Britain's Got Talent (ITV May 30th and before)

I was there watching with the Nation, nay the whole world. I was gripped, having an opinion on nearly every act, the way the judges responded, the way Ant and Dec presented. Yes I was fully entertained. In writing this and thinking about what I was going to write in my blog, I realised that that was the very point. At the end of the day, who is the winner isn’t the most important aspect of the show, nor is giving thousands of people the chance they crave in life. The whole aim is to put together an entertainment. We could argue for days which were the best acts and who should be put through etc, but the ‘judges’ and the producers of this programme are extremely astute in deciding what they use in the montages they produce from the auditions, and even more so in how the semi finals are constructed. Surely with all those people auditioning, there should never be a red buzzer in the semi finals. Of course there are plenty. The semi finals are made up of a variety of acts – the children, dancers, a singer, a novelty act, and the act that Simon didn’t think should get through.

When a young ten year old girl bursts into tears on stage as the act disintegrates through nerves, the camera is focused on her face to get every wobble. There is no privacy from our gaze. Amanda Holden tries to get to the stage to console poor Hollie, but the ‘stunning’ dress prevents her and the young girl’s mother is there to console instead. Can the young child do the performance again? No says someone through Ant and Dec’s earpiece, but Simon (Cowell) interjects and yes time would be found. The time is found from the News at Ten, a privilege only for football and Formula One. Would we keep watching if there wasn’t these moments as if we are privy to the dramas that aren’t supposed to be scripted. Indeed, watching this is uncomfortable, and yet it is these uncomfortable moments that keep us watching. The production team are brilliant at keeping what is a talent show at the end of the day in the media. Was it genius to put Susan Boyle on the first show, so the story would run through the series. Does it matter that Susan didn’t win, when we have taken her to our hearts anyway.

Yes, Britain’s Got Talent is a national event, fighting for a place on the world stage, shifting the News at Ten out of its slot. I’m hooked and I’ve bought into it all.

Haunted (Manchester Royal Exchange, May 30th 2009)

Jack (Niall Buggy) and Gladys (Brenda Blethyn) have been married for many years, and one day while Gladys is at work, a young woman, Hazel (Beth Cooke) knocks on the door and Jack begins an obsession, which ends in tragedy for all three characters. Hazel is invited back, and when she visits, Jack gives her his wife’s most treasured possessions.

For those who know the stage at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre, they will know that it is in the round. When the audience enters the auditorium, they are confronted with a small living room with a few chairs and a doll on a swing in the Berry’s flat. The sense of looking into an enclosed world is an important element in the viewing of Edna O’Brien’s Haunted. The set is part of the rawness of the theatre itself. You can see the actors entering and exiting and just make out through frosted screens the actors making their changes off stage. I felt that blurring between the fiction and reality is played out in the play itself.

At the beginning of the production, the two women, Hazel and Jack’s wife Gladys stand on a revolve which transports them round the edges of the living room as if they are images of ghosts set before Jack. The white wedding dress worn by one woman is contrasted with the white surgical gown and cap worn by the other. The figures feel like two visions of the same women and this sense of just not quite knowing something is there throughout the play. We are aware at the end of the play that this is a retrospective scene, but it sets up the feel of the production from the start.

It is never clear where, or when, the play takes place, though we are given some sense of the place and atmosphere through character’s dialogue. Edna O’Brien wrote in the programme, “I first conceived of a room not in the hub of the metropolis of London, but on the outskirts, on the fringes, that physical metier reflecting the life and aspirations of the three characters”. The characters talk about the being on the outskirts of London, but as the audience are only taken to the flat of the Berrys and the seaside with Jack and Hazel. The play deals with the texture and feel of possessions and about how relationships can be seen this way as well. Towards the end of the play, Gladys wears a stunning coat and dress set with a large rose pattern which make us think of the flowers in the garden that at times is projected onto the stage. Yes, there isn’t the smell of tomatoes just before they become ripe, but we feel it and understand why this is such an important image for Gladys at the end of the play. Tastes and smells are important such as the taste of Madeira wine. Gladys is always smart, wearing her heels and coming home from work at the doll factory looking unruffled, but as the audience underneath she is struggling to cope with pressures of life and work. Jack has a delight in language as well, repeating Hazel’s elocution verses like a child delighting in the challenge and sounds. There are constant references to Shakespeare especially Hamlet and Ophelia. It isn’t surprising that Hazel goes mad like Ophelia, maybe her confusion about her relationship with the father figure she clearly relates to.

