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Messages - HtoHe

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31
Or am I just a sexist reactionary?

You’re an evil old git, Don B; everyone knows that!

Seriously, though:  while I’m not sure posters like this are a good idea there is, at the same time, an almost perverse abandonment of logical thinking where some ideological stances are concerned.  Advising people to take care is obviously not the same thing as either blaming the victim or exculpating the perpetrator.  I wonder, though, if this poster (which I haven’t seen) works both ways: ie does it, as well as warning people intending to drink to be careful, make it clear to people who habitually stay sober that someone under the influence of alcohol might be incapable of giving legally valid consent.   In other words, if you want to avoid either being raped or being convicted of rape you should be very careful where intoxication is an issue.  If it only warns the potential victim there might be a case for seeing it as a rather unbalanced message.

32
News and Current Affairs / Re: RIP Dora Bryan
« on: July 31, 2014, 07:44:41 pm »
Trevor Peacock (Petey?)

Indeed, Stanley.  I couldn't resist looking it up:

http://theatricalia.com/play/5v/the-birthday-party/production/d8w

I must say I'm rather jealous of Don B on account of this!

33
The Opera House / Re: Moses und Aron
« on: July 29, 2014, 09:16:06 am »
I would have been quite happy for it to have been even more minimalist since the directorial bits that they added didn't really add much. I did perk up briefly at the conceit of Moses' rod being a book ('The Word'?) but rather quickly decided that it wasn't interesting after all, not helped by the chorus having to wiggle it about to make it turn into a serpent.

I thought, too, that the staging, or what I saw of it, added little  - which was fine for me because the box office had given me a realistic idea of how restricted my view would be so I’d resigned myself to a concert performance anyway. One advantage over an actual concert performance was the plentiful supply of those small surtitle screens which meant I didn’t have to try and read a parallel text booklet in bad light to follow the story.  In fact, one woman gave up her seat at the interval to get a better view of the surtitle screens because she had quite lost touch with what was supposed to be happening.

even if we didn't get   -   as Schoenberg's stage directions require  -  processions of laden camels, asses, horses, porters and wagons, the ritual slaughter and distribution of many of the animals, the entry of Tribal Leaders at the gallop, the self sacrifice and draining of the blood of four naked virgins, others leaping into fire etc

A group of five left at this point (not the 'cinema' part but the rather half-hearted writhing that came later).  Of course, they might have been feeling the heat or just realised they were going to miss their train rather than staging an old-fashioned ROH protest walk-out.  It’s difficult to imagine that they’d suddenly realised, at this late stage, that they didn’t like the music and I found myself wondering if they found the scene too shocking or too tame!   On my way out I heard someone behind me say to her companion ‘if that’s what they call naked it’s no wonder they were virgins’ so I suspect tame was the majority opinion.  If anything orgiastic was going on it must have been in the ‘restricted’ part of my view!

34
It would take a really bad performance to stop me enjoying the Enigma variations and this was far from bad, though I did find it a little understated.  I’m not, I hope, one for too much bombast but I felt Mena and the BBC Phil didn’t quite make the piece soar in the way it often does.  David Horne’s Daedalus in Flight, also, seemed to lack the element of, ahem, take off but was still decent enough.  I must say, though, that I’ve preferred Horne’s pieces for smaller ensemble (at 10/10 concerts).  Indeed, I was rather more taken with the free concert of his stuff at the Proms extra event (including the WP of Caprice, for sextet).   EJ Moeran’s Violin Concerto had plenty of pleasant tunes in it and Tasmin Little gave an impassioned performance but even at around 30 minutes it seemed rather too long for the material.  The piece that impressed me most was the opener, Walton’s Variations on a theme by Hindemith, which really held the attention for all of its 20-odd minutes.

35
Theatre / In Lambeth - Southwark Playhouse
« on: July 28, 2014, 10:05:18 am »
I vaguely remember seeing Jack Shepherd’s play on TV a while ago but I can’t find any record of that broadcast.  The piece has certainly been around a while before this latest revival – the programme/playtext (at £4 no dearer than the booklet of adverts on offer for West End productions) the premiere was in 1989.

