On stage Hattie Morahan sprays herself vigorously with water before joining Ben Whishaw in front of one of several cameras. She moves into frame as if walking out of the rain, looking mournful and distracted, while across the stage another actor reads aloud the thoughts of his character, Myshkin. All of this translates into a seamless cinematic encounter on the screen hanging above the stage. In her adaptation of Dostoevsky''s The Idiot, ...Some Trace of Her, Katie Mitchell has attempted to distil the essence of the relationship between the three main characters: a beautiful but emotionally damaged woman (Nastasya Filippovna), a passionate and violent man (Rogozhin) and the idiot of the novel's title (Myshkin), whose foolishness relates more to his good intentions rather than to any lack of intelligence. Other characters from the book appear in the play, but the focus is on this trio who are bound together, both by passion and by the idea of whether they can redeem or be redeemed.
Archives for July 2008
Nico and Sarah (researchers on the Culture Show team) have been raving about BBC Three's series Summer Heights High, a comedy set in an Australian high school. Nico had been trying to get hold of the series' creator - Chris Lilley - for a feature on The Culture Show and was hopeful that he would be in the UK towards the end of the year, but this now looks unlikely. The whole series is apparently in iPlayer right now, but the first episodes are only available to watch for 8 more hours. You see my quandary - I don't like to recommend something without seeing it first but if I wait until I've watched it then it will be too late. Looking at the iPlayer entry for the series it is categorised as 'entertainment & comedy > spoof'. I can't help but think that this sort of taxonomy would have rather spoiled the fun when Down the Line started...
Apologies to those Radio Times readers who like viewer Mary Hoffman, spent the whole programme "breathlessly waiting" for our item on the Vasari Corridor - at some point the piece moved from this week's show to next week (Tuesday 5 August) and this information must have reached the Radio Times after their publication deadline. I also neglected to link to any information about the animation on last night's show, Operator by Matthew Walker. Thanks to viewer Lucy for pointing that out. You can watch it here and find out more about what he is up to on the site for Bristol-based animation company The World of Arthur Cox. In the longer version of the show on Thursday night, Mark Kermode interviews Matthew Walker about Operator.
James Marsh's documentary about Philippe Petit's famous wire walk across the skies of New York comes to cinemas around the UK this weekend. In 1974 Petit and a small group of co-conspirators tricked their way into the World Trade Center. Having smuggled a large amount of equipment into the WTC, the group spent hours hiding under canvas until they could rig the wire between the towers. Petit then spent about an hour performing on the wire while thousands of New Yorkers gazed up at him in amazement. Man on Wire tells the story of what Petit describes as his "love affair" with the towers and his attempt to conquer them, interspersing this with material from earlier attempts on Notre Dame cathedral and Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can watch an extended version of Mark Kermode's Culture Show interview with Philippe Petit here.
This week Paul Weller performs live in the studio while Mark Kermode finds himself away from the familiar territory of film and music, talking about theatre and painting. What do you think of Mark's discussion with Andrew Graham-Dixon? Do you find Cy Twombly's work interesting? Is Katie Mitchell doing things that you go to see in the theatre (or will do when Waves goes on tour)? Let us know. You can enjoy some of my amateur photographs of Paul Weller's sound check on our Flickr group.
I was looking on the MOG website a couple of days ago, checking out their post about the Tony Allen extra on our site, when I spotted the phrase "The BBC don't believe in embedding videos, so follow the link for a Culture Show jam". Oh but we do believe in embedding, it's just taken a little while for us to iron out the usual rights and editorial issues that we always have to address. I'm not complaining - it's important that the BBC gets things right - but I'm pleased to be able to tell you that we've just had the go-ahead to start making our video content embeddable. See the site on the Embedded Media Player to see it confirmed in black and white. You won't notice a change immediately as the functionality will be rolled out gradually, but I'm going to do my best to make Culture Show videos embeddable as soon as possible. Before you ask, for rights reasons things will still only be visible in the UK.
It does seem a little unfair to say this when we have a couple of busks yet to come on the show before the end of the series, but we can't believe that anyone will be able to beat the incredible total achieved by the Fron Male Voice Choir. The challenge has been going since October 2007 and the contenders have included Supergrass, Moby, the Charlatans, Roisin Murphy, Frank Black of The Pixies - and still the choir have triumphed! How did you rate their performance? Would you have put your money in the hat? Are you sorry to see the end of the challenge? You can watch the full performance here.
