Simian Substitute Site For February 2019: Valentine The Spider Monkey

Valentine The Spider MonkeyMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JANUARY 2019

Comedy: "It's not shit, despite what you might have read" is, let's face it, an entirely typical way for Daniel Kitson to introduce one of his odd spoken word shows. And Keep (which has just finished its run at the beautifully refurbished Battersea Arts Centre) is odder than most, presenting Kitson in a more experimental mode. He makes his plan perfectly clear up front: he's made a complete inventory of every item in his house on several hundred index cards, and for the next two hours he's going to read them all out for us. Now that it's all over, I think I can reveal that it's not too long before he starts deviating from the plan, leading to the wild digressions and delightful turns of phrase we've come to expect from him: though as The BBG noted, part of what makes the conceit work is the suspicion that Kitson is actually capable of a stunt like this. My one concern is that that opening line about 'what you might have read' doesn't come out of nowhere: the reviews for Keep were bewilderingly poor, almost as if Kitson had just read out the entire contents of his house. Did he do a wildly different performance on press night? Or were the reviewers in on the gag themselves? It's a mystery and no mistake.

Movies: It's a challenge to write about the Japanese film One Cut Of The Dead, which has just about finished a short UK theatrical run and is now available on home video. We can talk about the start, I guess. A director is shooting a low-budget zombie movie in a creepy location that has a history: the sort of history that makes it not entirely surprising when the set is invaded by a horde of actual zombies. Which leaves the director with a dilemma - should he get his crew out to safety, or should he grab the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shoot gore scenes that are way outside his budget? Beyond that, it's best for you to find out for yourselves, but the trick is not to write this off as a simple zombie movie: there are layers that only come to light gradually. You could even, at a pinch, see it as a satirical take on the lengths film people will go to to get that one, perfect shot. After years of Adam from Third Window Films getting screwed over in various ways, his distribution company now has a proper hit on its hands, so give him - and the film - your much-deserved support.

Music: You young kids wouldn't know anything about this, but back in the seventies we did most of our racism in the form of television sitcoms. In retrospect, Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width was probably one of the more benign ones: it told the story of an Irish tailor and a Jewish tailor going into business together, and managed to sustain their cultural differences for the proverbial six seasons and a movie. It starred Joe Lynch as Kelly, and John Bluthal as Cohen. Lynch managed to stay on telly for many years after as a comic actor with an occasional sideline in singing (my dad used to own a copy of this album), while Bluthal (among other things) became part of the regular repertory company of Spike Milligan. Bluthal died in November last year, around the same time as I decided to make him and Lynch the cover stars of my Pick Of The Year 2018 compilation. Which is a roundabout way of telling you that 'John Bluthal' was the correct answer to the competition to win a copy of the CD. I posted up the question at noon on Christmas Day from our festive hotel room in Cardiff, a little before we headed out for our Christmas dinner. You want to know when Dave sent in his winning answer? At eight minutes past two on the same afternoon, while you were all sat on your fat arses watching Christmas Top Of The Pops. This is why he is better than you. Try harder next year, people: and congratulations again, Dave.

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Simian Substitute Site For January 2019: Brainy Monkey Post Production

Brainy Monkey Post ProductionMONTH END PROCESSING FOR DECEMBER 2018

Comedy: Happy New Year to one and all! (Now buy a diary.) As has been our tradition over the last decade or more, we saw out the old year with a stand-up comedy show. There was plenty of competition in North London for our business this time round, with Good Ship Comedy joining in for the first time, marred only by their venue's insistence that the show wrapped up at 9.30pm to allow more time for the purchase of booze. Monkey Business could have been on our list too, but after the emotional rollercoaster of their previous NYE show we felt that might be a bit too risky. So in the end the Pals and I settled for the familiar comforts - and, let's be honest, familiar jokes - of Ivor Dembina and his Hampstead Comedy Club, this year temporarily relocated at the Albany pub, as it was three years earlier. It was a splendidly balanced quadruple bill - the verbal dexterity of Dan Evans, the eye-watering filth of Arielle Souma, the too-rude-for-Radio-4 songs of Ant Dewson and the previously-seen-in-late-2016 rants of LJ Da Funk. The twin-DJ set in the upstairs bar leading into 2019 had its moments, but they kept playing music that was recorded before either of them were born, and claimed never to have heard of Janelle Monae. Millennials, eh?

