Talking Movies

September 29, 2022

Translations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 4:26 pm

It’s impossible for me to review Translations without first confessing that I know the script inside out, having both studied it at college and then taught it…

1833 in Friel’s eternal Donegal setting of Baile Beag finds a hedge school run by drunken master Hugh (Denis Conway) and his lame son Manus (Aaron Monaghan), specialising in Latin and Greek, being menaced by the arrival of a new English speaking National School, specialising in English. This off-stage menace is accompanied by the on-stage arrival of English sappers conducting an ordnance survey of the area for military purposes. But, as their work proceeds with the aid of Hugh’s other son Owen (Barry Ward) returned from Dublin, one of the British soldiers Yolland (Tim Delap) begins to question the morality of his task, even as he falls in love with local girl Maire (Aoife McMahon). The conflict between high civilisation and base commerce, Irish and English, and the noble rhetoric of progress and its low activities of expropriation, are all layered around these emotional conflicts. Maire’s love triangle with Manus and Yolland is very obviously a choice between a maimed native culture and a confident foreign culture…

Naomi Wilkinson’s set design heavily emphasises the squalor of this hedge-school, while Joan O’Clery’s costumes fit in with this approach by clothing the students in tattered earth tones, with the rebellious Maire in bright yellow and Hugh sporting a burnt orange jacket, while Hugh’s successful son Owen returns dressed in a spiffy blue overcoat, closer to the English military’s colour-scheme. Director Conall Morrison, who I’m still wary of on account of his late 1990s adaptation of Tarry Flynn, predictably brings sauciness to Friel’s comedy in the opening act. In the second act, however, he changes gears as the blue sky above the barn-set darkens, so that the rain sound effect heightens a chillingly conveyed sense of doom that anticipates the impending Famine. Rory Nolan as Doalty and Janet Moran as Bridget carry the bulk of Morrison’s slapstick; Nolan does a glorious mime of the English sappers’ baffled reaction to their ‘malfunctioning’ equipment, a result of his mischief; but they also imbue the off-stage Donnelly twins, often interpreted as proto-IRA figures in their campaign against the British presence, with the appropriate menace by their subdued reaction to their names being mentioned.

The inevitable Aaron Monaghan is very sympathetic as the brother whose half-hearted resistance to the British breaks down under personal contact, even as Ward convincingly travels the opposite arc as Owen grasps the political implications of his linguistic ‘collaboration’ with Yolland. McMahon is surprisingly flirtatious as Maire rather than simply determined, and there is a level of anger by Hugh towards her dismissal of his classics that seems alien to the script, as is his appearance as utterly decrepit. It seems absurd to accuse someone with an Irish Times Best Actor Theatre Award of lacking the necessary stature for a role, but Denis Conway is no Ray MacAnally, and he fails to dominate the stage as Hugh should. As a result Hugh’s final speeches to a drenched Maire, which should be tragic, raised some laughs. Conway effectively mixes bombast with moments of self-awareness, but if Hugh’s paraphrasing of George Steiner’s linguistic theories do not grip as the central statement of the self-defeating cultural delusions that colonisation can foist on a materially defeated civilisation then the focus of the play becomes diffuse.

This is well worth seeing, but there are quibbles…

3.5/5

Translations continues its run at the Abbey until the 13th of August.

August 29, 2022

Any Other Business: Part LXXIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

