As part of my ongoing education about Shakespeare plays, I went with my friend M to see Troilus and Cressida at the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday.
As usual, I knew sod-all about it beforehand – I’d figured some of the basics (that it was around the Trojan war and so on) but that was it.
It’s an interesting production, with extra percussion and sound created by Evelyn Glennie, and in some ways feels like it’s a mix of Stomp and Shakespeare. (Which isn’t a bad thing, in my own pantheon of opinions/preferences) It’s also a fairly modern staging, with shipping containers taking the place of tents and so on, whereas the costuming (and in some cases lack thereof) is more traditional. So it’s a bit confused, but in a way that I liked.
I was, to be honest, less taken with the play itself. It was interesting enough, and enjoyable enough, but at the same time I don’t know that it’s one I’d make a big effort to see again.
Weirdly, Troilus and Cressida themselves aren’t really major roles within the play – they’re on stage a lot less than most of the other primary characters.
All told, there’s a lot of focus on political intrigues and deal-making as well as the war itself, and it makes for a complicated script and set-up that can sometimes be confusing.
So yes, I enjoyed the entire thing and I’m glad I went. But there are other Shakespeare plays I’d prefer to see before seeing Troilus and Cressida again.
Last night, I went to see the new play “Touching the Void” in at the Royal part of the Royal and Derngate in Northampton. Based from the film that’s based on the book by Joe Simpson, and all three are the story of Simpson’s near-fatal accident on a climb of a mountain in Peru.
It’s had some very good reviews in the media from the Bristol part of the tour and looked interesting, so I booked a ticket to see it in Northampton.
And all told, I have to say I was really impressed with the play as a whole. The staging is really clever, making use of tables as an initial example of a rock-face, and it’s also a hugely physical production, with a large suspended structure being used to tell most of the story of the mountain climb.
There are a couple of odd bits (two musical numbers in particular seem pretty stramge) and I personally found the last five minutes to be a bit of a let-down, but all told it’s a very very good production, and worth going to see if you get a chance.
I’ve liked all the films by Martin McDonagh – “In Bruges“, “Seven Psychopaths” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – but didn’t know until this year that he’s also been a prolific playwright.
(This, it turns out, isn’t unusual – the knowledge of McDonagh’s works seems to be pretty polarising. I haven’t yet met anyone who could blather about both sides of his work – people know either the films or the plays, but rarely both, and are surprised to learn of the other side)
Back in January, it was announced that there would be a new McDonagh play premiering at the Bridge Theatre in London, and on spec I thought I’d book tickets and give it a go. (Still knowing nothing about his plays) The play was called “A Very Very Very Dark Matter” (always a good omen) and the description for it was…
In a townhouse in Copenhagen works Hans Christian Andersen, a teller of exquisite and fantastic children’s tales beloved by millions. But the true source of his stories dwells in his attic upstairs, her existence a dark secret kept from the outside world.
As it turned out, I managed to get tickets for the second performance – previews rather than “proper” performances, but still, second ever one. Which is pretty good, by anyone’s standards.
On Saturday, that’s where I was. And it’s a strange old production for sure. I’m fully aware that I have other friends going to see it still, and I’m not tosspotty enough to spoiler it at all (which makes this a bit harder to write) but it’s a weird, dark, sweary and scabrous affair.
Jim Broadbent plays Hans Christian Andersen as a fairly unpleasant human being – utterly self-centred, but also a quite spectacular idiot – who is taking advantage of the source of his stories. He also goes to visit Charles
Darwin Dickens (a regularly repeated joke through the play) who is played by Phil Daniels as an exceptionally sweary (and very funny) Cockney – and who may also be housing a similar source for his stories.
Along the way there’s violence, creepy attics and puppets (and arachnophobes should be aware that one of them is a big spider), time travel, writers, lots of swearies, and general weirdness. In short, it’s a Martin McDonagh script.
All told, I did enjoy the play – although I did feel that it could’ve been better, and made more of the subject matter it had – but I don’t honestly know that I’d want to see it again…
A couple of weeks ago, I read a piece on the BBC about a new play, “Queen Margaret” that was being staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.
