Behind the Beautiful Forevers

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Seen: March 12, NTL Broadcast Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Cast: Hiran Abeysekera, Assad Zaman, Anjana Vasan, Stephanie Street, Shane Zaza, Ranjit Krishnamma, Sartaj Garewal, Gavi Singh Chera, Meera Syal, Anjli Mohindra, Vincent Ebrahim, Chook Sibtain, Muzz Khan, Thusitha Jayasundera, Ronak Patani, Anneika Rose, Manjeet Mann, Mariam Haque, Tia-Lana Chinapyel, Nikita Mehta, Tia Palamathanan, Ahsani Stevens, Nathalie Armin, Esh Alladi, Pal Aron, Bharti Patel

Directed by Rufus Norris

a new play by David Hare based on the book by Katherine Boo

We saw so many great productions in the last year or so, I knew it was too good to last. Continue reading

Love’s Labour’s Won (Much Ado About Nothing)

Seen: March 4, live broadcast at Haydn English Cinema Vienna

Cast: Sam Alexander, Peter Basham, William Belchambers, Edward Bennett, Nick Haverson, John Hodgkinson, David Horovitch, Tunji Kasim, Sophie Khan, Oliver Lynes, Emma Manton, Chris McCalphy, Frances McNamee, Peter McGovern, Chris Nayak, Jamie Newall, Roderick Smith, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Michelle Terry, Harry Waller, Thomas Wheatley

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

What I am starting to realise after nearly one and a half years of RSC and NTL broadcasts is that the RSC productions really fail to knock me out of my boots. This is especially disappointing because there are so many ways Shakespeare’s work can be interpreted and brought to stage other than just reciting the words. While they are all good and nice, ‘nice’ is probably the worst thing I can say about a theatre production. It’s the equivalent of a band playing their album note for note and then leaving the stage; I could have listened to that – or in case of theatre read the playtext – at home. Actually, I even prefer strongly disliking a production if I can respect what those involved tried to do. If you’ve read my reviews of The Ruling Class and A Midsummer Night’s Dream you might have noticed how much I appreciate when having balls actually pays off.

I held back on writing this thinking that maybe I would see things a bit differently after having finished the online course connected to the production (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/much-ado-about-nothing ) but, alas, no. While that course was so much better than the Hamlet one (I can honestly say I haven’t learned anything new except the professor’s obsession with Freud) and those from the RSC involved all seem like very nice people (in case of people, my above definition of ‘nice’ of course does not apply in the least), the most innovative things about the production remain calling it Love’s Labour Won, following the theory this is actually the one Shakespaeare play thought to have been lost and making it a companion production to Love’s Labour’s Lost (see iwishyoumuchmirth’s review https://butmadnorth.com/2015/02/12/loves-labours-lost/) and moving it from Messina to England after WWI.

The setting was a bit unusual in the beginning, but it made sense and the Christmas tree was a great prop, especially for Edward Bennett’s Benedick. Both Bennett and Michelle Terry (Beatrice) were very good, even if Terry seemed to have momentarily forgotten she was wearing a microphone, so she was painfully shrill at the very beginning. Bennett also proved apt at adapting to unforeseen situations like a rather vocal patron or his own corpsing.

Setting the play this close to the 20s allowed for some entertaining musical numbers as well as great costumes. While I’m generally not the biggest fan of Shakespeare’s comedies and there are of course a lot of issues viewing them as a woman born in the 1970s instead of 1600s, Much Ado is actually the one I do like because I enjoy the quickfire bantering between the two perceived as the main characters even though in fact they hardly have any time together on stage.

I usually find more humour in the tragedies, so I might not be the best person judging this production. I can for example never relate to the audience laughing at ‘Kill Claudio’. The play is however one my sister’s favourites, so maybe she wants to add her view.

To sum it up: it was an entertaining time in the cinema, but I wouldn’t want to watch this again.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

11 February, 2015
broadcast live from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

by William Shakespeare

Cast: Sam Alexander, Peter Basham, William Belchambers, Edward Bennett, Nick Haverson, John Hodgkinson, David Horovitch, Tunji Kasim, Sophie Khan Levy, Oliver Lynes, Emma Manton, Chris McCalphy, Frances McNamee, Peter McGovern, Chris Nayak, Jamie Newall, Roderick Smith, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Michelle Terry, Harry Waller, Thomas Wheatley, Leah Whitaker, featuring Teddy the Bear

directed by Christopher Luscombe

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Treasure Island

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Seen January 22 2015

Haydn English Cinema, Vienna

By Robert Louis Stevenson, adapted by Bryony Lavery

Directed by Polly Findlay

Cast: Patsy Ferran, Gillian Hanna, Aidan Kelly, Helena Lymbery, Nick Fletcher, Alexandra Maher, Heather Dutton, Raj Bajaj, Lena Kaur, Daniel Coonan, David Sterne, Paul Dodds, Arthur Darvill, Jonathan Livingstone, Clair-Louise Cordwell, Angela De Castro, David Langham, Alastair Parker, Oliver Birch, Tim Samuels, Joshua James, Roger Wilson, Ben Thompson

Girls need adventures too.

