On Friday night I cycled into Richmond to see A Serious Man, the new Coen brother's movie. They are brilliant storytellers in the Grimm brothers tradition and this dark, brooding morality tale is a mini wonder. Their sharp plot twists, lack of sentimentalism in their driving narratives and beautiful staging make them the most theatrical of film makers.
Larry Gopnik, a diligent, hard working and altruistic Physics professor in a small mid- west town is shafted on all sides from colleagues, family, students and the fickleness of fate. Nobody means him direct harm, but each person in his life makes a demand that chips away at his own sense of self. Appearances are held together long enough for him to see , his distracted son through bar mitzvah, before the ultimate stroke of fatal luck leaves the audience hanging on the question of what's it all for? Without occasional rage how do we keep afloat? It's a brilliant movie.
On Saturday I went up to the Tricycle in Kilburn to see Seize the Day (see pic) by Kwame Kwei-Armah, part of the theatre's Not Black and White season.
Nick Kent, the theatre's artistic director has commissioned three black writers, Roy Williams and Bola Agbaje are the companion authors, to write plays about black experience in contemporary London. Roy's piece Category B looks at the prison system and Bola's work Detaining Justice, tackles issues around immigration.
Seize the Day looks at politics and in particular the Mayoralty. Can Jeremy Charles, a reality TV presenter carry enough 'white' votes to become London's first black mayor? And whose agenda can he represent? Have Mandela and Obama provided the only blueprints for acceptable black leadership - what are the next steps? In many ways it's a companion piece to David Hare's An Abscence of War, which, written in the early nineties portrayed the machinations in a semi-fictious Labour Party battening down the hatches in preparation for power. Both plays demonstrate how ruthlessly dehumanising the aquistion of political power has become. Image over conviction.
It's great to see a really well made play about something - a provocation for debate, accessible and crafted.
The Tricycle is a perfect theatre for politics. Intimate and resonant, the audience shake their heads, intake breath, murmur both approval and disapproval against the action in front of them. A community venue preparing its audience for national debate. It's vital stuff.