D4D

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Archive for the category “Theatre”

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…

How Things Change

While looking at historical August posts on D4D while writing a couple this morning, I came across this one.

So it’s just two years ago – almost to the day – that I saw my first Shakespeare play in a good decade or two, which was Hamlet, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the main role, at the Barbican.

Since then I’ve seen (in no particular order)

  • King Lear  – twice (Don Warrington, and Glenda Jackson)
  • Hamlet (Andrew Strong Scott)
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe
  • Romeo and Juliet at the Garrick
  • Macbeth (open-air production near my parent’s place)
  • Tempest (Simon Russell Beale) at the RSC Stratford-upon-Avon
    and
  • something else that I can’t currently recall.

I’ve also got Coriolanus in Stratford-upon-Avon next month, and Lear (again) in Chichester in October.

There’ve been a number of other plays along the way as well, and it’s all been pretty damn good.  I’m just surprised I’ve wedged as much as I have into two years…

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Following on from a friend of mine seeing it, I decided to have a look and see if there were any tickets still available for “The Resistible Rise of Arturo UI” at the Donmar Warehouse on the date I was available in London with no solid plans. (Last Saturday)   As it turned out, there was – just one ticket apparently “near the back”.  That’s OK, I’m tall, so yep, ticket successfully obtained.

As usual with my theatre trips, I knew absolutely sod-all about the play. Indeed, I’d never even heard of it before the previous weekend.  That doesn’t bother me anyway, and armed with a decent review from someone whose opinion I tend to trust, I was willing to go for it.   All I knew was the name, and that it was by Bertolt Brecht.

And I’m really glad I did.  The original play is an allegory based around the rise of Hitler in Germany, but using the gangsters of 1920s/1930s America to tell the story.   It’s been updated a bit – there were lots of references to Trump and his collaborators, along with an (odd but effective) sung intro to each major scene, using modern(ish) songs.

It’s very hard to not see the parallels between Nazi Germany and Trump’s rise, so it all felt very relevant.  But still interesting in a lot of ways.

The entire of the Donmar Warehouse has been changed for this production, and it’s been made into a 20s/30s speakeasy. As you walk in, the actors are already on ‘stage’ talking, dancing and the like. It certainly made things more interesting, having Lenny Henry come round in character as the club owner, talking to – and shaking the hands of – all the guests, as well as other cast members doing the rounds.

As an aside, one thing that was great was that a lot of the audience around me were a group of visually-impaired people, coming to the theatre for a play that would also be audio-described for them by a company called TalkingSense – and as it turned out, I got talking to one of the narrators, who was sat next to me for the first half, before going to narrate the second half.  I thought it was brilliant to open up theatre in this way  (and I also liked that Arturo Ui managed to use one of the visually-impaired people as his ‘witness’ for one section)

Ah yes, the audience participation.  This was something really interesting, and not something I’d expected at all – this version of the play makes great use of the audience.  In the photo above you can see a gallery with people on it – in the second half, these become the jury for a court case, with the judge sat in the middle.  Another audience member became the railroaded ‘accused’, and by the end of the play everyone is involved, either standing in support of Ui’s bid to be the main gangster (sorry, “protector”) or sitting – in which case their votes don’t count.

Note – I’m not giving away anything major here – and the production ends tomorrow!

Lenny Henry is particularly impressive as the titular gangster, developing through the production. But he’s also well supported by a generally excellent cast – all of whom also seem to be enjoying taking part in the play. (Which isn’t always the case)

All told, it’s a very dark vision of life – yet also extremely funny.   I laughed a lot more than I would have ever expected to, in a play based on the rise of Nazi-ism.  If the run were longer, I’d probably enjoy going to see it again. It’s quite a thing.

 

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 – Thoughts

This year, as I’ve said before, I’ve seen a lot of plays – well, by my standards, at least.  Up until two years ago, I hadn’t been to the theatre in a long time, but for some reason it’s clicked into place over the last eighteen months or so, and I’ve been really enjoying it.

