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Messages - HtoHe

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31
Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: July 26, 2017, 09:21:21 pm »
I remember mentioning the mysterious disappearance of Peter Terson from public consciousness – not one of this once-prolific playwright’s scripts is on the shelves of the NT shop, for example.  I was excited, therefore, to see that his work is back on stage.  It is, it must be said, his most famous piece, Zigger Zagger, and it’s only a very short run at Wilton’s in Whitechapel.  But it is, at least, something – and it’s done by the National Youth Theatre to celebrate the fact that that body is still around half a century after they gave the piece its premiere.  I’ve already booked:

https://www.wiltons.org.uk/whatson/329-zigger-zagger

Around the same time another relatively neglected playwright has a revival at the Orange Tree:

https://www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-march-on-russia

Coming back up to date, some of you might remember my being impressed by Vicky Jones’s debut effort The One.  Well, she has another piece at the Soho.  It’s being marketed, quite successfully, on the back of Jones’s association with Phoebe Waller-Bridge whose Fleabag – while, imo, not a patch on The One – has achieved a certain notoriety and a TV adaptation:

http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/touch/

Chichester is putting on The Norman Conquests – including 7 trilogy days in the run.  I’ll be trying to get to one of them:

https://www.cft.org.uk/the-norman-conquests

Meanwhile, the Menier is putting on yet another Florian Zeller/Christopher Hampton piece, The Lie.  Public booking opens next week and, if previous similar productions are anything to go by, it might be as well to get in early if you want to see it in the Chocolate Factory’s cosy space:

https://www.menierchocolatefactory.com/Online/default.asp

Finally, a body called the Cervantes theatre is taking on The House of Bernarda Alba with alternating performances in English and Spanish.  Ambitious, to say the least!


http://www.cervantestheatre.com/home/?page_id=95

32
Theatre / The Ferryman - Gielgud Theatre
« on: July 23, 2017, 07:56:48 pm »
Up to now I’ve been a bit of a Jez Butterworth sceptic.  I missed Jerusalem because there was always something else that made more appeal and was easier to get in to; and when I went to a revival of Mojo I found it so dull I didn’t return after the interval.  The Ferryman, however, is very, very good.  It is dramatic storytelling of the most compelling kind, drawing the audience in and holding the attention for every minute of its three hours duration. 

Paddy Considine, in what would appear to be his stage debut, is riveting as Quinn Carney.  The role is, in some ways, similar to the one he played in Dead Man’s Shoes – a man strong on family loyalty and with a marked aversion to being pushed around; but he will still have needed to learn a new set of skills for live theatre.  He manages very well – with the support of a rather large cast, including a goose, at least one rabbit and a baby; all of them either real or the most convincing automata I’ve ever seen.  Most of the characters are Quinn’s (very) extended family and it can take a while to work out who everyone is (even with the text* to hand I still couldn’t work out which side of the family some of the people were on) but the individuals are well portrayed so you soon get into the swing of it.  The play is set in rural Armagh  in 1981 and ‘the troubles’ are always in the air – not least because bitter Aunt Pat (Dearbla Molloy) is verbally fighting the Brits 24/7 while simultaneously, to paraphrase Uncle Pat (Des McAleer), farting into her cushion.  The characters outside Quinn’s extended family** are pretty much restricted to the sinister IRA man Jimmy Muldoon (Stuart Graham), his henchmen and the priest, Father Horrigan (Gerard Horan).  Then there’s Tom Kettle, who is almost family.  Tom (movingly played by John Hodgkinson) is, in what is surely a conscious inversion of an old stereotype, an English-born near-simpleton.  I found this character a bit strange, though not because of the stereotyping.  Abandoned at the age of twelve and taken in by the Carneys Tom seems, after spending almost his whole life in rural Armagh and helping bring in thirty harvests, to have retained his English accent!   I scanned the text to see if this is a defined character trait but found nothing; so perhaps this anomaly is the fault of director Sam Mendes rather than the author.  Incidentally, a stereotype the production seems to counter is represented by the almost universal taste for Bushmills whiskey on stage.  When I worked in the licenced trade I met Irish Publicans and drinkers who wouldn’t touch what they called ‘British’ or even ‘Protestant’ whiskey but as far as I know the notion that this product is any more ‘British’ than anything else made in the six counties is a fallacy. 

