Sunday, July 31, 2011

Betrayal - second and third visits: Saturday 9 and Wednesday 27 July 2011 matinees (Comedy Theatre, London)

Being honest, that first visit to see the current production of Betrayal - starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Miles and Douglas Henshall - was lost in a haze of giddy delight. (Give a girl a break: I was in row B and was lucky enough to see the cast afterwards at the stage door. It was - to put it mildly - 'a bit of a day' all ways round).

Anyway: such a good set of performances deserve a more considered viewing, and so it was that I managed to take the lovely Chrissie to see the production on Saturday 9 July - and then take my very indulgent partner on Wednesday 27 July.

On my visit with Chrissie back in row B (ironically the same seats as my first visit, though they were booked separately!) there did seem to be some backstage glitches - scenery movement seemed to be a lot rougher and noisier during scenes than first time - and a glass got broken on exiting through a doorway, but the performances were as on-song as ever. On my visit with Neil, things seemed to run smoother for the mechanics of the production, though I have to say I never envy Dougie having to deliver that final hurtle-paced speech of smitten adoration: it's enough to test any actor to their limit.

After three visits, I felt I wanted to do a more in-depth review of the acting and therefore (inevitably) there will be some *SPOILERS* about the plot for those who have not previously seen Pinter's play.

Wearing (again) a blue shirt - rather than the dark burgundy roll-neck jumper seen in some of Johan Persson's production photographs - the narrative starts in 1977 in a bar where Jerry (Henshall) brings drinks over to a clearly nervy cropped-haired Emma (Scott Thomas). She fiddles with her handbag, struggles with cigarettes, and seems on the verge of leaving several times. She and Jerry hesitatingly edge around their greetings - "how are you?", revisiting the polite enquiry repeatedly. They catch up on their lives: Emma is regularly "having lunch with Casey" (a writer published by Robert, and represented by Jerry as his agent), whilst Jerry breathily discusses seeing Charlotte, Emma and Robert's daughter, now aged 13. Jerry is consistently convinced he threw up Charlotte in Emma and Robert's kitchen: "No, it was your kitchen" Emma insists both in this opening scene (in a line that is echoed later in the play, in the earlier set scene of 1973). It highlights the acute ambiguity not only of what constitutes betrayal, but also the ambiguity of memory: how fragile it can be in its accuracy, in its meaning.

Over the course of their conversation, the audience is let in on Emma and Jerry's affair which betrayed the trust of both Robert and Jerry's own wife, Judith. Emma is close to tears (of fury?) as she talks about discovering her husband Robert had been unfaithful to her for years. Emma clearly wants (needs) to talk to someone who would understand the nature of betrayal - even though she comes across as ambiguous in her desire to rekindle things with Jerry. Although Jerry's words suggest he has long moved on from their lengthy affair, it is he who initiates all the unbidden gestures of touch: a stroke of the hair, a reach to Emma's neck. Jerry's utterly romantic naivety is beautifully captured by Henshall who remains convinced no-one ever knew about the affair he and Emma had for seven years. "We were brilliant", he declares in memory of their long-running and secret affair. He is horrified to discover that Emma has now told Robert of the affair, in the aftermath of Robert's own marital betrayal coming out.

But it is worse than even he fears. In one of the just three forward-in-time scenes in the play we see Jerry having invited Robert over - his 'best friend' still after all. Jerry is even more stunned to discover that Robert knew of the affair much earlier than Emma had said. Basically, Emma lied to Jerry and Jerry gasps that he didn't know: in reply Robert curtly acknowledges, "No, you didn't know very much about anything, really, did you?"

The play proceeds to wind back, from the end of the affair between Jerry and Emma to Jerry's first drunkenly flushed passionate declaration to Emma, scarcely behind Robert's back at one of their parties. In between, we see Robert's discovery of Emma's infidelity (during a holiday in Venice) and we see Robert's lunch with Jerry after the holiday - the audience know that Robert knows about the affair, and we know that Emma has lied to Jerry about being able to get to the islet of Torcello (Robert goes alone, after discovering the affair, and reads Yeats; Emma had said they couldn't go due to a speedboat strike).

Squash, that oh so physical game, takes on layered meaning throughout the play -- seemingly you can't play squash if you're having an affair. Judith - Jerry's unseen wife - seems likely to have both known about Jerry's affair and to have been having her own with a fellow doctor. All in all, there is a bleak inevitability to the consequences of infidelity, of betrayal in all forms.

