February Updates #3 | Awguri, Giovanni Bonello; Toni Erdmann; Brikkuni & Unintended

Yep, I had said February was a wonderfully busy month for me, and it’s proven to be so right until the end.

Awguri, Giovanni Bonello launch

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First off the ground is the most recent — the launch of Awguri, Giovanni Bonello at Palazzo Pereira in Valletta, which I’ve spoken about earlier and which was commemorated at a very posh — but otherwise very pleasant — party organised by Merlin Publishers and the other ‘conspirators’ involved in this festschrift for Judge Giovanni Bonello, who turned 80 last year and who apart from a distinguished legal career, penned his own micro-histories which Merlin cherry-picked through and passed on to ten selected authors.

Judge Bonello was nice enough to say — in a moving speech at the event — that we lent an extra dimension to his otherwise “two-dimensional” figures; but all I’ll say is that I certainly had great fun with my story ‘Bellicam machinam vulgo petart appelatum’, which allowed me to meld the history of an already-sensational character — Caterina Vitale — with Gothic pastiche. Being encouraged to channel the likes of Frankenstein and Dracula into something of my own certainly felt like opening a fount that was dying to be opened; as was being able to indulge in an ornate, baroque literary style (whose convoluted sentences proved to be something of a challenge to read out loud during the launch party, however!)

Click here to read more about the book 

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Toni Erdmann | Film Review

Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller play a distant-but-constricting father-daughter pair in Maren Ade’s critically acclaimed comedy Toni Erdmann

Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller play a distant-but-constricting father-daughter pair in Maren Ade’s critically acclaimed comedy Toni Erdmann

“Growing tired of their distant relationship following yet another whirlwind visit from his go-getting daughter, Winifred decides to pay a surprise visit to [his daughter] Ines in Bucharest. When his plan for enforced bonding fails, Winifred changes tack – and persona – by adopting a wig and fake teeth and introducing himself as ‘Toni Erdmann’ to Ines’ friends and colleagues… while a horrified Ines looks on as her father threatens to compromise her professional and social standing.

“While this sounds superficially amusing and perhaps even creepy, what in fact develops is a touching study in second chances. For Winifred, this is something of a last-ditch effort to make up for any mistakes he may have made while raising Ines – his bumbling nature throughout suggests there may have been many – while Ines is suddenly given a chance to inject some humanity in her ambition-driven, corporate existence.

“Ade’s deceptively loose directorial style leaves plenty of room for the excellent performances by Simonischek and Hüller to shine through, building the film at a humane pace that ensures its emotional peaks feel entirely earned, and not forced into place by a script aiming for formulaic pressure points.”

Click here to read the full review

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Rub Al Khali by Brikkuni | Album Review

Brikkuni debuting songs from Rub Al Khali during a concert at the Manoel Theatre in October 2015 (Photo: Chris Vella)

Brikkuni debuting songs from Rub Al Khali during a concert at the Manoel Theatre in October 2015 (Photo: Chris Vella)

“Because [Brikkuni frontman Mario Vella’s] expressions of anger and disillusionment, harsh and inflected with dark humour as they sometimes are, always come from a place of earnest emotion. Vella’s not one for protective irony or tongue-in-cheek games: his political, social and critical observations are always made plain for all to see – something that holds true for both his oft-legendary Facebook posts and the content of Brikkuni’s songs in and of themselves.

“And with Rub Al Khali he has taken his earnest approach into what is arguably the most vulnerable place imaginable. Brikkuni’s third album is a concept album, of sorts. A concept album about the dissolution of a ten-year relationship. Yeah.”

Click here to read the full review

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Unintended | Theatre Review

Close shave… too close: Mariele Zammit and Stephen Mintoff. (Photo: by Christine Joan Muscat Azzopardi)

Close shave… too close: Mariele Zammit and Stephen Mintoff. (Photo: by Christine Joan Muscat Azzopardi)

“But ironically, for all the hard-ons it seeks to inspire in our beleaguered protagonist, the second half of the play is remarkably limp as far as narrative drive is concerned. After poor Jamie is drugged and drugged over and over again and seduced into having aggressive – though it must be said, not entirely unsatisfying – sex with Diana, the play abandons its previously established vein of cheeky black humour and simmering tension in favour of a terminal descent into tired ‘torture porn’ territory.

