Monday, April 30, 2012

Kaleidoscopic Nightmare: Emoticon at the Brockley Jack Studio

This is another one I saw but failed to blog about at the time. I went with an ex-colleague who still lectures at the same local South London College I left in 2004. Even so, she gasped at some of the language. Even I thought it was pretty toe-curling, accustomed as I am to the grittiness of some fringe theatre shows. It reminded me a bit of a film called Romper Stomper,  (1992) but maybe it was a coincidence that the playwright was Australian.

I reviewed it for the Remotegoat website
Stalin-Crossed Lovers:  A Warsaw Melody  at the Arcola, Dalston

I must catch up with my blog
I must catch up with my blog
I must catch up with my blog

Something I never learn:  I can't be out and in at the same time. When I'm at home I'm usually sitting in front of the laptop; but having  made the review deadline I'm caught by some other attention-grabbing event. Maybe I should cancel my subscription to Time Out.

So I'm sorry it's too late to see this interesting historical drama, but here's my review  on the Remotegoat website

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not all Death and Decay: Damien Hirst Retrospective at the Tate Modern

I think the most impressive part of the Damion Hirst Exhibition is the huge statue that's been erected outside on the South Bank in front of Tate Modern. It's half-flayed to reveal musculature and organs, sharing a  link with the the bisected cow and calf inside. It reminded me of the statue in gold that was included in the RA Summer show, of the martyred saint who carries his skin like an overcoat draped over one outstretched hand. It's echoed too in some of the exhibits of medical models.

I can't get excited about  the early 'spot' paintings, although there is a visual link with the rows of coloured tablets, pill and capsules on glass shelves in rooms that focus on medical matters. I liked boxes of medicines, labelled with  exotic pharmaceutical names . It's sobering and sinister to see surgical instruments at whose purpose you can only shudder and guess. The point the artist makes - that death can only be held at bay by the application of science, not defeated by it, seems to be made in a heavy-handed fashion.

It's not all gloom and reminders of death and decay, though. There's a smaller room with slowly revolving disks splashed with glossy colour and a beach ball balanced on vented air like a perpetual seaside game. The circular forms echo the general theme of life-cycles, but these are everlasting, unlike the all-too fragile animal kind.

I liked similar disks of blue butterfly prints - maybe even real butterfly wings. There was a room specially kept humid so actual butterflies could be seen in aspects of their lifecycle, from pupae to flying around.  They seemed to suffer from torpor when I was there or maybe there weren't enough of them to be effective.

The notorious vitrines of rotting meat placed to simulate the life-cycles of flies were smelly because of the air-vents in the glass cases.  A giant ash-try gave off a suffocating odor that - deterred visitors  like myself who came too close.

Fish arranged to resemble a shoal were interesting, although to me the huge shark wasn't scary -it looked a bit like the one in the film 'Jaws' when the camera lingered on it too long. The skin was too dull and wrinkled and it looked almost as pitiful as the stuffed walrus in the Horniman Museum.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Quite a Find: Bankside Rose Production of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors

As I've  got older I've developed a preference  for theatres  within ten minutes' walk  of a  train station. The Rose Bankside is  near  London Bridge,  quite  near the more famous Globe, so quite fits the bill in that respect. I couldn't see the theatre on my mini-A-Z, but I knew how to get to Bankside.

I was lucky, too, because earlier the same week I visited the Tate Modern, where the Damien Hirst exhibition had just started. There's a lot of construction work going on around there, so I got lost among the back alleys, but by chance I spotted a poster on a stand outside a doorway festooned with leaflets. This was the entrance to the  Rose.

Right beside it was a flight of steps leading up to the south side of Southwark bridge, beside the huge Financial Times office block. I walked to the corner and saw that Southwark Bridge Road led onto Southwark Street, so I more or less knew that if I walked on I'd get to London Bridge station. On the right I recognised the Menier Chocolate Factory where I'd recently seen a play about Chekhov.

That time I'd got lost in these atmospheric backstreets, too, trying to find a pub to meet my companion and obstructed by a school playground. I keep meaning to get a newer version of the small A-Z that I carry in my bag.

It's a real handicap to have no sense of direction  - I even get completely lost inside buildings, turning left instead of right when I leave rooms.

When we left the Rose at the end of  The Comedy of Errors we didn't go up the steps. Roy went to school in the area, and was so familiar with it that he  led confidently  through Borough  Market to Southwark Street and we emerged almost opposite London Bridge station.
I was surprised  to learn that foundations of this late sixteenth century theatre were uncovered in 1989, during excavations for a new office block. Without the funding and the celebrity backing enjoyed by the Globe project, supporters struggled to develop the site.

By chance, the day after I wrote the review for the Remotegoat website I visited the Tate Modern again, and as I  passed the Rose I was thrilled to see extracts from my review had been pasted on both sides of the board outside the theatre.  It deserves to be much better known. (The theatre, I mean, although it wouldn't do my blog any harm, either)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

She Stoops to Theatre: Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer Filmed Live at the National Theatre

If all plays  were filmed to this quality and sent out  to cinemas, I don't think I'd ever see a live production again! The tickets cost a fraction of what you normally pay for the privilege of being squashed in an overheated auditorium peering round the head of the woman in front with a bouffant hairdo. There was some slight middle-class braying behind me, but not as much as you'd get in a west-end theatre. It all added to the atmosphere. 

I'd initially spotted it on the Cineworld website, and it made sense that it was to be shown in Stevenage. Give people who couldn't make it to London a chance. But for me it was easy enough, as the train only takes half an hour from Kings Cross and my Freedom Pass makes the journey cheaper.  'Don't bother to book', I said to a friend, which was foolish because it was almost immediately  sold out. What luck to find after all that I could see it in Hackney. I took a bus from London Bridge

Although my seat was in the middle of the fourth row I felt, according to camera deployment, that I was enjoying an overview of the audience in the vast bowl of the Olivier theatre, the whole  stage visible from a mid point at times, at others I felt I was  onstage with the actors . When Katherine Kelly, as Kate Hardcastle,  winked or when Hastings made a humorous aside it was in close up, but when the whole cast sang  and dance on on the wide stage, the camera panned away to show that too. There were two or three blips in the sound, but otherwise it was bell-like.

I  did think it was a pity when Katherine Kelly left Coronation Street,  although her acting was head and shoulders above everyone else's in the soap , except  the young boy who plays Peter Barlow's son.  Her role had lacked a proper storyline for quite a while, so she did well to switch to the stage - and what a stage.  There were times when she didn't quite know what to do (stand still was the answer) but her voice and gestures were excellent. John Heffernan was good as a nimble-kneed Hastings and David Fynn was the most assured Tony Lumpkin I've ever seen.

The actress who earned most applause was Sophie  Thompson, excellent  as Mrs Harcastle, the country bumplin wife who longs for city lights and fashions. She put on a series of pretentious accents and was once comically hoisted  from an ambitiously low curtsy.

In the armchair comfort of Hackney PictureHouse I was one of a  700-cinemas audience in 22 countries. Or so I was told by a presenter who appeared in a short film before the start, that  included an interview with the costume designer. This and an interview with  director in the interval were bonuses you don't get in the theatre. It  was, to quote Mr Hardcastle,  a 'Liberty Hall' experience,  and one I hope to repeat.