Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Three Men in Another Boat

More up-to-date reviewing for you here, as I stumbled on this programme about a year late, repeated last night at midnight. Griff Rhys Jones takes Dara O'Brien and Rory McGrath on a trip in his beautifully appointed racing yacht around the Kent coast, for amusement value. Jones is a bit of a sailor and knows what everything is called. He bosses the other two lugs around in a slightly embarrassed way, quite at odds with the "I need anger therapy" series that he is doing right now.

At one point, perhaps because nothing much is going on at sea, the other two get a boat agent to value the yacht behind Jones' back. Their eyes widen significantly at the price he puts on it, and this is after they've already seen boats going for £300,000. So it's a lot. According to wikipedia Jones and Mel Smith sold Talkback for £62 million, so, well, who knew.

Yes, its rich people playing around being rich. The idea of taking three comedians and making them do something slightly unlikely, well it is a winner really. And both the poverty of the concept and the way that it does actually work are on display here. Nothing really happens, the trio are not particularly funny, they mingle with other people who have far too much money as well, what could be right about it? But despite none of them saying anything witty, they are all far too well schooled in arts of funny bones for them not to raise a smile from time to time. Maybe I'm going soft. I could have watched this for hours. It was warm and comfortable like a nice cardy. Telly for the Telegraph types. Middle-class. That's it for me, I'm afraid. I've fallen into the abyss.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Twelfth Night, Tricycle

Within a few minutes of this Filter production of Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identity I knew I was in the middle of something outrageous. We'd entered to theatre to find a double bass centre stage, musical instruments, laptops, a drum kit, a trumpet, a few mini Marshall amps cluttering up the rest – “where are all the actors going to go?” asks one of the audience. The actors meander onto the stage, talking amongst themselves; “Chat a bit longer,” one tells the audience as we quiet in expectation, “we're not ready yet.” After a while they break into a jazz overture, and so begins one of the wildest, most frenetic, upturned, shaken all about versions of a first folio text – the Bard via Charles Mingus.

The fourth wall has rarely found itself so neglected – the audience provide costume, some get slugs of tequila, some are dragged up on stage to dance (yes that was me cavorting like I thought I knew how), at one point pizzas are delivered and passed to those in the upper tier. Meanwhile on stage a cacophony of imagination and rulebreaking guides every twist and turn of the plot. The shipping forecast tells Violio she is in Illyria; a mobile phone rings and Orsino takes the call; two characters crack tins of Special Brew; while most are in modern dress, Sir Toby meanders about drunkenly in full Elizabethan ruff-ness before later collapsing in one of the aisles; Malvolio strips to his boxers at the joy of his mistaken love; all the while crazy shit house rat jazz music is played, supplemented with scene-setting soundscapes eeked out of sample-firing playstation joysticks, feedbacking microphones, cymbals played with cello bows, all created on stage in front of your eyes, gorged on a unrestrained, febrile exuberance and then, just occasionally, a Shakespeare play breaks out.

Ah, the play. Well it happened, or some of it happened, there were mistaken identities, and upturned love affairs and hearts broken and Malvolio, O Malvolio, how he does fall viciously prey to consumption of a broken mistaken heart identity. Who knows how much of the play there is in this Twelfth Night, and in what order. Not me anyway, having spurned the chance beforehand to read the wikipedia synopsis, I barely followed the plot, but it mattered not, because the riotous energy of the show - one that takes up the challenge of making theatre work every inch of its limitations - carries you past the humble considerations of what precisely is going on. It is enough to understand enough to enjoy enough; if it ends abruptly after 90 minutes with someone having happened to somebody, who cares, I went home singing the finale. Here is a musical which never seemed to force its music on its subject (nor, admittedly, its subject onto its music); but which made music its subject, its food of love, and constructed out of that music a bizarre, crazy carnival, worth every crazy, bizarre minute.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

In honour of Roger McGough MBE

I always wondered why they give CBEs
and MBEs
and OBEs
to people who do what they please
people who do what they like,
like footballers
or poets
What about people who don't?

I'm not thinking of myself
of course
but what about the people
who got a job they didn't like
because they were forced to;
because they were told to

You don't get OBEs for doing
what you're told to
which is funny, when you think about it

Nobody wants “he did what he was told to”
on their tombstone

I want letters after my name
I don't have a degree
I'm not on the honours list
and I'm not a mason
So I'm facing
a bit of a struggle

I want poet's letters after my name
maybe one of those that Shelley sent to Byron
Then I'd make people address me
by my full title
That's me:
bringing poetry to the masses

the other day we were discussing letters
after your name
or LAYN for short
I could be criticalbill LAYN
and nobody could disagree
Someone suggested ACAB
All coppers are bastards
But I don't know
I quite like tuppenies

Friday, September 12, 2008

who me?

He Appeared to be someone who couldn't bear to fulfil his talent, since he preferred infinite potential to the limits of achievement