London Calling No One: A Wonderfully Whimsical Afternoon

Tanja and I had a great week in London, no doubt. Among other things we saw Young Victoria and loved the film to pieces with both of us crying at the same moments, lol. Then we went to see the play (!!!) SWEENEY TODD of which the journey to the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch was an adventure on its own - but it was all worth the trouble: The tale of love, murder and meat pies was witty and very well acted with a gorgeous Anthony and a fantastic stage setting.

Fresh from a sell-out run at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Austentatious is a love letter to theatre.

Sam, long-suffering stage manager to the Camberford Regional Arts Panel, is stretched to breaking point during their chaotic new production of Pride and Prejudice.

Will the cast learn to stop arguing? Will Mr. Darcy choose the right girl? Will those tap shoes ever come in handy?

On Sunday we were completely lost in Austen - I love laughing and I surely laugh a lot - but I had never have laughed so much in a theatre that I  a) split my sides laughing and got tummy ache and b) that my make-up was gone after the show. AUSTENTATIOUS was truely hilarious.
In order to appreciate this little gem you should love Jane Austen, of course, then you need to know at least
Pride & Prejudice, quite a lot of her witty quotes and last but not least you should know the BBC version of
P & P. The constant allusions to famous high-brow English literature as well as to famous musicals were the icing on the cake.
First surprise on arrival: the Landor theatre is a charming little room above a nice pub under the roof with about 45 seats. We had a glas of wine in the sunny court first, while inside there was a rugby game between England and France on TV...

The actors played, sang and danced right under our noses: a metatheatrical play, a play about the theatre with a play within a play, namely P & P at the end. However, until the actors were actually able to perform 
P & P they had to agree on whether there should be a piece of ballet, tap dance or a Dutch clog dance in it with  Mr Bingley as a dunce, shy and pot smoking and Wickham as a pirate eloping with Lydia to New York etc.
Director and stage manageress were completely irritated, bugged and stressed out :-). And then, during the last 10 minutes or so they actually performed P&P - I cannot describe how funny it was. At one stage Darcy got a bowl of water poured over him and he looked 1:1 like Colin Firth: Ms Elizabeth!.......Mr Darcy!......Ms Elizabeth......Mr Darcy --( I trust your parents are in good health, hahaha) --- we all nearly rolled on the floor laughing.
Later, we talked to the actors in the pub.

If you have the chance to see it, go!!!
Theatre, 70 Landor Road, London til 28th March
Richard Meek as Darcy

Hannah Nepil:
I take my Austen neat. No ice, lemon, or even novel necessary. I find it interferes in my communion with Ms Austen, courtesy of the BBC. I clench my fists when Mr Collins mops his glistening brow. I draw the curtains when Elizabeth spits Darcy’s proposal back in his face, and when they first make eyes at each other over the Pemberley pianoforte I rewind like a fiend possessed. It’s all part of the joy of television.

Since very little gets me quite as riled as the desecration of other Austen adaptationa, 'Austentatious' should really have me fuming. Here’s the plot summary: stage manager Sam is putting on a production of 'Pride and Prejudice', but the cast is not up to scratch. Mr Bingley is struggling to bin the narcotics, Elizabeth Bennet is battling to conquer her Australian accent and Mr Wickham is there only in figurine form. I can truthfully say that I wasn’t expecting Jane Bennet to get kidnapped by a marauding bear. Nor did I forsee Elizabeth taking relationship counselling from the Statue of Liberty. Maybe my ignorance was bliss because had I known, I might never have gone. And if I hadn’t gone I would never have realised how Jane Austen and musical theatre could make such an attractive crossbreed.

Punctuated by spangly musical numbers, this is a satirical ode to all the foibles of classic novel adaptations. From laughable plot embellishments, gratuitous violence, cringeworthy simulations of Austen’s syntax, and even Colin Firth’s wet shirt, nothing gets overlooked. While ostensibly as Austenian as a Big Mac, this parody defends the importance of the original novel by puncturing the cult of the adapatation. Somehow between the glitter and fuscia jump suits, the main plot-line of the book merges seamlessly with the show’s as the level-headed Sam herself begins to take on the character of Elizabeth. She’s scoffed at by the cast for her merely managerial position. Yet she manages to bag the leading man (who plays Darcy) right under the nose of his girlfriend, whose vanity would render her a perfect Miss Bingley if that part was cast.