Besides Considine and Hodgkinson, and without wishing to demean anyone not mentioned, there were very fine performances from some others.  Genevieve O’Reilly is haunting as Quinn’s wife Mary, drained (presumably) by bearing six children and worrying about some of the sinister characters with whom the family was mixing;  Laura Donnelly sparkles as Quinn’s tragic but vivacious sister-in-law Caitlin whose absent husband (Quinn’s brother) is central to the plot;  Brid Brennan is very good as Aunt Maggie Faraway who, for all that her mind is slipping away and her name makes her seem a refugee from Cold Comfort Farm, keeps all the children amused with her stories and ballads (including a lovely rendition of the opening of She Moves Through the Fair); Des McAleer (remembered as Liverpool Playhouse’s Captain Jack Boyle) is convincing as Uncle Pat, a character of great balance and dignity and a lover of the classics (the ferryman of the title is Vergil’s Charon who denies crossing to the unburied and to liars).  The young actors playing the children also did very well – though some of them are given lines to say which I’d always assumed they’d have been protected from even hearing.***

The set, after a brief prologue in a Derry street, is the Carneys’ farmhouse kitchen for all three acts.  It is quite ‘lived in’ but not too cluttered except, perhaps, when the table for the post-harvest celebratory dinner dominates and slightly impairs the view across the stage from below.  The £12 front row day seats are very good value.  Not only do they offer a decent view and a chance to see facial expressions at close quarters but they have, possibly, the best leg room in the house.  There are 15 of these for every performance and they go on sale to callers in person (maximum two each) from 1030.  Yesterday I arrived at 0950 and I got the last one for the matinee.  Availability is likely to get a bit easier as the production is booking until January next year.  I wholeheartedly recommend seeing this if you can:

https://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/tickets/the-ferryman/index.php



*£7.50 at the box office instead of the cover price of £9.99.  They also have Mojo and Jerusalem at a similar discount if anyone’s interested.
**I’m assuming that the Corcorans who visit to get the harvest in are some sort of cousins though I’d have to examine the text to verify that.
***SPOILER ALERT they are, though, pretty good lines.  When aunt Maggie predicts the kids’ futures including telling Honor she would bear five girls and four boys, the seven year old digests the information and, after her aunt has gone back to sleep, exclaims to her siblings ‘nine kids – fuck me blue!’.

33
Theatre / Common - Olivier Theatre
« on: July 23, 2017, 07:43:02 pm »
Remembering Yael Farber’s Salome (the last thing I saw at the Olivier) my heart sank when I realised that DC Moore’s Common had several things in common with it, being  a play with a self-justifying protagonist breaking the fourth wall, a disregard for conventional history, a liking for heavy symbolism and language that is, to say the least, idiosyncratic.  Common is, indeed, not a very good play but it’s a long way from being as bad as Salome.  There are a few reasons for this, not least the fact that the piece doesn’t take itself too seriously (pace some critics who seem to insist on taking it seriously so they can disparage it).  Secondly the symbolism, if rather hackneyed (crows, herons, scythes, corn sheaves etc) is at least accessible.  Most important, though, is the fact that Anne Marie Duff as the aforementioned protagonist, Mary, turns in a stupendous performance.  In my view, Duff carries the piece, speaking the clumsy lines as though they were Shakespeare and engaging the audience, sometimes directly, throughout.  Because the language is a big problem and (again in my opinion, of course) nobody but Duff (and Tim McMullan as the Lord, who seems to have a special dispensation to speak almost normal English) can make it work.  The poor actors must be wondering whether they’re supposed to be Gerald Manley Hopkins, Tonto or Yoda but, in short, it’s a failure as dramatic dialogue.

