Saturday, 26 July 2008

"her naked skin" (rebecca lenkiewicz)

friday 25th july 2008

“her naked skin”
A new play by Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Celia Cain ………..… Lesley Manville
Eve Douglas ………..Jemima Roper
Florence Boorman …. Susan Engel
William Cain ………. Adrian Rawlins

Director…………….. Howard Davies
Designer ……………. Rob Howell

Music played live by The Elysian Quartet

At Olivier, National Theatre

"Love is just fear I suppose. Masquerading as a fever. Then you explore each other and suddenly you have licence to become totally pedestrian. And ultimately abusive.
London 1913. Militancy in the Suffragette Movement is at its height. Thousands of women of all classes serve time in Holloway Prison in their fight to gain the vote. Amongst them is Lady Celia Cain who feels trapped by both the policies of the day and the shackles of a frustrating marriage. Inside, she meets a young seamstress, Eve Douglas, and her life spirals into an erotic but dangerous chaos.

Men don't like to see a convoy of women.It unsexes us.
Rebecca Lenkiewicz's "Her Naked Skin" is set at a crucial moment when, with emancipation almost in sight, women refuse to let the establishment stand in their way.

This is a perhaps deceptively straight-forward story about the Suffragettes with a love story between two of the women at its heart. Set entirely in 1913 it chronicles through scenes that slide under the great revolving frame of the prison and span from the moment Emily Wilding Davison sets off to the Derby where she will be killed stepping out in front of she King's horse wearing her Suffragette sash through scenes set in the House Of Commons, Holloway Prison, the Cain's posh drawing room, Eve's Limehouse attic bedroom, a wooded shooting party, a gentleman's club. London street and park scenes This is all achieved with a huge ironwork set on a trailer that keeps the prison cells the dominant and central structure throughout the play - whatever else we are watching we are never allowed to forget or lose sight of the women in prison. And this for me is the power of this show: it finishes with an enormous collage projection of photographs of woman after woman after woman after woman. This show is an attempt to bring out of invisibility just one of the hundreds of personal stories of the women who fought so long - 60 years! - and hard - women were often imprisoned six, seven or more times and in 1912, 90 of the 102 Suffragettes in prison are being forcibly fed! This play forces us to witness the horrible treatment Suffragettes were subjected to while also giving us a behind-the-scenes sense of the lives that were being lived through, with, alongside and pitted against their actions. And with this we get to see just how complete and secure and smug were men and the supremacy and power of their systems -the government, the law, the prisons, the doctors…

The weakness of the play is that the role of Eve - the working girl from Limehouse who falls in love with Lady Celia - is badly underwritten. Lesley Manville is perfect in her role - suave and strong and quick and confident in her class and intellect with woman, vulnerable and angry and frustrated and stuck in her position as a wife and a woman in a man's world. But because of this and because we get to know so much about her life and virtually nothing about Eve's, this arrives too much a story about a rich woman and her young pretty plaything rather than the fully developed love story between two equally strong and interesting protagonists it seems to want to be.

So, for me a flawed play that I suspect will grow and find a stronger and surer focus - the revolve got stuck one hour in the preview night we saw it, and we were forced to take an extra interval which stilted the momentum and made it a longer night.
Nevertheless this show gave me vivid pictures and ‘memories’ of an historical legacy we have inherited and makes me face the considerable costs that went into to making it happen.
And also to notice that still woman’s stories are perhaps received uneasily in a world more used to his-stories.

"a slight ache" (harold pinter)

friday 25th july 2008

"a slight ache"
by harold pinter

Flora ............................... Clare Higgins
Edward .......................,,... Simon Russell Beale
Matchseller ...............,,,,.... Jamie Beamish

Director ........................... Iqbal Khan

at Lyttleton, National Theatre
Flora: Have you noticed the honeysuckle this morning?
Edward: The what?
Flora: The honeysuckle.
Edward: Honeysuckle? Where?

