The long night of The Knight…

21st February 2014

To the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for the first public performance of Francis Beaumont’s 1607 The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Which, let it be said, is very funny, very finely played (including by Pauline McLynn and Phil Daniels, above) – and very long. Last night’s show came down after 3 hours and 20 minutes at 10.50pm. Some relief – for which, much thanks – was provided by short interludes at the end of Acts I, II and IV, with an additional 15-minute ‘privy break’ as a more conventional interval.

The 4-minute or so interludes, which feature music and a little comic dancing, allow one to stand and stretch, which really is a necessity, at least if you are sat in certain of the Playhouse’s seats. I was in Pit Row D (again – but I’ll learn), jammed between two strangers who during the opening hour and more engaged with me in a subtle and slightly distasteful turf tussle for leg-room. Cushions have been added since my first visit but there is still the sense that one is paying a significant chunk of change (£45 on a normal night) for a refined form of torture. Try to remember, you keep saying to yourself, the play’s the thing – and not cramp, bum-ache and the painful torsion necessary to turn one’s side-facing body towards the stage. read more »

The best of early modern times, 1.

20th February 2014

Short of living in the London of the early seventeenth century, this must be the best of times for those of us interested in early modern theatre beyond the Bard. Tonight I’m off to the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for their new production of The Knight of the Burning Pestle with Pauline McLynn and Phil Daniels. The Duchess of Malfi (above, with David Dawson and Gemma Arterton) has just closed there and The Malcontent is to come.

In Stratford-upon-Avon Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Gregory Doran has committed The Swan to a comparable focus on the plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. This year will see stagings of The Roaring Girl, Arden of FavershamThe White Devil and The Witch of Edmonton, together with The Shoemaker’s Holiday as a Christmas treat.

We now have major editions of the plays of Thomas Middleton and of Ben Jonson, each representing scholarly endeavour at the highest level. The Arden Early Modern Drama series is bringing us new editions of other significant works. And the new Collaborative Plays by ‘William Shakespeare & Others’, a gorgeous and glorious volume that – given that as a hardback it is currently available for just £21.25 – ought already to be gracing your bookshelves.

I have been disgracefully absent from the blog in recent days – journal articles, a keynote lecture, broadcast proposals and the making of the RSC trailer for Henry IV, Parts I and II (coming very soon) have taken up almost all of my time. By way of easing my way back in to regular posts, today’s contribution and a subsequent aim to bring together thoughts about and links for all of this exciting early modern drama activity. read more »

REM-arkable

5th February 2014

For the past several years I have been delighted to contribute some classes to the MA course in Critical Writing in Art and Design at the Royal College of Art. With the course leader Professor David Crowley, the students and I explore examples of screen-based media about the visual arts, many of which are drawn from British television. So we look at recognised classics like Civilisation, Ways of Seeing and Pop Goes the Easel (see yesterday’s post) as well as perhaps less obvious programmes like State of the Art and A Bigger Splash. For the fourth of my classes I ask the students to present an example of web-based video that they find interesting, and today one of them contributed this trailer for REM, a documentary about the architect Rem Koolhaas, which is being made by his son Tomas (there’s an Arch Daily interview with him here, with further details about the project). It’s a terrific short film, surprising and beautiful and imaginative, and a very original way of engaging with the spaces of a building (which is the Casa da Musica, Porto, above in an image from OMA).

OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR ‘REM’ DOCUMENTARY from tomas koolhaas on Vimeo.

The only blonde in the world

4th February 2014

To the always delightful Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, to catch the exhibition Pauline Boty: Pop Artist and Woman before it closes on Sunday. This is a show from Wave in Wolverhampton and it travels on, slightly strangely, to the also delightful Muzeum Szutki in Lodz, Poland, which owns Boty’s My Colouring Book, 1963, one of the paintings on show. Pauline Boty was an artist and sometime actress who before her death at the age of 28 in 1966 painted works now seen as key to the story of British Pop art. But for many years she was all-but forgotten, and her rediscovery is an essential part of the story that co-curator Sue Tate tells in the valuable catalogue. The show is displayed in just two small rooms and it’s most definitely worth the trip, but what I want to do here is to collect together a handful of the traces and writings about Boty so that you can undertake your own journey through her work and life. Essential exhibit no 1. is Pop Goes the Easel, directed by Ken Russell in 1962 for BBC Television’s Monitor:

