Sex, goodbyes and videotape

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Indy Lifestyle Online
AH, THE BALLET. Physical utopia, where all women are a size 6 and the men have buttocks tighter than a Hollywood smile. Gotta love it! Yes, this week I upped the cultural stakes and checked out the English National Ballet's new staging of Romeo & Juliet (Royal Albert Hall, runs until June 30) where over 100 superb dancers preened and pirouetted "in the round". Starring ballet's pre-eminent codpiece Roberto Bolle (Romeo) and the exquisite, tiny Tamara Rojo (Juliet) the ballet was choreographed by Derek Deane to Prokofiev's dramatic score, and it was just incredible. I'm a bit of a laughter liability around "dancy" events, but even I was batting back tears as Juliet finally did herself in. I felt like Pretty Woman bawling at the opera.

For those who prefer dancing Nineties style, there's plenty to amuse this week. What starts must end and alas, Blue Note, with much fanfare, is finally saying adieu to Hoxton Square this week. Today you can catch the last grunty Metalheadz bash (7pm to 12am) with Goldie, Kemistry & Storm, Doc Scott, J Majik and the rest of the Metallheadz crew, but if you want to do it properly, Tuesday is the absolute final send off, with Never Mind the Reasons, Here's the Bollocks. For pounds 6, you can join Harvey, Ali B, Eddie Piller, Kevin Beadle, Ben Wilcox, St John De Silva and plenty besides for the metaphorical last supper. Apparently, it's 9pm "'til we feel like it" and "we ain't leavin' quietly." My, aren't we bolshy!

If it's all too overwhelming (get a grip, they're only moving up the road), cheer up, the wicked Wall of Sound boys are returning to a London residency at Ormonds (Jermyn St, W1), their first since Back to Mono at the Blue Note. Starting Wednesday for 12 weeks, The System will be a weekly trip down memory lane on one floor (Eighties electro in the Neon Room) with resident Jacques Lu Cont, while the likes of Derek Dahlarge and Jon Carter and resident DJ Touche will be catering to the breakbeat crowd in the Basement. Word of mouth is good on this one so it's definitely worth a look.

New magazine launching this week, and it's a goodun. Called Lodown, it's the British version of a German snowboarding, skating, hip hop mag, and it's on the shelves from Wednesday. No WH Smith distribution for this one though (wrong shape for the shelf stackers apparently; them mags can get tricky), but it's available from Virgin Mega- stores, Slam City Skates and Art Data from Wednesday. For pounds 3.50 you get the whole boarding/b-boy lifestyle, in what is rather painfully described as "carefully defocused realism" (I presume this is a joke?). Anyway, there's a double fashion shoot, drum n bass/hip hop music action, clean art direction and a fresh format to look forward to, with five issues a year. Launch party on Wednesday night at the Vibe Bar if you feel like trying to bluff your way to a free mag.

Ooh, that Courtney Love, she's such a bitch! Well, she is if you watch the new Nick Broomfield documentary Kurt and Courtney, which I sneak- previewed this week (opens July 3). Broomfield's little study made history by being the first flick banned from the Sundance Film Festival (due to pressure from Love's lawyers) and it's rivetting, often hilarious stuff. Broomfield bumbles his way into the home of Kurt's aunty, then crosses Kurt's former best friend, stumbles across a SM punk rocker called El Duce and a whole tribe of unsociables and smackheads in his quest for "the truth." Don't know if he really finds it but Kurt and Courtney is worth watching, just to see Broomfield get bundled off stage for hijacking an American Council for Civil Liberties awards ceremony, at which Courtney is, ironically, guest. Inspired stuff.

Alternatively, check out the Hong Kong Film Festival, starting tomorrow at the Metro and the ICA cinemas and running through until July 9. The HK film industry has really hotted up in recent years and has left its "Hong Kong fuey" image behind. The fact that the opening night film Hold You Tight from Stanley Kwan sold out early last week, gives you an idea of the popularity of this event. Still, there are plenty other quality films to see, including Love Amoeba Style and Stage Door from Shu Kei, Yeung Fung-Leung's Dragon Town Story and Armageddon from Gordon Chan.

On the live action front, I went to the preview of How I Learnt to Drive (Donmar Warehouse, Earlham St, WC2, runs until August 8), starring whatshisname from Inspector Morse (er, Kevin Whately) and Helen McCrory (The James Gang). Written by Paula Vogel, this play's a bit of a tricky one, since the subject is none other than paedophilia. Our nice harmless bloke (Uncle Peck) turns out to be a sad, lonely fondler of his 11 year old niece (Li'l Bit, played by McCrory), but the play isn't didactic in its condemnation of Uncle Peck. Instead, it tries to explore the ways in which he and Lil' Bit both struggle against the tide. Whoops of pleasure went up from the crowd at curtain call, and I thought it was pretty interesting, although I kept getting confused about how old Li'l Bit was in various scenes since time constantly moved between the Sixties and Seventies. But there, my concentration isn't what it used to be.

Finally, more creative use of East End warehouse space, this time in Corbet Place (off Commercial St, E1). Good Art is a great new contemporary photographic exhibition of six artists, curated by Samia Ashraf and running until July 19. Contributors include Julian Boss (abstract paper sculptures emblazoned with colour), James Winspear (stark, stylised interior images of an artist's studio) and Richelle Simpson-Little, my favourite, whose tour de force is a three dimensional photo, which you have to peek at through a box. It reveals a garishly bright picnic scene of herself and her "pal", an inflatable sex doll, who is seemingly engrossed in reading an art review. So that's what they mean by the dumbing down of culture.

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