Google+ Followers

Monday, 6 July 2015

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I am really behind Arnie. He's a nice guy and needs a break. I mean it's not his fault that California is resembling the prune skin complexion of many of its older inhabitants. He was Governor of that great State, but it wasn't on his watch that the wells dried up and the swimming pools emptied. So I felt for him when running short of cash he signed to do a "Compare the Market" ad playing opposite those pesky meerkats.

He was never a great actor, and to his credit he never pretended to be. Yet he played in some scorchers. " True Lies" - who can ever forget Jamie Lee Curtis. "Total Recall": frankly I'd forget everything to have a missus like Sharon Stone. And "Terminator" and "Terminator 2". I was in my foxy late thirties when I saw the first film. Linda Hamilton what a woman! she melted the heart of cyber Arnie; reprising the role in T2.

Time travel is a bugger. If you're not careful you'll find yourself at the centre of a logically inconsistency and "Phut" you're dead before you're born. In movies the way around this is to distract the audience. Anything will do: sex; luscious scenes or fast and furious action. In the "Terminator" franchise it's loads of guns, explosions and fisty cuffs: ignoring the fact that if you've already managed world domination why bother with hand to hand combat.

But Arnie always puts up a good fight, butt naked or not. Which raises a fundamental question about time travel. Why butt naked? According to the script any covering other than flesh makes time travel problematic. No weapons 'cause they're metal and would upset the time space continuum. Besides the possibility of not ferrous guns - we have them printed out in 2015 - aren't the robots metallic? So why do they get through the space/time gateway unscathed?

Enough of this speculation. This afternoon we, the missus and I, went to see "Terminator: Genisys". Loads have commented on the misspelling of Genesis, but of course it's deliberate. Letting the Geni out of the bottle.

We witnessed it in deafening surround sound, 6 feet from the screen in 3 D - we had to pay an extra quid for the glasses. After 15 mins of ads, directed as far as I could make out at the sexually active 18 to 24 age group - I'm not complaining, we were assaulted by a series of trailers for films...directed at the sexually... etc.

I have no idea what the film was about. That doesn't worry me because I'm sure that neither the director, producer, actors nor the studio had the foggiest idea either. It had something to do with trying to stop Skynet, which was run, it seemed, by some really nice, successful black Americans. Such good role models. Except, one of their people was from the past, John Conner.  We thought he was a hero, who in the earlier Terminator films Arnie was trying to save from the machines, but we find out that all along he's a machine himself...And the evil Skynet is our very own Time Lord Matt Smith, wonderfully pixelated.

Arni spent much of the film being mashed to a pulp, as did his arch rival John Conner.  Despite being ripped apart and melted down Arni survived long enough to give his blessing to the future Mr and Mrs Kyle Reese. Sarah Conner, who as far as I could gather was wife, mother and daughter of most of the men in the film was played by an English "Game of Thrones" beauty Emilia Clarke. Kyle spent most of the film having no idea what was going on. Which made you realise why John Conner sent him back to save humanity - not.

There were loads of LA cops who had the nasty habit of melting into offensive weapons and a superannuated copper who spent much of his time trying to get credit for his appearance in the first "Terminator" film.

It, of course, ended once again with the destruction of Skynet, Arnie smiling and Kyle saying something totally meaningless to his younger self which would save the world in the future.

Which sort of made a nonsense of Sarah Connor's statement at the end of the film that she was now free to live her own life. She wasn't.

But that's what happens when you mess around with time travel. Even Conan the Barbarian can't help you out.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Bus Stop

I think I carry my burden with considerable grace. It comes with much sacrifice but...we arty types know our duty.

As you know I frequent the many artistic highways and byways of our magnificent capital. If I'm not in a concert hall soaking up Mahler or Mrs Mills you'll find me in the stalls at the National egging Kenneth or Simon RB onto new heights. It's all part of the Faustian pact we soulful creatures readily sign  up to. "Art For Art's Sake Money for God's Sake.." has always been my guiding light.

So it was with some anticipation that I attended the Noel Coward theatre in St Martin's Lane last night to witness the latest triumph of Antony Sher.

Boy has this man progressed. Those of  us old enough to have sat the 11 plus ( and failed, unfairly) and had a crush on Valerie Singleton will remember our Tony in "The History Man". Sexual predator extraordinaire with a droopy 'tash, silly sideburns with hair straight out of "Godspell". After a few episodes of that Kenneth Kendell reading the news was like a wet haddock on Bridlington pier.

The 70's! Mud, The Sweet, Roxy Music, Yes, The Osmonds, Leo Sayer the list is unendingly embarrassing. But while "Top of the Pops" was turning out DJ's of a less than wholesome character, the Beeb was broadcasting "I, Claudius" and British movies hit their  peak with the "Wicker Man" and Brit Ekland  - although her bum was a body double!

