I (sort of) go to the THEATRE to see FRANKENSTEIN

October 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Posted in reviews, theatre, tv & film | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I used to love a bit of theatre. I mostly blame my Dad, who was an am-drammer in the great Coarse Acting tradition. At school, I hammed my way through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Wizard of Oz, and directed one of Dad’s tiny plays for the drama competition (I credit myself with discovering the huge comedic acting talent that is Ralph Bailey, who is now, er, a vet. Such a waste.)

who killed cummingsThis carried on for a bit at university, where my strategy of auditioning for everything in sight and hoping I got into something generally worked. The Crucible, where I did that popular staple, the All-Purpose Crucible Accent, and the other actors were brilliant, and I cried every night at the final scene. Who Killed Cummings?, a spoof whodunnit written by the director which we (unbelievably) took to the Edinburgh Fringe.

It all started to go a bit wrong with The House Of Bernarda Alba. Cast as ‘a maid’ (not even ‘THE maid’), I had to come on first, and deliver the terrible, portentous line that would set the stage for this most desolate of plays: ‘Dong, dong, dong!’

I started to doubt my commitment to the Craft. Halfway through rehearsals for The Real Inspector Hound, I had that sinking feeling: ‘Oh, no. This is going to be terrible. And it’s too late to pull out.’ Gradually, I found other things to do, like writing essays.

There’s something about being in a lot of risible am dram productions that colours your view of theatre forever. You Know Too Much. You can see the workings; you can’t stop yourself. Did he bring that hat in himself, and insist on wearing it? Was that boat meant to fall over? Are we supposed to notice that ‘a maid’ and ‘a prostitute’ are being played by the same person? And is she Scottish, or Irish, or South African, or what?

Despite all this, I set off to watch the National Theatre’s live ‘Encore’ screening of Frankenstein with high hopes. After all, Cumberbatch! And Jonny Lee Miller! And a full six hours in make-up! What’s not to love? Fiona and I settled down right at the front with our cups of tea and glasses of wine and acres of legroom (I love Hebden Bridge Picture House).

The initial scene – the ‘birth’ of the Creature – was terrific. Cumberbatch slowly learned to control his unfamiliar limbs: to stumble, then walk, make sounds, lit by striated flashes from thousands of lightbulbs. It was like watching dance: absorbing, fascinating.

It all went a bit pearshaped when people started talking. The play aims to tell the story from the Creature’s point of view. When he is the focus of the action, this works well; scenes where he learns about literature and morality from a blind man, or meets a child and tries to make friends with him, or confronts his maker are well-handled and gripping.

The trouble is, a lot has to happen without the Creature, and these scenes were less believable. Frankenstein does a lot of striding about wringing his hands and shouting things like ‘I must go to England! They are far ahead in Electricity!’, while Elizabeth pleads with him to reconsider in that ineffectual way fiancées have, and his father dejectedly strokes his chin and wonders where he went wrong (a baritone role, if ever I saw one). There was one brilliant moment where I thought Elizabeth was going to abandon decorum and become his partner-in-crime, but then she went back to furrowing her brow and being all moral. Frankenstein’s motivations remained unexplored: Jonny Lee Miller’s body language and all the SHOUTING indicate madness, but what kind? Frankenstein struggles with all sorts of incompatible drives – the desire to see his name in lights, a real commitment to Science, the need to put right the errors he’s made, the bizarre inability to think through the consequences of his actions. It would have been fun to see these tackled with a modern eye.

A lot of energy went into the relationship between the Creature and Frankenstein, and these scenes were the best: you could almost forget for a moment that Cumberbatch was up there Doing Acting, and lose yourself in it. Sadly, everything else felt a bit pencilled-in and last-minute; supporting characters were sketches with no hope of three dimensions, relationships strange and implausible. There was even a woman doing the All-Purpose Crucible Accent, just for me.

It’s not ALL their fault. After decades of watching cinema and TV drama, where nuanced, naturalistic performances are possible, I found it hard to go back to theatre, with its Declaiming and Projecting and Enunciating and Making Sure You End Up On This Spot Under The Light. But for a subject with so much potential, this just lacked life.

How Not To Die, from The Art Of Coarse Acting, by Michael Green. I don’t have permission to use this image, but I am mitigating this by telling you all to click here and buy the book, which I have read approx. 1763 times, and which still makes me weep with laughter.

Why crushes are perfectly OK and not at all worrying

February 8, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Posted in affairs of the heart | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who’s your crush? Go on. You can tell me.

If you won’t, it’s probably because you’re suffering from a) guilt b) fear or c) shame*. Lie on the couch. I’ll address these in turn.

Guilt. There’s plenty of guilt associated with crushes, not least because you should be working instead of scrolling through whatareyouwearingBenedict.tumblr.com and cooking up elaborate fantasies about meeting John Simm ENTIRELY by chance in the station pub in Huddersfield. Your partner’s getting grumpy at the little involuntary moans you emit while watching House, and at being dragged off to yet another book signing, even with the promise of Pizza Express afterwards. So you feel guilty.

