The Did It List: Reviews Round-up #3
We told you what to do – and here’s what we did.
Read on for mini-reviews of TEDxLeedsBeckett, The Gallery Cafe, QUEERSTORY, Baby Bao & more!
We began February with a trip north for TEDxLeedsBeckettUniversity (★★★★★ | Leeds Beckett University | 6 February).
Speaking to the theme of ‘Our changing world’, Dr Oliver Bray, Dr Nasser Hussain, Dr Daniel Kilvington and Professor Jayne Raisborough spoke eloquently and engagingly about post-truth speechmaking, noticing the glaringly obvious, the virtual stages of hate, and the representation of older people. Inspiring and educational stuff, and all now available to watch online. Thanks TEDx!
And, while one half of To Do List was busy learning stuff in Leeds, the other half had the difficult task of seeing Magic Mike Live (★★★★ | The Hippodrome | Booking until June 2020).
What’s there to say about this (lazy) spin-off from the Channing Tatum-starring male stripper blockbuster? Well, for a start it is a surprise hit, after 20 excruciating minutes of warm up which sets up the big reveal (we won’t reveal it)!
The lights go down, and Channing Tatum’s sexy voice fills the purpose built epic stage, and the girls (and a couple of boys) in the audience go wild. The dancing – from break dancing to hip hop – is pretty epic, as is the immersive staging. The view from the balcony is decent, and the men are fine, but the faux female empowerment – which may work in Las Vegas – largely falls flat for the London audience. But hey, it’s a fun night out.
This work-in-progress sing-through of the first act truly whet our appetite for a fully staged production of Soapdish: The Musical. The 1991 film starred Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr and Whoopi Goldberg, but the excellent adaptation by George Stiles (music), Anthony Drewe (lyrics) and Robert Harling (book) proves that the material holds up without the star casting.
In the shadow of the Battersea Power Station redevelopment, Soapdish: The Musical (★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | 6-8 February) was a camptastic update on the 1991 comedy film.
Robert Eggers’ follow up to 2015’s The Witch – which we did NOT like – is The Lighthouse (★★★★½ | From 31 January) – which we did!
It’s not a film for Sunday afternoon, sofa consumption – easy watching it is not! Shot in black and white, and presented in the unusual 1.19:1 aspect ratio, The Lighthouse is arrestingly different to pretty much any film you’ll have watched in recent years. There is humour (very dark, farts aside), but mostly a growing and inescapable sense of dread. Robert Pattinson is good as the younger of two lighthouse keepers gradually losing their sanity when stranded by a storm, but Willem Dafoe is unforgettably good as the more experienced (and gassier) keeper. You’ll probably have some questions as the credits roll, but what’s wrong with that?
Same medium, different tone – we strapped ourselves in to some 4DX seats for Birds of Prey (★★★★ | From 7 February).
We’re still yet to experience 4DX bubbles, but there was plenty of rollicking action in Birds of Prey to justify the theme-park seating. Margot Robbie is, as ever, magnetic throughout – and though the plot is pretty disposable, it’s undeniably fun to see an all-female gang of (anti-)hero’s – Harley Quinn, The Huntress, Black Canary et al. – sticking it to the man (in this case, Ewan McGregor’s forgettable but serviceable Black Mask).
Back to school for To Do List, as we whipped out our notebooks for Dennis Kelly: The Creative Process (★★★★ | Goldsmiths, University of London | 10 February).
It was great to hear tips on the art of writing for stage and screen from the very mouth of a truly inspired writer. A rapt audience were clearly making the most of having a real luminary in their midst, taking priceless notes as Dennis discussed his work, from debut play ‘Debris’, through TV series’ ‘Pulling’ and ‘Utopia’, to West End mega-hit ‘Matilda The Musical’.
Finally ticking off a show we missed on its short West End run, we caught Betty Blue Eyes (★★★½ | Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts | 6-12 February) in Peckham.
A super-talented cast of young performers did Mountview proud in this production of the Stiles & Drewe musical which drew great reviews – but poor box office – in the West End back in 2011.
A theatre-school production is never going to reach the heights of a West End staging, but Mountview is clearly churning out top-notch actors – this was a professional, well-oiled performance!
You know we love pizza right? So you won’t be surprised we found time to visit the Mile End branch of The Pizza Room (★★★★ | 2a Grove Rd, E3 5AX).
What can we say? Crispy crusts (crusty?) and sexy toppings maketh a pizza that we wolf down in minutes. No need for sides here, just a drizzle of chilli oil and a cold beer. Nice one.
So, our predictions last month about the likely Oscars success of 1917 aged pretty badly (and quickly!) – never mind, we made up for it by checking out the victorious Parasite (★★★★½ | From 7 February).
You know what? To be honest, 1917 still feels like the more cinematic experience – but Parasite (and the huge audiences drawn to it after the big win) is a big deal, and deserves every plaudit it gets. We’d like to focus on the cast, who were not nominated for mainstream awards but who bring Bong Joon Ho’s satirical-suspense-thriller to life: Song Kang-ho as the father (whose face acting alone conveys more than a subtitle ever can) and Jang Hye-jin as his wife share several scenes worthy of awards themselves! Meanwhile, Lee Jung-eun is pitch-perfect as the housekeeper with a secret…
Just out of Bethnal Green tube station and gagging for some amazing vegan food? Look no further than The Gallery Cafe (★★★★★ | 21 Old Ford Road, E2 9PL).
