Feature: Marlene Dietrich – Beyond Top Hat and Tails on 6 May

Resonance FM repeated Marlene Dietrich – Beyond Top Hat and Tails to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Marlene Dietrich’s death. The programme went out on 6 May 2017 at 21.30h and was presented by author Clayton Littlewood.

Marlene Dietrich dazzled audiences – whether in a glittering dresses or in elegant tails. She crossed gender like no other star and became a gay icon. What was her appeal to a gay audience? Her glamour? Her strength? Her liberty? What could be read between the lines?

Marlene’s illustrious life took her from the heady days of 1920s Berlin to the glamour of 1930s Hollywood, from the fronts of the Second World War to the most prestigious stages in the world. Despite being married, she had numerous affairs with famous men and women. Yet, she managed to avoid scandal to keep her impeccable image intact.

Clayton hears from a number of Marlene connoisseurs, including art historian Simon Watney and Terry Sanderson, organiser of a Marlene Dietrich Tribute. Together they take at closer look at this unusual woman, who was very much ahead of her time and often described as the ‘last goddess’.

We would like to thank the Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin at the Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek for their support and Alan Brodie Representation Ltd for their kind permission to use an extract from a letter by Noel Coward to Marlene Dietrich published in The Letters of Noel Coward copyright © NC Aventales AG and Barry Day 2007, alanbrodie.com. We would also like to thank Frieder Roth and the University of Minnesota Press for their kind permissions to use extracts from Marlene Dietrich’s Ich bin Gott sei Dank Berlinerin, Maria Riva’s Marlene Diterich by Her Daughter and from Steven Bach’s book Marlene Dietrich – Life and Legend. We would also like to thank David Benson for his readings.

Marlene Dietrich – Beyond Top Hat and Tails was first broadcast in 2012 and produced by Sabine Schereck.

The programme was online for 7 days.

Terry Sanderson’s next Marlene Tribute with clips from her films and her concerts is on 6 July 2017 at the Cinema Museum as part of the Pride festival.

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Sparkle and Trouble in Paradise – Review: Adam & Eve and Steve

Joseph Robinson and Dale Adams as Adam and Steve

A magical Eden awaits you at the King’s Head Theatre. The glittering green tinsel of Maeve Black’s sparkling design creates the perfect setting for the biblical story with a contemporary twist, Adam & Eve and Steve.

Beelzebub (Stephen McGlynn), smartly dressed in black and red, very easy-going, introduces himself. He wants a bit of fun. And what could be better than making a mess of God’s plan? With paradise in place, Adam and Eve are next on his creation list. Enter: Adam, very charmingly played by Joseph Robinson. He explores his surroundings and is full of anticipation of his new companion that God has promised him, Eve. However, Beelzebub is quicker off the mark and introduces Steve (Dale Adams) to the mix. He and Adam get along famously. When Eve (Hayley Hampson) eventually arrives, trouble lies ahead as she claims Adam for herself – after all: that is what God wanted…

Joseph Robinson and Hayley Hampson as Adam and Eve

Chandler Warren (book and lyrics) and Wayne Moore (music) have created a clever, heart-warming and entertaining show that is brilliantly brought to life by director and choreographer Francesca Goodridge. The microcosm of the triangular relationship and the two antagonists – God (Michael Christopher) and Beelzebub – neatly encapsulates the highs and lows of life with a dash of showbiz razzmatazz. It’s a joy to watch the newcomers in paradise discovering the world, blossoming in companionship, longing for a home or despairing as a result of unrequited love. Also, where else could you find a music-hall-type tap number between God and Beelzebub reminiscing of better days as in Song and Dance Man?

With their witty lyrics and catchy tunes, the numbers You Look Like Me, With You, What Love Is and Empty Hell Blues are little gems wonderfully performed by an excellent cast.

For a blissful 75 minutes, the show offers a touch of musical theatre paradise.

Adam & Eve and Steve runs at the King’s Head Theatre until 29 April.

By Sabine Schereck

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Special Interview: Jessica Walker

Jessica Walker photo: Caroline Michael

Jessica Walker
photo: Caroline Michael

Naomi Paxton talks to Jessica Walker about her upcoming concert Forbidden Love at Omnibus in Clapham as part of LGBT History month. The concert includes songs from 1920s Berlin to Cyndi Lauper. She tells us what drew her to the music, what discoveries she has made while researching them and how she came to do a PhD.

Forbidden Love is at Omnibus in Clapham on 8 February 2017.

