Archive for the ‘video’ Category

some productions: maurice maeterlinck

In classics long after, some productions, video on June 7, 2010 at 12:39 am

Theater mit Carnet (2004)

OK, so one more Kane play (4:48 Pychosis) to cover this coming week after which expect a stab at Howard Barker. Or Edward Bond. Plus all those other people I’ve already promised (Genet, Lorca, Churchill), with an ongoing chronological series of posts on happenings on the way besides. It’s exhausting to imagine.

But – just for today – thought I’d play catch-up by supplementing my previous series on Maeterlinck with a selection of performance clips. I like this feature. Try doing this in a newspaper (and click through for source / credits).

The Death of Tintagiles was the last of Maeterlinck’s plays to feature marionettes alongside actors (although he preferred puppets to people), and apparently relates the story of a queen sending for the surviving child of a family she has had murdered to complete the job herself. She is successful. PS: Maeterlinck did not get on so well in Hollywood (other clips from this almost Lynchian presentation if you click-thru).

And here’s a bold staging of his opera with Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande, played up and down invisible staircases. The clash between their tradional costumery and what seems to be a stark geometric mountain is especially good.

And – not the clearest videocapture of The Blind, but placing the figures on sterile plinths is a nice touch. Additionally, excuse the excruciating ‘eye-opening’ unjoke in the introduction (and thumb-up soft-soaping) in this news piece on a production of the same played entirely by blind people.


some productions: sarah kane

In classics long after, some productions, video on May 22, 2010 at 10:34 am

Before moving on to Kane’s later work – and to demo just how firmly it’s taken root (especially in mainland Europe) – today I’m presenting a selection of performance clips. As her career progressed, she increasingly gave up stage directions, which has become a licence for radically different productions of her scripts – a kind of artistic roulette documented here in five videos (there are pages more on YouTube). Some nudity, violence, general emotional carnage – click through for credits…

Cleansed in an institutional loft space – bullets scattered on the floor and a fluorescent table holding props and visible sound effects (such as the amplified snip of shears which impacts on the characters remotely).

Meanwhile, 4:48 Psychosis – which famously comes with no stage directions – is often reinvented as physical theatre / dance. This production shows how its angst can become unnecessarily amplified in the process, but there are inventive elements – and it’s surely the share-all challenge of Kane’s writing which has seen her become so popular – especially with younger audiences.

Stark lighting and casual clothes give this 4:48 (recently staged at the Barbican) a hard-edged clarity often lost in an anti-dramatic morass haphazardly punctuated by melodramatic gestures (more from same production). A script with no guide demands a lot of director and actor(s) – when they fail, it’s most often due to indulging themselves (directors with over-literal and/or reverent staging, actors treating the play’s supremely exposed internal landscape as one showboat breakdown scene).

Another very physical take – the strength here being (aside from being admirably well-drilled) that the actresses aren’t afraid to have fun – when 4:48 Psychosis is performed as a one-note piece on depression, it tries the patience (ha – ‘tries the patients’ would be a pretty good plot summary). In itself, this flatness, this difficulty to endure may even be a point worth making, – but it’s almost certainly unintended by most who expect the supposed verite / endless emoting of unleavened pain to hold an audience’s attention indefinitely…

Some of the more interesting productions step away from the script as monologue / chamber piece and flesh out as full ensemble – there’s something perverse about Kane’s painfully personal  confessional emerging from such a plethora of mouths, but there’s maybe also a nice feel for the splintering of self – or even a comfort in solidarity.

orson welles and william shakespeare

In classics long after, video on March 19, 2010 at 10:04 am

I’ve finally gotten my own latest script to what I’m calling the Scrap Draft (something I invented to go immediately before the more standard Rough Draft, so you can see how much of my creative energy goes into redefining progress…) Point is, before going on with further writers – and you can expect to see series on Sarah Kane and Federico García Lorca soonish, with a full run-through of all of Caryl Churchill‘s full-length plays beyond – I thought I’d retroactively fill a few of the gaps in my series on Brecht. So, hold tight for notes on and lines from Man Equals Man and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny – perhaps even, maybe belatedly, Mother Courage and Life of Galileo since it seems perverse to leave them out.

Plus, because I’d hate to take your time purely for that kind of announcement, see below to watch Orson Welles’ magisterial Falstaff in his own Shakespeare adaptation Chimes of Midnight. I’ve been somewhat obsessing over the great basso profundo recently – ever since catching One Man Band, a documentary of his last years (via the permanently elevated ubuweb site). What I’d worried might be a glum wallow in genius spurned is checked by Welles’ own spirit (“Sour grapes are not my dish,” he used to say, magnificently) and the accounts of his turning the domestic home into a private stage for bardic play are warming (“He made a great Romeo,” smiles final partner Oja Kodar. “He made a great Juliet, too.”)