A Slight Ache takes an oblique view of a long-married couple, the irascible Edward and his frustrated wife Flora, when the arrival of a statuesque silent stranger splinters their loveless bourgeois marriage. Simon Russell Beale and Clare Higgins play the couple in this early work by Harold Pinter.

this was farily pedestrian experience for me
simon russell beale and clare higgins are always easy and enjoyable to watch
and the play has some fun observations about the surreal sterility of middleclass middleaged married life conversation in its early scenes.
but after the entrance of the matchseller it all just felt too obvious and i wasn't held by either any real sense of caring about what was happening to these people - the husband meeting his own breakdown / death; his wife welcoming 'death' in as the better replacement that she could coddle and control - nor sense of much surprise. perhaps the play has dated but its lack for me was any real push or drive to it - i needed some more ominous pulsation of creeping decay if not coming doom.

m + c + s all enjoyed it more than me tho i think

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

"precious things" (stella duffy, shaky isles theatre)

wednesday 23 July 2008

Precious Things (we used to go on pilgrimages)
a play in progress
Directed and Devised by Stella Duffy
with Performers Emma Deakin, Kane Bixley, Kirsty Hamilton, Aaron Hapuku, Erica Lowe, Sam Webster, Jess Wood and (in spirit) Miriama McDowell
Lighting Design by Scott Stewart
Technical Operator: Salvador Brown

part of Shaky Isles Festival of Aotearoa: a feast of New Zealand and Pacific Art & Culture
at Pacific Playhouse

Good evening and welcome to Precious Things, a new work in progress from Shaky Isles Theatre – We love the planet, we love cheap flights.
We love the planet, we love good steak. We love the planet, we like our i-pods, computers, cars, trains, buses, privacy, garden hoses, TVs, movies, music, clothes, shoes, avocados. We want to eat mussels off the rock, and sit under our very own pohutakawa. We don’t know what we’re prepared to give up, and we do know we’re distracted from the Very Good Causes by nice boys or pretty girls. We want to be good, we want to play – we wonder if the two things can go together.

It starts with the sound of the sea.
The company of 7 actors hold hands and breathe the waves in – and - out - and - in - and - out.
Except actually it doesn't necessarily start with the sea at all as i discover when I see the show a second time. It starts with a game where the company pick up and follow each other’s sounds and movements - working together to make themselves one unified moment that subtly shifts and morphs into something else without sense of who – ideally not really anyone - is leading.
And if I think they are making the sea this is as much what they make happen in my head as it is what they have chanced into on the stage. In the second show I saw, the movements tended to wards pendulum patterns – which they / I / we make into clocks ticking, and surges of heaving movement from one side to the other, at one moment I even made the sea again. But the show is and is made from what actually happens at and from each moment and what these become through the organic moulding by the group.
And this is the power and joy of this show – you feel it being made fresh in front of you and from what is being made you make your own memories and rediscoveries and wonderings.
At every moment it is unfalteringly performed with an absolute commitment and presence and alertness and imaginative spontaneity and great gleeful grins so that through much of it we are grinning in irresistible kinaesthetic recognition.
This game acts throughout the show as a transition into and out of the dialogue sequences.
It also provides time for us in the audience to follow a little way the explosion of memories and imaginings their stories set off for us …
“I've know that place…”
“I remember that smell…”
“What stories will my children tell when they've grown?” (not mine that one. obviously.)
“What do i want to remember about my own dad?” (not that one either.)

In the first show I remember the Sea featuring in the memories of precious moments in NZ and the River featuring in their London stories. In the second show this is less apparent and the personal stories are deeper, richer given bigger moments by questions – asked sometimes by fellow performers and sometimes silently by the protagonists themselves so their remembering of their precious moments uncurl with a fullness and quite extraordinarily fluency.

The show works through a series of sequences that Stella has storyboarded pictorially in a set of clear guide images down one wall
“I remember...”
“I know I'm a kiwi because…” (there's a geordie too)
“I know I’m a kiwi in London because...”
“I know I’ve been in London too long because…”
“The thing I care about is…”

A couple of sequences challenge us out of these gentle meanderings:
One is a game that seems to be called “you spoiled it!” At the first show this was teasing and fun; at the second show it started to build towards something that smelt more dangerous and I wonder if this could be taken without sacrificing authenticity?
The second is when the performers face us directly and tell us the things they don't care about - challenging us to dare to agree with them. These are mostly personal wants and lifestyle indulgences overtaking social and global concerns, but they also these also reveal a glimpse of some of the real values of these young people. The audience seem to receive this with a mixture of enjoyment, approval and uneasiness.

