D4D

Home of Hound and Psycho Cat

Archive for the category “Reviews(ish)”

A Tale of Two Macbeths

As I said earlier in the week, over the last two weekends I’ve ended up seeing two versions of Macbeth, one at the RSC in Stratford-on-Avon starring Christopher Eccleston, and one at the National Theatre in London, with Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff .

It’s a weird piece of scheduling – for whatever reason, I’d have expected the two main theatre companies to at least communicate a bit, in order for this kind of clash to not happen. However, everyone else I’ve said that to has said “No, they don’t talk”, but all the same it seems pretty odd to me – not least because as well as those two, there’s also the Verdi operatic version also being performed at the same time at the Royal Opera House !

Anyway, for my purposes, it made it interesting to be able to compare the two performances in such proximity.

For me, the RSC version was the one I preferred, although both had flaws.  In the RSCs version, parts of the stage set weren’t visible from our seats – seats that hadn’t been marked as ‘restricted view’ – which was annoying.  It’s a modern-dress setup, which is fine with me, but sticks with a more traditional timescale all the same. The witches were played by a trio of young (9-10 years old) who all spoke in sync, and were extremely good at being creepy. The porter in this one was very good, quite creepy, always on stage, and marking off all the deaths in chalk on the wall.  I hadn’t noticed that initially, but it was very effectively done in later scenes where news of Macbeth’s rule, and the deaths involved – seeing them all getting marked on the walls was a very effective way of putting the point across. We weren’t just seeing the on-stage deaths, this despot was killing all and sundry, feeling invincible while doing it.

We were very early in the run, so there were some hitches with lines not being perfect – but I am seeing it again with different friends later in the run, so it’ll be interesting to see what’s changed – but all told I thought it was a pretty good performance, and really good to see Christopher Ecclestone doing his thing.

The NT version was much more modern, supposedly staged ‘after a revolution’, on a blackened stage. It is very dark in general, but also emphatically trying too hard (in my opinion, of course!) and in particular I felt the witches were less effective as a result. Rory Kinnear was good as Macbeth, as was Anne-Marie Duff as Lady Macbeth, but most of the rest of the cast faded in the memory very quickly.   There’s one particular scene with the witches that is very effectively creepy, but the rest is just… meh.  I wasn’t overly taken with the production – and it manages to miss the ‘double double toil and trouble’ speech completely – but I’m still glad I went to see it, and to compare two quite different interpretations of the same play.

Burns’ Night

Last night, as you may or may not know (or care) was Burns’ Night in the UK.  For the first time, I went out for it, going to one of my favourite Scottish places in London, Mac and Wild, who had a special Burns’ Night menu for a fairly respectable price.

Being Scots themselves, the owners had made sure the entire thing was really good – the food was (as usual) great, and so was the atmosphere, with a live piper playing at the entrance (and for the toasting of the Haggis) as well as pipe-based music in the restaurant. In short, it couldn’t have been much more Scottish if they’d tried.

I’d never done a Burns’ Night properly before, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. I’ve even got a copy of the whole “toasting of the Haggis” process and poem now, which makes for interesting reading…

Overall, I can see me booking myself in for another one next year – although it’s still undecided whether I’ll try somewhere else, or stick with the Mac and Wild I already know…

Fish, Cambridge Corn Exchange

About 18 months ago, I went to see Fish (the ex-lead-singer of Marillion) at a gig in Aylesbury, including performing the whole of Marillion‘s “Misplaced Childhood” album for its 30th anniversary.

This year, it was announced he’d be touring again, and this time performing both stuff from the new album, and the whole of the “Clutching At Straws” album – again, for its 30th anniversary.

As with “Childhood”, “Straws” isn’t among my all-time favourite albums, but they both got played a lot as I grew up, so it was still of interest to go and see it performed live.  And I’m glad I did.

The gig started with some old favourites, but nothing new. And there was a reason for that – he hasn’t actually written the new album yet, let alone released it.  When they advertised the gigs and organised the tour, they expected it to be done, but life got in the way. So… some classics instead of new stuff. Fine with me, and apparently fine with most of the audience too.

As for the performance of “Straws” itself, that was excellent, and brought back a bundle of memories of listening to the album, as well as re-realising just how bleak it is in places. There were also parts of it that they’d never performed live before this tour, including one track that was ad-libbed at the time, so Fish had to listen to the album in order to write down the lyrics to learn them for performance. Which is, when you think about it, pretty messed up.

Anyway, the gig was one I really enjoyed – in spite of the audience.  As always, I really don’t understand the mindset of people who go to a concert, and then spend the entire gig going to and from the bar, and the toilet.  The three people in front of me (it was a seated gig) were barely ever in their seats, and kept walking off. That’s not just a waste of their time and money, it’s also insanely annoying for the people around them, getting constantly disturbed and having to move.

But, audience aside, it was a good gig. It might be the last time he tours, it might not. It’s likely the last chance to see “Straws” performed like that, so it was definitely worth going.

Operatic

On Saturday, I went to my first opera – a production of Aida at the London Coliseum by English National Opera. As with going to plays and so on, I went in with very little knowledge of Aida or what to expect.

