Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Audience


'The Audience' is another of the filmed stage productions from Britain's National Theatre.

Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth and the setting is the weekly audiences that occur between the Monarch and her Prime Ministers. The current Queen's longevity is such that there have been twelve Prime Ministers during her reign - so far. In the play we see imagined audiences with six of those PMs. There are also imagined scenes of the Queen with her younger Princess self and various Equerries performing their duties and explaining some of the protocol.

This is a terrific play with lots of humour which at the same time delivers a sense of the 'human' side of the Queen. Mirren, as you'd expect is superb as are the six performers representing the PMs. The staging is simple and Mirren's speedy sleight of hand on-stage costume and wig changes are a mysterious delight.

Excellent entertainment.

★★★★

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Maids


The Sydney Theatre Company recently completed a season of a new English translation of Jean Genet's play 'The Maids'. The plays is about two maids, sisters, who plot to kill their mistress because of the way she mistreats them. I suppose it is a drama but there is considerable broad humour and at times almost slapstick activity.

Featuring Cate Blanchett and French film star Isabelle Huppert the production came with the requisite star power for Sydney audiences and the planned European tour. The casting, though, was not beyond question despite the reputations of the two performers. They looked and sounded nothing like sisters and whilst Blanchett displayed much of her notable talent Huppert's performance was at times curious; almost a mime comedy. When Huppert spoke she did with an obvious accent and whilst for the most part her English diction was understandable, at times, especially when she had to speak quickly, her diction fell away and became difficult to comprehend.

The set was a lush bedroom cum lounge room with glass walls, a design to accommodate the video aspects. As a consequence the camera operators were often visible at the sides and back stage.

A large screen hanging from the backdrop displayed the action from various angles - side, above and below - and I, for one, became confused. Should I watch the screen or the stage? Was this a play with film or film with live action?

★★★

Thursday, 25 July 2013

'With hope in your heart'*

(* 'You'll never walk alone' from 'Carousel' by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein 11)

I'm a gay man who loves musicals and watching sport. So what could move me more than one of the great tear-jerker Rodgers and Hammerstein songs sung by a huge crowd at an iconic stadium? I was playing bridge last night and so missed seeing live on television the second major soccer friendly played in Australia in the past five days, this time between Liverpool FC and Melbourne Victory FC.

Before kick off the 95,446 crowd sang the famous Liverpool FC anthem; the song 'You'll Never Walk Alone' which originates from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical 'Carousel'. I've only seen the You Tube clip of  the rendition. I know it has been circulated widely but I just feel the need to post it here too.

Even if you don't like musicals or sport you'd have to have ice running through your veins not to find the moment at least a little bit goose bump inducing. I love it.

A night with the red devils

Last Saturday night Manchester United played the (so called) A-League All Stars in a friendly match at Sydney's Olympic Stadium before 83,127 people. Not unexpectedly the Red Devils defeated the scratch team of 'All Stars' easily 5-1 with star player Robin Van Persie showing his undoubted class after coming on as a substitute with thirty minutes to go. Van Persie is a delicious looking man; lean, handsome and athletic and he looked sexy even just warming up in his tracksuit along the sideline. Here are some pics from the good natured evening.

Players line up before kick off

United's team photograph

The ball about to enter the net for United's first goal

United's second goal

The All Stars celebrate their goal

The player to watch

Van Persie warms up

The match is over

The crowd departs

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Life was beautiful then*

(*'Memory' from 'Cats' by Trevor Nunn, Andrew Lloyd Webber & T S Eliot)

I ran into my 4th Class (Primary School) teacher at the hospital today. He taught me in 1958; a mere fifty-five years ago. I recognised him immediately and he knew who I was once reminded of my name. Amazing!

Here is our class photo:

Eager-beaver nine year olds

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Thursday, 18 July 2013

State of play, streaking

Scenes from last night's State of Origin;

NSW scores its first try

Half time

Queensland scores its second and decisive try

Police and security escort a streaker from the field late in the match

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

State of Origin 3

Kick off in tonight's deciding State of Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland at Sydney's Olympic Stadium. Queensland won 12-10; their eighth consecutive series win in front of 83,813 spectators including the Manchester United squad who will play a friendly soccer match on the same ground this Saturday.


Monday, 15 July 2013

Bridge


tonight, 55.80%, 3/13, we didn't realise we were doing this well.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Lone Ranger


The law enforcer character who has been brought back into prominence in 'The Lone Ranger' started life as a 1930s radio serial and I recall watching the television incarnation of the character when I was growing up in the 1950s.

In the 1860s, a masked avenger for the law rides the wild west on his horse 'Silver' righting wrongs all the while assisted by his sidekick, the Native American, Tonto.

In this age of super heroes being reincarnated in super epic movies it was only a matter of time before The Lone Ranger joined the club. The film has been savaged by critics so I went to see it with great reservations but found a more enjoyable and imaginative movie than I was expecting given the drubbing it received.

