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  1. #1
    Benjm's Avatar
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    It's been tried and it has died many times before, but anyway...

    On Thursday afternoon I went to see Birdland at the Royal Court. Excellent show about a rock star losing his mind and soul, with a commanding lead performance by Andrew Scott, who I am told is Moriarty in Sherlock. The Royal Court is an astonishingly uncomfortable theatre though.

    Yesterday was A View From The Bridge at the Young Vic, with Mark Strong and Nicola Walker. Just fantastic. Spare modern staging, without seeming disrespectful to the text, great performances from all of the cast and that unmistakeable buzz of when theatre goes right. Best show I've seen since the Adrian Lester/Rory Kinnear Othello last year.

  2. #2

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    A couple of weeks ago, I went to see God in Carnage, as performed by the local English-speaking amateur theatre ensemble. Although it was definitely watchable and the performers were excellent, the American accents grated a bit (not because they were American accents, but because, in two cases, they were American accents coming out of the mouths of non-Americans).

    One of the non-Americans was Welsh. When his American accent was good (which was 80% of the time), it was very good. When it wasn’t very good, it could have come from anywhere between Tonypandy and The Azores. The other culprit was German. Her accent was somewhere in the North Sea.

    If I’d been the director, I’d have had them speaking in their natural accent. Then again, I have no idea about stuff like that. Maybe an American accent, sub-standard or otherwise, is an essential part of the whole thing.

  3. #3

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    BenJo - was the Young Vic production done 'in the round'? I'm seeing Streetcar later this summer at the Young Vic, and cannae wait. Would be good to hear more about your experience at A View...

  4. #4
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    Treibeis, was God in Carnage originally written in French and then translated into English? I can see why a particular accent might be necessary where presenting local vernacular speech is part of the author's intention but it can be a risky option otherwise if your players can't carry it off. That said, possibly the most wayward accent I have ever heard on a live platform was Irvine Welsh attempting the Boy's Own Paper bits of Marabou Stork Nightmares at a reading some years ago.

    VV, A View... is in the round, or rather the rectangle, with seats on three sides and one of the narrow ends used for entrances/exits. There's a lot of movement and full use is made of the space. We were in the cheap seats at the end and while there were some bits where the character speaking was turned away from us that would have been the case anywhere in the house. The Young Vic is very good for fairly pricing seats - I've been upgraded in the past having bought bottom price tickets which the theatre felt were unacceptable once the full staging was known.

    There was a low bench running round the edge of the stage which the actors used as seating where required. Otherwise the lack of scenery and props made it seem less of a period piece and emphasised the psychological tension over the physical overcrowding. It contrasted sharply with the National's recent Taste of Honey where the sets were very detailed recreations of slum housing. The music was suspenseful drones and metronomic ticks building up the tension to a startling and brilliantly staged climax, which I'm slightly loath to reveal. The cast were all great - the performances filled the room but also had lots of fine detail that was almost like film acting, the closeness of the round setting really coming into its own for catching the nuances.

    Accents seemed to hit the mark, without knowing old Brooklynese, save for one line which took a hike up onto the high Veldt.

    The Young Vic really seem to be on top of their game at the moment - Streetcar... should be great. I got as far as having a ticket in my basket during the first day of general sales but something went wrong and it terminated the sale. Bah.

  5. #5

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    BenJô wrote: Treibeis, was God in Carnage originally written in French and then translated into English? I can see why a particular accent might be necessary where presenting local vernacular speech is part of the author's intention but it can be a risky option otherwise if your players can't carry it off.
    Yes, I believe it was.

    I'm being harsh on the performers I saw. After all, the majority of the audience were German and probably wouldn't have picked up on the wayward accents. The two people I was there with (both German, both excellent English-speakers) were just glad they understood what was being said; they didn't care how it was being said.

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    Thanks BenJo, sounds good! And the ticket buying experience for Streetcar was indeed horrendous. Managed to get a pair after hours of trying, and then by day two the lot had gone. If I end up not being able to make it for any reason, I'll give you first refusal!

