Review: Hallyu! The Korean Wave at the V&A – on now until 25 June 2023

Fashion, art, music and film come together in this stimulating and exciting one-of-a-kind exhibition celebrating pop culture of South Korea.

Upon entering you are immediately struck by content – video screens pop in bright colours, words in large fonts flash and fade, PSY’s Gangnam Style blares from speakers. This is an exhibition unlike anything at V&A before.

Hallyu! The Korean Wave is divided thematically, each section exploring a different element of Korean pop culture; fashion, beauty, art, music and film. However, the exhibit doesn’t just stick to the modern day – historic objects are juxtapositioned against costumes from recent films. The V&A does a fantastic job of blending striking installations with well-placed historically important articles. Each object here contributes to telling the story of post-conflict Korea.

The exhibition design guides you through the show perfectly, the clever use of shop-front-like display cabinets creating intrigue and interest along the way. A little further in, one particular highlight is the space ‘Setting the Scene’. Here, we focus on the success of Korean television drama and film – something that has definitely not gone unnoticed in the UK also. The objects in this space need no labels, as many are household names. We see a full recreation of the bathroom from Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film Parasite, family photos sit behind glass from recent hit Minari and three mannequins stand tall in costumes from the smash Netflix series Squid Game.

The exhibition concludes with ‘Global Groove’ an interactive installation made in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture Lab. Here, you can become a K-Pop star – learn the routines, copy the choreography and see yourself projected on the big screen. An innovative way of involving adults and children alike.

Hallyu! The Korean Wave is a fun and engaging exhibition, and certainly the first of its kind. The exhibition allows us to reflect on and revisit the amazing contributions to popular culture and creativity made by South Korea – a show not to be missed.

‘Hallyu! The Korean Wave’, runs from 24 September 2022 – 25 June 2023 at the V&A South Kensington. Tickets are available here: vam.ac.uk. The exhibition is supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism – Republic of Korea and  Genesis. With additional support from The Bagri Foundation and Netmarble Healer.B

Reviewed by Amy Melling –Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.

Read Amy’s latest review Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics, Barbican Art Gallery (abundantart.net)

Yellowman – Orange Tree Theatre, 5 Sept-8 Oct 22, Review

Yellowman directed by Diane Page and originally written by Dael Orlandersmith, maintains its relevance in a modern-day context, as it did when it was first adapted into a play in 2004. Set in South Carolina the story portrays how colourism prevalent within the communities, particularly within South Carolina, negatively impacted the lives of the darker skinned individuals such as the protagonist Alma (Played by Nadine Higgin). The “Yellowman”, lighter skinned Eugene (Played by Aaron Anthony) falls in love with Alma, and despite the prejudices in the society that they have been exposed to, they are adamant on being together. Yellowman essentially highlights how white supremacy has affected the black community internally, causing ostracism and discrimination from within a community where there should be togetherness.

From a young age Alma’s mother instilled her own hatred for her darker skin into her daughter, causing Alma to develop deep insecurities. She believes no man would ever love her, as she is too “dark and big.” Higgins perfectly portrays a burning emotion of tearing out of the skin that society says is ugly and unlovable and getting rid of an insecurity which plagues Alma’s life. Eugene and Alma meet as kids and become inseparable, gradually evolving from childhood playmates to teenage lovers, deeply and emotionally involved. The play highlights a theme of coming-of-age. Together the two learn to unlearn the social conditioning that has been imposed upon them by their families and the wider society.

With a minimalistic and rather bare set, the staging of the play is kept simple. What stands out is the raw energy of the actors with a realistic appeal. Both the powerful script and acting convey a range of emotions needed to connect with the story and its characters. The story combines lighter scenes of fun and carefree moments of growing up, as well as the deeper and thought-provoking moments of realisation, melancholy, and heartbreak.

Despite the fun moments in scenes where Alma and Eugene are seen hitting a cocktail bar together or are entwined in a loving embrace in their intimate moment of passion, ‘Yelloman’ is essentially a play of heartbreak and agony. What filters through, is two people in love, struggling to escape a generational trauma are trying their best to exist in a world that has told one of them, you are lesser or different! The second half of the play is a dramatic and poignant portrayal of this underpinning theme, ending in a crushing yet poetic climax.

