Category Archives: Current Affairs

HAROLD PINTER ON POLITICAL DRAMA: ‘ALL I’M DOING IS USING MY IMAGINATION’ ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/30/01.)

Pinter’s political plays tell the world things it would prefer to forget about the prevalence of torture and tyranny. Michael Billington meets him as he prepares to play a sadistic interrogator in One For the Road

What exactly is political theatre? It can be a means of debating public issues, as in the case of David Hare and David Edgar. It can be a source of information, as with the Tricycle’s docudramas including, unforgettably, The Colour of Justice. But it can also, as Harold Pinter has shown, be a means of creating resonant images of suffering; of checking our tendency, in Pinter’s phrase, “to shovel the shit under the carpet” when it comes to the abuse of human rights.

Pinter’s political plays are enjoying a sudden revival. Mountain Language and Ashes to Ashes are showing at the Royal Court. Pinter is at the New Ambassadors next week playing Nicolas, a brutal government interrogator, in One For the Road. All three shows then head for New York’s Lincoln Center as part of a two-week Pinter festival, one that includes the Dublin Gate’s productions of The Homecoming, Landscape, and A Kind of Alaska, Pinter’s own Almeida versions of Celebration and The Room, and a rare revival of Monologue.

When you consider that in October Pinter will direct No Man’s Land at the National with Corin Redgrave and John Wood, that he’s written a film version of King Lear, which Tim Roth hopes to direct, is the subject of a BBC Arena profile and next spring picks up the European Theatre Prize in Taormina, it’s clear that, at 70, he’s not exactly subsiding into slippered serenity.

But, despite the punishing schedule, when I meet Pinter for an early evening tipple in his Holland Park study, he seems perfectly relaxed. Only the well-thumbed copy of One For the Road on his drinks table reveals the actor still anxiously getting to grips with his lines: Pinter wryly admits that just because he wrote them, it doesn’t mean he automatically knows them. But although this 1984 play about interrogation and torture is produced worldwide, doesn’t it pose an aesthetic problem? If we accept from the outset that torture is evil, doesn’t that kill the dramatic tension?

“I agree,” says Pinter, “it’s often difficult to make political drama dramatic. I believe that Nicolas in One For the Road should be, as it were, hung, drawn and quartered. Equally, the system of linguistic censorship I’m writing about in Mountain Language is an act of palpable oppression. I can’t find a way of apologising for either the man or the system. I can only hope to describe what happens accurately. But where Mountain Language is a series of brutal images, One For the Road is, I think, more complex. When I get up on that stage, I won’t be acting a monster, although he is certainly monstrous – but a man. Nicolas is a desperate man who seeks validation from his male victim, talks about his love of God, country and nature, and is always trying to find a philosophical basis for his actions.

(Read more)

Photo: Blouin Artinfo

IS SHAKESPEARE HISTORY? THE PLANTAGENETS (BBC RADIO 4) ·

Listen: Is Shakespeare History?  

 In Our Time

In the first of two programmes marking In Our Time’s 20th anniversary on 15th October, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare’s versions of history, starting with the English Plantagenets. His eight plays from Richard II to Richard III were written out of order, in the Elizabethan era, and have had a significant impact on the way we see those histories today. In the second programme, Melvyn discusses the Roman plays.

The image above is of Richard Burton (1925 – 1984) as Henry V in the Shakespeare play of the same name, from 1951

With

Emma Smith
Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford

Gordon McMullan
Professor of English at King’s College London and Director of the London Shakespeare Centre

And

Katherine Lewis
Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Huddersfield

Producer: Simon Tillotson

SIMON CALLOW ON:  MICHEÁL MACLIAMMÓIR AND HILTON EDWARDS ·

The Love that Wrote Its Name

The Boys

Listen

In 1969 while the actor was performing his one man show in Belfast, a young Simon Callow was Micheál MacLiammóir’s dresser. Callow pays tribute to the 50 year relationship of Micheál MacLiammóir and his partner Hilton Edwards, who were the founders of Dublin’s influential Gate Theatre. Simon Callow is an actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. Part of Gay Britannia, a season of programming marking the 50th anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalised homosexual acts that took place in private between two men over the age of 21. Writer: Simon Callow Reader: Simon Callow Producer: Simon Richardson.

