Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rose is back! Rose is back!

Squeeeeee!

(I'll get all cynical about the decision to bring her back later; for now I'm just enjoying the moment...)

Amadeus, Sheffield Crucible, 24/11

(also on MusicOMH :D)

When the Sheffield Crucible enters the next stage of a huge re-development in the new year, its vast stage will go dark for 18 months, leaving a gaping hole in Yorkshire's cultural landscape.
Since Michael Grandage arrived as Artistic Director, a space perhaps best known as the home of the World Snooker Championships has become one of the most vibrant producing theatres in the country - work continued by Sam West.

It seems important, then, that this last production before the temporary closure - Peter Shaffer's Amadeus - is one to be proud of. The producers at the Crucible appear to be aware that this is a special moment, as they have brought together a cast and crew that regular attendees will recognise.

Directing is Nikolai Foster, who spent three years at the Crucible as Resident Director, and whose work there - including a wonderful production of the Sondheim musical Assassins - I have always enjoyed. The two lead roles are also taken by actors who are no strangers to Sheffield: Mozart himself is played by Bryan Dick, who appeared in the Crucible production of Lear, and Gerard Murphy, seen in Assassins, plays Antonio Salieri.

As always seems to be the case at the Crucible, the look of this production is stunning. As an elderly Salieri recounts his younger years as court composer, tortured by Mozart's precocious talent, the decadence of 18th century Vienna is evoked, without being an assault on the eyes; a host of burning candles hang above the action throughout, giving the feel of intimate parlours.

During the first half, however, I was concerned that the style of the production wasn't entirely matched by the content. It has been pointed out in other reviews that the complaint made in this play about Mozart's work - that there are 'two many notes' - brings to mind the fact that this play may just contain 'too many words', and I have to admit that at times I found myself thinking the same thing. The first half, as beautiful as it looked, often lacked pace.

But things improved massively after the interval. For a start, things could not stay disappointing for long in the hands of the two lead actors. Dick has already shone both on stage and on screen, and he has proved his talent again here. As the young Wolfgang, he is both immature, irritating and far too sure of himself, and yet at the same time somehow utterly mesmerising. When the established composer Salieri plays him a little march on the piano, Mozart can instantly recall it, and instantly improve on it. Giggling as he improvises, Mozart clearly has no idea of the torture he is inflicting on Salieri.

This torture is portrayed as a physical pain by Murphy. The irony is that, after being universally praised as a child, Mozart actually fell out of favour as he grew up, and Salieri was the one who gained all the plaudits. But no amount of fame or fortune can appease Salieri: precisely because of his own musical talent, he can appreciate Mozart's, and it is killing him.

Amadeus poses the question of whether Salieri actually killed Mozart, as he himself asserted at the end of his life, and states that no, he didn't deliver the poison, but he actively made life as hard as possible for the young maestro. As Salieri's crusade against Mozart becomes more and more reprehensible, the pace quickens, and as such our interest also increases - it makes for an uneven night, but at least the trajectory is upwards.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Doncaster: Not big enough to support a theatre

What. What? WHAT? Yes, according to our lovely council, that's true. Except it's not, is it? Doncaster is one of the biggest boroughs in England. What you're actually saying, lovely councillors, is that Doncaster doesn't have the right demographic for a theatre. You're happy to spend millions on re-doing the racecourse, and building a new - admittedly impressive - football stadium for Doncaster Rovers, because, well, we're more of sports crowd, ain't we, but there just aren't enough people in this town who would go see a play. Coun Paul Bissett has said as much: "I don't we are in this moment in time a theatre-going culture."

And what does he use as evidence for this? The fact that the Doncaster Civic Theatre only attracts 75,000 visitors a year. But why might that be? Might it be because it is mainly used for local productions and panto? Let's look at what happens when Doncaster hosts a top level event of national quality - such as when The Strokes or The Zutons turn up, or Jimmy Carr, or when the Royal Shakespeare Company tour comes to The Dome. Oh what a surprise, they sell out! Shocking! But no, opposition Councillor Tony Brown, who sits on the Economy and Enterprise panel simply says: "What's wrong with the Civic? For a town the size of Doncaster it's a good little theatre." What vision!

Yes a new theatre would re-generate a currently run-down area of town, and yes it might just kick start a 'theatre-going culture', but even if that's all true, our lovely councillors have another reason for not going ahead with the plans. Here's good old Coun Brown again: "Our track record on managing things hasn't been that good in the past; at the best it's been questionable and at the worst it's been diabolical."

Oh. Well. Better leave it, then.

Look what's linked to on the BBC Three page...

