18/01/2012 § 1 Comment
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in Coriolanus,
a modern adaptation of the tragedy by Shakespeare, with
Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Chastain costarring.
Opens January 20, 2012.
18/01/2012 § Leave a Comment
“Verily, among all the benefits which men derive from the favour of the Muses, none other is so great as that softening of the nature which is produced by culture and discipline, the nature being induced by culture to take on moderation and cast off excess. It is perfectly true, however, that in those days Rome held in highest honour that phase of virtue which concerns itself with warlike and military achievements, and evidence of this may be found in the only Latin word for virtue, which signifies really manly valour; they made valour, a specific form of virtue, stand for virtue in general.
And so Marcius, who was by nature exceedingly fond of warlike feats, began at once, from his very boyhood, to handle arms. And since he thought that adventitious weapons were of little avail to such as did not have their natural and native armour developed and prepared for service, he so practised himself in every sort of combat that he was not only nimble of foot, but had also such a weight in grapplings and wrestlings that an enemy found it hard to extricate himself. At any rate, those who from time to time contended with him in feats of courage and valour, laid the blame for their inferiority upon his strength of body, which was inflexible and shrank from no hardship.
He made his first campaign while yet a stripling, when Tarquin, who had been king of Rome, and then had been expelled, after many unsuccessful battles, staked his all, as it were, upon a final throw. Most of the people of Latium and many also of the other peoples of Italy were assisting him and marching with him upon Rome, to reinstate him there, not so much from a desire to gratify him, as because fear and envy led them to try to overthrow the growing power of the Romans. In the ensuing battle, which long favoured now this side and now that, Marcius, who was fighting sturdily under the eyes of the dictator, saw a Roman soldier struck down near by. He ran to him at once, stood in front of him, defended him, and slew his assailant. Accordingly, after the Roman general had won the day, he crowned Marcius, among the first, with a garland of oak leaves.”
Plutarch, Life of Coriolanus.
The basis of the Tragedy of Coriolanus by William Shakespeare.
18/01/2012 § Leave a Comment
“My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done
To thee particularly and to all the Volsces
Great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may
My surname, Coriolanus: the painful service,
The extreme dangers and the drops of blood
Shed for my thankless country are requited
But with that surname; a good memory,
And witness of the malice and displeasure
Which thou shouldst bear me: only that name remains;
The cruelty and envy of the people,
Permitted by our dastard nobles, who
Have all forsook me, hath devour’d the rest;
And suffer’d me by the voice of slaves to be
Whoop’d out of Rome. Now this extremity
Hath brought me to thy hearth; not out of hope–
Mistake me not–to save my life, for if
I had fear’d death, of all the men i’ the world
I would have ‘voided thee, but in mere spite,
To be full quit of those my banishers,
Stand I before thee here. Then if thou hast
A heart of wreak in thee, that wilt revenge
Thine own particular wrongs and stop those maims
Of shame seen through thy country, speed
And make my misery serve thy turn: so use it
That my revengeful services may prove
As benefits to thee, for I will fight
Against my canker’d country with the spleen
Of all the under fiends. But if so be
Thou darest not this and that to prove more fortunes
Thou’rt tired, then, in a word, I also am
Longer to live most weary, and present
My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice;
Which not to cut would show thee but a fool,
Since I have ever follow’d thee with hate,
Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast,
And cannot live but to thy shame, unless
It be to do thee service.”
Coriolan Overture by Beethoven
The Tragedy of Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
18/01/2012 § Leave a Comment
“…think with thyself
How more unfortunate than all living women
Are we come hither: since that thy sight, which should
Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with comforts,
Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow;
Making the mother, wife and child to see
The son, the husband and the father tearing
His country’s bowels out. And to poor we
Thine enmity’s most capital: thou barr’st us
Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort
That all but we enjoy; for how can we,
Alas, how can we for our country pray,
Whereto we are bound, together with thy victory,
Whereto we are bound? alack, or we must lose
The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person,
Our comfort in the country.”
Volumnia, mother of Coriolanus,
The Tragedy of Coriolanus by Shakespeare.
Scene illustration by Gavin Hamilton.
12/05/2011 § 5 Comments
Sleep No More: the style of the 1930s, the mood of Stanley Kubrick,the feel of a haunted mansion,
the sounds of Hitchcock,the drama of Shakespeare
Cherie, I have an amazing recommendation for you! Last week I had the excellent fortune to experience Sleep No More, produced by British theatre company Punchdrunk. Here I am not using the word experience lightly, as Sleep No More is not a play viewers passively watch while sitting in an uncomfortable folding seat, waiting for intermission. As an “immersive presentation,” Sleep No More thrusts its viewers into a macabre, 1930s-styled hotel to move about as they like. Simultaneously, performers drift throughout the hotel among the audience members. There is no stage to speak of, aside from whatever room you are standing in, and that is exactly where the actors perform a series of virtually wordless interpretive dance pieces. Once done, they immediately depart, leaving it to you to decide if you’d like to follow them to their next scene.
