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Category archive: Theatre
Back quite late from LLFF14, and too tired to say much about that now, other than that I am enjoying it very much. So here instead is a blatant quota photo of some painted people I snapped, down by the riverside, from Westminster Bridge, last Thursday, late afternoon:
It’s a tough life, having a painted face for a living. She’s saying: I’ll be home soon.
I thought about cropping this snap, but if in doubt, not, is my inclination on that.
Photoed by me today:
The golden dancing lady is the one on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre.
And here’s a really good photograph, to make up for the really bad photograph in the previous posting. I say really good photograph. What I mean is a photo taken by me that is okay, of a really good photograph, taken by a seriously Real Photographer. Limited edition, perfect paper, perfectly printed, framed, the works, worth hundreds of pounds:
Yes, it’s Dumbledore, making himself smile for the camera.
At the Do I attended last weekend, just after taking the photo in the previous posting, this photograph was one of the items being charitably auctioned.
This is the first charity auction I can remember attending. But, despite my ignorance of how to do such a Do, let me offer you a tip, for if you ever organise a charitable auction. Be sure to hand round a cash bucket immediately after the auction bit of the evening finishes, to enable all those who feel ridiculously guilty about not having bought any of the things being auctioned to part with a manageable amount of cash, without being encumbered with a unnecessary Thing, or worse, a Complicated Experience. If they had done that at this Do, I reckon they might have increased their money by twenty percent or more. They’d certainly have got twenty quid out of me.
When journeying across the river to Vauxhall, as I often do, I now tend to take the bus, in fact I have been doing this ever since I got my Old Git Pass.
Which means that I have tended to miss out on shots like these:
The circumstance which caused me to shun the bus, despite the extreme coldness of the weather, was all the drama to do with the – see immediately below - cranes.
The Shard one reminds me that I have been watching a lot of Wagner on DVD lately, specifically Gotterdamerung (add double dots to taste). Operas like Gotterdamerung bring out the worst in European stage directors and stage designers. They tend to set the thing, not in the mythic world indicated by Wagner, but in a modern aircraft hanger, space station, hydro-electric power station, typically rather run-down or collapsing.
The architectural clutter in the foreground is provided by a piece of New Brutalism that is now being demolished. Reinforced concrete sometimes looks at its most dramatic when they are trying to remove it. It really puts up a fight, doesn’t it?
Earlier this evening, or last night if you think today begins at 12 midnight (and has thus already begun) rather than when you get up next day (in which case for me it has not yet begun), I went to a Comedy Improv Evening, at the Leicester Square Theatre, in a small downstairs room. It was a laugh, which is what you obviously want with comedy.
The format was clever. They had a interviewer guy, who interviewed a borderline comedy celeb, and then a gang of comedy improvisers improvised comedy, taking their cues from what the celeb said. Then another borderline celeb, then more improv. Then a final borderline celeb, and a fnal dose of improv. It added up to just over an hour.
So, for instance, comedian Nish Kumar, borderline celeb one, talked about how he got a bit bored seeing his face on a poster everywhere in Edinburgh. Yeah, I know, a not very subtle way of saying: I’m doing okay, I’ve got my face up on posters in Edinburgh. But it was okay. And the improvisers did a thing about how Stalin got bored with his face being everywhere.
Then they had one of those women who had high hopes for herself, having trained herself to do Shakespeare and such, but who now has a job selling eyebrow trimmers or something similar on a TV shopping channel. She was really funny, switching between herself, so to speak, and herself doing her shopping channel spiel. And then they improvved a bunch of act-ors selling each other eyebrow trimmers, in the style of a Shakespeare comedy. How we all laughed.
Those were just two bits I happen to remember. There was lots of other stuff, and never once did I sneak any looks at my watch.
The final borderline celeb was an actor who had been in various movies, doing scenes with famous actors, many of which were cut out of the final movie. Ah the joy of hearing about the misfortunes of others.
It worked well. The borderline celebs got to put their faces about and to be used to get an audience together, but without them having to do lots of rehearsing. And the presumably less well-known performers get a bigger audience.
My two favourite performers, among the gang of improvvers I mean, were Joseph Morpurgo, and one of the ladies, called, although I could be wrong, Idil Sukan. If Idil Sukan was actually a different lady, no matter, because they were all good.
Recommended. But, alas, there is no run for you to go to a later performance in. There was just the one show, and the one I saw was it. Besides which, if you go to another show of theirs, it would be completely different, what with everything being improvised.
