Call me Russ L

Reluctantly abandoning the animal title theme

Posted in Combat Sports, Linklog, Stage by Russ L on 8 October, 2012

Question of the day: has anyone ever had both synaesthesia and colour blindness?

Right then so then, I was going to go to the boxing (for the first time in a couple of years) at Walsall Town Hall on Friday the 21st, but found out at a very late stage (very late. The ability to check things on the day they’re supposed to happen is one of the big advantages of these here internets) that the fight between Carl Johanneson and Wassul’s own Martin Gethin had been moved onto a Frizzank Wizzank bill in London. For some reason. That was the end of that plan, then – I wasn’t really in the mood to pay a fortune for the usual 40-36/60-54 stuff.

Martin Gethin did win in the end, though, so there’s some sort of happy ending.

I made one of my (nowadays) scandalously rare trips to the theatre on the afternoon of Saturday the 29th, for Out Of Joint‘s (in association with the Octagon Theatre Bolton and Birmingham Rep and no doubt all sorts of other groovy folks) production of “Our Country’s Good” at The Old Rep. I was familiar with the play but The Old Rep was actually new to me – surprisingly, I’d never been there before this. Once you get in there, it looks uncannily like a theatre that would be called “The Old Rep”. Which must be handy, in its own way.

So, it seems that Thomas Keneally wrote a vaguely-based-in-reality-but-not-quite book called “The Playmakers”. Timberlake Wertenbaker then adapted this book “The Playmakers” into a play. In this book “The Playmakers”, and this play adapted from the book “The Playmakers”, there is a play around which the plot of the book (or play) orbits. With me? Good.

The idea is that the humane commandant of a late 18th century Australian colony wants to see his transported convicts act out a play, to remind everyone around that everyone around is human. Some of his officers are opposed to any such thing happening. This leads us into a meditation on the redemptive power ( a trite phrase but a useful one. Or perhaps I’m just very unimaginative. Well, I’m definitely very unimaginative, that’s beyond dispute. I digress…) of theatre specifically and by extension creative acts in general. One of the officers cack-handedly suggests that the convicts will be improved by repeating lines of elegant language containing noble sentiments, and while that thought is clearly very silly in itself there it may be dimly and distantly related to something helpful if you can manage to both strip away the condescension and look at it obliquely – one thing that theatre (and whatnot else) can do for us is to remind us/make us aware that there are perspectives other than our own, and that our own interior sets of thoughts and feelings are not necessarily the default pattern for all of humanity. That which is different is not necessarily bad. This, as I’m fond of pompously telling people, is a lesson we should continually remind ourselves of.

It would seem to be underlined in this production by the fact that the actors are all playing multiple roles – the solipsism of any given character is completely undercut when you see the actor playing someone completely different two minutes later. Although maybe in practice it was just a pragmatic casting decision. I do not know (or mind).

Our star of the cast, anyway, was Ciaran Owens – his Major Robbie Ross exuded spite from every pore, and gave a thoroughly convincing blarney as the reluctant hangman Ketch Freeman.

I also thought that it was quite nifty that this one was directed by Max Stafford-Clark, who directed the play’s first ever production twenty-five years ago. Wonderfully cyclical.

My one minor complaint (and this is the play, not the production) would regard a missed opportunity – we have, periodically, an Aboriginal character flitting around the edge of things, and we later find that he and his fellows find themselves afflicted by diseases brought over by the westerners. I suspect that there may be a point I’m missing (there usually is at least one), but it doesn’t really go anywhere and seems to be a bit of a waste – somewhere could be gone with this. I did like his “a dream that has lost its way” imagery, though.

I suppose that it would seem appropriate after this play in particular to say that I should get out to the theatre more frequently, but I really should. I end up saying that every time I do actually go, though. I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it, as the lady said.

There have been More Things since I went to that, but I think this’ll do for the time being. Have a few links before I go:

~ The Doctor Who Role Playing Game (a video, not really a game. It tickled me though).

~ The pubs and breweries of the Midlands (via B:INS, years ago).

~ A caricature map of Europe in 1914, based on that 1870 one (via Kottke, years ago).

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