Fear. This chap thinks you’re a stalker if you have a crush, and you’re a sad sack who should get a life. What if everyone else thinks that, too? What if the crushee finds out, and gets a restraining order? Most importantly, what if everyone starts pointing and laughing when you talk to her/ him? You fear being found out.

Shame. Aren’t you a bit old for signed photos and giggling? We think of crushes as a teenage thing, and yes, some of us ARE eternally stuck at that point in development where we were convinced no-one was going to fancy us back EVER, and spent our daTelephone Cordys scribbling feverishly in diaries and trying to get the phone extension to stretch into our bedroom so we could shut the door and discuss what he meant when he said ‘OK, see you’, what did ‘see’ really mean, did it mean he liked us or was he just being polite, or was he playing with us because he KNEW, or what? And however much we kidded ourselves we wanted something to happen, we were relieved when it didn’t, because we could stay safe from the scary mess of a real relationship. Now we’re grown-ups, we’re supposed to put all this behind us. We read edifying literature and watch Newsnight and listen to classical music and do Proper Relationships. So we’re ashamed of our crushes.

These are thinking errors.

Guilt: As long as you’re not driving obsessively round your crush’s training routes in the hope (s)he’ll have a mechanical in a hailstorm and need a lift, you’re not hurting anyone. And everyone needs a screen break.

Fear: Not only are most of us far too lazy to be effective stalkers, we HAVE lives and families and jobs and stuff. We know the difference between fantasy and reality, thanks very much, and frankly fantasy is often MUCH better, so why would we want to conflate the two?

Shame: Relax. It’s not really about him/ her, is it. George Clooney said to Benedict Cumberbatch on the subject of how to deal with half the internet wanting to sleep with him, ‘It’s so much about projection.’ (I’ll just give you a moment to ponder George and Benedict having a little heart-to-heart. Let me know when you’ve finished.) We don’t know George, or Benedict, or John Simm. They probably cut their toenails into the sink, and whine about taking the rubbish out, and talk over the questions in University Challenge. A little fantasy about how we’d like them to be, and how we’d like to be, passes the time on a rainy afternoon, and exercises the brain more than watching Bargain Hunt. Moreover, crushes can serve important purposes.

The important purposes of crushes

1. Bonding. This might be the most important purpose of all. Ever since I prowled the school with my best friend at lunchtime looking for that mod in the sixth form, I’ve built friendships around shared secrets. In a minute, I’m going to DM someone in mock agony about a crush who’s mysterioiphonefaketextusly stopped talking to me. Does he suspect something? Are all his mates elbowing him in the ribs and sniggering? Is there any way I could reasonably entice him to the station pub in Huddersfield? And she’ll DM me back about how she’s gone off her crush, no, really, she has, since he said that thing about you-know-who, it’s OVAH, oh, but did you see that picture of him on the turbo, with his arms and everything?

2. Distraction. Being an adult can be pretty terrifying. It’s not just about avoiding doing your expenses; some of my most vivid and absorbing crushes have coincided with tough times. Trying to get pregnant. Feeling isolated and incompetent with a tiny baby. Hating my job. Off work with stress, I disappeared into a crush for a couple of months; I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone face-to-face, but I had real and imaginary conversations with him. (OK, the imaginary stuff wasn’t just conversations. You know. Come on. It’s pre-watershed.) Not having to deal with life for a bit while you have what @VecchioJo calls ‘a proper think’ about your crush gives your brain room to decompress a little. And when the crisis passes, often the crush does, too.

Thor Hushovd3. Aspiration. Think about mancrushes: avowedly heterosexual men suddenly going a bit silly at the sight of Thor Hushovd. There are many possible explanations, but a simple one is that admiration takes different forms, and it can be hard to work out which form someone evokes in us. Do we want to bang them, befriend them, or be them? (Channel 5 can have that one, for free.) I have mild crushes on an array of brilliant writers. (They mostly make me weep with laughter, too; this has long been an effective way to get me into bed.) I type obscure jokes, and sweat, waiting to see if they’re reciprocated. I live in hope that they’ll read my writing and laugh. One insomniac night, it struck me that they were, simply, what I wanted to be**; if I could imagine their approval, maybe this meant my dream of doing something similar wasn’t completely unattainable after all.

So I’m not ready to give my crushes up, just yet. When my life is sorted out and I’ve achieved my dreams and I have perfect confidence and an unshakeable sense of myself, then I’ll give up. Probably. At least, until they bring back Green Wing. Julian Rhind-Tutt in Green Wing

* or d) you genuinely don’t have one, which is too weird to contemplate

** I know this is crashingly obvious, but it came as a blinding insight to me. Call me slow.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.