Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Archive for November 7th, 2008

Red Fortress

leave a comment »

I went to see Red Fortress at the Unicorn Theatre last night. The Unicorn is a children’s theatre (or young persons theatre, if you prefer) in Southwark and this was the premiere of Carl Miller’s new play set in 15th Century Spain.

Rabia (Muslim), Luis (Jewish) and Iago (Christian) are three children who live in Granada as the armies of Ferdinand II approach. To further emphasise their differences as a trinity Rabia is emotional, Luis is intellectual and Iago is physical. They spend most of the play battering themselves against each other’s religion and nature before discovering that – wouldn’t you know it? – they are all in love with each other. Now, I liked Red Fortress quite a lot but this came perilously close to ruining the play for me. This supposed love triangle is so obvious, so perfunctory that it is an insult to the sophistication on display elsewhere. To hammer home the point Rabia declares: “We’re a triangle! It’s algebra!” This is nicely punctured by Luis pointing out that actually triangles are geometry but it shouldn’t have to have been punctured in the first place.

There was also rather too much acting. For reasons I will never understand theatres are loathe to publish cast details except, occassionally, on easily loseable slips of paper available in the foyer. So I can’t tell you who played Rabia but she seems to have confused playing a child with playing someone with learning difficulties. I was not the only person to notice this because I heard the kid behind me ask his companion: “Is she meant to be a spaz?” I believe the answer is no but it is true that it was sometimes hard to tell.

It is a very busy play. All the actors except the three leads play multiple roles, there are many scenery changes and even at over two hours the plot feels compressed and confused. Lots of ideas are nicely touched on but not fully explored. The tone also veers all over the shop from icy heartbroken pain to satirical songs about consumerism. There was a great, show stealing skit in which Chris Columbus turned up to explain to the audience his play to sail to Japan but this only reinforced the somewhat chaotic nature of the play. In fact, the main unifying thread is Tunde Jegede’s excellent score performed by three onstage musicians including (I think) himself.

And yes, despite everything I did like it (although I don’t think it deserves the rave reviews it got.) Its chaos is part of its charm as is its exuberance and ambition.

Written by Martin

7 November 2008 at 12:38

Posted in performance

Tagged with , ,

Never Let Me Go

with 5 comments

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.
“Need a poo, Todd.”
“Shut up, Manchee.”
“Poo. Poo, Todd.”
“I said shut up.”

That is the opening paragraph of The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, which won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize a couple of weeks ago. It richly deserved the prize. As fellow nominee Frank Cottrell Boyce put it in his review:

This book is on the longlist for the 2008 Guardian children’s fiction prize, along with my own. If I had any sense, I would try to improve my chances of winning by slagging it off. The trouble is, you’d only have to read the first sentence to see how fantastic it promises to be.

My review of the book has just gone up at Strange Horizons. You will notice that the letters YA do not appear in the review at any point. This is because there is no such thing and when it gets down to it most people seem to agree so we should just end this consensual hallucination that it exists. Please join my crusade.

Getting onto another bugbear, The Knife Of Never Letting Go is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy. As I mention in my review the fact that standalone novels are becoming increasingly rare in genre publishing is a source of some irritation to me. There is currently no information available about the next volume but hopefully it will turn up soon. I reviewed Thorn Ogres Of Hagwood by Robin Jarvis in 2003. I have had an Amazon order for The Dark Waters of Hagwood, the second volume of the trilogy, since 2004 but there is still no sign of it.

Written by Martin

7 November 2008 at 10:24