Platinum by Hannah Patterson, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 10 December 2016

Ged Ukulele Barefoot Ladd, not singing “This Land Is Your Land”

Hmm.

We very rarely see a dud downstairs at the Hampstead – Ed Hall’s project to put works on down there regularly has been a raging success as far as we are concerned.

But sadly, I feel obliged to report that this one, to us, was a dud.

The idea sounded great. An iconic 1970s protest songstress, now a recluse, with an estranged daughter and a fundamentally important secret about that iconic career.

Trouble is, that’s about it, plot-wise. The important secret has a rather “so what?”, tenuous feeling about it, while the motivation of the characters to behave as they do/had done in the past, if the secret was so important to them, was utterly dubious.

It was also difficult to care for even one of the three characters, each irritating in their own way: the iconic songstress, the estranged aspiring chanteuse daughter, and the Californian PhD student who has been studying the icon for six years only then to act as the catalyst for the wafer-thin plot to unfold.

Daisy nodded off about 20 minutes into the piece, once it became clear where it was (and wasn’t) going.

I persevered.

I wondered whether the PhD student’s explanation of protest song types, rhetorical and magnetic, was something the playwright had invented for him or whether it was an actual media studies/sociology course thing. Turns out it is the latter and that the explanation as expounded by the character can be found in the Wikipedia entry on protest songs under “types” and that this particular classification should be credited to the late R. Serge Denisoff, bless him.

The actors sang some protest songs along the way, closing with We Shall Overcome and at one point rendering This Land Is Your Land, quite well.

I rather like the latter song but Janie, tragically not steeped in media studies or the sociology of popular culture, perceives it as a nationalistic US song rather than Woody Guthrie’s intended protest song and has banned me from singing it on my ukulele in her presence. She should click the link I have added to the phrase This Land Is Your Land and look at some of the original lyrics. In particular, the verse that reads:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

…that verse might come back into fashion some time soon. But they didn’t sing that verse in this rather bland play. Pity.

Through A Glass Darkly by Ingmar Bergman, Almeida Theatre, 10 July 2010

I am a huge fan of Ingmar Bergman films, not least Through A Glass Darkly – click here for IMdB link – so we were very excited about this stage adaptation at the Almeida.

BTW, I reviewed the movie on IMdB down the page here – way back in 2002 (when I saw value in reviewing such movies as so few people did!).

Anyway, we went to the opening Saturday night at the Almeida.

I’m not normally one for stage adaptations, but Bergman himself had granted stage adaptation rights for this film alone, so it is fair to assume that the great man himself could visualise a suitable staging.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on this production.

This little video about the production is really interesting:

This stage adaptation worked really well at the Almeida. Superb cast, brilliantly staged and directed.

Here is a search term that will find reviews and stuff – click here.

We really enjoyed this production. I can’t honestly say that you get much from the text that goes beyond the movie script, but seeing this chamber piece close up, live, was an unforgettable experience and did add to this great work.

Canary by Jonathan Harvey, Hampstead Theatre, 21 May 2010

Well, by this time the Ed Hall era had started at Hampstead Theatre, but this one didn’t really work for us.

It felt to us like an “everything including the kitchen sink” gay saga. Angels in America without the sparkling wit, The Normal Heart without the heart-wrenching pathos. It spanned the decades from 1962 (a fine year IMHO) to the present day.

We really wanted to like it. We didn’t really dislike it. It just didn’t grip and/or move us.

Good troupe from the Liverpool Everyman – it was a shame really.

Here is a search term – click here – that finds you all the reviews and resources available back then.

There’s a YouTube trailer/interview with the playwright for this one:

We no doubt went to Harry Morgans for some comfort food before the show.

When The Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell, Almeida Theatre, 30 May 2009

Very interesting play, this one.

 

Lots going on, mostly in Australia, spanning eighty years. We saw this play before the Ashes started, so did not breach our “Aussie abstinence vow” during the Ashes, I’m pleased to report.

Andrew Bovell is a very good playwright; worth looking out for. Excellent cast and production too.

Here is the OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk stub on this play/production.