Insight into your neighbours perhaps... Maybe that will help them to swallow...
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 09, 2009
It didn't feel like closing night of Too Close To the Sun. It felt more like a wake. Too Close To the Sun opened two weeks ago and immediately posted closing notices. We arrived almost too late for curtain up as John, Feigned Mischief and I were still having dinner across the road from the Comedy Theatre. I was keeping an eye on the theatre to watch when people went in, only to realise (almost too late), that with so few people attending the show, it was hard to tell. As we entered there was a deathly silence, and while I don't recall if there even was an overture, it felt like there should have been an organ playing funereal music.
The musical is a four-hander about the last few days of the life of Ernest Hemingway. The synopsis goes something like this: Ernest plods about and tries to molest his secretary. His wife, played by Helen Dallimore, walks around the set in some rather fascinating stirrup pants and heels. Meanwhile some other guy tries to woo Helen Dallimore and the screen rights to Ernie's books while singing Ethel Merman-like numbers. All this apparently drives Ernest to blow his brains out. Any insight into one of the great writers of his time must have been superfluous.
When a show is this bad, it isn't t necessary to wait for the reviews. John and the West End Whingers provided enough analysis to explain why it was not going to work in any case. John for some masochistic reason wanted to see it again, but I was grateful that he was there as an expert witness as I could keep asking him important questions about the production such as:
- "How long is it until Ernie blows his brains out?"
- "Does that mean it is intermission?"
- "How long is it now until Ernie blows his brains out?"
- "Didn't Ethel Merman sing a song that sounded like that once?"
- "How long is it until Ernie blows his brains out?"
- "There surely must be only five more minutes before Ernie blows his brains out right?"
During intermission our group noticed two ladies who managed to smuggle into the theatre some Korean takeaway from a restaurant nearby as well. A lovely aroma wafted through the theatre and became the topic of the Audioboo I recorded and posted above. Talking to the ladies afterwards they suggested the food was the highlight of their evening as they bought tickets to this show on the premise that it was a play and they couldn't understand what the point of all the music was. Then they added that they couldn't understand the dialogue either. We probably should have asked Roberto Trippini who wrote the libretto to explain it to them as he was sitting a few seats away.
After the show we waited by the stage door to congratulate the cast for being professional and to wish them well. We also showered them with party poppers as a tribute to being in a show where the highlight of it was when the lead character blows his brains out. Somebody clapped as Trippini walked out as well but he said (what seemed like without any irony) that the real stars were still coming. When they did appear they were good sports and hopefully they had a stiff drink afterwards. Helen Dallimore also had a creepy fan who looked like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver give her a stuffed animal and a kiss before she left as well. Lets hope nobody remembers that they were in this production... But the fans of course...
Monday, August 03, 2009
Is it a coffee shop? Is it art? Is it both? Certainly this year's pavilion is an inspired piece of design.
Also at the Serpentine is the Jeff Koons Popeye Series. While some at the gallery commented that if you shoved any inflatable water toy up your arse this could constitute as a Koons installation, it was brief enough for me to not get too bothered about it one way or the other...
Both run through the summer.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Friday evening I caught The Mountaintop at the Trafalgar Studios. The two-hander is about the night before Martin Luthor King Jr is assassinated and imagines King as a man. A man with stinky feet, no toothbrush and afraid of thunder. There with him is the hotel's maid. After bringing him a cup of coffee, the stage is set for an astonishing set of revelations, many of which are hilarious.
Much of the humour derives from the banality of everyday life. There are pros and cons about different brands of cigarettes, whisky, coffee, the weather. Martin Luthor King has just delivered his I've Been to the Mountaintop speech, and as the play unfolds, both his regrets about what more there is to do, and the knowledge the audience has about what lies ahead, gives this play its strength.
Katori Hall's play is fast paced and the production is slick. The chemistry between David Harwood as King and Lorraine Burrough as the maid Camae was incredible too. Who knew summer plays could be so interesting and entertaining? Here's hoping other historical characters from the 1960s could also be recreated in a similar way. Perhaps a production exploring Rachel Carson's flatulence might be interesting too... Anyway the play runs until September and worth catching...
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
It has been a a summer of opera for me. And a very enjoyable one as well. After catching Renée Flemming in La Traviata earlier in the season, I caught the opening night performance of The Barber of Seville. This production has to be a highlight of the year and one of the best productions I have seen. While Joyce DiDonato's fall in the first act gathered the headlines, what really was sensational about this production was how great the cast was. Particularly DiDonato, Pietro Spagnoli and of course, Juan Diego Flórez as the Count. Flórez in the final fifteen minutes of the opera was simply amazing, even more so after reading DiDonato's account on her blog, where he was holding her up... Literally. After his final aria, the audience couldn't stop cheering, stamping, hollering (you name it). It is moments like this that you remember why you go to the opera.
The other moment of high drama in this opera was when DiDonato fell in the first act. I thought it was those chunky shoes... They looked great but didn't seem that practical or sensible for a set that moved around a bit. Then when a man walked on stage before the start of the second act, I was bracing myself for bad news. Collectively the audience also held its breath. While we didn't realise that she must have been in excrutiating pain, we all cheered when he announced she was going to carry on (albeit with NHS issue crutch). It was taking suffering for art to a whole new level. And she still kept wearing those chunky shoes.
One trip to Corsica later I was back at the opera again. This time to see Tosca. This production of Tosca I was looking forward to a little more than usual. Deborah Voight was cast in it initially but had to drop out... To be replaced by Angela Gheorghiu, who originated the role in this production a few years back. At the time of the first run of this production I saw the B cast and missed her interpretation. And I will have to wait a little bit longer to see her interpretation as she missed the Thursday performance due to illness. Amanda Echalaz covered the role. Now while some commented Echalaz did an amazing job (and stepping in at short notice to cover an opera in a way is an amazing feat in its own right), it isn't quite the same. Still you can't help but want to root for someone who has been set such a task and come curtain call she got a huge cheer. I particularly liked how she missed her spot for the dramatic finale in the final act (which sent her dress shimmering perhaps a little more dramatically over the edge).
Finally I caught the opening night of Janáček's Káťa Kabanová at Holland Park opera. Not familiar with either the opera or the venue, I found both to be a real treat. The cast and orchestra sounded great and the staging quite effective, in this drama of doomed love and infidelity.
Some may have thought it was a pity there was an intermission as it disrupts the flow, but I was glad for the break. Not only as it gives you a chance to go to the bathroom (it can get a little chilly at Holland Park), it provided a break from the intense drama. Interval also enabled two drag queens to come up and say hello. Drag queens at the opera I thought was quite a novel thing. I hope it starts a trend in future on the proviso that the wigs don't look so cheap (girls you need real hair taken from impoverished Russian villages to look the part). A night at the opera. It can be cruel to cast an audiences... Káťa Kabanová runs until August 7.