musings, Recipe, Uncategorized

At the Centre of it all

a personal reviewIMG_4013 (1).jpg. Kings Cross Theatre. 3rd November 2016

I told my friend I was going to Lazarus, the David Bowie Musical. She of course looked thrilled and excited for me. “Amazing” she said.

I retorted, “He’s not in it!”

We guffawed; there was some nervous laughter, and guilt. Too Soon? Of course, Too Soon. Certainly Too Soon for me. But the comedy timing was admirable.

The show is playing Kings Cross theatre, bang in the middle of the new thrilling and confusing, unfamiliar and rather jolly. Boulevard. The theatre, a purpose built shed structure, divided in two, one half showing The Tempest (which was Tempting) and the half other Lazarus.

The audience was as you would expect, well healed, nicely dressed, or Dressed Up, with a touch of fervor behind the eyes. Mostly middle aged, some young, a lot of cool and classy.

We are told that the performance is two hours long. No interval. You can leave but you may not be allowed back in (okay, not for 20mins or so). So this led to a “when do we pee” panic – could explain the fervor in the eyes.

As we settle in our seats, we see Michael C Hall wander on to stage and have a little lie down. This is twenty minutes before ShowTime. It is a little awkward. I feel for him, unless maybe it really is the best place for a power nap.

The premise is a loose sequel to Man Who Fell to Earth. Our alien is still trapped on earth, , not getting older, drinking gin, watching TV,  knowing that he can’t get home. He misses Mary-Lou and indeed it would have been nice to see Candy Clark.

The set is the apartment that Thomas Newton never leaves.

The physical propping consists of a rumpled bed and a fridge full of mother’s ruin.

At the back of the stage, the live band play displayed through glass windows.

Centre stage, a screen. Sometimes lots of screens. I thought I was over screens. But I am an idiot.

The projection and visual trickery is  incredible, impressive,  remarkable. I won’t  describe how it works so as not to spoil the surprise and awe. Also, I can’t find the words to get across quite how exhilarating.

I can say there is technical wizardly. The FX are seamless, delightful and surprising. The design is impeccable, the execution effortless. Virtual, physical, ever shifting. A feast for the eyes and ears. Lighting design to delight, that also does a job.

It was actually  raining on the roof which added some pretty special atmosphere.

The whole thing is Magic in a digital literate age.

I had read that this wasn’t the Mama Mia Greatest Hits genre of musical, that the story wasn’t a way to thread a load of songs together.

But it kind of was. Certainly the songs enhanced and punctuated the narrative.

Maybe it is just that Bowie’s oeuvre is so rich, all his songs can work to whatever storyline.

The opening track, the heartbreaking Lazarus, was beautifully performed. When it was released in back in sad Blackstar January, we all retrospectively understood it was about Bowie’s upcoming death. Johan Renck’s visuals enforced that. Now, not so sure.

Now it sounds like it was written specifically for Thomas Newton’s not-old age.

And that is another wonderful Bowie facet. Whatever he writes, you can find some significance that works for you at the time. Lyrics and mood appropriate and ready for anything.

“Kooks” targeted directly at you because you were a different kind of kid.

“Heroes” for our brave troupes.

“Laughing Gnome” a piece of ironic future proofing  theme for Alan Sugar.

“Sue” for me!

Predictably, all the songs were phenomenal. The new ones, the old ones reworked, the classics and the novelty. From a raucous All the Young Dudes to a charming Absolute Beginners. Changes , changed, all for the good.

Somehow all the vocalists captured Bowie’s tone. They never quite made the songs their own, but nor did they mimic. Clear and strong and meaningful. But it is a funny old thing, how singers on the stage take on that Musical style. It was subtle, but it was there, and made me wonder how they would fare on The Voice.

After we were introduced to a China Girl early on, I realised that the staging was littered with references and reverence. I probably missed quite a lot, but that didn’t spoil the ride. Good spotting for the uber hard-core fans, rather than me, kind of superfan, but soft-centred.

The story is a bit silly. The characters are fascinating and often confusing. The pace erratic. Great highs of engagement, sometimes not so much, and there is a proper ending.

Maybe if it wasn’t The Dame I might view the whole as a touch self-indulgent and beside itself. Perhaps I have buttons over my eyes and stardust in my sound and vision. But I don’t think so.

