Andy Dangerfield Culture
I'm a journalist who lives in London, which suits me quite well as writing and trying to make the most of all this city has to offer are two of my favourite things. I work as a reporter for the BBC and have also written for various newspapers and magazines. I'm addicted to travel with Brazil, Cuba and Nepal being among my favourite places visited so far. My other passions include live music, art, film and meeting and hanging out with interesting, curious, random people.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Colourful look at a black comedy
It was a rather surreal moment on Tuesday night as I sat amongst a row of strangers all doing their best monster impressions. We had been encouraged to do so by the cast of Madman in the Courtyard at Theatro Technis.
Fortunately this was the only slightly embarrassing audience participation us stiff-upper-lip Brits had to endure in this Mugensha Theatre production, which is inspired by Franz Kafka’s The Knock At The Manor Gate, but set in modern Japan.
To make ends meet, a group of writers, based on real Japanese authors, decide to pawn themselves then act out their stories.
It’s easy to become immersed in the play as the audience sits at stage level surrounding the cast.
Each actor has been given freedom by the director to research and develop their character. There is much improvisation as the colourful cast work together with great synergy.
Black comedy transcends the play but there are elements of toilet humour with sound effects too.
Much of the play’s dialogue is in Japanese, although some English phrases are used. There is an English translation voiceover for critical dialogue and a narrator explains background Japanese traditions.
The play is visual enough to ensure the plot can be followed through vivacious use of miming, puppetry, costume and props including words written on scrolls spelling out joke punch lines.
The play runs until 21 October although the level of improvisation and audience participation mean it would probably be significantly different if you saw it more than once.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Post 9/11 breakdown
Late Fragment, Tristan Bates Theatre
Outside It’s a warm July evening in Covent Garden, but within the Tristan Bates Theatre the stage is set as a contemporary Manhattan apartment, complete with chrome Smeg fridge and white leather sofa, and the date is September 11 2001.
Covered in debris and ash, Matthew is standing face to face with his wife, after having escaped from the World Trade Centre. In this New Company production we witness his mental decline and marriage collapse following the attacks on New York.
Alex Zorbas and Kelli Kerslake give fervent performances as Matthew and Marta whose approaches to life are at antitheses. He is intellectual and doesn’t care for money. She is decadent, materialistic and doesn’t approve of over-thinking things.
There is a very black humour to Marta’s crass character. The first thing she says when she sees him following the attacks is, “Oh my God, we have no money.”
When she discovers that through insurance money they receive from the ordeal, they are saved from bankruptcy, she says “God does things for a reason” and toasts to the fact their apartment is saved.
Matthew develops a despondent demeanour and becomes disconsolate with Marta. He begins to confide in a TV cameraman, telling him that he feels small and undeserving. As Matthew becomes more aloof, Marta forms a relationship with their smooth lawyer.
The final scene is the strongest as an ostracised Matthew, near naked and sweat-covered under the dim yellow spotlight of the TV camera, confesses, “Everything I feared was true about my life was true.”
Undoubtedly, this play will leave you feeling shell-shocked and rather depressed. During each scene change, we witness sound effects of chatting and laughing, terminated by a harrowing crash, which I assume represents the first plane hitting the Twin Towers
New York playwright Francine Volpe’s script shows how a big event can create moments of epiphany. We learn how Matthew and Marta had been drifting apart and attending counselling before 9/11 but it is the event itself that triggers Matthew’s rapid mental deterioration.
Volpe suggests most World Trade Centre survivors acted in desperation rather than heroism. When the TV crew interview Matthew and ask if he witnessed any acts of bravery, he sharply retorts “No”. He says people ran over him and someone stepped on his neck.
As Volpe touches on how New Yorkers’ behaviour on public transport has changed since 9/11, we wonder if Matthew’s situation maybe representative of others since the events, but this idea, like many others could have been further developed.
