Tag Archives: theatre

The Picture of John Gray: for Wilde fans in London

One of my favourite books has always been ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde. It’s the only novel Wilde ever wrote and has such a preposterous idea at its centre that it could almost be science fiction.

For those who don’t know anything of Dorian Gray, it is about a beautiful man who never ages in person, yet his portrait – hidden away in an attic – gets older in place of the man changing. All Dorian’s sin and hedonism is absorbed by the portrait – he can live the most extreme life and yet remain young and attractive.

Oscar Wilde was actually infatuated by a man called John Gray – they had a brief relationship in 1889. Wilde used Gray’s name for the main character in the novel, but the actual relationship ended and nothing more was heard of the real Gray.

A new play is set to open next month at the Red Lion Theatre in Islington, London, titled ‘The Picture of John Gray’. Written by CJ Wilmann the play aims to explore the real relationship between Wilde and Gray and what happened to the real John Gray.

I really loved this book and even the modern update by Will Self ‘Dorian’  is a great read. In that version, the work of art is a web installation rather than a portrait. When I read that book, I registered the URL for the art installation as featured in the novel. I was surprised the publisher had not reserved it and I left it pointing at my personal home page.

Eventually I tired of annoyed Will Self fans emailing me asking why I had any right to own the URL featured in the novel. I let my ownership of the URL expire. I don’t know who bought it after me, but perhaps I should have offered it to the publisher directly.

It’s a shame that I’m almost certainly going to miss this new play as I live in Brazil and have no plans to be in London during August. In fact, I’m actually planning to be touring the Pantanal in August. However, I’m sure the script will be available online soon.

If you are in London, do go and let me know what the play is like! 🙂 And don’t forget to check out this song about Dorian written by my friend Enda Mulloy and his band, The BibleCode Sundays…

Details of the play, including the venue and tickets, can be found here.

Grave of Oscar Wilde

New Order @ Brixton : May 2, 2012

Sometimes when I go to see a band that has been together for ages it can be a great event. The memories of gigs and songs from long ago come back and you end up reliving that time just for a couple of hours.

When I saw The Damned a couple of weeks ago it was a bit like that. These guys started out in 1976 and even after 35 years they bounced all over the stage and put on a real sing-a-long show full of their classics.

With New Order at the Brixton Academy last night it was a different story.

I really like New Order, they are an institution and legends of the Factory label in Manchester – in fact they bankrolled Factory and allowed many other bands from the area to get a start in life. They also avoided the heritage circuit – not that there is anything wrong in performing all your old songs for the fans, but there is a finality to that – acknowledging that your best days are in the past.

At the gig last night they felt old and tired. Gillian and Bernard have never really been all that animated, but it didn’t look like they were having fun. I think they really needed Hooky there to interact with the audience – the live experience is about more than just churning out the songs, a band needs to interact with the crowd for the concert to become a real experience.

They took ages to get going. ‘Regret’ was an early crowd-pleaser, but that was it. Their choice of songs didn’t seem to encourage the crowd to start enjoying the gig early on. By the time it got better we were one or two songs from the encore. And the encore was ‘Transmission’ and ‘Love will tear us apart’ by Joy Division. Great stuff, but why not include a New Order classic there too?

The sound was also pretty bad – mixed poorly so the vocals were hardly audible – singing and speaking. When Bernard did say something it was just a mumbled noise and when he was singing the guitars drowned him out completely, until the keyboards were used and then they drowned everything out.

So I left a bit disappointed. It was one of those shows where you expect a legendary band to behave like legends, but they just do a pretty average pub rock gig in a large venue. A shame really.

Brixton Academy

The failure of The Artist

Silent movie The Artist may have won five Oscars last night, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, but in Brazil – a country of almost 200m people – only 144,840 people in 51 theatres have paid to watch it (HT to @brazzil for the stats).

This may seem like a terrific failure in the cultural taste of Brazilian movie-goers. Language is no excuse, because the film has almost no dialogue. Many are asking the question why so few in Brazil have been to see the movie.

But surely the answer is obvious?

Walk down any major street in urban Brazil and there will be a guy on the corner selling DVDs. The going rate is usually three movies for R$10. That’s about USD $2 a movie. Now check out how much it costs to go and watch a movie at the cinema. I looked just now at the cinema inside the Bourbon shopping centre in Pompeia, São Paulo for a ticket for Hugo tonight – normal tickets are R$40 each.

To be fair, this is an IMAX movie and therefore a little more than a regular presentation, but even so it is a real ticket price for a movie that is on right here in Brazil in a theatre tonight.

So even a person who is fairly honest and doesn’t like supporting DVD piracy has to compare R$40 to watch one movie in the theatre with R$10 to watch three on DVD – twelve movies for the price of one.

