Ursula Martinez: Why I Chose To Franchise My Act

Ursula Martinez in My Stories, Your Emails. Image: Hugo GlendinningRead more

When an illicit video featuring nudity hits the internet these days, anyone recognisable in the grainy footage normally disappears from the public view until they are ready to face the press and get it all over with already.

Artist and producer Ursula Martinez took a very different path when in 2006 someone in the audience decided to record and then upload Hanky Panky, an act in which she unveils both a series of handkerchiefs and her birthday suit. The public reactions were varied and went from artistic appreciation to creepy comments, graphic images and downright rudeness. And these weren’t just comments online – hundreds then thousands took the time and effort to email Martinez direct with their thoughts. Here’s what got them all excited. The finale of this video is decidedly NSFW.

While no-one would have blamed the globe-trotting artist if she had disconnected from society and joined some lost tribe out in the Amazon forest, she instead wrote a show about the experience. My Stories, Your Emails has been seen at The Barbican, Soho Theatre and, more recently the Southbank Centre and describes in withering detail the responses she received.

We spoke to Martinez about how the routine behind this brouhaha came into being. “Hanky Panky is one of those rare acts that arrived into the world fully formed,” she said. “As soon as I had the idea, I found a piece of music within ten minutes and made the act in about two hours. I guess I have relaxed more and more into it over the years, but, I’ve never consciously changed anything.”

To lesser and greater degrees, many of those who contacted the artist made a point of commenting on her absence of clothing; thankfully, this hasn’t put her off appearing in the buff again. Far from it. “I grew up in a nudist family so being naked has never been a problem for me.” As well as her body, Martinez is happy to put her own relatives on display. “I guess one of my proudest accomplishments was the success of my first ever show A Family Outing which I made with my parents. We took it to Edinburgh and had one of those magical Edinburgh Festival experiences that most performers and producers hope for. We then ended up touring the world for two years.”

She’s also not shy of sharing a stage with her hula-hooping wife Jess Love and both were seen together at this year’s Circusfest in London. One of their joint routines is Quick Change, Sex Change, an all-action spin on the art of cross-dressing. A video of the act was temporarily banned by Facebook for being “inappropriate” which, considering the social media giant’s recent shenanigans, is the pot calling the kettle a very dark hue indeed. Screw Facebook and make up your own mind. Please note that, as above, the finale of the video is very much NSFW.

Martinez, is above all, a performer still in love with creating her own work. She likes nothing better than to get out there in front of an appreciative crowd and seeing the reactions to material old and new. “I have a lot of experience working in cabaret where you always engage with the audience in a direct and immediate way, which I love. I have always taken this with me when I make a theatre show. The point about doing something on stage for the first time, is that whatever that is, you are always shitting yourself. Whether that be singing a new song you have just written or remembering a new piece of choreography, it is always extremely nerve-racking. So in that sense, getting naked for the first time is no different.”

If you recognise Hanky Panky but not Martinez, there’s a chance you may have seen one of her recruits. By franchising it out to other performers, she has found a way to broadcast the act across the world yet still keep it intimate. “I now have 4 performers who have been taught the act. One has just finished a six month run in a show in Vegas. The decision to franchise the act was a purely pragmatic response to the problem of supply and demand. I get many work offers specifically for Hanky Panky and I can’t be in two places at the same time, but the act can! I never audition, I just choose people who I meet along the course of life. So far it’s worked out really well.”

More information on Ursula Martinez can be found on her official website.

Further reading: What we thought of My Stories, Your Emails.

Image: Hugo Glendenning

Sex And Death: La Traviata Brings Opera To Soho

La Traviata runs until 14 September at the Soho Theatre.Read more

Who doesn’t like it loud and heavy every now and then?

La Traviata runs until 14 September at the Soho Theatre.
La Traviata runs until 14 September at the Soho Theatre.

OperaUpClose’s La Traviata at the Soho Theatre is a vibrant burst of classical goodness in one of the city’s temples of cabaret. The same company popped the venue’s opera cherry back in 2010 when it staged its  interactive version of La Boheme here. As their name suggests, they specialise in bringing the singing to the audience at points through the show.  Those who like their fourth wall thicker than a cast member of TOWIE can don a top hat and tails or a cocktail dress (we don’t judge) and take a short hop down the road to the Royal Opera House.

