Skip to content

Tinariwen at Cardigan castle

Scan_20170805

I’ve no idea how this was managed, but Tinariwen played at Cardigan Castle the other week, under the good auspices of theatr Mwldan. For those who don’t know them, they are a group of touareg from the desert. I first found out about them by listening to Andy Kershaw’s undersung, now-defunct, world music show on radio 3. Everybody I know has episodes of his show on his tape, and the BBC really need to give him his job back. I know he’s been naughty, but look at the number of idiots in the mainstream music business who get up to much worse and they go out of their way to find spaces for them to play in.

But I digress. Judging by the sheer number of instruments on the stage, this was always going to be a complex experience. As soon as Tinariwen stepped on stage, the atmosphere was intense and palpable. Tinariwen provide a visual spectable if nothing else, dressed in flowing tuareg robes and brandishing highly decorated instruments. They look like something from another world.

They made do with very little in the way of introduction, apart from a rather nice supporting act from Kizzy Crawford, who has a simply wonderful voice. After the applause died down and a simple ‘good afternoon’, they went straight into their first song.

The sheer skill on show was something to behold. In terms of musicianship, Tinariwen easily hold their own with the best bands out there. I’ve never heard a bass guitar played quite like that. It’s not just the vocals that are in a different language- the instrumental portion is quite different from anything else you would hear, as you might expect from an entirely different culture. This culture speaks powerfully through Tinariwen’s vivid music. Just by listening, you feel you are really in Mali. You lose yourself in this music. The crowd and Tinariwen became an organic whole, as in the very best music. Despite the language barrier. By which I don’t mean to imply that the music is purely atmospheric- this is multi-layered, complex, intense and fast paced stuff. You are carried along by every single piece of in a meaty, integrated sonic puzzle.

The venue works really well, too. It’s a lovely spot by the Teifi estuary, a restful garden on the site of a ruined castle. Mind you, the cover in front of the stage was necessary as the weather seemed to feel the need to comment. The bar was good- you could buy a pint of real ale for £3.50, which you’d struggle to find cheaper in a pub.

If they put stuff like this on consistently, I’m going to more gigs at the castle. Rich hall (gifted, eloquent country music comedian) is playing there on the 30th of September. You probably should too if you’re in the area- book early though, the tickets understandably don’t hang around.

Tinariwen are on facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/tinariwenmusic/

Theatr Mwldan are here:

http://www.mwldan.co.uk/

Full metal idiot.

Scan_20170727 (2)

A break from all the art, books and music. Today, I want to talk about training.

First of all, I wish to make it clear that nothing in this post is intended as any kind of recommendation to anybody else. It’s just what I plan to do. Secondly, I am not seeking anybody’s permission or approval for this routine. I’ve done my own research and I am pretty happy with my conclusions, perhaps unjustifiably so, but a big part of making progress in both training in life is having the conviction to say ‘fuck your fucking face, I will do as I please’. This is important. We seem to live in an age where, despite our society being predicated on freedom and democracy, people seem to crave being told what to do. You can witness this on any internet exercise forum. Vast numbers of teenagers seem to enjoy being yelled at by behemoths. And the behemoths themselves are getting tired of it, to judge by their reaction to hundreds of threads on the same subject.

I’ve tried various popular routines over the years- crossfit, starting strength, westside for skinny bastards. They all worked to a certain degree, but they all had Three major problems:

  1. They didn’t fit in with my life. Crossfit was particularly bad for this. I’m a busy person. I run my own business, I write and and I draw, I sometimes exhibit, I do karate, etc. and I can’t commit to a program that makes set-in-stone demands. The worst by far were routines that split the work into different movements or different body parts. If you miss a day doing a full body routine, you miss a training session. If you miss a day doing a split, you throw the whole thing out of whack and experience a profound feeling of discomfort that comes from not following the routine.
  2. They don’t fit in with my goals. Most of the really popular routines are designed around getting you big. I have no desire to be much bigger than I already am. I’m six foot tall and fourteen and a half stone, which is already above the recommended weight for somebody my height. I am not and have no plans to be a bodybuilder, powerlifter or high-level crossfitter. These are all wonderful goals, but the two main foci of my athletic ambition are to get better at karate and to look better. I also, of course, have the generalised goal that crossfit describes as ‘being better at life’. But then everybody has that.
  3. I didn’t enjoy them. This, I believe is a major factor in choice of exercise program. It’s one thing for the elite to work away at stuff they don’t actually like. They make their money doing this. I don’t. In particular, I don’t like split routines. There’s something that feels wrong about them. I can’t explain or analyse this ‘gut feeling’, it’s just a question of personal taste.

