Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mozart's Sister

This wonderful French film, (Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart) presents a family making ends meet by travelling from one wealthy 18th century European establishment to another...including the Palace of Versailles. The family are the Mozarts, of course, and the two children, Nannerl and Wolfgang, are both prodigies in an age when such beings were supposedly commonplace. The only problem is that Nannerl is a girl, and while her talents are almost on a par with Mozart the child, her father doesn't take them into account. She's useful as a (very good) accompanist to Wolfgang when he's playing solo violin, and she can sing as well, but her compositions are disregarded by her father, and she always plays a literal second fiddle to the prodigious youth. 

The film is strongly feminist in the most gentle way: thought by the end you want to bang some of the men's heads together (and a few of the women's). 

René Féret is the director, and his daughter Marie plays Nannerl, while another daughter plays the youngest of the three princesses sent by the King into virtual exile in a French Abbey. Marie Féret is excellent in a wonderfully subdued way, constantly moving forward an inch in a society where she's 'just' a woman and then being hauled back out of the way to make room for the men. She brings an extraordinary quiet warmth to the role, and provides some heartbreaking moments. 

The other outstanding performance is from David Moreau who plays Wolfgang. We're never quite sure what his age is because his father insists of promoting him as being younger than he actually is, but he's roughly ten or eleven. Moreau has to play violin in several scenes, and does it superbly. He has a wonderful naivety about him, like a child unaware, almost, of his genius. 

The music throughout is wonderful, some of it genuine to the period, some composed by Marie-Jeanne Serero. Nannerl's compositions were apparently destroyed (in the film she throws her violin concerto in the fire), and consequently we have no idea of her composing ability. The hints found in letters between her and other members of her family, however, imply that she was certainly very capable. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Captain Phillips and City of Ghosts

Two movies - Captain Phillips and City of Ghosts - take us to foreign climes where unconventional things happen. In the first movie we know exactly what's going to happen because it's hinted at so strongly from the beginning that we'd have to be stupid not to read the signals. In the second movie, which begins in New York but soon after heads to Cambodia, we have almost no idea what's happening, what's happened, and what will happen. Eventually we get the picture, but it takes quite some time, and if it wasn't so well crafted and full of such eccentric characters, we might not hang around to find out. 

Captain Phillips is earnest, and super realistic. City of Ghosts takes place in a world where apparently only peculiar people live - with the exception of the main character (played by Matt Dillon, who also directed and co-wrote the film). Even his love interest is a strange woman who seems to have no life beyond the moment. 

Captain Phillips was intensely exciting, although much too long: we know from the beginning that Phillips, the captain of a container ship heading through pirate waters will be boarded by the most ambitious but tiny group of Somali pirates; there are only four of them and they argue with and scream at each other - and everyone else - a good deal. And we know that once he's taken prisoner by them - they're allowed to escape with some money onto a lifeboat - that he'll eventually get rescued. This is a film based on a true story, and Phillips survived. 

Yet somehow in the midst of all the tension the films' often quite dull; the crew of the container ship are played in a way that allows none of them to be individuals, and Tom Hanks is left to carry most of the movie on his own. Of course he can do this, but he no one to play against before the Somalis arrive, and once they do it's all shouting and screaming and scrambling to get out of the way of bullets. It's perhaps indicative of the script that the opening scene, in which Hanks and his wife head to the airport for the umpeenth time so he can fly to the place where he'll board his ship, consists of a dialogue that is not only intentionally banal but oddly uninteresting. Hanks and Catherine Keener (who plays his wife) seem to be wondering what the heck they've got themselves into, script-wise.

City of Ghosts holds our attention as it wends its way through a very murky and surprisingly long opening stretch by providing us with a bunch of quality actors (including those playing very small parts) who bring individuality not just by having quirky roles to play but by being individuals themselves. (Of course the actors in Captain Phillips are different people; but they're not given anything to get their teeth into.) The cast of this film are such a varied bunch that you begin to wonder if Cambodia doesn't attract strange Europeans. They're like the actors who used to play in the old noir movies: such a movie might not be up to much itself but once you add in the likes of Peter Lorre and co, even in small roles, you have interest and intensity on the screen: those actors never failed to bring life to their parts, however well or badly written they were. 

The roles here aren't badly written at all: the actors might not always say much but we know that there's plenty of subtext, and we wait expectantly to find out what the heck they're on about. Matt Dillon plays a man with some considerable angst; it's an angst he can hide from the FBI, but once he gets to Cambodia, he starts to unravel in some degree. Nevertheless, unravelling isn't where he intends going, and he spends more of the movie ravelling up again than unravelling.

