Category: Theatre


THE ANONYMOUS BARD

ANONYMOUS directed by Roland Emmerich (UK, 2011)

If you believe that Bush’s government planned the 9/11 attacks, that men didn’t really walk on the moon or that Elvis is still alive, then you’ll have no problem with the central premise of Anonymous.

This holds that William Shakespeare did not actually write the plays and sonnets which are regarded as the pinnacle achievements of English literature.

Having a couple of bona fide luvvies – Vanessa Redgrave and Derek Jacobi – in the cast gives a measure of authenticity to this theory.

Since we know so little about Shakespeare’s life, the idea that this was an alias for another author is not completely preposterous.

That doesn’t stop this being a bonkers  and boring movie that takes huge liberties with historical accuracy. Continue reading

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK directed by Charlie Kaufman (USA, 2008)

This is a movie about life and dreams but mainly it’s about death.

We all have dreams, both big and small. Some of them are realized, most are not.

What gives us the impetus to work through our personal bucket lists is the transience of existence and the knowledge that someday we will die, as will everyone we know.

Theatre director Coden Cotard has a big dream. He wants to stage a play about everything: birth, dating, family and death. Particularly the last of these since, as he puts it bluntly yet accurately, “we are all hurtling towards death, but here we are for the moment, alive”.

Cotard wants his production to stand as his legacy and demands that there must be no compromises. It should tell the brutal truth, warts and all – no limits, no filters. He prepares post it notes for each participant, a single fact that the actors must build upon to create a character. Quickly you get the impression that the concept is so vast that it is unworkable. Continue reading

A TASTE OF HONEY directed by Tony Richardson (UK, 1961)

Shelagh Delaney’s unsentimental view of procreation puts the hearts and flowers romance of Valentine’s Day into proper perspective : “It’s chaotic – a bit of love, a bit of lust and there you are. We don’t ask for life, we have it thrust upon us”.

Lines like these help explain why A Taste of Honey retains its contemporary edge more than half a century after it was first performed.

London’s National Theatre are about to stage a new version to bring the play’s honest, down to earth characters to a new generation of theatre goers.

No prizes too for guessing why Delaney was such a formative influence on the young Steven Patrick Morrissey.

Labelling A Taste of Honey as a ‘kitchen sink realism’ might lead you expect a mundane and bleak drama. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a play (and movie) that fizzes with energy and humourously challenges popular preconceptions about so-called  ‘ordinary’ working class lives in Northern Britain. Continue reading

A POST-MODERN GOLDONI FLOP

Carlo Goldoni’s Il Servitore di due padroni (The servant of two masters) rewritten by Ken Ponzio (Teatro Bonci, Cesena)

Spot the difference! The classic Harlequin and Roberto Latini as the post-modern version.

Spot the difference! The classic Harlequin and Roberto Latini in the post-modern version.

Prepositions have never been my strong point. The consequence of this is that I failed to appreciate the significance of the fact that this Venetian theatre company’s production was ‘da’ and not ‘di’ Carlo Goldoni. The first means ‘from’ the second means ‘by’.

The distinction is crucial because the only connection Ken Ponzio’s version had to the original play from 1743 is in the character names and token references to the plot.

In the programme notes Ponzio seeks to justify his presumptions act of literary terrorism: “Our way of perceiving comedies and tragedies has changed. Today’s expressive methods are radically different from those of Goldoni since we have experienced two world wars, been to the moon and we’ve read Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Heiner Müller; our way of seeing has fundamentally changed”.

When the curtain drew my heart sank. The set was a characterless hotel hall with three doors on each side. A pot plant, some chairs, a telephone and a TV (tuned to American shows) are the only props. Continue reading

LA CITTÀ IDEALE directed by Luigi Lo Cascio  (Italy, 2012)

la città idealeLuigi Lo Cascio wrote, directed and stars in this ambitious and thought-provoking movie. He plays Michel Grassadonia, an earnest architect committed to leaving only the faintest of ecological footprints.

For instance, he conducts experiments to live without electricity and uses rain water to shower.  He also has a holier than thou attitude to those who breach the civic rules – photographing those who smoke in public buildings and reprimanding those who drop litter.

As a model citizen, he is last person you would expect to fall foul of the law, yet through a Kafkaesque series of incidents he is plunged into a complex legal process which he mistakenly thinks he can overturn by simply telling the truth. Continue reading

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