So I sat down and did some soul-searching. In particular, I reflected on the fact that there was a time in my late teens when I was a lot fitter than I am now. I used to run five miles in the morning and I could do sixty pushups. It’s become fashionable to despise these old-fashioned exercises, but when I was doing them on a regular basis I was a lot fitter. Of course, I was a teenager back then, but the fact is that the routine achieved what I wanted it to achieve. It made me fitter and made me look better.
So what was I doing back then? I was doing the programme I’d been given by the recruiting lieutenant when I wanted to join the forces (which I never actually did- I decided I wasn’t actually OK with the idea of killing somebody. Strangely enough, the idea that I might be killed myself never seemed to worry me. All teenagers are immortal, as we know). This was before the forces started changing how they worked out. It was an old-fashioned program, heavy on pushups and running. It took the form of a short bodyweight circuit and some running. I quickly became at least as fit as the rest of the boys at school, something I’d never been before in my life.

There was one problem: the program contained no weight training. I’ve learned by experience that barbell work makes results come quicker and easier. I was pondering how to include it when I stumbled across this: http://chaosandpain.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/uncle-training-style.html?zx=88de7f793286eb05 (Incidentally, be warned: Jamie Lewis is a vehement and savage individual and his work is not for the faint of heart or the easy of offence. In many ways, he’s a complete bastard but that doesn’t mean he’s not right.) Here was what I was looking for- simple, intense, full-body-based and generalised.

I was also inspired by a line in Kurt Vonnegurt’s ‘slaughterhouse five’ where he mentions that the English prisoners of war had been ‘chinning themselves and lifting weights’ for the duration of the war. It occurred to me then; that’s all you have to do. Lift weights, do callisthenics and run, running being available to me in a way that it wasn’t to prisoners of war. Eliminate all the agonising about what sets and reps to use, what program to follow, all of that nonsense. Just pick a few simple exercises and do them as much as you possibly can.

With all this in mind, I picked six exercises:

  1. The clean and press. I picked this to include barbell work as it is, according to Chris Colucci, a ‘one stop shop’ for weight training. The only problem (here: https://www.t-nation.com/training/biggest-exercise-in-bodybuilding) is that the limiting factor is how much you can press overhead. But it’s a generalised exercise. Strip away the exercise jargon and all you are basically doing is picking stuff up and putting it overhead. The ‘lifting weights’ part of ‘lifting weights and chinning themselves’. A lot of people will start to whine about how it’s an olympic, or at least an ex-olympic lift and these take a lot of coaching and apparently you have to see a grand high mugwump to learn the technique and so on. Crap. All you are doing is lifting something and putting it overhead. If you have trouble performing this action, you have a serious issue. Also, I think if you want to do something difficult and technical, you should start practicing it right away. That way, when you have a year’s training under your belt, you also have a year’s worth of technical practice, instead of a bigger body and no experience of the lift you want to do.
  2. The pullup. Part two of vonnegurt’s sentence. This movement, I believe is fundamental- it is, quite simply, the ability to lift your own weight. As to what variety of grip to use and all the associated questions the anwer is, quite simply: all of them. When you strip your routine down to six basic exercises, you have the freedom to practice all the variations you want.
  3. The pushup. Sophisticated exercises tend to despise the lowly pushup. And yet very, very few of them can do 20 one arm pushups. Unless you can do this, you can still benefit from doing pushup variations.
  4. The situp. Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments. I’ve heard about how it supposedly works out your hip flexors (and what, pray, is wrong with exercising hip flexors?). I’m aware that this exercise is not fashionable. And I don’t care. The fact is that I started doing them again when I started doing karate again after a long hiatus, and my god the pain. I need to be able to do large numbers of situps. Incidentally, gymnasts do tons of situps and they are often regarded as some of the best all-round athletes.
  5. The burpee. Another thing I have to do for karate, burpees are a wonderful way to do anaerobic conditioning. They require no equipment, aren’t greatly technical and they’re hard to do- sufficient reason in and of itself to do them.
  6. Running, swimming, cycling, walking etc. I also intend to do what closet homosexuals refer to as ‘cardio’ (seriously boys, come out of the closet and just run). I realise it’s become fashionable and cool to moan about how much you hate ‘cardio’, and to publish articles claiming that it’s unnecessary or even harmful. I don’t care though. I was a lot fitter when I was running on a regular basis, and morning roadwork is a tradition as old as combat sports themselves. These things become traditional for a reason. In a nod to fashion, some of it will be interval training (which, incidentally, the military recommend you only do once a week. There have to be some concessions made as to whether you can actually recover from your training. You have to recover for it to work.) and in a nod to tradition, I will try always to do one long run per week, of at least an hour.