 

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: ‘A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR’ (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Four years before his death in 1983, Tennessee Williams gave critics what they wanted:  a play that wouldn’t turn their stomachs.  Even Harold Clurman, reviewer and Williams’s director for Orpheus Descending, had noted his discomfort with the playwright’s “sexual obsession,” writing, “Since The Night of the Iguana (1961), I have not cared much for Williams’s plays, though all of them bear the marks of his ‘splendid gifts.’” A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, now in a rare revival at Theatre at St. Clements until Oct 21, directed by Austin Pendleton, with a first-rate cast, is Williams as good citizen–he’s trying to clean up his act (although admittedly, the playwright confessed he had used the same characters, and some of the dialogue, for an unproduced teleplay, which he said he had forgotten about, a decade earlier). His writing concerns a Civics teacher, her scholarly discipline as obscure today as it must have seemed to the playwright then.  The drama itself is hardly more than a one act–the French translates as “bitter disappointment” and, beyond symbolism, refers to a suburb outside of St. Louis, which became known for its amusement park, as well as a nearby lake, in the shape of a broken heart.  Legend relates an Indian maiden plunged herself into the water here, after her love for a fur trader was rejected. In this novelty, only for four women, Williams is writing superbly, even if his rhythms can be off. Nevertheless, the structuring seems better than in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a more powerful play—and  his controlled, recurrent setups for heartbreak, offer echoes of Blanche and Catherine and Laura and Tom. The characters, in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, are not exact replicas, though.  They’re on diets and doing calisthenics, discussing balanced grocery budgets and the stolid precepts of the Lutheran church–gone are the trademark booze and drugs; violence and sexual deviancy.  

Resetting the Native American lore in the middle to late 1930’s (at the time when The Glass Menagerie is also placed), Williams brought along the deplorables of the city:  the hardworking white lower-middle class teachers and store and brewery workers.  Transmuted, the legend had become what goes on behind the scenes in a workplace romance, concerning an aging woman (Dorothea) who lives in an “efficiency apartment” with her nearly deaf friend (Bodey), someone intent on dissuading the match.  Williams, however, was also signaling his behind-the-scenes surrender to theatrical convention,  despite the large aesthetic risks, which someone else might not even contemplate:  Did he really want his work to be seen as more directly comparable to that of William Inge, Horton Foote, N. Richard Nash, and Tad Mosel?   What would he lose by stripping away the elements of stifling family dynamics and sexual power, to please his detractors, albeit retaining the basic, recognizable “stranded woman” motif?  He was getting older,  68, but perhaps his theatre could not be the theatre of his time. Painfully, he decided to purloin virtually the same ending, for this play, that he had written for Summer and Smoke (1948) and its reworked companion, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (1964)–which is even more amoral at its finish–although he would invert their hard-won meanings.  A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur has Dorothea subsumed into the homogeneous culture that looks down on her romantic dreams; she is socialized enough, however, to become part of the herd.  

In his 1975 Memoirs, William’s wrote: “To know me is not to love me.  At best it is to tolerate me and of drama critics I would say that tolerance seems now to be just about worn out.”  A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur was his attempt to do it their way, be conciliatory, and become socialized himself—but despite some respectable notices, including Harold Clurman’s in The Nation, the play ran for only a month in 1979, for the Hudson Guild, in New York:  Hardly worth the price of destroying a vision.

Jean Lichty plays the romantic Southerner, Dorothea, in the Theatre at St. Clements production, from La Femme, steely as a young Elizabeth Ashley.  Kristine Nielsen, impervious to a life beyond work, children, and God, is her roommate, who finds employment at a shoe factory, as did Tom Wingfield and Williams himself. Annette O’Toole hopes for upward social mobility and a clothes brush, no matter how rigid she must be to obtain them.  Polly McKie, virtually a character from Bergman, is an upstairs neighbor, unable to speak English, haunted by the “spooks” of her dead family. 

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur may be the last time Williams wrote to please anybody or in a way so recognizably comparable to his acclaimed previous work—but perhaps, he also felt he must start renouncing himself. Two of the plays to follow would be A Recluse and His Guest, where the playwright gave up his voice to channel Isak Dinesen and the dark and disturbing The Remarkable Rooming House of Mme. Le Monde, which seems a rejection of his craft as we had come to know it, absurd and idiosyncratic; extreme and without compassion.  