Another thing that might have saved the piece from being a complete disaster (and might explain some of the very dismissive early reviews) is significant editing - the performance seems to have shrunk by half an hour since the programme was printed.  But while this (and an interval) possibly obviated the frequent watch checking that characterised the Salome audience I couldn’t help wondering whether it might also have relegated a major theme to the background.  The subject suggested by the play’s title is the pernicious effects of enclosure of the common land, particularly the ones effected by Act of Parliament and their implementation around the turn of the 18/19c; but in its current form the play rather buries that theme under the picaresque story of Mary and her passion for Laura (a rather under-employed Cush Jumbo) and some of the more prominent symptoms of social upheaval such as locals turning on imported labourers and bosses using imported mercenaries.  These phenomena are, of course, important – not to mention relevant to more modern stories - but at times here they seem to be presented as spontaneous, or even natural, rather than intimately related to the enclosure programme.  I wondered whether the shortening of the running time might have been responsible.  I also wondered whether some of the character relationships had been re-jigged.  Laura’s brother, known as king because of his role as harvest king (John Dalgleish), wasn’t nearly as unsympathetic a character as some reviews seem to make him; and Mary herself seems to have fewer redeeming features than some critics imply.

Common is worth seeing just for Duff’s performance, but hard to recommend very strongly.  It should be easy enough to see because if you read the reviews you’ll probably conclude that my report is rather less negative than most.  Runs until Aug 5:

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/common/whats-on


34
Theatre / Re: Ink - Almeida Theatre
« on: July 20, 2017, 09:50:13 pm »
Thanks Jim.  As you say, if it was in print in 1975 it was almost certainly in use earlier.  It looks like back slang (simply reversing ‘knob’) so it might have been in use in a closed community for some time.  Polari contains a lot of back slang but the word doesn’t appear in any glossary I’ve found.  Equally likely would be market traders – but surely we’d know about it.  Or print workers?  But I don’t buy it.  The simplest explanation is that Graham’s use of the word is anachronistic.  As I said, the temptation is easy to understand as it is one of those words (‘boobs’ is another) that epitomises the phony decorum of the tabloids.  The most outrageous example I of this I remember was a report in the Sun in, iIrc, the early 1980s.  A white man being arrested for  breach of the peace or some such offence was reported as having pointed to a black person over the road saying ‘why don’t you go and arrest the f***ing nigger instead’.  I suppose it’s progress that these days, even in the Sun, the asterisks would be on both ‘offensive’ words.

35
Theatre / Ink - Almeida Theatre
« on: July 19, 2017, 11:10:48 pm »
This was my second James Graham play and, like This House, it impressed me with its wealth of detail – Graham must be one of the most meticulous researchers writing for the stage – but failed to convince when it came to marshalling the material in a dramatically effective way.  Ink, like This House, is a rambling narrative that will probably keep people amused for its near 3-hour duration – especially if, like me, they lived through the events portrayed – but lacked the coherence and subtlety I look for in a good drama.  The way they throw in ensemble scenes with loud music to move the action forward is a bit of a giveaway.   There is also too much clunky didactic stuff.  Just as in This House he had, for example, the chief whip telling a new intake of MPs what ‘pairing’ was (as if anyone would have got elected without knowing!) here we had the ludicrous instance of Larry Lamb describing the News of the World to Rupert Murdoch as a Sunday paper.  Of course, it’s the audience that is really being informed but I think I’d rather remain in ignorance of such minor details than be informed in such a lazy way.  Finally, for such a conscientious scholar, Graham seems to pay little attention to checking the products of his imagination.  I’m pretty sure, for example, that the term ‘bonk’ wasn’t in circulation in 1969.  I understand the temptation – after all there can be few terms that better epitomise the weasel vocabulary of the tabloids and soap operas – but, while the usage might have its roots in some arcane backslang that goes back further, I don’t think ‘bonk’, colloquially, meant anything other than a blow to the skull before about 1980.

