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60 Seconds With… Feelix

Sheffield duo Feelix have had an eventful start to 2013. Having proved their musical prowess with the launch of their long-awaited eponymous début, the pair landed themselves a support slot on acclaimed New York songstress Nell Bryden’s tour. With audiences across the UK wowed by their easy-on-the-ears charm, Feelix have just announced the lead single from of their sophomore release – ‘Live and Forget’ – an ode to Kat’s Granddad, who currently suffers from Alzheimer’s – in a hope to raise both awareness and funds for the cause. With a fundraising gig for the single to be held at The Greystones, Sheffield on the February 27, So So Gay caught up with Nick Atkinson for an update.

So So Gay: 2012 was a very successful year for the two of you – what for you was the highlight of the year?

Nick Atkinson: The highlight was probably launching the album in September. It was a sell out! And it was an amazing gig.

What have been the best and worst feedback you’ve received?

The best feedback we’ve had recently is probably from the reviews of the album, they were all so positive – we were so pleased. The worst feedback we get probably comes from ourselves! We are always working hard to try and make our music better and we can be quite harsh on ourselves at times.

Building on the success of 2012 seems to have been the initial focus of 2012 – how did January treat you?

January has been amazing actually. We have supported Nell Bryden on her UK tour, recorded a live session for Ont’ Sofa Sessions and we have just been asked to support Eliot Kennedy at his charity gig in March.

What ambitions do you have for the remaining 11 months?

We are looking at touring as much as possible this year as well as writing new material, releasing our charity single ‘Live and Forget’ and starting to think about our next album.

At the end of this month, you will be performing a fundraising gig for the Alzheimer’s Society at The Greystones – can you tell us a little more..

We wrote a song last year called ‘Live and Forget’. It’s about Kat’s grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer’s. We’ve toured the song a lot now and it always gets an amazing response, so we thought we would release it as a charity single in May. First of all we are trying to raise the money to produce the single and the gig at The Greystones is one of the things we are doing.

What do you have planned for the show?

We are going to be performing material from the album as well as some new original material and some acoustic challenge covers. Ryan Spendlove who used to be the front man from the Blueskins is doing the support as well.

Alzheimer’s is close to both your hearts – do you mind giving a little insight?

Well I mentioned earlier Kat’s Grandad suffers from the condition. He was a rocket engineer in the Second Wold War and was a very intelligent man, which almost made it harder to come to terms with. It’s obviously very sad to see someone forget the people and things they love but one positive we have taken away from the situation is that Kat’s Grandad has remained an absolute gentleman and still very funny. This is one of the things we have focused on in the song.

The gig will focus on your latest single, ‘Live And Forget’, can you tell us about the writing process?

The gig isn’t launching the single, it’s raising money to be able to produce it. Writing wise it was obviously a very difficult topic to write about. We actually teamed up with our friend Philippa Hanna and ended up co-writing the song with her.

‘Live And Forget’ is the first single not to be lifted from your début album, are you excited to share new material?

Very excited indeed! We have been writing new stuff over the past months and have some great new material for people to hear.

Is ‘Live And Forget’ a hint that further new  material is on the horizon?

Certainly is! After the release of the single we will probably start to think about our next album which we are probably about half way through writing now!

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Review: The Vortex (The Rose Theatre)

High drama, cutting wit and a dash of fabulousness: no, it’s not a night in with Patsy and Eddie in Ab Fab, but the classic Noël Coward play The Vortex.

Camp, thrilling and downright outrageous for the time period, the story follows young composer Nicky Lancaster (David Dawson) after he’s just proposed to his new lover Bunty Mainwaring (Sophie Rundle). Meanwhile his socialite ageing Mother Florence Lancaster (Kerry Fox), is trying to conceal her affairs with a string of younger men, including Tom Veryan (Jack Hawkins) who happens to be Bunty’s ex-fiancé. Add to this eclectic mix Florence’s best friend and suggested lesbian lover Helen Saville (Rebecca Johnson), and the pompous Pauncefort Quentin (James Dreyfus), and you’ve got yourself an entertaining story to sit back and watch unfold.

 

James Dreyfus has fun as the sarcastic Pauncefort Quentin.

