Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre


The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre

D.H. Lawrence is best remembered for his novels and poetry but he wrote a number of plays too, most of which weren’t performed in his lifetime. Indeed, The Daughter-in-Law was first performed in 1967, some 54 years after he wrote it. Though unpopular back in 1913, it is exemplary of his style of working-class British drama and, far from a dusty period piece, remains insightful to this day.

This particular production, directed by Jack Gamble, returns to the Arcola Theatre following success last year. Louie Whitemore’s set places the dining table at the centre as emblematic of this family drama that somewhat foreshadows the kitchen sink realism of the 50s and 60s; much of the play occurs at dinnertime, the core of family life. And it’s the female characters – the matriarchs who run the household and cook said dinner – who dominate throughout the narrative.

The plot is a relatively straightforward tale of a husband cheating on his wife and the fallout of his philandering. There are secret plans to provide money to the ‘other woman’; women suffocated by misogynistic views; and boisterous adult men molly-coddled by their mother. The bonds of marriage are in competition with a mother’s overbearing love for her sons.

It’s set to the backdrop of the 1912 miners’ strike that adds another layer of friction. This is a working class family struggling financially, the men pressured to bring in a salary, the women pressured to make ends meet. Yet what’s remarkable is how relevant it all is. This is the sort of drama that wouldn’t be out of place today (minus the mining part), only proving the universality of Lawrence’s themes. He was a writer ahead of his time as he explores a pathetic masculinity, upturns traditional gender roles, and interrogates the nature of marriage. The lesson at the heart of the play is that marriage is based on trust.

The script is written phonetically in a dialect Lawrence had grown up hearing in his home of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. It is initially tough to tune into, but the use of specific sayings, quirks and metaphors brings authentic character to the drama and a sense of familial warmth as they banter around the dining table. Props too to the cast who speak Lawrence’s words with clarity, and to dialect coach Penny Dyer. As the titular daughter-in-law Minnie Gascoyne, Ellie Nunn offers an assured performance that deftly handles the character’s swings from frustration to desperation and, eventually, overwhelming love for her husband. Tessa Bell-Briggs charms as the bumbling Mrs Purdy, and Veronica Roberts is a perpetually flustered mother as Mrs Gascoyne.

The pace plods a little, but this simultaneously allows us to settle into the language and relish both the play’s humour and high drama. This is a layered piece, presented with lucidity and attention to detail, that will resonate with a new audience.

4/5

Watch: The Daughter-in-Law runs at the Arcola theatre until 2nd February.


The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre

The Daughter-in-Law @ The Arcola Theatre
Photos: Idil Sukan

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Favourite

The Favourite

This is a world away from the usual po-faced, stuffy period dramas. The Favourite is a playful film that distorts the tropes of the genre into something quite unexpected. But then, if you're familiar with the work of director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster especially), you'll have some idea of what you're getting into.

His style is utterly idiosyncratic. High seriousness is juxtaposed with black comedy. Period elements are undercut by modernism. A dance scene sees characters practically voguing to Baroque music. The high stakes manipulation of nobility and royalty plays out in a contemporary script full of swearing. The male characters are sidelined and effeminate; here it's the women who hold power.

Yet for all its comedic moments - and there are plenty - Lanthimos blindsides you with darkness, seriousness, thoughtfulness. The Favourite is a film that toys with you. Lanthimos takes great liberty with history, layers on the eccentricity, then pulls you in a different direction to offer a stern lesson in love and servitude. It's a remarkable, twisted, psychological film.

At the centre is Queen Anne, in a fabulously childlike turn from Olivia Colman, all petulance and impulsiveness. She is served by Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), to advise her, to love her, to relieve her gout. Sarah soon has competition in the form of her cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) and the two women vie for the queen's affections and favour. The screenplay, written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, is full of deliciously snide comments and manipulations, particularly in the shooting scenes. The performances of all three women are stunning, despite Colman leading the film - they are powerful equals to the detriment of the male characters (Nicholas Hoult aside as Robert Harley).

The setting, too, is exquisite. Filmed at Hatfield House and Hampton Court Palace, the camera luxuriates in the fine details of the homes and costumes. The bizarre circus of the court is filmed through low angle shots and sweeping fish eye that only emphasises its grandeur and the status of these women. The tension between them fizzes and the music - a mix of Baroque and modern composers in a reflection of the film's tone - rises and falls in parallel.