I had to see this play for one major reason – Richard Coyle, whose screen work I’ve always liked and whom I’d never seen on stage before. While the piece is said to be about Rupert Murdoch’s early days at the Sun and the headliner is Bertie Carvel as the dirty digger it comes across as the Larry Lamb story and Coyle, as Murdoch’s first editor, is undoubtedly the star.  At a rough guess I’d say David Schofield as Hugh Cudlipp gets as much time and as many lines as Carvel,  It’s Coyle’s show and, in my opinion anyway, he shines.  Lamb, unlike, say, Kelvin McKenzie, is easy enough to like even though he did edit the rag liberals love to hate; and Coyle makes him a sympathetic enough character.  By contrast Carvel seems too often to take the easy route and make Murdoch a bit of a pantomime villain.  Some critics praise Graham for being more objective than judgemental and this is generally fair comment but I thought there were some exceptions.  The portrayal of Murdoch is one – though I’m willing to believe he really is too slimy to escape judgement.  Far worse, though, is the way the play deals with Stephanie Rahn.  The play is roughly split into three parts called Page 1 – basically the establishment of the Murdoch/Lamb relationship; Page 2 – the paper’s treatment of the tragic Muriel McKay kidnapping and murder; and Page 3 – well, I expect you’re way ahead of me by now.  I found Page 2 particularly convincing and in accord with what I remember of the news reports (though I must admit I was only a schoolboy at the time).  Page 3, though, seemed wildly out on a limb and the discussion between Lamb and the eventual first Page 3 girl, Stephanie Rahn (Pearl Chanda), sounded like it had been cribbed from a 1990s media studies dissertation.  And the narrative strongly implied that Ms Rahn was severely damaged by the experience which neither tallies with my memory nor is easily confirmed by any sources in the public domain.

The set is as chaotic as the script – so at least the play will probably transfer easily to a bigger theatre without losing impact; so if you can’t get to the Almeida before August 5th I’d say there’s a better than even chance of catching Ink at a West End theatre later.  I wouldn’t recommend it too strongly – there are too many negative points for that – but it is engaging and if Coyle stays with it his performance alone is a good reason to see the thing.

https://almeida.co.uk/whats-on/ink/17-jun-2017-5-aug-2017

Details for the transfer to the Duke of York's (previews from Sep 9) seem to have gone on the website in the minutes since I posted the above!

https://almeida.co.uk/whats-on/ink-west-end/9-sep-2017-6-jan-2018

36
The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2016 - 17
« on: July 16, 2017, 02:16:04 pm »
Most of the small choirs I sing in only take cash on the door.

And anyone with a card (and credit) can get cash on the way or, in almost all cases, go to an ATM nearby when they are asked for cash.  If you have no card, or no credit on your card, you can't pop in to a nearby card issuer and buy one for cash so you can then use it to buy your ticket.   If you are only going to accept one method of payment I'd prefer it to be the one everyone can use.  And, where possible, I'll reflect that preference in my purchasing choices.

I have never heard a single scream from anyone who found they couldn't pay by card.

I heard them all the time at the Proms when people were warned that they'd need cash when they got to the front of the day queue.  Actually, I once lent someone a fiver because they had somehow got to the payment stage before discovering their card wouldn't be accepted. It boosted my faith in human nature when they sought me out in the next day's queue to repay the money.  But set against this one heart-warming example I can think of lots of occasions, at the Proms and elsewhere, when people seemed to think it was a breach of their human rights for the box office not to be set up to accept their chosen payment method.

I'm much more annoyed by having to pay some sort of 'transaction fee' when I book online or by telephone, when I am too far from the venue to go there in person and avoid the surcharge by paying cash.

I'm happy to pay a sum that reflects the actual cost of processing the card in return for this convenience; but I totally agree with you that in the vast majority of cases the charge is indefensible.  The Phil is one of the worst at 7.5% of the transaction with a fairly hefty minimum in case the transaction is a small one.  Other places charge as little as 50p.  I think anything under £1.50 is reasonable as the venue will have to pay Visa for each transaction so I don't see why they shouldn't pass on the actual cost to the customer.

