Monday, May 19, 2008

I am sure you all know this but 472 years ago today Anne Boleyn was executed on Tower Green.

It is unknown exactly what age she was definitively - various sources claim between 29 and 35.

She has been a heroine of mine ever since falling under the spell of Genevieve Bujold's performance in ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS in 1970.

The late 60s and early 70s saw four top actresses trying on Anne's French Hood headdress - Vanessa Redgrave in a non-speaking cameo in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, the afore-mentioned Bujold, Dorothy Tutin in the BBC's THE 6 WIVES OF HENRY VIII and Charlotte Rampling in HENRY VIII & HIS 6 WIVES.

Friday, May 16, 2008

On Thursday I saw my favourite actress Vanessa Redgrave give her tour-de-force performance in the one woman play THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING at the Lyttleton. I had hoped to see it on Broadway last year when Owen had booked to see Buffy Sainte-Marie but his back operation 86ed that so I have been looking forward to this.

The play is by Joan Didion based on her memoir written after the death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, from a heart attack. Just as the book was published her daughter Quintana also died at 39 of pancreatitis after a year of near-fatal illnesses. The play was written by Didion to encompass these two devastating blows and how she has come to accept them.

The play has had mixed reviews citing what Owen overheard two women saying afterwards, that they didn't connect with it. I can't say I 'connected' with the play totally. The fact that these real life events have been distilled twice through Didion's analytical mind - onto the page then stage - and are re-interpreted by Vanessa Redgrave leads to a definite distancing from the events. But apart from that... I found it an extraordinary experience.

It is only in retrospect that you realise the character has changed during the course of the 90 minute play. At first she is analytical and deals with the death of her husband in a rational, intellectual way - noting how the hospital staff treat her, her social worker referring to her as "a cool customer" to the doctor, checking the times of the ambulance crew entering & leaving the apartment from her doorman to get straight in her mind how long they worked on her husband lying on the dining room floor. She extends this then to her ill daughter in an Intensive Care Unit, buying medical books to understand what the doctor's jargon means and what each of the medications are.

Rational thoughts lead to irrational conclusions however: calling a friend in California on returning home from the hospital she realises they are 3 hours behind New York so that means he's not dead yet on the west coast; that she can't give his shoes away as he will need them when he comes back. She calls this Magical Thinking such as "if we sacrifice the virgin the crop will be good". Her ultimate Magical Thinking happens when Quintana is hospitalised during a trip to LA. She takes a deliberately longer way from hotel to hospital so she won't pass any of the places she remembers from living there in the 70s which will remind her of her husband or daughter. Oh and she has taken to wearing hospital 'scrubs' thinking she can then fit in easier among the medics. Yet by the end of the 90 minutes she is no longer thinking like this, the death of the daughter who was always told "It's all right, I'm here" to comfort her when a child or to as she lay comatose in a hospital room has humbled her rationale. Ultimately she comes to the understanding that they eventually must be let go of, that the shoes must be given away.

It sounds a depressing evening but there are quite a
few moments of humour. It's beautifully written, a joy to hear prose like this onstage. The direction by David Hare is perfectly attuned to the rhythm of the play and special mention must be made of Jean Kalman's atmospheric lighting. Bob Crowley's set design of a series of collapsing backdrops help separate the 'chapters' of the play while being visually arresting. None more so than at the very end of the play when the last backdrop is revealed - a blowup of a 70s photograph of the family in California which is poignant after what has been revealed earlier. It's the perfect photograph for the production: Joan's husband and daughter together looking at the camera, she looking at them slightly apart.
The reason for the play's success for me lies with Vanessa. Always the most emotionally true of her generation of actresses Vanessa has mined every word of the script, witness the different changes she can ring with a phrase such as "I'm here, you'll be fine" with each repetition. I didn't believe her as Joan Didion but I fully believed her as the voice of Didion's book. Looking luminous in white and gray with her long white hair pulled back she simply mesmerizes even though at times the dry Didion style is at odds with her usual acting style.

Although I always cite GUYS AND DOLLS as the catalyst for my theatrical conversion 3 months before seeing it I saw Vanessa and Ian Charleson in two Sunday afternoon benefit performances at the old Roundhouse for the Youth Training Centres she was sponsoring. They performed scenes from Ibsen, Shakespeare, solo pieces, songs... they even did the first scene between Sky & Sarah in GUYS AND DOLLS - yes show fans, I have heard Vanessa sing "I'll Know"! Actually these benefits were the 'light on the road to the National Theatre' showing me the alchemy possible on a stage.

