Antigone, Greenwich Theatre 30 October

October 30, 2017

**

antigone_drone

From AoD trailer

This was the first Actors of Dionysus production I had seen.

It was noisy.

For a large amount of the time, I sat huddled-up with my eyes closed wishing it would do away.  There was no poetry and no heroism and very little chorus, just people running and shouting and 1980s radiophonic effects.

Antigone did what she did with no inner conflict or anguish and she and Ismene shouted at each other.  Then Creon’s world fell on him and it was over.

I think the generality of the audience may have understood what the obeah woman Tiresias was saying but I didn’t.

On the positive side, well, drones, it was the first time I had seen a drone and know I know what they look like.  Three lines of actual Sophocles at the end suggested what might have been, in another world perhaps.  The description of Emily Davison’s death might also have become something if given a chance.

Dismiss me.  Enough.

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The Death of Stalin, Curzon Goldsmiths 29 October

October 29, 2017

**

stalin

So going to see this at the Curzon Goldsmiths meant that I paid £ 8-50 rather than £ 5-99 at the Peckhamplex, but my cold and I had an easier cycle ride and the New Cross Gate Sainsbury’s was a bit better than the Morrison’s in Peckham. I suppose it was worth £ 2-51 (the kind of sum which does not grow on trees) to avoid the fascist bag search…

The film is…err…not very good. It seeks to satirise the members of the Soviet leadership panicking and plotting after Stalin’s death, but unfortunately it does this by making them student politicians from Oxford University from the early 1980s. In particular, Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalin not only looks terrifyingly English but seems to be starring in Bad Day at Somerville College with Rupert Friend not so much her brother but more the louche boyfriend from Worcester say.  Simon Russell Beale as Beria–and I can remember him being very, very evil as Iago–too often seemed to be a rather kindly old gent who had somehow got mixed up with allegations of mass murder and raping underage girls.

It’s the ingrained English politeness and gentility that is the problem–there’s no point in trying to replicate the manners of another time and culture, but you need to ask yourself if people do and say such things, what are they like and so how do they do and say them.  Here, they need to be both terrifying and grotesque, not naughty ex-public-schoolboys having their day of fun and destroying their country in the process.

Contrariwise, Olga Kurylenko as Mariya Yudina clearly had the right reactions but her character was undercut for the sake of a cheap joke.  There were some signs that either she (had she not been so undercut) or Svetlana Stalin (had she ever got out of Somerville College bar) might have become some kind of positive pole, but that was clearly not what was required.

There’s nothing wrong in principle with the idea of reducing these monsters in scale to bring out just how grotesque they are, but cockroaches would have been more the level than student politicians.

The jokes got a few laughs a few times.

Even leaving aside contributions from Mozart, Chopin and Tchaikovsky, the cod-Shostakovich of the score was a great deal better than the cod-history shown on screen.

On disobedience

October 28, 2017

disobedience

Fascist Italian police tired of growing their bellies demand your passport.

The management decide you can take on new staff as consultants rather than employees.

The boss decides you can take on his daughter, just because he says so, and she gets employee rights.

A hotel-keeper demands to see your passport just because she feels like it.

Your new employer sends you some demeaning documentation to fill in after you have conscientiously requested the contract terms before joining in the first place.

So, what to do?

I suppose as ever the things to do are keep calm, run through the options, realise what your objectives are, realise that it is you that you have control over, but first of all do not obey.

Do not obey

They want you to obey now, grieve later–when it’s too late.  But you can ask:

i)  what the requirement is exactly;

ii)  what the justification is;

iii)  for the points above to be put in writing;

iv)  for relevant rules/codes/enactments to be cited.

The demands on skills in logical reasoning and literacy may well be enough to defeat senior management, at least for a time.

Keep calm

If the enemy can reduce this to a direct conflict, they can pull rank and also accuse you of being irrational, irresponsible, unreliable, female…Let them explain why what they want is a good idea–they’re normally keen enough on the sound of their own voices–and help them to become thoroughly enmeshed in a paralysing mass of fabrications and contradictions.

Know your objectives

In a just world, your presentation of the facts should lead the enemy to a full realisation of their unworthiness and hence to death by self-castration.  /in fact, what you can aim at is them whingeing and whining and kind-of forgetting about it with an infantile display of ill-grace.  And that’s the triumph you’re aiming at.

