May 31, 2007

Sizwe Bansi is Dead :: Warwick Arts Centre

This is actually the first play I’ve seen directed by Peter Brook. Brook is famous for his minimalist approach, which was certainly in evidence here – although I have to say that I can’t think of any other way that this play might be staged, and would like to see some more of his work to get more a sense of what makes his style so distinctive. His _Sizwe_ had some great distinctive modern touches though, and the fact that it was in French helped to bring out the universal theme of racial oppression that can sometimes get lost when too much emphasis is placed on the play’s historical apartheid context.

Pitcho Womba Konga as Sizwe/Robert and Habib Démbéle as Buntu

Habib Démbéle was great as Styles/Buntu, and brought a great variety of physical quirks to his roles, particularly excelling in the comical portrayal of old men. I did feel at certain points though that the play relied too heavily on physical narration of his monologue, which made the pace drag slightly, gifted though his performance was. I also thought sometimes that his habit of putting different voices made it difficult to distinguish moments where his character exploded with genuine anger or exasperation, because it sounded like yet another caricatured performance. Pitcho Womba Konga was striking as the simplistic, embattled Sizwe/Robert, a man struggling to come to terms with the fact that he must forsake his identity in order to continue surviving under a racially oppressive regime.

There was a nicely self-referntial moment where Buntu pretended to be the factory manager paying out fares to his various workers, beginning his long list of names with John Kani and Winston Ntshona – the two legendary actors who devised the play with Athol Fugard (and starred in the original). One of the most effective moments was when a drunk Sizwe started protesting at his right to retain his identity. Played it with a great mix of pathos and very palpable anger, drawing some nervous laughs from the audience when he approached a white woman in the front row and started shouting about his rights.

For me the production was strongest when it brought out the parallels between apartheid and the modern moment, confronting the audience with the fact that what should now be an example of heritage theatre is still pressing today. Having seen two productions of the play it this year, I’m inclined to think that, although a good play, it’s not quite as powerful a piece of writing as The Island, but this was a worthwhile experience nonetheless (and fantastic value for Warwick students at £5 a ticket on Student Standby!).


September 11, 2006

A home for idle people

Writing about web page http://www.idler.co.uk

idlerStumbled upon this completely at random during a slow day at work. Not really had time to get to grips with it fully yet, but have a look: it’s crying out as an untapped resource for people who like setting aside a sizeable chunk of their day to be placid and do very little. So basically, students (What? Some stereotypes are there to be perpetuated – it’s a vicious cycle). Especially if you’re a student who has enough time to be looking at this blog.

It’s an online magazine, with some nice articles, interviews (including one with Michael Palin) and a random spread of interesting, idler-friendly events, all of which is distinctly UK in flavour (it always goes down smooth).

Go forth, and idle.


Nuru Kane – Sigil

Writing about web page http://www.worldmusic.net

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Nuru Kane is a Senegalese musician, who encompasses and incorporates both North African and West African influences in his songs. To be honest, this means very little to me at the moment (my interest is still developing), but this album has inspired me to find out more. It’s predominantly an acoustic offering, but one with plenty of variation: sometimes it’s bluesy and chilled, other times tribal and invigorating. I really found myself listening to the lyrics on Sigil, which is all the more impressive because none of them are English. Maybe that was just me trying to test my rusty GCSE French, but more likely it’s simply because Kane’s quietly intense vocals and instrumentation commanded my attention for the entire album (which clocks in at a fairly hefty total playing time of 62.13 minutes) . Definitely worth checking out. Now I just need to find out when he’s next playing the UK…


September 07, 2006

Heads up: Brixton Stories

Brixton StoriesThose in and around London who are partial to a bit of theatre might want to check out Brixton Stories, which has just recently started at the Lyric in Hammersmith:

“Witness a world of word-mongers, soap-box philosophers and preachers through the eyes of Ossie Jones and his daughter as they walk through the streets of Brixton. As Ossie comes to terms with the loss of his wife, and his daughter searches to find her father again, Bandele weaves fantasy and reality together to take you on this magical and enchanting journey.”

This is a stage adaptation of Biyi Bandele’s magic realist novel, which he himself is directing. Whether you’ve read the novel or not (I haven’t), it definitely sounds interesting!


September 05, 2006

the thought kitchen

nau logoDuring my daily round I came across this promising little blog here, from a new company called Nau. The subject is one that I am slowly taking more and more of an interest in: sustainability There’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about this particular entry, I just really like the way it’s worded, and so I would encourage everyone who gives a crap about our planet to read it.

(Get me being all politically-charged today. Believe me: this is depressingly rare. Future blogs will probably fit a lot more along the lines of “ooh, shiny, look!” You have been warned.)