“Queen Margaret” is Margaret of Anjou, who has parts in four Shakespeare plays – Henry VI parts one, two and three, and Richard III – and across those plays, she has the most lines Shakespeare wrote for any part. For Queen Margaret, the playwright (Jeanie O’Hare) takes those lines and adds new ones to connect all the extant scenes.
Anyway, it all sounded interesting enough that I booked a ticket for last Saturday’s matinee performance, and made a day-trip of it. It’s easy enough – the train from Milton Keynes gets to Manchester in 90-100 minutes, which brings it well within day-trip range. I certainly couldn’t do the drive in the same time.
I’m really glad I did so, too – I thought the entire play was excellent, and done well enough that you couldn’t easily tell who had written which lines. (Although I’m no expert on those Shakespeare plays, so if one were super-familiar with them then I assume it’d be easier to separate the two writing styles) The whole thing held together really well, and I enjoyed it thoroughly – while also learning a lot about all of the stuff around Henry VI and Richard III.
The run finishes this week (on Saturday 6th October) and I really hope that it’s generally perceived as having been excellent so that it gets a longer run, and ideally comes down to London and elsewhere. In my opinion, it thoroughly deserves it.
The weekend just past is the one where I was supposed to be doing that walked Night Marathon in London. I failed to complete it last year (as I’ve written about elsewhere) and this year didn’t start it – primarily because I just hadn’t been able to get in the practice and preparation that would’ve made it easily doable, so I’d made the decision to not take it on at the last minute.
So it should’ve been this weekend that I did it, and as it turns out, I’m actually quite glad I made that decision. First and foremost, the weather was vile, and doing it while being cold and wet really doesn’t appeal.
Additionally, I’ve picked up a vicious cold (I really should stop having quiet days – they totally kill me) and been feeling rougher than a badger’s backside. To top it off, this week also involved a couple of foodie events (although I’d have rethought at least one of those if I’d still been doing the walk)
All told, I’m still (mostly) happy with the choice to not do the walk this year. I’m annoyed with myself for having let the time slip past, and for not doing the training and preparation I could have done. But there we go, I didn’t do them, and while I probably could have just rocked up and completed it, I wanted to be better prepared this time.
I’m signed up to do next year’s one though, so we’ll see how we go from here to there. And if I don’t do that one either, then I’ll most likely sack off trying again.
Last week, Claude Bosi (one of the chefs I follow on Twitter) announced that one of his good friends, Bo Bech of Copenhagen’s Geist would be cooking at Bosi’s restaurant at Bibendum in Michelin House in London for one night only, in support of Bech’s new book, published that day. And I was lucky/early enough to get myself a table.
The event was last night, and it was epic.
Me being me, I turned up a bit early – I’m always happy to sit at the bar or whatever – which meant I also got to go into the kitchen, meet Chef Bech and his crew, and have a quick chat. Pretty impressive in and of itself!
As part of the price of the meal, all diners also got a signed copy of the new book “In My Blood” (which is beautiful, and brilliant) which added to the event as well.
And the food itself was spectacular. Things that just shouldn’t go together (Duck, Pumpkin and Coffee? Shouldn’t work. Does.)
All told, it was one of the best meals I’ve had – and that potato mash with caviar is definitely the most decadent course! – and it was just spectacular.
So now I need to organise a city break to Copenhagen and go to the place itself. And there’s a couple of other restaurants there I want to try as well. That could be a very expensive weekend…
I’ve been a fan of Blessed since his turn on Flash Gordon – which is now a very long time ago – which also gave him his most recognised phrase (and with which he opened the show) of “Gordon is Alive!”
The entire show was kind of ramshackle and rambling, certainly nothing like the far slicker comedians and musicians that the audience was obviously more used to. I saw a few people with expressions of “What the fuck?!?” as it went on, because the were very few coherent stories, it appeared to be all more of a shotgun approach, as and when he remembered stuff. (Without seeing the show again I have no way of knowing whether it’s intentionally shambolic, or that it’s just the way Blessed is)
For me though, I’d pretty much expected that, and it didn’t disappoint or disconcert me at all.
I thought the entire thing was a lot of fun (and also very loud, and sometimes sweary – also things I’m OK with) and would happily go and see it/him again.
I think the final note to leave on, though, is this notice on the doors.