Archive for April, 2007

Review – Seven Deadly Sins, Pierrot Lunaire, La Fin du Jour – Royal Ballet

April 29, 2007

Caroline, Elizabether, and J were my companions for our trip to the Royal Opera House to see a mixed bill. The first one, “Seven Deadly Sins,” was absolutely the best (see picture). It actually was a sung operetta with dance accompaniment, the story of a girl who goes to the big city to make money and experiences all of the sins. It was very “3 Penny Opera”/”Cabaret,” unsurprising since the music was a Brecht/Weill collaboration (and with Auden doing the translation, it was truly a pleasure to listen, carefully, to the words). Sadly the singer wasn’t amplified well enough for me to actually follow what she was saying, which seemed very important given what was happening on stage. The movement was fairly interesting, but for this dance, I was most intersted in the story … and also the costumes! If girls always did ballet in corsets and garters, they’d be beating the punters off at the doors. Of course, they can always see this at a strip parlor, but probably not the rhinestone spangled thigh highs (likely from What Katy Did – never seen a lingerie place given credits for costuming before!).

This was followed by “Pierrot Lunaire,” a sad waste of Carlos Acosta. It was … I don’t know, twee. It made this grasp for high art and didn’t hit it and at 40 years of age had made the transition very poorly. The costuming and set was very conceptual, but … agh, let’s be honest, it all sucked because of the music. The style, Stimmtspiele or something like that, meant “sung/spoken,” but it meant this really screechy over exaggerated spoken style that, gosh, kind of reminded me of listening to Kabuki or Chinese opera, only without any redeeming musicality, or indeed anything to save my ears. It was 40 minutes but felt like an hour and a half. No wonder it’s only been performed 7 times since it debuted. I actually felt like my trust as an audience member had been abused and I was a bit afraid to go back in the auditorium after living through the dance beating of my life! I consoled myself with a quick bite of ice cream at intermission to make up for what I had endured, and returned, braced for the worst.

The final bit was “La Fin du Jour,” described as a celebration of the “long vanished life between the wars,” with girls in one piece suits and bathing hats being carried around by men in strange silk golf and cricket costumes. It was frothy and light and had as much substance as a big pile of pink cotton candy, but after Pierrot, I felt we had deserved our bit of fluff. Really, anything would have looked pretty good. We were exhausted from the middle bit, though, and bolted for the doors as soon as we could get out. That said, I’m still looking forward to the last mixed rep of the season, and I’ve already got my tickets bought and waiting.

(This review is for a performance on April 28th, 2007. The review was moved from my other blog.)

Mini-review – Mahabharatha – Sadler’s Wells

April 25, 2007

One sentence review: “It was so almost there!”

Moment of unintentional irony: Draupadi singing, “When will this end? When will this end? It ends now …” (making me slap J’s arm with joy that our freedom is near).

This did not hit the baddicle of Northwest Lyric Opera‘s Carmen – though the technical difficulties with the mikes, leading to CRACKLE CRACKLE CRACKLE as people walked across stage and then NOTHING as people actually spoke their lines – did bring back certain memories. But there was a lot of dancing and good stagecraft that had me very caught up in what was going on, borrowin from Kathak dance with, er, a bit of Westernization.

And then … well, there were the bits when people were singing. It was like Disney musicals (or for me, Andrew Lloyd Weber), where the music is pappy blandum and the lyrics are … I don’t know, cardboard. “Where is the man I love?” sang Draupadi FOUR TIMES as she walked across the stage. I could only assume he was hiding from her, as I, sitting in my balcony seats, wished I could do. And if Krishna was a god, why was he always picking up crap from the stage? That’s for menials, not supernatural beings; he should have just been able to wave his arms and make it disappear (or at least not been spotlit while being helpful).

At an rate: not exactly “three hours of my life I’ll never get back,” but certainly money poorly spent. And our opinion seemed widely shared by the audience members upon whom we eavesdropped after the show. Please, folks, give this one a pass. It’s pretty much sold out anyway and with luck it will die a natural death.

(This review is for a performance that took lace on April 25, 2007. The review is carried over from a previous blog.)

