Last week, I went to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, as part of the promotional activities for the new series of Good Omens. (It got released on Friday on Amazon Prime, and will apparently be on BBC2 later in the year)
Good Omens (the book) was written by Neil and the late Terry Pratchett thirty years ago, and it was one of Pratchett’s dying wishes for Neil to write it again as a TV series. At the time, they thought he’d got plenty of time, but he went downhill rapidly, and so after Pratchett’s funeral, Neil wrote the series, and then insisted on being the showrunner in order to make sure that it got to screen in a way that both of them would’ve found acceptible.
Anyway, I’d managed to get tickets even before they announced that he’d be accompanied on stage by David Tennant and Michael Sheen (who play the two main characters of the series, Aziraphale and Crowley) which made it even better.
The entire evening was fun – there was a choir of Satanic Nuns (if you’ve read the book, you’ll understand) in the foyer of the Southbank Centre, singing Queen songs (again, book, understand, blah blah) which boded well for the rest of it.
Compered by Kirsty Wark (who also appears in the series), they talked about how the series came about (see above), the story of Neil and Michael meeting for a dinner where both of them couldn’t work out how to tell the other that they didn’t want to play Crowley (Michael had originally been cast, but realised as he read the script that he was far more Aziraphael) , Neil discovering that Michael could do a pitch-perfect impression of David Tennant, and many other tales.
From the sound of it, while there were problems along the way, the fact that Good Omens is loved by so many people (and has been for a long, long time) worked as a great leveller of those problems – another story being that Nick Offernan was brought in very late in the day to replace someone else, and told Neil that a) he’d have paid his own flights in order to take the role, and b) that when the director apologised to him for coming such a long way for so (comparatively) few lines, he said “I’d have come twice as far for half as many”
It was a really good evening, and when the series came out on Friday, I saw the entire thing in the space of an evening (not something I usually do, but this time it was worth it) and I can honestly say that they’ve all done a bloody good job of the entire thing. Utterly worthwhile.
On Friday, I went with a friend to Shakespeare’s Globe to see their Henry season on one of the Trilogy Days.
It’s three plays, all around the two-and-a-half-hour mark, with a decent break between them. But all the same, it makes for one long-ass day. Particularly because the Globe’s seats (no way was I going to do the whole thing standing) are solid wood, backless, and pretty bloody unforgiving. Yes, you can hire cushions or a seat back, but even so, it makes it hard-going.
I hadn’t seen any of these before, and (as usual) went in with very little knowledge of the stories involved. I’d seen Richard II earlier this year so knew the prior events, but that was about it – and my history knowledge (as I keep on being reminded by things like this) is fuckin’ abysmal. (I’m also seeing Richard III this week – I must be a glutton for punishment!)
I enjoyed the plays – IV Part 1 and V more than Part 2, as I don’t really do well with the “political intrigues” type of thing. I think that seeing all three in a day meant it all gelled together better in my head, although I’m still going to need to read the plays and some of the history around them in order to build up the knowledge a bit.
It was worth going, and I enjoyed the whole day. I don’t know that I’d necessarily want to see any of them again any time soon, but I’m glad I’ve seen them.
I really need to remind myself that long weekends are meant to be about relaxing and doing less.
Over the next four days, I’ll be…
- Socialising with friends at a barbecue thing (and probably doing a fair amount of the cooking)
- Going to three concerts
- Seeing the parents
It’s all a bit busy – and the following weekend isn’t much quieter. Thankfully there’s some time off in the meantime, but yeah, all a bit chaotic. Again.
So far this year, I’ve been to London to see two versions of Shakespeare’s “Richard II” – first at the Almeida Theatre, and then last weekend at the Sam Wanamaker theatre at the Globe. (I’m also seeing Richard III later in the year, as well as the Globe’s three-plays-in-a-day marathon slog of Henry IV Part One, Henry IV Part Two, and Henry V – by the end of that, I may be somewhat kinged out!)
The Almeida’s production was a modern interpretation, and much-abridged – it had a run time of 1hr 40mins, which was pretty much the same as the first half at the Globe. By comparison, the Globe’s was more traditional in how it was staged and performed, but with a cast entirely of Women of Colour (WOC).
It’s been interesting to compare the two, so I thought I’d write a bit about it here. Obviously all views are my own, and all that jazz. It’s also worth pointing out that I had done my usual thing of going in with no real idea of the story, chronology or characters, which sometimes doesn’t help.
