For Brasenose, Robert Hewison and Michael Palin produced John Mortimer's radio play Call Me a Liar. A slight school-of-Billy-Liar piece, Philip Hodgson played the anti-hero Sammy Noles amusingly, a compulsive a defensive liar who is finally redeemed by the love of Martha Heinz. Good attention to detail, marred only by a recalcitrant moustache. Ingeniously staged with a three part revolving set.

Of Teddy Hall's production of the third act of Dannie Abse's Fire in Heaven, I hardly know what to say. I suppose the piece was as well-performed as the last death-rattle of a worn out verse convention allows.

---David Wright, Theatre, Isis 20 November 1963.

I cited Teddy Hall as there's a strong possibility Ian Marter was in that production, but I need to research further.
I spent this evening (with some usual suspects) seeing Colin Baker essay Detective Chief Inspector Morse in Alma Cullen's Colin Dexter-authorised play The House of Ghosts at the New Theatre (which some of those on my flist will remember as the Apollo) in Oxford. Alma Cullen is an experienced television Morse hand and delivers a play (it's not an adaptation of a Dexter story) with beats familiar to television viewers: the Oxford setting, connections with university academics, former students returning to the university, all of whom are Morse's college contemporaries, and who are connected to the murder. As for Morse's latest romantic interest...

The staging was straightforward but effectively suggested theatre, chapel, college room and office. Be careful where you look, if you go, if you don't like torches being shone in your eyes, effective though it was.

Colin Baker's Morse (the term 'Inspector Morse' was absent from the programme and publicity, presumably it's a trademark of the ITV series) was at first less of a presence than one imagines John Thaw's would have been. One is not comparing like with like, of course. Colin Baker brings in some Thawesque mannerisms but as the play unfolds proves very good at depicting a Morse unhappily triangulated between competing loyalties, his devotion to solving puzzles, and his own tenuous sense of self-worth. Deliberately and curiously nostalgic - set in 1987, most of the actors playing fortysomethings seemed to be much older, reminiscent of the 1970 version of The Railway Children - I think most of the audience agreed that it was worthy of the Barrington Pheloung theme music at the end.
sir_guinglain: (parrot)
( Jun. 3rd, 2007 04:58 pm)
The reason that my post about last night's Doctor Who was later than it might have been was that I was at Forgotten Voices at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, last night. It's a small-scale play assembled from the testimony of soldiers and a woman munitions worker from the First World War, as published in Max Arthur's book, and set in a room at the Imperial War Museum in 1956, where interviewees swap stories as they drink their tea after being interviewed. It's reasonably successful but not outstanding, despite the efforts of its cast. The best performances are probably those of Matthew Kelly, as former East Lancashire regiment private 'Kidder' Harris, and Tim Woodward as ex-sergeant Todd. I didn't feel I'd learned anything new about the Great War, except added to the stories I'd already heard about conditions during the conflict; bar, perhaps, the experience related by the officer character, played by Rupert Frazer, of being unable to persuade family and friends that the war was not the series of heroic cavalry charges the press liked to depict. The two characters the play fumbled were Frazer's officer - the transition from his appearing as the representative of a remote class with no conception of what the trenches were like, to the recollections of his own experiences of the front, was too sudden and didn't seem part of the same story - and Belinda Lang's munitions worker, Kitty Procter. Kitty was conceived as an awkward character anyway, interrupting with apparent irrelevances, and I'd like to have known whether there was any material in the Imperial War Museum archives which could have allowed her to relate the story of her husband's death with the male characters present.
I was joined by [ profile] gervase_fen for the penultimate instalment of the latest tour by Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden, with video appearances by Bill Oddie which proved an opportunity for Messrs Brooke-Taylor and Garden to demonstrate their impeccable comic timing - at times it was difficult to believe that Bill Oddie was on tape and not interacting with them down the line. The estimable Mr Fen has reviewed the evening here. I can only add that for this generation of comedians a dislike of David Frost seems to be compulsory.
Compared to Anna Maxwell Martin, Liza Minelli is but a thimble.

