BOYZ NITE OUT | London, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club


What a week for queer theatre that’s full of joy with a feminist bent! Acclaimed Drag King troupe BOYZ are heading up a Drag King Club Night at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, featuring the well-known stars Johnny Rubber, Wesley Dykes, Fanta Le Mon, and many others.

Sending up the nineties (and noughties) boy band invasion, BOYZ promise: “sweet, sweet tunes, and moves, from your fave decade”. Nostalgia. What absolutely categorises BOYZ‘ drag is its joy, silliness, and inclusivity. It’s a real party, and everyone’s invited.

There is, of course, a political edge. RuPaul’s Drag Race is now fully mainstream, and the bitchy, diva drag queen is now a little passé. Meanwhile, a drag king revolution has been kicked off in London in the past few years by the likes of BOYZ and Pecs: The Drag King Collective.

The show, starring BOYZ and special guests, runs 9pm-10:30pm (doors at 8pm). BOYZ‘ shows are always extremely popular, and seats are unreserved, so get there early to bag a table and a drink. After the show, keep the party going with DJing into the wee hours.

Book online now and save 30% on tickets!

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KINGDOM | London, Camden People’s Theatre


Created by Celine Lowenthal (Show Boat West End; Shadwell Opera) and Temi Wilkey (Hamlet RSC; Pecs: The Drag King Collective), Kingdom is a surrealist love song about two queer best friends who share a bedroom.

Step inside the kingdom of a couple of high femme weirdos with a magical world of their own. Taking place somewhere between the dream world of their minds and the real-life space of their very own bedroom, this show is a joyous celebration of queer friendship and feminine intimacy.

Creator Temi Wilkey explains in no uncertain terms: “We want to make theatre drenched in queerness and femininity, exploring and celebrating the magic of genuine intimacy; theatre that can offer something beautiful to the world, as an antidote to the cynicism and cruelty that often seems to pervade it.”

Kingdom is part of AndWhat? Queer Arts Festival; an October long celebration of the newest Queer-led cultural and artistic experiences, all across London.

Kingdom will play for three performances only, so book now.

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DITA VON TEESE | Monaco, Opéra Garnier


46-year-old Dita Von Teese is the Queen of Burlesque; a household name known for the epitome of glamour and voluptuousness.

The American icon is currently touring internationally, hitting up such iconic venues as the sumptuously decorated Opéra Garnier of the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco, and the London Palladium.

Although known as a pioneer of Neo-Burlesque in the 1990s, Von Teese’s routines are highly influenced by the glamour of the 1930s and 1940s, including her showstopping signature act, featuring Von Teese bathing and splashing in a giant martini glass.

Performing alongside Dita (with her astonishing array of couture) are other bright stars from the world of Burlesque, including some seductive boylesque performers, guaranteeing pleasure for everyone.

Dita Von Teese is performing in Monaco for one night only, on 20 October 2018.

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CAMELOT (LMTO) | London Palladium


The London Musical Theatre Orchestra, the world’s only professional orchestra dedicated to performing musical theatre repertoire, have enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame since their debut outing in 2016.

The opportunity to hear Lerner and Loewe’s magnificent score for Camelot (1960), with a full orchestra and chorus, back home at the London Palladium, where it ran for 518 performances, cannot be missed.

“It all started with a semi-serious Facebook post in 2015,” grins LMTO’s conductor and artistic director, 26-year-old Freddie Tapner. “I wondered if we could get together enough people for an orchestra, just for fun, to have a play through of a musical. In just a few hours I had more responses than I knew what to do with.”

As usual, an all-star West End cast will join the LMTO including Sam Swann, Clive Carter, Celinde Schoenmaker, Matthew McKenna, Emmanuel Kojo, Oliver Savile and Raphael Higgins-Humes.

Tapner is used to working with singers of the highest quality, but even he seems giddy at the prospect: “I’m extraordinarily excited to be working with this sensational cast.”

