Crime and Punishment, Brockley Jack 8 February

February 8, 2017

****

At the end of this second preview, which played to a full house, the actor playing Raskolnikov (Christopher Tester) asked audience members to say something nice about the show on social media, or indeed in real life.

We are happy to oblige.  As a text, this was an excellent adaptation, which embodied the bright idea of getting to the basics of the characters and their story and the author’s intentions and reconstructing that from the ground up as a play.

I thought that both Christopher Tester and Stephen MacNeice (who played Pofiry Petrovich, Marmeladov, and a couple of other characters) were excellent.  We had a harried, ratty, unEnglish Raskolnikov and a Porfiry Petrovich who for once did not bore me to death.  His Marmeladov was impressive in letting you find the degradation, not drowning you with it.  I also thought that Christina Bastion was just too posh as Sonya-we are given to understand that she can read only with some difficulty and she looks up to Raskolnikov as an educated man–and as the pawnbroker Alyona, who also turned out to be Scottish.

But the production moved forward vigorously with clearly-delineated characterisations and a few well-chosen props.  And the well-worn scene where Sonya and Raskilnikov read the Bible together really got to me…

There is a video trailer here, but I’d say the show is better than it suggests.

 

 

 

 

 

Prometheus Bound, Greenwood Theatre 1430 8 February

February 8, 2017

**

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At the end:  chorus–Prometheus–Io

Prometheus Bound certainly made an interesting choice for this year’s KCL Greek Play in Greek.  One question is whether it actually is a play or merely a scene-setting for following parts of a trilogy.  Nothing much happens apart from various characters coming to sympathise with or talk sense into Prometheus and him referring to the injustices he has suffered and the dark secret he knows.

I remember a production at the Soho Theatre where the clientele were expected to be satisfied by a combination of the manly heaving of the hero’s bare breast and chains.  Lots of chains.  But here it wasn’t quite like that.  We had a female Prometheus, and Oceanus, and whichever it is of Force and Violence that doesn’t actually say anything.

More generally, I’m afraid that there was no sign of a solution to the severe problems posed by staging this piece.  It started off with projections of various modern figures, especially Donald Trump, and you could see how Prometheus might be a kind of Nelson Mandela in captivity, but his captors needed him more than he needed them.  Or Trotsky perhaps, who thought he had the earth-shaking prophecy and was a prisoner to his own well-founded fears. But nothing came of this possible line of thought.

Rather than being chained to a cliff with a wedge through her chest, our Prometheus had to top of a table to call her own.  For some reason sound effects and lianas suggested that this was in the jungle somewhere.  Loud sound effects meant you couldn’t hear what was being said, though the Greek verse sounded to be spoken competently enough.  At the end, Prometheus’s final defiance got lost in underwhelming stroboscopic effects..

On the positive side, the entrance of the chorus was effective, as were some of their choreographed moves.  Likewise for Io’s entry and exit, though I’m afraid she did rather remind me of the domovoy from Morphine.  And indeed there were similar surtitling issues, with lots of text appearing some time after the event.

If you ask what I would have done–well, have a much larger chorus and have them sing and dance.  In fact, have them on stage the whole time and have them  hold up the surtitles on placards, to give the idea of a debate of some importance not people  coming on stage and exchanging words about mouldy mythology…But making something out of Prometheus Bound would be difficult with the best performers and technical resources in the world…

 

 

 

 

 

Morphine, Etcetera Theatre 7 February

February 8, 2017

**

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Picture from Anna Denshina’s Twitter feed

So let’s think–what problems might there be with staging Bulgakov’s ‘Morphine’, about a country doctor who falls victim to…err…morphine? Well, putting a non-dramatic work on the stage is always problematic–if the author had wanted to write a play he’d have done things differently. And especially in a case like the present, where the original text is in the first person and reflects the hero’s diseased apprehension of reality more than actual happenings between people. The latter is where you need to have things in a play. Here we also have some more objective narration from ‘Notes of a young doctor’ brought in to set the scene as well.