At the website of these amusing people, there is, on page one, at the moment, the plug for the show I just saw, already linked to above, with pictures of the three borderline celebs. Where it says What Monkey Toast Is, they describe what they do. (They certainly do not describe what monkey toast is and why they’re named after it.) But where it says “Upcoming Gigs”, there is currently nothing. So, no more shows fixed. But I don’t believe that this will be their last.
I don’t know why they’re called Monkey Toast. I’m guessing comedy troupes are like race horses, in that they have to be called something or other, but the main thing is not to take a name that’s already taken. So, you call it Purple Bilgewater or Our Daughter’s Wedding (a real pop group of former times, that one) or The Funny Peculiars, or some other daft thing that if googled gets you nowhere, simply because you have to call it something and can’t spend all your time arguing about what. As the comedy troupes multiply in number, the names get dafter and dafter, like with the horses.
This posting might have been funnier and shorter if I had worked harder at it instead of just stream-of-consciousness-ing it the way I actually did. But that way it would probably not have been written at all.
A ONE man show is coming to Thame.
Devised, written and starring professional actor Clive Woodward, You, Me, Colin and Helen will be on show at The Players Theatre in Thame on Saturday for one night only.
The show is based upon Clive’s experience as an actor who has worked on major feature films such as The Kings Speech, A Bunch of Amateurs starring Burt Reynolds and Brighton Rock, starring Dame Helen Mirren, TV programmes such as Spooks, Midsommer Murders and Lewis as well as theatre productions, a TV commercial, BBC Radio plays and corporate acting work in role play, films and live events.
Poor chap, having a famous name (which as an actor it would be most inconvenient for him to change), but not being the one who is famous for it.
It reminds me of the guy in Office Space whose name is Michael Bolton. His friends urge him to call himself “Mike” instead, but he refuses.
“Clive” can’t be shortened, or really changed at all. Clivey? I don’t think so.
I get emails every time Clive Woodward gets an internet mention, which is how I heard about this.
Patrick Crozier has just dropped by and says maybe most acting people don’t know who Clive Woodward is. Apart from being Clive Woodward the actor. Maybe so. Thank you Patrick. You just destroyed the point of this posting.
At the top of a London Tube escalator, an appropriate juxtaposition, n’est pas?
Indeed. Another snap taken last night, just before the big advert below:
I like the whiteness, the hinges, the signs, the bike at an odd angle, and the fact that (see sign on the right) that it’s the Noel Coward Theatre.
Here’s the sign, closer up:
Alas, we are once again up against the limits of what my camera can do in artificial light, which this was. Underneath “overbury” it says: “A passion for perfection”.
That bloody Tom Peters has got a lot to answer for.
Incoming from “Tony et famille”, who live in Quimper, Brittany:
I caught Caesar the cat in the act of sneezing on the hot tin roof of our car in Quimper.
According to the date embedded in this picture, this took place as long ago as September 7th 2009, or maybe even July 9th 2009. Yet did the mainstream media pay any attention to this sensational circumstance, either at the time or since? I googled “cat on hot tin roof” but all I got was a lot of drivel about a play. No wonder blogs are taking over the media world.
If you would like to use the pic in your blog the usual fee of 50000 Euros will apply ...
Fine. I’ll settle up in a couple of years, by which time a single figure clutch of our British pounds should more than suffice to obtain the appropriate brick of Euros.
To all who are interested in this Draw Mohammed thing, which I most recently posted about here, I really recommend this piece, by a guy who runs an internet site where all the pictures and sculptures and so on ever made of Mohammed are gathered together. The point being that the claim that this is verboten is relative recent. Here’s one of the more decorous pictures, in which an implausibly sweet looking Mohammed takes his dictation, or whatever it was, from the Angel Gabriel:
There’s also quite a bit about the insane emails section of the site, where incoming psycho-emails from enraged Islamo-nutters (of whom there really do seem to be a great many) are collected for all to browse.
In among the comments, I found this, from “Big Bird”, who definitely speaks (in comment 40) for me:
I am an atheist so I don’t have a contestant in the invisible man sweepstakes but even a cursory attempt to compare the lives of Jesus and Mohamed will show there is no moral equivalency between the two. If Christians threaten others over a play then they are violating their teachings. If Muslims kill people for insulting their prophet then they are following their teachings.
Indeed. And that makes “their teachings” the fundamental problem, I would say. It’s no good concentrating only on the nutters who take these teachings dead seriously, and saying that this is the entire problem. The sane-apart-from-not-rejecting-their-teachings Muslims have also got to be told that this whole disaster is also their fault, arguably more their fault, because they are otherwise sane, and because, assuming for now that relentless claims to this effect are right, there are more of them than there are of the nutters. They are the ones doing the big, long-term damage, and they ought to know better. They keep “their teachings” alive and revered and hence liable, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, to be acted upon by anyone nutty. Or not so nutty, when the opportunity for some of serious conquest arises.