Of course, I'm not the only person who doesn't trust the increasing role of the banks in all our financial transactions.  You'll recognise this;

one September day, when Offred and Luke had been married for years and their daughter was three or four, Offred found that her money card for her Compucount didn’t work anymore, despite her thousands in the bank.  Later that day, Offred’s boss at the library, seeming unbalanced and distracted, fired her and all the other female employees, saying the law required him to. In the hall outside were two men with machine guns. The women were confused but didn’t rally or try to fight back. Offred thought that she and the others even felt ashamed.   Offred returned home, restless and nervous. She managed to reach Moira, who had been working for a women’s publishing company. Moira came over, and explained that every woman’s bank account had been suspended, and their money transferred to male family members. Moira seemed happy and determined. Moira understood that, if the new government hadn’t made it impossible, all the women would be trying to leave the country.

37
The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2016 - 17
« on: July 16, 2017, 10:34:18 am »
Well, they are.  And I think they're far better reasons than claiming that they can have someone on the door with a card machine but not with a purse and a book of tickets.  I'm not, as I made clear at the outset, suggesting they shouldn't cater for people who choose to pay by card (though you can bet that if they didn't the screams would be unmerciful from those who felt inconvenienced).  But they're not offering a choice.  The notion that the banks, in collusion with the state, are in the process of taking control of every detail of our lives is not fanciful but deadly serious.  Remember Jack Straw seriously floated the idea of introducing national identity cards in collusion with the banks.  Tfl would, if it could get away with it, phase out the Oyster card and make contactless debit cards the only way of making single bus and tube journeys in the capital. It's something that must be resisted when we can resist it.  Count on it; if this trend continues we will sleepwalk into a situation where not only will the banks have complete control of our spending but we'll be getting told we chose it even though the choice is one that would be very familiar to Hobson.  Well, some of us don't choose it.  This is me not choosing it.

38
The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2016 - 17
« on: July 16, 2017, 08:31:54 am »
The principle was mine.  If they feel they must involve the banks in their interaction with the public I will exercise my right to have no part in it.  I'm not impressed with the explanation.  People take cash and give change at car boot sales, for heaven's sake.  This is a city centre venue with bars and other outlets in the same building and many more just along the street; and even if it weren't they could ask people to bring the exact money rather than reject the only universal form of money in existence.

You should have said you were a student and they'd have let you in for nothing.

I trust you're not serious.  Dishonestly making claims that undermine concessions intended to help poorer people is hardly principled behaviour.

39
The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2016 - 17
« on: July 15, 2017, 10:37:03 pm »
What on earth are you on about?  I don't care if they knew.  I was answering your question - more fool me for thinking it deserved an answer.  I would have been happy to pay cash to see their concert - but not as some kind of favour or concession.  The point about empty bank accounts is absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I might have been seen paying with a card.  It was an illustration of the status of cash as the universally available means of payment and the failure to accept cash as representing exclusion.*  Sometimes the exclusion might be understandable as in when cash might be used to launder the proceeds of crime.  Some theatres tried to restrict touting by linking day ticket sales to personal debit cards which had to be shown when arriving for the performance.  But no such explanation applies here.  I resent, for all that it is their prerogative, their insistence on one form of payment and decided not to go to their concert, which is my prerogative.  If the day comes when the banks have finally closed their grip on even the smallest and most discretionary of our transactions and tell us that we chose that state of affairs I might remind you that some of us didn't choose it.  Feel free to quote me on that.

*did you seriously think I meant a person with no money might have been mortified by seeing others paying by card?  I meant, of course, that a person with nothing in their account would be unable to use their card to pay without risking its being declined.  If payment in cash were available, by contrast, they could borrow a few grubby notes from a friend, relative or neighbour and pay in what used to be the usual and is still the most democratic way.

40
The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2016 - 17
« on: July 15, 2017, 06:51:30 pm »
I don't really understand your objection.  Don't you ever pay for anything by card?

