Wednesday, 27 June 2012

‘Midnight in Paris’ - DVD - watched Tuesday 26th June 2012

(Rated 4/5)

Such a typical Woody Allen in which a writer - the Woody Allen role in this case taken by Owen Wilson - discovers how to live life in the present by being transported back in time to his 'golden age' to interact with his writing heroes; Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others in 1920s Paris. This is lovely, humorous and fun. In a way it teaches us the value of fantasy whilst reminding us it's an illusion and to value our real lives. Both can combine in magical collaboration. Highly clever and imaginative with Woody Allen's dialogue in tip top condition :)

Midnight in Paris – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012
Twitter: @RestrictReview

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

‘True Love’ - BBC - started Sunday 17th June 2012

(Rated 3/5)

This was a great idea - some of the UK's top actors - David Tennant, David Morrissey, Jane Horrocks, Lacey Turner, Vicky McClure, Billie Piper - improvising their way through stories of love - and in some cases it worked beautifully and naturally - but there was also some highly cliched and cringe-inducing lines and less than good acting. I felt things improved as the series went on - David Morrissey's being the most impressive and unpredictable. Jane Horrocks' episode was also moving to me - though sadly I felt Charlie Creed Miles let the side down as her husband, who seemed unable to portray feeling. Lacey Turner showed us again that she is stunning at being traumatised. Billie Piper came across very girly but was touching in her lesbian love story. I did want and expect better from others though. Long live WRITERS! :)

True Love – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012
Twitter: @RestrictReview

Saturday, 23 June 2012

‘The Rest is Silence’ - Riverside Studios - Thursday 21st June 2012

(Rated 4/5 )

Please Note: If you want to skip the pre-show drama then please go straight to 'AND FINALLY'

The drama around booking, potentially unbooking and going to see or rapidly-limping a mile from this highly unusual production of Hamlet, was almost more dramatic than the play itself - though actually this was more like a black farce than one of the greatest tragedies of all time. Loving Hamlet, I felt very excited at the prospect of seeing something that was billed as a dreamlike meditation on it. Of all the offerings from The World Shakespeare Festival, this was the one which most appealed and I booked well in advance. So much so as not to know what the unusual aspects entailed. As the friend who went with me later commented, the least you expect from going to the theatre is to sit in a seat for the performance and watch the actors in front of you on stage - that said of course in Shakespeare's time those in the pit did not have that luxury. Weeks later an email comes regarding seating for the performance. There is none! In addition those who suffer from claustrophobia are advised to ring the box office to discuss that. Yikes! I have suffered from that a couple of times - on both occasions stuck in an MRI machine to analyse my hips - thank goodness it was my hips and not higher up in my body - I think to have had my head in that machine would have created a major claustrophobia-induced panic attack. And so I rang - I explained that I fall (no pun intended) into both categories - disabled and claustrophobic. So I got assigned a shooting stick - I explained I have a walking seat and could bring that, but the reply was that no, I must not do that and must use one the allocated sticks. Okay. So then I asked about what might induce claustrophobia. It's explained to me that the production takes place in a confined space, the auditorium is blacked out, with just a few lights around the promenade by which the audience can see. OMG! I said I need to think about whether I can manage all that and was told I can cancel the booking if I do so by a certain date. My friend had previously thought it all sounded exciting. So we discussed her maybe going with someone else if I couldn't manage - meanwhile I swung from 'Oh yes I can do it' to 'How mad to put myself through agony and potential panic attacks - possibly a trip to A&E - for some poncy art'. We did even get to the point of giving up on it as I would have had to go anyway to collect on my credit card... I phoned to cancel in time and was told I could not as they have a no cancellation policy! A case of different people saying different things. So friend and I resigned ourselves to going and agreed that if I couldn't cope we'd just have a drink instead. As it came closer to the time I wound myself up a little more and almost had panic attacks thinking about what could possibly go wrong. The night before we decided we should also book to eat before the show - last time at the Riverside, the restaurant was packed. I rang to try to do so and, after getting a bizarre noise on the phone twice before, managed to get through the third time. Apparently the restaurant area was booked for an event, but if we wished we could use the film cafe at the front of the building. 
On the evening concerned, I met friend. She suggested we eat somewhere else before we go to the Riverside. Thank goodness she did. We got to Riverside Studios to find the film cafe was closed! Our response was humour at this point. In fact so much so that I'd forgotten to be worried. Then the worry was triggered again by the safety sheet we were given with out tickets - it warned us again of what we were facing - standing in a confined space for 90 mins, nudity and a loud bang - leaving us to imagine all of all the possible calamities that may get triggered as a result! After my palpitations at the Donmar from the double dose of male nudity I was adding in yet another thing that could send me to A&E. We came up with our own little strategy. If either of us couldn't cope we'd leave but the other could stay if they were enjoying it. And we'd text to let the other know whether we'd left and gone home or were waiting out of the confined space. 
It was almost time and we were called to Studio 2. We followed directions, only to be told we were going the wrong way and had to go out of the building and round the side to join a queue to go in. Again, I started to imagine 'bad' reasons why there might be a queue! 