There is so much good and clever and original and slick and powerful and emotional and so damn interesting about it. There are some great moments of levity to stop it taking itself too seriously. The cast do it more than justice, the set design and execution is off the scale. And of course the music.

So I think it would stand alone on its own merits.

But undeniably,

At the Centre of it All is…

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musings, Review, Uncategorized

Bowie Buxton Bug BFI and cobbler Bob

Like rings in a tree trunk, you can generally age a fan by which part of Bowie’s career they are most obsessed with. I guessed Adam Buxton accurately at 46. This probably doesn’t work for anyone under 40 and is no way fool proof, but a harmless pursuit.adam-hoxton_1305291946_crop_550x424.jpg

Last week I had the privilege of watching Buxton do Bug on Bowie. I was sitting with ace cutter Miland, who got a shout out for his great work editing the opening compilation, showing Bowie through the ages rather spunkily.

Buxton Bounces on. We already know he is a Bowie obsessive. And he knows that we are. So he apologies for any offence he may cause, and for irreverence, but he knows, and we know, that otherwise this could all get to over emotional.

It transpires early that he is working to the wrong script. This is a shame as he had “written the absolute heck out of it”

So some charming chat while a dongle is produced and Version 3 is printed. And some bants with the audience. In particular a confident chap called Grant who apparently once followed Bowie into a Toy Shop before the bouncers got to him.

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The evening was full of fun facts, and a very personal, and some might say obscure, selection of videos and trivia. Film clips, BBC dramas, and of course Labyrinth.

It was a roller coaster of sadness and hilarity. And a fair bit of hero worship.

So many videos, all with correct reference and reverence to the Directors. From David Mallet in the early days to Johan Renck on Lazarus.

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Back in the day, David Mallet was repp-ed by a friend of mine to shoot commercials. It being the 80s there was a lot of lunch, and I met Mallet a few times, mostly of 5th Floor of Harvey Nics. I remember liking him, finding him really interesting, him being very kind and generous spirited. And me trying to be cool, and smart, and hardly referring to the Bowie videos at all, as if they didn’t matter to me. What I should have done is grab his arm and screamed “TELL ME EVERYTHING”. “INTRODUCE ME!” “GIVE ME SECRETS”. Oh my crass and wasted youth.giphy.gifI have heard a story about the shooting of Ashes to Ashes, not from anyone who would know but just as a juicy story, that a passing dog walker asked who was the cunt in the Pierrot costume. And thereafter that was how Bowie referred to himself on set. I could have asked Mallet about that, couldn’t I?!

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One of my personal deep things to say about Bowie is that there are no bad images of him. Even in his crazy unwell Cracked Actor Period, in ridiculous costumes, and even right at the end. He never looked unattractive. Annoyingly, the video for “Be My Wife” proved me wrong. Never mind.

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Like Adam Buxton, I spent too much time after January 11th surfing the internet, trawling for trivia, clicking on FB links and generally wallowing in anything Bowie Related. Unseen footage, pithy interviews, rare performances, nostaligia.

Buxton of course has turned this into an art form, and created something unique. Part Bug, Part documentary, all entertainment.

I would recommend you check out his youtube channel, where you can find anachingly funny Lego version of David and Angela in a spoof of the Good Life. The Bowies, as the Goods, are debating in their kitchen the next character after Ziggy. Should it be Cobbler Bob or Aladdin Sane?

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And a fabulous cartoon illustrating the recording of Warszawa with Eno, Bowie and CO- PRODUCER Tony Visconti all in boiling animated stick people.

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Buxton shared these and so much more. He performs his fandom in his own unique way. An eye watering song, a bit of Dad Dancing. There were moments of classic Bug-ness as we laughed uproariously and unkindly at comments from the mis-spelling, hardly articulating, misled, great unwashed Bowie Trolls. There were some corkers. Love, hate, bafflement.

The evening went on. We were lucky to have been at this early raw outing of the show. The next time it will be slicker.

It was frankly too long. It was unevenly paced. Self-indulgent. Quite repetitive. And bloody wonderful. I loved it.

Thank You Adam Buxton. Thank you Bug team. And again Thank You David Bowie. Let’s Dance.

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