16 September 2018

Another fine adaptation of Elric of Melniboné

I have at least two sets of Elric stories somewhere in the house, the original Michael Moorcroft paperbacks and the early 1970s Marvel adaptations by Roy Thomas with art by P Craig Russell (and others). I never expected to buy more Elric until I saw a new release notice on a new adaptation by Titan Comics and one glimpse at the art work was enough to convince me to dive in again.

This double-page spread should be all that anyone who likes comics should need.




It helps that this new comic adaptation has been produced with the full and enthusiastic endorsement of Moorcock himself, who wrote "Fully captures Elric's sense of utter decadence. The saga of the albino I would have written myself if I had thought of it first!".

That should be enough of a recommendation for any fan of Michael Moorcroft.

I like comics and I like Moorcroft so I absolutely love this version of Elric of Melniboné.

15 September 2018

Radiant Vermin at Ram Jam Club was an unexpected treat

I have a Google Alert set for Philip Ridley and I was drinking in the Grey Horse last night so I was surprised to the extent of being shocked to discover this morning that there was a Ridley play on at Ram Jam Club (part of the pub) today.

A few frantic unanswered emails later and I was walking to the pub in the hope, and some expectation, that I would be able to get in. I was about the first person there and as it had not sold out I was able to get a ticket. I also got a pint of Naked Ladies and a table at the front.

The Ram Jam Club is a cosy venue and it worked well fashioned for theatre. I had only be there previously for music.

I had some trepidations about seeing the play as when I saw it the first time, at Soho Theatre in March 2015, it starred Gemma Whelan and that is a hard act to follow. Still, I reasoned that it was a brilliant script and some modest acting would not hurt it too much.

I was right on one count and wrong on the other.

The script was brilliant and in addition to it's fantastical story it had some exquisite lines. Just one example, "You stick out like a toddler's leg leg from a crocodile's mouth". The acting, however, was not modest - it was very good. I was particularly impressed by the quick fire birthday party scene at the end when Joy Bowers and James Dart had to play multiple roles at the same time. It was wonderfully done.

It was a small stage and good use was made of it. The movement was a significant component of the play's success so here is a little bit of recognition for Movement Director Louise-Mai Newbury.

Radiant Vermin was a real treat and all the more so for being unexpected.

Cemetery Beach is delicious

Any new Warren Ellis comic book is something to look forward to and one with Jason Howard even more so given their illustrious collaboration on Trees. Cemetery Beach issue #1 arrived on my iPad this week and was the first comic that I read in bed with my first cup of tea on Saturday morning.

It comfortably lived up to expectations. This double-page spread starts to explain why.

Obviously the art work is lovely and the scene is futuristic and interesting. Also, like the five pages after it, it has no words.




It's early days but I am already deep into an exciting adventure that is steeped in mystery. I love the story, I love the action, I love the exhilarating pace of it. I love this comic already.

13 September 2018

Losing Venice at Orange Tree Theatre lacked substance

Losing Venice sounded like an interesting proposition with a contemporary relevance as it addressed themes like "A nation with delusional ideas of its place in the world, making poor choices, involved in clumsy foreign adventures, constantly on the edge of war.". Sadly it fell short of my modest expectations.

It was a play of two halves. The first was flimsy but had enough good lines and exotic characters to be entertaining. The second descended into political commentary and despite being only 45 minutes long it dragged. I looked at my watch several times.

At the end I struggled to see what the point of the play was. It was a bit funny, a bit political a bit absurd but not much of anything.

Rising above the play's limitations were the excellent cast, which is why I have chosen a cast photograph to accompany my words.

Tim Delap (top right) as the Duke led the way with everybody else a close second in emphasising their characters' silliness. I even forgive Tim for almost stabbing me (A30 is a risky seat) and the stand-in (presumably) for having to read from a script.

Walking home I tried to make sense of what I had just seen and failed to find the point of it. It lacked gravitas to make any political points and lacked sufficient humour to be a comedy. It lacked substance.

18 July 2018

The Brave and The Bold is beyond beautiful

I am not a big DC fan these days and have never read their mainstream books (Batman, Superman, JLA, etc.) consistently, tending to dip in and out for specific stories and/or creators. I still keep an eye on what is happening in DC Land so I was aware of the buzz created around Liam Sharp's Wonder Woman in 2016 and experimented with the first issue. The art impressed me but the story did not and I left it there.

Then I heard that Liam was working with Wonder Woman again this time with Batman in tow in the revamped Batman team-up comic The Brave and The Bold. I experimented again, was even more impressed by the art and liked the story too so I stayed with the book.