Camelot hasn’t been seen in the West End for thirty years, and we can’t wait to share this glorious score with you.”

LMTO’s concert production of Camelot will run for one performance only, Saturday 6 October 2018, so book now.

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BRYONY KIMMINGS: I’M A PHOENIX, BITCH | London, Battersea Arts Centre


Bryony Kimmings is renowned for her outlandish “social experiments”, with previous works seeing her retrace an STI to its source, spending seven days in a controlled environment in a constant state of intoxication, and becoming a pop star invented by a nine-year-old girl. Her most recent work, A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer, was commissioned by Complicite and presented at the National Theatre.

In 2016 Kimmings nearly drowned: dealing with postnatal breakdowns, an imploding relationship and a very sick child. In 2018, Battersea Arts Centre invited her to create her first solo work in nearly a decade for the previously burnt down Grand Hall.  I’m a Phoenix, Bitch combines personal stories with epic film, soundscapes and ethereal music to create a powerful, dark and joyful work about motherhood, heartbreak and finding inner strength.

“My shows are usually born out of me going: ‘We don’t talk about this enough,'” Kimmings explains. “My hope with this show is to give a voice to the almost unspeakable traumas associated with postnatal depression and an ill child.  I want to create a show that cuts to the heart of these things, but does it in a way that people can relate to.”

Every performance of I’m a Phoenix, Bitch is relaxed, which means guests who can benefit from a more relaxed environment are welcome – there is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement and a designated ‘chill-out space’ is provided. The 19th October performance is captioned and BSL interpreted.

I’m a Phoenix, Bitch runs at the Battersea Arts Centre 3 – 20 October 2018.

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THE WIDER EARTH | London, Natural History Museum


In an exciting collaboration, the National History Museum will be hosting The Wider Earth, an award-winning drama about 22-year old Charles Darwin’s voyage across the globe. Fronted by six young actors bubbling with enthusiasm, the show will bring originality, energy and fun to the story of Darwin’s five-year expedition on HMS Beagle.

The production will be fast-paced and colorful, combining an original score (Lior and Tony Buchen) with live drawings (Justin Harrison) projected on a concave backdrop. The centrepiece is a revolving set (David Morton, Aaron Barton) that offers a deconstructed version of rich wood-paneled HMS Beagle, offering unexpected vistas and angles.

The production, set in the beautiful Jerwood Gallery, will be framed with stone arches and a vaulted ceiling. Seating 357 people, this sparse and elegant space will provide a uniquely immersive experience for the audience. They’ll also pass by the Darwin Centre on their way to the show, to get them in the mood.

The play’s most charming attraction may well be its thirty puppets of iguanas, armadillos and other creatures, conceived by the Dead Puppets Society. These wooden cutouts move just like real animals; the actors operate them as feral extensions of their own bodies. Seeing it all come to life was magical, and enough to warrant this reviewer buying a ticket for opening night. Don’t miss it.

The Wider Earth runs from 2 October to 30 December 2018.

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“Are we old?”

I immediately check for protruding nostril hairs but, finding none, decide that the girlfriend is probably referring to our sitting in a field in the Brecon Beacons nattering idly about how pretty the sky over there looks and how great it is to go to bed before midnight.

I reply that this conversation will probably form the focal point of my post-festival write-up, and from there launch into a diatribe about gonzo journalism. She looks at me, blinks, then answers her own question “Yes, I suppose we are”.

While we might be getting old, our approach to Green Man 2018 is for us radically new. In the ultimate act of quarter-life rebellion against the Man (not the Green one, obviously) we shun the proscriptive dogma of the festival timetable and march blindly into the arena, following our noses wherever the wind may take us. This adventurous approach offers many advantages to the newly grown-up millennial, chief among them spontaneity and a sensibly middle-aged avoidance of the £8 programme price tag.