“That Buckle is a fan of the in-yer-face theatre genre will surprise absolutely nobody – at least, not those who have followed the trajectory of Unifaun Theatre with even a fleeting sideways glance over its admirable run – and let’s face it, we all knew Unintended was heading towards a gory climax of some kind. But the problem is neither that the violence and degradation on display are ‘too much’, and neither, really, that this was a predictable move for the debut play by Unifaun’s founder and producer. The issue is one of simple story structure.”

Click here to read the full review 

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February Updates #2 | iBOy, RIMA, You Are What You Buy & the latest in Mibdul (again)

Some updates from my ‘day job’ desk-adventures. Happy to report that February is turning out to be quite the productive and creatively satisfying month. Click here to read the previous update. 

Questioning consumption | You Are What You Buy

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It was interesting to hear what Kristina Borg had to say about her project You Are What You Buy, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to assessing the implications of shopping at the supermarket.

“One of the principal themes of this project is consumption – what and how we consume. This does not solely refer to food consumption; one can also consume movies, literature and more. However, in order to reach and engage with a wider audience I felt it was necessary to work in, with and around a place of consumption that is more universal and common for all. Let’s face it, whether it’s done weekly or monthly, whether we like it or not, the supermarket remains one of the places we visit the most because […] it caters for our concerns about sustenance and comfort.”

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Kristina Borg

“An interdisciplinary approach definitely brings together different perspectives and different experiences and […] it could be a way forward for the local art scene to show and prove its relevance to one’s wellbeing. I think it is useless to complain that the arts and culture are not given their due importance if as artists we are not ready to open up to dialogue, exchange and distance ourselves from the luxury that one might associate with the arts. Talking about experience instead of a product might be what the local art scene needs. 

Click here to read the full interview

Fixing the moment | Mohamed Keita and Mario Badagliacca 

The migrants living at the Belgrade Waterfront are using the beams of abandoned tracks (or tires or rubbish) against the temperatures below zero degrees and to produce hot water. Photo by Mario Badagliacca

The migrants living at the Belgrade Waterfront are using the beams of abandoned tracks (or tires or rubbish) against the temperatures below zero degrees and to produce hot water. Photo by Mario Badagliacca

Ahead of their participation at the RIMA Photography Workshops, I got a chance to delve into the dynamics of migration — particularly the problematic way in which migratory flows are portrayed through mainstream political discourse and the media — with Sicilian photographer Mario Badagliacca, who tapped into his experience of documenting the realities of migration — most recently in my own native Belgrade — as well as Ivorian photographer Mohamed Keita, who took a self-taught route to photography after traversing Africa to reach Italy.

The power of photography is to fix the moment. Psychologically speaking, there’s a difference between perceiving a ‘fixed’ image and a ‘moving’ image (as in a video, for example). The ‘fixed’ image constrains us to reflect on it in a different way. In my case, I want the images to serve as a spur for further questions – to be curious about the stories I’m telling. I don’t want to give answers, but raise more questions. – Mario Badagliacca

Photography by Mohamed Keita

Photography by Mohamed Keita

Click here to read the full interview

Film Review | iBoy — Netflix takes the info wars to the gritty streets

Screams of the city: Tom (Bill Milner) finds himself plugged into London’s mobile network after being attacked by thugs in this formulaic but serviceable offering from Netflix

Screams of the city: Tom (Bill Milner) finds himself plugged into London’s mobile network after being attacked by thugs in this formulaic but serviceable offering from Netflix

I had fun watching the ‘Netflix Original’ iBoy — not a groundbreaking movie by any means, but certainly a fun way to spend an evening in the company of Young Adult urban sci-fi that slots into formula with a satisfying click.

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Love interest: Maisie Williams

“iBoy is yet another example of British cinema being able to strip down genre stories to their essentials and deliver up a product that, while hardly brimming with originality, still manages to create a satisfying piece of escapist entertainment. From Get Carter (1971) down to Kingsman (2014), the Brits sometimes manage to upend their Stateside counterparts by just cutting to the chase of what works without the need to inflate their budgets with unnecessary star power and special effects, while also toning down on any sentimentality and drama at script stage.”

Click here to read the full review

Patreon essay | MIBDUL & ‘that uncomfortable swerve’

MIBDUL & that uncomfortable swerve

Not exactly a ‘day job’ entry — though I wish it were — this month’s Patreon essay for our MIBDUL crowdfunding platform was all about me panicking over not having enough space to write out the story as I was planning it, and needing to make some drastic changes to accommodate this new reality.

