Sunday, 27 September 2009

A Painful Pleasure

I wasn’t sure I would enjoy A New World at the Globe, as it sounded a bit worthy, and I was a bit tempted to spend my afternoon browsing around the Thames Festival and overpriced craft stalls, rather than watch a history play over three hours long.

But, I was glad I did keep the appointment, and not just for the sake of my bank balance. Using Benjamin Franklin as a narrator who doesn’t let the little matter of his death stop him talking, the play takes us through Thomas Paine’s involvement in the American War of Independence in the first half, then the French Revolution in the second. The play and performances had a lovely light touch and every time there was any danger of being sunk by words, a suitable song or bit of diversion was thrown in to keep things moving along very nicely. There were a few grumblings in the interval about some merging of characters and events, which passed over my head completely I’m afraid, so I can’t tell you what was missing, but as the programme notes point out that the play was cut down from an original mini-series size, I expect the grumblers were right.

For a matinee, it was a pretty full house and, somehow, a real warmth was generated by the end in that mysterious chemical reaction that sometimes happens at the Globe. As a result, the cast were taken aback by a well deserved third ovation, and reappeared looking slightly dishevelled but chuffed.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Pitmen Painters

I finally got to see this last week with my sons.

The first half is a brilliant explanation of what art is about, and could have saved me about a term of lectures on my degree course. I loved the linking of the action to the paintings being projected on the screen. We gulped down our ice-creams in the interval, eager to get back to the second half, where we found our optimism being gently, but carefully and thoroughly, deflated.

The second half is really the history of the gradual decline in impetus of the group, and the failure to move into the mainstream, using the Ashington group and their adventures as metaphors for socialism and class division. Choosing to end the play at the nationalisation of the coal mines made a double underscoring of the point, which was probably unnecessary, but allowed them to end on a stirring song.

On the way out I overheard someone grumbling that the play lost its way in the second half. On the contrary, I think the pitmen painters might have lost their way, but the play didn't.

Troilus and Cressida

I've had a bit of a run of plays with a Greek theme lately. I don't know whether there are more about at the moment, or whether I have been subconsciously following a theme.

The Globe production was fine with some brilliant moments, but somehow it didn't really coalesce into anything much overall, leaving me with just a pile of unconnected thoughts including:
  • Trystan Gravelle reminded me of David Essex in Stardust. This is a good thing, as he was playing Achilles as a kind of jaded rock star which worked brilliantly

  • Troilus (Paul Stocker) looked like a lad I knew at school who was well known for being an irritating berk. I wonder if that's why I didn't like him?

  • Yay, Patroclus is in this (ok, ok, this was the namesake, rather than the blogging heroine).

  • Brilliant drumming from the whole company at the end - it made a change from the usual jig

As you can probably tell, I found my mind wandering a bit, not a good sign, although I don't know whether the fault was with the production or me. I actually found myself more interested in the luvvie behind me, trying to talk up his friendship with Matthew Kelly (Pandarus) and then having to hurriedly backtrack when someone asked to be introduced to him.