Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri May 19, 2017 7:44 pm

Tried BBC and Mike Bartlett's adaptation of his play King Charles III. Premise: The Queen is dead and Charles (the late Tim Pigott-Smith) is now the monarch of Great Britain. When Prime Minister (Adam James) wants to enact strong press regulation, the new King refuses to give his assent, plunging the country into a constitutional crises.

This got attention as the Mail and a few Tory MP's demanded the BBC heads be burnt at the stake for heresy. Was there reason for the reaction? Not that I can see from the 40 minutes or so I gave it. If your opposed to the idea of fiction showing what happens after the current monarch is dead then not for you (also don't do House of Cards UK season 2) but hardly heresy. Like any fictional thing based on real people, the portrayal of people isn't 100% accurate with some people have personalities completely changed for story purposes (Charlotte Riley's Kate Middleton bears no resemblance to the actual person bar being the right gender). Where I had disquiet was having Diana (Katie Brayben) as a ghost (did feel like intruding on private grief there) and one scene
basically Mike Bartlett decided the Queen shares his values.


It felt like it gladly did TV and used it for sets, which led to lovely palace sets but also some really poor ones like the badly fake 10 Downing Street, but didn't adapt the play for it. Using dialogue to say what your doing makes sense in a play where the audience might struggle to see but in a TV production where the camera is zoomed in? Feels clunky. Cast is pretty good and do tend to look like the people they are meant to be playing. Dialogue is mixed, Charles Shakespearean monologues can work very well but I do wonder if it might have been better if other characters spoke in a more casual fashion and there are some extreme clunkers. Bartlett clearly has a political side and it really comes across in the play, particularly with Harry (Richard Goulding) and Jess (Tamara Lawrance) where the values of the writer beats you over the head. Which is a pity becuase, once you get past a quite offensive introduction by Jess that should have seen her barred from Harry's presence, there is the basis of a good idea wit Harry's storyline
the prince with no purpose, not sure what to do with his life.


There are themes that if done right, could make a great play like the constitutional crises if a monarch refused to sign the law for example but by the time I left, it just had been feeling empty, that it hadn't turned the idea's into strong substance.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:28 am

Watched adaptation of Othello O. Set in American highschool, Hugo (Josh Hartnett) is frustrated when younger basketball player Odin James (Mekhi Phifer) is named MVP by Hugo's father and team coach Duke Goulding (Martin Sheen). So Hugo begins plotting....

This had a tendency for "one scene good, next scene clumsy" and while full of a good enjoyable scenes, is poorly constructed. For example the ending has two powerful scenes but is somewhat undermined as it doesn't fit in with the entire rest of the film. Plenty of positives, the main romance of Odin and Desi (Julia Stiles) works very well and carries the film at times, I liked Hugo's girlfriend Emily (Rain Phoenix) but she is barely in it which is frustrating, the young cast did well, basketball scenes didn't seem bad, some good scenes.

Then there are the negatives, some scenes particularly in first half feel clunky when the writing isn't as smooth as one would like and it feels like overly flowery exposition. This is a film that could have badly used a ten minute build up showing characters relations and dynamics. For example being told Hugo is friends with everyone but we get no sense of that at all until the film suddenly requires it for plot reasons. Hugo lacks something to make him really stand out as a friend or a great wily figure, sometimes characters seemed to agree to something they had no real reason to do so.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:40 pm

Watched Christmas Carol Gone Wrong. Premise: After last year's farce, Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are barred from the BBC but they have a plan. Seizing control of Derek Jacobi's live TV production of Christmas Carol with aunt Diana (Diana Rigg) narrating, they put on their own special version.

Was this good? Yes bar one passage
when they went outside
, it was a funny, enjoyable production with farce, slapstick and all round good times. Nicely set up as they take control, the infighting between Chris (Henry Shields) and Robert (Henry Lewis) has good moments, the "Dennis (Jonathan Sayer) can never remember his lines" shtick had got old in Peter Pan but was brilliantly done here, the "outside the play" moments were segued in well and very entertaining, romance had good scenes despite other issues with it. If this was the first time I had seen their work, I would be looking forward to the sequel.

Yet becuase of the excellent of their Peter Pan, as fun as this, it feels like a disappointment. Like a perfectly good sequel to a great movie, it doesn't hit it's forebear's heights so there is that tinge of disappointment. Some of the jokes (like some of the rivalry moments or backstage guy caught on screen) feel forced at times rather then a natural occurrence, the cameos feel like "people like cameos" so whereas Suchet got a character integrated into the play, Rigg's role is a complete waste while Jacobi has only a few moments of comedy, I felt it curbed back on some of the more adult innuendo or costume incidents but sister disagrees.

