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Evening excursions - John C. Kirk

Jun. 28th, 2009

06:19 pm - Evening excursions

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This week I've been into central London a couple of times, for some (relatively) highbrow entertainment. On Wednesday I went to the Prince Charles Cinema to watch Synecdoche, then on Friday I went to the Vaudeville Theatre to watch Duet for One.

It's been a while since I last went to the Prince Charles Cinema; I was planning to go last year (for a Ghostbusters/Gremlins double bill), but they sold out a few days in advance, so this time I decided to prebook the tickets. They've set up online booking on their website: this is currently just for their upstairs cinema (showing new releases), and then they'll extend it to the downstairs cinema (showing fringe stuff) once they're happy with it. I had some trouble with it, since it kept giving server-side error messages, but eventually I was able to book the tickets. When I arrived at the cinema to collect the tickets, I gave them my name, and showed the debit card that I'd used to pay for them, but the staff said that I also needed a printed copy of the email receipt. I didn't have this, so I had to dash off to an internet cafe. The email doesn't say that you need to take a copy along, so it was lucky that I hadn't deleted it. Anyway, that's something to bear in mind if you go there.

Once we got in, I was impressed by the seating upstairs. There was loads of leg room, which I appreciated; particularly in theatres, I sometimes wind up with my knees under my chin! Also, each seat had its own armrests, which avoided anyone hogging the shared one. The air conditioning unit was quite loud at the start (during the adverts), but they turned it off before the film started. As for the film itself, it was a bit too weird for my tastes. I'm happy to suspend my disbelief, as long as there's some tenuous explanation. Radioactive spiders that give super-powers? Fine. Magic curry powder that makes you swap bodies with someone? Fine. However, this film had things that would be impossible in the real world, and it wasn't clear whether any of the characters considered them to be unusual (e.g. the diary and fire). Still, it was well acted, it had some interesting ideas, and there were some funny bits, so I don't regret going.

Moving on, I've been to the theatre quite a lot in the last couple of years. However, "Duet for One" is the first actual play I've seen in a while; the last one was "Anthony and Cleopatra", back in October 2006. The rest have mostly been musicals, which does seem a strange trend. There's a similar issue for the theatre itself: I've been to several places with high-tech stages, e.g. sections that can revolve, raise/lower, or act as conveyor belts. By contrast, the Vaudeville is quite small, and this play takes place on one set, so all the props are in position at the start. However, this permanence meant that it was far more convincing: for instance, the walls looked real, and the shelves were filled with books/CDs/records.

The premise of the play is that a woman was an extremely talented violinist until she contracted Multiple Sclerosis. This means that she won't be able to play the violin anymore, so she has a series of meetings with a psychiatrist. There were only two people in the cast, and they did an outstanding job. The nature of the play means that it's mainly about dialogue rather than action, but Juliet Stevenson also deserves credit for some of the physical aspects. There were a few points in the play when nobody was talking, and I got a bit worried in case the actors had forgotten a line, but it was always deliberate. I think the best word to describe the dialogue is "authentic". It's not a comedy, although there are some funny lines; I think that when some of the audience laughed, it's because they weren't paying enough attention. However, it's not completely bleak either. I found it thought-provoking, and I'm glad I saw it.

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