I found the Almeida’s production to be far harder to follow – and primarily that was because of how it was being staged. The entire stage was made into a steel box, with no active exits (there had to be some, for getting on/off the stage at least, but they weren’t used during the actual production) which meant there could be no cleanups, no costume changes, and no scenery changes. That meant it was hard to actually keep track of who was who – and even more so with a reduced cast. As an example, one actor’s first character died off fairly early on, and they then played a different character (and possibly two) but still wearing the blood and costume of the first role – which meant it was pretty hard to follow. Honestly, I’d almost rather have just had the actors wearing placards with names on, in order to explain who they were at any one time.
Additionally, the abridging of the text – and the speed with which it was performed – made it even more confusing, with seemingly more focus on people chucking gloves at each other than the actual plot and actions.
So all told, I didn’t like the production that much – I felt there was too much that got rushed, or that made no sense at all. It was interesting in many ways, but also fairly high on the infamous “Load of old bollocks” scale.
The Wanamaker / Globe version
The production at the Wanamaker was (for me) far preferable. I’ve found I have very few issues with changing roles/stereotypes and doing things differently – particulary with Shakespeare, the story seems to take precedence over who’s doing what, so it doesn’t matter (to me) whether Richard is played by an older white man, or a coloured woman. I know it annoys purists and so on, but I truly don’t feel it matters.
I’d not been to the Wanamaker theatre before, but really liked it – the entire thing is lit by candles (with the exception of the windows ‘out’, which are lit changeably with LEDs, although it’s not intrusive) which makes for an interesting semi-authentic feel. (It also means that there’s a person in the cast/creatives list whose title is “Candle Consultant”, which is pretty special)
The production itself made a lot more sense to me – the cast size is similar (I think there’s one more cast member in the Wanamaker version) but because they’re allowed off-stage to change costumes for the different roles, it was far easier to follow who’s who and so on. Additionally, the extra run-time meant that it didn’t feel rushed, which also helped.
I’m glad I went to see both productions – but in this case I far preferred the more traditional version at the Wanamaker to the modern/short version at the Almeida.
This weekend, I saw my final performance of the year – I know there’s only three weeks to go, but still, I’m pretty sure I was seeing stuff ’til later in the year last time round.
This weekend I was at the BBC Radio Theatre (as a plus-one for the friend who’d managed to get the tickets) to see Neil Gaiman recording a programme that will go out on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Day. As it turned out, he’d also brought along some friends, including Mitch Benn, Peter Capaldi, and some refugees (his words, not mine) from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. It was a good evening and lot of fun to see. It’ll also be interesting to see what makes the actual broadcast.
The previous weekend, I’d been to see Tamburlaine at the RSC in Stratford for the matinee performance on its final day. I did enjoy it, although some casting choices were a bit odd to me, particularly in the second half, where the same actress is doing two roles – one as the wife of Tamburlaine, and one as the heir of the dead king, aiming to overthrow Tamburlaine. It’s a credit to her that it was impossible to confuse the two roles as she played them, but it still made things rather more complex and odd than they needed to be.
I’ve already got several theatre visits lined up for next year, but just for now it’s on pause. Which is fine by me.
In an ongoing thread, there are times where I realise I really am a silly sod. This is another of those things.
A fair while back, the Cowboy Junkies (one of my all-time favourite bands) announced they were coming to the UK. It had been a fair while since they’d been here last, and even better, it was happening the weekend after my birthday. However, that was also the end of the week I was already booked up to spend in Northumberland, which was a Friday to Friday booking. And they were playing Manchester on the Saturday, and London on the Sunday.
So I figured what the hell, it’ll be a weekend, and booked tickets for both Manchester and London. Well I was up in the area anyway, and the London one was billed as being different to the Manchester one (although that has since changed). So why not? (Other than mileage, of course) I’d drive over from Northumberland to Manchester on the Friday, stay in a hotel overnight, do the gig on the Saturday night, and then drive home afterwards. Easy.
And then the plan changed a bit. When I saw the play Queen Margaret in Manchester, I realised how painless the journey was by train. So instead I figured I could drive home from Northumberland on the Friday – allowing me to get laundry and so on done in the evening and so on. Then on the Saturday I could get the train up, have lunch somewhere new and fancy that had grabbed my attention, then walk down to the hotel, check-in, drop off bag etc., go to the gig, stay overnight on Saturday, train home on Sunday morning, then down to London for Sunday night.
Yes, I’m an idiot, and an absolute loon. But I cut my mileage by taking the train, and improved my own safety by not driving home from Manchester late on a Saturday night. So that, at least, was sensible…