquence through the brilliant performances of the two leads (Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne) - through the passion of character rather than pretentious notion, through heated discussion between the two men - the arrogant, self aggrandising, pompous Expressionist painter and his down-trodden eager-to-learn assistant. the reviews were generally mixed, but I was completely gripped.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The XX - double kiss

I've been listening to The XX's album a lot and all i can think when i listen to it is that it's made for kissing. a sort of innocent kissing - standing up kissing. kissing by the bus stop saying goodbye after the night before, but not wanting to leave. kissing for the love of kissing, just for the sake of kissing - the sort of beautiful kissing that won't lead to sex - gorgeously soft, sensitive kissing, where you're thinking that you could just kiss this person for ever, that you can't believe that you are kissing them, but you are kissing them and you've got butterflies and you feel sick but happy and you want to smile and kiss and curve into their body and hold them tight and gently run your fingers up their spine. the secret teenage kiss at a party kissing the person you've had a crush on for weeks. a sort of gingerly fearful kiss that's excited but also slightly terrified - because it'll have to end, and then what?

The Waste Land at Wilton's Music Hall

I felt a bit guilty going to Wilton's Music Hall on Sunday eve as two friends are getting married there in the summer, and i sort of wanted the glory of their wedding to be the first time i saw it, but the lure of tickets to see Fiona Shaw performing T.S Eliot's Modernist poem The Waste Land proved too much temptation to resist, plus i saw The Beatles to Bowie earlier in the day which i thought was total shit, so i god-damn needed a snifter of a cultural pick-me-up.
The poem is being staged to raise money for Wilton's, which is semi-derelict - if any building deserves to be saved from the vagaries of the elements and the perils of vandalism, it is this magnificent Victorian edifice, which puffs out its chest with the indefatigable pride of a great man fallen on harsh times, showing statuesque pomp and presence despite his shabby clothes. Its faded elegance is the perfect setting for Shaw's performance, for which she simply wears jeans and a top and wanders about a bleak stage, the exposed brick walls unadorned, the space stark except for several naked bulbs hanging down at different levels; she's lit by unforgiving spotlights which cast shadows from different angles for each stanza. It's a remarkably powerful staging - bold and strong and intense. As is her performance which is vigorous, passionate, playful, and aggressive and which she metaphorically skips around and through, literally transforming herself with slipery ease into the kaleidoscope of characters whose voices are heard throughout - from bolshy barmen to gossipy old women. It was completely incredible - vital and alive and pulsating with energy.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Lido Love [plus Ed Ruscha + Norman Parkinson]

Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour

(above and below) Ed Ruscha: 50 years of Painting
I rounded off a nicely bumper day of culcha on Saturday (11th hour viewing of Ed Ruscha [underwhelmed but generally mixed reactions: loving some plays on words - and LOATHING others - i could drone on about this but won't since the exhibition finished yesterday] and Norman Parkinson pics at Somerset House [high glam and gorgeous]) with a slightly bonkers night at, of all places on a sub-arctic night, London Fields Lido (which i insist on pronouncing leedo, rather than in a way that rhymes with fido, much to the consternation of many. fuck them, i say).

The night was Lido Love - an evening celebrating the history of London Fields Lido with film, magic, burlesque, music and poetry. at one point i found myself jumping up and down to 90s beats in the male changing rooms (see the very below) clutching nothing but a cup of hot chocolate (the night rather extraordinarily proved to be alcohol free). this seemed possibly even more strange at the time than it does now, from the comforting warmth of my bed. I also huddled round the pool to watch swimming-costume clad girls dancing barefoot in the snow (where else?). La Horrox did a burlesque fire dance (below) and H Plewis did an act that involved her dancing to a soundtrack which skipped through the decades - as each snippet of music was played, she'd nip into a changing booth beside the pool and emerge with a different swimming cap which matched the music (the one for punk was a swimming cap with a Mohican for eg). Hilariously daring given the temperatures. There was also a short film by Tracey Emin "why i never became a dancer" and socialist magic (the 'democratic' approach where the trick was followed by a demonstration of how to do it). Sadly the novelty of this last act was not sufficient to keep my interest above agitatedly mounting concern for my freezing toes - i eventually had to make a dash to the loos and remove my shoes and hold my feel under the hand dryer for about 10 mins - yeah, SUPER GLAM). to be honest it was a completely bizarre night but rather brilliant in its own way: so very British. who else would hang out on a saturday night in the freezing cold and dark by a pool, and without alcohol? mad people i tell you. but curiously cool ones, i thought.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Royal Mail Stamps

I'm a MAJOR fan of thank you letters. They are such an easy way to make someone feel special. quite frankly a thank you letter is SO much better than an email. Anyway, last week Hannah posted a whole handful of thank you letters which each had one of these stamps on. i think they totally rock: the cherry on the cake.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Important Artifacts...

