Lizzie

The quartet of singers who took to the stage at Greenwich Theatre for the UK premiere of this rock musical about axe murderer Lizzie Borden were about as good as it’s possible to be. Bjorg Gamst was nothing short of sensational in the title role, her voice supercharging the songs and tunes of Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer,  Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner. She was magnificently supported by Eden Espinosa as her sister Emma, Bleu Woodward as her lover Alice and Jodie Jacobs as the maid Bridget, who also added light relief into
the gleefully gory goings-on. A live band featuring Martin Bergman Konge on keyboards, Steffen Schakinger and
Jens Kokholm on guitars, Allan Nagel on bass, Lars Daugaard on drums and Jess Cox on cello were equally good, leading the singers through a thunderous score that included show-stoppers like Gotta Get Out Of Here and What The Fuck, Lizzie. The darkness was further enhanced by Martin Jensen’s lighting, a set designed by Jens Frausing and Anders D Jensen and taut direction by Victoria Bussert’s. The audience
responded with a huge and entirely appropriate standing ovation because this production had it all – even for those of us who don’t normally get on with musicals. Lizzie continues at Greenwich Theatre until March 12.

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Thomas Bowes

The light, airy and acoustically rich chapel of the Old Royal Naval College was the perfect place to listen to JS Bach’s sublime violin sonatas being played in their entirety by this internationally acclaimed soloist. But Bowes is also a renowned mentor and teacher and on this occasion he was joined by Trinity Laban violinists Asma Ben Miriem, Isabella Fleming, Helena Moore, Borys Myszkowski and Melisande Yavuz as well as classical guitarist Jonathan Parkin, harpist Imogen Garnett and pianist Jialin Feng to intersperse his glorious renditions with Bach-inspired pieces by student composers Fintan O’Hare and Callum Stephens. Bowes’ own performance beautifully captured the heartache at the core of the sonatas and partitas, which Bach wrote in the aftermath of his wife’s death. And that sense of melancholy was echoed by the Trinity contributions, particularly O’Hare’s Unwind, which took a melodic figure from the G minor sonata and developed it in a simple but lovely arrangement for guitar, harp and violin. The contrast between master and pupil both in the writing and performing made this a recital to remember.

Sotheby’s: Klimt, Picasso, Basquiat etc

Hundreds of millions pounds worth of modern art goes under the hammer at the Bond Street auction house next month with Klimt’s dazzlingly colourful Baumgarten the star lot with a £35million sale estimate. There are also four Picasso pieces with eight-figure price tags, a Basquiat set to fetch something close to £20million and an early Dali with a similar estimate. My own favourites among this treasure trove, however, are a wonderful drawing of a face (Jacquy) by Matisse – and you might even get change from half a million – a sculpture called Summer Dance by Barbara Hepworth for around £2million, a late and mischievously titled Chagall and, best of all, a stunning alpine scene by Richter. If only I had a couple of mill to spare…

Stephanie Schober

The choreographer’s latest work Tracing Gestures, which had its world premiere at Borough Hall, combined her wonderful artistry  with the dazzling skills of her four dancers and a clever set using huge sheets of paper to divide the auditorium into four. And it was made even more intense by being performed in silence, with the dancers replicating their movements with wax crayons on the paper to create patterns reminiscent of Hilma af Klint spirit paintings and angled lighting by Jackie Shemesh that created Gormleyesque silhouettes shadowing dancers Richard Court, Owen Ridley-DeMonick, Jack Sergison and Stephen Moynihan. Given the title, it risked being too literal. But thanks to the vision of Schober and her team, this Greenwich Dance/Trinity Laban Partnership Compass Commission was instead an artistic tour de force. 

Robert Rauschenberg

This long-overdue retrospective at Tate Modern reveals the American painter, sculptor and performance artist to be one of the giants of 20th century creativity who produced a body of work with a range that is almost unparalleled. The exhibition does a fine job showcasing this breadth, beginning with Rauschenberg’s postwar interest in abstract expressionism, moving on to his discovery of silkscreen and transfer printing (the 34 Illustrations For Dante’s Inferno are gorgeous), exploring his conceptual interests – I especially like his take on Holman Hunt’s ghastly The Scapegoat – and underlining the importance of his collaborations with fellow artists such as Jasper Johns, the modernist composer John Cage and the pioneering choreographer Merce Cunningham. Several of the dance performances were captured on film and are offered here on video screens. As with the rest of the artworks in the show, all of them are worth watching, so allow yourself plenty of time when you visit.

