Category Archives: plays

When You Have Nothing to Say…

…say nothing.  That’s advice I’ve been following for the last couple of weeks, but a blog can only stay silent for so long before people Begin to Wonder.  It’s like radio silence – if it goes on too long people begin to question whether the station is there at all.

Speaking of radio silence, the other day this was stretched to the limit during the broadcast of Pinter’s play ‘Betrayal.’  It’s a good title, since the play itself is a betrayal, heaping insult onto injury by making public Pinter’s affair with Joan Bakewell.  She wrote her own play in retaliation (also broadcast) but no such redress was available to Vivien Merchant, the wronged wife, who not only had to suffer the pain of her husband’s affair but then the indignity of having it plastered all over the stage.  I can’t begin to imagine how I’d feel if it was me.

But the Beeb were flirting with danger in other ways too.  As anyone familiar with Pinter knows, his plays are pregnant with pauses, so much so that the phenomenon is known as the ‘Pinter pause’:

A Pinter character can barely say half a dozen words without lapsing into a brooding silence.  Which is not to say that the pauses are contrived or meaningless; far from it – a pause, a silence, can convey far more than any number of words when used in the right way.  Pinter could almost have been a Quaker (except that it is not very Quakerly to have an affair and then write a play about it!)  Anyway, this is me breaking my radio silence and telling you all that I am Still Here.  I’ve mostly been in the garden, digging up stubborn brambles with roots the size (although not the shape) of my head, and ivy that has convoluted and thickened everywhere.  Ivy horrifies me, the way it embraces and kills every other living thing: it’s very cathartic to rip it apart and chuck it in the garden bin.  We have just signed up to this scheme, which gets you a brown bin that’s emptied fortnightly.

I promise from now on to blog more often than the garden bin is emptied.  Hope you all had a good Easter.  Anyway, here’s the play, featuring Andrew Scott who was so brilliant as Moriarty in Sherlock:

and here’s Joan Bakewell’s riposte:

Kirk out

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Best. Shakespeare. Ever.

I was initially a tad dubious about these beamed-in theatre productions where theatres film their output and transmit it simultaneously to cinemas all over the world.  Whilst I could see that it enabled thousands more people to see a play which they might not otherwise get to attend, it seemed a rather dislocated experience.  It must also be hard for the actors, knowing that they are performing for a dual audience and that as well as having to project to the gods at the National (or wherever) they will have cameras on them doing a close-up.

But I am now a total convert, having seen not only Hedda Gabler from the National but also, on Saturday, the completely amazing NT production of Twelfth Night, starring in a gender-bent role, Tamsin Greig as Malvolia.

I always respected Tamsin Greig as an actor.  Her ultra-distinctive voice is rarely heard on The Archers nowadays, as Debbie is permanently in Hungary, but I loved her in Black Books and various other things on the good box.  But I basically thought of her as a soap/sitcom actress and had No Idea of what heights of comic invention she could ascend on the stage.  Her Malvolia was the funniest, most striking, most pathetic, most hilarious and outrageous I have ever seen.  And though she was the best thing in it, the cast as a whole was far from dusty.  Setefane claimed that Phoebe Fox was the finest member of the cast, playing another gender-bent role, Olivia (a woman pretending to be her own brother).  And ’tis true, she was indeed brilliant, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Tamsin Greig.  Best.  Twelfth Night.  Ever.  In fact, possibly the best Shakespeare ever – in my experience at least.

Gender-bending is common in Shakespeare when not only did boys play women, but characters often pretended to be of the other sex.  But recently in more feminist style, roles have been swapped; so recently Helen Mirren has played Prospera in The Tempest and Maxine Peake, Hamlet:

If you get a chance to see this production, go.  Sell your house and all its contents, but go.  It’s terrific.

Kirk out

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Harry Potter and the Jumped Shark

You might think that after a success like Harry Potter, an author would be completely burnt out.  I’m sure I would be – for a while at least.  But having scooped up her awards, JK Rowling barely had time for a good night’s sleep before she was deep into a novel for adults, ‘A Casual Vacancy’.  Two more followed, this time under a pseudonym (that secret was never going to be kept) and now we have the latest in the Potter saga, ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.’

*********SPOILER ALERT **********

Its hard to judge this from merely reading the script: I’ve heard that the staging and special effects are terrific and I’m sure it’s a tremendous spectacle.  But on the page it’s very much a curate’s egg with not many good parts.

