Monday, 31 January 2011

Microfiction Monday #68 & #22

It's Microfiction Monday again:

"I know it was supposed to be women and children first, but you've got to have priorities..."

- - - - -

Here's the twenty-second photo:

Here's my response:

She hadn't seen a soul in ages. She stared out of the window as the flood waters rose everyday. She'd have to break out onto the roof soon.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

"Isn’t That When All The Banks Went Belly Up...?"

"...and money became useless?" So asks Lister of 2009 in Part Two of Red Dwarf's Back To Earth. As 2009 is the year I started this blog it was also the first year that I began thinking about a review-of-the-year style post and so belatedly (and more completely) here it is just thirteen months later.

I was quite busy in 2009, I was on stage with In The Frame and Hearts In The Gutter, understudied on Deceptions, found my way onto Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, filmed Slash and a Center Parcs training film (which I still haven't seen) and proofread Afterbirth.

These are a few of my favourite things from 2009:

Sam Rockwell is fantastic as lunar loner Sam Bell. I don't want to say anymore in case I spoil the twists and turns of the story. If you haven't seen it, do. Here's the trailer.

In The Loop
Peter Capaldi stars as The Thick Of It's Malcolm Tucker as he wrangles a possibly "not unforeseeable" war and risks being outspun by the apparently murkier world of US politics. Worth the price of entry for the scene between James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy in the child's bedroom alone. Here's the trailer.

Star Trek
A Star Trek film with the structure of a Star Wars film. Leonard Nimoy's swansong manages to be the best of both worlds as a continuation and also a reboot that gives the audience two Spocks to grok. Here's the trailer.

Fantastic Mr Fox
Wes Anderson's stock motion take on Roald Dahl's book is cussing brilliant. Where else can you hear Michael Gambon belittling Jarvis Cocker? Here's the trailer.

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus
Obviously the circumstances surrounding the making of this film and Heath Ledger's death will always colour anything written about it. People seem to overlook Andrew Garfield's fantastic performance and that Johnny Depp's turn as Ledger's character is so good that those of Jude Law and Colin Farrell simply leave you wanting more Depp. Here's the trailer.

Whatever Works
Larry David is great as Woody Allen's misanthropic genius, who never played for the Yankees, whose heart is softened by a chance encounter with a simpleton. Melodie's stupidity is wondrous and Evan Rachel Wood's delivery is beautiful. Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley Jr are both wonderful as Melodie's parents. Here's the trailer.

The first twenty minutes or so are beautiful. Here's the trailer.

The Men Who Stare At Goats
This adaptation of Jon Ronson's book squeezes several disparate concepts into a narrative structure with great success. It begins with the caption: "More of this is true than you would believe" and mines its comedy comes from the lunacy within. George Clooney and Jeff Bridges are very funny indeed. Here's the trailer.

Eve Myles is wonderful in this one-off drama set in a small Welsh community with a spectacular art collection, great painters are mistaken for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and vice versa) and a couple of eccentric elderly sisters who go driving, one behind the wheel without a license and her fully qualified, but blind, passenger to make it legal.

Dollhouse: Man On The Street; Echoes; Needs; A Spy In The House Of Love; Briar Rose; Omega; Epitaph One; Belle Chose; Belonging; The Public Eye; The Left Hand; Meet Jane Doe; A Love Supreme; Stop-Loss; The Attic
Joss Whedon's series about body-swapping programmable people initially falters but the run beginning with Man On The Street through to the end of Season One is fantastic and really pushes the boundaries of the format. Eliza Dushku, Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokaj, Olivia Williams, Miracle Laurie, Amy Acker & Alan Tudyk are all fantastic. Epitaph One shows us a future of Dollhouses unchecked, it's a tantalising glimpse at where the programme's 'present' could have headed and if it were a backdoor pilot for a spinoff, definitely a show I would have wanted to see. The second season didn't quite hit the ground running but from Belle Chose onwards it is compelling viewing again.

