Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Trail

4/5 rating
The Trail | Young Vic

I didn't know anything about the play before I walked in. I had an amazing experience.

The stage is one largish conveyor belt and the sets keep changing as the belt moves. The seating is on either side of the conveyor belt. We got lucky. We sat in the front row. While this undoubtedly gave us a great experience, even without it would have still been good.

The play is based on a book by Kafka. It is about a society ruled by law where the law is ultimate and as the dialogue goes, everything belongs to the court. From stealing his clothes to stealing his life, K sees the power of the court that wouldn't even tell him what he is guilty of but hold him on trial. In a sense the conveyor belt shows that K is caught in a process that he can't fight. Rory Kinnear plays K and bears it all till he crumbles down. And when he does you see that while his fingers are shaking visibly for the benefit of the audience, his character is shaking all over, even his little toe. A remarkable actor that he is, the play is rewarding for a single actor. That said, equally amazing was Kate O'Flynn who is so versatile playing all the women who are either his love interest or the other way around.
As the play goes on K searches for what he is stands accused of by combing through his life. He recounts all his mistakes in life, however small even at the age of 4. But his mistakes get less and less negligible until the weight of his guilt crushes him on to the conveyor belt.

Well done and well executed. The audience closest to the conveyor belt are never dimmed. While it could be that the audience are the jury and the peeping neighbours the light was a bit annoying. And while I have never read Kafka, I am familiar with what people refer to as Kafkaesque. I didn't find the play particularly Kafkaesque, neither the terror nor the surrealism. Acting however was flawless from all of them and not just Kinnear.

Kafka on the Shore

4.5/5 rating
Kafka on the Shore | Barbican

My first response as soon as the play started? Oh Damn!
It's nothing to do with the play. I just realised that the play is in Japanese. There were subtitles, or serftitles as they are called in theatre, in English on two large screens placed at the top corners of the stage. Given the expensive nature of theatre and the number of times we tend to go, we mostly buy cheap tickets (theatre monkey is your friend). So while we still had a great view of the stage, the serftitles were not exactly in line with our view and we had to keep switching the eyes from the board to the stage. I should have researched the play a bit more.

Ignore all the above. No question that it was authentic.

Kafka on the Shore is a book by Haruki Murakami. I haven't read it. I wanted to watch it without any prior impressions. The Ninagawa theatre company had adapted it into a Japanese play and is currently touring in London. 

I must say it was beautiful, surreal and heart warming. The sets were all encased in glass boxes on wheels moving around dizzyingly. The song had the melody of a floating lonely soul like all Murakami stories. The actors were brilliant and Kafka was as confused as one can be, even during credits. At one point, when the song was playing, I looked around the audience, only the faces lit by the light from the stage like moonlight, who seemed all entrapped and all drawn into the play that I could feel they are all ready to float away gently in the air and towards the stage.

It's a lovely play.
Would I have preferred it in English? May be not. It was perfect the way it was.


2/5 rating
Everyman | National Theatre

I believe it is an old 15 th century play adapted to modern times. 

The opening scene with the cleaning lady and the first scene with Everyman partying with his friends on this 40th birthday was done ravishingly well and very much in today's times indeed. But that's where the modernity stops.

Much of the play about Everyman's reckoning is mostly old school. May be the god fearing among us would agree with it. But it's a dialogue from my grandmother's life, if not from the middle ages. The dialogues were rhyming a bit too much for the modern era.

It was the Olivier theatre and the use of sets was minimal. There was so much more that could have been done with the sets - with the party that is turning dark and his fear, with the streets when he sleeps with the homeless, with the execution of everyone but not Everyman. The execution of the execution was so juvenile that it was almost like a school play.

At first I thought they could have taken more time to explore the relationships. But then again, it might have been a bit too boring.

I must say the acting was good especially from the cleaning lady and of course, our Everyman Chiwetel Ejiofor of 12 years A Slave fame. With a praise worthy performance, Chiwetel held the whole play together. There are only ever few minutes of stage that he wasn't there and his face lit up every emotion Everyman could get. That was the connect to the audience.

The music was beautiful and the singer who portrayed Everyman's mother had a glorious voice.