Food and Drink: One of our biggest achievements in the year just gone was the creation of www.bermondsey-beer-mile.co.uk, in which The Belated Birthday Girl and I planned to keep a regularly updated record of all the bars currently operating on Sarf Landan's most fashionable pub crawl. It's been quite the success, I have to say: it's currently getting ten times as many page visits as this bloody place does, with amusingly sharp peaks in the hit count every Saturday, suggesting that Beer Milers are actually using it for real-time navigation. It also comes first on a Google search for 'Bermondsey Beer Mile', despite us putting zero effort into search engine optimisation. The one thing we've been a little behind on is those regular updates, although even then comments from helpful readers have helped ensure that the biggest recent changes have already been documented somewhere on the site. Anyway, early in December we went on another fact-finding mission (hic), and the site's had a bit of an update as a result. The main things we've covered are the new bar from Cloudwater, and the reopening of London Beer Factory's The Barrel Project after a lengthy period of refurbishment. I've also replied to the various comments left during our first six months of operation, and only been rude about one of them.

Telly: The ancient Christmas Day tradition of slumping in front of the telly after a massive feed took a new twist this year, as we found ourselves on Christmas night in a hotel room with a Smart TV featuring the Netflix app. I've only ever used Netflix on computers before now, and it's terrifying how addictive the TV version of the interface is by comparison: you could burn up hours just scrolling through looking for something to watch, and on one occasion we did just that. Eventually, though, we settled for a double bill of Netflix Original productions that overlapped in unexpected ways. The Christmas That Almost Wasn't started out life as a 1966 Italian movie in which Santa Claus is about to be evicted by a Scrooge-type landlord, and has to seek the aid of a lawyer: what could be more festive than that? Well, everything could, which is what makes it prime material for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 reworking. Released as a Christmas special as part of their 2017 comeback season, it has Jonah and the bots cheerfully attacking all the obvious targets - the bad dubbing, the worse songs, and the jaw-dropping horror of the special effects at the climax. To be honest, the CGI effects in Netflix's current seasonal offering The Christmas Chronicles also have a bit of a will-this-do quality to them, but that's all part of the tongue-in-cheek approach: taking a similar Christmas-in-crisis storyline to the earlier film, but gently mocking it with every directorial decision it makes, starting with the casting of Kurt Russell as Santa. It's good-natured enough to tickle the same parts of your post-food coma brain as, say, a good Doctor Who Christmas special would: and if you're prepared to cut it the same amount of slack, there's plenty of fun to be had all the way up to the cheeky cameo in the final scene.

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Simian Substitute Site For December 2018: Rang-Tan

Rang-TanMONTH END PROCESSING FOR NOVEMBER 2018

Comedy: Stand-up's changed a lot during the thirty-odd years that I've been regularly attending comedy clubs. Back when I started, people had an act, and if you saw them regularly you'd see that act evolve over time, with new jokes being added and old jokes dropping out. But gradually the standard unit of stand-up became the hour-long show, which periodically would be frozen in a video special and then ditched to make way for an entire new hour of material. This has led to the rise of the Work In Progress show, in which a comic will throw a bunch of ideas at a paying audience (hopefully paying less than usual) to see what works and what doesn't. We went to see Phil Wang do one of these at 2 Northdown this month, and it's interesting to reflect on how it worked. Other people we've seen do this sort of thing - Stewart Lee being a prime example - turn up with multiple variants on the same joke, and use the audience to decide which one is best. Wang's new show appears to be at a much earlier stage of development (assuming he's ultimately preparing for Edinburgh next August): he's got a structure and some funny lines, but every so often has to stop and say "this needs a joke round about here." Presumably the idea is that as he works through the material over the course of a week, those jokes will gradually come to him. Still, there are plenty of laughs even at this stage, certainly enough to justify the four quid entrance fee. And I'll still be interested to see what the finished show looks like.

Movies: We're currently in the perineum between Diwali and Christmas, which presumably explains the glut of star-driven, effects-heavy Bollywood movies we're seeing at the moment. Later this month, Shah Rukh Khan gets himself miniaturised to utterly appalling effect in Zero: this weekend, the man they literally call Superstar Rajinikanth belatedly follows up his viral hit of a decade ago, Enthiran (aka Robot), with a sequel going under the amusingly minimalist title of 2.0. But the blockbuster season started back in November with Thugs Of Hindostan, featuring the once-in-a-lifetime pairing of Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, which finally answers the question: what would it look like if Alan Moore and Bob Dylan dressed up as pirates and fought each other? Unfortunately, Indian audiences didn't seem so keen to find that out, to the extent that cinema owners are now seeking compensation from the film's producers. Personally, I enjoyed the hell out of it: it's quite obviously bollocks on toast, but it finds new ways to play with the established reputations of its leads, with Khan's character in particular showing a surprising degree of moral ambiguity for what's basically a light-hearted romp. And the action scenes are handsomely mounted, as long as you don't mind them being completely divorced from reality: their epic-scale geometric precision recalls the more decadent days of Hong Kong cinema, and that's always going to work for me. (There's a disclaimer at the start saying that no offence is intended towards any racial group, but given its colonial setting the English are largely portrayed as utter bastards, and that's always going to work for me too.)

