Opera North Turns The Screw On Britten

Returning to Leeds Grand, Opera North's The Turn of the Screw is a disturbingly dark and accurate rendition of the Henry James novella of the same name. Originally appearing in serial format in Collier's Weekly magazine - 1998, and described as a 'horror novella' - the work has passed through a few hands but has remained raw and untamed. It is alleged that the story was given to Henry James by the then Archbishop of Canterbury. We can but wonder at…

Poem of the Week: 'Snow' by Edward Thomas

At a time of apparently relentless deluge, we might yearn for the muffling silence of the white stuff. When streams become rivers and rivers become lakes, changed landscapes throw our sense of proportion, leave us at our lowest annual ebb, incarcerated by the twin spectres of SAD and looming climate emergency. Snow is a handy cognitive corrective, unless you are a hill farmer in which case it is almost certainly an airborne punishment. Snow In the gloom of whiteness, In the great silence…

Song Of The Wind: White Ink Stains By Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown’s first collection of poems, since her acclaimed volume Maiden Speech of 1996, is freighted with unspoken empathy. This unusual and beautiful volume gathers the lost voices of the past in a benign web of poetic exegesis, restoring individual merit commemoratively and declaring an affinity with those who ‘go down in history’ unnoticed, in Tony Harrison’s resonant words. Some of the poems here are responses to interviews recorded for the Reading Sheffield oral history project. Using an approximation of individual…

Rambert At The Bradford Alhambra. A Lesson In Abstraction

From the startled gazelle-like opening sequence, via a prog-rock live-action video-style entertainment, to a silent movie - albeit with a tub-thumping sound track - Rambert's ramble into the Bradford's Alhambra has delivered three complex, physical and deeply abstract pieces of their art. Presentient The first of Rambert's pieces, Presentient, opened with a gorgeous, slow motion, leggy, graceful perambulation around the stage. Accompanied by American composer Steve Reich's complex piece Triple Quartet, dancer Kym Sojourna immediately captivated the audience. After such a…

Barnstorming Premiere At The SJT

The Red Barn Murder, as the popular press would call it in 1827, was one of those capital crimes that gripped the public of Jane Austen’s time and became part of a culture that lived on for generations. The village, Polstead, Suffolk, where the murder took place quickly became a tourist attraction and the barn, where Mary Marten’s body was discovered, was haunted by souvenir hunters. The particularly gruesome nature of the killing and the manhunt for the murderer shocked…

Phoenix Dance In Black Waters

Phoenix Dance Theatre burst onto the Leeds Playhouse stage last night with their latest exploration of the lives and history of people of colour. Anybody familiar with the works of Phoenix will have been completely unsurprised at the power and uncompromising nature of the work. Both from an auditory and physical perspective this was a no-holds-barred evocation of two desperately tragic events in history. And by 'tragic' I don't wish to imply that these were accidents; both events were wicked atrocities…

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Christmas (which now seems so far away) means Santa and in our case that always includes books. This year, the variety was notable. Anton du Beke’s Moonlight over Mayfair still awaits my attention (and Mum is impatient to get her hands on it, too!) as does Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. The first one I picked up, though, was Sally Rooney’s Normal People. An odd title but, then, who defines what’s normal? Rooney’s second novel is inspirational and thought-provoking, exploring…

Pre-Raphaelite Knights: Reinventing The Medieval World At The Bowes Museum

This exhibition is all about colour, beauty achieved through attention to detail, and above all it asks the viewer to imagine what life was like if you had lived in a mythical world full of legends. It features some of the masters of the Pre-Raphaelite art movement: John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Holman Hunt. These artists and their colleagues were controversial. They prompted a huge debate because they believed art should, first and foremost,…

Andrez Harriott - Damage Control And Workshops

He's a member of British RnB band Damage selling over one million records, but away from the limelight Andrez Harriott BSc, PgCert, PgDip, MA is CEO and Founder of The Liminality Group. While heading out with his The Big Reunion co-stars on tour during February and March, he is using his time to provide deterrent messages to at risk children across the UK. We caught up with him to find out more... …

Ásgeir - One Of Iceland's Finest Musical Exports

Ásgeir is one of Iceland's finest musical exports ever. Having broken all records with his debut album on his home turf, the understated intimacy of the English re-recording In The Silence saw him melt hearts the world over. As he releases his third studio album in both Icelandic and English simultaneously, we caught up with him to find out what we can expect from both the record and the tour. Hi Ásgeir, are you feeling ready for the world to hear