The play is unusual for the normally lighthearted Coward, as it slowly descends into a bubbling madness of high tension. Nicky is struggling with a severe addiction to cocaine, as well as deep confusions about his sexuality. David Dawson is breathtaking as the troublesome son heads towards breaking point in the plays dramatic climax. He commands the stage from the moment he appears, and doesn’t lose focus once. His believable and raw performance, highlights him as a shining talent that should continue to grow and grow in the future. Dawson’s stage mother Kerry Fox has the glamorous faded socialite down to a fine art. Her achingly realistic devastation at realising she has become old and irrelevant without even noticing is stunningly real. The emotionally charged Act Three showdown between Florence and Nicky is well worth the wait – although extremely melodramatic, it’s excusable because of the style and nature of the play.

Rebecca Johnson as Helen has a wonderful naturalism about her, acting as the best friend in all situations. Her gorgeous rich voice makes it seem as though she’s been lifted right out of Downton Abbey, and she oozes the class and style of the period effortlessly. James Dreyfus also has a lot of fun as the sarcastic and meddlesome Pauncefort. He has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand with his witty one liners, and relishes his time on stage.

The set is delightful, and fits perfectly inside the great space at The Rose Theatre – it’s almost like being inside a mini Shakespeare’s Globe – the costumes are beautiful, adding even more attention to detail, and the direction by Stephen Unwin makes the most of the space, making each part of the auditorium feel right in on the action, even though there’s a vast gap between the audience and the cast. Clearly time has been spent on appropriate movement, speech and attitudes for the time period, and it really shows.

If you’re a first time Noël Coward audience member, then grab yourself a cushion and find a space in the front on the floor – for only £8, you can’t go wrong. Stylish, extremely well acted and explosive drama with a touch of wit. What more do you want from a night at the theatre?

The Vortex runs at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until Saturday 2 March 2013. Seat prices start at £13.

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Album Review: Mary Dillon – North

The first thing that springs to mind when listening to ‘When A Man’s In Love’,  the opening track of Mary Dillon’s North is a medieval banqueting hall, perhaps situated in the Kingdom of Rohan; filled with people standing around in green tabards, quietly listening to a lady with a lute singing sweetly. This is music that is not of this world. If Hurts and Nicole Scherzinger aren’t making Radio 1 playlists, Mary’s got no chance.

It’s hard to see what purpose this music would serve. It would be distracting background music, as it is certainly compelling. It’s more like poetry set to music, rather than songs in their traditional sense. Is walking through a meadow and overhearing a damsel sobbing, the subject of ‘The Banks of Claudy’, something most listeners can relate to?

Dillon’s vocals are sweet, if not lacking the depth experience and emotion required to sell folk music believeably. Folk seems to be the english version of classic Country, but without the spurned women that make it so compelling to listen to.

The arrangements are so sparse, relying on an acoustic guitar and the occasional string section. Dillon sings over noodling, picking and strumming and each track seems to blend into the next, becoming indistinguishable.

Prior to the release of North, Dillon had been working as an English teacher at a school in Derry for over fifteen years. Perhaps this collection of songs are the creations of her mind as an exercise in keeping sane whilst managing the madness of a classroom full of children. Did she escape to a land where fairies roam free throughout the land to drown out the torrent of noise? This album should be marketed at balding and wrinkle-laden teachers reaching the end of their tether as a meditation aid and coping mechanism.

Go Get It: Not one single track stood out

Forget It: The entire album

North is available from Amazon and iTunes.

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Competition: Win a ‘Transylvania’ DVD

When impulsive dervish Zingarina (Asia Argento) arrives in the mysterious backwaters of Transylvania, she has but one thing on her mind: to find her long-lost lover and travelling musician, Milan (Marco Castoldi). Finding him, she’s rejected, and plunges into the confetti, drunken revelry and thrumming festivities of a Romany carnival, emerging in a daze, only to be lured ever deeper into the rolling hills of the Romanian countryside. It is here that she meets the enigmatic Tchangalo (Birol Unel), a travelling trader who takes Zingarina under his wing. Together they embark on a chaotic road trip upon which they indulge in wild bouts of gypsy folk dance, cut-throat roadside bartering and long nights of heady passion.