What a varied Culture Show Uncut we have for you tonight! Our animation comes from artists Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt who call themselves Semiconductor. They work with a computer to create installations and short films which represent the physical environment in fascinating, and slightly unnerving, ways. We have Semiconductor in the studio and if you miss the interview you can watch it on iPlayer for a week. Their short film Magnetic Movie samples the voices of NASA scientists to create what Semiconductor's MySpace page describes as the "secret life of invisible interplanetary magnetic fields". It's great - even though it makes me feel rather itchy. Have you enjoyed the animations we have chosen so far in the series? What about Mark Kermode's interviews with the animators in the studio?
A number of you have emailed in asking about the animation from last week which featured a cat. It was the latest in the Simon's Cat series, by Simon Tofield, and this and earlier instalments can be watched on their YouTube channel.
Let us know what you like or dislike about tonight's show. Did you enjoy our footage of land art from the air? Were Primal Scream on form in the studio? Are you now looking forward to Of Time and the City? Post your thoughts here.
At different points in the new Batman film the Joker tells the story of how he got his wide scar of a smile, each time including this phrase, "Why so serious?". It's mocking, it's cruel, it's ambiguous, and wholly representative of this brilliant film. This is a daring blockbuster - not because of the dark content matter or the level of violence (eye-poppingly high for a 12A certificate) but because of the way that the film refuses to satisfy the audience's desire for a simple answer. This knight is stumbling around in the dark rather than dressed in shining armour and the story arc is not the usual one of strife followed by resolution. Although he is dedicated to doing good, Batman finds things constantly slipping out of his control and his triumphs appear temporary and flimsy. Unlike Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan's first Batman film, there are successes but no moment of exhilarating pay-off - which suits me fine, because that was the least memorable part of the previous film. What stayed with me from Batman Begins was Christian Bale's restrained, but clearly tormented, Bruce Wayne and the ethereally handsome Cillian Murphy as Dr Jonathan Crane / the
Sandman Scarecrow. His use of a sack and hallucinogenic drugs to send people mad was a DIY retort to Batman's extensive bag of tricks. Murphy reappears briefly in The Dark Knight and it's clear that Nolan is reminding us of his character - storing him up for a future instalment.
The nominations are out for this year's prize and looking back, we've had a number of the artists on the list perform on The Culture Show: Laura Marling, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Neon Neon, British Sea Power and, most recently, Elbow. You can watch Elbow now, but we'll see if we can clear any of the others for the website. Any thoughts on who you'd like to see win or who missed out unfairly? I would definitely have put the PJ Harvey album White Chalk on the list.
I wasn't expecting to see a play at Latitude, let alone Hamlet, but I happened upon The Factory theatre group by the lake this morning and before I knew it I was watching a rather fun and irreverent version of the Dane. Early signs didn't bode well - the cast are chosen by members of the audience playing rock, paper, scissors and calls for props made me fear an approach in which audience participation might overwhelm the Shakespeare, but once things started in earnest it was clear that the cast were serious about the performance. Different acts of the play took place in different locations - moving from the side of the lake to a couple of other spots in the woods - and apparently this flexibility is usual for the company. At the moment they are performing Hamlet around London every Sunday, with locations revealed by email or through the company's Facebook group. On the strength of this lakeside performance, which was moving and exciting, I would recommend seeing them. Instead of gabbling their lines in an attempt to maintain the audience's interest (as has happened in many productions of Hamlet I've seen) the actors respect the verse, without being weighed down by it. Very enjoyable.
I was sitting outside a tent listening to Carol Ann Duffy reading poems when Ross Noble ran past, pursued by a few hundred people. He was wearing an expression of delight and seemed to be doing a lap of honour after his comedy show. The scene felt somehow typical of this festival's good natured zest. I arrived at the Latitude Festival yesterday and it's been working its magic on me since I got over a strop at having brought too few tent pegs.
The programme coming up on 29 July features theatre director Katie Mitchell, whose methods are seen as untraditional by some: her 2006 production of The Seagull had some critics sharpening their nibs (for nibs read knives). In our item Mark Kermode visits the rehearsals for her new production, Some Trace of Her, and interviews Mitchell, who is also an associate director at London's National Theatre. Some Trace of Her is based on The Idiot by Dostoevsky, and is an interesting choice for a stage adaptation. The novel is a fascinating portrait of a truly good person, whose goodness doesn't seem to exercise a positive influence upon the world and the book is as puzzling in certain sections as it is dazzling in others.
Although this series of The Culture Show finishes late in August (there are three programmes from the Edinburgh Festival) we have commissioned all the items for this series and are now thinking ahead to the autumn. Eddie, the editor of the programme, is very keen to know what you think we should be covering so that we can feed it into our commissioning meetings. Don't hold back, tell us what you think The Culture Show should be looking at, and we may well do it!