  7. #7
    Benjm's Avatar
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    Cheers, vv. There is the day ticket option but that never really appeals somehow. I think queuing for day tickets has somehow become confused in my mind with stories about hardcore Promenaders attacking incomers for standing in their favourite spot. Suffering in the name of art shouldn't include being beaten to death by an angry mob wielding camp stools and metal flasks.

  8. #8
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    Dunno if it lives here, but last night we went to the Royal Opera House to see the Mariinsky Ballet's version of Swan Lake. I just love the music, and the swans were incredible. I was just slightly disappointed by the dénouement.

    Anyway, we're hoping to see my brother-in-law in The Flood at the Hope And Anchor later this week.

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    Actually I've booked it for the end of the month instead...

  10. #10
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    Gangster Octopus wrote: Dunno if it lives here, but last night we went to the Royal Opera House to see the Mariinsky Ballet's version of Swan Lake. I just love the music, and the swans were incredible. I was just slightly disappointed by the dénouement.
    The big, old ballets are a bit like James Bond films: there are all the classic, instantly recognisable scenes but also, if you watch one all the way through, lots of other stuff, some of it less well remembered for a reason.

    I didn't even know that the Hope & Anchor had a theatre. Strong metaphor for life potential there as you ascend from the basement space to the upper reaches.

    Inevitably, starting this thread coincided with the longest period that I haven't been to the theatre in about five years, not helped by a couple of no shows due to poor diary management and the heat. I'll be attempting to rectify this by going to Great Britain at the National this weekend.

  11. #11

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    Two of the very best things I attended last year were ballets.

    Wiltons had an amazing production of Dracula that was genuinely frightening, and moving. I'm sooo over vampires but this was fantastic, and I think it went to tour the provinces. Utterly brilliant.

    Swan Lake at Sadlers Wells at Christmas was mesmerising.

    As for theatre ... well, there was an "interesting" production of The Duchess of Malfi ..and that may have been the only theatre I have seen this year.

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    Ooft, forgot about this thread. Very timely as I'm actually seeing Streetcar tomorrow night. Shall post thoughts on it if I remember to do so.

    Probably worth noting that they're going to be doing a cinema run of it in early Sept, one of the National Theatre Live productions. I saw Macbeth beamed over to the Odeon in Brighton when the NT did it, and despite certain misgivings I had as to how it could be done effectively, it was excellent

  13. #13
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    Might go and see "To Kill A Mockingbird" in Bath in January. One of my favourite books and films so has to be a good bet for the play. Was going to but a ticket as a present for the wife but she asked me if I wanted to go this afternoon. I wasn't thinking quickly enough to come up with a smokescreen.

    I love ballet but haven't seen one live for so long.

  14. #14
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    MsD wrote: As for theatre ... well, there was an "interesting" production of The Duchess of Malfi ..and that may have been the only theatre I have seen this year.
    Was that the one at the Globe, MsD?

    The new candle-lit room there sounds even more theme parky than the main theatre - their website explains that every seat has some element of restricted view as part of the historically accurate 17th century experience. The West End theatres are missing a trick by not promoting the increased risk of deep vein thrombosis in most of their seats as enhancing the authentic Victorian vibe.

  15. #15

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    via vicaria wrote: Ooft, forgot about this thread. Very timely as I'm actually seeing Streetcar tomorrow night. Shall post thoughts on it if I remember to do so.
    It was excellent. The lady playing Stella was a little up and down, but by the end was on top form. Gillian Anderson was a really, really great Blanche; although my boyfriend did say he had difficulty understanding her accent sometimes. And Ben Foster actually made a good Stanley; he's bulked up considerably in recent years, apparently, and really looked the part too.

    The revolving stage didn't work well at times; at the end of the play, just prior to when [highlight for, I guess, spoilers?] the doctor and nurse arrive to take Blanche away, the stage actually stopped; and while where we were sitting happened to be an excellent position (seeing Blanche in the bathtub about 5 feet away - the Young Vic isn't big - and so able to see the emotions on her face as well as the remainder of the stage in the background), the people sitting dead opposite us (it's done in-the-round) would've had a great deal of their view obscured by the steps that are on one end of the stage.