No more of this reminiscing, back to the present and Antony Sher and his latest triumph. "Death of a Salesman". Classic or what? This is why Marilyn married the man. This is why she became, for a relatively short while I grant you, Mrs Arthur Miller. And last night, there we were in the theatre, after a delightful meal at Sheekey's Fish Restaurant, watching Antony weave his magic as Willy Loman, an man on the edge of insanity.

Except, the first act was pretty poor. I'm happy to acknowledge that a large fish meal doesn't necessarily put you in the proper frame of mind to appreciate an American theatrical classic. However, taking all that into account. I was bored. I had no sympathy with any of the characters. Willy was a loser, fine - get over it. His kids were losers and his wife foolish to still love him. But an interesting first act? Hell no. Sher played Willy as he played Falstaff in Henry IV part 1 last December at the Barbican.

The common view of all four of us was that this was not a good play.

And then somehow it changed. Miller having laboriously set up the ducks in the first act shot them in the second. The inevitable tragic ending snowballed before our eyes. Willy, humiliated, hallucinating, broken down bit by bit - we cared about him. His failure, his two sons (surely personifications of Willy's own split,  disintegrating personality)  shoving him this way and that. All of this was too painful to witness. And his wife, magnificent, a rock in all this insanity: a  Lady Macbeth in reverse.

We watched the dissolution of this man. This poor, hard working, lost man. A man who had given 30 years and more to his company was sacked, dismissed and humiliated. A man whose sons, through whom he sought some sort of validation - so much like Lear's daughters - he so completely misread.

At the end I said to my fellow theatre goers that I found the play surprisingly touching. I ended up caring desperately for Willy and his predicament.

Antony Sher I apologise.

Your performance in the first act I thought was too loud and frenetic. In the end I understood why Willy was like he was: a man in a desperate spiral of self deception and realisation of his own shortcomings. You got him.

Had I left at the interval, I should have been much the poorer.

Monday, 29 June 2015

The Producers

It's sad when things end. When you have to pack up and leave friends you've been staying with. When a fabulous holiday finishes and you have to say "Goodbye" to all those new people you've met and grown to like.

O.K. that's over slushy. Some of those people you don't want to see ever again, Those e-mail addresses you exchanged promising to keep in touch are toast. You will never again bring them to mind; never, ever, ever.

But occasionally something happens and  you really don't want it to end. That's been my "Introduction to Acting" classes at the City Lit. Today was the last class and it was brilliant ...and painful.

The last 10 weeks have just flown by. Admittedly much of the time has been catching balls, saying silly phrases - exercising one's tongue - standing on one leg and pretending to be a rabbit. We did a bit of acting: just enough to make us feel we were in the same profession as Sir Kenneth, Sir Tom and Sir Gandalf.

Initially, I went because I was excited by the prospect of learning to act: not that I needed much tuition having been on the stage "many,many, times" 30 years ago. However, as the weeks went on it wasn't the Monday afternoon given over to acting that I anticipated. It was meeting up with my class mates.

The young business woman from York, with a really friendly smile and accent to go with it. The mature lady from Highgate - with a strong sense of Jean Shrimpton and King's Road about her. The two Dutch trainee teachers - flat they were not. The Revenue and Customs trainer who I really got to like. He was funny, and such good company.

Then there was the black woman. She could have been a model - lovely features and I thought had a natural strength of personality on stage. She was formidable; as our tutor discovered when after three hours of arguing, in the pub, both retreated - an honourable draw.

There's the 60 year old from New Southgate who was so positive; always joshing and playing it for laughs. The rather strange, mysterious tall, dark young man who I initially disliked, but as the weeks passed grew on me as did the young, on line businessman from Islington and the very intense lover of Englebert Humperdink songs: tonight he was dashing off to see "The Glums".

There was our tutor, a handsome black man who was pre-occupied for the first half of our course with his wife's impending labour. In the second half we were treated to graphic depictions of the home birth and breast feeding. We hope to see him on stage in "Mid Summer's Night Dream" in August.

But I will always remember what's her name. A young Indian girl - to my eyes very pretty - having been educated in India - near Simla. She was born in England but went to a private English school in  Himachal Pradesh! And will be studying Psychology at Durham University.

Today, because she was in a scene from a play set in the 1950's she dressed the part. She looked just like Amy Winehouse would have looked had she been beautiful. And she'd learnt all her lines, as had my tax officer friend. Brilliant.

This afternoon we spent an hour going over the very short scenes we'd been given the week before and then we acted them in front of our class mates; our tutor videoing them to send to us with a withering critique of our (lack of ) technique. 

It was so much fun. God, we all felt we'd accomplished so much and we all felt hugely affirmed. We were proud of what we'd achieved. In the great scheme of things, maybe not much; but in that small room in that small building in a small part of London....Baftas all round.

All in 10 weeks.  

All should have the opportunity we have had. It's mind blowing.