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Bear with me: Stitches @TheHopeTheatre

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What if your teddy bear could talk? My ten-year-old self would think that to be excellent. My more recent self would think it was a high-concept buddy movie with Mark Wahlberg. But in Stictches, Jonathan Blakeley's monologue, which he has written and performed, traces the life of his beloved Chloe, from when she was first given to him by her grandmother, wrapped with a red ribbon. It becomes a story not just about a cute bear (or maybe that should be rough, shaggy-looking bear given the performer’s appearance) observing life but an exploration of life and all of its stages. It's currently playing at the Hope Theatre .  The bear is not warm and fuzzy; he is a bit of a character and tough-talking, but also a bit anxious about being accepted and then discarded as nothing. But he is there to bear witness as she navigates the complicated facets of growing up and having a life. Ultimately, the bear has to deal with being consigned to a box with her other memories until circumstances

Carmen follies: Carmen 1808 @TheUnionTheatre

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Carmen died twice for me last week. The first time at the Royal Opera. Barrie Kosky’s black, minimalistic yet infuriating production of Carmen has large chunks of plot read to you in French. The effect stops the action dead and bores the audience to death.  Then there was this Union Theatre production. Here in Carmen 1808, Carmen’s working for the resistance and standing up to the French during the atrocities of the Peninsular War. But it’s a passionless 90 minutes of political posturing.  The inspiration has been taken from the Goya’s Los fusilamientos del tres de mayo. There’s probably a great story about Goya and his transition to his black period. But it would have been nice to leave Carmen out of all that.  Bizet’s Carmen is sensual and sexy. Sexual politics not hard politics is what’s at stake. Here it’s given a flat musical treatment that feels part Les Miserables and part Allo Allo. Gypsies join the partisans to support the king, the ladies work in a cigarette factory (despite