This version of Giuseppe Verdi’s classic has been kicked around and roughed up in all kinds of ways to fit OperaUpClose’s model. Played out over two hours including an interval, the basic plot is a familiar one to this genre – boy meets girl, boys loses girl, girl dies in a long and drawn out manner while all wail around her – but Robin Norton-Hale’s libretto is in English, for starters. And English, I would argue, is not a language made for opera. Listening to emotional pronouncements of utter joy and deep despair in vowel-heavy Italian is like riding an infinite sine wave all the way to paradise; in the more consonant-prone English, it can be like riding a seatless bike down a bumpy road.

Described by some wag at the Independent as “operatic classics on a shoestring, in a shoebox“, OperaUpClose’s staging has certainly had expense spared, at least when compared to what passes for opera these days at the ENO and elsewhere. This is not all bad news. The American 1920s setting is comfortably realised in terms of set design and costumes – maybe the producers missed a trick in not calling this version “L.A. Traviata”. There’s only three musicians (piano, cello and clarinet) but they do a perfectly fine job of bringing the Sturm und Drang to the heavier moments. The gypsies and assorted other minor characters have been omitted leaving a slimmed-down cast of five to carry the story. Notably, this arrangement sees one actor playing both the Baron and Dr Grenvil without jarring the viewing experience. Take that and party, Great Britain.

There are three revolving casts so which singers you get to see is down to pot luck.  Andrew Mayor is a masterful Germont, the father-in-law whose mendacious meddling drives much of the plot’s melodrama. His face is as expressive as any Italian’s hands and often tells far more than the verbose libretto.The central pairing of Violetta and Alfredo are played convincingly by Elinor Jane Moran and Robin Bailey respectively with the former in especially fine heartrending form. In the only dual role, the dashing Dario Dugandzic gets to play both the Machiavellian lover and medicine man to equal aplomb.

This Anglophone La Traviata does live up to the English male stereotype when it comes to romantic matters, though. In the most part, there’s a decided lack of intimacy especially when compared to their far more cleverly staged La Boheme. There is also little warm-up before we dive into proceedings and the feeling after the slightly abrupt end is that this has all finished too soon. Thankfully, there is no public announcement that this is the first time that this has happened and no-one in the cast promises to call as I make my exit. The earth didn’t move for me but there’s plenty to get the juices flowing here.

La Traviata. Produced by OperaUpClose. Soho Theatre, London W1D 3NE. 5 August-14 September. £22.50-£29.50.


Fringe Review: The Reviewers

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With critics increasingly in the firing line (and in, one case, in hospital), how could I not spend my last show slot of the Fringe taking in this new musical comedy from Charlesworth and Holland Productions?


At Edinburgh Fringe, where many shows (and more than a few cabaret performers) try to bill themselves as comedy, The Reviewers doesn’t sell itself short.  Setting up for a showdown between wicked “Queen of the Mile” Keira Cochrane (Madeleine Hardy) – a vindictive failed actress turned corrupt critic – and enthusiastic American newcomer Henry Tiddle (Lyle Fulton) – who dons mask and cape to become “The Critic With No Name” – this production takes us from a world where reviewing is seen in black and white terms, to a rather different future.

I’m relieved to find that there is no particular vitriol at criticism in general, and laugh along as warmly as the rest through the witticisms and cynicisms that reflect a two horse town review scene.  The perspective clearly comes more from performers and “creatives” than the realities of the critical universe, which is understandable given the large numbers of said performance types the company are likely to cater to at Edinburgh Fringe.  Nevertheless, I feel they’ve only touched on the vein of gold that could give the show more depth and resonance beyond the Festival.

Critical territories are really dynamic and shifting at the moment, and there is definite treasure to be mined. I have no doubt that artists could benefit from a greater understanding of the essential and complex contribution that critique makes to the creative ecology.  Sat down at one of the “critics’ breakfasts” organised by A Younger Theatre over the Fringe, the talk inevitably turned to the devilish pressures to give star ratings; there’s been a growing buzz around embedded criticism; you can even join the discussion yourselves with the Theatre Dialogue crew.

But back to the show in hand.  Performances, from the company of Nottingham University students and alumni, aren’t all as strong as the script and score, but Fulton stands out. He’s believable in every moment, and interacts with the audience, onstage pianist, and other cast members, with natural ease.  Sam Greenwood of the ensemble is a confident and comic showman, and Aimee Gaudin is well cast as the sweet-faced and sweet-voiced Laura, although maybe at times too naturalistic for this tongue-in-cheek show.

