Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Review of Aristides - the Outcast Hero for Remotegoat

"A Story Everyone Should Hear"by Miranda Berry on 29/01/09

As the lights went down at Greenwich Playhouse, I prayed that Galleon Theatre's world premiere of "Aristides- the Outcast Hero" would be sufficiently engaging to make me forget how uncomfortable my seat was.

The script by Alice de Sousa efficiently told a story which I felt slightly embarrassed to have known nothing of previously. Perhaps most comprehensibly described as the Portuguese Oscar Schindler, we learned that in 1940 Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Portuguese Consul in Bordeaux, disobeyed the Fascist Portuguese government by helping anyone who needed a visa, regardless of their politics, religion or race. He was punished by that government for helping some 30,000 people escape the Nazis. De Sousa Mendez lost everything including his good name, while his government claimed credit for his humanitarian work.

On a minimalist set the penetrating, powerful music and sound brought Bruce Jamieson's eminently watchable, filmic production to life. The well styled 1940s costumes added to the impression that this was a professional fringe company with high production values.

No doubt the fake moustache featured early in the first half was historically accurate and it was certainly well matched to the actor's hair colour. However it had the unfortunate effect of bringing to mind the British Airmen in the back room of Cafe Renee, which really seemed highly inappropriate.

The ensemble cast worked well together, and were on the whole enjoyable to watch. Suzanne Goldberg, narrating as The Woman, effortlessly linked the scenes with brief historical synopses. In the title role Michael Hucks gave a solid performance of a man quietly defying an inhuman ruling to save tens of thousands of lives.

In including the less impressive aspects of de Souza Mendez's personal life, Alice de Sousa's script retains its credibility. I enjoyed the look of disbelief on the face of Hannah-Jane Pawsey's Joana, as she watched her pathetic middle aged father being taken in by a brash, flirty, French woman. Robert Paul gave a convincingly subtle portrayal of by-the-book Seabra. His self serving jobsworth even provided a few moments of light relief.

It would have been easy for this production to overindulgently tug at the heart strings given the subject matter, but thankfully the script moves swiftly and unsentimentally on just as a lump begins to form in your throat. This production is not without fault, however on opening night, I saw an exceptionally strong fringe production which will surely improve with time. Galleon Theatre are renowned for producing translations of Portuguese work, but this play has a much broader appeal, it is a story which everyone should hear.
Event Venues & Times
Showing until 22/02/09
Greenwich Playhouse Greenwich Station Forecourt, 189 Greenwich High Road, London, SE10 8JA

Monday, January 19, 2009

Excellent Performances, Lost in Translation

Review of “Well”, The Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, London- until January 24th, 2009

I can see why this show was a hit on Broadway. Living in the States for two years, I learned that Americans are much more comfortable sharing their “issues” than we uptight Brits, in fact once they get started the sharing just keeps on coming. The latter part of this play is no exception to the rule.

At the opening of the piece Lisa, impressively played by Natalie Casey, tells us what the play is going to be about- “why some people get sick and then get well, and why other people stay sick”- like her mother. I’m not a fan of direct address but I push my irritation to one side as Casey’s engaging late twenties Jewish-American Lisa lays out her plan for the play she has written.

We soon learn that Lisa’s play is actually more about her relationship with her mother, played by the strikingly beautiful Sarah Miles, and ghosts of her childhood than perhaps even she herself realises.

The modest set successfully captures the liberal mother’s dwelling place and personality before Miles speaks a word. Custom made hospital beds are wheeled on by supporting actors as they enter for flashback scenes at Lisa’s allergy clinic.

The performances are universally strong. The supporting cast cope admirably with playing multi role and are at their most impressive in their more heightened castings. Unfortunately for them, some of the lines they have to deliver when their characters step out of the play within the play just don’t quite work in a British accent. The Jerry Springer-like cheesy honesty of the words leave us Brits shuffling uncomfortably in our seats.

“Well” is at its funniest and also its most poignant when it makes its point subtly. It does have some good points to make, but they are largely lost in self indulgence and heightened drama later in the play.

Casey’s performance is outstanding. Convincingly Jewish American in attitude, stance, mannerism and almost in accent, she definitely deserves a critical nod. God only knows how such a great actress got through the Hollyoaks casting net and on to the show.

While I was clearly not alone in finding the “Oh s**t, there’s an audience there” moments unbearable, this play is worth seeing if only for the excellent performances. It’s just a shame that once again, in London’s West End, not one of the cast manages a consistently good U.S. accent.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Feel Some Job App. Rage Coming On….

