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A Tomb of Tipples and Tidbits

Posted by Young Ladies About Town
Young Ladies About Town
Fiona Hicks has not set their biography yet
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on Thursday, 12 September 2013
Imagine a Victorian gentleman's club, crossed with Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile, wth a little bit of the Orient Express, and that pretty much sums up Hoxley & Porter, a new bar-cum-restaurant opening in Islington this month.

If you love The Betsy Smith on Kilburn High Road then you're in luck because the man behind this new venture is also Costa Tofan.


From the moment you enter the establishment, the extreme attention to detail on everything from the menus to the music will truly transport you to another time. Forget gimmicky themed bar, thanks to the detailing, this feels a cut above the rest.

The venue is split into several different areas. As you walk from one end of the bar to the other you will trek through jungles, admire the pyramids and golden scarabs of Egypt (which can also been found in the toilets - I wasn't lying when I said attention to detail!), enjoy a train ride through the continent, and explore the cape.


This changing dynamic is also mirrored in the bar's drinks menu. Although other spirits are available, gin and rum are the main attractions, gin representing the old world, while rum represents the new.

Of the three cocktails I tried, one gin, one sloe gin, and one rum, the earl grey infused gin with lime juice, sugar and topped up with fizz was my personal favourite.


For me, Hoxley & Porter, even after spending just one evening there, has become my new favourite watering hole. Great cocktails (at a very good price of around £8.50), great period music and no expense spared when it comes to the detail; what's not to love?

Words by Melonie Clarke

Tosca at The King's Head, Opera Up Close

Posted by Steve_Barfield
Steve_Barfield has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 30 October 2012
4 stars

Until 10th November 2012 OFFICE 0207 478 0160

If you don’t know about Opera UpClose at The King’s Head Theatre in Islington, then you may be missing something, as the company’s work is innovative and has been attracting very favourable critical comments from both Opera fans and those people who normally don’t see the point of Opera delivered on the usual grand scale. The company made a name for themselves in 2011 with a radical reworking of La Bohème which won an Olivier Award and which has returned to the somewhat bigger Charing Cross theatre from 30th October 2012. See

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca has been produced by Opera UpClose association with Malmö Opera. Director and librettist, Adam Speadbury-Maher and Danyal Dhondy who has undertaken the radica; orchestration have reworked this to make it work in an intimate theatre seating about 50 people and there really are no bad seats. Four singers and three musicians, but what the production loses in grandnes of effect, it makes up for in a combination of excellent acting, determined sensuality, and some extremely talented singing in what is a boldly reset production, which tries to move the opera much closer to our modern day.

Tosca is played by Demelza Stafford, while James Harrison plays Scarpia and Sheridan Edwards is Mario Cavardossi; Miles Horner plays the remaining parts.

Fig 1.
Demelza Stafford (Tosca), Sheridan Edwards (Mario Cavardossi)

is is 1989 and we are in East Germany in a light-bulb factory where the portraits of Lenin and GDR Chancellor, Erich Honecker, stare down from the wall; even the boiler-suited musicians blend in well. 1989 is when the Berlin wall will fall and the GDR collapse into the past, but in the opera we see, no one knows this will happen, although there are suggestions that all is not well in the world of the party and its custodians the STASI. Adam Spreadbury-Maher resets the drama successfully because 1800s Rome like 1989 East Germany are both elite based regimes, filled with spies, where propaganda rules and repression is the norm. Though of course, neither regime would have seen it quite this way. Angelotti has escaped a Stasi prison fleeing to his friend, Mario Cavaradossi, for safety. Mario still paints, despite being in the factory, marking him out as a potential refusenik of the regime and the party. Sheridan Edward’s doesn’t quite look the heroic part, perhaps, that he should but his Recondita Armonia for example is confident and fluent. Demelza Stafford’s Tosca has a powerful voice and is a voluptuous, sensuous figure. As she sings Non la sospiri, la nostra casetta she has Mario lying in her lap, suggesting that in 1989 Tosca is a much more confident woman, at home with being sexually independent and dominant.

James Harrison’s rather wonderful Scarpia, the villain of the piece, is a cold but lustful Stasi officer; his petit bourgeois sentiments and belief that he desire sexual power over Tosca make him seem not so far from his Nazi predecessors. Mario he realises is an enemy of the state and can be used to blackmail Tosca into giving up her body to Scarpia in order to save her true love. His Te Deum is controlled and powerful and is mirrored by the relaxed ease with which he sits down in the Stasi offices, drinking wine and eating, while his underling tortures Mario out the back. He is a man in complete control, or at least he thinks he is.


Fig. 2 James Harrison (Scarpia) and Miles Horner.

Danyal Dhondy’s orchestration, tends to somewhat elide Mario Cavaradossi’s role and concentrates on Scarpia and Tosca as a version of master and slave and perhaps this works best in terms of the small-scale setting that has been chosen. It is generally a powerful and surprisingly effective orchestration, using as it does just three instruments. This suits the way in which this feels much more intense and dramatic than most grand Toscas, less period melodrama and more a small, bitter story of lust and revenge, one among many perhaps in the GDR.

As Tosca kills Scarpia she alludes to his original, crude but tender request to have a moment ‘inside of her’ with a bitterly powerful, ironic : ‘How does that feel inside you?’ as she buries the knife in him. When she commits suicide after Mario has been killed, she uses the same knife and a bucket of red paint. It makes for a surprising and surprisingly moving Tosca.

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