Sunday, 20 March 2011
Thursday, 10 March 2011
As is usual with a Kneehigh show there is no 4th wall and the performance starts before the actual play. We sit in the foyer waiting for the auditorium to open. Some musicians come down the stairs that lead to the performance area and play tunes. Soon three not so young men in old-fashioned white pants and vests watch them from the balcony above. The musicians go into the adjacent café – still playing – the men in pants follow. Everyone has shaved heads is wearing dark eye makeup.
After a while the audience goes into the theatre space. We sit on three sides on uncomfortable seats, but we do have cushions. The windows to the street outside are not curtained so there is daylight in the auditorium.
The play is a final revival of a 2001 production. The story is a variation on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes. It is about a compulsion not to say addiction that ends in death. The tale is told in a light and foolish manner – but it is also dark and disturbing. There is wonderful clog dancing – such a contrast to the ballet of the recent film Black Swan or, indeed, the 1948 film starring Moira Shearer.
This story of endeavour, foolishness and ambition is told in the style that has become and remains the benchmark of Kneehigh shows. There is deceptively simple staging and obvious artifice that disguises the deep level of skill and invention that bring their shows to such extraordinary life. The integration of music, dance, story telling and performance creates an intellectually and emotionally satisfying theatrical event.
The brilliant ensemble cast, musicians and technical support receive a deserved ovation at the end of their performance.
BAC until 9th April
Thursday, 3 March 2011
This film is directed by Darren Aronofsky whose previous work includes The Wrestler and Requiem For A Dream. It tells the story of a young ballerina (played by Natalie Portman) who is in contention for the lead role in Swan Lake.
Her single mother – a former ballerina herself, who did not fulfill all her own ambitions pushes her daughter to be her surrogate in triumph, and malignly dominates her life. Their home environment is pressurized, manipulative and disturbing.
The director of the ballet – a creepy and also manipulative character played with élan by Vincent Cassel – introduces a rival for the role into the equation. It is never clear if this other girl (played by Mila Kunis – who is possibly this decade’s Eliza Dushku) is friend or foe. In fact the style of the film is one of whole-hearted ambiguity: we are often not sure what is real and what are terrible imaginings.
The film has a claustrophobic feel, enhanced by the closeness of the camera work. There are striking sequences as, for example, when Natalie Portman becomes the Black Swan. And in the climax of the film the real and the imagined intermingle to disturbing effect
Sunday, 27 February 2011
Directed by Danny Boyle and adapted by Nick Dear – this dramatic version of Frankenstein follows Mary Shelley’s novel of 1818 pretty faithfully.
The production is notable – among other things - for alternating the actors playing Victor Frankenstein and the creature. We see Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch Frankenstein. Their performances – and particularly the Miller’s are superb.
The cast also has strength in depth – featuring among others Naomi Harris as Frankenstein’s doomed bride and Karl Johnson as the old blind man who helps educate the so-called monster.
The opening scene in which the creature comes to life is strikingly vibrant. In fact all the staging, the set and lighting are brilliant – as is the soundscape and music.
For once the Olivier revolve is used not to cover up production or narrative weakness but to enhance the drama. Its use is both spectacular and unobtrusive, if that makes sense. The drama plays straight though for two hours but doesn’t drag; and the narrative drive would lose impetus with an interval anyway.
At the end the ovating members of the audience obscure the views of the curtain call of those who remain seated. I suspect ululation may accompany the ovations after press night.
Friday, 25 February 2011
Shakespeare’s play is an odd mix of broad and sometimes cruel comedy, coupled with a tale of shipwrecked siblings each assuming the other had died in the catastrophe. It features cross-dressing, mistaken identity and has a gay subtext at certain points.
Peter Hall’s production features his daughter Rebecca as Viola. Also in the cast are a lively Simon Callow as Sir Toby Belch, Amanda Drew as Olivia and David Ryall as a fine and gloomy Feste.
The staging is plain yet effective and the narrative clear. The live music adds depth to the production. Charles Edwards gives a strong performance as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, getting much comedy out of the part, often in a non-verbal way. His achievement is more notable for the fact that all his scenes include Belch – but he is never upstaged by the ebullient Callow.
The second half moves along with more pace than the first. This is altogether an attention-holding and entertaining production. Despite this, there is a feeling that Rebecca Hall is occasionally a bit wishy-washy. The gay subtext of the play is quite strongly highlighted – which adds an extra element. Sir Toby Belch is revealed as an unpleasant rather than entertaining character. And the cruelty to the uptight Malvolio is suitably jarring.
The happy ending symmetry that is a feature of some Shakespearian comedies is undercut by the low-key way this particular one is handled. Overall this is a satisfying and entertaining production, performed in style.