Stellan Skarsgård is a world-weary character, one of the henchmen of the elusive Marvin (played by James Caan with an awful confidence and suave evil), and he remains ambiguous from whoa to go. Whose side is he really on, and is he going to get his comeuppance or not? Should he get it, even? We sympathise with him; he's trapped in his own corrupt behaviour and can't find a moral way out again.

Gérard Depardieu is a fat, barkeeper-cum-hotelier who lies through his teeth with almost every sentence he utters, who keeps control of the crazies who come into his bar, and who carries a bambino of mixed parentage around with him much of the time. Depardieu is obviously enjoying himself in the role, though he's not as consistently at home in it as the other members of the cast are in theirs. 

At first it seems as though Dillon is merely filling up his screen with oddballs to make things quirky. But the oddballs are in part caused by the strange country that Cambodia is, and Dillon is intent on making us realise that Cambodia isn't the place for unwary tourists to go. One of the apparently drug-addicted archaeologists (I think that's what the group were) soon succumbs to the evil that's just under the surface because of his naivety and because of his assumption that Europeans/Americans can behave as they like. 

When the plot finally kicks in, about halfway through the movie, things both tighten up and also become a bit more conventional. But Dillon has a way of putting scenes together that eschews the usual. There's an element of Fellini in the way he peoples the film with the curious and misshapen, and perhaps another director would have concentrated on different kinds of theatrics. Nevertheless, the risks he takes in filming the story this way pays off. 

Dillon takes another risk, that of casting a real-life taxi-driver, Sereyvuth Kem, as the man who takes him everywhere in one of those pedi-cart taxis. Kem provides a wonderful gentleness and wisdom, a cleanliness and honesty in the midst of the city's widespread corruption. You can believe that this man would very likely do the good things he does in the movie. He's virtually the heart of the movie. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Birthday update

I turned 70 yesterday (for some reason I invariably type 708 when I go to write that; not sure what that's saying about me). Facebook came to the party in a big way, by giving umpteen friends from all over the place the chance to wish me Happy Birthday. If FB provided no other service than the ability for dozens of people to give someone birthday greetings it would be  worthwhile. 

So a big thanks (again) to all those who wished me well. 

There were a number of unexpected highlights in the day, which hadn't been planned as being the day on which we celebrated most. (We're having a get-together of friends this coming Sunday, and had a family party last Sunday). Amongst the FB greetings a friend with a great sense of humour sent me the link to this wonderful You Tube video in which a bunch of classical composers provide variations on Happy Birthday. It's very well done. 

I share my birthday with three wider family members as well as at least three old friends. One of these we haven't been in touch with for some time because we'd lost contact. He didn't appear to be on FB, so I put a note on there asking if anyone knew where he was. Didn't get a response, but got home about eight last night to find a message on the phone: he'd decided to ring me to wish me happy birthday. It was completely unrelated to the FB message!

The ladies' singing group I conduct, The Choristers, had a concert at one of Dunedin's rest homes yesterday. We got ourselves all sorted out, ready to sing; I stood up and announced the first song, turned round and started to conduct, and they sang Happy Birthday instead. Took me quite some time to get my brain back into place.

My wife, daughter and grandson had booked to go and see the talk on the Aurora Australis at 5.30. This has been so popular that they'd had to shift the venue from the Museum to a long and large room in the Forsyth Barr stadium. It was the third time they'd presented it, and there was another session following at seven o'clock. When I say 'talk' it was actually several talks: half a dozen guys, including Ian Griffin @iangriffin  and Paul le Comte , enthusing about  the fact that we can see the Aurora Australis fairly regularly right on our Dunedin doorstep. Apparently we're in one of the peak times for seeing it at present: auroras depend on what the sun is doing, and there are peaks and troughs over several years. 

The photography of several auroras was outstandingly beautiful; you can only imagine what it must be like to be on the spot. And the 'spot' is only a few miles away in some cases. 

Anyway, after going to that (for free, too) my wife and I decided we'd eat out rather than going home to cook a meal, and after some sorting out as to where to go - there was an extraordinary number of cars parked in the city last night, so finding a park was difficult  - we finished up going out to South Dunedin, to the Adana Turkish restaurant. Lovely atmosphere, friendly service, and outstanding meal. It made a great ending to a great day. 