When selling one's soul it makes sense to negotiate a good price for it, but according to Stravinsky's cautionary tale we don't always know we're striking a bargain. In The Rake's Progress, currently at the Royal Opera House, the young, rudderless Tom Rakewell comes into a fortune from a forgotten uncle and a year later finds himself at the gates of hell having abandoned his true love (by name and by nature - Anne Truelove) and beggared himself. He is led along this rather muddy primrose path by Nick Shadow, who encourages Tom to ever deeper debauchery and deceitfulness by insisting that peace only lies in being free from duty and desire. There is none of the sweetness or challenge of Don Giovanni's conquests in this opera, we see Tom being bedded by an aging bawd and suffering boredom and loneliness, rather than transient bliss. It's a fair point - for many, untrammelled indulgence soon palls, and the opera follows the spirit if not the letter of Hogarth's series of paintings, A Rake's Progress, from which Stravinsky took inspiration.
There's been a mix up in the information for tonight's show in many listings magazines and websites. We will be showing an item on the US TV series The Wire next week rather than tonight, while we are talking to artist Steve McQueen about his exhibition Queen and Country, and his film about hunger striker Bobby Sands, in tonight's show.
Queen and Country is on display at the Barbican in London until the end of July, and in an example of imaginative programming it provides a counterpoint to Gregory Burke's play Black Watch, also at the Barbican. Both works look at the experience of British soldiers in Iraq. McQueen's exhibition commemorates soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq with facsimile stamps, and in the process calls into question how we are valuing the contribution of these men and women. Black Watch examines our relationship with the army in a complementary way, reflecting on the experience of service personnel both in Iraq and at home. I wrote about the play here a couple of weeks ago.
Yesterday I ended up at two completely contrasting cultural events; in the afternoon I visited the Mitra Tabrizian photography show at Tate Britain while in the evening I attended Mexican wrestling at the Roundhouse. I wasn't doing this to compare and contrast, I think it's a good idea to take in as wide a range of events as possible - even ones that I wouldn't choose to go to under normal circumstances.
Is it just me, or does this year's London Festival of Architecture feel bigger and better this year? If you'd asked me six months ago which was the city's biggest architectural event I would have said the London Open House. For the past five years or so the event has felt like the true start of autumn and the length of the queues outside many of the buildings has been a testament to the success of the project. This year, however, although I will be making a date with some of London's hidden corners come September, I'm very excited about the current festival - some of it might even happen while the sun is out.
Some fans of The White Stripes, myself among them, have been wary of the polish and professionalism of The Raconteurs. Part of the appeal of The White Stripes has been their rawness and brute energy. They've updated the blues for a wider, but still discerning, audience and they have bags of attitude. The White Stripes have always been eclectic, but I was slightly put off by what seemed, on first listen, to be The Raconteurs' knowing musicianship. I've now been converted. On this week's show they give a blistering performance of Carolina Drama, a track from their latest album Consolers of the Lonely. We'll have the song up on the website as soon as possible, but you can watch it now on iPlayer. The Raconteurs also have a great web 1.0 site - it's worth checking out.
It's often said that we voters have disengaged from mainstream politics - going to the polls in ever smaller numbers and knowing more about the personal life of Amy Winehouse than the policies of our MP. This lack of engagement does not, however, seem to extend to film, theatre and television. This week sees BBC One and Channel 4 address the issue of violent crime (a political issue if ever I saw one), with the five-part series Criminal Justice exploring law and order through drama, just as Disarming Britain explores street crime. This may not be the same as lobbying Parliament, but it is an attempt to inform and entertain without patronising.
Audiences have certainly been entertained and informed by Black Watch, a political play produced by the National Theatre of Scotland and first performed in 2006. I saw the show at the Barbican in London last week and was struck by how powerful it is. The play is about the war in Iraq, but also about what it's like to be a soldier, in particular a soldier in the Black Watch, the famous Scottish regiment. Instead of arguments over UN resolutions or discussions over the dinner table of the rights and wrongs of the war we see the soldiers struggling with the reality of the conflict. It's a dynamic production, full of movement, music, and funny one-liners. The only actual fighting we see on stage is between the members of the troop, as a way of dissolving tension built up while corralled in the base or in the back of a tightly packed armoured vehicle, but the actors are completely convincing as fighting men. It felt so alien that made me realise how infrequently I've seen groups of young working class men on stage, which in turn made me think about what most excursions to the theatre must be like for these same young men.