Review: Vanity & Vision

On Saturday 16th March, guests at “Vanity & Vision” witnessed a glamorous tale of rivalry, Peter Schaffer’s masterful film of 1984, Amadeus, based on his play of the same name. Not only did the masterpiece itself delight viewers, but all in attendance were also treated to an evening that oozed the eighteenth century.

Hosted at the magnificent York Mansion House – home to the Lord Mayors of York – the event was a collaboration between CinemArts Ltd., whose Creative Director is John Beecroft, and the York Literature Festival. Guests arrived for 19:00 to be greeted with a drink and the opportunity to explore the splendid eighteenth-century abode before taking their seats at tables in the State Room to enjoy light music by composers of the Georgian era.

John Beecroft of CinemArts Ltd. gave a short introduction before Amadeus began on the large screen, a fictionalised biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a film widely considered to be one of the best of all time. The screening was also punctuated with intermissions, the first of which consisted in a fabulous performance from guest Soprano, Janette Davies, of a repertoire of typical eighteenth-century drawing room music. Delectable platters of Baroque-inspired food were served to guests by York-based food, drink, and event specialists, Blakefields, who also provided the fine array of drinks all evening with a bar at the back of the hall. All in all, “Vanity & Vision” was an doubly alliterative eighteenth-century extravaganza!

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Words by Claudia L. Wardle  (presenter of The Art of the Matter)

Header image courtesy of CinemArts Ltd

Photo image: Claudia L. Wardle

Review: No Frills – Sleaford Mods

I took a trip to Fibbers last week to see The Fall sound-a-likes The Sleaford Mods.

Prior to their arrival on stage we were treated to support act Liines (I can only assume the extra I is to make their name easier to Google). The band themselves are a 3 piece alternative, post-punk band from Manchester.

The easiest comparison to make in terms of their sound would be Gang of Four (repeated statements as lyrics and a bass which seems to be turned up to 11). The band consists of lead singer Zoe McVeigh (who looks like Justine Frischman from Elastica and Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance had a love child), Tamsin Middleton on the aforementioned dirty bass and Leila O’Sullivan on drums.

I have to say, having never even heard of the band before, I was mightily impressed with their stage presence and their songs even if some of them are a little too derivative of 1980’s post punk for my liking. I would definitely recommend checking them out on whatever device you use to listen to your music.

Following the satisfying starter course of the support band, The Sleaford Mods came on for our main event of the evening. If you have never seen the band before, my only warning would be to not go in expecting all the sensory stimuli which normally comes when you see a successful band. There are no frills here; no light shows, no smoke machines, a very basic, unmoving background image on the screen behind. It is literally two men and a drum machine. The first thing to say about the band would be that Andrew Fearn has the easiest job in music from a live performance perspective. He stands there with his bottle of lager and presses play at the start of the song – that’s it! This is not a criticism by the way as I think it actually adds to the bands don’t give a shit attitude that they seem to have towards anything that could be considered as extraneous. Vocalist James Williamson has good stage presence, particularly his extensive use of what can only be described as the T-Rex arm whilst gesticulating. Suprisingly, some of his mannerisms also cross into Morrissey territory.  His ‘singing’ style can best be described as a hybrid of spoken word/ shouting/ rapping. All in all, he keeps the crowds attention well throughout their set.

The bands set consisted of many songs of their new album ‘Eton Alive’ which is a good thing as I feel this is their strongest album to date due to the increased complexity of the backing music composed by Andrew Fearn, and the introduction of some much needed melody during choruses (something which I think really helps to differentiate between songs). The new songs were punctuated by old favourites such as ‘TCR’ which seemed to have the most resonance with the live crowd.

Overall, I would definitely recommend seeing them live but I perhaps would have liked to see a bit more stage banter in between the songs to introduce the context due to the live setting the lyrics can sometimes get a bit lost in amongst all the other noise going on in the venue. This is important as the lyrics, telling the stories of everyday UK life, are the main selling point of the band.

Words by Christian Greenwood  (Presenter of Music History 101: the Story of…)

Image Credit: YelloMustang / www.fibbers.co.uk

Theatre Review: The Price (York Settlement Community Players)

 

 

 

Highly illuminating and thought-provoking, yet humorous!

Written by winner of the 2018 York ‘Script Factor’, Sophie Buckley, ‘The Price’ was certainly worth the money! Directed by Jim Paterson and produced by Helen Wilson, the play was performed at a favourite York pub, the Eagle and Child on High Petergate. It deals with numerous engaging issues surrounding not only the history of cryptocurrency but also various concepts of value: both in a monetary and in an emotional sense.

Throughout the performance, a disturbing reminder of the fluctuation of both trends and of Bitcoin flashed upon the wall in an almost dystopian fashion. From the outset, members of the audience were participants in the performance, directly addressed by a charming yet bogus salesman (Liam Godfrey) who exhorted us to invest in a new cryptocurrency, ‘Antheum’. He suddenly froze and the meta-narrative broke into the play’s main narrative elements.

In the general plot, a young construction worker (David Phillipps) bids his sweetheart (Joy Warner) farewell as she leaves to read philosophy at Cambridge. While she is there, the relationship comes under strain as the young woman encounters a smarmy and unscrupulous lecturer (Thomas Jennings) who entices her both romantically and then financially into investing in Bitcoin. As this story plays out, the audience is shown intermittent recordings of a distressed woman (Jess Murray) being convicted for numerous crimes by the Californian state.

Inspired by real events surrounding Bitcoin, the play is an ingenious commentary on cryptocurrency, the danger of unrealistic or confused dreams, and – what I at least inferred – a certain arrogance that exists in academia. It draws upon the true story of a Welshman who discarded a hard drive containing £70 million worth of Bitcoin and also that of the founder of the Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. The character whose story reflects that of Ross Ulbricht was portrayed by Jess Murray, who was seen only via video recording until later on in the play, making her entrance particularly striking. Her performance in the video as she was convicted was convincing and powerful and left me wide-eyed. Her live performance towards the end of the performance then played a critically cohesive role in terms of the plot.

The relationship between the young couple almost reduced me to tears in parts! Though I was surprised to see David Phillipps in the role of a sweet, honest young builder (I’m sure he perhaps should have had a slightly less RP accent), his performance was marvellous and even rather heart-breaking. Equally impressive was that of Joy Warner, who evolved from a naïve fresher at university to a resolute woman finally marrying her true sweetheart and realising what matters in life (note: not Bitcoin!). Thomas Jennings, who played the both idealistic and lecherous lecturer, truly brought alive that kind of character whom those of us who went to certain universities will definitely have met at least once in our lives. Suffice it to say, by the end none of the audience seemed very keen to invest in ‘Antheum’… At least, I hope so, in spite of Liam Godfrey’s persuasive orations.

A mere hour and a half long, the performance was expertly crafted to interact with the space it was in, which was not particularly large and was thus created a quite intensely intimate environment. The whole thing both really entertained me and really made me think, and I don’t think you can ask for too much more from a theatre performance!

Watch out for more events by the York Settlement Community Players, including play readings, a Christmas Extravaganza on 7 December, and the production of The Duchess of Malfi from 16 March 2019.

Claudia L. Wardle | 29 November 2018

Photo credits: S R Taylor Photography  –  www.srtaylorphotography.com