That said, the show combined the Russian tradition of having music in lots of places where you don’t want it with the English one of having characters shuffle on, deliver their lines through a mask of embarrassment, and then shuffle of again. The cast members showed various levels of comfort with appearing on stage and the Russian language…that said, I thought that Anna Danshina put in a good and affecting performance as the love interest called Anna.

There were also sutitling issues–the surtitles contained a lot of text at one go and tended to catch up after the event.  But I suspect the proportion of the audience who neither knew Russian nor the storyline of ‘Morphine’ was rather small…

Too few and too many–I outsmart myself

February 8, 2017

tyneside

The quiz questions about this street somewhere around Heaton were:

So can you see why this street has to be:

i) in the North generally?

ii) not on Merseyside?

iii) specifically on Tyneside?

with the intended answers:

i) many burglar alarms

ii) not enough burglar alarms

iii) two front doors per ‘house’–these look like terrace houses but were built as upstairs and downstairs flats (rather than being converted) and are known as ‘Tynesiders’.

But I may have outsmarted myself there–this also looks like what’s called an ‘avenue’ locally, which means that there’s just pavement (perhaps some flowerbeds too) out the front and vehicle access is up the back alley…

More about lost sleep

January 3, 2017

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Following the earlier study,  our client has now produced some further data covering three weeks’ holiday, with results as shown above.  We suspect that the slightly anomalous results for Sunday are indeed due to there only being three observations.  The mean amount of sleep per night is 6:32 for the Work period and 7:08 for the Holiday period.

So there is some difference, but hardly enough to say that the client is compelled to give up work.  He will have to make his own decision, which is rarely a popular piece of advice…

 

A story from Villa Amalia by Pascal Quignard

December 8, 2016
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The photo

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Written on the back of the photo

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Inscription in front of book

The copy of ‘Villa Amalia’ I got second-hand from Amazon had this photo in it and this inscription in the front.

So what does the inscription say?  It looks like: J’adore cette photo première d’un bonheur retrouvé. 26 janvier 2013 But surely the première should be in front of the photo–unless it’s in apposition, in which case there’s a comma missing?

The birthday boy seems to be well over 30 if you count the candles on the cake, so bonheur may have been missing for some time…

If it’s really première then [she] has formed the p differently there and in photo. If you look at janvier [her] v extends below the line, which increases the number of possibilities for the suspect word. [She] and [her] are my supposition from j’adore and an inscription in the front of the book. Restoring the omissions there gives us La souffrance [,l’amour, la musique, la faim] avai[en]t fait d’elle une femme intense–which looks like a case of adapting the sentence to refer to oneself.

There are no shes in the photo, which would be strange for a family gathering, so this she might have taken the picture.  Let”s call her Ann Hidden, since she’s behind the camera.  The man on the left of the picture seems to have the same shaped face as the candle-blower-out, which lends credence to the family gathering idea.

My conclusion for the time being is that it’s not a birthday party–there aren’t enough people–but a family celebration of the lad overcoming some mishap and the candles (say) represent the number of [periods] he was in hospital/prison/rehab/married to that woman, though he looks a bit young for some of those. If it was hospital/rehab, that would explain why he is warmly dressed while the bloke behind him is in shirtsleeves.

It’s much easier to leave out punctuation–note that there’s no full stop at the end of the sentence–than put an adjective in the wrong place, so première is a noun in apposition to photo, with some meaning like Première épreuve tirée pour la correction. ‘Galley-proof of happiness’ is quite good really.

Then  the inscription La souffrance…avait fait d’elle une femme intense would fit in well with [Ann Hidden’s] [son] returning from [rehab] [or from death’s door].

There is another and perhaps better idea. When I first looked I thought it had to be pleine or remplie, just by context but could find no way of making that fit what appear to be the letters. The second “l” in elle above doesn’t extend above the line, so you might be OK with pl- plénière [plenary] could fit the bill. I think that in French ‘plenary photo’ would be OK.   Plenary photo from a recovered happiness.  That would indeed imply that [she] took the photo–it would be plenary from her point of view but not the others’.  Which leaves the putative ‘l’ that doesn’t extend above the line–which may not be a problem at all–and the absence of one accent to deal with…A missing accent is better than a missing comma…

Were it not that I have bad dreams…

December 1, 2016

sleep

A middle-aged bureaucrat has collected data on his sleep pattern for 29 weeks or so. He works 4 days a week (not Wednesdays) and wants to know whether these data should impel him towards early retirement.  We can see from the above that the prospect of going back to work on Monday and Thursday causes some lack of sleep.

