Lord of the Rings at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings
Theatre Royal Drury Lane

At last I have managed to get to see Lord of the Rings on stage. 3 hours long in 3 acts with a 20 minute interval. I was like many (but not all) who was there to see just ‘how they do it.’

J. R. R. Tolkein embarked on writing the epic work in stages (between 1937 and 1949) against a background of totalitarianism (a specially bred Orc army), industrial power leading to world war (the end of the ‘Golden Age’) and the allied victory over a common enemy (the battle at the Black Gate of Mordor.) But Tolkein was also conscious that he wanted to record a ‘very English’ kind of mythology similar to European mythologies such as Norse (pantheon of the gods), Anglo-Saxon (Beowulf) or even making reference to the Germanic (Nibelungenlied or the Ring Cycle.) It is clear that the Ring refers to the notion of absolute power the premise being that anyone who seeks to gain absolute worldly power will inevitably be corrupted by it.

To create a performance of an epic-fantasy spanning nine hours and fit for a theatre audience is not inconceivable (Richard Wagner’s ‘The Ring cycle’ has been playing since 1876) but the truly epic enormity of the project (in both a Brechtian sense and also  in a very practical sense) has, until now, been impossible to tackle.

Full-length stage musical adaptations of each of The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003) were produced in Cincinnati, Ohio. These first productions suffered from poor funding and were not successful. Subsequent productions were better received and these inspired the London-based theatre producer Kevin Wallace and his partner, Saul Zaentz (best picture Oscars for and Amadeus 1984, as well as for The English Patient 1996,) stage and film rights-holder and producer of the animated film version of 1978 — in association with Toronto theatre-owner David Mirvish and concert promoter Michael Cohl, to produce the stage musical adaptation in 2006. The book and lyrics were written by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus, and the music was by A. R. Rahman (Bombay Dreams 2002) and Finnish folk-music band Värttinä, collaborating with Christopher Nightingale.

This original production (for Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre,) was promoted as a spectacle of unusual scale. But the size and high-cost of the production, mixed with some very poor reviews, led to the collapse of the project after only 6 months. The writers and producers went back to the drawing-board and came up with a concept that was slightly shorter, more enthusiastic and very cautious (with the longest ‘preview period’ ever attempted in British theatre. This final product (costing in excess of £25 million) is the most ambitious and expensive theatre production ever to have been attempted outside Las Vegas.

What’s it like? The production starts promptly (you are told to get into your seats 15 minutes early) and you go straight to Middle Earth (the Shires to be exact.) The naturalistic woodland setting adds mystery and extra dimension to the stage. The music is folksy and cheerful (dramatic and operatic when the mood requires) and, although not really remarkable or memorable, it provides ample emotional background and occasional leitmotifs.

The real treats were the “how will they do it?” moments. I won’t spoil it for you but Gandalf’s fight at the bridge of Khazad-dûm and the monster at the Lair of Shelob were two of the most memorable and truly satisfying scenes I have ever witnessed in a musical theatre production.

The use of real deus ex machina (elves tend to literally drop in and float back up heavenwards) and the acrobatic assaults by the armies of orcs constantly add thrills to proceedings. You never feel bored- I was at the edge of my seat all the way through.

What did they miss out? Well, I am pretty sure that most female members of the audience were pleased that the big set-piece battle scenes were not there. These take up a huge proportion of the Peter Jackson films. Also, there are no epic poems and verse. The musical tends to take the big motifs (Elves looking after the Hobbits or the ‘smallness’ and ‘cheerfulness’ of the Hobbits in relation to Humans) and runs with these. Obviously, all the major plot elements are still there but there is no sign of ‘wormtongue’ who should have been corrupting King Théoden and there was no Tom Bombadil. ‘Fatty’ Bolger seemed to be missing and the Ringwraiths seemed to be able to find the Hobbits without the decoy scene.

I was pleased to see so may young people at the show. The films and the games have made Middle Earth seem real to a whole new set of fans. This ‘computer generation’ seemed to enjoy the theatrical production as much as the older ‘readers’. All-in-all, hugely enjoyable fun and very good value for money.

Arwen is played by Rosalie Craig (Doctors, Grease Monkeys etc)
Gandlaf by Malcolm Storry (Heartbeat, Midsomer Murders etc.)
Galadriel by Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady etc.)
Frodo by James Loye (TV’s Dunkirk)
Sam by Peter Howe (original Toronto cast)

Monday evenings at 7.00pm
Tuesday to Saturday evenings at 7.30pm
Saturday matinees at 2.00pm
Thursday matinees at 2.00pm from 28 June
Extra matinees on Monday 24 and Monday 31 December at 1.30pm
No evening performance 24 December.
No performances 25 December

Prices from just £15

http://www.lotr.com/

The Getaway Team

The Getaway Team

Pop-Punk meets British indie?

