MOSTLY FILM: #KeepAsianCinemaInUKCinemas
MOSTLY FILM: Faster, Higher, Wronger

Simian Substitute Site For August 2012: Monkey Olympics


Art: I don't go to very many exhibitions at the Barbican Centre, but when they put on a blockbuster they get it very right indeed. Last year's history of animation, Watch Me Move, was a huge array of audiovisual delights spread across two floors. This year, Designing 007 takes up three floors. As we get ready for the release of Skyfall, timed to roughly coincide with the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, Designing 007 looks at all the visual elements that have made murderous Queenshagger James Bond a global style icon: the sets, the costumes, the gadgets, the stunts. Everything is covered here, climaxing in a room (actually, the converted Pit theatre) where you can watch the best and worst Bond stunt sequences being projected simultaneously on opposite walls. Wrap it all up with a visit to the Barbican's excellent Martini bar: you know how to ask for it. (Although I don't think they give you the option.)

Comedy: Recently, Stewart Lee wrote an article for The Guardian about the age-old problem of increasing commercialisation of the Edinburgh Fringe. (Surprisingly, it's not as crammed with lies as some of his other journalism.) In a throwaway aside at the end of the piece, as he gave his recommendations for Fringe 2012, he referred to Daniel Kitson as the "world's best stand-up." Anyone who saw Kitson's blinding set at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre will be rather amused by that: part of his current show (Where Once Was Wonder, about to embark on a long-sold-out run at The Stand) involves Kitson complaining about his current status as World's Greatest Comic And Balding Sex God. Over the course of 100 minutes, he tells three extended stories that ultimately come together to answer the big question of what life is. It's a breathtaking performance, intricately constructed, occasionally moving, but never forgetting to be funny as hell. If you haven't got tickets for his show, console yourself with a surprisingly cheap download album, The Ballad Of Roger And Grace, made with his musical chum Gavin Osborne.

Theatre: It scares the crap out of me when I realise that the first time I heard The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy on the radio was nearly 34 years ago. (Have a look at how scared I was back when it was a mere 26 years.) Since then, it's been adapted into pretty much every other medium known to man, but the long-term fans obviously still carry a torch for the radio show. Which makes HHGTTG: The Radio Show such an ingenious idea: get the old radio cast together again, and have them gather round microphones to perform a staged reading of Douglas Adams' scripts. Dirk Maggs' adaptation shows just the right amount of irreverance to the source material, mashing up bits from all five books into a new story, and pulling in a few real obscurities like the pop song Marvin released in the early eighties. The shows were all recorded and are being made available as downloads for a limited time: if you hurry, for a mere tenner you can download the Hackney Empire show that I went to, with Terry Jones having fun playing The Book for one night only. The tour's finished now, but they're promising a return visit in 2013, so make sure you don't miss it again.

In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site Of The Month for August 2012 is a video of the Monkey Olympics, apparently shot at Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou around the time that they were hosting the non-Monkey Olympics. It's a bit tatty as Simian Sites go, but at least it's topical. And it has to be noted that one of the most totalitarian regimes on the planet seems to be less fussy about protecting the integrity of the Olympics brand than we seem to be over here. #IHateSebastianCoe

Anyway, while we're on the subject of the Olympics, I'll wrap up here with the most extraordinary thing I've seen so far at London 2012, rendered in an even more extraordinary form. Enjoy. (And don't forget to send me some comments as well, as long as you promise not to be selling anything.)


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