Larry Feiner’s design provides dappled lighting and clashing reds for the “fiercely bright colors of the interior” of A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, and Beth Goldenberg‘s costumes show period fashions of poverty and acceptability.  Austin Pendleton continues in his championship of the work of Williams, who, despite an attempt like this, realized that “there is rarely a graceful way to say goodbye.”

© 2018 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Tennessee Williams’s A LOVELY SUNDAY FOR CREVE COEUR

Theatre at St. Clements
423 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036

Performances until Oct 21, 2018

Tickets 

Photos by Joan Marcus (top to bottom): Kristine Nielsen, Jean Lichty, and Annette O’Toole; Annette O’Toole, Jean Lichty, Kristine Nielsen, and Polly McKie; Jean Lichty, and Annette O’Toole.

Press: JT Public Relations

LAURIE METCALF AND JOHN LITHGOW TO STAR ON BROADWAY IN ‘HILLARY AND CLINTON’ ·

(David Rooney’s article appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, 10/4; via the Drudge Report.)

Set during the 2008 Democratic primaries, the play about the complex workings of a marriage reunites Metcalf with producer Scott Rudin and playwright Lucas Hnath, whose ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ won the actress her first Tony.

Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow, both two-time Tony Award winners, will team up on Broadway to play the power couple who have been a prominent part of the American political landscape for the past quarter-century in Hillary and Clinton.

(Read more)

Photo: Newsmax

AN OSCAR WILDE TEMPLE HAS OPENED ITS DOORS IN NEW YORK CITY ·

(Jessica Marie Ruxton’s article appeared in buzz.ie, 9/20.)

The piece has been installed in a Methodist Church and will be open to the public until December 2.

The statue and shrine were installed to celebrate the Irish legend and to pay homage to the writer who was imprisoned and shamed for his sexuality.

The project was created by David McDermott & Peter McGough and is supposed to depict his two-year imprisonment.

The makers describe the project as a ”ritualistic space” that will be ”open through December 2 and be available to rent for gatherings both sacred (the aforementioned wedding, poetry readings, a planned discussion of queer theology) and profane (the temple’s curator, Alison Gingeras, jokingly suggested a séance to honor Wilde’s death day, November 30)”.

(Read more)

Photo: Vox

 

ANSEL ELGORT TO STAR IN STEVEN SPIELBERG’S ‘WEST SIDE STORY’ ·

(Borys Kit’s article appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, 10/1.)

The ‘Baby Driver’ star has nabbed the male lead in the upcoming musical.

Baby Driver star Ansel Elgort has nabbed the male lead in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming take on West Side Story.

The actor will play Tony, a role first portrayed by Larry Kert in the original 1957 Broadway musical. Richard Beymer played the part in the classic 1961 movie.

Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner has written the adaptation of the musical originally penned by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim with music by Leonard Bernstein.

Spielberg has spent the better part of the year looking for stars for his movie, with actors needing to be able to sing, dance, and, of course, act their hearts out for the story that transposes Romeo and Juliet into a 1950s New York setting featuring white and Puerto Rican gangs.

(Read more)

DEATH OF CHARLES AZNAVOUR AFTER A LONG AND BEAUTIFUL BOHEMIAN LIFE ·

French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour poses during a photo session in Paris on November 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JOEL SAGET

(Michael Naulin’s article appeared in Le Figaro, 10/1.)

DISAPPEARANCE – The legendary Franco-Armenian artist died at the age of 94. With songs such as Take me , I already saw myself or La Bohème , the eternal Charles Aznavour has gone through times, generations and borders.

 “Singer of the most important variety of the twentieth century”. This is the title awarded in 1988 to Charles Aznavour by the American channel CNN and the Times . More than 1200 songs in seven different languages, shows in 94 countries and more than 100 million records sold worldwide. But also more than 60 participations in feature films. Very discreet about his private life, the singer – who died in the night from Sunday to Monday at the age of 94 – was married three times and had six children, three of them with his last wife Ulla, with whom he had been married for more than 50 years.