I don't think the format helped. Scrooge has one big role and everyone else has a small role, this can make ensemble pieces very difficult and characters got squeezed despite their best efforts, this hampered various figures and meant the romance didn't have power for the ending phase despite the cast chemistry that managed to carry it as far as they did. Perhaps they would have been better not going for "exact same group as last time" story and pretending they were different people, focusing on the one or two they could give time too? There also seemed far less room for "ad-lib as something has gone wrong" moments or lines that are always in the play/story but due to events take on a new hilarious meaning (or a sense of nonsense) with the cast reacting to that (example from Pan, a "calm peaceful lullaby" yelled out as backstage makes a lot of noise). There was one example of each during the Scrooge story, both brilliant moments but it made one realize how little there had been on of it.

Fingers crossed there is another next year!
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri May 04, 2018 4:04 pm

Saw Robert Ike's West End production of Hamlet, shown on BBC with Andrew Scott in lead role. After 30 minutes we learnt two things, 1) this looks like a really great production, 2) we hate Hamlet. So we left. Maybe if there was less Hamlet's we have watched, maybe if it was less then 3 hours, we would have stuck with it.

Let me just make clear, the production is only at fault for being so good that it made us realise that it is the play itself that is the problem. Good scenery work (though the guards room leads to sound booming), they really manage to sell the setting like why the court of Denmark is under threat. They have gathered a good cast and the production was making side characters feel human in a way we haven't seen. Juliet Stevenson brings Gertrude to life, one can see the love and concern she has for her son and her feelings towards her new husband Claudius (Angus Wright). The only cast member who was struggling was Angus Wright while I wasn't overly keen on Scott's delivery, though his use of body was impressive.

The moment of the big realization was a scene between Ophelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her brother Laertes (Luke Thompson). They felt like siblings with the chemistry, the two performers doing a good job, both playing the scene (the concerned brother, the sister in love) with Thompson landing the joke. Yet David Tennant's quip about the thing Hamlet needs is a good editor comes to mind, there is too much unnecessary dialogue, taking five lines for what should take one. It kills the pace, extends each scene longer then it should be and damages momentum of jokes.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat May 05, 2018 9:08 am

I saw The School of Rock in the West End a few weeks ago. It's a musical adapted from the well known movie. My wife and I love the movie whereas my parents had never seen it before. We were excited about seeing it but the show itself blew me away. To my shock I think it was even better than the movie itself.

The first thing I want to mention is the talent of the child actors. At the beginning of the show there is an announcement from Lloyd-Weber saying that whenever a child plays an instrument on stage they are actually playing it. Then in the big finale song the main orchestra appear and watch the children's band perform and it was incredible. In particular the boy who played Zach (the guitarist) which absolutely out of this world!

The music is mainly rock rather than classic show music. I think its fair to say 30 seconds into the opening song my parents were shifting in their seats uncomfortably, it wasn't their kind of music. By the end of the song they'd been won over by the show's humour and the sheer charisma of the main character. He is in all but one song and is moving all of the time, how he had the energy to keep going throughout is beyond me (we saw a matinee, he was performing again in the evening show! :shock: )

The show is a hour or so longer than the movie, they flesh it out by adding real depth to the children's relationships with their parents and making the head-mistress a bigger character. This works really well on both counts, it means when the children run off at the end, defying their parents it hits home even better than in the movie. Meanwhile the headmistress was incredible, I'd have happily watched her and the main character perform for 2 hours, they had great chemistry and both were incredibly gifted singers. A must see for anyone who likes the movie!
Last edited by Sun Fin on Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:01 am

Watched BBC's/Richard Eyre 2 hour adaptation of King Lear with Anthony Hopkins as the lead, Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Florence Pugh played the daughters. It is a good production, King Lear actually feels old rather then mildly old, able to get very good locations, Ben Smithard had an eye for the reaction shot.

First half was the best part, a few clunky lines aside, Hopkins is a powerful force as King Lear, but one also sees the decline and ravages of age on his mind and how it makes sense that this King goes into retirement. One understands why the two eldest daughters act the way they do due to way events unfold. Some amusing reaction moments especially Andrew Scott as Edgar. John Macmillan as Edmund doesn't always land his monologue but the family and power dynamics are intresting, good performances and well made production.

Second half had issues and a poor ending, at least some of which comes from trying to bring the play down from four hours to two hours. The villains motives would just change randomly instead of naturally flowing from what was happening on screen, off screen deaths lacked impact, the inability to recognize old friends and family members due to paper thin disguises was ridiculous and ending just felt silly.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:32 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Second half had issues and a poor ending, at least some of which comes from trying to bring the play down from four hours to two hours. The villains motives would just change randomly instead of naturally flowing from what was happening on screen, off screen deaths lacked impact, the inability to recognize old friends and family members due to paper thin disguises was ridiculous and ending just felt silly.


In all fairness the bolded part is a long standing tradition in both theater (particularly Shakespeare plays) and superhero movies so its perhaps a little bit unfair to slam this production for it. :lol:
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:41 am

That is true but even by those (low) standards, it was amazingly silly
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:36 am

I remember feeling the same way when I studied the show in school and we watched a couple of film versions!
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Re: Seen Any Good Plays Recently?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:57 pm

I have watched other Shakespeare stuff and the disguises thing works well enough, at least that it isn't marring the enjoyment and sometimes one can see it working, but it just felt ridiculous here.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
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