Theatre: If you're reading this on the day of publication (December 1st), then you've got until tonight to catch the best play currently running in London. After that, you've missed it, sorry. It's surprising, because Measure For Measure has always been one of Shakespeare's more problematic efforts. A few years ago, a pair of simultaneous London productions pointed up the main problems: the Globe took its multiple climactic weddings as the usual cue for a jolly song and dance, while Complicite at the National pulled back the curtain on the cynicism behind the ending. In a time when #MeToo has become prevalent enough to work as a verb, you do wonder how it's possible to address the issues of Measure in a new way. I was aware that Josie Rourke's production at the Donmar was going to use gender-swapping, but I wasn't aware of the bold way that she'd re-edited the text to do it. By the end of this brilliantly constructed couple of hours, you'll be reassured that Measure isn't so much a misogynist play, more an even-handedly misanthropic one. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden's sterling work in the lead roles makes it clear how the power balance ultimately isn't in either one's favour, but the supporting cast do even more to support that reading: it's fascinating to see which of their reactions stay the same in the wake of the swap, and which ones are forced to change. If the lead-up to the interval doesn't leave the hairs on the back of your neck standing up in awe of the sheer possibilities opened up for the second half, then I'm not really sure what you're looking for in theatre.

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Simian Substitute Site For November 2018: Cheeki Monkeys

Cheeki MonkeysMONTH END PROCESSING FOR OCTOBER 2018

Movies: It's always a bit tricky writing one of these posts in a London Film Festival month - after all, you already know about 27 of the films I saw in October (28 if you count Weeks In The West End as a kind of pre-season friendly). But before the festival started, we made a point of catching yet another film on the first day of its limited cinema release. Kusama: Infinity is Heather Lenz's documentary on the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama - regular readers will remember that we stumbled across her work in 2010 in her home town of Matsumoto, assumed she was just some sort of local eccentric, and then watched as her pictures went hyperviral both at home and abroad. This film doesn't tell you much about the artist that you can't find out from other sources (such as her autobiography Infinity Net), but it does give you an insight into the cunning way she's managed her mental health problems and turned them into a self-promotion strategy. And if you're not already aware of her story, then you've got that to look forward to as well. The film is still popping up in one-day engagements across the UK, but it might be easier for you to watch it at home over one of its multiple streaming platforms.

Music: It's never a good sign when you find out one week before a concert takes place that it's been moved to a smaller venue. Or is it? The concert in question was an intriguing double-header, pairing up jazz saxophonist David Murray (who I have to admit I wasn't aware of before now) and poet Saul Williams (a firm favourite round these parts ever since I first saw him in the film Slam two decades ago). The two artists collaborated on an album called Blues For Memo earlier this year, and the plan was that they were going to perform selections from it at the Islington Assembly Hall. And then, at the last minute, the show was moved from the 800 capacity IAH to the approximately 75% smaller MOTH Club in Hackney. An ex-servicemen's club that's been colonised by hipsters (the name's short for Memorable Order of Tin Hats), it turned out to be a much better fit for the gig than the rather unatmospheric Assembly Hall. The recorded version of Blues For Memo was a little too restrained for my liking, but in a live context Murray and his band take the brakes off and go for it, with Williams' poetic contributions used as another element in the mix rather than hogging the limelight completely. Here's their version of Burundi from the Manchester leg of the tour.

Theatre: If Martin McDonagh was a Talking Heads tribute band, you could perhaps argue that his new play should be called More Songs About Racism And Dwarves. They've been the central motifs of much of his work in both theatre and film since the beginning, and A Very Very Very Dark Matter (at London's Bridge Theatre until January 6th) combines them in a way that verges on self-parodic. It's the story of Hans Christian Andersen (Jim Broadbent), which answers the question that artists have always dreaded being asked: "where do you get your ideas from?" Every review I've read of the play tells you exactly where he gets them from, but I went into the preview performance not knowing where it was headed. It'd probably be more fun for you if you didn't know either, other than to say that Broadbent's co-star Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles is easily his equal in terms of holding the stage. It's enjoyable enough as long as you treat it more or less as pantomime, as it's largely made up of McDonagh rehashing his usual shock tactics, with lots of gratuitous violence and swearing (Phil Daniels doing some career-best work on the latter score). It's knockabout stuff with no real attempt at trying to say anything deep about the human condition: given the fuss that broke out when he tried to do that in Three Billboards, maybe it's just as well.

