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"The Play's The Thing" - a theatre thread


#41

I saw a play yesterday that was about… Well, it’s called “Die Lücke”, “The Gap”, and it’s about the Keupstraße, a street in Cologne where mostly Turkish people live, and where about ten years ago, a nazi terrorist organisation planted a nail bomb. The play is about that, and about the investigations afterwards (which were horribly bungled; the police was dead set on blaming the attack on criminal activity in the Turkish quarter) and the trials when the perpetrators were caught (still ongoing, incredible farce). The play was interesting, but not great; you could see it trying to come to terms with the gap between mainstream German and Keupstraße society, trying but failing to bridge it.

They also used, apart from the theatre’s actors, laymen and -women who are residents of the street, and interviews. Which was an interesting idea, but only panned out in some parts.

So - an interesting effort, but it stopped short of having all that much new to say, I felt, and didn’t really use the storytelling potential of the theatre, but rather kept stuck in a discourse that was too much of an everyday discussion, and too little actual stagework. But it was an interesting experiment nonetheless.

Here’s an article about the whole Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund thing. It’s really quite an astonishing story that includes all the hallmarks of an intelligence conspiracy, including the national intelligence agency shredding documents to hide what was going on, and witnesses during the trials mysteriously and suddenly dying.

More damaging evidence has emerged of the German authorities’ failure to stop a group of neo-Nazi terrorists who killed 10 people, robbed 14 banks and planted two nail bombs during 13 years on the run.

On Tuesday, the Hessen branch of the domestic intelligence service, the Verfassungsschutz, or BfV, admitted that one of its agents had been present in April 2006 when two members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) shot dead a 21-year-old Turk in an internet café.

It has now emerged that the agent, who was transferred to less-sensitive work following an investigation at the time, openly held rightwing views and was known in the village where he grew up as “Little Adolf”. When police raided his flat following the murder, they found a cache of guns, for which he had a legitimate licence, and extracts from Mein Kampf, according to Der Spiegel. There are unconfirmed reports that the man was present at three or more other neo-Nazi murder scenes.

Hajo Funke, one of Germany’s most foremost experts in rightwing extremism, said on ARD television: “It can’t be ruled out that his BfV employee took part in the murder, and that is a scandal.” He has called the case “a Watergate-scale” crisis for German secret intelligence.

The interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, has called for a national register listing all neo-Nazis. The database should hold “information about potentially violent rightwing extremists and rightwing politically motivated acts of violence”, he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. It should be accessible to all 16 regional branches of the domestic intelligence service, as well as the national umbrella organisation, plus police authorities, he said.

Following the discovery of the terror cell’s base in the quiet town of Zwickau, near the Czech border, the German government is under pressure to explain how the group managed to carry out their murderous acts undetected for so long. The two men and one woman believed to be founder members of the NSU were known to police in their home town of Jena, east Germany, after a bomb-making factory was discovered in the garage rented by the woman, Beate Zschäpe, in 1998.

The local branch of the Thuringian secret service allegedly had 24 lever-arch files on the trio and yet they only uncovered the cell years after they carried out at least 10 murders – and after the men were found dead, apparently following a joint suicide pact, and Zschäpe turned herself in to police.

Zschäpe has remained silent since turning herself in to police last week, but some local media reports suggested she had told police she was ready to be interviewed about her involvement on Wednesday.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/16/german-neo-nazi-security-service-scandal


#42

Saw a staging of Chechov’s “Three Sisters” yesterday (one of the great plays of theatre history). Liked the production very much, and the stage design was especially great.


#43

My last week or so of theatre has included:

Listening to a Beckett play being acted out, while we were blindfolded.

Accidentally talking Alice and Sanjay to what turned out to be a burlesque strip show rodeo, complete with flaming nipple tassels.

An audience participation piece with a pair of male ballet dancers in their late 20s, during which I had to strip one of them completely out of his Lycra body suit, and gave the other one a head massage with his head in my lap.

An amazing, beautiful, heart-breaking play written by one of my favourite playwrights, about Alzheimer’s, identity, consent and love, with a stunning cast of Zoe Wanamaker, Barbara Flynn and Nina Sosanya.

A version of A Midsummer’s Night Dream where one of the cast was completely drunk.

A cabaret piece with a drag queen and her husband who, having been frozen in ice in 1918 at the height of their fame as a vaudeville act, have been thawed out to discover all of their hits have been appropriated by more modern artists.