The story carries on from the exact moment the series left off.  As you will recall, Harry and Ginny are seeing their youngest, Albus, off to Hogwarts.  Albus is a nervous, sensitive boy whose main fear is that he will be put into Slytherin House by the Sorting Hat.  The main focus of the action is on Albus: as he gets on the train he sits with Scorpius, the son of Draco Malfoy.  Both are in some sense pariahs – and because of the history between their parents no-one wants them to be friends – and yet, much as Ron and Harry took to each other right from the word go, so Scorpius and Albus become fast friends.  This for me was the best bit of the story: the friendship between them is touching and feels real; the language is authentic for a younger generation (‘Al owled me’) and the relationship feels genuine.

Not so the rest of the story, which regrettably I found to be a re-hashing of the novels.  You may recall that all the time-turners in the Ministry had been destroyed.  Oh, but wait – one has survived the purge.  Albus and Scorpius find it and try to go back in time to prevent – hang on, what was it? to prevent Cedric Diggory from dying because – well I really can’t remember why, and that’s the thing.  Once you start going back in time to change plots you’re on a very sticky wicket: in fact it’s a sure sign of jumping the shark.

The adult characters (Harry, Ron, Hermione and others) are flat now that they’re grown up: it’s vaguely interesting finding out that Hermione is Minister for Magic but I ended up skipping whole wodges of the action as it just didn’t grab me.

Like I say, what with special effects and trickery it’s probably stunning on stage – but on the page?


Jumping the shark?  Give me hunting the snark any day…

Kirk out

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Orton Ornot?

Regular readers of Lizardyoga’s blog will be only too familiar with this particular rant of mine, but bear with me because there is a new twist.  It has been mooted that the old Haymarket theatre, which has been hanging around with nothing to do, should be resurrected in some form.

I could never quite understand why they found it necessary to close it in the first place and replace it with some steel-and-glass monstrosity which looks far more like a conference centre than (oo! the words ‘conference centre’ have triggered another rant, but more of that later) than a theatre, and instead of calling it after Leicester’s most famous playwright, Joe Orton, to call it by the spectacularly unimaginative name of The Curve.  By that token the new bus station would be called The Swerve, the Highcross Centre The Sprawl and Town Hall Square, Town Hall – oh wait.  But you get the drift.  There was a perfectly good Leicester-born and -bred playwright screaming for a theatre to be named after him, and instead they opted to name it after its shape.  Shame on them.

So I think I’m going to launch a campaign, if they do resurrect the Haymarket, for it to be named the Orton Theatre.  He deserves no less.

Oh, and the other rant is concerning a certain local religious centre which seems increasingly more concerned with hosting conferences than it does with supporting the homeless.  Nuff said…

Kirk out


Filed under drama, plays, politics

I Guess That’s Why They Call Them The Blues

The whole world has gone blue today.  The streets are blue, the cafes are blue, the papers are blue and social media are blue.  This blog is blue – but then it always has been.  And the reason for this cerulean craziness, this azure animation, this marine madness?  Why the navy lark?  Why the sky-blue antics?

Need you ask?  As the whole world knows (or at least the whole of England and Wales) Leicester City are an ace away from winning the premier league.

But none of this is as surprising as the fact that I, who have reached the age of 58 without evincing any enthusiasm for football, should give a toss.  I, who have no interest in the game others see as beautiful but which to me looks like a bunch of men spitting and sliding about in mud: I, who have never been able to see any point in these Saturday-afternoon terraces of shouting men (even though they are now joined by women and children), these gaggles of excited commentators, these interminable pool-results – why should I, who would a million times rather watch Shakespeare at the Globe, care about Leicester City at Old Trafford?

Well, I don’t know.  I guess I’ve just been caught up in it – and to be honest, anything that causes the city to celebrate is good.  It’s been an excellent year or two for Leicester, what with finding Richard and now this – and I’m happy to be happy for those to whom it all means something.

The History Boys

On the subject of Shakespeare, it surely cannot have escaped even the most soccer-mad amongst you that last week was the 400th anniversary of the old boy’s death.  By tradition, since he was born at around the same time but the exact date is unknown, his birthday is celebrated on the same day, 23rd April.  And you can’t move on the Beeb for celebrations of his work. There was a spectacle from the RSC on interpretations of Shakespeare which I found interesting but a bit – well, spectacular, especially the bit where a gaggle of actors disputed how to read ‘To be or not to be’ and were joined on stage by Prince Charles.  It was fun but – I dunno, kinda cheesy:

Plus, I’ve been catching up with ‘The Hollow Crown,’ a sequence of history plays from Richard II to Henry V featuring Jeremy Irons, Rory Kinnear and Tom Hiddleston.  I don’t know the history plays too well, so it’s been an education for me and has sent me scurrying to find my Complete Works and read along with the series.  Simon Russell Beale is terrific as Falstaff, as is Tom Hiddleston – who is of course the man of the moment after his triumph in ‘The Night Manager.’

