Friday, 13 March 2020

2 Chronicles 21:14

Your bloggist is a notorious Billy No-mates, and is therefore as psychologically prepared as anyone for self-isolation. But just to be sure I have put some cultural fuel in the tank to see me through.

Opera: I saw Opera North's excellent new production of Kurt Weill's 'Street Scene'. They have a real flair for musical theatre and for his work in particular. I wish they would revive their production of 'One Touch of Venus'. I also saw OperaUpClose's 'Madam Butterfly'. It was set in modern Japan and the scenery was quite reminiscent of the poor neighbourhood in 'Parasite' if you've seen that. As usual with that company I really enjoyed the small scale and intimacy, but - and it's a big but - they changed the ending. How can you change the ending of Madam Butterfly? I also saw a concert featuring various Baroque works including Purcell's 'The Yorkshire Feast Song', which was apparently commissioned for the annual dinner of the London Society of Yorkshiremen in 1690. Clearly the bastards have been banging on about how wonderful they are for centuries; although now I've written that I don't know why I am in the slightest surprised. Also on the programme was Handel's 'Eternal Source of Light Divine', a setting of the poem by Ambrose Philips. Whilst Philips was no great shakes as a poet, he was the original 'Namby-Pamby'; don't tell me this blog isn't educational.

Theatre: I saw a very fine, very dark version of 'Oliver Twist', by Ramps on the Moon, a company which mixes D/deaf, disabled and able bodied actors in productions which build captioning, sign language and other forms of accessibility right into the fabric of the show (see here for their version of 'The Threepenny Opera' - also, satisfyingly, composed by Weill) . In a way this production was the opposite of colour blind casting, with the actors' deafness being the crucial link that held Fagin's gang together. The Artful Dodger teaching Oliver to sign was as central as teaching him to pick pockets. Bill Sykes is one of the most terrifying characters in literature and drama, and the effect is only heightened by him not speaking. Also up was a really different take on 'Pride and Prejudice' with an all female cast giving us the sweary version that one must assume Jane Austen would have written were it not for all those boring nuances of etiquette in place at the time. I won't write a review (read this one if you're interested),  but it was just brilliant and laugh out loud funny all the way through.

Film: Jane Austen popped up in the cinema as well, with the current take on Emma being well worth watching. I thought that they managed to capture the essence of the characterisations - notably Mr Woodhouse's hypochondria - without reams of exposition. I mentioned it above, but 'Parasite' is obviously rather good, in an Alfred Hitchcock sort of way. Whether it's the best film of the last year or so is less clear. I also caught up with 'Rocketman' and thought it was great. It's fascinating that it and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' tell stories with some similarities of narrative and theme in such different ways.

Let's finish with some music to cheer us up. This is Townes Van Zandt and 'Waiting Around to Die':

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