Friday, May 01, 2015

Once my Mother

Once my Mother is a kind of two-pronged documentary in which the Australian director, Sophia Turkiewicz, explores the horror journey that her mother, an orphan from a young age, had to endure, as well as her own journey of learning to forgive her mother after she’d ‘abandoned’ her in an orphanage in Australia. 
Helen, the mother, born in Poland in the years before the Second World War, lost both her parents early on. She went to live for a few years with an uncle in Poland, but he suddenly threw her out on the streets when she was 11 or 12. In the first of several intrepid undertakings she walked to the nearest big town, and survived on the streets for four years (!), without ever being forced into prostitution.
The Russians took over half of Poland after Hitler divided the country up between Germany and Russia - without asking the Poles. Thousands of Poles were sent to Siberia by train where they were forced to work in the freezing weather. Their general, Anders, refused to train them for the Russian army. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Anders (he must have been a brave man to stand up to Stalin): Continued friction with the Soviets over political issues as well as shortages of weapons, food and clothing, led to the eventual exodus of Anders' men – known as the Anders Army – together with a sizeable contingent of Polish civilians via the Persian Corridor into Iran, Iraq and Palestine. Here, Anders formed and led the 2nd Polish Corps, fighting alongside the Western Allies, while agitating for the release of Polish nationals still in the Soviet Union. 
In the movie Sophia makes the point that the Polish men wouldn't leave without the women and children, so they all went. 
Helen was part of this huge exodus; it required them to walk 2000 miles to the south of Russia, and later they went on another extraordinary walk 2000 miles east. Finally after these two awful treks she finished up in Africa, in a British refugee camp. She met an Italian prisoner-of-war and he fathered a child with her. However, he was sent back to Italy after the war. Being a solo mother she was castigated yet eventually, when the refugees were sent on, she got to Australia (Perth, initially) and finally to Adelaide. She was forced to leave her daughter in the orphanage for two years so she could get work; again, as a solo mother she was sidelined. 
She managed to find a Polish man amongst the circle of refugees, a man who was willing to marry her, even though he knew she didn’t particularly love him or find him attractive. Thankfully he was a good guy, and Sophia was brought home into the family. The marriage prospered and other children came along. 
It took Sophia a long time to get over her sense of abandonment, but finally in her fifties (!) she managed to see that her mother’s abandonment had been far more severe than her own. How the mother got through all she did when hundreds were dying around her is hard to grasp. 
There's a great deal of archival material, some of it seeminglessly woven in with acted shots, clips from an earlier film Sophia made about her mother, and more recent material filmed when Helen was living in an old people's home. It's an extraordinarily moving film. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Detective Zen

We've been watching a three-part series called Zen, about an Italian detective working in Rome. There were going to be more in the series, but it was cancelled...ratings weren't good enough, of course.

The series is based on three books by English writer Michael Dibdin, and strangely enough, the first of the books is actually the third in the series; so plainly there's been some mucking about with the original stories.

The most curious thing about the series, it seemed to me, is that it's filmed in Rome almost entirely with British actors. There's no attempt by these actors to speak in anything but their ordinary accents, including a Northern one and an Irish one. But the main female character in the story is played by an Italian, and the actress, Caterina Murino, has a distinct Italian accent. Which makes you wonder why everyone else doesn't have an Italian accent too. Rather odd.

Rufus Sewell plays Zen, a policeman with integrity - presumably since it's mentioned so often this is something of an anomaly - and he does the role well. But the plots, at least in the TV versions, are pretty muddled, and there are regular characters who come and go without any introduction. They seem to turn up as needed and then are forgotten again.

There's a slight underpacing about the series; it's not that it needs to be all action, but somehow there's a feeling that it could all go just a bit faster and wouldn't lose anything by it. And there's an underlying sleaziness in regard to Murino's character: the policemen in the department have laid bets on who will sleep with her first. This distasteful process continues right through the three episodes, and reduces the impact of some of the characters. Perhaps it's a common thing in Rome. As is police corruption, apparently.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Quirky woods

Some while back I wrote a few posts on quirky places in Dunedin - here, for instance, or here, and here. These posts, which date from 2009 and 2011, are now all in need of updating. I've just updated the one on quirky water, for instance, though it could probably do with a total overhaul.

Anyway, to add to the 'series,' my wife and I today discovered 73 Hillary St. Celia had seen something about it online when she was searching for the whereabouts of chestnut trees in Dunedin, and suggested we go and look.

Well, the chestnut trees, as far as we could see, are still at a fairly early stage of their existence, and won't be producing chestnuts for a while yet. This site has to be one of the most unknown places in the city. Obviously locals know about it, but I doubt if the general population is up with it.