“The thing about the detailed outlining of issues – and the rough thumbnailing of the pages in particular – is that, unlike the planning stage [in my journal], I approach them largely by instinct. This is the time when you have to feel your story in your gut, because you need to put yourself in the position of the reader, who will be feeling out the story in direct beats instead of painstakingly – and digressively – planned out notebook excursions. (To say nothing, of course, of the fact that the story needs to look good on the page – that the artwork needs the necessary room to breathe).”

Please consider donating to our Patreon page to access this essay and more

The World’s A Stage | Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Reviews – Part 3

Small Gods: Scandimania

Small Gods: Scandimania

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 2

AUGUST 4 – 13:10 – Scandimania: Gods of Ice and Fire

A hearteningly good student performance, this potted history of Norse myth felt neither bookish nor amateurish.

In what was thankfully a more straightforward homage to Norse mythology than Jethro Compton’s Loki, Sundial Theatre, the young troupe behind Scandimania succeeded in not only bringing the Norse sagas to life – impressively speeding through Creation to Ragnarok in nary an hour – but in delivering a finely polished performance using little more than their bodies and minimal props (read: a single, creatively applied ladder).

Dressed from head to toe in white, the team relied on traditional storytelling and crisply choreographed physical performances to present their take on the ever-popular epics. The minimal sets and equally sparse ‘costumes’ were a wise choice, as it allowed the story to unfold without any distractions.

It was also a good trick to keep any tackiness at bay and play into what we can assume was a modestly budgeted affair.

The company also deserve kudos for allowing their show to come to life despite the uninspiring venue – a hotel conference room is hardly an adequate arena for epic battles and cataclysmic events, but like the best storytellers, Sundial Theatre sucked you in.

This kind of event is precisely the sort of thing you hope to find at the Fringe – up-and-coming, but highly promising stuff.

AUGUST 5 – 23:50 – Comedy Sans Frontieres

From left: Francesco De Carlo, Igor Meerson, Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran, Michael Mittermeier and Yacine Belhousse

From left: Francesco De Carlo, Igor Meerson, Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran, Michael Mittermeier and Yacine Belhousse

Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring a quartet of international comedians to a sold-out crowd, for a mixed-bag night of entertainment whose good intentions, however, are undeniably heartwarming.

Eddie Izzard. Dylan Moran. Names that doubtlessly enjoy top billing in the minds of many stand-up comedy fans… particularly those of us who like our comedy a little bit absurd and a little bit surreal (and a lot of bits British).

So when I heard that this particular duo was headlining a one-off show in the very city that I was planning on visiting, I booked my tickets immediately. Who cares what the event will be about, exactly, if that pair will be leading it, I thought?

But it turns out that this was exactly the kind of reaction Izzard – the erstwhile mastermind and compere of the event – was hoping for. Essentially, with this event Izzard and Moran were using their fame for a higher purpose: namely, to bring comedians from non-English-speaking countries to a mainstream English-speaking audience.

Though it was disappointingly male-centric for an event that placed much stock in promoting diversity (“You are the future,” Izzard told us as he thanked us for indulging his cosmopolitan comedy experiment), the gig was consistently entertaining.

Taking into account the fact that stand-up in a secondary language is bound to be a notoriously difficult thing to pull off, some acts ran more smoothly than others. Germany’s Michael Mittermeier emerged the strongest of the international bunch. Not only was he entirely at ease with the English language, his set had a polished pace and tempo that a couple of the others couldn’t exactly boast of.

Despite his otherwise diminutive height, he certainly stood head and shoulders above Russia’s Igor Meerson and Italy’s Francesco De Carlo, whose material was decent but whose delivery was less of a stand-up comedy show and more of a storytelling session down at the pub.

Meerson, however, offered up some interesting cross-cultural insights. Stand-up comedy would never work in Russia, he told us, because upon hearing someone complain about their life, Russians would likely just scramble up on stage and try to help with whatever problem the comedian may be struggling with.

Like the rest of his travelling comedy comrades, France’s Yacine Belhousse placed a lot of stock in cultural stereotypes, even basing one of his gags around a hypothetical Hollywood blockbuster – a superhero film that would embody every stereotype imaginable (“It would be the only way the French could get leading roles”), while also doing his bit to demystify the idea of Paris as an eternally romantic city.

Izzard and Moran (the latter an Edinburgh resident) were on relaxed and confident form, with Izzard in particular clearly proud of the cadre of international comics he had managed to round up for our delectation. Perhaps a more sinister underbelly to all this is Izzard’s previously declared interest in running for politics; “you are the future,” smacks of exactly the kind of feel-good-factor rhetoric you’d expect a politician to peddle in (in the context of Edinburgh, this has an added bitter edge: Izzard had previously done fundraising gigs for the ‘No’ camp ahead of the Scottish Independence referendum).

