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Messages - HtoHe

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Theatre / King Lear - Manchester Royal Exchange (Talawa Theatre)
« on: April 28, 2016, 11:13:59 pm »
I thought this was announced as an ‘all-black’ King Lear, like Talawa’s All My Sons a few years ago, but I was happy to see that the cast was by no means all black and, pace some outlandish speculation in the programme notes, it was easy to see it as standard ‘colour blind’ casting (albeit with a non-white majority).  More importantly, it is one of the best things I’ve seen at the Royal Exchange for some time.

The set is very simple: a raised disc within a circle and a grounding of what  looks like gravel but is, according to the staff member who has to vacuum it after the storm scene, soft compacted rubber.  The most clutter is seen at the start when three simple kitchen chairs, one for each daughter, face Lear’s throne; but usually the set is pretty clear.  The non-verbal sounds are simple but effective; martial drums here, trumpets there; the obligatory storm effects, disembodied voices, occasionally, suggesting an background of emotional disturbance, and, thankfully, little by way of intrusive music.  The Royal Exchange sprinklers are put to very effective use in the storm scene – and those near the stage might well get sprayed and will certainly notice a lowering of ambient temperature.  Very atmospheric.

The performances are very fine.  I was a little worried at Don Warrington’s hesitancy in his early lines but, given what followed, I’m now convinced this was deliberate.  It wasn’t long before an enraged fluency prevailed.  I can’t remember ever hearing the famous cursing of Goneril (Hear nature, hear dear goddess, hear…) sound so ferocious.  Perhaps the confusion and pathos wasn’t quite up to the standard set by Barrie Rutter last year but, by heaven, can Warrington do anger!  Also worthy of high praise are Wil Johnson as Kent, switching to a mockney accent for his undercover work, Rakie Ayola as a truly hateful Goneril, Philip Whitchurch as a sympathetic but hapless Gloucester and Miltos Yerolemeu who gave us an original Fool without going ott.  Less to my liking were Thomas Coombes’s overly effete Oswald and Fraser Ayres’s rather arch Edmund.  I wouldn’t want to blame the actors as the performances were probably exactly what the director wanted.  But I have to report that when Edmund is told that Goneril is dead, having poisoned her sister and responds with ‘I was contracted to them both…’ it got the biggest laugh of the whole performance.  I suspect that’s not a good thing.  The only real quibble I have about the actual performances was with Pepter Lunkuse’s diction.  If I didn’t know the play well I’d have struggled to follow what Cordelia was saying.

There’s a little over a week left in Manchester and tickets are scarce but they have put on an extra performance on Sunday and there are the usual day seat allocations for every performance.  If you can’t queue for a day ticket you might be lucky, as I was, to get one on the phone.  Saturdays seem to be difficult (I couldn’t even get them to answer the phone on the two Saturdays I tried) but I got one for today’s matinee by calling at 1005 and waiting on hold for about 7 minutes.  If you go to an evening performance by public transport, watch out for your connections.  This is a pretty hefty Lear at 3h35m so you’ll still be in your seats at 2230.

The production moves to Birmingham from 19-28 May


News and Current Affairs / Prince 1958-2016
« on: April 21, 2016, 10:42:10 pm »
(Or Prince Rogers Nelson or The Artist Formerly Known as... or various symbols that don't paste out here).

Unbelievable.  Another one gone. I never really got on with this guy's work but lots of people whose opinions I respect rate him very highly and I can sort of see what they mean.  While that might come across as bit back-handed, it's meant respectfully.  One thing's for sure, though - The Reaper is doing overtime in the halls of fame this year


News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 21, 2016, 06:09:34 pm »
The whole thing is indeed barking, which means it is not serious.

Indeed, it's not, as I've also said before, the stuff of diplomatic incidents.  It's just something that should have been avoided.

In any case it is the twitterstorm that's news, not the event itself.

For all its superficiality, isn't twitter created by people; who by mere dint of tweeting have given it a moment's thought if not much more?

I should, perhaps, have just replied 'does too...yah boo sucks' when you stated categorically that the image didn't look anything like a swastika; but I had to 'show my working out' as it were.  It is, of course, true that I can't bring my witnesses here and you can't bring yours; but there remains the fact that (unless they've changed their minds) two of the other three members in this discussion also think that the royals' advisors should have spotted this and advised against it.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 21, 2016, 04:51:44 pm »
If you are not offended on behalf of the Germans, why on earth should you give the matter a moment's thought, since it's clear they don't?

