May 2016

More tasteless Rice puddings

It seems I was right on the money when, a few weeks ago, I adversely commented on the work of the theatre world’s would-be wunderkind, Emma Rice.
Since then there has been a steady flow of mostly adverse comments about the work of La Rice, especially her treatment of one of the stagings of A Midsummer Night’s Dream currently doing the rounds.
In simple terms, the message from critics, producers and other theatrical luminaries is “Stop messing with the classics.” The RSC’s deputy director Erica Whyman has come out swinging against the Rice “Dream” and eminent critic Michael Henderson has said “only a dunce would mess with Shakespeare”.
The problem, however, is that Emma Rice has somehow become a cult figure. And, as is usual with cults, the subject of their adherents’ worship, can do no wrong. They lose perspective, will accept no adverse comment, no matter how constructive.
It is the fable of the emperor’s new clothes brought to life.
Rice gained her name with her quirky, offbeat and mildly entertaining creations for Cornwall’s backwoods Kneehigh Theatre.
However, much of the allure of these shows can be attributed to being staged in a vast marquee pitched in a generally muddy paddock. The makeshift auditorium was ringed by bars, street-food stalls and straw bale seating as the setting for an after-party shindig of mayhem and merrymaking to an eclectic mix of folksy bands and singers.
It was fun, often wild and all in good spirits. The after-party was a greater lure and more fun than the actual show.
But then La Rice began adapting other people’s work – notably Steptoe and Son (a plodding disaster) – before graduating to the indoor regular theatre circuit where she wreaked further havoc on the Daphne du Maurier classic Rebecca for no good, or pleasurable reason.
And now she’s aimed for the heights, mauling the Bard on all fronts and justifying her action for no good reason.
Adaptations are fine, as are fresh interpretations. But to strip all flesh from the classics (or any work, for that matter) and to present them under their original name and playwright is something the worthy of Consumer Standards’ attention.
Be quirky, Ms Rice. Be different. Give us fresh and exciting theatrical experiences. But please do it with your own or completely fresh material.
Please Emma, stop trying to spice up (and dumb down) thoroughly good drama and turn it into a disco night. There is already an over-supply of stagings aimed at the unthinking iPhone market without mutilating the classics.

Sorry, but it is all about ME

Among the more puzzling posts to my Facebook page was the recent clearly admonitory “Why is it all about you?”
My immediate reaction was a Simpsoneque “Doh!” Was it really necessary to explain that the millions of FB users worldwide are there to let others know what they are thinking, doing, feeling, planning and even eating?
It is, in short, “all about ME” – not about anyone else. It keeps them in touch 24/7 with family, friends, colleagues and the world at large; often with people thousands of miles away and with who it is so easy to lose touch.
What is so hard to understand about that? And, more importantly, why the snarky comment?
It is not lessened by appending a glib and meaningless LOL tag. This generally rates on a par with the xx frequently used by people who would turn both cheeks if one got within pecking distance of them; they would rather exchange kisses with a puffer fish.
The interesting point here, and why it gave such cause for thought, is that the comment was posted by one of Facebook’s all too many fringe-dwellers; the people who tend to hide behind false names and avatars, provide no personal details and often keep their own pages private.
They are the snipers of the social media, the little old ladies peering out from behind their net curtains and pushing unsigned messages through their neighbours’ letterboxes. Hit and run is their modus operandi. Chuck a slur then scurry back into their caves with the false name on the rock at the door.
Even more noteworthy in this case is that the sniper’s offspring is one of those whose life is a book open to the world, who incessantly posts every minute detail of their daily routine; trivia to excess.
Over the top it maybe, but it enables her “friends” (a much misused label on Facebook) to go along for the ride, sharing the laughs and tears, the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, successes and disappointments. And anyone who abuses this insight can be instantly un-Friended or totally blocked.
Strangely, my carping poster has not seen fit to ask her offspring “Why is it all about YOU?” A serious omission, I feel. But if this ever happens one can only hope she is roundly rebuked … and told to come out from behind her net curtains and join in the global chat show that FB, when used with civility and understanding, in really meant to be.
And, yes, this also is all about ME. It’s MY blog.