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Simian Substitute Site For October 2018: Remembering Great Apes

Remembering Great ApesMONTH END PROCESSING FOR SEPTEMBER 2018

Music: It's been a pretty good month for live music, especially if you stretch the definition of 'September' to cover the last couple of hours of August 31st, when we were at Youssou N'Dour's late-night Prom (still watchable on the iPlayer until October 6th). Less than 24 hours after that, we'd moved from the grandeur of the Royal Albert Hall to the grunge of the Underworld in Camden, to see Andrew O'Neill perform his History of Heavy Metal show for the final time. Yes, we saw him do it in Edinburgh four years ago, but this time his examples were played by a full live band rather than by him on solo guitar, and there was the added thrill of the show being filmed for DVD release (out in time for Christmas, I'm guessing). Good as it was, the gig highlight of the month - possibly the year - was Janelle Monae at the Roundhouse, which was everything I'd ever hoped it would be. The last time I saw this amount of visual and emotional energy hurled around a concert stage, with a huge sense of fun underpinning it all, it was Prince who was responsible for it. She's on the verge of being up there with him. And in a nice coincidence, a few days later one of Monae's songs was covered by Youngblood Brass Band - if you're wondering, it was this one - in a stonking show at the Brixton Electric. Fine support from Lazy Habits too, playing a suitably complementary set of rapped vocals, funky brass and multiple-handed drumming. Finally, I suppose our last gig of the month was at the annual Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square, watching The Fairlady ZZZZZ tear through an entertaining half hour of Japanese-British hybrid pub rock.

Theatre: Actually, this one also dates back to August, but I didn't really have time to say much about it then: just after the Bank Holiday, The Belated Birthday Girl and I finally got around to seeing Hamilton. I know it's notoriously the hardest show in London to book for, but in practice it's not so bad, providing you can commit to a date six or seven months in advance. Watch the website or Twitter for the announcement of when a new batch of tickets goes on sale, and as long as you book on the first day you should be fine - the show's paperless ticketing arrangements may be a bit of a pain in the arse, but they seem to have stopped touts hogging the good seats. On that topic, I'd like to announce that the £37.50 tickets in the Grand Circle are perfectly acceptable, and there's no real reason to fork out more than that if you don't want to. As for the show itself, well, believe the hype. I'd come to it without knowing any of the songs in advance apart from the opening number, and although I was expecting the verbal dexterity I wasn't expecting so many glorious tunes. The first half is a constant succession of absolute showstoppers: if the second half felt like a slight disappointment by comparison, it was only because it had dropped to the mere level of a very very very good musical. The soundtrack album is now a fixture in my collection, as is Weird Al's magnificent five minute polka mix.

Travel: Five notes on things that Londoners never really notice about their city until they have to show some Japanese visitors around it (waves to Miki, Tae and Yuko). 1: Apparently if you're a big enough Hollywood movie, you can shut down the pavement directly outside St Paul's Cathedral on a Saturday night and have helicopters taking off and landing there. I'm quite pleased that with a little bit of detective work - i.e. seeing the production company name on the film trucks' parking permits and Googling it - I think that they were shooting Hobbs & Shaw, the spin-off from the Fast & The Furious series. Come back in summer 2019 and we'll see if I was right. 2: It appears that Sherlock's very popular in Japan, to the extent that part of our guests' holiday involved tracking down several of the filming locations. Did you realise that New Scotland Yard moved to the Victoria Embankment a few years ago? We didn't, to our embarrassment: the location where it was when they filmed there in 2012 is now a huge hole in the ground. 3: Obviously any fan of Sherlock wants to visit the real 221B Baker Street, as well as the fake one from the show. The Baker Street location is now the Sherlock Holmes Museum, where The BBG grumbled a bit about having to pay £15 to enter a building full of tatty old artefacts with only a tenuous connection to a fictional character. Later on that day she found out it costs £18 to get into St Paul's now, and the punchline basically writes itself. 4: Afternoon tea at Whittard's is fun, as long as you avoid any of the set options that include their tiny cakes, which cost around three pounds each. Stick with tea, sandwiches and scones and you'll be fine. 5: Foreign visitors may not appreciate just how radical it is going to Frank's Cafe for the late night views over the city, but it's worth it just for the look on the faces of your friends and colleagues when you reveal to them that you took some tourists on a night out in Peckham.

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Simian Substitute Site For September 2018: Beer Monkey Brew Co

Beer Monkey Brew CoMONTH END PROCESSING FOR AUGUST 2018

Food and Drink: It's always a pleasure to visit London's annual Great British Beer Festival and see how CAMRA are slowly moving with the times. The gender-fluid poster art seemed like 2018's biggest innovation, at least until I saw the t-shirts being worn by the volunteer staff. They were done in that oh-so-trendy style of a list of related items displayed in Helvetica text, where the list was this one: 'Cask & Keg & Bottle & Can'. If you'd told a CAMRA member five years ago that one of their t-shirts would contain the word 'keg', they'd have choked on their beard trimmings. Despite numerous clashes between the real ale twats and the craft beer wankers (most recently involving Newport brewery Tiny Rebel), it has to be said that craft is making its presence felt at the festival: after all, the Champion Beer of Great Britain this year came from Siren Craft Brew, whose brewery tap we visited just a few months ago. Their Broken Dream Breakfast Stout was a deservedly massive hit, selling out in minutes every time it was put on, and it took precise co-ordination via Twitter for The Belated Birthday Girl and myself to score a half of it each. As for the rest of the session, I drank Tempest's Armadillo, Thornbridge's Jesamine, Bristol Beer Factory's Pale Blue Dot and Bank Top's Port O Call, while The BBG had Redwillow's Effortless, Thornbridge's Florida Weisse, Great Western's Alpha Centauri and Brockley's Red Ale. Coincidentally, both of us found our first beer a bit thin, but the rest of them were great.

