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Messages - HtoHe

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Theatre / Birdsong - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: April 15, 2015, 11:23:30 am »
I found this an extremely dull experience.  One of the articles in the programme tells us that life for the WW1 ‘Tommy’ was 90% boredom waiting for something to happen.  I now think I know the feeling. I should, perhaps, point out a couple of things before I continue.  Firstly, I can’t really remember why I booked for this.  It’s not really my kind of thing and I wonder if I put it in my season booking in error instead of booking The Absence of War (which I ended up booking separately).  Secondly I read Rachel Wagstaffe’s script, having picked it up in a charity shop, and have to confess I couldn’t imagine how it would work as drama.  That’s not particularly unusual as I often find a director’s interpretation of a script a wonderful revelation; but, unfortunately, Alastair Whatley’s vision struck me as no more dramatic than the pictures in my head.  That’s not really a fair comparison because  the script for this production is amended; and, if memory serves, quite radically so.  The current production appears to adopt a more cinematic approach with shorter scenes and frequent flashbacks – whereas the script I read seemed to have more substantial and separate time blocks.  I can see, in principle, why this change might be a good idea but the execution left a great deal to be desired.  The whole thing came across as a sort of hybrid of bad sitcom and one of those US made-for-tv films that’s always ‘based on a true story’.  This wasn’t helped by the stage-French accents* and the unfortunate fact that the pompous husband M. Azaire (James Staddon) was called Rene! 

While acknowledging that different people are moved by different things, I have to say that this production didn’t engage me on any level.  Where there should have been pathos leading to anger – as in any number of WW1 dramas from Journey’s End and The Siver Tassie through to The Accrington Pals and My Boy Jack – there was just emptiness.  The flashback scenes, too, were far from gripping.  The central passionate, transgressive attachment between Isabelle and Stephen was devoid of erotic charge with Edmund Wiseman and Emily Bowker** having all the chemistry of a lump of precious metal in a jar of inert gas.  I hesitate to blame the actors as the format and set design allowed very little scope for the level of abandon that, one must presume, drove the relationship on.  Speaking of the actors there were a few rather decent performances – notably from Peter Duncan as sapper Jack Firebrace and Selma Brook, doubling as Isabelle’s mischievous stepdaughter Lisette and a nameless, pragmatic prostitute.   

I’ve never read Sebastian Faulks’s novel but it must be mentioned that the programme contains an approving note from him.  I suspect, though, that a cinematic treatment would do the flashback format much more convincingly; and suspect even more strongly that the characters come to life much more satisfactorily from the pages of a novel.  This dramatic treatment falls between two stools.  Perhaps that’s inevitable but I still can’t help feeling they could have made it more, well, dramatic.

I can’t really recommend this but, as I said, different things move different people so if you want to see it you have until Saturday at the Playhouse then continuing on tour until July:

*I also found it mildly irritating that the French characters used a cod French accent, presumably to indicate that they were speaking French, yet Stephen (who is complimented on his good command of the language) uses the same accent regardless of the language he’s supposed to be speaking.

**Does anyone know if she’s related to Judi?  Neither the programme nor Wikipedia shed’s any light on this.

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: April 13, 2015, 10:46:16 pm »
Never before have I seen a conductor - any conductor - literally drag Thelma off the platform at the end of the concert.

Intriguing, jean.  Care to elaborate?  Drag off in a romantic Mills & Boon stylee (cf French, draguer) or a more sinister Filthy Shades of Grey fashion?  Or was she staging a sit-in and had to be dragged away in the manner of riot police breaking up a demo?  The funny thing is I can't imagine Thelma responding with anything but the enigmatic half smile that seems to be her default expression.  I consoled myself that my inability to get to Saturday's concert meant I avoided the city centre on Grand National day; but now I'm wondering if I missed something historic!  How was the Prokofiev, btw?

Theatre / Re: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Liverpool Everyman
« on: April 13, 2015, 10:33:23 pm »
What's the music like?

