Breach Part II: A Diverse Voice

Part of the cast of "Breach"

Last Saturday, DSBC Productions put on a play at the Albany.

“Breach”, which is also a web series, is a compelling cultural urban drama about the lives of a group of people who all seem connected in one way or another.

The multiple storylines in the play seem to peak through the keyhole of diasporic Afro-Caribbean’s as they battle their way through relationship problems.

“Breach” doesn’t seem to concern itself with the potential stereotypes in the storyline, but instead holds true to the drama that results from infidelity and betrayal.

What makes “Breach” a more unique drama is one of the leading plots in the play, that of star-crossed lovers from Angola.

Played very well by actors George Choat as Lorenzo and Charlyne Francis as Nina, their timing and chemistry brought the characters to life.

Ayo Fawole as Issac was another lovely addition to the cast.  His presence on stage was felt strongly and his lines were delivered with refreshing confidence and humour.

Fringe theatre

“Breach”, however, is more than what it seems.

In many ways, it represents an important contribution to Fringe theatre, which is too often overlooked.

Small theatres like the Albany potentially have the freedom to honour storyline’s that give a voice to the diverse population in London.

And Breach does this rather well by speaking the language of youth and culture.

In the swaying hips of the wonderful Lonette Charles, who played the no-nonsense Nancy, the audience can inevitably witness the strength and vulnerability of London’s wide-ranging ethnicity.

It sets itself apart from the mainstream with youthful, raw energy, while adding a touch of a rather clever use of mixed genre.  A useful montage of telephone gossip in the play reminds the audience of the production’s dual function as a web series.

New energy

Fieldmann Robinson as Oliver and Yonah Odoom as Bijou seemed to find new energy in the last half of the play.

The men, overall, had a natural quality interacting with rough play, yet including the audience in their mischief.

There was a surprising amount of raw talent in the character Junior, who was played by Jonathan Renner, while Mishael Lazarus as Derrick kept the audience chuckling.

Hard sell

An Angolan political plot with a forbidden love is a hard sell.

The audience is asked to believe that a woman whose love springs from her only hate would actually submit to teaching the son of her enemy.

Yet, Francis plays this part with a sort of innocence and nervous intensity that adds credibility to the play and proves that writer, Christine Rugurika, is also a competent director.

While the music added substance to one or two scenes, it mostly seemed overwhelming, especially due to the sound technician’s itchy trigger finger.

Yet overall, “Breach” with its tangible heat and exploration of generational behaviour, will likely have audiences eager to see Part 2.

For more information about DSBC Productions, click here.

Advertisements

Morning Glory Feels Good

Harrison Ford hasn’t looked this comfortable in years.

Morning Glory is a lesson in what to do with an aging actor, who is incredibly talented, cerebral and still darned handsome.

The film is about young producer Becky Fuller, who’s at the end of her rope when she’s offered a job on a morning show with incredibly low ratings.

The producer, played by the adorable Rachel McAdams, comes up with the plan to replace the perverted, negative anchor on the show with the grumpy, belligerent award-winning reporter, played by Ford.

Ford and Keaton

It was a bit of a masterstroke, placing Diane Keaton opposite Ford as seasoned morning show veteran, Colleen Peck.

The banter between these two seasoned professionals was often acerbic, edgy and rip-roaringly funny.

In fact, it would have been nice if there was quite a bit more of it.

Clearly the two prized stallions of the film could have easily over-shadowed the others.

McAdams held her own

Still, McAdams clearly has chops, and holding her own with Ford and Keaton (no small task) places her as a leading lady with a promising future.

In Morning Glory, McAdams proves not only that she can hold her own as a leading actress, but also that she is potentially a great physical comedian.

Other notable performances were by John Pankow, who’s well-known for his stint on the television hit Mad About You.

As assistant producer, he won audiences over with his tenderness towards McAdams’ character.

Jeff Goldblum, as network television executive Jerry Barnes, provides a fair amount of conflict, as McAdams tries to convince him to fight for the show.

But Goldblum, an actor with great comedic timing, could have been put to better use.

Good writing and  direction

Director Roger Michell has often worked on films in the UK as well as the US and is no stranger to drama and comedy.

He’s directed films such as Notting Hill, Venus and Changing Lanes.

