romeo and juliet, & mahler’s 8th symphony

romeo and juliet (south woodford odeon, live-streamed from stratford (the other one)

like the rory kinnear macbeth, the dead rise and walk – and not just the scripted banquo; this romeo and juliet has first the slain mercutio and tybalt, and finally all the dead, facing us like zombies with a message – the cost of i) parental inflexibility and ii) a ‘culture of knife-crime’ Continue reading

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the town hall affair & the turn of the screw

the town hall affair

a live dramatic reconstruction of a real, filmed, public debate in early-seventies new york between writer and critic norman mailer and representatives of ‘women’s lib.’ notably germaine greer

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philosophy for life by rupert read, and bamford quaker community

philosophy for life: a series of essays by the green quaker norwich-based (uea) philosopher, chained together skilfully by editor m.a. lavery, this book is a serious, witty, and unashamedly intellectual attempt to take dame philosophie from her ivory tower and put her to use in the world of politics and political activism; for read, philosophy is a way of thinking critically, of unpacking and exposing the sleights of language with which the governing elites keep our thinking enchained Continue reading

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macbeth (streamed from the olivier to picturehouse central, may 10th) & the lene lovich band (at the lexington, islington, may 20th)

macbeth

live-streaming is in many ways so much better than #beingthere: better view, cheaper, and a filmed interview with the director before curtain-up; which helped me notice the feel – ‘britain in a few years, after a civil war’ – armour is metal trays and other bits, fastened on with parcel-tape: nice touch

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rodin and the ancient greeks, & the iliad

rodin and the ancient greeks

i didn’t realise that rodin spent a lot of time in london, and that he kept visiting the british museum to see the elgin marbles and other greek sculpture; it seems (at least according to the bm’s materials (but see this for a plausibly cynical alternative)) that this was his primary source of inspiration

setting his and the greek pieces side by side was clever: you could really see how he had developed his own forms from theirs, particularly the headless and limbless torsos:

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luisa miller & ordeal of innocence

luisa miller (live from the met, south woodford odeon)

even my dad hadn’t heard of this opera by verdi; and the english surname of its heroine certainly feels unusual in this italian-language melodrama with a count and a guy called rodolfo; it had a touch of the “life of brian” name-bathos (bathonomy?)

it was also nice not knowing the plot, but that’s something verdi seems to expect anyway, as he drops confusing hints in earlier only to be resolved later – e.g. the allegation that rodolfo is the count’s son – which count? and so what?

but the story is great (if, as with così fan tutte, predicated on the tensions thrown up by fathers and husbands owning their women, or, more charitably, tensions between such a world and a more enlightened one), and, it was, dear reader, some way through what was probably act 2, when i had a strong feeling that finally i understood what opera was about; opera took longer to get used to than rothmans or guinness did as a young man (and the feeling passed as rodolfo launched into passionate lament after lament: too much of me wanted him to get over it)

but the met presentations are amazing – gushingly camp interviewers, chats with the stars as they rush panting off stage (including the charming and wise placido domingo), and intervals filled with half-light footage of vast sets being roped or wheeled into place – again like the cartoon architecture in the life of brian

ordeal of innocence

a three-part agatha christie with good old bill nighy and others; a wealthy adopting couple’s family falls apart when the horrible mother is murdered – gradually we learn how everyone had a motive (she was so horrible), and how the main suspect (the wildest of her adopted children), who died violently in prison, was probably innocent

of course it was her husband, whom i suspected at the start as he’s the one who rushes in when the maid screams; ok – i was lucky – but the neatest whodunnits bring it back to someone you see at the start but then are manipulated to discount

How they are related

Family dramas with a paterfamilias the main culprit – so far so similar. But the family Agatha Christie constructs are all unsympathetic, or rather all dysfunctional; Verdi’s are generally goodies or baddies. What’s more interesting is the similar tensions between the ‘high-ups’ and the ordinary folk: Verdi’s drama comes from the socially unacceptable love between the Count’s son and a non-aristocratic woman; Christie’s wealthy family in their mansion are undone by the persistently honourable young man who had an alibi for the prime suspect – too late, but his refusal to go away provides the little jabs which stir the hornets’ nest.

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wittgenstein’s poker & patience (after sebald)

wittgenstein’s poker

a meeting of the moral sciences club in king’s college cambridge in 1946, where, allegedly, wittgenstein brandished a poker threateningly at karl popper: not much material for a book, you might think – but not so, dear reader, for in this meeting lie the two rival approaches to the primary question of 20th-century philosophy

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