Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Love loss chance sex and ambition

A new season from SATTF is always something to look forward to, and Tobacco Factory is the ideal venue for Shakespeare's mix of imaginary landscapes and magic realism in As You Like It.  It's a garrulous play, in fact an extended exercise in complex word-play for most of the speeches, and the wit needs careful signposting for a modern audience. Which is why it's even more remarkable that after three hours I really didn't want it to end. Director Andrew Hilton has assembled a stunning cast who all seem to live each moment for the first time, so even the longest exchanges feel immediate and engaging. Although this production makes the most of its women (Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Rosalind and Daisy May as Celia both mesmerising) inevitably the male energy predominates, but with an electric diversity through physical spectacle, music, visual gags, meta-theatricality (Touchstone and Jacques have more than a dab of Vladimir and Estragon about them) and dark psychological twists. Especially exciting are the moments when the forest glade of good Duke Senior, a kind of Occupy/voice-camp in Arden, abruptly morphs into evil Duke Frederick's court - brilliant mood-shifts by double-duke Chris Bianchi.  Harriet de Winton's vaguely 1940s costumes work superbly, and the minimal props are all that's needed.  It's on till 22 March and then touring till May, go see this magical tale the director defines as "about human experience - love, loss, chance, sex and ambition."

And that segueways into a quick film spot: Inside Llewyn Davis is a road-movie about a 1960s Greenwich Village folksinger and a ginger cat, so irresistible to me in at least 3 ways.  As it's written & directed by the Cohn brothers this is a mythic journey too ~ the cat is even called Ulysses ~ and shot in fabulous muted tones throughout. Oscar Isaac is in virtually every shot but as he's gorgeous that's no problem, and the soundtrack is movingly authentic, like the subfusc folksy venues. Even the long drive to Chicago doesn't flag thanks to John Goodman as an obnoxious fellow-passenger. There's no real surprises but beautifully-understated detail makes this melancholy story gripping from the start. It's a lesson too late for the learning, as Bob Dylan would sing.

Meanwhile in Frome, Pip Utton presents a double bill of warmongers at the Merlin: a revival of his renowned one-man show as Hitler, paired with Churchill.  Pip has an uncanny way of looking like all his one-man show subjects, and with bulky suit with white scarf, homburg, and stick, he shared a striking resemblance to the statue in Parliament Square which, in this conceit, steps down when the clock strikes thirteen to reminisce with whisky and cigars.  Much of this biographical material is entertaining ~ the caustic wit of Winston is renowned ~ and some, like his childhood abandonment, is moving. Of the war, he insists "There is no glory in death in battle" but there is glory in victory, and his unswerving policy 'to wage war' remains unregretted. The prime minister who was tagged after his death 'the most famous man in history' ends his tale and climbs on to his plinth again.

At Black Swan Arts, Print & Clay is the new exhibition from a group of ceramicists with a quirky indifference to the common perception  of clay objects as primarily functional ~ I especially liked 's huge manic moths making the wall a vast insect box. Due to gales floods and general elemental mayhem the opening night was unusually sparse but you've got till 8th March to see this delightful show. 

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