Review -John Gabriel Borkman – The Donmar

April 13, 2007

Last night: I’m on an Ibsen/Pinter/Tennessee Williams kick, “collecting” their shows like one would Beanie Babies or BPAL imps, and last night was Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman. The language was thick, but the plot was crystal clear and the characters fantastic. I didn’t know a thing about it (other than “financier’s ruin causes long-lasting rifts within his family”), but as the various relationships of the characters – estranged twin sisters, one the wife of Borkman (who has not seen her husband in eight years, despite the fact he lives upstairs – Deborah Findlay); the son; and the sexy widow next door. (An unseen other character is “the lawyer” next door who’s having a party “the son” is invited to; he’s the man who revealed JGB’s malfeasance and, in essence, ruined him and his family.)

Kurt Vonnegut (RIP) once said (and Scarlettina reminded me) that “every character should want something,” and, by God, these people did. Whether it was power, love, money, revenge, happiness, or freedom, they wanted it like fish want water and humans want air, with great, gasping breaths to suck it in. Their stiff, nineteenth century language (Victorian formality) was delivered as a package to the same, burning desires that animate people today – and I loved it all. It reminded me of the very unhappy version of The Voysey Inheritance, which is a look at the same kind of financial finaglings gone “right.” In this play, you see exactly the kind of ruin Voysey Junior expects, and you understand why he is so very afraid of the consequences of his father’s actions.

Ibsen (thinking of Vonnegut again) rushed us straight to the non-stop action as the years of built-up frustration spilled out. What a great night of theater! I wasn’t bored for a minute, and at the end, I wanted to thank each actor personally for delivering, at last, on the contract we made when I bought my ticket: that I would willingly suspend disbelief, and they would become, not actors on a stage, but people who had stories (and pasts) I cared about. Thanks for a great night, guys!

(This review carried over from my previous theater blog. The performance took place the night of April 12th, 2007.)

Review – The Caretaker – The Tricycle

April 12, 2007

Dinner last night at Buka was not as good as forgettable because it was actively bad. This came down to three things: tough/burnt meat, overly spiced food (with no actual flavor), and the nauseating smell of fish paste. I ate half of it and felt the rest of it burning a hole in my stomach through the rest of the evening. It was actually at the second level of really hot, the one where my ears ring, and while I can make it through to the third level, I will only do this for food that actually tastes good. Perhaps I will try Nigerian food again, but, frankly, I’d rather pick Somali/Ethiopian/Eritrean after this horrifying experience. And it was overpriced to boot. Bah.

Pinter’s The Caretaker was mis-described as “comic.” Me, well, I think watching a messed up homeless old man try to find a safe place to live isn’t intrinsically humorous, nor is listening to someone try to process the horror of being incarcerated in a mental hospital (though that soliloquy was the highlight of the play). We both found it … overdesigned, or something – careful spotlights, overly polished music cues, a set that was 100% realistic and all built out. Where was the room for the imagination? That said, the character of the caretaker was utterly believable, and I found myself trying to figure out just what his childhood would have been like to have got him to this point … fantastically acted and obviously written to perfection. That said, I wasn’t compelled by the show, and figured I’d get just as much out of the second act if I’d bought the script and read it at home – I was emotionally checked out. And I didn’t get home until 11:45 to boot, which has, in respect, made me resentful. Give this one a pass.

(This review is for a performance that took place on April 11th, 2007. The review was written for a different blog.)

Review – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Roundhouse

April 5, 2007

I really want to write about the Indian Midsummer Night’s Dream we saw at the Roundhouse last night (note the link is a bit fat on the bandwidth). It was certainly the lushest Shakespeare I’ve ever seen, with iridescent silk costumes, an ultra-sexy Titania, a live Indian orchestra, and rope acrobatics, but … but … well, as a start, only 1/3 of the spoken language was comprehensible (I had no idea they weren’t going to subtitle the Hindi/Bengali/Tamil etc.), and that really detracted from my ability to plug into the show.

But also … I wasn’t seeing a lot of acting, but I was seeing a lot of spectacle and hearing a lot of bellowing into the cavernous depths of the Roundhouse. And for spectacle, I don’t think the price I paid was bad (£15), but … I like to leave theater feeling moved and losing myself in the story and it just didn’t happen, even though I admired how it was performed and the fun they had with the set. The best part for me were the scenes with Bottom, who was hysterical both as an actor and as a donkey.

That said, I got to see it with TheKumquat, Spikeylady, Booklectic, AdjectiveMarcus, Envoy, J and Wechsler, and with so many great people with me, I couldn’t help but consider this an evening very well spent. Thanks for coming out, guys!

(This review is for a performance that took place on April 4th, 2007. A much more flattering review can be found on the Guardian‘s website.)