Yellowman is playing at Orange Tree Theatre until October 8th. Book here: https://orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/yellowman/book

Image Credit: Ali Wright

Reviewed by Lian Lakhope. Lian is a MA Global Media and Communications student at SOAS and a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Lian has written for several different publications, mostly about music, culture and film and she is enthusiastic about expressing her passion for creating art and media.

Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics, Barbican Art Gallery, 8 Sept 22-8 Jan 23

Carnal, experimental, affronting: Barbican opens Body Politics, a major retrospective of American performance artist Carolee Schneemann.

Born 1939, Schneemann was ahead of her time, often placing her own body at the centre of her work – something that, despite getting her kicked out of university for ‘moral turpitude’, would become a returning device in her practice. Schneemann was a visual artist, known for her experimental multi-media and performance-based works. Her practice resisted the male saturated New York painting scene at the time by exploring then taboo subjects such as sexuality, gender and the physical form. 

Body Politics is presented in chronological order, beginning with Schneemann’s expressive paintings. Even in her early works, we see Schneemann push the boundaries of the artistic mediums she selects; rapid, frenzied brushstrokes, egg shells crushed in paint, wires pulled taut over canvases. 

As the exhibition continues, the works push further. Some of her later, more well-known works such as ‘Up to and Including Her Limits’ and Meat Joytake centre stage. Both, highly-provocative, nude performance works explore the body as a creative medium, a tool. They are fascinating and historically-important works. 

However, within this abundance of the artist’s works, these pieces, although physically revealing, say little of the artist from an emotional perspective. Instead, more is uncovered in some of the smaller works. ‘Mortal Coils’ 1994-95, sees 8 motorised ropes hang from the ceiling, slowly pushing their way through small piles of sand. The walls are covered with projections; refracted images of deceased friends’ faces and snapshots of ‘in memoriam’ obituaries from The New York Times. The work speaks of Schneemann’s succession of losses during the AIDS epidemic – the ropes drift in endless circles reflecting the cycle of life, death and grief. 

Body Politics is a deep dive into the life and work of Carolee Schneemann. Her work is powerful; distressing and touching in equal measure. Moreover, it is interesting to reflect on these works in the modern day – what is relevant, what is obsolete? Despite how the works have aged, Schneemann still remains a point of reference for many.

Reviewed by Amy Melling – Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.

Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics is showing at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, until 8 January. Tickets are available here.

Image Description: Eye Body 36 Transformative Actions for Camera

Foot Notes:

Body Politics is the first major survey of Carolee Schneemann’s work in the UK, tracing her diverse, transgressive and interdisciplinary expression over six decades.

The exhibition features the artist’s early paintings; her experimental sculptural assemblages and kinetic works; her pioneering performance work in which she used her own body as a medium; her ground-breaking group performances; as well as her lyrical films and immersive multi-media installations. With over 200 objects and rarely seen archival material, this exhibition positions Schneemann as one of the most relevant, provocative and inspiring artists of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. 

Glamrou at Soho Theatre, 5-10 Sept 2022, Review

A day after the passing of Britain’s longest-ruling monarch, I was coincidentally offered the chance to meet a lesser-known Queen at the Soho Theatre. This irony was not lost upon the eponymous Glamrou, whose creator managed to incorporate Britain’s mournful circumstances into their one-woman drag show.

As the alter-ego of Glamrou, non-binary actor and screenwriter Amrou Al-Khadi comes across as remarkably British; yet, of course, this performer’s Muslim identity and Iraqi roots immediately distinguish them from other queens. Glamrou slips between polarizing binaries – she is both a girl and a boy, British and Iraqi, queer and Muslim. Most startlingly, perhaps, she is both a suspected terrorist and, swathed in a body-con Union Jack, she is also an English queen. In role-playing each of these social constructs through the provocative and equally constructed persona of Glamrou, Amrou Al-Khadi illustrates the complexity and beauty of living in a state of playful contradiction.