Hardy has much better diction through song than speech, and communicates her numbers clearly.  I spot musical references to Rent, Jason Robert Brown, and Les Mis, but it’s not clear if these are intentional or not and, if so, could have been pushed further.

Presented on a Fringe budget, the set works well, even if the costumes are rather lacklustre.  The Reviewers pokes a clever finger at many familiar Festival issues, and I sit through the show with a big smile on my face, treated to lots of laughs.

I’m not the only one humming away to the closing melody as we exit the Greenside venue – a credit to Elizabeth Charlesworth‘s composition, and to a funny, feel-good musical, that will strike a chord with many performance folk.

The Reviewers. By Charlesworth and Holland Productions. Greenside @ Nicolson Square, Edinburgh EH8 9BX. £7.50-9.50. 13:45 1-16 & 18-23 August.

Fringe Review: Dixey (Where Gentlemen Are Always Immaculately Undressed)

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Welcome to the wonderful world of Dixey.  A fabulous fairy-tale where burlesque meets Walt Disney. Always light, always entertaining, and with the noblest unicorn I’ve ever seen.

Jett Adore in action
Jett Adore in action

Dixey (named for the first ever male burlesquer Henry E Dixey) is a top class show, produced by Beyond The Cabaret, and though the tag line lets us know there’s going to be some flesh on display, the gentleman – and women – of the show are immaculately turned out regardless of how many clothes they wear. The costuming is divine, and the show’s designer is reclaiming beauty for the boys, without ever denying their masculinity. My only question is, what do you call a penis pasty?

Our glittering woodland fawn host is boylesque pioneer Tigger!, who captivates us from his first cheeky peek out of the white pinwheel flowers and cut-out trees that form the enchanting set, then presents an impeccable invisible striptease. Framed as a story about three handsome princes, a beautiful princess and a dark lady, the show offers circus and peel magic – and, of course, that unicorn.

The Stage Door Johnnies are our distinctly different princes and, after being reprimanded for too much clothing in their introductory dance routine, they return with individual acts.  Ray Gunn, last year’s King of Burlesque, is sinuous in shedding his red snake skin, slithering up and down a pole; Jett Adore is the handsome but dim peacock butterfly, wooing the lovely ladies; Bazuka Joe is that delightful horny horse, prancing and tossing his head around his vault staff, then stripping down to a harness that allows Tamzen to bring him under her dark spell, leading her and her wicked smile to her rock metal aerial chains act.  We have more circus art from Zoe Jones as the melancholy – and flexible – fairy princess, in a detailed hand-balance choreography; later she seduces Tamzen in a super-sensual acrobalance routine.  I enjoy the fact that the two seem to have been cast against type in their good/evil roles, which gives the number added depth.

I’m less impressed with the vaudeville attempts at clowning from Russell Bruner, not bad exactly, but not up to the same high standards of the rest of the troupe tonight.  When he returns for a second slot and starts removing his clothes, however, his performance does take on more of a shine.

Tigger! also has a spot as a down’n’out drag stripper, which is very funny and meta-theatrical to boot, with a dramatic ending that draws winces and laughs in equal measures.

Producer Sean Mooney, and Associate Director Dusty Limits have made sure that, with the fairytale concept, you could almost bring your kids along, safe in the knowledge that they’d be as fully entertained as your adult friends and family.  Just keep chugging out the “You’ll understand when you’re older” line.  That is, as long as you don’t mind them getting a bit of an eyeful of course. And as long as you give them a strict “Don’t try this at home” caveat. On second thoughts, maybe you’d best leave them behind. It is past their bedtime after all, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the show, in all its glories, much better without them hampering your whoops and catcalls. And there are some things you’d rather not have to try and explain.

Nevertheless, this is a show that would be difficult not to enjoy. While we get a fine dose of smut, the material stays away from the edgy and focuses on good old cheeky entertainment and sumptuous design.  A cracking light-hearted – and gorgeous – good-time.

Dixey: Where gentlemen are always immaculately undressed. Presented by Bound & Gagged Comedy, by arrangement with Beyond the Cabaret. Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh EH8 9SU. £12-15. 22:10 1-24 August.

Review: Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club’s Hitch

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Shorter, sharper but still faithful to the film director’s vision: Mary Bijou’s Hitch is, like its source material, a circus show with more than a few twists.

Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club co-founders George Orange and Anne Sandreuter in ‘Hitch’ IMAGE: Dan Green

Since this Alfred Hitchcock-inspired circus cabaret by Mary Bijou Cabaret And Social Club debuted last year at the Blysh Festival, commissioned by the Wales Millennium Centre, Hitch has been honed and tweezed from a 2-hour 2-act show into a well-paced hour-long festival version and, from reading last year’s review, it seems this may have been an excellent move.  The theatrical variety performance now builds steadily in its morbid humour and sinister glee, holding the packed Spiegeltent audience in – or on the edge of – their seats until the final grisly twist, thrilling us with some excellent circus acts and novel presentation along the way.

I did wonder before coming whether I should bone up on Hitchcock’s works, having only ever seen Psycho before; I needn’t have worried.  The nifty programme card feeds us all we need to know in typically irreverent cabaret fashion and, though I found myself sitting next to a die-hard Hitchcock fan, I had no desire to delve for deeper insights.  The acts may have been inspired by the famed director’s movies, but they tell their own twisted stories; and, if I miss out on a few knowing chuckles at the details, there are still plenty of laughs, gasps and winces to be had by all.

The compere for the evening is Mary Bijou co-founder George Orange, full of extravagant neurotic energy and humble clowning (think Sean Gunn’s wonderful Kirk from The Gilmore Girls).  If he seems at a loss for spontaneous filler once or twice, it is only for a moment, and his crazy physical manipulations more than make up for it as he is variously poisoned, crippled, robbed and man-handled over the course of the evening.  Orange also presents a Vertigo-inspired slack-line routine that is much more impressive than the audience seem to appreciate, particularly when he faces out and slowly bends to pick up a handkerchief from between his feet with his teeth.

Original compositions from live musicians Tom Elstob and Bethan Cecil, as well as re-mixes from Branwen Munn, bring the edge of cult thriller tension to the skits and sequences centre stage, while audio tracks from classic interviews offer unusual and – dare I say it – thought-provoking opportunities for cross-dressed lip-syncing.

The skills and confidence of the performers seems to grow as the evening progresses.  Laura Moy‘s treatment of her avian persecutors during the opening chinese pole number is rather unceremonious, and it’s possible that she’s tired after rushing to the Spiegeltent from performing in Flown earlier this same evening; the amusing acrobalance between Orange, co-founder Anna Sandreuter, and a rogue wheelchair, teeters between character-awkward and physically-awkward at times; reverse strip-tease from Joe Wild “becoming Madeleine” is intriguing and quite moving; by the time the cavorting “Hitchcock Blondes” show off their surprisingly good legs I have relaxed into the show, confident of Mary Bijou’s ability to hold my attention.

I especially enjoy the unusual poetic spectacle of wide-eyed Cecil becoming a human music-box as Wild enacts another murder-most-horrid, moving from abstract to elegant, through sinister, ridiculous and dramatic, playing all the parts himself.

The transitions between numbers are theatrically smooth, as are the general gazes we receive through most of the show. The crowd are sometimes slow to respond to participation requests, but this is handled competently, especially by Sandreuter in her Stage Fright inspired hula-hoop routine.  Coupling a German practicality with a delicious taste for murder, her skilful presentation manages to work technical failings into the wonderfully dark comedy of this stand-out act.

As the familiar strains of the theme to Hitchcock’s TV show build, and I watch the silhouetted tree branches sway through the ominous glowing windows above, I watch the finalé being set.  Sometimes the rigging deserves its own build up and this, as the iconic shower curtain reveals itself, is one of those times.  The fabulous piece of kit allows Sandreuter and Wild to exercise aerial and acrobatic techniques in homage to the Psycho original, while the pulsing music keeps the energy high until the final twist.

Not only a thoroughly entertaining evening, but one whose images have stuck with me.  Now I am inspired to go and watch some Hitchcock.

Hitch. Performed by Mary Bijou Cabaret And Social Club. Brighton Spiegeltent, 19-22 May. £12 (£10) 

CircusFest 2014 Review: Puffball

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Appearing at the Roundhouse as part of Circusfest 2014, Puffball is a complicated show to critique, as it was developed partly as a social circus project, and partly as a professional production. There is an apparent theatrical naivety to much of the direction, giving a juvenile feel to the material, yet the young performers are sharing genuine emotions and heartfelt concepts that rise, at moments, above the clichés.

