Sensible, hard-working Lucy Green fleetingly meets a handsome stranger on the tube, wielding a picnic basket of all things. As he turns to exit he drops his wallet – which Lucy picks up. Should she hand this over to lost property and continue on her way to work? Or should she try and return it – personally?
I’m not going to beat around the proverbial bush: the latest offering from Black Fire, those masters of twistedly erotic stagecraft, is a disappointment. All the more so because it’s easy for the hopes to soar. Have a Google to yourself and you’ll find Circus of Men billed as ‘London’s newest, most erotic, sexual and dynamic all male show’. Never mind that two of them mean basically the same thing, and one of them makes no value judgement whatsoever, there are four superlatives in there. Four. You don’t expect anything that’s given four superlatives to let you down. And even for those who need a less tenuous basis for their great expectations, Circus of Men was something to look forward to. Fuel Girls, Black Fire’s self-styled Rock’n’Roll dance troupe, give a genuinely stunning, uncomplicatedly sexy show. Why should I have expected Circus of Men to be anything but two hours of sweet titillation?
Wave Caps. It’s a roll-off-the-tongue title and the perfect fit for Miguel Cullen’s first collection of poems. A relic from the hip-hop culture Cullen is drawn to springs readily to mind. There are associations to be made with the recurring themes of development, destruction, and rhythm. Soundwaves: as important to Cullen’s poetics, you sense, as lines on a page. And then there’s the duality of the ‘cap’: at once an imposer of limits and a triumphant climax.
David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow is a satire set in a jaded Hollywood where movies are made, not because they are good or bad, but because they are bankable. The play opens in the office of a newly promoted studio executive, Bobby Gould (played by Richard Schiff of The West Wing fame), who is giving an apocalyptic novel – The Bridge or, Radiation and the Half-Life of Society – a ‘courtesy read’ at the request of his boss, Richard Ross. Charlie Fox (Nigel Lindsay), a struggling producer who has worked with Gould for years, interrupts with good news: he has a script but, more importantly, it comes with a big name actor attached. It’s a sure-fire hit, never mind if it sounds like crap.
They say that sex is an instinctual, experimental thing. They say that kids today know all too much about it. They say, safe in numbers and insecure in their knowledge, a lot of shit. And now They – those clueless and authoritative spokesmen of common knowledge - are being taken on once again. Forty-two years after The Joy of Sex first shook up shagging, Alex Comfort’s revolutionary sex-manual finally has a worthy successor. It’s called Sex & Lovers: A Practical Guide and it is 256 pages of brilliance. Co-written by Danish sexologist Ann-Marlene Henning and Tina Bremer-Olszewski, a German journalist, it is intended, as the blurb proudly tells us ‘ for young people who are just starting out sexually’.
Francesca Woodman’s photographs are filled with disappearing women. Their faces are blurred or concealed, they crouch in corners, hide behind loose strips of wallpaper or crumbling masonry. In one, a woman’s outstretched arms are the only part of her in frame and they are camouflaged by rolls of tree bark. These figures merge with their surroundings until they are barely distinguishable from the backdrop. This exhibition sets out to show us how Woodman used the zigzag to vitalise her work. In doing so, it also makes clear how her nude portraits play a crucial part in this aesthetic. Though these figures seem to blend with their backgrounds, they initiate patterns that resonate throughout Woodman’s work.
Most of us behave differently online than we would ever admit to in real life. What we do on our computers is, within reason, between us and the screen. With the rise and rise of internet dating this unfiltered, unexpurgated version of ourselves has a freer reign to shape the most intimate parts of our lives. Christian Rudder, co-founder of OKCupid, has used raw data created by the site’s 30 million user profiles, alongside terabytes of information from other sites including Facebook and Reddit, to reveal the things we find attractive when we don’t realise we’re being watched. Rudder has used the OKTrends blog, and now his recently published book, Dataclysm, to show us these hidden dynamics of sexual attraction. ‘This isn’t survey data’, he says. This is human behaviour observed in the wild.
I stare at the black card in the centre of the table. It reads, 'What would grandma find disturbing, yet oddly charming?' I go through the white cards in my hands and chuckle uncomfortably at the awkward combinations I can make. A few are genuinely funny and hardly offensive: 'Ryan Gosling riding in on a white horse', 'Erectile dysfunction', or 'Passive-Aggressive post-it notes'. Others are too uncannily near the mark to be funny: 'Hospice care', or 'Dying'. And some are quite honestly awful: 'Battlefield amputations', or 'Dead parents'.
We all love a fairytale ending. Especially after that rollercoaster romance à la Mills & Boon, which overcame more obstacles than a Hastings crazy golf course. Cue the wedding bells, blushing brides, pregnancy, toddlers, mortgages, education, outlawed in-laws, family seaside holidays, bringing home the bacon, pipe and slippers, grandchildren, Werthers Originals, retirement, death, merry widowhood and cats. NO! Wrong! We hate fairytale endings because, really, they suck. So says (rather more elaborately) Helen Croydon in her latest book, Screw the Fairytale: A Modern Girl's Guide to Sex and Love. Her view is that fairytales always end when the Prince kisses the Princess, because the rest of the story is so crotch-witheringly dull.
Rochester, aristocrat, courtier, debauchee, atheist, drunk, naval hero, bisexual, father and, for its own purposes, poet, is one of Eng. Lit.’s perennial conundrums. Like Pope’s Sporus, he seems at time ‘a painted child of dirt that stinks and stings,’ at others, to steal the jealous Hilaire Belloc’s sneer at P.G. Wodehouse, ‘English literature’s performing flea’. A fallen angel, perhaps, capering on a shit-smeared pin. He lived fast, died young (like Christ, at 33) and, the bulk of his life having been subject to the on-going attrition of incurable syphilis, his corpse was far from good-looking. If one uses a phrase that conjures up a rock or movie star maudit, then it is apt: in many ways his life seems very modern: in two words, the rebel. The question remains: to what extent was there also a cause.