For a start, even though it has a street number online, there's no sign, and certainly no postbox. You go down an unmarked track between 71 and 75 and after encountering a couple of metal stands that stop people taking bikes in, you find yourself in a wonderful area full of trees - new and old - between the back of the Hillary St houses and the Motorway. It's a bit noisy at times, because of the cars going up and down the motorway, but it still manages to be very peaceful.

It's a piece of land on the hillside that is undulating, to say the least. Some of it is steep(ish) and some flat(ish). The ground underneath you is at present carpeted with thousands of leaves, so it's lovely to walk on. It's a bit like being in a English wood, although most English woods would be older and the trees would be ancient. There are some elderly trees here, but also plenty of new ones coming along, plus a good number of rhododendron bushes still in their youth.

It has a charm all its own - the dog loved it, and we loved it too. You could picnic there, at a pinch, and it's surprisingly clear of rubbish (only up towards the back of one set of houses was there any sign of unrecycled stuff.

And the view across the motorway at present is a delight: hundreds of trees of all sorts of colours: browns, yellows, reds. Who needs to go to Arrowtown to see Autumn at its best?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bad and goodel

Last night we watched an Israeli movie, supposedly a comedy, about a trio of geriatrics who try to rob a bank, with the aid of the grandson of one of them. Sir Patrick Stewart (as he's listed on the cover) was one of the trio; the other two were Hebrew actors. For some reason crudity was the order of the day, along with a good deal of swearing. Which always seems worse when it appears as a subtitle. (We watched the awful Gone Girl recently with subtitles, because the dialogue was so hard to hear you wondered if they'd purposely been told to mumble most of the time. That dialogue was even more full of four-letter words - the whole range - and was really off-putting.)

The Israeli movie was called Hunting Elephants and was total nonsense, offensive to women, and filled with male characters obsessed with sex. Rubbish. Sir Patrick, curiously enough, played an actor down on his luck, who, when we first saw him, was in an abysmal production of Hamlet done with Star Wars characters. It seemed an unlikely piece for a supposedly good actor to appear in; Hunting Elephants also seemed like an unlikely piece for a very good actor to appear in.

Tonight we watched a French comedy, My Best Friend (Mon Meilleur Ami), about a man who's so involved with his own life and what he wants that he suddenly realises he has absolutely no one to share anything with, no one he can call his best friend. Furthermore he's divorced, the woman he sees regularly has had enough, and his daughter doesn't even call him Dad. As the result of a bet he makes with his female business partner, he has to produce his 'best friend' in ten days. He discovers that the best friend isn't that hard to find, but he is hard to keep, especially if the main character wants to carry on living the way he has been doing.

Daniel Auteuil plays the self-centred main character gradually warming up from frozen, and Dany Boon is the taxi-driver who seems to have more friends than he knows what to do with. It's an odd couple movie, I guess, but it's played beautifully, is never over-the-top, and is full of charm. There's only one swear word in it, and the character apologises for saying it. And it's funny.

Both Auteuil and Boon are actors who seem very familiar from other movies, yet nothing that's listed on IMDB means a thing to me. Perhaps they just look like a lot of other French actors...

Holders of various sorts

There's something wonderful about the way in which words are invented for different crafts, jobs, and technical areas. The music world has a number of them, some of which I've talked about in other posts, but here's my latest discovery: a gooseneck holder.

Rather than try and describe this, I've added a photo of one form of this rather cute device:

It reminds me of something from an animated movie, though I can't put my finger on it at the moment.

A related musical item, in a very loose sense (the main connection being that it holds something) is the folding music stand. I don't mean those solid stands that are guaranteed to hold the music upright even in an earthquake or tornado, but the ones you unfold bit by bit, trying to work out why it looks as though it's going to blow apart on you as you do so. An example is in the picture below:

The choir I conduct, The Choristers, went out to sing at a rest home today. I'd left the good music stand that they've provided for their conductor back at our rehearsal room (its only quirk is that it has a tendency for the separate parts to...separate). So I grabbed a music stand from home that I was given recently by a friend who'd got it from another friend who's since died. (Are you keeping up?) I'd been grateful to get that new one, because the one we've had in our house since my daughter was at intermediate school (it has her name and the school's name on it) is a little monster than hates to have to stand up and hold anything. It says that after nearly thirty years of being in my house it probably needs a rest. (I've given it a rest: out on the pile that's going to the junk yard.)