I did enjoy it – although it’s not necessarily something I’d plan to go to on a regular basis, or to see this particular opera again. I don’t yet know – but as with other things, I’m not going to base any judgements or expectations on a sample of one, so I’ll definitely be going to at least one more production.

*Personally*, I found that the first half dragged, but the second half was better. The staging throughout was really interesting though, which did help things.

The plot/story is hideously melodramatic (in my opinion) and would’ve been rejected from most soap operas as being too ridiculous. So yeah, the odds are I won’t bother with Aida again, but there’s plenty of others I can try instead.

All good fun, though…

The Man Behind The Curtain

I mentioned in the last post that I’d done a day-trip to Leeds, and that I would write more about it.  So, here we are.

One of the Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Michael O’Hare‘s “The Man Behind The Curtain” in Leeds. It’s always been booked solid, but when I looked on a whim a couple of months ago, I discovered that there was a table for four free for a late lunch on Saturday. I called the other friend who was interested in the same place , and I booked it.

That’s where the first shock came in. The entire price of the meal was paid at the time of booking, including the wine – and the service charge!  Now to me, that’s taking the piss.  The only other Michelin-starred place I’ve seen with that attitude is The Fat Duck, and even there it’s “only” the food that is paid for ahead of time, not the wine and tip. Every other place I’ve been has taken a credit card number, and said “if you don’t show up, you’ll pay the full price”, which is fine with me.  Paying up front for it all seems very dodgy.

Anyway, I did that, and last Saturday was the day.

I’d hired a car for doing it as a day-trip, as I was also driving the others there and back, and it makes life fun.

“The Man Behind The Curtain” is… highly individual.  First things first, it’s on the top floor of a department store – definitely not somewhere you’d just wander into! As it turns out, it now *was* on the top floor – our meal was the last lunch served in the top floor, and they were moving to the basement after the dinner service.

It’s a strange space, seemingly more of a gallery than a restaurant. The walls were graffitied and arty, with chicken-wire clouds above some tables. I’ve never been anywhere else like it – but that also shows in the food.  Again it’s very arty – some of the food is quite spectacular, as is the crockery it arrives in. In particular, “Emancipation”, which is cod in squid-ink, basically black food on a black “droplet” plate…

That was just one of the ten ‘courses’.  And they were all brilliant.

Honestly, I kind of wanted to not like it, to be unimpressed by the entire place. I feel really strongly about the whole ‘pay upfront’ thing, and think it gives a really bad impression of the restaurant. But the food, the atmosphere, and the service of the place all combined to leave me still impressed.

It was a really good day, and decent drives there and back (two hours door-to-door each way) helped as well.

Saturday – Chris Ofili, Weaving Magic

Following on from seeing the Giacometti and Soul of A Nation exhibitions, my final visit was to the National Gallery, to see “Weaving Magic” by Chris Ofili.

A friend of mine had seen this and really liked it, hence why I wanted to see it.

It’s a fantastic tapestry – designed by Ofili, and then handwoven by Dovecot Tapestry Studio, and based on “I know why the caged bird sings“, by Maya Angelou. It’s also been staged and displayed really well, in a room of its own, which has also been decorated by Ofili.

So you end up with a room covered in murals like this

And then the tapestry itself, the only thing of colour in the room

It’s well worth seeing – if you get the chance to go before the end of August, I’d recommend it. Even better, it’s free to go in and see it, which is… noteworthy, in the current climate.

Detroit

In a weirdly – and unintentionally – connected thing to seeing the Soul Of A Nation exhibition over the weekend, I also ended up seeing “Detroit” last night.

Detroit” is a new film from Katheryn Bigelow (the director of the original Point Break, Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and many others) about the Detroit (unsurprisingly) 12th Street race riot, and in particular the Algiers Motel incident.

That incident is (yet another) one I didn’t really know anything about until seeing the film.  I don’t believe it’s one that has gone into ‘common knowledge’ – while I’m no expert on these things, it’s not one I’ve ever heard even mentioned, and I don’t honestly think it’s even left a large imprint on American history.

Anyway, the film is an interesting one – but (in my opinion) tries too hard, telling too many stories in one film. There could have been a film about the riots themselves, the causes, the people, the effects. There could have been a film about just the Algiers incident – although I suspect that the conclusion of that would’ve been deeply unsatisfactory. And there could’ve been one about the aftermath, the court case(s), the people, and what happened to them afterwards.

But trying to do all of those within the scope of one film – admittedly, a bloody long film at 14o-odd minutes – is difficult, at best. It starts with the riots, and we don’t even really meet any of the “main” characters for a good half an hour.  Then we go to the Algiers, which is as bad as it could be – and probably pretty truthful, as one of the people involved was on set every day, advising and providing input. And then for the final half hour or so, we’re in the court case, the details, the results, and the aftermath.

If the film had been longer, it might’ve gelled better, become a whole story. As it is, it feels overly-edited, almost like a ‘greatest hits’ rather than a full story. It’s still a good film, and a story that should be told. It’s just that the story deserves to be properly told, not in a hodge-podge of setpieces.

Post Navigation