We tried a special, which was VERY special – pretty much the best vegan chilli on record (at least, for us), served in hunger-busting quantity – and The Gallery Café Burger: a mushroom, quinoa and black bean patty, served in bun (of course!) which, according to Ru, was pretty damn epic!
What can we say? Fucking Law (★★★★★ | Resistance Gallery | 13 February) was an academic book launch. LIKE. NO. OTHER.
Forget staid, snooze-inducing chat, this book launch was a series of performed extracts from what is itself a non-traditional academic volume. The Resistance Gallery was the perfect venue to explore the book’s aim to find inventive ways to question the ethics of sexuality. Author Victoria Brooks, of the University of Westminster, was joined by by Laurent de Sutter, Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos & Swastee Ranjan, all of whom immersed themselves in the risky, explicit and provocative nature of Victoria’s cutting-edge research.
More Mile End nosh, this time courtesy of The Cherry (★★★★★ | 359 Mile End Rd, E3 4QS).
The unluckiest pub in the Mile End, The New Globe has had a killer revamp by the Dirty Liquor pub group, now renamed The Cherry. On first appearances the pub’s exterior looks sleek and minimal, painted black, but once inside it’s a feast of fairground typography on tables and eclectic rainbow colours.
The Panzerotti (calzone style folded pizza) £4.95 lunch menu is delicious, and not too greasy for a lunchtime treat. To try the full pizza menu things get a little more pricey, but it looks worth it especially with cocktails on Thursday’s 2-4-1 student night.
The pub is pulling out all the stops to make things lively, with drag bingo, karaoke, DJs and a pool table – so give this non-pretentious fun pub a go, and let’s hope it isn’t closed again in six months!
We headed East for QUEER LATES x QUEERSTORY (★★★★★ | Stratford East | 20 February), a fabulous night of cabaret!
A perfect warming balm on a cold night in February, host and curator Mercury compered a cast of amazing performers to honour the people who have driven the march for equality – including Joe Morose as Noël Coward (giving his fabulous ‘Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington’), To Do List favourite Peter Groom as Marlene Dietrich, Adam Perchard channeling Klaus Nomi and David Bowie, and a showstopping acrobatic pole routing by Sadiq Sadiq as the one and only Freddie Mercury! A special mention should also go to a stunning dance interpretation of Robert Mapplethorpe, which defied our low opinion of contemporary dance!
The mall just got woke! Lewisham is the new home to London’s Migration Museum (★★★★ | Lewisham Shopping Centre).
We stopped by at the Migration Museum at its former home in Lambeth, but couldn’t be happier that it has found a new home in our own Borough of Lewisham. An “adventurous programme of exhibitions, events and education workshops” is planned, and we really encourage everyone to make the trip to Lewisham Shopping Centre to support this fantastic museum and learn more about “how the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has made us who we are – as individuals and as a nation”. Better late than never?
We caught William Doyle + Tony Njoku (★★★★ | The Hope & Ruin, Brighton | 23 February) during a long-weekend in Brighton.
It’s not often To Do List’s musical taste overlaps with the Mercury Music Prize, yet we found ourselves enjoying the latest music from William Doyle (nominated for the aforementioned as East India Youth) – combining heartfelt lyricism with melodious sax and occasional frenetic bursts of electric guitar. The support act, Doyle’s band member Tony Njoku, offered some different musical stylings – blippy, electro-beats and soaring vocals.
Pub grub doesn’t come much better than Baby Bao @ The Pond (★★★★★ | 49 Gloucester Rd, Brighton, BN1 4AQ).
Seriously, if The Pond was our local we might never leave! It was meat-free Monday when we stopped by for a few pints and a selection of super-tasty pub grub!
The Mixed Mushroom Bao (with trifled mayo, crispy smoked oyster mushrooms, rocket and pickled shallots) was a thing of savoury beauty! And, of course, we piled the sides high, getting stuck into amazing Kimchinis (Asian-style arancini), Tempura Cauliflower, Spicy Mac & Cheese, and piles of dirty (i.e. good!) topped fries. A-MAZING.
Brunch was called for, and Redroaster (★★★★★ | 1D St James’s St, Brighton, BN2 1RE) delivered!
Before a quick shopping sesh (and an impromptu haircut for Ru), we dodged the rain and woke ourselves up with the Insta-licious food of Redroaster, which tasted even better than it looked.
The Brioche French Toast with Lemon Poppyseed and Yuzu Curd was a sweet breakfast treat that wowed even Ru (not traditionally a breakfast lover), while the Crab & Avocado Benedict (with fresh crab, mayo, poached eggs, lemon dill, hollandaise, avocado mousse and mango curd) was the star of the show – a brunchtastic way to start the day. The coffee was good too, as was the Coconut Cardamom Chai – proper good stuff!
Standing room only, but those cheap tickets are worth it to catch The Upstart Crow (★★★★ | Gielgud Theatre | From 7 February) during its short run.
February, you were our Valentine!
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.