Touched

Touched” is an acclaimed play, first shown in Nottingham forty years ago, and being shown at the Playhouse again.
But because it was first shown 40 years ago, parts of the play that might have been novel then – home abortions, nuclear bomb explosions – have been shown again since by other productions – including in the Playhouse.  So the play has become thinner with time, and I wonder if the script wasn’t worth a re-visit to give a bit more width to the other characters in the play.
Still go see Vicky McClure and definitely go see Aisling Loftus (compelling) – Nottingham born actors.
Meanwhile, gotta say, got distracted by the projection of a map of 1940’s Nottingham onto the set.  Towards the end, the graphics showed parts of the city disappearing under the boiling cloud of atomic bombs – save the scale of the explosions were far too small; a bit odd.

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The Tailor of Inverness

A special experience.
A different kind of drama-documentary.
Solo acting on a simple stage, supplemented with a fiddler and video projection.
Big themes – the hatreds of the second world war, the secrets of those who took part, and of parents, and reconciliation with time.

The man – Matthew Zajac – is telling the story of his Dad, and of his discoveries of alternate accounts of his story after he’d passed away.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t read ahead, and missed the step change when he played himself rather than his Dad.
It’s special, but this was the second of two nights at the Nottingham Playhouse, and there’s only 3 or 4 dates left, so recommendations are kinda too late, but I do recommend it.
(But there is also a book.)
Images – (c) Dog Star Theatre.

grinding poverty and brutal hatreds

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Made the decision to go to Alan Johnson‘s event late. £11 to watch what surely I could have seen on TV some time. Yet when I arrived, it was a choice of front row or back. Having checked it wasn’t a Rob Bryden style event where people on the front row got picked on, I chose the front and got the middle seat. John Hess, BBC reporter and host for the event later told me sales were over 260.
People had chosen to go for a mixture of reasons, from it was on at Nottingham Playhouse to they’d read his account of his childhood, but behind it a genuine respect for this leading Labour politician. Part of this appeal, was his roots, described in his autobiography “This Boy“, which he says more accurately was a tribute to his mother and his sister, living in the grinding poverty of Kensal Town in what is now in the well-to-do Notting Hill.
He described the 50s as brutal, in its grinding poverty and in the brutal hatreds, including racist (there was the murder of Kelso Cochrane and the subsequent race riots in 1959), anti-homosexual and sexist (tolerated domestic violence and official bars to promotions for married women), that limited people’s lives, overlooked when people romanticise the past.
Alan said he didn’t want to overdo the Monty Python-esque – poverty, you don’t know the meaning of it – but questions started with would Labour ever again having leading members who weren’t anything but professional politicians, from PPE at university to SPAD, to MP, to Cabinet, (not knowing a real job) to which Alan could only venture that it was a problem.
The final questioner asked why, with all this professional expertise, had Labour felt the need to hire a foreign political advisor (reputably for a six figure sum) to win the next General Election. Again Alan kinda passed.
But he did find space in one of his answers to emphasise how Labour had made massive progress on public health, with a combination of local health facilities and cutting the waiting list meant that the life expectancy of the poorest at the end of our time had matched the life expectancy of the well-to-do at the beginning – it’s just that their life expectancy leaped by the same amount during those years.
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TO BE HONED.

Threepenny Opera at Nottingham Playhouse

Civic night for Bertold Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” tonight. I’d been forewarned for over 20 years by Alexei Sayle’s description of Brecht’s “pioneering form of socio-political theatre using pseudo-realistic alienation techniques”.
But I still managed to ask in front of the company of 20 or so why they’d made the lead character of “Mack the Knife” quite so terribly abhorrent.
Threepenny Opera at Nottingham Playhouse
You can imagine their reaction. (Hey, but have a heart, I did physics.)