The Getaway team are five best mates who want to make music and have the time of their lives!

Tom Greenwood: Vocals
Henry Eastham: Guitar / Vocals
Simon Brown: Bass / Vocals
John Young: Guitar / Vocals
Alun Chambers: Drums

The band started writing together around the middle of 2006 and they found they had a knack for making catchy Pop-Punk songs with the attitude of British indie.

In the last few months they have started to put together an exciting, adrenaline-fueled live show.

Henry (who looks like Tom Fletcher from McFly) and the the others are pleasing on the eye. Clad in black and not looking back, they hit the ground running, when I saw them at The Hob (Staines) on a cold Sunday in October.

Their soulful tunes and melodic lyrics laced ‘over the top’ of guitar-based sounds were instantly poppy and catchy without being formulaic. In other words, you get the impression that this band can bash out a tune but they will never sell out.

The band may be all indy brit-rock like The Kooks but they sing a sincere brand of tuneful almost folksy ballads (think Peter Buck or even Nick Drake) oozing with charm and as nostalgic as a Sunday afternoon spent in a damp pub beer garden. The harmonies are reminiscent of The Pixies- high ‘melodica’ and yet abrasive enough to rub the skin from your shins. But don’t overlook the constant plucky guitar-work of the twin guitarists- especially the fretwork of young John Young who tends to shelter at the back but is ably supported by choppy high-energy riffs from Henry.

Frontman Tom Greenwood swaggers and pouts and puts on a solid and polished performance. The team percussion, pounded out by Alun Chambers on drums, is not only essential but undiluted and powerful.

If you’ve got a million dreams stuck in your head
Go and see this team live before you’re dead…

http://www.myspace.com/thegetawayteam

For more news and reviews keep checking AdPontes-Staines

Symphony X – Paradise Lost

Symphony X

You know you are onto a winner (or you are deeply in the shite) when you find an album with Latin title tracks…

I also used to think (back in the days of gate-fold sleeves and Boots ‘the record shop’..) that an album with great cover art sounds better, feels better, behaves better and is all round better-better than an album without great cover art.

This album has got both!

This album proves that prog-rock is alive and well and is living in exile in ‘Neww Joysie’ (say it in a Soprano’s voice and you’ll get it) and that ‘thrash metal’ and even ‘death metal’ have grown up and are now wearing brown cords and hanging around the house smoking a pipe and wearing tartan slippers.

The American neo-classical prog-power metal band Symphony X was founded in 1994 so, just because you haven’t heard of them yet, it don’t mean that they haven’t been round the block (and back, after getting a pack of ciggies and a bottle of Tequila.)

In fact, they have already produced two critically acclaimed albums: The Divine Wings of Tragedy in 1997 and V: The New Mythology Suite in 2000. Some like to compare them to Dream Theater and, it is true, once or twice on Paradise Lost you get a nostalgic feeling you had been here before (regression, perhaps, as if you are playing out scenes from a memory?)

Their music contains strong neo-classical elements and it would be hard not to compare the opening track on Paradise Lost to anything by Carl Orff.

So the album starts off with Carl Orff and the title track is in Latin: Oculus Ex Inferni.
Pretentious or what? Well, I haven’t even started yet! The whole piece is based upon Milton’s epic poem of the same name. This famous poem concerns the Judeo-Christian story of the Fall of Man the subsequent temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan and resultant expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Milton’s work was done in blank verse and put into 12 books (a bit like the Aeneid- you know the epic poem by one of the Tempest brothers- I think it was Virgil.) So it is well ‘arty-farty’- we are talking Arts Foundation Course A101, 102, 103 and 104!

Symphony X’s version of Paradise Lost only goes to 10 tracks (not 12 so they missed a trick) and ‘goes on’ for about 61 minutes ( Milton’s effort takes about a week to read) and the Orff-like opener moves nicely and cleverly into Set The World On Fire- a grungy but orchestral sweeping statement. No light, but rather darkness visible. This, then, is followed by Domination and then, for my money the best track on the album, Serpent’s Kiss.

In these tracks there is power, there is technical brilliance and there is superb musicianship. I like the feeling that good and evil are battling it out on this disc. It actually reminds me of the ‘black’ side of Queen II (for those of you that remember that far back.) For example, you get a harpsichord solo or piano flourish right in the middle of a heavy dark guitar piece. Then you get Russell Allen’s vocals soaring above. The dark-guitar comes courtesy of guitar guru Michael Romeo a Yngwie Malmsteen protege and it shows here.

The album finishes off with Revelation (a bit like the bible.) This is the longest and, probably, the ‘rockiest’ track on the album, going on for a good 6 or more minutes and followed by those softer keyboard solos (reminiscent of ELP) before returning with a vengeance to the grungy horror of death metal guitars. Growling out across the black sky.

