Monday, December 31, 2012

I love this book. (Although I appear to no longer possess it. I wonder if there's a calculation that tells you how many books you'll lend to so-called friends in your lifetime and NEVER get back. And then how many you'll borrow and never return, says she, sitting pretty on shelves full of books that were never her own.)

So I was hopeful when I heard it was to be filmed. It's a beautifully magical story, written as beautifully as Mr Rushdie writes all of his books and set against a background of the only shred of history I know anything much about. (Actually, that's a lie because my so-called knowledge of Indian history runs out in 1932, fifteen years before the story really gets going. But I feel the sort of fondness that's born out of knowing that you should know something rather than actually knowing it. Though maybe no-one else feels this fondness but me.)

The film was full of colour, sparkly bits, sweeping vistas, bustling jostly streets, the tragedy of human life in the midst of an unreasonable and unforgiving caste system. But man, it was slow. Slow as the last little dregs of old black treacle as you wait for them to lollop out of the tin.

To be sure, there was loads of story to pack into the whatever it was two hours. But wouldn't this make for a hop skip and a jump of a film?  In this instance, not.

So delightful looking, lovely story telling on the part of Mr R but if you're planning to go and see it, maybe take some knitting.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Now despite sleeping through a little under half of yesterday's Magic Flute, I did see enough to observe its sort of pantomimey quality. I guess the story lends itself to such an approach.

But I was curiously satisfied to discover subsequently that the technicoloured venture was directed by none other than Julie Taymor. She of my non-too-favourite celluloid Tempest.

She also directed the original production of The Lion King.

Doesn't that just figure?

Luckily there was a very delightful Papageno to sustain support and contribute to my ongoing interest (such as it was) in the escapade. Nathan Gunn, if you're reading this, fancy an acting part in Julius Caesar next autumn?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Today I watched a filmed live performance of The Magic Flute from The Metropolitan Opera in NYC. And I watched the pantomime at the Brunton which this year, delightfully, is Puss In Boots.

I had a little sleep in both.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Work Christmas party last night.

Someone, trying to be kind, said "oh! So you like the theatre. So what's your favourite play, then?"

My eyes almost burst out of my head. "What a question. I don't know where to start."

(How his heart must have sank.) (Sunk?)

"Well, how about what's your favourite Shakespeare play?"

He didn't need a true answer. I said I supposed it was the one up next. JC. That'll do for now.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Saturday night was this little piece. Constellations. By a chap called Nick Payne. Ross' choice. And I'm very glad he did.

It's a marvellous piece of writing. Full of purpose, momentum, wit, cleverness, a healthy dose of physics (and honey) and mind-boggling, slightly socially awkward, lumpy bumpy truth. Hats off to this Nick Payne.

It's not a remarkable concept. Boy meets girl and the encounter is replayed by the actors to recreate a myriad of alternative outcomes. Boy (does he doesn't he?) is about to sleep with girl and the scene is replayed by the actors to etc etc. And so we are presented with niftily short little snapshots of their lives over the course of their time together.

What sets this apart from being a fairly familiar device is the writing (punchy, smart, insightful, bitterly honest, a little bit heart-wrenching and a little bit funny), the dollop of science and the performances. Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins. Quite simply superb.

It's a script that would be catastrophically easy to get lost in. Bundles of almost if not always quite repetitions, quicker than the wind mood changes, leaps from now time to future time and back again without terribly much order as far as I could see and dancing on a pinhead transitions from tragedy to hilarity. It calls for actors with bravado. And these two had it in spadeloads. Along with a stunning grasp of the comedy and a letting it breathe consideration for the sad bits.

Super smart direction of course. Michael Longhurst, I salute you.

The set was a thing of beauty. It might have been a contender for my most beautiful set this year, had it not been for Matthew Bourne's Sleeping B and for Matilda a couple of nights ago. Be not surprised if balloons beautifully lit pop (up) in some future venture of either Ross or yours truly.

As we trudged, heavy hearted at the cruelty of life, out of the theatre, some man trudging behind us declared to his companion that he hadn't been particularly impressed.

Oh man, get back to the C list celebrity heavy regional pantomime where you belong.
Richard Eyre made me laugh like a drain today. On a Southwest train from Vauxhall to Twickenham.

I'm up to 1996. It's 1 July. And he writes:

I saw Stephen Daldry, who's doing a show about actors' bodies. He was complaining that the actors wouldn't pull down their foreskins when talking about them, or show the audience how the muscles in their sphincters worked.