One final bonus – see sister site Theatre in Pieces for a short video excerpt of Welles’ all-black Macbeth. I spoil you (occasionally).

literally a pinteresque soap opera

In classics long after, video on February 16, 2010 at 1:38 am

I hate bloggers’ excuses, and I hate bloggers’ apologies, and I am aware that the health of any blog can be scientifically determined by the ratio of those to actual content (there are blogs in the world which consist entirely of the two – and they are a miserable blight on all our patience). But!

I suddenly have a play in development, and no sooner did that flood my fluttering cortex than I additionally became non-dramatically ill. Bed, reading, really bad food, better. Now, I fully intend to keep my promises re: Jewish theatre so one or two posts on that should arrive this week, but in the meanwhile, I’d recommend keeping an eye to Theatre in Pieces, where small but intriguing things appear daily, plus – for all y’all delectation, a non-programmed item:

Yes, it’s Laurence Olivier’s adaption of Pinter’s ‘The Collection’ for British TV. Click through to YouTube for the other five parts. I have mixed feelings to be honest.

Oh, and – do you have any olives?

lines from st joan of the stockyards

In classics long after, quotables, video on November 30, 2009 at 1:30 am

“People don’t move me. They are not guiltless.” – Mauler (3)

St Joan of the Stockyards

St Joan of the Stockyards (1974 production)

Very much an ensemble piece, with large parts of the action being conducted between choruses representing meat-packers, stock-breeders and wholesalers (in a business-class manner Caryl Churchill would later echo with Serious Money), St Joan has at its heart a strange dance between Mauler, a meat trader stricken with doubts (“Oh, what a bloody business we are in”) which may or may not be tactical, and Joan, from the Black Straw Hats (akin to Salvation Army) who confronts him (literally) with the “invisible people” he exploits.

In an attempt to counter her idealistic onslaught, Mauler’s serpentine assistant, Slift, shows her how lowly-paid workers exploit each other, but she sees through crime to the logic of need: “You have shown me not / The baseness of the poor but / The poverty of the poor.”

“The cruel thing about hunger is that / However often you satisfy it, it always comes back again.” – Mrs Luckerniddle (7)

“…nothing, however good it looks, should be termed good unless it / Really helps, and nothing counted honourable but what / Irrevocably changes the world, which is in need of change. / I was just what the oppressors wanted. / Oh, inconsequential goodness! / Oh, negligible virtue! (…) Take care that when you leave the world / You have not merely been good, but are leaving  / A better world!” – Joan (8)

Joan exploits the curious hold her innocence has on the softening Mauler by sitting down in solidarity with the jobless from his plant (“The snow will be falling on someone you know”) but, in her heroism, she refuses to compromise herself with pragmatic matters, and the workers lose out as a result of her negligence. She dies, still preaching, pure and useless, canonised by her movement, who have been bought out / ‘supported’ by Mauler (“We’ll promise them that the rich will be punished – after death, of course.”)

“For there is a gulf between the top and bottom, wider / Than between the high Himalaya and the sea / And what gos on at the top / Is not known at the bottom / Nor on top what goes on at the bottom / And top and bottom have two languages…” – Joan (8)

Brecht’s real heroes are ‘flexible’ tricksters or unromantic pragmatists, and his happy endings, few – the frustration of seeing how the world really – mostly – works is supposed to send the audience out at the final curtain wanting to change it. But this play has what is maybe his most enduringly hopeful exchange – between workers who have tried and failed to convince the police that they are equals and should unite. One turns to the other: “Will it always be like this?” The audience considers the tragic conception of the human race, so endlessly fallible, the good intentions gone awry, original sin, hubris and nemesis. And, as they are taken away: “No,” answers the other.

lines from the threepenny opera

In classics long after, quotables, video on November 30, 2009 at 1:00 am

“In five minutes, I can turn any man into such a pitiful wreck it would make a dog weep. Is it my fault if people don’t weep?” – Peachum (1:3)

Threepenny Opera poster

Brecht’s early spectacular (which was spectacularly successful – not often the case for his work in his lifetime) features crime and punishment as close friends, a beggars’ bureau, a kind of anti-wedding burlesque, ballads including ‘…of Immoral Earnings’ and ‘…of Sexual Obsession’, all building to a public execution that’s aborted for the audience’s sake (stage-signposted: ‘THE APPEARANCE OF THE DEUS EX MACHINA’).

“Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance / In keeping its humanity repressed / For once you must try not to shirk the facts / Mankind is kept alive due to bestial acts.” (Second Threepenny Finale: ‘What Keeps Mankind Alive’)

See video above for taster trailer of what happened when Robert Wilson joined forces with the Berliner Ensemble for a recent production.

“The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.” – Peachum (3:7)

Peachum, the king of the beggars, may have the quotes here, but Macheath (who would enter popular culture as ‘Mac the Knife’) has a hell of a black wit, and Polly, Peachum’s daughter, delivers an antisocial star turn with her song (and imagined alter-ego) ‘Pirate Jenny’ (“As they ask which has got to die / And you’ll hear me as I softly answer: the lot!”).

“Our judges are absolutely incorruptible: it’s more than money can do to make them give a fair verdict.” – Peachum (3:7)