Category Archives: Music

All the fun of the Circus (Covent Garden)

I am a bit over these themed bars that seem to pop-up all over the shop.

I quite like the Cellar Door, on The Strand, it’s right next to work, and there is a certain je ne sais quoi about drinking a cocktail from a tea-cup, that I never  tire of (props to Bourne and Hollingsworth, for spawning my life long love of teacup cocktails), I enjoyed a Champagne cocktail or two at the China Club in Paris (ooo la la), incidentally home of the best lavatories I have ever visited.

But when it came to my good friend’s third (yes, third) hen night (for only one marriage), and the ‘pleasure of my company’ was requested at Circus, I was suspicious, I mean, Covent Garden is not known for it’s authentic bar experiences, at least not without swathes of tourists.

Trepidation and petulance, did not stop me from donning a blue silk 1940’s dress, and minnie mouse style wedges, neither did it stop me twiddling my stupid, thin hair into 1940’s victory rolls.

There are a LOT of rules at Circus, here are some:

1) groups are not allowed to split the bill over various cards, it’s one card, or cash.

2) single sex groups are banned, banned, banned (which is where the smooth talking Miss Lockwood came in ultra handy).

3) no cameras

STAFF:

On the basis of the rules, and the location I was expecting the staff to be the offish sort, I was wrong, they were lovely, welcoming, accommodating – they were chatty without being intrusive, when we had to wait for five minutes for our 10pm (yes, TEN PM) table, they kept us informed. Someone, from another table had misordered their cocktails, so they gave them to us. Lovely job.

FOOD:

One of the rules is that at the weekend, everyone has to order two courses. This was problematic, as due to the late table, I’d stuffed my face with quiche before I’d even left Clapham. For main course I ordered Scallop and King Prawn salad, the prawns were huge and impressive (three of them, which sounds stingy, but they really were glorious looking crustacea) – however they were overcooked, and so not particularly flavourful, much less moist. The citrus mayonnaise was nothingy, the scallops dull.

For pudding I had the pineapple tart with fresh ginger ice cream. I spent the course wondering who decided that matching pineapple with ginger was a good idea, and concluding that, actually, it wasn’t (NB: one of my favourite books the Flavour Thesaurus doesn’t even list pineapple and ginger as a valid combination…and that book reckons pineapple and anchovy would be fine). Either part on its own was good though.

ENTERTAINMENT:

Now… this is where it got good.

Every-so-often, throughout dinner, the metal blinds over the open plan kitchen would close, like eyelids, leaving the room dark, the music would rise to a crescendo, and an act would perform.

Act 1 was fire girls, I’ve seen girls dancing with, and eating fire too many times to mention, probably most impressively in the snow at the Hospital Club Christmas iceskating party (where I later broke my knee, in one of those ‘showing off’ moments, never to be repeated).

Act 2 – was AWESOME, tall and lanky (and somehow v sexy) dude, in high wasted 1940’s trousers, with a suitcase and a crystal ball, which he conjured to look as if it was floating in the air, rolling it over his arms, twiddling it in his fingers, dexterity unsurpassed, I could watch that for hours.

Act 3 – sexy girl stretching cat-like, whilst hanging from a cane ring over the main table, effortlessly hanging from the ring by a foot, balanced beautifully, somewhere between Olympic gymnast and Burlesque moon act.

Act 4 – dancing and singing, short story told in dance, three gyrating girls to the Beyonce’s, Single Ladies.

When the acts are over, but you still want more. The place changes into a club-type-affair, the DJ mixes classic songs that make the diners chatter about how they “haven’t heard this for AGES!”, the staff, slowly followed by the diners dance on tables, and a party is had.

Taxi’s at this stage for me, after all, it was the third hen night, and I was pooped.

I had a wonderful time, with some of my favourite people, I was left hankering for more. Oh, and the Tom Ford designed minimalis sci-fi interior, was pretty okes too.

(all pictures courtesy of Circus, Covent Garden).

Big Love to the bride.

Circus,

27-29 Endell Street,
Covent Garden,
London, WC2H 9BA.

  • Mon,17:30 to Midnight
  • Tue,17:30 to Midnight
  • Wed,17:30 to Midnight
  • Thu,17:30 to 01:00
  • Fri,17:30 to 02:00
  • Sat,17:30-02:00
  • Sun,Closed
  • Bank Holidays, Closed

His name is, Fela!

I knew very little about Fela Anikulapo Kuti, until Wednesday. All I knew, was that he was a pioneer of Afro-beat music. End of.

It was with literally no trepidation that I agreed to see Fela! Part of the National Theatre’s NT Live program, live streamed into Covent Garden Odeon, I love a good show. The show was streamed to 100 cinema’s in the UK, plus further venues across Europe, North America and Australasia.

I went to the first NT live stream event in 2009, and saw Phèdre from The Ritzyin Brixton.

Phèdre felt like much more of an event, there was a build-up before the show, with stage staff and the director describing what was about to happen, and how new and revolutionary it was, there was a real sense of excitement. Two years and several productions later, that build-up and sense of occasion is gone, Fela! felt very much like walking in to watch a regular film.

Fela! lulled you in… as we entered the auditorium, the lights were down, and on screen was a jazz band, trumpets and trombones glowing gold on ‘stage’. It started gently, the audience unsure if the play ‘proper’ was afoot, until our Main Man addressed the audience.  One of my favourite lines, with reference to the British occupation of Nigeria, was that all the British left them with was: ‘Jesus, and Gonorrhea’.

