Pinter 3, Pinter at the Pinter Season, Pinter Theatre, London WC1

pinter-three-ot

Pinter at the Pinter is a season of all of Harold Pinter’s one act plays in 7 different programmes over a period of 6 months. Previously on this blog: Pinter 1, Pinter 2 and Pinter 4

The most well known pieces in this collection are “Landscape” and “A kind of Alaska”. These are the opening and closing items and they take up the greater part of the show. They are both interesting and have excellent performances from Tamsin Greig and Keith Allen. Tamsin Greig is spellbinding as a woman attempting to come to terms with the fact that she went to sleep at 16 years of age and only awakened 29 years later.

There are 9 other vignettes in the evening and although a couple might not do any favours to Pinter’s reputation, Jamie Lloyd has unearthed some absolute gems from among his lesser known pieces. Closing the fist half, Lee Evans does a piece called “Monologue” where he effectively has a conversation with an empty chair. This is funny and poignant, and Lee Evans’ uniquely physical delivery brings extra empathy to the character.

“Night” is very unusual amongst the Pinter work in that it is resolutely positive in tone. Meera Syal and Tom Edden make the most of the upbeat lines and portray a couple who patently care for each other, even at those times when their memories differ. This is a short sketch, perhaps only five minutes long, but it is sublime to see Pinter’s words made sweet.  “Trouble in the Works” is another short sketch, absurd abstract comedy, well done and very funny. It is like Monty Python in style but it was written in 1959, so it predates them by a whole decade.

Lee-Evans-and-Tom-Edden-in-Pinter-Three.-Photo-credit-Marc-Brenner.Pinter-Three-PROD-DRESS-1096

Great care has been taken in the direction of this presentation to make all the individual pieces link together, and the show certainly does not feel like it is made up of 11 discrete items. This is helped by the ingenious set design which is a slowly spinning living room, highlighting a different area each time it turns. Even though many of the sketches only have one or two of the actors actively involved, Jamie Lloyd has cleverly joined them up so the whole has the feel of a single ensemble piece. This is most apparent in the sketch “God’s District” which is a solo comedy item, delivered by Meera Syal, but by the end it has all 5 of the actors playing instruments or singing along.

Overall, the quality of the writing is very high and the acting is a joy to watch. A couple of the pieces have not aged well, perhaps we are more sensitive to hints of sexism now than we were when it was written. This is Pinter though, so it is hard to say for certain, and they could be seen as his comment on the times in which he lived. Having said that, this compilation is positively uplifting compared to some of his darker anthologies. After watching Pinter’s 1 and 4, I had begun to wonder whether I had the fortitude to watch the rest of the season, but now that I have seen this, I am looking forward to 5, 6. and 7 with a spring in my step.

Advertisements

Fences (dir. Denzel Washington) 2016

1200

Fences is a moving tale of a flawed character, beautifully told. The language and the acting are wonderful. It is no surprise to read that the play won a Pulitzer prize when it was first performed in 1987.

It is set in a poor part of 1950s Pittsburgh and it captures the generational tension of the time perfectly. The world that Troy Maxson grew up in is not the world his kids see and both sets of characters have difficulty realising this. Rose, his wife, spends her time making sure the two cultures don’t clash too badly; I almost felt that this play was mostly about her.

Denzel Washington both directs and plays the lead. His direction is good, he wrings the meaning and nuance out of every word. His acting is great, although, I think if there had been a different director to lead actor, we would not have liked Troy Maxson quite as much. I’m not sure we saw the nastiness, that the kids in the street ran away from, when he went out his front door.

All the actors in this film are great and really own the characters they play. Viola Davis is amazing as Rose Maxson, I can’t believe that this is not counted as a lead role, but I really hope she wins the best supporting actress Oscar.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Tate Modern, London, 2016

88527000_7bb3efc6-f8d7-41dc-92a0-b21a9ea4e6f2

Georgia O’Keeffe at the Tate Modern is a very big exhibition. There are thirteen room filled with paintings from every period of her career and there are also some works by her friends and collaborators. It was a nice, unexpected bonus to see some Americana by Ansell Adams included in the show.

It is arranged mostly chronologically and with so many pieces on show, you can watch her style developing through the decades. The earliest pieces are from the 1910s and you can see a hint of the time in them. The 1920s pictures and the New York ones have the slightest art deco feel and her ability with colour is profound even from the earliest days.

The 1920s,1930s flower pictures are probably her most famous and they look so modern, vibrant and current even now that it is difficult to imagine how new they must have seemed 80 odd years ago.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s move to New Mexico brought another complete change of style. the only common factor being the inspired use of colour throughout. There are also series from the 1940s and 1950s where some are more minimalist in nature and others are figurative.

The latest pictures date from the 1960s and you can also see the times reflected here.

Initially, I thought that the entrance fee, around £16, was pretty steep for a single show. However, it is probably one of the largest shows that I have ever seen, you won’t really feel like seeing much else in the Tate Modern on the same day, and the quality of the paintings is such that, on balance, it is good value for money. There is also enough depth to the exhibition that you can really see the arc of her development as you walk round the show and it is very interesting to watch those changes over the course of such a long, talented career.

The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre, London 2016

ntgds_ak_webimages_0405165_tdbs

This is a play that will stay with you after you leave the theatre. Terrence Rattigan is the ultimate playwright if you wish to see quiet desperation. It starts out by seeing the bitter humour in a suicide attempt that fails because the money in the meter ran out and it gets darker from there.

Hester Collyer is surely one of the best parts written in the 20th Century and the anguish that Helen McCrory has seeping through her “stiff upper lip” is palpable.

We see the easier options that she has available to her, yet we also understand why she chooses not to take them. There is lovely interaction between her and Peter Sullivan, who plays her estranged husband. It could be so tempting to go back to him, but it would not be honest. On the other hand, her love for Freddie will ruin both of them in long term.

In the end, she is strong and does not take any of the easy ways out, but I have to say, this is one of the saddest happy endings you will ever see.

Indignation (dir. James Schamus) 2016

indignation-03

Indignation was first shown in London as part of the Sundance London film festival. Based on a Philip Roth novel, it is set in Columbus, Ohio. It is the story of a New York boy’s first semester at college. The whole film is a flashback to 1951, showing how decisions made at that time, led to the position that he is in now.

This film is James Schamus’ first as director and he does an amazing job of immersing us in the milieu and mindset of the day. The sets and costumes are beautiful, with a lovely eye for detail.

Logan Lerman is excellent as Marcus Messner, an idealistic young man, setting out on life. His exchanges with the dean of the college and his relationship with his first girlfriend, adroitly show both the attitudes of the time and how they are about to change. Tracy Letts and Sarah Gadon are very good as the dean and the girlfriend.

Indignation is a precise, deep film and a brave choice as a directorial debut.

James Schamus’ self-confidence has paid off well.

Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley 2015)

mv5bmtu3mjk1otmwnf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmta3njeynje-_v1_

This is a beautifully realised cinema adaptation of a great book. The combination of Colm Toibin and Nick Hornby is wonderful. I enjoyed the changes between the book and the film, each suiting its medium perfectly.

The story is relatively simple but the characters are well rounded. I love the way the attitudes of 50s Ireland and 50s Brooklyn are captured and their differences highlighted. There are some great performances, Domhnall Gleeson was remarkable and there are nice cameos by Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent. The sets and costumes are lovely. This is costume drama and nostalgia at its best.