Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Time and the Conways - Nottingham Playhouse

I can go for weeks, even months, spending every evening curled up with a book or watching crime thrillers on TV, then I have times like the last couple of weeks when I seem to be out every night - well, once a week at least!  So after a night at the movies and a trip to Derby Theatre, it was time to visit Nottingham Playhouse to see J B Priestley's Time and the Conways.

Now there's half an idea lingering at the back of my mind, probably from as long ago as my schooldays, that Priestley's plays are very worthy but a little dull with the emphasis being on  social and political matters, not individuals and their lives. Time and the Conways proved to be very different; a play primarily about people, their hopes, and the dashing of them.
The play opens in 1919 with the Conway family celebrating daughter Kay's 21st birthday, and an end to all the restrictions and worries of war. They all see the future as bright and rosy - whether they're looking forward to an advantageous marriage or a new social order - but the second act set 19 years later shows a family torn apart through their own weaknesses and pride. Whether you liked the characters or not (and some definitely fell in the latter group), they all felt so very real; people I could relate to and recognise. Both entertaining and thought-provoking, I loved it!
All the cast were amazing but it was especially nice to see (Bergerac's) Louise Jameson back at Nottingham Playhouse;  last time she was playing an entirely different role - Jocasta in Steven Berkoff's Oedipus

Monday, 22 September 2014

One Day - book versus film

 Emma and Dexter meet on their last day at university, at a graduation party. The next day they go their different ways - who knows where they'll be in a year's time? David Nicholls' story charts their lives through 'snapshots' of each 15th July.

 When I first heard of this I expected something rather like the Alan Alda/Ellen Burstyn film Same Time, Next Year but whereas that has a couple promising to meet on the same day every year, Emma and Dexter make no such promise - sometimes they're together, more often not. Partly because of the assumed similarities I didn't hurry to either read the book or watch the film. Then it was shown on TV and someone bought the dvd so I've now seen the film several times. To be honest it's not my favourite rom com; Hathaway and Sturgess turn in adequate but not spell-binding performances and it's all pleasant enough but not anything special.

 With that in mind, and having heard a lot of praise for it, I expected the book to be I saw it in the library one day and borrowed it. The first thing that struck me was how alike book and film are, but then I started to feel that the book dragged. Being used to seeing the whole story unfold in 1hour 40minutes, 435 pages seemed a long, slow read. There were actually points early on where I nearly gave up. Then came some little story-snippets that never made it to the film, so I carried on, but still found it rather flat. Admittedly, knowing the ending takes an edge off a first read-through but it's not a book I'd pick up a second time.

This time, the film wins - mainly because there's no time to get bored with the characters - but, as I said, I'm not a huge fan of that. So 3 stars to the book; 3.5, maybe a grudging 4, to the film.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Antigone - Derby Theatre

Derby Theatre's autumn season opened on Friday night with an amazing production; a modern version of  Antigone, with Sophocles' tale unfolding in the urban setting of street gangs and nightclubs.

When Antigone's brother Orrin is killed, gang boss so-called 'King of Thebes', Creo, refuses to allow anyone to touch, cover or bury the body, leaving out in the street for the dogs. Tig (Antigone) won't accept this. She's angry and defiant, a feisty heroine sticking up to the bully to do what she believes to be right. The battle of wills between Tig and Creo is complicated further by the secret love between Tig and Creo's son Eamon - and even without knowing this is based on a Greek tragedy, you can tell there's no happy-ever-after ending in sight.

Now sometimes, these modern adaptations can fall flat - the only changes being to costume, and the plot holding little relevance to today's audience - but having seen Derby Theatre's reworking of The Odyssey, I was keen to see what Antigone would be like. Absolutely brilliant is the quick answer! The storyline fits well within its new setting and the themes of family loyalty, acting on one's beliefs and showing respect for the dead are all as valid today as they were for the Ancient Greeks.
There were wonderful performances from all the cast but especially Savannah Gordon-Liburd as Tig - from her tender moments with Eamon to banging on the bars of her cell, she was stunning.

This production is a joint affair with Pilot Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East, and when the Derby run finishes will be off on tour. It's rather exciting to be able to say I saw the first night!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Dovedale - out and about without a camera

Last weekend we went out to Dovedale. At the first photogenic spot I reached for my camera - only to discover I'd left the battery still in its charger! So, no wide open vistas, but a selection of (hopefully) moody, atmospheric photos taken on the rather pathetic phone-camera.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Before I Go To Sleep - book versus film

I've read S J Watson's novel Before I Go To Sleep not once but twice and been eagerly waiting to see the film adaptation for what seems like years! The release date seems to have been pushed back time and again, but at last it's here on the big screen and I've seen it!

