(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/24.)
He is an artist best known for wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin and for siting thousands of coloured umbrellas across valleys in Japan and America. Now Christo is creating for Abu Dhabi a colossal structure that he claims will be the world's biggest permanent sculpture. Estimated construction costs of $340m (£212m) would also make it the world's most expensive.
A 150-metre-high, flat-topped pyramid would be taller than St Paul's Cathedral or St Peter's Basilica and would overshadow the Great Pyramid of Giza – creating Abu Dhabi's answer to Egypt's pyramids or Mecca's Kaaba.
The Mastaba, made out of 410,000 multicoloured oil barrels, is planned for what Christo describes as a "spectacularly beautiful" desert landscape, Al Gharbia, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi city.
Speaking to the Observer, Christo said a site near Liwa oasis has been approved. The region boasts some of the world's highest dunes, with gazelles among the wildlife. Stacked barrels painted in colours inspired by the yellow and red sands will recreate the visual effect of an Islamic mosaic, he said: "When the sun rises, the vertical wall will become almost full of gold."
(Roger Friedman’s article appeared on Showbiz 411, 11/23.)
Cheers and a standing ovation this afternoon at the first screening of the film version of Les Miserables. Tom Hooper, Oscar winner for The King’s Speech, has made a thrilling, sensational epic of the legendary Broadway show. This now becomes the Titanic of this year’s awards season, the film to beat. Hugh Jackman is a triumph as Jean Valjean, Anne Hathaway sings the heck out of the film’s big numbers, and Samantha Barks just about steals the film. Russell Crowe makes for a solid Javer. And the many supporting players, especially Aaron Tveit, Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried, are top notch.
MOSCOW (AP) — One of the jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot has been moved into a solitary cell following tensions with other inmates, Russian prison officials said Friday.Stanislav Volegov, a spokesman for the Federal Penitentiary Service in the Perm region in the Ural Mountains where Maria Alekhina is serving her sentence, said on Rain TV that she was moved into a "safe" cell on Wednesday at her own request.
(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/22.)
Watching David Antrobus's rare and exhilarating revival of this early Ibsen play, written in 1862 when he was 34, I was reminded of another youthful work: Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. Both have a headlong exuberance, are filled with caustic satire and ultimately show impetuous romance giving way to hard-headed realism. In both plays you also see intimations of the genius to come.
Set in a sunlit summer garden, seductively realised in Sam Dowson's design, Ibsen's play begins with a swaggering assault on bourgeois convention by a self-assured young poet, Falk. In particular he attacks middle-class marriage and prolonged engagements ("a temperance-house of happiness"), which he sees as the enemy of creativity; and in this he is joined by his adored Swanhild, another free spirit and a proto-feminist aching to escape her suffocating existence. But, in the second half, Ibsen movingly puts the case for the opposition. An uxorious pastor and a long-engaged lawyer speak up on behalf of marriage, and when a rich businessman offers Swanhild "the quiet flow of deep regard" in contrast to Falk's fervent passion, the heroine is left with an agonising choice.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Charlie Brown has been caught in the crossfire of the “war on Christmas” mantra.
KARK-TV reports that some parents were upset that Terry Elementary School in Little Rock wanted to take children to go see a play of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at a local church.
“The parents that we know in this situation are reluctant to speak up because they are concerned about their kids being singled out and bullied,” Anne Orsi, a lawyer and member of the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers, told KARK.
(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/20.)
After a traumatic fall that has left half the city in a harried funk, the Signature Theater comes roaring to the rescue this week with a revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Piano Lesson” that feels like a generous gift: the stage equivalent of a free Thanksgiving turkey, amply stuffed and surrounded by all the trimmings. This immensely satisfying show, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, an actor who has become an expert interpreter of Wilson’s work, brings a timely reminder of how consoling, how restorative, how emotionally sustaining great theater can be.
Strictly speaking this savory theatrical feast, which opened at the Pershing Square Signature Center on Sunday night, is not being served gratis. But as with all of the company’s regular-season productions, tickets are just $25, making this not only one of the best shows in town but also one of the best bargains. Even at Broadway’s hyper-inflated prices, this terrific production would be well worth investing in. A more full-hearted and wide-ranging depiction of the harsh, heady jumble of life — the diurnal beauty and the overriding mystery, the shadowing pain and the exalting pleasure — can hardly be imagined.
(John Freedman’s article appeared in Theatre (Plus)/Moscow Times, 10/28.)
Eugene O'Neill. The name has a ring like Chekhov. It sounds like a rock on which you could found something. Like a national tradition of drama.
Modern American drama began with O'Neill in the early decades of the 20th century and his influence spread fast and wide. His plays were already making waves in Moscow by the mid-1920s, even before such important plays as "Lazarus Laughs" and the trilogy "Mourning Becomes Electra," "A Moon for the Misbegotten" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night" had been written.
O'Neill's earliest champion in Russia was Alexander Tairov. He staged hugely influential productions of "Desire Under the Elms" (1926), "The Hairy Ape" (1926) and "All God's Chillun Got Wings" (1929) at the Kamerny Theater — the venue we now know as the Pushkin.
Recently O'Neill has slipped into that dubious category of great playwrights who are so great that you don't have to stage them to know they are great.
I'm exaggerating a tad. The Et Cetera Theater mounted "Beyond the Horizon" in the mid-1990s. Pavel Safonov staged "Long Day's Journey Into Night" a few years back at the Mossoviet Theater. But until Alexei Borodin unveiled "Mourning Becomes Electra" at the National Youth Theater on Friday, one could say that O'Neill's plays virtually have been ignored here in recent decades.
I will not review this production, titled "Electra's Fate," because I had a very small hand in a project running parallel to it. Among other things, I interviewed the director for an oversized souvenir booklet supported with a grant from the U.S. Embassy's American Seasons cultural program. I can only hope that my more-than-modest involvement in no way detracts from the importance of Borodin's production.
(Andrew Jacobs’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/16.)
BEIJING — Peng Liyuan, China’s most enduring pop-folk icon, is beloved for her glass-cracking soprano and her ability to take on such roles as a coquettish Tibetan yak herder, a lovelorn imperial courtesan, even a stiff-lipped major general — which in fact she is.
But as the nation begins to absorb the reality that its newly anointed top leader, Xi Jinping, is coming to office with a wife who happens to be a big-haired brassy diva known for her striking figure, palace watchers are daring to ask the question: has China’s Carla Bruni-Sarkozy moment finally arrived?
(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/15.)
How do you follow a big hit? Just as Jez Butterworth succeeded Jerusalem with the more modest The River, so Lucy Prebble follows her spectacular Enron with an intimate four-hander that examines love, depression and the limitations of neuroscience. It's an absorbing, if slightly diagrammatic, drama immaculately directed by Rupert Goold in a joint production between Headlong and the National Theatre.
Prebble's setting is a posh clinic where paid volunteers take part in pharmaceutical drug trials. We meet two of the guinea pigs: Tristan, a boisterously flirty Ulsterman, and Connie, a bright psychology student.