Time and The Space

Time and The Space

Time, most definitely, to return to The Space, the Arts Council England/BBC digital ‘pop-up’ that, in its present form at least, will be with us for only another three months. Indeed, this is exactly the half-way point for the announced project, although it is almost certain to continue in some form. In the Arts Council’s recently published document ‘Creative media policy’ (link: download), £8 million is set aside for funding the future phase of the project. In the now unlikely event that it disappears entirely – and heaven forfend – we most definitely won’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone. Some licences and rights deals, however, will expire at the end of October. So we need now to cherish the riches and celebrate the achievements of The Space. But I think we also need to offer some tough love in the form of rather more critical scrutiny than I sense it is receiving.
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Jennings and Powell, thou should’st be living at this hour #openingceremony

Jennings and Powell, thou should’st be living at this hour #openingceremony

The terrific filmmaker, our friend and occasional collaborator Paul Tickell contributed this wonderful response to Danny Boyle’s Olympics opening ceremony as a ‘Comment’ to one of our posts over the weekend. But it deserves a far wider readership than that, and so as a first step towards that I am posting it here. Do please read…

Paul Tickell writes: Successful as he is I’ve never been entirely convinced by Danny Boyle as a film-maker. But what a show this was! So much to talk about, but first of all I’d like to home in on Blake and ‘Jerusalem’: thankfully it was a de-militarised zone. Often the poem ends up being used as a lugubrious marching song, a battle hymn vocalised by imperial triumphalists (enter stage right cheerleaders like the Michael Goves, the Niall Fergusons et al using the Churchillian tone to turn Blake the great Republican and political ‘terrorist’ into a sub-Kipling apologist of Empire, of the Dunkirk spirit and of just about anything else ‘British’ amenable to a reactionary agenda).
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Ten more on Danny’s Britain

Ten more on Danny’s Britain

My post yesterday picking out ten great online pieces about the Olympics opening ceremony was this blog’s most popular post for months and months. In part as a consequence of the remarkable interest that prompted, and also because I remain totally fascinated by the event and the reactions it has provoked (can someone organise a conference about it, and quickly, please?), here is another bunch of pieces with further analysis. (Incidentally, did you see that the BBC are going to re-run the whole thing on the afternoon of 18 August?) First off, however, something that is totally great, courtesy of Reuters Photography Blog – a time-lapse of shots by photographer Pawel Kopcyznski that encapsulates the whole ceremony in just over a minute – it’s astonishing how all-embracing and evocative it already feels.


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Ten thoughts about… Danny’s Britain

Ten thoughts about… Danny’s Britain

If nothing else, we will be thinking and talking about the Olympics opening ceremony for many a moon. The detailed cultural analyses will follow in the weeks and months to come, but it’s worth stressing that it was a lot of fun and totally fascinating, and that it was truly spectacular at times, and silly, bonkers and extraordinarily bold. Bravo, Danny Boyle, bravo. Here are the ten best things about it that I’ve found online so far – including (at no. 10) the final paragraph of the director’s programme note last night – if you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
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Language, land and love

Language, land and love

Wednesday evening, and the digits on my mobile show that it is a little before midnight. After hours of relentless rain, this is a moment of respite. The wind has dropped too, and the sea is calm tonight. Editor Todd Macdonald and I set off to walk back across the coastal fields to the Northumberland village of Craster. Behind us looms the ruin of Dunstanburgh Castle, in front is a sloping field of illuminated bell tents. In the air is the murmur of a soundscape combining the undulating sounds of composer Mel Mercier with some of the most beautiful love poetry in English – and in Welsh. Welcome to one of the eight locations of Peace Camp, an celebratory installation created by Deborah Warner in collaboration with Fiona Shaw, and realised by event producers extraordinaire Artichoke. I am wet and I am cold and I am tired but I am most definitely contented.
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From a not “proper” Shakespeare producer

From a not “proper” Shakespeare producer

Grrrr! I know, I know that you should never respond to criticism, but today I can’t resist a little rant. I am also by disposition a retiring individual not much given to trumpeting Illuminations’ achievements. But take a look at the following from Peter Stanford’s admiring interview with Sir Richard Eyre in today’s Daily Telegraph, ‘The BBC “wasn’t taking Shakespeare seriously”. Sir Richard has directed Henry IV part 1 and 2 for The Hollow Crown, the second of which is broadcast tonight on BBC Two. Stanford asks him this question:

Why, though, has he been so very keen for so long to get “proper” Shakespeare back on the BBC (as opposed to the corporation’s more recent standby, filmed versions of stage plays broadcast on BBC Four)?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am enraged by the idea (which goes unchallenged by Sir Richard) that The Hollow Crown is “proper” Shakespeare and that our Royal Shakespeare Company Hamlet with David Tennant, our Rupert Goold-directed Macbeth with Patrick Stewart, and our recent Julius Caesar, again with the RSC and like Hamlet directed by the company’s new Artistic Director Greg Doran, are somehow “standby” – and inferior, not to mention not “proper” – productions. 
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5 + 5: Jerome Robbins

5 + 5: Jerome Robbins

To the Sage Gateshead for the last of just four performances of a new production of West Side Story. Directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett, it is a thrilling reworking of the Jerome Robbins original, appropriately respectful but also reinventing this masterpiece for the twenty-first century. (Go here for Albert Hickling’s 5-star Guardian review and here for a thoughful piece for the Year of Shakespeare blog by Monika Smialkowska.) A future life for the production is uncertain but I’ll be watching that carefully.

Meanwhile it prompted me to search out some of the best online resources about the late Jerome Robbins, whose original conception West Side Story was, and who was the choreographer and stage director for the premiere in 1957. I also want to try out a new format for recommended links, so following are five web sits and five fragments of video. The first of the latter is the compelling trailer for the movie of West Side Story (directed by Robert Wise and Robbins, 1961):


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Richard II: ‘sad stories of the death of kings’

Richard II: ‘sad stories of the death of kings’

Let’s be absolutely clear: the opening film in The Hollow Crown, shown on BBC2 last Saturday, is a thrilling Richard II (on BBC iPlayer until 28 July). With Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as, respectively, Richard and Bolingbroke, and as directed by Rupert Goold, this is a wonderfully confident and compelling adaptation distinguished by an astonishing central performance. The film looks great (director of photography Danny Cohen) and it sounds great (composer Adam Cork). That said, I want to ask a few questions of it and raise a concern or two, whilst also exploring a little further its images and ideas.
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Catching my breath

Catching my breath

I was in a very rainy Glasgow over the weekend at the International Screen Studies Conference. Back in London today, I am looking forward to a month or so when I can finally do some writing, reading and viewing. This feels like a time to catch my breath after the production of Julius Caesar and Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which have meant that the last few months have been fairly hectic – and I still have lots to reflect on from both experiences (some of which I intend to post here).

There is so much to see (and to blog about), including Saturday’s Richard II (on iPlayer for a month) and then the two parts of Henry IV (above) which I’ll catch at BFI Southbank tonight. I am really keen too to return to The Space, to see (and blog about) much of what I have been missing there, and to continue working my way through the wonderful Globe to Globe recordings. I want too to get to dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel and I have one or two other small adventures scheduled across the summer.