It was sweet and touching as ‘Fela’ set the scene, and gave the background to his musical influences, and how he strove not to be influenced by any of them. The vision of his mother, now passed, would sing from a picture on the wall, which highlighted just how beautifully The National had been decorated, hanging reams of lights, pointers and reminders to the importance of; family, heritage and ancestors. Fela, played by Sahr Ngaujah was captivating, having never seen footage of the real-deal, he was convincing.

There was a slightly nauseating ‘enforced jollity’ point, when ‘Fela’ insisted the crowd at The National stand-up and dance ‘the clock’, hip-thrusting in a circular, gyratory fashion, luckily (or unluckily) we in the cinema didn’t feel obliged to join in, but it was like looking-in on (slightly mortifying) dad-dancing, watching the audience at The National, swivel their hips, embarrassed.

The first half was strewn with singing and (amazing) dancing, the singing might have gone on a bit too long, the dancing was out of the world. It was light-hearted, but touching, as it described Fela’s education in the UK, his return to Nigeria and migration to the USA, where he met his love Sandra Izsadore (played by, the beautifully voiced, Paulette Ivory) who involved him in the Black Power movement in the US. The Black Power element was handled gently, somehow didn’t really touch the surface.

Fela, brimming with new ideals and ambitions, learned in the US, he took us into the second half.

…which was a far darker affair.

He introduces us to his nine wives, or ‘Queens’ (though I understand he had 27), and we trace the raid of his commune. And the mistreatment of his women-folk and death of his mother, thrown from a window – by the authorities, during the raid.

In an impeccable voodooesque sequence, he contacts his dead mother, which is appropriately disconcerting and dreamlike. But by that time, my brain had ever-so-slightly disengaged.

This play is  like a great big, multicoloured, punch in the face, it’s loud, it’s brash, it’s riddled with references to recreational drug-use (which to be fair is a bit dull), polygamy, and arrests, it’s a bit gimmicky, it has the essence of watered-down African culture, in a (some would say patronising) effort to broaden its audience base. All this aside: it is moving, joyous, desperately sad, thought-provoking, carnival of a play, and Ngaujah’s, Fela is a lithe, likeable hero.

It’s not perfect,  but it’s one of those plays I’ll remember, and I had a bluddy good time.

New Wave

As a confirmed Francophile, one of my biggest musical loves is Nouvelle Vague (roughly translating as New Wave)

I love their punky, shouty, sweet, bossa nova ness… simply gawgus…

I am currently a bit in love with ex collaborator Camille Dalmais, definitely part of the renouveau de la chanson française, and never more so than in her second album Le Fil which translates as ‘the thread’, and is also a homophone of ‘the girl’.


It’s a clever and conceptual album, the ‘thread’ itself is a continuous drone of note B throughout all songs (to the extent that those not in the know, returned the album thinking it was a fault in recording), Camille “uses her voice as an instrument”, but not in that irritating way that the Icelandic Pixie did in Medulla, but in a bitter-sweet-melancholic way, that only a chantreuse could. It’s sweet, and summery and entirely listenable, without being too Joe-le-taxi-whimsical, or Gainsbourg-creepy.

The song of my day, pour que l’amour me quitte?



Fireflying Low

…think I love this a bit…

I LOVED Speak and Spell, that’s what convinced me I was a genius at five (over it now).

Gotta Have Tweedom

I LOVE a bit of twee. A 1950’s pinny, being up-to-the-elbows in flour, farmers markets, flower markets, cross-stitch (the idea more than the actuality of cross-stitch, after it took me three hours to stitch an area the size of my thumb nail), I love a perfectly set table, my sewing machine (see above re: cross-stitch), and of course I LOVE Blossom (it kills me a bit that I didn’t get to see her in New York before she passed-away) and Dolly, I like a glass of milk and sweet, stolen kisses, and Starland Vocal Band. Twee rules.

Quilts, theoretically the epitome of twee are having a bit of a *moment*, not least at the V&A Quilt Exhibition, tracing the (often moving) history of each quilt, including a quilt made by prisoner of war Girl Guides, as a present for their teacher, each girl donating a square of their skirt.

The Baker’s Tale

Valentine’s Day has been mainly punctuated by searching for a very small, internal circuit board fuse, for our juicer that rebelled against me trying to shove a whole and un-peeled orange through it.  Whilst bofo got ‘all electrical’ including a soldering iron and a manly-stern look, I set to baking some misshapen choux goodies… (photos to follow) – some more misshapen than others. And Bofo cooked a Chilli, with an unusual focus on cinnamon.

We also spent some time lighting Chinese Sky Lanterns in the garden, of course we’re far too cool to make wishes, but there was a teeny moment, of wishy washy wishness…only for the lanterns to be followed by a police helicopter… cue bofo and I hiding behind a bush and sniggering…that’s how we get our kicks these days.

KUNG HEI FAT CHOI to all. Today is ‘Dog day’ so be nice to any dogs you come across.

The visual and sonic landscape for today was bumper amounts Hercule Poirot and Pendulum.

…sweet comic Valentine

I do not believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden, the Easter bunny, or hyper-commercialisation (except in the case of haute couture). I retch at the sight of bears clutching crimson hearts, and I do not want a ‘personalised card’ from Moonpig – either make me a card, or write me a card, what is ‘personal’ about a computer generated signature?

…..but I am hooked (line and sinker) on Valentine’s Day.

Earlier this Century I made grumpy and ungrateful boyfriend a five course meal with decadence befitting Daedalus himself. The menu included lamb (which I hate), oysters (which I love, though can be tricksy little buggars to open), caviar (which I physically couldn’t open due to my weak girl-hands) and a cake (which I somehow managed to completely ruin).  It wasn’t in the instructions; but the preparation process also included shattering a Le Creuset dish on the hob (which should be impossible), narrowly avoiding taking my eye out with a shard of ceramic.

This year, it’s all about the simple things.