Oh, fgs!! Because it's barking.  Because it's a news story (including in Germany, which rather suggests that lots of people did give it a moment's thought).  Because my friend from the Netherlands (that's the same country where the queen of the Netherlands comes from) brought it to my attention.  Much as you'd like to question my motivation, there are a great many reasons for thinking the matter is worth consideration that don't actually involve getting offended on behalf of the Germans. 

News and Current Affairs / Re: Victoria Wood (1953-2016)
« on: April 21, 2016, 03:03:26 pm »
Very sad and as big a surprise as the death of David Bowie.  Not only did nobody know she was ill but I, for one, was surprised to read how young she was.  Another very talented, versatile and entertaining artist is gone.  I'm not the only thinking the early months of 2016 have been particularly grim in this respect.


Theatre / Hand to God - Vaudeville Theatre
« on: April 21, 2016, 02:59:34 pm »
Robert Askins’s Hand to God is the kind of thing that would be a brilliant piece if it worked.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it does; so I had mixed feelings about the poor attendance (the stalls was little more than half full and the upper levels appeared to be completely empty).  On the one hand, I’ve seen far worse plays get better houses so, by that measure, Hand to God doesn’t deserve such poor support; on the other, I couldn’t, with any enthusiasm, recommend it. 

There are things to like about the piece.  The acting is good, with the fine old troupers Neil Pearson and Janie Dee joined by talented (relative) youngsters Kevin Mains, Harry Melling (with a tremendous performance as a shy youngster with a sock puppet that is really another character) and Jemima Rooper (playing against type as a ‘homely’ girl whose vampish sock puppet makes a brief appearance in one of the play’s more memorable scenes).  The themes – religion, sexual repression, hypocrisy – are big enough and if the central conceit used to treat the themes (the idea of a ‘sock puppets for Jesus’ campaign at a Texas Lutheran church) had been convincing the play could be a triumph.  But the developments are far too comic to be convincing, even when Jason (Melling)’s puppet, Tyrone, takes on a demonic character and makes the diffident Jason extremely nasty.  It is, perhaps, a measure of the failure of the narrative that the deepest exchange in the play – where the pastor, Greg (Pearson), and the youth leader, Margery (Dee), seriously discuss whether it’s the boy (her son) or the puppet that is possessed by the devil – just comes over as hilarious.  Interestingly – and probably unusually these days – the pastor is the only fully rounded and totally decent character in the play. Timothy (Mains) is a selfish bully, Jason is extremely disturbed and Jessica (Rooper) is sweet but rather repressed (until she puts on her sock puppet).  Sex is a problem for all (except, apparently, Greg), not least the recently widowed Margery whose virtuous side is fighting a losing battle against her lust for Timothy.  An unmentioned, but very obvious, issue is Margery’s position vis-à-vis Timothy.  The ages of these youngsters are (deliberately?) not made clear but there’s no doubt that she is in a position of trust and authority. 

Despite the superficial entertainment value, though, the play lacks the structure and coherence that I, for one, expect from a theatrical presentation.  In fact, as I said to the person next to me*, the first half had a lot in common with Jane and the Truth Snake (an episode of Stephen Moffat’s Coupling) except that the TV show was better written.  I find it hard to believe the production is to blame – the staging, as well as the acting, was extremely competent – which leaves only the writing to take the rap.  Should you wish to make up your own minds I strongly suggest you get in now as it finishes at the end of the month although some listings still show it playing through to June.  Leicester Square booth had tickets for £19.50 yesterday and the box office is doing front stalls for £25 on the day.

*who was from the US and spoke highly of the British actors' accents; which is, I suppose, another small positive.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 21, 2016, 02:51:35 pm »
...or they simply didn't notice a resemblance which was barely there to be noticed
You keep repeating this as if it were self-evident.  I repeat, this is no more than your opinion.