    Also, the revolving stage inevitably means that the actors are sometimes in positions where you miss a subtlety or two. Not too much of a complaint though.

    One thing I found odd was the 'contemporary' setting I'd heard about prior to seeing it; which, in the end, amounted to having a cordless phone and some sort-of-modern furniture in the apartment. The remainder of the play still felt period - the music, the references the characters make, and so on - so it felt like an odd decision that really didn't have much of a bearing on things.

    Highly recommended, though, when it hits cinemas on 16 September.

  16. #16

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    Benjm wrote:
    Quote Originally Posted by MsD
    As for theatre ... well, there was an "interesting" production of The Duchess of Malfi ..and that may have been the only theatre I have seen this year.
    Was that the one at the Globe, MsD?

    The new candle-lit room there sounds even more theme parky than the main theatre - their website explains that every seat has some element of restricted view as part of the historically accurate 17th century experience. The West End theatres are missing a trick by not promoting the increased risk of deep vein thrombosis in most of their seats as enhancing the authentic Victorian vibe.
    No, that one was on the telly and was well good.

    The Globe is really uncomfortable.

    The production I was referring to was at Bethnal Green Working Men's club and was a "trans-sex", modern (1950s) dress production, very enthusiastically performed, but we were totally baffled as to what was going on, and guffawed in (probably) inappropriate places. Luckily, we weren't the only ones.

    I'm not that keen on fringe theatre although I'm glad it exists.

  17. #17

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    via vicaria wrote:
    Quote Originally Posted by via vicaria
    Ooft, forgot about this thread. Very timely as I'm actually seeing Streetcar tomorrow night. Shall post thoughts on it if I remember to do so.
    It was excellent. The lady playing Stella was a little up and down, but by the end was on top form. Gillian Anderson was a really, really great Blanche; although my boyfriend did say he had difficulty understanding her accent sometimes. And Ben Foster actually made a good Stanley; he's bulked up considerably in recent years, apparently, and really looked the part too.

    The revolving stage didn't work well at times; at the end of the play, just prior to when [highlight for, I guess, spoilers?] the doctor and nurse arrive to take Blanche away, the stage actually stopped; and while where we were sitting happened to be an excellent position (seeing Blanche in the bathtub about 5 feet away - the Young Vic isn't big - and so able to see the emotions on her face as well as the remainder of the stage in the background), the people sitting dead opposite us (it's done in-the-round) would've had a great deal of their view obscured by the steps that are on one end of the stage.

    Also, the revolving stage inevitably means that the actors are sometimes in positions where you miss a subtlety or two. Not too much of a complaint though.

    One thing I found odd was the 'contemporary' setting I'd heard about prior to seeing it; which, in the end, amounted to having a cordless phone and some sort-of-modern furniture in the apartment. The remainder of the play still felt period - the music, the references the characters make, and so on - so it felt like an odd decision that really didn't have much of a bearing on things.

    Highly recommended, though, when it hits cinemas on 16 September.
    Thanks for the review. I love Streetcar, and saw Sheila Gish in the Blanche role some time ago.

    Not sure I like the idea of the revolving stage, too distracting.

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    It wasn't too bad really. Given the arrangement of the Young Vic it worked fairly well (as above, it only really stopped working well when it actually stopped - but that was down to how the set had been designed)

    What was distracting was that a lot - a surprising amount - of the audience laughed a great deal. While some of the catty and caustic lines are quite witty, it's not a comedy; and when people are laughing right up to where Blanche is fantasising about her supposed death from eating an unwashed grape (I can only assume the audience thought it was an insult to Eunice that they should laugh at), it felt pretty jarring (particularly considering that particular scene).

    I mean they even laughed (a lot) at the scene involving the young guy collecting for the paper. A scene that's meant to be a little sinister and reveals Blanche's slightly inappropriate behaviour.

