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Tag Archives: willing suspension of disbelief

The Importance of Being Earnest

the importance of being earnestI was pleased to find £10 tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest at the Harold Pinter Theatre, and I wasn’t even worried about the likelihood of finding a pillar in my view, but it wasn’t that far in that I felt I wanted at least £5 of my £10 back (and the £5 I was happy for them to keep was for the charming set).

This is not so much a poor production as it is a poorly conceived one. Oscar Wilde’s amazingly witty play is couched in a modern super-plot that turns the performance into a final rehearsal for a regional repertory society’s production.

In itself, it does bring some additional humour in the form of extra quips and some additional wit, but it adds nothing of value to Wilde’s play or its message, and I would argue that in so doing, it undermines the quality of Wilde’s work.

I’m no purist. I do like playing with the great works, and appreciate a novel setting or treatment for something as familiar as this, but the problem here lies in how far Wilde stretches our willingness to suspend our disbelief. Lady Bracknell is patently absurd, and yet when performed well, she is recognisable from life and is the engine for the play’s theme. Turning Lady Bracknell into an actor performing Lady Bracknell completely undermines her integrity, and entirely flattens Wilde’s play.

If there was a point being made by the extraneous setting, it may have worked, but it adds nothing worthwhile, and ought to have been eschewed.

The best production I have seen remains Rhys Holden’s Canberra production with Free Rain Theatre in the early noughties, which retained Wilde’s words but provided an entirely modern setting, enlivening the play brilliantly.

This production doesn’t even hold a candle to it. Particularly disappointing.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 2 August 2014 in British Theatre, Theatre

 

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Les Misérables

les miserablesI’ve just been to see Les Misérables and it seems the angst-ridden trailers that I’ve seen everywhere for this film would have been sufficient. It seems the marketers were given very little to work with and all the best bits of the film were used in the trailer, so there’s not really a need to pop along and see it.

I really hate to say it, but it’s the Australasians that let the film down (yes, New Zealand, when he does badly, Russell Crowe is a Kiwi; we’ll only claim him as an Aussie when he does well). Hugh Jackman is a little awkward but tolerable; the problem is that whenever he’s on screen, I’m seeing Hugh Jackman do Jean Valjean, rather than seeing Jean Valjean. The awkwardness with which he carries the role just undermines the suspension of disbelief.

I fully concur with those who have criticised the choice of Russell Crowe for the role of Javert. He is not entirely inappropriate, but it seems that although he can hold a tune, he can’t hold both a tune and a character at the same time. I believe he could have carried the character well enough were this not a sung-through musical, and I also have a feeling that there is scope for a film version of Les Misérables adapted to prose rather than the musical, which doesn’t really do the story any favours.

The film does have a few redeeming points, though. Whenever Anne Hathaway is on screen, I forget the awkwardness of Jackman and Crowe; she is engaging and poetic in every sense. Edward Redmayne is likewise convincing as Marius, and his chemistry with Amanda Seyfried‘s adult Cosette is palpable. Along with Isabelle Allen, these performers almost manage to redeem the film from the clunky performances of the two Australasians commanding the big dollars.

Whatever its faults, this film does one thing particularly well, in my opinion; while most productions that I’ve seen, whether for stage or screen, position Les Misérables as a quintessentially French story, this film sets the story amidst the mere backdrop of revolutionary France, allowing the characters greater autonomy from their political circumstances. It is my opinion that the story would sit just as well in front of any struggle for independence and liberty. It would be as at home before the Battle of the Chesapeake, the Eureka Stockade, the Myall Creek Massacre or Tiananmen Square, because the focus in this story is the journey of the individual characters within a particular political context. And of course, this being a story originally written by a Frenchman, its French context is de rigueur.

And perhaps that’s the big thing to learn from this rather expensive mistake of a film. What the world needs is an adaptation that takes the story of Les Misérables and depicts some fictional Aboriginal characters going through the same experience in the lead up to the Myall Creek Massacre… with prose dialogue to ram home the point. I’ll take that one. Anyone want to pick up Tiananmen Square?

 
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Posted by on Friday, 18 January 2013 in British Film, Cameron Mackintosh, Film, Working Title Films

 

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Short+Sweet Sydney 2013 (Week 1)

So my first venture into a theatre in 2013 ended better than it began. Have you ever tried to find King Street Theatre in Newtown? Talk about hidden away; it’s not even on King Street! But I made it, on time (which is more than can be said for some), and the hunt for the theatre turned out to be a real treasure hunt.

So this first week of Short+Sweet Sydney for 2013 started with a lot of energy. Pete Malicki’s Checkout is a little preachy perhaps, but nonetheless engaging and its four performers delivered Malicki’s strong characters with integrity, making for a strong start to the evening. I was impressed by Kerry Bowden’s monologue Handyman, which has forever given me a new (and improved) association for the Bunnings jingle. Emily Kivilcin hit just the right note between ditzy and cunning, which I’m not sure is a note I’ve ever heard before.

Miranda Drake delivered an impressive monologue also, and though its focus was a distinctly female experience, I was impressed with the manner in which it engaged male audients in the female perspective of the experience.

Though there was a lot to like, the two greatest moments came immediately before and after interval. The last play before interval was My Name is Cine-Ma, which was devised by Stray Factory and has been awarded in the Mumbai, Chennai and Kuala Lumpur Festivals. Taking the Bollywood tradition as its inspiration, this energetic piece focused on the story of a girl who was a little too obsessed with film. Somewhat reminiscent of the Chooky Dancers in flavour if not style, the exotic and prosaic sit hilariously side by side, which always tickles my fancy.

The Fox and the Hunter, though, is a truly inspired piece of theatre. Taking the mickey out of English sacred cows always gets me laughing (see what I did there?), but I think Simon Godfrey’s script is a work of pure genius, taking the moment when a clever fox meets the hunter who has pursued him for an eternity, and exploring just what happens when gentlemen and foxes engage in a truly meaningful dialogue. It rides splendidly on the talents of James Hartley as the pompous hunter and Tom Green, whose fox genuinely inspired the willing suspension of disbelief.

If you haven’t been to see Short+Sweet Sydney 2013 in week one, it’s too late and you’ve missed out, but don’t despair; there are several more weeks, including the presumably perfect week 4, when my play The Commuter gets another airing.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 13 January 2013 in Festivals, King Street Theatre, Short+Sweet, Sydney Theatre, Theatre

 

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