The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

19 December
Comments Off on Our Media Luvvies Do Get The Hots Over Violent Criminals. But Their Victims? Not So Much….

Our Media Luvvies Do Get The Hots Over Violent Criminals. But Their Victims? Not So Much….

I watched the BBC’s take on the “Great Train Robbers” last night. The Telegraph dubbed it polished which it certainly was. But I can’t help agreeing with one of the comments.

For my money this show was more style than substance. Yes the filming, sets and score were immaculate but where was the script and believability? It sounded more like a 50’s Pinewood studio crime caper. The dialogue between the crooks was dire as if any of them ever spoke to each other in comic voice bubble language. As a consequence I found it very difficult to believe in them and it failed to add any depth to the plot and characters.

It was an excellent example of the geezer caper genre, but more “Italian Job” than “Get Carter” with the snappy one liners and lack of  atmospheric menace – and the production values were not always 100%….snow and leafless trees in August?

Presenting Bruce Reynolds as framing the blag as a symbolic strike against “The Establishment” was a laughable attempt to over egg the whole affair with retro sixties mythology. They were South London thieves, greedy, violent and preferring others to work hard so that they could then rob them of the fruits of their labour.

Robin Hoods they were not.

But then the romantic affair between media luvvies and violent criminals dates back to that very era of the sixties when the colour supplements began to glamourise the Krays.

Dan Hodges, I think, hit the nail on the head. During the “caper” the train driver, Jack Mills, and some of the postal staff were savagely beaten. Others were terrorised into compliance. But, of course, they weren’t chirpy geezers who were dreaming of opening a club or buying a villa in Spain. They were just ordinary anonymous faces who did the boring jobs that keep our society ticking over.

Tonight, the BBC will present the first of a two-part docudrama on the robbery. One, called the “Copper’s Tale”, focuses on the efforts of the police to catch the perpetrators of the crime. The second, “The Robber’s Tale”, shows things from the perspective of Biggs and his colleagues. I presume it was done that way in the interests of balance. I also suspect there will not be a third episode “The Railway Worker’s Tale”.

Amen to that, say I….

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12 July
Comments Off on “The Lady In The Van” by Alan Bennett Starts At The Archway Theatre Horley (near Gatwick Airport) On July 17th

“The Lady In The Van” by Alan Bennett Starts At The Archway Theatre Horley (near Gatwick Airport) On July 17th

Alan Bennett’s “Lady in the Van” was described by the Sunday Times as “One of the saddest, funniest and most distinguished offerings for years”

“It is said that charity begins at home. For Alan Bennett”, said the UK Guardian of an earlier production “it began at the bottom of his drive with a custard yellow van inhabited by an irascible eccentric who refused to budge for 15 years.

Where others might have seen an obstruction, Bennett spotted an opportunity. Miss Shepherd, who claimed at various times to be a former nun and concert pianist, gave the writer much, in addition to the task of clearing polythene bags of dried faeces from the garden. Having expanded the experience from a diary entry into a short story, a radio serialisation and finally an award-winning play, he must have come to feel that the poop-scooping was ultimately worth it.

Though the play presents a hilarious catalogue of Miss Shepherd’s foibles, it is more of a dramatic meditation on the moral justification of exploiting ourselves and others for the sake of art. Bennett was clearly in two minds over his uninvited tenant, and explores the nature of the dilemma by dramatising himself twice. A pair of identical Alans deliver a Tweedledum-Tweedledee commentary on the social issue developing on their doorstep: intellectual Alan maintains an objective, writerly interest, while practical Alan deals with the day-to-day irritation. Simply put, one finds material where the other finds only waste material.

There’s a further psychological thread to which teases out the extent to which Bennett’s obsession with Miss Shepherd was a displacement activity designed to assuage nagging guilt about his mother’s dementia.”

There are only a few tickets left for the Horley Archway Theatre production of this brilliant play which will run for two weeks starting Tuesday July 17th – get them now before they are all sold…

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02 February
Comments Off on Don’t Miss “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh at The Archway Theatre, Horley Feb 21st – March 3rd

Don’t Miss “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh at The Archway Theatre, Horley Feb 21st – March 3rd

The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh will be on at The Archway Theatre in Horley between Tuesday February 21st and Saturday March 3rd.

Once described as having a name more Irish than the man, Martin McDonagh usually sets his plays in Ireland (The Leenane Trilogy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore…) but they never conform to the Ballykissangel, Bing Crosby, When Irish eyes are smiling Irish whimsy so often offered up on the stage or screen. Instead he strips back the overlay of green fantasy and reveals a far more vicious and dysfunctional narrative about the emerald isle – but one that is always counter balanced with a dark, gallows humour.
The Pillowman, originally presented at the NT in 2003 follows the same twisted thread of terror and comedy but is set outside Ireland in a mythical authoritarian Kafkaesque state.