The film does eventually run out of steam and the sombre ending arrives quite suddenly. Despite its comedy, this is far from uplifting - but anyone anticipating a happy ending has come to the wrong place.

The Favourite is Lanthimos' most mainstream film, his unique style - and a lesbian romance no less - making waves and winning awards. It's weird, divisive and features spectacular performances; together it's the best kind of madness.

4/5

Watch: The Favourite is out now.


Friday, 11 January 2019

New Music Friday 11/01/2019

Gesaffelstein feat. The Weeknd - Lost in the Fire

Gesaffelstein feat. The Weeknd - Lost in the Fire

The bassline in this new track from French techno artist Gesaffelstein and The Weeknd is absolutely delicious. It's typically moody stuff from the Canadian hip-hop artist, the production icy cold. But then you listen to the lyrics, revealing the artist to have the sexual maturity of a horny twelve year old. "I used to have a girl a day," he brags, offering the "type of sex you could never put a price on." Worse is his teenage fascination with female same-sex couples: "you said you might be into girls...well, baby, you can bring a friend / she can ride on top your face / while I fuck you straight." It's this type of stuff that ruins the music, that leaves a sour taste in the mouth and proves how far hip-hop still has to go.

Worth a listen.



Sam Smith with Normani - Dancing With A Stranger

Sam Smith with Normani - Dancing With A Stranger

This partnership came about after a chance meeting in an LA recording studio. They're certainly an unlikely pairing but the end results work. It might be typical Drake-esque sultry R&B, but this is probably Smith's coolest song since Latch, while for Normani this should give her the increased exposure she deserves.

Worth a listen.



Calvin Harris with Rag'n'Bone Man - Giant

Calvin Harris with Rag'n'Bone Man - Giant

There's very little to say about this. It is exactly what you expect. House production, with a few horns thrown in for good measure, and that reedy, gravelly voice too many people bought into in 2017. It's banal and generic and most likely will be soundtracking your Saturday nights for the foreseeable.

Don't bother.



Lana Del Rey - hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but I have it

Lana Del Rey - hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but I have it

This might just be Lana's most feminist track yet. Partly for the title, partly for the Sylvia Plath reference, partly for its sheer honesty. Produced by Jack Antonoff, who had the sense to leave this as sparse as possible, the track is pensive, intimate, deeply personal and amongst her most arresting.

Worth a listen.



Billie Eilish - WHEN I WAS OLDER

Billie Eilish - WHEN I WAS OLDER

This new track from Billie Eilish, an artist on the cusp of superstardom, was directly inspired by Alfonso CuarĂ³n's award-nominated film Roma. Even if you're yet to see the film, the song remains a haunting listen, all auto-tuned vocals, meandering melodies and menacing beats. Forget all the 2019 lists, Billie Eilish is the one to watch.

Worth a listen.



Lauren Jauregui - More Than That

Lauren Jauregui - More Than That

Normani's not the only ex-Fifth Harmony member to release a single this week. Yet while Jauregui might have the better cover art, her song isn't destined to top the charts. "You gon' have to come stronger than this liquor," she flirts at her admirers over seductive R&B production that's sexy but unoriginal. It'll take more to stand out in future.

Worth a listen.



Broods - Hospitalized

Broods - Hospitalized

The New Zealand duo have never sounded so upbeat. Vibrant synths, funk rhythms and lyrics that reveal a desire to live life to the full and push the limits - before a trip to the hospital at least. The track is taken from their forthcoming album 'Don't Feed The Pop Monster' due in February - keep an eye out for that.

Worth a listen.



Betty Who - I Remember

Betty Who - I Remember

Betty Who is such a reliable popstar, barely putting a foot wrong yet never quite hitting the heights of super stardom. I Remember is an ode to imperfect relationships, revelling in the good and the bad over buoyant synths and catchy, sing-along hooks. It's everything you could want in a pop song - can we finally give her a break?

Worth a listen.


Thursday, 10 January 2019

An Enemy Of The People @ The Union Theatre


An Enemy Of The People @ The Union Theatre

Arthur Miller’s An Enemy Of The People, based on an 1882 play of the same name by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, was written in 1950 and is contemporaneous with his best known work The Crucible. It’s a play where the public, politicians and the press clash catastrophically, each spinning their own version of the truth be it for money, political power, or the honourable truth.

