Archives For Entertainment

7.Fences, Lenny Henry and Ashley Zhangazha (c)Nobby Clark[6]

August Wilson’s play Fences is being performed to rave reviews in London’s West End.  It stars Lenny Henry, whose stage debut was a brilliant turn as Shakespeare’s Othello. Nowadays it is easy to separate Henry the comic from Henry the actor.  In a recent appearance on BBC radio 4 Lenny Henry responded to the question by stating that “comedy is my job, acting is my career”.

This leading role sees him playing Troy, a talented ex-baseball player turned garbage man.  He is a fifty-something husband and father trying to be the best he can be but weighed down by his past experiences.  The play is set in 1957 with Troy having lived most of his life in a segregated country. In 1949 Jackie Robinson became the first baseball player to cross the major-league colour line but by then Troy could have been seen as too old to play major league.

Troy is caught between the two very different generations of his father and his son.  He embodies the struggles, pain, losses and successes of his life. Henry’s stage presence means you can’t keep your eyes of him.  Troy is stubborn and very good at covering his emotional turbulence. There is an underlying weariness we get glimpses of as the play continues and we find out more of his past.  But he is also hardworking and decent and wants the comfortable life that society promises. He tries to break through discrimination at work in his desire to become the first black man to drive the garbage trucks.

1.Fences, Lenny Henry and Tanya Moodie (c)Nobby Clark[3]

Troy is the heart of the play.  His relationships with his American football obsessed son Cory, his garbage man buddy Jim and his devoted wife Rose, all serve to give an insight into the man. Cory is at the receiving end of much pent up hurt and anger. Another son, Lyons and Troy’s brother Gabriel, help to create this engaging community of people.

If I were to critique the play it would be about the limited and narrow role the female character had.  There was more action than introspection on her part until the very end when we find out a bit more about her internal workings.  Having said that, her big gesture isn’t sufficiently explained.  I could make some sense of her responses but my male companion was quite surprised at the twists at the end.

Director Paulette Randall has directed plays throughout the UK, as well as for the BBC and Channel 4. She was an Associate Director of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

August Wilson (1945-2005) was the son of a German man and African American woman.  He has written ten plays, one for each decade of the 20th century. From his early twenties he began writing plays that show the African American experience in all its fullness and humanity. He picked up a Best Play Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987 when James Earl Jones played Troy on Broadway.  Lenny Henry had big boots to fill and they seem to fit him well.

 

Love, Sax and all that Jazz, Chapter 2, De Mans Dem

Love, Sax and all that Jazz poster

Love, Sax and all that Jazz poster

Having interviewed the writer, director and local producer behind Love Sax and all that Jazz chapter 2 I was really looking forward to the performance.  I expected it to be very funny and have Christian values but it was much more than that.

Alan Charles created a great cast of characters who were similar enough to be believable as friends and yet different enough to have their own distinct traits and foibles.  The story is centred on Alfred and located in his bar.  He shares his difficulty in choosing between his first-love Louise and his current love and business partner, Kylie.  He shows his confusion as he tries his best to respond to both women and how they feel about him.  This love triangle keeps the audience guessing until the end.

There is much humour amongst the men and women who visit the bar and share their trials and tribulations in love.  Each scene is relevant, informative, and funny and helps you to get to know and care about the characters.  Lisa and Brian have been married for four years and Brian is complaining to all his friends that he is not happy with the amount of intimacy they have.  This gives an opportunity to explore some gender biases from both men and women.  When they finally take some action and meet the online marriage guidance couple – the effervescent Betty and Leroy – the audience is entertained and informed. Not everything is as it first appears.  We all know that relationships are built on communication and this is demonstrated when the couple speak and realise that they have no idea how the other one was feels and how they can work towards meeting the needs in their relationship.

As well as the married, unmarried, waiting to be married and divorced characters there is also Phil, the player of the piece. The only parts of the Bible Phil seems to know are Old Testament stories when people had many wives!  Despite his lifestyle choices the character is likeable and very entertaining. The female equivalent for Phil is the feisty Jennifer who is introduced as having an affair with a married man.

