Thursday, September 20, 2007

Too cool.

You'll have to wait a minute for it to load, but it's worth it. Believe me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


If I had to subscribe, hook line and sinker, to the philosophy and world view of a single person, group, thing, society etc, I would be perfectly happy to follow Calvin and Hobbes.

I realise that the situation is unlikely, but you have a plan ahead.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Casanova, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Casanova’s memoirs –filled with stories of the places he visited, the things he learned, the people he inspired and, of course, the women he loved – have always been a source of great inspiration for writers, artists, and directors.

Casanova has been portrayed as a suave but censurable sort in Fellini’s film, and more recently as a lovable, quick-talking chancer in Russell T Davies’ TV version.

And now we have Casanova as a woman.

And why ever not, as the creators of this production, Told By An Idiot, would ask? Casanova was a philosopher, librettist, physician, lawyer, writer, astrologist, mathematician, con-artist and lover – why not add one more string to his bow? The much-loved poet Carol Ann Duffy was brought in to affect this transformation (she has given a female voice to other famous historical figures in previous work) and it is to the credit of all involved that Casanova-as-woman becomes much more than a gimmick.

Casanova is, above all, known as a charmer, and sheer charm is not something often attributed to successful women. They’re usually vampy, or hard-nosed, or struggling to defeat the odds. Hayley Carmichael’s Casanova doesn’t struggle with anything; she just uses her ability to make everyone love her to get what she gets what she wants, while doing the same for them. Sex – which is here fully clothed, essentially Carry On – is just one part of it, as she also gives Voltaire all of his best lines, and Mozart his greatest melodies. This production is more a celebration of what women can achieve, rather than a discussion of whether society would accept a woman which acts like Casanova. In the world portrayed here, everyone is more than just willing to accept her, they literally embrace her with open arms.

For obvious reasons, this is a very physical production; the actors climb all over the sparse set, and each other, with apparent ease despite the obvious complexity of the movement demanded of them – Carmichael especially is a stunning physical performer. But this emphasis on physicality means, I think, that we lose something of Casanova’s verbal wit. David Tennant’s Casanova could talk himself out of any situation, or into any bed, but Duffy’s decision to have the characters narrate their stories for the most part, rather than use direct speech, means that we rarely hear those impressive speeches, filled with quick thinking and improvisation, which we might expect.

Interesting things are certainly done with the script, however. Through the use of French, Italian and German as well as English, we come to realise that Casanova, while always drawn back to Venice, is a woman of all places. Her universality extends to time, as well - the costumes may invoke the 18th century, but the language and sound effects, such as helicopters overhead, are thoroughly modern.

Despite the comedy which runs throughout this production, there is a dark undertone. Casanova may be spontaneous, but this is often because she has to be; the play opens with her daring escape from prison, and she never stops running from that point on. Her motto is carpe diem, but this is enforced as much as it is enjoyed.

Hayley Carmichael makes Casanova as charming and joyous a heroine as she needs to be, and the physical work done by all of the actors is incredibly impressive. The show loses pace at times, and it is not perhaps quite as side-achingly funny as the roars of laughter around me would suggest, but it is a fitting celebration of the many things – love, art, science, food – which enrich all our lives, whether male or female, and which Casanova enjoyed more than most.

(This is over at musicOMH too :))

"I welcome blogs, but not as a replacement of professional theatre crticism"

So says Michael Billington. Well, no, you wouldn't, would you? You know, being a professional theatre critic an' all... haha.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tennant vs. Law - Jude signs up for Hamlet!

Michael Grandage continues to be utterly, utterly brilliant. The Stage is reporting that he's securing the Donmar Warehouse's future by using a reserve fund they've built up during his tenure to buy the building (it's currently rented by their 'landlord' Ambassador Theatres), and a new initiative called Donmar West End will take four plays a year to the Wyndham's, starting with a ridiculously good season...

I might as well just copy/paste it... :)

"[The season] will kick off with Branagh reuniting with Grandage (who previously directed him in the title role of Richard III at Shefield Crucible) to revive Chekhov’s Ivanov, beginning performances at Wyndham’s from September 12 prior to an official opening on September 18. Tom Stoppard has been commissioned to provide a new version of Chekhov’s first play.