  19. #19

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    How strange. It's a very sad, haunting story. Has it become seen as a "camp classic" or something? Have people come to know it through comedians doing a Blanche? It deserves better, if it was acted properly, and it sounds like it was.

    If people don't get the horror and the sadness, they're missing out.

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    Not a camp classic as far as I know it. I can only assume that a lot of people there didn't know the play very well at all. It was probably my only real complaint of the night.

  21. #21
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    The laughter may be a protective mechanism to help maintain a safe distance from the emotional content, which is what most of us do to some degree in 'real' life. I have noticed that many productions of the classics tend to play up the comic elements, perhaps because laughter is seen as an immediate and authentic response, validating the work as a living thing rather than a museum piece. This may condition audiences to look for the laughs where comedy isn't really the point.

    The heightened emotional pitch of Williams' work can leave it open to misreading as a sort of Deep South Abigail's Party, which is unfair. Thanks for reporting back, VV - it sounds great.

    In the annals of inappropriate laughter, I had a giggling fit during The Knife's electronic opera at the Barbican a couple of years ago which was uncontrollable enough to be mentioned in two of the reviews. It was like being at church as a child: the solemnity built up to such a point that once something set me off I couldn't stop. It was more than a little embarrassing.

  22. #22
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    Medea at the National Theatre this afternoon was very well done, even though the fantastically grim story makes terms like fun and enjoyable seem inappropriate. Helen McCrory is excellent as the title character, conveying anguish and regret as well as steely purpose. It is quite a difficult play to get your head around as to retain any sympathy for the character you have to accept the idea that once the events have been set in motion there is no option for her to stop.

    There is the usual high standard of design from the National and very effective music from Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory. The only negative was that some of the choreography of the chorus was a bit too jerky and disconnected.

    One a more homely note, the mid century sofa and coffee table onstage are very nice and Joyce Barnaby from Midsomer Murders (aka Jane Wymark) is in the chorus and very good too. These details somehow served to emphasise the horror of the play itself.

  23. #23

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    Ooh, I'd like to see that (the play, not just the table). Helen McCrory is great.

  24. #24
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    Medea at the National Theatre this afternoon was very well done. Helen McCrory is excellent as is Danny Sapani as Jason.

    I'm not sure I'm convinced by Ben Power's script. He seemed to use a lot of Shakespearian words which didn't really add anything, in fact I'd say drew me away from the play. Especially Medea saying 'unsex me' was really unnecessary, we don't need a call out to Macbeth. Not only that but there seemed to be a very early modern Christian view of Medea's witchcraft. It felt like a 17th century translation, not something modern.

    Also, it seemed to ignore Medea's barbarian background. Which is important. But more important is the way that it couldn't decide if it was updating the play or keeping the original feel with regards to the role of women in society. You either need to show how limiting being a woman was in Greek society or you change some of Medea's explanations as to her motivation. I don't feel like I've explained myself very well. Welcome to Thebes was a much more successful version of a Greek play in that regard.

    The music was effective but seemed to be used in the manner of a film soundtrack in couple of places but in others it fitted in seamlessly.

    Finally. The choreography was good but ever so slightly sloppy in its execution. The chorus reminded me of Marco Goecke's work.

    In summary, it was very good except for the script.

    Edit: I did spend too much time getting confused about the King of Corinth being called Creon.

  25. #25
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    Levin, thanks for adding another view. I'd like to discuss your points more fully but I'm packing to go away in half an hour. This was the first time I'd seen the play, so I didn't have that sense of how the text compares to other renditions.

    The sense of her as an outsider came through strongly enough for me, although I could have done with a clearer pointer that Jason too is an outsider at the court, which has some bearing on how plausible his explanations are.

    I think you are right about the witchcraft being too witchy; it works just to have healing/herbal knowledge as a currency that a woman can bargain with rather than suggesting a moral judgement upon it.

    The wedding choreography reminded me a bit of Gilbert and George's Bend It.

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