Macbeth @ HOME

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Macbeth

By William Shakespeare

HOME, 2 February 2016

Clemmie Sveaas, Jessie Oshodi and Ana Beatriz Meireles in Macbeth. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

Clemmie Sveaas, Jessie Oshodi and Ana Beatriz Meireles in Macbeth. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

Darkness visible: Macbeth, the Klein bottle remix.

The best thing about this extraordinary production of Macbeth was… the witches. Or, to expand on this statement somewhat, the witches, as played by the dancers Clemmie Sveaas, Jessie Oshodi and Ana Beatriz Meireles; Lucy Guerin’s choreography; and Clark’s score.

Appearing on stage in almost every scene, the witches coloured your whole perception of the tragedy. They looked like ghoulish Coppelias or Hans Bellmer dolls, their expressions blank (not malign, exactly), their skin pale and corpse-like, sickly sweet. They were feral angels, dysfunctional dominatrices. Their stock in trade was plastic sheeting; you knew blood would be spilt. Guerin’s choreography was disturbingly erotic or sometimes just disturbing (a la Cafe Muller) and could have been inspired by Bellmer’s anagram poem, Wir lieben den Tod: ‘Rot winde den Leib, Brot wende in Leid…’ and so on. You get the picture.

Usually, the witches’ tenebrous machinations take place in the shadows, unseen. The astonishing decision to foreground them radically altered the dynamic of the play, and that in fascinating ways. For one thing, the stature of Macbeth (John Heffernan: excellent) was diminished. He was no longer the fearsome warrior, later tyrant, that we know from, most recently, the Michael Fassbender film. Instead, his golden crown had the appearance of a dunce’s cap, quite fitting for a fool who has been duped into damning his soul.

Besides the witches, another (minor) surprise of the night was the scene which showed Banquo complicit in Duncan’s murder. I don’t remember this in the text but trust that it is there. (Though the play was first performed before King James, Banquo’s erstwhile descendent, and why would Shakespeare offend his patron?) Anyway, it made sense that ‘noble’ Banquo would keep schtum here: he knows his lineage will benefit from Duncan’s death.

This was a revelatory production of a classic play and an utterly compelling theatrical experience. Macbeth is showing at HOME until 6 February, a run of a mere five days (far too short), further details can be found here.

Spotlight

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Spotlight

Directed by Thomas McCarthy

USA, 2015

HOME, 30 January 2016

Spotlight

This film charts the The Boston Globe’s ground-breaking investigation into paedophile Catholic priests and the Church’s attempt, for so long successful, to cover it up.

We have seen films like this before – All the President’s Men being the exemplar of the genre – and so all know the floor-plan, more or less. But what gives Spotlight an added edge is the recognition that, along with other institutions, The Boston Globe also looked the other way, was complicit in the cover-up. Without this it would just be righteous reporters fighting to get at the truth, their integrity corruption-proof.

There are solid performances from the likes of Michael Keaton, undergoing something of a career renaissance since Birdman, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams, but best of all is Stanley Tucci as an Armenian lawyer. He gives a vivid portrait of a man who’s worldly, shrewd, elusive and substantive. An unlikely hero.

Alban Gerhardt and Anne-Marie McDermott

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Alban Gerhardt and Anne-Marie McDermott

Manchester Chamber Concerts Society

RNCM Concert Hall, 25 January 2016

An intriguing evening of piano and cello music – these instruments being in many respects the perfect complement.

The programme included Britten and Piazzolla (the latter with a tango, naturally) and four American composers: Barber and Bernstein, Gershwin and (a new name for me) Lukas Foss. All were very different in mood and texture: Bernstein’s Three Meditations, for example, were contemplative and elegiac, whilst Gershwin’s Three Preludes had a lambent touch and delightful melodies. There are those lovely blue notes in Gershwin’s music always, you just can’t escape them. They are his natural idiom.

Bernstein’s Cello Sonata in C, originally written for Rostopovich, would be my personal highlight of the evening, if I had to pick. Mainly because it showed the surprising range of sounds the cello is capable of. Not just the dark melancholy tones we (or I) tend to associate with it, but also a parsed sweetness, a pleasing screeching. An unusual requirement of this piece was for the cellist to play pizzicato for the whole of the second movement, which was quite a feat.

