Friday, 31 August 2018

'On the Radar' - RM's Cultural Highlights, W/E 01st September 2018


Slow Burn, Season Two - Slate (Episodes 1-4 currently available)

I’ve already raved about Slow Burn Season One, which focussed on the Watergate Affair. Now the team are back to examine the run-up to the Clinton impeachment. It’s quality podcasting, which often makes for uncomfortable listening as Bill Clinton’s serial womanising is revisited and examined in minute detail. 


Timothy Findlay – Famous Last Words (First published – 1981)

I suspect many of you will not have heard of Canadian novelist, Timothy Findlay (1930-2002). I first came across him when I read ‘The Wars’, his 1977 novel about the Canadian experience of the Great War. 'Famous Last Words' is a page-turning tour de force. It takes its title from an Ezra Pound poem (Pound is a character in the novel), and its mix of fact and fiction focuses on the confessions of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, written on a hotel wall in Germany at the end of the Second World War. In Findlay’s novel, Mauberley is not Eliot’s nobody, but a hugely successful writer caught up in one of the biggest plots in history. Its cast of characters includes Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Ezra Pound, and Rudolf Hess among many others.

It’s a study in insanity and the pursuit of perfection, alongside a forensic examination of vanity, the need to write, and the emptiness of success. Most of all, it has huge scope, is by turns shocking and compelling and it has the capacity to really get under your skin. Given its subject matter, it should be unbelievable; actually, it's all too plausible.


Love’s Labour’s Lost – Folksy Theatre (Ordsall Hall 26/08)

Not even the most passionate Shakespeare comedy fan would suggest Love’s Labour’s Lostcounts among his greats. This tale of noblemen seeking to foreswear women and devote themselves to study (and failing miserably), is slight. Promenade Theatre specialists, Folksy Theatre, did their best with the flimsy material and it was a shame the weather kept this production indoors. The cast were, for the most part, fresh out of theatre school and there were points where the production came across as a showcase for their many and various talents. We had dancing and singing and musical instrument playing as well as a fair amount of physical theatre. It was all good fun and they worked hard to interact with a good-natured bank holiday crowd. Their straight-line, pantomimic production was very entertaining and there was much laughter. What this spritely production revealed, however, is just how tricky it is to allow Shakespearean language in clear shape when proceedings need to be done in around two hours. It would have been wonderful if the actors could have let more of the play’s text breathe. A splendid bank-holiday night out, however.


Martin Barre – Roads Less Travelled (2018)

Martin Launcelot Barre is back for his seventh solo album. By turns gritty hard-rock and cunning folk, Roads Less Travelled shows there’s much life in the guitar maestro yet. Full review to come in Prog Magazine.

Ayreon – Into the Electric Castle (20thAnniversary Reissue)

Arjen Lucassen’s second album as Ayreon is as fresh today as it was twenty years ago. The remastering is delicious and the 20thAnniversary packaging impressive. Full review to come in Prog Magazine.

‘Come From Away’ – Original Cast Recording

I’m grateful to my friend and collaborator Ollie Mills for drawing my attention to this new musical centred around what happened when, on 9/11 2001, dozens of planes were re-directed from New York to Newfoundland. It’s breezy, heart-warming, and charming, and draws out both the shock and the opportunities presented to a small Newfoundland community when people from all over the world ‘landed on’ them in the midst of catastrophe. 

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