Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gawker-in-Chief

From my blog on spearswms.com

Gawker-in-Chief

How should you react when faced with a hero/idol/legend/object of devotion? I only ask because I was lucky enough to go to the RSC's gala this week, where I met two of my favourite actors, Jonathan Slinger and Chuk Iwuji. They both blew me away when I saw them as part of the RSC's histories cycle, the Glorious Moment.

Happily I had had a glass of champagne, so my natural responses (gawk/be silent/cry) were suppressed, and I think I managed some decent conversation, or at least did not just stutter like an unleashed Uzi.

One question is whether you should admit that you are a fan. I felt that, since their performances had moved and enthralled me, it would be nice to say so, and I feel I came off with at least some of my dignity remaining. After all, they do not perform in a vacuum and surely must want to hear they've touched someone.

With a plastic Hollywood megastar, it's bound to be a different matter. They have (in my experience) such shields up that it's impossible to say anything and have them listen, or indeed to say anything and have them take you even a little seriously.

Perhaps the best strategy is not to lead off with slavering adoration, but mention it if the time feels right. Don't faint (not me) or scream (not me) or stammer that the New York Times wrote a really great article on them (sadly me). Above all, keep your cool - no-one likes a hysteric.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Now or Later: Never

From my blog at spearswms.com

Now or Later: Never

I find it hard to believe that the burghers of Chelsea are so politically and psychologically unaware that they can give Now or Later a thunderous ovation. Nevertheless, I was proved wrong last night as the play, which is as facile as it thinks it is deep, was sent off with plentiful applause.

Now or Later, by Christopher Shinn at the Royal Court, is set on American election night, as the son of the Democratic candidate sits in a hotel room, watching the results roll in and a scandal concerning him grow. He has been photographed dressed as Mohammed at a college party, and despite the entreaties of staffers, friends and family, refuses to back down.

These arguments form the body of the play, with characters tossing back and forth ideas of freedom of speech, religious and sexual equality and political principles. This would all be well and good if we had not already seen The West Wing, which did the exact same thing in greater depth with infinitely more style. This shallow man's Republic wants to deal in heavy issues, yet it only does so in cliches and speciosity.

Eddie Redmayne, the rising star playing John, the gay pseudo-Mohammed, would have his talents served so much better if he had lines with intelligence. His ability is clear, and the final image of him looking out of a window, broken and tearful and reflected back at himself, is a powerful one, which he handles well. But to be left spouting commonplaces about Islamic fundamentalism and American hypocrisy is an error.

I wish I had returned to my DVD player and seen what real insight into American politics was like, courtesy of Aaron Sorkin and Martin Sheen, instead of having to wade through the treacle of contrived debate, courtesy of Christopher Shinn.