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Celebrating Jarman

3rd February 2014

To King’s College London on Saturday for the symposium Early Modern Jarman. This was a contribution to the excellent Jarman 2014 celebration of the life and work of the filmmaker, artist and activist Derek Jarman who died from AIDS-related illness on 19 February 1994. Among much else, the day offered the chance to see Pandemonium, an exhibition in the Inigo Rooms at Somerset House, which remains open (and is free) until 9 March. There are other events in the coming weeks including Queer Pagan Punk: Derek Jarman, an extensive films retrospective at BFI Southbank (including The Last of England, 1998, above). And specifically related to the themes of the symposium is a screening on 28 February of Jarman’s 1991 film Edward II in St Nicholas Church, Deptford. The church is the resting place of Christopher Marlowe, author of Edward II and the focus also this year of anniversary celebrations, Marlowe450. read more »

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 2

28th January 2014

Digital Theatre were kind enough to invite me to the premiere last night at Cineworld Haymarket of their new recording of Private Lives (above). Perhaps it was unfortunate that, as I wrote in part 1 of this post, I went with the images and sounds of Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon vivid in my memory. Noel Coward’s comedy is a very different beast from Shakespeare’s lyric tragedy, and the respective approaches to translating a stage production to the screen are different too. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but make comparisons throughout. Nor can my comparisons be in any sense objective, given my deep implication in the cinema broadcasts from Stratford. Yet it seems important that those of us involved in this hybrid form of ‘live cinema’ begin to develop a critical dialogue about what it is we’re doing and what – beyond the box-office – makes for success or failure. read more »

Second thoughts, and a first look, part 1

27th January 2014

At lunchtime on Sunday I sat in the front row of Screen 2 at the Barbican watching – for the first time on a big screen since November – Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon. Tonight I sat in the front row of Screen 3 of Cineworld Haymarket at the premiere of Digital Theatre’s screen version of Private Lives. Two months on from making Richard II I’m still trying to organise my thoughts about it, and doubtless I’ll continue musing on Private Lives, in part because it takes such a different approach to translating a stage play for the screen. But I can’t help but say that I was once again thrilled by what the team achieved with Richard II – and remember Henry IV part one is to be broadcast on 14 May (above) – and a touch disappointed by Private Lives. read more »

Links to catch up, 2

26th January 2014

A explanation, of sorts, for my absence, is in the complementary post to this, as are recommended film and TV links from the past month or so. Today, before we get back to the blog in earnest, here are further links, of literature and Ladybird Books, of peep shows (as above) and digital culture and more.

Thousands of years of visual culture made free through Wellcome Images: it’s wonderfully welcome news that the Wellcome Foundation has made freely available more than 100,000 images under a Creative Commons license; the details are in this post, and the full credit for the wonderful image above is as follows:

L0031022 Looking at a Peep show in the street, Peking (detail)
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk     http://wellcomeimages.org
A Manchu girl, wearing platform shoes, and a Manchu bannerman, in
his sheepskin coat,stand looking at a travelling Peep show.
The showman is wearing winter dress made of coarse cotton cloth.
Peking, Pechili Province, China.
Photograph 1869 By: John Thomson
Gold and Platinum-toned albumen print by Michael Gray, 1997
Published:  -
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 2.0

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Links to catch up, 1

25th January 2014

Nearly a month and not a single new post. Given the time of year, I might have expected things to have been quiet, leaving plenty of time for the blog. But not a bit of it. I have started work on the next two cinema broadcasts for the RSC’s Live from Stratford-upon-Avon. At Illuminations we have been busy developing new broadcast ideas and working on a project for the Science Museum. Distribution of our DVD box-set of An Age of Kings continues. And I have been writing two journal articles, a book review for Sight & Sound, preparing a Screen Plays season for BFI

, editing archive material for Tate Britain’s exhibition about Kenneth Clark in May, and teaching some classes at the Royal College of Art. Today, I’m taking part in a Q&A after a special encore screening at the Barbican of Richard II Live from Stratford-upon-Avon, which coincides with the end of the show’s stage run. So I’ve not been idle, just not contributing here – and not being very active with social media either. To start again, however, here is the first of two collections of links that have engaged me recently, with a concentration today on those related to television (including HBO’s True Detective, above) and cinema. read more »

2013 top ten, 7: John Wyver

2nd January 2014

To conclude our 2013 round-up, and before we get to the business of 2014 over the weekend and next week, this is our final ‘top ten’ of the year. Let’s hope that the new year can offer as rich a range of experiences.

1. The Great Beauty

Unsurprisingly Paolo Sorrentino’s panorama of modern Rome (above, with Toni Servillo) has featured in the ‘tens’ by Linda and by Keith, and in many other end-of-the-year round-ups. I saw the film on a Sunday afternoon from the front row of one of the small screens at Clapham Picturehouse – and I was completely overwhelmed. Visually, aurally (part of the score is by Zbigniew Preisner), this is great and glorious cinema…

2. Gravity

… as is Alfonso Cuarón’s astonishing space adventure. Back in November I posted a clutch of links for those interested in learning more about the film, its production and reception. Including it here also gives me an excuse to feature the 2-D trailer once again.

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