Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Deux jours à Paris

One never tires of Paris. Just back from a couple of days on the continent. I think I have exceeded my usual monthly calorie intake in just two days by gorging on wine, cheese, snails and crêpes.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Things I Currently Love v.4

• This week I got my hands on some advance reading copies of new novels that have been on my radar. It has been good timing - the deeper I get into my research and writing of a thesis chapter, the more I need to have my mind be elsewhere before turning in. Steven wrote this week that he can't read in bed. My comment to his post was bordering on incredulous - I do most of my reading lying down. Granted, I have perpetually raging insomnia, but literally curling up with a good book and a warm duvet and being horizontal with nothing else to do afterwards but sleep? Love.

• I spent the evening a little while ago in the most wonderful bar I've been to in years. Firevault is a fireplace showroom...and a bar. Warm, flickering flames dancing around the entire room with a fabulous wine list and the best cosmopolitan I've ever sampled. Let me reiterate. Sinking into a couch next to a fireplace on a winter night with a delicious cocktail. Love.

• Rather out of the blue, I am suddenly off to Cairo for a few days next month. The pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile, the Khan el-Khalil and me in the same place. Love.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Days at the National Theatre

Tonight: Happy Days with Fiona Shaw at the National Theatre. The set was absolutely astounding - perhaps the best I have ever seen. (Created by set designer Tom Pye, you can read more about the creation of it here.) The photograph doesn't really do the set justice - it was like the combination of the aftermath of a catastrophic war and the lonely surface of the moon with spotlights. When I read the play many years ago in university, I pictured the stage as quite small - something I thought as a necessity for such an extended monologue composed of fragmented thought. But the Lyttelton Theatre is huge and therefore it needs a huge stage presence to pull off the material. Enter Fiona Shaw.

She was luminous, just as she was in Woman and Scarecrow. Beckett is never given enough credit for his humour, maybe because it is difficult to pull off in performance. Shaw seems to have created the perfect blend to reel off these important lines: part deadpan delivery, part unassuming persona and part delicious irony.

The program quotes Roger Michell, who worked with Beckett on the 1979 production of Happy Days at the Royal Court. He recalls that at the end of one long day of rehearsal, Beckett said with a wry smile, "That's it. Now I must return to my room and resume my inspection of the empty space."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Seagull at the Royal Court

Last night I saw The Seagull at the Royal Court Theatre - it plays until mid-March and its run is already completely sold out. And rightly so - it was brilliant. Very rarely do I sit through a three hour play and lose my own sense of time, an even greater achievement when you consider that Chekhov isn't always the most engaging of playwrights.

Kristin Scott Thomas (even more stunning in person), Chiwetel Eijofor, and Mackenize Crook were good, but the show was almost stolen by (according to her resume) a relatively inexperienced actor. Playing the young, passionate and ultimately destroyed Nina was Carey Mulligan. Michael Billington writes that Mulligan "doesn't fully convey Nina's ravening ambition" and I can see his point. But her excitement at her decision to become an actress and her anguish when she is tossed aside by Eijofor's Trigorin was palpable.

My friends and I took up residence in the wonderful Royal Court bar after the performance and suddenly realized that Kristin Scott Thomas, Mackenzie Crook and some of the other cast were relaxing with drinks behind us. Caught up in the atmosphere of the Royal Court (where else do the actors drink in the same bar as the patrons afterwards?) I signalled the waitress and bought the actors a round of drinks. Mackenize Crook came over to the table to thank us and had a wee chat. This is exactly why I live in London.