Thursday, December 30, 2010

My mother always moans that going to the theatre with me is a thankless experience as, the second the curtain comes down, I start to (gently) tear whatever I've just seen into little thin shreds. Well now, the tables are turned. Two times in three days. A fine taste of my own medicine.

It happened first with Hairspray The Musical. (I know, I know, hardly my cup of tea but it was a concessionary Christmas gift and I do love the (original!) film.) I had low to no expectations of this. And it turned out to be as bubbly and silly as you'd expect. But I was really rather enjoying myself as the curtain fell on the first act. Tracy had a gorgeous voice. Michael Ball can really act - an unreasonable revelation. Nice little set. Lots of bouncy music and arm-cannoning dance numbers. But the house lights came up on Sister's thunderous face. Father immediately launched into a list of the bits missed out from the film and the missed opportunities (of which, I agree, there were many). Sister could scarce speak for rage and disappointment. And so I understood what it must be like to go the theatre with me. (I'm trying - I kept my scathing thoughts about Christmas Doctor Who to myself for at least three hours afterwards.)

The second act strayed even further from the film with a wholly invented sequence of events that felt a trifle unnecessary but perhaps they felt the alternative action was easier to stage. or easier for a fool audience to understand. I felt only one moment of flickering rage throughout. They had a backdrop of stacked little round lights. I daresay there's a special name for it. JGH would know. And it flashed various colours and patterns throughout. In the curtain call, someone smart programmed it to flash up a momentary saltire. Patronising..? Or knowing your average Playhouse Christmas audience..?

I'd recommend the Trav's Three Musketeers over this gaudy spectacle any day but it was never going to be a fair competition. And the Musketeers have finished. So if you're desperate for family entertainment (with a sharp political point, mind you), you could do much worse.

More table turning yesterday. This time, at the Filmhouse for Of Gods and Men or properly, Des hommes et des dieux which I inexplicably prefer. The Guardian film critics have been raving about this film so I felt I should set my doubts about its over-indulgent worthiness aside and try and see Something Good for a change. (I'll save Burlesque for miserable early Jan days.)

And it was something good. It's very French. Enormously ponderous. Not a great deal happens. Lots of close ups on angst ridden (or maybe ecstasy ridden - it's often hard to tell) faces. Lots of small inconsequential tasks presented for no apparent reason. (Floor washing, log hewing, bee hive tending, vegetable chopping - you get the picture.) But all so beautifully presented that as long as you're not expecting Inception, you're unlikely to be disappointed. The story told is tragic. A tiny community of aging monks living in North Africa, trying trying eternally to help the local war-torn people with dwindling supplies, dwindling health, dwindling conviction of the wisdom of their actions. It's based on a true story that did not end well. And oh my, typically French, it milks this not ending well for all it's worth with a kind of a P.S. don't forget it ends badly reminder when they could have called it a day rather sooner.

But all of this aside, it was a beautiful story of a little group of people trying really hard to do the right thing in circumstances that would have made other feebler / more normal people give up weeks before. A nice let's take a minute and think about what really matters reality check in the middle of these turkey stuffed days.

The lights came up at the end of this one and My Friend Mr Neill said (now, can I remember his words accurately?): "well, they were a bit foolish, weren't they?" I think I'm doing him a disservice here. I think his actual words were more irreverent than that. But clearly I was so caught up in my must-be-a-better-person moment that I wasn't concentrating properly.

On the plus side, he did like the hero quote: Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. On this at least, we can agree.


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