millionreasons: (billie)
[livejournal.com profile] commonpeople, don't read this yet!!

I went to see A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe as near to 21st June as I could. Somewhat surprisingly, the weather was indeed mid-summery; I was too hot standing in the sun and wanted a little cloud cover. However, I was glad for the actors, since the faeries dress skimpily and the two sets of lovers lose much of their clothing as they wander through the woods - it would have been pretty unpleasant in last week's wind, and I would hate for Oberon to have had to put a top on.

The play stuck to the trad. Shakespeare (despite that there probably weren't many Lancastrian "rude mechanicals" in 16th century Athens), although a few of modern, crowd-pleasing flourishes were inserted: Oberon said "Oh yeah", Peter Quince did a little moon-walking and Gangnam style whilst dancing, Bottom, played by a mixture of Mathew Kelly and Jarvis Cocker, a camp and pedantic Northerner, made a jolly rude gesture with two V-shaped fingers and a tongue. I wonder if in writing the play within a play, Shakey was taking the piss out of actors - Bottom wants to re-write the play and cast himself in more than one part - and audiences - the Athenian court give stage suggestions and seem to be watching the play as ironic hipsters would - it's so bad, it's good - as well as out of himself: the play, Pyramus and Thisbe, is one he, erm, ripped off in Romeo and Juliet.

Puck was an epicene teenage sprite and the strongest reaction from the crowd was when Oberon literally swept him off of his feet to plant a romantic kiss on his lips.



But boy, did my back ache by the end of it, not to mention my knees and feet. I had a standing ticket because not only are they cheap, but I enjoyed the informal atmosphere of the yard when I went last year. However, that version of Romeo and Juliet came in under two hours, whereas this was just short of three. As it was a weekday, there were a lot of schoolgroups in, one of which stood behind me complaining all the way through. I suppose I should be glad that they weren't listening to tinny R&B or watching Eastenders on their iPhones. I moved after the interval and was then stood in front of a woman who told her child to push his way to the front so he could see and then stated: "I do think that tall people should be made to stand at the back," before proceeding to sniff, sneeze, cough and chomp her way through the second act. Groundlings, huh.
millionreasons: (billie)
Leon Kossoff at Annely Juda - smudgy charcoals; a cross between Monet's London paintings and Lowry.



Antes Muerte at Apiary Studios. A film about an asylum in Northern Mexico run by the inmates and overseen by an ex-junkie pastor and an ex-gang member-cum-bus driver. It was accompanied by a live score in a very hot room and felt intense and claustrophobic. The asylum is situated near Juarez, which has the highest murder rate in the world. The institution seemed like a picnic compared to the city.

The Estuary exhibition at the Museum of Docklands, which I’d recommend to anyone who likes London, history, the sea, the river, travelling on the DLR or free things. The exhibition was set out like the Thames, twisty, turny and was influenced by all points of the (east) river, from the Pool of London right out to Margate. Gayle Chong Kwan had supplied a photo exhibition of objet trouvés from the river, there were Turner-esque oil paintings that made even Gravesend look beautiful, a photo/text diary of 36 days spent on one of the sea forts out at Whitstable that focussed less on the day to day living in such a bizarre environment, and more on what had been left behind by the squaddies back in the war days: crumbly newspapers, utensils, empty fag packets, leg rings for missing-presumed-dead homing pigeons, mysterious boxes and dusty chests, pin up pictures, crockery, raffle tickets.



I enjoyed the video installations: Nikolaj Larsen's Portrait Of A River was short videos of everything from aerial shots of the Thames to a laconic Port of London Authroity employee talking about various interesting points on the river (“The high walkways of Tower Bridge were used for prostitution and suicides, which wasn’t great”), interviews with watermen and bargemen (I’m surprised the boat men of the Thames have time to do their jobs, what with their many interviews (and there’s always the threat of Michael Portillo turning up)) to a bird’s eye view of Tower Bridge opening as a ship sailed under whilst the skipper sang sea shanties. My favourite film was a man sat on a boat, making a rope. Nothing too spectacular, but the background was the Shard, the GLA building and Butler’s Wharf; I liked the juxtaposition of an ancient trade with all the tomfoolery that goes on in those buildings.



John Hurt narrated William Raban's Thames Film, which was a history of Central London, using BFI footage. I learned that Millwall was named after the wall that surrounded the windmills on the riverbanks, but, fear not, football hooligans, it was still a place of violence: (some of the) public hangings took place here.



John Smith's Horizon showed the sea, the sea at Margate, which changed as the wave soundtrack swooshed, from summer to spring to winter to autumn, the sea from blue to black to brown to green. A tanker steamed slowly, a buoy bobbed, a woman wandered across with her dog, fishermen waved, seagulls streamed after a trawler. It was very soothing. I’d buy it on DVD.

millionreasons: (Default)
To the Globe to see Romeo and Juliet in Brazilian, performed by mummers. Romeo was a middle aged man who performed on stilts whilst playing accordion and holding a parasol. I know, it sounds like something Legz Akimbo would do, but it was actually very good. For no discernible reason, much of the action took place in and on top of a car (a Toyota rather than an Alfa Romeo) and a stepladder was used for the balcony scene, despite the Globe having an actual balcony. John had assured me there would be surtitles, but these only summarised the scene, they didn't explain the jokes. And there were jokes, this was Rom 'n' Jul as a comedy - presumably the Globe will be putting on A Comedy of Errors as a tragedy, in Croatian. Fortunately some of the lolz were visual, some unsuitable for the bored looking English children who'd been brought as a 'treat' by their earnest-looking grandparents (blow jobs simulation by Benvolio and boob-flashing from the nurse, played by the Brazilian version of Miriam Margoyles), although the best one was Mercutio, after being stabbed, grabbed his heart, over which a joke flower was placed which squirted 'blood', and the biggest laugh was when one character said in English to Romeo-on-stilts: "Mind the gap."

The problem with Shakespeare is that it's so pushed down your throat that you stop caring (especially if you end up doing an Eng Lit degree), but I guess that because he is not Brazil's national writer, the writers and performers and directors could be less reverent and have a little fun with it (the actors were mingling with the audience afterwards, which I don't suppose Kenneth Branagh does). Shakespeare appeared as a character, the narrator, and he did a (possibly rehearsed) ad-lib, stepping to the front of the stage to peer curiously at a plane going overhead.

I suppose this was authentic Shakespeare, the play being acted by a group of travelling players, although I have no truck with authenticity. We didn't eat a roasted starling or go to a cock fight or patronise any of Southwark's brothels afterwards. However, despite my feet hurting, it was quite fun standing and being in the open air: there was less of a Telegraph-reading atmosphere. Probably not that much fun in January though.



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