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Messages - HtoHe

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Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: March 10, 2015, 10:27:52 pm »
On the way to the Unity this evening I spotted a poster advertising a concert by Ike Willis in a Liverpool club.  Checking this out online I was amazed to see the tickets are on sale at a mere £12.50 (+£1.25 admin fee).  I'm wondering what the catch is but I've booked mine anyway.  Maybe they force you to buy overpriced drinks or something as the ticket alone seems remarkably cheap.

Theatre / Krapp's Last Tape - Unity Theatre, Liverpool
« on: March 10, 2015, 10:22:16 pm »
As there are 5 performances to come and, for now, tickets still available, here’s a quick report on this production.  The Unity 1 was full or almost full for this first performance.  That’s not a really big deal as the capacity is a little under 200 but for Beckett on a Tuesday evening outside London I suspect it’s quite an impressive turnout.  Looking uncannily like the pictures of a grey haired Samuel Beckett and attired in a shabby cardigan, long johns and unlaced boots Nick Birkinshaw gives a very fine performance as the eponymous Krapp.  Where Richard Wilson in the recent Sheffield production came across as eccentric and irascible, Birkinshaw’s character seemed borderline deranged.  For me, at least, this approach worked equally well.  The set was more conventional than in Sheffield – where Krapp’s den was enclosed in a revolving box – with everything in sight throughout.  ‘Everything’ being the collection of junk, including boxes of tapes, books and discarded banana skins, in the old man’s den along with his desk, reel-to-reel tape machine and lamp.  I should, I suppose, correct myself and point out that a few things are out of sight behind a partition stage right.  These include the wine bottle and corkscrew and Krapp’s large dictionary – which he fetches to look up ‘viduity’.  For what it’s worth, I still can’t see why the character, alone in his den, would read the definition of this word out loud but I expect that’s one of them there enigmas that the author teases us with.  To conclude: for those who enjoy, or think they might enjoy, Beckett’s work this is, in my opinion, a thoroughly competent production.

Radio / Re: Drama on 3, Electra (Sophocles)
« on: March 09, 2015, 10:14:57 pm »
I preferred KST's stage delivery. Perhaps, on the radio, she was trying to compensate for the absence of visible gestures by using vocal mannerisms that I just don't remember hearing at the Old Vic.  On the plus side, though, I didn't find Frank McGuinness's treatment as soapy as it appeared last year so perhaps I was misinterpreting innocent words because of physical gestures.  Orestes's 'do you know what I'm saying' still jarred, though.  Thanks, anyway, Stanley for flagging up this broadcast.  I thoroughly enjoyed it both on its own merits and as a reminder of last year's production.
Did you catch John Gabriel Borkman with David Threlfall and my great friend (oh, all right then, I met her briefly once) Susannah Harker in it?  I must try and catch up with Episode 1 this week so I can listen to the conclusion on Sunday.  Or, perhaps, I could take advantage of the new extended i-player availability to listen to the whole thing in one sitting next week.  I'd be interested to know what you think of it, anyway.

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: March 09, 2015, 09:16:29 pm »
Generally the layout of orchestral strings is according to the conductor's preference, rather than the orchestra's. I have the impression that the layout with split violins is gaining ground among conductors in recent years,[/quote]

Thanks, Selva.  I should be in a good position to report back on future configurations as my next booking features a shared podium

(will Petrenko change the layout in mid concert, I wonder.)  and the one after that is with a guest conductor

I'll let the board know what happens.  Somebody else will have to report on the Petrenko concerts in between because, much as I love the Sibelius violin concerto. I'm out of town for both evenings.

Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: March 09, 2015, 02:13:54 pm »
Here’s an update that might be of use to anyone planning to book for The Skriker. I noticed that the stage level seats are all unreserved so I wondered what effect this would have on the day seat scheme (the normal practice is for stage level seats to be reserved except for banquettes right at the front, for which tickets only go on sale on the day of the performance).  When I finally got through to the box office I extracted the following information:

There will be day tickets for the production but only 10 per performance (there’s usually at least double that), all in the upper gallery (as opposed to stage level) and £15 each (instead of £10).

