Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Future Conditional

I watched Future Conditional at The Old Vic and give it 3/5 rating.

 I don't know much about the educational system in Britain but suffices to say it's confusing and people are always complaining.
There are of course, some basic issues everywhere like elite schooling gives you more probability of getting admission into an elite university like Oxford or Cambridge (or Oxbridge as it is referred to here). (And here I must say I was very surprised when I found out that not only are a chunk of the influencing members of the ruling conservative party from a single elite high school, so are some of the most influential members of the opposing labour party which was supposed to represent the working class.)

What the play suggests is while these issues exist and while the society fights it out to try to change these, some of the more powerful people who can bring about change are not enthused to do it because in effect they are removing the privileges that they and their families enjoy.

At times characters are shown as really stupid and funny to highlight the plight of parents in this educational system. The parents outside a primary school who only want the best of their children, come off as manipulative, cunning and hypocritical. They fight like kids. A thought that circulates through out the play and portrayed beautifully by ensuring that every single actor enters dressed as a school kid and then transforms into the adult, either a parent or a teacher or a committee member, on stage. At heart, everyone is still a child who wants everything for themselves, even at the cost of others.

Yet the play also shows you that it is possible for someone to come from nothing and gain everything through the educational system as seen through the eyes of a refugee. This young once-Pakistani girl who came to the country with nothing and goes through multiple foster homes and multiple schools with no compliants and tons of gratitude, goes on to open the eyes of the bickering elite to the possibilities and successes of the British educational system. In spite of all the hardships and the subtle tones of racism she faces, she blinds herself to it and latches on the encouragement she receives from one single teacher.

It is a system with its own flaws, but with a few good teachers like Mr Crane, played inspiringly by Rob Brydon, the system really works. Isn't it the same everywhere?

PS: acting was pretty average


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

I watched Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Donmar Theatre and rate it 5/5 ! What could be better than French scandalous comedy with brilliant acting.

It's an old story, told in an old fashioned way. It's the same old love, deception, revenge. And usually old stories bore me to death in spite of stars like Benedict Cumberbatch but I watch for the stars sometimes. And so I agreed to watch this for Dominic West with little expectations. So may that's why I give a five, because it was well beyond my expectations but might be not so in general.

Yet it was wonderful. Dominic West was charming and ruthless as the Vicomte de Valmont, so I was glad I went to watch him. Janet McTeer however, admirably a brilliant actor, played the lead Marquise de Merteuil which such dignified cruelty that I can't imagine anyone else portraying her.

The story twists and turns and keeps you running with it. It also helps that we were sitting in the front row and can't as much as yawn when the actor is staring right at you, so we gave the show our undivided attention. We could also pick up on the little comic expressions that Valmont plays up with subtlety. The sets were rather simple with bare minimum furniture yet the  chandeliers and ornate candle stands set the mood to the French ancient regime. And a huge applause for all the ladies, of which there were many, for playing their roles in breathless corsets.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Red Velvet

I watched Red Velvet at the Garrick Theatre and give it a 4/5 rating.

It was a well-researched, flawlessly written play. It maps out the controversy around Theatre Royal and Ira Aldridge, the first black Shakespearean actor. For a play set in the past, the undertones of society are so smoothly woven in. Written by Lolita Chakraborthy, it feels like it was with Adrian Lester in mind that the play took shape and he wears Ira Aldridge like a glove.

The young, ambitious and overconfident Ira Aldridge takes on the powerhouse of London Theatre. While his colleagues eventually warm up to him, the public is outraged and reviews are mostly about his blackness and stereotyped "monstrosity" rather than his or his colleagues' acting prowess. His fury, disappointment and hurt (in that order) are apparent when eventually the director (and originally his only believer) decides to let him go because Ira refuses to tone down his emotional acting that the press finds very beastly. He leaves London never to return but becomes one of the most celebrated thespians of his time.

We see him as an old man playing King Lear and metaphorically as well, as he still remembers his hurt from many years ago and becomes devoid of happiness in spite of his rather well received career. Just before the curtain, you see that he smears his face with enough make up to make him a white man. Such a small gesture yet very chilling ! All of a sudden his agony is apparent.
I absolutely loved it. I liked the story and I think Adrian Lester is amazing. The sets and use of stage could have been better.