Bryony Lavery adapted this classic for the NT. The original only contains one female character; in this version however, Jim is a girl and some household staff as well as pirates were changed to women, so this production wasn’t the sausage fest that can usually be expected of Treasure Island.

Patsy Ferran, who plays Jim, is one to watch. She carries the play seemingly effortless and more than holds her own against the veterans she shares the stage with. There are however two things upstaging even her: Long John Silver’s remote controlled parrot and the stage setting. From building a planetarium into the Olivier to having the ship in all its several decks high glory ascending from underneath the stage – and receiving applause for its appearance – to Silver’s leg (I’m sure Arthur Darvill was glad he was spared the common peg), everything was cleverly executed.

Speaking of the stage: when the Hispaniola made its way up, I thought that without Tyrone Guthrie and Tanya Moiseiwitsch and their vision of bringing thrust stages into modern times, stage settings in Stratford (Ontario) and the National Theatre would be so much more restricted. It’s fascinating to see what stage designers and directors come up with every time.

This was the National Theatre’s Christmas family show and it showed not just in the funniest looking spilled guts I have seen thus far, but also in little things like the discrepancy between kid-friendly sword fights and the accompanying music that would have seemed overly dramatic in other circumstances.

The performances were solid all around, from the main characters to the singer popping up once in a while. Speaking of which, a question for Canadians who have seen this broadcast: did Gordon Pinsent and Alan Doyle get cloned into one person or is it just me? That would also explain The Royal Bank of Canada being the main sponsor of the play. 😉

Watching this broadcast was a few hours well spent and just plain fun after a day at work.

A Streetcar Named Desire – NT Live Broadcast

September 16, 2014
Broadcast live from the Young Vic Theatre, London

“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

By Tennessee Williams

Directed by Benedict Andrews

Cast: Gillian Anderson, Clare Burt, Lachele Carl, Branwell Donaghey, Otto Farrant, Ben Foster, Nicholas Gecks, Troy Glasgow, Stephanie Jacob, Corey Johnson, Vanessa Kirby, Claire Prempeh

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Monty Python Live (mostly)

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One Down, Five to Go

I never thought I would get the chance to see Monty Phython live or as was the case at least in a live broadcast.

When I was ten, I volonteered for a school trial which meant learning French instead of English. That turned out not to be such a bright idea after all when I switched to a different school four years later. Additionally to being bored during French lessons for the next years, I had just two months to catch up to everyone else in English. While not all of the Python’s vocabulary was suitable for school, they – along with countless songwriters and movie makers – played a big part in that.

More than 20 years later I still haven’t grown tired of their shenanigans. The Philosophers football match is still hilarious and more interesting than most games of the world cup. The Batley Townswomen’s Guild going all in reenacting the Battle of Pearl Harbor or the Silly Olympics are still funnier than a lot of stuff I’ve seen in the last years.

It was touching that Graham Chapman was the first Python to appear on screen; the title ‘One Down, Five to Go’ alluded to him in typical Monty Python fashion and it wasn’t the only mention. John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin were in fine form and seemed to have fun on stage, cracking up several times and improvising as a result. John Cleese’s divorces were even incorporated into the Poofy Judges. There is a picture floating around Twitter showing Terry Gilliam mid-air during the Spanish Inquisition; I dare you to look at it and not laugh.

There were quite a few guests too: it was nice to see Carol Cleveland again; Eddie Izzard and Mike Myers made appearances and Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking popped up in a pre-recorded skit (Hawking was also present in the audience).

While the original sketches played on screen and acted live by the remaining five Pythons are still killing it, Eric Idle added 16 tons of variety show elements in between. Of course you can’t expect a bunch of septuagenarians to do quick-changes and run back onto stage in 3 seconds flat, but – for me at least – those numbers were much too long and frequent and instead of making the transition between sketches smoother, actually made them even more bumpy. On the other hand, they managed to incorporate things they couldn’t have performed anymore (Silly Walk, Never Make Fun…) this way.

The other thing bugging me was the camera direction. I might be spoiled by the terrific work of the fine people responsible for the RSC and NTL broadcasts, but it seemed confused at some points and downright sloppy at others. At the end of the Lumberjack song you could see that there was something about Canada projected in the O2, but they didn’t capture it for the world-wide audiences.

All in all, I’m grateful the gents of Monty Python decided to show us what makes an Ex-Parrot once more and then gracefully told us to ‘Piss Off!”. And now number 3: The Lark…