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I am trying to find the words to describe a piece of theatre that used almost none at all. I will begin by saying this show was the most beautiful piece of art I have seen in a long time, hoping that you’ll excuse my clumsy attempts to explain it.

We arrived just before the show began and were led into a cobbled courtyard that felt completely hidden, though we could hear the music from a nearby club. We took our seats under the open sky, completely surrounded by stone-built five-storey Edinburgh buildings.

While we waited for the show to begin, we were entertained by what we used to call ‘animation’ in the circus – meaning performers in costume and in character, out interacting with the audience.

And then the show began, and I was completely enchanted.

The Dream of Sancho is a piece of physical theatre. I have an unfortunate tendency to dismiss physical theatre as pretentious, or to lump it in with dance. But this show was neither. There were a handful of spoken phrases, but the rest of the story was told purely through movement. Not mime, just movement.

Inspired by Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the loose story is of a man, trapped in the 9-to-5 grind, who has forgotten that in another life he was Don Quixote. Sancho finds him when he falls asleep at his desk, and he begins to remember.

Some imagery I got, some I didn’t, but the intellectual story was completely irrelevant. It was the experience that was important.

The ‘staging’ of the show was brilliant. It incorporated the most wonderful use of projection I have ever seen. The whole wall of one of the buildings became a canvas, extending the story that was told by the bodies moving on the cobblestone. And the projection incorporated the stonework, the windows. Such excellent use of the space.

Their props were minimal – a silver hoop, pairs of shoes, flowers, a multitude of umbrellas – but so effective. Lifting the shoes off the ground let characters take flight among the projected clouds. Planting flowers between the cobblestones created a beautiful garden.

Their use of light was especially skilled. At the opening of the show, a young woman was just caught in a crossbeam, causing her yellow umbrella to glow. Lights close to the ground gave the cobbles dimension and texture and brought the flowers to life.

Every single aspect of this show was perfect. I was fascinated, and enchanted, and all those things. I keep saying, it made my soul happy. It lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes and I didn’t want it to end.

There were only a couple of dozen people in the audience at a venue that could probably seat ten times that. It’s absolutely criminal that this show isn’t sold out every night. I’ve been telling everyone to go.

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I saw The Trespassers at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival last year and instantly fell in love. It was beautiful, from beginning to end. It’s a dark comedy, not howlingly funny, but I did laugh off and on throughout. And yet, as soon as it ended, I burst into tears and couldn’t stop. Cried through the curtain call, and on my way out of the theatre, and arrived at the bar around the corner to meet my friends with tears still dripping down my face.

It’s the story of 15-year-old Lowell and his family. Lowell’s mother Cash, a born-again Christian, works all day as a tour guide at a museum, and so Lowell spends his days with his grandfather, Hardy. Together, Hardy and Lowell steal peaches from a neighbouring abandoned orchard, and Hardy teaches Lowell about the real things in life; poker, tequila, sex… It sounds a little seedy, but it’s not. It’s forthright and honest. Hardy is also teaching Lowell about life and death, about socialism and atheism. When Lowell has questions about sex, Hardy brings in the ‘expert’ – Roxy, a retired table-dancer in her mid-forties and Hardy’s ‘paramour’. Cash, of course, disapproves. (more…)

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I watched Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing again last night. I love that movie more every time I watch it.

(If you’re not familiar with the plot of the play, there is a decent [if not well-written] synopsis at Wikipedia. Yes, I’m lazy.)

I have to admit, on the whole this movie is rather theatrically hokey (there’s lots of holding hands and laughing and… frolicking, for lack of a better word), but that’s clearly a choice, and it’s one that grows on me every time I see it. The result is something very innocent and joyful, and it can be very charming. Robert Sean Leonard as Claudio and Kate Beckinsale as Hero play into the hokiness more thant the rest of the cast. They’re not my favourites, I have to say, but given that they’re playing the younger couple it’s not as annoying as it could be. And, really, there’s no way in hell they could possibly be as interesting as Beatrice and Benedick, so it’s just as well they went in a different direction.

Kenneth Branagh, who I always tend to think of as the ego that walks like a man (which may or may not be unfair, I don’t know yet), was wonderful as Benedick; charming, but not at all afraid of letting himself look goofy. And Emma Thompson’s Beatrice is magnificent. Granted she’s working with some excellent source material, but there is no way to watch this movie and not fall in love with her. (more…)

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I have another audio recommendation for you. (more…)

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I worship at the feet of Emma Thompson. She is well-spoken and intelligent and phenomenally talented, and I love just about every movie she’s ever made (except, perhaps, Junior).

She was recently a guest on Desert Island Discs, a British radio show in which they interview celebrities and ask them about which pieces of music they would take with them, should they ever be stranded on a desert island. (more…)

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Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (I’ve Loved You So Long), written and directed by Philippe Claudel, is a beautiful movie. I want to start by saying that above all else.

It is the story of Juliette Fontaine, who has just been released from prison. She goes to live with her sister Lea and Lea’s family and tries to rebuild her life. We find out fairly early on what it is that she did that got her put in prison, but the lingering question is ‘why’.

Very simple, on the face of it. But it has a depth that makes it a work of art. (more…)

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I may have thought of a way to start a conversation about individual plays. In searching through google for references to Kingfisher Days, possibly my favourite play ever, trying to find an angle for discussion, I found that since it premiered at the Tarragon Theatre in 2003, it has been produced in a variety of theatres across Canada and even a few times in the United States.

Not that this is surprising at all, it just made me think. I never know what to go and see at the theatre. I never know which ones will blow my mind and which ones will bore me to tears. And you can never really trust critics. So, I thought that rather than reviews, exactly, I’d start with some recommendations. So that if one of these plays turns up in your area, you’ll have some idea of what it’s like.

And, similarly, if there’s something you loved, please feel free to leave a comment and we’ll add it to the list.

So, having mentioned Kingfisher Days already, I’m going to start with that one. (more…)

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