Review: Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is a project that has been a long time coming for Margot Robbie. After excelling in Suicide Squad as fan favourite DC comics villain/antihero Harley Quinn, Robbie was very much at the forefront of the development of this new adult-aimed all-female ensemble project inspired in part by Jordan B. Garfinkel and Chuck Dixon’s “Birds of Prey” comic books, even pitching it to Warner Brothers. And boy has the effort…

Bill Brandt And Henry Moore: At The Hepworth, Wakefield

This exhibition explores the fascinating parallels of the works of photographer Bill Brandt (1904-1983) and sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1986). Brandt and Moore crossed paths during the Second World War, when they were both creating images of civilians in the London Underground during the Blitz The exhibition opens with the occasion they both met in 1942, when Brandt photographed Moore in his studio for an article in Lilliput magazine. That article put side by side the two artists' shelter pictures, and explored their…

Newbies Give Joseph Fresh Impetus

Considering that Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat has successfully been pedalling its wares since 1968, I think it is fair to say that reviews can no longer be about the musical, more about those nervous actors who are charged with stepping into the main roles! How do you judge a libretto, score and production in its own right when audiences, the ultimate critics, have been returning time and again for more than half a century, to watch this light-hearted, feelgood look…

Overblown But Enjoyable - Spirit Of The Dance

David King, producer of Spirit of the Dance, has a nice line in modesty, referring to himself as ‘the working man’s Andrew Lloyd Webber’ on the company website. In fact, there are more flattering adjectives about the show in each paragraph of the site’s digital copy than Dr Johnson probably has on each page of his daily diary: breath-taking, runaway express train, powerful and so the list goes on. But then, Mr King probably had a hand in penning the copy! My…

Review: Life In Our Hands at Settle Stories

This living hand, now warm and capable Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold And in the icy silence of the tomb, So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood So in my veins red life might stream again, And thou be conscience-calm’d – see here it is – I hold it towards you. John Keats The inherent expressiveness of hands, the power to describe, to dexterously fabricate, to gesticulate wildly, to…

Asgeir - Bury The Moon

Hailing from the tiny village Laugarbakki in Iceland, introvert Ásgeir is an unlikely international icon. However, anyone who heard his 2012 debut Dýrð í dauðaþögn fell in love instantly. While understanding the lyrics was not needed to for the listener to be moved uncontrollably by the raw, honest emotion displayed on the album's 10 songs, the 2014 translated release - In The Silence - transformed him from record breaking Icelandic act to an artist in demand the world over. Both…

Gabrielle Aplin - Dear Happy

Half a decade has disappeared since Gabrielle Aplin released her acclaimed sophomore album Light Up The Dark. Having initially established herself as a tender folkster, her sophomore record showed that she was unafraid to shake things up and defy expectations. A poppy, upbeat collection that was infectiously addictive from start to finish, Aplin proved irresistible for radio producers. Although since her last album she has released two EPs, Dear Happy marks the return to the long-player and it is a…

Poem Of The Week: 'Everything Is Going To Be All Right' By Derek Mahon

Everything Is Going to Be All Right How should I not be glad to contemplate the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window and a high tide reflected on the ceiling? There will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that. The poems flow from the hand unbidden and the hidden source is the watchful heart. The sun rises in spite of everything and the far cities are beautiful and bright. I lie here in a riot of sunlight watching the day break and the…

A Marriage Of Figaro

Excuse the errant indefinite article; there have been so many Marriages of Figaro that to call any one The marriage seems a little presumptuous. Unbowed by this and the ever present potential for a 3½ hour musical cliche, Opera North has bravely stepped once more onto the scales to be weighed. Figaro is, after all, one of the big ones. The original play Marriage of Figaro was written in 1784 by the playwright Pierre Beaumarchais. Nine years earlier he had started…

Turner: Northern Exposure At The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate

If you have never been to The Mercer Art Gallery, then now is the time to break your duck. For those more familiar with Harrogate's jewel, The Mercer, then you need to schedule another visit to see this outstanding exhibition. The exhibition retraces JMW Turner's northern tour of 1797, and includes rarely seen paintings. We could wax lyrical about Turner's visit being a formative part of Turner's development, but we won't because judging from his output he was already truly accomplished, and…