So So Gay praised the film’s ‘startling variation of colours and moods’ and called Argento a ‘smart and fearless performer’ who ‘makes Zingarina an abrasive, confrontational character’ with her ‘unique, eerie charisma’.

Now, Peccadillo Pictures and So So Gay are offering readers a chance to win a DVD copy of the film. We have three up for grabs – simply complete the form below before 6pm on Monday 18 February and you could be a winner.

Transylvania is available on DVD now and can be purchased from Amazon.

Featured image: Asia Argento in Transylvania. Image and plot description courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.

Transylvania DVDs

  • Address must be within the United Kingdom. This will solely be used to send you the copy of “Transylvania” should you be selected as a winner. So So Gay will not pass your information onto parties who will contact you regarding marketing material.

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Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios announce gay cinema season

Riverside Studios in Hammersmith have announced the programme for ‘Deep Desires & Broken Dreams’, their season of gay cinema that encompasses UK premieres, screenings of recent LGBT cinema successes and gems from the queer archive. The programme includes two UK premieres – Cal, a gritty, Bristol-based feature from the director of Shank; and Sexual Tension: Volatile, a collection of dynamic short films from Marco Berger and Marcelo Monaco concerned with different shades of sexual intrigue.

The season kicks off on Thursday 21 February with screenings of Peccadillo Pictures’ Going Down in La-La Land and the premiere of Cal, attended by the film’s directors and cast. Riverside Studios boast a few special guests throughout the season – Sally El Hosaini will attend the screening of his recent success My Brother the Devil on Monday 25 February, while a live Skype link-up will allow Travis Mathews to discuss his controversial work following the closing night screening of I Want Your Love on Wednesday 27 February.

Archival treats include ‘90s classic Beautiful Thing, rare screenings of Kiss of the Spider Woman, and a revival of Cabaret for its fortieth anniversary. The programme also includes recent documentaries encompassing the global issues facing a variety of LGBT people in Call Me Kuchu and Love Free or Die, and a preview of the acclaimed comedy Gayby ahead of its DVD release in March.

All this can be enjoyed with a late night bar at West London’s leading art venue, with a host of Q&As and discussions with what’s sure to be a like-minded audience creating a buzzing festival atmosphere.

Tickets are available for £9.50 (£8.50 concessions), with a special offer of any two screenings for £12.50. Bookings can be made by calling the Riverside Studios box office on 02082371111, or on their website.

Featured image: My Brother the Devil, © Verve Pictures.

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Film Review: Sexual Tension- Volatile

A boy lusts after his tattoo artist. A visitor and his friend’s cousin try and hint at each other’s sexual interest. A guy helps his friend by acting out how to have passionate sex with a woman. A man with broken arms is tended to by a male nurse. A woman is unaware of the sudden intimacy of her boyfriend and the resort’s innkeeper. Two friends workout and pose for photos to send to some horny girls. This is Sexual Tension: Volatile, a collection of short films focused on a variety of libidinous frissons between men, whether conscious or not.

Whether Sexual Tension: Volatile works for you will depend a great deal on your personal sexual preferences. Marco Berger and Marcelo Mónaco have created a collection that is unlikely to work for anyone, except perhaps the most sexually voracious, as a wholly successful experience. The narrative foundations of each short are rooted in different conventions and approach sexual tension in a surprisingly wide variety of ways. Stylistically, Berger’s and Mónaco’s shorts are easy to distinguish – Berger’s photography is softer, as the twilight glimmer to ‘El Primo (The Cousin)’ is quite apart from the poppier glow of Mónaco’s shorts.

Performances throughout the films are generally wordless ones, particularly where the tension is portrayed as unacknowledged longing. ‘Ari’, named after the tattoo artist Ari (Mario Verón), features the mute but domineering longing of a customer (Lucas Lagré) whose eerie stare gives the bright lighting an ironic edge. In ‘Los Brazos Rotas (Broken Arms)’, a patient (Jair Toledo) suffers the indignity of being washed and dressed by a male nurse (Hernan Munoa) during which neither man is shown saying anything, and the wispy ending abandons final glances into empty space.