Bottom left. :D

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cranford

Cranford the place is a little northern town, occupied mainly by women, where nothing much happens, but where everyone is infinitely concerned with the little events that do occur - meaning Judi Dench's character Miss Matty Jenkyns can say, without a hint of sarcasm: "It is all go in Cranford!" Everyone is stuck in their ways and so are completely thrown into a state of near-hysteria when three newcomers arrive in the town.

Every single performance, from Philip Glenister to Imelda Staunton's gossipy Miss Pole, is masterly, but the star of the show is Miss Deborah Jenkyns, and her real-life counterpart Eileen Atkins. Miss Deborah is, on first look, rather stern and overly concerned with appearances - when she is astounded by Mary's suggestion that they suck the juice out of oranges, she states that they should all "repair to our rooms and consume our oranges in solitude." What a line. We may think that she is the staunchest defender of the Cranford way of life, but ultimately she turns out to be the most willing to change when something bigger - like humanity and charity - is at stake. A hero, in other words.

This drama is quirky, moving, funnier than most 'comedies' on TV this year, and focuses on all inhabitants of Cranford, from the poorest of the poor on the outskirts, to the lady of the nearest country house, still haunted by memories of the French reign of terror. It screams quality, and is yet another reason why we should all be thankful for Auntie Beeb.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Time Crash

There was more to enjoy in those five minutes than in the entirety of the Daleks In Manhatten two-parter, wasn't there?

"You've changed the desktop theme, haven't you?"

Just brilliant. Steven Moffat for PM.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Mighty Boosh - Eels

I've reviewed it over at TVscoop but I can be more of a fan here :)

Well, the Boosh used to be such a nice little show, didn't it? Full of pandas and polar bears and sombreros and Bob Fossil dancing for far too long to Dreadlock Holiday. Not any more. Now there's scary cockney dancing women with eels for tongues. What happened, eh?

I don't about you but I found this episode genuinely freaky. So dark, so League Of Gentlemen. And while I can't say I wholeheartedly approve, I've got to applaud them for coming up with something that left me - a fan who knows the weird things Noel and Julian can come up with - sitting there open-mouthed. Seeing the Hitcher banging tunelessly on the piano shouting "EELS!" at irregular intervals... well, it's not an image that leaves you in a hurry, that's for sure.

Other things... well the Shaman council were wasted really. In Nanageddon, when they were introduced, they produced that rarest of things - a Boosh scene with no Vince, Howard or Bob Fossil that was laugh-out-loud funny. They were, perhaps, meant to be the light relief after the darkness of the Hitcher, but I'd like to have seen them used as more than that.

Good things... Noel and Julian. If you can show me two more natural comedy performers then... well I'll be very surprised. When they're riffing - which they were given much more leave to do in this episode than they were for most of the second series - something magical happens, and while this episode was, admittedly, a bit messy, that's something that's always a banker.

Not a classic then, but I think we've explored another little nook of the combined Barratt/Fielding mind. I've heard that next week's is an instant favourite, incidently.

While you're waiting, you should check Noel, Julian and Bollo/Dave in Jo Whiley's Live Lounge...


P.S. My TVScoop 'Why I Love... The Mighty Boosh' post (one of the pieces of writing I'm most proud of) is linked to in Anna Pickard's cool Guardian blog about whether it's ok to be ambivalent about the Boosh...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Had to share

I was changing the Calvin and Hobbes strip on my Facebook and stumbled across this beauty... might be quite a famous one, I don't know, but I love it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Boosh trailer

A specially filmed advert! Nice.

EDIT: Episode 1 is now on www.bbc.co.uk/three... but I'm saving it :)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Things we have learned from Strictly Come Dancing #2

Dominic Littlewood is seriously deluded: "My performance was almost flawless and I still got 25."

He says that as Matt di Angelo "stumbled" and still got over thirty, it just shows what a farce the scoring is. Haha, yes Dom, forget actual dance ability, talent and charm, it's all about the number of stumbles...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Broken Wing by Grammatics

It's an honour and a buzz to be able to say that my sister-in-law (they're not married, that's just the easiest way of saying it) is in one of the most exciting emerging bands in the UK (even NME say so). They're called Grammatics, look impossibly cool, and sound even cooler. If you're a fan of expansive, melodramatic pop (and let's face it, who isn't) then you really need to have a listen. Start with Broken Wing on their myspace - a beautifully simple ballad with a bombastic coda - and move onto Shadow Committee. The latter will confuse your ears for a while, but keep listening... :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Boo....

Rhys Darby AKA Murray from Flight Of The Conchords was scheduled to do stand-up *in Doncaster* in a couple of weeks time. Understandably I was excited. But now he's off to the bright lights of LA to make a film... Donny just can't compete. :(