(Issue 153)
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The most cartilage chilling picture ever conjured is coming to a theatre near you. As in an actual theatre, with actors and actresses and real time things occurring. But how does a company move The Exorcist from the big screen to the stage? With the help of an Olivier award-winning set designer, Tony nominated director, and a magician. That's right, a magician. 
Best known for directing works by Pinter, Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and virtually anything with Sir Ian McKellen in it, Mathias' work spans London, New York, Cape Town, Sydney, L.A. and now Birmingham's Rep, where The Exorcist will premiere. Indeed, the first showing of this take on the box office behemoth, anywhere in the world, is here. A director of huge pedigree but by no means a popularist, Mathias is an inspired choice for bringing authenticity to what could be an off-puttingly sensationalist production in the wrong hands. And in terms of worrying about some of Hollywood's best known moments of cinema, Mathias has got an entire team.
"I've spent all morning thinking about vomit" aren't the precise words we were expecting to hear from the magic man himself. But then the concept of Hart's primary trade — magic, or special FX, there we've said it — is in contrast to the very nature of the imaginarium which is a theatre. "I always think that mystery is more powerful than knowledge when it comes to telling a story" explains Hart. Though he also seems to revel in the challenge that there are iconic set pieces he and the team are absolutely going to need to bring to the stage in a completely physical sense. "Of course, a head spinning 360 degrees is a challenge. A big one. But it's all going very well at the moment."
Already working closely with Hart, is Anna Fleischle, a set and costume designer who has operated internationally in theatre, opera and dance, since completing her studies at Central Saint Martins. The inventor of the beautiful — and the arrestingly stark — recently picked up an Olivier award for her work on Hangmen, a production for which she has gained wall-to-wall praise. Quite apart from having to come up with a set that could accommodate a nightly hanging (with no actual risk to life), the level of detail that went into Fleischle's reimagining of a 1960s' Bolton pub is remarkable, including dust round items imagined to be little used. We're strongly recommending Fleischle invests in a fog machine of industrial proportions for this endeavour.
Occurring under The Rep's watch for a similar but ever so slightly different period (from October 18 to 29) is Séance. Taking place in a darkened shipping container on Centenary Square, the fifteen minute spine bender has been described by The Guardian as "creepy", "manipulative" and an experience that "unsettles". It's previously appeared at Latitude Festival (pictured), and is £8 for a spot, with a maximum of 20 people attending each happening. Expect the immersive. And expect to find us rocking back and forth in the corner. 

The Exorcist is at The Rep from October 21 to November 5, and open to over 18s only. Tickets start at £10, rising to £37.50. Suitably creepy trailer.


The long but increasingly "done" checklist of 'things we need in Birmingham but don't have' had one of its most comforting boxes ticked, last week, as Paul Smith opened in the Mailbox. In tribute to the designer's first shop in Nottingham, a three metres by three metres square is inlaid into the shop’s floor, exactly mirroring the original store's dimensions. Paul Smith is now said to be worth £300 million, which by our maths is £100 million per square metre. That's like London property prices. Current in-store highlights include winter coats for women (look out for the shearling collars) and a sizeable gents suits section. Gift-buying? Paul Smith socks rock and his purses are almost universally thumbs-upable.


While the great and the good of Harborne are still moved to the edge of breakdown about the loss of COMiDA's modern European plates, Edgbaston Village is feeling rightly smug at its latest addition to the Highfield Road. Opening yesterday, for brunch, lunch and dinner (Wednesdays through Saturdays) COMiDA @21 takes up its perma-home after two years of experimentation and refinement. Huge-hearted Jade and chef Stewart are at the helm, and bringing with them a number of customer favourites, including the sea bass (pictured), which is served with clams and mussels. To mark the launch, the team have released this recipe, which you can recreate and digest at your leisure. Though Monday's good for us. Book


It's worrying, really, that despite dining out more often than society generally deems acceptable, nobody ever passes us the wine list. If you're being similarly barged off the bibendum bible then join us on Saturday October 22 from 4.30pm at Harvey Nichols, for a lesson that will right this most egregious of wrongs. Steered by grape demigod Joanna Simon, who spent 22 years as The Sunday Times wine critic, the event is part of the Mailbox Sessions, a weekend of experiences aimed at elevating your life skills. Of which wine is, surely, in the top three. Join Joanna, assisted by in-house expert and all round love-er-ly, Siofra, for a canter through both contemporary and classic drops, accompanied by cheese and charcuterie. It's a mildly pedantic £13.25 to secure your pew (including fee), of which you'll get £10 back in the form of credit to spend in the Wine Shop on the day. There's a total of just fifteen spots available. Chop-chop


When David Attenborough goes, Louis Theroux is heir apparent for the seat of the nation’s favourite documentarian. He deserves it, too, but for all his skill, he just about meets his match in the Church of Scientology, such a hefty target they merit his first film. Stonewalled by the ‘church,’ he instead sets about recreating life in it with actors under the direction of a prominent former member. If you’ve seen Alex Gibney’s Going Clear there won’t be much that’s new, but Theroux is an expert wind-up artist, and there moments of such absurdity it’s a miracle he keeps a straight face. Times


Eye Candy's pop-up store is open in the Great Western Arcade for but three more days. And you can make those days count in the form of entirely nuts (and free) workshops, starting with today's lunchbreak. Pick from fabric cactus making with Maddi Underwood (1pm today), a pom pom party (from 6pm tomorrow) or plastic monkey construction with Frilly (from 10.30am on Saturday). Because weird is entirely wonderful. More
Venue: The Southern Oven at The Sunflower Lounge, 76 Smallbrook Queensway, B5 4EG; website
Choice: Shrimp & grits (£6) Chooser: Bek, Co-founder

Every time we go on holiday, a plan is at some point forged which involves the opening of a restaurant — just something small, local, manageable. And the tanin-fuelled decision remains at whatever taverna, bistro or trattoria it was formed. Bek and Stu went to New Orleans, had the same stroke of genius (though this time rum-based) and The Southern Oven was formed. After spending some time experimenting, the pair have arrived at The Sunflower Lounge's kitchens with plenty of creole chutzpah, from Tuesday through Saturday. The most popular order is the buttermilk fried chicken burger, served with homemade comeback sauce (a big deal in Mississippi) and served on a brioche bun. But our pick was the shrimp and cheesy grits, which come with unapologetic lashings of buttery, garlicy, spicy goodness to coat the unctuous, pink heroes of the sea. Proper finger lickin' stuff. And in case you're not up on your deep south chomping, grits are made from mature corn kernels. We'll split whatever pub quiz prize that secured you. Menu
  • Birmingham Comedy Festival starts on Friday. There are more events than we can recall without losing count
  • Drum roll please... Okay, Harborne Kitchen opens on Nov 18, with two days of fully booked soft launch directly preceding the full deal. Secure your spot right here, right now
  • Drink port six ways with winemaker David Guimaraens and Fonseca, the only port house with four 100 point scoring wines. At The Drinks Emporium on Nov 9 from 6.30pm, tickets are £20 and include cheese
  • General entry is now open for Brum's inaugural international marathon on Oct 15. It's £55 for a spot. We might sponsor you
  • Starting today Hawker Yard is open for lunches, Tuesday to Thursday. It's also getting autumn ready with roof covers for the cooler months arriving next week
"I'm the Devil. Now kindly undo these straps." 
- Demon, The Exorcist
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen

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