What I loved about this show is how Al-Khadi works with the tropes of drag to emphasise certain contours of their story. Glamrou gleefully revels in being centre-stage whilst also couching in her story in heavily acerbic self-deprecation. Narcissism and self-loathing are textbook indicators of trauma; as Glamrou, Al-Khadi works with these behaviours to survive retelling their story onstage. If various aspects of Amrou’s cultural heritage exist in conflict with one another, drag is the perfect medium to play with – and indeed satirise – that conflict. Everything Glamrou says is ironic, horrifically self-aware and gloriously self-obsessed; ultimately, though, both drag (and more widely, the tonality we call ‘camp’) is light-hearted in its theatricality. This brings with it a political force: if Glamrou can make fun of the contradictory constituents of Amrou’s identity, she is able to acknowledge and even make space for a whole community of people like me who never quite fit in. She doesn’t even need fancy words or a university degree to get the audience to understand: quite simply, she just makes us laugh at the messy picture she paints.

As a brown drag-queen, indeed a Muslim queer with a British accent, Glamrou provides a much-needed intervention into the commercialized form of drag that has hit the mainstream. Unlike RuPau’s Drag Race which is devoid of the political transgression that characterised the original 90s New York drag scene, Glamrou reinvigorates her genre with radical boundary-pushing. She sings in Arabic whilst thrusting her pelvis; she accuses the largely white audience of both racism and Islamophobia. She metaphorically frames rejecting Islam as a teenager with breaking up with a first boyfriend and makes puns on ‘Allah’ in her versions of 2000s pop songs. I’m wondering whether my editors will publish these few written examples of what Glamrou sung and screamed onstage.

That’s not to say Glamrou’s show was all about shocking the audience for no reason or eliding the very serious kinds of marginalization that Amrou has experienced life-long.

Midway through the show, Glamrou recounts childhood attempts at performing whiteness at the expense of their Iraqi heritage. For example, at Eton college where Amrou went to school, a teenage Amrou escapes relentless bullying by lauding British culture and painting themself a survivor of the barbaric Middle East. Amrou’s rejection of Islam and at-times hatred of Allah (as performed through song) are gut-wrenching, perhaps all the more so for yours truly because it resonated. Glamrou’s rendition of such scenes are hilarious; but each of these anecdotes are uncomfortable and even painful. For me, the strength of Glamrou’s act lies in how she carefully balances the various emotional responses that her words conjure: with startling candour, Glamrou enacts her writer’s attempts at self-erasure, whilst with calculated irony, she detaches herself from trauma through comedy.

What Glamrou does onstage is important and necessary: firstly, because spotlights with true bravado those who don’t ever quite belong; and secondly, because she makes not-belonging okay. At the same time, Glamrou urges us to hold accountable those who gatekeep certain spaces: quite obviously, that includes Eton boys, but perhaps more surprisingly is the culpability of the majority-white queer community. And yet I caught members of the audience shaking their heads with bemused delight, rather than despair; and therein lies the strength of creating a queen like Glamrou to tell your story.

Directed by Seif Abdel Salam with Musical Direction from Porscha Present.

Image Credit: Harry Carr

 Review by Sophia SheeraSophia is a writer interested in migration, cultural citizenship, displacement and queerness with a focus on Central Asia and Northern India. Sophia is inspired by talking to the people whose stories are sidetracked by sensationalist headlines, and as such aspires to share those counter-narratives through political journalism.

Foot notes:

Amrou Al-Kadhi is a drag queen, actor, screenwriter and author. Their memoir, Life as a Unicorn: A Journey from Shame to Pride and Everything In Between, was published by Harper Collins in the UK and the US and won the Polari First Book Prize and the Somerset Maugham award – it has received praise from Ian McKellen, Russell T Davies, Joanna Lumley, Kumail Nanjiani & Emily Gordon, and many others. It is also being adapted into a television show by Universal Studios and The Forge Entertainment – more info on this in due course.

As a screenwriter, Amrou co-wrote the final episode of Apple’s Little America, which The Hollywood Reporter called ‘the show’s pinnacle,’ and named as one of the best 10 episodes of television in 2020; this episode has also just won a Glaad award, with the series nominated for Best New Scripted Series at the Independent Spirit awards.

Amrou was also a writer on BBC America’s series The Watch, and has sold pilot scripts to FX Productions, ABC and BBC Drama. They have written many episodes for Channel 4’s longest running soap opera, Hollyoaks. Their first feature as writer/director, LAYLA, a contemporary queer Romeo & Juliet immersed in the warring factions of the gay community during Pride, is greenlit by Film4 and The BFI and is produced by Savannah James Bayly & producer of Sorry To Both You, Nina Yang. 