All in all, don’t expect this to be an easy listen. Don’t expect to be able to play it to your old grandma whilst she knits you some ear defenders. And don’t expect to really get to know this album in just a day. It will reward you if you take time to really, really listen.

Yes, Paradise Lost is dark and it is haunting. Yes, it is intelligent and it is heavy. Yes, this album has got a first class honours degree in The Dark Arts. Yes, but, do you know what? It is actually very accessible and not far remov’d from God and light of Heav’n.

One of the great albums of the year so far.

Notes:

On the cover is a Mlitonesque Rebel Angel. The fantastic US version of Paradise Lost features a superb foldout and digipack that was designed by Warren Flanagan, who has done art-direction for major motion picture blockbusters such as I Robot, X-Men and Blade. I ordered my copy from the states just to get it!

Founder Symphony X guitarist and composer Michael Romeo llves and works in a Dungeon! It figures.

For more reviews check Adpontes-Staines regularly

Get the Symphony X album here

Mika- Life in Cartoon Motion

Mika- Life in cartoon Motion

Fun, clappy, happy-clappy, claptrap- that’s Mika!

If you haven’t heard Grace Kelly or Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) yet then you have been living and loving on the planet Zog with your head down the lav and your ears full of cotton wadding.

Yes the songs are chirpy. Chirpy and cheerful. But not so trite that they make you wince. The girls may be all oooing and getting themselves in a right tizz over this fay curly-haired big-bird but the so-so-macho guys out there might well be asking for the sick-bucket to be passed around.

Mica Penniman (born 18 August 1983), aka Mika is a Lebanese-born, London-based singer. The family moved to London when he was just nine years old. The album Life in Cartoon Motion is his first offering and, already, a cargo-truck-load of singles have come off the disc.

After attending Westminster School and the Royal College of Music, Mika went on to record his first album. Naturally, for a man of such class, he is a trained opera singer and trained pianist. So he is a proper clever clogs.

Take two-parts Farrokh Bulsara, one-part Ana Matronic and five-parts the school-cleaners mop and you end up with Mika. The English have always had a soft spot for this sort of eloquent, flamboyant and outrageously camp iconic song-and-dance man (think John Inman, Danny La Rue and even Dame Edna). Mika perfectly fits the bill. He is the very encampment! He should be ‘on’ at the seaside (at the end of the pier) and, if he was on at the pier, he would be wearing a pink T shirt with the slogan “Ooooooooh, you are awful…but I like you”.

On the first listen of Life in Cartoon Motion, the quaintly falsetto whines lure you in the same way a seasick siren lures worn-out seamen in. The sounds seem sweet, honey-cake, but then you realize the lyrics are a little bit naughty… and a little big silly… and a little bit gay-fun.

But then, at times, you get ‘taken in’ by the proper BIG opera (trained voice) a la Queen circa 1974 and your feet get tapping to some proper street-cred sounds that may make you re-think the whole Mika phenomena.

The plinky-plonky piano is pleasantly supported by some quality session musicians such as Martin Waugh (guitars, backing vocals), Michael Choi (bass, backing vocals), Cherisse Ofosu-Osei (formerly of The Faders, drums), Vinnie Potestivo , backing vocals), and Luke Juby (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals).

There are 12 big songs on the album. You will recognise at least three. I write that with some certainty because, even if you have lived on the aforementioned planet Zog for the last few years, Mika writes songs that are kinda nostagic and reminiscent of lots of other songs and melodies that you know. I am not saying his work imitates or steals from others, I am saying it is comfortably redolent – like your favourite leather armchair or a favourite scented candle.

My choice track on the album is Lollipop which is, very probably, quite naughty (in the ‘end of the pier’ and ‘kiss me quick’ tradition) but also has a innocent charm and a guilty fascination.

Note: Mika’s sister Yasmine, who works as an artist under the nom de plume Dawack, painted the superb cartoon art for the album cover.

http://www.myspace.com/mikamyspace

http://www.mikasounds.com/

Look out for more reviews at AdPontes-Staines

Get the CD here

New Assassins

New Assassins

MIK PERRY – Vocals & Guitar RIK PAYNE – Lead Guitar NOAH HARMON – Bass Guitar. DAN MCDONNELL – Drums.

The New Assassins are an American sounding rock band from Staines ( they like to call themselves ‘the elder statesmen’ of Staines- but they don’t seem to look as old as Ming Cambell to me!) and they play everything from experimental, punk, new wave to raw blues, rock to indie. I saw them play at The Hob, Staines last month.

Some of their material seems a bit experimental and improvised- yet tight enough not to stray into ‘jazz odyssey’ territory. If you take a pinch of PiL (Public Image Ltd) and then add a spoonful of psychedelia a lá The Verve with a dollop of post-punk juice like Joy Division and you get close to the sound of the New Assassins.