Facebook News–Feed

Writing about web page http://www.facebook.com

UPDATE THE SECOND: Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has posted a big open letter apologising for the Feed, announcing that Privacy controls have now been put in place for people to control exactly what they will allow to show up on the feed (if anything at all). Isn’t that nice? Ok, they should have thought it through in the first place, but it’s nice to see that moaning masses occasionally have some clout. Who knows? Today: Facebook! Tomorrow: Peace in the Middle East!

big-brotherFor those that use Facebook, what the hell is up with their new Newsfeed feature?? At first I was charmed by yet another new gimmick and the spruced up interface, but after this initial magpie-like fascination it’s quickly become clear that this is a case of “too much information”. WAY too much information. Sure, there’s the argument that you shouldn’t be using a community site like Facebook unless you want your information to be accessible to others; the problem with Newsfeed (and the equally annoying Minifeed) is that I can see it being abused far too quickly. Tiny details about people’s habits, as well as the messages they send to friends, are too easily available to anyone who’s gone through the procedure of adding them as a Facebook friend (hardly a rigorous screening procedure). Yes, people can ultimately get hold of this anyway, but not without expending a good deal more time and effort than this allows.

This smacks of Big Brother (the creepy Orwellian kind), and isn’t something that makes me particularly keen to carry on using this online “community”. Which is a shame really, because I was started to get quite fond of Facebook.

The Newsfeed has been rammed down our throats without allowing us any option for disabling it. What can we do about it? Complain! Join one of a growing number of anti-Newsfeed groups that are cropping up, and log a complaint. Of course, if you’re feeling malicious like I was a few hours ago, you can track down the brains behind this “great” new idea and administer a bit of rough justice, Facebook style: with a good old poke.

UPDATE:

Hey,

We understand that some people are unhappy or
concerned about the recent changes to Facebook.
Your feedback is welcome and appreciated because our
goal is to make a website that is in line with our
users’ expectations. As we consider future changes
and modifications, we will certainly keep everyone’s
opinions in mind. We think, however, that once you
become familiar with the new layout and features,
you will find these changes just as useful as past
improvements such as Photos, Groups, and the Wall.

We introduced News Feed and Mini-Feed because we
wanted to make it easier than ever before to see
interesting, relevant pieces of information from the
world around you. News Feed automatically generates
the most recent news stories about your friends so
that you have a resource available to guide your
movement throughout the site. Mini-Feed allows you
to quickly and easily see the latest developments in
the lives of people whose profiles you choose to
visit.

What is important to remember with all of these
features is that we are not allowing anyone to see
anything that they wouldn’t normally be allowed to
see. For example, if you join a secret group, any
friends that are not members will not receive a News
Feed story about this action. Similarly, when they
look at your Mini-Feed, they will not be able to see
a story about you joining the group. The settings
that are established on the My Privacy page and the
settings that apply to Photo albums, Notes, Groups,
Events, etc. dictate the stories that are displayed
in News Feed and Mini-Feed. Although there is no
option to completely turn off Mini-Feed, all users
have the option to hide individual stories. If you
select the ‘X’ button to the right of any of your
own stories, that content will no longer be visible
to anyone viewing your Mini-Feed. Facebook prides
itself in giving users complete control over the
information that they share with others. Let us
know if you have any questions about the privacy
settings that we offer.

Thanks for using Facebook!


Brendan

Customer Support Representative
Facebook

Sigh. So it’s a case of “we realise you have objections, but we’re not going to do anything about it. Deal with it.”


Frozen Land

Movie image
Title:
Frozen Land
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Saw this incredibly bleak Finnish film last week. It’s similar to Crash in that it features several different protagonists whose messed up lives are all interconnected in some way. The story is kicked off by the forgery of a 500 Euro note, which passes through the lives of several characters, old and young, as they struggle to make it in an unforgiving city where vice and money hold more sway than integrity and honesty. The key difference between this and Crash is that Frozen Land is devoid of any of the latter’s Hollywood warmth – it offers an unremittingly bleak picture of life, and more subtly too: the semi-improvised dialogue never at any point veers towards the occasionally cod-polemic tone of Crash. I can’t make my mind up though. Frozen Land struck me as being a good film (just to clarify, so did Crash), but I still can’t really pin down why I think this is, especially as my overriding impression was that I don’t want to see it again any time soon. The title provides a neat little analogy: I’d describe this film as bleak because it made me quietly melancholy and contemplative, rather than manically depressed. Frozen rather than heated, if you like. Pace is probably a big contributing factor here: Frozen Land is a slow film (despite what the blurb might have you believe), where people don’t so much crash as slowly unravel (barring one notable exception involving a train, which I don’t want to give away too much more about. Or remember.) I felt similar after watching Capote , another good film which I’d probably to struggle to sit through again, and left me feeling slightly cold and empty. It’ll be interesting to see how Frozen Land is received, but I’d recommend it.

Incidentally, the film is loosely inspired by Tolstoy’s novel False Note, which I haven’t read. I have read Anna Karenina though and the connection makes sense: a none-too-cheery study of human interaction and the inevitable misery that results from it. Maybe I’ll read False Note and see if that sheds any new light on the film.

…On second thought I think I’ll just leave it at that and say that it’s worth seeing. I just hope my upcoming visit to Finland is more cheerful.


August 18, 2006

This is my blog.

And so it begins.

I started this thing in a fit of boredom, and because I decided I wasn't being creative enough. And now I'm going to leave this little message here to stare accusingly at me until I update.


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