Morning Glory is further evidence that Michell can direct heavy hitters.

His use of montage in Morning Glory was brilliantly put together, eliciting side splitting laughs from the crowds as Diane Keaton was bounced around on the belly of a sumo wrestler.

There was, however, a sloppy job done on sound mixing, which at times seemed choppy and overwhelming as the music sometimes swelled unnecessarily.

Yet, despite these small flaws that only really affected a small area of the film near its end, Morning Glory is a film that will have audiences leaving the theatre feeling an ample amount of gleeful mirth.

The film is clever in so far as it doesn’t shy away from the current discourse regarding television reporting, such as news versus entertainment and is soft news a valid form of journalism.

These issues come up regularly in the banter between Ford and Keaton leaving no room for criticism about a film that asks, ‘What bad things can you say about morning shows that we haven’t already said?’

Writer Aline Brosh Mckenna, who also wrote The Devil Wears Prada, is greatly responsible for this clever handling of the world of morning television news in the film.

Morning Glory delivers quite well and will undoubtedly become a DVD summer favourite.

Bernard Gregor-Smith’s 65th Birthday: A Musical Conversation

Bernard Gregor-Smith celebrated his 65th birthday Friday night by performing at Wigmore Hall with some of his colleagues and friends.

The cello he cradled between his knees was not new.  Like Gregor-Smith it was a seasoned instrument that had been around for quite a while.

The sound that came from the cello was rich, experienced and full of life.  So the fact that he was celebrating his 65th birthday could have been easily overlooked.

Gregor-Smith seemed as vital and vigorous a cellist as he did years ago, as part of the Lindsay String Quartet.

The Players

Gregor-Smith performed with an interesting array of instrumentalists.

During the first part of the evening, he was joined by pianist Yolande Wrigley and Giles Francis, who recited a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca to set the scene.

While Gregor-Smith took a brief respite, he left the cello playing to his son Ben Gregor-Smith, a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music, whose playing was fluid and effortless.

When the birthday boy returned to the stage, he was joined by group members of one of the several projects he is a part of, the Dante Quartet.

The Dante Quartet, founded in 1995, is made up of violinists Krysia Osostowicz and Giles Francis, viola player Judith Busbridge, and of course cello player Gregor-Smith, who joined the group in 2005.

Cries from the stringed instruments seemed to chase each other like playful children.   In turn, each of the players brought a tremendous level of professionalism.

It was an incredible act of coordination that can only come from many hours of relentless practice from skilled performers.  The joyful noise was, at times, serious but only long enough to show the audience what great players can do when they work together.

Eclectica

Eclectica played next, another group of which the accomplished cellist is a part.

Eclectica is made up of instrumentalists, who are often connected with diverse and creative projects.

By replacing the violin and viola in a string quartet with two guitars, Eclectica has created a sound in which its unique qualities are only enhanced by the sometimes eccentric music they choose to play.

Pete Oxley wrote the first piece they played for the celebration, ‘Flight of Fancy’.

The conversation between these four adept communicators put lovers of jazz in mind of musicians like Christian McBride and Pat Matheny, who are known for this type of musical dance.

Eclectica was an interesting break from the more traditional performances of the evening, which included classics such as Debussy’s Sonata in D Minor and Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major.

Those performances were rich and arousing, but Eclectica bought a more youthful vigor to the show, which proved that Gregor-Smith is still a vital musician.

In each performance he melded with his other players, so that they performed like one organism.

Yet, a conversation between musicians was unquestionably taking place.

In ‘Yemin’, written by guitarist Nicolas Meier, Gregor-Smith’s playing was reactionary and the rough whine of his cello intoxicating.

The audience seemed hypnotised as he stroked the underbelly of his instrument.  This particular conversation grew tendrils and wrapped itself around the seated audience.

Haunting and refreshing it showed the true talents of Meier, who played with such expert skill that his nimble fingers seemed a mere blur.

Pete Oxley embodied the name of his group, showing up on stage in red trousers, a blue printed shirt and a yellow scarf.

But like violinist Lizzie Ball, his talent knew no bounds.  Ball’s duet with Gregor-Smith was romantic, sweet and playful.  But where she really shined was in her rendition of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’.