It thus makes that glorious final speech all the more heart-breaking because we know where all of that passion that fires up Jerry to declare his love for Emma will end up. Although Emma initially, and jokingly, rebuffs Jerry, the end (the beginning) sees Jerry reach for her hand --- and when I have seen the production, Scott Thomas will gently close her hand around his at the split second before the lights go down. It is a beautifully poignant moment. And a lovely production.

Going to the Doctor Who Experience -- Neil takes my picture

Neil zooms in on Rullsenberg... with stripey scarf.

July 2011 London: The Serpentine Pavilion and The Festival of Britain 60th anniversary

It's 60 years since the Festival of Britain and the South Bank has been recreating some flavours of the event - there is an excellent museum of '51 (well worth visiting whether you recall the original event or not), and they have installed some lovely reminders of the period. A beach from Southend-on-Sea (complete with old posters) and the flagpole symbol.

Rullsenberg by the flowers at the 'beach'

Flagpole of '51

They've also marked the spot of the much lamented (and lost) Skylon. Such a shame that the iconic item of the festival has been lost to history...

The flower theme of the Southbank beach also appeared at the latest Serpentine Pavilion. Although the building itself is architecturally thrilling than usual (a black box enclosing the cloistered garden inside), the planting of the garden is wonderful.

Rullsenberg with stipey bag in the cloister garden of the Serpentine Pavilion 2011

Lots of lovely things to see!

Doctor Who Experience, London Olympia - Monday 25 July 2011

Rullsenberg and Neil face their first Dalek together!

What can I say?!

Frank went and I thought... you know what I really DO want to go to the Doctor Who Experience at Olympia in London!

So when the lovely Mark (Neil's brother) offered for us all to go whilst the NZ family was in London - well I was VERY excited!

Pre-view of the exhibition space in the waiting area

The interactive bit may not be as long as some would like (I was certainly tempted to pay the extra £4 to go back around again!) but it is nevertheless a brilliant experience. You're not allowed to take photos or video in the interactive section and I totally appreciate why.

At first it seems like a fairly innocuous play through of the universe and the Doctor's role in it, but then the crack appear and we're into the really fun part - and Matt Smith's 'conversation' with the shoppers pitches just perfectly to involve both adults and children alike. The appearance of the TARDIS is enough to make a giddy fan girl's heart beat faster, and the scares... well, they're pretty damn scary. And 3-D was never better used. I don't want to spoiler it too much for people, but suffice to say you're really close and it feels really REALLY exciting for those of us not lucky enough to get in to the real set and filming (actually, given how filming works - lots of setting up, shooting the same ten seconds from four angles, standing about in the Cardiff rain - it's probably the best fun to be had anywhere).

And then you're through to the exhibition section, which may be static but provides just as much excitement. The initial stuff you see before going into the interactive section proves to be just a taster. Once in the main exhibition, it is costumes, monsters and images a-go-go.

Rullsenberg and Neil in front of an iconic Radio Times cover featuring David Tennant (above) and the many Radio Times covers for Doctor Who (below)

Having been through the latest incarnation of the TARDIS interior, in the exhibition they've reassembled the coral forms of the 9th/10th Doctor's TARDIS... and oh my it is LOVELY to see it up close...

9th/10th Doctor TARDIS

Not least because on the wall of the space, they've got a stonking large screen projection of the regeneration of the 10th Doctor into the 11th Doctor (from the moment when Ten enters the TARDIS to 'Geronimo!')

Yes, including the 'ever-causing-a-lump-in-my-throat' moment of "I don't want to go".

No, I'm NOT saying how many time I watched that clip.... or how often I sighed and said that line along with him...

Just seeing a TARDIS up close, just seeing the costumes of all the Doctors so beautifully displayed... that alone would be worth the time you can spend in the exhibition (which brings together even more stuff than Helen and I saw in Cardiff in January 2009 - where photography was definitely a little less permitted).

Rullsenberg in front of the TARDIS (and a rather dodgy figure supposedly representing Matt Smith - poor man deserves better!)

As it is there are many, many more things to go SQUEE about --- the TARDIS interior from c. Five to Seven (eliciting much sighing from true Who geeks in the exhibition); a lovely section on the sound of Doctor Who with Stuart Maconie singing the praises of Delia Derbyshire; a 'walk like a monster' teaching session - with loads of space to stomp out your inner Cyberman; companion costumes; a collection of the changing Dalek forms ... enough to scare anyone...

....and Cyber-heads (lovingly recreated where dilapidated originals cannot be found); a Zygon (WHEE!!!); the Silence, and a creepy gas-mask wearing child.

