Saturday, October 25, 2014

Forgetting & Remembering: 'My Father' at the Ustinov, Ken Loach at the Westway

Banksy said art should 'comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable' and Picasso wanted his paintings to 'bristle with razorblades' so maybe it's a credit to The Fatherconsidering how closely my own father resembled Kenneth Cranham, that I found it hard to enjoy Florian Zeller's Molière-award-winning play now in a new translation at Bath's UstinovLyn Gardner gave the production 5 stars: for me, there was no insightful imagination in this account of an old man with Alzheimer's. The basic premise of unreliable memories and perceptions is easily grasped but, while distressing for his Cordelia-loyal daughter, the misconceptions of André's confusion make for reiterative and sombre viewing.  A concertinaed timescale allows Lia Williams as his daughter little character development, though  Colin Tierney gives a fine performance as her exasperated husband. (image Simon Annand) Full marks too for the surreally diminishing set  ~ Miriam Buether ~ and lighting design by Guy Hoare.  I see from the programme that Christopher Hampton, translator, finds this work "very cleansing before you turn your attention to something else. It has a refreshing effect on other work." I hope viewing will prove similarly inspiring. Anyway, don't let me put you off: a visit to the Ustinov is always a valuable experience.

Frome's Westway Cinema, independent in style as well as status, was totally sold-out on Friday for the showing of Ken Loach's documentary Spirit of '45 followed by talk and Q&A with the director himself. The film is not polemical or sentimental, though it's hard not to rage and weep: Ken simply uses pre-and post-war footage from national and regional archives interspersed with interviews with octogenarians who remember the conditions of life for the working class and the joy when a Labour government began to construct a socialist society to care for them 'from the cradle to the grave.'
We had won the war together; together we could win the peace. The central idea was common ownership, where production and services were to benefit all. The few should not get rich to the detriment of everyone else. It was a noble idea, popular and acclaimed by the majority. It was the Spirit of 1945. Maybe it is time to remember it today.
An unforgettable event and a credit to the spirit of Frome 2014 that there's so much interest in those times and desire to fix what's gone wrong since. Several of the questioners had specific hopes and solutions but there's an inherent problem in the vision of those halcyon days: The 'five giant evils' standing in the way of social progress were identified as want, ignorance, squalor, disease, and idleness. They should have added, banks. As Ken Loach said, in answer to a questioner, "Voting on its own is not enough. You are right. The banks are the central factor. To take effective political control we have to take control of the banks."  Frome already has its own 'flat-pack' democracy, how great if we could step up the localism even more radically.

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