I understand now of course – Brecht was trying to alienate the audience. Hey ho.
But the play was a hell of a spectacle. One customer described it as the best of its kind he’d seen since “Oh What a Lovely War” in the sixties. With tons of energy. And it shocks. It startles. A mixture of an old plot (with some non-pc values), ’30s tunes and photos of, and some lyrics from, contemporary current affairs.
IMG_1507b0351h The Playhouse Threepenny Opera pre play“If the misery is genuine, no-one will believe it.”
With one beggar collecting £70k a year on Nottingham’s streets, some of the old stuff – Peachum making begging a business – was back in vogue.
The company, Graeae, “integrate sign language and audio description into their productions” and provide opportunities for performers with a range of disabilities.
Reviews elsewhere by the Guardian and the Nottingham Post have been very positive and describe the play more fully.
As for the politics, whilst the play makes a strong plea for the poor, some of the politics have aged – most particularly the classic line that poor people turn to crime – emphatically what has not happened since the crash in 2008.
Perhaps a more contemporary area to explore would have been perceptions of people on benefits, “bedroom tax” (which touched a nerve for the company given the discrimination against the disabled) and food banks. (Perhaps for another play.)
Further reading: http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/drama/the-threepenny-opera/

I asked the company afterwards how they’d found Nottingham – loved the public transport, not so good for the car user – so just like everyone else then!

“My Judy Garland Life” at Nottingham Playhouse

“I love the theatre – and have been going for years – this is the best thing I’ve seen” – audience member.
Something tells me I haven’t grasped the power of Judy Garland.
20140206-013012.jpgIn fact, I didn’t know the basics.
Star of “the greatest night in show business history” – er, I’ve not even seen the Wizard of Oz.
And when the three “ciphers” playing the music, and miscellaneous characters in different dcenes, first appeared wearing golden dreadlocks, silver metal chains and a tweed trilby hat, I did not twig that they were variants of the lion, tin man and scarecrow.

“Every time you put something in your mouth you taste defeat”.

I found it falling into place during the after-show stage event with the cast (a feature of civic night.)
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Part show, part biographies; good breakout scenes and some great lines on a vivid stage with some thumping singing.
Susie Boyt’s autobiographical story of a fan “worshipping” Judy Garland from afar and growing through it.
So much more integrity than “We will Rock You” (plot line – we have to save rock and roll), “Mamma Mia” and whatever Jennifer Saunders did with the Spice Girls.
Some discussion of the star’s personal problems (a gasp from the audience when the story of setting fire to a flat within 2 hours was told).
With plenty of singing – and yes, despite everything I recognised the tunes.
So I could have enjoyed it more if I’d known more.
But it was enjoyable. Entertaining. Recommended.

Other information and reviews:
http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/drama/my-judy-garland-life/ http://youtu.be/3ZGpmc6A8vg http://www.nottinghampost.com/Review-Judy-Garland-Life-Nottingham-Playhouse/story-20563688-detail/story.html http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/feb/05/my-judy-garland-life-review – the critic missed the plot, which says more about the critic. http://news.experiencenottinghamshire.com/exceptional-performances-in-my-judy-garland-life-at-nottingham-playhouse/
@skymirror #myjudygarlandlife

Charlie Peace: His Amazing Life and Astounding Legend

A new play by Michael Eaton, of Nottingham and featuring Nottingham.
Step forward to join Robin Hood, General Lud, Arthur Seaton, Brian Clough, Charlie Resnick and Fergus O’Connor, Charlie Peace.

20131011-050039.jpgRe-introducing the celebrity criminal of the Victorian age.
A celebrity criminal whose reputation was established as he was about to hang and embellished by the popular press and comics for some decades to follow. ‘He was a favourite in The Illustrated Police News, The Penny Dreadfuls and even Madame Tussauds gave him a home.’
‘Charlie Peace was a master cat burglar.’ He targeted the rich and his skill in disguise meant he evaded capture on many occasions, ‘but even old Charlie couldn’t get away with it forever’.
The play is a Goose Fair play within a play and the static stage is given life and freedom by a terrific light show that casts the scenery onto the stage from front and back – including the presentation of a train that Charlie escapes from.
Adequately reviewed by The Nottingham Post and The Stage, I hope people see the musical-drama for its entertainment.
Plenty of content, lots of music, but I wonder though whether if the story needs a bit more editing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Peace
http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/drama/charlie-peace-his-amazing-life-and-astounding-lege/
http://www.nottinghampost.com/Review-Charlie-Peace-8211-Amazing-Life-Astounding/story-19908167-detail/story.html
http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/39006/charlie-peace-his-amazing-life-and

