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Out of the Blue are an all-male a cappella group from Oxford University performing at C1 throughout the fringe .

I must admit this is the sort of show I would never have picked to see on my own, and while I probably wont try to make a habit out of going to see a cappella covers of pop-songs (A mashup of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Sexy Back’?  It happened), Out of the Blue was a fun hour of exuberant geekery.

Out of the Blue

C1 @ Chambers Street
Until the 31st of August

Sources tell me this one is selling out fast and all profits from the show go to an Oxford area hospice, so book now if you plan to go.

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If you’re looking for more festival reviews, head to I love Edinburgh.  Miss Edinburgh and her co-bloggers seem to be a bit quicker to write up shows than I’ve been so far.

hannah250

I was back down at Assembly on George Street last night to see another Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby.   Adam Hills is producing Gadsby’s run at the fringe this year and gave her a shout-out in his show on Thursday night.

Gadsby is fairly new to the stand-up circuit, and it wasn’t hard to tell – the pacing was a bit bumpy and she mumbled through a few lines that might have been hard to decipher for audience members not familiar with Australian colloquialisms.

Beyond the jitters she put together a good show, focusing on her experiences growing up in an insular Tasmanian town and dealing with an unusually doctor-phobic mother while constantly getting into bizarre accidents involving bicycles, sheet glass and cricket stumps.

Kiss Me Quick I’m Full of Jubes

Hannah Gadsby

Assembly @ George Street
Until the 30th of August

Peaceful

Private Peaceful is another adaptation of a novel by the brilliant children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo (of War Horse fame).

Similarly to how War Horse relates sophisticated ideas about war to young audiences by focusing on the relationship between soldiers and animals, Private Peaceful focuses on the childhood recollections of a sixteen-year old boy who lied about his age to be able to fight alongside his brother in the First World War.

Finn Hanlon gave an amazing performance as Tommo Peaceful, controlling the pace of the piece while not just developing Tommo’s character but also bringing a great deal of life to the characters within his recollections.  This is no small achievement – the play is a 60 minute reflective monologue performed on a stage empty of all but a dilapidated folding bed.

The strength of the play is in how  beautifully it captures how Tommo’s favourite memories are poisoned by his time on the front; his first glimpse of a aeroplane in a country field, running along the mud tracks of a stream with his best friend, and getting piggyback rides from his big brother.

A fantastic piece of children’s theatre.

Private Peaceful
Michael Morpurgo an Simon Reade

Udderbelly, Bristo Square
Until the 31st of August

Morgurgo is also going to be speaking at three events the Edinburgh Book Festival: some tickets still available.

I heard an interview with Nigella Lawson where she talked about her experiences as a restaurant reviewer.  She said that she was always reluctant to write really negative reviews, saying that she thought on some occasions it was more charitable to just say nothing.

Horse

That is my inclination about Horse.  I always think I’m going to love physical theatre, then about ten minutes in I’m itching to leave and cursing myself for thinking an hour of dramatic movement and half-arsed dancing will be entertaining.

Rather than write a full review I’ll just briefly summarise what audiences can expect:

Woman dances like a horse with a mop for a tail.  Falls into a stack of hay bales.  Is heckled.  Gets into jodhpurs and a riding jacket (slowly) and reads from a riding manual.  Changes into pastor’s outfit (slowly) and holds a equine religious service.  Strokes members of the audience.  Changes back into original outfit (slowly) and pretends to ride a hobby horse.  Stands topless on said hobby horse.  Jumps into a water trough, emerges dripping wet and dressed in formal attire.  Sings.

Actually the last costume change was quite impressive.  It was a fairly small trough.

I don’t think my disappointment after seeing Horse was just the inevitable realisation that I don’t really like physical theatre.  For one thing the somewhat misleading positive reviews on the promotional poster are actually for one of Company FZ’s previous fringe productions.  For another: half the audience walked out.  Seemingly from boredom rather than shock or excessive hay inhalation.