On the negative side, it is at least twenty minutes too long and as far as I am concerned Johnny Depp as Tonto wears a little thin playing a characterisation he has already done to death in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

★★


Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Gun in Each Hand (Una pistola en cada mano)


'A Gun in Each Hand' is a Spanish film. Contrary to what the title might suggest this is not a Western but a film about contemporary urban relationships. It contains a number of vignettes of couples engaged in long conversations discussing personal issues.

There is a loose connection between the individuals although this is not disclosed until the final moments. The occasional line drew a chuckle from me but for the most part the film is a talk fest of slight interest.

★★

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Internship


Two thirty-something travelling salesmen are retrenched from their employment when their company goes bust because of new technology.

Desperate to fond work they apply for and are accepted as interns to work for Google along with a host of people years their junior.

'The Internship' is the latest in the current fad for gross out comedy where people behave obnoxiously.

There are several humorous moments principally when the behaviour of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson demonstrates the generation gap but otherwise there is not much wit to this comedy. The most interesting moments are the glimpses into what I assume is the real Google headquarters.

★★

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Berry


We made a day trip to the south coast township of Berry. This involved three train connections there and three connections back. I'd forgotten how long it takes to get there from Sydney and we ended up spending six hours on trains to spend three hours in the town.

There are some scenic moments on the train journey.

Countryside to the west

Ocean to the east
We explored the streets of the town and its specialty shops.


The local pub was decorated with bicycles presumably to celebrate the 'Tour de Berry' which notices around town announced is held every July.


We also tried freshly made doughnuts from the the 'famous Berry donut van' which none of us had ever heard of previously.


Friday, 5 July 2013

Hearty breakfast

The Zoo Cafe in Bondi Junction Mall

'They' say you should start the day with a hearty breakfast. Is this one I had yesterday hearty enough? Perhaps. Will it help me lose any weight? No, I didn't think so either. What use are 'they' with their glib sayings!

Man of Steel 3D


Here we go again. Perhaps the most popular and the archetypal Superhero, Superman, is back on the big screen.

As if we were not aware, or not seen it previously, Man of Steel 3D takes us back to the beginning; Superman's birth on Krypton, his despatch to Earth for safety and his mid-West upbringing in Smallville, Kansas. There are variations from what we have come to accept as givens. There is no Kryptonite weakness, at least not mentioned so far, and Superman is not yet the mild mannered Daily Planet reporter in his Earthly guise as Clark Kent. Nor does this Superman wear his underpants over his  super costume, a difference which in the case of the actor portraying the hero this time around amounts to a minor disappointment.

As the planet Krypton disintegrates its General Zod is on the search for Kal El (Superman's birth name) believing that the infant possesses the code for all future Krypton citizens. This is sufficient justification for two massive, computer enhanced, battles that form the major set pieces for the movie. The rest is a mix of the young Clark struggling with the notion of his super powers and his use of them in rescuing others from danger.

This overlong, often over noisy, film had me in stitches at time. That's not a good thing. The two battles scenes overstay their welcome being repetitive and thus faintly ludicrous. The photography had me baffled with many of the backgrounds in the film a strange grainy quality.

The 3D version we saw had no apparent 3D effects until the closing credits which were simply printed words on a black background. Assuming all the 3D prints are the same then I suggest you do not waste the additional expense and only see the 2D version; unless, of course, you have a special interest for viewing print in 3D.

Russell Crowe does a fair job as Superman's birth father employing a vaguely upmarket English accent. Otherwise, the film is all a bit Matrix style slam, bam, thank you ma'am. However, I have to concede that Henry Cavill makes for a dazzlingly handsome Superman.

★★

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Winter's day

Drummoyne Sailing Club

The rain of recent weeks has departed - for the moment - and we are now into a gloriously mild and sunny winter's spell with the temperature in Sydney today a balmy 22.8ºc (73.04ºf).

War Horse


I nearly missed seeing War Horse on stage in Sydney only getting to it's second last performance last Saturday evening as a means of breaking the cabin fever I was experiencing being stuck at home all day because of heavy rain.

Until then I had resisted going to see the show fearing that I would be bored by the puppetry and not find it as lifelike as the rave reviews had reported.

How wrong was I! The horse puppetry is quite wonderful. I would never have imagined feeling emotional about the fate of the horses but I was.

The plot is quite straight forward. A teenager's close bonds with a horse he has groomed and trained since it was a foal are torn when his father sells it to the army as a War Horse for the 1914/18 Great War. Underage, the teenager runs away to search for his horse in the mud and trenches of France and Belgium.

It is an unmistakeably sentimental work illustrated with strikingly simple but effective staging. The musical accompaniment appears authentic to the period and events.

A very fine entertainment.

★★★★

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Bridge


tonight, 45.80%, 8/10, poor last two rounds undermined improved performance in earlier rounds.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

In The House (Dans la Maison)


'In The House' is one of those quirky French films that works for them and that Hollywood can rarely seem to successfully replicate.

A Literature teacher becomes intrigued by the writings of one of his young students whose homework about how he spends his weekends reveals that the 16 year old has worked his way into the lives of his schoolmate's family.

The plot skims across some vaguely homoerotic moments and the student's behaviour, apparently all innocence initially, becomes somewhat unsettling.

★★★