This panel helps to show why.



The detail is frightening and the subject is fantastic. The story is steeped in Celtic mythology and that is reflected in the design of the pages. The book is beyond beautiful.

The only shame is that it is a six part limited issue series.

17 July 2018

Genesis Inc. at Hampstead Theatre was much more than a comedy



I do not need much temptation to go to Hampstead Theatre and the prospect of seeing Harry Enfield in a comedy would probably have been enough by itself but the addition of Arthur Darvill (Rory from Dr Who) and the sharp subject matter settled any doubt.

I duly paid £25 for seat Q9 which magically turned into K9 when I collected it.

Genesis Inc. once again showed how hard it is to describe a play in one short paragraph. The Hampstead Theatre oversold the comedy side of it and undersold the drama.

It was funny, and at times very funny, but there was also a lot of pain too, as you would expect in a play about childlessness. It was the mix of comedy, drama and an interesting subject matter that made Genesis Inc. so compelling.

It was funny that the exploitative clinic run by Harry Enfield ludicrously insisted in running expensive standard tests that had been run before and it was painful that the couple had to dig deeper into meagre pockets when they knew they were being fleeced but had no other options.

Helping both the comedy and the drama was the excellent ensemble cast, many of whom played multiple roles, that is why I chose the cast announcement poster to introduce this post.

I went to see Genesis Inc. to be entertained and I was in ways that I had not expected which is always a good thing.

16 July 2018

Blown away by Gideon Falls

Andrea Sorrentino work has appeared in this blog a few times over the years, usually because I have liked the samples shown in DC Comics Digital Sneak Peeks, most of which I singularly failed to tag with his name at the time. Anyway, the point is I have liked his work for a while.

I have also liked the little of Jeff Lemire's work that I have read, notably A.D.: After Death and X-Men.

The two had worked together a few times before, to great acclaim, but not on anything that I had read. Even so, that reputation was enough to get me interested in Gideon Falls.

It is my favourite current comic.

The art is as decisive as I expected with sharp lines and dramatic page layouts. The story is just as good. It is about an evil barn, a priest who lives nearby and a psychiatric patient who collects small parts of it from waste dumps across the city. If that sound weird then it is in all the ways that you want weird to be.

The two main characters' stories are told in parallel and so far, after four issues, have yet to come together. Happily Gideon Falls is billed as an ongoing series so there is plenty of time for this expected thing and many unexpected things to happen. I'm hooked and will be along for the ride all the way.



21 May 2018

Madama Butterfly at Glyndebourne (2018)

I did well in the Festival Ballot for 2018 and got decent seats for all the operas that I was interested in, and that was all of them. These included Madama Butterfly which was being staged at Glyndebourne for the first time. They must have their reasons. It was the third time that I had seen it in two years but it is such a great opera that repetition was never going to be a problem.

I was keen enough to see this production, and so was the rest of the group, that we went for the £160 seats in our usual area. This time we were sat in Blue Upper Circle E18 to E21.

Glyndebourne had a few surprises for us before the opera. There were no significant changes to the gardens, that I noticed, but the White Cube gallery had gone and been replaced with a River Cottage kiosk. Nearby there was a new, bookable, marquee nearby that nobody knew about and so nobody had booked. People were allowed in anyway and so we gave it a go. It will be £10 a seat once it is established but I think we'll be sticking to the original marquee.

In some ways Madama Butterfly is the perfect opera, which is why it gets performed so often. The story is simple and powerful, the tension is maintained brilliantly as the cruel ending gradually emerges and while all the music is good there is one stand-out aria, the prophetic One Fine Day.

This was a simple, almost modest production with the set consisting of little more that some furniture, a couple of walls with sliding doors, and some cherry trees outside. Those trees gave the set all the character that it needed, a simple touch brilliantly done. In contrast, the ENO production had been a lot more colourful and flamboyant, especially in the costumes.

The music was simple too and Madama Butterfly relied almost entirely on its soloists there was no Anvil Chorus or March of the Hebrew Slaves here. Glyndebourne always builds its opera around the singing and this was no exception with all of the main roles being sung and acted beautifully. As always, the American Consul was a key role for me with his baritone voice adding just the right amount of gravitas.

Of course Madama Butterfly is the main player with her handmaid Suzuki a not too distant second. The heart of the opera is the contrast between the two with Madama Butterfly looking towards the USA with hope and Suzuki relying on Japanese traditions and fearful for the future. The heart beat strongly and both singers were excellent.

I really enjoyed this production of Madama Butterfly for all the right reasons, the music and the singing.