Saturday, April 29, 2006

White Noise

Right, day two and I’m still surprisingly excited by this new creative outlet/way of avoiding real work. You wait, a couple months down the line and my blog will be in the cupboard, so to speak, with my set of half-used oil paints and my Teach Yourself Russian textbook.

I’ve spent far too much time playing with databases this week then I would like, so I was glad of the opportunity to catch the UK premiere of Don DeLillo’s Valparaiso at Islington’s Old Red Lion Theatre on Thursday.

My relationship with Mr DeLillo to date has not exactly been amiable. I read the first few chapters of Libra and gave up; I tried again with Underworld, read the baseball game scene that everyone reads – and gave up (I expect I am not alone in this respect). I gave it my very best shot, I really did, but we just couldn’t get on together. So I was a tad apprehensive about what I was letting myself in for.

Not unexpectedly the play was very verbose; the dialogue full of repetition and rhyme – occasionally very poetic with it but, more often than not, just odd. An American businessman takes the wrong flight and a planned trip to Valparaiso Indiana instead takes him to Valparaiso Chile. This seemingly silly error bizarrely makes him the subject of a mini media frenzy. Everyone suddenly wants a piece of him and his cute little story: journalists, film crews, talk show hosts. His life becomes camera-fodder.

The satirical content is pretty broad, but this play isn’t aiming to be straight-up satire. It tries for something darker, harder, rattling towards a bleak conclusion – but I was left unmoved. DeLillo himself described it as “a very strange play” and, well, I can’t argue with that. It makes a lot of noise but doesn’t really say very much. Still, the cast and crew clearly believed in their material; it was well acted and technically inventive – and, to be fair, the play was frequently very amusing. I’ve seen far, far worse of late.

Plus it was nice to revisit the Old Red Lion, a proper pub theatre with black lacquered pews and the odd red velvet cushion scattered about. One of my favourite fringe venues.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dogme Days

Right. OK. Some words would be good.

I'll start on a high note. Just returned from seeing the touring production of Festen at Richmond Theatre. This was one of those shows that just seemed to escape me while it was in the West End. I was dying to see it but things never quite came together. Innate laziness had something to do with it I suspect.

Fortunately a ticket came my way courtesy of the lovely Miss Hunt and I'm very glad that it did. Truly one of the most gripping, strange and uncomfortable productions I've seen in a long while; I think I forgot to breathe for the last few minutes. These are good things. Honestly.

The play is based on the Danish film of the same title, one of the more successful products of Lars Von Triers Dogme Initiative. In a country house hotel, a well-off family gathers together for their patriarch's 60th birthday celebration. But the singing and the drinking and the general merry-making are fairly short-lived. With a clink of fork against glass, one of the sons makes a speech that hauls a nasty family secret into the open. The fall out is chilling and exhilerating to watch.

This is sharp and brutal theatre, though not without humour of the very darkest kind. And it's been years since I visited Richmond's red-carpeted playhouse; something of an error on my part I now realise.

So, first post. It's uphill from here, I promise. I'm telling you stories. Trust me.