Review // The Passion of The Playboy Riots at The Hen and Chickens Theatre

The Passion of The Playboy Riots Cast

The Passion of The Playboy Riots Cast

Review // The Passion of The Playboy Riots at The Hen and Chickens Theatre

2016, the centenary of the 1916 Rising, saw a spike in Irish historical plays here in London. Now in 2017, Neil Weatherall’s ‘The Passion of The Playboy Riots’ has been given the space it deserves to get noticed.

Running in The Hen and Chickens Theatre in Highbury, the play is set backstage at The Abbey Theatre and is centred around conversations between W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Padraig Pearse.
Starting on opening night of W.B Yeats’ Cathleen Ní Houlihan of 1902, we move to 1907 and J.M Synge’s Playboy of the Western World and finally to 1926 and Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars.

A young Pearse is introduced, a barrister, trying to get Yeats to use some of his scripts. This is at a time when Yeats himself is surrounded by self doubt. As the play goes on through time, we see the relationship develop, with Pearse’s initial respect for Yeats changing into heated debate between the two about the future of Ireland. Yeats wanted theatre to spark a change in Ireland.

If you don’t know much about this era of history, Yeats quotes from the corn laws and this will get you up to speed with the background.

The staging is simple but works in this setting, using the dark curtain behind them as the curtain backstage at The Abbey, occasionally listening to the goings on that stage. Totally meta. Justin McKenna and Loclann O’Grady look remarkably like Pearse and Yeats which definitely adds to the piece. McKenna is particularly good, showing the changing in Pearse from the young barrister to future revolutionary. Cath Humphrys is very much at home as Lady Gregory.

At 50 minutes long, the script packs a lot in and it never droops. It also features some very witty one liners. And almost..almost does a Mrs Doyle, here, with whiskey. It is an Irish thing no matter what anyone says.

I really enjoyed the angle this piece took. We’ve seen films made set behind the scenes when making films. The Passion of the Playboy Riots takes that idea to the stage. A bigger stage and budget would take this to the next level.

This production is intelligent, witty, and educational. Got an hour to spare? Go check it out.

The Passion of The Playboy Riots runs at the Hen and Chickens in Highbury until July 8th.

Thanks to the director of the play, Neil Weatherall, for inviting me to the show.

Review: UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey – Unplugged

ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged

ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged

Ali Campbell left UB40 in 2008. He was later joined by Astro and Mickey. They all got together in 2014 to release ‘Silhouette’ under Ali’s moniker, ‘The Legendary voice of UB40 reunited with Astro and Mickey.’ As has happened other bands, legal reasons has prevented them using the original band name so “UB40 featuring..’ is the trios way out of this.

As well as featuring covers, this ‘Unplugged’ album is the first time that UB40’s catalogue has been stripped back and given the acoustic treatment. The collection opens with ‘Kingston Town’ which features a beautiful Hawaiian sounding acoustic guitar while Ali’s vocals are awash with reverb.

The tracks we expect to hear from UB40 are there, ‘Red Red Wine’ with a new talk/rap over it, ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and ‘I Got You Babe’ which features Ali’s daughter, Kaya Campbell on vocals. Sidebar: She’s got a great tone to her voice.

Pato Banton also makes an appearance on ‘Come Back’. This version of the track has the tempo slowed, which is this album’s greatest downfall. Many of the tracks are too similar in tempo which could easily lead it to fall into background music territory. I just want Pato to get that 1994 original tempo going. This crosses over to ‘Purple Rain’, here, it’s reggae tempo is speeded up.

ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged nessymon.comThat’s not saying it’s a bad album. One of the standouts, the trio’s version of ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ features great musical arrangements. Perhaps, with the re-workings the problem is that we are too accustomed to the original versions.

This makes the decision to include a second disc of all the original UB40 versions slightly baffling. But, with all legal things in the music industry, this may have been part of a deal to use the ‘UB40 featuring’ name. It could also be something to do with another ‘Essential UB40’ album being released earlier this year.

Back to Disc 1, the ‘Unplugged’ side of things. It’s not a bad collection, though it continues at a steady pace without many hills and troughs. It would be perfect for a long hot day in Summer, with a barbecue going in the garden. There are places where the arrangements flirt with genius, like the drum and bass-esque opening for ‘One in Ten’. I’d love to see this revisited for a full DnB treatment. ‘Rat in Mi Kitchen’ a la 2016 is refreshing and when stripped down could be rebuilt for 2016’s EDM world.

No doubt, Ali Campbell’s reggae delivers what the UB40 fanbase will love. What they really need is some new material under the ‘UB40 feat’ moniker. I just wish that they hadn’t touched Purple Rain.

ali campbell ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged

Diary: Avec Sans // Live at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen

AvecSans_nessymon_feature © Copyright nessymon

AvecSans_nessymon_feature © Copyright nessymon

Avec Sans // Live at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen // June 9 2016

Hoxton Square Bar was the venue for Avec Sans album launch on June 9th, following the release of ‘Heartbreak Hi’ on June 3rd.

I’ve been a fan of the duo since I heard them first in 2012 and have played them on the radio but tonight was my first time seeing them live.

The duo, Alice Fox and Jack St James, have a pretty slick live set up. Fox provides the vocals while St James, has a keyboard and three Novation launchpads on stage which face the audience. Apart from letting the audience actually see that you’re hitting a few buttons and triggers, the Launchpads also provide a pretty cool visual, with a preprogrammed light show accompanying each song.

Those familiar with the pair, will recognise, Shiver, The Answer, When You Go and current single Heartbreak Hi, which to be honest is so bloody catchy, it’s a crying shame it’s not blowing up on every radio station right now.