IMAGE: Stephen King
IMAGE: Stephen King

There are beautiful – and grotesque – visual images here, set to Jules Maxwell’s original score of delicate lounge jazz and sumptuous folk harmonies, which evoke the struggles of finding love and your own identity.  Developed over a year, through workshops with young people across the UK who identify themselves as LGBTQ, artist Mark Storer has combined snippets of real life stories and experiences with elements of circus performance and visual artistry.  The performers onstage comprise of professional circus artists, musicians, and novices selected from initial workshops; the large-scale ensemble nature of the piece waters down some strong skilled elements from individuals of both camps.

Tanwen Watson shows versatility and emotional range as an actress as well as lithe aerialist in a touching doubles trapeze act performed from a suspended bed with Hamish Tjoeng, and in her cameo as comic giant Tim; Tjoeng also shows us a darker side in his physical performance during a tense dance of power imbalance with Diego F. Martinez from a suspended chain.

Max Beecher (MaxLastic) is a serenely balletic contortionist producing images of extreme grace most usually associated with femininity, and plays a part in an achingly familiar love triangle between Max Calas Sevé on his trampoline and Benjamin Gregor trapped beneath.  There is a flash of fire from Christopher Willoughby (Chrysalys), and some interesting play with air currents and hanging drapes of silk from Alice Ellerby on her cloud swing; but these visual tokens never garner the audible response that circus acts are known for.

Most illustrative of the inner turmoil that bleeds through the fabric of Puffball is Paul Evans‘ expressive static trapeze routine, with its gasp inducing changes of pace, surprising drops and – ouch – 10 backward elbow rotations.  This pain is real.

There is a definite feel of teenage angst to the whole show.  The emotions may be universal, but the expressions of them sometimes lack depth and subtlety. Texts are raw and unpolished, so when Jolene O’Sullivan‘s triumphant pride and passion shine through in ownership of a hard-won individuality, I am reminded of reality TV stories and left cold.

With highly personal work editing is always a challenge, and this smorgasbord of activity fails to allow the fleeting moments of absurd humour or tender connection to develop into their full potential. Traditionally circus is characterised by vibrant changes in dynamic, which Puffball avoids, maintaining a sedate pace throughout.  This is more live art, reflecting Storer’s roots, and often resorts to stock images, neglecting some of the naked possibilities provided by the elegant set.

Perhaps, on a mainstream stage, recurring motifs of being wrapped in cling-film, blood-letting, and rituals of cleansing are escaping their previous realms of aprés-avant garde performance art and devised student theatre; then again, perhaps there is a reason that they have rarely succeeded on a grander scale.

I leave with the lyric from one of the show’s musical accompaniments resounding in my brain: “Don’t indulge in sleepless nights, lead the dark into the light.”  

IMAGE: Stephen King
IMAGE: Stephen King

Review: The Worst Of Scottee

The Worst Of Scottee continues at the Roundhouse until 15 February.Read more


The Worst Of Scottee continues at the Roundhouse until 15 February.
The Worst Of Scottee continues at the Roundhouse until 15 February.

Whereas “Best Of” albums tend to signal that a band’s sell-by date is overdue, The Worst of Scottee highlights the eponymous artist at the height of his expressive powers. This giddy pinnacle is reached whilst wallowing in the messy gutter of his past. And boy does Scottee wallow in this show…

Littered with chippies, cheap make-up and invented suicides, Scottee constructs a charmingly nostalgic image of ill-advised adolescence. He does this through a series of anecdotes about people he wronged during his Camden council estate upbringing, dragging his own name unashamedly through the mud.  Mishaps, such as telling someone you have HIV when you don’t, are high in the perverse dark humour stakes and pack shock factor like a Daily Mail headline. When its boils down to it, though, Scottee is no more “a bad person” than the next guy. In fact for all its brash over-exposure, the show serves as a gentle, melancholy reminder of how easy it is to tell lies and how unwittingly we hurt those around us. Scottee is an amplification of our self-obsessed, oblivious modern selves.

Framed in profile and live-streamed on video from the inside of a photobooth, the staging is perfect as it effortlessly conjures associations with both Roman Catholic confessionals and our culture of carefully packaged self-representation. It is both a public space for exhibitionism and a lonely private cell.

