July/August Round Up

Hello all! Sorry it’s been so quiet around here lately – July and August have been mega busy with work/life stuff.

Below is a list of I have watched/read/enjoyed over the last two months that won’t get individual spots on the blog. Hope you’re all having a great summer!

Where I should be right now

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Culture Vulture (Or: Meanwhile, on the Internets)

Good day to you all! Sadly, the weather here in the UK is a little more uneven this week than the glorious sunshine we had last week but summer is definitely here!

This week’s bag of internet goodness below…

Lots of interesting opinions on what is ‘literary’ and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch in this article. I for one am still excited to read it…

A bookish alternative to the World Cup, courtesy of Penguin!

Pretty Little liars are back and so are the Forever Young Adult recaps – huzzah!

My friend kindly directed me to this blog post about the first UK YA Lit Con – it looks awesome, is anyone going?

Interesting and controversial article about adults reading YA literature. I don’t agree with the views expressed, but I do think reading a decent range of different types of books is good for you as a reader. What do you think?

Really interesting article about caring for our West End Theatres.

And lastly, I LOVE this list of things Coach Taylor has taught us. Clear eyes…

Theatre review: West Side Story

Where: Milton Keynes Theatre / When: 14th June 2014

First up, a confession: I’m not a huge fan of the central plot of West Side Story. Nor am I particularly fond of Romeo and Juliet, on which it’s based. The older I become, the less patience I have for the story of two teenagers who fall in love in like, a second, and then wreak havoc, bringing peace only through untimely demises. The violence and waste of life in both stories feels more senseless and frustrating to me as the years go by. The violence and gang warfare seems to stay especially potent, as gang violence remains a persistent and deadly problem.

However exasperated I get with the story though, you’d have to be made of stone not to be moved by this wonderful production. High class from start to finish, this was an exuberent, emotive and visually striking production of West Side Story, with a young and impressive cast.

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Theatre Review: King Lear

 

 

Where: National Theatre / When: 28th April

Wow. Just, wow. I had been eagerly anticipating this production of King Lear, ever since it was announced. Like the play, as it’s one I studied at A-Level, the last time I saw it performed was 10 years ago and one of my all-time, super favourite actors, Simon Russell Beale as Lear. I am delighted to be able to say that the performance far exceeded even my high expectations.

For those that are unfamiliar with the play, a quick synopsis (a more detailed one can be found here): King Lear is getting older and decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, leaving them to take care of the country and him. He asks each daughter to describe how much they love him, in order to win their portion of the kingdom. His older daughters Goneril and Regan flatter him, professing their love in grand and hyperbolic terms. However, Lear’s youngest and most beloved daughter, Cordelia tells her father that he should know her love for him, that it what it ought to be and is enduring. Lear is crushed by her answer – interpreting it as lack of filial love and duty – and casts her and those who seek to defend her out of his kingdom. Cordelia marries the Prince of France and leaves her family forever. Lear then divides the remaining portion of his country between his other daughters.

Lear then goes with his company of men and loyal Fool to live with first Goneril and then Regan. Both daughters are exasperated by him, and no longer feel the need to cow-tow to his kingly demands, treating him contemptuously and coldly. Lear begins to be driven mad by their unkindness and by the realisation that he pushed away his only loving daughter. Gradually, both Lear’s situation and his band of follows become reduced, with Lear’s madness and disordered behaviour worsening by the day. Meanwhile, his daughters’ jealousies increase and they look set to go to war with each other, trampling on anyone that would help their father or contact their sister. The country and Lear both seem set to crumble…

Note: This is a long post and there will be spoilers for the play below… you have been warned!

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Theatre Review: Other Desert Cities

Last week I went to see Other Desert Cities at The Old Vic. I absolutely loved it and feel even happier being able to say that it’s on for another month – I actually reviewed a play that’s not about to close for once! Hurrah!

Other Desert Cities is a modern play by US playwright Jon Robin Baitz, which was first performed in 2011, although the production at The Old Vic marks its UK premiere. The play is set in Palm Springs in 2003. It follows the Wyeth family: conservative, friends-of-Ron-and-Nancy parents, alcoholic, hippy aunt and liberal, artistic children, gathering for Christmas. Daughter Brooke (Martha Plimpton) is a writer and has recently recovered from an extended and serious battle with depression. Her trip to see her family from the East Coast coincides with her announcement that she has finally written a follow up to her debut novel. Her mother Polly (Sinead Cusack) is suspicious of the fact that Brooke won’t reveal the topic of her book, while simultaneously concerned with her sister, Silva (Claire Higgins) who has relapsed after five years sober and staying with them. Meanwhile, father Lyman (Peter Egan) and brother Trip (Daniel Lapaine) try and maintain peace and equilibrium. However, all pleasantries are dismissed when Brooke reveals to the family that her new book is a tell-all memoir about the family and most specifically, her long deceased brother Henry, who her parents seem determined to forget.