Surprising the audience by playing the violin and then singing the song, her ability to emotionally connect with the crowd came through as her voice embodied both sadness and wisdom.

Yet, Ball’s playing is often so dynamic that one wouldn’t be surprised to see her violin burst into flames.  It would be interesting to see her in a duet with the likes of violinist Joshua Bell.  Together, they would no doubt commit a serious act of arson.

Mendelssohn

Reverting back to classical, Gregor-Smith and his players took on Mendelsson’s ‘String Octet in E Flat Major’ as the show’s finale.

The Dante Quartet, Lizzie Ball, Ronald Birks, Robin Ireland and Gregor-Smith’s son Ben, played the piece that Mendelssohn wrote at age 16.

And perhaps this sort of youthful genius was a perfect end to the birthday celebration.

The last talk of the evening communicated to the audiences that at age 65, Gregor-Smith could not be put into a conventional box.

He remains current, urgent, energetic and as Kyrsia Osostowicz put it, “forever young”.

If musicians as talented as Gregor-Smith and his friends are going to use their instruments to communicate, then we can only hope that they remain forever chatty.

Are You A Photographer?

Photograph: © Guy Roger Thomas

I have the strangest notions that if you love taking photographs, have invested in a semi-decent camera to nurture this love, and if you have “an eye”, then you are indeed a photographer.

I remember trying to convince my flatmate of this after seeing some of her amazing shots and also a close friend of mine in the US whose photographs will soon be shown in a gallery.

Many people I know have never taken a lesson in photography in their lives.

As my friend Guy put it, ‘If you have a good eye for shots, all you have to do is read the manual for your particular camera.’

Of this, I have no doubt. So much of taking photographs, after all, is based on luck.

Photograph: © Matt Taylor

I’ve taken amazing shots by accident because despite my clumsiness, the lighting was perfect, or my reaction was quicker and more knowledgeable than my conscious thoughts.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a high level of knowledge and preparation that goes into taking photographs.

The Fruits of Study

In fact, I have seen the results of studying in the field by way of another friend in New York, photographer Corren Conway, who takes incredible photographs of performers while sometimes dealing with huge concert crowds.

Another friend based in London, the incredibly multi-talented Matt Taylor, also seems to have benefited a great deal from study. His shots are crisp and dynamic, always giving the subject so much character.

Yet, photographer Guy Roger Thomas creates a professional finish to his photographs as he seems within them to study light, aesthetics and the micro-world of things we take for granted.

Photograph: © Nancy Elser

It may be important to remember exactly what photography is about, especially as people on the street with mobile phones are taking the place of photojournalists, who cannot be everywhere at once.

Anyone can snap pictures at a kid’s birthday party, and that’s fine because it does exactly what it sets out to do – record memories.

Yet, photography is a field in which one often wants to capture the world through a lens in order to present the way they see the world. ‘See this sunrise the way I see it, ‘ says the photographer.

Thanks to Adobe Photoshop, quite often the message is ‘See the world the way I’d like it to be.’
In this way, the photographer becomes a painter or a maestro conducting an orchestra.

If you are picking up that camera to capture the world through your eyes, you are indeed a bonafide photographer.

Off the Clock: From Assistant to Artist

Saturday night, ALISN – an artist-led organisation – presented ‘Off the Clock’, an exhibition featuring artists, who have assisted other well-known artists.

An upclose shot of "Quercus Condido Pt. I-III" by Matt Blackler

The works in ‘Off the Clock’ included paintings, illustrations and sculptures.

Yet, the main focus of the exhibition seemed to be the artist’s assistant, a role typically obscured by the fame of the main artist.

‘Off the Clock’ takes notice of the lack of recognition of artist’s assistants.  In fact, it is done rather well – in part – by a display of emails framed in wood, of responses from major artists.

ALISN reached out to artists whose former or current assistants were asked to exhibit works in ‘Off the Clock’.

Some of the emails actually praised the assistant.  There was, for example, a direct quote from Sir Anthony Caro lauding Gary Doherty for his ten years of assistance.

Other artists, however, responded via employees of the gallery or organisation in which they worked.

The Exhibition

Many of the pieces in ‘Off the Clock’ relayed a common theme of desolation.

Benjamin Deakin, who assists winner of the 2002 Turner Prize, Keith Tyson, created an illustration of a jagged hole in the ground.