Sound familiar? Miller may have had McCarthyism in his sights, but An Enemy Of The People seems remarkably prescient to present day America – all Trumpian bombast and fake news.

Director Phil Willmott certainly thinks so, with Miller’s play leading the new Enemies of the People season at the Union Theatre. It translates elegantly to present day with little fuss or need for tweaking, Miller’s language already sounding all too relatable to our modern ears. It is the story of a local doctor in smalltown America who discovers the local water supply is poisoned, scuppering plans for the new springs resort and potentially damaging government reputation. Yet rather than taking his advice, the local mayor (also the doctor’s sibling) pits him against the public and threatens to raise taxes to pay for water sanitation. The editor of the local newspaper, meanwhile, is stuck between them both with only money and circulation on his mind.

In this production, with its sparse staging of a construction site, the twisting of the truth has obvious parallels with the notion of fake news. The play becomes something of an absurd comedy, full of over the top American caricatures; but one that’s tragically close to reality. This is America in microcosm, albeit one that lacks in diversity. One welcome update is the switch to a female mayor, played by Mary Stewart as a nightmarish amalgam of Sarah Palin and Trump, with all the smarm you can imagine. That aside, this is a fairly straightforward interpretation that simply shifts the setting to increase the play’s modern relevance.

It’s a clever interpretation, then, but one that’s not always well executed. As a whole the staging seems restless, with too many characters pacing, arguing, or delivering their lines to the back of the stage (plus some dodgy accents). It certainly reflects the whirlwind of clashing ideals and the difficulty in being heard above the noise (literally). But it also lacks focus and clarity. As a result we side with none of these shamelessly desperate people – not the selfish, backstabbing mayor; the sleazy newspaper editor; nor even the noble doctor, who’s such a martyr for the truth he commits himself and his family to a life of persecution. After a first half that drags, in the second the doctor (David Mildon) gives a supposedly rousing and thought-provoking speech criticising the true nature of democracy, but it’s lost in the hubbub of debate. This painting characters in shades of grey is likely intentional, but it does make for a frustrating drama lacking in necessary punch.

It’s Emily Byrt as the doctor’s wife who stands out as a voice of reason – despite having few lines, she mostly stands still to deliver her lines with a commanding presence. It’s she who speaks the line at the core of the play: “without power, what good is truth?”. Here, the characters in Miller’s play wrestle so much with power that the truth is lost in a chaotic production that reflects the messiness of modern politics.

3/5

Watch: An Enemy Of The People runs at the Union Theatre until the 2nd February.


An Enemy Of The People @ The Union Theatre

An Enemy Of The People @ The Union Theatre
Photos: Scott Rylander

Friday, 4 January 2019

New Music Friday 04/01/19

Fleur East – Favourite Thing

Fleur East – Favourite Thing

Fresh from appearing on I’m A Celebrity and having ended her post-X Factor contract with Syco Records, Fleur East returns with this banger. Less in your face than Sax, but also not as incessant, Favourite Thing gives the current dance-pop sound a twist with tribal rhythms from her Ghanaian roots. After a muted start it slowly layers up the hooks for a sound that’s instantly radio-friendly. Finally, she can get the proper break she deserves. And that break before “…thing!” in the pre-chorus is everything.

Worth a listen.



Lizzo – Juice

Lizzo – Juice

Hip-hop artist Lizzo turns to Prince for her new single Juice. 80s funk guitars predominate for a sugary confection with tonnes of fun and personality. That extends to the video, starting 2019 with one sexy workout. Playful pop that’s hugely enjoyable.

Add to playlist.



Bring Me The Horizon – medicine

Bring Me The Horizon – medicine

Who says rock songs can’t have pop hooks? Bring Me The Horizon are masters of both, proven by this new track from their forthcoming album ‘amo’ due later this month. The video might be vomit-worthy, but like MANTRA before it medicine is loaded with hooks, a sing-along chorus and solid, rhythmic guitar riffs.

Worth a listen.



Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness

Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness

Chaka Khan is synonymous with 70s disco, but the genre is as prevalent as ever this decade – if not directly then at least influencing a whole host of artists. It makes sense then that Chaka Khan would make a return with this, the title track to a new album. Her vocals are unmistakable, here smooth and sultry over shivering strings and an infectious beat given a futuristic edge with ultra-polished modern production.