It’s like we’re dealing with a combination of God and Lenin. The aim should not be coexistence. It should be victory, over the whole thing. We should aim for a world where the number of and nature of the people who even say that they believe this stuff is small enough and harmless enough for it not to matter any more.
To me, the virtue of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day is that, as well as insisting upon the right of all to be offensive with what they say and draw and paint, it keeps the argumentative pot boiling concerning the more serious aspects of all this. What’s going on here? What’s the big picture? What is to be done? Etc.
… I am ethically opposed to the idea of hero worship in cricket. For a start, the art of manipulating a small leathery object, whilst capable of great heights of refinement, weighs in pretty low on the bravery scale. Keith Miller’s famous quote involving Messerschmitts and arses is always worth an airing. If Miller was to be considered a hero, it should be for the things he did whilst perched in a cockpit, not his feats with a bat in the middle of a green field on a pleasant summer’s evening.
And it isn’t just that professional cricket involves no extremes of danger. This question of heroes goes right to the heart of why we watch cricket and why I have never bought an autobiography. A hero is someone you admire, indeed revere, as a person. When watching cricket, it is not Alastair Cook the man I am interested in. I care not where he went to school, what his first pet was called or whether he prefers low-fat margarine to butter. Without wishing to be rude, I don’t care what he thinks.
I am only interested in him in so far (and for as long) as he bats. On the field, he is playing the role of Alastair Cook, performing in a long tradition of public theatre. How he uses his bat, how he stands at the crease, how he runs, all these things taken together form the Alastair Cook of the mind’s eye. VVS Laxman may have some interesting things to say on global warming, but to be honest, I’m only really interested in his wrists and their neurological wiring. To say VVS Laxman is my hero would be a little like saying Hamlet is my hero.
Well put, except that the relatively recent arrival of helmets and all-over body padding has surely made quite a difference to such thoughts. Facing those West Indian fast bowlers without any such protections, as many did during the early stages of that terrifying dynasty, took a lot of courage. Heroism, even. But basically, I agree with Hughes. You hear all kinds of stories about how certain cricketers (and certain film stars) are (were) not at all, in regular life, as they seem(ed) on the field of play (stage).
The trouble is, although cricket may not be heroic, it sure as heaven can often look heroic. Rather in the way that classical music isn’t moral, but often sounds moral. And if you lose all feelings of hero-worship when you watch cricket (for cricket read your favourite sport), something is lost. Something childish and foolish, maybe. But something. Hughes himself admits that when he was a boy, his hero was ... Mike Atherton!
Next task: to find out what VV bloody S bloody Laxman has been saying about global warming.
Bite-sized pieces of drama that you can enjoy with a drink. At London Bites, experience some of our best British talent from new and established actors.
So there you go. And there I will go tonight, because a friend of mine has written and is performing a solo piece in it. Last night, the first night, it apparently went well and she got lots of laughs.
When Gordon Brown is finally removed from Number Ten, either by his despairing underlings or by us despairing voters, attempts will then be made by the regular journos to downplay the role played in this saga by the great Guido Fawkes. In fact, I already sense a process of bigging Guido up, so that he can later be knocked down. But as Guido himself pointed out, last Friday:
Examine the front page media agenda last month: Smeargate, Snouts in the Trough, MPs’ expenses and of course the developing “Gordon is bonkers” meme, all topped off nicely with a round of mea culpas on the inside comment pages from the shamed copy takers in the Lobby.
Exactly so. And let’s add Guido’s taxodus obsession to that list. That’s going to get very big in the weeks and months to come, especially if Brown manages to stay walking while ever more dead. The dead tree dog pack is now in full cry and closing in on its helpless prey, but Guido was always the Master of the Hounds.
To switch metaphors from fox-hunting to king- or Caesar-murdering, all the deadliest daggers in this drama have been being sharpened, week after week, month after month, by Guido. It wasn’t just McBride, Draper, Balls and co. It was everything, including the reason why Guido himself was for months the main story-teller telling all the other stories. Guido is undoubtedly the First Murderer in this drama, no matter what all the other murderers who are now piling in will try to say.
One basic reason for this is that First Murderer was always the ultimate role to which Guido aspired, at any rate in this particular drama. First Murderers never become kings themselves, but Guido has never - unlike all the still-vacillating politicians who are now, Brutus-like, working themselves up into the necessary mood of murderousness, or not as the case may be - wanted any political office beyond the office he has already contrived for himself. For him, Guido Fawkes is title enough.
