A computer, hoorah! Am back online with a machine of my own at long last. Actually, this is a borrowed laptop, as the one that will be mine hasn’t arrived at Richard-the-computer-bloke’s place due to the confusion of Easter. But in due course (Tuesday, with luck) I’ll have my own machine, up and running, and will no longer feel as though I have lost a limb. The lack of my own computer over the last month has made me realize just how dependent one can become on constant email/internet/old document access, but in some ways it has been quite nice – writing with pens in notebooks is so much more transportable and tactile, and there is something tyrannical about the constant contact of broadband email which is good to escape. Happily I’d got most of my important documents copied onto a datastick, and photos on a CD (phew) but lesson #1 for the future is BACK UP! All the time. And copy your email address book to somewhere in addition to your main computer.
So, to business. Am currently watching “Emma
” on ITV, 1996 version written by the master of these things, Andrew Davies, directed by Diarmuid Lawrence and starring an astonishingly young-looking Kate Beckinsale as Emma, Mark Strong as Mr Knightley, and huge numbers of those “where have I seen them before?” British character actors who populate these things. It’s spendidly well done, as was last Sunday’s new “Persuasion
”, where despite my earlier misgivings I was won over by Rupert Penry-Jones’ Captain Wentworth. I had thought Ciaran Hinds the definitive Captain W in the 1995 BBC version
– I still prefer him, and Amanda Root as Anne and Sam West as young Mr Elliot (Tobias Menzies simply didn’t give off enough of an air of naughtiness) but despite not being as good as the 1995 version, “Persuasion” was the best of the recent ITV Austen series. And “Emma” is classic British costume drama at its best, even though my favourite Mr Knightley is Jeremy Northam in the 1996 film
All this points up just how bad “Becoming Jane” was. Ann Hathaway does sterling work with her English accent, and James McAvoy is as watchable as ever, but the whole film really annoyed me. I’m not a Janeite, but I can imagine anyone who is would be gnashing their teeth all the way through. I suspect the film-makers wanted the audience to see scenes and think “oh, so that’s the real life event where Jane got her inspiration for that bit of Pride and Prejudice” whereas I spent half the film thinking “that bit comes from the BBC Pride and Prejudice … and that bit ... and that bit too.” They even had James McAvoy getting damp and sweaty, though not jumping in a pond. Presumably they stopped themselves before they became so completely derivative.
Significant theatrical catching up to be done: had a splendid Stratford weekend, “Coriolanus” in the RST in the afternoon, followed by the final performance of “As You Like It” in the Swan. For my last visit to the main theatre before it closes, I was up in the nosebleed seats but they weren’t too bad, although some of the action involved the cast coming on stage from the auditorium which was difficult to see. The production itself was fab – beautifully designed and lit, with powerful acting from William Houston as Coriolanus, a wonderfully wily Menenius by Timothy West complimented by Janet Suzman’s powerfully manipulative Volumnia. I’m only sorry I’m reviewing it after it’s finished because that means you can’t go and see it. Similarly AYLI in the Swan – interesting to see it on a much smaller stage than the Crucible, which made it very intense. I found myself in tears as Adam died, an unusual occurrence as I cry at theatre much less than in the cinema, no idea why that might be. A fabulous production, I’m glad I got to see it again.
Have also seen “The Reporter
” at the National – written by Nicholas Wright, directed by Richard Eyre and starring Ben Chaplin as James Mossman
, famous BBC reporter of the 1960s. Loved the stage design and the acting was top class, but much as it pains me to admit it, I have similar feelings to Michael Billington
and I have to wonder why this play, now? Or does it matter, whether the play has modern day relevance? Maybe it does and I missed it. It's good, and worth seeing, but I'm not sure what it tells us about our life now.
Seems a lifetime ago, but Amanda and I saw “The Vortex” at Manchester Royal Exchange
(a fantastic space), starring Will Young in his first stage role. He had the voice and the mannerisms but at the crucial emotional climax was strangely still, his lines perfect but his body unmoving. The play was very enjoyable and great fun, and sometimes that's just what you need.
And finally, this week Clo and I saw Fin Kennedy's "How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found
" in the Studio at Sheffield, directed by Ellie Jones with a breath-taking performance from William Ash in the lead role. He's barely off stage in nearly three hours, while the rest of the cast of 4 take on around 27 roles between them. Virtuoso writing and acting - you have until Saturday 14th to see it. Go.
And now I have an awful lot of blog-mates to catch up with. We're off to see The Cherry Orchard in Sheffield tomorrow, and I'm in London next weekend. Anyone fancy a pint?