The US Medical drama that makes Casualty seem as hard hitting as Postman Pat broadcast its last episodes, many featuring familiar faces from the show's past.

Red Dwarf: Back To Earth
The long-awaited return of Red Dwarf was initially bittersweet as aside from a couple of good gags, Part One didn't quite live up to the memory. Parts Two and Three however are as good as Red Dwarf at its best.

Torchwood: Children Of Earth
It took a five day Doctorless apocalypse to force Torchwood to really grow up. Great performances from Eve Myles, Gareth David-Lloyd, Kai Owen, Peter Capaldi, Susan Brown, Cush Jumbo, Paul Copley, Katie Wix, Tom Price and Lucy Cohu.

This dark comedy suspense thriller unravels slowly and its disparate strands re-entwine over seven episodes. Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith and Dawn French are all wonderful, and it was an absolute joy to see the former two reunited with Mark Gatiss.

Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder
Tin foil hats to the rescue as the Planet Express crew take a journey from Mars Vegas to Man's near extinction via Mind-reading and Malevolent slugs in what was potentially the last ever episode of Futurama, until it wasn't.

The Thick Of It
The return of master manipulator Malcolm Tucker (see above) as he oversees a cabinet reshuffle that casts the magnificent Rebecca Front as the minister in charge of DoSAC, and sees her ruffle the feathers of Hugh's team. Meanwhile the opposition begins to prepare for preparing for government. I look forward seeing how Armando Iannucci will adapt to the ConDem coalition situation.

Time Team
Digs this year included Scargill's Castle, an insight into the seat of Arthur's ancestors; a Norman keep at Radcot that no one knew existed and a chapel claiming to be the site of Jesus Christ's childhood playground on Looe Island off the coast of Cornwall.

Ashes To Ashes
The second season twists and turns and wrongfoots the audience expertly as Gene Hunt and Alex Drake take on corruption within the police force, another time travelling coma victim and it ends with a brilliant cliffhanger.

QI's dedication to the letters F and G leads them to being quite interesting about France, Fingers & Fumbs, The Future, Ganimals, Geography and Groovy.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Prisoner Of The Judooon; The Mad Old Woman In The Attic; The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith; Mona Lisa's Revenge; The Gift
Sarah Jane Smith's Doctor Who spinoff returns for a third series and Prisoner Of The Judooon is a very enjoyable romp as Elisabeth Sladen takes on the chance to play a possessed Sarah with aplomb, the Judoon are well used, Androvax's make up is stunning, the Nanoforms are very impressive, Ace Bhatti and Mina Anwar are very funny in the Chandra's comedy subplot. Anjli Mohindra is wonderful in The Mad Old Woman In The Attic, a deceptively simple story which makes a virtue of a deus ex machina ending with K-9 by immediately replacing it with another slice of jeopardy. You are cordially invited to attend The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith and Nigel Havers is great as her intended, in another brilliant Trickster story with a fantastic appearance by David Tennant as the Doctor. Mona Lisa's Revenge is a raucous runaround and a lot of fun. The Slitheen have become the show's monsters of choice and they make an interesting return in The Gift which plays with audience expectation of the Raxacoricofallapatorians before revealing that the Blathereen-Slitheen are not so different to their skin-suited cousins and once foiled they suffer a particularly horrific death.

Doctor Who: The Waters Of Mars, Dreamland; The End Of Time 1
David Tennant's time as the Doctor nears its conclusion with these episodes. The Waters Of Mars sees human colonists on the red planet struggling against an insidious alien force in their water. The consequences of what happens when the Doctor can't change history, but does anyway. Steffi's death is the most horrific in 46 years of Doctor Who and yet also the least graphic or violent. Dreamland is a nice little story hampered by the computer game style-animation. Featuring some wonderful scenes between Tennant and Bernard Cribbins, the first part of The End Of Time builds beautifully to what is perhaps the show's best ever cliffhanger.

