The Damned United (27th March 2009)

When I wrote about Don John and Red Riding I talked noted that the two productions were set in a nineteen seventies which was presented as dark and bleak. The Damned United is another production set in the seventies and also uses a sense of bleakness as its backdrop. However, the scenes in grays and silver are fully contrasted against bright domestic scenes which makes this film a very different production from the Don John and Red Riding. The Damned United is the story of Brian Clough who becomes manager of Leeds United for 44 days. David Peace’s book alternates through the first person narration of Brian Clough at Leeds as he is engulfed by the demons around him and the third person narration which sets out the back story and the road that Clough takes to Elland Road. The contrasts in the film are different ferom the novel’s alternation between leeds and Clough’s past professional life. Clough’s time at Leeds United is important in the film but it is not necessarily the focus, which is on Clough’s relationship with his assistant, Peter Taylor.

As most reviewers have said the film is much more humorous than the novel which is very dark indeed. As Peace takes the biographical and autobiographical material around Clough’s life to create a menacing and haunting narrative about a man, like a moth drawn to light, who can’t resist the encounter with his Nemesis.

Even though novel and film are very different in tone, I really enjoyed both. The novel is beautifully crafted and the film makes such good use of flashback and reconstruction to create the a feeling of the seventies which is not as dark as Don John and Red Riding, but feels like a different planet.

PS. One thing, I think I spotted the new East Stand in shots of the 1970’s Elland Road.

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As You Like It (The Curve, 21st March 2009)

I thought that Tim Supple’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an amazing piece of theatre, and this is why I booked for As You Like It at the Leicester Curve. The cast created some really interesting readings of the play and there was some very thought provoking moments. However, this was a very different production from the Dream. It was very earthy and the wooden stage was dismantled as the production progressed to reveal the wood chip ground of the forest. The floorboards become the trees in the Forest which is a very dark place. As the stage was steeply raked, it felt like the actors were playing on a bank or even on a hillside.

The Dream really moved into an alternative world, where the two worlds in Supple’s As You Like It merged into each other and were very similar. Supple’s production is brown and ochre it is raw and thoughtful. In the past when I have seen productions of As You Like It, I consider them to be like Alice in Wonderland in the that the play depicts a mirror world. I usually feel a real sense of characters moving through the looking glass. In this production, I felt that the characters just move to a different scene when they go into the woods. The world of the court seemed to merge into the world of the woods. It didn’t feel as if there had been a dramatic transformation, just a gradual transformation. That’s probably why I felt that Supple’s As You Like It was so different from his Dream.

This year, there will be the RSC and Globe versions of As You Like It to compare. it will be interesting to see how different the approaches will be, if different at all.

Information about the Production

http://www.curveonline.co.uk/curve.php?pgid=25

Reviews and Previews

FT.com / Arts / Theatre & Dance – As You Like I…
As You Like It at Curve, Leicester – Times Online
Theatre review: As You Like It / Curve, Leicest
The Stage / Reviews / As You Like It
As You Like It at The Curve, Leicester – Times …
As You Like It: All the world’s a politically c…
Review: As You Like It
There’s much to like about As You Like It Met…

Future Me (York Theatre Royal, 12th March 2009)

Future Me really unnerved me. I was really unnerved because I really liked the main character when I left, but deplored what he had done and his crime. I felt I had had some insights into the other characters and what their motivations were. The problem with this for me was that the main character was a paedophile who is sentenced to a term in prison after he is found guilty of raping a twelve year old girl. His horrific offence comes to light when an email is sent from his computer to everyone in his computer address book containing an image which is considered sick and depraved.

Theatre which makes us think and consider the issues raised long after we have left the building is very powerful. Studio theatre at York Theatre Royal is doing a lot of work like this and it should be applauded for taking risks alongside the commercial successes such as the pantomime and Railway Children.

The play made us think that evil isn’t so obvious and can be lurking around us.