You have control over yourself

Not over them.  Nor are they going to crawl away and die–they got where they are by shamelessness, treachery, bullying, and disregard of all decent principles.  Focus on your objectives.  Make it easy for them to whine and forget by suggesting a way out.  But a record in writing that they cannot wish away is also a good thing.

romans-13-1-2

What they want you to think–but we know better

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That looks interesting too…

October 27, 2017

bathhouse

Some more things to remember not to forget:

The Bathhouse:
http://calderbookshop.com/pagebathhouse.html

Mark Bebbington plays John Ireland:
 https://www.cadoganhall.com/event/royal-philharmonic-orchestra-171101/

Angela Brownridge:
https://www.sjss.org.uk/events/angela-brownridge

Bruckner Symphony No.8:
https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/96422-london-philharmonic-orchestra-bruckner-symphony-no8-2017

Are there any good Russian words in English?

October 26, 2017

Bistro

That is a question I have often asked myself over the decades.  Russian words in English tend to fall into two categories:

i)  specifically Russian/Soviet referents:  tsar, rouble, Gulag, commissar, perestroika, glasnost, vodka, cosmonaut [Russian spaceman], sputnik [Russian satellite], samovar and so on

ii) terms with a negative connotation:  Gulag, commissar, ukase, pogrom, [actually maybe this is not a separate category].

So what might there be that is neither Russian nor pejorative?

It seems hard to derive bistro from быстро on chronological grounds, whatever the sign above might say.

Sable

The sable is tenné, not sable

Sable, as well as being an animal that lives in Russia and Poland is a highfalutin term for black as used by Shakespeare among others.  There are a lot more соболь in Russia than there are soból in Polish, but Poland is nearer.  Intelligentsia with that kind of spelling looks Russian rather than Polish (inteligencja) and the concept itself is just foreign rather than specifically Russian.

I quite like the word bolshie as a candidate here.  While it is clearly derived from Bolshevik (so Russian rather than Polish) it has no trace of Russianness attached to it and indeed has a semi-affectionate diminutive quality.  While the meaning of ‘difficult, recalcitrant, uncooperative’ may not seem especially positive, to the English mind these are not necessarily bad qualities–it may be different elsewhere, of course…

On valuing non-financial outcomes

October 25, 2017

We learned some interesting things about valuing outcomes from a talk about a Pro Bono OR project at a community centre in Chester-le-Street, County Durham today:

Equivalent value–the cost of an alternative activity that a beneficiary could have paid for in order to achieve the same outcome.

Contingent value–the self-reported value of an outcome by a beneficiary.

Revealed preference technique–the total cost to a beneficiary of attending an activity, including hidden costs such as childcare, clothing, equipment and travel, even if these things cost the beneficiary nothing.  [Even if no monetary costs fall upon the beneficiary.]

Travel cost method–an implicit method where the beneficiary indicated how far they would travel to obtain the same outcome.  The value is how much it would cost to travel this distance.

National surveys–the Family Resources Survey (FRS) or other national surveys indicate how much familes spend on average for certain activities/outcomes, which can be used as a value for a given outcome.

A History of Wales (John Davies)

October 24, 2017

*****

IMG_2255[1]

Reduced *and* patriotically rained-upon

I thought that this book was excellent, and enjoyed spending 765 pages in the company of somebody in such complete command of his material.  As well as relieving my complete ignorance of Welsh history, reading the book gave me some interest in and understanding of English medieval history, seeing it through the prism of how it affected Wales.  I was especially interested in the idea of the English national consciousness as being founded on recovering lands from the Danes, and hence inherently imperialist.

It was interesting to see how the idea of Wales as a nation came in and out of focus at different periods, and it would have been interesting to get Davies’s idea of what Wales as a nation actually was.  He quite rightly says that there is no genetic difference between the Welsh and the English and treats Herderian ideas of nationhood with some reserve at one point, but also seems quite attached to them.

Remembering A Winter in the Hills I might get worried about the lack of agency ascribed to Welsh people here–they rarely get to initiate action as opposed to having things happen to them or reacting to events.  But it could be a fault of history and geography, not John Davies.

The question that really interested me was how it came about that Welsh survived as a widely-spoken language when Irish did not, given that Wales was far more interpenetrated with Anglophone Britain.  The answer given here is that the development of the coal and steel industries meant that people could see hope for a future where Welsh might be relevant while in Ireland they could just see starvation.

Any of our readers interested in Russian literature will wish to know that it was probably on a rail bearing the letters GL (Guest Lewis, the trade mark of Dowlais) that poor Anna Karenina met her end.

Bacchae in Oxford, 21 October

October 23, 2017
bacchae

Picture from OGP20217 FB page

It cannot be said that my trip to Oxford for the Greek Play was a great success.  I discovered that the classical section of Blackwell’s had been moved up a floor to make way for the coffee shop )and the second-hand section had been reduced as well).  I felt mildly interested by a Collected Papers of Milman Parry but not enough to buy it.  I also visited the Oxfam Bookshop, as one does.