The unreserved stage level seats are arranged around tables rather than in the more conventional layout.

I didn’t fancy watching a play from a table seat so I decided to get a circle seat (lucky, because the stage level seats for my date, and several others, seem to have gone already).  I was most annoyed to find they don’t even let you choose your seats in the circles – you have to choose a quantity and they allocate it for you; though you can specify that your seats must be next to each other.

Although I didn’t see any mention of it on the website they seem to have introduced their ‘dynamic’ pricing as I’m almost certain the stage level seats that were £41 this morning were only £36 on Friday night.

I nearly abandoned the idea, finding a particular irony in the fact that the presence of Ms Peake – which is of marginal appeal to me – is probably the main reason it won’t be easy to see this; but it is Caryl Churchill so I grabbed a single seat while I could.  Anyone else who’s keen to see this should, at the very least, keep a close eye on ticket sales to avoid disappointment.

Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: March 09, 2015, 10:49:06 am »
A little research seems to reveal that, despite being billed as 'Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and the Royal Exchange Theatre’ The Skriker is not a new play.  I presume they justify the description on the grounds of the production having several new features.  To be honest, having music by Nico Muhly instead of Judith Weir is not an obvious plus for me.  Of course I’ll still be going and approaching the production with an open mind.  There’s another Churchill revival at the Young Vic in July-Aug….

…and what looks like a real premiere at the NT later in the year.

Yet another Richard Bean revival follows A View from the Bridge to make two consecutive productions at Wyndhams for my 'A' list:

Bean still has enough credit with me to make this a must, but I must admit Pitcairn and Made in Dagenham have made me less of a blind follower.

Also on my shortlist is Ivanov with Anna Chancellor and Sam West, though I’m hoping not to have to go to Chichester to see it:

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: March 09, 2015, 10:45:42 am »
Thanks for the info, chivhu.  I'm going to the Unity tomorrow so, if I have time, I'll drop by and ask about the permanence or otherwise of the changes.

As far as the concerto is concerned, I think there is more than one version.  The one played yesterday is an official revision by Alexander Siloti.  The Phil's programme notes didn't help here as they listed the running time as 33 minutes.  This was a mistake - the performance lasted about 45 minutes - but it had me wondering whether we were going to get a version I'd never heard of!

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: March 08, 2015, 10:04:14 pm »
You’re not kidding about the change in the layout, chivhu!  After years in the upper circle I migrated to the front side stalls for my first batch of bookings this year, taking care to book the left hand side to avoid being too close to the basses; and what happened?  They moved the basses across the platform so I was a mere few feet away from them today.  I wonder how permanent this change is going to be.   I don’t want to book my next batch on the right and find they’ve reverted to the former layout.  I’m tempted to go back upstairs where these balance issues don’t come up.  The house looked pretty full.  I spotted few empty seats in the stalls and the circle looked almost full, too.   

Surprise layout apart, though, it was a most enjoyable concert this afternoon.  I can’t remember the last time I heard Tchaikovsky’s 2nd PC and I can’t say it all came flooding back; but Nikolai Lugansky’s performance was very attractive and the support from the RLPO, including a lovely violin solo from Thelma Handy, was very fine, too.  I was tempted to conclude that the concerto is actually rather better than PC no 1 but I suspect the novelty and freshness of it is swaying my judgement.  After the interval the fourth symphony – which I most certainly have heard many times before – was delivered with tremendous power with the menacing first movement giving way to a lyrical andante and sparkling scherzo (plucked strings giving way to skittish wind before the two joined forces) and wrapping up with a blazing finale.  It’s easy to see how this music can be interpreted as being descriptive of the composer’s inner turmoil if you’re told of its background.  But if you’re not it works just as well as beautiful sounds.

Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: March 08, 2015, 12:02:18 pm »
I’ve just spotted that the Royal Exchange is hosting a Caryl Churchill premiere sa part of the Manchester Festival this summer.  Maybe I’ll finally get to see Maxine Peake in something I like.   I’m sure I’d have liked her The Masque of Anarchy if they hadn’t made it all but impossible to see without adding a hotel bill or taxi fare to the ticket price.  The Skriker looks much more accessible with evening performances looking set to finish in time for me to get the train to Liverpool and arrive before the buses stop for the night.