A Child's Christmases In Wales
How a family celebrates three Christmases. Ruth Jones and Mark Lewis Jones star in a great one-off comedy drama, that'll probably be buried somewhere in the schedule every Christmas.

Adam & Joe
I only got into the routine of listening to this show regularly as it was about to take an extended break. Featuring Test The Nation (the nation's favourite feature), the kill/save Boggins debate and so many in-jokes that they might actually qualify as a new dialect of the English language. Loyal listening is definitely rewarded.

Torchwood: Asylum, The Golden Age, The Dead Line
Bridging the gap between seasons are these three episodes are Season Two style 'procedurals' featuring the team about to undergo the tumultuous events of Children Of Earth (see above). Cardiff's finest take on: a girl out of her own time, a timeless Torchwood India and a coma inducing cold caller.

Doctor Who: Sisters Of The Flame & Vengeance Of Morbius
Splitting up the TARDIS crew is a staple of Doctor Who, but this story really tests the mettle of Sheridan Smith's Lucie Miller, separated from the Doctor in an unfriendly future during the return of an ancient evil. Featuring great performances from Alexander Siddig and Sam West.

Jarvis Cocker: Further Complications
Rockier than its predecessor. The lyrics are sparser than usual but they are as fantastic as ever. 'Pilchard' was a surprise, but a surprisingly rewarding one.
Stand out tracks: 'Further Complications', 'Angela', 'Homewrecker', 'I Never Said I Was Deep', 'You're In My Eyes (Discosong)'

Cornershop: Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast
Another great dose of Indian-influenced funk with long song titles from Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres.
Stand out tracks: 'Who Fingered Rock 'N' Roll', 'Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast', 'The Roll Off Characteristics (Of History In The Making)'

Where's Wally? The Incredible Paper Chase by Martin Handford
This collection of Wally watching scenes are largely drawn from the out of print The Ultimate Fun Book and features a game with press out cards and counters, and in an impressive intuitive leap an envelope to keep them all in.

Doctor Who: The Age Of Ice; The Deep Hereafter; Onomatopoeia; Ghosts Of the Northern Line
Try as they might the Tenth Doctor and Majenta just can't get to Panacea. In what feels like the middle of a Russell T. Davies-style season, The Age Of Ice is an action-packed big bombastic UNIT story of an alien invasion of Sydney. A visit to New Old Detroit sees them attempt to crack the case of a dead noirish private detective (and fish) complete with voiceover in The Deep Hereafter. At first glance Onomatopoeia is as silent as the grave, but without dialogue the sound effects come to the fore and this strip is a chorus of zzzks, shreeeeeeeeeeeeks and a thokk. After this pair of one-shot stories, Ghosts Of The Northern Line is a sinister tale which leads into the 'season finale' and adds pathos to Madge's eventual fate.

Jump Leads: Who Wants To Rule The World?; The Travellers; Rogues And Scallywags
Llew and Meaney's journey through parallel universes takes them to many different worlds: one conquered by a man who doesn't know what to do with it, one empty except for another pair of travellers and a world stuck in the middle ages. Jjar's art is flawless throughout.

Tales Of Monkey Island; The Secret Of Monkey Island - Special Edition
You wait nine years for a Monkey Island game and then two turn up at once. Tales Of Monkey Island is a wonderful continuation of the antics of Guybrush Threepwood and as funny as ever as he attempts to find La Esponja Grande to cure the Pox of LeChuck in his hand (and coincidently the entire pirate population of the Gulf of Melange).
As with its sequel, I haven't played the Special Edition of The Secret Of Monkey Island, but once again the original is included here and therefore I can confidently recommend it. I'm looking forward to playing the remastered version with its new fangled recorded dialogue and flashy graphics.

Run. Run as far as you can in this brilliantly simple game.