Music: This quarter's selection is, as ever, available as both a bundle of YouTube links and a Spotify playlist. Taking them in order:

  1. It's easy to forget how unprolific Youngblood Brass Band are: their last two albums were released in 2006 and 2013, and their new comeback record is an EP of cover versions. When they're as good as this one, though, you can't complain too much.
  2. I'm not entirely convinced that the combination of Underworld and Iggy Pop actually works, but it's fun listening to the two of them grinding against each other.
  3. Later this month I'll probably write a bit more about Adilan Ferreira, because he's Portuguese and we saw him play live in July. This single should give you a good idea of what he's like.
  4. Yes, it's that Matt Berry, and this is the lead single from his band's forthcoming album of old TV theme tunes. Just that little bit funkier than the original, isn't it?
  5. It appears that Simon Love is still incapable of writing a pretty love song without effing and jeffing all over it. Hooray!
  6. The stars of my Pick Of The Year 2016 compilation, Enkel, have released their second album. I don't have any other Finnish folk acts to compare them against, so I'll have to assume they're the best one.
  7. Oddest concept of the quarter year - Anne Dudley has re-arranged a number of Art Of Noise classics for solo piano. It's an interesting way of highlighting her melodies, which were sometimes buried under all the banging and crashing.
  8. Orbital still like to make squelchy noises that encourage you to dance, so all is well with the world. (Apart from all the other stuff happening in the world, of course.)
  9. Irritatingly, Josh Groban's record deal means that his cameo appearance on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will never get an audio release (though you can still watch it on YouTube). Adam Schlesinger's demo makes for a perfectly acceptable Spotify substitute.
  10. To finish off, ten minutes of Kamasi Washington's reworking of an old favourite movie theme.


Travel: If you read the recent BrewDogging piece on Edinburgh Lothian Road, you'll remember that our main reason for visiting the city was a helicopter ride that was subsequently called off due to bad weather. I said at the time we had an alternative location and date in mind: and one weekend in the middle of August, we took the train to Newcastle to see if their weather was any better. I won't keep you in suspense - no, it wasn't, and we've got to reschedule again. This doesn't mean our trip was wasted, though, as we found plenty of other things to keep us occupied, including a newly-opened brewpub called By The River, and a lovely documentary about local legend Keith Crombie, Geordie Jazz Man. But the main thing occupying Newcastle right now is the Great Exhibition Of The North, a three-month long city-wide artistic blowout. We caught a few bits of it almost by chance: an hourly water sculpture that would be more effective if you didn't have to sync it up to streaming audio, and a terrific exhibition of documentary photography at Side Gallery. But the bulk of what we saw was in the Baltic Centre. Idea Of North, a gloriously chaotic mini-festival of photography, cartoons and mixed media work squished into a single room: Ceremony, an hour-long film in which Phil Collins (not that one) overambitiously attempts to document every aspect of his performance piece for last year's MIF: and Joanne Tatham and Tom O'Sullivan's jolly set of facial sculptures that turn out to be a cheeky autocritique of some of the iffier aspects of the Exhibition. There's so much more going on that the website can barely give you a flavour: best to pick up the hard copy programme and dive straight in. It's running till September ‎9th.

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Simian Substitute Site For August 2018: Funky Monkey Pub Crawl

Funky Monkey Pub CrawlMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JULY 2018

Movies: This is an awkward month to be talking about. As you've probably noticed, there were only two posts here in July, but those two posts took a ridonkulous amount of work to complete. And there's another issue: as you'll hopefully find out soon, July has turned out to be one of those months where there's plenty of activity to write about in detail in the future, but not very much that I can throw away in a quick paragraph here. So, this is going to be even more of a mishmash than usual, starting with a quick run through the films I saw at the pictures during the month. Ocean's 8: it doesn't have the effortless quality of Soderbergh's variations on the theme, but it's entertaining enough, and the cast are all having fun without making you feel left out of it. Yellow Submarine: fascinating to realise that all the avant-garde animation I've been watching in festivals for the last thirty years has borrowed from this movie somewhere along the line. First time seeing this in a cinema for me, and the setting emphasises the weird dichotomy between the speedfreak overload of the fantasy sequences and the mogadon pacing of any scene with the Beatles in it. Vertigo: last time I saw it in a cinema it was 40 years old. Now it's 60, and still more perverted than any other picture from the period you can name. Hereditary: nah. For all the hype, there's a British horror movie from the last decade (no names mentioned) which takes a similar narrative trajectory to this one, but works because it knows exactly how to slowly crank up the story to a point of no return. Hereditary moves in ludicrous fits and starts, so the only sensible reaction is to laugh at how daft it gets.

