Category Archives: Reviews

2023➤ Kemp Bros keep tongues firmly in their cheeks

Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, comedy, documentary, pop music, television, biopic, Spandau Ballet,

Who Do They Think They Are? Their spoof TV doc traces the Kemp Brothers’ origins back to the inventor of the clothes peg

❚ THREE YEARS AGO the critics divided over a TV “mockumentary” about Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers, which Martin summed up as “French and Saunders do Gary and Martin Kemp”. Gary added: “Our traits, but highlighted”. The unexpectedly oddball hour is being repeated on BBC2 tonight.

Their contemporary, Eighties musician Andy Polaris, declared himself a bit of a fan in his own review:

The Kemps All True is a surprisingly deft spoof documentary based on the Spandau Ballet stars’ ill-fated revamp revolving solely around the two charismatic brothers. Chock-full of well-known British cameos (Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Mays, Anna Maxwell Martin), it follows their attempted relaunch including a guest star covers album where ‘Sia’ and the gruff-voiced ‘Rag and Bone Guy’ both murder True, a song they had reserved for a popular girl band.

Gary Kemp, Martin Kemp, comedy, documentary, pop music, television, biopic,Spandau Ballet,

Exclusive preview of new album cover (BBC)

Interwoven are real clips from the band’s history leading up to the current 40th anniversary where they are rudderless and searching for new streams of income including an unappealing-sounding meat replacement vegan product called Wonge and a charitable retirement project. The hour whizzes by due to a cavalcade of witty observations about vintage pop stars (ie, playing private parties for oligarchs for considerable financial rewards and celebrity endorsements for dodgy products), piercing their Photoshop vanity and pretentious public images…   ➢ Continued at Apolarisview.com

Shapersofthe80s published another candid appreciation of the Kemps’ venture into comic territory, which was conceived by its director and writer Rhys Thomas, here:
➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Knife-edge TV doc shows Kemp tongues firmly in their cheeks

Followed up almost inevitably by Spandau’s former vocalist Tony Hadley telling The Sun: “I wasn’t approached and would not have anything to do with it. I’m done. They want me back for good but it ain’t going to happen. I’d rather be happy on my own than be in that band again.”
➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Vocalist Hadley hammers final nail into the coffin of Spandau Ballet

Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp, Rhys Thomas, BBC2, documentary,

Preview of Gary Kemp’s latest work as a portrait painter (BBC)


➢ Click for the quite funny Kemp Bros trailer

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2023 ➤ Spitting Image puppeteers steal the live stage show in Birmingham

Idiots Assemble, Spitting Image, Birmingham Rep, puppets, theatre,

Spitting Image Saves The World at Birmingham Rep:
Suella Braverman and Rishi Sunak given life by puppeteers wearing grey. (Photo PA)

❚ THE MAJOR MIRACLE about Birmingham Rep’s new show Spitting Image Saves The World is that the move from satirical television to live theatre stage succeeds brilliantly. And hilariously. Not only are the puppeteers visible (though clad in grey from head to foot) while animating their giant plastic caricature heads and arms and indeed lending them “legs” – from superstars to cabinet ministers to royalty. They also execute physical illusions and perform exacting song-and-dance routines that fill the stage. And for the hundred or so celebs depicted, most are voiced by equally superb impressionists. Seldom before have we witnessed a stage show as ambitious as this involving complex scene changes.

As with the Central TV series that created Spitting Image in the Eighties, satire fuels the comedy, while two hours on-stage require a storyline. The mission improbable is quickly identified as rescuing the dicey state of the nation – or more whimsically, “the fabric of society”, epitomised by King Charles III waving a pair of soiled underpants aloft.