There is however, something emotionally gratuitous in watching a grown man recount the grubby blunders of his youth, even when he’s dressed in drag and crying tears that resemble oil slick. Much of Scottee’s previous work focuses on food, greed and obesity and whilst on the surface this performance is stripped back and brutally honest, it has a glutinous, slutty side too. Yes, he speaks with an economic and penetrating wit and wastes no words on morally condoning or condemning himself but everything about his monologue is gobby, indulgent and excessive.

It seems that we’ve built up a culture around this stuff, getting off on seeing other people “confess” or bare all: a constant, ultimately wretched, retching up of things that our parents wouldn’t even dream of admitting they wanted to know. There are no closed doors behind which to wash your dirty laundry and indeed we wave it around in the proverbial street known as the internet. Facebook break-ups, twitter trolls and tinder dalliances – let’s face it we are all pretty much running naked around cyberspace. The Worst of Scottee feeds from this culture of over-sharing, where our wild, inappropriate, wrong side is just another attentively created and curated aspect of our online personas. Scottee’s show reflects on the ubiquitous selfie and the Facebook generation who put themselves in the stocks and see public degradation as entertainment. Up this close, it makes for hilarious but powerfully unsettling viewing.

The Worst Of Scottee. The Roundhouse, London NW1 8EH. 10 February 2014. £10-£15. Until 15 February.

Love, Nudity And Hashtags: LaJohn Joseph Talks About His New Play

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Cover Her Face opens at the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club later this month.
Cover Her Face opens at the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club later this month.

With themes of family, betrayal and murder, Renaissance playwright John Webster’s The Duchess Of Malfi is not a play for the  squeamish. New theatre company Inky Cloak have updated this classic for their debut production with third gender performer LaJohn Joseph heading an all-male cast.

Cover Her Face will be set in the late 1950s, the same era that its venue the Bethnal Working Men’s Club opened.Described as a “trans fable”, Joseph — who recently appeared in his autobiographical Boy In A Dress — takes on the tragic mantle of the wealthy socialite who marries beneath herself to the concern of her brothers.

We spoke to him about this new play and how social media may have influenced his decision to  take the lead role.


What initially drew you you to Cover Your Face?

The fear that I wouldn’t actually be able to do it! When I was asked to audition for the part, I was terrified, but I squared up to myself and refused to be ruled by the fear of failure. The challenge was the main incentive really. Well, that and the nudie pics my leading man, Tom Campion, sent me on Snapchat. I guess they swayed me somewhat. Hashtag unprofessional.


The Duchess of Malfi is quite a bloody play. How realistic is the violence? 

I think the portrayal of graphic violence is not best served by live theatre. All of our most frenzied moments are handled in as realistic a manner as possible, but we’re using physicality and psychology over grand guignol schlock. When it comes to onstage gore, less is more, we’ve tried to make it startling but convincing. If that doesn’t work in the dress rehearsal we can always have Marge who does the wigs, run on and toss a bucket of pig’s blood over us I suppose.


What parallels do you personally draw from your life and that of the Duchess?

We are as similar as we are different, the Duchess and I. The most obvious similarity would be that both of us, though biologically male bodied, seek to transcend the limitations of gender. I am however not intending to surgically transition, nor for that matter am I an aristocrat – contrary to popular rumour. The Duchess and I also share a pronounced lust for physical entanglements, as well as a terrible temper. Hashtag itsfunnybecauseitstrue


How does modern life echo the Renaissance times in which the play is set?

Well this version of the play is actually set in 1959, so there’s much less of a difference between now and then, than there is between the 17th century and the present day. The wifi signal is obviously much better since Lizzie the first ruled the roost though.


The recent same-sex marriage bill included a controversial “spousal veto“. Now that the bill has been passed into law, how do you feel about the inclusion of that clause?

In the words of my dear friend, the late Barbara Cartland, it’s a fucking travesty mate! Hashtag RIPbabs.


One last question: are all great love affairs doomed and can someone be in love forever?

Where do you get these questions?  Who do you think I am – Emily Bronte? They’re doing Wuthering Heights two doors down dear! All I can tell you is that often the beauty of love is to be found in its fleeting nature – a lot like Snapchat cockshots actually.

You can see LaJohn Joseph at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club in Cover Her Face next week from Monday to Saturday. You can find out more information from the venue or go forth and buy tickets from TicketTailor.