As an actor, Amrou has principal credits in Carnival Row (Series 2), Venom 2, Christopher Robin (Disney), The Souvenir 2 (Joanna Hogg), Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, and many others. Amrou has written & directed four short films, which have been broadcast on PBS, NOWNESS, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, BFI-Player, Revry, and which have screened and won awards at festivals internationally, including the BFI London Film Festival plus more

Sarah Akinterinwa & Mary Darly: A Dialogue Exhibition at the Cartoon Museum hopes to spark women and girls to pursue creative careers and share their art with the world

‘For a lot of women from African and Caribbean backgrounds, their parents don’t encourage creative careers – but I think there are a lot of women and girls who do want to do creative careers. I want to inspire black women and say to them ‘you CAN make this a career. You can be a woman artist’. I hope that exploring the history of women in cartooning and having this conversation paves the way for other women cartoonists to share their work with the world.” Sarah Akinterinwa

Taking the cartoon industry to new levels, Sarah Akinterinwa is an editorial illustrator, character designer, graphic designer, fine artist, and the first black British woman to become a New Yorker Magazine cartoonist. She is the creator and artist behind the Black-British cartoon Oyin and Kojo and is based in London.

She’s currently exhibiting her work in a new exhibition at the Cartoon Museum in Fitzrovia alongside the ‘first professional female cartoonist’, a caricaturist and printseller in eighteenth-century Britain Mary Darly, so we took the opportunity to visit the museum whilst Sarah was there. Because Sarah is passionate about inspiring women to be artists, I asked Sarah what advice you would give to a young person wanting to pursue a career as a cartoonist. Her advice to any budding cartoonist is to draw every day, find your own style and rhythm, believe in yourself and be open to criticism. I thought after talking to her that I was pretty good at drawing at school, but nobody encouraged me to pursue drawing. Not my intimidating art teacher who complimented my work infront of the whole class and neither did my parents. Had they encouraged me perhaps I would have pursued it further. I found my own random way into working in the arts, but thought it would have been easier had I felt some solid encouragement from someone much earlier on.

For this thought-provoking exhibition, Sarah has created an exclusive collection of new pieces that share the stories of the people of contemporary London such as ‘The Next Generation’, ‘The Tired Server on Bond Street’, ‘The Busker in the Underground’, ‘The Influencer’ and ‘The Tourist’. Sarah’s work shares the same roots as Darly, capturing ‘her London in her time’, and the lives of the people around her. The show celebrates the diversity of London and inequalities that still exist and hopefully will inspire more girls and women to become cartoonists and share their reflections, as drawing cartoons is an incredible way to share stories. Cartoonists spend a lot of time making fun of people, but they also have the power to say things that are normally difficult to say through humour, irony and pictures and can highlight important issues. This made me wonder what I would draw and write to sum up my life at the moment. Or perhaps I could share something unjust or difficult to resolve that’s really bothering me at the moment in a cartoon.

One very important issue that was brought up during our visit is the topic of gender imbalance in the cartoon industry. It is common knowledge that white male cartoonists have monopolised the cartoon industry for ages and the Cartoon Museum themselves are addressing the gender imbalance of the cartoonists they exhibit currently (200 are men and 33 are women). We know that the U.S is ahead of the UK in addressing this balance and interestingly 60% of cartoonists in Egypt are women.  Perhaps someone needs to draw a cartoon to stress the gender imbalance and help women cartoonists be taken more seriously. Maybe this would prompt the magazine industry to step up and print more women cartoonist’s work. Let’s hope this new wave of female creators emerging continues on and on. As how can we identify with stories if we only have one type of person sharing them? And it’s not as if there isn’t enough space online to share cartoons.

A Dialogue exhibition (11 August – 13 November 2022) explores the work of Sarah Akinterinwa and Mary Darly through an artistic dialogue reaching back 250 years.

Ticket info: www.cartoonmuseum.org

Written by Jules Nelson who does marketing and operations for Abundant Art.

Beyond Bollywood – Peacock Theatre, Sadlers Wells Review

Premiering at the Peacock Theatre, Beyond Bollywood, is a colourful performance, taking the audience on a journey through Indian culture, dance and music, flaunting the vibrancy of Bollywood.

