Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Long Time Between Posts...

Wow, it's been a while. I still have a few films to write up, but I also haven't watched anything new in ages. My parents were over visiting for almost six weeks, in which time we got trapped in Copenhagen thanks to a volcano in my spiritual homeland wreaking havoc on air travel, and then another eleven days in Scotland and the north of England. In between, while they were travelling around, I was just working hard and trying to maintain some sort of a life outside of them, whilst being exhausted from constantly moving and not having a day off just to myself. It was great having them here though.

A couple of things I missed whilst not posting.

Firstly, last month I went and saw Rufus Wainwright's concert in Islington. It was incredible. He was touring to support his most recent album All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, and after seeing it I'm thrilled that I'm not only seeing him at Kenwood House in July, but also at the Royal Albert Hall with his sister supporting in November.

The concert took place in the theatre where his opera, Prima Donna, was being staged, so his set was that of the opera, a great big mirrored thing. The concert took place in two halves. We were instructed that we were not to applaud at all until Rufus left the stage after the first half, and that there were to be no photographs during this set. Rufus walked out very slowly, like a funeral march, in darkness, to take his place at a grand piano sitting right in front of us (we were front row centre, literally - incredible seats.) He sat down at the piano and simply played the new album back to back. It was one of the most tense and theatrical experiences of my life. Some of the piano pieces are quite full on, and his vocal work is very dynamic, and the stipulation that we were not to applaud was truly difficult to obey. When someone does something marvelous you want to show your appreciation, and in a concert environment spontaneous ovations are hard to control, but control we did. There were a few moments when Rufus made some mistakes, but he just picked up and carried through, always a great thing to witness as you realise that fallibility is a human condition afflicting all. His professionalism in being able to continue was impressive, but again your appreciation could not be shown. Once he left the stage, again in his slow march, the applause was monstrous. Congregating in the foyer for a glass of wine was a true relief, allowing the glory instilled within us to shine out.

The second half was a more typical concert, with songs from his full back catalogue, harking all the way back to his first album. Interspersed with his cheeky humour it was incredibly enjoyable, and again emotional, as he closed out with a song by his recently deceased mother that saw him leave the stage in tears before returning for another encore with wet eyes. I have no issue with proclaiming it probably the greatest concert I have ever been to, finally eclipsing the Radiohead concert I saw in Melbourne in 2004 where I witnessed thousands of people act as one during a rendition of Exit Music (For A Film) - a phenomenal experience in itself. This concert showed Rufus with all of his entertaining power and skill - I highly doubt anyone left the theatre unaffected.

The second notable experience was just the other night when I went and saw the London production of Holding The Man. I first saw this play at the Griffin Theatre during its premiere production a few years ago. It is based on the memoirs of the same name by Timothy Conigrave, published in 1995, a well loved Australian book particularly within the gay and lesbian community. It is a love story between Tim and his high school sweetheart John, through the seventies and into the eighties with the explosion of the AIDS crisis. The two very different boys (and then men) found themselves always with each other, alongside each other, through all relationship issues and societal problems, with families not knowing how to deal with them, through people dying left right and centre, through casual encounters, interstate moves, and finally 'gay cancer' and the effect it had on the two and their relationship. They both died of AIDS related illnesses in the early nineties, just before Tim's book was released.

The initial Australian production was a phenomenal hit with critics and audiences alike. I was late in getting tickets to the first run and only managed to snare a couple when a friend of mine at the theatre company called and told me two people had cancelled and I could have their tickets for the performance in a couple of days. It was so successful (my memory tells me it played late 2006) that they staged another season for the Mardi Gras festival in 2007 and then a third season at the larger studio in the Sydney Opera House mid that year, where I saw it again. The play has toured to many other locations through Australia, and has finally been put together here with the same principal creatives - Matt Zeremes and Guy Edmonds reprise their roles as John and Tim, and David Bertholdt returned to direct. It is for all intents and purposes the same production as that which I saw in Australia, and it retained its power and beauty. The first act, through their meeting, courting, beginnings as a couple and exploration of the queer lifestyle once they become adults is remarkably funny, cut through with incredibly powerful moments. One of my favourite moments remains when Tim says, after a fight with his parents regarding his relationship with John, 'There is a time for slamming doors and breaking things, and there is a time for gritting your teeth and saying 'you poxy traitors, I hope you get cancer.'' It is very funny, but incredibly caustic and the moment and its delivery really encapsulates the tone of the play, especially through the first half.

The second act begins in the same vein, but once they are delivered the blow of positive HIV tests the mood shifts almost instantly and becomes much, much darker. Tommy Murphy's adaptation of the book, with Bertholdt's beautiful direction and the wonderfully creative and simple production design, drags you kicking and screaming into the horror of AIDS and the pain these two go through, but it is never deep oblivion. The true joy of this play comes from the love between John and Tim. It is beautiful and constant in its own special way, and it shines through with just enough light to stop you sinking into despair. Many a tear is shed during the final moments of the production, but when you walk out you are assured that life is, in fact, beautiful, despite the horrible things that happen. If you are in London I would definitely recommend taking the time to rush out and see it before it is due to close on the 3rd of July. You can see more about it here: www.holdingtheman.co.uk.

More films and reviews to come when I have sorted my life out a little.