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Tag Archives: Literature

Frankenstein

frankensteinMary Shelley’s Frankenstein is not conventionally what we might refer to as a timeless work of literature. It is clearly a product of its time, fashioned from the particular obsessions of its age and demonstrating the changing view of science that characterised the early nineteenth century. It is true that the themes of Frankenstein have made it relevant through the generations, but Nick Dear’s script is a sublime theatrical blueprint that draws the focus to those themes that truly resonate in our age.

Lee Jones tackles the role of Frankenstein’s creation with an amazing energy. He approaches a long exposition with no dialogue beautifully and shows the growth and development of a man born as an adult reasonably well. There are perhaps some timing issues with this as the ebb and flow of his development seems somewhat curtailed…

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 

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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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Richard III

In Richard III, Shakespeare has left us one of the greatest challenges to the willing suspension of disbelief ever created; Richard is a foul and loathsome character, and yet every time I see the play, I am amazed at how much sympathy I have for the detestable excuse for a human being I am presented with. Everyman Theatre has left me in this state yet again.

The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.

 
 

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Sherlock Holmes

Film interpretations of literary works are unfortunately subject to comparison with their wordy counterparts and generally make a poor comparison. Sherlock Holmes’ three writers deftly sidestep this risk by taking Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters and situation and giving them a new plot. The result, I think, is a crime story that the master crime writer would have been proud of.

This film departs dramatically from the tradition of depicting Holmes as a Victorian aristocrat and instead shows him as a hero not unlike Spiderman or Mr Incredible, but with substantial flaws that both endear him and make him repugnant to a twenty-first century audience. Robert Downey Junior plays him admirably, but Jude Law’s Watson is the star performance here. Just as in Doyle’s novels, where Watson is the link between the reader and the aloof Holmes, Law’s Watson gives the audience a central character that makes the detached genius accessible.

This film is unmistakably a product of the twenty-first century, but it manages at the same time to illicit that same sense of intrigue from me that reading Doyle’s stories does. The makers of this film have been bold, even brazen, in their interpretation of Doyle’s characters and situations, but the gamble has paid off, and Sherlock Holmes is, as a result, the first film to do Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters justice.

 
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Posted by on Friday, 1 January 2010 in American Film, British Film, Film, German Film, Warner Brothers

 

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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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