Sunday, August 03, 2008

"I Coulda Been a Contender...."

The festival had its official start on Friday evening (I wasn’t there but I sure heard the fireworks from the castle), and we got to see our first event on Saturday afternoon with a production of ‘On the Waterfront’. Adapted from the film starring Marlon Brando (which I thought I had seen but having watched the play realised I hadn’t) this is Steven Berkoff’s stage adaptation from my old stomping ground The Nottingham Playhouse.
A little disjointed at the beginning with dialogue that was meant to fizzle but fell flat, the play didn’t really get going until the second half. I’ll put this down to first night nerves and the fact both Berkoff and the writer Budd Schulberg (of more below) were in attendance. Once this was overcome and the actors settled into their roles the play picked up speed and moved along to a soaring conclusion. Simon Merrells who took the Brando part made the character his own, shying away from doing a Brando impersonation. There were some nice set pieces on a simple stage, culminating in a funny pigeon coop scene. One of the things that will stay in the memory long after the story has faded is the faces of the actors, Berkoff has put together a group with strong features that put me in mind of Dick Tracy villains, all flat noses and squinting eyes.
As I mentioned Budd Schulberg was in the audience and at the end of the play he was brought on stage by the cast. Now elderly (born 1914), he cut an intelligent and still very much aware figure. Having written such a prominent Hollywood movie as ‘On the Waterfront’ I had a quick google to find out more about him and discovered a man who has had a full and interesting life from meeting and working with F. Scott Fitzgerald, arresting the Nazi film maker Leni Riefanstahl to the dark days of the House of Un-American Activities Commission – a man who has truly been at the centre of US history.

I’ve been reading ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’ this week which is good but you’ll have to read my review in the next issue of Prism to get my full comments on this book.

Miracleman is where Alan Moore tried out some of his ideas for Watchmen. It came first but in some ways I prefer it as it deals with one character rather than several and though not as well known as the later work it shows Alan already playing with the superhero concept. The art work is a little poorly defined for my tastes and the lettering is very small (perhaps I need glasses) but the writing is terrific, it almost contains the depth of a novel.

There was series of films on BBC 4 last night all looking at the London Underground, its history and effect on modern life. Of particular interest was Arena: Underground which included footage of Margaret Barnett, who sheltered in the Tube during the bombing in the Second World War. Echoes of ‘DarkFather’ – I’ll say no more. You can see the programmes again on the rather good BBC iPlayer

Off to see the very funny Tim Minchin tonight.

Read this week:
Through a Glass, Darkly by Bill Hussey
Miracleman Book One: A Dream of Flying by Alan Moore, Garry Leach and Alan Davis

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