After eight happy years of working my a** off in a parallel universe of a profession where the minimum wage doesn’t exist, I strode out in to the real world to seek my fortune (or at least upward of £10,000 p/a).

As I dipped my toe in to conventional life I looked forward to a world where you could earn a decent wage and progress through hard work and talent and not because of who you knew.

Of course logic dictates that if someone known to a company has applied for a job and they are as qualified as the other applicants then they are still more likely to get it- that’s how it works in any industry. That being the case, though, wouldn’t it be considerate to make application forms less epic for those of us who could be wasting our time?

Yes, I genuinely do “support the ideal of an ethnically diverse workplace” (or however it happens to be worded), but to make me tell you why, and to make such an issue of it is patronising both to me and to ethnic minorities. Anyone who doesn’t support it is going to lie anyway, so why ask?

On the same note, I am sure that many “examples of troubles you experienced within a team, and how you overcame them” contain more fantasy than Disneyland and porn put together. Unless the application is for a creative writing post what’s the point? Keep it simple: here’s what I’ve done (work experience), here’s why I’d be good at the job (covering letter), ask my old boss (references). Easy!

A well known job seeking website recently left me seething by changing the font of various sections of my CV no matter which method I used to input it. When applying to companies directly by way of their own application forms, three times out of five the forms will be in read only format, or become disfigured when you start filling them in. Is this part of the test? I’m not applying for an IT job!

Thank god I have a good temping agency to keep me afloat. I can just about see the funny side of how unimpressive the people we are trying to impress are. For anyone desperately searching for work to make ends meet, these ridiculous frustrations must seem like the final insult.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


The debate on assisted suicide rumbles on. Some have suggested that Sky Real Lives’ decision to show the death of Motor Neurone disease sufferer Craig Ewert was a bid for ratings. I didn’t see the documentary, I was out. I didn’t want to see it because I don’t personally agree with broadcasting someone’s death. I didn’t need to see this documentary either, because my father had MND so I am very well aware of how the disease affects its sufferers.
Bid for ratings or not, I am glad the show was aired. Even if people were drawn to watch Mr Ewert’s last moments through morbid curiosity, hopefully the result will be a heightened awareness of the disease, and more donations to related charities.
Assisted suicide is a very contentious issue. I do recognise fears that if it were legal in this country there could be rare abuses and that checks could be difficult to police. However possible rare cases of abuse do not seem to me to be adequate justification for denying a substantial section of intelligent human society an escape from suffering which we afford our pets.
Unwilling to endure further deterioration, fear, suffering, humiliation and frustration followed by a slow but certain death my father chose a more humane route to the same ultimate destination. Unprepared to risk making his family and friends liable for a charge of murder he was forced to end his life completely alone, and at an earlier stage than he would have chosen, simply because he needed to be physically able to do it.
The fact that the Mark and Julie James and most in their position aren’t facing prosecution reassures me that while euthanasia remains illegal here, the law does have a human face, and common sense and compassion tend to prevail in these cases. Nevertheless the fact that people in my father’s position have to choose between a lonely, unnecessarily early death, a slow, distressing, death, or potentially making criminals of the people they love is completely unacceptable.
Legalising euthanasia would undeniably require faultless planning to avoid abuse of the system. However there can be no rational, compassionate human being who truly believes that sustaining the “life” we have been given outweighs the human right to make a personal choice to end unbearable suffering which we would not allow an animal to endure.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Slow down Kate, you're making me feel old

I recently caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window of a passing bus. Caught unawares, viewing myself from an unconventional angle, I was horrified to recognise the gormless expression that my dad used to adopt while daydreaming.

I have also, I am embarrassed to admit, recently taken to making occasional use off that age old granny-wear, the shower cap. Like my mum. Well they're practical! Added to which, yes, I do now think that (some) kids today "don't know they're born".

Perhaps even more depressing is that at the age of thirty two, like my parents, I now have a "golden era" of music- and it was over 15 years ago. While my mum's music collection consists of 95% Stones, Beatles etc, and only 5% "newer material" such as Glenn Medeiros, James Blunt and Katherine Jenkins, I have a tendency to wet my pants in an uncontrollable wave of nostalgia whenever The Stone Roses, old Rage Against the Machine, Leftfield or even EMF is played.