See also review of post-play panel discussion – https://michaelmedwards.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/narrowmarshs-reputation/

1984 on stage

The play is a reminder of just what colossal ideas George Orwell had in writing this story.
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Many have written about “1984” and there’s a full summary of the book and its ideas at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four (interesting that wikipedia itself has managed to acquire a reputation of something not to be trusted, even though it is subject to review by the surfers of the world).
A survey last week found that “1984” was one of the books that people most claimed to have read when they hadn’t. I was surprised to find young colleagues at the council being unaware of the book, but knowing about “Big Brother” cos of the TV series. Watching the play, I was angered about this and had my own private “two-minute hate”; well – two seconds.
As it happens, I did read the book! Whilst doing maths and science in sixth-form, and I found it a bit of a chore. But you pick up on it again through the years with films and documentaries, and knowledge of it is a pre-cursor to enjoying the play – which packs a lot into its 100 minutes duration.
“1984” suffered before 1984 as being seen as a warning against life in the future when it was always a commentary on what had happened already by 1948. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four#Some_sources_for_literary_motifs It was also portrayed as an anti-communist story when it was so much wider than that, including in its range of political targets.
(It may also have been blind to the sheer scale of Stalin’s executions whereby at one stage, thousands of people were signed off daily for elimination without anything like the significant effort that goes into trapping outer party member Winston Smith.)
The play is chock full and could do with a few more moments of silence to absorb the significance of some of the key lines and key moments. And if the 1984 film production didn’t have enough torture to make the significance of ‘I haven’t betrayed Julia’ proclamation understood, the emphasis of the torture shown in this production is to say that torture is terrible.
But my main criticism was that the twist the play introduces as a wrap to the original story. (It’s since been pointed out to me that the wrap is drawn from the Appendix in the book that explains Newspeak, but it’s not an original story.)
This new wrap suggest a debate as to whether “1984” might ever have been a true story – well it wasn’t – “Nineteen Eighty-Four a novel” – and this matters because of Orwell’s belief that the truth matters.
The wrap also introduces Winston Smith as a weak, confused figure, a wreck. This means Winston doesn’t acquire any gravitas; hard to believe that he might have ever had the self-knowledge and inner confidence to develop the view that things aren’t right and something must be done.
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Never liked the bit in the original story whereby Winston agrees to all the horrible things he’s prepared to do – kinda out of character with his love for something better for the unborn.
And ‘picture the future – a boot stamping on a human face, forever’ was strangely violent given the emphasis on mind control through language in “1984”.
Rather – “picture the future – the 24 hour journalist depressing the notion of something noble being possible, putting it down with the snide judgemental end of every piece, forever” (DUCKSPEAK); oh, and sung to ‘ring-a-ring-a-roses’ (instead of ‘oranges and lemons’).
If I’d been looking for a twist for “1984”, I would indeed have focussed on modern media, and the control of music by X-factor (PROLEFEED).
Finally, as I’ve come to understand the play more, I’ve been revising this review (including taking from quite a sharp comment on the importance of the appendix). This I hope is seen in the spirit of Orwell’s writing process, rather than Winston and his memory-holes.

— Original post —
1984 at Nottingham Playhouse – http://www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/drama/1984/ – so pleased to have seen it – memorable lines in a memorable production. Some twists too.

P.S. Still getting criticism from a surfer who challenges me to corresponf, but whose e-mail address doesn’t work.