Thursday, 30 April 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Monday, 20 April 2009
Panic is a play about Pan, or rather Improbable director Phelim McDermott's relationship with this God of animal lust. Cue a huge phallus, three nymphs - who back in real life Phelim may or may not have slept with: an actress he trained with in the eighties, the PA who fills out his tax returns and struggles to express her emotions and a gat toothed aerialist (they don't half get around) who believes that she heals everybody she sleeps with - so has sex to spread goodness, and a frightening collection of his self-help books - all designed to distract from the uncomfortable truth that occasionally you could just do with a shag.
I'm not sure much happened in the piece other than confession both from Pan and the nymphs who, without naming names, reveal into a microphone how they felt at once euphoric and cheap to be seduced. But this, as a device, feels dated and rather dull, so you're left watching Julian Crouch's ever inventive design. The brown paper bags carrying the self help books brilliantly become masks onto which the nymphs faces are projected.
It's all a bit boysy really and in all truth feels like both a mid-life crisis and a precocious show.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
Saturday, 18 April 2009
A strange afternoon at the National. Everybody seemed bored, disinterested, not really wanting to there, fidgety and half asleep ... and the audience weren't much better!!!
Mrs Affleck isn't terrible, but it seems to have been doomed from early on in its run by poor reviews and indifferent box office and now, down to its dregs, it feels like the show is just serving time; it's casts' bags are packed in the hall and they are waiting to return to more lucrative TV deals or happy ensembles on the larger National stages.
Maybe a sunny Saturday afternoon in Spring is not the ideal time to meditate on our dark self truths and inability to love where we should; but this was the unhappy, but inescapable, situation that both cast and audience found themselves caught in.
So the play. Samuel Adamson has adapted Henrick Ibsen's Little Eyolf written in the 1890s, and re set it on the North Kent coast in 1955. The transportation only really serves to demonstrate his cleverness as a researcher and a beachcomber of parallels. Disabled Oliver's friend, George, has recently arrived on Windrush. Claire Skinner's Rita Affleck demonstrates all the frustration of a woman waiting for the sexual liberation of the sixties. Whilst she's a decade early her haunted husband Alfred, played with admirable angst by Angus Wight, unable to shake off the nightmare images of Belsen cannot escape the past. His fear underscored by the threatening, alluring Flea (who replaces the rat wife of the original play) dressed as a leather clad rocker in an Elvis quiff. An all too obvious cliche for the shock of the new.
The real problem is that Little Eyolf is a much bigger play - dealing with guilt, recrimination and the possibility for redemption and resurrection in the face of a seemingly malevolent God. A rainy afternoon on the shingle at Herne Bay, with the Goon Show playing tinnily in the background, just doesn't support the crashing avalanches of the original.
Friday, 17 April 2009
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
To begin with the only sign that this is a river is straight line of trees that lead ahead in the distance, hugging the banks of the subterranean trickle, a line of darker grass appears and then puddles which begin to join up eventually graduating to a flow and then a stream covered in forget me nots, pansies, daisies, oxslips and water-crow flowers. Tiny fish begin to dart in and out of the matted weeds and before we hit Ewen, the next village, the first ducks.
We walked on and had a late lunch picnic in a field below Somerford Keynes before finding a sheltering pint in the Horse and Jockey in beautiful Ashton Keynes. The river is so clear here that you can see the threateningly striped Perch develop their muscles by holding their ground swimming against the resistance of the current. As the sun was setting we decided to march on to Cricklade and seek accommodation there, unfortunately with our goal almost in sight, we made our only wrong turn of the day, confirmed by a local farmer in his landrover, and ended up two miles further north in Cherny Wick.
We ate Wiltshire trout in The Crown there whilst Colin, the friendly landlord, kindly found us rooms in The Eliot Arms, two miles further north in South Cherny. Meal done and a quick cab to the land of comfortable beds, sachet coffee and complimentary shower gel.
This morning we caught the bus down to Cricklade and began again - a casual walk across the fields, past the occasional swan's nest, to Castle Eaton where we had lunch and then set off away from the river on the path to Lechlade. It's a tricky part of the journey, less river, more bridleway and finally a disturbing final mile or so dropping towards Inglesham church on the lethal A361.
The church itself is amazingly beautiful. There is a Saxon preaching cross in the graveyard and Byzantine feel to the 11th century nave. For centuries the cleansing power of the river must have been used in ritual and worship here. Quiet, secluded and hiding upstream from Lechlade, it is peace itself.
So our first leg ended in late afternoon sunshine lounging by the river in Lechlade itself.
'Are you travelling far' asked Danny a local who'd been teaching his nephew how to feed the swans without getting nipped.
'We've walked from the source to here' said Aida, 'but we're heading back to London tonight. We'll do the rest on another day.'
'Oh Well,' said Danny gesturing back upstream from where we'd started. 'There's not much that way except for vegetation and weeds. It'll be more interesting from here on in. This is where the real river starts...'
Friday, 10 April 2009
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman directed by rising star Rufus Norris opens at the National next week. I went along to see a preview last night and came away with mixed opinions.
To use a Kasia phrase: 'It wasn't stupid' but I couldn't help feeling disengaged and rather unmoved by the political and emotional battle fought out in front of me.
Elesin, the dead King's horseman, has had a wonderful life of privilege and favour and now as tribal tradition dictates he is expected to commit ritual suicide in order to accompany his former master into the afterlife. However, his own unwillingness to leave such a marvellous life and the clumsy interventions of Pilkings, a colonial administrator, who views the whole ritual as barbaric, lead to the act remaining delayed, disrupting the cosmology of Yoruba universe and bringing shame and misery on the tribe.
Norris is nothing if not a populist storyteller, who simplifies and activates the play with rigour and broad sweeps of a brush well suited for the vast Olivier. In this aspect, he is with Marianne Elliott, one of the few directors who embrace the unplayability of this stage and reward the audience with exuberance and attack. Along with Javier de Frutos, whose stylish choreography, provides a stimulating taut dynamism to the evening, he's found a language that opens up the play and allows us full access to the demonstrable tensions at it's heart.
The problem is, as with his bold production of David Eldridge's Market Boy three years ago, the play remains sociological at the expense of examining the complicated subtext. It leaves open to analysis the reasons behind the failure of the suicide and the colonial distaste for 'barbarism,' without recognising the basic humanity of either Elesin or Pilkings position.
In some ways this is another crude examination of Englishness (the black cast 'white' up to play the English) and it's interesting that it is playing in rep at the Olivier with England People Very Nice. But the approach comes unstuck in the second act when the essential philosophical debate between the two men becomes lost in the visual imagery and signifiers of colonialism. I think Soyinka wrote a subtler play than the one we're offered here and it made me wonder what Bijan Sheibani, who beautifully directed Tarrell Alvin McCraney's Yoruba influenced The Brothers Size last Autumn, would have made of this work. I suspect he'd have begun by insisting on a more intimate space for the story.