I use my cards when I have to or when it’s convenient for me.  They are, after all, my cards.  I can honestly say that if I hadn’t had cash on me yesterday I’d have gone to an ATM on the way to the concert in case cash was the only payment method.  I was, as I said, prepared for disappointment if the concert was sold out.  If I’d been told there were no sales at the door I’d have been similarly disappointed  (and probably asked why their website didn’t make that clear).  Being told that there were tickets available but not for cash was a surprise.  It’s their prerogative, but not something with which I have to fall in line.

And don't you think, really, that if the guy did politely offer to take your cash, turning round and going home again instead is best described as  cutting off your nose to spite your face?

No I don’t.  I call it sticking to a principle.  Cash is the only universal payment method; the only one available to everyone. Even someone who has no money can go to a friend or neighbour and borrow a few bob to go to the concert when trying to pay by card would have the effect only of reminding them, and telling everybody else, that they haven't got any money.  Until we get the socialist dream of abolishing money itself, cash is the most democratic means of exchange and worth sticking up for.  I don’t think that meekly complying when told they don’t take cash  is something to be done lightly.  By strange coincidence I got home just in time for the last few minutes of Any Questions (should have gone to Heswall, shouldn't I?) in which, unusually, all four panellists agreed the survival of cash was important.  Shami Chakrabarti made two related and important points in the very short time allowed: that the only reason to dispense with cash would be because we have actively chosen to do so and not because financial organisations have got us into a situation where they can take a slice of every transaction we make.   


41
The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2016 - 17
« on: July 14, 2017, 11:57:58 pm »
I'm not being hard on them at all.  I hope I was as courteous as he was.  If I'd known they do everything online I'd have saved myself a journey but there's nothing on the website that says that.  I'm sure the guy I spoke to would have done the payment for me but I'm not interested in getting round their policy of not doing cash sales.  If they want to do things like that they can do without my custom. 

I'm glad you enjoyed the concert.

42
The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2016 - 17
« on: July 14, 2017, 09:51:14 pm »
I remember the violinist handing out flyers for the earlier concert a while ago and being disappointed that I couldn’t go.  So I made my way over the river and up the hill to see tonight’s concert.  I allowed for possible disappointment if the concert were sold out.  What I wasn’t prepared for was being told there was ample availability and they were taking payment by card.  I assumed they meant there was the option of paying by card; but no – when I said I’d be paying cash I was told they were taking payment by card only.  When I made to leave the guy said he was sure they could arrange to make an exception for me.  I’m sure he meant well but I told him not to bother.  I’m not sure how much I’d have enjoyed a concert after being told, however courteously, that they would take my hard-earned cash as a favour!  If this is the future of the arts I’m afraid I won’t be part of it.

43
Radio / Re: The Guardian
« on: July 12, 2017, 01:13:11 pm »
Thanks Jim.  Good to see the Graun hasn't completely abandoned the wireless.  Considering the subject of the offending song I particularly liked you only need, and this is the frightening thing, a small transmitter .  That sounds familiar!

On a more serious note - and still on the subject of the marginalisation of radio - I found this on the TV Licensing website:

Do I need a licence for everything on BBC iPlayer?
You need to be covered by a licence to watch or download almost all BBC programmes on iPlayer. At the moment, there are just a few exceptions – watching S4C TV on demand, listening to radio, and watching films or TV shows you’ve bought on the BBC Store.

You actually have to drill down into the subsections to find that the generalised warning "You must be covered by a TV Licence to download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer" doesn't apply to 'exceptions' like, ahem, the entirety of its radio output!


http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/topics/bbc-iplayer-and-the-tv-licence


44
Theatre / The Mentor - Vaudeville Theatre
« on: July 04, 2017, 02:14:02 pm »
We are told to write about what we know but it seems to me a useful caveat would be: beware if what you know best is writing.  A play with writers as the principal characters seldom makes interesting drama and this, while it’s not as irredeemably awful as the recent Sex with Strangers, is no exception.  I was surprised to read the largely positive reviews for the original run at Bath as nobody I know liked it, nor did any of the three people I asked after the performance; and there was – considering they had an Oscar winner in the title role - very easy availability both on the day I saw it and the day before, when my friends went.  To be fair we were, strictly speaking, seeing  late(ish) previews; but it’s the same cast and the same production as at Bath so I don’t think more time will improve it much.

