Posts Tagged ‘Trafalgar Studios’

I sit through one part of the Almeida ‘Oresteia’: Facebook exchanges and other reflections

August 25, 2015
Iphigeneia clutches her teddy-bear

Iphigenia clutches her teddy-bear

Have invested in a half-price ticket for the Almeida’s five-star, critically-acclaimed, award-winning *chorusless* Oresteia. That may turn out to have been a brave decision…

Brave? How about reckless?

With Greek drama, the first and main question is what they have done with the chorus.  If they’ve just left it out, the only thing is to stay away.  I knew that perfectly well.  But I was curious.

The portion I succeeded in sitting through was misguided in the way I expected, but rather more inept. The remaining 2/3 *may* have been wonderful, But I somehow doubt it. Let’s hope for better luck with ‘Tamburlaine’ tomorrow!

oh dear!

the first bit of the Oresteia is usually the best! I have a ticket for 19th September frown emoticon

The first part here is more like the adapter’s ruminations on ‘Iphigeneia in Aulis’, so his ‘Agamemnon’ may follow after. I was in a very small minority with my views here, so you will soon be able to judge between me and the rest of the world. Call me Antigone…or an old man with wrinkled female dugs…or Cassandra would be quite appropriate…

so the first third still hasn’t reached Agamemnon? that doesn’t sound good

No it was Iphigenia in Aulis, but different. **SPOILER** Iphigenia is not a young woman of marriageable age by the rather regrettable Greek standards, able to understand and comment on what she is suffering, but a primary-school-age girl who is chemically put down without knowing the first thing about it…

The whole point about Greek tragedy, indeed Greek literature in general, is that you suffer the most terrible things, but you are able to see them, to understand them, and to react to them in words.  The deliberate unmerited killing of a young woman who has the agency to understand, react and express is the extremity of human evil while it is still human.  Putting down an unaware little girl like an unwanted dog is something very different and much, much worse–the kind of punishment the divinity will inflict on you for the first misdeed.

It is hard to imagine that a random person plucked off the street could react with words so inadequate if he found himself in Agamemnon’s position.  Some poetry–even the poetry of pauses–is obligatory.  What we had here might at best pass for some also-ran Ibsen in the hands of a third-rate translator.

oooh well I think I will just close my eyes for now and hope it is all better than I am imagining it!

Closing your eyes won’t help you with Clytaemnestra’s Samantha-Cameron-style mockney accent. But–who knows!–there may be a Cassandra and she may rave & rage like no Cassandra has ever done before…

Sam Cam as Clytemnestra! sacrilege! Though there is the germ of a good idea if we could get her an axe …

It was Blair who deserved an axe.  Cameron is more of an Aegisthus.

Actually, if you don’t come handicapped by knowledge of Greek drama, or modern theatrical practice, and you go to a matinee so that you don’t have a pressing need to go home for your tea and some chores, this may be a perfectly acceptable way of spending some time.  

It apparently enjoyed some success in North London.  

There’s a ticket offer on the Almeida site here and the Leicester Square booth may well have tickets on the day; Theatremonkey may also have some offers.

The Silence Of The Sea, Trafalgar Studios 12 January

January 13, 2013


This play–let’s not worry about the original novella by Jean Bruller, alias Vercors–is set in Occupied France during World War II.  Very probably.  Most of the time.  But sometimes the characters refer with poetic vagueness to ‘this country’, ‘foreign soldiers’ and the like, so maybe you’re not meant to be so sure.

The basic idea is that an old man and his niece have had a German officer billeted on them.  They settle down into Survive Unwanted Meeting mode and refuse to speak to him.  I could certainly sympathise, because I was in SUM mode as well, and was rationing myself to one glance at my watch every quarter-hour or so.

The soldier (Leo Bill) addressed the other two and of course got no answer.  The uncle (Finbar Lynch) addressed the audience (or himself), and in a bit of an Irish accent as well.  The niece (Simona Bitmaté) didn’t get to say anything until the very end, but did a lot of miming.

At the beginning, she mimed opening the shutters (lighting effect), opening the piano (sound effect of piano lid), playing the piano  (sound effect of piano playing), and then the uncle carried the piano stool right through where the piano was meant to be.  (I guess that may have been a scene change.)

There were many of these kinds of inconsistencies in 90 minutes’ worth of sparse text.  On the one hand, the old man seemed to be some kind of simpleton isolated from the realities of normal life, while on the other he discoursed knowledgeably about classical composers (while being unable to pronounce the names of the French ones correctly).  The German officer similarly couldn’t manage simple German words like das Meer, but at least we were saved from comedy foreign accents.  The old man managed to buy pieces of fish that then required gutting.  The local village (presumably on the Atlantic coast) apparently featured an abandoned synagogue, which seemed a bit unlikely also…

Now this may all have been meant to evoke a sense of dislocation and numbness, in the style of Kurt Vonnegut and Flann O’Brien, all of a piece with the strategy of denying the invaders beauty, comfort and piano-playing–but it just irritated me.  Similarly the officer’s speeches were probably meant to show him drowning in ghastliness as he became aware of it.

Perhaps even the way we were charged £ 3-00 for the Internet booking system that sold tickets for seats that were not available was calculated to the same end, like the waiter on the officer’s Paris jaunt deliberately mixing everything up.

It got a bit more interesting at the end, where something actually happened…

Top Girls Trafalgar Studios 24 August

August 24, 2011

Picture from

This is a play by Caryl Churchill dating from 1982 about the soul of woman under Thatcher.  Naturally enough, about 80% of the audience were female, and they may have appreciated it more than I did.

We started with Marlene, who had just been made Managing Director of an employment agency, hosting a dinner for successful or famous women from history.  That was an interesting idea.  Pope Joan got to make some intelligent remarks, and also attempted to comfort Lady Nijo over the loss of her children, while Isabella Bird had the most to say.  So that was all right, if a little pointless, especially if one was already acquainted with Pope Joan and Patient Griselda.

Then the first scene of Act 2 was about the most cack-handed thing I’ve seen in the professional theatre, and I think that’s largely if not entirely down to the text.  Two adult actresses unconvincingly played girls with unconvincing Norfolk accents and woodenly pushed words at each other to make the points that Angie, Marlene’s niece, was not very bright and not much use for anything and also hated her mother.  Also she and her friend Kit were frightened of unemployment and nuclear war.  Scene 2 showed us life in the employment agency, and interviews with the job applicants had some good comic touches.  Some pretty leaden layers of lecturing as well.  Marlene had beaten out an offstage man to the top job, and he was taking it badly.  Angie turned up looking for bright lights and big city and Marlene concluded she hadn’t a chance.

Act 3 (a year earlier) had Marlene visiting Angie and Joyce.  As Joyce, Stella Gonet did a pretty good Norfolk accent, but I didn’t believe in the interplay between the sisters, and I think you would get more change from Marlene (Susanne Jones), at least in terms of accent.  There were of course disturbing revelations and also a disturbing prophecy about the soul of woman under Thatcher.

To me the first act was written by someone who didn’t appreciate how different and difficult life was in past eras of appalling infant and maternal mortality, while the third act belonged to someone who had very little idea of the lives of ordinary people.  In all:  Brecht without the poetry or the genuine bitterness and cynicism.