Sunday, 16 August 2009

shakespeare round-up

Why do I always end up going to see Shakespeare? Because the productions are so plentiful, and the tickets are cheap, and the theatre-going friends are eminently more persuadable along to these than the experimental site-specific verbatim installations. Ah well.

I went to see half of Romeo and Juliet last Friday at the Globe. It wasn't supposed to be only half, but those standing tickets for a fiver that seemed like such a good idea... well, let's just say after a first half that lasted an hour and three quarters, and a bastard week all round, we hot-tailed it to the pub. As my wise friend said, it's not as if we don't know how it ends...

I should say the first half we saw was on the whole very good. I liked the leads, although I was in a minority of one about Ellie Kendrick as Juliet - the other three-quarters of the group were less impressed, proclaiming her too goofy and annoying. I thought she was charming, and had a real freshness. And hey, I'm a tough crowd. But we all agreed that there wasn't brilliant chemistry between the leads, however, which undermined it rather.

In fact, if I was going to criticise the production, I would say it didn't hang together brilliantly. There were lots of individually good performances -
Rawiri Paratene as Friar Laurence and Penny Layden as the nurse particularly charmed - but somehow it didn't gel. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable enough first act, and I'm sure the second act was equally good, and honestly, if I'd had a less crap week at work and/or a proper seat, I definitely would have stayed. Honestly.

I also went to see All's Well that Ends Well at the National Theatre recently. Now, the sad truth is that
I am horribly jaded by 15 years of going to see Twelfth Night and As You Like It and Midsummer Night's Dream (because these are the perennials that always get staged, and because I studied English Literature and so I've been to see them all about a million times and am very over finding the business with the yellow garters very funny).

So I like going to see comedies I don't know very well, and deliberately don't read summaries of the plot to make sure I can still speak Shakespeare without the York Notes. Yes, I am a bit tragic. I know.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the production, with it's fairytale setting and stylised, er, style. I liked the story too. Helena earns Bertram's hand in marriage by curing the king. Bertram buggers off to war, which in ye olden days was quite the lark, apparently. Pretty much an 18-30 holiday. Anyway, Helena pursues her errant hubby, tricks him into having sex with her, and er, all's well that ends well. Sort of. (Yes, I should be doing programme notes. I'm just waiting for the email from the National...)

So anyway: it's good. Sweet and funny, and a little bit saucy. Michelle Terry seems to be the go-to girl for the feisty Shakespearean heroine, and very good she is. George Rainsford is suitably floppy-haired and twittish as Bertram. And the set is fantastic, veering between Edward Scissorhands gothic and sunny Italian orchard.

So there we are. Almost relentless positivity about these productions I'm afraid. The thing is, I know it's much more interesting to write (and read) bad reviews, but what can I say? I keep seeing good stuff. I will aim to see a stinker soon... Well, I won't aim to, that would be foolish, but the law of averages suggests it could happen.... We shall see...

Thursday, 6 August 2009

some more random thoughts

I am writing again. Here are some things I am learning about myself through the medium of writing:

a) I don't like men. That is, I don't think I must do, because all my male characters seem to turn out as bumbling idiot-holes or raving tossers or both. Yikes

b) I'm not very good at writing in southern. All my people seem to turn out a bit northern by default. Not in a 'Ey-up our kid, Ah'm off down t'ferret factory to buy a t'pasty kind of way.' Just generally.

c) Everything is about class. Everything, everything, everything.

That is all. (For now).

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Pornography by Simon Stephens

Pornography by Simon Stephens has just come to London for the first time, and I highly recommend you get your ticket now, because I predict (deservedly) good reviews on the strength of tonight’s (first) performance.

This is a difficult play to sum up or reduce to a simple plotline. Suffice to say, the action is set in London in July 2005, and weaves in and around three major events: the 7/7 bombings, the Olympic 2012 annoucement and the Live 8 concert.

It’s not really about any of these things, as such. And it’s not about pornography in the traditional sense of the word, you’ll be disappointed, I mean, ahem, relieved to learn.

(The last time I had such an accidentally exciting time on Google was researching Shopping and F**king by Mark Ravenhill back in uni days. Talk about pop-ups...)

All smut aside, this is a very moving play, with great performances all round. I’d heard good things about this play from a friend who saw it in Edinburgh last year, and despite going in with very high expectations – usually the kiss of death - I wasn’t disappointed. This is a very gripping 90 minutes of theatre.

Oh, and it even has some nudity. (Again, all credit to Anthony Welsh that I was so busy listening to him that I didn’t even notice Sam Spruell stripping off in the background. Well, not at first. There was a point when it became impossible not to notice. In a good way. I think I better stop this tangent now before I get into trouble…)

In short: go see.

Oh, and here are some links about it, although I don't recommend you look at them before you see the play.

(This is just a suggestion - I hate reading too much about stuff before I see it. Also,most of the coverage focuses on one aspect of the play, but I think it's a broader piece than you'd realise if you just looked at advance press. But do look if you want to. I'm not your mum.)

So, here's a typically hysterical headline from the Telegraph in an otherwise quite sensible piece on last year's production. And an interview with the author from the grauniad.