The one I was given recently is a more well-behaved character. I thought. As soon as I went to stand it up at the rest home, it claimed that I was opening it incorrectly, and promptly threatened to burst apart. I folded it again, tried again. It still looked as though the actual part that holds the music would throw any music placed on it onto the floor, So I folded it up and tried a third time, finally managing to figure out its intricacies. Even then it demanded not to stand in the position I wanted, but at an angle it claimed was more suitable. (It wasn't.)

Not a good way to start a performance....

Friday, April 10, 2015

Scott and Bailey

We've been watching the first series of Scott and Bailey, starring Suranne Jones and Lesley as the two detectives Bailey and Scott respectively, with Amelia Bullmore as their boss. Bullmore gets most of the best lines, but Suranne Jones is excellent as the detective whose clever in the detective area but hopeless in her love life. Sharp is great too, with a nice line in sarcasm, and a good deal more wisdom than her sidekick.

The blokes in it get the thin edge of the wedge: they play most of the villains, of course, but in general they show the worst side of men, the juvenile, the sulky husband, the sergeant who's in love with Sharp's character and keeps pestering her (he's actually played by Sharp's real life husband, Nicholas Gleaves) and worst of all, the barrister who keeps twirling Jones' character around his little finger (Rupert Graves at his slimiest).

The stories are almost secondary to the characters, and some of them are spread out over the whole six episodes, while others are tidied up within one.

Enjoyable over all, and they make a change from the far more frequent bloke detective series, though at least the English produce these kinds of series and focus on characters more than action, in general.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Some notes on current reading

My Goodreads 'currently reading' page has eleven items on it - there were ten until I realised one was missing. I'm not actually reading them all simultaneously. In fact I've (temporarily) given up on some of them.

Those on the back burner: 
Saint Francis of Assisi, by G K Chesterton. I started to read this after finishing Chesterton's book on Thomas Aquinas, which was great. For some reason, Francis just isn't cutting the mustard in the same way, and I only got about halfway through.

Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. One of those books I feel I should read. I haven't managed to get very far into it. Whether it's the translation, or Bonhoeffer's style, it's just not getting across to me.

Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss. I've started this twice, and did get further the second time. But currently it's circling the airport waiting for instructions to land again.

Coming to Peace with Science, by Darrel Falk. I began this after reading Tim Stafford's The Adam Quest, in which Falk's book is mentioned. Sorry, Mr Falk, I think you're trying to do a good job, but I couldn't hold onto both sides of the argument the way you seem to be able to. Still to be finished...

Those making progress (albeit slowly)
Hatred: Islam's war on Christianity, by Michael Coren. I'd like to keep on with this one, but the part I've read seemed mostly to consist of long lists of deaths of Christians at the hands of Muslims. Grisly details. Time will tell whether this one stays on this part of the list.

Did God Really Command Genocide? by Paul Copan and Matt Flanagan. I've read a good deal of this, but it's hard work for my kind of brain, and it seems at times as though there's a lot of semantic nit-picking which has its points, but doesn't help me keep up.

ISIS: Inside the army of terror, by Michael Weiss. This is worth pursuing, but has just got side-swiped at the moment.

Climate Change, by Alan Moran et al. This is good, sometimes too technical for me, but overall worth reading. However, it's temporarily come to a halt.

Books I am reading: 
The Intolerance of Tolerance, by D A Carson. This is very good, and I'm close to finishing it.

Thomas Aquinas: a Portrait, by Denys Turner. Again, very good, though at times I have to read very slowly to understand the arguments. But keeping on with this.

Sermons Preached at Brighton: Third Series, by F W Robertson. Robertson was a 19th century preacher, and these sermons (not actually recorded while he was speaking, but taken from his notes) are very helpful, and insightful. I've been reading these bit by bit in the evenings, and am nearly finished. (I've already read some of the sermons twice, so it's taken me longer than it might.)

The Four Books, by Yan Lianke. I'm reading this to review it, and it's hard work. Not hard to read, but just hard to keep focused. On one hand it's very grim, and Lianke's style, intentionally, is repetitive, so that what's said in one paragraph will be repeated further down the page in a slightly different way, or in one of the other 'books.' It's a satire, but very dour, and you have to wonder again and again why the Chinese seem to have so willingly allowed themselves to be led up the creek by Moa and his terrorists. Yes, perhaps it being terrified that was the problem. But so often in the book the people being 're-educated' are actually offered a way out...and they don't take it.

