Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: June 2013

Joining the Dots

The House of Burlesque are back at the London Wonderground on the Southbank this summer with fantastic new show. Last year I caught the very last show of their run so it was too late to offer you a recommendation. This time, I am pleased to say you have no fewer than four dates left from which to choose. If you don’t see them, that’s on you. Whilst the Spiegeltent is undoubtedly less intimate a venue than many of London’s cabaret spots, it is a stunning environment to showcase the performers, with the space alone allowing the circus acts in particular to shine. Lauren and I both came away impressed.

Sxip ShireyHanging out after the show I bumped into Sxip Shirey who is here as the composer for Limbo, the Wonderground’s headline circus show, which has been receiving great reviews. I have not seen Sxip since he toured with Brian Viglione and Elyas Khan as Gentlemen & Assassins a little over two years ago. As we chatted over a couple of drinks, I was reminded of just how great that Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in 2010 really was. Of course it massively disrupted everyone’s travel plans at the time and left people stranded in all sorts of places but, if not for that volcano which actually prevented me from seeing Sxip for the first time, we would not be sharing these drinks together.

In 2010, Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley had a two-person show as Evelyn Evelyn, which was hosted by Sxip. Amanda was already in Europe but the ash cloud unexpectedly prevented  the other two from flying, so the gig morphed into a solo show supported by a flurry of bands that Amanda had met who were having similar difficulties as a result of the transport nightmare. Melissa Auf der Maur captured it succinctly, “A volcano and Twitter brought me to you. Do you realise how beautiful that is?” Well sure, but it turned out I would never get to see Evelyn Evelyn.

Sxip ShireyOne of the other support acts that night was a duo called Bitter Ruin. You have seen me rave about (and photograph) Georgia and Ben repeatedly, of course, but my sister and I stumbled upon them entirely by accident at this show. We followed them closely whenever they played in London, which is how we discovered that one night in the March of 2011 they were supporting the newly formed Gentlemen & Assassins. We attended this magical, intimate first gig together for Sxip, Brian and Elyas full of raw energy and a unique spirit as these three musicians crafted something that kept them all centre-stage without any of them slipping into a supporting role. To illustrate this post I have dug up some never-before-seen photos from that gig.

And so, sipping a drink in the Wonderground last night, I instantly recognised a distinctive wild tangle of hair and headed over to greet Sxip. We drank and chatted into the early hours, railing against the shift from state to corporate control, and the socially dangerous results of cutting arts funding (“You fund the arts to stop people being assholes,” says Sxip, “otherwise that’s what happens.”). None of which would have happened without a belligerent volcano that brought European air traffic to a standstill several years ago.

Sxip ShireyThere’s probably some platitude here about “recognising hidden blessings”. But really my point is that sometimes you can only tell just how well something worked out when you look back later and join the dots. People will tell you always to look to the future or to live only in the present. They are wrong. Look back, join the dots, reclaim those moments that seemed awful, now that you know where they were taking you. The past is, of course, the key to understanding who you are now: it may be as simple as plotting the course that led to you having a drink with someone, but it expands to why you are surrounded by the people you are, how your friendship group is constructed through gains and losses, and you just might find something more fundamental that defines you. But I’m not sharing that…

Arrested Redevelopment

Arrested DevelopmentWith Netflix, a service about whose value proposition I was sceptical, offering a free one month trial, effective timing seemed at least prudent, if not essential. I restrained myself as their first slice of original programming, House of Cards remade in America’s image, received high praise, because I knew the future held something altogether sweeter, a dysfunctional family whose tantalising promise I could not hope to resist: the Bluths. Following the now all-too-common mould of a not particularly successful TV show whose genius earns it a cult following once it is gone, an Arrested Development film was talked about for at least half a decade. Eventually its saviour proved to be Netflix, embarking on a “semi-original” programming endeavour.

Whilst the nostalgia hit was instantly appreciated, I felt the new season got off to a slightly rocky start due to its approach of focusing on a single family member in each episode. Not all characters are born equal and not all of them can carry an episode. With several years to catch up on, the less interwoven plotlines seemed reasonable but the result was also less of the sharp interaction between all of the family together. However, from around the halfway point, things picked up dramatically. Not only was it clear that the story threads were all still densely layered over the season as a whole, but once these strands were mostly laid, the focus could shift from the story to the characters and dialogue where the show excels. The meticulous detail, with numerous Easter eggs and subtle jokes littering the sets, shines through as the highlight. Whether its future ultimately lies in Ron Howard’s intended film or a further series, things are finally looking up for the Bluths. And for all those who binged on the new season a little too fast, I recommend taking my approach and filling the void with Archer (also on Netflix) as I have for the past few years.

House of CardsHouse of Cards, a tough sell for fans of the BBC original, is exquisite. Translating the political thriller to modern American politics works seamlessly and Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood is ruthlessly compelling, his drawl somehow increasing his sense of Machiavellian menace. The production values are excellent and if this is the level of programming Netflix are able to produce on a consistent basis, I’m inclined to keep this subscription up.

The Netflix brand of freedom suggests you should be able to devour TV however you like, so every episode of its shows are made available at once and the viewer can choose to dip in and out or to binge, and its apps run on virtually every entertainment device. I initially approached it via Xbox 360 but, although I am a Gold subscriber of Xbox Live, this restriction proved a serious flaw. With my Internet connection flaking briefly in a manner that did not affect the buffered stream, it did sign me out of Xbox Live and immediately cease playback. By comparison the PS3 add-on sailed effortlessly through such blips. Better yet, the mobile apps detected that I was signed in on another device and allowed me to browse, search and select shows on a mobile or tablet before streaming them to the PS3.

With two high-quality shows in the first half of the year, if Netflix can manage a third that attracts my attention it would justify the monthly fee even without access to a range of older shows and films. And I can always spend the rest of my trial period catching up on Justified whilst I decide…

"You shouldn't trust the storyteller; only trust the story."

(CC) BY-NC 2005-2017 Priyan Meewella

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