Anselm Kiefer: Walhalla 

The great German artist’s latest creation fills the White Cube at Bermondsey with some of the darkest images of death and destruction I have seen in recent years. Lead-lined walls loom over a gloomy corridor of battlefield hospital beds. The metal walls continue in rooms opening up on the right which are filled with grey items recalling Wagnerian and Norse mythological heroes. The atmosphere is doom-laden and Stygian – yet exhilarating too. In a fabulous juxtaposition, the rooms on the left of the corridor are ablaze with white light and are filled with stunning installations such as the extraordinary Walkyrie, vast mixed-media panoramas of leaning towers and, best of all, a huge flower-spangled landscape called – with a nice nod to the Catholic Mass – nubes pluant. Walhalla may not have the sheer visceral power of the Chapman brothers’ Hell but the Manichaean contrasts created by Kiefer are just as relentlessly and unsettlingly hypnotic. 

An Incomplete Education

Two bites of the cherry this month for fans of Emmanuel Chabrier’s whimsical operetta about the wedding night trials and tribulations of two young newlyweds in fin-de-siecle France. Clockwork Opera has already given its production of the one-act sex comedy an outing in a free lunchtime performance at Charlton House and it is due to reprise the show during the week of Valentine’s Day at Severndroog Castle, a tower built by a grieving widow as a memorial to love at the end of the 18th century on Shooters Hill. Oddly, the piece requires both bride and groom to be played by a soprano and in Clockwork’s version they are sung by Kirsty McLean and Georgina Thorburn, with Michael Lafferty as the didactic and faintly ridiculous tutor Pausanias. The trio are accompanied by pianist Ashley Beauchamp. Despite initial nerves, they handled the farce with aplomb, raising laughs with their fumbling nativity and embarrassment and, in Lafferty’s case, drunken pratfalls. It was all terrific fun as well as musically accomplished, which should guarantee a second success when it moves up the road to romantic Severndroog. 

We Raise Our Hands In The Sanctuary

Many plays have considered the impact of the 1980s Aids epidemic on the gay community but We Raise Our Hands In The Sanctuary is the first I recall to focus on black homosexuals. This new work by Daniel Fulvio and Martin Moriarty, which made its debut at the Albany, follows two friends (Jahvel Hall and  Oseloka Obi) as they look for love and security in London’s dance clubs as Aids ravages their world. But this is no misery memoir – the characters are hellbent on seizing the moment, a philosophy enshrined perfectly by drag queen Brandi, brilliantly brought to life by Carl Mullaney, who gets all the best lines and gives the piece real soul. There is excellent support from Dean Graham as doomed club-owner Paul and, in a neat touch, from dancers Jordan Acadia and Shawn Willis, whose sinuous choreography (by Mina Adoo) works as a mute but highly effective Greek chorus. There is not, frankly, enough pounding music in a play with disco at its heart, and it doesn’t quite capture the almost apocalyptic feeling that greeted the eruption of Aids. But this is still a fine production of a fine – and important – new piece. 

The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined

The Vile might have been a more apposite title for this entertaining and by and large informative survey of the kitsch and downright tasteless at the Barbican Art Gallery which ends on Sunday. Vast confections celebrating spectacular excess over the past couple of centuries are guaranteed to turn a woolly liberal like me into a violent anti-capitalist. But there’s also more than a hint of idiocy in so many of the designs on display, especially among some of the more extravagant creations of Messrs Galliano and Lacroix. Occasionally, though, bad taste is neutralised by exquisite tailoring – check out most of the Vivienne Westwoods – and genuine artistry: the Yves St Laurent Mondrian designs are gorgeous. In fact, they could not be further from vulgar. In its pursuit of vulgarity, the exhibition includes some wonderful early editions of the Vulgate, which gives the whole affair a truly surreal touch. Still, if you ignore the semantics, this is a fab way of spending an hour either filled with the envy of upward mobility or consumed with rage against such ostentation and tacky wastefulness.