Worth a listen.



Robbie Williams - I Just Want People To Like Me

 Robbie Williams - I Just Want People To Like Me

Has there ever been a less ironic title to a song? Having failed to win over the X Factor audience as a judge, he's now released this derivative rock shite aimed squarely at Radio X. Desperate.

Don't bother.


Saturday, 8 December 2018

The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Give Yourself A Try was not a good comeback single. Two years after the release of The 1975's seminal, near perfect pop-rock second album, this new single was a disappointment. Its two note riff, repeated infinitely, is incessant. It's harmonically stagnant. Musically at least, the song goes nowhere.

Lyrically though there's more going on. While it initially seems to be about nostalgia, its repeated chorus mantra of "give yourself a try" seems aimed more at lead singer Matty Healy himself than anyone else. He's been open in public about dealing with substance abuse, which lends this song a great deal of catharsis, almost begging himself to clean up his act.

In the context of the album, Give Yourself A Try makes a lot more sense and acts as the perfect gateway to this new album with all its strengths and flaws. Lyrically it probes into Healy's own addictions and issues with modern society. Yet musically its songs are monotonous and simplistic, or rambling and insular, and too often border on the pretentious.

TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME is an upbeat song about infidelity that has proven to be the most radio friendly of the album's singles, but it too is musically on one level that goes nowhere. Inside Your Mind similarly features an irritating two note guitar riff. And closer I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) centres on the most banal acoustic guitar chord sequence, its apparently cinematic feel ripped straight from an Oasis song (not a compliment).

Yet where the album is in part too simple, in others it's overly experimental. How To Draw/Petrichor is an extension of a previous bonus track that meanders along like a Radiohead knock-off with glitchy beats and wafting orchestrations; Sincerity Is Scary has an improvised jazz influence to match Healy verbosely going on about postmodernism and irony; The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme takes monotony to the extreme with a story spoken in a robotic voice about the dangers of the Internet. Across the album vocoders rub shoulders with acoustic guitars, electronics and orchestrations. But it mainly feels overblown, the profundity Healy seemingly shows in interviews not always translating to the songs themselves.

Moreover, there are too many ballads as Healy turns from Radiohead, through James Blake and Damien Rice to Morissey. Tracks like Be My Mistake, Inside Your Mind and Surrounded By Heads And Bodies are long and dreary to the point of being morose. And while these songs deal with interesting modern subjects like rehab, impenetrable thoughts and the guilt of a meaningless hookup, it turns the album into an endless slog.

And it doesn't have to be. This is a frustrating album with moments of pure brilliance overwhelmed by tonal shifts and dreary pretentiousness, moments where social conscience and musical production align. I Like America & America Likes Me is a song against the use of guns, Healy singing "I'm scared of dying" in a mournful vocoder as if his voice is stifled against the noise. It's Not Living (If It's Not With You) is a fun, hook-laden pop rock song that harks back to the band's best, until you realise it's not an ode to a lover but the drugs Healy is so desperately trying to overcome. It's a heart-wrenching twist to a smart pop song.

The album's crowning achievement though is Love It If We Made It. While the verses follow another one-note melody, here it feels more intentional, a stream of (social) consciousness. And then in the chorus it gives way to this widescreen moment of glorious euphoria where the tightly coiled music stretches its celestial wings as Healy sings the album's simplest yet most loaded lyric: "I'd love it if we made it." It's a moment of pure hope, of pop brilliance. If only the whole album was the same.

3/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Love It If We Made It
* I Like American & America Likes Me
* It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)

Listen: 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships' is out now.


Sunday, 2 December 2018

New Music Friday 30/11

Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus - Nothing Breaks Like A Heart

Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus - Nothing Breaks Like A Heart

Miley Cyrus channeling her godmother Dolly Parton singing Jolene given a modern twist with Mark Ronson's slick production? Yes please. This is what modern day country should sound like. Probably one of the best songs Miley has done.

Add to playlist.



Grimes feat. HANA - We Appreciate Power

Grimes feat. HANA - We Appreciate Power

It's already been over three years since Grimes released her fourth album 'Art Angels', so fans have been eagerly awaiting new music. We Appreciate Power goes down the rock route, her delicate vocals juxtaposed with thrumming guitars and a riot grrrl attitude. There's plenty of drama here, but those who prefer her earlier more electronic work may be disappointed.