Not very memorable, I'm afraid.  I don't, for example, think wheeling on a rock band adds anything to Shakespeare - though I suppose lutes and hurdy gurdys would have looked out of place among the c20 gymslips for the girls and boiler suits for the 'rude mechanicals'.  It's inoffensive, though - if that's not an even deeper insult than 'not very memorable'!  I don't think the music in itself will either make or ruin the evening for many people. 

The Coffee Bar / Re: Grumpy Old Rant Room
« on: April 11, 2015, 04:20:15 pm »
I'm sorry to read this, Walter.  Losing my cd collection is something I dread.  I'm insured but, quite apart from the fact that the sentimental value is much greater than the replacement cost, that's a limited comfort.  My first step if my collection were to be stolen would be to approach some shadowy figures with a view to getting the discs back.  This could eventually involve paying a ransom to do something that would invalidate any insurance claim (I could hardly claim for something that was no longer lost!).  If you're not insured - or, like me, are more keen to get your stuff back than to see the crime solved - you might want to consider asking around in the local pubs.  A collection like that would be quite distinctive so anyone who moves in the right circles would know who was trying to sell it.  Of course you'd have to make it clear - and this really goes against the grain - that you're more interested in getting your property back than in getting the thieves convicted.  The second hand value of such items is so small that, I'm told, selling them back to their rightful owner is more common than you'd think.  Alternatively, if you think chancers are involved you could check the local car boot sales, e-bay offers etc and, if you recognise anything as yours, try and get the police involved.   Best of luck.

The Coffee Bar / Re: What has made you smile today?
« on: April 10, 2015, 09:55:22 am »
I just came across Pat Boone’s In a Metal Mood and tried a few tracks on youtube.  I managed to get through about 90 seconds of Smoke on the Water and rather less of Stairway to Heaven.  The orchestrations are actually not that bad – though why anyone would want to do a Nelson Riddle on these songs is beyond me – but the overall effect is as bad as feared.  So what made me smile?  Well, the fact that he seems to think The Wind Cries Mary is a heavy metal song.  I don’t think Hendrix is a metal merchant at all, but of all the songs to choose from (Purple Haze, Voodoo Chile or even All Along the Watchtower for example) he has to go for a beautiful, simple ballad – and, of course, ruin it by over-complicating things.

Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: April 09, 2015, 08:44:24 pm »
I’m not really concerned with what view the play takes of JS, marbs (though I had rather assumed it would be more demonisation than apologia); I just think that any biographical treatment can only be in poor taste while Yewtree etc is still very much current news.  Imagine the effect on the victims if this transfers to the West End   - and by victims I mean not just those subjected to sexual assault but also those subjected to investigation under the glare of relentless publicity and who now have to spend what remains of their lives under suspicion from the ‘no smoke without fire’ brigade.  I’m not saying there’s no scope for dramatic treatment of abuse – far from it; just that there are far more valid ways of doing it than having a central character who was a real person about whom we are very far from knowing the whole truth.  It’s possible, as you say, that even in 20 years time it might be too early; but it will, imo, be 20 years better than doing it now.

Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: April 08, 2015, 11:40:18 pm »
Looks like I panicked too soon, taking a day’s holiday and diverting via Stratford on the way home from this month’s regular London trip.  As was always half-likely, the RSC Death of a Salesman is transferring to the Noel Coward:

I have to say it will be good to see the back of Shakespeare in Love at that venue.  I don’t have a lot of time for the Olivier awards but how on earth can an anodyne adaptation of a film even be nominated for ‘Best New Comedy’?  If it wins, it will surely be a new low for the West End’s mutual backslapping brigade.

More sinister, though, is this project.

I loved my one visit to Finsbury Park’s adventurous little theatre (Richard Bean’s Toast) but, honestly, how can anyone think this is a good idea?  As one who refused to see Turnage’s Anna Nicole because I thought it too soon to have a decent perspective on such a tragic story I suppose I could be considered a bit over-sensitive.  But Jimmy Savile??!!  Without having any particular opinion on the subject I suggest it's highly disrespectful to living people affected by his behaviour that the man is the subject of a drama (and portrayed by a man who himself is a household name) at this early date.  Twenty years from now, maybe; but not this year or next. 

Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: April 03, 2015, 09:14:56 pm »
The late Doris Lessing is not very well known for theatre work but The Orange Tree’s forthcoming revival of Each His Own Wilderness caught the eye

and Susannah Harker’s name in the cast made me see if I could book ticket, train, hotel and have enough leftover cash for a Saturday matinee from £100.  Unless I can get a Saturday matinee for a fiver I haven’t quite made it but I was quite gratified to see that Premier Inn is a bit less pricy than usual and I booked a Friday night in their Croydon hotel (5m walk from East Croydon station so handy for getting to London for early queuing) for £35.  At that rate Lenny Henry will be reduced to doing Shakespeare or something to make ends meet!  To strengthen the good feeling about this trip I experienced an amazing coincidence literally hours after booking.  Browsing in Henry Bohn’s venerable and ramshackle 2nd hand book emporium in London Rd, Liverpool I came across, for £1.50, an edition of Penguin Plays’ New English Dramatists comprising Arnold Wesker’s Chicken Soup with Barley, Bernard Kops’s The Hamlet of Stepney Green and, you’ve guessed, Doris Lessing’s Each His Own Wilderness.

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: April 01, 2015, 02:29:45 pm »
Not bad, though a bit too unbelievable to be effective. It's the kind of story that would have me looking at the date if I didn't already know.  Better than the Toady programme on R4, though (I presume the story about expanding the goal in professional soccer was the R4 effort). 

Radio / Re: Weill (R3)& Hokney(TV) 14 March
« on: March 28, 2015, 11:42:02 pm »
The stanza in Jenny's Alabama song "Show us the way to the next pretty boy" was cut.  Pity.  I could have identified.  The whole work was in English (with surtitles) so the fact the Alabama song was originally in English with the rest of the text in German was not noticable.  Christine Rice did not sing it with the corny German accent I always associate with it.

I had mixed feelings about this when I heard it on the radio, Don B.  On the one hand I was very disappointed that the RO was putting on operas in translation; on the other, I was relieved that I hadn't been able to get a ticket and, very likely, paid a train fare and even a hotel bill to find this out.  It simply hadn't occurred to me that it might be in English so I hadn't noticed that when looking for suitable tickets/dates.  I also noticed they'd missed a verse from the Alabama Song.  Why they'd want to do that is also beyond me.  Very poor, imo.

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: March 28, 2015, 11:27:47 pm »
I thoroughly enjoyed this concert and, while the downstairs was pretty full I was surprised to see any empty seats at all for such an interesting programme that included a world premiere.  The wp was A Little Mass by James MacMillan, who also conducted the concert.  I found this piece very enjoyable though the first two movements of the abbreviated liturgy (Kyrie and Sanctus) were extremely tempestuous for a mass that isn’t a requiem.  Either of them could have been a Dies Irae to my ears and it wasn’t until the Agnus Dei that the energetic rumbling gave way to more tranquil strings and the thunder sheet and big drums to glockenspiels.  I suppose the Agnus Dei is the section that ends dona nobis pacem but I’m not used to the other two being quite so loud.  The RLPO did the piece justice, I thought, and the three youth choirs (Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir, Liverpool Philharmonic Training Choir and Melody Makers) were quite splendid.   There seemed to be a couple of defections (nerves?) but they didn’t disrupt the performance at all.  The RLPO weren’t quite so sharp in the Wagner Parsifal Prelude (to Act 1) and Good Friday Music (from Act III) with a few of the horn entrances sounding rather dodgy but it was still a decent performance.  Beethoven’s overture Leonore No 3 was given a rousing performance to open the concert and, unusually, another overture closed it.  This was Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture, which I don’t think I’d heard before.  I thought it a little long but, on the whole, thoroughly enjoyed it – especially the rather prominent and sparkling harp part.