F. Murray Abraham, the aforementioned Oscar winner, plays Benjamin Rubin, a bit of a one-hit-wonder playwright who has among his many grievances a serious resentment at hearing people refer to ‘your play’ when they mean ‘the only play of yours that anyone’s ever  heard of’.  Unfortunately the play, though an undisputed classic, is seldom revived and his other plays get even less stage time so to boost the income from set-book sales Rubin has to accept minor screenplay commissions and gigs like the one that underpins the narrative of The Mentor.  A cultural foundation represented by frustrated painter Erwin Rudicek (Jonathan Cullen) provides a bursary for a 5-day residential one-to-one mentoring exercise wherein an established writer offers guidance and constructive criticism to an up-and-coming figure.  Thus it is that Martin Wegner (Daniel Weyman) who may or may not despise Rubin and his art-historian wife Gina (Naomi Frederick) a sort of cross between a patron and a groupie join Rubin and Rudicek in this four hander.  It’s not a set up that prompts the description ‘…with hilarious consequences’ and, I’m sorry to say, the outcome is barely interesting despite a Christopher Hampton translation that has the odd sharp line.  If I were being mean I might suggest you’d get a better drama out of F. Murray Abraham mentoring the other cast members to hone their acting skills.  I certainly thought he looked a class above the others (or, to be precise, a class above Cullen and two classes above the other two); but it’s mean to lay too much at the door of the cast when the script is so insubstantial.  Perhaps Daniel Kehlmann’s original German works better; but my experience of Christopher Hampton’s work is that he usually does justice to the pieces he translates.  Maybe I (and everyone I’ve spoken to) have missed something, but none of the reviews I’ve read sheds any light on what that something might be.  That said, The Mentor is not actually bad – as in writhing in your seat wishing there was an interval so you could get away before the allotted 80 minutes has passed – and there are a few laughs and an attractive set.  But given that when I left the theatre the main thing on my mind was whether a certain distiller would be very angry at having one of its whiskies so comprehensively rubbished on stage I can hardly recommend it.  If you want to see it, though, perhaps it might be wise to go early.  From my perspective the closing date of Sep 2 looks rather optimistic.

http://www.vaudevilletheatre.org.uk/mentor.xml

45
Theatre / The Father - Oldham Coliseum (then Harrogate Theatre)
« on: June 29, 2017, 12:11:44 am »
I thought it was wonderfully adventurous of Oldham Coliseum to bring this profoundly touching and stimulating piece to the north west so when I saw that the run coincided with the visit of my brother and his wife from the US I immediately booked three tickets.  Having seen it at Wyndhams with the brilliant Kenneth Cranham and Claire Skinner my main reservations were that a local company might be out of its depth taking on Florian Zeller/Christopher Hampton’s attempt to put us in the skin of a dementia sufferer.  I’m glad to report that such fears wrere unfounded and the cast, led by local legend Kenneth Alan Taylor as Andre, gave superb performances that really deserved a bigger audience.  The main quibble I had was that I thought the insertion of an interval was a mistake – and the fact that they had to finish the first part on a frozen scene to which they returned after the break rather supports my opinion.  The piece is barely 90 minutes and the modern tendency to do such things without interruption is, in my opinion, the best way.  The set, too, is less severe and has more old-fashioned furniture than in the West End, but that doesn’t detract from the power of the drama.  It’s quite hard to put into words the way this play gets under your skin but there’s no doubt that it does so very effectively. I’d seen it before and read the text a couple of times since but it still worked its alchemy all over again on second viewing.  All I can do is recommend those who can get to Oldham this week or Harrogate next to take advantage of the privilege of being able to see it.  My brother and s-i-l were certainly glad they did so as the chances of seeing it in Texas any time soon are, to say the least, remote.

http://www.coliseum.org.uk/plays/the-father/

http://www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/The-Father-Play-by-Florian-Zeller

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