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NicholasMember Since 24 Sep 2012
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Posted Nicholas on Today, 12:26 AM
Family liked it, though, but it’s a bit of a crap way to celebrate a birthday. One particularly stubborn and enthusiastic family member said on the way back “I noticed people left at the interval, BUT IT WAS SO WONDERFULLY GREAT that I have no idea why they might” and when I offered a potential explanation that other people might not have liked it they said “I just can’t engage with that mindset”. So whilst I’m upset I didn’t get the chance to meet you, Mrs Lovett, I can't tell you how smug I feel in reading that you left at the interval. It's a great sense of validation. You’ve made my day.
Posted Nicholas on Yesterday, 01:47 AM
I'll be the one surrounded by my white middle class family. I might as well be invisible at the National. I'm sure I'll meet you one day, though - I was almost tempted to go see Henry V again just for the Mrs Lovett experience.
Well, my family paid for this, and it is a birthday, so this time it might be rude, but next time... The sad thing is sometimes I actually find myself quoting WOSsers in general conversation as if I actually know you guys, i.e. (awfully, I probably did say this) "Did you notice Electra's being directed by Ian Rickson? I actually know someone who went to Mojo and found themselves sat next to him and ended up chatting about his productions with him! Imagine that!" Then I try to change the subject, simply because if someone asked "Who was that?" I'd have to answer "A woman from the internet who I think looks an awful lot like Chiwetel Ejiofer"...
Posted Nicholas on 13 April 2014 - 11:39 PM
The issue with theatrical awards is that, for the most part, they celebrate shows that are past and gone, and in celebrating them they've never managed to leap that hurdle. I watched the Oscars (more fool me) and the joy of those is should I feel so inclined I can see the Documentary Shorts and ever Best Picture nominee, whilst here every best revival is closed (Private Lives available on Digital Theatre, something these awards could have flagged up...) and I think every best new play has too. It would be lovely to bring in numbers from upcoming shows to make it a celebration of past and future, but they don’t. I think anyone who calls theatre esoteric and with niche appeal could watch this ceremony and feel validated. The TV Baftas, as a show, appeal as Sunday night entertainment, Graham Norton a bit tipsy and irreverent, everyone polite and gently backslapping and the tone enjoyable. This, as a show, appealed to people who saw theatre. It gives those of us who saw Lesley Manville something to be chuffed about and those who didn't something to be miffed about where her Bafta nomination meant we could catch up. I think it ought to be a celebration of past and future, or else it becomes a celebration for the select.
Also, and I'm not the first to say this, not enough focus given to plays. I remember watching a Tony highlights where they did scenes from plays like musical numbers and it fell flat, but surely something could be done. A song, for goodness sake, from The Amen Corner, a bit of Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear, some Private Lives hilarity, maybe nothing from shows so intense and unable to decontextualise as Ghosts, one of the wittier conversations from Chimerica, even bits of Peter and Alice would have worked well on that stage. Most shows these days have trailers, most are even filmed for posterity, so a few video clips, why not? If not, shows from the future - Bakersfield Mist, Fatal Attraction, I don't know, just something open or opening. The dole queue from The Full Monty! This is easy! I'm thinking these up on the spot! Why couldn't the producers?
As for this show itself, Benny and Bjorn’s two lines of song didn’t seem worth the air fare (ABBA REUNION NOW), Bernadette Peters can do no wrong and most of the musical numbers came off well, mostly. If memory serves this highlights had the same issue as last years, which is you got to see nothing of the hosts but them say “And now our next presenter…”. Now, that might be all they do live, but that’s ludicrous. Look at how NPH is always lively, witty, doing silly stunts… It’s glitzy and entertaining for all, not just those in the know. Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton were great when they did it. Some nice speeches too, especially lovely Rory Kinnear, Gavin Creel's praising the FOH staff, Richard Eyre, the NT's two Nicks and the fact that the Frozen/Book of Mormon man didn’t give another sickening speech like at the Oscars. How was it live, for those who went? Worth £60? And was there an In Memoriam that was cut from TV Broadcast, does anyone know?