In fact, the band look awfully similar to The Verve in appearance but seem less inclined to shoegaze and more inclined towards a more raucous and, to my mind, enjoyable rocky style more like The Black Crowes.

You can download NA tracks from their indiestore site at:

http://indiestore.com/thenewassassins

Keep visiting AdPontes-Staines the Staines Arts Magazine for news of upcoming shows by The New Assassins

——————————————————-
From Rich…

The New Assassins are the best band to come out of Staines in years! They’re doing a gig at The Compasses in Egham in March 09, Can’t wait!

———

Thanks Rich!

PFJ

The PFJ

The PFJ

The PFJ are an exciting pub band from Berkshire who play late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s retro rock from Aha to ZZ Top – stuff like “I Will Survive” to “Ace Of Spades”, with a bit of “Teen Spirit” and “Tiger Feet” thrown in.

I saw them at the Rising Sun, Slough and, even though they had to squeeze into a tiny corner, the boys managed to play a ‘full-on’ rock concert with sounds, lights, and electrifying energy.

The PFJ take their name from the Peoples Front of Judea (not to be confused with the Judean peoples popular front etc. etc. from Life of Brian) And, as the name suggests, the band oozes fun and humour as well as not a little musical talent.

Their choices (for the set list) is a head-bangers wet dream including some very old favourites like Ace Of Spades (Motorhead) and Paranoid (Sabbath) but mixed with some highly original (and hilarious) covers like I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor) or Crazy Horses (Osmonds). When you add songs like Turning Japanese (The Vapours)
and Video Killed the Radio Star ( Buggles) into the mix you realise that you are witnessing a highly innovative fun-time band.

The PFJ squeeze out every possible sound from their 6 piece outfit, featuring vocals, 2 guitars, bass, drums and even a stage dancer. Just to add to the party spirit, the PFJ come out in their patented Judean costumes and even tend to do some costume-changes during their set.

I went to see them again last Sunday at The Old Ticket Hall, Windsor but, unfortunately, the band were on after the rugby semi-final and I couldn’t be bothered to wait around until about 10:30pm to see them…

Since forming in 2000, the PFJ have won over crowds of drunks on a regular basis… make sure you catch their amazing live show soon

UPCOMING SHOWS

Saturday 8 December 2007 The Old Ticket Hall, Windsor –

http://www.thepfj.com/

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Velvet Razor

Velvet razor

Velvet Razor are a Rock / Classic Rock / Progressive outfit from Weybridge consisting of Dave Kent vocals lead guitar and additional guitar/keyboards;
Martin Wise bass guitar and backing vocals; Ian Pickering on keyboards and
Ian King on acoustic drums, electronic drums and percussion.

Having formed four years ago (2003), Velvet Razor haven’t wasted time in trying to establish themselves as a fixture in the UK South’s live music scene. 2005 saw the band play at Guilfest 2005 and proving to be a minor sensation of the festival. They were unknown late-comers to the festival, playing the notoriously difficult first slot on the Surrey Advertiser stage. Initially they played to a nearly empty marquee, but half way through their set, the crowd started to pour in from outside.

More recently they played at the Ents24 stage at Guilfest 2006 (The 2nd largest stage) and went back into the studio this sunmer to record a whole new disc.

I saw the band at The Hob, Staines last month. The band played a selection of their own-penned compositions plus a nice range of prog-jazz sounding covers from Stones through to Led Zeppelin via some more modern stuff. Their own material sounds a bit experimental (without being too avant-garde) allowing the boys to stretch the boundaries of the basic rock sounds. The band’s guitar-based tunes containing interesting percussive elements is reminiscent of Robert Fripp (King Crimson). It is obvious that the band enjoys exploring elements of jazz and funk whilst remaining loyal to a more solid rock foundation.

I heard plenty of old-style prog-rock (Pink Floyd, Yes etc.) but couldn’t really say that I heard ‘more modern’ prog-rock sounds like Porcupine Tree or Spocks Beard and I suppose this is not a surprise because the band are no spring-chickens…. not that I am being critical about their combined ages! As an example of their reliance on older sounds, I noticed on their website that they cite Genesis as an influence but are clear to note that it is the ‘Gabriel’ Genesis they are referring to and not the ‘Collins’ version (so in other words pre-1975.)

Perhaps the Hob is not the best venue for VR. The ‘jazzy & experimental’ feel of the group meant that, at times, their performance seemed lazy and a little self-gratifying. It is fair to say that the group seemed to lack the vigour and vim of some of the younger performers that night.

But, all-in-all, VR is a complex and multi-talented band worth exploring (you can get their disc from their website) and probably more suited to an outdoor event than a pub-rock venue.

Neil_Mach  October 2007

UPCOMING SHOWS:

Sat, Nov 17th 2007 8:30 pm Robin Hood Pub Guildford

Check their site at:

http://www.velvetrazor.com/

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