➢ Update: Spitting Image the Musical [new title]
opens at London’s Phoenix Theatre 24 May

The puppet heroes recruited to meet the challenge run from a tiny Tom Cruise to Ru Paul, Stormzy, Idris Elba, Greta Thunberg, Angela Rayner and a robotic Elon Musk. An adversarial establishment is led by Rishi Sunak in school uniform, Rees-Mogg as a very tall stick insect, a dancing Gove, Javid, Truss, Raab, Patel, Carrie and Boris Johnson and Suella Braverman as a haunted child from The Exorcist. All are mercilessly sent up along with Harry and Meghan, Wills and Kate, Edward, Ant & Dec, Kier Starmer, Nicola Sturgeon, Presidents Xi Jinping, Zelenskiy and Putin. Sir Ian McKellen opens the show as Narrator, while HM QE2 closes it on electric guitar, riffing on Queen’s We Will Rock You.

Click any pic to launch slideshow

Just before the late Queen’s finale, the storyline had run out of steam. The previous three scenes had nothing to add, yet each closed with a red-curtain flourish as if each was the last. They could be cut completely. So too could the many four-letter expletives used frequently throughout the script. These were not laugh-lines, but mainly casual exclamations. Birmingham Rep is proving as foul-mouthed as London’s National Theatre, where its production of Phaedra is lubricated by unnecessary hard-core expletives. Do these theatres really believe swearing somehow ticks the trendy “diversity” box?

One further source of irritation was that of the dozen voices providing vocals during Spitting Image, half of their microphones sounded so fuzzy as to be useless. Words and lyrics were seriously less audible than the other half dozen. Ruinous when wordplay is key. (Coincidentally, the same went for last August’s musical Counting & Cracking which suggests a technical fault might lie with Birmingham Rep as the House, not the individual company performing.)

That said, this Spitting Image show is highly original and is directed by Sean Foley with great imagination (congratulations to Alice Power for those costumes it would be a spoiler to describe). Along with plenty of other show-stopping highlights, Putin’s tap-dance routine deserves a rollicking long future. As do the 12 grey-clad puppeteers. When they stepped down-stage together to take their curtain call – their names arguably unknown to most of the audience – it came as a sudden epiphany to accept that their skills had created every one of the characters and driven the entire performance.

THE PUPPETEERS were Kate Bradley, Paula Brett, Kaidan Dawkins, Bertie Harris, Jojo Lin, Pena Iiyambo, Chand Martinez, Will Palmer, Helen Parke, Rayo Patel, Tom Quinn, Faye Weerasinghe.

Idiots Assemble, Spitting Image, Birmingham Rep, puppets, theatre,

Spitting Image Saves The World at Birmingham Rep: Stormzy and Tom Cruise given life by puppeteers. (Photo: PA)

➢ Idiots Assemble – Spitting Image Saves The World
is live on stage at the Birmingham Rep until 11 March.

Idiots Assemble, Spitting Image, Birmingham Rep, puppets, theatre,

Spitting Image Saves The World at Birmingham Rep: celebrity cast headed by Tom Cruise, as puppets

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2023 ➤ Don’t let zeros dazzle you in front of Doig’s broody paintings

Courtauld Gallery, Peter Doig, collecting, exhibitions , fine art , London,

Canal 2023, by Peter Doig at The Courtauld. Photo Fergus Carmichael

❚ EXACTLY 40 YEARS AGO as he was graduating from St Martin’s art school Peter Doig told me: “You’ve got to be an entrepreneur these days”. I was writing a powerful critique of the rot that had set into the UK art-school teaching system as prime minister Thatcher’s education cuts torpedoed creativity. For his generation – just before the YBAs devised their own solution – it was becoming ever more difficult for young artists to make their mark and there was plenty of unrest to report in my 1983 survey for The Face magazine.

So, hasn’t he done well since then?! During the past 15 years key paintings by Doig have sold for record prices in the international market – $11m, $5m, $11m, $12m, $17m, $39m and $29m. Averaging those seven sums, and grossing up to estimate the worth of the 12 paintings in his exhibition opening this week in London, yields their possible total value as $212million.

So when I walked into the Courtauld Gallery this morning to view his 12 newest paintings hung in two modest rooms, all I could think of were the zeros. Was I standing amidst 212,000,000 dollars-worth of art? And how do we square those zeros with Doig’s own expressionist take on magical realism, eerily mesmerising landscapes and striking figurative images in which he, his family and friends appear with smudged features as if in dreamworlds, described by one critic as “a troubled Arcadia”? Even his two self-portraits are unsettling. Multiple perspectives also tease. Half the pictures are enormous, some have taken him years to complete, others look as if they’re unfinished.

