17 September 2018

Macbeth at RSC Stratford-upon-Avon was amazing

There is probably some sort of limit to the number of times I can watch Macbeth but I have not got there yet.

There were some obvious reasons for wanting to see this version. I had wanted to see a production at RSC Stratford-upon-Avon for some time, this production featured Christopher Eccleston and, judging by the posters, it was a modern take on the classical story.

It was also our wedding anniversary and we used this as an excuse to eat at the RSC Rooftop Restaurant beforehand and to begin the meal with a champagne cocktail. It was a lovely start to the evening.

The theatre surprised me a little. I knew that it had been substantially remodelled in recent years and I was expecting something like National Theatre but what I found was more like Globe Theatre (without the pit). Unexpected but also understandable.

I had paid £50 for a seat on the side of the thrust stage and I was pleased with the view of the stage that I had.

The mood was set in the opening scene with the three witches played by young girls dressed for bedtime and carrying baby dolls. It was a striking image and one that recurred with the witches making several appearances during the play and not just when Shakespeare said they should. One of their roles was to help move the props!

Refreshingly the poster was a true reflection of what the production was like. Other theatres please take note (I'm thinking particularly of Almeida).

I am far from word perfect on Macbeth so I cannot be certain how much was changed but a little was and most was not. It was very much Shakespeare and very much Macbeth and also something a little different with things like the cleaner keeping track of the deaths.

Notably the ending was different. Or rather there was an epilogue where the witches returned and made another dark prediction. It was bit of a risk but I think that it worked. Bringing the witches back bookended the production nicely and the new prediction kept the story alive.

16 September 2018

Another fine adaptation of Elric of Melniboné

I have at least two sets of Elric stories somewhere in the house, the original Michael Moorcroft paperbacks and the early 1970s Marvel adaptations by Roy Thomas with art by P Craig Russell (and others). I never expected to buy more Elric until I saw a new release notice on a new adaptation by Titan Comics and one glimpse at the art work was enough to convince me to dive in again.

This double-page spread should be all that anyone who likes comics should need.

It helps that this new comic adaptation has been produced with the full and enthusiastic endorsement of Moorcock himself, who wrote "Fully captures Elric's sense of utter decadence. The saga of the albino I would have written myself if I had thought of it first!".

That should be enough of a recommendation for any fan of Michael Moorcroft.

I like comics and I like Moorcroft so I absolutely love this version of Elric of Melnibon√©.

15 September 2018

Radiant Vermin at Ram Jam Club was an unexpected treat

I have a Google Alert set for Philip Ridley and I was drinking in the Grey Horse last night so I was surprised to the extent of being shocked to discover this morning that there was a Ridley play on at Ram Jam Club (part of the pub) today.

A few frantic unanswered emails later and I was walking to the pub in the hope, and some expectation, that I would be able to get in. I was about the first person there and as it had not sold out I was able to get a ticket. I also got a pint of Naked Ladies and a table at the front.

The Ram Jam Club is a cosy venue and it worked well fashioned for theatre. I had only be there previously for music.

I had some trepidations about seeing the play as when I saw it the first time, at Soho Theatre in March 2015, it starred Gemma Whelan and that is a hard act to follow. Still, I reasoned that it was a brilliant script and some modest acting would not hurt it too much.

I was right on one count and wrong on the other.

The script was brilliant and in addition to it's fantastical story it had some exquisite lines. Just one example, "You stick out like a toddler's leg leg from a crocodile's mouth". The acting, however, was not modest - it was very good. I was particularly impressed by the quick fire birthday party scene at the end when Joy Bowers and James Dart had to play multiple roles at the same time. It was wonderfully done.

It was a small stage and good use was made of it. The movement was a significant component of the play's success so here is a little bit of recognition for Movement Director Louise-Mai Newbury.

Radiant Vermin was a real treat and all the more so for being unexpected.

Cemetery Beach is delicious

Any new Warren Ellis comic book is something to look forward to and one with Jason Howard even more so given their illustrious collaboration on Trees. Cemetery Beach issue #1 arrived on my iPad this week and was the first comic that I read in bed with my first cup of tea on Saturday morning.

It comfortably lived up to expectations. This double-page spread starts to explain why.

Obviously the art work is lovely and the scene is futuristic and interesting. Also, like the five pages after it, it has no words.

It's early days but I am already deep into an exciting adventure that is steeped in mystery. I love the story, I love the action, I love the exhilarating pace of it. I love this comic already.

13 September 2018

Losing Venice at Orange Tree Theatre lacked substance

Losing Venice sounded like an interesting proposition with a contemporary relevance as it addressed themes like "A nation with delusional ideas of its place in the world, making poor choices, involved in clumsy foreign adventures, constantly on the edge of war.". Sadly it fell short of my modest expectations.

It was a play of two halves. The first was flimsy but had enough good lines and exotic characters to be entertaining. The second descended into political commentary and despite being only 45 minutes long it dragged. I looked at my watch several times.

At the end I struggled to see what the point of the play was. It was a bit funny, a bit political a bit absurd but not much of anything.

Rising above the play's limitations were the excellent cast, which is why I have chosen a cast photograph to accompany my words.

Tim Delap (top right) as the Duke led the way with everybody else a close second in emphasising their characters' silliness. I even forgive Tim for almost stabbing me (A30 is a risky seat) and the stand-in (presumably) for having to read from a script.

Walking home I tried to make sense of what I had just seen and failed to find the point of it. It lacked gravitas to make any political points and lacked sufficient humour to be a comedy. It lacked substance.