We’ve picked the festival deliberately as seemingly the best counterpoint to our frenetic, borderline illegally-polluted London existence; everything about it from the achingly pretty hilltop setting, the on-site yoga, to the accessible Indie/Folk line-up doesn’t so much scream as reassuringly intone relaxation.

One big exception to the easy-listening vibes is Friday’s headliner, the high-octane King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard. I first came across this psychedelic Australian septet at Glastonbury last year and I thought there was something refreshingly if unnervingly different about them. A year on and seeing them headline an opening night blew me away. They are masters of their craft, and their craft is to stand at the meeting point between order and musical chaos, trusting in each other’s ability, Stu Mackenzie’s occasional marshalling and the awesome eternal power of the trippy backing video to guide them and their audience to alt-rock nirvana. Five minutes in the girlfriend told me she didn’t like them that much; three days later and I just overheard her humming Rattlesnake.

In between headliners we bumble around the various stages spurred by our radical carefree attitude to being anywhere in particular. We stumble on all sorts of hidden gems: Annie McGrath giving an expletive-strewn stand-up set that’s as incongruous with her public school accent as it is unsuitable for eight year olds; the Monster Ceilidh Band brewing up an electro-folky storm in Chai Wallahs; and Rob Deering proving that loop pedals aren’t just for Ed Sheeran and can also be used for entertainment.

I should talk about Fleet Foxes, but given that I listened to their set from the comfort of a cosily furnished street food café round the corner from the main stage I’ll talk about the food instead. The emergent grumpy old man in me wants to rail about the price, but that’s just him not going to many festivals (although as a Londoner the dearth of places accepting card was somewhat unsettling). For Green Man’s size, the array and quality of the food on offer is excellent, and in trendy rejuvenating style vegetarian and vegan eaters are more than adequately catered for (Pie Minister, one of the less healthy outlets, sold out of their three vegetarian and vegan pies before any of their meat options). Particular highlights were the Dosa stand opposite the main stage that drew a shout out from Grizzly Bear and created the world’s first ever onion bhaji too big for me to eat it all, and a ‘Bit of Everything’ from Flavours of Africa.

Grizzly Bear, finishing their European tour promoting their new album, kicked off Sunday evening nicely before handing over to the War on Drugs. The headliners first performed at Green Man ten years ago and Adam Granduciel seems endearingly excited to be back, botching the intro to Strangest Thing after enthusiastically hoofing an inflatable ball back into the crowd. Having seen WoD a few times and as a devoted fan of their recorded work, I’m yet to see a live rendition of Baby Missiles that works for me. Whether it’s unavoidable or deliberate there always seems to be a layer missing, meaning the punchy upbeat riff gets lost in a sea of indistinct chords. In my view, however, this is a vanishingly small price to pay for the power and depth of sound they’re able to pack into their big numbers. Under The Pressure, leading into In Reverse against an exquisite backdrop of rolling Welsh hillside, draws a worthy musical curtain across a thoroughly charming festival.

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MAKLENA | London, Camden People’s Theatre

Theatre - Recommended

Following rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, Night Train Theatre Company’s production of Maklena marks the English-language premiere of this Ukrainian play by Mykola Kulish, which was banned by the Soviet authorities in 1933, and lost to the world to decades.

The play might be nearly a hundred years old, but director Maria Montague’s brand-new translation is fresh as a daisy. The themes of unbearable poverty and revolution, seen through the eyes of a young girl trying to make sense of the world, remain charged and provocative.

In addition to the remarkable text itself, Night Train use puppetry and physical theatre to brilliant effect. The text veers unpredictably between moments of guttural, suicidal misery and light, madcap joy. The cast of six guide us through in a strange, sepia world, as Maklena retreats further into her fantasies, pushing her understanding of communist and capitalist ideologies to the extreme.

The music by Oliver Vibrans is rich and evocative in a way few theatre scores ever manage, and help us connect even further with Maklena’s harrowing world.