Grandage will also be reunited with Derek Jacobi, whom he previously directed in both The Tempest and Don Carlos (at Sheffield Crucible and subsequently at London’s Old Vic and Gielgud respectively), on a new production of Twelfth Night, beginning performances on December 5, 2008 prior to an official opening on December 10, in which Jacobi will play Malvolio. Grandage is also to direct Yukio Mishima’s Madame de Sade, running from March 13, 2008 prior to an official opening on March 18, before Kenneth Branagh directs Jude Law as Hamlet, running from May 29, with the official opening on June 3."

A bit good, isn't it? Now Mr Billington will have less to complain about when it comes to straight plays in the West End! Can't wait to have Jacobi and Grandage back together - Don Carlos remains pretty much the best play I've seen. As for Jude, well he sneaks his performance of Hamlet in just before Tennant starts at the RSC, so expect much comparison. From me, at least...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Twelfth Night, RSC, 8/9/07

Somehow, I've managed to get through my school and uni days without ever studying Twelfth Night, and while I knew the general jist, it just happens to be one that I've inadvertantly avoided.

Knowing that it was a cross-dressing, mistaken identity play, I was concerned that it might be a bit of a trial to keep up, and director Neil Bartlett hardly made things easier by having women play the comedy roles of Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Fabian, and a man play Viola when she is pretending to be a man. But these decisions didn't lead to any confusion - in fact, in the case of the comedy characters, it was rather hard to understand why Bartlett had made the decision at all, as it made very little difference to the play. It didn't take anything from the play, but neither did it add anything, as it's already clear that issues of gender and cross-dressing are important, as the main storyline follows Viola's wooing of a Countess Olivia on her master's behalf - whom she loves - in male garb. As such, the decision to have Chris New play Viola made sense (and he portrayed her discomfort and awkwardness really well), but the extension of this to the comedy roles seemed a little arbitrary, funny as they were.

More interesting was the treatment of the fool, Feste. Here, he was not played simply for laughs, but became a narrator, commentator, musical accompianist (he played the piano which was permanently on stage), and actually a rather dark figure, who encourages Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Maria as they play mind-games with Olivia's steward, Malvolio. He revels in Malvolio's madness as he is (wrongly) persuaded that Olivia loves him, and as a result, we feel Malvolio's abuse - as it is in fact called in the final scene - all the more keenly. It becomes much more than a ridiculous comic sub-plot.

Malvolio - you might remember - is played by John Lithgow, and he is brilliant. Well, he's pretty much playing the classic John Lithgow part -superior, deluded, generally disliked - but you can't say that's not incredibly funny. It's the stand-out performance of the night, along with Chris New and James Clyde (Feste), in a production otherwise lacking striking performances; the Duke and Olivia particularly never seemed to get out of second gear.

This production is genuinely funny, and the great performances really were great - but there are too many random choices and underwhelming performances to make it a classic.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

That'd be three out of three then!

Yes, not to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I predicted the Mercury Prize correctly for the third year in a row: Antony and The Johnsons in 2005, Arctic Monkeys in 2006, and Klaxons this year! Haha.

Ok, so it might be interpreted that I actually tipped Magic Numbers in 2005, and only said I was supporting Arctic Monkeys last year, but this time I definitely got it right!

Anna Pickard on DT as Hamlet

"What's more, he'll be appearing with Patrick Stewart as Claudius. All we need is Sarah Michelle Gellar as a butt-kicking Ophelia and the whole thing will be sci-fi heaven."

Haha, if only... :)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Yes! RTD wants next series to be more fun!

The story's from here, but I got it here, naturally.

So old RTD has listened to me, eh?! Fun...ness is exactly what series 3 was lacking, and as I said as the time, that's because the Doctor suddenly disappeared from view, (John Smith, Blink, bizarre house-elf) just as the writing picked up. RTD points particularly to the last three episodes, which struck me as strange at first, but I guess they would have been totally fun-less without The Master.

So, it's time for fun. You know what that means, don't you - bring back the Slitheen! Haha, ok, that's going a bit far, but let's have our fun Doctor back at least - I mean, that's what DT does best, right? Donna will bring him back to himself, you mark my words, doubters. ;)