Rullsenberg is feeling unnerved...

For the smaller sized, there is even a Dalek you can sit in and operate! (I couldn't quite justify booting out my lovely niece to have a go myself...)

Oh: and did I not say? There is also a super green screen area where you will HAPPILY part with additional cash to be photoshopped into various scenes and objects. They have the Pandorica seat for those addicted to the props (background only required for the green screen on that), and there are several other locations to be imaginatively dropped into including the TARDIS, and a rescue mission from outside the TARDIS ...

Between us, we all made an appearance on the great green screen of wonder and had a blast doing it!

Rullsenberg and Neil in the TARDIS!

Neil rescuing Lisa into the TARDIS!

We were in the whole thing for the best part of two hours, and had no objection to going to the shop ("hello shoppers" indeed) at the end of our time in the interactive and exhibition spaces.

The only thing is, how can I schedule going again before it leaves for Cardiff? And then who can I get to go with me again to Cardiff?!

Tennant Hairline - an 'unplanned' stage door encounter for Much Ado

So, we've had a mega long walk from South Kensington to Covent Garden where we pause to eat. I'm thinking it's about 9.45pm when we pass through St Martin's Lane near the back of Wyndham's Theatre. Consequently, my 'jokey' request to head to see how many fans are already loitering for her stage door exit isn't seriously thinking I can join them for the Tennant and Tate emergence.

Actually, the time is closer to 10.15pm which as all good Much Ado attendees will know is just close enough to the exit time to justify loitering...


The fact I had a 'spare' unsigned play programme with me in my bag is of course beside the point.

Neil stands back and lets me weave a space through, befriending (luckier and more organised) girls than I who had smartly bagged the first signing slots. Well at least I got the programme signed and proved that if you CAN get those perfect positions then it is possible to get a cracking photo with David/Catherine. If you come here and recognise this very happy American girl over here for the summer then do pass on the photo!

Sadly all I could manage was the Tennant hairline...!

And yet another blurry picture of delectable Catherine (what is it with my inability to stop camera shake on taking her picture?!)

Thankfully once I had climbed out of the melee, Neil said "I've done a video!"

Bless - it does capture the madness of the event! And at least it gave me the chance to get a programme signed for Chrissie!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Visiting the New Zealand gang in London

It isn't quite as crazy as it sounds: Neil's brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew were on an extended visit to the UK --- they went to LA first, then over to the UK to London, to the West Midlands to visit their old home, to Scotland to visit family, to Budapest and Vienna and then back over to London (which was where we caught up with them).

It was just delightful to be able to see them, spend time with them AND to even say farewells to them without the usual heightened emotions of knowing it would be a year, likely much more, before we would see them again. Being able to do a "bye" and being able to say "see you soon!" was just... priceless.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Busy busy busy - cultural events reviews so far and upcoming

Gah: more than half way through the year gone.

We started in February with the cultural schedule like this.

  • NT live! screening of Donmar Warehouse King Lear - review
  • National Theatre production of Hamlet at Nottingham Theatre Royal - review
  • ADDED - Estonian Piano Orchestra, London - review
  • Meal with work
  • Romeo and Juliet RSC Stratford - review
  • NT live! screening of National Theatre Frankenstein - review
  • ADDED - Yes, Prime Minister, Nottingham Theatre Royal
  • BAAS conference
  • Cricket - various
  • Avenue Q at Nottingham Theatre Royal - review
  • Macbeth RSC Stratford - review
  • Merchant of Venice RSC Stratford - review
  • ADDED - The League of Youth, Nottingham Playhouse - review
  • Much Ado About Nothing Wyndhams Theatre, London - 21st May and 4th June reviews
  • Opera North Carmen at Nottingham Theatre Royal - review
  • Belle and Sebastian - review
  • ADDED - Betrayal, Comedy Theatre, London - 4th June review (plus 9th July)
  • ADDED - The Pitmen Painters, Nottingham Theatre Royal - review
  • Dunsinane RSC Swan Theatre Stratford - review
  • ADDED - Graham Jones 'Last Shop Standing' - Lowdham Book Festival - review
  • ADDED - Jasper Fforde - Lowdham Book Festival - review
  • The house-sitting girls' weekend away - review
  • ADDED - Incendies - film review
With just one forthcoming event listed (Marat/Sade) for October when I did the list in February, I thought I better update both the list above and the forthcoming events!