You’ll notice that I don’t include any squatting. This is because I don’t in fact own a squat rack or stands any more. It’s also because I don’t like them. I distrust the dogma that they’re such a ‘natural’, fundamental movement. I’ve never seen anybody on a building site, or working in the fields and the woods, do a squat. You have to do cleans and various sorts of pushing motions all the time though. You might argue that the kind of movement I’m talking about is not quite a ‘clean’, it’s more an old-fashioned, ‘anyhow two hands overhead lift’. To which I reply: precisely. That’s the idea. Besides, why get into a movement where you are forced to care about the boring debate about squat depth?

I call this ‘routine’, insofar as it is a routine, ‘full metal idiot’, as it involves lifting metal and is idiotically simple.

In three month’s time I will make a full report of the progress I’ve seen on this routine, and will be regularly updating as and when it occurs to me to do so. I also plan to post ‘before and after photos’ in the traditional manner.

‘Milk and honey’ by Rupi Kaur

I didn’t actually set out to buy this book. I happened to be buying something else when the shop assistant happened to mention that this book was selling well. I went back upstairs to have a look, and I was entranced. Thank you Waterstones, incidentally, for employing well read, intellectually curious young women.

https://www.waterstones.com/book/milk-and-honey/rupi-kaur/9781449474256

The beauty of this book is its sheer directness and honesty. The verse is candid and intimate in a way that makes you feel as if Rupi Kaur was talking directly to you, or as if you were privy to an intimate conversation, one half of a love affair between you and the author. A lot of the passages in the first part of the book are erotic in a very forceful way that takes you into the inner life of the author in a way that reveals truths that would otherwise remain private. This is an intensely personal book that also speaks about things that are nevertheless true for all of us.

An unusual feature are the little explanatory sentences and phrases in italics that are not titles, precisely. They are more a way of offering some kind of context to verse which would otherwise be beautiful, but cryptic. The book sometimes feels like a confession, or more properly a form of art where the poet affirms that these things happened, that she really did feel this way, by the act of recording them.

This is verse distilled to its absolute essence. I won’t quote any of it to show you what I mean. These poems are so seemingly artless that even the briefest quote here would risk undermining the effect. This is not verse that deals in apposite metaphor or abstraction- it is uncompromisingly raw and direct. There are virtually none of the poet’s usual ‘tricks of the trade’ here. The author does away with clever technique in favour of an absolute, vivid, honesty.

Another thing about this poetry- it is wonderfully, explicitly feminine. The poems progress through four sections- the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing- in a sequence that is a fearless exploration of the female half of a relationship. No man would ever write quite as honestly as this.

A particularly appealing feature of this book is the poet’s own line drawings. They are exquisitely appropriate to the texts they accompany. There is a simplicity and directness to the visual language used that precisely echos the form of the verses they accompany. They are simple, yes, but very consummate- they look almost like a highly charged version of Gaudier-Brzeska’s drawings. It shouldn’t be possible to do all this with just a line, just with black and white, but Rupi Kaur manages it.

So no, this is not a book for the faint of heart. It’s an incredibly honest, sometimes graphic, but always enchanting collection of some of the most direct poetry I have ever come across. There are parts of it that feel uncomfortable- as if the poet was telling you secrets that she wouldn’t usually tell anybody. But that’s all part of the magic of this book, its honesty and sheer power.

Carmarthen school of art degree show 2017

degreeshow

The Carmarthen school of art degree show is upon us again. There’s so much good stuff that I can only really cover my favourites. So what follows is a personal selection from the delights on offer. I’m told that not as many people as usual finished this year, but those who did put on a really spectacular show.

The first thing you see when you walk in are Carmen Friedman’s assemblages. These are totemic, gutsy pieces, like tribal artefacts- perhaps those of the art tribe. She references Eva Hesse in ‘De muras ’84’, an artist known for using unusual materials. There is something peotic also about these assemblages of bone, horns, fabric, etc. In a way, each piece is a visual poem. In her other cluster of work in the main sculpture exhibition, there is something that puts me in mind of a female Anish Kapoor, but perhaps a more cerebral one: She references feminism, surrealism and abstract expressionism. These are very well thought out, well realised objects.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carmen Friedman’s assemblages. My own photo.