What a difference a theme tune makes

In a mind-bending piece of coincidence I now have to remind myself that I cannot change reality merely by complaining about it. Obviously. But after ITV 4 started showing Magnum PI from the beginning, only to ditch the theme tune after the two-part pilot, I got annoyed. It was replaced by some smooth jazz muzak that might have served, had I not known what should have been there. Indeed as the action set pieces sometimes included that rousing theme that we were apparently not allowed for legal reasons to hear over the opening credits it was a strange case of the theme tune comes and goes at random. And then suddenly it was back, and has been ever since, as ITV 4 chugged on into season 2. And it really sets the show up as the fun blast that it is in a way that the smooth jazz muzak surely did not. Watching Magnum PI for the first time, after it somehow didn’t seem to get aired here first time round despite everything from Jake and the Fatman to Riptide making it across the Atlantic, has certainly changed my perspective on a couple of 1980s comedies. The moment when Eddie Murphy breaks the fourth wall in Trading Places on having the meaning of a BLT explained to him suddenly seems to come less out of the blue when Magnum has been breaking the fourth wall for three seasons to shoot a glance at the audience. And the magnum opus of fourth wall breaches, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seems like an inevitable combination of Magnum’s sardonic PI narration mixed with fourth wall glances. Did American audiences of the time understand these movies in the light of Magnum PI? Who knows. Nice to think so.

A curious choice for a concert

It’s nice to see the return of Culture Night now that COVID-19 has been put behind us (cough) (touch wood) (it hasn’t gone away, you know). I was, however, quite surprised to see the programme put together by the National Concert Hall for its free concert on September 23rd. Earlier this year the London Times reported that the NCH would not be boycotting Russian composers after TCD and UCD announced that their orchestras would be. I am queasy about the idea of boycotting long-dead composers to protest a very live tyrant, and to simply lose the Russians blows quite the hole in the classical canon, so I was happy with the NCH’s decision. There is a difference though between not jettisoning the Russians and not playing anyone else. Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Prokofiev’s 2nd Violin Concerto, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, arranged for orchestra by Ravel. When I first saw that programme I did a double-take, and thought Oh, it’s … All-Russian. I mean, it’s not that hard to not have an All-Russian programme, you could simply switch out Shostakovich’s Festive Overture for Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. The fact therefore that it is All-Russian seems like it is meant to say something – music is above politics, or, these men born before 1917 have nothing to do with Putin. It’s just odd for that wider politico-cultural meaning to be left unspoken, and simply rhapsodise about Russian folk rhythms and Russian drama and romance. As someone suggested to me perhaps when I attend I should also say something politico-cultural but unspoken, and wear blue and yellow.

July 31, 2022

Top 5 Jeeves & Wooster Novels

Filed under: Talking Books — Fergal Casey @ 4:16 pm

5) Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

A late entry in the Wodehouse canon, this features the almost impossibly funny speech by Sir Watkyn Basset on the destruction of his grandfather clock by one Bertram Wilberforce Wooster.

4) Joy in the Morning

Bertie tangles with the fearsomely physical nemesis Stilton Cheesewright and also gets in intellectual knots at the start with his attempt to buy Jeeves’ a suitably brainy present of a Spinoza book.

3) The Mating Season

Who can forget the moment where Catsmeat and Gussie have to perform their comic piece at the local hall and transform their slapstick into a Russian 19th century novel by their utter depression.

2) The Code of the Woosters

Bertie tangles with Roderick Spode and is supplied by Jeeves with the one word that can tame the would-be Fascist strongman’s temper.

1) Right Ho, Jeeves

There are many splendid moments in this novel, but the showstopping highlight is of course the uproarious occasion of Gussie Fink-Nottle giving out the prizes at the Market Snodsbury Grammar School.

June 30, 2022

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XLIV

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 7:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

As the title suggests, so forth.

Totally Censored Movies

I was watching Ocean’s Eleven on TCM recently, when I had the disconcerting sensation that something had skipped, like a vinyl problem but visually. And then waiting for a line that never came, and another one I particularly treasured that also never came, I realised that the skips were very real and were in fact obnoxious censorious cuts in the movie. Somehow, this was playing after the watershed but was still censored. And then it dawned on me, this might very well be the American TV edit version of the movie. God help us. I don’t know why TCM has suddenly decided to start doing this for an audience outside America. But the mind boggles about how this could play out. Will we finally get to see for ourselves the wildly disconcerting spectacle of Cameron shouting at Ferris Bueller ‘Pardon my French but you’re an aardvark!’ or might we get the infamous Dadaist moment in The Big Lebowski when someone is told ‘This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps!’ Who knows. And who knows, why after all these years TCM has chosen to do this.