It's not just my opinion - that the Germans themselves  share it is  the best explanation I can think of  for the fact that they don't find the matter worth discussing.
My opinion is that lots of people noticed the resemblance so it clearly was there to be noticed.  As well as the people who published the photographs, I saw it instantly, my Dutch friends saw it instantly, my brother saw it instantly and two people on this thread saw it, too.

Were any of these people German?

You, and they,  appear to be in the odd but not uncommon position of being offended on behalf of people who are themselves not offended. 

You are so anxious to hang onto this offence-by-proxy that you even think it is  sinister that the Germans do not share it. 

To me, that's very strange indeed.

What nonsense!  I am not offended, either on behalf of others or for my own part and I have never given any indication that I was.  My reaction, stated right from the start and reiterated frequently, was astonishment that people employed to project a positive public image didn't spot this and  say, 'wait a minute, perhaps not'.  The argument that there is no resemblance only works insofar as I'm obliged to believe you see no significant resemblance.  100% of the people to whom I've shown the picture saw the thing instantly.  And they weren't told what to look for as all I showed them was the picture of the back of the coat from my inbox (I had to post a link to a newspaper story here because this board doesn't accept 'paste' commands).  To be scrupulously fair, they knew they were looking for something, but every one of them spotted instantly what that something was.   I have not, either, suggested that the Germans ought to be offended.  As a matter of fact, I have now spoken to a German and he, like the Dutch people to whom I've spoken, is more amazed than offended.  Here is a privileged person, expected to set an example and surrounded by advisors, who has made an obvious gaffe.  The relevance of the family backgrounds comes from my Dutch friend but the opposition to the weddings of W-A and Maxima and Juliana and Claus is easily verifiable (indeed I was a frequent visitor to Amsterdam when the later wedding controversy was raging).  Claus, I'm told, swiftly overcame Dutch animosity to become a national treasure.  There is no evidence that he ever wore dodgy symbols on his clothes while discharging his public duties. 

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 19, 2016, 08:13:19 am »
Either these crypto-Nazis knowingly tried to introduce a swastika into Gerrmany on the Queen's coat,

'crypto-Nazis' is your term.  I have repeatedly said that I don't believe Maxima or anyone concerned is a Nazi of any kind.

or they simply didn't notice a resemblance which was barely there to be noticed

You keep repeating this as if it were self-evident.  I repeat, this is no more than your opinion.  My opinion is that lots of people noticed the resemblance so it clearly was there to be noticed.  As well as the people who published the photographs, I saw it instantly, my Dutch friends saw it instantly, my brother saw it instantly and two people on this thread saw it, too.  I think the overwhelmingly most likely case is that they didn't notice the resemblance; but they should have done so.  That's their job.

whatever the political affiliations of the Queen's family, they're completely irrelevant

Sorry - while it might be unfair and unfortunate, the back stories of both the King and the Queen make it important to steer clear of any hint of extreme politics.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 18, 2016, 06:59:52 pm »
They didn't report that  because there was nothing of substance to report.  When social media started imagining things it became a story, and they reported it.

In your opinion.  In the opinion of people I know and who lived a long time in Germany and The Netherlands it is an issue well worth mentioning.

And maybe you don’t think Maxima is a closet Nazi and have never suggested you do, but you've told us all about her unsavoury relations as though they had something to do with the present non-story.)

The relevance of those facts to this story is, as my Dutch friend said, because there was huge controversy about Willem-Alexander's alliance with a family that included a suspected human rights abuser (he actually advanced the 'Ich habe es nicht gewusst' argument when challenged about his role in the Videla government and the Dutch government didn't swallow it).  Willem-Alexander's father's marriage to Juliana was similarly opposed.  I mentioned these facts because, with such a background, any sniff of suspicion is toxic and failure to spot how this would look is very incompetent.  I stated quite clearly that this was the relevance of the family connection and not any intention on my part to inculpate the woman (or her husband).  If you refuse to believe that there's nothing more I can say.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 18, 2016, 06:19:36 pm »
Hmmm...not the first thing this year that 'the Germans barely noticed' until it was brought to their attention, is it?

I've no idea what you're referring to.