Since 1982 I have only missed 5 of the 24 productions in which Vanessa has appeared in this country. She has not always been at her best - it's usually dependent on the production - but her performance in MAGICAL THINKING is up there with Miss Tina in THE ASPERN PAPERS, Arkadina in THE SEAGULL, Cleopatra in ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, Mrs. Alving in GHOSTS, Lady Torrence in ORPHEUS DESCENDING, Isadora Duncan in WHEN SHE DANCED and Ranyevskaya in THE CHERRY ORCHARD.

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING is on at the Lyttleton Theatre until July 15th.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today the nominations for the Tony Awards were announced and there was some good news for shows I saw in New York.

XANADU is nominated for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Actress In A Musical for Kerry Butler and Best Choreography. What a shame there is no nod for Cheyanne Jackson for his delightful performance.

GYPSY is nominated for Best Musical Revival, Best Actress In A Musical for Patti LuPone, Best Supporting Actor In A Musical for Boyd Gaines, Best Supporting Actress In A Musical for Laura Benanti, Best Director, Best Costume Design and Best Sound.SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE is nominated for Best Musical Revival, Best Actor In A Musical for Daniel Evans, Best Actress In A Musical for Jenna Russell, Best Director, Best Orchestration, Best Scenic Design, Best Costume, Best Lighting and Best Sound.

Somehow CRY-BABY has picked up nods for Best Musical (huh?), Best Book (Huh??), Best New Score (HUH??) and Best Choreography.

Oh and Stephen Sondheim is being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the other Awards, the Brits get a good look-in: three of the four Best Play nominees are written by British or Irish writers - which probably means the American playwright will win! Ben Daniels, Mark Rylance, Rufus Sewell, Patrick Stewart, Eve Best, Kate Fleetwood, Conleth Hill, Jim Norton, Sinead Cusack are all up for acting Awards and Maria Aitkin, Mathew Wachus and Sam Buntrock for Best Director.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Seats 21-22 of row 35 in Block 123 at Wembley Stadium on Thursday 11th September are TAKEN!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Well... I've started! Thursday May 8th at 9.30am found me at the Kinetic Business Centre - which looks like a travel lodge - to start work for an online furniture company who are soon to launch their first website on the world. I know... what do I know from furniture? But I know how to data imput and how to work eBay so hopefully I can do well there. First off I must say what a nice place it is to work. There is a nice communal feel to the place with a nice cafe just by the reception - hell I even discovered a shower on my travels! I think I'll move in. It would help with the 9.30 start. Actually it's not the 9.30 start.. it's the getting up at 7.30. Here is my desk and computer in the compact and bijou office where I work with Jonathan our glorious leader. I need to get a bit more up to speed about the ranges on offer etc. and as the business has only just moved in to the office we need to sort phones and stuff but I haven't made any disasters yet! So... if anyone is looking to buy new furniture.....

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What a strange month April was.

I flew back from New York into a life of unemployment which I expected to last for months and months and months but in fact lasted for a total of 21 days!

All in all I applied for six jobs and was offered interviews for five. Oh and I signed on once... and even that was the morning of Monday 21st. Oh and how did I find the agency that offers "the job you want, the help you need"? Pretty piss-poor. The best my adviser could suggest was "Have you considered working part-time? Theme parks will be recruiting for their summer retail staff". Bloody idiot.

Monday 21st was a very odd day - an interview in the morning for retail and one in the afternoon for office admin work. Both seemed very keen so I had to make a choice which of these two areas I wanted to work in.

The retail one was hounding me for a decision about working a trial week for a job as assistant manager of a London souvenir shop - what was putting the break on it was I would have to work a lot of evenings. In the early evening I was called by the admin office and offered me the job flat out. So I accepted!

The nice thing was Owen was with me when I accepted the offer so we could celebrate straight away and use free drink for the purpose!

We were at the launch for Jean MacColl's book SUN ON THE WATER at Kettners which is her account of the life and tragic death of her daughter, singer Kirsty MacColl. It was a nice event made nicer by the company of Owen, Alan Officer and Norma, Claire and Barry.

It was nice to finally have an excuse to introduce myself to Jean, I have always felt a
bit odd about doing it at one of the October bench events. She gave a nice speech and told us all to make lots of new friends... so here I am, first with Jean and then with my new very dear close personal friend Alison Steadman.

I didn't have the nerve to tell her it was my ex-boss who once smacked her up the tradesman's with his briefcase at the bar at Stratford East.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A certain someone has confirmed a World Tour is coming up. I have even seen provisional dates.

Now the countdown to the box-office opening.

Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock....

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Local election television all through the night.... I love it - and I don't have any work to get up for! The bummer is they won't be announcing the Mayoral (I like that word) election results till tomorrow.

First result in: Tamworth held by the Tories. Oooo they are talking about voting swings *faint*