MONTH END PROCESSING FOR MARCH 2016
Comics: I'm pretty sure that this isn't how blocking someone on Twitter is meant to work, but here's what I've found: everyone who's blocked me on there so far has done it because they're being a dick, not me. For example, Warren Ellis took exception to a link I sent him to an online discussion that mentioned both him and this website, and so I've never seen a single tweet of his since. That's no biggie, these days: he's largely avoiding social media and communicating by email newsletters, much like he was around two decades ago. In the meantime, he's still writing comics, and currently his most interesting one is James Bond: VARGR. It's an officially licensed Bond comic, drawing inspiration more from the novels than the movies. But the first issue in this six-part series wrongfooted me completely: I saw a cartoon secret agent in a smart suit, I heard typically snarky Ellis dialogue coming out of his mouth, and I thought "this is Archer, isn't it?" Subsequent issues have proved me wrong: the first one has all the amusing dialogue to help the exposition go down, but once you're past that it's a series of largely wordless and surprisingly gritty action scenes, brilliantly put on paper (or whatever they draw on nowadays) by Jason Masters. The final issue should be out some time in April, with a trade and a second series to follow, so jump on once those become available or do what I do and get downloading from Comixology.
Music: The Belated Birthday Girl and I still speak in hushed tones about the gig Nick Cave played at London's Troxy in 2008. After a few seconds we skip the hushed tones and go straight onto yelling, because it was an unbelievably loud show and I suspect he gave us both permanent hearing damage. But one of the most astonishing parts of the show was the support set by Joe Gideon and The Shark. A brother and sister duo, he sang and played guitar, while his former Olympic gymnast of a sister played drums and several other instruments simultaneously, like a force of nature in a leopard print top. I fell in love with them on the spot, and was sad to hear that they'd decided to call it a day after their second album. Viva 'The Shark' Seifert, in keeping with her Renaissance woman image, has gone on to further success in an entirely new field. Joe Gideon, meanwhile, has got together with Nick Cave's drummer Jim Sclavunos, and released a solo album Versa Vice last year. They've recently been out on the road, with female multi-instrumentalist Gris-de-Lin filling out the gaps in the sound, and leaving long-term fans like me amused that it takes two people to do everything The Shark used to do on her own. Their London gig - held in the unexpected location of Walthamstow's Wild Card Brewery - was largely a showcase for the new record, with a few old favourites thrown in. It turns out that my initial reservations about the songs on Versa Vice vanished completely once I'd heard them live: and although a couple of technical issues with the sound stopped it being a perfect night, it came pretty darn close. Next time they play a proper venue with a real mixing desk, I'll be there. You should be too. New single The Lady With The Metallic Voice was a highlight of the set, and closes off my Spotify playlist of top tunes from Q1 2016.
Theatre: Hand To God - or as everyone else seems to think of it, That Play Where The Puppets Fuck - is scheduled to run at the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End until June 11th, although closing dates are always a movable feast these days for any show that isn't a star vehicle or a musical. Get past the prurient interest angle, and there's a lot to like here. Its basic premise - a Baptist prayer group being terrorised by a hand puppet that may or may not be possessed by Satan - may lead you to expect some sort of anti-religious diatribe, but writer Robert Askins isn't interested in that. The possibility is always left open that rather than puppet Tyrone being the problem, it's his operator Jason who may have issues here. Harry Melling gives a terrific performance as both Jason and Tyrone: large parts of the play involve the two of them arguing with each other, and Melling finds all sorts of tiny details to distract you from the realisation that this is a one-person dialogue. He's got solid support from the rest of the cast, with Neil Pearson a notable standout as Pastor Greg. As the key representative of organised religion in the show, you'd expect Greg to be the butt of the jokes: but he's written in a much more complex fashion than that, and Pearson recognises that and gives a splendidly balanced portrayal of a man who genuinely thinks he's doing the right thing. And yes, you get to watch puppets do it, although the puppets turn out to be only the second funniest thing in that scene.