Tag Archives: theatre

Irish mysteries

Actor Brian Kennedy who plays The Lover, Bassanio in the Fringe Benefits Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice. That'sBelfast City Hall he's posing in. This version of the play is set in 1912

I’m just back from an intriguing week in Ireland. (Where I met some people you may know – more on that below – with a pic.) But the whole place was unexpectedly mysterious.

I’m not talking about leprechauns or the absence of snakes. These are modern mysteries.

1. Fat people. Where are they all hiding? Continue reading

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Rediscovered comforts

Cate Blanchett as Charlotte Gray in the eponymous film, flaunting her beret.

“There are times when familiar, reassuring thoughts come back as comforts.” So says Ian Poulton. He’s a Church of Ireland vicar who writes the For The Fainthearted blog.

I’m stealing his thoughts for this post for the Loose Bloggers Consortium. Ian’s a reflective wide-ranging wonderer and storyteller. He was one of the first to encourage me with this here internet writing. And he’s talking about sleep – which is something I want to rediscover for myself – before the bags under my eyes become haversacks.

This is some of what he says about rediscovery:

There is the line in Sebastian Faulks’ moving novel Charlotte Gray, where Miss Gray is about to be parachuted into Nazi-Occupied France as a spy. An RAF bomber is flying her through the night, deep into occupied territory, and one of the bomber crew announces to her that they are just passing over one of the French cities.

It was a reassuring moment to me, the image of an aeroplane moving through a clouded night sky, almost as though it was tiptoeing so as not to wake anyone. The city below was a place I knew from summer holidays, but it was more than that; there is a feeling of safety, of security, in a community asleep below in the deep darkness. Is it perhaps that sleeping people are unthreatening people, or is it that sleep represents a refuge from all the worries of the world?

I remember reading Father Niall O’Brien’s story of his ministry on the Philippine island of Negros, a tale of struggling against violence and oppression. Many of the sugar workers led miserable lives as day labourers, yet there was one moment where Niall O’Brien describes stepping into a hut late at night to be met with darkness in which he could make out the sleeping figures of itinerant workers. Sleep seemed a moment of relief, a few brief hours of respite from the grinding poverty in which they lived.

The late great Pete Postlethwaite as Prospero

For Prospero, in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, life itself is a Continue reading

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My great disappearing act

That's me dying the first time - on stage.

My great disappearing act took place at the height of my professional theatrical fame. For the princely sum of £5 and a bottle of Fanta (a night? or was the £5 for a week?) I trod the same boards the feet of Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds and Adrian Dunbar had before me. I played the eldest of Macduff’s sons in Shakespeare’s Scottish play at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

My main role was to die defending my Mum against the king’s hired killers – a bit of dramatic struggling and swooning after being stabbed. But it wasn’t all action. Oh no – I had lines too. A couple of Yeses and then that immortal exclamation.

Thou liest, thou shag-hair’d villain!

That’s what everyone remembers from that play, isn’t it? Never mind all that hubble bubble toil and trouble or being steeped so far in blood. Oh yes.

On the final night of the run, the usual murder happened. (Obviously I could have beaten the killers if I’d wanted, but I had to let them get away with it for the sake of the play. Just wanted to make that clear.)  The murderers fled, leaving the bodies of me and my mother and brother strewn across the stage. Then the lights went down completely, leaving the stage in complete darkness to allow us to drag our carcasses off stage.

As usual, I quickly nipped through the side drapes, but Continue reading

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Roadkill

Mercy Ojelade as Adeola/Mary in Roadkill

You will never think of actors as spoilt attention-seeking needy up-themselves luvvies ever again if you have the good sense and good fortune to see the play Roadkill on until November 20th at the Theatre Royal in Stratford. I saw it – experienced it – on Saturday night and the visceral impact has not left me. Nor will it for some time. God help the people acting it out night after night.

Ideally you would come to this play as I did – fairly ignorant of the content and trusting of the friend who bought the tickets – and thereby less armoured against the shocks. But as most normal people prefer more of a clue about what they’re about to see, here goes…

Roadkill shows Continue reading

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Banned adverts (Warning: May contain zombies)

Tom Ridgewell aka TomSka - Lincoln's Zombie Killer

With tuition fees rocketing, universities need to offer something special to attract prospective students.
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If you dig dinosaurs, pride yourself on pyromania or wish for close encounters with the walking dead – then the Zombie University of Lincoln is definitely for you. Just make sure you’re prepared.
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Pens? Check

Notebook? Check

Textbooks? Check

Sawn-off shotgun? Continue reading

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Blood and Gifts or Why America is in Afghanistan

“Great men are almost always bad men.” That’s the tagline to the wonderful play, Blood and Gifts, about US involvement in Afghanistan from 1981-1991. I’ve just seen it.

That depressing opening sentence is also the missing third line from the famous and much cited quotation from Lord Acton (aka John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton):

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Continue reading

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I had no dreams before I went to prison

Archbishop of York, John Sentamu

This week the Anglican Archbishop of York John Sentamu spoke out on prison conditions in the UK. The part that made headlines was when he criticised how some offenders are rewarded in jail by being provided with computer games or cable TV. Continue reading

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