There is sequence headlined ''what I do care about is...” that cuts away the ensemble dynamic into a set of more disconnected voices - isolated for once in the telling and remembering of their own memories and using each other's feeds to re-activate their own stories. I wonder if this effect could be heightened by the performers disengaging completely from each other and disappearing visibly into their own treasures rather than continuing to the maintain their concentrated focus with and for each other?

I would also love to see a longer show that springboarded off into stories of some of the people we hear about but don t yet get to really meet- the dads, the mothers, the grandmother, the siblings and friends -the people who are part of the precious moments each player conjures up and in so doing hints at other's stories tucked inside. Is there a ‘russian doll game’ that could be played to find the Story inside the Story inside the Story inside the Story...?

And with more time I wonder what this company would make if they could take the LifeGame strategy longer and play out in reimaginings from the stories that are suggested and – at the moment only momentarily – visualised by the players: the dodgem car races; the first bottle of Tui beer on the porch with dad; the first meeting with your birth mother; the first boyfriend…

The great and exciting triumph of this show is the range and vitality of experience the form and the storytelling and the playing trigger in us - they give us a myriad of moments to recognise and weave into our own stories and a little time along the way to disappear into them
And it is wonderful to see the LifeGame form given this level of focus and development
This company look and sound onstage like an already mature and very strong ensemble with an abundance of energy immediacy and ensemble rapport and i am curious to know what magic formular made this possible in so little time? Stella? Emma? this particular group? kiwi-ism? the alchemy of impro?

Stella's next idea is to continue to work regularly with this company to discover what it might become and make next, and I wonder what would happen if they experimented at uncovering the stories about the people who have touched them from the parts of these they hold already

At the moment we are getting fragments that mostly tend to echo ourselves back to us - what more could be done with this?

And how could the brilliance of the ensemble togetherness now be played around with to allow for a variety of different moods and dynamics without risking the apparently ego-free collaboration in the joyful playful impro they are already making?

And yes yes Stella - what could you do with music?

What I hope this show / company will keep is its fresh and new response to my questions around how you make an exceptional experience for the audience that happens as much in our hearts and heads as it does on the stage?
Their answer seems to be: Make it authentic. Trust the moment. Trust the stories you have already. And trust the audience to bring themselves into the mix.

As a postscript it was great reminding Emma that barely a year ago she was producing her first ticketed play readings and now she has produced and sold this festival of mixed New Zealand arts - a huge achievement. The tough bit now is how to take the company to the next level and get the money for people to be paid and thus be able to make something that doesn't have to depend on people's donated time
A timely reminder of the tough uncaring world out there as I begin my return back into the performance arena …

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

"the lavender library" w stella duffy

Tuesday 15 July:

Queen Elizabeth Hall
A panel of writers and performers celebrate the legacy of lesbian and gay literature by championing their favourite books and authors. Featuring

Rupert Smith on John Rechy,
Diana Souhami on Gertrude Stein.
David McAlmont on James Baldwin,
Stella Duffy on Patricia Highsmith,
Paul Burston on Pickles,
Andy Bell on Joe Orton,
Karen McLeod on Julia Darling, and
Julian Clary on EF Benson.
Presented by Suzi Feay, books editor of the Independent on Sunday.

The Lavender Library

Grown-up and intimate
Rich insight into the complex mixes of how we make our queer identities and how queer artists find their voices and confidence and inspiration
An easiness in this space and time that we are reminded we cannot take for granted

We forgave performance shortcomings because we trusted that we were being given authentic presentations - we believed all the presenters were bringing us what was true for them rather than something that was more about slick presentation - also that every presenter had chosen to bring something they genuinely cared about

And it felt friendly - i wanted to belong to/ in this group

Impressed at how comfortable each person seemed even when there were signs too of their nervousness

Amazed for the umpteenth time at where the hell Stella Duffy gets her fabulous chutzpah from.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

robert lepage (Independent on Sunday article)

Robert Lepage:
'I'm fascinated by the Devil'
By Lucy Powell

Sunday, 6 July 2008
Independent on Sunday

Robert Lepage's work has always provoked an extreme reaction among theatregoers. So what will they make of his new, diabolically inspired operatic production?

