Gemma Corden

Cultural recommendations for those of us who like going to see stuff but don’t always get it

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Reviews For Friends #26: No Guts, No Heart, No Glory - Birmingham Repertory Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public reviews:

Fizzing with nervous energy

For the truly immersive No Guts, No Heart, No Glory The Studio at Birmingham’s Repertory theatre is transformed into a boxing club where five young Muslim Pakistani women from Bradford smash the mould, challenging the expectations placed upon them by family and society.

Inspired by the experiences of former British Boxing Champion aged just 16, Ambreen Sadiq (who worked closely alongside the production team and cast), and starring former British Universities Female Boxing Champion, Saira Tabasum as herself, No Guts combines monologue, authentic boxing and choreographed movement set to a live, pumping electronic score. Tabasum and co remind us of what it is like to be a teenager, finding our place in the world and...

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Reviews For Friends #25: The Graduate, Crescent Theatre Birmingham

Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the much-loved Charles Webb’s 1963 novel has been brought to life again in this well-crafted effort from the Crescent Theatre.

A smash hit when it first came to the stage at London’s Gielgud Theatre in 2000, this production of The Graduate brings energy to the story of a strange affair between an intelligent but disillusioned college graduate, Benjamin, and the wife of his father’s oldest friend, the infamous Mrs Robinson. The night of Benjamin’s homecoming party sees him embark on a disastrous path of sexual discovery, deceit and love, when he falls for the Robinson’s daughter, Elaine. Ultimately, The Graduate delivers a painful lesson about adulthood and growing up.

The cast is dynamic, the witty comedy delivered with nuanced precision. Mr Braddock in particular is impressive, stealing the show with an effortless Californian drawl, his increasingly...

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Reviews For Friends #24: H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald

The author’s childlike fascination with her subject is beguiling and infectious

This grimly fascinating, genre-bending memoir takes the reader on a strangely gripping journey through love and loss, memory and mythology, nature and psychoanalysis as the author comes to terms with the death of her father.

As a child, Helen Macdonald was enchanted by birds. Her father, a photo-journalist and fellow ‘watcher’, teaches his daughter the art of patience and, as an adult, Macdonald realises her dream of flying hawks, later becoming a Cambridge academic. When her father dies, Macdonald becomes obsessed with the idea of training a hawk of her own. When goshawk Mabel comes into her life, purchased on a ravaged Scottish quayside in the middle of the night, Helen begins a long and challenging journey of taming that leads to a deeply painful - and truly brave - examination of her own self.


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Reviews For Friends #23: At Home With Vanley Burke

Oh, the music. The promise!

For this unusual exhibition, renowned photographer Vanley Burke transports the entire contents of his Nechells flat to a floor in the Ikon Gallery, at once announcing his personal collection as public property and, by the same measure, revealing himself as the subject of his own enquiry.

Born in Jamaica, resident of Birmingham since 1965, Burke is often referred to as the “Godfather of Black Photography” and has spoken about his role as an artist being to observe and record the history of those around him. And what a record he has created. At Home With Vanley Burke is a hoarders paradise - walls are adorned with gig posters, news articles and leaflets. Bookshelves are crammed full of paperbacks and weighty tomes, much of which are - unsurprisingly - photographic publications. There are painfully uncomfortable moments - the golliwogs and masks once...

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Reviews for Friends 22#: Mistress America

Riding high on the success of his previous release (While We Were Young, his highest grossing film to date), Noah Baumbach brings us something with decided bounce. Ebullient NYC iconography abounds. There is homage to Holly Golightly’s fire escape. Crackling hot pink neon and a Hot Chocolate hit announce the end credits. And a self-consciously cool retro-feel soundtrack lends an ironic cheerfulness that persists alongside the characters’ neuroses.

Mistress America is a breathless love story of sorts – two women in awe and fear of each other, fraught with their own anxieties and infatuated with themselves. Tracy (Lola Kirke, fresh from her scene-stealing turn in Gone Girl) finds herself alone and bored in New York. A freshman at Barnard College, she is largely disliked by her peers and apathetic about making friends. As she struggles to find her place in the city, Tracy’s mother suggests...