I have a few more items (including another Churchill prem) in my sights but I’m off to the Phil now so I’ll catch up later.  Just a quick mention, for the benefit of locals,  for this week’s Krapp’s Last Tape at the Unity and Hay Fever at Lipa.:

News and Current Affairs / Re: Today's Barking News Story
« on: March 08, 2015, 10:40:01 am »
This was discussed on R4's Broadcasting House this morning and I’m afraid I had to check I hadn’t overslept and woken up on April 1.

Nobody, in the radio discussion or the newspaper article, seemed to think it at all ironic that the person getting all censorious about ‘bad language and sexual content’ is a head teacher in Kirriemuir.  You couldn’t make it up. 

The discussion was, otherwise, rather poor quality with, on the one hand, Nicola Horlick failing to address the issue at all, preferring to give us her own views on swearing and, on the other, Alex Salmond repeating (unchallenged) the fallacy that Shakespeare is full of swear words.  I wish someone had asked him for examples because, in my experience, while there is a fair bit of sexual content, the Bard’s work contains very few outright expletives of the kind found in plays like Black Watch.  I must say I have been mildly surprised to see school parties at performances of, say, Our Country’s Good.  A play with content like that certainly wouldn’t have got on the ‘A’ level syllabus when I was at school but I think things have, if anything, changed for the better.

Back to Kirriemuir.  I came across this recently (warning NOT for the easily offended):

Kenneth McKellar! I haven’t been so surprised since I read Kathleen Ferrier’s limerick about the young lady of Nantes.

Broadcast and Recorded Music / Re: Now spinning ...
« on: March 07, 2015, 10:50:54 am »
Very interesting, Selva.  There is obviously a fair bit of editing anyway given that the recording of the songs is given as 24-26 July 2014; and I presume the concert didn't last 3 days!  The other pieces are rather earlier (Don Juan 3-5 July 2014 and Also Sprach Zarathustra over a year before that on 2 & 4 May 2013).  All are described as 'live in concert at Hamer Hall Arts Centre, Melbourne'.   I often appreciate the clarity of the soprano on recordings because, though I'll usually go to hear the Vier Letzte Lieder if it's on locally, I'm often frustrated by the fact that the voice can be almost inaudible in some passages.   My only, very minor, quibble with Erin Wall's singing is that she sometimes seems to falter and I can't work out whether it's her German (my own German isn't nearly good enough to judge) or merely synchronising with the orchestral part.  I never got the impression that the orchestra was deliberately held back in this recording.  You can certainly always hear it - but you can always hear the soprano as well.

Broadcast and Recorded Music / Re: Now spinning ...
« on: March 06, 2015, 11:19:54 pm »
Erin Wall's fairly recent Vier Letzte Lieder with Andrew Davis and the Melbourne SO.  I can see this becoming one of my favourite interpretations.  Considering it's a live recording she seems to float effortlessly on top of the large orchestra - though I suppose that's got a lot to do with the mixing these days.  Anyway, I liked it a lot and the opening of Also Sprach Zarathustra that follows it starts very impressively, too.  I'm afraid I cheated and skipped straight to the songs so will probably keep the Don Juan for tomorrow; but I'm already very happy with this purchase

Board Usage Help Forum / Previews
« on: March 05, 2015, 11:05:29 am »
Anyone else having trouble getting these to load?  My last two* contributions had to be posted unedited because the board hung on 'fetching preview' for far longer than I was able to wait.  Not a big deal but worth investigating if it's happening to others as well.

*three including this one

The Concert Hall / Re: Liverpool Concerts 2014-5
« on: March 05, 2015, 11:02:01 am »
Thanks for the report, chivhu.   

The 4th is being repeated tonight, with the second piano Concerto: I wonder if this will get another full house?