In what is in college term time the seating area next to the café are Dorian Cava’s huge arial photographs. These are vast images showing records of every trace and path on the ground, in a paeon to the landscape of both the artist’s native poland and his adopted country. Little areas of colour, such as the yellow of the machines in what I presume is an open cast mine, carry great visual weight. It’s almost a nonsense to talk in terms of composition here, given that these are arial photographs of actual sites, but there is a certain craft to how these elements are treated. The best way to experience these photographs is from above, and one is mounted on the floor to facilitate just this. The viewer is placed at a great height, considering the marks on the ground. Looking into these industrial, abused landscapes offers a genuinely meditative experience.

Jou-el King’s bulky tree-like frames surrround haunting images of people with impossibly red hair and show a cunning use of artificial light. Check him out here: https://www.jou-elkingillustration.com/

There is always one sculptor in every degree show who just has to produce something absolutely enormous. That’s not a criticism incidentally- it seems every sculptor has their own natural scale. Some just require more exhibition space than others. David Gunther supplies the enormousness this year with a huge square of sprouting hair-like metal forms. The piece is much enhanced if you accept the invitation to walk inside it. The impediment to movement creates a sense of claustrophobia and angst.

The most visually arresting object, or rather collection of objects here, is the ‘lion hunt’ installation by Beverley Jessop, featuring a dramatically realised wounded plaster lion. It’s a dramatic piece of visual theatre that shows a sharp wit and great attention to detail- she’s even made her own labels for cans. No doodles or photographs of mine can really do this justice. You need to go see it in the flesh.

The biggest surprise though is Julie Hutton’s exquisite cermaics that lie concealed behind a curtain. The belief in an animating spirit arising from the earth is really well illustrated by a cluster of abstract pieces.

Well worth a look are Sian Reason-Jones’ succinct series of works on mental health issues. Each perspex box is like a portrait of the inside of someone’s head. One has a stack of slabs seemingly ready to fall. Another overflows with little boxes. Still another holds a brain-like form constricted with rope. Each is a poetic, finely judged conceit. She has an etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/joreauk but it really doesn’t give a great idea of the power of her degree show work.

Finally in this room, Dwight Asomoah-Shalders’ effervescent ceramics are both visually rioutous and culturally authentic. They’re almost like folk art, but with a much sharper mind behind each of them.

Ceramics put on an excellent show this year. Naomi Doudswell’s political samplers go down very well. Emma Thomas’ small but well conceived ceramics provide a quiet note in this noisy show. But when I visit exhibitions I like to play a little game called ‘what would I steal if I could get away with it?’. This year’s winner is Jacob Chan’s incredible pots. The intricately modelled three-dimensional forms offer a fresh dimension to what are very finely crafted traditional ceramics. The potter’s dual Chinese and British and heritage are drawn on to create absolutely compulsive works. I can see these things changing hands for serious money in years to come. You can see some of his work here: https://www.gkgallery.co.uk/jacob-chan but the work in the degree show is on a whole different level.

Scan_20170603

After a detail from one of Jacob Chan’s pots

In painting, I’m very excited about Miira Hyvonen. There have been times when landscape has been practically out of bounds to contemporary art, and when it hasn’t, it’s been mined as a resource. Mirra’s work instead is a participation in the mythology and symbology of landscape. The wall full of drawings showcases a prodigious talent for drawing. Apparently she works at lightning speed. There is a cricular canvas which, incredibly, works. The naturalistic, detailed, yet speedy execution reminds me most of all of oriental painting, and as it happens she also produces works on chinese astrology. There is also a piece of sculpture by her in the corner, a tree branch painted with the same mark marking as in her other works. It’s a lovely example of what I call ‘painter’s sculpture’, something produced by a painter almost as a locus for thought about a painter’s work (the idea first came to me when looking at Cy Twombbly’s assemblages, and that should show you what I mean.) Miira is, incidentally, selling works on cardboard and paper for 10 pounds a pop. I’d buy now if I were you, because that’s not going to last long. Check her out here: https://www.instagram.com/miirahyvonenv/

Along one wall are Polly Dixon’s miraculous essays in the printmaker’s art, depicting figures dressed in elizabethan costume, referring to Northern early renaissance imagery. The sheer detail is striking, and the overall effect is of a packed, busy surface that works great in monochrome.

