Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Songs Unsung - Music Review

What: Songs Unsung
When: 18 April 2020
Where: YouTube
Performed by: Daniel Assetta and Nicholas Griffin
Lighting by: Peter Rubie
Daniel Assetta
The internet is full of people finding ways to express their work in a live format whilst keeping themselves and the rest of the community safe. Sole Sessions has found a way to allow performers who have lost their gigs a chance to perform and earn at least a bit of money to help them get by.

Daniel Assetta leads the charge with his half hour homage to musical theatre in Songs Unsung. The show took place live on the 18th April, but with the magic of YouTube you can listen to Assetta's magical voice (and Nicholas Griffin's excellent keyboard skills) as often as you like. It's better than radio because you don't have annoying announcers or ads or competitions!

Assetta is a musical theatre star in the making and whilst I can't comment on his dancing, I can tell you his voice is one of those magical tenors which give you goosebumps in the higher notes. You don't have to believe me. Check it out for yourself.

I do think he was a bit nervous at the start which had his vocal chords a bit tight, but as he settled in the true beauty he has been gifted with was able to be set free. Assetta is still young and with a voice this good now, I can't wait to hear how his voice develops over the next few years.

Part of the nerves comes from the fact this is new format for him. He has always been surrounded by all the people, rigmarole, and narrative which comes with a musical theatre production. In Songs Unsung Assetta strips all of that away and it is just him, a pianist, and a microphone.

Assetta has chosen some of his favourite songs including my favourite, 'Somewhere'. The songs include 'Don't Rain On My Parade', and 'Losing My Mind' amongst others. Assetta also apparently has an unhealthy love of Disney. I forgive this though, because his Disney medley was so incredibly well constructed and sung so gloriously.

Assetta tells us a bit about himself and his connection to these songs, but he keeps it short and very authentic which helps really show up the live aspect of the show. My only complaint is I would have liked him to look to the audience (camera) sometimes to keep us connected.

There are critics who might say you don't get the atmosphere of live performance in this format but the live chat really makes the audience feel connected to each other and the performer. No, it's not the same, but it is pretty damn good!

Sole Sessions are ticketed events, but each performer also has a tipping mechanism (Assetta's is PayPal) and the details are available as captions on the screen as well as a link being in the description. You can pay whatever you can or whatever you think his work is worth. In this case you are probably going to want to pay a decent tip I reckon.

The Sole Sessions format, which is the brainchild of Amylia Harris, Leila Enright and Jeremy Willmott, is a very clever idea and a great addition to the online live offerings available at the moment. This live performance online outreach trend is exciting and this team is doing it extremely well. Productions values (image, sound, and lighting (Rubie)) are excellent. Keep an eye out for the next one!

4.5 Stars

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Cooped Up Cabaret - Cabaret Review

What: Cooped Up Cabaret
When: 4 April, 2020
Where: Zoom
Created and presented by: Sophie deLightful and Timothy Christopher Ryan
Performed by: Avril Angel, The Mighty Ceasar, Celestial Circus, Evelyn Coulson, The Old Married Couple, Sophie deLightful, Monty Montgomery, Kitty Obsidian, Timothy Christopher Ryan, and Kindled Spirits
The Mighty Ceasar
So you think live performance is on sabattical because of physical distancing? Not on your life. Artists are racking their brains and working around the clock finding ways to not only bring performance to the audience, but more specifically to bring live performance into your home. Two of the trail blazers in this arena are Sophie deLightful and Timothy Christopher Ryan with their fortnightly Zoom offering, Cooped Up Cabaret.

Yes, it's not the same as being squashed into a dark black hole with a bunch of stangers and forced to be silent for an hour or more, but that is it's strength. And no, it is not reality TV... or perhaps it is more true to say it is real reality TV rather than that highly produced and manipulative thing we have on our televisions using that name. In fact, I am so inspired by the Zoom platform I have my very own variety offering heading your way soon!

Artists have always taken technology out of it's natural habitat and employed it creatively to bring truth and beauty into the world and Zoom is just the latest in that honored tradition. Zoom is a flexible meeting platform and really does lend itself to cabaret style shenanigans.

Zoom is a live platform. The difference between what we might usually define as live theatre is that the performance comes to the audience rather than the other way around. It also means the frame is changed. Now live performance has to consider the camera view much like film, but it is still has that immediacy and potential risk of all live performance. It also has the added benefit that not all performers need to be in the same city... or even country!

Whilst I don't know if this new development will survive in its current form past the end of isolation, I can state with absolute certainty, the aesthetic and language will become a regular feature of traditional live performance. Let's face it, this concept of things happening in boxes has always been a feature of the stage...

I will be honest. This first iteration of Cooped Up Cabaret had technical problems,he biggest of which was Eurovision clogging the internet. The team were not deterred however, and though the show started late, it was glorious and brave.