At the Oxford Playhouse, people had been moved forwards, sometimes into seats already occupied by others, and the masses of private school pupils were silent like a field of turnips.

Gosh, it was just so boring!  It seemed to have been reimagined as a ballet from the 1930s with music by Sir Arthur Bliss and an Art Deco cube for the set, but the chorus hardly moved, never mind getting off the ground.  The idea of having three Dionysuses meant there was never even an illusion of Pentheus confining them or him, and though Pentheus delivered his lines effectively that would not hold my interest on its own.

Then the thing had ground along so slowly there was an INTERVAL, so I rushed off to the station and quite by chance came across the rather lovely Chiltern Railway train to Marylebone, which also had decent free WiFi.  And there was a trilingual announcement in English, Arabic and Chinese at Bicester Village Retail Outlet.

Gosh, that was so exciting!  And not so long after I was back in South London!

Resist and endure

October 22, 2017

 

resist

 

So here I am trying to extract some benefit from my challenging experiences at the Blue Keys Hotel, Southampton.

The first question is about being required to produce a passport or driving licence to check into a hotel in the UK as a British citizen.  This is very unusual (I have come across it twice on 40 years or so of travelling as an adult) and there is no statutory basis for it.

The Immigration (Hotel Records) Order 1972 states:

4.—(1) Every person of or over the age of 16 years who stays at any premises to which this Order applies shall, on arriving at the premises, inform the keeper of the premises of his full name and nationality.

(2) Every such person who is an alien shall also—

(a)on arriving at the premises, inform the keeper of the premises of the number and place of issue of his passport, certificate of registration or other document establishing his identity and nationality; and
(b)on or before his departure from the premises, inform the keeper of the premises of his next destination and, if it is known to him, his full address there.

That sounds stupid but at least does not include British (or Irish) citizens.

The next question is about the law of contract.  The hotel’s advertisement on their website or TripAdvisor constitutes a proposal which the prospective guest accepts by booking.  Neither side can then change the contract unilaterally–I am far from certain that the hotel can do it by a confirmation email.  It would certainly at the very least have to offer free cancellation.

If the hotel insists on ID in their original advertisement, that’s fine from a legal standpoint.  But they know their clientele better than you do, and if they are so suspicious then maybe you had better stay somewhere else.  If they introduce additional requirements not in the contract and refuse to provide the contracted service on that basis, then you can sue them for breach of contract.  In that case, they will be obliged to pay an amount sufficient to put you in the same situation that you would have been in had they provided the service, so that would include the cost of phone calls, taxi to another hotel, room in that hotel…

On the level of common sense, I think the best way of dealing with such situations is to put the onus onto the other side:

–Why are you asking me that question?

–That is a very unusual request.  Can you explain it please?

–I do not remember that requirement in the confirmation email.  Can you show me a copy please?

–Can you show me that requirement in your advertisement, please?

Failing that, just say No.  Never surrender!

Disclaimer:  The materials appearing in this posting do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether expressed or implied is given in relation to such materials.

 

Insignificance, Arcola Theatre 19 October

October 21, 2017

***

DMlZm4WXcAIang1

Photo from Arcola Twitter

I arrived here just in time-the young woman at the ticket desk spoke to someone to hold the door a further minute for me.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

So, The Professor (who we know is Einstein) is sitting in his hotel room and The Senator (wwki Joe McCarthy) comes in to demand he testify the following day.  Then The Actress (wwki Marilyn Monroe) wants to demonstrate the Special Theory of Relativity with some toy trains, but she calls it the Specific Theory.  It is all rather unengaging because Einstein as a character (with a character) is just not there.  Then The Ballplayer (wwki Joe DiMaggio, who was married to wwki Marilyn Monroe) enters and the scenes with him and Monroe are much more dramatic, standard kind of Arthur Miller stuff.

OK, so we came to the interval.  Perhaps the play was on because we now had Trunp as a kind of McCarthy, or just a celebrity.  Then our group missed the signal (if there was one) to go back inside so we had to be led in to sit at the back but the house was pretty empty anyway when

McCarthy is threatening to take away the papers with Einstein’s calculations, but everyone calls them calculus not calculations then Monroe offers him herself or her money not to do that.  Then Einstein and Monroe get to discussing the quantum theory of the 1930s as though it still meant something when she was getting her skirt blown up around her legs all day for numerous retakes.

Monroe suffers a miscarriage and Einstein feels guilty about the bomb.  The world maybe comes to an end outside, or maybe he is just remembering.

At the end, I did not understand why the sexiest woman in the world would need to batter men with words in an unrelievedly rushed delivery and bored my companions by saying it was supposed to be physics not maths Einstein was doing and once you had got the ideas straight you could get the research student to do the calculations.

It made you think, if only about the mistakes…