Cockpit. The Lyceum’s latest smash.


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Photo credit:  Production photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

In 1948 the young Bridget Boland (I know nothing of her) wrote this site specific play.  And it IS site specific even though it is presented in the Lyceum Theatre because she sets her play, about a holding centre for displaced persons in the aftermath of WWII, in 1948, in a theatre.

Actual genius.

This gives her the opportunity to introduce some great theatrical gags; most memorably the line spat out in complete contempt by the theatre’s stage manager for Front of House personnel.  A laugh out loud moment.  One of several.  Although this is no comedy.

The concept is that in this Displaced Persons’ (DP) ‘camp’, a sort of Calais ‘Jungle’ of 1948, in an unnamed German city, two British military personnel (the latter day peacekeeping force) are trying to organise the transport of 1,000 DP’s to their homelands.

It’s a Tower of Babel with many languages spoken and, more importantly, many short and long term differences of opinion and prejudices.  Of course, the Jews fare worst of all because the Jews were no less persecuted by the Nazis than many other nations and creeds.  That comes across strongly.

But Latvians and Lithuanians, Yugoslavs (Bosnians, Croatians, Serbian et al), Poles and Russians, French sympathisers and resistance all harbour deep grudges and these constantly flare up in an electrifying first act until a moment of humanity transforms the situation. It would be a spoiler to reveal this so you’ll have to see the show to find out how politics can be transcended by human nature.

It’s an absolute cauldron of infighting that shows partly how ridiculous political belief and dogma is (religion gets a right kicking too) but also how complex it is.  That scene from Life of Brian about the Judean Liberation Front is a great touchpoint, although it is treated far more seriously here.

The cast is drawn from a number of European nationalities which could have led to a dreadful ‘Allo Allo’ mood overall.  But how director Wils Wilson overcomes this is one of the many directorial sleights of hand that really impressed this audience member and means we have a truly international feel, but an all English script.  I have to say Wils Wilson has a masterful touch throughout.

It opens with a full ensemble Ukranian folk song that is brilliantly performed (and composed by the inimitable Aly Macrae – you may recall him from the The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart where he is a lead character) before resolving into the show itself.  I’d have liked to have seen even more musical pieces as they are all highlights. None more so than a few moments of operatic spinetinglingness that draws the breath away (I’ll not spoil it for you by describing what, where or when, but I guarantee you will be spellbound).

An actual real life showstopper.

It’s sort of Brechtian in places I suppose.  And resonates strongly with Caucasian Chalk Circle.  If you liked the Lyceums CCC you will like this.

Universally the ensemble acting is strong – really it’s as impressive a cast as I’ve ever seen at the Lyceum – but Peter Hannah as the fresh-faced and easily overwhelmed ‘Man in Charge’, Captain Ridley, is outstanding and is ably abetted by his more experienced and world weary underling; Deka Walmsley as Sergeant Barnes.

The design is a considerable feat and splurges out into stairwells, bars and the foyer, further enhancing the site-specificnesss of the production. The sound design and musical underscoring combine to create a sense of place, an air of menace and frankly an utter joy when it erupts into full blown musical scoring.

But, really, what most enraptured me was the script.  How anyone could conjure up such a politically accurate and insightful overview of the aftermath of WWII at a time when surely obfuscation, fake news and propaganda must have been rife amazes me.  What’s even more remarkable is that its relevance today (yes I know that’s such a weary phrase) is simply dizzying.

“The trouble with the British is they just don’t understand Europe.”  I kid you not.  Bridget Boland wrote those words in 1948. (I probably paraphrased.)

I rest my case m’lud.

 

 

 

 

Mother!: Movie Review. Will have film students hard at work for years.


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Darren Aronofsky has followed up his biblical epic, Noah, with another biblical horror story starring Jennifer Lawrence (his partner in real life) and Javier Bardem.

Whilst advance publicity had suggested this might be heavily inspired by Rosemary’s Baby this is not in fact the case.  Far from it.  Rosemary’s Baby is about the birth of Satan. This is not.

I found it helpful to know in advance what the premise of this film was and there is  a brilliant deconstruction of the plot in this article in the Telegraph.  You may not want to know before you see it, but it’s a great read after the fact and confirmed most of my assumptions about the heavy allegory and metaphor used in the movie.

To make two consecutive biblical films is surprising because Aronofsky has declared his atheism but presumably the source material is such brilliant storytelling that he simply could’t resist.

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What results in mother! is a film of such epic proportions, such horror, such artistry that at times your jaw actually drops.  Aronofsky stops at nothing.  There are no sacred beliefs that he cannot explore or visualise.  What he does not do is ridicule them.  This is a representative telling of Genesis, the New Testament,  earth science theory and sustainability all wrapped in one great gothic whole.

And it’s gorgeous, sumptuous and creepy.

The performances by Bardem and Lawrence are electrifying, albeit their togetherness as man and wife seems unlikely, but as the plot unravels it’s obvious why.

The appearance of a married couple in the shape of Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer (both extraordinary performances) into their lives is startling in its aloofness and cruelty.  One feels Lawrence’s panic bubbling over as the idyll she is trying to create in an island home is about to gradually unwind.