May 31, 2022

“Who are you really and what were you before? What did you do and what did you think?”

I fell over a quote in the Atlantic the other week to the effect that nobody is the same person now that they were before the pandemic. Is it true?

Well, maybe… Certainly as things have opened up I have found myself… unwilling to return to 2019. Not unable, though also that to a degree, but more unwilling. I cannot rouse myself to excitement at scanning cinema listings for the new Mia Hansen-Love, try I ever so hard. I find to my surprise that the Gate theatre has a new artistic director, but scarcely shrug. Barry Douglas performs the Beethoven Triple Concerto at the NCH, and I am not there. It may not even be a question of will, so much as a fundamental disconnect – I know I should be excited by these things, I have the memory of being enthused by their predecessors in the past, and yet it seems like everything in that sphere happened to someone else, not to me. One sympathises, but it has nothing to do with me. Maybe this is only a temporary aberration. Maybe it is a permanent seachange. But, having initially scoffed at the idea that everybody is no longer themselves, I now think- yes, that’s true.

In some senses I find myself doing a somewhat baffled personal inventory akin to Kate McKinnon’s post-6/1/21 ‘What Still Works?’ SNL sketch. It’s rather like standing dazed in a room full of disassembled building blocks, and seeing which ones I can still get to glom to form a Lego statue recognisable as me. I still like listening to Lykke Li, the bard of heartbreak and unrequited love. I still like watching The Avengers, and savouring John Steed and Emma Peel being debonair and romantic. I still like walking in Marlay Park, and hearing the strange sound made by the wind whistling thru tall trees. I still like ruining both coffee and ice cream in restaurants, by pouring one over the other. I still like the inimitable sound of Sorkin speeches and Gershwin glissandos, the thrill of Mondrian lines and Van Gogh swirls. But on many fronts I feel psychically unsteady when my hollowed out sense of self clashes with the 2019 self remembered by others; who are disconcerted to find my ‘passions’ extinguished.

And so I ask myself Bogart’s Casablanca question to Bergman in the mirror, and unnervingly I don’t know the answer.

April 30, 2022

Any Other Business: Part LXXII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Photo: Eric Ray Davidson

David Boreanaz Said What?!

You could have knocked me down with a feather the other month when watching SEAL Team on the channel formerly known as Sky One, David Boreanaz’s Bravo One Jason Hayes on being informed the HVT was leaving the train with the triggermen still on it, shouted “F*CK!”. What?! WHAT?! On Network TELEVISION?! I thought I must have misheard it. Did he perhaps say cluck, duck, luck? None of which would make much sense… Then he said it again. What was going on? Then a quick google later I saw that SEAL Team had moved from CBS to its streaming service. Ah… And, based on what had been happening in that rip-roaring train episode, it must have done this between commercial breaks. I’m not sure that SEAL Team actually gains that much from the profanity that has been added to the show. But my word it remains weird as hell to see Boreanaz after a network television career of eight years as Angel, twelve as Seeley Booth, and four and a bit as Jason Hayes, suddenly start effing and blinding like a sailor.

The Lonesome West

Filed under: Talking Theatre (Reviews) — Fergal Casey @ 9:58 pm

Decadent Theatre Company returned to the Gaiety Theatre with another Martin McDonagh play, but strangely this was far less outre than their previous outings.

Coleman (Denis Conway) and Valeen (Franke McCafferty) are brothers in the lonesome wesht of the semi-cursed townland of Leenane engaged in what Hunter S Thompson might have called a profoundly active balance of terror. Bickering over Tayto crisps, religious statues, and the ownership and exclusive usage of a new stove are the tip of an iceberg of more grievous crimes from the recent past but going back decades. Little wonder that Father Welsh (Art Campion) has a crisis of faith about twice a week with the unholy goings on of his parishioners…

Looking back at this 1997 script it’s noticeable that the extended quiet scene of Girleen (Zara Devlin) talking to Father Welsh (Art Campion) before something truly awful happens seems to have stuck with McDonagh as something worth revisiting at length as the second act of The Pillowman.

