Everything Is Nice

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Red Fortress

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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

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Excursions In The Narrative Arts

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I went to see Sweet Cider, the new production from Tamasha, at the Arcola last night. It is a fairly familar bunch of elements – interracial, interreligious relationships, honour, family, gender – but it is a good balance of weight, simmering frustration and humour, only slightly shading off into melodrama at the end. A very good young cast too.

Afterwards I re-watched Lilo And Stitch. God, that film is awesome. Okay, it slightly tails off when it focuses on ohana but it is simultaneously more adventurous and more grounded than most disney films and the individual scenes involving Lilo and Stitch are wonderful. The only real misfire is Bubbles, a social worker who happens to be an ex-CIA agent and looks like Ving Rhames. It is one weirdness too far.

Earlier in the week I watched Cloverfield and Iron Man. Both suffer from having feeble, idiotic plots but whilst Cloverfield is every bit as bad as I expected, Iron Man is as good as I’d hoped. Much of this is down to Robert Downey Jr, who, like Johnny Deep, he has the personal presence to inject life into what could otherwise be a typically soulless Hollywood commercial property. The film wisely focuses on him and (much more than I was expecting) the creation of the suit, including lots of nice incidental detail. It is interesting to see a depiction of an engineer hero rather than an action hero in a blockbuster. The plot is still stupid though.

Written by Martin

30 October 2008 at 16:43