Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Our Friends In The North"

* See end of post re above snap.

I DO SO love November! But I seem to be the only person I know who does.
I love huddling in scarf hat gloves coat while air nibbles my cheeks, brightens my eyes, makes me walk fast(er), hands snug in pockets, comfy-socked feet twinkling in muddy shoes.....Hmm, slight exagerration: I've got muddy shoes, but as for twinkling feet...
BUT November in rural northern England really stuns me. It must be instinctive, primitive stuff... (!): I was supposed to be born on Christmas Eve but couldn't wait, appearing far too early and in the wrong month. Legend says my pregnant mother fell off her bike, therefore hastening my arrival but I like to think it was just November calling. And so for always, I've loved gunmetal skies, bare sculptured trees, the sheer crazy blueness of November mornings....and I love her dark pink-laced skies, when white clouds lilt in blackness. I could go on but you'll be glad I won't!

We've just had 2 w/ends with 2 lots of Friends in the North.
The 1st w/end was with ex neighbours/old friends known donkeys yrs. They've left our little city and now have a friendly cottage in a grey stoned Cumbrian village. It's not a manicured, glossy village; it has its own rather worn face, etched with lines...and sometimes it's smiling, other times a bit weary....And a storybook stream trickles through this village, ducks quack in the lane, and there's a dusty church ( with yews and plane trees guarding its people) echoing the dignity of centuries with its history, its churchyard.... and each time we visit our friends, a friendly pleasantly-scruffy pub welcomes us with tasty beef baps, excellent beers. This place is the home of genuine country people and it's got " no sides" ( as my mother would say) and we love it....
While there, we visited Larch Cottage Nurseries nr Melkinthorpe( see http://www.larchcottage.co.uk/ and you'll see why we liked it. )
We also made a return trip to The Theatre By The Lake at Keswick ( see http://www.theatrebythelake.com/) where we enjoyed Alan Bennett's " The Lady in the van". This is a super theatre, worth a visit ( or several) if you're in/nr the Lakes. It opened in 1999 and in 2007, broke all previous box office records playing to over 55000 people. It operates without deficit, has a far smaller proportion of public funding than comparable theatres, but it's sensible in recognising that nobody in the crazy Arts world can afford to sit back nowadays and snooooze...
Our 2nd w/end was to more old friends, this time in Coniston. They've featured before in m'blog coz like our other friends, we all go back a long way. Last w/end included a trip across the lake from our friends' place, to a craft fair at Brantwood (home of Victorian artist writer social reformer John Ruskin, see http://www.brantwood.org.uk/) and also a Sunday morning trek to Cestrian folk now living in a centuries old watermill several miles from Conistion.
The Lakes were at her loveliest. But that's November for you...
** The snap is Coniston Lake (late pm/early eve) taken last Saturday from the gardens of Brantwood.
Thanks to G.C. once again..

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Long Live King Postlethwaite" ( and when read, see my Addendum added Nov 10th!)

Most important, folks: This man has the sharpest cheekbones I've ever seen.
Pete Postlethwaite was born in Warrington, nr Liverpool, 63 years ago to a Roman Catholic barrelmaker and his wife. They encouraged his love of acting and gave him a base from which to fly. And the boy from Warrington has certainly flown!
He saw his 1st plays at the cosy and somewhat scruffy ( totally one-off ) Liverpool Everyman Theatre. ( see http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/ ) These plays were Classics: "Waiting for Godot" " Look back in Anger" and " Murder in the Cathedral".
He started his career at the Everyman in the 70's. He worked with a tribe of actors who became legendary, including Willy Russell, Jonathan Pryce, Mathew Kelly, Alison Steadman, Julie Walters ( she was his lover for a while) Bill Nighie and more...
And for the next month, Postlethwaite is back where he began. He's playing Lear at the Everyman in a superb production of the play directed by Rupert Goold. And Postlethwaite is glad to be back. Liverpool's unique, he says. Scousers in white vans wind down their windows and bawl out: " All right, Pete?" sticking their thumbs up in welcome, like neighbours meeting matily in the street.
Postlethwaite says that the Everyman is the most interesting of spaces He says that acting in it is just like returning to the womb. ( See, I said the Everyman was "cosy"!)
And he's returned to this womb in the finest of styles. For a few weeks, he'll thrill Liverpudlians ( and countless other Thespians) with his courageous and mind-blowing portrayal of Shakespeare's " King Lear". He'll provoke and terrify, stun and delight in equal measure.
"Who is it that can tell me who I am?"Postlethwaite will cry, and the audience will listen and the audience will shiver, as one of our greatest British actors excels in a part... which he himself describes as " equivalent of tackling North face of the Eiger"
Postlethwaite's certainly tacked it and he's conquered his Eiger too. His 2008 creation of a wicked, sad, crazy Lear will be long remembered. It will be revered by a proud City of Culture, by the world of theatre too.
And it will be remembered by me and some of my family, as we watched last night ( sitting snugly in our seats in this cosy womb-like theatre) ....watching as a self-made man ( plus cheekbones) came home to his roots.
ADDDDENDDDUUUM ( Mon Nov 10th) : It seems critics and playgoers have lots of differing opinions re this production ( see particularly: Sunday Times Culture, yesterday, and Guardian last wk ) ........BUT I believe this 2008 Lear was for Liverpool. And L'pool has its own famously specific " culture" ( like it or loathe it, if you get m'drift) and in that case, this Lear was exactly right.
It was courageous in many ways. It veered far from the brilliant production I saw at Stratford ( Nigel Hawthorne as Lear) but why on earth shouldn't it?? And as for Postlethwaite appearing as a " bewildered pensioner", isn't that exactly what Lear was??!
The Everyman production was startling, it scared, it horrified in many places but if theatre doesn't experiment, if it doesn't shock, provoke...then it never moves on . And then neither can we decide what is best or finest for US personally ...theatre is personal to each of us.
And that, I suppose, is why watching a play ( entering a world where your own imagination can run alongside writers and actors too) is so intimate, so private an experience, so very exciting...