Are you sure about this?  I have a ticket for the concert with PC2 but it's for Sunday afternoon.  I can't see a listing for tonight except Rumours of Fleetwood Mac.  I've heard of mixed-discipline events but that would be a bit extreme even for today's tastes!

I find the RLPO's programming rather baffling.  Much as I like Tchaikovsky 4 I really didn't fancy hearing it twice in a week so I was forced to choose between PCs 1 & 2.  2 was always going to win because of its rarity value.  The orchestra has a history of repeating a concerto with different overtures and symphonies - which is frustrating enough - but repeating the symphony with a different concerto is a new one on me.

Theatre / Closer - Donmar Warehouse
« on: March 04, 2015, 04:24:41 pm »
I didn’t know this play at all but I like Patrick Marber’s TV work and was, of course, aware of the positive responses to Closer since its premiere in the late 1990s so I was keen to catch up with it.  I am, in general, glad I did so but must say I left wondering what the fuss was about.  It was mildly amusing – certainly not as awful as the last ‘comedy’ I saw here (The Same Deep Water as Me) – but didn’t, to my mind, shine as either comedy or drama.  Perhaps, on the comedy front, my expectations were raised too high by my memories of Alan Partridge and On the Hour/The Day Today but I found most of gags rather ordinary and the situations contrived.  For example, Dan’s playing an online practical joke via an anonymous  sex encounter website on a 'stranger' who just happens to be someone he has met briefly is the kind of coincidence that can happen in real life but which I should have thought would be ruled out as a plot device by authorial etiquette.  The online exchange itself is also dramatically suspect – a good three minutes of silence while the two characters attack their laptops with the resultant script projected onto a screen at the back of the stage.  Marber’s script (£5 at the door, probably a lot less than you’d pay at Waterstones)  actually includes an alternative, vocal, version for theatres without projection facilities but the Donmar still sells at least a dozen seats from which the back wall can’t be seen.  Three minutes of silence might not seem that long but when you can hear people roaring with laughter (keen to allay any suspicion that they don’t understand the pornified language on the screen?) it must drag on.  There is also a scene towards the end when seeing the back of the stage is important but at least this information is also relayed via the dialogue.  To be fair, the theatre does warn that parts of the stage will be invisible from certain seats but I would further warn that this restriction - for this play - is far from trivial. 

If the play isn’t an out-and-out comedy I really couldn’t get my head around what serious themes were involved.  That emotional/sexual entanglements can get messy (who knew?).  That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?  That still waters run deep?  Honestly, I couldn’t identify an original theme in the whole piece.  Which would have been fine if I could have managed a modicum of emotional investment in any of the characters.  But though all four were, in the main, well played I really couldn’t care what happened to any of them.  Even the enigmatic Alice (Rachel Redford) with her unfortunate tendency to step out in front of moving vehicles didn’t engender a lot of emapathy.  Rufus Sewell did well enough as Larry – though his drunk in a strip club act was rather ott (and clearly not the only way of interpreting the script) and Oliver Chris as Dan gives another fine performance after One Man, Two Guvnors and Great Britain.  Nancy Carroll as Anna makes up the quartet and was also good enough though, no offence to her, I struggled to see what made her character so alluring to the two men.   Indeed, the whole erotic element of the piece was underwhelming in the extreme.  That, of course, might be deliberate – banging home the (again not terribly original) the point that the more desperately you pursue pleasure the less likely you are to be satisfied.

I found the plot twists, too, far too obvious.  The best example, perhaps, [SPOILER ALERT] came in the strip club scene where ‘Alice’ repeatedly told Larry her real name was Jane.  I can’t have been the only person in the audience thinking ‘bet her real name is Jane’.

As with most Donmar productions – especially ones with famous names like Rufus Sewell in the cast – Closer was sold out almost before it went on public sale; but returns are put online for sale and there’s always the Monday morning Barclays Bank ten o’ clock rush – which might be a bit less of a lottery this far into the run.  Finally, there are standing places kept back for sale on each performance day.  I was mightily surprised to pick one of these up at 1020 on Saturday but then it had been raining all morning; which must dishearten some potential queue members

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