You can watch it for watching Chiwetel live. That's about it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Election plays from the first week of May

I've watched NewsRevue before and I loved it.
It's a series of comedy sketches on current affairs and they make minor changes to their content almost every week so within a couple of months it's nearly entirely new and sometimes even the cast is new. They are always playing at Canal Cafe Theatre which is a small theatre space above a pub.
So we went to watch them again the weekend before the UK general elections for all the election mockery. 

It was truly hilarious.
I cracked up so much, I don't think there can be one favourite. 
Most of the sketches were about how Dave Cam owns the world or how Nicola is slowly conquering it. The others are just interacting each with their own typical characters.
They didn't leave the Americans out either. Hil-ary was strikingly awesome that I could actually picture Hillary Clinton being on stage herself. 
They had a few other sketches involving Katie Holmes, the birth of the princess, etc.
Even though I watched many other comedy shows on TV around the elections, nothing came close to New Revue! Come elections, comedians surely make money.

With the interest in elections picking up, I also went to another election play at Soho Jerrwood downstairs. While I knew that it was actors reading from scripts, I still went assuming the script will be hilarious. 
But it was boring. It was so boring but it's one of those pretentious intellectual ones so you are not supposed to say it loudly that it was boring. It was supposed to be written using all the language the campaigners used and supposed to be gibberish (but in a highly intelligent way of course). But it was basically 6 people on stage making random election speeches and not funny at all. I heard it a little, dozed off a little and the ticket came with a drink so I got myself a Big Tom after the play. So it wasn't too bad.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Lake District

It was definitely beautiful but certainly not as laid back as I thought it would be, may be it was just timing.

Firstly, on a normal day there is a direct train from London to Windermere that's roughly 3 hours and a bit. For us it took more than 6 hours due to engineering works. Secondly, it was the Easter weekend, the first big holiday after winter. Thirdly, it was supposed to be raining but in the last minute the weather turned and it was brilliant sunny weekend bringing in a lot of unplanned holiday makers from an hour away. 

Any case, we thought the same and woke up at 11 thinking if it rains too much we won't make the effort. But it was looking al right so we left at 2. A tube ride and three train rides later we reached Windermere. It was already dark and it took us a while to get to our B&B so that was that.

Our B&B was a small cute family run place like most B&Bs are. Ross, who runs it, was extremely helpful and he is as local as anyone can get.

Since we don't drive and you really need to if you want to see the highlands, we were considering taking a day tour around the Lake District. Ross suggested we take "the high adventure" tour rather than the "ten lakes spectacular" tour (both by mountain goat tours. That was great advice. The high adventure tour is not really adventurous or anything but Ann (our driver and guide) took us to a few different places and we had time to walk about as well. She knew the roads in and out (which I think is really important given the highlands can have dangerously steep roads). We were lucky weather wise and it such a clear bright day that at Hardknott pass we could see across the sea to the Isle of Man. We also too the heritage railway La'al Ratty at Eskdale valley.

The highlight of the day was probably Wastwater, a perfectly still reflecting lake, like this:

The next day, we were planning on taking some cycles to go around the little towns. Ross recommended taking electric bikes instead. The highlands are too steep. So we called someone who said we don't need to book but when we arrived there we were told they had run out. After many attempts, we just got normal cycles. But then again it was really hard so we pretty much ditched them.

We took a bus instead, to Grasmere. It's a really nice bus actually - a double decker with an open top and commentary about places as we pass by them. It's not a tourist bus but they have modified it for the summer. And from the top you can drive through the pretty little villages to Grasmere, barely 8 miles from Windermere. We went there in the perfect spring to see daffodils everywhere, some tended to and some wild.

These were the highlands where Wordsworth fell in love with the daffodils.
We visited the Wordsworth cottage - a tiny little remodelled pub. The stories are inspiring of the number of poets that visited the little house. There was also the Grasmere ginger bread shop where everyone was buying ginger bread. We bought it too and after 6 weeks is still lying at home. It's too sweet.

We came back to Windermere. There we took a circular cruise of Lake Windermere. It is truly pretty.

The next morning we woke up, had a lazy breakfast, checked out and caught a train at 10.30. We reached London and home around 5.30. We obviously had to change trains but we were also showed down by 'unforseen' circumstances. But Virgin trains said we could get a refund. We did. 

So there goes are underutilised Easter weekend. To be fair, Lake District was beautiful and we got to see quite a bit of it.

15 days after this trip, we were heading to Tenerife in the canary islands (that I blogged about already). Such contrasting holidays!