Table of sleep data

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Mean 06:25 07:10 05:12 06:52 07:40 07:07 05:00
N 29 29 29 29 29 28 28
Min 01:00 03:00 02:00 04:00 05:00 05:00 00:00
Max 08:30 09:00 07:30 09:00 10:00 12:00 07:00
Q1 06:00 06:30 05:00 06:00 06:30 06:52 04:30
Q2 06:30 07:30 05:30 07:00 07:30 07:15 05:45
Q3 07:30 08:00 06:00 07:30 08:00 08:07 06:30
StDev 01:27 01:29 01:19 01:07 01:07 01:26 01:35

The overall mean is 06:29, while results here indicate an average of 06:50 for those aged 40-55.  The difference is hardly large, but in the other hand the justified expectation of sleeping poorly tw0 nights a week is not something one would wish to continue indefinitely.

We presume that there are essentially two possible explanations for the smaller amount of sleep on Sunday and Tuesday nights:  apprehension and having to get up early/change in routine.  If it was purely a case of the latter, we would expect the effect to be greater on a Sunday night since there are two days of changed routine to account for as against one on a Wednesday night.  But in fact there is no significant difference between the means for Wednesday and Sunday, so we presume apprehension is playing a role here.

Our preliminary recommendation would be for the client to collect the same data for a substantial period of leave so as to establish how far the results above deviate from the natural pattern.  And here it is!

Not enemies, not judges, not so neat…

November 7, 2016

enemies3

Meanwhile, the exhibit above has been brought to our attention.

Well, no.

It says ‘Traitors to the people, expelled from the German national community.’

The men are leaders of the German Social-Democratic Party.

Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

Some pictures of Newcastle upon Tyne in the rain

November 5, 2016

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That’s a street running towards Bigg Market…

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The River Tyne…

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Now that’s not a bad photo

The Suppliant Women, Northern Stage Newcastle, 04 November

November 5, 2016

****

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Picture from Wear Valley Advertiser–don’t blame me if it’s from another location

 

You have to admire the sheer audacity of this production, and the attempt to make Greek drama the central event in the life of the city, the way it used to be.

As everyone knows, the basis of the story is that the 50 daughters of Danaos have fled to Argos from Egypt to claim sanctuary in their ancestral homeland (though they look foreign–it’s complicated) and avoid marriage with the 50 sons of Aiguptos, their cousins.

At the beginning, Omar Ebrahim introduced the play and a local dignitary in charge of Arts and Education who thanked the audience for providing 50% of the funding, the taxpayer for 40%, private donors for 5% before suggesting that the remaining 5% could be made up from bar takings.

The standout feature of the evening was of course the chorus of local women (well, lasses more like) who sang beautifully and danced effectively–when the chorus sang in parts accompanied by drum and aulos that really was something alien and beautiful.  We did also get to enjoy Aeschylus as a religious thinker, coming to the idea of a supreme god and the doctrine of grace without benefit of revelations in the Judaean or Arabian desert.  And as a convinced proponent of democracy–Pelasgos although king refers the decision as to what to do about the Danaids to the citizens of Argos, and  they decide, well,…

What didn’t work so well for me was the way that towards the end the adaptor David Greig after holding out valiantly could no longer resist falling into modern feminist and human-rights attitudes–Aeschylus is more complicated than that, and so is our life.  The whole point of Greek tragedy is to abstract and distance and transcend the categories of thinking they normally used (never mind us). But a production that realises the main thing is the ideas, not some sordid family misfortune, and the main way of conveying it is  the chorus is very very close to the right path.

And what daring, what audacity, what vision…