  • Doctor Who Experience, Earls Court, London
  • Betrayal, Comedy Theatre, London (final visit)
  • Summer Sundae music festival
  • The Merchant of Venice, RSC Stratford
  • Marat/Sade RSC Stratford
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream, RSC Stratford
  • Written on the Heart, RSC Swan Stratford
Blimey... compared to the first half of the year, this is looking quite sparse! However, if it reduces the theatre deficit, that's a good thing... However, something to note is how shockingly rarely we've seen any live music this year (in terms of ye popular beat combos). Must rectify!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Incendies (2010) - Film Review: Broadway Cinema Tuesday 5 July 2011

Incendies (2010) is based on Wajdi Mouawad's French-Canadian stage play of the same name, also known as Scorched. Cloud went to see this on Saturday 2 July whilst Helen Lisette and I were ensconced in shallow watching of DVDs. Incendies is the absolute antithesis of shallow, and when Cloud emerged he felt he had to get me to go back with him to see it (to share the trauma one might suggest).

Anyway: following an abortive attempt to see it on Monday 4 July (Broad Street and therefore the Broadway cinema were both closed due to a gas leak), we ended up going last night instead.


I can only urge people to go and see this if they can, or at the very least see it on DVD when it is released in September.

It is a grim watch in many respects; however, there is also a strong vein of love running through the narrative and it is this that gives the film a sense of hope despite all the violence running through it. It is also incredibly beautifully filmed, with only hapless Quebec coming across the worse for wear (being filmed mostly in a grey wet palette of wintery gloom, in contrast to the sharp natural tones of desert towns and crowded middle-east cities).

As Narwal Marwan, Belgian-Moroccan actress Lubna Azabal is superb. She plays, entirely in flashback, the role of an initially young and idealistic woman from an unnamed country, but clearly Lebanon, who is driven by conflict and violence to take up violence herself --- only to find that violence is used against her in a way that proves even more horrific than she was aware of at the time. Death begins and pursues this film with an implacable horror.

The narrative hinges on the events following Narwal's death in Quebec where she lived with her two children. She has worked diligently as a notary's secretary, and on her death, said notary Lebel presents Narwal's twins (Jeanne and Simon) with Narwal's will. The will demands that Narwal cannot be buried according to expected practices unless the two children each fulfill a quest. For the daughter, she must find their father (whom she and Simon believed to be dead); for the son, he must find their brother (whom Jeanne and Simon did not know existed).

Whilst Simon resists the instructions of his mother's will, challenging their mother's words that "a promise must be kept" (something Lebel also feels very strongly about), Jeanne takes up the challenge even though neither has much of a clue where to begin. With only her mother's passport, a photograph of Narwal as a younger woman and a Christian crucifix necklace to go on, Jeanne approaches her supervisor at the University where she works, assisting teaching pure mathematics. To uncover the truth, she must follow the twists and turns, the contradictions and the challenges presented by her mother's life story - following and analysing the variables, dealing with the conjectures in the same way she might deal with a mathematical puzzle.

I've avoided linking to the trailer(s): I think they say too much. I came at the film with limited knowledge and awareness and felt all the better for that. Yes: there are melodramatic elements to the narrative - but life is full of strange and weird coincidences and it is no less contrived than any number of other narratives. I therefore don't want to do much in terms of spoilers, except to say that the performances are excellent and the cinematography is breathtaking. Be prepared to be drained when you exit.

Oh, and Radiohead have probably never been better used to soundtrack a film.

“One plus one equals two, right?”

Monday, July 04, 2011

The lost DVD weekend Thursday 30 June - Sunday 3 July 2011

It was a lost weekend in a house in Nottingham...

Main meal = chinese takeaway

  • LA Confidential

  • end of Harry Potter 4
Main meal = pizza

  • French Film

  • Doctor Who 'Doomsday'

  • Lawless Heart - Tim's story

  • Blackpool episode 3

  • Doctor Who full length Confidential episode for Blink - 'Do You Remember the First Time?'

  • Gladiator (extended edition)

  • RSC Hamlet
Main meal = poached salmon, rice, mushrooms and onions

  • Selections and scenes from - Orphans, Angels and Insects, If Only, Secret Smile, A Good Year (last 30 mins)

  • Takin' Over the Asylum episode 2

  • St. Trinians 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold

  • Doctor Who 'The End of Time: Part 2'

  • South Riding - final episode

  • Doctor Who 'Midnight'

  • Casanova

  • catch end of The Rock in empathy with Chrissie
Sherlock episode 1 'A Study in Pink'

And that folks is all the news fit to print!