Theatre: For some reason, the leading male role in The King And I is never given to an actor from Thailand. I don't know about you, but that's a Tony Jaa movie I would kill to see. In the meantime, at least these days they tend to cast actors of Asian extraction: last time I saw it in London the King was played by Korean Daniel Dae Kim from Angel and Lost, and the current production at the London Palladium (running till September 29th) stars Japanese Ken Watanabe from various Christopher Nolan films. To be honest, giving the role to someone whose first language isn't English may have been a mistake: Watanabe has the presence that the role demands, but his diction leaves a lot to be desired, as he's frequently quite hard to understand. He's the main weak link in Bartlett Shears' production, hot from New York and bearing awards by the ton. Kelli O'Hara is quite obviously Broadway royalty and is spectacular as Anna, and the look of the show is always sumptuous thanks to Michael Yeargan's sets and Donald Holder's rich lighting. But it doesn't quite take off the way it should - you want Shall We Dance? to be a moment of total ecstasy, but it never reaches the heights you want it to. It's still an entertaining night out, but it could have been even more so.

Music: Here's a question: has anyone ever noticed that the categories in Month End Processing are always in alphabetical order, or have I just been wasting my time for the last eight and a bit years? Don't answer that. I only mention that rule here because I'm about to break it, as there's a bit of Music that refers back to the Theatre production mentioned above. In the programme for The King And I, they mention that Ken Watanabe has had a musical career prior to appearing in the show, and has released a couple of albums. This seems like the sort of research task that a monthly subscription to Spotify was made for. Which made it all the more bizarre to discover that Ken Watanabe, when he isn't acting in movies or Broadway shows, has apparently made a couple of records of glitchy electronica. A furious evening of research revealed what you've probably already guessed: there's another Ken Watanabe. This one has studied music production at UAL, Middlesex and Goldsmiths (according to his LinkedIn profile), and has cheekily managed to bagsy the domain kenwatanabe.com for himself. From there, you're currently able to stream or purchase his current track My Wetland Dream: I suggest you do that, if only to confuse him about why there's a sudden surge of interest in his music.

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Simian Substitute Site For July 2018: Ten More Years Of Simians

Really not worth clicking on the picture this month, trust meMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JUNE 2018

Books: Six months after I first mentioned it here, I've finally got around to reading The Gospel According To Blindboy, the book of short stories by Blindboy Boatclub of The Rubberbandits. When I first heard he was working on it, I assumed they would be something like Limmy's stories, tales of surreal goings-on that would quickly spiral into something dark and distressing. And sure, some of Blindboy's stories do that (although they escalate much faster than Limmy's ever did: Arse Children, in particular, will be a jaw-dropper for anyone with any Irish in them whatsoever). But just as many of them take a swerve into somewhere that's still surreal, but utterly delightful, which works just as well for me. Apparently there's an audiobook on the way too, which is great because Blindboy's a terrific reader - he's roadtested half a dozen of these stories already on his podcast. To give you a flavour, you can find those stories linked to here, bearing in mind all timings are approximate because of the way adverts get randomly inserted into podcasts after their initial release: Did You Read About Erskine Fogarty? (starts 13:23), The Bourneville Chorus (starts 33:00), Scaphism (starts 36:43), Shovel Duds (starts 55:58), Malaga (starts 3:32) and Hugged Up Studded Blood Puppet (starts 19:55).

Movies: Bollocks to Secret Cinema, obviously. Mainly because it strikes me that in all the site-specific shenanegans that they build into their events, watching the actual film itself is very low down their list of priorities. It's possible to show a film properly and have fun with its presentation, as demonstrated by London's Prince Charles Cinema with their recent screening of Bonnie And Clyde. The starting point was, of all things, a University College London research project conducted between 2013 and 2015, Cultural Memory And British Cinemagoing, in which a thousand or so people were questioned about their memories of going to the pictures in the 1960s. Magnificently, all the raw data from that research can be read here: but they've also used it to recreate a typical 1967 night out at the movies, with Bonnie And Clyde as its centrepiece and UCL drama students helping out in supporting roles. The attention to detail was high throughout - hippies outside the cinema handing out invites to future attractions: personal greetings from usherettes and staff in period costumes: salt 'n' shake crisps and bags of boiled sweets handed out for refreshments. And that's before we got to the on-screen supporting programme: a batch of adverts for the concession stand, a Pathe newsreel about current crazes, and a Yogi Bear cartoon that was just mediocre enough for you not to feel cheated when it turned out to be the starting point for some theatrical silliness. All this and the Queen to finish off. As a nostalgia event, it was a little outside my timeframe (I think my first film at the pictures was Disney's Cinderella about a year later): but it was a brilliantly entertaining way to spend an evening, and I hope they do more of them.

