Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Glass Room, Hampstead Theatre

I for one welcome Ryan Craig's themes, which are big, whilst admitting that he sometimes manipulates characters to suit his subject. Still, at least he doesn't do that to people who aren't fictional constructs of his own imagination, eh?

Elena is a historian who denies the existence of Nazi gas chambers. Myles, the human rights lawyer hired to defend her, is in denial about his Jewish ancestry. Politics!

The play rests on a shaky premise in that Holocaust denial is not a legal offence in Britain. I also found it unrealistic the way that the actors were actually in a room with lots of people who were in the audience, and yet were pretending that they couldn't see them, as though there were some kind of invisible fourth wall between them.

If at times the play resembles a debating-chamber, it is at least pursuing an issue of burning topicality. And I prefer debating chambers to plays anyway.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Top Marx - Why it's time to stage non-fiction

Some German's are staging Marx's Das Kapital. Not, you'll be relieved to hear, as a musical!!!!!!!!!?!

Lots of theatre is based on stories that someone's already written. But why must they always be made up? Why can't we have factual theatre? I once saw Alec McCowen reading some of the bible.

You could even combine instruction with an artificially imposed and ultimately fruitless tension, which rests not on drama, but on the antagonism of ideologues. Why not have a reading of Genesis mixed up with Darwin's Origin of the Species followed by a debate between Science and God? I would suggest a reading of Mein Kampf, but I only want to see fruitless mudslinging between scientists and theologists, not right and left wingers!

My God, I've just invented the lecture! And the debate! Why is no one doing this?

You think I'm kidding, but actually I'm not. People have actually been making factual theatre for ages. Which rather makes the bit where I asked why people aren't making factual theatre seem redundant. And of course, all of my examples of things people should make aren't actually factual works - they're theoretical ones, but if thinking about factual theatre has taught me one thing, it's that paying too much attention to fact isn't something I'll be doing too soon.

The Reduced Digested MickyB

Plays should be more like politics which should be less dramatic. And no songs!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Zerbombt(Blasted), Barbican

Eleven years ago I called Blasted "naive tosh". Six years ago, I decided that this was because I didn't yet know that she was about to have a tragic life, so it wasn't my fault. Today I'm right.

The perrenial danger with Blasted is that it looks like a play of two halves. Of, course, that's because it is. But my unfailingly exclusive and conservative definition of what makes good theatre isn't going to be ruined by any old good theatre. So lets pretend it isn't.

It's lucky, then, that this production is tense from the start, because that allows me to make it sound as though this production isn't a production of two halves which is what the danger of doing a production of the play Blasted is. Ian, the drunk paranoid journalist, reacts nervously whenever the phone rings. Which is tense. There are even echoes of Pinter's The Dumb Waiter. Which is tense.

I still feel this is a young play. (Note - I use the word young in its pejorative sense.)

Halfway through, the set is blown apart, which is shocking. But far from seeming gratuitous, it is a reminder that we live in a world where everything can suddenly be ripped apart. Literally. It actually can. Actually.

What comes across unexpectedly in this production, is the way that Kane actually gives a fuck about her characters. I have even discovered an underlying lyricism in the play. How unexpected to discover the very qualities that make the play worthwhile in a production of the play!

It may not be much, but it is all I have to cling onto.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Profumo

I would like to begin by pointing out that the title for this article was written by a sub. I would never use something so frivolous. I called it "profumo musical". I take these things seriously.

I would like to begin with a link to the wikipedia page for Karl Marx. Have you heard of him? He was an important thinker who had a beard, so I expect not. He once said that historical events and personalities appear first as tragedy, then a second time as farce. Did you know that? I thought not. Maybe you should look at the wikipedia page about him, so you can understand him with the depth that I so obviously do. Although, come to think of it, i'm not entirely sure how a personality can reappear as farce. It's almost as though I've misquoted him.

Anyway, someone or other is going to make a musical about the Profumo affair. I've not seen it yet, becuase it's not come out yet, so this isn't a review and the following isn't a star rating: **.

Of course, you can make musicals about historical figures, but the thing I'm trying to says is that you can't. Most of you won't have heard of it, but there was once a musical called Evita which was something to do with someone to do with the past. It only goes to show that all such shows are flops.

Of course, there's been some limited success for musicals to do with historical events. Les Mis is rubbish, but Miss Saigon is about Vietnam! And no one liked it, but it fits with my argument to throw in The Beautiful Game. And apparently someone had a bit of success with something called The Sound of Music which had something to do with a minor historical event in the middle of the last century.

I like Nixon in China. It's an opera.

The thing about this play is, who cares? Politicians sleeping with prostitutes doesn't bother us any more; Prescott and Blunkett get the sex, and half the Liberal MPs are hapless pooves. In much the same way, I'm not much bothered by questions concerning the divine right of kings, so Shakespeare's Richard II seems a bit pointless to me now. And, although it may be natural for Christine Keeler to burst into song, because she is a female and a prostitute, one wonders how you work in suitable numbers for Profumo himself, Harold Macmillan or the Russian diplomat, Captain Ivanov who were Men. Of Politics. And so entirely innapropriate to be represented in frivolous, feminine music.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Timon of Athens, Stratford upon Avon

Cardboard Citizens love to add extra bits to Shakespeare. If this production works, its not because of that, but because of the Shakespeare.

If this play has a general social conclusion, I find it difficult to say. If Director Adrian Jackson thinks it does, it's that it's a metaphor about a culture that sanctifies "personal growth". But if audiences and actors don't like this play, perhaps it's because one of the characters says "The middle of humanity thou never knewest, but the extremity of both ends" which is not audiences and actors like if it isn't.

If Jackson interlards the text with things to do with homelessness, it's to give me an opportunity to interlard my text with verbiositanisms. If he follows William Empson in highlighting the text's obsessive dog-imagery, he does.

The acting is good.

If the production may be intended as a moral warning, it might not be, becuase if I'm going to commit to anything, it might be that it's about what Shakespeare understood, which is Timon's tragic bipolarity. If I haven't really talked about this at any point in the review so far, it's not because I don't consider it to be the whole point but nevermind it's too late becuase this is the end. Probably.