Image: Leon Csernohlavek

Preview: The Scene to be Seen In

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Cabaret-influenced performers of three very different kinds collide at Hackney’s Power Lunches Art Cafe on Friday 6th September, as dieselpunk space pirates the Mechanisms team up with fiercely political the Indelicates  and heartrendingly beautiful piano-based singer-songwriter CN Lester for an evening of song, dance, drama, silliness, social criticism, intergalactic travel and poignant, sorrowful beauty.

pressshotThe IndelicatesALBUMCOVER

Indelicates fans, who include author Neil Gaiman (“…I was hooked in one, as they took apart, with bitter grace, the media /academic obsession with and delight in the downfall of stars and idols…”) can expect more of Simon and Julia’s trademark intelligence, dark wit and unexpected sincerity, as they rail melodically and methodically against the vagaries of contemporary culture.



mechanisms 1

The Mechanisms are intergalactic space pirates with all the melodrama and sheer style such a label would imply. Time Out ‘s description of “great loves and great battles zipping by in spectacular set-pieces set to rousing rounds and shanties and encrusted with nice throwaway details” is a fair reflection of sets with more than a hint of music hall, full of audience participation, classical references, folk tradition and rock’n’roll.  In eyeliner.


Finally, CN Lester shares their eerily beautiful piano-driven songwriting, previewing  tracks from their forthcoming album Aether in advance of their launch show at the Tate Modern. A writer and activist as well as a consummate musician, CN’s work combines poignancy and eloquence with a wry awareness of the vagaries of human nature that’s rarely less than moving, an ever-haunting articulation of loss and sorrow and joy and acceptance and hope.


If you still have energy after all that, Hug the DJ will be helping us dance the night away till 2am. You should come. Tickets here.

The Indelicates, the Mechanisms and CN Lester are at Power Lunches Arts Cafe,  446 Kingsland Rd London E8 4AE, 6 September from 8.30pm till 2am. 

Falling Up Falls Right Into Place At Jacksons Lane

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Possibly the most relevant and perfect choice for a venue ever made, Falling Up’s adventure tour of experiences slots perfectly into Jackson Lane’s winding winding rooms and secret doors. 


Jacksons Lane’s Postcards seasons continues with a brand new version of Falling Up by the all female street theatre company Mimbre.

The audience is led through a journey by four acrobats, the same four who make up the entire cast but fill the space as if they were a thousand strong. Their unrelenting enthusiasm and vivacious energy gets the audience giggling right from the get go. Despite the small scale of the production, with only a few props and a limited stage design, the four women use every piece of space to its full potential as they clamber over every inch of the stage.

With a distinct focus on the pressures of being a performer, the show centres around the theme of body image and self critique. Visitors move through four rooms hosted by a different acrobat, each describing a different artistic pressure. Themes include body size, shape, having a unique body and the strain of juggling multiple responsibilities.

Each audience member is presented with a sweet in the cafe on arrival and is then distributed into groups and led through the weaves and paths of the old Gothic church. We meet a girl with a tape measure who is celebrating her size before suddenly realising one measurement is less than satisfactory. We also meet a mother juggling the multiple stresses and strains of keeping her performance and family life going simultaneously. An enthusiastic performance from Alison takes a comic turn as the audience is encouraged to chant “LEGS” whilst she describes her own, unique pair. The final performer seems to be attempting to keep to the stereotype of a dedicated performer, stressing about diet, torn between a healthy apple and the sin of a luscious, delicious doughnut.

For the finale the cast brings together each individual character brilliantly as they fill the main theatre stage with a range of impressive acro-balance and physical theatre. Retaining all character traits right through to the end, the cast put on a good show that is both entertaining and commendable. A few sections drag on slightly, including lots of movement within the space that never seem to lead anywhere. At points, the foursome split into two pairs performing contrasting unison routines. Both pairs present excellent combinations of gymnastics and balance, however trying to concentrate on both simultaneously is difficult. It feels as if we are constantly torn between which couple to watch. This is a testament to the choreography but awkward as a spectator.

For such a small cast, Mimbre manage to entertain and wow the crowd throughout the show, mixing audience interaction (such as flower throwing and a little audience aerobics) with a traditional routine performance. An easily transportable show with great development potential, this company and cast will fit well into any big or small performance space, making their show both enjoyable and highly flexible.

Falling Up. Presented by Mimbre. Artistic Director Lina Johansson. Jacksons Lane, 269a Archway Road, London, N6 5AA. Wednesday 19th June 2013, 8pm. £10.