‘El Otro’ and the final short ‘Entre Mamiento (The Workout)’ are established with strenuously credible set-ups that play like porn films without the explicit payoff: aggressively straight men, boasting of their sexual prowess and heterosexual hunger, are somehow contrived into situations where their clothes come off. ‘Entre Mamiento’ handles this better, establishing a questionable tentativeness of one of the men and ending on a teasingly playful note, but ‘El Otro’ forgets to fill any empty space with believably amiable interaction and pushes its characters beyond the boundaries of the believable.

If I haven’t even mentioned ‘Amor (Love)’, it’s because it’s tale of a resort guest and the innkeeper ending up in a shower together is peculiarly devoid of any feeling, let alone tension. Only one of the shorts really soars. ‘El Primo’ is photographed much darker than any of the shorts, and with a heady sense of sensuality that seems unique to the heated proximity of this Argentinian flat. The object of the visitor’s (Javier De Pietro) desire, the cousin (Lautaro Machaca), is initially a sexualised collection of body parts, relaxing by the pool in wet, revealing shorts. But over the course of the fifteen or so minutes, his own sexual interest is increasingly suggested, and De Pietro’s body and their sights of interaction become equal prey to the camera’s lusty gaze.

As a collection, the connecting thread of the shorts in Sexual Tension: Volatile is narrow enough that these make sense together, even if some are more successful than others. The tension rests more on the situations and the camera’s sexualising gaze than it does on the actors, and that might be a key reason why this isn’t quite the overwhelmingly seductive experience it should be. But peruse, and see what titillates you: if there’s one point Berger and Mónaco do make, it’s that sexual tension doesn’t just have one colour.

Sexual Tension: Volatile is available on DVD in the UK, US and France now and can be ordered from Amazon.

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‘It wrote me!’: Interview with Nicole Conn

Last week saw the multi-platform release of A Perfect Ending, the latest feature from Nicole Conn, one of the film industry’s leading female filmmakers. From her debut feature, Claire of the Moon, in 1992, Conn has brought a sleek sheen to her sensual, tender exploration of lesbianism in different parts of the world. Peccadillo Pictures put us in touch with Nicole to discuss her motivations and the making of A Perfect Ending.

I was literally compelled to write the script – or more accurately – it wrote me!

Nicole was consumed by a narrative idea suggested by her partner, Marina Rice Bader, the co-founder of Soul Kiss Films and executive producer on A Perfect Ending. ‘From the moment Marina shared this idea with me I was literally compelled to write the script – or more accurately – it wrote me!  From script to pre-production to shooting was barely six months. All the problems that riddle any pre-production were resolved by something better taking their place.’

Post-production wasn’t without its issues either, but Nicole was keen to focus on the positive. ‘It had been a few weeks from wrap before I got to see my dailies and start editing. When I did finally get to all the extraordinary footage I had to play with I was giddy.’ A Perfect Ending saw her using ways of story-telling she’d never tried before. ‘The story line was non-linear, which meant there was an infinite number of ways in which to tell the story (and believe me I tried every one of them!)  [And] I was using abstract concepts like the ‘white room’ where Paris feels her inconsolable grief.  The extreme close-ups became our new cinema language to parallel Pointillism, which became an effective substitution for conventional transitions to move from scene to scene.’

The opening scene is particularly striking in this regard, and Nicole described what effect she intended. ‘I set up the opening to be a montage of visually compelling images that are clues to every part of the film’s twists and turns. By a second or third screening, the viewer really gets to see that all the puzzle pieces seemingly scattered about the floor actually are all prepared to be placed where they belong to complete the whole picture.’

[Barbara] called 10 hours after Marina and I had given her the script crying, ‘I have to play Rebecca. I am Rebecca.’

Nicole revealed that the casting process was the easiest she’d ever experienced. Legendary soap opera actress Barbara Niven (One Life to Live) is the heart of the film as dissatisfied, neglected housewife Rebecca, and was as compelled as Conn to be involved as soon as she read the script. ‘I’ve had the great honor to know Barbara Niven for 25 years – we have been dear friends forever and she’s the most genuine person in the biz! Although she thought she was on the road to retiring from acting, she called ten hours after Marina and I had given her the script crying, ‘I have to play Rebecca. I am Rebecca.’ It’s been one of my greatest pleasures to do this film with Barbara because we had tried to make other projects happen so many times, and to do what we both feel is our best work is like the icing on the cake.’