The play is ostensibly a record of the meeting between the Blakes of Lambeth - poet William (Tom Mothersdale)* and his wife Catherine (Melody Grove) - and Thomas Paine (Christopher Hunter) of Rights of Man fame (or, as Catherine puts it ‘Oh, you’re that Thomas Paine’).  I don’t know if this is pure fiction or based on a meeting that actually happened but it hardly matters because the piece doesn’t really have much of a plot; being essentially a vehicle for exploring different models for social change.  As you’ll know, Blake the visionary and Paine the agitator, while agreeing that the current situation was unbearable, would have had different opinions on how to change things.  These differences are explored in a stimulating, unbroken 90 minutes in which perhaps the most interesting thing is the use of the character of Catherine as a sort of down-to-earth voice.  Again, I don’t know how much this character is based on what little is known of the real Catherine (she didn’t get much of a mention in Eng Lit or History A-levels) but she is presented as illiterate (William is teaching her to read) but wise, loving and practical (a bit too bloody perfect if anything!).  Her ‘Bill’ on the other hand is shown as a charming, deep thinking but often hopelessly impractical character (though he does seem to understand the importance of the engraving business to keep the money coming in).  Tom Paine comes across as a bluff cove but (and this might be just my impression) somewhat patronising.  If the play comes to any conclusion it’s probably that that two sides of the argument are interpenetrating and mutually important.  Paine is the man of action but it’s clear to the audience that he has stumbled into the household of the Blakes for the very practical reason that a mob was on his heels.  And Blake, for all their differences of opinion, clearly sees the need for people like Paine and is willing not only to offer hospitality and, if necessary, shelter but also advises him to flee the country: “They want to silence you….they’ll kill you if they have to.  It’s important that you go on speaking out….Go to France.  Speak out from there”  Catherine seems to represent both a steadying influence and the need to keep things going from day to day (something both men seem unnervingly willing to ignore!)  and there are appearances by a fourth, unspeaking character (not listed in the character list) who might or might not be William’s dead brother Robert.

The tendency for Blake in particular, but Paine too, to quote from their published works comes across as a bit artificial but is not nearly as cringeworthy as in Shakespeare in Love.  Otherwise the drama works very well - though I expect a basic knowledge of who Blake and Paine were is a big advantage.  After all, man being chased by mob drops in on hippy-dippy couple and they talk a lot might not be very dramatic in its own right.

It’s worth catching this while it’s on as heaven knows when the next revival might be.  In the unlikely event that R3OK readers might be offended by naked bodies I should warn that the play opens with William and Catherine up a tree in their garden without a stitch on.  Again, I don’t know how true to life this might be (yet another thing we didn’t cover at A-level).  You have another week to catch it at the Southwark Playhouse (a venue that seems to be putting on quite a bit of interesting stuff nowadays).

http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/index.php/the-large/in-lambeth//

* how rude of me to concentrate on the characters and forget to mention the players, all of whom gave almost flawless performances.  I've now rectified this - except for the silent visitor who might be William's brother, Robert, but for whom no credit seems to be given in the programme

36
Theatre / Antony and Cleopatra - Shakespeare's Globe
« on: July 27, 2014, 08:14:18 pm »
The Globe’s Antony and Cleopatra is a lively affair – perhaps erring a little towards triviality but not fatally so.  Eve Best’s Cleopatra is a skittish, spoilt brat of a queen tending more to gratuitous (ab)use of personal power rather than pomp or politics.  Best, in the Globe tradition, plays to the yard; lots of eye contact, exasperated expressions when pausing to allow noisy aircraft to pass and even a bit of rather dangerous flirting (get in the front row and, if you’re attractive enough, you’re in with a chance of a snog!  I couldn’t help wondering if she’d come across any jealous girlfriends in this run).  Clive Wood as a world-weary Antony and Jolyon Coy as a rather petulant Octavius are very solid; as are Sirine Saba and Rosie Hillal as Charmian and Iras the attendants who hardly ever leave the queen’s side.   Rosie Hillal doubled as Octavia, making her a very busy cast member.  In truth, the whole cast was good – and I finally got to see Phil Daniels in a decent role; and very good he was, too, though a cockney Enobarbus won’t be to everyone’s taste.
 