And the winners seemed, for the most part, fair. Rory Kinnear is lovely and deserved it, Lesley Manville definitely did, the many accolades Ghosts achieved were more than deserved and even if Chimerica wasn’t the best play I felt no qualms about seeing Kirkwood’s ambition rewarded and Lyndsay Turner’s direction was impeccable. Shame nothing for The Scottsboro Boys – how will that affect its West End standing? Unless I’m forgetting something, no-one truly undeserving went up on that stage.
As awards, when I look over the list of winners, I'm pleased enough. But as a show it has one huge fault, which is epitomised by Samuel's comment about seeing Bakersfield Mist. When I watch the Oscars it makes me want to go see American Hustle or Captain Philips or whatever I missed. I didn't want to go see anything at the end of this, I only felt smug and self-satisfied at what I'd seen. It's a two hour advert for theatre that doesn't advertise what's worth seeing at the theatre, unless it's a musical that as would luck would have it is on or that's been running since time immemorial. And whilst the Society Of London Theatres won't award what's going on in Sheffield unless Sheffield visits us, why not a trail for what Daniel Evans is doing with shows like My Fair Lady and Oliver and The Full Monty, regional triumphs, or a nod to all those stars popping down to Chichester? Theatre is national (like NT Live, which only the winners felt worth mentioning) and upcoming and this celebrates localised and finished theatre. THAT's why I say those who think theatre is an esoteric hobby will feel validated. A thumbs up for the winners, a thumbs up for the performers who did well but a thumbs down to the show's producers.
Posted Nicholas on 01 April 2014 - 12:46 AM
Posted Nicholas on 01 April 2014 - 12:41 AM
As for the play, it’s about people so trapped they make Beckett’s Winnie look like Anna Pavlova. Culturally, intellectually and socially they’re malnourished, living in their own little world from which they can’t escape, and watching them try and repeatedly make bad choices is a really tough watch. Certain scenes are very hard to watch and certain uncomfortable scenes and moments will stay with me for a long time. There are bits of this that are, (I think consciously) reminiscent of Trainspotting, very uncomfortable, visually distinctive and very hard to budge from your memory. Harrowing is the right word, especially as what hope there is in the play is dangled like a carrot for a donkey, unreachable. One moment in particular will likely come up repeatedly in conversation and reviews, but not knowing what it is is for the best. It's an unsettling and unforgettable moment, though.
Regarding what’s not right, this was one play where I laughed less than the audience. Sinead Matthews’ character is pretty funny at times, but it did feel more than once that people were laughing at, not with, them – at their ignorance, at their language and culture, at what they didn’t know about society – and that made me uncomfortable. I’m not sure if Franzmann meant this, which makes me feel uncomfortable about that aspect of the play, or if the audience were laughing at them, which makes me feel uncomfortable about tonight’s audience. Given how she treats them elsewhere, I imagine it was the audience, for the most part. Also, even at its brief running time, it's too long - certain scenes came and went without consequence, which I suppose was the consequence in and of itself (they went nowhere, and nor are these lives at these moments following these pathways) but weren't wholly successful dramatically for this inaction. I didn’t mind the Wizard of Oz references and thought they worked, this beautiful tale of hope and colour married to such an uncompromisingly grim world.
I’ll be very glad to sleep on this, it’s a very uncomfortable piece of theatre and better for it. I like it a lot. It’s not a likeable play, though the characters are (as in Trainspotting) strangely likeable and easily empathetic – well written characters, but with lesser performers much would definitely be lost. Very powerful, very disquieting and at moments really very shocking.
Posted Nicholas on 29 March 2014 - 11:10 PM
Posted Nicholas on 10 March 2014 - 12:30 AM
I liked the Fool. Adrian Scarborough just did a good job. He also seemed to balance SRB nicely, and made a very good foil. He was tender and enjoyable and fun but brought the due strangeness to speeches such as “This prophecy will Merlin make”. I thought Stephen Boxer deserved much more recognition for Written on the Heart (that it got so little recognition is still a bugbear) and thus it was great to see him here, and he was excellent. Liked, but didn’t love, Edmund and Edgar.