The line up was as diverse and exceptional as any normal cabaret. The show had a bit of everything: Performance poetry, cheeky burlesque, fire and light manipulations, dance, the lollipop pole, aerial acrobatics, mime. What more could you ask for?

There were some technical issues including switching problems, lighting problems, and camera lag, but for a first go this was pretty good. What it didn't lack was talent, artistry, and professionalism. It was great to see how everyone had really considered the camera point of view, although I think some artists might need to consider using external cameras because built in computer cameras just aren't designed to cope with complex images. Having said that, in some acts such as the light manipulation by Kindled Spirits the lag actually enhanced the performance because it caused a strobing effect!

Perhaps my favourite act of the night was the dance routine by The Mighty Ceasar. Here is a performer who really understands his art form and the camera lense. Creative concept and so well constructed! This dance (along with deLightful's full bodied rendition of 'Let It Go'), reminded me of what true cabaret is about. In essence it takes the ugly and makes it beautiful, and takes the beautiful and makes it ugly all in the same breath. It shows both sides of the coin. Life doesn't always come up heads.

I also loved The Old Married Couple's songs about isolation, Kindled Spirits' light manipulation, and the amazing acrobatic lollipop pole routine by Celestial Circus. My award for best costuming goes to Kitty Obsidian, and cutest joke goes to Timothy Christopher Ryan's new kink.

Cooped Up Cabaret is a ticketed event which will take place fortnightly, with the next performance scheduled for this Saturday evening. As well as buying your ticket you will be encouraged to tip your favourite performers or the whole cast via PayPal. I think for the near future tipping art you like is how performers are going to survive across all art forms. Think of it like crowd funding or dropping money into a busker's hat. Also, the performers may change with each performance as is the tradition in the world of burlesque/cabaret.

I am very much looking forward to Cooped Up Cabaret becoming a regular feature and it makes a perfect in house date night. The first show was a little long but the hosts will stream line the process as they become more familiar with the technology. They even have a built in intermission so you can go and grab your second bottle of wine.

2.5 Stars





Thursday, 2 April 2020

The Glam Gizmo - Podcast Review

What: The Glam Gizmo
Launch Date: 28 March, 2020
Written and produced by: Tom Denham
Featuring: Clint Facey and AJ Winters

The Glam Gizmo is the newest podcast out of the SYN stable and it takes off like a rocket. Created by writer and engineer Denham, The Glam Gizmo is sci-fi comedy horror filled with all the best Scooby Doo style plot points and effects needed to keep us guessing and keep us laughing at the same time.

Full of a certain macabre humour, the best thing about The Glam Gizmo is the characters. Whilst the two leads, Max (Facey) and Lucy (Winters) are Everyman characters, the supporting characters are a total hoot. They are ghoulish and gruesome in a hilariously loveable way.

The set up is fairly straight forward. Oliver Keppel (Stefan Bradley) has created a device which rips holes between different dimensions and strange phenomena are crossing over into our world. In this first episode it is the snakeman Boltizor (Anthony Bradshaw) who is into puppet taxidermy and is stealing people's skin and covering them in felt.

The puppets Bumble and his friends are a hoot and the character Soup Of The Day (Michael Langan) could be straight out of Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy! Denham even makes a cameo appearance in this first episode as Dr Paradox. He saves the day but then leaves the rest of the work up to his new unwitting recruits, Max and Lucy.

The sound design is pacy and creative and I really enjoy how Denham keeps us shifting from scenario to scenario with no warning. It keeps us wondering what is going to happen with only the odd moments of feeling a bit lost.

Denham is an engineer not afraid of processing and he has a lot of fun with characters although I do find myself wondering how he is going to keep up the originality with this pace of story. That will be part of the fun and magic to be explored along with the story as I keep listening.

I do have a few little niggles. I think there is a bit of overprocessing at times - such as the introduction - when it is hard to understand what is being said. Denham needs to remember audiences are hearing these words for the first time and they pass by quickly. It is an issue if what is being said has important plot information.

I also found Facey to be a quite dull and lifeless Max. He lacks urgency and energy and, at times, steps out of his character reality to telegraph the joke. For example, when he is told he might be evicted he sounds disinterested rather than stressed, and when Max tells Lucy he didn't know she had a bike Facey sounds like he is delivering a punch line. It is funny, but not for Max. If other cast were doing this it would work, but all of the other actors are playing the truth in their world so Facey needs to do that as well.

This is not a big hurdle though, because there is so much going on and the story has been set up so every episode (dropping on Saturdays) has guest artists who will help this hapless duo seek out the Keppel Machine and repair the rift between dimensions, restoring order to the world.

The show is around 30 minutes which is a good length. You get a nice chunk of story which doesn't put a dent in your day. And you get a whole lot of laughs with sci fi and crypotological jokes.and just enough blood and guts to keep the cynical amused!

4.5 Stars