It’s been a strange old week, the first of the back-end of summer where’s it’s Definitely Not Summer Anymore, as one begins to contemplate just how hermit-ed you can get away with being during the next few months. I bought myself some new pyjamas today – something I haven’t done for a few years – confirming that I’m perhaps in the team that will decide to spend my free time burrowing away in my flat this winter. I have also started watching Strictly much earlier than usual. I blame the cost of my rent: It’s keeping me indoors.
However, I do occasionally venture out of the house to attend things such as new plays in underground theatres and exclusive Lady Gaga listening parties in South London. Behold: things I’ve been up to this week.
Joanne, Lady Gaga
Obviously listening to the most anticipated album since 2013’s Artpop, Joanne by Lady Gaga. I had a weird foreboding feeling that I wouldn’t be that into Joanne, but turns out I’ve not enjoyed an album like this since I rediscovered Songs in the Key of Life (which I rediscover every week). Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but it’s really good! The reviews aren’t too praising, but I think she’s such a class pop act. What other female pop stars are out there to fangirl, and I’m talking BIG stars, these days? Okay, duh, Beyonce, Rihanna, etc, but then Taylor Swift? Too squeaky clean. Adele? Too boring. I think the real reason I love Gaga is ‘cause she’s such mates with Tony Bennett, and Italian, so we are almost definitely related. We’re sisters. She smokes Marlboro Reds. I realise I haven’t mentioned anything about the album but I’m too busy dancing to it to critique it right now. I carried out some top quality journalism at the Exclusive House Launch/Joanne Listening Party attended by the greatest people in London on Friday night, where Alice Welby answered the question, ‘How are you finding the Lady Gaga listening party?’ with ‘I haven’t heard one Lady Gaga song.’ Well, there we go.
Skin A Cat, The Bunker Theatre, London
Yesterday afternoon, I went underground for 25 minutes and when I emerged again, I was at London Bridge station, headed for the newly-opened Bunker Theatre on Southwark Street. I went to see Skin a Cat by Isley Lynn, a wonderfully dry, witty and poignant play about a girl who can’t have sex because she has vaginismus (a psychosexual problem where having penetrative sex can be really painful). Lydia Larson in the lead role was really exceptional throughout the 90-minute-no-interval show, memorising literally thousands of lines for the frantically likeable but anxious character Alana who felt that she wouldn’t be happy until she was able to have sex ‘like everyone else’.
A bed stood in the middle of the set with microphones either side, where two of the actors in this three-hander stood and waited to play the parts of the other characters in Alana’s ‘sexual odyssey’, to quote Lyn Gardner’s review, and a likely title choice for my future autobiography.
The play begins with Alana getting her first period, followed by hilariously-relatable first encounters with boyz – a set up for a coming-of-age piece about a girl understanding herself as a sexual thang in a man’s world, one would think. But what gave this an interesting twist was the condition she had, saying something much bigger about preconceptions of how people should be having sex in this horned-up world, and what can happen to people’s self-esteem when they literally don’t ‘fit in’ to this ‘ideal’. The scenes involving sex were executed really well, not being too gratuitous but not avoiding the intimacy – or lack – of it either.
Some of the characters, such as the mother, were played more cartoonishly than others, but on the whole, I say to you, ‘GO SEE THIS!’ and keep an eye on the other productions that’ll be on at London’s new underground theatre in Zone 1.
The Divine Comedy, Cambridge Junction
I went to Cambridge on Thursday night to see The Divine Comedy on their Foreverland tour. I’ve not seen any live music since moving to London (the last thing I saw was Stevie Wonder in Hyde Park back in July). They are not, however, playing in London until next year so Pa and I went to the Cambridge Junction to see a real sensational set that made us giggle and howl and laugh til we were crying. (Papa T wasn’t even drinking – I, admittedly was a little drunk.) I fell for the band in 2012 when they released Bang Goes the Knighthood, an album they played in abundance on Thursday – playing even more songs off it than their newest release – so I was very happy to be there.
The lyrics are so funny and clever that they’d be a comedy act if it weren’t for the beautiful, melodic and full-sounding arrangements. We’d wanted to see them for years but recently frontman Neil Hannon has only been touring with an acoustic set, which I’m sure is still great fun, but we wanted the whole she-bang (and we got it!)
It really was a marvellous 90-minute set, with the typically self-deprecating Irishman-frontman Neil Hannon opening the show by saying “Hooray for gigs! Hooray for people turning up!”, dedicating ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’ to “Sir Phi…I mean, just Philip Green” on the day that the Arcadia mogul lost his Sir-ship status, and launching into the theme tune from the 1966 film Alfie with the tease, “This one’s Alfie”, with all of us thinking they were about to play their 1997 hit ‘Becoming More Like Alfie’ (which they did do later anyway).
Neil Hannon doing a Cilla Black by covering ‘(What’s it All About) Alfie?’ made my eyes roll to the back of my head as a very physical response to something perfect. We’ve booked tickets to see them at the Palladium next February, so my dad can also visit my new gaff and I can finally go to the cool brunch cafe on my street that I will never be able to afford until a person who earns money can take me. ♥