But, when he gets bored with British politics, what will Guido Fawkes do then, I wonder? Do you think he might cross the Atlantic and take a crack at Obama?
Better yet, how about going global, and taking aim at the UN and related scams? The very Global Elite itself, amongst whom mere heads of state are, well, mere heads of state? That would be a worthy next foe for the great man.
As I mentioned in this earlier posting, Guido used to run something called the Global Development Institute, or some such forgettable thing. It’s now fizzled out, or is dormant. No matter. What this shows is that Guido already has the inclination to think globally. So how’s this for a slogan?: Guido (or whatever else he chooses to call himself for these different and bigger purposes) for part time ruler (see top left of this blog) of The World.
But before having a go at that, he should take a well-earned break.
And after writing all of the above, what do I find at Guido’s? American news.
UPDATE: Welcome to Iain Dale readers, with deep thanks to your Lord and Master.
Further relevant thing noticed: Guido is getting a lot of international media coverage all of a sudden. How do we all know that? Because Guido himself is linking to it.
Even Paul Staines is the wrath of his opinion, through and through corrupt political class driven Britain. But it was probably primarily the fun at the provocation that inspired him, his political blog - slightly - to name Guido Fawkes. Finally, write him friends and opponents of an exuberant lust for mischief and practical joke too.
Plus: The global option might be preferable to the American option, because going global wouldn’t oblige Guido to move from London. Going American would pretty much have to mean a base in America (from which to go out drinking).
Last Tuesday I saw a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. Go here for information about the show, plus the usual placards-outside-the-theatre claims about how wonderful it is. I’ve not yet heard the interview with the director, but you can and I probably will quite soon, after I’ve written this.
The cast, like casts in Shakespeare’s time, was all male. Which I admired, but did not really love. I’m a heterosexual, and I couldn’t quite live with men doing Hermia, Helena, and above all Titania. The last Titania I saw was Helen Mirren on a DVD, and I’m afraid I missed the sheer gorgeousness of that, worthy though Titania was in this production. The fairies, on the other hand, worked splendidly. Bottom refers to them as “Monsieur” This and Monsieur That, and fairies played like nineteenth century fairies, as young girls, seem all wrong. The fairies were also notable for their beautifully choreographed ensemble, which featured not only lots of splendidly modern-dancish movement but also terrific musical effects achieved by equipping each of them with a mouth organ for the big set-piece scenes. With these they reacted in a manner that was arresting and vivid, yet utterly other-worldly.
In general, this was an enthusiastically performed piece of theatrical teamwork, and I can entirely understand all the rave reviews. But I’m afraid I liked this production rather less than I wanted to, if you get my meaning. I admired it, but there were two things wrong with it in particular.
First, there was a general lack of star quality. Some of the actors were pretty good, like Puck (played as Boy George in a short sticking-out ballet skirt), and Titania, and Lysander, and Hermia, although for me it all had the air of an excellent school play rather than a decent professional production. Others, most notably Oberon, were less good. None, and especially not Oberon, seemed to radiate that kind of star quality that you want in this play. The director clearly knew what the play is about, and knows that it is poetic and, well, Shakespearian. The set was a bit odd, but at least he didn’t set it in a lunatic asylum or a gymnasium or a power station. But something about the way they all spoke it made it all seem rather unmagical.
Or maybe the problem was the other musical contribution made by the fairies, which I resented more and more as the night went on.
Now I quite see what they were doing here. The text of the Dream is awash with musical references, and you must have music. (I was in a crappy internet-radio production of the Dream a while ago which did not have any music. Frankly, we were wasting our time.) But what the fairies did was accompany all the scenes set in their magical forest, but in which they did not hog the action, with little tinkles and tap-taps on percussion instruments of various kinds, which I found, frankly, more and more infuriating. If you are a theatre critic you know this play forwards, sideways and backwards, or you should, but I don’t know it that well. Shakespeare’s language is not the easiest to follow, and I need all the help I can get from the actors to make sense of it. Yet all the tinkling and tapping brought the whole thing, for me, crashing down into incomprehensible - or where comprehensible deeply unmagical - mush. I simply could not make out enough of what was being said. Some kind of quietly magical sostenuto and pianissimo harmonies might have worked well, because that might have left the spoken words unmolested. But not the tapping and the tinkling. Fairies, shut the fuck up, I wanted to yell. They were great, when they had the stage to themselves, because they didn’t interrupt themselves with their musical instruments, but instead integrated their mouth organing with their actions and reactions. But they destroyed everyone else with their deeply unmagical magic-noises. Even when the words could be heard, they weren’t allowed to resonate. You couldn’t absorb or enjoy them, because there would be that damn tapping or tinkling again. Shakespeare’s word-music and their actual music cancelled each other out.
