About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

30 October 2014

JPO's 3rd 2014 Season, 1st Concert

To call it a 3rd season is overly generous - after all, there are only 2 concerts!That said, the line-up for both concerts is quite interesting and some shows are better than no shows! Last night's concert, in some ways, encapsulated two of the big problems with the current state of the JPO - poor communication and poor attendance. I am a subscriber, but I only got a SMS about the concerts the day before - certainly not the best way to advertise at such short notice. There were apparently emails, but quite a few people didn't seem to get them. There were apparently a few radio ads also - but in the age of so many communication mediums, it is quite sad that the JPO can't seem to get the word out that that there are actually performing! Poor attendance obviously flows from poor communication and marketing, and it certainly doesn't help the JPO's financial position, sponsorship and ultimately its future prospects.

Starting the evening off, was Grieg's Holberg Suite. I have heard most of the individual components a number of times on radio - especially Sarabande and Rigaudon - but this was the first time I have heard them all together. It was a fun piece, and very easy to appreciate - and certainly a good piece to kick off a concert!

Multiple competition winner, Russian pianist Andrey Pisarev, played a double concerto bill of Chopin's First and Second Piano Concertos. Like the performance last year, Andrey Pisarev, seemed to be in his own world; looking only at the piano or the conductor during his performance. His fingers flew across the keyboard - something that was quite fun to watch, especially in the virtuoso parts of the performance - but he was far more reserved. It was a great performance, and I think I am getting to like Chopin more and more - but not necessarily as personable as Alexander Lubyantsev last year.

28 October 2014

Movie: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)

Lavishly set amongst some of the finest art and architecture in Rome, La Grande Bellezza, or The Great Beauty is a visual masterpiece - but with seemingly no plot and no real storyline. The film revolves around a great (fictional) Italian author, Jep Gambardella, who starts to question his lavish, partying lifestyle upon his 65th birthday - but doesn't really come to any meaningful conclusions. It is a visual masterpiece, backed by an amazing sound track - and in a few places - some amazing dialogue (his assessment of the failures of one his ego-seeking friends is probably worth the ticket price); but there is no meaningful story, and in the end quite unsatisfying.

26 October 2014

War Horse

The UK's National Theatre's performance of War Horse has had rave reviews and the marketing hype for the South African performances has been like no other theatre performance. The hype is definitely warranted - this is certainly one of the best live performances (of any genre) I have attended.

Part of the spectacle, is off course the puppets - especially the large horse puppets - whose movements are so well crafted, that the puppeteers blend into the background; and are completely unobtrusive. This is not Punch and Judy - the puppets manage to convey amazing emotion, and natural movement; and presence -  that it is sometimes easy to forget that these are actually puppets.

 Backing the puppeteers amazing craft, is a superb cast of actors and lighting and stage effects - that manage to completely portray the horrors and cruelty of war. It is a visual feast, that sucks the audience in completely. It is a great story - but it is amazing creativity that has managed to translate the story so completely for a stage performance.

25 October 2014

Johnny Clegg - Best, Live & Unplugged

Johnny Clegg's current tour is more than just a musical performance of his best hits, arranged acoustically. Yes - all the big hits are there, including performances with Sipho Mchunu - but there are also a few obscure pieces. But more than the music - it is a discourse on South African culture.

In between the songs, Johnny Clegg discussed difference in instrumentation, the impact of migration on the change of culture and its eventual impact on new styles of song and dance. It was not just a speech, but as he put it a "show and tell". Off course, this is all wrapped up within the wider context of South Africa's history - not only apartheid, but going further back to colonial times such as the Battle of Isandlwana and its inspiration for Impi.

20 years into South Africa's rainbow nation - the discourse in cultural roots, transformation and amalgamation is still missing. While this is a very personal discourse from Johnny Clegg, it provides a glimpse into how various traditions of culture and music have influenced South African music.

22 October 2014

Movie: Dracula Untold

There have been a few "origins" movies in the past few years - movies to explain the origins of a famous character (or in the case of Planet of the Apes, an entire species). And in most of these, a feature has been to humanise the characters even more. 

In this regard, Dracula Untold, boldly ventures forth into turning one of the major villains in modern English literature to, not only a hero, but one that should be applauded and revered. The movie does manage to expand the powers of Dracula, and how he comes to actually save Europe from being taken over by the evil Ottoman empire (where the emperor seems to have an army similar to Game of Thrones' Unsullied); and eventually becomes a vampire in order to defeat this army and save "his people".

Plot holes aside, there are two impressive acting performances by Luke Evans (in the title role) and Charles Dance (as Dracula's sire) and great visual effects. It is a fun action movie - but ultimately, it is different to the original concept of Dracula - and thus ends up making a new anti-hero, as opposed to rehabilitating a villain.

19 October 2014

Movie: Gone Girl

M has been raving about the works of the author Gillian Flynn since the beginning of the year. Based on Gone Girl - I can see why. The plot is superbly paced, with some great twists - and enough ambiguity in its ending, to cater for multiple versions of "why". The acting is superb, and this is an excellent twist on the "whodunit" genre. Perhaps, I should read the books ...

11 October 2014

Adapt or Fly

Pieter-Dirk Uys' new one man show, Adapt or Fly, currently on at the Market Theatre, feels like a farewell show - a compilation of his time in South Africa's theatre circuit. I haven't seen his full one man shows before, so the format was a bit strange - the combination of political commentary, various characters and impersonations and personal reflection did not have a cohesive theme - but that is not to say, it was a bad show. It was not a stand-up comedy routine, but it was not a play. But it was funny, often serious in its subject matter, and sometimes poignant.

It was just strange - but completely worth it.