Possibly the most visually energetic work here is by Sophie Kumar Taylor. It’s a walk-in op art installation, and you pass briefly through some of the brightest colours I have ever seen. One wall is a kaleidoscope of brightly coloured small squares, with passages of folded paper likewise decorated. It makes you think that Bridget Riley, Jim Lambié and Mondrian got drunk one night and sat up until the early morning with a box of coloured pens and paper. It’s stunning.

I’m also going to mention Samantha cook’s documentary black and white photography, Nerys Edward’s charming ‘cardiland’, Tomos Davies’ figurative assemblages (https://skyforjstudios.wordpress.com/), Natalie Chapman’s coulourful pictures of life in West Wales (https://www.nataliechapmanart.com/)  and Ffion Evans’ challenging and visuall rewarding wire creations. There’s more to see, and I recommend you go see it. This is one of the seminal moments in our local art calendar, and it never dissapoints.

Furiously happy, a funny book about horrible things by Jenny Lawson.

Scan_20170531

The bloggess, after a photo on the back cover of the book. 

I bought this book a few months ago after seeing a reference to it in the guardian review section, and I’m so glad I did.

Jenny Lawson (AKA the blogess. Her blog is here: http://thebloggess.com/) writes in a style that is utterly unique. There’s a clear love of language here, even extending to creating words of the author’s own creation that become running jokes in their own right.The nonstop barrage of stuffed animals, misheard or invented verbage and beautiful misunderstandings is an absolute torrent of joy. There are times when it gets a bit much- this is probably not a book you want to read in one sitting. Some of the best bits are the quotes from little notes to herself that the author writes, a process she describes as ‘like being stalked by a madwoman- myself’. The style of writing is also incredibly fresh and contemporary- often it feels like one half of a long conversation with the author. Perhaps a drunken or heavily medicated conversation. The reader is taken right into the creative process that spawned this book, dealing with late-night antics and episodes of writer’s block.

There are, of course, real moments of darkness here. This is, after all, a funny book about horrible things. The chapter titled ‘the fear’ is a particular case in point. The opening line is chilling: “Some stories aren’t meant to be told”. These moments act as a useful counterpoint to the hilarious sections. There are real, deep life lessons to be learnt from reading this book. Only those with real dark shadows in their lives, it seems, can depict the world with lightness and joy. Re-reading the final chapter, ‘It might be easier. But it wouldn’t be better.’ is a wonderful way to lift your spirits.

There are a lot of animals in this book, both dead and stuffed and live and hissing at you. The star, of course, is Rory the racoon, the dead animal on the book’s cover If you want to convulse with laughter, read the section where he makes his appearance during a conference call. And there’s an untamed, riotous, animal, quality to the book too.

You might expect a book about the author’s battle with depression and anxiety to be rather self-involved. Not a bit of it. Clearly, the author feels for her long-suffering husband, who acts as a heroically patient foil to the more insane pieces of invention. Various friends of the author make appearances. There is clearly an ability to see past her own situation and use it to make a little more sense of the world- a valuable trait in any work of art. This book really is atrociously funny, but it’s also disarmingly wise. And amazingly honest. You feel like nothing has been spared in the author’s life.

This is not just a book. It’s both a lifestyle and a battlecry against the illnesses that plague the author. When you read about her trips to Australia in an attempt to hug chlamydia-laden koala bears and her relationships with taxidermied animals, you see quite how far the bloggess has come in her quest to be ‘furiously happy’.

Get it. It’s good. This is in fact the second book by the bloggess, and I’m itching to get the first one now.

Frayed boundaries at Carmarthen museum

Before I start, I should perhaps declare a conflict of interest. Karen Wise is in fact my mother. I pondered this conflict of interest for a full thirty seconds before realising how dissapointed she might be if I ommitted to review her show. With that in mind, read on.

‘Frayed boundaries’, showing on the upper floor of Carmarthen museum, is a masterly and varied exhibition of textile art. The artists, Marysia Penn and Karen Wise, have provided both forward-looking and interesting pieces obviously influenced by modernism and a wealth of consummately executed visual delights.

Perhaps the most consummate pieces by Marysia Penn are her works in appliqué, ‘Merlin’s Oak’ and ‘The yew trees at Nevern’, two pieces that refer to local mythology. They are cunningly composed pieces in rich, autumnal colours that show a real feeling for both movement, in the depiction of dance in ‘the yew trees at Nevern’ and serene stateliness in ‘Merlin’s Oak’. Looking for the forms of dancers in the yew trees provides an entertaining visual game that enhances the enjoyment of the piece.