Worth a listen.



Emily Burns - Damn Good Liar

Emily Burns - Damn Good Liar

Another week, another Emily Burns single. But this might just be her best yet. Where most other popstars aim for banger after banger, Burns delivers smart pop that's restrained but intricately put together. The pre-chorus builds to a crescendo that never comes, the chorus muted yet cleverly punctuated beneath the vocal hook. It's a song that surprises, even when Burns is an artist who consistently delivers.

Add to playlist.



Jax Jones and Years & Years - Play

Jax Jones and Years & Years - Play

'Palo Santo' hasn't quite delivered the singles success of 'Communion', but Years & Years remain a dominant force in pop. Partnering with Jax Jones is a safe choice but the results are decent, Olly Alexander's distinctive voice rising above typical house production. Enjoyable in a "let's start Saturday night with a banger" kind of way.

Worth a listen.



Cheat Codes x Kim Petras - Feeling of Falling

Cheat Codes x Kim Petras - Feeling of Falling

Here's another solo artist partnering with a dance act to raise their profile. Feeling of Falling probably would've made a great solo single for Petras. As it stands, she sings over polished Chainsmoker's-esque production (mellow guitars and thudding beats) that's nice enough, but the chorus at least is an unexpected joy.

Worth a listen.



ZAYN - Rainberry

ZAYN - Rainberry

ZAYN has never managed to replicate the immediate success of first single Pillowtalk. Maybe that's haunting him. He's had a whole load of singles since the release of his first album, drifting further outwards from R&B into rock and pop territory as if reaching for a new twist on his sound. Rainberry feels Prince-esque, with its funk feel and synth stabs. But it feels like Malik's fame is slipping through his fingers, even with a new album due imminently.

Worth a listen.




Friday, 30 November 2018

Magic Mike Live @ The Hippodrome Theatre

Magic Mike Live @ The Hippodrome Theatre


They say people are sexier with their clothes on. Never has a truer word been said.

Magic Mike Live is of course a show about male strippers, but the men are far sexier when they're not in the semi-buff flashing rock hard abs and twinkling smiles. When they're singing love songs from behind a piano. Tap dancing. Smouldering in suits.

Funnily enough, there's the potential for an interesting show beneath all the gawping and bravado, a show about men and masculinity in all its forms, the truth about female sexual desire. The men themselves are an ethnically diverse bunch who perform multiple dance styles that trade in different shades of masculinity. Confidence. Shyness. Sensuality. Talent. The latter, more than anything, is far sexier than thrusting in a woman's face, be it singing, dancing, athleticism, spinning on a rope from the ceiling, or dancing in the rain.

Yet all this is wrapped up in some horrifying gender politics. We're told we can touch the men, that ladies these men are here for your pleasure. And the audience do as they desire, lustily, greedily grabbing for any pair of buttocks in easy reach. In seeking to flip the male gaze on its head, the show reaches an opposing, shocking extreme. Men aren't allowed to touch women in a strip club, why should women be allowed to touch men?

It's the female MC, played by Sophie Linder-Lee, who represents all the worst qualities of the show. Beyond simply being an irritating distraction between the dances, her dated jokes are full of gross-out humour that utterly cheapen the show. "My minge is like a Tesco Express," she tells us, "it's always open." Later she borders on the xenophobic, asking an Italian dancer to speak English when he lovingly describes a woman in his native language. Rather than aiming for anything nuanced or intelligent, the script is crass and the dancing animalistic to the point of pornography.

Further, it's clear the show is designed exclusively for women. The MC always addresses the audience as ladies. The humour is all female-orientated. And that's despite the multiple men in the audience, be they gay or straight, single or accompanying their spouse. There's a distinct lack of inclusion here, never straying from its heteronormative roots. A show about semi-naked men is always going to attract a gay audience; to not acknowledge that is a missed opportunity that alienates a small but not insignificant portion of the crowd.

That lack of acknowledgement stretches to the dancers themselves, too. It's great that they dive and climb into the audience from all angles to entertain everyone to the full, except anyone who isn't female. Barely a glance or a jokey wink are aimed at the male audience. Instead, these hyper-masculine dancers, so secure in their sexuality, are not so secure as to even laugh at themselves in front of another man. They are slaves to femininity.