By the way, there is also a chance to catch Rosie at Omnibus on 11 February, when she is performing her comedy show The Conscious Uncoupling.

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Dancing on the Lines – Review: The Wild Party

c05iq5jwiaapzbaThe sound of a crackling record and a sleazy tune seductively sung by red-head Anna Clarke form the prelude to The Wild Party – that is, Rafaella Marcus’ production of it at The Hope Theatre. The Wild Party itself is a narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March, described as ‘the classic Jazz Age tale of sex, sweat and sin’. Written in 1926, it was regarded too risqué until 1928, when it was eventually published in the US, and even then it was banned in some states.

It conjures up an image that is full of clinking glasses, tightly locked bodies rocking to jazzy rhythms and piano keys hit hard. However it’s not the jolly, but the wild party, so there’s also a darker side fuelled by alcohol, jealousy and violence.

Anna Clarke and Joey Akubeze share the rhyming lines, alternating between describing the scene and slipping into one of the many characters: Mainly host and hostess Burrs and Queenie, and their lovers Kate and Black, but also their guests, including writers, singers and dancers. One of them is portrayed by March as: Women adored her. / Less often, a man: / And the more fool he— / She was Lesbian. The quirky way in which Joey Akubeze pronounces ‘lesbian’ cleverly ensures it doesn’t slip under the radar.

Joey Akubeze and Anna Clarke in The Wild Party - photo: Alex Fine Photography

Joey Akubeze and Anna Clarke in The Wild Party – photo: Alex Fine Photography

There’s a great dynamic between the two performers and they have a feast playing with the lines, dancing on them like piano keys. Clarke and Akubeze also nicely render songs like Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, which are interspersed and provide a welcome break from the skilful, but demanding text.

Marcus adds a clever twist to the production by having both characters wear top hat and tails at the beginning of the show, when the scene is set, making clear that the female character is a modern woman. For part two, the party, she sheds her formal wear to reveal a skimpy golden dress that represents the Roaring Twenties. The great surprise is to see Akubeze appear in the same dress, only in silver. His make up and rouged cheeks underline the play with gender, which not only perfectly fits the period but also the production, since both actors pick up characters of both genders.

Anna Clarke in The Wild Party - photo: Alex Fine Photography

Anna Clarke in The Wild Party – photo: Alex Fine Photography

Part of the staging is the questionable use of fruit. Yes, they metaphorically get the idea of sex across, and yes, half-eaten apples, bananas, pears and peaches leave a frightful mess on the floor, which one would expect after a wild party. But could the attraction, the tension between characters, not be more effectively expressed through dance or music?

Despite the actors’ admirable performances and their dynamic, they sadly lack any chemistry. The Wild Party is a deeply atmospheric piece, so for coming evenings one hopes that the performance will also generate some electricity, some buzz that might actually captivate the audience, making them feel a part of it, not just bystanders in the doorway. Until then, at least, the show is a joy to watch.

The Wild Party runs at The Hope Theatre until 28 January 2017.

By Sabine Schereck

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Queer’Say November 2016

Dominic Berry photo: Ian Wallis

Dominic Berry
photo: Ian Wallis

Highlights of the final Queer’Say of 2016, presented by Rosie Wilby and recorded at Free Word Centre on 16 November.

Rosie introduced live spoken word sets from Travis Alabanza, Toby Campion and Dominic Berry.

This event was supported by Arts Council England and presented in partnership with Apples and Snakes.

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Queer’Say September 2016

Paula Varjack Photo: Hannes Früh

Paula Varjack
Photo: Hannes Früh

Highlights of Queer’Say recorded at Rich Mix on 9 September. Rosie was ill so the poets Fergus Evans, Jackie Hagan and Paula Varjack interviewed one another – with occasionally hilarious results. This event was supported by Arts Council England and presented in partnership with Apples and Snakes.

The final Queer’Say of 2016 will be at Free Word Centre, Farringdon on 16 November.

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Special Interview: Jeffrey Weeks

coming-out-pic-2Clayton Littlewood meets gay activist, historian and author Jeffrey Weeks to talk about the new edition of his book Coming Out. It was originally published in 1977 and traces LGBT life in Britain from the late 1800s to the present day.

After the publication of the first edition, which was barely ten years after male homosexuality had been partially decriminalised in England and Wales, Jeffrey was unemployable for a long time as a professional historian. By 2012 his career had gone full circle and he was awarded the OBE for services to social science.

This is the extended version of the interview that was broadcast on Out in South London on 25 October 2016.

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