By looking closely, one can just see the faded stencilled words that read ‘DEAD ARTIST’.  The drawing depicts an open grave, and ghostly figures seem to dance in and out of the detailed illustration.

A section of "FP 12:16" by Gary Doherty

Gary Doherty’s large drawing depicts a loan woman looking over a city that she seems very much disconnected from.

However, the second image of her in the illustration that appears at the end of a tunnel-like hole indicates that she is somehow watching herself rather than the city.

Reuben Negron’s painting was of a half naked woman alone in a room.  His use of watercolours and gouache were interesting, giving the painting a graphic novel feel.  The images come to life, creating a certain measure of intensity within the loan figure as she pleases herself in bed.

Yet, perhaps the most obvious feeling of desolation was the painting by Allison Edge, who assisted artist Jeff Koons.

Part of her Magic Forest series, Camp Thunderbird, oil on canvas, depicted a campground scene with several tire swings hanging off of a rope.

"Camp Thunderbird" by Allison Edge

Edge’s painting has a magical and eerie feeling, and one is compelled to ask why no children or people inhabit it at all.

Yet, the pieces, which depicted certain ghostly characteristics, were offset by some equally interesting sculptures.

Daryl Brown’s Mother and Cat was a sort of Escher-esque sculpture of wood.

With Brown’s recent Judo Series in mind, it is interesting to see how the artist continues to play with gravity.

The sculpture, though seemingly heavy on the top is held up by a single metal pedestal, which disappears into the bottom of the piece.

Brown has assisted artist Gereon Krebber, who won the Jerwood Sculpture Prize in 2003.

Another sculpture, which evokes discussion, is Alison Gill’s Stray Object. A model of a tiny brown bird with a broken wing is in the centre of a large cube.

At first, one may think of a bird within a cage, except that the large box-like cube has holes carved in varying sizes, allowing the bird to escape once he is mended.

One side of "Stray Object" by Alison Gill

Gill’s approach asks viewers to contemplate the bird’s circumstance and the bird’s fate.

Gill has assisted YBA member Gavin Turk, who, in a strange turn of events, will assist her on a sculpture in one of the upcoming exhibitions.

Matt Blackler’s work with wood seems to speak loudly of nature.  The round wooden pieces, at first look, seem like slices of a tree – something a lumberjack would produce.

A closer look reveals that the wood has been manipulated in such a way that perhaps alludes to one of its former states.

Blackler, who assists Gordon Cheung, often works with wood, creating sculptures that require a great deal of physical work.

Other artists whose work will be shown in ‘Off the Clock’ are Rachel Beach who has assisted Roxy Paine, Jason Bryant who has assisted Kehinde Wiley, Sy Hackney who has assisted Eamon Everall and Jenny Morgan who has assisted Marilyn Minter.

The ‘Off the Clock’ series, sponsored also by Like the Spice, will continue in both London and New York as follows:

9 to 17 October, The Magnificent Basement Gallery, 128 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3AP

14 October to 14 November, 92Y Tribeca Art Gallery, 200 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013

4 November to 6 December, Like The Spice Gallery, 224 Roebling Street. Brooklyn, NY 11211

4 to 17 November, Mile End Art Pavilion, Mile End Park, Grove Road, London, E3 4QY

Kathyrn Stockett: An Intuitive Look at Race

I have to admit that I find it almost amusing that critics have worried more about the connotations of white author Kathryn Stockett writing in a black woman’s voice, then about the subject matter of her book.

The Help, an incredibly intuitive novel, takes the reader on a journey to Jackson, Mississippi during the 60s when segregation was still forced by law.

Stockett doesn’t hold back in her prose, which is something for which readers can be eternally grateful.

Instead, the author gets inside the minds of Southern women during that time period, black and white, in order to explore the divisions and connections between them.

The novel inspires readers to re-evaluate the often one-dimensional interpretation of those horrible times by supposing, quite rightly, that there were people on both sides, who bridged the gap between races.

Stockett’s story doesn’t demonise the characters, but shows a delightful three-dimensional side of the human experience.

Ambiguity

If anything could potentially be learned from reading The Help, it is that the ambiguity of characters is not an easy thing to accomplish in the type of story that usually promotes religious agendas of good versus evil.

