Went to see a double-bill at the National: "Edgar & Annabel" and "The Swan". They're dabbling with a kind of pop-up concept by putting on productions of short original plays in what's normally a backstage area, the Paintframe where they can paint the backdrop to their huge sets. Seems a bit cheeky for The Theatrical Establishment to dabble in this kind of thing, more usually done by hip young companies like Punchdrunk or Belt Up, but they do manage it very well.
It's an interesting industrial-ish space, with two huge clamps at the top to hold the scenes for painting. They have a live band and a pop-up-ish bottle-bar on at the start and in the interval, though you can't really see them from most angles. The first play was mostly in a compact roofed container set up as a small trendy kitchen, with the audience on tiered benches in front. In the interval they scoot that to the side and set up a horribly realistic grotty pub with half-empty glasses and crisp packets strewn all over the place, and the audience are on different tiered benches on each side.
"Edgar and Annabelle" requires a bit of suspension of disbelief: an oppressive government in a state quite like our own is audio-monitoring everyone with software that looks out for sentence patterns. The resistance therefore have to spend their time reading out scripts representing an odiously smug upper-middle-class couple. If you can swallow it though, it makes for a great play, with a huge contrast between the thoughts and emotions of the characters and the banal words they're speaking. Also has some very funny moments. One scene is fantastic, where they assemble bombs with another couple under the cover of a karaoke night, belting out Eighties classics while feverishly assembling the components.
"The Swan" is set in a decrepit, soon-to-close East End pub, about to host the wake after the funeral of young man. Has a kind of Mike Leigh feel to it as secrets and lies emerge from the diverse characters who have turned up early. Another very good play with really good performances all round, especially Trevor Cooper as the father Jim.
Overall, well worth seeing. Tickets are £20, so a good deal considering you're getting two for the price of one.
What I'm Reading
Finished 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman. Semi-scientific self-help book, which rounds up studies on how to improve your life in various ways. It's become almost a cult book in the "life hacks" and "productivity blog" movements.
Wasn't that impressed by it, but I was already familiar with quite a lot of it. Some of it does seem pretty sensible and might be useful if you're not aware of it.
However, many of the studies are pretty small and I'm dubious about how scientifically valid they are. A lot of these studies seem to get refuted on further study, so I'm not really convinced unless there's confirmation.
Also I'm not entirely convinced that a short term effect is sustained in the long term. It's easy to do a single study showing people eat less if given smaller plates. I have a hunch that if you tried that kind of thing in the long term, eventually you'd just start filling your plate multiple times.
Overall, moderately interesting, might be most useful if you're not familiar with this kind of thing.
Socioeconomics. Riots shake faith in UK austerity. Greece and Argentina compared again. Less war than there used to be. Do Sex Offender Registries Reduce Crime? Sociology of the gunfight at the OK Corral. 12 of 19 countries with AAA credit ratings are monarchies.
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