Reviews and Previews

Review: Future Me, The Studio, York Theatre Roy…
From Coronation Street to paedophilia Stage …
Future Me – York Theatre Royal – 12/03/09 – Art…
Preview: Future Me, The Studio, York Theatre Ro…

Reviews and Previews

Future Me – York Theatre Royal – 12/03/09 – Art…
Preview: Future Me, The Studio, York Theatre Ro…
Review: Future Me, The Studio, York Theatre Roy…

Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness (WYP, 12th March 2009, WYP)

Antony Neilson’s The Wonderful World Of Dissocia deals with bipolar disorder and sets the action in two sphere’s Lisa’s journey and then her hospitalization. The contrast between the two parts of the play comment on each other and create a series of layers which makes this play very powerful as well as entertaining.

Neilson’s Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness is entertaining and any alternative reading is hidden in the slapstick humour. The play is about storytelling and the theatre, and what the theatre can achieve. It was very funny and unpredictable at the same time, as well as being totally entertaining. Like Can Any Mother Help? last week there was no interval, so it takes the audience into the action and the unreality of the events. On the stage of the Courtyard Theatre a Victorian Theatre had been constructed. Making really good use of the playing space, through costumes, props and puppets, the cast of four presented three stories which were very unbelievable and presented with some very crude humour. There was a surprise ending as well.

I felt that the play was meant to be layered, but this didn’t always come across. We were given the impression that a mystery of the troupe would be revealed and is was, but it felt slightly rushed and added on at the end. The play relies too much on building narratives that are intended to make the audience gasp as the performance progresses so the audience are taken along with the surreal world presented to them, and then when the play performed by the troupe merges with the real lives of the troupe, it is difficult for the audience to make the shift.

A good evening’s entertainment without the reflection that we are presented with in The Wonderful World Of Dissocia.

Reviews and Previews
Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness
The Stage / Reviews / Edward Gant’s Amazing Fea
Theatre review: Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of …

Don John (Lowry, 7th March 2009) Red Riding (C4, 5th March 2009)

“Deliver us from evil” a character in Red Riding quotes from the Lord’s Prayer. “Hell” flashes above the stage at the conclusion to Don John at the Lowry. This is the nineteen seventies in the North of England.

In these two productions, the seventies has become very bleak and dark. Channel Four’s Red Riding piles on the images of a world that is desolate and where there is no hope. The Gypsy camp which has been destroyed by arsonists is shown as a war zone. Indeed, at one point a character comments that the scene is one from the Vietnam war. Camera shots focus on concrete and in one sequence the main character walks through a multi storey car park and we are aware that the slabs bear down on him. The whole programme is shot in browns and beiges, with limited colour, the most startling was the red coat of the missing girl. Red Riding is violent and brutal and a place of no hope.

Don John is also violent and brutal. Raping and murdering to get his kicks, the character of Don John is more of a representation of all that is wrong with society, rather than a fully rounded character. He hides in the shadows of the run down buildings ready to pounce on his next victim. The production opens with strikers dressed all in black. Was this to show that there is little hope? Surely strikers are about trying to make life better.

Don John is set in fairground and we are taken on the ride. Unlike Red Riding, there is hope. In the encore, Gisli Örn Gardarsson who plays Don John comes back on stage and takes the hand of a member of the audience and they dance , and then other cast members invite members of the audience to dance with them.

I’m not sure why the seventies has become the setting for such a dark world as the seventies was a world of contrasts. For example, punk rock was existed alongside Abba. Life on Mars played with this world. It was a bigoted world, but it was the world of colour in contrast the gray of the world of rules and regulations of the modern day. Both Don John and Red Riding contained strong narratives and the seventies becomes a vehicle to depict narratives that show there is a hopelessness in life, but behind this there seems to be a glimmer of colour somewhere.

Reviews and Previews

Preview: Don John, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Le…
Don John: Not so much high art as trash culture…
Don John at Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-A…
Don John, Northern Stage, Newcastle (From The N…
The Stage / Reviews / Don John
Charles Hutchinson reviews Don John (From York …
Don John, Courtyard, Stratford
Loot, Tricycl…

Don John, Northern Stage, Newcastle (From The N…
FT.com / UK – Don John
Don John, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avo…
Review: Don John, Northern Stage, Newcastle – J…
Don John: Not so much high art as trash culture…