This problem is also compounded by the legitimate DVD market, which is like the legitimate cinema, just overpriced.

The public in Brazil have voted with their feet. Water cannot run uphill… if pirate movies are a twelfth of the cost of the legal version then who will pay the “correct” price. Only those who want the full cinema experience, those who refuse to support piracy at any price, and those who managed to get a date with a girl and know that a pirate DVD will not impress.

I still go to the cinema myself and I like the communal, inclusive experience… being surrounded by that big Dolby sound and hundreds of other people all watching the same movie, but I don’t watch every single movie in the theatre. I bought a pirate copy of The Artist – and it was watermarked as a DVD that came from the Academy Award judging process… so one of those judges allowed their DVD to leak and be copied for millions around the world to watch almost for free.

The real answer to piracy is not to go out arresting the guys selling DVDs on the street, it is to make the legitimate route to enjoying a movie easier than buying a pirate – and good value. At present there is no incentive for anyone to keep supporting cinema tickets and legitimate DVDs when they are priced so much higher than the pirates.

Of course the argument goes that if everyone bought pirate films the movie industry would collapse – which is nonsense. It would just move from a model funded by tickets and DVDs to product placement and sponsorship – a process that is already developing anyway. Morgan Spurlock financed an entire film this way in 2011.

Services like Netflix are offering Brazilians unlimited movies for R$15 a month. Of course it depends on having good broadband, and many people don’t have the technical ability to hook up a computer to a TV, but Internet-enabled TVs are standard today. As this latest generation of TVs rolls out with tools like Netflix built-in and on the remote control, it will be easy to click a button to get any movie from a library of millions – easier than going out and selecting from a limited range of pirate DVDs.

And this model is affordable too… that monthly charge is less than half the price of one ticket to see Hugo tonight at the cinema.

The recorded music industry is finally seeing this, with services such as Spotify taking off and killing the illegal copying of music because the legal route is so much easier. But it took years for the record companies to ever understand that they need a new business model – not more litigation. Let’s just hope the movie business doesn’t make all the same mistakes they did…

Oscars 2007

Photo by Donna Grayson licensed under Creative Commons

Music – time to start thinking again

I saw a gorgeous concert on Friday night at the Teatro Municipal theatre in São Paulo. The theatre itself was something quite special and has been closed for years for renovation – only to open again about a month ago.
Teatro Municipal

As you can see from the location of my foot, we had front row seats and the orchestra was located immediately on stage with no pit or other barrier – the violins were right in front of my seat.Front row at the theatre

The music was great, a mixture of Tchaikovsky (No. 1 piano concerto) and a couple of Dvorak pieces, including his 8th symphony. It’s nice to hear music that I do regularly play on my iPod, but the difference with a large orchestra compared to a stereo recording is the call-response nature of the orchestra sections. When you are sitting there in person, it’s just nice to hear the strings play a phrase, to be echoed through various parts of the orchestra.

As I was sitting there listening to the music though, it did start me thinking about how hard it is to just switch off and listen to music these days. When I was a kid I would lie on the floor, or in bed, listening to every note of an album. Now music tends to be something consumed while running, or working… just in the background and not worthy of switching off the phone or Internet.

Have we all lost our attention span to the extent that stopping to focus on something for over one hour feels unusual? Dvorak's 8th

What’choo talkin’ about Willis?

Child star Gary Coleman died recently at the age of 42. The BBC announced yesterday that there won’t even be a funeral service for him. Now I know he was a nasty piece or work and those behavioural issues were probably caused by him only being 140cm tall, but 42 is still too young to die of a brain haemorrhage.

But what I really want to know about is what is happening to the script of west end musical Avenue Q?

The show never stops lampooning Gary Coleman – who is a character in the musical – for his failure to achieve anything after his child stardom other than cleaning toilets and collecting reant. So have they changed the show in any way, or even acknowledged that the character the audience is laughing at is now dead?

Avenue Q

Prick up your ears closing. Not enough Loot.

So, Prick up your ears is going to close early. Ticket sales have now collapsed since Matt Lucas pulled out of the play, following the recent death of his ex-husband.

It’s a shame to see a new West End play closing like this. So much new drama seems to depend on nothing more than attracting big-name stars into leading roles, and drawing in the existing fan base of that performer. Isn’t it a shame that nobody appears to be interested in the life of Joe Orton anymore? Here is a play in the West End telling the tragic story of one of Britain’s finest modern playwrights and it can’t sell enough tickets to sustain the rent…

How can any new playwright expect to get a show performed in London, unless it’s in the corner of a grotty pub, if the West End can’t even support a show like this? Roll on yet another musical to take its place…