If you are prepared for a thought-provoking if rather bleak evening, then I would recommend the play. However, there will no doubt be plenty more post-9/11 themed plays to come that may encompass more depth, questions and answers. If you’re prepared to wait for those, you may prefer the prospect of a pint outside in the sunshine in Covent Garden.
Monday, June 05, 2006
The Monastery Revisited proves religion and reality TV are perfect partners
When many young people think of the church, they conjure up images of wrinkly facial haired ladies who think hard pews and stale cakes are a treat.
But Christian TV has experienced something of a renaissance and it was The Monastery that was the surprise religious TV hit of last year, attracting 2.5 million viewers, beating Celebrity Love Island in the ratings.
The follow-up programme, The Monastery Revisited, will be shown on BBC2 on Wednesday (7 June). The lads will be back at the monastery for the weekend to reflect on their time there and review their spiritual journeys since they left.
The original show attempted to prove that highbrow reality TV isn’t an oxymoron.
The participants, who had little or no experience of Catholicism, spent 40 days and 40 nights in a monastery, living alongside ‘real’ Benedictine monks, at Worth Abbey in West Sussex.
They hoped to discover if the 1,500-year-old monastic tradition has anything to offer a modern generation. All five men shared a desire to see if life holds any greater meaning.
They had to abide by the monks' rules of silence, obedience and humility and follow a strict timetable of instruction, prayer, study, reflection and routine work duties.
Looking a little closer, similarities to other reality TV shows are easily found. We watched hippy-monk, yuppie-monk, blokey-monk, aging-monk and Irish-monk- a perfect combination of participants. Much of the coverage featured personality clashes between two of the contenders.
The show demanded participants show respect for others in a community, self-discipline and reverence towards an authority. Sound familiar?
The contenders said they actually only really want to participate to get to know themselves better in a search for inner tranquillity.
They battled against temptations of self-indulgence and gained celebrity status. Well, for a few weeks anyway.
Friar Keith Barltrop is director of the Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation (CASE) which aims to promote intelligent conversation between the Church and contemporary culture. CASE fielded thousands of enquiries into Catholic life after The Monastery was aired.
He says there was an overwhelming response to the series. “It got many people interested in the Catholicism and some people interested in going on a retreat.”
A wide range of people responded to the show. “It was a mixture of people who had never been religious and people who were bought up as Catholics but had deserted the church,” he says.
So why was the Monastery so popular? The series was successful as it aimed to be truthful, according to Fr Baltrop. “It made people appreciate that monks and monasteries were real,” he says.
In a society where many people wish there were more hours in the day and stress levels are rocketing, the benefits of monastic behaviour are more relevant. People could learn much from a simple routine, which includes work, prayer and rest.
By far the most interesting story from the series was that of Tony Burke, who described himself as a “maniacal, booze-guzzling, coke-snorting, piss-taking, non-believing, media-whore pornographer” before entering the monastery.
Single, 30, from London and earning a living from producing trailers for a sex chat line, Tony lived and partied hard. He had reached the point where he was drinking and snorting cocaine before leaving his house in the morning.
He says he had lost everything: “My job, my life, my friends, my self respect and my sanity”.
God was a figure of parody to Tony before entering the monastery- the old man with a beard in illustrated comedy sketches.
He saw monasteries as a cop-out where you are housed, fed and don’t have to get a proper job.
But he was surprised by the warm sense of humour and a genuine goodwill of the monks. He embraced their way of life and was deeply moved being blessed by Brother Francis.
He now believes God exists and says he now has more energy to strive to be a better person and live a better life.
Yet we must remember that with a TV crew continually following the participants, things are anything but a real life situation. Participants are constantly aware of their presence and the existence of a potential TV audience. Therefore no one will ever know whether Brother Francis’ blessing would have had such an epiphanic affect on Tony without the camera’s presence. Such is the Catch 22 of reality TV
Nevertheless The Monastery has been so successful, Abbott Dom Christopher Jamison has been on Breakfast News promoting a follow-up book- Finding Sanctuary - Monastic Steps for
Everyday Life. Apparently the book, teaching people how they can live religiously and spiritually, is flying off the shelves.