Moran shuffled on stage thankfully free of any such baggage, delivering a three-part monologue with his trademark brand of inventive, meandering wit. (During the preamble, Izzard said, “I tend to be surreal and bonkers. Dylan is surreal and poetic”).

By now a consummate professional – if not something of a stand-up comedy legend – the Irish actor-comedian assumed the role of a crazed Fringe participant (bemoaning the fact that nobody has yet some to see his broomstick-installation version of Macbeth), confessed his frustration with Edinburgh machismo (I like the festival, he said, at least it brings in smiling people) and as a side-splitting coup, regaled the audience with a few paragraphs from his Fifty Shades of Grey pastiche.

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And so ends my round-up of Edinburgh Fringe highlights. Expect the blog to return to its regularly scheduled programme soon. Now that doesn’t mean I in fact know what this programme consists of, but there we are. 

High & Low | Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Reviews – Part 2

Southern-Fried Patti Smith: Christeene

Southern-Fried Patti Smith: Christeene

Click here for Part 1

AUGUST 2 – 22:10 – CHRISTEENE: The Christeene Machine

Southern-Fried Patti Smith in drag, with a dash of acid on a bed of sleaze.

Down in the Cowgate’s smoky Underbelly venue, the audience was being assaulted by a different kind of projectile fluid (see Part 1): a suspect jet of what we can only hope was water, emanating from Austin, Texas-based drag performer Christeene’s faux-vagina.

This prop pretty much sums up the concert-cum-cabaret act: unapologetically irreverent and often gross, but with an impish childishness that makes it quite endearing at the same time.

With songs like ‘Fix My Dick’ and ‘Tears from my Pussy’ (the latter – surprise surprise – being the number that gave way to the aforementioned projectile genitalia), Christeene’s schtick is far from subtle. But coupled with the performer’s Austin Texas pedigree, the between-the-songs banter is what makes the experience truly worthwhile.

As a stage presence she is both creepy and coddling. The mismatched pupils and blacked-out teeth are suggestive of an unsavory alleyway encounter, but Christeene milks this unsettling character to entertain rather than disturb.

Playing the dazed American visitor – one from the Deep South, no less – Christeene describes Edinburgh as being “like Disneyland… only with no creepy mouse comin’ up to ya and shit”.

“There be castles, fireworks and men in skirts playin’ music outta a sack… where the fuck am I?!”

But beyond the expletive-ridden drag-hillbilly facade there’s a genuinely romantic core to Christeene’s act, if you can believe it.

Accompanied by her two trusty dancers C-Baby and T-Gavel (refreshingly against-type, they’re not shy to let some flab hang out), that the Christeene Machine is all about losing your inhibitions should come as no surprise. But Christeene is also on a mission to liberate us from the deadening structures that crush our individuality and invade on our intimate private space.

Noting how ridiculous we’d all look tapping away at our smartphones – which we’re all “slaves” to – while also negotiating Edinburgh’s often-cobbled streets, Christeene implores the audience to safeguard that “little pony inside of you”, and to not let it be harvested by the relentless and numbing churn of the zeitgeist.

It’s not too dissimilar from the right-on live performance preaching from the likes of Patti Smith (whom I was also lucky enough to catch – on my adoptive home island, no less – earlier this year). Except that thankfully, Christeene does away Smith’s brand of post-hippie pseudo-spirituality in favour of an (un)healthy dose of Southern-Fried sleaze.

AUGUST 3 – 15:30 – Simon Callow in Juvenalia

Simon Callow in Juvenalia

A politically incorrect diatribe that grasps at topical relevance, but still boasts a melancholy core if you’re patient enough to look for it.

It is a testament to the healthy variety one can find at the Fringe (if, that is, you do in fact manage to machete your way through the stand-up comedy) that you can quite literally descend into an underworld to experience an act like Christeene on one day, and then head back up the next to watch a National Treasure (™) like Simon Callow channel an ancient Roman satirist.

That’s not to say that Juvenalia, a revival of Callow’s own 1970s take on Juvenal’s Satires, puts much stock in pomp and ceremony.

Working off translation by Peter Green (as adapted by Richard Quick), the show pitches the condensed and cherry-picked selection of Juvenal’s vitriolic rants against… well, pretty much anyone and anything… as nothing other than a stand-up comedy show (the show’s poster tagline spells it out for you: ‘Stand-Up Comedy as last delivered in AD 100’).