Telly: Whenever The Belated Birthday Girl and I are in the kitchen these days, our cooking sessions tend to start with a joint yell of "ALLEZ CUISINE!", which can only mean one thing: Iron Chef America is back. It's been four years since the show was last on American TV, and close on double that length of time in the UK: as yet there's no sign of this season making it onto Food Network UK, so you'll have to use the combination of a VPN routing through Montreal and the website for Food Network Canada, which hosts the five most recent episodes of this ongoing run. There have been a couple of changes: Alton Brown's chatty introduction has gone, the number of judges has been reduced from three to two, and the basic challenge of the show - cook a five course meal from scratch in an hour - now has the additional requirement that the first course must be ready to serve in twenty minutes. All these factors ramp up the pace and urgency of the show even beyond the ludicrousness of its previous seasons. Happily, the gladiatorial aspect of the chef-on-chef battle is as hilariously tongue-in-cheek as ever, largely down to Mark Dacascos' role as the Chairman - the one remaining hangover of a series backstory that nobody even remembers any more, intended to link the show to its Japanese predecessor. If nothing else, watch the first four minutes of this slightly dodgy copy of the season premiere, and make it your goal for the month to have as much fun in your job as Dacascos does in his.

Continue reading "Simian Substitute Site For July 2018: Ten More Years Of Simians" »


Simian Substitute Site For June 2018: Monkeyshrine

MonkeyshrineMONTH END PROCESSING FOR MAY 2018

Internet: Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris are the perfect example of modern jobbing comedy writers. Starting off about two decades ago with their spoof local paper The Framley Examiner, followed by a few years of writing the text bits in Viz, they've now become ubiquitous: creating modern Ladybird books, becoming Charlie Brooker's go-to writing partners, and transferring the tropes of Scandi noir to a Radio 4 sitcom. If you follow Hazeley and Morris on Twitter, it becomes apparent that they're fascinated by the mechanics of comedy itself, dropping behind-the-scenes stories of script-doctoring on Paddington 2 or how Philomena Cunk's interviews work. All of this comes together in their new podcast Rule Of Three, in which the pair interview different people every week about one specific piece of work they find funny, and pull it apart to analyse why it is. As E.B. White once famously noted, there's a very real risk of the frog dying, but so far they've managed to get the balance between analysis and laughs just right. Their chat with Jon Holmes about Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album is a good place to start.

Music: Time for another quarterly round-up of things I've been listening to. Justifications follow (along with YouTube links for the non-Spotified):
1. This one's still in my head after seeing Miyavi live in April. The World Mix loses the original's RAWK bombast, but adds some verses from Afghan refugee rapper Sonita.
2. One of the songs on Half Man Half Biscuit's new album contains a perfect six-word gag - "Hadron Collider / Who's there / Knock knock" - just in case you thought Nigel Blackwell's muse had run dry after thirty-odd years. This particular song is mostly here for the refrain, but it's a great refrain.
3. Kojey Radical was one of my big discoveries of 2016: I was convinced he would be huge by now, but the rest of the world seems to be taking its time catching up with him. In the meantime, there's this lovely single collaboration with Mahalia and Swindle.
4. Daniel Kitson ran the breakfast show on Resonance FM for three weeks in May. It was precisely the mixture of whimsy, cheekiness and unexpected music that you'd imagine. I think we can all agree, though, that this track by Awkwafina really shouldn't be played at breakfast time anywhere.
5. Time for one of those things that Spotify thought I might like: instrumental outfit Echo Collective covering Radiohead's album Amnesiac. Lots of it just sounds like the originals with the rough edges sanded off, unfortunately. But somehow, the Lytteltonesque swagger of the final track translates rather beautifully.
6. People seem to be very uncertain about the new Arctic Monkeys stuff. I actually like the fact that it's an album that I'm still not sure about after a couple of listens.
7. The singles suggested that Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer was going to be a highlight of the year: the album itself goes way beyond those expectations. You've all seen the emotion picture by now, hopefully?
8. As mentioned in the recent discussion of our Tallinn trip, Noëp puts on a pretty good live show. The records don't have quite the same oomph, but this is still a nice song anyway.
9. Still waiting for Ylvis' Stories From Norway series to get some sort of international release. In the meantime, at least we have the songs. This one (from The Andøya Rocket Incident) had a personal relevance for me a couple of months ago, because... well, we'll get to that.
10. Fifteen years after its initial release, Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks has been repackaged with assorted remixes and variations. This mashup of its most familiar melody (you may remember it from the film Arrival) and a Dinah Washington classic has been knocking around for some time, but it's nice to have it now available alongside the original.