Goneril was very good, Kate Fleetwood did a fab job. My main problem with the normally excellent and always luminous Anna Maxwell Martin was that, by making her Regan such a flirt and a feminine backfooted character in the first half, she seemed ill at ease in the second half, not quite knowing what to do with her character’s violence and passion in the play as her character on stage lacked that drive and malice. It didn’t follow. Olivia Vinnall good enough as Cordelia and was rather nice alongside SRB, but didn’t leave a great impression.
I don’t think Mendes’ vision was entirely coherent, entirely applicable to the play, entirely intelligent and entirely enjoyable. Some performances made it better and some bits were superb (nice to see the cast, the storm I liked, most of the minor characters were good, the wine cellar was a lovely touch and I can’t say I disliked (though I can’t say I liked) the murder of the Fool). I’ve got a feeling that SRB will take the role again in twenty years, and that might be a treat. Elements were. But only elements. Much was lost from the updating/restaging and little was gained in response. It was uneven tonally and I don't thnk made for a wholly coherent vision. A curate's egg.
And the most cardinal sin, regarding Lear, was that when Lear came on with Cordelia my thought was less tragedy at this most tragic moment but joy that I could catch my train. In fact, when I saw it and he came on shouting, someone whispered, too loudly, “Oh God”.
Posted Nicholas on 09 March 2014 - 09:15 PM
Posted Nicholas on 08 March 2014 - 02:05 AM
There’s a line in Hay Fever that reads “You can see Marlow on a clear day, so they tell me” but which Edith Evans, in rehearsals, read as “You can see Marlowe on a very clear day.” Correcting her, Coward said “No, dear, on a very clear day you can see Marlowe and Beaumont and Fletcher.”
Judy Campbell, who toured with Coward in the war, got annoyed with him.
Campbell: Oh, I could just throw something at you!”
Coward: Try starting with my lines.
And bringing it back to Blithe Spirit, and Fletcher (Jessica), Claudette Colbert was fluffing her lines.
Colbert: Oh, dear, I knew them backwards this morning.
Coward: And that’s just the way you’re delivering them, dear.
Posted Nicholas on 07 March 2014 - 03:40 PM
In the Vankhgatov Vanya that ran here for a week in 2012 the woman playing Nana (the best thing in it, a really interesting take on that role) was 95. That was only for a week and not a ‘star’ role, but that’s a caveat to that claim. Still, 88’s amazing, especially as unlike other bus-pass qualifiers who appeared in substantial roles recently Dame Angela seems to be not only on top of things but very good. She’s a proper old fashioned star.
Incidentally, I liked that when Kevin Spacey was introducing clips of the Honorary Award ceremonies at the Oscars, he said “Angela Lansbury, who at 88 is returning to the West End stage” or something over anything about her film career. Wondered if that was Spacey’s call or someone else’s.
Posted Nicholas on 23 February 2014 - 12:19 PM
Posted Nicholas on 07 February 2014 - 10:10 PM
Posted Nicholas on 05 February 2014 - 09:53 PM
That said, last year I attended a Q&A with Mark Rylance about Much Ado which was truly brilliant, informative, enlightening, engaging, eye-opening etc, a truly affecting night (only 45 minutes, even), and then a fortnight later saw the show and...
Posted Nicholas on 30 January 2014 - 01:37 PM
I like this. I have a 'friend' who often forces me to buy them a ticket to either the popular or romantic shows (and always pays, kindly) and then cancels a day or two ahead, so I have to ask someone else if they'd like a day at the theatre like, say, that nice young lady into whose good books I've been trying to get...
My problem (or one of my many problems), and I'm sure the problem of many others here, is it's easy to find people who 'like' theatre, but the people I know who like theatre go maybe bimonthly at most to big shows or big stars. Spending all your money to see things, often solo, is kind of an unattractive characteristic, especially as if my prospective other half didn't want to see something I'd go without her. The best thing I've seen in 2014 is Lisa Dwan in a poorly titled Beckett trilogy and raving about that just makes me sound like a smartarse. Ask a lady to Phantom and she'll say yes, ask her to Urinetown and something tells me that'll be the test. I have been to the theatre on the occasional date but more often than not I end the evening not thinking "What a lovely lady, I can't wait to see her again" but "What a good show, can't wait for my next trip!" and I can't help but feel that often I fall down in the dating game by seeing something with someone and then going alone and accidentally giving a signal that I'm a selfish pretentious smartarse. Which I am, but I try and hide that from the ladies.