Her piece ‘Llanelli sunset’ is very lovely. The thin layers of material have a translucency that provides great visual interest. A simple piece, perhaps, but the artful simplicity of the composition belies a complex, layered execution that keeps you looking deeper still.

Mauricia Penn even develops into three dimensional expression in this exhibition. A series of pieces such as ‘the magic cornu aspersum’ and ‘phi(garden snail) use the shell of the humble garden snail as a stage for colourful, delightful visual effects that also touch on mathematical ideas. The snail shells are treated like little jewels.

Marysia is obviously influenced by modernism too. The piece ‘the colour of music’ recalls most clearly Kandinsky in its wonderfull expressive felted loops. For me though, her strongest piece is ‘Bishop’s Chapel’ that uses themes from eccliesiastical architecture to achieve an effect that is solemn without being melancholy. The backlighting works wonderfully, enhancing the contemplative, well-organised structure of the piece.

Karen Wise also seems to have taken on ideas from the world of twentieth century associative abstraction in a series of embroideries about music, depicting works by Bach with a real sense of rhythm and a subdued but effective colour scheme. These are complex works, often on a large scale, that demand long looking and in-depth analysis.

The Cordoba series shows the same restrained and tasteful use of colour, but with a more nuanced, orderly sense of design. The ‘Moorish Gardens’ show a thoughtful use of pattern and repetition that really does recall the moorish works these pieces draw inspiration from.

In another series on the story of Gryfudd Ap Llywelyn, an early medieval Welsh hero whom Karen Wise has written a novel about, the jewel-like finishes of the relatively simple compositions work to create an effect that enhances the mythic, folkloric quality of the story told. The direct visual approach often masks an intricate subtlety of conceptual expression, such as in the piece where each bead represents a man killed in an important battle. ‘The Battle of Snowdon’ offers a powerful visual metaphor, the counterpoint of red and white working to great effect. The artist has used visual tropes that draw directly on the experience of visiting museums and public collections, appropriately enough given the venue. For instance, mounting the pieces on red felt and green velvet gave a great ‘museum feel’ to the collection.

All in all, it’s well worth making the visit to Carmarthen Museum to see all of this. There’s enough here to interest, educate and entertain, offering a rich, tactile and visual experience. Frayed Boundaries is on Show at Carmarthen museum (http://www.carmarthenmuseum.org.uk/index.html) until the 14th of July.

A view from the bridge at Vue cinema

vftb

It turns out that vue cinema in St.Catherine’s walk- that’s the bit with Debenhams in it- is regularly screening national theatre live performances. It’s great to have the chance to see really top notch theatre locally. Part of me wishes I could go to see a local theatre group tackling something this ambitious, but that’s in no way a criticism of the performance I went to see.

The play, A view from the bridge by Arthur Miller, was a highly strung piece of modernist theatre. There was a real sense of ominousness from start to finish. The audience could feel the impending tragedy long before the scene is even properly set. The actors moved like chess pieces on the stage, each full of their own sense of dramatic potential. The set was minimal. A few lighting effects was as lavish as it got- appropriately for the piece. It meant that the actors suggested their setting, sustaining a real sense of claustrophobia throughout. The other interesting theatre was a single drum beat at moments of narrative tension throughout the play. It did really get the audience on their toes, but over long periods could become wearying.

It’s a simple enough story- Eddie (Mark Strong) is a longshoreman who is overly attached to his niece Catherine (Phoebe Fox) who grows close to one of two Italian immigrants (Emun Elliott and Luke Norris) staying in their home. The plot and themes are given to the audience without complication. It’s not an effort to tease out the ideas from the dialogue. Take the scene where Beatrice (Nicola Walker) tells Catherine how she has to mark her independece and act like a grown woman- nothing is hidden and little is implied. The language is all part of the fun- it’s straightforward enough, a depiction of everyday speech on the New York waterfront some time in the mid 20th century. This isn’t altogether easy theatre though- the themes show deal with taboo subjects, and the piece requires a certain amount of stamina.

There are some really shocking moments here- take the moment when Eddie Kisses his niece and- bizzarely- her lover. Here, complex, powerful emotions lead up to an irrational, spontaneous act. The crowning glory, though, is very close to the end. The struggling bodies on stage tangle together under a red light, looking much like a sculpture by Rodin. I remember thinking that moments like that are a big part of why people make Art. Moments of pure beauty that transmit a powerful energy to the audience. A less dramatic delight is the knowing, worldly lawyer (Michael Gould) who provides narration and ties the piece together.

So yes, it’s well worth checking the listings to see what vue is showing.