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My ‘Star for a Day'

London West End Character Itinerary

Character: Cat, from Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Day time activity: Knitting Workshop - Knitting SOS, Stepney Green 10.00am - 12.00pm

Pre-show activity: Fish Restaurant - Ceviche, Soho 17.00pm

West End Show: Breakfast At Tiffany’s at Theatre Royal Haymarket 19.30pm

Post-show activity: Milk bar - The Love Shake, Shoreditch until the early hours!

There’s nothing this kitty loves more than a ball of yarn. Trouble is, Holly’s not much of a knitter. You find any wool in her cupboards. So, I think I’ll take control of my own pleasure and hot foot it over to Stepney Green for a knitting workshop (I know cats can’t knit - I’m just going for the wool…).

I’ll no doubt be in need of some restoring sustenance after all that woolly abandon. And what better than a load of fresh fish. Not the old chippy for me, though - I’m no ordinary cat after all. I’m Holly...

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Reviews For Friends #21: Frank Sinatra Jr. and Orchestra, Sinatra Sings Sinatra - Symphony Hall Birmingham

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

He did it Dad’s way

In a UK tour that joins a series of global tributes and re-releases in celebration of the iconic entertainer’s centennial, Frank Sinatra Jr. promises to show us the real man behind the legend.

Now 71, Sinatra Jr. has toured the world as a singer for half a century, spending the past two decades performing his father’s classic songbook in the show Sinatra Sings Sinatra, now revamped into a multimedia affair. Photos and videos form the backdrop to a considered playlist of songs that Sinatra Jr. uses, alongside a personal narrative of first hand recollections, to tell his father’s story.

The show opens with a rousing instrumental melody of some of the hits, and the 20-piece orchestra certainly has...

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Reviews for Friends #20: The King’s Speech at The REP, Birmingham

“Warm and entertaining, but lacking the rogue in Logue.”

In a co-production between The REP and Chichester Festival Theatre, The REP’s Artistic Director Roxana Silbert has pulled off a warm and sincere take on the much-loved play by David Seilder.

The King is dead, the world stands on the brink of war and heir to the British throne Edward VIII, known to friends and family as David (prepare for royal confusion with further names within names), is causing controversy in his affair with married American socialite (and Nazi sympathiser) Wallis Simpson. As David’s antics continue his brother Bertie (to be King George VI…) is called into the spotlight to take the reigns. But Bertie had always shied away from the public eye, afflicted with an embarrassing stammer. In a desperate bid to help ‘cure’ the future king, his wife calls upon maverick Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue -...

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Reviews for Friends #19: A K Dolven and Nastio Mosquito at the Ikon

AK Dolven - please return

  • and - Nastio Mosquito - DAILY LOVEMAKING

Both at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

There’s a lot going on at the Ikon right now.

The first floor is cast in a bubble of inward contemplation in an exhibition of works by prominent Norwegian artist, AK Dolven. Her exploration of vast landscapes and the marks she makes on them is realised in this collection of works, ‘please return’.

All is white - Dolven believes white surfaces to have “an emptiness that offers possibilities’. In the film ‘when I discovered I wanted to live really long’ (2013) she depicts the jerky movements of a freezing body in an arctic landscape. Positioned at the end of a long and tight corridor, the walls of which are painted in white gloss, the effect is claustrophobic and rather frightening. On closer reading around this piece, the rhythm of the body’s movements is said to be taken from...

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Reviews for Friends #18: Harvey at The REP

  • Make-believe for adults -

I didn’t know what to expect from this last minute booking but I’m very glad I took a punt on this offbeat gem.

For those of you (like me) unfamiliar with the 1950 film starring James Stewart, Harvey is the strangely heartwarming tale of Mr Elwood P. Dowd and his long suffering family who become increasingly concerned, not to mention mortified and socially stunted, by Elwood unusual behaviour. You see, Elwood - a man of 45, wealthy and respected in society - is convinced he has a friend called Harvey, a 6ft 3 white rabbit. Invisible to everyone but Elwood - or is he? - Harvey’s presence in the Dowd household becomes intolerable. Elwood’s sister, exhausted from the cover up and anxious for her daughter to enjoy a smooth passage into adulthood with her reputation unstained, attempts to incarcerate her brother into a psychiatric institution, only to find the...

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