The rediscovery of such an important play, in such a perfect production, is a remarkable theatre event. A must see.

For five performances only at the Camden People’s Theatre, 17 – 21 July 2018.

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One needn’t seek a special excuse to visit the idyllic shores of Lake Geneva: the natural beauty and tranquility of the region are reason enough. However, if you are looking for a bullet-proof justification for a trip, the musical delights of the Montreux Jazz Festival are just the ticket.

The festival has been growing in diversity, confidence and reputation for over half a century and the result is what Quincy Jones describes as ‘the Rolls Royce of all festivals and the absolute best place for musicians to share their gifts with the rest of the world’. The 52nd festival encompasses a dazzling array of ticketed concerts as well as more than 250 concerts, DJ sets, and workshops on six stages — a generous offering by anyone’s standards.

In terms of musical expectations, Q himself is an excellent reference point as Montreux is a meeting point of all sorts of genres. This year, Deep Purple rub shoulders with Mils Frahm. Massive Attack follows Young Fathers. Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin , Christian Scott and Derrick Hodge do the jazz thang on one stage while Queens of the Stone Age rock out on another.

Light on the ‘jazz’, heavy on the ‘festival’: you know where the party’s at in Switzerland, 29 June – 14 July this summer. Explore the full programme here and the free listings here.

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The relationship between Scotland and France – the Auld Alliance, as it’s fondly known north of the border – is one of history’s greatest bromances. It was forged around a mutual distrust of England. Legend has it that William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, even went to France to fight the English there, a sort of medieval hooligan’s holiday. Two centuries later, Mary Queen of Scots grew up in France, then illuminated Scotland with Gallic glamour before the English rather unkindly cut off her head.

But now we live in more civilised times, and relations with the Auld Enemy are somewhat less murderous. Franco-Scottish relations need a newer, nicer sense of purpose.

Glenlivet, one of Scotland’s most storied distilleries, may provide an answer with their new Captain’s Reserve. It is a marriage of classic Scottish single malt with Cognac, a spirit so quintessentially French that Napoleon took barrels of the stuff into exile.

The process for making Captain’s Reserve is much like any Glenlivet at first, using American Oak and sherry casks. The twist comes with final months of maturation in Cognac-steeped barrels, imparting a richer, complex finish. Although this technique is common with bourbon and sherry casks – and similar examples involve port, rum, madeira, and even IPA – Glenlivet are the first major single malt distillery to offer a Cognac finish.

The Prickle can report that the experiment is a success.

We first tasted it with a few drops of water. The nose exudes honey, vanilla, dried apricot and raisins, giving way to a taste of rich jam, cinnamon pastry, even a faint hint of aniseed. Finally, the finish lingers, nutty and deep – unmistakably elevated by the Cognac. It’s good stuff – certainly a cut above Founder’s Reserve, Glenlivet’s (perfectly respectable) entry level Speyside – tasting more luxurious than its lack of age statement might suggest.

Ignoring purist tuts, Glenlivet encourage the use of their single malts in cocktails. To prove the point, they treated the Prickle to a dazzling concoction from Bobby Hiddleston, mixologist-patron of Swift Bar, mixing Captain’s Reserve, plum sake, Poire Williams and even a delicate spray of homemade lemongrass spritz. For those of us with simpler tastes – or less exotic drinks cupboards – the Captain’s Reserve could also form the basis of a cracking Old Fashioned. But you can’t go wrong the even more old-fashioned way – whisky with just a little cold water.

Captain’s Reserve is named after Captain Bill Grant Smith, a grizzled Highlander who fought in France in WW1 – the French link that inspired Glenlivet to use Cognac casks -before directing the distillery from commercial wilderness to global success. This oaky-sweet marriage of whisky and Cognac would surely have pleased the Captain. And even Mary Queen of Scots herself. But at £45-48 RRP you won’t need a royal budget.

The Auld Alliance seems alive and well – and now we have a drink with which to toast it.

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