Alert readers will notice that there are actually 12 books here. I kept remembering other ones I hadn't included on Goodreads initially. So that was good. Updated!

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Two plays in two days

Last night I went with a friend to see The War Play, by Philip Braithwaite. It's a somewhat fictionalised story of what happened to Braithwaite's great-uncle Jack, who died in the First World War. I won't reveal exactly what happens in the play because there's a certain shock element to some parts of the story, but it's superbly put-together, and if you have a chance to see it, go. It's on at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin until the 18th April.

There are only four actors in the cast: Jonathan Martin plays Jack, back in the WWI period, and Ben Van Lier plays his great-nephew, Philip, in the present. Not only does Philip talk directly to the audience most of the time, but he talks about writing the play, which is still 'being written' as he speaks. This brings a kind of intentional dislocation to the piece.

He also has several scenes with his father, played by Simon O'Connor. O'Connor is just wonderful as the not particularly likeable old man. But he also plays several other roles, and in one extraordinary moment, moves from one side of the stage, where he's been playing Philip's father, to the other. In that brief moment in the dark he changes costume, on stage, and becomes Jack's father. And the character is quite different.

The remaining actor, Alexander Walker, plays everything from a religious minister to a political minister, from an obnoxious Australian to Jack's slightly crazy brother, Eric. He probably played other roles too that I've forgotten for the moment...he was ubiquitous in the very best sense.

All of the actors bring huge energy to their roles, especially Martin. The direction is excellent and detailed and keeps the audience well abreast of what time in history we're in as two stories run in parallel. This is a play about fathers and sons, and also about truth and lies. Even some of the stories in the play may be lies or half-truths. We're not always sure. What is certain that the shame that the Braithwaite family suffered in regard to their son, Jack, was unwarranted, and the truth about this is finally revealed in this drama.

Lighting, music and everything else is top notch.

I went to a play of a different kind today. This one was a film of the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Love's Labour's Lost, a play that's sometimes regarded as one of Shakespeare's lesser efforts, or one that's difficult to stage. There was no hint of that in this production. The cast sailed effortlessly through the play, one which focuses greatly on language, its complications, its humour, its verbosity. It's also a delightful play about young love and the need for love to mature before it's of real value. The ending can seem odd: after some two hours of light-heartedness and playful flirting, suddenly everything darkens. But it darkens to a purpose, and the four young men who've been courting the four young ladies suddenly discover that love needs to be taken seriously. Constant flirting and jesting won't keep it alive.

The RSC has followed up this production with one of Much Ado About Nothing, which it's (temporarily) renaming Love's Labour's Won. The same cast is in both productions. The first, the one I saw today, takes place in an Edwardian setting, just before the First World War; the second takes place after the war, in the twenties.

LLL is set in a facsimile of a genuine English country house (even though the story ostensibly takes place in France): the three-storey facade is reproduced, and during the course of the production shifts away to reveal the library, or another room with French windows (and a grand piano). But there is also a bowling green, and a scene on the roof, and various other settings. This piece is rich in actual scenery and furniture. In spite of that it moves at cracking pace. The stage is also extended right out into the audience, so that many people are seated just at the edge of the stage on either side. (Cricked necks would result, I'd have thought). The cast move on and off this from the back as you'd expect, but also walk in from the sides on catwalks. There is an enormous amount of stage area.

The cast are wonderfully dressed in beautiful Edwardian pastel colours, or whites, and the women have a ball in their various long gowns.

It's hard to single any cast member out, but one of the delights is the young fellow playing Moth,
Peter McGovern. He sings and dances (in a mock Ivor Novello moment - there is a small orchestra that plays regularly throughout the show) and has a perpetual grin on his face. His main foil is the tall and solid John Hodgkinson as the crazy Spaniard, Don Armado, who mangles English as the drop of a hat.

Edward Bennett as Berowne and Michelle Terry as Rosaline make a wonderful sparring couple, and Bennett in particular, with his great long wordy speeches, never puts a syllable out of place. Leah Whitaker and Sam Alexander make a great royal couple, and are ably supported by the two respective couples on each side.

This is a play with an abundance of clowns: Costard (Nick Haverson) is the first to appear; he's the coarsest, but also the most energetic. Chris McCalphy makes an excellent Dull, the policeman who is short on words, but pertinent to the scenes he's in. David Horovitch and Thomas Wheatley play the blathering wordsmiths, Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel, and manage to make the circumlocutions sound interesting.

I loved every minute of the play, and would be happy to get a copy of the DVD when it's available, in order to catch up on it again.