This was a very interesting and instructive concert, apart from the sheer enjoyment that it gave. It was one of those concerts where you learn new things: an enticing sampler, a spark to curiosity, a starting point for exploration. Alban Gerhardt (cello) and (piano) coped with the technical demands of the diverse programme admirably.

This was about as good as music can be.

Alban Gerhardt’s website is here.

Anne-Marie McDermott’s website is here.

Details of forthcoming MCCS concerts can be found here.

 

barbarians @ HOME

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barbarians: A Trilogy

By Hofesh Shechter

Hofesh Shechter Company

HOME, 28 January 2016

barbarians. Photo by Gabriele Zucca

barbarians. Photo by Gabriele Zucca

There are some good moments here, for example the dance sequences when the baroque music kicks in.

It could become something, maybe, if it weren’t otherwise so slow and stop-start, so talky and self-indulgent. The interview with Hofesh Shechter, a prime case in point (yes, there was an interview with the choreographer as part of the show), was excruciating to sit through. All his incoherent meanderings, those contrived ‘you knows’. In dance, speech should be used sparingly, if at all. Even good poetry is at best distracting. And Hofesh’s musings certainly weren’t poetry.

At various points the theatre was plunged into darkness, with the period of longest duration being right before the dancers reappeared naked. Why were they naked? Well, my theory would be that it was a kind of coda, a metaphor for the vacuity of the whole show along the lines of ‘the Emperor has no clothes’. But I am probably reading too much into it.

barbarians @ HOME here.

barbarians on tour here.

 

RNCM Big Band with Ryan Quigley

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RNCM Big Band with Ryan Quigley

RNCM Theatre, 23 January 2016

Ryan Quigley

This was another altogether copacetic RNCM Big Band concert, featuring the virtuoso trumpeter Ryan Quigley.

When Quigley was on stage the band played some of his own compositions and some of his arrangements of Beatles songs, together with other lively and lovely stuff, not least by Maynard Ferguson.

It was an enjoyable and invigorating set, though it struck me that the lyrics of ‘Yesterday’ are wimpy, self-pitying, immature and downright nonsensical. Not one of McCartney’s finest, despite the lovely melody. I mean, taking the lyrics at face value: even if the guy does make it to ‘yesterday’ – a sheer impossibility – what does that get him? The girl hasn’t left but she is surely thinking of leaving. It’s a done deal. Hardly a situation you’d want to live through again. In my view, it is vastly overrated. By contrast, ‘Hey Jude’ holds up: it is up-beat, it is a song that demands courage (‘go out and get her’), it has a kind of grandeur. It leads you back to the world.

There was plenty of fine musicianship on show here, from Ryan Quigley and the band.

You must Be the One to Bury Me

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You must Be the One to Bury Me

Babel Theatre

HOME, 19 January 2016

You must Be the One to Bury Me

At first you think this play is going to be an amiable romance; but it contained more than a drop of poison, if not outright terror.

What I find intriguing about Babel’s approach to theatre is that they are clearly interested in telling stories about the contemporary world. They’re of Now, bang up to date. Yet they’re equally committed to the physical roots of theatre: gesture, action and dance. The upshot is that what happens onstage is a curious hybrid of the ultra modern and the primitive: cyberspace and shadow-play, the Anthropocene and the Upper Paleolithic. It is as though the computer and the cave were coeval. (As they perhaps now are: isn’t going to the theatre like entering a cave?)

Apart from one brief moment – phone calls ending with the word ‘Ciao!’ belong in Sophia Loren films from the sixties and nowhere else– this was wonderful.

For details of future performances of You must Be the One to Bury Me at HOME, click here.

Other plays in the PUSH festival can be viewed here.

For more information about Babel Theatre click here.

 

Madonna and Child in Salmannsdorf

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Madonna and Child seen in Salmannsdorf, Vienna. Photo by P. P. O. Kane.

Madonna and Child seen in Salmannsdorf, Vienna. Photo by P. P. O. Kane.

Madonna and Child seen in Salmannsdorf, Vienna. Photo by P. P. O. Kane.

A photo of Madonna and Child seen in Salmannsdorf, enroute to Dreimarkstein in the Vienna woods.

