The Space: 21 days later

The Space: 21 days later

Time for another update on the pop-up arts offering The Space (go here and here for earlier bulletins). This is the Arts Council England initiative with the BBC which I gather is likely – after its six month trial - to become a permanent fixture of our media world. Three weeks in, what’s hot on The Space and what’s most definitely not? Well, it still feels like an online broadcaster, with next-to-no capability for engagement, comment, dialogue or personalisation. And given its genesis, that feels like a missed opportunity. But the range of elements is wider than at launch and – pleasingly – many are weirder. There is one out and out triumph, plus some stuff that is intriguing or interesting, one or two irritating things, and then one or two more that have not come off but which were definitely worth trying. At day 21, you can feel that it is beginning to deserve more (and occasionally less) than that fence-sitting adjective, ‘promising’. Across the jump are ten reasons why.
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‘A tongue shriller than all the music’

‘A tongue shriller than all the music’

This is the RSC’s neat and punchy new trailer for the stage production of Julius Caesar:

How odd – and interesting – it is to see a trailer for something with which, through the film version, we are so closely associated, and yet which comes as a complete surprise. Our edit is going well and on Monday morning we are sitting down with director Greg Doran to watch something close to the final cut from end to end. Meanwhile, take a look also at the engaging blog post Julius Caesar visits Lambeth College and at a great set of rehearsal photographs by Kwame Lestrade, on of which with Cyril Nri (Cassius) is above.

The NPG’s big, fat Coronation, or…

The NPG’s big, fat Coronation, or…

… the 1970s were not in widescreen. Let’s return to a favourite topic for this blog, even if it is one that I know comes across as a little arcane. Yes indeed, this is another post about frame ratios (see here and here). And we should start at the National Portrait Gallery, which this week opened The Queen: Art and Image. Will Self in the Guardian was rather wonderfully underwhelmed: ‘The truth is that the pictures are almost insufferably dull. If you’re a monarchist you’d be better off staying at home, painting a Union flag on your living room wall and watching it dry than venturing out to see this tat.’ In fact the show is a modest yet interesting assembly of images of Her Majesty from both the art world and the wider one beyond. At Tuesday night’s opening, it also featured some film footage from 1953 of a distinctly podgy Queen.
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The week’s links 13-19/5

The week’s links 13-19/5

I’m still not sure how best to create/curate a weekly collection of links that is useful to others. The process, however, is important to me as a way of gathering together pieces that I find useful or stimulating and so I am going to persevere. Adding new links during the week also seems to work well for me, so again I am going to continue with that for the next few weeks – sometimes jumping this page back to the top of the blog and alays keeping it as one of the blog’s ‘top three’ throughout the seven days. Across the jump you will find interesting stuff about experimental film, early photography, contemporary television and the history of colour in film. [Updated Friday 6.00am.]
Image: a framegrab detail from The Great Blondin, a triptych film by Phil Solomon (see David Bordwell link below).
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Three Henrys, two hits

Three Henrys, two hits

To Shakespeare’s Globe on a sunny Sunday morning. This is my first live encounter with the Globe to Globe season of all 37 plays by 37 companies in 37 languages. (I have also been watching recordings of some of the productions on The Space.) There are only the three today: Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3, performed in Serbian, Albanian and Macedonian. These plays are among the most under-performed and under-valued in the canon, the latter adjective a judgement that once again has been confirmed nearly ten hours after we start. By which time we have seen two strong, innovative productions and one that disappoints. Once again, too, I have found that after all these years (I have been going to the Globe since 1998) I remain ambivalent about it as a place to watch plays.
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‘A happy and a joyful time’

‘A happy and a joyful time’

So, Shakespeare lovers, just how great a time is this! Generations to come shall likely think themselves accursed they were not here. In the theatre we have the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 and the Globe to Globe season (which may or may not be linked – it’s hard to tell from their respective websites). Having sampled Two Roses for Richard III from the former (some great moments but also a bit hard going at times), tomorrow I’m off to Shakespeare’s Globe for the Henry VI trilogy played – in Serbian, Albanian and Macedonian - by companies from the Balkans. Remember too that recordings of all the Globe to Globe presentations are appearing on The SpacePericles from the National Theatre of Greece has just been posted. And as you may also have noticed the BBC is more than doing its bit with the Shakespeare Unlocked season. Today’s post rounds up my reactions to some of the recent offerings, including The King and the Playwright, Shakespeare in Italy and Shakespeare’s Restless World.
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Second thoughts on The Space

Second thoughts on The Space

I know it’s early days and there is still the best part of six months to go, and there is a ton of great stuff to come, and cool new features are on the way including personalisation, and that I shouldn’t rush to judgement, but… a week in I have to say I am a touch underwhelmed by The Space. I recognise too that there’s a great team working incredibly hard to an impossible schedule and that, in many ways, it is extraordinary for Arts Council England and the BBC to have achieved this collaboration at all. But at the same time what comes off the screen needs to be taken on. I’ll continue to be a dedicated follower of The Space, and I’ll continue to blog about it, but these are initial thoughts after seven days.
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The week’s links 6-12/5 [Updated]

The week’s links 6-12/5 [Updated]

Working intensively on our BBC film of the RSC’s Julius Caesar over the past few weeks, I’ve missed out on a lot of reading and viewing – not to mention blog recommendations. Today’s column of links (to which as usual I’ll add during the week) is part of the catch-up, and it starts with Epithet, a fascinating short drama with Patrick Stewart directed by Angus Jackson. Written by Mark O’Rowe and inspired by the experience of Stewart and Jackson working together at the Young Vic on Edward Bond’s Bingo, it features the great actor playing ‘an admired and respected poet of middle years’ who is also a womaniser. For background, see also Jackson’s Shakespeare, bear-baiting and bad language – how we made Epithet. Further links in the jump.


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‘This happy day’ [the days after]

‘This happy day’ [the days after]

It takes a while to wind down and warm up after a shoot like ours for Julius Caesar. We were away from Oriental City by 6.30pm on Saturday, although there are two further days of clearing up and ‘restitution’ still to do this week. As I blogged, we wrapped ten minutes before our planned  5.30pm end of day, by which time we had seen Brutus dispatched and every scheduled scene complete. The clapperboard, presented to DOP Steve Lawes, showed that we had shot 213 slates across the twelve days – that’s a lot! There are the usual small worries about quite what we’ve got, but overall we are thrilled and delighted with the rushes. As we said goodbye to everyone the prosecco tasted pretty good.
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‘ ‘Tis time to part’ [days 11 + 12]

‘ ‘Tis time to part’ [days 11 + 12]

Our last day, and it’s fair to say that none of us will be sad to say goodbye to Oriental City, which is where we have been filming Julius Caesar over the past fortnight. According to its Wikipedia page, Oriental City ‘was a shopping centre in Colindale [which] closed for redevelopment on 1 June 2008, but no demolition or building work has yet taken place.’ As you might expect from the name it had an Asian theme with resturants, shops, a Sega World and a casino. But now it’s a sad and delapidated shell which, during the past weeks, has all too often felt damp and cold and truly miserable. But it has been a brilliant location for us – as I’ll try to explain as I update this post during today. Meanwhile, following is a selection of images from the site. Welcome to our world…
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