Saw Port at the National Theatre. It's a play set in Stockport in the Eighties and Nineties, where I lived some of the time. That made it a slightly strange experience. Some of the accents seemed pretty off, though that half-Lancashire-half-Manchester buzz must be tough. Pretty sure the grime-splattered bus station was never that manky either.
The play is about the life of a girl from her childhood, when her mother abandons the family, to her twenties, as she struggles with dead-end jobs and abusive relationships. Very well acted by Kate O’Flynn as the protagonist Racheal. There's a particularly harrowing scene of domestic abuse, very creepy with almost no actual violence. Pretty decent script, strange to hear some bits of old slang again, though the structure tries to be a bit too clever.
Overall, a good play. Not spectacularly brilliant, but rewarding.
Saw the revival of The Stepmother Twenties play by Githa Sowerby at the Orange Tree Theatre.
Surprisingly undated despite a few touches of melodrama. A young woman marries an older businessman, sets up her own successful small business, but runs into problems later.
Katie McGuinness is OK as the protagonist Lois, but the play benefits from a brilliant performance from Christopher Ravenscroft as the villain, who starts out with a kindly, avuncular manner and gradually reveals his true character. The audience were literally gasping with outrage at his more self-serving lines of dialogue.
Definitely worth seeing.
Saw The Barber of Seville at the London Coliseum. Not sure if I'm getting more into opera or this was just a good performance, but I found it this comic opera a lot easier to take than most. Liked the way it poked fun at the conventions: characters declare that the sillier events are like a comedy, sing songs allegedly from another opera, and complain about how long it takes to say things: there's a good scene where the lovers fail to escape because they spend so long singing about their love while an exasperated Figaro pleads with them to get a move on.
Had an interesting incident: the singer playing the hero Count Almaviva was taken ill halfway through, and they had a 40-minute interval while they tried to round up a replacement. Eventually Tyler Clarke took over, who managed to do a good job. Not sure if he was an actual understudy: he didn't know the staging and had to be led around by the other characters. However he did the English libretto without an apparent script. Not sure if he knew it already, had a discreet earpiece, or was just an amazingly quick learner, but he did a very good job. We had cheap seats way up in the Gods and he was a little fainter than the other singers, but still clearly audible and made no major mistakes. Hats off to him.
Girl B tells me the other singers were excellent, "world-class." Soprano Lucy Crowe did some excellent twiddly bits as Rosina. Very traditional production, traditional dress and no novelties.
Well worth a look if you like opera, or want to give it a try. The cheapest seats are £25 which is a good deal for opera, after all you pay about £15 to see a 3D movie in the London suburbs: this is 3D too and you get a big orchestra and some powerful sets of lungs too.
What I'm Watching
Saw Logan's Run on DVD. Haven't seen it in ages, though I watched it quite a few times in my early teens, admittedly mostly because of the valuable Seventies boobs/PG rating combo.
Very cheesy, especially the cringeworthy rediscovery of monogamous Love, but actually still fun to watch. The special effects are actually more impressive in the CGI era, with lavish sets, intricate models, clever compositing, and some practical props. I particularly liked the guns that fire four little flames when they shoot.
Girl B insisted on watching the commentary track, with Michael York, the director Michael Anderson and the costume designer Bill Thomas. It's quite an interesting one for the how-did-they-do-that detail. The palm lights were bulbs with concealed wires to a battery pack. The Carousel effect had to be reworked after disastrous early trials when all the stuntmen got their wires tangled and had to be cut down one by one. The costume designer banned all underwear from the female costumes because in a city dedicated to hedonism "they'd need to get in and out of them quickly". Apparently there was a lot more nudity, but it was cut, and the footage is now lost or destroyed in a cleanup.
Overall, more fun than I expected. Even a decade past my Lastday I'm not sure the city-dwellers don't have the best deal though.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw Ghost World on DVD. Classic Nineties movies about two teenage girls in a post-high-school limbo. Beautifully observed with some agonizing scenes of social dysfunction. Well worth seeing.
What I'm Reading
Finally slogged through to the end of The Hellenistic Philosophers, volume 1 by Long and Sedley. Compendious sourcebook of all the minor sources relating to hellenistic philosophy, in this volume mostly stoic philosophy which is my area of interest.
A lot of this was fairly familiar to me as I've read all the extended stoic texts that survives. This book is useful though as it has extracts of all the mentions of stoic philosophy in other texts, which otherwise would be very difficult to look up.
Definitely worth reading if you have a serious interest in stoic philosophy, but way too heavy for the casual reader. Will be a useful resource for looking things up.
Found this bit of Stobaeus (2.73, 1-13) quite interesting for its mention of the "pursuits":
Of goods, some are 'in process', others 'in state'. Of the former types are joy, delight, modest socializing; of the latter type are well-organized leisure, undisturbed stability, manly concentration. And of those that are 'in state', some are also 'in tenor', e.g. the virtues; but others, like those mentioned above are 'in state' only. 'In tenor' are not only the virtues but also the other expertises in the virtuous man which are modified by his virtue, since they become like virtues. They [the Stoics] also say that the goods 'in tenor' include the so-called 'pursuits' as well, like love of music, love of literature, love of geometry and the like.Also interesting was this summary of Panaetius by Cicero (On Duties 2.73, Panaetius fr. 118)
Communities and governments were founded above all for the preservation of private property. For although men banded together under nature's guidance, it was in the hope of safeguarding their possessions that they sought the protection of cities
Video. Blind Film Critic: If I Could See, Would I?
Pics. 1960s Chinese Operas.
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