Saw Mike Leigh's Grief at the National Theatre. In the small Cottesloe auditorium, more intimate atmosphere than the big spaces. Fifties set slice-of-life drama, featuring a war widow living with her depressed and sullen teenage daughter, and brother. It becomes gradually apparent that while they seem reasonably together on the surface, they're falling apart underneath. The brother Edwin is self-consciously detached from anything serious, carefully ducking any fatherhood role in the family. Widow Dorothy (Lesley Manville) is failing to deal with her grief. Daughter is depressed.
Very well observed and does have some funny moments, especially from Dorothy's frenetic busybody friends. Could have done with a few more secrets and lies though: was a bit too domestic for most of its lengths.
Elderly audience seemed a bit odd. There were big roars of laughter and the terrible, repeated wacky lines from the doctor friend of Edwin, though I thought the point was that they're not at all funny.
As you would expect, a pretty grim play on the whole. Leigh's recent films "Happy Go Lucky" and "Another Year" were reasonably optimistic, but not this.
(His plays share the unique way of working with the films, where the actors live their parts for months and semi-improvise in response to events)
Overall though, good play, worth seeing if you can stomach it.
Saw Hamlet at the Greenwich Playhouse. Bit of a change from the National: it's a small pub theatre. Has an inconveniently long, thin, low-ceilinged floor plan, both productions I've seen have the bulk of audience are off to the sides while the actors play to just two rows in front of them: must be tough for the actors to work.
It's a very brisk production, tightly edited down the core. Fortinbras and the Norwegians are basically gone. They've boldly removed the opening ghost scene. A few lines are shifted between characters: it's Horatio who declares that time is out of joint.
It all works very well. Nobody knows exactly what bits of Hamlet Shakespeare put on, but it was probably only a part of the full modern text. Cutting it down this way keeps the tension high and makes for an effective production.
Robin Holden makes a decent Hamlet. He seems capable and energetic, and doesn't go over the top in the mad scenes. Bruce Jamieson was good as Claudius, seems plausible as a schemer. The only oddity was that Jane Stanton as Gertrude seems to be about the same age as her son Hamlet, but maybe she just has a really good moisturizer regimen.
Overall, good production.
Latest TTC course was Art of Conflict Management by Michael Dues. I generally have mixed feelings about the more practically-oriented courses. They usually have a few nuggets of useful advice, but a lot of it is common sense.
This one is unusual in that it has little scenes of conflict played by actors, so it's not purely lectures. Dues is a good speaker with an avuncular manner, presumably honed in his own mediator experience.
Overall, fits the usual pattern. I liked some bits. Certainly some people could do with the learning these five Components of an Apology.
- A specific statement of the offending behavior
- An acknowledgment that it was harmful
- Our assumption of responsibility for both the behavior and the harm done
- An admission of regret
- Our commitment to not repeat the behavior
Some of it seemed less convincing. Everyone in these examples seems a lot more reasonable than the obstinate, recalcitrant and sometimes malevolent people I seem to encounter in the real world.
I'm not that convinced by the subtle distinction he males between "win-win" solutions where both parties gain, and "compromises" or "no-win-no-lose" situations where each party gains a bit and loses a bit. His "win-win" examples often seemed more like compromises to me, e.g. the flatmates arguing over noise levels agreed to some quiet nights and some social nights.
Overall though, somewhat interesting, might be useful in places.
Picked up Blood and Iron by Tony Ballantyne from the library, without realising it's the second part of an uncompleted series. Science fiction novel set on a planet called Penrose populated by humanoid robots of unknown origin. It's written from various robots' points of view as they encounter greedy, technologically advanced humans.
The robots are quite human-seeming, not just in appearance but they're constructed to be like humans: they have males and females who can only reproduce together, their brains are "coils" which can't be copied, though they can be switched between bodies, they have a limited lifespan, they talk through sound waves not radio, have no mental communication or hive minds. It's hinted that there are reasons for this setup, but the origin of the robots remains a mystery.
The robot societies are pretty clearly modelled on various human ones: there's an almost-Sparta, and almost-Athens, an Almost-Imperial-China. Not sure if this will get explained too.
The plot works pretty well, there are some good battle scenes and plot developments, some elements fit together nicely. I could easily follow what was going on without having read the first volumes.
Overall, not bad, but looks like I'll have to wait for the next volume to be written before I can get much resolution.
Me: Mefi v. Reddit pub quiz.
Went to the great Metafilter versus Reddit pub quiz showdown on Monday. Was a bit dubious about it at first. Originally it was just going to be regular, chilled-out, Metafilter meetup, with a slight twist in that it was a pub quiz instead of just a pub as usual.
Then, the London Reddit decided "that reddit go along and hand their asses to them" which suddently turned it into a high-stakes trash-talking battle for Internet honour. Since I'm crap at pub quizzes, this was a bit worrying.
They seemed a lot more organized than us: they met up in a different pub and divided up into two teams, Herp and Derp. We tried a bit to organize into sensible teams, but couldn't work it out so just ended up with teams based on where we were sitting: three teams of six, one team of four. There were also about four or five teams of unaffilliated non-Internet people
It was pretty close at half-time, with first place tied between a Metafilter and a Reddit team. But Metafilter pulled ahead in the second half. Metafilter teams came first and third. Reddit teams came joint Fourth (with one other team) and joint Fifth (with two other teams.) My team was joint Fifth, and the small Metafilter team came Sixth, with a civilian team or two behind them.
Overall, it was more fun than I expected, and the Redditors turned out to be pretty decent guys: fortunately they didn't carry out their threat to bring vuvuzelas.
People seemed quite keen, so there's a good chance of more things like this happening. Would be interesting to see how many community websites we could get involved. The B3tans might be up for it. I wonder if we could scrape up enough HuSi people for a team.
Economics. Bank CEOs and the Infinite Pile of Cash. Mood more significant for business than consumers. IMF on what caused the UK’s debt. Spain and Ireland racked up little debt before crisis. ISLM explained.
Politics. Peter Oborne: It is as if the era of mass democratic participation never happened. End of the Big Society?
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