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Archive for the category “Theatre”

Hamlet, Almeida Theatre, London

As I said before, on Friday I went to see Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre in London, starring Andrew Scott. (Moriarty from the BBC’s Sherlock – which also means that I’ve now seen Hamlet performed by Sherlock, and Moriarty)

Honestly, I’m still not sure what to make of it.  I’m not even 100% sure of whether I liked it or not. I wouldn’t want to go and see it again – which is the usual final verdict one way or t’other – but I’m still glad I did see it.

In some ways, it’s very clever. It’s obviously been updated (or at least the staging has) with events being announced via a large screen, showing the coverage in a BBC News style.  Additionally, rather than being guards on the battlements etc., the the ghost of Hamlet’s father initially appears on CCTV screens in the security office of the castle.

In other ways, it’s rather less clever – or perhaps I’m less clever, and just didn’t get the relevance of things. Ophelia’s madness and grief are just thrown in, with no real explanation or build-up.  It’s handled almost an incidental, which seems odd when one considers how integral and essential it is to the final act.

Indeed, in a lot of ways there seemed to be the assumption that the audience were well versed in the ways of Hamlet – something I’ve found a couple of times over the last year or so, particularly with Shakespearean stuff.

I’m reliably informed that it stuck a lot closer to the original subject matter – I hadn’t appreciated how different some of it was in the Hamlet I saw with Benedict Cumberbatch last year – but that’s fine.  I do feel that I really should probably actually read the bloody play as well, and get it fixed better in my brain.

For me, the final act is a stretch – I’m never overly comfortable with the hysteria and overwrought reactions of grief and betrayal, and find myself left cold by it as a result.  That’s no criticism of the play, or of the actors therein, it’s just it doesn’t sit well with me.

So all told, it was a decent play and well done. I just still can’t quite put my finger on why I’m as ambivalent about it as a whole, though.

Theatrical

This week has, again, been somewhat theatrical (and with a fair dollop of travel, just for balance)

On Wednesday I finally got round to seeing the Harry Potter play, which was very good (and I’ll write some thoughts about it later on) but made it into a seriously long day. Because of the size of the story/play, it’s been made in two parts, both just over two and a half hours.  Including the break between plays, it meant I went in at 1pm (for performance starting at 2) and left just after 10pm.  Then including getting back to Euston, and the Train Of The Damned to get back to Milton Keynes, I got home at about half midnight.

Yesterday I was down in London, going to see Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.  I’d gone down earlier in the day, which was fine, and the play itself – again, very good, although I still need to formulate my thoughts and reactions to it a bit – was pretty complete, and ran to nearly four hours, including intervals.  So again, starting at 7pm, I didn’t leave ’til 11. Driving home was easier, but still, I wasn’t back ’til gone midnight.

This evening I’m back down in London for a friend’s birthday thing (and another late return home) and then tomorrow morning I’m over in Reading supporting another friend who’s running the Reading half-marathon (again) and raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Trust.

So yeah, busy, and there really is no sign of sanity impinging on my life at any point soon…

Changeable

The last couple of weeks – and the coming one – have been… chaotic, to say the least.  I’m used to this in general, but it’s felt like it’s been even more frenetic than usual this month, and there’ve been a lot of contributory factors that have all conspired to make it so.

Work-wise, I’ve been ending up on-site at least twice a week, rather than the usual one day a week, and that’s just disturbed things a bit. Usually I can take my work laptop on-site on a Monday, and then leave it in my own office for the rest of the week, rather than constantly lugging it around.  This month though it’s been on-site, in-office, on-site, in-office etc. etc.

Around the work stuff, there’s been a lot of other bits going on, with stuff in London on some evenings, as well as other social stuff and going to the cinema.  And it all adds up.

For example, this week has involved…

  • Monday – on site
  • Tuesday – working from home, then going to London to Mere in the evening.
  • Wednesday – in office
  • Thursday – on site, then seeing Kong: Skull Island in the evening
  • Friday – in office
  • And then just my usual idiocy in the coming weekend, another trip to London to see friends, and a social-and-food even locally on Sunday

Next week is no different really, including two London trips to the theatre, as well as all the usual work. I’m vaguely hopeful that I won’t be on-site more than once, but I’ll only find that out during the week.

Once next week is done, I’m hoping that things will be a bit quieter again. That’s certainly the plan – if nothing else, I need some downtime – but we’ll see how it goes.  In fairness, I can handle the multiple days on-site or I can handle the other stuff – it’s just when it’s both things at once that it gets somewhat harder to deal with.

Varied

So, this week is somewhat varied in its activities.

Yesterday was John Wick Chapter 2.

This evening I’m off to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, talking about his newest book, “Norse Mythology“, his latest book. (And collecting a signed copy into the bargain)

Tomorrow, I’m off for a meal at the Fat Duck with friends, and driving them all there and back.