In-yer-face theatre rarely comes more shocking than this but, surprisingly, by the end McDonagh reveals himself to have a sentimental side. It takes some time for this to become apparent and a number of members of the audience with weaker stomachs failed to make it past the interval.
Katurian Katurian Katurian – not a misprint – is a writer of jet-black fairy tales that make the Grimm’s seem like Enid Blyton. All of his 400 works bar one are about children that get abused and killed and it is no surprise to learn that he and his spastic brother have suffered terribly at their parents’ hands.
When KKK’s stories start to be re-enacted in real life, he and his brother Michal are hauled in for brutal interrogation by two policemen who write their own laws. They also have a hilarious line in interrogation which leaves those with a dark sense of humour doubled up with laughter.
It doesn’t take too long to discover who is the perpetrator of the crimes. Then the real horrors in the lives of all four of the principal characters begin to emerge with gut-wrenching clarity.
Just when all seems too awful to be depicted on stage, McDonagh cleverly twists the tail of the play with great dramatic effect.
The Pillowman is extremely funny and has hidden depths that will leave the amateur psychologists in the audience with much food for thought.

Tickets are £8.50 for members and £10 for non members. Please leave a message on 01293 781059 or e mail [email protected] giving your phone number if you would like to book seats.

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19 January
Comments Off on Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

As a former schoolboy (a long time ago) and a teacher (now retired) and an amateur actor (still mumbling) I must confess enjoying a moment of guilty pleasure when I watch that Blackadder clip…

It came to mind when I learned a day or so back that I had just landed myself a part in our amateur theatre group’s Shakespeare spring production of “The Winter’s Tale”….not a particularly big role but, as Private Eye might say, it’s small but perfectly formed…..

I love being involved with a play, be it on or back stage. For a few weeks you are part of a joint endeavour with a group of people for one common purpose. You share all the ups and the downs, the crises and the celebrations, the laughter and the tears. Forget those familiar dividing lines of social intercourse age, sex or experience. You are pitched together like a close family battling the world. Then the set is struck and you go your separate ways. Once or twice the bonds made during a run might hold long after the scripts are filed. But more usually, once the play is done, the connections dissolve and disappear down memory lane.

The Bard, however, raises different issues for he is the broccoli of drama. We are told how good he is for us yet so many leave him on the side of the plate. Amateur groups feel he has to be performed even though quite a few tickets will be left unsold.
Shakespeare is often the amdram equivalent of a loss leader.

But he shouldn’t be. The characters are fascinating. The language is powerful and vivid. The themes are universal. He is part of every school’s curriculum.

We all have studied Shakespeare – and there’s the rub.

He is studied because he is a Good Thing. In school we have all analysed and dissected Billy S like a specimen on a laboratory bench. We have discussed characters, motives, meanings and symbolism, turned over metaphors and deconstructed references and laid bare every bone, muscle and sinew. His words are revered like a biblical text, a scientific hypothesis or a philosophical treatise. There is a vast Shakespeare industry employing thousands of actors, academics and gushing media scribblers and talking heads.

The guy’s works are being adulated to death – so here’s a thought.

Let’s turn off the tap for five years. Embargo the puff pieces. Deep freeze the academics in a cryogenics unit. Remove Stratford’s name from all road signs and sat navs. Ban Billy S from being mentioned in the school classroom. Perform the plays with zero hype. Hang anyone who dares to say “the bard”

Shift his library classification from the doom laden “Literature” to cheap and cheerful “Entertainment” – because that was how he was regarded by the noisy, bawdy riotous townsfolk who watched his plays in Elizabethan and Jacobean London.

As a schoolboy in 1950s England any chance of appreciating Shakespeare was ground out of my consciousness by hour after hour of mind numbing analysis until the very mention of the name would cause my eyes to glaze over and my brain to slip into neutral.

Then one evening in 1955 I went with my bus driver dad for our weekly cinema visit. He had misread the bill and was expecting to see a gangster movie. By the time we realised it was Laurence Olivier’s film of Richard III our tickets had already been purchased so we went in, expecting to be bored to tears.

How wrong we were. It was magical.

At the end, as the final credits rolled the audience in that packed cinema in a working class suburb of South London sat motionless and silent for a few brief moments. Then as we walked out into the night there was a massive buzz as we all began to talk of what we had seen and my dad looked at me and said “That wasn’t the Shakespeare that was hammered into me at school. That film must be the real Shakespeare….what have I been missing all these years?”

So, unlike Blackadder, it’s not the real Will Shakespeare I want to punch on the nose – it’s the polystyrene cultural idol created by the termites of the Shakespeare industry that I would like to target with my custard pie.

Mind you sometimes I do find Colin Firth a tad irritating……

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