And unwind it does; in increasingly spectacular fashion.

I’m not going to go into spoiler territory (read the Telegraph article for that (after you’ve seen the movie) so I’ll stop here.

Suffice it to say that although this won’t appeal to many; for those that it does this is a truly great movie.

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Lilith: The Jungle Girl by Sisters Grimm at The Traverse: Edinburgh Fringe Review.


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Sisters Grimm is a multi-award winning Melbourne based experimental queer theatre group and Lilith is the barmy brainchild of Ash Flanders (who plays Lilith) and Declan Greene.

The three person cast includes Candy Bowers as the hilarious Sir Charles Penworth a Dutch based brain surgeon and Genevieve Giuffre as his assistant, Helen Travers, who is deeply in love with him (her as it happens).

The show concerns the civilisation of a feral jungle girl Lilith, who has been brought up by Lions in the jungles of Borneo and has an irrational fear of Penguins.

From the off it is obvious that Lilith is actually a man as Ash Flanders makes his entrance completely naked and ‘soaped up’ in a pink gunge that makes the vinyl floor of the set a veritable ice rink and creates many off script moments of hilarity.

Bowers’ hilarious Victorian bombast creates belly laughs a plenty.  Her performance is at the heart of the show but all three are excellent.  In a particularly amusing ongoing gag he can’t (or won’t) pronounce Helen’s name correctly; it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

There is a degree of Pygmalion about this because if Lilith cannot reach an acceptable level of civilisation and language she will be lobotomised by Sir Charles (or worse).

The threat pushes her onwards and the transformation is real until it all goes wrong and we are transported to London Zoo where Bowers has now assumed the persona of a South London Rapping Lion.

It is again hysterical.

This show is brilliant.

I’m not sure it has any deep meaning, but with its mix of a fine ‘Ripping Yarn’, slapstick, gender bending, extreme full frontal nudity and terrific acting it’s an absolute treat.

4.5*****

 

 

Border Tales by Protein Dance at Summerhall: Edinburgh Fringe Review


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Another day, another Summerhall 5 star show.  This time it’s dance, but with a BIG twist.  It’s political and it features dancers that sing, act and deliver spoken word monologues that never outstay their welcome.

First off, can I just say the choreography is beautiful with monologues often delivered in brilliant flowing double-hander dance movements where the dancer/actor seems to flow like water supported by their counterpart whilst delivering their insights.

It’s mesmerising and the first time I’ve ever seen anything even remotely like this.

The show is about Britain’s rise of immigrantion from all over the globe.  The cast is led by a gruff Yorkshireman who displays many of the traits we regard as cliches, but performed with a humour and lightness of touch that protects it from parody.  I’m afraid there was no programme so I can’t name names but this central and leading character pulled a difficult gig off with ease.

The six dancers were supported by a Colombian multi instrumentalist who worked in tandem with excellent backing music and beautifully held the show together (he too could act when called upon to do so).

The remaining five in the cast represented a second generation African (Nigerian) Londoner fully immersed in UK culture, a Hong Kong Chinese man, A Taiwanese Chinese girl who, with her poor enunciation of English, became the butt of many of the Yorkshireman’s jokes, An Irish Catholic man and a hirsute Egyptian (parodied as an ‘Arab’) is he african?  Is he middle Eastern?

It all paves the way for questions about the value or otherwise of multiculturalism, some nice subtle digs at Brexit, debate about religion and which one (including trendy atheism) is best.

And it’s at times funny, always brilliantly delivered, original and downright fascinating.

A true melting pot of our times in a show you should do your best to get tickets for.

The Hungary Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2017. Our favourite.


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There’s much to savour at La Biennale but this was our collective favourite.

Here’s what they say about it.

“Peace on Earth!” by Gyula Várnai and curated by Zsolt Petrányi is a project based on the viability and the imminent need of utopias; it’s about the disillusion we have about the future and about the things that have not come true, but especially it’s a show concerning new technologies, global economies and natural crisis, giving the viewer the chance to make a deep reflection on a future that is growing faster than before.

The entire pavilion is just a stunning display of modern art but this piece stole it for us.

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The rainbow needs closer scrutiny.  Turns out is made up of a kaleidescope of 1960’s pin badges…

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Like this one…

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We didn’t see Gyula Várnai’s neon piece at night but this is how it looks

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The Biennale is incredible.  This won our vote.

 

 

A better denunciation of the most powerful man in the world than I could ever write.


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“The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego, in the harsh light, a man whose grasp exceeded his understanding, because his understanding was dulled by indulgence.”

Thus speaks Rebecca Solnit in her piece in The Literary Hub that completely destroys Donald Trump with her pen.  The central theme of her piece is the old Russian (ironic, huh) fable of the old man and the Golden Fish.  It is a beautiful fable with a strong moral.

But Donald Trump is not the old man.  He is the greedy, vile, egotistical wife whose desire for power has no end.

This is a long, dense but completely compelling piece.

I hope it predicts the downfall of an evil dictator-to-be.

Schadenfreude, were it to have been invented in Roman times, would probably be one of the 8 vices.

But you know what I can cope with that.

Completely remarkable writing and thank you to Dan Rebellato for sharing it on Twitter.

Read it here.