AND FINALLY we were in the purpose-built confined-space set/theatre for The Rest is Silence. It was quite a large room in which we could all freely walk. Neither the 'lift-size' nor the restricted-raised corridor-like promenade I had imagined/feared. So I felt no danger from claustrophobia- or acrophobia-induced panic attacks. I tried out sitting on the shooting stick - it seemed okay though a little hard to balance, but using my own stick as well seemed okay. I felt as ready as I could be :). Around us the walls appeared black. A circle of dim lights lit the room from the ceiling. And then they went out. For a few seconds we were in pitch black - 'Keep breathing, it's all okay' self-talk - and then meditative music. I'm okay! This is nice. A film on one wall of the death of Hamlet's father (Thorston Manderlay). And then on comes light revealing a room built within another wall - a bedroom - a naked Claudius (Phillip Edgerley) waking abruptly after a nightmare. He dresses - that's the nudity done and I'm still okay. And so the action carries on. We are introduced to Hamlet (Edward Hogg), Gertrude (Ruth Lass), Ophelia (Bethan Cullinane), Polonius (Richard Clews) and Laertes (Ben Ingles). In fact, in this version of the story, there are just two more characters - the humour-providing Rosencrantz (Michael Bryher) and Guildenstern (Stewart Heffernan) - to join the unmerry band. This is a much shortened version of the play, and though all mixed up with dialogue from different scenes put together in one, all the text used is from the original Shakespeare's Hamlet. The action takes place in different rooms built into the walls all around the main auditorium. I was very impressed. It gives the feeling of all the characters being restricted, confined, imprisoned by their beliefs, conceptions and lack of trust in each other. It has the audience - who ironically in this situation, and contrary to expectation, feel more free than the characters, questioning all these things in themselves. In fact in some ways it did indeed - as intended by the company dreamthinkspeak - raise new perspectives and insights into the conflicts, feelings and themes of the play. 'Get thee to a nunnery' now becomes a scene with Hamlet challenging Ophelia and Gertrude - which makes sense psychologically - his feelings and relationship with his mother impacting on that with Ophelia. 'To be or not to be' becomes a meditation by the whole cast - done in staggered unison; round. This and the rest of the production actually make it feel like all the characters are equal in this piece. Hamlet isn't the lead role any more. If anything I felt Claudius and Gertrude had more to do. And Rosencrantz and Guildernstern also made a greater impression than in other productions I have seen. The use of film as well - for R&G in a kind of life-raft out at sea and Ophelia's drowning contributed beautifully to the whole feeling of the piece. And I did feel even more at one with the actors watching them in their personal spaces (living-rooms, bedrooms, offices) going through their traumas and psychological journeys - just perspex between us. All were good. If anything I found Hamlet himself slightly lacking BUT I have seen some absolutely superb embodiments of him - most notable for me David Tennant - and with dialogue taken away from him, in a sense he was somewhat disabled in potential.
The audience moved around a fair bit - I noticed like me - those with shooting sticks were using them to lean on rather than sit on - they didn't feel very stable! I stayed in the same general area. For the finale I found myself in the front row centre. As the cast took their bows we applauded. They were all smiles. I was absolutely beaming. Such a shared experience! And that was acknowledged in a sense by them applauding us too. We'd done through the trauma, drama, psychology of the play and been challenged psychologically and physically too - what an achievement - and actually well worth it.

The Rest is Silence – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

Thursday, 21 June 2012

‘Antigone’ - National Olivier Theatre - Wednesday 20th June 2012

(Rated 4/5 )

This last of my Antigone reviews will be short. Please do check out the others for more information. 
Just wanted to add a few comments on my experience of the performance last night.
The whole thing progressed more quickly - made it feel punchier. That said - for me - the whole play is still too laboured and like a discussion of the same issues over and over again. That's fine, but in a way, lacks dramatic potential in a more emotional sense. The most emotion is felt - and that's significant I guess - from Jamie Ballard as the prophet Teiresias - he cannot see and so he feels, whilst the others see, think and analyse too much.
That said, Jodie Whittaker in her last scene as Antigone - facing death and bemoaning the loss of being a wife and mother - moved me much more than in previous performances. And I really believed Chris Eccleston as the broken man Creon. At last I felt empathy for his plight in the position he is in as a leader doing his best to maintain order in difficult circumstances, how in that position he feels he has to put first what he thinks is best for Thebes, rather than his own family, but at such an enormous personal cost to himself and the lives of those he loves. He is left with nothing. He is nothing. I literally felt empty as he said that.

I know for many it is hard to afford what I am about to write! Thanks to the lower prices of some of London's theatres, such as The National, this can be possible. I LOVE the experience of seeing a play several times during its run. I have seen a progression and development. I've also enjoyed the different choices the actors have made. And I have come to increasingly understand and appreciate the messages of Antigone. Over time The play and characters have come to life and debated with me and the rest of the audience, making me think about many different issues, which the play triggers. And that's how the theatrical experience ought to be. Thanks to all involved!