Firstly, if you don't know the plot, it's the tale of Christine, a woman who wakes every morning with no recollection of the past 18 years. It isn't all sweetness and light and cuteness like 50 First Dates though, this is more about the ways in which a person with no recollection of yesterday can be manipulated. Pretty early on, the reader discovers that her husband isn't being entirely honest with her about the past, and from there the tension builds with doubt as to who (husband or therapist) is misleading Christine and why..

So how did the adaptation do....
well, surprisingly close to the book. I always worry that a director will take a book I've loved and turn it into something hardly recognisable but fortunately Rowan Joffe didn't. I just think at times events moved too quickly, placing more emphasis on the action and violence than the psychological tension (perhaps that's hard to show on camera though).
Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth played their roles as I'd expected - Kidman looking less glamorous than usual and pulling off the Mrs Average look, while Firth turned in a surprsingly-good 'bad guy' (the ladies in the row behind us were shocked!). The only puzzle was the rather odd change to Mark Strong's character Dr Nash that made him older and altered the dynamic of the relationship between him and Kidman's Christine.

I think the thing most missing from the film was how terrifying it must be to have no memory of so many years, to have no way of being certain that people are telling you the truth

My main criticisms were actually niggly little things - I'd imagined a different sort of house, maybe on a London street near the Outnumbered TV family, not out in the countryside; I didn't understand why change the hotel's location from Brighton to an airport. On the other hand, I did like the change of Christine's notebook diary into a video recording - definitely worked better on screen, though a diary could have been shown as flashbacks.

Overall a great adaptation although I still prefer the book. I missed Christine's internal monologue which gives the reader a better guide to her thoughts and the terror she feels at haven't no memory and no way to be certain of what she is told. The film is only 90 minutes long, so maybe it could have taken a few extra minutes and explored this area more.

5 stars to the book, 4 for the film.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Stormy Seas

 Our journey home from holiday took us down the East coast - stopping first at Dunbar where the kittiwakes in the Old Castle and the boats and visiting seal in the harbour stayed in relative quiet while out in the open sea a storm raged.

Heading South, and back in England, we next stopped at Eyemouth with more tumultuous seas- probably  not unusual in winter but this was supposedly summer!

I was astounded to see this fishing boat heading out of the harbour but presumably he knew a quieter way between the rocks and crashing waves.

 I was determined to have an ice cream by the sea, although this seagull was watching closely and pounced on it the minute my attention wandered!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Scotland #9 Free Fringe

Although the rest of the family went to lots of comedy and theatre round the Fringe (one of them clocking up 13 events in our 4 days in Edinburgh!), I just went to two.
I was extremely lucky with my choices as I loved both. If I had to choose between them, I'd say Bunbury is Dead was my favourite. Devised and performed by Tobacco Tea Theatre Company, it told the story of Bunbury, the fictitious friend of Algernon in the Importance of Being Earnest. What really appealed to me as a sort of theatre geek, was that most, if not all, the dialogue was lifted from Oscar Wilde's plays and re-organised into something new - even the infamous handbag was in there!

The other performance was Bawsoot Theatre's presentation Swiss Cheese. A dinner party reunion for five old friends turns up the usual sort of revelations and incriminations that you'd expect. Then Jo the hostess drops her bombshell.... no, I'm not going to say what but it made all the petty jealousies and secrets of the others pale by comparison.

An extra mention has to go to the venue -the Ghillie Dhu, one of the loveliest I've seen. None of the cramped, dark basements that bring on claustrophobia but a lovely vaulted room at the top of a twisting staircase.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Scotland 2014 - #8 Hidden Gardens

 This first oasis of a garden is, almost unbelievably, situated just off Edinburgh's Royal Mile at Dunbar's Close. It's a courtyard style garden, with apple trees and climbing roses separating each 'room', herbs and flowers to scent the air, and seats to rest awhile. Considering its location, it's surprisingly quiet, even at Festival time.
I discovered it by accident last year and had to revisit.

Another garden still within walking distance of the city centre, though admittedly further at just over one and a half miles, is Dr Neil's Garden at Duddingston.

Although on the edge of Holyrood Park, looking at the view over the loch it feels like the middle of the countryside.

And in case you walked there, there are plenty of seats to sit and gaze at the view from.

Lastly, we went a little further from town. Less than half an hour away is the pretty village of Inveresk and hidden behind a stone wall the garden of Inveresk Lodge, a National Trust for Scotland garden with mixed beds and borders and a wilder area round a pond.

Another lovely spot to escape the bustle of the city.