The set is bare as usual, with just a few props carried on by the players.  For some reason the Romans seem to be in Elizabethan/Jacobean costume (though sometimes topped with armour of an earlier age) while the Egyptians are dressed more appropriately for the setting – usually in flowing white robes, though they do have a brief beige spell.  Gold only really comes into it at the end.  From time to time Cleopatra is seen giving gold bangles etc as rewards to messengers; but the death scene is smothered in the colour. The queen puts on her gold robe, sits on her gold, winged throne and kills herself with a golden snake. There must be a message there somewhere.

Well worth seeing – and there seems to be decent availability for most dates until Aug 24:

http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/theatre/whats-on/globe-theatre/antony-and-cleopatra-2014



37
The Opera House / Re: Moses und Aron
« on: July 27, 2014, 08:11:16 pm »
saw this – or should I, given that I snapped up one of the less wonderful Stalls Circle standing places at very short notice, say I heard and read this on Saturday; which was, I believe, the last of this run.  It was clear that I’d miss much of the action so I found myself reversing my priorities as far as surtitles were concerned; that is, instead of trying to catch the surtitles without missing much of the action I concentrated on reading the text in full, focussing on the stage only when I had absorbed the words.

Even with a restricted view it was clear that this was a strange interpretation – or, to put it more bluntly, the action was very often at odds with the text.  The set seemed completely dominated by a sort of lecture theatre or a modern parliament/assembly chamber; so it was very odd when Moses was (presumably) meeting Aron in the desert.  It just looked like they were having a meeting in the chamber.  Likewise, when Aron was expounding on the wondrous properties of his rod (I really tried to find an innuendo-free way to express that but gave up!) he was, in fact, brandishing a book.  Even more bizarre, perhaps, was the series of orchestral passages in the second act that I guessed were meant to represent some kind of bacchanale but were accompanied by nothing more frenzied than cast members  – seated as an audience facing the ROH audience – doing the odd Mexican Wave and going ooh...ahh.  Perhaps we’re being told that pornography or some other toxic form of spectacle is the modern golden calf but I couldn’t help thinking that if I’d paid £100+ for a stalls seat I’d have been a bit disappointed with this trite offering.  My disappointment would have been diminished, though, by the excellence of the sound.  I have come to expect nothing but the best from the lioke of John Tomlinson but the overall quality of the orchestral, choral and solo work made this a treat for the ears if not the eyes.   

38
News and Current Affairs / Re: RIP Dora Bryan
« on: July 24, 2014, 08:10:20 pm »
The only time I saw her live was at the National in a Pinter play (The Homecoming?) in which she made her catch phrase "Is it nice?" both funny, gormless, unforgettable and a bit sinister.

Having seen her throughout my childhood on the box in light comedy ("All I want for Christmas is a Beatle") I was a bit surprised to find her in Pinter.

Your mention of 'is it nice' almost certainly means the play would be The Birthday Party, Don B and I imagine she would have been an ideal Meg (not that I knew she had ever played the role).  There is only one female role in The Homecoming and, though Dora B often played 'working girls', I would be very surprised to learn she would be considered for the role of ice-cool Ruth.  No doubt she'd have had a good go - but it's hard to imagine her in that part.  Ruth is almost the archetypal 'tart without a heart' and that just isn't Dora, is it?