You know, it's Valentine's Day soon. Let's all report back here with good news after that. Last Valentine's Day I saw an Ionesco at the Barbican, alone. I think I'm doing it wrong.
Incidentally, with my ticket-buying buddy, it generally ends with me not on a date but next to an empty seat or, Frasier and Niles like, falling back on my brother. Dating's a bloody pain, isn't it?
Posted Nicholas on 30 January 2014 - 01:04 AM
If I had to use one word to describe this, it would be uneven. Put the good on one side and the bad on the other and the scale would be somewhat equal. Let’s start with the good. Mark Gatiss, brill (once or twice I thought I’d love to see him have a go at Prospero). Played Menenius as many things – competent, Alastair Campbell-esque, brutal, comic, nasty, not necessarily likeable but oh so watchable. Deborah Findlay, my God. That end scene was like hearing a master violinist perform a cadenza on a Stradivarius. THAT was worth the bloody effort. Katrine Fronsmark was excellent despite her throat being sore tonight – one lovely moment I noticed where she was echoing Findlay somewhat awkwardly, as if trying to become the woman Coriolanus wants. And for those interested, too, there’s a scene many enjoyed where Hiddleston wore no clothes.
And onto the bad, the emperor wasn’t wearing clothes either. It felt a bit like Simon McBurney was commissioned to direct, then he dropped out and a second-rate Complicite imitator took over. I didn’t feel the mishmash of ideas was organic to the text, I felt it was muddled. Not sure why there were several eras depicted, not sure why this was both theatrically bare and rich, not sure why costumes were confused, not sure about a lot. Text on the wall that just made me think “Romanes Eunt Domus”. And oh lordy lord the chairs… The second half was infinitely better than the first and that’s because even though the disparity in styles hadn’t gelled entirely there was much less chair tossing to interfere with the Shakespeare. It lacked coherency, for my money.
But mainly I’m not entirely sure I bought Hiddleston as Coriolanus. With his mother once or twice the words “Norman Bates” came into my mind but that seemed at odds with the soldier he presented. There seemed to be two Coriolani – the soldier who can’t tart himself out and the mummy’s boy – and they never seemed to be two sides of the same character, more two disparate characters. Often he struck me as alarmingly one-note – following Findlay (I do have a soft spot for actors with voices), Hiddleston just felt a bit, well, bland, monotonous. He had moments of strength, moments of power, moments of vulnerability and indeed moments of greatness but they were moments and detached, whilst Findlay could deliver a sentence and completely blow you away. Vocally he did little and as a performance it felt, well, a little like a performance (and not in the way that Coriolanus is a performer, in the way that Hiddleston was thinking as he was going along). I last saw him as the wonderfully two-faced Dr Lvov and I wish he’d brought that duality to this. It felt either one thing or tother, never a coherent whole. Coriolanus is probably the toughest Shakespeare to act as he's so much yet reveals so little, and what I felt is rather than one character with so much Hiddleston presented many characters and didn't quite unify them.
So, having spent the morning as I spent it, I do think it was worth it, but that's because I liked bits of it as opposed to I loved it. Overall, it’s never boring, it’s never uninteresting, importantly it’s never un-entertaining, it’s lively, it’s got its moments and oh my the acting. But somewhere in this production I think there’s a truly interesting Coriolanus, once all the window dressing is taken off – and I do think much of the chairs and the painting and the music and the all of it was window dressing as opposed to genuine insight. But goodness knows if you're seeing this in the future you get to see Mark Gatiss at his best and Deborah Findlay work wonders, and though you have to suffer through some clutter to get to them, because you get to see those two performances I'm envious. Good and bad in equal measure.
I did, however, see Katrine Fronsmark in the flesh. You cannot imagine how happy that made me.