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Tag Archives: Drama

Love Me Tender

Love-Me-TenderIn preview tonight at Theatreworks, Love Me Tender explores a grab-bag of vaguely-related themes through a series of stories told sometimes in dramatic dialogue, and other times in literary monologue. The characters are mostly plagued by a lack of control of their circumstances and a sense of helplessness, and much of the exploration is a cavalcade of questions and of doubt, which doesn’t exactly make for riveting theatre.

At a rather fundamental level, I have an objection to the mode of storytelling employed by Tim Holloway in much of Love Me Tender. This is theatre, but the events in the narratives are not actually performed on stage. Instead, performers tell their story, often in metaphor, mostly in direct address to the audience. The result is that what the audience encounters is not strictly speaking dramatic, but tends more towards the literary arts. We lose, as an audience, the capacity to read between the lines, the capacity to read the characters’ relationships, and the capacity to engage with the characters’ experiences as they experience them. Instead, we’re left with…

 

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 in Melbourne Theatre, Theatre, Theatreworks

 

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Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Seems to me one of the most common accusations levelled at some films is that they’re predictable. And of course they are. Most films are made to be sold, and sold within a particular genre. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen deftly avoids such categorisation, and is one of the best character-driven films I’ve ever seen.

Of course the problem faced by film makers who choose material like this is how to sell it. Having seen clips for it, I mostly dismissed it, and only made the effort to see it when I had just seen a whole bunch of films and wanted another. It was not my first choice, but of all the films I’ve seen this week (and I’ve seen a lot more than usual this week), this was the best.

The story is centred on a couple of public servants who find themselves at the centre of an exercise in international relations. Emily Blunt plays a consummate professional who has mastered the art of eternal optimism. And Ewan McGregor plays an infinitely more staid and predictable realist. These two find themselves pursuing the whimsical dream of a Yemeni Sheikh, played engagingly by Amr Waked, to introduce the sport of Salmon fishing to his dry homeland.

The story charts an unpredictable course through the ups and downs of the project, but along the way the central characters, even the Sheikh to some extent, become intensely human as they navigate life. It sounds corny, I suppose, but this really is an intensely human story, with all the pathos you could wish for, and none of the schmaltz. How screenwright Simon Beaufort and novelist Paul Torday managed this, I don’t know, but I take my hat off to them. I wish I could be relied upon to write like that.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has become one of my favourite films, just like that.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 17 June 2012 in BBC Films, British Film, Film, Lionsgate, Unpredictable

 

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The Dark Side of Midnight

Political turmoil is an incubator of dramatic writing, and historical plays about moments of political change are relatively common. Less common are plays set in moments of political turmoil that are about the lives of people who lived through these moments, rather than about the political agitators who created them. This is a shame, as Tessa Bremner’s play The Dark Side of Midnight demonstrates with its very heartfelt story about British colonists living through the Partition of India…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 28 October 2011 in Australian Stage, Free Rain Theatre, Pure Theatre

 

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Agamemnon

Anyone who’s ever spoken to me about authors knows that the author I loathe most is Tolkein. I hate Tolkein’s work because I can’t understand how someone who fails entirely to grasp the idea of interworking exposition with climax can sell a single book! These people may also realise that I have a double standard insofar as my hatred of Tolkein for this reason has not caused me to dismiss the playwrights of Ancient Greece. The fact is, the Ancients wrote for a different purpose and a different audience, but Tolkein was just a babbling fool. Aeschylus, of course, was a master playwright, who had a justifiable reason to write an enormous quantity of vaguely interesting, but largely confusing, expository matter and interspersing it between some good dialogue and interesting plot. What I like most about Rachel Hogan’s adaptation of Agamemnon is that she has managed to distil the essence of Aeschylus’ tale into a performance that is widely accessible.

In doing this, the focus is drawn carefully onto Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra, particularly her interpretation of Agamemnon’s actions, and her primal response to his slaughter of their child. These characters are portrayed exquisitely by the performers in this production, who balance the intensity of their emotions well with the need to edify the audience, as was the tradition of the Ancients.

The interplay between what we can control and what we can’t control is one of the things we humans find most difficult to get a grip on. For the most part, we get the things we can control confused with the things we can’t; and even when we do know which one is which, we still instinctively try to control the things we can’t, ignoring the things we can. In some ways, Agamemnon’s story is that of a king who spent ten years doing something about what was out of his control, while unwittingly losing his grip on what he could have had. But then again, Agamemnon was never really about Agamemnon.

Although I may have retitled it Clytemnestra, I love what Rachel Hogan has done with Aeschylus’ play, perhaps enough to hail her as the anti-Tolkein. Of course, she may take offence at that (I don’t know how she feels about Tolkein) but it is intended to be the compliment of compliments!

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 20 June 2009 in adaptation, Canberra Theatre, Theatre, wethree

 

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The Three Sisters

Chekhov bores me. There, I said it. I have spoken the unspeakable; Chekhov bores me. And yet, this play left me at a bit of a loss. How can you have a play that is thoroughly boring populated by characters that are infinitely intriguing? It should be an impossibility. But apparently it’s not.

To be perfectly honest, I thought Free Rain’s production of The Three Sisters to be the most profoundly astute and engaging interpretation of a thoroughly useless play I have ever encountered (and I have encountered many useless plays). Each character was carefully constructed, and portrayed brilliantly by a cast that has clearly engaged with Chekhov’s text on an intimate level.

Don’t take my description of Chekhov’s play as useless to be a negative thing. The play triggered thought, and because nothing seemed to happen, there was time to drift through thought without missing anything particularly important. Nothing was particularly important. At least, not to the mind of a cynical gen-xer like myself. But it would be nice if there were more opportunities to just sit and think.

This play is worth seeing twice, and I’m going back tomorrow. I’m hoping to be able to drift through those sections of the play that I didn’t drift through last time, and vice-versa.

Not the kind of play I would want to see every time I go to the theatre, but this was an opportunity not to be missed, and Free Rain should be commended on a splendid and invariably worthwhile production of something completely useless.

 

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