Well, I'm no fan of 'social media', having never had an account with Facebook, Twitter etc and with no intention of getting one.  But the wires were alight with news of things that happened in Cologne and several other cities on New Year's Eve while the police, politicians and mainstream media said almost nothing until about Jan 5th.  Given a choice between a press that points out a design that might otherwise have passed without comment and one that waits five days to say 'Oh, THOSE assaults' I know which I'd say was more sinister.  The British broadsheets were no better, of course, but then it didn't happen in Britain.

Radio 4 is broadcasting this starting next Sunday;

It will be interesting to hear if the 'pig's head' gag (which, it must be said, is not in the text) features in the radio version.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 18, 2016, 05:22:34 pm »
You had  me fooled I admit, HtoHe. But now I'm pretty sure  you were joking.

Well, not joking as such; but, as I’ve said all along, not treating the issue as a matter of life and death either.  This thread is, after all, for ‘barking’ news stories.  All I’ve said right from the start was that somebody in a very high-powered entourage should have a) spotted this and b) known it was a serious faux pas to display such a design in Germany – especially Nuremberg with all the resonances of that city’s name.  Personally, I think it’s best to avoid any such display anywhere though, perhaps paradoxically, I think the actual prohibition of symbols or of, say, Holocaust denial is not the best way to achieve this.  But it’s the way the Germans have chosen.  I showed the picture to my brother (who lived in Germany for over 20 years) and he instantly saw how unfortunate this design was.  So you’ll excuse me for taking more notice of him and my Dutch friends than of any protestations that it’s a non-issue.  I certainly don’t have much time for any of the ‘it isn’t exactly the same shape as a Nazi swastika…it’s a common Indian symbol…it’s a clever incorporation of toolbox elements in a coat design’ arguments, either.  I somehow suspect those arguments wouldn’t be advanced by the liberal press if people started to turn up at Feyenoord or Hertha Berlin matches with creatively arranged hex keys appliqued to the backs of their leather jackets.  ‘Honestly, officer.  We’re just big admirers of Queen Maxima’.  I don’t think so.  In short, I don’t think Maxima is a closet Nazi and I’ve never suggested I do; but I still think it was a remarkable lapse for this not to have been noticed, and appropriate action taken, before the media spotted it.

The Germans barely noticed.  What's being reported here is not the event itself but the 'Twitterstorm'.

Hmmm...not the first thing this year that 'the Germans barely noticed' until it was brought to their attention, is it?

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 17, 2016, 10:36:09 pm »
Yes, it tells me not to jump to conclusions whatever my preconceptions might be.  The Wail is generally pretty awful but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.  Remind me which paper insisted on pursuing the killers of Stephen Lawrence.  I am open to the possibility that this was the paper's second time to be right.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 17, 2016, 05:33:20 pm »
Just one more thing. strikes me as extraordinary to criticise the press for spotting it...

What I criticise (sections of)  the Press for is making  something out of nothing.

That's not how I saw it.  Whichever way you look at it, the press saw that someone had made something out of hex keys.  The design on the back, around the limbs of the cross, uses four of said keys and, of all the different ways they could have arranged those keys, they have chosen a configuration that looks like a swastika. 

...I was, when it was first brought to my attention, sceptical... 

Should have stuck with that!

Not an option, I'm afraid, once I knew the design was on the coat, not just highlighted by clever editing.  But I have, throughout, stuck with saying that the relevant people should have spotted the pattern before allowing it to be worn in, of all places, Nuremberg. 

What about the fact that the coat had already been worn elsewhere without anyone noticing anything?  If the resemblance was that obvious, it should have been so in any context, and should have been avoided anywhere.

But will it be worn in public again?  I trust she won't be wearing it on Wednesday coming.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 17, 2016, 12:17:10 pm »
However they got there, it wasn't an accident.  They were purposely placed there in a shape that anyone with a bit of sense should have seen was, ahem, unfortunate. 

I am certainly not trying to blame anyone's father for this.   The point about Maxima's parentage was, I thought, quite clearly made.  It was a huge bone of contention when her marriage to the crown prince was first considered - and many Dutch people thought parliament should refuse to approve the wedding.  My point was that, given this feeling*, I would have thought they would be especially careful to avoid embarrassing incidents.  I'm not just sticking up for my Dutch friends when I say I can see why they often see this family as poor ambassadors for the country.

*and other rather unfortunate royal connections such as Claus's Nazi history and Bernhard's involvement with the Bilderberg group.

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