"...[the] linguistic tension is an experience he will explore at the Barbican in his forthcoming show Lipsynch, a tie-up between his company, Ex Machina, and the small, Northumberland-based Théâtre Sans Frontières. The show, which opens in September, has been six years in the devising, and will run for a buttock-trying nine-hour duration.
Voice, language and speech are the "divine trinity" behind Lipsynch, issuing from the father, the mother and the self – though the father "could be your mother's female lover". "The father's voice belongs to the person with the greatest emotional impact on your mother when you are in the womb," he explains.
Lipsynch promises to relentlessly pursue the idea of how we come to own language, through the repeating arcs of nine characters across seven decades (from 1945 to 2015). Of course, Lepage says, the show is not a departure from his lush visual style, and "yes, some actors will appear in multiple stories, to hold it all together – it's like plaiting a braid". But ask him to divulge that unifying narrative, and he pauses. "It's very complex," he chuckles. "And also, it's not done yet."
For most, such uncertainty would be crippling. For Lepage, it is crucial: "I try to keep two things in my work: doubt and chaos. People ask me: have you a recipe, a 'language Lepagean'? I say no, keep that idea away from me, I don't want it. I like to go out on a limb."

How Lepage has taken theatre by storm
The Dragon's Trilogy, 1985
The then 27-year-old Lepage's five-hour investigation of the connections between East and West launched his international career. Rapturously received for its inventive language and emotional charge
The Seven Streams of the River Ota, 1994
Interwoven tales of post-Hiroshima grief; appalled critics when it opened, as it over-ran by two hours; two years of workshopping later, and it was hailed as "spellbinding"
The Far Side of The Moon, 2000
Lepage played two brothers, one a brash TV weatherman, the other a failed, introspective academic, both in mourning for their mother. Their relationship is likened to that of the US and the Soviet Union in the space race
The Andersen Project, 2005
A satirical lament on loneliness and loss, as a displaced French-Canadian rock star is asked to write an opera based on Andersen's tale The Dryad and arrives in Paris in search of critical affirmation

timberlake wertenbaker and anna furse (national theatre new connections)

saturday 5th july 2008

national theatre new connections

New Connections is a red-hot season of short new plays created by established writers and performed by young people.
High-profile writers including Mark Ravenhill, Abi Morgan, Jack Thorne and Bryony Lavery have written plays for this year’s festival.
The search for identity pulses through New Connections 2008: for acceptance and survival in modern Britain, for racial equality in 1960s South Africa, by deception in magical allotments, during white-out in a snow blizzard, through parenting, through faith, or by comic mistakes of social networking.

Arden City
by Timberlake Wertenbaker
Rosie and Sally are two cousins who escape from home after difficulties with Sally’s father. Rosie dresses as a boy for safety and the girls find their way to an allotment. Orlando, who also has to flee because his brother Oliver wants him killed, finds his way to the allotment with Adam, his younger friend.
A modern retelling of As You Like It: a story about love, identity and freedom.
Performed by Daydreamer Youth Theatre, Watford

static but often well delivered reading, stong textural script but unfortunately mostly wooden and often cheesey

The Peach Child
by Anna Furse and Little Angel Theatre
An adaptation of a well-loved Japanese fairytale. One day, as the Old Woman washes kimonos in the river, a large peach floats by. She takes it to her husband for dinner. As he cuts into the flesh, a baby boy is born. They call him Momotaro – ‘peach child’ – and he brings joy to their lives. At the age of 15 the boy tells his adoptive parents that he has to leave them. Over the other side of the mountain dwells the evil Ogre who must be overcome.

Anna Furse, Artistic Director of Athletes of the Heart, was also Artistic Director for Paines Plough in the early 1990s and Bloodgroup in the 1980s. She is an award-winning director and writer of over 50 productions that have toured internationally, including Augustine (Big Hysteria) (Time Out Award for Writing and Directing), and Gorgeous. The Peach Child was originally written and directed for The Little Angel Theatre (Japan Festival and the National Children’s Theatre Festival 2001). She wrote and directed My Glass Body for BBC Radio 3. Current productions include Don Juan Who? (with Mladinsko, Ljubljana, touring the UK in association with FEEAST) and DUST, being researched in India on an ArtsAdmin Bursary.
Performed by Kennet School, Newbury

much more successful with the whole company (notably a school rather than youth drama group) involved in making the performance...

