Category: Theatre

HAMLET directed by Laurence Olivier (1948)
HAMLET directed by Franco Zefferelli (1990)


How about this as a summary of Shakespeare’s most famous play turned movie?:

“This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”.

If that seems too reductive, how about this:

“A guy comes home from school to discover that his father’s dead. To top it all off his mother is horsing around with his uncle. Add to that, the ghost of the old man comes back to tell him that it was his uncle who knocked him off so he could run off with the Queen. The guy goes off his nut”.

The first is Laurence Olivier’s voiceover before the main action begins.

The second is from an interview with Mel Gibson included in the extras on the DVD of Zefferelli’s film.

Frankly, neither really cuts the mustard but both are obviously aiming to pitch the story in an accessible fashion. Continue reading

INTIMACY directed by Patrice Chéreau (UK, 2001)

intimacy-POSTERSex in movies or music videos is mostly more concerned with titillation than realism while in porn its primary function is stimulation.

The makers of Intimacy, based on a short story by Hanif Kureishi, adopt a less glossy and therefore more adult perspective.

In the movie, scenes of coupling are explicit, including un-simulated fellatio. Little is left to the imagination but, equally, nothing is particularly arousing.

On the contrary, the sex act is reduced to the level of a basic human need (like eating and sleeping but more energetic).

This is fucking not lovemaking and seems more akin to an act of penance than passion. Once the desire is satiated, words are unnecessary and the two go their separate ways arranging only to meet again the same day (Wednesday) the next week. Continue reading

homegrownNot surprisingly, the creators of the National Youth Theatre’s cancelled production of Homegrown smell a rat.

The official explanation given by the London-based company is that the play was not ready and would have failed the meet the theatre group’s high standards. The fact that neither director Nadia Latif nor playwright Omar El-Khairy were given prior notice of this decision means that this seems more a case of censorship than quality control. Continue reading

BIRDMANBIRDMAN (OR ‘THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE’) directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (USA, 2014)

From the stylish opening credits and free-jazz drumming of Antonio Sanchez’s unorthodox soundtrack, this is a movie that is keen to make an immediate impression.

It is the kind of derring-do which could so easily have backfired and then been dismissed as nothing more than brash arty-fartiness. Yet Birdman postively revels in its showiness and having a excellent supporting cast, that includes Naomi Watts and Edward Norton in prime form, means that all the risks are calculated ones.

The story revolves around Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, one time celluloid superhero who now feels all too human as he approaches the third age. By adapting a Raymond Carver story for a Broadway show he wants revitalise his flagging career and, in the process, demonstrate that 60 is the new 30. Continue reading

The fifth in a series of 13 book reviews from my pre-blogging years.

STEPPENWOLF by Hermann Hesse (1927)

steppenwolf The Steppenwolf of the title is Henry Holler, a tired intellectual living a solitary life in an attic flat in a cosy bourgeois home. He is 50 years old and weary of life to the point of contemplating suicide. The nephew of his landlady observes that “the root of his pessimism was not world contempt but self contempt”.

Holler thinks of himself as a kind of Jekyll & Hyde figure with the wolf in him representing the pleasures of the flesh. Despite his book learning he finds no enjoyment in the spiritual life and finds himself  “outside all social circles, beloved by none”.

In this desperate state he meets Hermine who is a member of a Magic Theatre advertised as being ‘For Madmen Only’. She teaches Holler to laugh, dance and enjoy sex without guilt.

Above all, she despises his patronizing attitude to those he regards as uneducated:  “You learned people and artists have, no doubt, all sorts of  superior things in your heads, but you’re human beings like the rest of us, and we too have our dreams and fancies”.

Through Pablo, who plays in the theatre company’s band, Holler learns that music is not something to be felt with the heart not something to analyse or philosophise over.

The moral of Hesse’s novel can be summed up by the criticism of what he calls the “never-ceasing machinery” of everyday life which can prevent people from being “the critics of their own lives and from recognizing the stupidity and shallowness, the hopeless tragedy and waste of the lives they lead”.

What he advocates as an alternative is to “learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest”.  

I second that emotion.


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