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Leonore Doolan and Harold Morris... When i say this is the most incredible book, i really, REALLY mean it. I've been giving it to everyone - for Christmas, birthdays, as just a general outpouring of love.... you name it - if i like you, you'll be receiving one soon. Everyone MUST read it. It's a sort of novel-cum-art exhibition set out in the form of an auction catalogue, showing the possessions of a couple, collected over the course of their four year relationship. the first two entry lots are photographs of the protagonists - Leonore, a 26 year old, rather neurotic (as it transpires) food columnist for The New York Times and Harold, 39 year old photojournalist and emotional commitmentphobe. the third lot is an invitation to the Halloween party where they first met, and lot 6 is the scrumpled napkin with Leonore's email address scribbled on it (presumably which she gave to Harold at teh party). the story progresses thus, with the explanations for each lot filling in the gaps where necessary - the visual and written-through walking comfortably hand-in-hand. Collected items include mix tapes they make for one another, books with inscriptions, presents given, notes scribbled on theatre tickets, clothes, junk shop finds, love letters, work emails, photographs, newspaper clippings... it's both heartwarming and heartbreaking, and always inspiring to read as their love first blossoms, then falters, thrives, stumbles, trips, picks itself up - all chronicled through the weird, wonderful, mundane, creative and bizarre ephemera they collect.... . I cried, i laughed, i WANTED their life, i was really glad my life wasn't like theirs. Buy it, honestly, it is so completely brilliant it is almost criminal. plus they are ruining it by making it into a film with Natalie Portman and Brad Pitt which is SACRILEGE.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

i love smoking

I am on my third day of not smoking, which has reaffirmed in my mind HOW MUCH I LOVE IT. it's glamorous, it's cool, it's sexy, it's deliciously naughty. F.A.C.T.
My first cigarette of the day is my favourite - leaving my flat, stepping into the crisp morning air and announcing my presence in the world with the sharp slick-click of the lighter. i love walking along in high heels and smoking: the clack and the puff synchronised. I can't NOT smoke when waiting for a bus. wearing red lipstick and smoking - also good, and leaves a signature mark in an ashtray. listening to really punchy, upbeat music (Peaches?) on my iPod while walking along (in heels) and smoking - shuts me in my own world. smoking in summer while sucking an Orange Maid - an age old tradition. the cigarette to settle my hangover. the cigarette on the long walk home. sharing a cigarette with someone i fancy - our eyes meet and our lips touch the same place. how will i ever be able to sit outside a cafe in Paris again? and then there's days like today: walking along in the cold and snow, the flare of the cigarette my only protection from freezing misery. when I blow out smoke I can't tell what's smoke and what's breath. bliss. and the snowflakes fizzing on the burning tip: the frisson of every drag.

Giving up feels like going on a diet: except you know you can always go back to scoffing chocolate when the beastly days of sado masochistic deprivation are over. not so with cigarettes. i love smoking. the look, the feel, the singular indulgence and security that comes with having one's own cigarette and loving smoking it. This is HELL.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Identity Crisis

Being at home, or at least hanging out with my family over Christmas, reminded me of a few things i love, but my affection for which i had carefully repressed in the dark recesses of my mind (arguably for good reason) - namely:

Kenny Rogers. country. the best. most sung chorus - Something's Burning (and i think it's love - what the frick else, eh??!).

Jimmy Somerville. grossly indulging in the gayest of gay pop, oh yes. most sung line - 'derriere un kleenex' (from Comment te Dire Adieu, the less wholesome version of the Francoise Hardy song).

and Bridge. the card game. as in: I'm nurturing my Jewish roots and am thinking of moving to the suburbs, preferably a part heavily populated with retirees.

The combination of all three is giving me something of an identity crisis. the end.