Monday, 26 March 2012

"Can you sing?" A Thousand Shards of Glass at AE Harris

Strictly, A Thousand Shards of Glass is a one-woman show - an immersive storytelling experience driven by Lucy Ellinson's compelling performance. However, it provokes a sense of collective memory and nostalgia for childhood storytelling that makes it feel packed with characters and warmth. Clever devices mean that engagement is never onerous while the audience is still place firmly at the center of the story. A single layer of seating, in a circle, suggests a camp fire, playing a game or sharing a meal, and the work played with each of these, and more, over its course. 

Like nostalgic retellings of childhood, the narrative seems episodic - leaps in location and mood keep the tempo up, but sacrifice some overall coherence in the process. There is a feel that some heavy workshopping was involved somewhere down the line, although writing is credited to Ben Pacey only. The flights of fancy, dramatic set pieces and rapidly changing locations owe a debt to modern action films, but without the visuals that help to make sense of things in that context Lewis Gibson's superb sound design helps gamely to tie it all together.

More conspicuous than the action, however, are numerous literary and cinematic references, from Frankenstein to The Matrix, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy to Die Hard: With a Vengance. By weaving together strands of familiar stories, Pacey has created a tapestry that should hold more than one touchstone for any audience member. When the heroine is enlisted to save humanity, she is asked only if she can sing. A Thousand Shards of Glass is a humble contribution for this song for humanity, a song of stories where the singer is backed up by every snippet of half-remembered narrative that lingers in their consciousness. Whilst it is a one-woman show, the circle of audience members cannot help but sing along as they retell their stories to themselves.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

LIFB loves Vancouver

After hearing for a number of years that it is the 'greatest city ever', we can announce that LIFB is going on tour to Vancouver. We've started to increase our daily maple syrup intake, from 10ml at the beginning of this week to over 100ml this morning alone, and are feeling more Canadian by the minute.

The real preparation, however, started year back. Two of our favourite music sites, Radio Zero and Schitzpopinov are Vancouver based, Radio Zero's mixes soundtracked every houseparty at University, and Schitzpopinov are tastemakers extraordinaire, playing no small part in our infatuations with Boys Noize, Jack Beats and Fake Blood. 

It feels like a bit of a pilgrimage to be going to the home of two entities we've been following so closely, and we're going to be keeping our ears to the ground to report what goes on after the locals all finish climbing mountains, rollerblading and windsurfing for the day.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Birmingham Emcee Performing at SXSW

We like to do lists here at Life in Flashback, and at the top of our most prominent is 'attend South by Southwest'. 2012 is yet another year the opportunity to cross that off has passed us by, but we now intend to live vicariously through Birmingham-born emcee Lady Leshurr. She's heading over there with her incredibly fast flow to show the US how it's done. Her rise to fame has included an appearance on a Tinie Tempah mixtape, and props by Mike Skinner. Mr Skinner's tweet is so eloquent, that there's really little we feel we can add.

A true poet.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Liquor Store

Liquor Store is a new independent men's fashion shop in the Great Western Arcade. They opened a couple of weeks ago, and their first lot of stock is a great mix of classic brands and newer stuff. There are some awesome pieces in there and the shop has a great, friendly vibe. Particularly interesting is LA-based Shades of Grey, in which I could dress myself from head to toe. This kind of independent shop is exactly what Birmingham needs, especially in the often-neglected area of men's fashion. Buying something from here is supporting the creation of a kind of Birmingham we want to live in - which is especially nice when all the stock is so desirable!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Gravity - Birmingham Rep at mac birmingham

The strength of this new play lies in its subtleties. It would be easy to linger too much on a character damaged by the death of a parent, one living with depression, or another with a brother on the front line in the Middle East, but playwright Arzhang Pezman avoids easy exploration of these issues. Instead, Gravity positions the issues as catalysts, and focusses on the unravelling of lives that happens as a result.

A school is the perfect setting for throwing together a group of characters with different problems, the shared pressure between pupils and teachers means that a plot can come to a head quickly, and the expectations of classroom behaviour mean there is a seam of repression ripe for exploding to the surface. Pezman's own experience working as a teacher in Wolverhampton is used to good effect - there is a sense of realism in the behavior of the pupils, but it is Kathy, the pastoral support who keeps a dangerous pupil in the school through a lack of other options, who best unveils some of the more shameful secrets of our education system.

Drama set in schools can live or die by the quality of parts and acting of the pupils. Stereotypes are easily deployed, and pupil parts can too easily be played for laughs. Ashley Hunter, Rebecca Loudon and Boris Mitkov avoid this - gaining the laughs, but injecting enough pathos into the roles to keep them realistic. Hunter's performance is particularly notable for the way he captures the complexity of early adolescence and the way teenagers deal with conflicting desires.