Written, directed and choreographed by Rajeev Goswami, Beyond Bollywood, is a story of a young dancer, Shaily Shergill, who aspires to continue her mother’s legacy in Germany as a traditional Kathak dancer. In search of inspiration and seeking to revive her family’s failing theatre, Shaily ventures out to India to explore Bollywood…and beyond. Upon her journey, Shaily encounters Raghav and Bhallu, who introduce her to the variety of traditional dances across India, including kalbelia, lezim, bihu, garba and kathak.

The performance was exciting and enthralling, it felt just as if I was watching a hit Bollywood movie. Filled with romance, comedy (and lots of music and dance!), this play is an extravagant display of Bollywood. The play also includes an element of fusion, between western and Indian cultures, expressed through the relationship which begins to form between Shaily and Raghav. As choreographers, they merge their ideas together through dance. It also explores the relationship between modern Bollywood dance and traditional folk dances.

Just like any typical Bollywood movie, there must be romance! The story of Shaily and Raghav is charming and exciting, emphasising how dance can bring people together.

A highlight for me, was watching Bhallu, Raghav’s best friend/sidekick, who embodied the typical comedic role which is central to many hit Bollywood movies. The style of humour was refreshing to see and gained many laughs from me!

The show was a visual sensation – I thoroughly enjoyed watching the various dance styles and dazzling costumes, tied together by the colourful backdrops and lighting. I was fully engaged throughout the show and had a great time in the audience! Beyond Bollywood adds a new flair to theatre and creates diversity; it was great to watch something so similar to Bollywood live, rather than on the screen.

I would highly recommend watching Beyond Bollywood to any Bollywood or dance fans. Or even if you just want to enlighten yourself to something new. The show is on until 3 September 2022, so be quick!

Find tickets here: www.sadlerswells.com 

Photography courtesy of Beyond Bollywood

Reviewed by Ridha Sheikh – Ridha is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. She is a graduate in History and Politics from Queen Mary – University of London. Ridha is excited to explore and share her strong passion for London’s art scene.

DOMITIUS Musical – Review

We are in an artistical period where the public has seen most of what there is to see: we all studied Greek tragedies in school, we can see any movie we want from our phone, we all have seen at least a pair of musicals here and there, and we all have the same access to pop-culture on the internet. We are overflooded with entertainment and have become an audience that is really hard to impress, let alone surprise. And yet, when watching Henry Gu Cao’s, Lux Knightley’s and Luke McCormick’s Domitius the musical, I had no idea what to expect. The play used multiple tropes from a multitude of different genres, creating a rather refreshing form of storytelling that was closer to Hamilton or Grease rather than an actual Ancient tragedy. It told the story of the infamous Roman emperor Nero and his descent into madness, which culminated in him burning Rome to the ground. A well-known and a rather sombre chapter of Ancient history, the play managed to subvert the genre by creating quite an original patchwork of Classical tragedy, Shakespearian-like verses and musical theatre that flirts with anachronisms, humour and modern references. Sure, the multiple death scenes were tragic, but one couldn’t refrain from dancing along to the extremely catchy 80s songs that accompanied them.

However, most of the characters fell into very pre-defined tropes: Agrippina (Nicolle Smartt) was the classic evil stepmother, Octavia (Hannah Kiss) was the loving but dumb wife, Poppaea (Judy Blu) the manipulative seductress, Seneca (Stewart Briggs) the wise mentor. Nero (Max Himmelreich) was interestingly rewritten as a young aspirant artist, whose only dream was to shine as a theatre star. This is a rather unknown aspect of the real-life Roman Emperor, and the play decided to turn this trait to the maximum, creating a character whose only drive throughout the whole story is to be a star, and who could not care less about being emperor. We see him evolve from a dreamy artist to a self-entitled and careless new emperor, to a completely paranoid tyrant. And yet, Nero is written in an almost likable way, which made me wonder if they would actually make him the antagonist of the story. He is more of the victim in a certain sense, as his progressive madness seems almost unexplained and it is hinted that he is possessed by the ghost of the mad emperor Caligula.

And yet, like every good musical, the most memorable aspect of the play was undoubtedly the musical performance, directed by Luke McCormick and Lux Knightley. The score, supported by a nine-piece band featuring a drum and two electric guitars, had a pop-rock aspect that made it terribly catchy. The actors’ singing range was also remarkable, as they all displayed a vocal talent and stage presence worth any Broadway musical. Max Himmelreich was the perfect leading man and delivered an enthusiastic, energetic and impressive rendition of the young emperor. The talented cast and the musical score were certainly the strongest aspects of the play, as certain other elements such as stage design and choreography were still a little rough around the edges. A second reproduction of the musical would certainly benefit from a bigger budget and offer a more grandiose experience worthy of a Roman emperor.