 

Jessica Clark as ‘Paris’

Jessica Clark plays Paris, the high-class call girl who turns Rebecca’s world upside down. Conn described how Clark’s experiences helped Conn overcome her initial reservations about taking on the model-turned-actress. ‘We connected randomly by fluke on Facebook and she had been at LA’s premiere of Elena Undone. Her partner had told her that night, ‘you need to be in one of their films.’ Honestly, I was very tentative about her taking her on in a feature so early in her process, but that became a moot point after the first day of shooting.  Jessica’s instincts are uncanny.  Because she’s been in one of the most difficult universes – a super model at 15 – her life experiences certainly prepared her to be Paris, gave her the stature and wisdom of a woman twice her age, and that’s why the pairing of Paris to Rebecca works so wonderfully. They already possess the traits the other should have acquired or needs.’

We asked Nicole how she sees the sexuality of the lead characters, something that’s laudably undefined within the film. ‘I don’t think of Rebecca or Paris as lesbians. I see them identify as straight characters, up until the point they converge. It is their soul-matter as well as their particular broken-ness that draws them together like a magnet. Their unique connection is vital to their process and it is clear that what they bring to and out of one another is profoundly cathartic and finally allows both Rebecca and Paris a path into their deepest cores as well as a path back to true healing.’

… those once-in-a-lifetime marriages of actors to characters that just IS.

The impeccable casting was vital to this narrative journey working. ‘No other actresses (I can’t think of a single actress, including A-listers) could have served these two leads better – those once-in-a-lifetime marriages of actors to characters that just IS. Their chemistry was palpable on set – and as we all watched the monitor I knew we had magic.’

A Perfect Ending is deeply concerned with the subtleties of sex and the level of intimacy that people allow themselves to have with those around them. Nicole was effusive on this point: ‘This is why I was so riveted by this story. The entire nature of the protagonist’s dilemma is about discovering one of the most powerful of all our drives; passion. Passion is experienced in an infinite number of ways and I wanted to capture as much of the nuance and detail (back to the elements of Pointillism) to help paint the whole picture of passion on several different levels.’

‘That is why all the love scenes are protracted and different in their conceptualisation. I really wanted to capture what happens with as much detail as possible the journey from erotic passion (can’t get enough of the other person) and the transition into a deeper fully realised passion; all the intimate details, the lightest touch, a gaze, a specific moment captured in the eyes, again fills out the entire picture.’

Asked how A Perfect Ending feels within the context of her entire career – a full twenty years on from Claire of the Moon – Nicole called it ‘the most ambitious work I’ve ever tackled’. She describes it as a film that has ‘enriched’ her life, taking strength from the highs and lows. ‘I love all my projects for different reasons but trying to be objective I can point out flaws as easily as any critic. But I think A Perfect Ending is a more mature work and as with every film or book I’ve ever tackled, a portion of my own personal experience lies at the core. What I know is that in making this film I finally hit my own personal limitations, which caused me serious health concerns for several months.’

This film also helped me to heal some of my own lifelong personal demons and wounds, creating a rebirth.

‘But in the end A Perfect Ending has enriched my life. I accomplished what I set out to do professionally, but far more importantly, from the film came great gifts: I’ve met so many extraordinary people through this process and made friendships and relationships that are incredibly meaningful for me. This film also helped me to heal some of my own lifelong personal demons and wounds, creating, much like for Rebecca and Paris, a rebirth.’

To close, we asked after Nicole’s future projects. Thankfully, it’s clear that this is a career still full of enthusiasm and drive. Most excitingly, the terrific Barbara Niven is set to work with Conn again. ‘On the lighter side we have Legends with Barbara in a wickedly different kind of role than Rebecca.’ Also on Conn’s slate are a novel, Descending Thirds, an epic ‘60s story of a love triangle which she’s already preparing to film; a film project she refers to as ‘the lesbian Wuthering Heights‘, and the ongoing production of the sequel to her documentary little man, which followed a family coping with a micro-preemie baby.

A Perfect Ending is available on DVD now and can be ordered from Amazon; a stream can be rented on Peccadillo Pictures’ website. Images courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures. Thanks to Ollie at Peccadillo for providing contact with Nicole Conn.