• Daily Life

    Picoreview: Hamlet

    Last Monday evening I found out at the last minute that the Lighthouse Cinema was doing a showing of Benedict Cumberbatch’s 2014 #Hamlet & I decided I was going to make a terrible mistake, and go.

    I did not make a mistake.

    Ciaran Hinds is the best Claudius I’ve ever seen. Ophelia’s death is the best staging I’ve ever seen. Cumberbatch is excellent throughout, and gets to show off his considerable acting range, which almost nothing he does in film allows him to. Everyone was very good, although I thought Horatio and perhaps Laertes were a bit of weak links, and I wish…man. I don’t know if Gertrude is just impossible to play, or if I’ve never seen her played well enough. I’ve never seen her played by anybody who was less than good, but no one ever quite reaches…whatever it is I’m looking for. I suppose I’ll know it if I see it, if I ever do.

    The final scene didn’t hold a candle to the staging of the same scene with Ruth Negga at the Gate Theatre last year, which I don’t think can be topped. Nor was I as convinced of Hamlet’s love for Ophelia in this as I was in that production, which was the most–the first–heartbreakingly believable playing of it that I’ve ever seen. Neither were badly done at all; if I hadn’t seen Negga, I’d have said this was the most convincing love story I’d ever seen in Hamlet, so in fact it was very, very good. It just wasn’t quite *that* good.

    I fucking H A T E D the costuming and would like to know the rationale behind it. Like. I grew up in the theatre, with a costumer for a mother. I generally can figure out what the costuming is doing, and why, even if I don’t like it, but in this case I could neither figure it out nor like it. H A T E. OMG. H A T E.

    Some–most–of the set work was genuinely inspired in conception and I generally loved it. The gravedigger was brilliant, as he should be, and poor old Polonius was terrific. Overall, I am very, very glad I went.

  • Daily Life

    several THINGS

    Thing One: Ruth Negga is performing the title role in Hamlet in Dublin this fall AND I HAVE TICKETS FOR OPENING NIGHT.

    I am trying to convince myself I shouldn’t also buy tickets for closing night, to see how the performance has matured. I really want to. But they’re more expensive. :(

    Indy said, “Tickets for HAMLET? Is that like HAMILTON!?!?!?!?!” and was very disappointed to hear that no, it was not, and also that it wasn’t appropriate for 8 year olds. :)

    Thing Two: I got the return address stickers for the much-delayed Redeemer Kickstarter, and they’re cute and I love them and I’m very pleased with them.

    Thing Three: Indy and I have a game we play on the way to the zoo. There’s an enormous round-crowned tree just a little ways before the entrance, and when he was very small, I told him a dragon lived in it, so we always greet the dragon and have a chat with him on our way in to the zoo.

    Last weekend we went to the zoo with the cousins, and Indy (who often pauses a game when we approach other people) thought maybe we shouldn’t say hi to the dragon this time, but I thought we should, and we explained the game to his cousins, who greeted the dragon despite their advanced ages of 13 and 15, and off we went to the zoo.

    To my utter, like, eye-stingingly-bright, delight, on the way out, the older cousin said, without prompting, “Goodbye, Dragon,” quite solemnly and as though it was exactly what one always did at the zoo.

    They’re good kids.

    Thing Four: Deirdre and her younger son and I went to see Black Panther, which Deirdre had not yet seen. We didn’t know if her son would get there in time, nor if we could leave a ticket at the box office for him to collect, so I said, “Well, I’ve seen it three times, so I’ll wait for him so you don’t miss the beginning of the movie.”

    “OH GOOD,” she said, “I couldn’t figure out how to ask without it being rude!!” Then we burst out laughing. :)

    “WELL I GUESS I’LL STAND HERE AND WAIT FOR SEIRID,” she said, leadingly and not at all artificially.

    “OH NO DEIRDRE, I’VE SEEN IT THREE TIMES, I’LL STAND HERE AND WAIT FOR HIM,” I said in the same tones, and then we fell on each other laughing. (Deirdre and I have a great time together. :))

    Anyway, he showed up on time, having booked it from school, I CAUGHT A DITTO WHILE WAITING FOR HIM, and we all got into the theatre before the movie started.

    During the first challenge scene she seized both our hands and curled up in horror in the chair, terrified of what would happen. During the second, she said, “WHY DO THEY HAVE TO DO THIS ON THE EDGE OF THE WATERFALL!”

    She told me I’m not allowed to say she cried, though. :)

    Thing Five: Before I’d gotten up this morning, Indy (who is not yet enrolled in a Dublin school, and so is doing school work at home) came up to inform me he’d done his school work already except he needed help with one part of the science experiment.

    I came down to help, and he had in fact done his history and geography work already, was nearly finished with his science, and had only his spelling, language and math to go.

    I know perfectly well that he did it because he wanted to be able to play his video game, but god damn if he didn’t earn it, AFAIC. :)

  • Daily Life

    Picoreview: Donegal

    I was invited last week to see the Abbey Theatre‘s new play, Donegal, which is billed as a light-hearted play with music.

    I think the Irish have a different idea of what constitutes ‘light-hearted’ than I do.

    I mean, nobody dies in it, and there are moments that are funny, so I think that’s why it qualifies as ‘light-hearted’. But the play is about an Irish country-western star whose peak has passed, her son who left Ireland to very successfully pursue his own country-western career in America away from his mother’s shadow, and the rest of their absolutely horrible family, who are all in the business of supporting Mama’s Career, which has tanked, and now they’re all broke and desperate and vicious (although clearly the vicious isn’t new, it’s part of how the family interacts, and I don’t think that’s funny at all) and have asked The Successful Son to come home and save them all despite them being utterly nasty pieces of work.

    The play is well-acted and well-sung, with the glaring exception of The American Girlfriend, who had a lovely voice but was not, I’m quite certain, Actually American. My impression was that her struggle to maintain the American accent left her unable to accomplish anything else. I have mixing spoons that are less wooden. I felt badly for her because I suspect she’s a quite capable performer under different circumstances. Her lines were also badly written: they sounded like an Irish person trying to write an American and not quite succeeding. I was mentally revising them for her as she spoke. (I’m also not actually convinced she knew all of her lines cold. There were some that were so awkward that they sounded ad-libbed.)

    Killian Donnelly, the Successful Son, has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, and would have been even more splendid if the sound balance had been better. Unfortunately, during a Key Song, in which Much Is Revealed, I could barely hear him, much less understand him. The pieces where there was less or no accompaniment, though, wow. Not just him, but the whole cast: wow. But him especially.

    About three quarters of the way through the play, Successful Son sings an absolutely heart-rending Irish folk song called “My Donegal,” and I thought, “Ah. This is why this play exists. Somebody has recently written a truly beautiful song and wanted a vehicle to present it through.”

    I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly seemed like it. “My Donegal” and the two or three other trad songs were far and away the best *music* in the show. The rest of it seemed to me to fail to understand what Irish country-western music is/was (it is, in my experience, very like older American country-western music) as well as being unable to capture what current American country music is. It didn’t feel like it was *deliberately* bad, which would have been a valid stylistic choice in terms of the play, but rather that the songwriter didn’t know the genres well enough to do them justice. (It’s possible they *were* deliberately bad, and that the performers were good enough to elevate them beyond the deliberate badness, but not into actual goodness.)

    So: a superb performance of a not-very-good show. I don’t think I’d go so far as to recommend it, although I would really *love* to get a single of “My Donegal,” which really is a magnificent song.

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