Wednesday, 20 December 2017
All the World's a Stage....
When I go to the theatre I keep the tickets....to remind me that I went to the theatre. A stunning theatrical experience can so easily vanish as life piles up and the days and months accrete. At this time of the year I thought it useful to list what I'd seen this year. It's not only the theatre but also the cinema that excited me this year - so they're included.
The year began with "Love's Labour's Lost" at the Theatre Royal in the Haymarket. Frankly I don't remember too much about it except it was great fun and full of energy. Then there was "Amadeus" at the National at the end of February. It blew my socks off. It was everything a play should be. Involving, exciting, mouth opening and such fun. The orchestra on stage was brilliant. No wonder I don't recall much about "LLL".
March was a strange month. We saw three productions. "The White Devil" at the Globe, "The Bear/The Proposal" at the Young Vic and Edward Albee's "The Goat". I love Jacobean Tragedy - the more blood curdling the better - so TWD was quite a disappointment as it was relatively tame. It didn't have the sheer devilry as "The Duchess of Malfi" - which is strange given its title. The Bear/Proposal was fairly light weight. Chekhov comedies aren't usual West End fare, although the Young Vic is more south London than Piccadilly. Small staging, small cast, small theatre: it was really quite amateurish in a professional manner. The cross dressing added a certain extra as did the fab music. I like the young Vic but I need to be pushed to see its offerings. Which wasn't a problem with "The Goat". I first came across this doing a beginners drama class at the City Lit. We had to read the scene where our hero tells his best friend that he's fallen in love with a goat. It's a lovely play, full of fun, laughs and quite a bit of plate and sculpture smashing. Martin's wife is pretty upset being usurped by a nanny goat - she kills it. It's seen as a tragedy but to me it was just a great piece of theatre.
April was void. In May we saw "Consent" at the National. This is where it gets troublesome. This play is rated as one of the best in the year. The trouble is I was fixated by Adam James who played Jake. This is what went on in my mind when he was on stage " You were in that TV play with, was it Lewis or Endeavour - it was in Oxford - a weekend quiz and you were found dead in a fountain having shagged a couple of girls." So I missed most of the play - I think actors who appear on TV, in films or who are famous should not act on stage - unless you're a Dame. Next was "The Treatment" at the Almeida. It got rave reviews: I didn't really follow it.
June saw us back at the Young Vic for "Life of Galileo". I loved the way it was staged - as a circus act. Masses of energy and a brilliant central performance. The trajectory of Galileo is tragic - in the play after an iconoclastic career at the end he is a broken man, but his ideas live on. The church might kill the man but they can't kill the truths he discovered.
Nothing in July. I was possibly too busy on my allotment. August saw us back at the Almeida and "Against".This had Ben Whishaw as a new technological billionaire - Aron Musk character - who wants to use his wealth to change the world. He's fights against the norm and the norm fights back. His high ideals don't necessarily wash with ordinary people and especially his employees - think Amazon. It being America he is shot by a misunderstood blue collar who misunderstands him. You wonder why Trump is still around.
Again September is blank - why. But October saw us at the Menier Chocolate Factory. It's a great place since the restaurant is in the theatre. Anyone with the name Florian Zeller is bound to be successful. We saw his "Father" and "The Truth" and we had to see his "The Lie". It's basically who is screwing who but not letting on and trying hard not to get caught out. Everyone appears to be screwing everyone else. It's a truth game which gets increasingly frantic and complicated. I think AI would have sussed it out well into the first act. Then it was off to the Donmar. Ibsen is one of my favourites. "Ghosts" leaves me catatonic and the mysterious "The Lady from the Sea" was something to savour. I got over it being in the Caribbean but I found the performances really moving.- especially those of the daughters and the up tight but steady doctor husband. I was less convinced by the mysterious sailor and wanted him to just fling his hook.
November and "Young Marx" at the Bridge. It's a new theatre and quite a mixture. The entrance/bar/whatever is a mess but the seating is great. If you suffer the usual West End cramps the Bridge is such a change. The play was frankly all I'd hoped for with Rory Kinnear and the writers of "One Man,Two Govners". It was fast, it was funny, it was a great afternoon out - we were with the silver brigade but did they knock back the juice! We have a serious septuagenarian drink problem! The next day we were at the Barbican watching Coriolanus get his comeuppance. It is a great play - except the battle scenes are rather cut down.
And onto December and "The Ferryman". All I will say is that it was feckin' fantastic. I hadn't seen Jerusalem but saw "Mojo" and was really disappointed and reluctant to see this. So glad I did. It is rightly seen as the theatrical event of the year. It is uplifting, tragic, funny, questioning, a total theatrical experience. Like "Mojo" the ending appears to be a cop out but otherwise it is a play that kept me transfixed. And so onto "Ink" Murdoch and the Sun rise. I was disappointed to begin with. I remembered "The House" and I was expecting the same fast and furious badinage. After, however, a slow start it motored. Great humour in the first half overshadowed in the second act by the kidnap and murder ( fed to pigs) of Murdoch's Deputy Chairman's wife Muriel McKay. The logic of the market - sell more than the Mirror meant the Sun splashed headlines about McKay kidnap. This probably was instrumental in her murder. It's a fab play. See it.
Films this year. The "Barry Lyndon" revival at the BFI along with "Howard's End", Dirk Bogart in "Victim" and Glen Ford in "The Big Heat" a brilliant performance. Then there was the revival of "The Taxi Driver" and "The Silence of the Lambs", but the BFI excelled themselves with "The Tree of Wooden Clogs" - a monumental film. At the local cinema I thought "Arrival" was magic as was "Blade Runner 2049", both films that left you perplexed. As for humour "The Death of Stalin"was a treasure, but my film of the year has to be "Paddington 2". It won't win any awards but it left me feeling that life was good. That things can work out for the best and that bear was quite magical.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.