(Read more)

»READ ALSO – Bohemia , Take me , Yesterday again … The most wonderful songs of Charles Aznavour

Photo: Le Figaro

 

 

THERESA REBECK: ‘BERNHARDT/HAMLET’  (SV PICK, NY) ·

(Jesse Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/25.)  

Is it chance or synchronicity that brings “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” a muscular comedy about a woman unbound, to Broadway at this grim transitional moment in gender politics?

Either way, Theresa Rebeck’s new play, which opened on Tuesday at the American Airlines Theater, is so clever it uplifts, so timely it hurts.

That’s a depressing thing to say about a story set in 1899 in that temple of chauvinism, the French popular theater. Janet McTeer stars as Sarah Bernhardt, then in her mid-50s and aging out of the dying courtesan roles that made her world-famous. As far as Shakespeare is concerned, she is caught in the gap between Ophelia and Gertrude.

So why not try Hamlet?

Enter the men: Edmond Rostand (Jason Butler Harner), one of France’s greatest young dramatists; Alphonse Mucha (Matthew Saldivar), the Art Nouveau illustrator of Bernhardt’s gorgeous posters; and Louis (Tony Carlin), a critic so parsimonious with praise I suppose it’s only fair that he’s given no surname.

(Read more)

Photo: Chicago Tribune

 

 

AN EVENING WITH ANGELA CARTER (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

Listen 

Two iconic radio plays, first produced in the 1970s, now given brand new productions.
Introduced by Fiona Shaw as Angela Carter.

VAMPIRELLA
A young Englishman, travelling by bicycle through Transylvania, finds himself at the mercy of a ‘lovely lady vampire’ and her governess.

THE COUNTESS … Jessica Raine
THE COUNT … Anton Lesser
HERO … Oliver Chris
MRS BEANE … Doon Mackichan
SAWNEY/GATEKEEPER/PRIEST … Kevin McMonagle
BOY … William Gidney
YOUNG COUNTESS … Tilly Meeson
VILLAGERS/PEASANTS … Pip Williams, Rose Reade, Lucy Mangan, Tré Gordon

Director/Producer – Fiona McAlpine
Sound Design – Wilfredo Acosta

COME UNTO THESE YELLOW SANDS
Carter’s hallucinatory documentary drama about the murderous Victorian painter, Richard Dadd.

CARTER … Fiona Shaw
RICHARD DADD … James Anthony Rose
SIR THOMAS PHILLIPS … Pip Torrens
FRITH … Keith Hill
OBERON … Robert Pugh
TITANIA … Monica Dolan
PUCK/ROBERT DADD … Tom Forrister
SHOPKEEPER/FAIRY FELLER … Noof McEwan
CRAZY JANE … Jasmine Jones
LANDLADY … Tilly Vosburgh
DOCTOR/HOWARD … Nicholas Murchie

Violinist – Madeleine Brooks
Director – Robin Brooks
Producer – Fiona McAlpine
Sound Design – Wilfredo Acosta

Radio 3 presents new interpretations of two radio scripts by Angela Carter, originally written and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the 1970s. Both these scripts embody the combination of stylistic daring, playful wit, dazzling language, and high intellectual seriousness which is a hallmark of Carter’s best work. These productions will be introduced by Fiona Shaw, playing Carter, so that she may explain in her own words how she came to write them, and why she felt so strongly attracted to Radio drama as a medium.

VAMPIRELLA, Angela Carter’s first radio play was produced by Glyn Dearman, and broadcast in July 1976. As Carter describes it: the “lovely lady vampire’ skulks in her Transylvanian castle, “bored with the endless deaths and resurrections”, and caged by “hereditary appetites that she found both compulsive and loathsome”. A young British officer arrives, who kills her with the innocence of his kiss, and then goes off to die in a war “far more hideous than any of our fearful superstitious imaginings”.

COME UNTO THESE YELLOW SANDS tells the story of the painter Richard Dadd, who murdered his father and was confined to Broadmoor, where he created the Fairy paintings for which he is now famous. Carter uses the story, and animates the fairy figures themselves, in order to explore how “the distorted style of the paintings of Dadd’s madness, together with his archetypical crime of parricide, seems to be expressions of the dislocation of the real relations of humankind to itself, during Britain’s great period of high capitalism and imperialist triumph.”

Photo: BBC Radio 3