Tuesday, April 06, 2010

High art vs. low art.

A weekend of contrasts.

I went to see The Blind Side on Friday with no expectations. I fancied a popcorn movie, felt I should see what the Sandra Bullock Oscar fuss was about but expected to be pretty scathing about it. But it was quite sweet. The story was nonsense although obviously I’m not allowed to say that as it’s based on a true happening and they showed you the real life photos in the credits at the end just to remind you so. But Sandra Bullock was, in my humble opinion, more or less solely responsible for turning this movie into something worth seeing. Partly (if not mostly) because you were busy marvelling that she had it in her to deliver such a performance.What would Tilda have made of it? But anyway, it was a harmless couple of hours’ fun.

In contrast to leaden 11 and 12 on the Saturday. Peter Brook. His triumphal return to the UK. It made the 10 o’clock news which is what tipped me off to it. If theatre makes the ten o’clock news, I tend to think I should go. Well, more fool me. Though I should admit up front that my opinions are rather hampered by the fact that I had a big sleep during our matinee. And my wakeful moments were punctuated by trying not to laugh as Ross slept peaceably next to me. Between us, we can’t have seen anything like enough of it to justify the startling £22 ticket price.

From what I can piece together from post-show discussions, the play was set in some kind of African village, maybe a century or two ago. Most of them were pranking around in tribal-esque outfits anyway. And there was some sort of debate and ongoing discussion about whether a particular prayer should be repeated 11 or 12 times. This got pretty heated at some points. I woke up when they “burnt” one poor fellow’s feet as punishment for his heretic beliefs. And then towards the end, one of the men who appeared to be integral to this discussion laid down and died by a tree. And maybe another one had died a little bit sooner. Or was going to die. Certainly, the puff pertaining to the show would have you believe that many died as a consequence of this discussion and debate.

Well, you’ll see from that feeble rendition of what might have been a much more intricate, involved and engaging plot that I didn’t take much from it. But unfortunately most of my waking moments were spent marvelling at the fact (my fact, anyway) that something so heralded could be quite so interminably dull. Very well acted I daresay but even this was hard to judge when the plot appeared to consist of so little.

In its favour, it looked lovely. The Tramway (nice venue, never been) is all stripped brick and exposed rigs. The set for this piece of art was a red woven cloth or blanket which covered a good portion of the stage, two small heaps of sand placed onto this cloth or blanket, four small spikey things which appeared impossible to balance on but balance they did as these formed four small seats or alternately bits of set (you see, I admire this flexible austerity!) and three bits of twig like wood on low wheeled platforms (which unfortunately made me think only of Mike Phillips being the grass-hopper in ill-fated Pinocchio). And to one side, a small man played a variety of musical instruments creating some much needed momentum at presumably appropriate points.

The whole experience makes me sad because it makes me wonder if I just have horrible piggy plebian eyes. How is it that I stay awake and spry and able to stuff constant popcorn into my greedy mouth throughout rubbishy populist Blind Side? Yet can’t keep these piggy eyes open in the presence of true greatness?

Or is it just, as Brian speculated, that Peter Brook was exiled to France all those years ago for good reason?


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