Robert Llewellyn's in-transit talk show saw him interviewing the likes of: Ed Bye, Jonathan Ross, Danny John-Jules, Arthur Smith, Ruby Wax, Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, David Mitchell, Lisa Rogers, Stephen Fry, Tony Hawks, Dave Gorman, Cathy Rogers, Brian Cox, Paul Jackson, Duncan Jones, Graham Linehan and Richard Herring.

Out Of The Thick Of It: Episode 1; Episode 2; Episode 3; Episode 4
The first four episodes expand on the story of the corresponding televised episodes (see above), favouring Terri and Robyn, played by Joanna Scanlan and Polly Kemp respectively.

Gypsy Creams
Tanya Jones scans her way through the pages of the woman's magazines of yesteryear. She has a knack for choosing ads that highlight changing times and more often than not, modern paranoia.

Psychoville websites
A series of websites designed to accompany the broadcast of Psychoville (above): Biggins Panto At The Gold King Theatre, Robert Greenspan, Lomax Commodities, Jelly Parties, Jolly Parties, Murder And Chips, Best Murders, Joy's Advice To Young Mums Website and Inside Ravenhill. All are really well put together with great references and mistakes in all the right places.

Recommendations welcome.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Microfiction Monday #67 & #21

It's this blog's second birthday, but more importantly it's also Microfiction Monday:


His old man remained silent.

"How long shall we wait?"

His father inhaled deeply before he replied.

"She'll come back."

- - - - -

Here's the twenty-first picture:

Here's my response:

She struck a pose. "Don't look now, but are they taking photos?"

"I can't tell if I don't look."

"Just don't look like you're looking."

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Dearth Of Tintagel

It's been a while since we finished The Death Of Tintagel, but as promised here's another review:

The Times Literary Supplement
Reviewer: Alex Burghart
5th November 2010

When Rilke reviewed La Mort de Tintagiles, he wrote of its author: “the theatre to come will have him as its founding father and will celebrate and proclaim him”. Maurice Maeterlinck was a Nobel prize-winner, a guiding light to Symbolists and surrealists; admired by Mallarmé, Chekhov and Yeats, his work inspired an opera by Debussy (Pelléas et Mélisande) and music by Vaughn Williams. Today the playwright’s name is more likely to be greeted by shrugs than proclamation, perhaps because - as Patrick McGuinness suggested in Maurice Maeterlinck and the Making of Modern Theatre (2000) - although “his originality was amply recognised, he had no immediate successors, and no dramatist built on what he had begun”. Now, more than seventy years after Maeterlinck’s death and more than a century after the original’s publication, Vik Sivalingam has taken Peter Morris’s adaptation in hand to show us what we’re missing.

When La Mort de Tintagiles first appeared in Paris in 1894 as one of three petits drames pour marionettes, it was at odds with the lavish literalism pervading French theatre and immediately recognized as setting a new standard in sparsely bleak dramaturgy. Spread over five very short acts, the play traces the arrival of a boy prince summoned back to the castle of his birth by an old, unnamed Queen. Greeted by his sisters, Ygraine and Bellangère, and an old man, Aglovale, Tintagiles is snatched by the wicked Queen’s three servants and taken to the depths of the castle. Ygraine gives chase and finds herself separated from he boy by a large door. Through the tiniest of cracks, Tintagiles can see the light of her lamp before it breaks. The Queen, unseen and unheard, quietly murders him, leaving his sister howling in the dark.

The play left Rilke “possessed by the odd idea that there may be space for an entire plot in a single fear”. by evoking primal emotions on a mythic scale, Maeterlinck combined psychological complexity and minimalism. Morris’s script acknowledges this achievement but chooses not to replicate it, instead wrapping the text in a creepy-funny rhyme scheme. This bounces the play along in the direction of Roald Dahl (particularly good is Bellangère’s gleeful description of a murdered Pomeranian lapdog) and gives the original an added dimension of comic irreverence.