Worth Abbey has started to offer Sanctuary Weekends. Costing £120 for a single room, the emphasis is upon learning to pray and using personal time creatively.
The Monastery Revisited will be followed by The Convent, a four-part series in which a former alcoholic, a divorced businesswoman, a mother of three and a bohemian poet will experience 40 days and nights at the all-female Poor Clare’s Monastery near Arundel.
Fr Baltrop says he would like to think that The Convent will receive a similarly positive response to The Monastery. He has already seen the episodes and says: ”They are of a very high quality.”
He appreciates the new show may appeal to a different audience. “It will be different from The Monastery as the volunteers have very different personalities. And they’re women so the show would appeal more to women,” he says.
Following the success of his book, Worth Abbey’s Abbott Christopher Jamison is considering making a TV series showing how people can create a sanctuary in their everyday lives, according to Fr Baltrop.
People can create their own sanctuary, according to Fr Baltrop. “It helps to find a church or a garden or a quiet place, where you can just turn to God. The pressure of life makes that difficult. Often its just as difficult to find a quiet place at home,” he says.
And with the amount of religious TV heading towards our screens, finding time to create a sanctuary will prove even harder.
Bleak House producer Nigel Stafford-Clark has been asked by BBC bosses to apply the skill he used to adapt Dickens to produce The Passion, a quality nightly BBC1 drama series that will portray the life of Jesus and events leading to his crucifixion, which will be shown at Easter 2008.
British television has not attempted anything on this scale since 1977, when Lew Grade made Jesus of Nazareth, the successful mini-series, which was a success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over the pond, The Learning Channel (TLC) is planning Pulpit Masters, in which preachers will compete in front of live audiences. It’s not just open to evangelical Christians - all are welcome- from Imams to Scientologists.
God or the Girl, on A&E, pits four aspiring young Catholic priests against their libidos as they make the emotionally wrenching decision of whether to take a vow of chastity.
It’s not just the Christians that are embracing their television sets. Islamic satellite channel Al Risala- The Message- has also jumped on the reality TV bandwagon, offering a show in which three young men travel through Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, following the path of early Islam's expansion.
Meanwhile, The God Channel, established 10 years ago in Britain, now has five satellite feeds beamed from Jerusalem 24-hours-a-day, providing Christian TV to millions across the globe.
Seventy years since the first TV broadcast, it seems like religion has finally caught onto what a powerful tool it can be to enlighten the masses.
And if we’re interested, we can indulge in more than stale cakes and hard pews while watching. Bring on the Jaffa Cakes and DFS.
Oscar-nominated Capote is a biopic that follows American novelist Truman Capote for the six years in which he wrote his 1966 non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood.
Philip Seymour Hoffman replicates Capote’s camp stutter and mannerisms in precise detail. From the outset, he is depicted as a performer, constantly striving to be the centre of attention.
Capote’s revolutionary book reconstructed the capture, trial and execution of the two killers of a Kansas family. His evolving relationship with murderer Perry Smith is the most absorbing element of the film.
Capote and Smith, both from broken families, are shown to be artistic, yet brutally selfish in their individual search for recognition. They develop an intimate understanding, which is exploited by Capote.
We witness Capote’s demise as he strives to strike balance between gaining Smith’s trust, and the need for his execution, which will provide closure to his book.
We learn much of Capote’s growing fascination with Smith through his conversations with childhood friend and fellow author, Harper Lee, whose success he envies bitterly.
The film leaves you wanting greater insight into Smith’s background. More dialogue between him and Capote would have further cemented their striking similarities. It is easy to forget that the film is as much about Capote’s relationship with the book as its subjects.
As director Bennett Miller’s first film, Capote is a powerful and gripping debut. Hoffman has consistently impressed with his roles in Boogie Nights, Almost Famous and Magnolia. Capote is his first lead role and should provide long-overdue recognition for his talent.