Archive for January, 2008

Apologies for a lack of posting

January 17, 2008

Well, after the frenzy of the holidays, it’s almost no surprise that I’d start the year exhausted – only it’s been a cold that’s taken me out. I managed to drag myself to the extremely charming Les Patineurs at the Royal Ballet on January 8th (I also saw the, er, cutesy but rather too long Tales of Beatrix Potter, what can you say about it but, “Yeah, those are world class ballerinas wearing squirrel costumes”), but haven’t been able to hold my head up long enough to write about it.

I have, however, cast my eyes toward the future. Coming up next is Othello at the Donmar, then hopefully Human Steps at Sadler’s Wells. In the next few months, I’m looking forward to seeing Chroma at the Royal Ballet (and hopefully Sylvia), Speed the Plow at the Old Vic, The Good Soul of Szechuan at the Young Vic (Brecht!), Dealer’s Choice at Trafalgar Studios (thanks to the ten quid tickets on Last Minute), Shen Yun at the Southbank Center, and the Pinter double feature at the Comedy Theatre. I’ve also got my eyes on The Mikado at ENO and the yum yum City Ballet at the same venue (two of the shows, the new choreographers and Jerome Robbins pieces). I want to buy tickets for them all NOW (oh, and the Chinese Opera at Sadler’s Wells this June) but post-Christmas finances are forcing austerity on me for now. Soon, my pet, soon!

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Punchdrunk Production’s Masque of the Red Death – Battersea Arts Centre

January 6, 2008

Sold out as it was months in advance, I was quite excited to finally have the date arrive for which I’d bought tickets to see Masque of the Red Death at the Battersea Arts Centre (especially since it’s near the Clapham Common train station, an easy five minutes by train from my place). I had some idea of what to expect after having been to see the same company’s Faust the year before, but in some ways I really had no idea what was going to happen. I hadn’t prepared by reading any Poe, I hadn’t read other people’s reviews, I just didn’t know what was going to happen other than that there would be different rooms and I would need to explore. And, I was firmly hoping, there would be a bar.

We arrived for the 7:15 show – I wanted the earlier tickets because I knew there would be too much for me to see in the time given. We had a group of 10, including my Streatham pack of pals, my houseguest, Wechsler and my spousal unit. Once we had masks on (Venetian-style white face masks, required for all audience members), it became difficult to tell them apart from everyone else (Simon’s orange hair and bald spot; Paul’s fluffy black hair and leather trenchcoat; Wechsler’s Cyberdog’s necklace), though since I was wearing my red silk Victorian bustle outfit I was pretty easy to pick out. We were split up almost immediately, and while I managed to keep together with my three, the rest of the group only really came back together at some magical point in The Golden Bug, the bar slash music hall stuffed up a stairwell in the building. This bit was really great, as two of us were called upon during a “magic” show in which Roderick Usher “read our minds” – fascinating when just a short time earlier we’d seen him upstairs having fits while his houseguest attempted to rouse him with poetry.

During the three hours we were inside the building I completely failed to view all of the rooms of the building. In part, this was because different rooms seemed to open and close at different times, on a schedule that was a mystery to me. There were also rooms that had entry restricted to just a few guests. I was lucky enough to get into two of these: the library, in which a skull talked to four people about our impending deaths; and “the scientist’s office,” where I had a most peculiar encounter with an older actor who asked to speak to me privately. He chased the other visitors out of the room, then locked the door and began to address me as his “long lost sister, Rose.” He poured me a glass of absinthe, asked me to remove my mask, then proceeded to unburden himself of his guilt over the bizarre experiments he had performed – and the punishment he anticipated in the afterlife. He begged my forgiveness, but I told him that as I was dead, it wasn’t really possible for me to help him. When pressed, I said that I’d lost my memory, and thus could easily forgive him as I remembered nothing. He thanked me, then unlocked the door and ran off. Wow! What an intense moment! I tried to figure out what Poe story featured a character of this sort the next day, but it remains a mystery. And, I’m afraid, in my excitement I dropped the entire contents of my wallet in this room, which rather dampened the post-show cocktail hour.

What’s really odd is that every person I went with seemed to see a different show. It was obvious to me that they were doing something similar to Faust, with a repetition of the main “story” during the course of the night and then one “grand finale” (of course this took place in a ballroom), but everyone I talked to saw different things – a woman murdering a doll, a man seducing a seamstress, the apothecary that gave scented herbs to the visitors, a strange meal in the dining room (with musicians – how did I not hear them), and on and on. I even had one person say that she and the person she was with saw totally different things happening in the same room.

That said, I really want to come back and see this show again, and see the room and stories I missed. It’s clear that it’s more of a tribute to Poe than a recreation of one story, as I thought it would be, and I would benefit from trying to see more rather than trying to make up for my mistake in not following the primary “story” line at Faust – as there is not one in this show. Great show, absolutely worth seeing, don’t miss it!

(This review is for the show that took place on Sunday, December 30th, 2007.)