That particular gimmick may not have been the wisest. While taking the form of a sustained monologue, much in the same way as your run-of-the-mill stand-up comedy show would – Callow’s subject is not an easy pill to swallow, and the claims of Juvenal’s contemporary relevance are strained at best.

The fact is that the Roman satirist, while acerbically entertaining, remains a product of his time. That he is ‘democratic’ in his vitriol – virtually no class of citizen or ruler is spared from his acid tongue – cannot conceal the unpleasant prejudices that power his most sustained rants.

Juvenal’s misogyny is particularly hard to root for, and the production does nothing to contextualise it in a way that would make it palatable.

But though Juvenalia is sold to us as a stand-up comedy show that happens to be delivered from beyond the grave by a long-dead historical figure, it’s saving grace is in how it differs from other exponents of the genre it’s trying to ape.

By the end of the performance, you realize that, far from being a meandering monologue, Juvenalia allows for a change of pace.

Come the final act, we’re allowed a peek into a weary Juvenal; anger takes a back seat to reveal what’s at the core of his philosophy: a call for virtue in simplicity.

Though the show doesn’t do itself any favours by trying to compete with the myriad stand-up comedy events at the Fringe, the negative backlash it’s received feels slightly disproportionate.

Rather than a still-topical piece of mordant satire, Juvenal stands on its own as an intriguing character study – a sustained ‘unpeeling’ of a bitter man which at the end allows us to see the pain within.

Though Callow delivers his lines with gusto, judging by the marketing campaign and general pitch of the show, it seems as if he may be blind to the show’s true strength… even after all these years.

Next time: SCANDIMANIA! IZZARD! 

Crime & Punishment | Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Reviews – Part 1

Before I set off for my first-ever trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I laid out a couple of unassailable ground-rules for myself, namely:

1) No stand-up comedy. There did turn out to be an exception to this rule (more on that later, and trust me when I say that it truly was exceptional), but the fact is that the Fringe has become over-saturated with stand-up over the past few years (or so I hear from my kind hosts) and even if I wanted to delve into the comedy on show, it would take me a good couple of days to rifle through that particular section of the programme to isolate a few favourites. Which brings me to the next rule.

2) No running around like a headless chicken. Look, I know that a part of the Fringe’s appeal is that it’s a gathering of both the best and worst performing arts talent – that it’s supposed to be, in theory, a democratic free-for-all that both showcases tried-and-tested quality talent and provides a testing ground for up-and-comers. And though I understand the appeal of just wandering into – often free-of-charge – student productions and stand-up comedy shows by unknowns, I didn’t want to add that element of randomness to the hassle of finding my way around venues in a city I wouldn’t have been all that familiar with anyway.

Despite these restrictions, however, I still think I managed to pinpoint a selection of events that were both eclectic and very much worth my time. Here’s reviews for the first two – more to come!

AUGUST 1 – 14:00 – The Capone Trilogy: Loki

The Capone Trilogy by Jethro Compton Productions

A blisteringly energetic comedy of errors that owes more to classic-era Hollywood than Norse mythology.

Jethro Compton Productions set themselves an admirable challenge: perform a six-play cycle at this year’s Fringe, all of which take characters from history, literature and mythology as a starting point and transpose them to a specific historical setting: World War I in the case of ‘The Bunker Trilogy’ (Morgana, Agamemnon and Macbeth) and, well, you-know-what in the case of ‘The Capone Trilogy’ (Loki, Lucifer and Vindici).

Being a fan of trickster myths in general and Norse mythology in particular, I decided to sample Loki out of this batch of intriguing-sounding and supposedly ‘immersive’ one-act plays.

Well as it turned out the mythological hook was just that – a convenient way of labeling what is essentially a rat-a-tat pastiche of classic-era Hollywood gangster films and imbuing it with some post-facto gravitas. To wit: the only real connection to the titular Norse trickster god is our protagonist’s name: Lola Keen (!), a showgirl keen to put herself on the straight and narrow path – an ambition we see unravel in front of our very eyes as Lola consistently fails to remain faithful to her dull and morally upright husband on the eve of their wedding night.