This is just as much a send-up of the cut-throat rigours of musical theatre as it is a tribute to Austen and these two strands work together: the brazen Lydia doubles up as the self-promoting, competitive stereotype associated with luvvies. Boasting sharp lyrics, super-slick acting and an utterly hilarious script, this is exactly the kind of London fringe musical that ought to get snapped up by the West End.

Austen purists should probably avoid - if they haven’t left by the interval, then Elizabeth Bennet’s climactic, New York-based tap-off with her Pirate Queen sister Lydia, will surely send them running back to their texts to double-check the footnotes.

For those prepared to throw out any preconceived ideas about period pieces and Regency reserve, you’re in for a wonderfully whimsical night of clog dancing, mechanical bears and oh-so-amateur dramatics.

Austentatious features that old favourite, the play within a play. Pride and Prejudice, as put on by the Camberford Regional Arts Panel (do your own acronyms), turns into an increasingly troubled and bizarre production, with director Dominic (Ilan Goodman) and high-kicking choreographer/writer Emily (Fem Belling) jostling for control.

The faultless seven-strong cast convince with their hilarious portrayals, delivering a pacey performance, finely balanced between songs and scenes.

Bearing more than a fleeting resemblance to Colin Firth, Richard Meek manages to be both damply hunky when playing wet-shirted Darcy, and shyly sweet as nice-guy David. Couple this with a convincing rapport with stage manager Sam (a beautifully voiced Cassidy Janson), and you’ve got a romantic pairing to rival any previous interpretation.

Musical comedies are often lucky to provoke the odd giggle, but this production had the audience in hysterics, with comedy values to surpass many a sitcom; some fine individual comic flair from Simon Lipkin, as stoner Blake, who entertains with his Connery-esque “Mish Bennett” and his cigarette lighter-waving Statue of Liberty.

Gone are Austen’s subtle witticisms, but director Dominic’s mixed metaphors, such as “Let’s burn that bridge when we cross it,” would surely meet with author approval.

The sharply-written script is complemented by some catchy tunes, full of Sondheim-style, staccato wit and barbed asides.

At times there’s too much going on, the one act per second technical rehearsal being a case in point; be sure not to blink and miss Jenna Boyd’s delightful, momentary mime of how Jane Bennet gets ill on the way to Netherfield.

The pub theatre environment and ropey backdrops add to the experience, with the production set in the world of £5/head regional theatre.

Austentatious certainly succeeds in sending up the increasingly outrageous ideas writers and choreographers come up with to stamp their mark on a classic. As one lyric tells, “Somehow the Austen got lost in translation,” well I, for one, loved being bemused and amused by their novel interpretation.

- Eileen Strong

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London Calling

Well, well, Tanja and I had a fantastic Sunday 15 March with seeing the absolutely hilarious musical/play AUSTENTATIOUS in the afternoon and missing this here in the evening *slap* - obviously our GB is no more up-to-date, pity

(no subject)

The Long War
by Laurie Lee

Less passionate the long war throws
its burning thorn about all men,
caught in one grief, we share one wound,
and cry one dialect of pain.

We have forgot who fired the house
Whose easy mischief spilled first blood
Under one raging roof we lie
The fault no longer understood
But as our twisted arms embrace the desert where our cities stood
Death’s family likeness in each face must show at last our brotherhood

And I found this comment:

This poems seems horribly ironic since the Pentagon have unveiled their new 'Long War' strategy. £295.6 billion for US defence spending in 2007. Or enough to fund global anti-hunger efforts for the next twelve years.

NO COMMENTS from me...

I've read that the poem is a song of the relatively new Italian band London Underground (debut album in 2000),a trio led by the drummer/vocalist Daniele Caputo who is also known for his work with one of best modern prog bands about STANDARTE:
- Daniele Caputo / drums, percussion, vocal
- Marco Piaggesi / bass, banjo, backing vocal
- Gianluca Gerlini / piano, Hammond, organ, Moog, clavinet, Mellotron

Additional musicians:
- Claudio Bianchini / pedal steel guitar
- Stefano Cudia / guitar
- Gianni Corongiu / guitar
- Sergio Taglioni / string arrangement

Unfortunately I haven't yet found out much more about them - I'll go to SATURN next week


I wish I could turn the clock back - no time turner available for the time being in Germany...
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