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Culture Vulture (Or: Meanwhile, on the Internets)

Roll call time! This week’s round up of links below. Wishing you all a happy Easter/long weekend!

Fred Astaire in Easter Parade

My love of Dawson’s Creek has already been documented. Read Kevin Williamson, the series creator, talk about his experiences writing for the show and his thoughts on the final episode.

I sort of maybe totally hero-worship Martha Plimpton. I’m super excited to see Other Desert Cities at The Old Vic and loved this article featuring all three actresses in the play: Claire Higgins, Sinead Cusack and Martha Plimpton. Acting titans!

Emma Stone has been being completely adorable about the Spice Girls. I know just how she feels.

The Olivier Awards were on Sunday. Here are the list of winners. So thrilled for Ghosts; it was amazing!

Here are 16 teen show soundtracks that defined your life. I’m not ashamed to admit I owned several of these…

And finally…

Eleanor and Park will be a movie!

Theatre Review: Ghosts

When: 19th March 2014 / Where: Trafalgar Studios

I went to see Ghosts at the Trafalgar Studios in the last week of it’s run, following a sold out production at the Almeida Theatre. (I’m sorry I keep picking things that are closing, guys!)

The basic plot was as follows: It is the day before Helene Alving unveils an orphanage built in the memory of her long deceased husband, Captain Alving. The Pastor has come to discuss the opening ceremony with her and her only son, Oswald, has recently returned home from travelling abroad. They, along with maidservant Regina and her father, will discover some appalling and life-changing truths from Helene, as well as revealing a few of their own. By the next morning, almost no-one will be the same and Helene’s life is changed forever.

The summary above sounds dramatic, but, yikes, was Ghosts dramatic. I almost don’t know where to start.

This was my first Ibsen and I saw a lot of similarities between this play and Chekhov’s. I’m a big fan of Chekhov and I really enjoyed Ghosts for many of the same reasons. Helene was struggling against public perceptions of herself and of what was ‘right’ in her society. Despite the widely held high regard for her husband, he was a drunk, a chronic womaniser, lazy and unkind. The conflicting ideas about whether her staying with was heroic, martyrdom or pure survival drive much of the beginning of the play. The consequences of the decisions we make – the ghosts of our past – and the troubling way they have of coming back to haunt us. Helene may be free of her husband, but she cannot escape his – or her own – choices and the affect they will have on her son. The maddening rot of the ‘safe provincial life’ explored here is a theme shared with Chekhov.

When you go to see a play that runs straight through with no interval, you’re usually in for an emotional whopper. Ghosts was no different. The tension and emotional distress amps up gradually throughout the performance, secrets unfurling slowly, characters becoming more and more desperate. The tight timeline of the play (less than 24 hours) adds to this, giving you the sense that once Helene had started unraveling the tightly woven fabric of her life, it’s total undoing was unstoppable. Such was the escalation of events (and the performances) that I left the theatre feeling as shocked as if I’d just been slapped across the face. Kid you not: I felt lightheaded and wobbly-legged as I walked towards the tube. The lack of interval meant that we hurtled towards a hell of a conclusion. It felt like I was the only one crying, but there must of been others in the theatre as overwhelmed as me.

Unquestionably, much of this visceral reaction was down to Lesley Manville’s phenomenal, transcendent performance as Helene Alving. I have always appreciated Manville as an actress; she does consistently admirable work on stage and screen, without ever getting the widespread notice she undoubtedly deserves. Her performance here was extraordinary. It built so subtly; Helene’s bright optimism growing dimmer and dimmer as her façade was chipped away at, but somehow retaining her strength and dignity, until it is wrenched away from her at the close of the play. Such is the intensity of Helene’s emotional collapse in those final scenes with Oswald, that Manville must have a core of steel to have done it night after night for the last six months.

The other actors also did very fine work here. Jack Lowden, playing Helene’s son Oswald gave a very moving, engaging performance. Adam Kotz as the Pastor was marvellously uptight and rigid, his hypocrisy shining through all his proclamations. Maidservant Regina and her father Jacob both gave charming performances, providing a contrasting portrayal of ‘doing what’s right’ and moralistic behaviour. Charlene McKenna in particular imbued Regina with a fierce energy that leapt off the stage. This was a tight, impressive cast giving it their all, despite it being near the end of the run.

I loved Ghosts, despite it being a difficult watch. I will definitely try and see more of Ibsen’s work in the future and can only hope I continue to see acting of that calibre.