Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Bridge Project

So, now that I've seen both The Cherry Orchard and The Winter's Tale at The Old Vic, i reckon I can comfortably say that i think that The Bridge Project (fashionably named due to its allegiance to both sides of the Atlantic (cast, performances etc)) is fab. Directed by Sam Mendes, with a starry cast including Rebecca Hall, Simon Russell Beale and Ethan Hawke, and with The Cherry Orchard translated by Tom Stoppard, both plays are wonderfully vibrant and pulsate with genuine enthusiasm and vitality. Sinead Cusack, totally scene-stealing in Stoppard's Rock'n'Roll not so long ago, clearly relishes rolling the playwright's words around her tongue, and as the theatrical Ranevskaya 100% commands the stage, strutting about in swathes of silk -you can't take your eyes off her. I can never really seem to go a year without seeing at least one Chekhov play, and thank GOD, because i always love them, despite the fact that i think that, basically, the plots are always the same - an artisocratic Russian family stuck in space and time, bemoaning the emptiness of their lives and their general desire to be somewhere else (Moscow, mostly), while the action (usually involving their fate becasue of social and economic factors) happens off stage, thus circumnavigating any actually real drama during the course of the play, which somehow exacerbates the claustrophobic atmosphere and stagnant attitudes of the characters, who refuse to accept their impending doom - usually the dissolution of their estate, which has come about because of their refusal to adapt or change with the times. Phew. Here, of course, the whole issue revolves around the beautiful cherry orchard, which some self-improving upstart (SR-B) thinks they should chop down, divide up and rent out, thus keeping enough money to maintain the house. But of course they find this an abhorrent idea, ignore him, and thus sign their own (social/economic) death warrants. I went out with someone once who i think is basically a character from a Chekhov play, so i have a particular fondness for it. but anyway, i think this production is particularly good - and last time i saw The Cherry Orchard it was with Vanessa Redgrave and Corin Redgrave at the National Theatre, so the bar was set high. The Winter's Tale, on the otherhand, was fun, but didn't set my world on fire... because, quite frankly, having never seen/read it before, i thought it was, errr RIDICULOUS. the story is so annoying. firstly i think Leontes is quite justified in being in a grump with Hermione at the start. at least in this production, where Polixines and Hermione are literally all over each other like a RASH. secondly, what was she doing for 16 years hiding away? having a Josef Fritzl time of it (as Sophie G, who i went with, asked)? insane. and the statue coming to life. no. I think basically i'm feeling very anti WS's comedies... even Twelfth Night, which i saw last autumn at the Donmar in the West End with Derek Jacobi as Malvolio and grated somewhat. maybe i'm losing my sense-of-humour. Still, in The Winter's Tale, our Ethan is rather spectacular as the con artist Autolycus, leaping about in a devilish frenzy, which saved it for me. O and the dances with balloon/dildos were quite fun. But really, one can understand, if you ask me, why this isn't one of Shakespeare's plays that is put on that often.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Victorian Gymkhana

No this isn't some gloriously aged picture from a century ago, taken by a man crouching over a tiny box with his head under a black cloth. It was taken by Hermione on Sunday, at Kenwood House, Hampstead, where we were basking in the sun watching a Victorian gymkhana - the social event of the w/e. In case you are wondering, a Victorian Gymkhana involves events like women riding side saddle whilst holding parasols or cups of tea, and trying to remain composed as their steeds race and leap over jumps. Extraordinary, but rather fun, and Queen Vic, her lady-in-waiting and a companion Rajah certainly seemed to love it.
Photo © Hermione Eyre