Glad to say that this is a problem I've never encountered.
This is a proper Christmas story.

Courtesy of my aunt who is friends with this very same Tom.

Just lovely.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I've loved Will Young for ten years now. Longer than many of my real life relationships. I've watched him belt out whatever the not quite triumphal song in Pop Idol was. The one that wasn't Evergreen but was just as unmemorable. I've watched him in concert. We got shouted down for standing up and dancing at the SECC. I watched him in The Vortex at the Manchester Royal Exchange theatre and I don't care what the Telegraph think - I thought he did beautifully in that too.

But Emcee in Cabaret is surely the role or maybe just one of the roles that he was born to play. What a delightful saucy slightly sordid bounce and verve he brought to it. Lovely accents. Lovely lovely songs. A polished quite delicious performance.

It's a shame the same can't be said for the rest of them.

To be fair, it looked great. Rufus Norris did a very nice job with the direction, slamming the point home that little good could come of this regime so emphatically in the final moments that there was a satisfyingly appalled pause before a few brave souls ventured to clap.

Some really neatly strident choreography too. And a versatile little set that made the best use it could of that godforesaken stage at the Savoy. I surmise from the two shows I've now seen there that they don't have much wing space.

Poor old Sally Bowles was some degree of a last minute substitute as making her West End debut Michelle Ryan was indisposed. The substitute's performance is more forgiveable if she was a) not given very much notice or b) told by the director to bring out the sweet and vulnerable side of the character. For she did this in spades. Trouble is (well, real trouble is Sally is and should only ever be Liza Minnelli) Sally should be wayward, wicked, lascivious, luscious, sultry, sordid, drunk, disorderly, slightly repellant but for all that, very much in need of looking after. This Sally liked gin and needed looking after on account of her bad hangovers and an inability to carry money.

Sian Phillips was the landlady in love with a shopkeeper who also happens to be a Jew. She acted very nicely. Her singing voice. Well, maybe the director told her to do it like that.

As ever, (sorry, as often happens) the rest of the cast were the ones who could really sing and dance and they did so with a lot of violent leg splaying that served as pretty effective shorthand for an early 1930s dissolute Berlin. We might have had more drink and drugs. There was certainly a lot of suggested lewdness. And the band were lovely stars. A fabulous sax that B S would have envied. A clarinet that I swoopingly envied. And a nice slightly funked up version of the Ebb and Kander score.

I'd have seen a much worse show for the love of Will. As it was, I saw a show that was pretty healthily respectable in patches. Could do better in patches. But I'll fogive it all for Will / Emcee as Border Control guard peeking his head through the O of Willkommen to welcome (in German) the visitors to Berlin. Great fun.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tonight, I travelled and arrived in hope.

Matilda. The RSC. I've been trying to get tickets during London visits for two years now. Back in October, I got myself organised and got lucky.

For all Richard Eyre's cynicism, he also offers the following:

"(Theatre) can be inert and dispiriting, and clubby, self-regarding, tacky and embarrassing. You can sometimes be ashamed of being in the audience on those occasions, let alone in the same profession as the people on stage, let alone part of the human race. But when it's good? Oh well, then it makes its own argument."

Matilda was just so.

We lucked out and got the littlest of the 4 Matildas doing their six month stint. She was magic. As were the rest of the kids. As was the grown cast. As was the set (oh my life I gasped when I walked into the auditorium), the lights, the sound design, the music, the band, the direction, the cute boy in his socks on the sound desk. Everything.

I cried approx four times.

Pitch perfect.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tonight's treat: The Animals and Children Took to the Streets by 1927 at the National Theatre.

Another of these shows that had been on my hit list for approx two years. So guess what I'm going to say?

A hugely clever company. Gorgeous animations. Most beautifully art directed. Like a Tim Burton movie that had mated with The Illusionist to produce a visual feast with a bit more compassion than the man who felt his wife looked like a monkey. Technically, it was stunning.

The story? Sad and bleak. Am I letting my yearning for a happy ending cloud my judgement? Daresay. I anxiously read the critics when I got in - for fear I'm being stupid again. And ok, that was interesting as I'd wondered if it might have felt more topical in 2010.

But actually, I suspect it's that age old problem that I have with the gap between my expectation (vast) and the reality. Which can be excellent in many cases but still never quite superlative enough for my four year old waiting for Father Christmas hopes.

I can take consolation from Mr Eyre (again). He says he spends much of his life travelling to theatres:

"but more often than not, I travel in hope and arrive in gloom".