Having not seen other work by Alan Charles I really want to congratulate him for a great script.  Each scene felt natural and relevant to developing the story and characters yet the scenes stand-alone too.  You are kept emotionally engaged and there were a few times when the audience went “aaw” and “noo” in unison as we were carried along.  With a love poem for the ladies there is something for every one.  There is a pivotal bit of performance poetry, which came at exactly the right time and worked really well.  There is a very funny bit near the start when the men have a good laugh at how often women have “headaches”.  Other metaphors, such as the grass being greener elsewhere, are used to good effect.

If you get a chance to see this comedy play then go for it.  It will entertain you whilst keeping your head and heart engaged. The show was put on in a local church and it was lovely to see the pastor and many from the congregation belly laughing throughout.  It has something to say to everyone and we’re all in relationships with others, whatever our status.

The next performance of Love, Sax and all that Jazz chapter 2 is on Sunday 28th April at Broadway Theatre, London.

I believe there are plans to bring Love, Sax and all that Jazz, chapter 1 to Reading and I shall be booking that when it comes around.  Whilst chapter 2 is from Da Mans Dem, chapter 1 is from the ladies’ viewpoint.

 

If you are anything like me you may not have followed Damien Hirst’s career but you might feel you know all about him.  I decided to see his exhibition at Tate Modern and really experience his work of more than 20 years.

Beautiful,amore,gasp,eyes going into the top of the head and fluttering

Yes there are dead fish in display cabinets and the notorious dead shark.  Being able to see a dead shark so close is quite an incredible feeling and it did bring me into contact with my own fears.  At the same time it feels strangely empowering because the shark is powerless to cause harm despite looking so deadly.

Seeing the inside of a dead sheep is not something I have ever done but it did connect me to my own bodily awareness.  Our bodies communicate with us all the time but we are not always listening, seeing a baby sheep cut in half made me stop.

There is a lot on the medicalisation of life in the exhibition and I’d be intrigued to find out how that connects to his autobiography.  The surgical equipment sent a chill through me as it was meant to.  What seems like a vat of cigarette butts presented me with two immediate responses.  As a non-smoker it seemed that there were enough cigarettes there to make someone very ill and that was sad.  But then I wondered what my addiction would be.  I may start collecting my foil wrappers from my fair trade dark chocolate!

There are several cabinets of pills but they are presented as incredibly desirable luxuries, at one point the use of lighting made them look like diamonds.  He refers to the lullaby effect of sleeping pills on adults.  It’s that moment when art holds up a mirror to society.  I know through my counselling work, contacts and official figures that many people are struggling with insomnia.

But it’s not all about pills and death.  Flies are very much alive as they gorge on a cow’s head in enclosed glass.   Life is also present as butterflies are being born during the exhibition and plants are growing. This is in a strange and intriguing room –almost like a greenhouse – after the straight, clear and clinical looking glass cases.

The Anatomy of an Angel

But my favourite room is the final one when it feels like we’ve been through earth and hell and now we’re in heaven.  Beautiful butterflies and religious motifs are everywhere.  I am not sure of the theology of seeing the human organs of an angel but it is very gripping to see. There’s also a dove suspended in mid flight.

I appreciate the creativity that takes me on a journey inside myself and out again.  It’s about how I connect to it.  My favourite image is the one above, done in 1997.  The name says it all “Beautiful, amore, gasp, eyes going into the top of the head and fluttering.”

 

I would love to hear from you if you’ve been moved by anything creative recently? Did it connect you to life, death or anything else?

 

 

 

 

I recently enjoyed Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Old Vic. I had seen several Shakespearean productions although not specifically this play.  It was a brilliant production directed by Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey was great in the role.  The team wanted the audience to fall in love with the dialogue so the performance covered an absorbing 3 hours!  They gave us enough time to get hold of the setting and the characters. Kevin Spacey as Richard III was captivating and charismatic.  He was also bitter, angry, manipulative, egocentric and altogether not a nice person.

 

A couple weeks later I went to see Butley with Dominic West.  This is the story of a university professor and his relationship with his mentee over a period of time.  I am a big fan of Dominic West and his acting was superb.  During the play we find out about the lengths and depths of their relationship, the other people in their lives and gain some insight into the changing power balance between them.  Although it is possible to feel sad for Butley and the situation he finds himself in, one is not really drawn to him.  He is bitter, angry, repressed, emotionally blind, lost and emotionally cold.  It was quite a sad ending in that the character seemed resigned and hopeless.