39
News and Current Affairs / RIP Dora Bryan
« on: July 23, 2014, 10:21:48 pm »
I thought I’d open this one as nobody has done so yet and I feel sure I won’t be the only one saddened by today’s news – and I’m even surer that there are others here in a better position to do justice to her memory.  Dora Bryan is another of those figures who has been around quite literally for as long as I can remember.  I was reminded of her in happier circumstances earlier this year when Lesley Sharp’s performance in A Taste of Honey at the Lyttelton prompted me to re-view DB’s unforgettable Helen to Rita Tushingham’s Jo in the classic film.  But I’d have seen Dora on the television many times before I was old enough to appreciate that film; and I was still enjoying her joyful, mischievous TV work up to at least as late as her cameo as Gran(June Whitfield)’s outrageous pal in Absolutely Fabulous.  I never saw her on stage, which is a pity; but her screen work will stay with me as long as I can remember anything.

RIP

40
The Coffee Bar / Re: Youtube
« on: July 22, 2014, 09:23:53 pm »
This recent offering from "Weird Al" Yankovich would have split the old Word of Mouth board right down the middle:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc


41
Proms / Re: Proms 2014, PROM 5 (21 July)
« on: July 22, 2014, 04:04:36 pm »
Judging by what I heard via DAB (which, I must say, can be misleading) I agree that this was the first Prom to come across as really good - though I found the encore - an arrangement of a Swiss folk tune - a bit cringeworthy.  The Tonhalle orchestra sounded great, though, and the Strauss was particularly effective, I thought.

Of the others I keard I liked the first night Elgar well enough but found the China Philharmonic rather dull on Saturday and really couldn't hear anything exceptional from Gergiev's 'supergroup'.  My first live report will be from Friday's programme of British music.  I might get to Saturday's St John Passion as well (depending on theatre availability - if I can get a reasonably-priced ticket for The Crucible I won't be going to the RAH).

42
Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: July 19, 2014, 08:56:34 pm »
I just noticed that Juno is on at the Bristol Old Vic before coming to Liverpool.  These appear to be the only venues for this production;

http://www.bristololdvic.org.uk/juno.html


43
Theatre / Re: Coming up....
« on: July 18, 2014, 09:30:25 pm »
Niamh Cusack in Juno and the Paycock at the Liverpool Playhouse in early October pretty much comes into the unmissable category for me - and it will probably be the first time I have seen the same role played by two illustrious siblings given that I had the privilege of seeing Sinead's Juno at the NT a few years ago.  I've already booked and noted that the stalls are already almost full for the first two previews so I thought I'd mention it for the benefit of anyone who might be interested.  Having also, to avoid disappointment, booked in advance for Kristin Scott Thomas's Electra at the Old Vic I now have two unmissable performances to see within eight days of each other.

http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/show/Juno_and_the_Paycock/1112.aspx

44
Theatre / Shakespeare in Love - Noel Coward Theatre
« on: July 17, 2014, 09:47:07 pm »
I wanted to see The Crucible at the Old Vic but I wasn’t going to pay £50 for a decent seat or £10 for one described, with commendable honesty, as offering a dreadfully restricted view; so I was left to choose between Handbagged, the veterans’ production of The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare in Love for my Wednesday homeward-bound matinee.  Against my instincts I went for SiL because a couple in the NT queue on Monday recommended it; but within ten minutes of the start I knew I’d almost certainly chosen wrongly.  I won’t go into detail because I suspect this production is aimed at people who look for different things in a play than I do so it’s probably best to say nothing.  I am, of course, happy to answer any questions where I can give useful information; but the reason I opened this thread was to warn that the front row day seats are not brilliant.  At £10 or £15 (I paid £10 but I think that’s because it was officially still a preview) I’m not going to complain about value but it must be said that the stage is very high and very deep.  I presume rows A & B have been removed to make way for an extension which goes to within inches of the front row (C).   I found it impossible to see the back of the stage or to see people lying on the floor (which happens quite often) and I’m not particularly short.  I imagine some people would have difficulty seeing much at all.  If you plan to see this you might get a better deal if the Leicester Sq booth is doing half-price seats further back.

