Kafkaworld's Blog

February 28, 2010

Yes It’s Ballet, But Is It Funny?

Filed under: dance — kafkaworld @ 6:32 am
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Humour in ballet has always been problematic for me.  In the past, I have seen pantomime horses, a chicken on a stick and men dressed in women’s clothes.  All very Footy Show,  very laboured and very predictable.  Choreographers who are able to convey emotions such as love, loneliness and loss with the lightest and most sensitive touch, cannot seem to avoid laying on the comedy with heavy hands.

Why is this?  Could it be that ballet, like opera, usually deals with the big issues, life, love and death.  Perhaps the choreographers feel that if the comedy is too small and nuanced, it will be lost altogether.  Certainly, I have seen smaller dance works which are genuinely funny; it’s the big showy productions where it all goes wrong.

So, to ‘The Silver Rose’, premiered in Brisbane by the Australian Ballet last Friday night.  My admiration and enthusiasm for the work of Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon is boundless and virtually unextinguishable.  Murphy’s choreography, particularly for trios and couples, is sublime; Janet Vernon’s understanding of character and how to portray it onstage is uncanny, so my expectations were high.  Then I read the programme and learned that the ballet is based on an opera by Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier.  Thus, I knew the plot would be very complicated requiring a flowsheet to keep up with who was in love with whom and why.  I can deal with that – it will be good exercise for my fast evaporating network of neuronal pathways.  However, when I read Murphy’s comment that

“Much of The Silver Rose verges on slapstick. It’s a great opportunity to introduce comedy, a much maligned and often unused aspect of dance”

my heart sank.  But then again, maybe, just maybe, Murphy could pull it off.  Wrong …

Act 1 featured  the Three Camp Brothers: hairdresser, makeup artist and couturier all arrived wearing tight breeches, fluttering lace handkerchieves and minced their way around the stage in a swirl of fussily twitchy mannerisms which left the audience underwhelmed.  Meanwhile, the heroine’s young lover,Octavian,  forced to hide behind a screen to avoid discovery, eventually reappears wearing his lover’s clothes, complete with a pair of lacy knickers on his head.  Don’t tell me that doesn’t get funnier every time you see it.  Does the villainous Baron Ochs fall in lust with the hideous transvestite?  Of course he does.  Laugh?  I thought I’d kill myself.

Act 2, gloriously costumed and choreographed, happily passes with only one brief appearance from the aforesaid “maid”, but Act 3 makes up for that.  Tell me, what do you think when the curtain rises to reveal a large bed with three huge stuffed and mounted stag’s heads on the wall?  I’ll tell you.  In the words of the great musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, you think “comedy tonight”!  And sure enough, a feast of slapstick is required as evil Baron Ochs is firmly put in his place by Octavian and his merry band of pranksters.  Turkeys are worn on heads, arms and legs appear mysteriously from the bed and go the grope and the stag’s heads – well you really should go and see it for yourself.

The Australian Ballet, under the artistic direction of David McAllister is in a sweet spot these days.  The dancers are strong, expressive and brilliant, costumes and sets magnificent, and Murphy and Vernon are at the peak of their powers.  I must also mention the music, by Australian composer Carl Vine which is fabulous.  Despite my nitpicking about the comedy turns, I enjoyed The Silver Rose immensely, and will be going twice more.  Once to see Madeleine Eastoe, my favorite dancer, back on stage after a year away, and then to see Lucinda Dunn again, dancing the part of the aging heroine with supreme confidence and a beautifully conveyed sense of loss and aging.

My name is Lindy and I am a balletoholic, and I have no intention whatsoever of recovering from this addiction.  You are more than welcome to join me.


