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Turns out I was not completely off when linking Turner with Rothko. Tate Britain is holding an exhibition right now with the two artists displayed alongside each other to highlight similarities.
Turner (1775-1851) and Rothko (1903-1970), divided by a century, are often paralleled because of their closeness in style, especially in Turner’s later work. Rothko once said jokingly; “This man Turner, he learnt a lot from me.” However, if we are to listen to the Telegraph’s culture critic we should not even make the effort to go to Tate for the Turner/Rothko exhibition; A show, which looks at a specious comparison between Turner and Rothko, is disingenuous. Rating: *
Mark Rotkho; Blue, No. 14, No. 11
TateShots used this passage to introduce Tate Modern’s Rothko Exhibition last year but it made me think of Turner.
“What struck me, as I walked up and down the history of painting, was how much it was about fading light, and that the history of painting is also the history of the loss of light. For slowly but surely…the light is squeezed out of painting to become finally a mere candle-flicker. A world once full of light becomes a world of shadows.”
From top: Chichester Canal; The Burning of the Houses of Parliament; Shade and Darkness – The Evening of the Deluge; Eruption of Vesuvius, Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower; San Giorgio Maggiore at Dawn
Ok, one more rant about Shakespeare on film. The Merchant of Venice. Trevor Nunn’s film version of his Olivier-awarded production of the play at the National Theatre in 1999. When I watch it, I find it hard to believe it could be done any other way. But it has, and still is. It is indeed a tricky play to put on in the dark shadow of the Holocaust. But this is just…perfect.
But, because there is always a but, towards the end, (act V, scene 1 to be precise) I cringe.
It was all going so well. Jessica and Lorenzo are loved up and it is all sweet moonlight, soft stillness, sweet harmony and yada yada yada. Now in the play, at this point, musicians enter. What does the film do? Play some crap version of the Moonlight Sonata. No, no, no! Surely there must be some law to forbid combining Shakespeare and Beethoven. Emotional overload. Not cool at all. Luhrman does the same thing but at least in Romeo + Juliet they have worked harder to squeeze in Garbage and Everclear than original verse so it goes without the same effect.
Anyway, it is time to put Shakespeare back on the shelf. I have started saying things like “in sooth, I know not”, “by my troth” and “I speak all mirth and no matter”. So far only to myself but that is only because…well, I speak mostly with myself nowadays.
Funny that there is such a thing as ‘earthrise’ if you are on the moon.
Southwark Playhouse; love it.
It is a little bit tricky to locate, but a real treasure once you find it. Epitomizing independent fringe theatre, it is truly original both in its location and repertoire. It is the only theatre that I actually want to live in and a shame that they are moving to Elephant & Castle. Currently it is located underneath Hell-On-Earth aka London Bridge’s Platform 1. Inside the railway vault the brickwork and murky air makes my imagination run unusually romantic and it feels a little bit like being part of a revolting underground culture movement á la Swing Kids. The bar is a wicked place to be; they have a real confession booth standing in a corner, need I say more? So, great venue, great atmosphere but what about the show?
About Tommy is a Danish play (Om Tommy) by Thor Björn Krebs, which together with Europamestrene in 2004 gave him a double nomination for Årets Reumert as Best Playwright. It tells the story of Tommy who is a Danish UN-soldier placed at the centre of violent conflicts during the war in the Balkans in the 1990’s. The absurdity of war is exposed as the regulations of the UN Protection Force limits the soldiers to do little else but to observe the brutality of human evil. The cast impressed as several roles were split between a trio of two men and one woman. Tommy’s psychological development is given from the beginning, in the same way that it is in most recent war films, but a captivating performance makes it nonetheless engaging to follow. Tommy’s parents are made up by two dolls with pre-recorded performances projected onto their heads, which I thought was quite clever. It formed an illusionary view of that which is us; the people at home who can never come close to understand what war is like, making Tommy’s experience so much more real and affecting. The parents aside, I felt there was an excess of technology used on the stage. Call me old-fashion but I strongly object to the television screens planted randomly all over the set and Tommy’s video projections on the sand-bag wall. Maybe it helps create a documentary feeling, as the play is based on interviews and documents from the war, but I only found it distracting and annoying for my eyes. I don’t know, maybe I need glasses.
The effect of About Tommy is that you become painfully aware of the enormous breach between our ordinary, everyday secure lives and the terror and inhumanity of war, which I reduce to a Sky News feature, but is in fact other people’s reality. And even though this is nothing new, there is a constant need to be reminded. The paradox created by UN’s need to stay neutral also feels suitably current as the ongoing UN Racism conference is turning into complete shambles.
Running next at the Southwark Playhouse is The Exquisite Corpse, and it sounds well exciting.
Does it take a really big ego to take on Shakespeare on the big screen? Most films are way too greedy in their attempt to make both good film and good Shakespeare. I’m not saying that it can’t be done, or that it should not be the goal, but how about doing it with some modesty and appearance of effortlessness too? Sprezzatura? Si, si grazie mille!
Shakespeare or not, Branagh is generally quite self-indulgent, both in himself and in the actual film-making (Frankenstein anyone?) but I have to admit, in this last scene of Much Ado About Nothing it actually pays off. I’m always easily impressed by action scenes done in one long shot, and they have done this dancing scene (starts at 4:50) really nice. But is it just me or can you see the crane hiding behind the bushes? Ha! Branagh, you can’t fool me!