At this point, I need to admit to having missed the whole of Act 1 Scene 1. When I and my companion got there the show had just entered the accursed land of tapping and tinkling, so I witnessed everything I saw of this production until the end, when the action returns to Athens, in this deranged tapped and tinkled state. So far as I was aware, it knew no better. But then, back in Athens, the tapping and tinkling ceased, and suddenly I could hear every precious word. Suddenly, because I was suddenly being spared the reality of such interruptions, I could have heard a pin drop, but I didn’t. Magic. Suddenly, it was A Midsummer Night’s Dream again. Which was not the effect they wanted at all. The forest should be magical and Athens prosaic. This version was the other way around. But at least there was some magic.
Maybe this was why the cast lacked star quality. Maybe they all had star quality in abundance, but it was tapped and tinkled out. Because at the end, they all started to look and sound like the stars they had not been previously.
Also, the final scene just happened to be done very, very well, with lots of excellent comic business (see the first comment here). But again, maybe they just left my ears free of distraction and I was able to enjoy excellent comic business that had been present throughout. So in the end, I was happy. But afterwards I found myself reckoning that this was a bit late.
If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended.
For me, thinking something poetic didn’t suffice.
… and Robin shall restore amends.
So, Robin, how about a fifty percent refund?
I read The Lebrecht Weekly so you don’t have to, but I do recommend his latest piece, a lovely portrait of Jonathan Miller, he from Beyond The Fringe, but more to Lebrecht’s point, the operatic director.
Miller is one of very few opera directors who can lay claim to lasting innovation. With a 1982 Rigoletto set among the 1950s mafiosi of New York’s Little Italy, he invented the time-shift opera - underscoring the drama by placing the work in a different period. ‘There were other directors who did opera in modern costumes,’ he concedes. ‘I think I was the first to update the context.’
This is no small achievement. Rigoletto is still in repertoire at ENO a generation later. His Armani-suited Cosi fan tutte is on its fourth revival at Covent Garden. He has four shows on the go at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, including a Pelleas et Melisande placed in Marcel Proust’s Paris and a Rosenkavalier taken out of baroque pantaloons and relocated to Richard Strauss’s living room.
‘By and large,’ Miller explains, ‘if a composer has conspicuously backdated a work, I get worried about historical kitsch. Put Rosenkavalier in 1911, when it was written, and you suddenly hear the shot in Sarajevo. The Marschallin goes around the house trying to stop the clocks. It’s not because she’s old – she’s 35 – it’s because she knows the old world is finished. Octavian will die on the first day at the front.’
Every production he creates is rooted in a philosophical rationale and a specific visual impetus. The time-traveller of modern opera, Miller as Doctor Who is an omnivorous intellectual with an eye for telling detail. His ENO Boheme has been shifted forward from the 1850s of Murger’s novel and the 1890s of Puccini’s opera to Paris in the year of hunger, 1932. ‘I’ve always been obsessed by the photographic world of Brassai, Cartier-Bresson and Kertezsz, men looking for work stacking their bicycles against a wall, lesbian girls looking through café windows. I cannot bear to see artists in smocks and berets in Boheme. These characters are not artists. They are rich young men living a couple of years in a squat before they go back to work in Daddy’s firm.’
Boheme is his first return to the Coliseum for 12 years and it is only with kindly tuts and shushes on my part that he is deflected from having a go at the company’s present management and slamming the door in his own face once again. Miller lacks some neurological barrier that stops the bile rushing unchecked from brain to mouth. His litany of those who did him wrong, or damage art, is limitless, acute and often unrepeatably hilarious. He dismisses ‘Jurassic Park singers’ of the Pavarotti and Domingo style, ‘over-applauded and overpaid, can’t act their way out of a paper bag’. The last boss of the Met, who booted him out after he tried to stop Cecilia Bartoli singing two extra arias, enters the Miller lexicon as ‘that Tony Soprano’. Lately, he lashed out at the casting of a West End Hamlet ‘with the man from Doctor Who’. He seems incapable of suppressing rage yet, in rehearsal, you could not find a gentler, more avuncular manner of connecting singers with their inner selves.
He found a way of stopping the formidable Anghela Gheorgiu from over-emoting in the last act of La Traviata. ‘I said to her: “Take it from me, I’m a doctor. Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour. Chances are you’re incontinent, anyway. Do stay in bed.” She resisted me. Then she suddenly started crying and talked about sitting beside her sister as she was dying …’
That’s well over half of the piece, but highlighting and copying is so easy. I kept on not wanting to stop.