But overall the play was still a perfect cocktail of humour, tragedy, music, compelling cast members and dramatic storytelling. It offered a very welcome and refreshing twist on classical theatre and has potential for an even more sensational future in the London scene. To make us feel sympathy for one of the most cartoonishly evil figures of Ancient history, this play really knows what it’s doing.

Website: domitiusmusical.com

Photography: The Domitius Production Collective LLP

Reviewed by Céline Galletti – Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the city’s vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.

Folk Funk and Trippy Troubadours: Vol. 1, by Paul Hillery – Album Review

A few months ago, I saw a man sitting with his back against the handlebars, peddling backwards so that his bike moved forwards on the main road; he was facing the wrong way, but turned his head periodically so that he could see in front of him (or behind him, depending on how you interpret the scenario). This is an apt metaphor for the musical vocation of Paul Hillery, at least more so than the image of someone sitting in a backward-facing seat on a train. Hillery is no passenger on the inexorable yet comfortable train of life but instead propels himself forward, with his eyes fixed firmly on the past. Only infrequently he labours to crane his neck in the direction he’s travelling, kind-of-but-not-completely-sure of where he’s going. I’ve never met him, but that’s the impression I get from listening to his compilation of Folk Funk and Trippy Troubadours.

Hillery describes the ‘folk-funk groove’ as ‘sound[ing] like it has one leg shorter than the other’ and adds that he included ‘Trippy Troubadours’ for ‘wiggle room from the genre police.’ (He doesn’t mention, however, why the genre police’s opinions are of concern to him.)  Nevertheless, Hillery’s large-scale crate excavation of psychedelic sounds is immense, and ranges from the literal crates of record boxes and tapes to the metaphorical crates of the internet – the latter potentially more intimidating than the former. In the blunt nostalgia of the compilation and the kookiness of its title, Folk Funk recalls Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, the garage rock compilation released only four years after the first psychedelic era supposedly ended.

Like Nuggets, this documentation of folk-funk lays bare an obsession with a specific type of rhythm, melody, and sound. And as with much fandom, the capacity of the stan (in yesterday’s parlance: ‘fanatic’) to differentiate what is really good from what merely satisfies his urge to discover more of what he’s looking for is not always good. But even a clock with one hand shorter than the other—but not in the right way—is right at least twice a day. Seriously good highlights include openers ‘Space Out’ and ‘Mr Sadness’, ‘Blue Sunny Sky Day’, and the admittedly too catchy ‘Sweet Sweet Stay A While’. A personal favourite is ‘Clouds Lift’, and another is ‘Cherry Blossom Oak’, which was actually only written and recorded in the last five years.

The attempt to rewrite history with the trippy troubadours that should have found fame instead of those who did falls flat at a few points. But Hillery’s commitment to finding the best of this oddly specific yet also quite broad sound is remarkable. Like with an actual archaeological dig, very little of what you see when digging crates is of value. Of that which is valuable, its value will be only to those with niche expertise (e.g. archaeologists and academics). Still, nuggets of gold with universal appeal will emerge from the labour. While we may look with confusion at the backward-facing cyclist, who surely awaits a collision, we can marvel at his commitment regardless.

Available on double gatefold vinyl on sky blue and black variants, pre-order here

Listen to first single ‘Sweet Sweet Stay A While’ by Jeb Loy Nichols here

Cian Kinsella is a Classics teacher and part-time pub quizmaster living in London who is primarily interested in music but is also interested in theatre, literature, and visual arts. He is particularly intrigued by the relationship between art, criticism, and the capital forces always at play. Furthermore, he believes that subjectivity – which is ultimately at the heart of all artistic and cultural criticism – should not be concealed, but probed and perhaps even celebrated. Who decides what we like? How do they construct widely held beliefs about what is good? These are two of the questions Cian looks to address.

Chasing Hares – Young Vic Theatre Review

At its heart, Chasing Hares is a drama exploring relationships and sacrifice – about one man navigating the line between morality and providing for his family.