It’s the emotional betrayal which is so shocking in this play, when it is Gladys who goes out to work, so Jack can stay at home. Jack had been with other women, so infidelity wasn’t new in this relationship. Jack pretends he has cancer, but he is the route of the emotional cancer in his relationships with his wife and the Hazel. Gladys feels that reading has no function if Jack can’t get a job. Her speech at the end of the play about the problems of dreaming shows her frustration with Jack as well as her anger. Brenda Blethyn makes this role work so well and uses her whole body to convey her emotion through the production. Her facial expressions, the way she stood conveys her broken heart and sense of betrayal when she gave her husband more chances. The end is just so sad. Is Hazel like the doll that overlooks the set throughout? Each doll made in Gladys’ factory has its own personality, determined by the way the eyelashes are stuck on. I think Gladys is also the doll who looks on and can’t really change things.

There are gasps from the audience when Gladys appears at the door towards the end of the play. In this play, there are elements of the farce genre. I discuss farce in my blog when I talked about Boeing Boeing. The fairground ride reflects the opening scene and at the end, rather than just going round and round and in and out like a stage farce where the boy does get his girl the lives of the characters are truly destroyed.

Reviews and Previews

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The Stage / Reviews / Haunted

The RSC's Hamlet to be filmed

It is now official. The RSC production of Hamlet is to be filmed by the BBC and shown later this year on BBC 2. There had been a petition calling for the filming of the RSC’s 2008 production. The petition has reached nearly 8,000 signatures showing that the audience can have some influence on decisions.

There had been rumours for some time and Oliver Ford Davies had let slip the possibility in an interview with The Telegraph back in April. Rumours were that the production would be filmed in June. This seemed like a real possibility because Tennant would have finished filming Doctor Who, Ford Davis would be about to embark on All’s Well That Ends Well, and Patrick Stewart would be at the Haymarket in Waiting For Godot. Tennant was quoted as saying that he was in talks about a film version. Anyway, it is all official. The Daily Mail was first as far as I can see to make the announcement and then the BBC followed with an official statement. Since then the RSC have issued a Press Release.


The news breaking in the Daily Mail…

Royal Shakespeare Compnay Official Press Release

BBC Announcement

What the Daily Telegraph had to say

Nights at the Museum 2 (27 May 2009)

I really enjoyed Nights at the Museum 1, even though I thought that I wouldn’t. I’m not sure what I expected in going to the sequel. More of the same I suppose and that was it. However, it was more of the same and more and more so that the whole narrative was so tightly packed it was like wading though mud. In the first film, the story and characters were built up, but in the sequel I felt I was dive bombed straight into the story as if in one of the toy planes that feature in the film. All the old characters from the first film were brought back and then locked away. That meant that we were introduced to new characters, but there were just too many of them to really work. Was there any good moments? Well the cherubs/cupids were sweet and the thinker was more physical than cerebral, but for me that was it.

Star Trek (13th May 2009)

In some of the posts I have been writing about time travel. In thinking about the aesthetic used to represent the seventies and in reviewing Doctor Who. This new version of Star Trek is not only about the future, it attempts to recreate the sixties. Women wear short dresses and men have rather questionable haircuts. The earth scenes look like they are set on a 1960’s university campus. The story is about time travel in it as well, so we have several layers of narrative in different time zones. The film is action packed and the recurring motif of Kirk clinging on as he dangles over a crevice makes us realise that even though Kirk is in danger he will always survive.

It’s a great film. Spock is the only character that looks like he did in the original and this is a good job because Leonard Nimoy makes a guest appearance.

The film was fun and action packed. It was humorous and entertaining. It seems to have set up the possibility of doing some sequel to this prequel!!!