Thursday, January 14, 2010

The weekend just gone I sallied forth (sullied forth?) to the big bright lights of London, bravely braving the snow in the name of my artistic and cultural education.

Saturday afternoon, I saw The Misanthrope. My gentle readers will well know that this is a play by Moliere. One which I do not know though I felt like I should. Though the furthering of my education was aided and abetted by the coincidental fact that the play featured a young chap called Damian Lewis in the title role. It also happened to boast Kiera Knightly in a supporting role. This played perhaps a shred of a part in my decision making. Tara Fitzgerald played no part in my decision making. Thea Sturrock, director, she who so marvellously did Equus a couple of years back, played a significant role. So there we go. My justification.

It hadn't been particularly well-reviewed. Not that I'd really studied any reviews. There just didn't seem to be any great excitement beyond the launch of this stellar-casted classic. So I approached the Comedy Theatre with ambivalence. And left it again a couple of hours later with the same ambiv.

It's an interesting, thought-provoking play. A message that Martin Crimp's perky translation makes absolutely relevant to today. The set was very clever. A lovely ambivalence about whether we were in a period drawing room or a modern-day boutique hotel suite. Nice sound. Baroque violins veering into hardcore house between scenes. Lovely lighting though you felt they were trying to make their presence felt with their artful changes of mood rather than really adding anything to the play. And beautifully directed. I want to be Thea S. If you're reading this and want to do a job swap....

But I think my sad conclusion - and I have been puzzling on this for the past week - is that the acting didn't quite cut it. Kiera's (American) accent was pretty solid, not that I'm any great judge, but I never quite forgot that she was she. Damian's best friend was sound enough but fairly unremarkable. The cameos were caricatures which is quite likely how it was intended. Effective caricatures to be sure. Damian was pretty good. Got all his lines out. Seemed thoroughly mean-spirited. But I didn't really dislike him enough by the end was I think the problem. Neither did I admire him enough. I suppose you're meant to want to damn them all to their self-created hell when it's done. But I was mostly just glad (gorgeous set aside) that it was done. Tara was a notable exception. She was delightful.

Maybe it was all the director's fault. But because I love Thea, I won't countenance this. I blame instead the producers who packed the theatre with these b list celebrities and ran off with the profits. Daniel Radcliffe and the heavy heavy man in Equus could, at least, very creditably, act for the stage. So, in essence, interesting. Glad I've seen it. But educational rather than earth-shattering.

Swan Lake on the other hand. Matthew Bourne. My childhood mecca, Sadler's Wells. What wasn't going to be good about this? And oh my. It was amazing. 'Nuff said.

(Though I don't want to be him, incidentally, Matthew Bourne I mean, because I can't dance. So it wouldn't really be practical.)


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