Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Well, He Did.

There seems curiously little to say about the long awaited ceremony yesterday, although for me the best bit was when President Obama fluffed his lines. No feeling of over-rehearsal there.

The event was big, slightly cheesy and very American. But now that feels like a good thing, and because of that the world seems just a tiny bit better this morning.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Do you know who I am?

I’m beginning to take it personally. The amount of times I have had to produce not just 'ID', but 'Photo ID' where only a passport or driving licence will do is making me wonder if there is something particularly suspicious about me.

A fair chunk of my work comes through employment agencies, and in the past year I have had to sign forms on numerous occasions to state that I am who I say I am, that I’m entitled to work in the UK, and supply any number of original and photocopy official documents with my photo on them just to pick up a few (quite frankly, nowhere near enough) pounds. Yesterday, regardless of the number of times that I have shown various people in the company my passport, one employment agency sent someone on an 80 mile round trip just so that they could sign yet another form to say that they had seen my original passport themselves… I find myself turning into a Daily Mail cliché, muttering about bureaucracy gone mad.

What do they do about people without passports or driving licences I wonder, now that utility bills are no longer acceptable? Are they excluded from jobs, taking exams, opening bank accounts?

Horror of horrors, I found myself thinking that at least the planned identity card scheme will save all this fuss. Is this part of some master plan to make carrying such a card seem the easy option?

It seems that not only is the road to Hell paved with good intentions, I bet it has tiny irritating steps that make getting there seem a blessed relief.

UPDATE: I still seem to be seething about this, so an article in The Observer came with perfect timing. Much as I prefer grumbling from the sidelines ('Not a joiner' was a constant refrain on my school reports), I might yet be persuaded.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Minus 5 is a Good Thing....

....when it makes the roads around Basingstoke look like this.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Hamlet v Hamlet

I had already booked to see David Tennant’s Hamlet as a Christmas holiday treat with my sons when my sister asked me to go with her in January. At the time I thought I was being a bit extravagant, but clearly I was just thinking ahead.

The first performance I saw on 30th December had understudy Edward Bennett as Hamlet. The staging was beautifully done. Although my sons have explained to me numerous times how the mirror trick was done in the bedroom scene I still think it was a very impressive effect which glowered over the rest of the play. Patrick Stewart was a sinister but thoughtful Claudius and although I have never really got the hang of Ophelia, Mariah Gale did a great job. Edward Bennett was also a very good Hamlet – there was no sense that he was mouthing the lines or that he wasn’t really in the moment, but there were occasionally glimpses of stage business that were pure examples of Tennant’s style and they highlighted the unspoken gap on the stage. The biggest problem for me though, was how much Edward Bennett resembles Stephen Mangan, physically and vocally, which meant that I kept expecting more laughs than we actually got.

My favourite version of Hamlet has been Mark Rylance’s, played at the Globe for every ounce of black humour and frantic farce that could be dragged out of it, all done without sacrificing a single drop of the tragedy. This version was much more of an ensemble piece and I think the play, and understanding of the other characters, was clearer as a result. I wasn’t sure though if this was just because of the absence of the ‘star’.

I got my chance to check this theory out earlier this week, when I went again with my sister. Tennant undoubtedly shone, from the moment he walked on stage, and I really enjoyed his sharply intelligent approach. It was fascinating to see how a different lead changed the dynamics of the production. It felt faster, probably because Tennant talks quickly, but I was surprised to find that it actually ran 10 minutes longer than the earlier version I had seen (although I suppose they could have had a longer interval … I wasn’t counting, as I was stuck in the usual queue for the ladies). I liked the slightly posh voice he used, which avoided the pitfalls of Dr Who-dom. Another clear difference was in Claudius’ relationship with Hamlet. Bennett’s Hamlet always seemed slightly overwhelmed by Claudius, whereas Tennant’s lightfootedness somehow diminished the power of his stepfather. I’m not sure if either is better, but it certainly made me think more carefully about the power relationships in the play.

Of course, the back injury was on our minds, and it certainly made me wince a bit as he did a one handed press up over Ophelia’s grave, but he seemed pretty much as loose limbed and agile as ever. Until the ovations that is, when we noticed, at the last call, how he was bending his knees when he took his bow…. And was that a bit of a wince when he straightened up? ….. Difficult to tell, but I don’t think I was the only one who noticed, based on the way that the applause stopped quite quickly after that.

Another personal bit of entertainment for me was spotting Andrew Marr telling all passers by that he was waiting for his wife to come out from the ladies and my sister turning to me to say that she thought she knew him from somewhere. It made me feel so much better about the time that I casually said hello to him at the Globe, on the basis that I probably knew him from somewhere and didn’t want to be rude....