Their idiosyncratic visual chemistry reflects the itinerant life of this 63-year-old Scottish-born Canadian who has also lived in Trinidad and London. Painterly is the one word that unites the leading critics in their reviews of Doig, yet he achieves this largely without thick gestural brushmarks, and often with washes that let pigments emerge subtly through others in sea, sky and land, suggesting remembrance of lost times. Many touches refer to the impressionist masters displayed in an adjacent space at the Courtauld.

Courtauld Gallery, Peter Doig, Trinidad, collecting, exhibitions , fine art ,

House of Music (Soca Boat) 2019-23, by Peter Doig at The Courtauld. Photo Fergus Carmichael

His colours can be strong, as in Alice at Boscoe’s, where a vivid jungle of red and green foliage dominates and his daughter slowly emerges as the faintest female form slung in a hammock. Similar contrasts make Music (2 Trees) a haunting rumination featuring his wife and other friends. In contrast, House of Music (Soca Boat) relies on whole swathes of hues to intrigue.

The larger paintings include works that were created in the artist’s studio since returning to London in 2021. One such titled Canal has shady characters loitering on the Regent’s Canal tow-path where his son is having breakfast before an unlikely crimson bridge. Another titled Alpinist casts a skier as a harlequin against a brittle snowy landscape, inviting us to consider why.

So there’s plenty of food for thought before those zeros re-enter the mind’s eye, ker-ching… Coincidentally yesterday morning, Peter Doig was telling Radio4’s Today programme how the artist has little or no say in what millionaire collectors such as Charles Saatchi are prepared to charge or spend as paintings pass from one to another in the secondary market. Recalling that in 2021 his picture titled Swamped sold for $40m (!), he said: “I sold Swamped for £800 and of all the paintings of mine that have sold for £250million, the amount of money I got was less than £64,000… There are a lot of people out there who want to profit off you somehow.”

Only last month Doig was awarded £2.5m by a judge in a United States court following a decade-long dispute with a gallerist alongside a collector who claimed to own a painting made by him as a teenager. Doig denies this and is donating the windfall to a not-for-profit organisation.

Concluding his Today interview, Doig said: “The money’s not what it’s about. It has given me a life I would never have imagined – travel and making connections – but who could have imagined showing [here at the Courtauld Gallery] in the room next to Manet’s Bar at the Folies-Bergère?”

➢ Peter Doig is the first living artist to exhibit
at the Courtauld Gallery since its £57m revamp in 2021.
His exhibition runs until 29 May 2023

Courtauld Gallery, Peter Doig, Trinidad, collecting, exhibitions , fine art

Music (2 Trees) 2019, by Peter Doig: Photo Mark Woods. Copyright Peter Doig. All Rights Reserved. DACS 2023

➢ Peter Doig speaks to Channel4 News
about his London show

Courtauld Gallery, Peter Doig, collecting, exhibitions , fine art , London, Channel4 News,

Peter Doig with his painting of Alice at Boscoe’s on Channel4 News

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2022 ➤ New Romantics? Here are some who won’t own to that name

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, Brian Robertson, movies, New Romantics

After yesterday’s Gala premiere of Tramps! – BFI host at left, then director Kevin Hegge, Scarlett Cannon, Jeffrey Hinton, Philip Sallon, Verity Susman (music), Matthew Sims (music) and Brian Robertson (producer). (Photo © Tessa Hallmann)

❚ MAYBE IT TAKES AN OUTSIDER to see a whole decade with a fresh perspective? Saturday night saw the launch of a documentary called Tramps! that attempts to do just that in almost two hours.  The much-spun truths and fables of a movement which, even after this film’s premiere, refuses to own its given name, appears to have a new champion. In truth there was not just one group of people who started the emerging movement, there clearly were many who at times intermingled but also grew their own quiet revolutions under a greater umbrella that later came to be called a cult: the New Romantics. This is the story of some of them.

Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival, Mark Dooris, review, movies

FILM REVIEW BY
MARK DOORIS
(Photo Tessa Hallmann)

The Canadian Kevin Hegge’s film opens cleverly to a domestic picture of the model Scarlett Cannon tending to her sun-drenched garden as she recollects her formative years. In this unexpected view of a woman whose powerful and iconic imagery has been documented and used as one of the least compromising style statements of the Eighties (playing “key identity” for the V&A Museum’s major exhibition From Club to Catwalk), she speaks about simply being there!

Just like the film’s poster, this is well-placed bait that slowly draws you into what will turn out to be a very well-constructed game plan. A definitive film about the so-called New Romantics has yet to be made but this contribution to the BFI’s annual Flare Film Festival offers a well-stacked sandwich of people and events that gives a very personal view of their experiences through a uniquely creative period of history.

Driven by a musical score that both emotes and supports the story, we see unfolding before us spliced and collaged pictures and film clips of a selection of renegades who love and survive in punk’s underlying gloom and spend ten years carving out a brighter world through Thatcher’s hectic Britain. The patchworking together of views and motivations of some of the witnesses proves that the movement was bigger than its over-used title.

Judy Blame steals the show by saying it as it is. The unrepentant gay designer, who has sadly died since being interviewed by Hegge, is often overlooked for his contribution to Eighties style and gay culture. Disc jockey Princess Julia remains a constant through the film, as indeed she should, as a very relevant force in style and club culture to this day.

In a new twist, nightlife entrepreneur Philip Sallon was given credit and indeed respect for his very singular influence on both the scene and indeed the followers who helped change the growing movement. Unlike many previous interviews, this time they let his wit and views be heard rather than using him as the cymbal-clapping monkey who offers only light relief to the story of the times. At Saturday’s screening, the effervescently clad Philip asked the audience to be kind to each other and to look beyond the superficial outer paint to the person within and that, at its core, is what this film itself does.

BFI Flare Film Festival 2022, Tramps!, Kevin Hegge, movies,

Kevin Hegge, director of the documentary TRAMPS! © Kevin Hegge

“If you have a bone of contention with
the movie… make your own movie”
– director Kevin Hegge

John Maybury talks of his film-making career and the people who appear in the clips we see of his days in the legendary Warren Street squat, plus the influence and support that director Derek Jarman gave him to discover and use his skills after being invited to join what turned out to be the cult film Jubilee in 1977. Artist Andrew Logan with his occasional Alternative Miss World competitions is rightly identified as a pioneering force in the new bohemia party scene that was emerging, while the painter Duggie Fields added some graceful recollections of this time gone by, he too having passed on since filming.

Thrown aside are the frilly shirts in favour of the BodyMap duo of David Holah and Stevie Stewart, offered up as the fashion revolutionaries who, hand in hand with Michael Clark and Les Childs, danced to a different beat. Performance artist Leigh Bowery is featured throughout the film and images of his eccentricity almost drive the visual impact with its cinematic styling and its Venus in Furs-esque vibe. An intriguing insight is given into the apparent genius of Bowery’s room-mate Trojan (Guy Barnes), his part in the Taboo nightclub set and the impact he might have continued to make if not for his untimely death.

Michael Costiff and his amazing partner Gerlinde are acknowledged for their roles in both the club world and the counter culture that was emerging, as were Miss Binnie and the Neo Naturists who are almost forgotten in most reviews of the Eighties. Sadly many people were lost to the Aids epidemic that cut its way through the careers of others referenced within the film and their contribution to gay culture, as was the demise of many in the drug-fuelled parts of club world. What and who are missing is a list too long to type but a refreshing and often underplayed star emerges in disc-jockey Jeffrey Hinton’s outlook during a pivotal chapter in the history of style.

Curiously, the title Tramps! and its poster are misleading about the ground this film covers and what it offers instead, but as an insight into how key people saw their time in the sun, it’s a winner. And impressively moving.