Set in 2000s Kolkata, Chasing Hares follows Prab (Irfan Shamji) a machinist at the Khub Bhalo factory, as production halts due to a lack of orders. Employees are left stranded and unsupported, forced to wait outside the factory gates each morning in the hope of getting work. Intimate conversations between Prab and his wife, Kajol (Zainab Hasan), reveal their struggles. Here, Shamji and Hasan both deliver powerful performances, keeping the audience engaged throughout. 

It soon becomes clear that former student activist, Prab, must choose between joining the picket line and feeding his family. Consequently, Prab, a gifted storyteller, befriends the factory owner’s son, Dev (Scott Karim), by offering to write new material for his failing theatre troupe. As the factory reopens, Prab is promoted to a managerial position where his ethical boundaries are pushed even further. When Dev hires child workers in an attempt to cut costs, the rest of the workforce becomes increasingly furious and begins to fight back. Prab must decide which side he wants to fight for.

Moi Tran’s stage design is modest yet effective – with cold, grey factory walls being transformed into domestic spaces with nothing but the descent of a well-placed ceiling lamp. Sporadically, the front portion of the stage rotates to reflect the changing scenery and the actors move effortlessly over it. The lighting and projections are also incredibly moving, the walls covered with shadow animals as the characters recount folk and childhood tales. 

As the play concludes, Prab’s precarious work situation in the factory is mirrored as his daughter Amba (Saroja-Lily Ratnavel) navigates the current day UK gig economy. Amba reflects on her father’s legacy and encourages her colleagues to unionise and protest against their work conditions. Despite strong performances from all cast members, the ending feels a little uninspiring. However, the production is still timely and touching – the message feels particularly vital at a time when it is necessary for so many workers to strike.

Scott Karim and Irfan Shamji in Chasing Hares at Young Vic (c)Isha ShahDesign by Moi Tran, Lighting Design by Jai Morjaria & Video Design by Akhila KrishnanPhotography by Isha Shah/Akhila Krishnan.

Reviewed by Amy Melling – Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.

In The Black Fantastic – Hayward Gallery Review

Light installations, emotive paintings and intricate sculptural costumes – Hayward’s latest offering showcases eleven contemporary artists from the African diaspora. In The Black Fantastic exhibits multidisciplinary works exploring science fiction, spirituality, myth and Afrofuturism. The works imagine new futures, free from racial injustice and inequality. 

The exhibition is varied and visually impactful. Many of the artworks take over entire spaces, affecting the viewer’s senses as they weave between the works. In Rachaad Newsome’s space, a heavy bass reverberates around the room, a video flashes in the corner and frames of collaged figures are lit by harsh spotlights along the wall. This environment removes the viewer from the traditional, stuffy preconceptions of the gallery and allows them to connect with the works in a different way.

Upstairs this continues – Cauleen Smith’s mixed-media installation stops you in your tracks. Epistrophy, 2018 is composed of a large central round table containing a jumble of wires, monitors, CCTV cameras, tiny figurines and house plants. The walls opposite the table are covered with bright projections – imagery created from the intimate scenes on the table, magnified and saturated. Smith’s work is often concerned with the everyday possibilities of the imagination and this piece is no exception. Here, Smith creates a space where time and place cannot be identified, where there is no space for familiar narratives. The work is immersive and dream-like. 

In The Black Fantastic is curated with care and precision by the writer-journalist-curator, Ekow Eshun. Eshun’s chosen layout allows each artist just the right amount of space to reveal their individual perspectives, whilst still maintaining cohesion in the show. Eshun ruminates the show as “a way of acknowledging, a way of looking at the racialised everyday beyond the constraints that the Western imaginary has put around Black beings, Black personhood and Black experiences”

In The Black Fantastic is absorbing and powerful – one not to be missed.

Installation view of Rachaad Newsome works, In the Black Fantastic at Hayward Gallery, 2022. Photography by Zeinab Batchelor, courtesy of the Hayward Gallery.

In The Black Fantastic is supported by the US Embassy London, Gagosian, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and The London Community Foundation, Victoria Miro, David Zwirner, Pilar Corrias and Sprüth Magers. In The Black Fantastic is showing at Hayward Gallery until 18th September 2022. Tickets are available to purchase here.

Reviewed by Amy Melling – Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.