Thursday 19 July 2007

Readings, Potter, aesthetics and irresponsible behaviour

This afternoon I went to a rehearsed reading at the Old Vic of a newish American play called The Water’s Edge by a playwright called Theresa Rebeck. It had an impressive cast (including Diana Quick, who nearly 30 years on is still doomed to be remembered as Julia from the seminal Granada production of Brideshead Revisited) and was directed by Fiona Morrell, who I’m pretty sure is a friend of my friend Lilli Geissendorfer, who produced Fiona’s The Alice Project at the CPT recently.

Given that it was a private reading and was performed largely for the benefit of prospective producers, I’m unsure of the etiquette that surrounds such an event as regards write-ups on blogs. Well, no: I’m entirely sure. I would like this blog to function as a kind of back room/repository for all the longer, more rambly stuff that I don’t put in reviews, or write-ups of shows that I am not seeing in an “official” (ha!) capacity. Unfortunately, being as this is up on the web for all and sundry to peruse, I think there are still boundaries, and closed rehearsed readings are therefore off limits. I’m more than happy to tell anyone who wants to know what I thought of The Water’s Edge, in the pub (well, outside the pub while smoking), but no write-ups, I’m afraid.

Following the reading, I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I’m only slightly ashamed to say I thoroughly enjoyed for the most part. Granted, bits of it are nonsense and the ending lapses into another of those wizardy fight sequences which bore me to tears. But I really enjoy the way that some of the earlier parts of the story are handled. This is largely down to the elements that the previous director Mike Newell imported into the franchise’s aesthetic.

While the first two Chris Columbus-directed movies offered a wholesome, kiddy-friendly feel and Y Tu Mamá También director Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban took an wrong turning into slacker chic and not much sense, Mike Newell’s Goblet of Fire - while dealing with the novel that of the six made by and away the least sense - focused (at least some of the time) on some of the book’s more interestingly adult problems, and drafted in an aesthetic stolen almost wholesale from Brazil and 1984 - the world of British wizarding turned in one film from being a cutesy, medievalised theme park to a pretty dark vision of English totalitarianism. The flashback sequence from Goblet..., in which David Tennant is brought before a court in striped Auschwitz-style prisoner’s garb puts an entirely different complexion on how the audience is allowed to view the Ministry of Magic. It turns from a comforting upholder of justice to a suspect, totalitarian order which deals with its political enemies (admittedly, these are avowedly evil psychopaths) by sentencing them to life imprisonment and psychic torture/ As ideas go, it’s not all that deep, and a good proportion of my enjoyment derives solely from the fact that I do just love the Brazil/1984 look that the film has. But still, it kept me happy for a good while.

At some point, if I remember, I want to write a piece about aesthetics and judgement partially following on from my recent Culture Clash debate, but also trying to account for the fact that I’ve been curious for a while about the question of “taste”. What most interests me is the fact that there are things (artworks, pieces of music, aesthetics, novels) which really hit something in me, even while I’m rationally prepared to accept that on no “objective” (ha!) criteria are they actually any good, or at least not half so good as to account for my huge enjoyment of them. My longstanding love of seminal eighties post-punk/hilarious nineties metal outfit the Sisters of Mercy is one such example. It’s embarrassing. I know that. But for some reason they just keep on appealing to me, and wonder where that appeal comes from (sarcastic answers on a postcard, no doubt).

After all, as a critic you only have your judgement, your own personal subjective response, as a means to tackle anything. What are you meant to do with something which acutely appeals to your own personal tastes so strongly that you are completely seduced by it - rendered almost pre-rational by something which operates on a different part of your psyche to the bit normally employed when experiencing music/art/theatre? More on this when I’m more lucid, I think.

Another thing of which I’m acutely aware is the recent criminal lack of jokes on this blog. In lieu of thinking up any of my own, and to shamelessly jump onto a very old bandwagon, I shall leave you with the parental guidance classifications from Muswell Hill Odeon’s website which I came across this afternoon:

Harry Potter V (Contains moderate fantasy violence and horror)

Shrek III (Contains mild language and comic fight scenes.)

Die Hard 4.0 (Contains frequent action violence and one use of strong language)

Transformers (Contains moderate action violence)

Mr Bean’s Holiday (Contains irresponsible behaviour)


Alison Croggon said...

I really enjoyed Order of the Pheonix (I thought the wizard battles were fab). Just want to ditto your comments, really; the grunge aesthetic worked for me. But by gawd I missed David Tennant!! He's in there too? No doubt I didn't know who he was in No. 4.

Anonymous said...

Tennant was only in Goblet, he played Barty Crouch Jr. who was the one that was disguised as Mad-Eye Moody all the way through. He looks really different, though