Stockett’s novel doesn’t set up camp within a comfort zone, but instead explores a higher truth by depicting white Southerners, who are just as trapped as their oppressed black maids and blacks, who live life freer and braver than any other characters in the book.

This is the strength of the novel, its unwillingness to conform to a preconceived notion about segregation in 1960s America.

No doubt, the author drew from her own experiences as a daughter of Mississippi. We can only imagine that her characters are based on people she knew growing up there.

The Help has moments of tenderness and connection between people that are surprising and beautiful, showing the strength of all women despite the hardships of those times.

Stockett’s novel is filled to the brim with human problems that are anything but black and white, which makes it an important and timely book for Americans and those, who wish to understand the culture in light of its slow but progressive changes in regards to race.

Carrie Haber: A Maltese at ease

Carrie Haber

Carrie Haber has devoted her life to music, which is not at all extraordinary for a young singer/songwriter.

But what is unique about the Malta-born artist is that she hasn’t spent the past few years doggedly searching for a big break.

She, in essence, goes where the wind takes her.  Yet, despite her relaxed attitude about her career, opportunities seem to have fallen into her lap like overripe fruit.

The artist received a free offer to have her video filmed by a producer in Malta, who kindly decided to take her on as a project for his marketing company.

She also received vocal lessons, which gave her the skills she needed to become a vocal coach in her spare time.

Performing Right Society

After earning enough money to produce her own EP, Haber attended a Performing Right Society meeting for artists in Malta.

The organisation, created to make sure artists get paid royalties for commercial use of their music, had drawn an interesting array of people.

When one of the attendees asked Haber to loan her keyboard to him for a show he was doing later, she agreed.  The artist was none other than British music promoter Tony Moore.  He was so grateful that he asked Haber to open his show that night.

“He invited me to come to London and perform in his venues.  I was coming over regularly at first, for a week at a time and then a month.  I made the decision that because things were happening for me in London, I should make a move.”

Haber’s move to the richly diverse and cultural city of London caused her fans to develop a greater respect and recognition for her as an artist.

Carrie Haber at The Bedford

The Malta Music Awards

In 2009, she won Best Songwriter and Best Female Artist at the Malta Music Awards.

By 2010, after living in London for just over a year, the talented singer/songwriter had already attracted some influential people in the music business.

“I’m working with Sting’s producer, U2, and Peter Gabriel.”

But while Haber’s good fortune is seemingly a windfall, it is her attributes as an artist that is undoubtedly the secret to her success.

On stage, her humility is as much a part of her energy as the songs she belts out with incredible self-assuredness.

“I’ve improved so much,” admitted the singer, later on.  “I received a lot of constructive criticism.  I had one to one’s with Tony Moore that have opened up my mind.  I have a better understanding of what talent scouts are looking for.”

Backup

Like any young artist, 25-year old Haber has difficult moments in her career.

“I have moments of worry, but nothing ever happens when I panic.  It’s also about having a backup.  I live music.  I breathe music.  I teach music as a backup so that I can be around it all the time.”

Almost every decision Haber makes is based on self-improvement, not only as an artist, but as a person.

“I studied psychology in university because I wanted to understand myself and others a little better.  It opened my mind a lot.  I check in with myself often and ask questions like, ‘Why am I going through this?’ and ‘What’s going on with me?’

Her willingness to self-improve has made it easier for her to make vital connections in the music business.

Her magnetism is obvious to everyone in the room, even if it isn’t to her.  Over coffee, Haber’s cheerful disposition infects another singer and friend nearby.  The two begin to giggle like schoolgirls.

Animated, Haber continues to talk about self-therapy.  And even in this, her philosophy of letting inspiration find her comes through.

“You don’t have to go looking for whatever your spiritual muse is, just stop and look within.”

Her face a bit more serious, Haber warns against musicians being unclear about their art.

“Artists tend to focus on the business side of things too much.  If you forget about the spiritual and the passionate side of music, you’ve lost the plot.”

When asked if she had any advice for young artists out there, she simply responded,

“Lie on the grass and just breathe. Be inspired by quiet moments.  There’s a difference between someone who’s writing from the heart and artificiality in songwriting.  Don’t do it if it’s not who you are because things won’t connect that way.  You’ve got to be genuine.”