3.5

April 18, 2022

Portia Coughlan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 4:14 pm

The Abbey’s revisiting of Marina Carr’s 1990s coruscating work continued apace with a revival of Portia Coughlan starring Denise Gough.

Portia Coughlan is turning 30. But she has no intention of marking the day with any positivity, instead drinking alone as soon as the kids have gone to school, as her husband Raphael (Marty Rea) discovers to his horror. Despite the best attempts of her friends and family to cheer her up, and her own fumbled affairs with local likely lads, the day is hollowed out by the absence of her twin brother Gabriel who drowned himself years before. And the horror of that long past day will be lived all over again, and then explained, thanks to Carr’s curious structure.

The opening line of the play signals that extreme abrasiveness is about to follow. And the influence of Pulp Fiction is plain to see in the death of Portia, in what seems an incredibly bold stroke, only for the clock to rewind as we follow her up to that point, as Carr once again invests the Midlands with the depravity and ritual horror of Ancient Greek myths. Once again the lack of an interval seems less a means of sustaining tension and more an affectation as an obvious curtain is played through. Caroline Byrne, however, directs with a keen eye for pace and balance between black comedy and harrowing drama.

4/5

March 18, 2022

The Father of My Daughter

No Drama Theatre returned to the intimate Boys School space in Smock Alley Theatre for a distinctly multi-media appearance in the Scene and Heard Festival.

Eileen (Helen McGrath) is burdened by griefs public and private. The public knows that her husband (Greg Freegrove) shockingly killed himself on the night of their daughter’s birthday. They don’t know that the reason Eileen came home to find his body in the bathroom that night was because she had left her daughter and husband to continue her affair with her work colleague (Andrei Callanan). Consumed with a guilt that she cannot explain without inviting judgement, she is further tormented by her husband’s unusual choice of suicide note – a message on a tape recorder. This vivid reminder of his living presence keeps her looping around and around their time together, from their first accidental meeting in a crowded cafe where he politely asked if he could share her table, to her unlocking the bathroom door on their fateful last night.

It’s thrilling to see the difficult playing space used so well by writer/director Ciaran Treanor and producer Andrei Callanan. Multimedia projection of video footage of the once happy couple made it seem as if we were glimpsing inside Eileen’s head and reliving her memories as she reacts to them, while the use of recorded sound cues for moments of physical theatre made them truly pop, in particular Eileen’s desperate hammering on the bathroom door. Greg Freegrove’s sinister reappearance as a spectre with a distinctly voodoo air was made even more startling when the lights went out revealing his clothes to be daubed in glow in the dark patterns. Indeed there was a hint of the Babadook about him, as what is left of him in his wife’s mind has become dark and twisted, eager to urge her to suicide.

Helen McGrath ably carries the play as a woman looping around and around in a depressive spiral, wondering if a good, quiet man killed himself because of what she did, even though his suicide note didn’t blame her. Can she ever know for sure? A fantasy dance sequence appropriately scored by the Bynon Remix of Sofi Tukker’s ‘Good Time Girl’ sees Eileen and her two lovers break out of their looping flashbacks and guilt-trips into something new and strange. As Elevator Repair Service and tgSTAN showed in theatre festivals past even the simplest choreography erupting out of nowhere and being sustained creates a moment of pure theatre. Treanor and his frequent collaborator Noel Cahill have used rap and sustained rhyming before, largely for laughs, but here things become more incantatory; at times, given the subject matter, veering towards verse drama.

The Father of My Daughter is like a theatrical concentrate, it only runs for a spare twenty minutes, but it packs the emotional punch of a longer play.

4/5

February 25, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 2:50 pm

[

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.