Tuesday, 30 September 2008
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
From the press release:
Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell officially announced the Shaw Festival’s 2009 season today. In 2009 The Shaw takes on a monumental and historic project with full productions of each play in Noel Coward’s famous Tonight at 8:30 collection. The Shaw’s 2009 productions represent the first time all ten short plays have been performed in repertory by a professional company since they were first produced by London’s Phoenix Theatre in 1935-36. The plays will be performed in sets of three, one on each of the Festival’s Niagara-on-the-Lake stages, with the tenth, the rarely produced Star Chamber, being the lunchtime production in the Royal George. And to celebrate this idea for the event that it is, on two separate occasions, we will present all ten in one day – an event we are appropriately naming “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”.
Ms. Maxwell said of the collection: “As the idea of doing all of Coward’s Tonight at 8:30 came to me, and as I reread the plays, I was struck that each one is a brilliant jewel – like the best short stories – some well known, some not. As is typical of Coward – who was always pushing the envelope in both form and content – the ten plays vary hugely. There are out-and-out comedies, heart-wrenching dramas, fantasy musicals and historical tales. Coward is a brilliant miniaturist, a master storyteller, and any group of these plays, seen together, is a truly satisfying evening at the theatre. The experience of seeing them in one fell swoop, for those who are game, will be thrilling indeed.
Oh, I'm game. I'm game.The rest of the season also looks great - Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George, O'Neill's A Moon For the Misbegotten and Osborne's The Entertainer among others. You can read about the full line-up here.
I have watched part of the BBC's production of Tonight at 8:30 in the Noel Coward Collection, which I own. But quite frankly, it stars Joan Collins who was absolutely ghastly in the few bits that I saw. Her portrayal of Mrs. Bagot, the owner of the station teashop in Still Life, honestly made me nauseous. Which is not to say that the DVD set is not worth owning for the other productions on it. In particular, I liked A Song at Twilight with Deborah Kerr and Paul Scofield. And there are a number of radio plays on the discs, including Post Mortem, Coward's rarely performed play about a soldier returning from the dead in the 1920s to find that the society that came out of the war wasn't worth his sacrifice. The extras also include some wonderful Coward interviews.
Monday, 22 September 2008
Delicious, simply delicious.
Thursday, 18 September 2008
Monday, 15 September 2008
It was a week of Colin Firth; after Easy Virtue, I also saw him in Michael Winterbottom's new film, Genova which was a rather disturbing movie to watch - Firth plays a father who takes his two girls to Genova for a year to recover from the recent death of their mother in a car crash. The focus of the story is on Mary, the younger eight-year old, who feels guilty for having caused the accident and who believes her mother still appears to her when she's alone. There's a constant unease that permeates the movie as Mary gets lost among the dark, narrow, twisting streets of the old city, and a scene set amidst the noise and confusion of ten lanes of traffic is also harrowing. It reminded me a little bit of Kate Winslet movie, Hideous Kinky. I could appreciate what Winterbottom was trying to do with the movie, but having recently been rear-ended myself (fortunately no one was hurt - I was just a little shaken), this was probably not a good movie for me to see right now.
To shake it off, I saw two more Firth movies that have recently come out on DVD. Helen Hunt's directorial debut, Then She Found Me, has Firth also playing a father who has been abandoned by his wife and though he loves his kids, he's frustrated and angry that he has had to take sole responsibility for them. He falls in love with Hunt's character whose life is in turmoil - husband has just left her, her adoptive mother has died and her birth mother has suddenly appeared in her life. And she's pregnant with her husband's child. It's quite a sweet little film exploring themes of abandonment, longing and family and Firth is once again given the type of romantic lines that would seem corny delivered by any other actor, but somehow come across as sincere from his lips.
My fourth Firth was a filmed stage production of D.H. Lawrence's play The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd, starring Zoe Wannamaker, Stephen Dillane and Firth, who plays the brutish, alcoholic coal miner husband. Not the best acting I've ever seen from him; his Northern accent was not terribly convincing and he spent most of his time thumping tables and shouting. However, he made a lovely, almost angelic corpse, even covered in coal dust. The DVD also comes with a version of Lawrence's The Rainbow, starring Imogen Stubbs, which I haven't yet watched but will soon. And I have a hankering now to dig out Ken Russell's movie Women in Love. Haven't watched it in ages, but I loved Glenda Jackson in it. Oh dear, I certainly don't often get into a D. H. Lawrence mood.
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Glamour aside, it was a very good adapation and well worth seeing when it hits theatres. The story remains essentially the same as the play - John (played by Barnes) unexpectedly brings home his older, more sophisticated wife Larita (Biel), to his staid and shocked British family. Larita then wreaks havoc with her wild and decadent ways but in the ensuing battle, particularly with her formidable mother-in-law (played wonderfully by Scott Thomas - a cross between the Maggie Smith character in Gosford Park and Emma Thompson's recent Lady Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited), she's oppressed and stifled by her new environment and decides to escape - but not before one last defiant gesture. As you'd expect from material dervived from a Coward play, the dialogue is witty and frothy, but Elliott has added many new scenes with some very polished and comic gags and there is some intriguing camera work (watch for a terrific shot of Scott Thomas looming on the shiny surface of a black snooker ball as it rolls towards her and the audience). Some of the characters have been expanded (especially the father played by Firth, who becomes a disillusioned war veteran with survivor guilt). The ending has also changed somewhat, but I don't think anyone will complain - it's rather delicious. Firth fans will also be extremely happy with this film - there's a wonderfully sexy scene where he dances the tango with Biel. Gasps escaped from the hundreds of female fans in the audience - me included. It's not often that a film can improve on the original source material, but this one really does it. I had a marvellous time.
Friday, 5 September 2008
And then The Literary Saloon pointed me in the direction of the latest edition of The Quarterly Conversation which had an essay by Lauren Elkin on her literary work, which happened to mention that MIT had recently translated one of her books, Disavowals or Cancelled Confessions, which is described as an anti-memoir. It sounds so interesting. So I think I need to get a copy of this as well. Elkin's essay is well worth reading and gives a good biographical overview. So many amazing women artists in the first half of the 20th century. Such incredible life stories.
In my fantasy bookstore I picture a very white wall with white plate rails stacked horizontally up to the ceiling where I'd display face out all the books I could find either by or about the surrealists, that had black and white covers of either artwork or photography. It would look stunning. Maybe behind the fantasy cash register.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
UPDATED: Whoo-hoo! This thing has been sold out, but someone must have returned a ticket because while checking the website this morning, the Gala screening was up for grabs! And I grabbed. I don't know if Colin Firth might be in the audience.... I'll report back. I'm so excited!