There’s stuff lined up for the weekend too, but that little lot should keep me going for a while anyway…

Theatrical – Amadeus, National Theatre, London

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to see Amadeus at the National Theatre in London this week.  I didn’t know much about the play beforehand, or what to expect – I’ve still not even seen the film – but I really enjoyed the play.

What’s really interesting in this production is the way that the musicians from Southbank Sinfonia appear on stage alongside the cast, becoming key parts of the entire thing.

It didn’t (in my opinion) start well, with the first scene being quite confusing, and – as it turned out – pretty irrelevant to the rest of the play. But once we’d got past that small hurdle, the rest of it was excellent. A fascinating story of a man (Salieri) who believes he’s done a deal with God to become a musical genius, then is faced with a true child prodigy (Mozart) with a foul mouth and worse attitude, whose works are infinitely better than Salieri’s pedestrian efforts. Exacerbated by Mozart’s middle name being Amadeus (‘loved by God’) and seeing how Mozart’s ‘first draft’ writing of scores is immediately perfect (because he’s composed it all in his head and knows how it’ll look) he decides to resign his deal, and instead to wreck God’s plans by becoming Mozart’s enemy, knocking him down at every turn.

In many ways, it’s a very dark play, focusing on obsessions, revenge, jealousy and the like. It’s also very powerful, and covers a huge scope on the stage – sometimes it’s hard to watch both Salieri talking at the front of the stage, and see what’s happening at the back with the musicians and other cast members. While your attention’s on Salieri, you suddenly realise that all the musicians have moved – and sometimes appeared – without you really noticing, and for the sheer number of people that involves, it’s pretty note-worthy. (In that way it reminded me very strongly of Ariel in the RSC production of the Tempest that I saw before Christmas)

All told, I was really impressed with the entire production (excepting that first scene) and found it a fascinating experience. Definitely one I’d go and see again, if the opportunity arose.

 

An evening at home

Tonight is the first evening this week that I’ve actually been at home, and not working. It truly has been one of those weeks, despite my best-laid plans for calming things down this month.

So what’s been happening?

  • Monday was in the South Bank Centre in London, seeing a talk by Stephen Hawking, and a small celebration of his life in the week of his 75th birthday.  When I got the tickets, he’d been supposed to be there in person, but ill-health meant his speech and question/answer session were conducted on video screen instead. Disappointing, but fair warning of this had been given, and it was still a good evening. It would’ve been great to see him in person, but there we go.
    Interestingly, the event was sold out, but on the night it was only about half full. I suspect that a lot of people decided to not bother going, once they knew it would ‘only’ be a video appearance. Anyway, their loss.
  • Tuesday was at home, but doing a bundle of work that needed doing because….
  • Wednesday was back in London, taking the parents to see the matinee performance of Amadeus at the National Theatre. Which was bloody excellent, and will probably be written about more in another post. Having seen it, I then drove the parents home, and got back to mine about 11pm. Looong day!
  • Thursday evening was at the cinema, seeing the truly ridiculous (and thoroughly entertaining) xXx 3 – The return of Xander Cage.  A film so bad and ludicrous that it went full-circle and was stupidly brilliant.

Even today has been spent on-site rather than in my own office, so it’s still been harder on the braincells than it could’ve been.

All told, a bloody long – but also good – week, and one where I’m really quite happy to have nothing lined up for the weekend, so I can spend some time vegetating. Seems like a plan to me.

Theatrical – The Tempest

This weekend, I went down to Stratford-upon-Avon to see The Tempest at the RSC Theatre.

As I wrote back in April, it’s been a busy year for me of going to the theatre, and this was the last visit of this year. I’ve already got a number of things next year, starting in mid-January, but for this year, I’m done.

I’d not seen Tempest before, and knew very little about it, but thoroughly enjoyed it. The staging is pretty epic, making use of the carcass of a ship for the stage surrounds, and a very cleverly designed floor with mirrored parts underneath. The lighting reflects off the mirrors and produces a number of different effects depending on the colour – it’s theoretically simple, but massively effective.

Additionally, they’ve done some really innovative stuff using technology and motion-capture, allowing them to project Ariel onto large mesh screens that also move, conveying the freedom of the spirit in a very effective and impressive way that would’ve kept me happy even if the rest of the play had been bobbins.

In particular, the man playing Ariel (Mark Quartly) does a fantastic job – beautifully conveying that he’s a spirit that most people can’t see, concealing himself among the stage timbers, with an outfit that shows him but also camouflages him very effectively. You forget he’s there, watching all, and then he moves and you remember and realise – it’s really quite creepy, but done in a really good way.

Mark Quartley as Ariel

Mark Quartley as Ariel

I found it interesting to also see the parallels between Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream, the similarity of some of the themes and so on. Indeed, a lot of the stuff for the spirits in Tempest could work really well for the fairies of Midsummer Night’s Dream – and I’d like to see it done.

It’s a fabulous production. I don’t honestly know that I’d be overly bothered about seeing the play itself again (although I probably will at some point) but if you’re going to see one version of it, this one’s bloody good.

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