Interestingly, a firm grasp of Sleep No More’s story – based loosely on Shakespeare’s Macbeth with overtones of Hitchcock’s Vertigo – is not essential to the experience. True, the performers recreate major scenes that those with some familiarity of the play will recognize – Banquo’s ghost appears at the royal banquet, Lady Macbeth scrubs at imagined bloodstains, the witches conjure, etc. – but it would be an impossible attempt to string together the tragedy in its entirety. (Another innovative feature of the immersive production is that there is no true linear storyline, no beginning and no end — you come to realize the actors are on a constant loop and that the play simply begins when the viewer enters the space, and ends when the viewer decides to leave.). Instead, the story serves as a secondary element, something like a backdrop of a very sinister mood.
The runaway star of Sleep No More is the production design. Punchdrunk took over three cavernous warehouses in Chelsea and has ingeniously transformed them into the McKittrick Hotel, a foreboding collection of over 100 rooms distributed over 6 floors, dressed with a baleful and decaying 1930s panache. The lighting is minimal and is accompanied by a constant stream of music – some of the era, some modern – that lends well to the pervasive grimness. Every room is meticulously curated, with every single element deliberately tended to, down to the smallest detail. I vividly remember noticing the smell of certain rooms — the pungent scent of mothballs, of moss, of earth — as I walked through a children’s hospital, a graveyard, a taxidermist’s shop, nightclubs, dining rooms, a ballroom, bedrooms, sitting rooms, libraries, offices and gardens. It’s worth the price of admission alone to have the opportunity to explore the dark and demented world of the McKittrick Hotel, and especially since you are able to do so at your own pace.
After arrival and “check-in” at the theatre/hotel, we found ourselves in a nightclub, complete with cocktail waitresses in glittering, deco-era gowns proffering drinks and a languid jazz chanteuse backed by a three piece band onstage. The vibe was classy, but undeniably creepy. We were then divided into small groups and ushered into an elevator for entry into the hotel. In an interesting twist of fate, I was immediately separated from my companion. After the elevator operator made clear the rules — at the McKittrick we were not allowed to talk, to use any mobile phones, or to remove the eerie, bone-white Venetian carnival mask we had been given at check-in — he brought the car to rest and opened the door. My companion, being closest to the door crossed the threshold, but as he departed the operated barred me — and the rest of us — from leaving with him. As the elevator doors closed again I watched a pitch black hallway swallow him up as he looked over his shoulder, watching all of us disappear with what I am sure was a shocked look on his face (I couldn’t tell for sure because of the mask, you see).
An immediate sense of unease settled over me. I knew I wasn’t in any real danger, but I didn’t know where I was, what was going to happen, or how to find my compatriot. The rooms were dark and there were sinister-looking artifacts everywhere. There was more than a little blood. Others had their friends to cling to as they experienced the McKittrick, but I couldn’t, I had to go it alone. By the end of the night, I came to believe the best way to experience Sleep No More is alone. It was simply amazing — an experience unlike any I’ve ever had in the theatre (and in real life, thankfully). I didn’t sit down for two hours. I walked up and down flights of stairs, felt my way through darkened mazes, followed strangers into creepy rooms and wandered through deserted halls. I pulled books from shelves, opened drawers and read medical records. Wearing my mask, I sometimes joined the crowds around the very talented performers, who generally didn’t acknowledge the audience, unless they happened to be in the way or were incorporated into the drama for a few fleeting moments with a hug, a touch, a look. The masks and the pervasive sense of detachment immediately called to mind Eyes Wide Shut, only there was more murder, bathing and dancing, and less sex.
I emerged at the end — at the same jazz club where it all started — to find my compatriot fortifying himself with a few cocktails as he waited for me. As we compared notes we realized that we had completely different experiences. There was only one scene the both of us had witnessed, and we both were there for two hours. I am hesitant to give away any of the vignettes I witnessed, lest you go to see this for yourself and feel you are missing something if you don’t see the same things, but I feel this pretty much sums it up:
Me: “Man, that was quite a bit of nudity, wasn’t it?”
Him: “What nudity?!? I was busy reading books in the library!”
Sleep No More is only in New York through 9 July. I urge you to get tickets immediately. I’m definitely contemplating going again, to see if I can’t find more of what the McKittrick is hiding in the shadows.
Sleep No More
The McKittrick Hotel
530 West 27th Street
New York, New York 10001