February 24, 2010

True Love Waits

Filed under: Uncategorized — kafkaworld @ 6:14 am

Sorry to disappoint all you soppy romantics, but this has nothing to do with love, true or otherwise.  The more obsessive among you may have recognised this as the title of a Radiohead song.  If you look carefully, there is a Radiohead song lyric for absolutely every occasion (ask me how), and the line

“I’m not living, I’m just killing time”

describes exactly how I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks.  What’s brought all this on then?  Buggered if I know.  Maybe focussing too much on what I haven’t got instead of what I have; yet another dinner of mushroom omelette and salad, another lunch of pawpaw+bananas+yoghurt, another visit to Dr Strangelove looming and it leaves me thinking, why go through all this angst?  The bastard’s going to get me in the end, why not short circuit the endlessly long, drawn out waiting in suspense for that first lump to appear and let it be over?  I realise, when I’m thinking like this, that it’s just a bad day, but it had been a bad 2 weeks and desperation was threatening to break through.  I can barely speak or interact with people when this mood is upon me which only makes it all worse.  Left to itself, depression festers mightily.

So, having cheered you all up, let me tell you who rescued me this time.  None other than Ken Loach, the English director of deceptively unheroic movies about all of us for whom, just getting up in the morning to face another day is a minor act of heroism.  When I went to Video Ezy (stupid spelling!) last Friday, I was looking for 500 Days of Summer, which had been recommended to me by James and Debbie.  This being the Bribie Island branch, they only had 4 copies,( as opposed to 684,968 copies of Saws 1 to 5), and they were all taken.  At this point, the universe stepped in as my gaze fell upon ‘Looking for Eric’.  I didn’t know much about it but seeing Ken Loach’s name, I got it out on trust.

By the end of the movie, as the lights and credits came up, so did the rainbows of hope and the elves of ‘yes-yes-we’re-all-going-to-die-but-why-not-have-fun-while-you’re-waiting-you-BIG-GIRLIE-SOOK’.  Damn, it’s been weeks since I’d seen those pesky little varmints scurrying about tormenting the geckoes.

‘Looking for Eric’ is about a postman, bringing up his son and two stepsons, who discovers that his son is hiding a gun in his house for a 5 star psychopath.  Eric, the postie, finds himself powerless to make things right for his family.  Fortunately, at this point, Eric Cantona, a Manchester United footy player hero-worshipped by Eric, turns up and becomes his imaginary friend.  I will reveal no more, but those of you who have lost faith, who no longer believe that we can make a difference unless we are rich and powerful, will be reassured by what happens next.  And what happens is nothing short of heroic.

So leave the boys with large testicles to make epic movies about kings and admirals and  presidents and war heroes.  That’s the easy stuff. I’ll be watching for the stories of Everyman and Everywoman, as they face day after day of work, family problems and Rupert Murdoch and try to somehow get through it with as much dignity and humour as possible.  Their stories are where I find the inspiration to plaster on the old smile, get back out there and try to lighten up  somebody else’s day.  After all, as Eric Cantona (also known as ‘the philosophizing footballer’) said,

“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”.

Argue with that if you can.

February 4, 2010

Oh frabjous day!!!!

Filed under: family — kafkaworld @ 7:11 am

Callooh! Callay!

We chortled etc.  All vocabulary courtesy of Lewis Carroll.

No, nobody has slain the evil Jabberwock, but, even more exciting, the Golden Haired Boy, son and heir

(as opposed to the Wondrous Cherub, other son and heir), has actually laid out good money for a ring, and asked the Fair Damsel Debbie to marry him.

And she said yes!!  And she’s met the rest of his family, knows what she’s getting into and she still said yes. Who would have thought it.

Life can be sometimes be difficult, dispiriting and occasionally king hit you from behind.  The best I can hope for my boys is that they have somebody with whom to hop on the roundabout.  It’s lonely out there by yourself.  You can always get a dog, or a cat, or even a goldfish, but to find a soulmate is magic.  The Wondrous Cherub was fortunate enough to track one down quite a few years ago but for James, it’s been a long search.  Now all they have to do is live happily ever after, and if their father and I have anything to do with it , that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Secret footnote – another woman in the family!  It just doesn’t get any better than this.

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