This week has my first trip to the Globe of the year for The Taming of the Shrew; the Branagh-directed Romeo and Juliet (with Richard Madden as Romeo :heart_eyes:); Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho, which tells the alternate universe story of Maggie, freshly deposed as PM, wandering into Soho and reinventing herself as a cabaret queen, and blue/orange at the Young Vic.

…things I love about living in London…


#44

Oh, and am seeing “The Suicide” at the National later, which is, y’know, a hip-hop comedy about suicide.


#45

I’m seeing Don Warrington’s King Lear this week. I’m quite excited about it as it’s had excellent reviews.


#46

… and it was awful. Awful. I left at the interval.

Have also now got tickets for something that looks like it might be really good - Monster Raving Loony. James Graham (also an excellent writer) has a new play based on the life of Screaming Lord Sutch, with his story told through spoof scenes from British comedies from his lifetime.


#47

Man oh man, that’s an impressive lot of theatre going. I am very jealous.

Let us know what those are like. I read that Derek Jacobi is cast as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet…and I know that he’s normally cast a little older, but this is slightly left field casting. However it’s Derek Jacobi and will consequently probably be wonderful.

I’ve not been to the theatre for ages. The last thing I saw was a touring version of The 39 Steps (which was fantastic)

I’m mulling over seeing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in which is running in The Gate here in Dublin, but am struggling to find the time.


#48

Yeah, when I realised that living in London wasn’t a temporary thing, I decided to make the most of living here. I’m lucky in that I get a fair proportion of my tickets for free, and I’m wise to the ways to get cheaper tickets now, which makes it more viable.

And yeah … Jacobi as Mercutio is intriguing casting.


#49

Impressive…especially by Mr Daydream :wink:


#50

So … this week’s theatre going didn’t quite go to plan.

The Taming of the Shrew was substituted with James Graham’s Monster Raving Loony, which was brilliant fun. It tells the story of David Sutch, who stood for election at countless elections over 30 years or so, as leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party. Each scene though is told in the style of a different British comedy, matched to the era … so there are scenes that are in the style of a Benny Hill bedroom farce, classic sketches like the Frost/Barker/Corbett ‘I look down on him’, and a whole host of classic British sitcoms, from Hi-De-Hi and Allo Allo to Blackadder. It worked amazingly well, was utterly British, completely silly - and yet managed to make a serious point about British politics at the same time. AND it had some of the best audience participation I’ve seen in ages (whole audience wearing party hats, an impromptu game of bingo halfway through, and a wee break for the audience to make lots of music in a skiffle style while singing along with gusto)

Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet was a bit of a disappointment. Madden and Lily James as the title characters were both fine enough, but not exactly smouldering presences - neither really came across as stage presences that much. Jacobi as Mercutio didn’t really work; you could see what they were going for, but he looked stiff (in every sense of the word) and he completely failed to make any narrative sense of the ‘A plague on both your houses’ speech. It was a fairly early preview, but there was a lot of acting which sounded like people having just memorised the words, without actually giving them any sense of their own meaning or passion.
On the bright side, Friar Lawrence turned out to be a tall, curly-haired ginger with a beard, dressed in a black cassock, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Blue/Ginger at the Young Vic is a revival of a play that earned a lot of awards at the National 10 years or so ago, with an amazing cast of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln and Bill Nighy. The revival has Daniel Kaluuya, Luke Norris and the always amazing David Haig taking over the roles, and it’s still a very accomplished piece of theatre. It’s set in a London psychiatric hospital, where a young black man has been hospitalised for 28 days following a psychotic episode (having stripped naked and fucked a watermelon in the middle of Shepherd’s Bush Market). Norris and Haig are a junior psychiatric doctor and a senior consultant; Norris’ character believes Kaluuya’s character has a more serious psychiatric illness and is not ready to be safely discharged, while Haig argues that Kaluuya’s persistence that his father is Idi Amin and that the bowl of oranges on the table are blue are metaphorical and cultural differences which ‘are normal for where he comes from’, and more to the point, they need the bed space. What starts out as a disagreement between colleagues rapidly escalates into a tense power play, with all three men drawn into the headgames which ensue as everyone tries to do what they think is best, while staying true to their own best interests. Still feels very timely, with mental health in this country being in crisis more than ever before. My only issue with it is that while the writing was excellent, it relies a bit too much still on the antiquated idea of what an NHS consultant is and would act like that’s more at home in 50s medical films and the Daily Mail. Haig’s character - on a level footing with me in terms of seniority and ‘power’ in the NHS - felt a world removed. His ability to combine comedy with utter venom though is amazing.

Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho got delayed til July, because the father of one of the friends I was going to with it sadly died very suddenly a couple of hours before we were meant to see it.

Next week is fairly sparse so far … just Rory Kinnear in the National Theatre’s production of The Threepenny Opera (Simon Stephens adapting Bertolt Brecht … should be good!) currently booked in, though am sure the week will provide. It usually does.


#51

I enjoyed Don Warrington in King Lear very much this week. A very tight performance overall that really brought the text to life, and used a racially-diverse cast in a thoughtful way to enhance (and sometimes subvert) elements of the story.

The opening and closing scenes were very powerful, and a highlight throughout was Miltos Yerolemou (of Game of Thrones fame), who captured the comedic highs and melancholy lows of the Fool brilliantly, giving him an almost manic-depressive quality at times.

Lovely simple but effective set design too.


#52

Also, I see Dead Sheep is coming to Birmingham in a few months. That’s one that you’ve recommended before isn’t it Mike?


#53

There’s a few things that have caught my eye that I’d love to see, but living in Aberdeen, we don’t seem to get a lot of plays here. Even tours starting in Inverness going down to Cornwall seem to miss us out.
Saying that, also, I’d love to see more plays recorded and released on DVD. After all, there’s so many broadcast for showing in cinema now (or The Vote, released last year and had a live broadcast on Channel 4, but not available on their site any more), it can’t be that difficult to record and put online for streaming and such.


#54

Yeah Dead Sheep was good when I saw it at the Park. Presumably a new production though?

And the theatre-in-the-cinema is definitely worth doing! They usually pick excellent shows for it, and it gives an interesting different perspective on it compared to being in the theatre.

(James Graham, who wrote The Vote, wrote Monster Raving Loony)


#55

Not sure. It’s still Nallon, at least:

http://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/event/dead-sheep/

Did Ian Talbot direct the version you saw?


#56

[quote=“Mike, post:50, topic:477”]
Next week is fairly sparse so far … just Rory Kinnear in the National Theatre’s production of The Threepenny Opera (Simon Stephens adapting Bertolt Brecht … should be good!) currently booked in, though am sure the week will provide.
[/quote]About 10 years ago I saw a production of Three Penny Opera on Broadway starring Alan Cumming, Cyndi Lauper, Nellie McKay, Jim Dale and Anna Gasteyer. That version was adapted by Wallace Shawn, and it was amazeballs. Yes, amazeballs. :slight_smile:


#57

I saw Kenneth Brannagh’s MacBeth in the cinema last year (?) as a live broadcast at my local cinema, and it was fantastic. Then there’s Frankenstein with Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Millar, which is meant to be great, but neither released.


#58

The Branagh Macbeth was great.

I missed out on Frankenstein but I would have loved to have seen it (either version - or both!).

I understand why they might not do a DVD version but it does feel a bit of a missed opportunity.


#59

I saw the screening of Frankenstein twice (with an interval of a couple of years) with the roles switched either time. It was great. It is a nice adaptation of the novel.

Both Miller and Cumberbatch were great. It was interesting to see how they both interpreted the role (or roles) so differently.


#60

So, saw The 3Penny Opera at the beginning of the week, Brecht/Weil in a new translation/adaptation by Simon Stephens (who I adore as a writer), Rory Kinnear as Macheath and the brilliant combination of Haydn Gwynne and Rosalie Craig as Mrs Peachum, and her daughter Polly. It was great fun … utterly preposterous, very funny and deftly staged.

This week’s outstanding piece of performance though was a dance adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, with only really the central idea carrying over. Relocated to 1950s Waterloo, Jekyll becomes a slightly nerdy florist who falls for a customer, and uses his newly discovered invigorating potion to try to give him a boost when wooing her. Sex, violence and flower-arranging, absolutely brilliantly danced by a cast of ten, big band orchestral music from the war era being challenged by hip-wiggling rock as Jekyll struggles with his inner Hyde, and utterly precise story-telling without speaking a single word, all the way to the brutal, gruesome and desperate finale. Absolutely loved it. And not just for the shallow reasons.

…there were plenty of shallow reasons to love it too!