Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review - Lady Chatterley's Lover - Hull Truck on Tour - 25th May 2011 - Lakeside Nottingham

Over 80 years after its initial publication, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by Nottinghamshire literary giant D.H.Lawrence is still, in approximately equal measure, as notorious as it is famous. This notoriety comes from the fact that the novel was not published openly in Britain until 1960 due to the sexual explicitness of its depiction of an adulterous relationship between a working class man and an upper class woman. Can this touring production of a new adaptation by Nick Lane of the Hull Truck Company, who also directs, make light of this baggage to get at the themes of Lawrence’s novel?
Lady Chatterley's Lover - Hull Truck Programme Image

The play opens with Lady Chatterley herself (Amie Burns Walker) walking out on her marriage to the wheelchair bound Sir Clifford Chatterley (Frazer Hammill) to be with Mellors (Karl Haynes), the estate’s gamekeeper and eponymous lover. The story then unfolds in flashback, with Sir Clifford as the main narrator but with Lady Chatterley and Mellors each taking turns to shed light on events and their inner life.
The three actors remain on stage throughout the production, taking on the parts of the other characters as needed and handling the minimal scene changes. Their performances were good, Frazer Hammill bringing out the complexities of the ineffectual and weak Sir Clifford and Karl Haynes giving Mellors the depth he needs beyond being a woman’s fantasy ‘bit of rough’. Amie Burns Walker, in her touring debut, fares less well as the underwritten Lady Chatterley who never quite feels as rounded as the other main characters but she quickly brings to life the smaller roles of Hilda Reid and Bertha Coutts.
The fragmented structure of the play allows the story to shift rapidly between time periods and viewpoints, allowing geographically and temporally dispersed events to happen side by side on stage. These rapid shifts are occasionally confusing as an actor moved from scene to narration to scene. Clearer signalling of these shifts by the lighting and sound design and direction could have helped, but this momentary disorientation is rare and generally the device is handled well. The music set the mood nicely and complimented the more emotional scenes effectively. The lighting design was less eloquent and sometimes could have been more imaginatively used. The set, a junkyard ring of clutter around the stage didn’t inform the action and seemed unnecessary and distracting.
The script was a little overcooked in places, the obstacle of class barriers between the lovers seemed to be shrugged off rather easily and the political concerns of the book are not fully explored but the production makes the sensible decision to focus instead on the relationship between the three main characters. Adapting such a well known work could be a thankless task, with those familiar with the book unhappy about what’s been omitted and those new to the story feeling that they’re not getting the full picture but Nick Lane has managed to create a play that feels self contained and satisfying and a production that, while not without flaws, is both absorbing and enjoyable.

David Millington
25th May 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review - Rufus Hound - 'Just the Tonic' - Nottingham - 15th May

Roger Monkhouse

Just the Tonic is pleasantly full for a Sunday night and host Roger Monkhouse has a kind smile for the expectant crowd.  He’s a genial and reflective host, his saggy t-shirt, shorts and sandals a far cry from what you might expect from a whip-sharp comedy club compere but his gentle demeanour hides a sharp observational wit and a willingness to cross lines that you wouldn’t expect from his disarming exterior.  The audience are initially quiet, except for the couple from Mansfield on the front row, for whom the presence of electric light and a roof are enough to stir into a fever pitch of excitement, but are soon warmed for our first act, Philberto.


Ted Bovis, the comedy guru from 80’s sitcom ‘Hi-De’Hi’ used to offer his protégé Spike the wise advice “First rule of comedy Spike, never insult your audience”.  Philberto has clearly not sat at the feel of the great Bovis and opens with a series of jokes and observations that initially wrong foot the crowd.  After this wilfully unsteady start Philberto gradually wins them over, steadfastly refusing to play to them and rather drawing them into his world and then onto the palm of his hand.  If I told you my favourite line of his was a response to a female heckler “I’ve got a massive cock but it’d be lost in your mouth”, you might think he was a crude comedian, but he really isn’t.  It’s a hard act to categorise and it’s all the more enjoyable for that.  He doesn’t seem quite sure if his act is character based or gag based and it’s to his credit that he could take it either way and still be a big success.  As good as Philberto is now, you feel there’s a lot more to come from this talented young comic.