As Kate Moss and friends edge towards forty their stamina for their seemingly nightly benders can only be explained by flexible working hours, thousands of pounds to spend on beauty products and abstinence from that eternal energy drain known as London Transport. Aside from the fact that we could never afford to to keep up with them, their resilience and their ability to look good on all that partying is enough to make a mere mortal feel positively middle aged.

Nowadays 70% of the time I would choose bar over club, pub over bar, and- if I'm completely honest- often CSI on the sofa over the pub. When I do actually go out it's not unusual to find myself wishing they'd turn the music down "so you can have a proper conversation".

On the up side though, when lamenting the demise of my former comparatively hardcore lifestyle I get a resounding Monica Geller-esque chorus of "III know!" from my friends. A 26 year old male friend of mine who shall remain nameless just today admitted to me that he has become addicted to Easy Living magazine for 35-45 year old women (which is actually quite a good read). It is comforting to realise that as I slow the pace a little and gradually morph in to my parents, the best part of a generation does so with me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Give Our Troops Some Credit

As the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan hits 100, more photos of the men and boys we have lost appear in the daily papers. It is absolutely fitting that the public should get to see the roll of honour, however it is a shame that the press don’t tell us about the good things these people are doing while they are still alive. It seems the only way for the troops to get any kind of recognition is to be kidnapped or killed, or to commit a hideous war crime.

Last October one of my boyfriend’s friends prevented a suicide bomber from taking out more civilians than he would have otherwise, while saving the lives of many of his army colleges in Afghanistan. I scanned the press for reports of this incredible act. Three months later it was finally reported, but that was only because the outstanding person in question became a member of the roll of honour himself whilst saving another life.

Many of us felt we shouldn’t have been involved in these conflicts in the first place- I was at demonstrations in both London and New York against the war in Iraq- but now we are involved. The vast majority of the troops are not killing innocent civilians or beating up prisoners; they genuinely want to make things better for the people in these countries- and in many areas they are.

We moan about our sweaty tube journeys but we get to shower when we get home, our troops in Afghanistan bake in sweat and sand and sometimes get to shower and shave every two weeks. Teenagers here who see ASBOs as a badge of honour get more column inches than teenagers who are earning true badges of honour everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whatever our politics I’m sure the majority of the British public would like to be told more about the everyday acts of courage and kindness. But I suppose good news doesn’t sell papers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My Little Brother takes the plunge tomorrow....

Grey grey grey grey grey grey grey ,
Grey London again and its sodding May!
Won't let it perturb me,
It doesn't disturb me,
Cause tomorrow I'm going to a wedding that's Gay!

Actually the fact that it's a civil partnership is of no relevance whatsoever, it just rhymes.

Much more exciting is the fact that it's my little brother- who actually isn't really, but is, but that's a long story.

I've known Si for years, I used to babysit for him! We have both been through many events since then, together and separately, bad and good. Although we lost touch over certain periods as everyone does, a chance meeting involving a post box and the kind of small dog which frequents the handbags of the Hollywood's "elite" brought us back together about 18 months ago. I am immensely happy that it did!

I am so proud if him! Is that patronising? It's not meant to be, I say that about lots of my older friends, and I don't even feel as though he's younger than me at all anymore anyway.

I'm not proud of him because he's getting married, any idiot can do that (although from our brief meeting I think he has made a good selection of life partner). I am proud of him because the little seven year old who I introduced to Kylie and Madonna, and with whom I used play role-play type mummy and daddy type games (not in a rude way!), has grown in to a fantastic bloke who's doing pretty darn well career wise! Interestingly our time together seems to have influenced both of our career choices- I'm and actor and he interviews iconic pop stars and TV stars- as well as some F listers who are camp enough to be in Bent magazine.

From the moment I read his "Simon Says" agony column I was impressed with what a mature, intelligent, talented individual he had become, and I've since enjoyed his interviews with John Barrowman and the like. Si has even interviewed the Spice Girls, and been sent to Philadelphia to review the city!

Anyway enough of this arse kissing.

Tomorrow promises to be an emotional day, but also one of Savidge (excuse the pun) partying. I can't wait to meet all Si's friends, and especially to see his mum, who was my Classics A-Level teacher! His sister too who I last met when she was a baby at Louise's wedding, and Si's brother who I have never met at all.

Si has even managed to arrange the wedding for Eurovison night, which could have been by stereotypically camp intention. But never one to be a cliche he has just told me he hasn't really liked the contest since the 90's. Bollocks to that, I love it!

I can't wait to see another dear friend, my only sibling, get hitched, and to get p***ed with a bunch of good people.

Right. must look on the Angels website for a mask....