EDITWhich, expanded, is to say that I saw Cabaret at the Lyric last night. This is a decadent and unsettling production of a musical which I did not know well beyond familiarity with a few of its songs - 'Cabaret', 'The Money Song', 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me' - and clips of Liza Minelli singing Sally Bowles in the film version. So it's really unfair of me to compare Anna Maxwell Martin with Liza Minelli, given that I haven't yet seen the film, and as Sally's nationality was changed from British to American for the film they are playing characters with different backgrounds. But Anna Maxwell Martin, a favourite actress of mine since His Dark Materials, is again a revelation here. She can sing with the deep-throated roar of a chanteuse of the jazz era, and with the game fragility of Sally, a character who is a warning to all self-dramatizers everywhere. We can never be sure of any truth with Sally other than that she can't see any existence for herself outside the Weimar Republic Berlin she is addicted to; she has obscured her background from herself as much as from those she meets (her accent wavers between the clipped and nasal fashionable upper-class variant of received pronunciation of the 1920s, and a cockney which could be just as affected) and her identity is steadily worn away by drink and drugs and denial. Anna Maxwell Martin makes it utterly believable that Cliff Bradshaw (an American novelist played by Michael Hayden here; in the film the character is Brian Roberts played by Michael York) could take this time-bomb in, because she and her Sally are fatally charming, whether begging for champagne as a small figure who should be dwarfed by her fur coat, but isn't, or clinging in childlike affection to Cliff as he in turn tries to type his novel on their single bed.

This is the second stage production I've been to with my sister in the past few months which has involved watching simulated sex. (The previous one was the ENO/Mark Morris King Arthur.) Almost the first thing the sexually complex Cliff sees when he reaches Fraulein Schneider's rooms is full-frontal male nudity as one of Fraulein Kost's many 'nephews' - most of them sailors - is banished from the house. This sets the tone for a highly sexualised first half, where the sexually liberated but also sexually decadent character of the Berlin of the late 1920s and early 1930s is ascendant. The potentially touching 'It Couldn't Please Me More' between Fraulein Schneider (Sheila Hancock) and Herr Schultz (Geoffrey Hutchings), a song about the gift of a pineapple from ageing greengrocer Schulz to similarly elderly Schneider, which she recognizes as a gift a young man might give to a girl he is courting, is undercut by one of the cast coming on in the back of the stage wearing a garland of tropical flowers and performing a mock-Hawaiian dance. For the second half, though, the penises, real or fake, are trousered in; the fetish gear of the Kit Kat Klub is less evident; James Dreyfus's muted performance as the Emcee comes into its own as his carefree and careless world is boxed in; and the Nazis glimpsed at the end of the first half as Sally sleeps singing 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me' are revealed as the benefactors of the unwitting Cliff, whose former male lover Bobby is beaten up and whose facilitator, Ernst (Andrew Maud) persuades the newly-engaged Fraulein Schneider to end her relationship with Herr Schultz because he is Jewish. Cliff escapes back to America, but not before he has attempted to strike back and become the victim of physical violence from the Nazis himself in a brutally realised dance sequence; Sally swaps her fur coat for a black smock, the abortion of the baby Cliff wants to bring up with her, and a resolution to die before she gets old; and we leave the performers of the cabaret to the hiss of the gas chambers.

The staging is claustrophobic, earthy, and non-realistic, with violet, purple and black dominant; James Dreyfus performs the opening number, 'Wilkommen', through a hole in the curtain styled after a camera shutter, a nod to the show's ultimate literary source. The most real place is probably the Kit Kat Klub itself. I've heard that the original Broadway production in the 1960s clearly delineated between 'real' and 'imagined' scenes, with any Kit Kat Klub scenes performed from behind a screen of tinsel taking place in the imagination; forty years on, the audience is past such conventions, so the concentrated pathos of Sally moving from her bed into the imagined club during 'Cabaret' (if this is indeed what happened) is instead thrown forward and back into the scenes surrounding it. This isn't a bad thing necessarily.

We watched the show from the balcony, which was a long way up; but this performance reached us there, and is well worth seeing.


sir_guinglain: (Default)


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