Tag Archives: Film

“Fraulein Julie”

at the Barbican, Wednesday 1st May 2013

It’s easy to suggest that Fraulein Julie should be called Kristin. Katie Mitchell and Leo Warner’s production, which places a film set on stage, focusses around the secondary character of Strindberg’s original, as the cameras follow her around watching said cook partake in and overhear the events of the play. But it’s wrong to suggest a change in title; this is still Miss Julie’s story and the main events still happen to her. Though we are watching Kristin’s reactions, it is in response to Julie’s narrative, meaning that the ‘objective’ eye of the original play is shifted. In doing so, then, Mitchell and Warner open up the play whilst examining it in great detail, creating along the way a mesmerising, haunting piece of theatre.

Originally seen at the Shaubühne in Berlin in 2010, Alex Eales’ set here spans the width of the Barbican stage, Continue reading

“The Animals and Children Took to the Streets”

at Warwick Arts Centre, Thursday 14th February 2013

It’ll be a long time before I see projection used in theatre as brilliantly as this again. More than any other show I’ve seen, 1927′s The Animals and Children Took to the Streets blends projection and theatre seamlessly, merging the two so that they support and interact with one another to find a gorgeous halfway point as each uses the other to better tell the story. Paul Barritt’s animation is the star of the show, as the production plays out in front of us and we’re never quite sure where reality lies.

Suzanne Andrade’s script is written and narrated in the style of a children’s story, but the content is far darker than the tone would suggest. In a dark, poverty-stricken area of a city lies the Bayou Mansions, a tenement block into which Agnes Eaves and her daughter Evie move. Agnes’ landlord falls in love with her and worships her from afar. Alongside the central story however, is a story of rebellion and revolt, as the children living in the Bayou “take to the streets” to vent their frustration at the world around them.

There’s an elegant simplicity in the set-up of the show, with one large flat centre stage and two smaller ones either side, all of which have small windows. Onto these flats is projected any number of settings and images, so that within an instant we can travel from a dream-world to a back-alley. They act, then, as panels in a comic book, and the style of Barritt’s animation reflects this (with references to Soviet propaganda thrown in, too).

What’s most remarkable, however, is not the animation itself, but the way in which the actors interact with it. At one moment, the landlord sweeps a broom as dust appears on the screen with each brush, and at another a cigarette is held up while smoke is projected onto the image. With brilliant timing, Agnes Eaves (one of the performers) and Evie Eaves (an animation) mimic one another’s body language and walk along scenes together.

As far as I can tell, the only source of light in the show is the projectors. This makes the whole endeavour all the more impressive considering that, in order for this to work, body-sized ‘holes’ have to be cut out of each frame of animation so that bright, uniform colours can be added in to light up actors’ faces. To this end, actors wear white, expressionistic face make-up, which both allows emotion to be more keenly rendered and adds to the strange, other-worldly theatricality of the piece.

The three performers (Sue Abbleby, Lewis Barfoot and Eleanor Buchan) play a range of roles between them, and each character is larger than life, keeping in line with the comic-book feel of the show. Music by Lillian Henley plays throughout, suggesting moments of pathos or humour without overpowering the whole thing. There’s much to love and to say about The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, but it’s difficult to convey it’s captivating charm in writing. As far as I can tell, the production continues its tour into the summer. Just get a ticket.

“Bane” by Joe Bone

at Warwick Arts Centre, Thursday 23rd June 2011

One man shows are notorious for sagging in the middle. A singular actor can find it difficult to sustain energy for the full length of the play and hold the audience’s attention. Not for Joe Bone, who, throughout his sixty-minute performance manages to do both while flitting between a multitude of characters, creating something spectacular regardless of its minimalism.

The storyline of Bane is much like that of many spy thrillers you’ll have witnessed in the past. Taking inspiration from film and graphic novels, Bone’s creation follows the detective Bruce Bane attempting to solve a mystery. The plot isn’t much, granted, but it’s what is done with it that makes this production so remarkable.

I have never seen multi-roling quite like it. Bone can happily portray a scene involving a handful of characters while managing to convey the narrative. The precision with which he moves makes it clear who we are watching at any given point, and his physicaility is effortless.

Accompanied by a live guitar soundtrack played by Ben Roe, Bane is real drama without ever taking itself too seriously. I worry somewhat that many of the film references went straight over my head, but that’s no doubt down to my ignorance rather than Bone’s lack of clarity. If you want a masterclass in playing multiple characters at the same time, get yourself along to Bane at the next opportunity.

“The Tempest”

I’m not normally one to review films – my knowledge of the history of cinema is somewhat lacking and I don’t go to watch films nearly often enough. In the case of Julie Taymor’s film of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, however, I feel my understanding of the play and its history warrants a review of some sort. This is exactly how Shakespeare shouldn’t be done.

I don’t want to get all conservative and old-fashioned about this, but there are some things which should always be considered when producing a Shakespeare play, in any format. All we have is the word on the page, and if no attention is paid to Shakespeare’s language, your enterprise will fall at the first hurdle. Taymor, it seems, has not even read the script. She also has no idea how to get the best from actors when verse-speaking.

Any inspired choices have clearly come from the actors themselves. Alfred Molina is a sharp Stephano and Felicity Jones offers a sassy interpretation of Miranda. There are also good turns from Alan Cumming as Sebastian and Djimon Hounsou’s ferocious Caliban, but the rest of the cast struggle to discover any meaning in the text. Russell Brand as Trinculo is too self-aware and tries to hard, while Reeve Carney’s Ferdinand is nothing short of wooden. Ben Whishaw does a good job as Ariel, even though he is confined to looking dazed and floating over desert sands. Taking on the role of the female Prospera, Helen Mirren also disappoints. She speaks in strained tones, and the mother-daughter relationship is not different enough from the father-daughter one present in the original to justify the change in gender.

Taymor’s visual aesthetic has clearly been chosen to create a hyper-real universe, but at times the choice to make clear the fantastical elements of the play makes it look like the actors are just standing on green screens. This island is incongruous, looking at times like a lava plan and others a Burton-esque Wonderland. The costumes, created mainly from zips, are also bizarre; Taymor never sees a cohesive whole for her film.

It’s also hard to believe any of the relationships in the film. Jones’ Miranda is far too intelligent to fall for a dunce like Ferdinand, and the four noblemen are so flat that we can’t help but feel disinterested throughout. The sexual tension between Prospera and Ariel is an interesting touch, but on the whole the characters are so underdeveloped that when they interact with others there’s no motives to build upon.

This is one of the worst adaptations of The Tempest I’ve come across. Taymor pays no attention to the text, and although her intentions are clear they are not justified. Shakespeare on-screen is even more tough than Shakespeare on stage, but the fact is this production wouldn’t even work in a theatre. If you want a masterclass in how not to perform the Bard, this is a must-see.