Is all this thinking too much on a show about the simple pleasures of sex and stripping? Probably. For those audience members celebrating a birthday/hen-do/special occasion (delete as appropriate), more than tipsy on cocktails and high on the scent of pheromones, this is a highly entertaining evening of male semi-nudity, sweat, after shave and...athletic ability. 10/10 would watch again.

But with its false opening, it's framed as being something more than a shallow cheap show. Yet that's ultimately all it is. It's meant to make us feel empowered. Instead you'll need a cold shower.

2/5

Watch: Magic Mike Live runs at the Hippodrome Theatre until October 2019.


Friday, 23 November 2018

How To Catch A Krampus! @ The Pleasance Theatre

How To Catch A Krampus! @ The Pleasance Theatre

What's a Krampus? According to Central European folklore, it's a horned beast that punishes naughty children at Christmas. It's the anti-Santa, which is fitting for this anti-Christmas show from the drag queens of Sink The Pink.

The story these queens tell is a flimsy one: something about a lost child, a creepy German, and a psychic tasked with rescuing the innocent. Really, it's a loose excuse to put on an outrageous, macabre drag show. Between each of the scenes are hilarious and twisted drag skits: from joke Christmas adverts and dirty Morris dancing, to a mini operetta and more.

It's here that the queens really shine individually, giving the show a riotous feel full of bizarre humour. Ginger Johnson (who also wrote and directed the show) in particular is a brilliant leading lady, who sets the tone with charm and eases us into this spooky narrative, while Mahatma Khandi's opera moment is hilarious and unexpected.

The show is all about taking familiar ideas of panto and putting a twist on them, from riffing on pop songs (there's a particularly saucy version of Rihanna's S&M here from Lavinia Coop), to audience participation, to the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas song given a sadistic twist. The humour throughout is as crude and bawdy as you'd expect from an adult panto, and the horror twist makes this a deliciously different Christmas show.

As a piece of pure theatre it's nonsensical, with a tenuous story and production that's a little rough, though that all fits with the uproarious, hysterical, punk nature of the show. Is it entertaining? You bet your Christmas wig it is.

3/5

Watch: How To Catch A Krampus runs at the Pleasance Theatre until 23rd December.

How To Catch A Krampus! @ The Pleasance Theatre

How To Catch A Krampus! @ The Pleasance Theatre
Photos: Ali Wright

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Dietrich: Natural Duty @ Wilton's Music Hall

Dietrich: Natural Duty @ Wilton's Music Hall

So many heroes and heroines have been torn between love, romance, career and freedom, and a sense of duty - duty to family, morals or, in the case of Marlene Dietrich, to her country. Born in Berlin in 1901, the actress had a highly successful Hollywood career but renounced her German citizenship during World War II to join the American army, entertaining GIs with her cabaret performances. It's an extraordinary story that's captured here by Peter Groom in his one (wo)man drag show.

As a performer, Dietrich was a provocative figure who blurred the boundaries of gender. Her film roles were often sexually charged femme fatales, while on stage she would perform songs typically associated with men wearing top hat and tails. This translates wonderfully to Groom in drag, taking that exploration of gender a step further.

He certainly looks stunning and he encapsulates a coy girlish sexuality, expertly mimicking Dietrich's slow and seductive looks. He reflects a heightened femininity, just as she did, with a tongue in cheek, sexually liberated humour that is nonetheless poised and classy throughout.

The show itself mixes drag with cabaret and song, taking us from Hollywood starlet to wartime heroine. Groom never breaks character, presenting a sort of cabaret show within a cabaret show, his high fluttering voice and free, staccato delivery enchanting from song to song. In these moments of pure performance, he is utterly captivating.

Yet Dietrich's inner turmoil as she battles between duty to her country and a love of filmmaking is perhaps too subtly underplayed, Groom cutting a dignified stage presence that rarely breaks into relatable humanity. This is countered by the disembodied voice of a journalist asking questions during her show, a needless and forced way of pushing the narrative on that breaks the cabaret illusion.

Groom looks every bit the glamorous diva and his performance is touching. Dietrich: Natural Duty may be as featherlight as his voice, but there's just enough here to make you think.

3/5

Watch: Dietrich: Natural Duty runs at the Wilton's Music Hall until 24th November as part of the show's world tour.

Dietrich: Natural Duty @ Wilton's Music Hall
Photos: Monir El Haimar