Theatre / Re: The Absence of War - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: March 28, 2015, 01:15:50 pm »
I might go to this production when it comes to Cambridge partly out of curiosity to see whether there have indeed been any changes to the text (I've got a copy somewhere).

The text was on sale in the foyer at the 'bargain' price of £6 (bargain, I suppose, if you've simply got to have it and don't like the cover price you'd have to pay at Waterstones; but not that great compared with the custom of the Royal Court (London) where the text of the current production is always £3; or, indeed, compared with the Playhouse's last production, The Three Lions, where the text cost £4 - infinitely better value than £3 for their worthless programme!).  I was tempted to buy a copy but couldn't find anyone to tell me if this was a revised text or just a job lot of the original printed off for sale on tour.  I don't have the original but I'm pretty sure I'll come across it for less than £6 if I keep my eyes open.  I'll pop in to the Playhouse on the way to the Phil this evening, see if there's anyone on duty who knows what version they're selling and let you know.

  Added at 2334.  I asked and was shown the publication details which show the edition on sale is the original 1993 one.  Of course that doesn't mean all the words used on stage come from that edition.  I bought the script of Richard Bean's The Big Fellah after seeing it at the Playhouse and when I read it I noticed there were at least a couple of lines that were different from what I'd heard.  How many differences there were that I didn't notice is anyone's guess.

Theatre / Re: The Absence of War - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: March 27, 2015, 09:59:59 pm »
I'm going tonight.

(You didn't answer my question!)

I assumed it was a rhetorical question, jean.  You know where I live and, unfortunately, I will not have the opportunity to refuse to vote for that party.  Possibly this has something to do with such persons being unable to cross flowing water (or function in the hours of daylight or tolerate garlic or crucifixes – which is possibly why much New Labour plotting was done at lunches in posh restaurants and phony Tony was so attracted to the RC church).  I have no love for the Labour Party so I can’t really say which I find most offensive: Trotskyists trying to hijack the party to deliver a ‘revolution’ the members show no sign of wanting; or opportunists seizing an opportunity to pursue ‘success’ at the expense of principles.   Based purely on personal experience I’d probably rather go down the pub with the former than the latter.  But vote for either?  Not me.  I wouldn’t even vote for Angela Eagle, who I have met a few times and always found to be sincere and hard-working.  The Lindsay Fontaine character strongly reminded me of a woman I knew in the early/mid 1990s  who joined the Labour Party the day pretty boy Blair was made leader.  She was quite open about her motivation – the party had an attractive leader and was on the road to victory.  Policies and principles didn’t even come into her calculations.  I think recruitment figures from around that time will show she wasn't alone.

I hope you enjoyed the play.  Don’t forget to let us know what you thought of it.

Theatre / Re: The Absence of War - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: March 27, 2015, 06:08:26 pm »
I didn't really want this to expand into a political discussion so I didn't mention it in my report, but there is a bit towards the end of the play that reminded me of confrontations with 'Militant' entryists.  Given that they always called themselves socialists we would always ask what they were doing in the Labour Party given that it quite clearly wasn't a socialist organisation and was, even then (mid 1980s), distancing itself from any suggestions of support for common ownership.  They always argued that, since the  Labour Party was where the working classes were to be found, they had a strategy of infiltrating and changing from within.  Of course, they had no satisfactory response to our next question - since the working classes had been voting Tory in very large numbers for the last few years surely the logical thing to do was infiltrate the Conservative Party and convert it into a force for revolution. 

Are you going to the play (or have you been)?  I thought attendance was very disappointing the other day - but that might just have been the 1730 start.  It's a very decent production and deserves to be widely seen.

Theatre / Re: The Absence of War - Liverpool Playhouse
« on: March 27, 2015, 11:57:17 am »
Thanks George.  I read that John Thaw in the original production was recognisably Neil Kinnock.  I wonder if Jeremy Herrin and Headlong played down this identification to stress that the process of reinventing the party as a vote winning machine rather than a principled organisation is not connected to one time and one group of people but is ongoing and has a grip that Miliband is powerless to break even if he wanted to.

Are you going to see this - in Cambridge, perhaps?

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