There’s been a lot of Shakespeare this year – partly because of 2016 being the 400th anniversary of his death, which has lead to a lot more stuff being staged, but also because it’s interesting, I know very little about it, and wanted to advance my knowledge of the plays to a greater or lesser degree.

At the same time, I’ve also seen other stuff along the way, and it’s pretty much all been interesting.

The full list for 2016 has been pretty impressive…

  • Faustus (adapted from the Christopher Marlowe original)
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe
  • King Lear, with Don Warrington as Lear
  • The Spoils (written by, and starring, Jesse Eisenberg)
  • Macbeth
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Threepenny Opera
  • The Alchemist
  • Faustus (original script, by the RSC)
  • King Lear, with Glenda Jackson as Lear
  • Tempest at Stratford-upon-Avon

There’s stuff already booked in for next year, too – including

  • Amadeus at the National Theatre
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Hamlet
  • Don Juan in Soho, a play by Patrick Marber
  • Obsession, with Jude Law

That’s it for now, but I’m sure there’ll be more to come as well.

Another Culture Weekend

The weekend just gone turned out to be another of my more “Culture”-based ones, and was thoroughly enjoyable.

Saturday involved a drive down to Bray in Berkshire, for a meal at the Waterside Inn. Having been quite disappointed earlier in the year by the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse restaurant at the Dorchester in London, I’d decided I should try another one for comparison purposes, and opted for the Waterside, as it’s had those three stars for thirty years now.

Safe to say, I’m very glad I did – I had a fab time (including getting to meet and have a quick chat with Michel Roux) and really enjoyed the entire meal. Sadly – although understandably – they don’t allow phones/cameras or photos in the dining room, so I couldn’t do my usual of taking a pic of each course, so you’ve been spared that ordeal, but it was definitely still brilliant.

Then on Sunday I went down to London, and saw Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe – and thoroughly enjoyed that, too. I’m still very much a newcomer to Shakespeare in general, so can’t comment on how it’s been done this time in comparison to other staging etc., all I can do is say that I found it great, and a brilliant production. The weather wasn’t the best, so I was glad to be in the galleries rather than the standing area – although the seats were still bloody uncomfortable due to other people spreading themselves wide, and I ended up standing instead for the second half.

I’d done some other food/burger-based bits either side of the main play, so ended up walking about 17km during the day, but that’s just me and my own idiocies and preferences.

All told though, a decent weekend – and quite quiet/easy by my standards, with less driving and so on. An all-round win, in my opinion. 🙂

Shakespearean Reservations

As I alluded to in a previous post, I currently have some reservations about the Shakespeare plays I’ve seen.  Admittedly, I don’t have a great depth of knowledge on the subject, and I’m pretty new to it all, so I may revise these thoughts at some point. Anyway, it’s based on the current state of things – and I’m seeing a lot more over the next year, so we’ll see.

Anyway.

At the moment, while I enjoy seeing the plays, I do find myself thinking that they’re a bit… am-dram. Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch had (in my opinion) quite a weak cast, Cumberbatch excepted. No-one else was up to scratch – I saw it twice, once live at the Barbican, and once at the cinema from much further into the run. Both times, that was how I felt.

Seeing King Lear in Manchester over the weekend I felt the same – while it was good, and engrossing, a number of the actors were again very am-dram, over-enuniciating and so on.

It might be that I’m expecting too much from the actors, that I’m mixing ‘am-dram’ for just ‘theatrical’. I don’t yet know.  I didn’t get the same feeling with Faustus though, so the jury really is out.

Over the next few months I’ve got a number of theatre things lined up – not just Shakespeare (although I’ve got Romeo and Juliet, and Tempest on that side) but others from all walks, including Jesse Eisenberg’s new one, Jonson’s The Alchemist, and a Pinter play with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

So there’s going to be a lot more thought going into this, as I figure out more about whether it’s Shakespeare stuff in general, or whether I’m mixing up other terms and so on along the way.  It’ll be interesting, either way.

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