 

I was very disappointed with the ending in Butley. I don’t think I need an upbeat happy ending. Also, characters don’t all have to be nice because that is not realistic, but is it too much to hope for depth and transformation?  I wonder if this will become a new criterion for the plays I choose to see.   It may be that I expect more from the theatre than from the film industry.

 

Have you seen any plays recently and how did you relate to the characters?

Film: Inception

January 24, 2011

Inception got into my mind and made me wonder how we allow ourselves to absorb the ideas of others yet having some sense of our own ideas

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Slumdog Millionaire

March 3, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

This is the story of a young man from the slums of Mumbai who eventually gets onto a ‘Who want to be a millionaire’ show.  The film shows his journey from childhood to getting onto the programme and it shows us how and why he knows the answers to those prize winning questions.

I was very moved by the film and eventually allowed a few tears to slowly roll down my cheeks.  The emotional journey was predictable and surprising at the same time.  It’s such a big story told in colour and conveying a great sense of the noise, smells, chaos and energy of the location.    It gives the audience a sense of the hustling, and associated risks, required to get anywhere.  What I hadn’t anticipated was the way in which despite all that they have against them they are not free to be visible as they embarrass the authorities by their simple existence. 

The lead characters need to figure out how to fight the system yet remain invisible and unthreatening.  From the outside it seems that they need creativity, hard work and some luck to make it to adulthood.  From the inside it must be a battle of hope and motivation to see through their reality and encourage the constant struggle.  Without this it would be easy to be overwhelmed by their circumstances and giving up on hope.

Of course this is true all over the world and the bigger the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ the more risks people will take to get their bit of the pie.   This reminds me of a famous rapper’s motto – “get rich or die trying”.  I now have a better understanding of why rappers (etc.) go on about where they come from because to become successful from such a start says a lot about determination, creativity and application of self.    

However our hero is not motivated by wealth or fame but love.  He met his love as a young man, recognised her as that, had the courage to seek her out when they lost touch, and then do what is necessary to secure their future.  He could not have done it without the help (and hindrance) of his brother.  In the end he loses a brother and gains a lover.   

In some ways it is a simple love story, boy meets girl, overcomes trials, they end up together and live happily ever after.  But the interesting characters, location, sense of hope over adversity, the juxtaposition of kindness and cruelty, presence of neglect and nurture makes it a captivating narrative that keeps you alert to everything on screen.  We in our ‘safe’ western environments need to absorb some of that ‘can do’ spirit when things are not perfect in our lives.  Like many of us, the hero does not look like a stereotypical hero, but action speaks louder than words and he walks the talk to make things happen. Encouraging, uplifting, informative, entertaining and a little sad.

 

 

 

I don’t know about you but I struggle to have a best anything.  It’s not like desert island disks where participants are expected to choose a favourite for all eternity – imagined not real.  I like the fact that I can always find a new film etc that I really enjoy and don’t feel the need to rank them in any way.  I guess that might change in the future. I imagine it’s partly explained by the fact that I often see things after they’ve been around for a while.  I can never be bothered to do the latest thing just because it is the latest thing although occasionally it is fun to know what all the hype is about.

Live shows are different because you hesitate and they’re gone.  I remember missing the all-male swan lake to be confronted by review after review proclaiming its excellence.  Not a good one to miss.  Then again there was a lot of media attention around God of Carnage and I was disappointed by it – more slapstick than expected.  However Prince, Madonna and Kanye all lived up to their hype – brilliant!

In keeping with being just behind the curve I went to see The Dark Knight last night.  I thought it did very well to create Gotham city – not a very nice place.  But what was more interesting for me was to see how the characters responded to their environment, their experiences and the expectations of others. The story is at once complex and simple.  Human greed for power or money or status are all present.  An upstanding citizen behaves like a criminal and criminals demonstrate decency.   I’d love to see the script as there were lost of interesting psuedo philosophical lines in it.  It seems we can all justify anything we choose to do – good or bad.  In the film there was talk of the Gotham getting the hero it deserves (in Batman). [ I recently went to a discussion entitled ‘we get the press we deserve’ – for another time.] As his flaws become apparent he is no longer considered a hero but a guardian angel (?).  There is also an interesting aside between Batman and the joker when the joker deduces that they need and thrive off each other. Hmm. How does that speak to us and what heroes do we deserve in our world now?  Let me know what you think of any aspect of this and tell me about your favourites…