Rufus Hound

In contrast, Rufus Hound is a performer who’s already made it.  He’s is a well known face from programmes as diverse as ‘Richard and Judy’ and Charlie Brooker’s ‘You Have Been Watching’, as well as being the winner from ‘Let’s Dance for Sports Relief’ where his version of ‘Fight for your Love’ triumphed.    For a performer who is so effortlessly funny and sharp on all manner of TV shows, he seems curiously unsure of himself tonight.  As he says to us a couple of times, “I should be on a big tour and have a DVD, but I can’t write those sort of jokes”.  After a funny but uninspiring opening section, on what could probably be categorised as ‘sexual politics’, he moves on to tackle religion and the meaninglessness of life.  While the act never loses its way, the out and out jokes rather dry up and it’s a steady polite laughter that rolls around the room rather than something more spontaneous and gut-felt.  He rallies for a more conventional finale and leaves a happy crowd and to a fine ovation but there’s definitely a sense that we’ve seen a performer who, while not in crisis, is grappling with his chosen medium.  Lesser comedians would be content to milk the sort of popularity he enjoys but he’s clearly chafing under the constraints he feels he’s operating under as a ‘TV funnyman’.  Hound is unquestionably very sharp and very witty when operating in the narrow confines of a panel show format.   When given more space to fill on his own he’s much less sure of his direction.  I’ll look forward to him finding the best medium to explore his ideas but I’m not sure it’s stand-up comedy and I strongly suspect he’s not sure either.
Overall it’s a typically entertaining, clever and ambitious night in front of a generous and switched on crowd.  Once again ‘Just the Tonic’ shows why it’s the best place to watch comedy in Nottingham.

David Millington
15th May 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The 30 Day Song Challenge - The Final List

(The first song is on the first of April and the final one on the 30th.)
Day 01 - your favorite song                                              Colin Hay – ‘Waiting for my real life to begin’
Day 02 - your least favorite song                                     Black Eyed Peas – ‘My Humps’
Day 03 - a song that makes you happy                            The Buggles – ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’
Day 04 - a song that makes you sad                                  Nick Drake – ‘Black Eyed Dog’
Day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone                 The Wannadies – ‘You and Me Song’
Day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere             The Glenn Miller Band – ‘In the Mood’
Day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event       - The Stone Roses – ‘Fool’s Gold’
Day 08 - a song that you know all the words to The Airbourne Toxic Event – ‘Sometime Around Midnight’
Day 09 - a song that you can dance to                               The Blueboy – ‘Remember me’
Day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep                        I Am Kloot – ‘No fear of Falling’
Day 11 - a song from your favorite band                           The Hold Steady - ‘Stuck Between Stations’
Day 12 - a song from a band you hate                                Limp Bizkit – ‘Rollin’
Day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure                             Idina Menzel - ‘Defying Gravity’
Day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love     Take That - ‘Back for Good’
Day 15 - a song that describes you                                     - A Camp - ‘The Bluest Eyes in Texas’
Day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate          -  Happy Mondays - ‘Step On’
Day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio                Cut Copy - ‘Need You Now’
Day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio      - Grace Petrie  - ‘Emily Davison Blues‘
Day 19 - a song from your favorite album                              Pavement  - ‘Cut Your Hair’
Day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angry       British Sea Power  - ‘Remember Me’
Day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy      Bloc Party  -‘I Still Remember’
Day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad            Caitlin Rose -  ‘Dead Flowers’
Day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding    Moulin Rouge  OST - ‘Come What May’
Day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral       Bon Iver - ‘Re.Stacks’
Day 25 - a song that makes you laugh                    - Otis Lee Crenshaw  - ‘He almost looks like you’
Day 26* - a song that you can play on an instrument          Drive by Truckers - ‘The Deeper In’
Day 27 - a song that you wish you could play                     Richard Thompson - ‘Beeswing’
Day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty                          - The Wonderstuff  - ‘Can’t Shape Up’
Day 29 - a song from your childhood                                   - Brotherhood of Man - ‘Angelo’
Day 30 - your favourite song at this time last year             The Replacements  - ‘Answering Machine’
*Includes video performance by author...