Morris brings out - and supplements - the stirring sexuality of the lead, who is part symbol, part hero. Tintagel is, among other things, the personification of the Arthurian castle; he is “more than a boy now, not yet a man”, and Freddie Machin’s unsettling, Tim Burton-ish portrayal is both naïve and curious. Occupied by sisters who have had only an impotent Aglovale (a wonderfully fey Adrian Gillott) for company, the castle is a hostile place; a ghostly voice whispers “futility” whenever “fertility” is mentioned. As Tintagel is spirited towards his fate by the three bee-like servants, he appears to suffer a reverse birth, sucked down into the dungeon which doubles as the womb of the all-consuming queen.

The Freudian imagery may be a little laboured, but it casts its spell. Ygraine was King Arthur’s mother, and this is a glance at her pre-marital past. Legend casts her as the wife of the Duke of Cornwall and occupant of Tintagel, where she is seduced (raped) by Uther Pendragon and conceives a son, Arthur, later given to Merlin. For Ygraine, castles are embodiments of first matriarchal, then patriarchal terrr, destroyers of innocence and innocents - and Vera Chok’s pitiable portrayal lets us feel her puppet-like vulnerability at the hands of fate.

Morris, Sivalingam and their cast have done theatre a service. Maeterlinck deserves better than the obscurity into which he has sunk, and this inventive staging of a sparky adaptation is long overdue.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Microfiction Monday #66 & #20

More Microfiction Monday. Here's the picture:

And here's my attempt:

A lad challenged him to a duel. Still sat, he answered: "You sure? You should've seen the cocktail this came out of."

He remains undefeated.

- - - - -

Here's the twentieth photo:

Here's my response:

"How now?" she asked the brown cow. It was expected.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Carruthers Camera #9

Five more photograph I took for the Carruthers Blog:

Taken a short walk from Bowes Park Railway Station, I was incredulous when I discovered the sight that became Trespass.

Get Your Kicks... is the view down the line from Highbury & Islington Overground's Eastbound platform.

Piccadilly Peccadilloes was taken on a Piccadilly line train.

Unearthed was taken on Southwark bridge during a street party festival thingy.

Ch-Ch-Changes was taken in New Change, London, EC4. Obviously.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Microfiction Monday #65 & #19

It's Microfiction Monday. Here's the photo:

"Lepidopterax, my nemesis, is on the loose again. Dramatic pause, look right down the barrel of camera 2. And this time it's daylight. Cut."

- - - - -

And here's the nineteenth picture:

Here's my response:

After the rabbit pushed his master into the mystical void within the hat, he would wear his revenge with pride.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Reading The Tempest

Here's the first of my lists of observations about Shakespeare's plays as part of my new year's resolution. Due to unforeseen circumstances it's a couple of days late and that has made me reconsider slightly. I'm still going to work my through all of Shakespeare's plays, but now I'm planning on reading a play fortnightly rather than weekly. Those of you who enjoy mathematics will have realised this means it will take approximately twice as long.

Preconceptions: I’ve never seen a production of The Tempest, but I have seen Brent Spiner playing Data playing Prospero in Star Trek and that Forbidden Planet is based upon it. It's also a play which is referenced to estensively elsewhere: Miranda (left) is a revelation in Serenity and the name of a moon on which Rimmer started (and fled from) a barfight in Red Dwarf, Sycorax is the name of an alien in Doctor Who and “Brave new world” entered common usage and became the title of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

Act I, Scene I
The first stage direction is probably the definitive use of the word 'tempestuous' in the whole of English literature. I love the practicality of the Boatswain in the following exchange:

Boatswain: "Do you not hear him? You mar our labour, keep your cabins, you do assist the storm."

Gonzalo: "Nay, good, be patient."

Boatswain: "When the sea is. Hence! What cares these roarers for the name of king? To cabin, silence! Trouble us not."

Gonzalo: "Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboard."

Boatswain: "None that I more love than myself."

Act I, Scene II
Prospero's line "Hast thou forgot the foul witch Sycorax, who with age and envy was grown into a hoop?" is a great image.