Avec Sans describe themselves as an electro pop group. In the past there seems to have been a little bit of snobbery with being called a pop group, of any sort, but these guys have nailed that. They produce really great pop songs, songs that we should be hearing on the radio, songs that have the potential to be very popular.

The pair are quite a visual band, always appearing in monochrome, and the lengths they go to to maintain the detail is immense, down to having a white microphone cable for contrast.

The night is finished off with an encore rendition of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, which is simply spectacular.(Listen and Download the studio version here).

Visually striking, sonically beautiful, the world needs a bit more Avec Sans in their lives.

Get the album

Watch the video for Heartbreak Hi.

Diary: Shura // Live at KOKO, Camden



Shura // Live at KOKO, Camden // Jun 1 2016

It’s a while since I’ve seen Shura live, last time was the Electric Brixton in September of last year. This gig was originally supposed to be in Shepherd’s Bush Empire but due to renovations, was moved to KOKO. A fact I was kinda happy with, especially as it takes over an hour and a half to get home from Shepherd’s Bush.

Pumarosa did a fine job of warming up the crowd as they filtered in, but really all 1400 people in the venue wanted to see Shura.

First stand out of the night for these ears were the choice of pre-gig tunes, 80’s rock galore, Don Henley’s Boys of Summer, Toto’s Africa, Billy Idol’s White Wedding. If this was Dublin, the party would have already started.

I’m not going to do a song by song review. Shura is really good at what she does. The sound in the venue was a lot better than it had been in Brixton. The band are tight and Shura’s voice seems to be growing in strength. And, to cap it all off, we get every track from Shura’s upcoming album ‘Nothing’s Real’.

All these mixed with great lights, both from the stage and the trippy house discoball lights that filled the venue, make it all a special night.

Personally, this was a major pick me up in a week that was pretty shit (more of that to come later), I danced and sang the night away with new best friends. It was also the day that Shura unveiled the new video for ‘What’s it Gonna Be?’ and everyone was feeling the love.

Highlights – you could tell the tracks people really liked. The phones came out. ‘2Shy’ and ‘Touch’ led the charge. ‘Indecision’ has always been a fave of mine but the more I listen to the Extended Mix of White Light and then hearing it here live, just take it out of this world.

Everyone needs a night like this at least once a week. Can’t wait for the album.

Shura: Live at Electric, Brixton // Review

Shura, Live at Electric Brixton

Shura, Live at Electric Brixton

Shura, Live at Electric, Brixton, September 17 2015

It’s been a little over three months since I headed to Brighton to see Shura. In that time, Aleksandra Denton and her band have been honing their set, with a never ending string of dates and festivals. In front of the 1400 punters at Electric Brixton, it’s paying dividends.

The night was opened by Roseau and Clean Cut Kid. If my information is correct, Roseau hasn’t done that many gigs, but her electronic soul vibes fit in beautifully and Roseau proves herself to be an artist to watch. Onstage, Roseau and her band are visually striking and her use on an old style Shure 55SH microphone, (like the one Elvis used) adds a timeless edge to her set. Check out her album, it’s out now.

Next up where Clean Cut Kid, known for ‘Vitamin C’. The Liverpool quartet play a solid set, with some great guitar work from the lead singer, who also possesses one of the finest beards I’ve seen this year. Clean Cut Kid are really good at what they do, they have a good rock grounding, layered with melodic instrumentation and vocal lines. At times, it does seem like it could be a slightly odd choice for an opener for the more electronic, Shura but they work well and your scribe would definitely go see them again.

Shura and her three piece band take to the stage and the growth in confidence is easily seen. Shura is now also playing guitar and seems to like rocking out a bit, duelling with her guitarist. She also seems like she’s now really enjoying what she’s doing and that’s rubbing off on the crowd. For these ears though, I’d cut back on the rubbling bass a little and bring Shura’s voice a little more to the fore in the front of house music mix.

For a hot sweaty crowd, a reworked down tempo 2Shy, provides a breather. All the tracks we know from Shura are included in tonight’s set, Kids n Stuff, Indecision, Touch, and an epic set ending ‘White Light’. It’s pretty awesome to see an artist grow in stature, and throughout the night, Shura reaffirms her importance on the music scene. The sold out Electric crowd also bear witness to rather awesome, sometimes blindly beautiful lighting.

Shura is obviously still working on different mixes and structure of songs, which versions make it to an album and which stay only in a live format remains to be seen. Shura, herself, is now playing guitar and dancing around the stage. Her set has grown at an immense rate since last time. This bodes extremely well for the future. I wonder what size venue she’ll play next?

Dead Man Down: Film Review


DeadManDown_bannerDead Man Down is Niels Arden Oplev‘s first shot at directing a Hollywood movie. He’s best known for his work in the original ‘The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo’. It’s not surprising then, when Noomi Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander in the trilogy turns up as the female lead here. In Dead Man Down, she plays Beatrice, a scarred car crash survivor, who lives in the apartment block opposite Victor (Colin Farrell).

Victor is part of a gang, a modern day mob and along with Darcy (Dominic Cooper) goes investigating into who or why a gang member ended up in the boss’ Alphonse’s freezer. Beatrice sees something she shouldn’t have through Victor’s window and it all kicks off.

From the trailers released for this film, you get the impression that it’s a more high speed ‘Blow em up’ movie, but there was a lot more depth to it than that. It’s a spiraling maze of planning, plotting and revenge which brings out the best in Colin Farrell’s acting skills as he reveals the depth of his character, Victor. This isn’t Die Hard, even if Noomi Rapace’s character ‘Beatrice’, is at times, a tad too much of whinging damsel in distress.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable two hours which keeps the viewer engaged, decent story, well shot and a great car chase. Standout was Colin Farrell, it’s a long way from Ballykissangel, but he really deserves to be getting the roles Brad Pitt and George Clooney just saunter into, immense talent.