Monday, January 26, 2009

Theatre update

As promised.

Haven't seen a huge amount recently, but what I have seen has been top quality.

"In a Dark, Dark House" at the Almeida is probably my favourite of the productions I've seen recently. Directed by Michael Attenborough, Neil La Bute's latest and perhaps most personal play, is a simple three hander - two brothers and a girl, and what is gradually revealed to be a battle over memories and truth - which brother is telling the truth, which one is exploiting the truth. It was David Morrissey's play - he was simply breath-taking, the power of his performance was astonishing. Not to diminish Stephen Mackintosh or Kira Sternbach, but there was something visceral and almost painful in watching David Morrissey's character as he handles the deal that life has dished out to him, compared to his pampered, deceitful brother. It's very Neil La Bute, wordy, sometimes overly so, but I do admire his writing and his vision, and this is a seriously punchy play. I loved it. I wish I'd seen it twice.

The second play in the "Donmar in the West End" season is "Twelfth Night", directed by Michael Grandage starring Derek Jacobi as Malvolio. I saw this on opening weekend, and enjoyed it very much. I particularly liked seeing Mark Bonnar as Orsino, a role I'd previously seen him perform in Lucy Bailey's very different "Twelfth Night" at Manchester Royal Echange a few years ago; the cast also included Victoria Hamilton as Viola. She's a fabulous actress who somehow can do vulnerable and feisty at almost the same time. They made a fabulous couple and the production as a whole seemed to bring out the relationships much more than in others I've seen. The reviewers really liked Derek Jacobi, and his Malvolio was both funny and arrogantly awful, but I just had a bit of a problem seeing him in a comic role, after roles like Prospero in "The Tempest"and King Philip in "Don Carlos" at The Crucible. But that's my problem, not the play's. Ron Cook and Guy Henry were very funny, and often I don't like Shakespeare's "comic" characters, finding them dreadfully unfunny. But this is top class Shakespeare, as you'd expect from Michael Grandage.

More recently, I saw the RSC Hamlet again, at the Novello, so a very different setting to Stratford. The night we saw it, David Tennant was back, and he was fabulous, but I kind of wish I'd also seen Ed Bennett who by all accounts (i.e. Hacky told me) was fantastic. It was interesting sitting in front of the action in a proscenium arch theatre, as opposed to being down the side at the Courtyard. It made the speeches feel much more immediate, and addressed to me rather than to the ether. I still didn't like the ending, feling that cutting out Fortinbras' final speech was a big loss in terms of rounding off and understanding the story, particularly for those who were new to the play. Glad I got to see it again, though.

And finally, T S Eliot's "Family Reunion" at the Donmar, directed by Jeremy Herrin, with a stellar cast including Sam West, Gemma Jones, Anna Carteret and Penelope Wilton. Hmmm. I really don't know what to make of this play. The set was great, all dark wood and spooky corners, but what was the pile of sand in the corner about? There were some seriously "jump out of your skin" moments, but too few in a rather long and convoluted play. I liked it, but was also puzzled by it, and I'm not sure I ever really got to grips with it. But then, I bumped into one of the Drama profs from work in the interval, and he said it was a difficult play. So I think I'll leave it there.

I only have two things lined up at the moment, both Donmar West End - Judi Dench in "Madame de Sade" in May, and Jude Law as Hamlet in July. Looking forward to both, but really need to line up a few more outings.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh dear

Oops. A couple of months ago, I said I'd blog more. Hmm. Now you know why there's no point in me making New Year's Resolutions, although I did actually make some this year and am sticking to them so far.

Anyway, I've had a couple of fabulous trips recently, and have put photos on flickr. First up, today I had a fabulous day walking in Swaledale with H; years ago, before the arrival of A, spent lots of time in Swaledale and it was lovely to go back and be reminded of the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales. Photos here. On Friday night, we went to a talk by Garry Brannigan at The Station in Richmond about his landscape photography, and saw the exhibition of his fabulous photographs. I think it inspired us both on our walk today, both in how we took pictures, and how we experienced the landscape.

Last weekend, I went to Reykjavik. I've wanted to go to Iceland for decades, and finally made the decision, booked with Icelandair, and flew from Manchester last Friday. It was everything I had hoped it would be. Beautiful, bleak, stunning scenery; intense cultural experience; and an overpowering desire to go back. Going over on the plane, I watched a short film where Viggo Mortensen explained why Iceland meant so much to him, and he said that you just need to be, in nature. Don't photograph, don't rush about, just be. Absorb it, and simply take in the experience of being in the landscape. And he's so right. It fits so well with last night's talk too. It's not about going out and taking 365 shots with your digital SLR because you can - it's about being there, and maybe also capturing an image that means something to you.

I could write more about Iceland, and I will. It was funny, going back to work on Tuesday and going for lunch with M; when I didn't say much about Iceland, he said "you seem distinctly underwhelmed by the trip" - and I said no, in fact I was so awe inspired that I hadn't yet managed to put it into words. There are some words attached to my flickr pics, which are here - but in truth I'm still processing it.

A theatre update will follow (at some point) and also maybe a chicken update. And I will try to blog a bit more this year, honest.