It’s the Edinburgh Fringe! I don’t care if you’re provocative, silly or poorly rehearsed.  Just don’t be boring.

Horse
Company FZ

The Bosco at Hullabaloo
until the 31st of August

Two big opera things today:

1) The ROH starting their new season by chumming up to readers of The Sun again, this time with cheap tickets to Carmen. It was the Don last year.

2) Lots of extra grant money for English and Welsh opera.

I just got a call notifying me I’d won tickets to a surprise free gig Rufus is putting on “as a thank you” to fans. I won’t be in Manchester on the day, so I turned them down – but I recommend anyone who bought tickets through Quaytickets keep their phone handy.

The very lovely Joyce DiDonato, who I saw play Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni last year, slipped during a performance of The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House on the weekend and broke her leg.

DiDonato proved herself quite the trooper and finished the performance, first limping, then shuffling about with the help of a walking stick.  It wasn’t until after the show anyone realised the severity of the injury.  She’ll be singing the rest of the run from a wheelchair.

It seems to be all Rufus, all the time leading up to the première of Prima Donna on Friday Night (I’ve already taken note of things I anticipate will annoy me in press coverage of the event here.)

Last night BBC1 aired a documentary about Wainwright and his new composition, combining a quite thorough profile of his life and career thus far with some great footage of early Opera North rehearsals for the upcoming show.

A highlight was an interview with Renée Fleming, who was very complimentary towards Wainwright’s music and spoke out against the way opera is increasingly becoming a museum art form.

Wainwright spoke passionately about opera “his religion and saving grace”, and shared some hilarious videos of himself as a teenager acting out his favourite operas with his cousins.  In Tosca he played Scarpia and swept about narrating in an impeccable pantomime villain voice.

If you want to see an example of Rufus’ love of opera, google his video “April fools” (It’s not on youtube at the moment for some copyright reason or another).  It’s just one of his pop songs, but in the clip he gallivants around with several doomed opera herones, including Tosca, Cio-Cio San from Madama Butterfly and Mimi from La Boheme.

The program suffered from some of the usual hyperbole  “…we follow Rufus as he takes on his biggest challenge yet.  Creating from scratch a new opera” (as opposed to all those old operas he’s composed by running together advertising jingles), and excessive focus on his personal life and struggles with drug addiction.

As I’ll be reviewing Prima Donna on the weekend I might as explain how I came to be a fan of Rufus (the story of why I’m a fan of opera is a longer story that will have to wait for another day).

It starts with Bowie.  All good stories begin with David Bowie.  I was at a music shop and picked up a copy of Wainwright’s fourth album, Want Two, thinking it was David Bowie’s  The Man Who Sold the World. They do look pretty similar:

Bowie in a dress.

Bowie in a dress.

Rufus in a dress

Rufus in a dress

I eventually realised that it wasn’t some new release of Bowie, but bought the CD anyway and was very impressed by Rufus’ melodic, instrumental style.  I saw him play in Sydney early last year and was blown away by his performance on stage.

Now I’m not claiming that Rufus is going to win the prize for young-ish-musician-sort-of-like-Bowie (because I’ve already handed that prize out to someone who shares his interest in electronic music) but I think Rufus and Bowie have a similarly theatrical performance persona.

I’m not jumping to any conclusions about what sort of composer Wainwright will be.  I realise Prima Donna might not be any good.  At very least he seems to be passionate enough about the form to give it a really good shot – non-traditional composers have done opera really well before.

But I love new music, and can’t wait to get to Manchester and have a look.

OR: The Prima Donna drinking game.  Take a shot each time…

1) Wainwright himself  is described as a ‘diva’ or ‘prima donna’, and/or the plot of the opera is described as autobiographical.

2) The word ‘popera’ is used.

3) Confusion over why the libretto is in French/why Wainwright is not performing.

But I am very much looking forward to seeing it.

Prima Donna at the Manchester International Festival.

UPDATE: read my review here.

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