That’s all for today.  Let’s hope Leicester City’s crown will not be hollow…

Kirk out

PS This just in – the latest compound verb – to question-ask


Filed under drama, plays, TV reviews

Adventures with my Friends in Cyberspace

Oh my god!  I cannot believe it’s nearly 2016!  I’ve spent such a long time thinking that 2016 is way wayyyyy in the future that it’s kinda crept up on me.  It’s always the same – every year that extra digit just creeps up so slowly you don’t notice it’s coming.  I mean, you know there’s a new year right around the corner, but somehow it just doesn’t dawn on you that the new year is going to be – well, another year on.  You are going to be a year older, your children are going to be a year older and your silver wedding anniversary (oh god oh god oh god) draws ever closer.

O M G!!!

So I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Friends’ recently – just because it’s good to chill out to – as well as going for long walks and today, listening to the cast of The Archers perform in ‘Calendar Girls.’  I love the film and this was a good production but I was struck by the absence of key members of the cast, notably Tim Bentinck; as well as the women who play Ruth and her mother-in-law Jill – and I can’t help wondering if they are as fed up as the rest of us with the way the series is going.  Ruth seems to be away every time I happen to catch an episode, and I can’t help feeling that maybe she’s taking some time out and that also Bentinck would like to get free of his contract asap.  They also missed a great opportunity to have the actors playing Rob and Helen in ‘The Archers’ as Ruth and her philandering husband in ‘Calendar Girls’.  But it was fun and I managed to clean all the mud off my boots and polish them while listening: one of the great advantages that radio has over television.

So: whilst doing all that, my brain has been active.  Mark has just finished reading a book he bought with his Xmas token, called ‘Adventures with the Wife in Space’.  The book was compiled from a blog; a blog written over many years, bit by bit, day by day, building into a fascinating compendium of anecdote and humour* as it tells the story of a geek’s attempt to interest his wife in the adventures of Dr Who.

And then it turned into a book!  And that started me thinking: if he can do it, so can I: all I need is an angle to interest publishers, and I can turn this blog into a book!

Watch this space folks.

You may even find your comments featuring in the book, if you play your cards right.

Kirk out

*this makes it sound like one of those magazine series you used to get in the ’70’s.  Remember those?

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Woman and Man and Man and Superman

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time, to go to the Phoenix to see ‘Man and Superman’ by Shaw.  I didn’t know the play; I only know a few of his including Saint Joan and of course Pygmalion (‘My Fair Lady’.)

and of course more recently, ‘Educating Rita’, though that’s not so much an adaptation as a work which references Shaw.

But about Man and Superman I knew nothing.

Perhaps just as well, else I’m not sure I’d have gone.  It was a bit of a rag-bag of a play; the first act was pure Oscar Wilde – witty exchanges in a drawing-room – but the second was quite disconnected from the first and the third, consisting of long philosophical disquisitions by characters stuck in hell, was terribly dull.  I fell asleep and shortly afterwards when the play showed no indication of drawing to a close, I left.  Afterwards I found out it was three and a half hours!  Apparently the third act is often cut, and I can see why.  It might have been entertaining when its ideas were new (all the interesting people being in hell; heaven being deadly dull) but they are now so commonplace that the scene really dragged.  Ralph Fiennes as the hero, a descendent of Don Juan, is on-stage the whole time and has nearly all the speeches.  It must be an exhausting part to play; and in the first scene it occurred to me that the way he was playing the character was reminiscent of Rigsby in ‘Rising Damp’.  I have no way of knowing whether this was intentional and I don’t see why it should be, but Steve (for it was he) said he heard of someone who once fell off their chair laughing at Leonard Rossiter.  But I digress.

The central notions of the play are quite dated, too: that the aim of man (and principally of woman) is to produce a superman.  These ideas have been so discredited by their association with Nazism that had they not been given a largely comic treatment this play would have been quite offensive.  As it was I found it dull, baffling and disjointed.  But I did enjoy the first act and Ralph Fiennes was of course terrific.

It’s a weird thing, too, seeing these plays relayed from the NT.  You’re both there and not there; and when people laugh and clap you feel a weird disembodied sense of sitting among ghosts.

I shall explore this idea further, but that’s enough for today.

Have a good Monday

Kirk out


Filed under film reviews, friends and family, plays