Friday, 8 February 2013

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Richard III

I've stolen this from my other website.

As the citerns, sackbuts, violas and perhaps the odd lasciviously pleasing lute struck up, one could feel, even several seats away, an overwhelming desire to up and off on the part of certain distinguished members of the Shakespeare Club. Mark Rylance (Richard) then mugging to the audience (to the audience’s delight) made matters worse still, and your reporter feared that the interval would see departures in high dudgeon.  I suspect a combination of the high price of the ticket and the unexpected, largely positive, reactions of other club members returned them to their seats.
This is a Globe production.  The set (which is the same as that for Twelfth Night, running concurrently) was uncomplicated, thoroughly woody, and featured audience seats on both sides of the stage, lending a hint of the Globe’s groundlingness.  The costumes were Elizabethan. The sackbuts were positioned along the crenelated top of the set.
The evening was, for most of us, a pleasure.  Rylance is an astonishing presence.  As a member remarked afterwards, he can get away with anything.  He owns the stage somehow, without owning it as Rylance.  His Richard III was entirely the character.  Other than Hamlet, I believe it is the longest role in Shakespeare. 
I had read a few pages of Tony Tanner’s Prologue to the play in the morning, in which he points out Richard’s own reference to the figure of The Vice, from the Morality plays, one of whose “satanic privileges was to inveigle the audience into laughing at evil”.  I think what Tanner means to say is laughing with evil.  We laugh against our better judgement.  And Richard is witty, enjoys mischief for its own sake.  The dramatic irony that the play is full of, is turned on Richard himself, as he finds all those “cares” he pretends not to want, rendering him hopelessly out of his depth.  Rylance's mischief maker becomes pathetic.  We laugh less and less as the play goes on.
In the end, the terror that Richard has unleashed in what seems almost an arbitrary fashion becomes clear.  The clown – Rylance’s bowler hat acknowledges the debt – has lost his audience: us.
Is this pop Shakespeare?  I don’t think so; I think this is theatrical Shakespeare. Rylance plays high and mighty with the iambic pentameters, but his performance is not look-at-me, it is look-at-Richard, and for me, at any rate, it worked. This is the anti-Anthony Sher.  It is the genius of Shakespeare that allows of both interpretations.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ward & Pilger

While Liberal Democrat MPs - oops, sorry, while A Liberal Democrat MP - scolds the Jews  for not having learned the lessons of the Holocaust (and such good teachers, those Nazis), the fatuous John Pilger compares Kathryn Bigelow, the director of Zero Dark Thirty, to Leni Riefenstahl.  Straightforward antisemitism by the former; I'd put the latter down to approaching senility were it not for the fact that Pilger has always preferred insult and hatefulness.  If Bigelow's film "promotes torture and murder", then Dr Strangelove promotes nuclear war.  He can't have actually seen it. personally, I thought it was an exceptionally good film, but then I'm simply one of the rabble Pilger so despises.

Pilger's remarks come in an article condemning the French/British/Americam - ANY - involvement in Mali.  You can read his febrile ramblings here

In the meantime, this is the sort of diabolical American-favoured thing the French have set out to save (Ali Farka Toure's son remained in Islamist-controlled town Niafunke, afraid that his father's archive would be burned.  The French have since secured the town) :

Friday, 1 February 2013

How to eat

At the farmhouse we feast
On dumplings, dripping-bread,
Cushiony crumpets satined with butter,
Suet sweet with syrup, fatty ham,
And hot toast damasked with wall plums

from 'Tripped' by Peter Redgrove