A Dignity That Outwitted The Holocaust

Dr Janusz Korczak lived his life in a state of permanent dignity despite having to suffer the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto and transportation to Hitler’s death camps. But, by following an unwritten code of humanity based on a philosophy of ‘right and wrong’, this noble writer, doctor, storyteller and persecuted Polish Jew, left a legacy that continues today, despite perishing at the hands of the Fuhrer’s Nazi henchmen. He was the man who ran an orphanage in the Polish capital, said…

A Triumphant Wedding In Berlin For The Pet Shop Boys

Late last year Pet Shop Boys returned with the stunning Years & Years featuring Dreamland. The single worked flawlessly as a teaser for their just released fourteenth studio album, Hotspot, which arrives some four years after the aptly titled 2016 release Super. Although 2019 had seen the release of the politically charged EP, Agenda, the release of Dreamland was a return to the Stuart Price produced album trilogy that was started in 2013 with Electric. While many 'vintage' acts may…

Triumph Of Priestley’s Timeless Drama of Conscience

If youth is wasted on the young then let us hope that Priestley’s classic thriller, An Inspector Calls, is not, for this brilliant piece of drama – a permanent fixture on many school syllabuses - can be seen at its finest in Bradford’s Alhambra this week. Set in 1912 Edwardian England but, interestingly, first staged in Moscow because Bradford’s famous son could not find an appropriate venue in Britain, this crushing indictment of unaccountable greed, power and social division, leaves you…

Cilla Black - Especially For You: Revisited

At the outset of her career, Cilla Black was seen a big, bold balladeer. After establishing herself as a UK equivalent to Dionne Warwick, she enjoyed huge success as a pop innovator before small screen success transformed her into a family entertainer. While it was her success on the small screen that endured till she passed away in 2015, her musical back catalogue has enjoyed increased attention in the aftermath of the successful Sheridan Smith series documenting her early career. With…

Zombie Attack In Leeds (Playhouse!)

Nowadays it may seem like a movie that is best left in 1968, but dismiss George Romero’s iconic horror flick – Night of the Living Dead - too quickly, and you ignore a ground-breaking film that was key to shifting the public psyche away from Hammer horror, where something terrifying had to have two bolts through its neck or a pair of blood-sucking fangs! So, I was intrigued, and a little excited, at the prospect of seeing Imitating the Dog’s ‘Remix’…

Just Passing Through: The Valley Press Anthology Of Prose Poetry

The beautifully written Introduction to Valley Press’ new anthology of Prose Poems is a mirror to that which it describes. This hybrid form of expression, with a ‘mercurial resistance to definition’, has many detractors amongst poetic purists, but perhaps its quality lies in its very refusal to be circumscribed. It is distinguished from poetry only in terms of lineation, yet it often fulfils the criteria of lyricism and distillation of meaning by which we measure its enduring counterpart. And it is…

Louise Returns With Heavy Love

Eternal are still one of the most successful British girl bands of all time. Their legacy is undeniable. From the moment they exploded into the charts in 1993 with Stay, it was clear there was something special about the four vocalists. Despite naming their debut album Always & Forever, the band lost Louise from their line-up in 1995 ahead of the release of their sophomore album Power of A Woman. While the band went on to show they did indeed…

And So The Wind Blows: Poems From A Green & Blue Planet

The best poetry exceeds expectation, outreaches its own grasp, and sometimes yields unexpected, or unintended, rewards. The application of a connective thematic structure in Hodder’s wonderful new collection releases an energy which helps the poems to breathe more easily, or at least to enable the reader to make inferences about contemporary relevance which may transcend the limits, even, of authorial intention. Aimed at those amongst us who will inherit the future – our children - Poems From a Green and Blue

Poem Of The Week: 'My Heart's In The Highlands' By Robert Burns

My Heart’s in the Highlands My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here, My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer; Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe, My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go. Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North, The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth ; Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, The hills of the Highlands for ever I love. Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow, Farewell to the straths and…

Review: 1917

Sam Mendes’ strange, magnificent re-imagining of a Great War odyssey holds several moments of real beauty in sharp relief. And counter-intuitive though they may appear in the context of the Flanders charnel house, such moments enhance the viewer impression as magically as birdsong in darkness. Emerging from a broken copse of shattered stumps and silence, the film’s two main protagonists chance upon an enclosed cherry orchard, whose trees are cut down but continue to flower. ‘Will they die?’, asks one…