Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, 23rd July 2009)

It took me some time to get into Troilus and Cressida at the Globe Theatre. I haven’t seen a production for about 23 years and so it was nice to see a play that was fresh and where I needed to be reminded of the plot. Laura Pyper does a good job at playing the sparky Cressida and Mathew Kelly is excellent as Pandarus. I liked the red streaks in Pyper’s hair, they gave a real feel that Cressida wasn’t much different from teenagers today. Cressida is caught up in a nasty male game. Even though the play is set in Ancient Greece, it felt like we hadn’t really learnt anything all these years later. The second half moves at a much faster pace then the first. As Troilus and Cressida is rarely played, I was glad I saw this production. The druming at the end were stunning.

We sat on the wooden benches and had a really good view, but I felt so stiff at the end. Maybe I need to think about getting one of those cushions next time. During the performance we saw, at least three people suffered from the heat and had to be taken out from the groundlings and there was a downpour in the middle of the performance. That’s the Shakespeare’s Globe experience with the British weather.

Reviews and Previews

The Guardian on Troilus and Cressida
What’s On Stage review of Troilus and Cressida
What’s On Stage on Troilus and Cressida
The Stage / News / Shakespeare’s Globe announce…
Globe Troilus and Cressida – Kelly to star
The Stage on Troilus and Cressida at the Globe
Young cast lead Young Hearts season at Globe …
The Telegraph on Troilus and Cressida
The Stage / News / Shakespeare’s Globe announce…
Young cast lead Young Hearts season at Globe …
Londonist review of Troilus and Cressida
Troilus and Cressida Evening Standard Review
Independent on Sunday on Troilus and Cressida and Black Album
Troilus and Cressida in the Independent

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Early Doors series 1 and 2 (DVD Box Set)

The Early Doors DVD box set includes both series 1 and 2 with 6 episodes each. The episodes invite the viewer to take their time to get to know the characters and when they do the rewards are great. Written by Craig Cash, of The Royle Family fame, like The Royle Family, the pace is slow and not a lot actually happens in each episode. This isn’t a problem though, and the real strength of the programme is the characters’ dialogue and their relationship to each other. The programme is based on a simple idea which focuses on the regulars of ‘The Grapes’ who come into the pub at 5.30 pm (early doors) and the landlord Ken, his daughter Melanie and his mother who live upstairs above the bar. As we get to know them over a few episodes, we have a clearer sense of their personalities and how they relate to each other. However, the key thing is that Cash is able to subtly build the improbable so the scenes in the very final episode may not believed, or really understood, without having watched all 12 episodes.

As the narrative progresses, we find the mundane really funny such as conversations about circuses and traffic diversions. James McAvoy played the landlord’s daughter, Melanie’s, boyfriend in the first series and isn’t in the second series. His absence is explained by describing his dumping of Melanie as ‘Shameless’, a clear pun on the reason for McAvoy’s departure from Early Doors. There are other joys such as Phil and Nige the two policemen who become more corrupt as the episodes progress. It all makes sense if you watch it all. I felt that there was a bit of a Harold Pinter influence in Early Doors. There’s every day dialogue, and there are also emotional moments, and moments when all the regulars laugh together. For me that laughter sums up the whole philosophy behind Early Doors, and the importance of community and conversation.

Further Information

Early Doors Series 1 and 2 DVD Box set. BBC

Thoughts on Neil and Glenys Kinnock (National Portrait Gallery)

Andrew Tift’s portrait of Neil and Glenys Kinnock, exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery, is clearly within the tradition of portrait painting going back to the eighteenth century. In the background are objects that tell us about the sitter. The bust of Bevin leaning towards us, and the bust of Nelson Mandela next to the one of Neil Kinnock. A comic book on the table is titled Too Much and might be a comment on aspects of Neil Kinnock’s political life. On the shelf is a row of classic novels representing culture and learning, which contrast with the decorated cups n the coffee table depicting the modern and the domestic.

Glenys Kinnock is at ease, which is represented by her casual clothing and she looks with pride and tenderness at her husband. In contrast, Neil Kinnock looks at the viewer with a slight regret and puzzlement and wearing a red jumper reminder of his socialist roots. At the side is a fragment of a picture which shows Neil and Glenys under the words people and the rose which symbolised Kinnock’s years with the Labour party. Is it significant that the image is in black and white symbolising the past and what the Labour Party was?

Further Information
http://www.commissionaportrait.com/artistsportfolio.asp?id=105

http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?sText=kinnock&search=ss&OConly=true&firstRun=true&LinkID=mp59009&rNo=0&role=sit

Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Palace Theatre, 18th July 2009)

Going to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert is more than going to see a show it is about taking part in an experience. You can take in your champagne and pop the cork, order an interval cocktail or buy a fake pink feather boa to display through the show. As you enter the auditorium you are confronted with a large (phallic) lipstick and Australia represented as lips. Yes this sets the tone of what is a loud, bright, entertaining and feel good afternoon/evening full of one line jokes and sexual innuendo.
Priscilla adopts a pantomime structure to construct narrative. I say this, not just because men dress up as women, but in the way the production builds on small episodes which reflect each other. The three drag queens (Jason Donovan, Oliver Thornton and Tony Sheldon) leave the safe domesticity (Sydney) for the journey into the unknown (the Australian bush) to confront the baddies. As well as journeying, there’s also a quest. Tick/Mitzi (Jason Donovan) has to get to Alice Springs in a battered old bus to meet his son Benji. Each scene is a variation of the one before, but more sparkle and glamour and then there is the big finale and everyone lives happily ever after. There’s even the moment, in most pantomimes, where the audience get on the stage and join in. There’s the in jokes, particulary when it comes to a mention of the Austrailian soap Neighbours and Kylie. We get a sense of Kylie’s career, but also how far Jason Donovan has moved on, even though, it felt that, he still looks the same as he did when he was Scott Robinson.

There was an additional moment of excitement when I saw Priscilla and the mechanics broke down after Oliver Thornton was performing Follie! Delirio Vano E Questo! and Sempre Libera on top of a Jewel encrusted stiletto shoe which was positioned on the roof of tour bus. He was stuck up there for longer than he should. There was a bit of ad libbing and they got him down in the end.

As part of the experience it had to end with a standing ovation. Great songs, spectacular costumes and lot a glitz and glamour. It felt like a day off.