Act II, Scene I
Sebastian gets all the best lines here "Look he's winding up the watch of his wit; by and by it will strike" and "He receives comfort like cold porridge"

Act II, Scene II
One of the things everyone seems to want to teach you about Shakespeare is his use of jesters, clowns and fools to comment upon the story itself, or simply to provide comic relief. Trinculo is Alonso's jester and from what I've read he isn't very insightful, apart from "Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows", nor does he seem particularly funny. In fact the opposite seems to be true, rather than being comedian himself he is Stephano's straight man, as seen in exchanges like this:

Stephano: "Here; swear then how thou escapedst."

Trinculo: "Swam ashore man, like a duck; I can swim like a duck, I'll be sworn."

Stephano: "...Though thou canst swim like a duck, thou art made like a goose."

Act III, Scene I
In a play full of magic it's odd that Ferdinand and Miranda falling in love at first is just that, especially with Prospero looking on and making asides like "Poor worm, thou art infected! This visitation shows it." I assumed that this infatuation was a trick and had to go back and re-read the scene to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

Act III, Scene II
When Caliban is wishing harm on Trinculo and compels Stephano to "cut his wezand with thy knife", I was glad some explanatory notes that revealed that wezand means throat or windpipe, rather than something lower down.
When Stephano asks "Dost thou like the plot, Trinculo?", it reminded me of Eric Morcambe asking his audience "What do you think of it so far?"

Act III, Scene III
Strangely while it's obvious that this scene is important, setting up the Alonso/Sebastian/Antonio plot strand and with the shapes bringing in the banquet and Ariel's use of a 'quaint device' to make the food vanish it also shows us Prospero's magic at its most explicit, but the first thought that occurred to me when I finished reading it nothing to do with any of that. In the last line of the scene Adrian says "Follow, I pray you", which reminded of several of the other scenes ending on a similar note. Either the penultimate or final line of most scenes has shared the same sentiment: "Let's take leave of him", "Come follow", "Lead away" and "So, king, go safely on to seek thy son", "O brave monster! Lead the way", "Lead, monster; we'll follow" and "Wilt come? I'll follow, Stephano". Is this running gag or just a convention to ensure the audience realises a new scene is about to begin?

Act IV, Scene I
Two of the subplots almost converge here, but in true farce fashion, they just miss each other. The section with Iris, Ceres and Juno despite being filled with some great dialogue and what Ferdinand refers to as a "magnificent vision", it is the stage directions which catch the modern eye: 'Juno descends [slowly in her car]', 'Juno and Ceres whisper, and send Iris on employment', 'Enter certain NYMPHS' and 'Enter certain REAPERS', which conjures up images of Prospero's island being filled with cars and unemployment, but at least it distinguishes those dancing from all the uncertain nymphs and reapers. This highlights the fact that the stage directions are far more prevalent here than in other works of Shakespeare that I have read.

Act V, Scene I
The showdown as everyone is brought together: Miranda and Ferdinand have their love acknowledged and accepted, Stephano and Trinculo are revealed to Caliban to be the idiots we all suspected, and Prospero forgives Alonso and they have a chat during which the latter says "I long to hear the story of your life, which must take the ear strangely". Well you and me both. Here's hoping the epilogue is chock full of Prospero's back story because it's something that has been intriguing me.

Act V, Epilogue
None of Prospero's biography is revealed in this last soliloquy, instead he says goodbye and "Let your indulgence set me free".

If I have one criticism of this play it is that Sycorax (below) seems such a well-drawn character that I would love to have seen her interacting with Prospero, Caliban and Ariel.

Reading Shakespeare returns in two weeks with The Two Gentlemen Of Verona.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Microfiction Monday #64 & #18

Welcome to the first Microfiction Monday of 2011, here's the picture:

And here's my attempt:

When they asked the secret of his escape, he'd just smile & tap out a rhythm on the greasetin's lid. He'd never let it go. Just in case.

- - - - -

Here's the eighteenth photo:

And here's my response:

"Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum."

"What did you call me?"