45
Theatre / Great Britain - Lyttelton Theatre
« on: July 17, 2014, 12:22:52 pm »
There can be little doubt that with Great Britain the Richard Bean/Nicholas Hytner combination has another massive hit on its hands.  It probably won’t be as big as One Man, Two Guvnors because, unfortunately, the phone-hacking, MPs expenses, police corruption and other scandals woven together here will soon be all but forgotten; but a West End transfer is already a dead cert and I’d have thought live screenings and a national tour are extremely likely.

Is it any good?  Well, it’s certainly not a literary masterpiece but it delivers what it promises in copious quantities.  Its minor promise is to prod mercilessly at the putrefaction in our national institutions but its major promise is to  be riotously funny.  The flattering comparison here is not with One Man, Two Guvnors but with The Duck House.  Where that meretricious piece of prefabricated mickey taking had the poor cast pausing for laughs that didn’t come (and sometimes, even, quite literally telling the audience that the last line was a cue for laughter) Great Britain is the kind of play you need to see more than once because the gags are so fast and funny that you’re bound to have missed some of them because you were still laughing at the one before.

I’m afraid I didn’t find Billie Piper any more wonderful than I did in The Effect but it would be mean to be too critical about a performance that seemed word perfect (and she was given a lot of words to deliver) and timed to the split second.  I just thought she was a bit one-dimensional with hackneyed mannerisms and a tone that didn’t seem to distinguish between whether she was addressing the audience (as well as being news editor Paige Britain she is the character charged with breaching the fourth wall when the author wants to) or engaged in dialogue.  And the tone, don’t ask me why, has more than a little of the Maggie Thatcher schoolmarm about it.   Allowances must also be made for the fact that Ms Piper has to use a female character to satirise the behaviour of people who, in real life, are probably male characters.  Most of you will know that this production was kept under wraps until the phone hacking verdicts were in; and the pale-skinned redheaded pal of the proprietor is not Ms Piper’s Paige Britain at all but Virginia White (Jo Dockery), who turns out to be an innocent abroad, completely oblivious to the skulduggery going on around her!  Ms Piper has a lot more in common with a man at the heart of the phone hacking scandal – with the added advantage that she, in the rampantly heterosexual world of the tabloids, could be shown literally getting into bed with the leader of the Tory party, Jonathan Whey (Rupert Vansittart).


Other performances were as efficient as Ms Piper’s (though surely none were as taxing) and several were more convincing.  Robert Glenister as editor Wilson Tikkel (whose surname, you’ll note, is most definitely not Mackenzie) and Paschal O’Leary as the emphatically Irish, and not Australian, proprietor succeed in being recognisable and stereotypical without being cartoonish.  Aaron Neil as the 'first Asian police Commissioner', Sully Kassam, is cartoonish but is very obviously written with such hyperbole that no attempt at credibility could even be attempted.  And the character, unless I’m missing something, seems to be a pure figment rather than anyone recognisable.  Mr Neil hams it up gloriously – which is all you can do when your character holds press conferences and says things like ‘I’m appealing to the public for any information you can give - because a clue is one thing I have not got’.  Harriet Thorpe as Clarissa Kingston-Mills, a PR consultant with a wicked line in revenging herself on the press when she feels cheated is also fine.  Indeed the list of good performances is too long for me to comment on them all so I’ll stop there.

The set is fairly simple though quite hi-tech, including huge screens so the audience can see the TV and internet feeds and magnified front page pictures and headlines – including iIrc ‘Heil Ma’m!’ over a picture of the future queen playing in a Hitler Youth band in the 1930s.  I won’t give away too much more but can’t resist my favourite exchange between the Tory Leader and his press advisor:

There are more pandas in Scotland than Conservative MPs

We must do something about that.  Any suggestions?

Shoot the pandas?

(paraphrased, of course – my memory isn’t nearly that good!)

It might be difficult to get tickets as news spreads about this; but I was very surprised to find myself third in the queue at 0700 on Monday.  And everyone who was there when the box office opened will have got a front row seat for £15.  These seats are fine for this production – you’ll see everything and be in a better position than most to read the front-page mock ups and other stuff. 



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