The Gala evening was not awash with big names from the Eighties and indeed a grave lack of New Romantic superstars was evident at both screening and drinks party after. Sadly the promised Questions and Answers section never really hit the mark and no chance was given for the audience to question the director or cast. That said, Tramps! made a great choice for the closing night of the Flare Festival.

❏  The film is not yet on general release

Blitz Kids, film, New Romantics, Swinging 80s, Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick , Princess Julia, Kevin Hegge, Tramps!, BFI Flare Festival

Leading the Goth wave in 1980: Blitz Kids Michele Clapton, George O’Dowd, Lee Sheldrick and Princess Julia, on the rooftop at St Martin’s School of Art, photographed by Graham Smith and dressed in Gothic mode for Stephen Linard’s “Neon Gothic” collection in the second year’s Alternative Fashion Show

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: 1981, Who are the New Romantics, what are their sounds and how do they dance?
➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, The year the Blitz Kids took their first steps into the headlines

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2011 ➤ Relive Duran’s 30th-anniversary comeback with All You Need Is Now

10
YEARS
ON

❚ THIS WEEK IN 2011 Duran Duran’s album All You Need Is Now was released as a 14-song CD in Europe and North America. Shapers of the 80s gave extensive coverage to Duran’s glorious comeback tour of North America and their 30th anniversary party for the same week in 1981 when their debut single Planet Earth entered the UK Top 20 where it was to reach No 12. Relive these highlights on the album’s tenth anniversary…

Duran Duran, streaming, live concert, Amex,YouTube, Unstaged, David Lynch, Los Angeles

Duran live on YouTube, 2011: a choice of three camera streams and “Lynchian effects” smothering John Taylor’s performance on All You Need Is Now

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Crazee or crazed? David Lynch’s view of Duran from within his hellish cave…

❚ WHAT RUM NIGHTMARES DAVID LYNCH must have in bed at night, but then, he did direct Eraserhead after all. For the best part of two hours, today’s much vaunted Duran Duran live web concert in the Unstaged series kept making you want to hurl virtual cabbages at the screen, enraged by a director whose intent was to obscure the act from view with his relentlessly potty toy-box full of widgets. From 2am UK time till almost the dawn chorus, the band onstage in California had no idea what web audiences in 22 overseas territories (432,000 channel views by 6.30am) were enduring as they pushed on through 18 numbers… / Continued inside

Duran Duran, US tour, 2011, SXSW, interview, video

John Taylor and Nick Rhodes at SXSW in Texas, March 2011: Rhodes claimed to have 100,000 photos in his personal archive he’d like to get published somehow

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Despite some sniffy critics, this is ultimately Duran’s best album since their glory years – Comprehensive round-up

Still hungry after all these years —
Adrian Thrills writes in the Daily Mail:

The band’s 13th album is much better than most of us could have anticipated. The nine new songs benefit from a diverse cast of special guests. Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters adds a seductive rap on Safe (In the Heat of the Moment). New York soul diva Kelis impresses on The Man Who Stole A Leopard. But if Mark Ronson’s input provides a creative spark, the most impressive thing is Duran Duran’s return to form as songwriters. The frontman, to his credit, also supplies some wonderful, multi-tracked vocal harmonies, superbly augmented by Rhodes’ clever electronic prompts and the urgent grooves of the rhythm section … / Much more inside

Spandau Ballet, 2009, press conference, HMS Belfast, pop music, free CD

Spandau Ballet answering my question at their own reunion press conference

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: In 2011 Spandau and Duran square up for battle just like the old days

❚ EVEN AS A UNIQUE CD COMPILATION of Spandau Ballet’s landmark hits was set for massive free distribution with The Mail on Sunday, Duran Duran announced a global concert live online at YouTube, along with their own album release on CD. It could be the 80s all over again when the two arch-rival bands vied for the title of leaders of Britain’s New Romantics movement. So which veteran band scored the bigger hit in 2011?… / Continued inside

Duran Duran, 2011, All You Need Is Now, YouTube, live stream, pop music

Duran Duran earlier in 2011, a year of US and European tours, plus a streamed concert

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