+ fab effects with newspapers making the set (screens, hillside, sea, boat) and costumes
+ great movements from live to puppetry into live or the two happening together so we got the peach child appearing as an infant and then (swiftly) growing up into a young man, the people leaving the house as tiny figures seen heading up the hillside, the bird who swoops in b4 being replaced with an actor …
+ live music throughout punctuating and adding dimension (harp and 2 horns)
+ use of silhouette and simple movement and to convey moments in the story and character (like the ogre)
+ terrific ensemble work to make the puppets work (3 boys manipulate the peach child infant and the set
huge amount of work that is much more engaging than the previous ‘straight play’ presentation. definitely a big hooray for what devised theatre can make possible with an amateur group

Thursday, 3 July 2008

"bANGER - the power hour" (tara cheyenne friedenberg) - LIFT

wednesday 2nd july 2008

bANGER – The Power Hour
Tara Cheyenne Performance
Supported by the City of Vancouver / British Columbia Arts Council / Canada Council for the Arts

Seducing the audience with comic, character-driven sequences, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg fuses dance and theatre to create a powerful and memorable performance. Pushing extremes, bANGER – The Power Hour combines humour and satire to explore gender, masculinity and adolescence.
Morphing through fast-paced gender bending characterisations, Friedenberg takes us on a journey through the world of high school as seen through the eyes of a young man driven to find his place in the world.

Amazing transition from a quite delicate nubile young woman comically fantasising about being a man as she gymnastically dresses into actually becoming several versions of a man so convincingly in fact that even when I tried to see the woman inside the man i couldn't
So she gave us-
An adolescent dork being bullied and retreating into his fantasy of heavy metal music, world war two history, recording heavy-meaning poetry onto an answamachine. abortively
A gun expert turning into a bit of a lecherous creep turning into Nazi

and several other versions of maleness all precisely observed and completely recognisable
and all achieved through the power of her movement with a bit of help from lights and sounds

total commitment

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

"de profundis" (oscar wilde) performed by corin redgrave

tuesday 1st july 2008

corin redgrave reads oscar wilde's
"de profundis"
edited by merlin holland
director ~ richard nelson

at lyttleton ,national theatre

towards the end of his sentence in Reading Gaol, Wilde was agonising over the lack of contact with Bosie. In desperation, he started to write him a letter.
‘You came to me to learn the pleasure of life and the pleasure of art. Perhaps I am chosen to teach you something more wonderful – the meaning of sorrow and its beauty.’
It is perhaps the greatest love letter ever written. Filled with a torrent of accusation, recrimination and passion, Wilde eventually reached an extraordinary state of understanding and reconciliation. A century later De Profundis remains an astonishing tour-de-force of self analysis.
Reviving his
National Theatre performance from 2000, Corin Redgrave reads De Profundis.
Running time is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes including interval.
Merlin Holland is Oscar Wilde's grandson.

at the end of this show i was a little bemused to hear all redgrave's fans calling bravo as he frail-y but determinedly re-mounted his podium to receive the lengthy ovations - this had seemed at first rather old fashioned stuff, full of eloquence and style but delivering little (m wondered if it was a little like it must have been seeing Michael Macliammor perform)
but in fact this was quite gentle - and happily not at all over-performed
at first in fact i thought i would have liked a stronger performance - more bitterness/ more camp? - but on reflection i think what redgrave gave us allowed me to dwell on the man behind the words and the thinking and wonder more about who he was and how he felt than to lock into the energy of the wit, the iconography, the symbolism of what he has come to stand for and against. this is very much a piece of 'thinking out loud' with a sense that wilde is working out his thinking as he writes rather than declaiming previously invented notions. and he is in this a man surprisingly free of bitterness, touchjed with self-irony along with the pique and real understanding: he is no Lear to rail against the fates of god and man but rather full of a deep wisdom and caring of what it is to be human.

a soft haunting performance that has crept into me rather by surprise