November 2011

Marvellous Madness

If you haven’t got a ticket for the final two performances of The Madness of George III at the Hall for Cornwall, rectify the situation right now. This is simply superb theatre. It is live performance of scintillating writing at its very best. From the impact of the opening scene to the rousing finale, there is not a dull or non-rivetting moment.
In modern parlance, it is the complete package – text, performance, staging, scenery, music all melded into the exquisite telling of a turbulent snippet of British history.
It ranges over the gamut of emotions from farce to tragedy with broad comedy leavening moments that are heart-rending in their depiction of how the medical profession once went about “curing” the mentally sick.
David Hare, as the “mad” king, gives a stellar, sustained and unrelenting interpretation of Alan Bennett‘s witty, perceptive and engaging script. He is supported by one of the largest casts gathered on the HfC stage for some time. And not one puts a step wrong. There are no weak links in this gripping chain of historical events.
It may be a drama set more than two centuries ago, but the events – and the observations of its participants – are as relevant now as they were back then.
Go on, get a ticket NOW. Satisfaction is guaranteed.

Funny but foul

Two immensely funny guys kept a packed Hall for Cornwall laughing and applauding on Friday night with a show billed as brutally honest and frequently controversial. And it would have been no less funny or confronting if they had eliminated the excess of four letter words from their patter. It seems to have become obligatory among the huge army of stand-ups traipsing up and down the country to litter their lines with foul language that does nothing to enhance their performance.
On Friday, the urbane, laid-back and intensely likeable Reginald D Hunter rambled through topics ranging from the everyday and mundane to the intensely personal and prickly political. His delivery was equally diverse – from amiable to barbed and often thought-provoking.
His sidekick and warm-up man, gangly Australian Steve Hughes, was a headline act in its own right – sharp, satirical, biting and hugely funny but sadly let down by even wider and more frequent use of completely unnecessary obscene language than employed by the main man.
His punchy but foul-mouthed performance was a riotously subversive look at international politics, finance, global warming (inevitably) and his native land that left one wondering how long he will remain hiding in the shadows of Hunter.
All-in-all a real winner for HfC.

What’s that Woyzeck?

Maybe we should have stayed behind to hear the explanatory talk given at the end of Woyzeck on the Highveld at the Hall for Cornwall last night. It might just have helped illuminate this somewhat underwhelming visit by the internationally acclaimed Handspring Puppet Company.
It was all very worthy and well-intentioned but as a piece of theatre it failed to grip once the initial delight at watching the puppets “perform” had faded. The traditional German tale of a downtrodden soldier (Berg’s opera Wozzeck tells it so much better) has been updated to a tale of oppression and murder in modern-day South Africa but somehow the grim, gaunt drama fails to move or enthral in the hands of the puppeteers who are unfortunately far too visible to weave much magic.
There was little doubting the manipulators’ skills (especially with the accordion player and the rhinoceros) but to have them voicing in full view while pulling their strings and tugging their rods lessened any impact the piece has apparently had on audiences around the world.
And judging from the audience reaction, many others felt equally disappointed. Such a shame as HfC needs to be encouraged, not deterred, for bringing such adventurous theatre to the far southwest.