The extent to which the production is in fact ‘immersive’ is largely down to just the size of the venue itself. Studio 7 of the C-Nova is transformed into a cramped hotel room that soon develops an often abused and potentially dangerous revolving door policy. Preece remains an alluring and likable presence throughout – the beat-perfect slapstick that underpins the entire play leaves little room for wallowing in the casual cruelty of Lola’s behaviour, instead moving things along and making sure that the gags are coming in thick and fast.

Preece’s co-stars David Calvitto and Oliver Tilney deserve the lion’s share of the credit, however, as they effortlessly alternate between a myriad of characters which run the gamut from henpecked husbands, hot-blooded Italian suitors, the good/bad cop combo, submissive bellboys and clueless gangsters.

Written by Jamie Wilkes and directed by Jethro Compton, the play is neither formally groundbreaking nor emotionally resonant, but it commits so entirely to the source material that it’s paying homage to that it can’t help but be a raucously entertaining hour from start to finish.

AUGUST 2 – 15:15 – The Lieutenant of Inishmore

The Lieutenant of Inishmore

A blood-splattered satire penned by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) that does for IRA-inspired splinter groups what Four Lions did for hare-brained Muslim fundamentalists.

This In Yer Face Theatre production not only lives up to its company’s name with a vengeance – it also paved the way to a Fringe day marked by projectile fluids (more on that in the next post).

As someone who holds the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Clive Barker and Nicolas Winding Refn as cultural touchstones, the promise of being splattered in blood during a live theatre show was bound to capture my interest either way – good thing that IYF succeed in giving McDonagh’s brutally funny script a run for its money: the cast-and-crew clearly get that, despite the frequent jets of blood and gristly acts of violence that occur during the course of this short-and-sharp one act (both on and off stage), the play is first and foremost a goofy farce, albeit one with a politically-focused satirical backbone.

Self-styled ‘Lieutenant’ of IRA splinter-group INLA Padraic (Mark Barrett) takes a break from administering brutal justice to INLA infidels after he’s drawn back to his hometown of Inishmore. The reason? His beloved cat, Wee Thomas, is revealed by his drunken father Donny (Kenny MacLeod) to be doing “poorly”.

The fact that the poor cat is beyond any help is, hilariously, what propels this (literally) bloody mess of a play into action.

The (once again) minuscule performance space at the Hill Street Drama Lodge is made to look like Dexter’s ‘kill room’, with black plastic bags coating the room from floor to ceiling. That the audience (never topping the 15-seat mark) is given ponchos to guard from the jets of splatter that we’re promised is to come adds to the excitement.

But the play itself both plays into and transcends this initial gimmick. It’s a bloody play, yes, but this isn’t a scary fun-fair ride, it’s a knowing and urbane take-down of the ignorance that underpins fundamentalist, retribution politics.

Though a penchant for gore and black humour may be necessary to go along with the ride as gleefully as the play asks you to, the gory set pieces are more Looney Tunes than torture porn, and McDonagh partakes in a noble satirical tradition which uses humour to show how grisly but supposedly righteous acts of terror are often executed by clueless idiots operating on a murky-at-best understanding of ideology.

Next time: CHRISTEENE!

The Butler on the Heath | Joseph Marcell

 

Joseph Marcell as King Lear and Rawiri Paratene as Gloucester. Photo by Ellie Kurrtz

Joseph Marcell as King Lear and Rawiri Paratene as Gloucester. Photo by Ellie Kurrtz

So I got to interview Joseph Marcell, aka Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, for the paper a couple of week’s ago.

The phone interview was arranged in light of his forthcoming visit to Malta, where he will be playing the title role in The Globe Theatre’s touring production of King Lear.

I will admit to feeling star-struck by the opportunity. I will also admit to succumbing to a slight bout of panic when the phone number I was instructed to call appeared to be non-existent. But once that logistical hiccup was ironed out, Mr Marcell instantly put my nerves at ease, doing good to the memory of Geoffrey with his effortlessly cordial demeanour.

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“From where I’m standing… I think what people responded to [in Geoffrey] was the fact that he’s an employee who doesn’t hesitate to criticise his employers. He’s not a bore: he pushes the boundaries and risks things all the time.”

“Upon my return to the UK, I didn’t have white lilies in my dressing room, a personal assistant and Voss water from Norway – I had to deal with that kind of stuff (laughs)! But seriously, it was difficult in some ways because the Hollywood thing is that you have people who do things for you – in the theatre, on the other hand, you do things for yourself.”

“To be honest, that is the sort of thing you think when you’re in your 20s – that King Lear is the role you ought to be playing later on in your career. But then when you get there you realise there’s so much more to it than that.”

Click here for the full interview