Antigone – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

‘Antigone’ - National Olivier Theatre - Sunday 10th June 2012

(Rated 4/5 )

And now I can genuinely give this production a higher score J (Please see my previous review of opening preview night.) This time I really felt emotions, thought hard with the characters about the issues, arguments and conflicts and felt completely engaged with what was going on. Well done to all! As I said before maybe it wasn’t fair of me to review the very first performance and expect so much, but that said I have seen other previews that certainly affected me much more and were more engaging. This time I felt confident and safely carried along with the drama. Last time I felt highly anxious, willing the cast to do well, but cringing that it wasn’t happening for me.

On this occasion I went with a small group of people. We had a brilliant time during the play and discussing over a meal afterwards. The following incorporates reactions from us all and thank you to my friends for their interesting, insightful and entertaining comments and allowing me to add them to my review.

The theme of this play is tyranny. This time that fully came across – not simply the tyrannical Creon, but also the bullying from Antigone, who in some ways, and in some cultures old and contemporary could be seen as a terrorist herself. Jodie Whittaker as Antigone was less the petulant child she had seemed before, and Christopher Eccleston’s Creon’s internal self-deliberation was visible. Their debates felt like bullets aiming at and hitting their targets even though those targets were not outwardly wounded. Yet I did feel the wounds between father; Creon and son; Haemon as they verbally and physically fought over their views and the condemnation of the Haemon’s betrothed, Antigone. Big shout out goes to Luke Newberry – I was moved by Haemon’s truth and he made impact on his unbending father to the point of Creon having to literally attempt to beat the opposition out of his son, with an effort so strong that he split his shirt open, scattering buttons and revealing his strapped-up chest. Creon-Chris rapidly pulled himself together in a way that felt so much the character rather than the actor trying to protect his dignity. Chris was convincing to the majority of us, to the point of forgetting it was him rather than Creon, though one of us did think “Creon was mediocre”.

Later in the play a messenger, played by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith has to inform Creon’s wife Eurydice – ZoĆ« Aldrich – of her son’s fate. This was such an emotive interaction both by the informer and the mother. It reminded me of several scene-elements in Shakespeare in which one character is giving news of, or experiences of another character that we never see. It obviously disobeys the playwriting rule of show not tell, and yet when the mother’s reaction is this important and this well performed it is a more poignant choice.

Many different choices were made this time in performance, in particular by Chris Eccleston. Even though playing a tense character, he seemed more relaxed and in tune with the process, as were the rest of the cast, maybe taking his lead and all going with the process – still split in their views but more connected in their delivery.

The entire audience seemed to sense the piece on this occasion. Creon got many laughs – some maybe in shock - in particular with his “These women are neurotic”. How familiar is that to many of us, perhaps more so as women, from men who don’t seem to have time for feelings and are in positions where they are obliged to put matters of state or work before family and relationships. Of course it can also reflect differences between men and women in any case in matters of the head or heart. I suppose what was sad and disappointing about this version of the play and what it brought up was there seemed to be little anger, sadness or even indignation from the audience. Antigone and her sister Ismene (Annabel Scholey) are facing death at this point and yet we don’t feel it’s as catastrophic or final as that. This piece almost feels more like a black comedy than a tragedy.

With all the fatalities and Creon’s anguished cry of “I am nothing” at the end, we ‘ought’ to feel how absolutely devastating this all is. But I still did not. And this time I was sitting in a really good seat to see everything. I hate to say it – yes I promise Chris Eccleston remains one of my greatest stage-loves – but at that point I didn’t feel a truly broken man, but someone acting that and in a few minutes he’ll be out of character and smiling at curtain call. And so he did to deservedly enthusiastic applause from the audience. And this time also the actors returned for a second time, led by Christopher and Jodie alone for a few moments, before welcoming back the rest of the cast, with a big smile on Chris’ face as he checks both sides that everyone is together before leading the bows.

I’d like to give – oh gosh this sounds like an acceptance speech and it so isn’t ;) – a final shout out to Michael Grady-Hall, who performs for longest in this production, as he patiently watched the monitor showing the progress of the battle between Antigone’s brothers, and makes notes on what he sees – a reflection of The Lives of Others.

This was for sure “better than staying in with Columbo”.

P.S. At this point in many of my reviews I am giving my experience of the theatre itself – this I have already done with The National Olivier Theatre. But I would like to write a little about Chris himself. And at this point Chris feels more appropriate than Christopher. As you may have gathered from some of my previous Restricted Reviews I enjoy meeting the actors afterwards at the stage door and as themselves – or maybe I should say as much of themselves as they are able to regain having lent much to their character. I have encountered Christopher a few times. Understandably ‘outside’ he has been a little closed off in a kind-of public-persona. I can fully empathise with that. This time, after one of his Antigone performances, I felt I was meeting Chris. He was relaxed, charming, appreciative and funny. He took in comments about the production, thanked us and said he’d pass them on to the rest of the cast. He cheerily joked with myself and a friend about the process of autograph-signing and photo-taking and made sure that everyone got their turn and all they wanted from the experience. A generous, kind-hearted gent!

Antigone – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview