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(images shot at The Barbican Theatre by Malcolm Crowthers)

If you think you know your Shakespeare, then Forests by award winning Catalan director Calixto Bieito is your ultimate brainteaser, for it is made entirely from bits of Shakespeare that will keep you busy play-and-sonnet-spotting to the end while delighting, shocking, and moving you along the way, as does all great theatre. It was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and BIT for the World Shakespeare Festival, and produced by the RSC for London 2012 Festival. It is brilliantly directed, designed and rivetingly acted with superb performances by the international cast, led by famous Catalan Shakespearean actors Josep Maria Pou and Roser Cami. Let there be no bones about it, this is Great Theatre, compelling and challenging, full of invention and surprises, with all the sexual passion, cross dressing, betrayal, murder and death you could wish for in the forest where behaviour has its brakes off. It is a homage from one dramatic master to another, with Shakespeare in his heart. It is modern in style and imagery, a play on playing and players played on a stark white set of the last bare burnt tree on earth in an icy waste by designer Rebecca Ringst. It's logic is musical, not narrative, its mood swings vividly underpinned with live music by composer-performer Maika Makovski who sings her own tear-jerking Shakespeare songs to guitar and does not deserve to get murdered, too strong a moment for one lady who walked out! But all make-believe, with many unforgettable stage images, none more memorable than the extraordinary moment Katey Stephens turns into a man for her lover Christopher Simpson who turns into a woman with legs to die for, stepping forward as a fleeting vision both of the beautiful young actor Shakespeare loved, the Mr. W.H. of the Sonnets, and the Dark Lady who came between them. Spoken half in deliciously growly cello Catalan, you can follow the entire text in English on surtitles throughout. Don't miss it or you'll have to catch it in Barcelona in January.

Films of 2012: Helter-Skelter

Daughter of Japan's celebrated theatre director, up and coming filmmaker Mika Ninagawa presents her take on Japanese pop culture after waiting for seven long years. Maybe reminiscent of a Ken Russell classic which in this case meets manggaNinagawa's 2nd feature film was quite overdone, and scatty with a never ending ending. Despite her supposed expertise in capturing significant and effective images as  she was after all formerly a professional photographer, unfortunately she fails to make things short but strong.  Nevertheless the film's lead Erika Sawajiri as Lilico the self obsessed twisted model-idol manages to somehow save the film by capturing as with her wicked charms and supported by the brilliantly camp/sarcastic Kaori Momoi as the ruthless manager. A few may have walked out in it's first screening as it opened the London Film Fest season, but I decided to stay and bare the entirety of this needlessly overextended feature.

Films of 2012: Love Story

New Zealand Director-Producer Florian Habicht goes to to New York courageously and spontaneously makes a film using the New Yorkers that he randomly meets in the streets to both help and guide him write his screen play and use as actors in the process. He takes on the role as lead actor with constant support and guidance from his German grandfather living in Germany communicating via Skype. Comes up with comical ideas and a touch of commercial flair like getting a Michael Jackson impersonator who is a midget. If Marlon Brando made butter popular in a sex scene, Habicht comes up with his own original idea getting his love interest to eat cereals with milk on his sunken chest. I must say the female lead whom he must have booked from a modelling agency is quite stunning and stylish. An endearing result.

Few Bits of Fringe

9 images below of 'vivrant vivacious variety' from the C-Venues @ Edinburgh Fringe '12

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival brings us fresh new talents in theatre.

A variety of productions ranging from the experimental, to comedy, drama, dance, music, acrobatics, mime and so on...

In a few days, FACADES has managed to check out a few interesting productions...

Lady M - the maid in Shakespeare's production of Lady Macbeth takes centre stage in a one woman show rigorously performed by it's lead star in this Dutch production Het Vijfde Bedrijf

Couleur Café- an experimental production by 2 print makers being creative in conveying/presenting their work in an imaginative way -a 'sculptural dining experience for connoisseurs of erotic cuisine'...

Icarus - a poetic presentation & portrayal of the the story of Icarus done with stylish acrobatics/aerial circus by the award winning circus theatre company-Backhand Theatre

This Way Up - one of the best if not the best delightful, raw, and effective productions we managed to see at the Fringe by the very promising Antler Theatre (a production company to watch!)

The Submarine Show - a captivating, engaging, comedic show (with no words) by 2 very animated American actors.

Performance art at it's best 

Maria, 1968 - another whimsical production by the Antler Theatre...

Collision - Skillful dancing from classic to modern. Quite an entertaining production which may entice you to join the stage in dancing with the Lite Fantastic Production.

Hanafuda Denki - A Tale of Fantastic Traditional Playing Cards by Japan's Ryuzanji Company. A colourfully refreshing flavour of Japanese culture at the Fringe.

Tokyo Trilogy - 5 promising young actors who could possibly &  potentially perform with substance only if given a better script or direction...

The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured

7 Images  Shot by Malcolm Crowthers

The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured is an extraordinary title for a piece of music. Written for and premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican on Friday 18 January 2013 in a London themed programme under one of China’s leading conductors, Long Yu, it is entirely typical of its highly talented young British composer, Hong Kong-born Raymond Yiu who is an avid reader. His works brim with curiosity arousing titles like Calendar of Tolerable Inventions from Around the World, Eyes to See Otherwise and Xocolatl, an orchestral piece he wrote for the London Symphony Orchestra in 2008. Winning many prizes over the last 8 years, Ray's composing career has gone from strength to strength. Being the winner of the chamber music category of the BASCA British Composer Awards in 2010 (the equivalent of Ivor Novello Awards in classical music) and two nominations in 2004 and 2012, Ray’s music is at last gaining the recognition it deserves both in the UK and abroad.

Ray's first stage work The Original Chinese Conjuror commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival in 2006 brought him major critical acclaim. Then in 2009 came a commission from Lang Lang and the London Symphony Orchestra for Lang Lang's week long residency with the orchestra which inspired the unique quintet for piano and four Chinese string instruments, Maomao Yü, the first of its kind. Its world premiere was also Ray's debut as a conductor drawing an exquisite mix of East West sonorities from Lang Lang and the Silk String Quartet at LSO St Luke's.

One of my personal favourite photographs I have taken is of Ray composing in the Member’s Room of Tate Modern back in 2006. With St Paul’s in the background, this image was particular poignant as he was working on The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured which he had just begun. The first page was before him on the glass table. As well as being Ray’s most ambitious work to date, The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured is in many ways a personal impression of the city in which he has been living for two decades.

Inspired by a pamphlet of the same name by the 18th Century eccentric Alexander Cruden (1699-1770), Ray took the ‘citizen’ theme from Edward Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture as the starting point of the work. He turned it upside down, back to front, and intercepted the fragments with the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons to create a playful network of references which enable other London-themed pieces to appear. The structure of the work is informed by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, particularly the way Oranges and Lemons is used in the book. Another image from the book, Room 101, ‘the place where there is no darkness’, inspired my new portrait of the composer.

 As in Ray’s other pieces, London Citizen is multi-layered, infused with his characteristic mix of East and West. The other week, Ray pointed to a page, smiled and said: “This passage was inspired by the opening of the Eastenders theme, à la Peking Opera". Knowing Ray’s works, stranger things are possible. BBC Symphony Orchestra gives the world premiere of Raymond Yiu’s The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured on 18th January 2013 at Barbican Hall, London. The concert also includes music by Elgar, Qigang Chen, and Haydn. http://www.bbc.co.uk/orchestras/events/934.

It will also be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3: 


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