I both travelled and arrived in hope. The show began and I was mostly delighted.

But I didn't cry.

Aye, there's the rub.

I’m reading the diaries of Richard Eyre, one-time director of the National Theatre. He quotes Shaw:
“No man who is preoccupied in doing a very difficult thing and doing it well ever loses his self-respect.... An actor, a composer, a painter, an author may be as selfish as he likes without reproach from the public if only his art is superb; and he cannot fulfil this condition without sufficient effort and sacrifice to make him feel noble and martyred in spite of his selfishness.”
“Mmmmm...” says Richard.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

(The above image, incidentally, is a confessional booth such as is beloved of Catholics.)

So last night last night, aaaahhhh. (As Mum would say.) (In real life, not as her character.)

We started back. Admittedly, Mum down. I was secretly pleased about this in advance. O wonderful is the chance to get to strut about and pretend to be her, I thought to myself. Fondly imagining that my other actors, the family remainder, would barely remember their lines and sit heads buried in books for most of the rehearsal, thus not entirely showing up my entirely un-Glaswegian accent.

Wrong wrong wrong.

They plunged themselves into it like adorable little firecrackers, boldly venturing into the new space like 3 day old kittens determined to explore. Their lines were most or less perfect. Their accents were (more or less) spot on. They were brilliant and beautiful (biased? me?).

I was a lumbering parody of a person veering between my nice middle class English accent and a sort of rough around the edges approximation of something sort of less enunciated. With a few violent gestures for emphasis thrown in for good measure.

My 'performance' was accompanied by the sort of awful silence that accompanies something so embarrassing that no-one can speak about it. They were luckily all too polite to pass any comment. But we limped to a gesticulating close at the tenth hour of the evening, were pottering about and washing the cups and Dad ventured a:

"well, your Glaswegian accent....."


Unfortunately, Cath's off next week.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Today today is a pretty exciting day.

For today we re-commence rehearsals for hashtag Forgive Us the tour.

Funny how that perks up a Monday.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

I just phoned my dad. He's apparently currently engaged in making a small cardboard peasant's house.

Like father like etc.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Earlier this week, I hopped along to see the Traverse Christmas show. Well, one of them. The one intended for slightly older people. The Arthur Conan Doyle Appreciation Society.

They did a most gorgeous show written (dangerously from my memory) by I
think Chris Hannah I think a couple of years ago that featured a rollicking and swashbuckling title centred on the Princess of Spain. It was silly, fun, beautifully done and generally wonderful. Furthermore, this is the second outing of new Artistic Director, Orla. I missed her first so was excited to see her second.

All in all, I had high hopes for Arthur.

But Arthur couldn't quite make up its mind about what it wanted to be.

Bear in mind that I saw a preview. If twitter is to be believed, they finished the dress rehearsal two hours before. (Professional theatre, eh? To think I hanker (secretly) for it.) So the show as presented that night may have been a little rough round around the edges.

But I do not think roughness can account for my general uneasy dissatisfaction with the beast as I saw it. And I can't quite work out why.

It's a nice story. It was pretty well acted. Though the accents. Well I presume the Spaniard was Spanish. But even I who has no ear for a West Coast accent could tell that the other chap's accents were a bit ropey. Mind you, they were both meant to be bad actors. I think. So he may in actuality be very versatile.

I think it was the story that caused me most problems. A wild jumble of stuffs. A play within a play. An excuse to present a bunch of potted versions of Sherlock Holmes stories (nice). An excuse to present some reflections on the life of Conan Doyle (nice). An excuse to wheel on Mr Harry Houdini for some remarkable tricks (great fun). An excuse to play around with some very spectacular visual effects and theatrical trickery. Look out for the piano. Just magic!

But as an attempt to extract a swashbuckling yarn from a fundamentally sad story about a man who experienced so many bad things in his life that he wished above everything that there was a life after death? This bit didn't quite cut it for me.

But please don't take my word for it. Go and see it as maybe I've done it a terrible disservice. For I wanted to love it. And let me know what you think.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Paul (Higgins), if you're reading this, I have asked those in charge to add your name back into the publicity materials from The Big Burns Supper. As we kind of couldn't do any of it without you.

I shall endeavour to address the matter anon.
It's beginning again.

Lovely lovely.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Anyway, look, enough about R3.

This is much more exciting.

Available for viewing in A Secret Location on 26 and 27 Jan as part of the Big Burns Festival.