There is a pleasant restaurant at Dreimarkstein called Hauserl am Roan. From there you can take many walks. The best known being to go on to Hermannskogel, Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg, descending through the ‘nose’ (so called because of its steep descent) to end up in Nussdorf.

A wonderful day out!

Prison Game

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Prison Game

Written and performed by Marcus Hercules

Hercules Productions

HOME, 19 January 2016

Prison Game - Marcus Hercules

This is the best play in the PUSH festival so far, a raw and urgent must-see performance from the magnetic Marcus Hercules.

In Prison Game we get to hear the story of Mike Stone (aka Bullet): growing up on the streets of Manchester, getting sucked into the world of crime, finding himself caught in a trap even before prison comes a ’knocking.

On stage there was just a chair and Hercules himself. It was enough. We experienced all the emotion of one man’s life, we were present when crucial decisions were contemplated. We looked on as he lost his soul. We witnessed multitudes.

While watching Prison Game I was reminded of a remark that Chris Honer made to me going on six years ago. This was in the bar at the old Library Theatre after seeing Road Movie, which would make the date 19 May 2010. Chris said: Yes, Mark Pinkosh’s performance was a monologue, even though he played more than one character. So Hercules’ dynamic, variegated performance has to be called a monologue, though there wasn’t anything remotely ‘mono’ about it. He became in turn Mike, his older brother, a police officer, a teacher, a judge… and there was a carnival MC here too, to round out each chapter of Mike’s life – there’s always carnival.

Marcus Hercules is the hardest working man in theatre.

There are only two more performances of Prison Game at HOME, details here.

Other plays in the PUSH festival can be viewed here.

For details of Hercules Productions click here.

The Revenant

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The Revenant

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

United States, 2015

HOME, 16 January 2016

The Revenant

This brutal and beautiful film frequently takes your breath away.

The tone is set right from the start: a rapid-fire Indian attack on a team of pelt hunters. Arrows appear through face and neck and heart. Death comes at once, without warning.

Some hunters are able to escape, scampering along the river and through the woods. Then their scout, a tracker named Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), is attacked by a bear. He is a burden to take along, so two men, one of them Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), stay behind to tend to him and bury him when he dies. For his injuries are surely fatal.

And here is the problem: Glass is strong and means to survive. The Indians are coming close, closer still. They, Fitzgerald and his helper, decide to kill Glass and be on their way. Better two survive than none. Only… Glass does not stay dead.

You see in Glass a man red in tooth and claw, doing anything to survive. There is one scene where he disembowels his dead horse, takes out its internal organs, and climbs inside it to keep warm.

It is a revenge drama – many people, including the Indians, are seeking some sort of revenge – played out in a bleak and beautiful landscape of snow and forest, river and ice, mountain and plain. The vast majesty of nature dwarfs human desire.

Roseacre

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Roseacre

Written and directed by Michael White

Square Peg Theatre

HOME, 15 January 2016

Roseacre

This one turned out to be an engrossing, well-acted contemporary crime drama: top-notch entertainment.

The set-up involved a big, powerful and no doubt heartless company doing fracking explorations in an English village, name of Roseacre. There are protests and demonstrations from residents and environment groups and, after one of these demos, a murder.

As the investigation winds on, it reveals – guess what? – venal human motive. You get a vital rendering of familiar noir characters and situations: a malign love triangle, an undercover cop gone native, another cop on the take. My favourite character was a Slavic prostitute, a woman who’s seen and done it all and has no high opinion of men.

What I found most impressive about the production was the versatile use to which the relatively small stage was put. The space of Theatre 2 is smaller than the main theatre, kind of like the Green Room’s used to be. Here it became a claustrophobic police interrogation room, a wood where a rogue cop pursued his escaped captive and lots of locales in between: a crime scene, a florist’s shop, even a car. Not only a versatile but a convincing use of the stage – and, well, jildy scene changes.

Here is an innocent question: what would film or theatre be without the handgun? What other device or instrument could take its place? This question prompted in part by Roseacre‘s terrific ending; it ends with a bang, in fact.

Roseacre is playing at HOME tonight at 8pm, details here.

Other plays in the PUSH festival can be viewed here.

For details of Square Peg Theatre’s future productions go here.

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