29 June 2008

Yes, ***** from me, as in many other slightly more widely read verdicts. B would take off half a star for the music, which is a bit harsh. I think it was the Barbican sound system that was at fault on that score.

Of course, does it go without saying?, finding the play absorbing and admiring its thrilling execution is not quite the same as endorsing the entire history of the Black Watch. They are at root a killing machine in the service of a country with a long history of using such machinery for its own interests, dark as well as enlightened, whatever the cost to other nation states or tribes. The play treads a very interesting line, lauding the courage and camaraderie, while pointing up the essentially atavistic nature of their business. Men as warriors, fighters, bullies.

Very interesting appreciation of Gregory Burke's play today, from one of the Iraq war 'embeds'.

ps Mrs S now says she's taking a full star off for the 'faux Nyman at ear-splitting volume'. I've said it before, she's a tough crowd.

27 June 2008

Happy Friday. As a Gooner-by-proxy I was of course delighted to see Cesc Fabregas take the game by the scruff of the neck last night. Except far more elegantly than the phrase might imply. I can now forgive him for reminding me of the truly wicked Sylar every time I see his mug.

I have discovered the wonderful world of the pub quiz, after an invitation from a playwright of my acquaintance. I´ve been the last three Tuesdays and am now hooked. I earned my spurs by identifying the letter of the alphabet that occurs only once in the names of all football teams playing in the English and Scottish leagues, and naming the club. It´s amazing what pleasure can be derived from getting a point for your team by pulling such arcane knowledge out the bottom of the bag. What´s the only English anagram of persistent?* Name all eight actors who have won Best Actor Oscars twice.

Meanwhile the boys´ grandpa hosted an event at the House of Lords this week and here they are participating in parliamentary democracy.


Off to that Barbican tonight to see that Black Watch. There's been a lot to read about the show, on the web, in the papers, I almost feel I've seen it already. But I'm guessing the 'live-ness' will kick in and away I'll be swept.

*for those of you arriving here from Googling for the answer to this: prettiness.

15 June 2008

So I'm watching a lot of football. Euro 2008 - or the European Championships to old timers like me - is proving very entertaining. Group A comes to a head tonight with a decider between Turkey and the Czech Republic (or 'Czechoslovakia', as David Pleat would have it) for the second qualifying spot. Now my usual modus operandi is to record the games and watch them last thing, remote in hand so I can zip through the injury stoppages and the more annoying punditry, naming no names Mr Allardyce. Tonight, alas, this strategy will avail me naught as there will be no avoiding the result come 9.30 - either Green Lanes and environs (including our little offshoot) will be resounding to several hundred car horns, trumpeting a Turkish triumph, or... they will not.

Meanwhile I am working on the Christmas play for Northern Stage, Hansel and Gretel. It's a very pleasurable job, already. The Brothers Grimm (as distinct from the Brothers Grim) are fascinating source material, all seven pages or whatever it is according to which edition you pick up. As with last year's Christmas Carol, Erica (Whyman) is directing and Neil (Murray) designing, so that's a head start, getting the old band back together. We're starting earlier than we might have done because Neil is working on his own production of a new piece for September, a Bryony Lavery version of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. So that'll be bloody exciting.

So it's Christmas in my head, albeit of a starkly different sort from the Dickensian goings on last time round. From a mechanical point of view, the source material is brief to the point of insubstantial, compared to the prolix and effervescent Charlie D. There's an almost biblical ghostliness to the characters and action in the Grimms treatment. But they are of course, precisely for that reason, a gift to people like me who come along after and set about fleshing them out. I'm adding some shall we call them variations to the story, some inspired by my reading, majorly of this literally wonderful book


and a significant one from a chance remark by a director friend during a quick catch up.

What else will I tell you? Cloudcuckooland got a mention in The Seoul Times, Edinburgh fringe preview (about halfway down). I've seen one of the best new plays for yonks, The Pitmen Painters (featuring Mr Michael Hodges who was our Scrooge last year), and one of the best versions of a very old play you could wish for, Roger McGough's Tartuffe. Mostly though I have been sitting and thinking about stories. When the footie's not been on.