Theatre: If the title of their recent show at Wilton's Music Hall is anything to go by, the next Tiger Lillies album will be called Devil's Fairground. It could just as easily be called More Songs About Fucking And Smack, except then you wouldn't be able to distinguish it from all their previous albums. To be honest, it must be well over a decade since I last saw the Lillies, having slowly drifted away from them since their career peak as the musical force behind Shockheaded Peter. They still look much the same now, apart from having changed drummers - the facepaint means that singer Martin Jacques and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Stout appear ageless. The night we saw them at Wilton's the audience was a little bit odd, breaking into shocked giggles at any swearing and seeming to be totally unfamiliar with the one cover version of the night, Is That All There Is? But the mixture of melancholy, pitch-black humour and pretty tunes still works for the band, so there appears to be no reason why they should change now.

Continue reading "Simian Substitute Site For June 2018: Monkeyshrine" »


Simian Substitute Site For May 2018: Monkeyglasses

MonkeyglassesMONTH END PROCESSING FOR APRIL 2018

Books: Flashback to two years ago, when I mentioned that I'd just attended a book reading by veteran funnyman John Dowie. The book he was reading from was still a work in progress, and the gig was primarily promoting the crowdfunding campaign for its publication. Well, good news: The Freewheeling John Dowie is now written, published and available for you to buy. Dowie has fallen in and out of love with performing over the years, but his love of cycling has stayed constant throughout. So this is a memoir which uses his long-haul bike journeys as a framework on which to hang stories from his life as a performer. It's a structure that allows him to ramble, make unexpected detours and double back on himself, so it takes you a while to discover that the book divides roughly into two halves. In the early part, most of Dowie's stories are based around his sense of adventure and his delight with the people he meets: but from the death of his father onwards he becomes much more cynical and embittered, and frankly less interesting. (Memo to all men over 50 in the media: just complaining about stuff isn't automatically funny.) Thankfully, the chronology is juggled so that the book ends with his happier mid-career switch into playwriting, which leads me to suspect that Dowie's got a healthy degree of self-awareness. After all, he admits that mining material from personal tragedy has become one of those stages that all modern stand-ups go through, and he does so with the book's characteristic combination of brutal honesty and flawless comic timing. "There are, I would imagine, further Stages of Stand-Up that the current generation of comedians has so far failed to reach. But if one day you're leafing through the programme for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and come across a show with a title such as My Colostomy Bag and Me, you'll know that one of them has got there. My money's on Stewart Lee."

Music: Flashback to one year ago, when The Belated Birthday Girl and I were in Japan, and saw a Takashi Miike film there as we usually do. (Now available from wherever you usually buy DVDs.) The end title theme by Japanese guitarist Miyavi intrigued me, and I ended up buying his greatest hits album off the back of that. There were enough decent tunes on that compilation to make me sufficiently curious to check him out when he announced a live show at the University of London Union. But at £35 a ticket for a student gig featuring an artist almost entirely unknown outside Japan, who else was going to be there? And the answer was, several hundred incredibly noisy and up-for-it fans who'd obviously been following Miyavi for a lot longer than I had. As a guitarist, he's got a couple of basic tricks he falls back on: riffs using a slap style more commonly associated with Seinfeld-era bass guitar, and solos which eschew any note lower than the twelfth fret. For a show that's largely pre-recorded (apart from a live drummer, two backing vocalists and Miyavi's own contributions), it's a surprisingly great live experience, and that's all down to Miyavi himself: working every inch of the tiny stage like he's playing a football stadium, and pulling off all the rock god poses with just the right amount of tongue in cheek. The mixture of industrial noise and catchy tunes works brilliantly on songs like Long Nights, and apologies if that hook stays in your head for the next five years once you've heard it.

Theatre: Flashback to four years ago, when I wrote briefly about Max Richter's 'recomposition' of The Four Seasons, which took Vivaldi's original and produced a series of minimalist variations on its main themes. Just to confuse matters even further, that recomposition recently underwent a reimagining of its own at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. The Four Seasons: A Reimagining strips Richter's orchestral piece down to an ensemble of six, and uses it as the jumping-off point for Gyre & Gimble's bunraku-inspired puppetry. You couldn't really say there was a story in there, more of a series of vignettes vaguely covering the whole circle of life (it's not giving too much away to say that in this version, there's a thirteenth movement to The Four Seasons that's very similar to the first). It's probably closer to ballet than anything else, leaving a lot of narrative interpretation to the viewer. The intimate candlelit space of the Wanamaker has certain disadvantages, mainly that every seat apart from the most expensive ones has a restricted view to some degree or other. But there's enough of the gloriously fluid puppetry visible to make it worth your while, and if all else fails you can always watch the musicians up in the balcony.

Continue reading "Simian Substitute Site For May 2018: Monkeyglasses" »