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Anna Karenina at The Royal Exchange, 24th April 2015

29 Apr

Anna K

I saw the Royal Exchange’s current production of Anna Kerenina on Saturday afternoon. A rather late decision, and not one regretted; it was so well performed and directed. What I saw was a rather unconventional presentation of Tolstoy’s famous novel, but all the risks pay off, whether it be the multi-cultural cast, the minimalist staging or the wise decision to expunge pages upon pages of farming practice. I have the latter on very good authority, as I’ve not actually read the book or seen any of the numerous film adaptations (with Clarence Brown’s 1935 offering with Greta Garbo being arguably the most famous, alongside the recent Kiera Knightley vehicle).

Judging by the size of the novel, abridging Tolstoy’s story into a two hour theatre production must have been a daunting task, and Jo Clifford’s minimalist presentation manages to captivate from start to finish, without losing what I expect are the main themes of Tolstoy’s original narrative. One main point of praise is that it has encouraged me to read it at the soonest opportunity.

The production focuses on the parallel relationships of Anna and her illicit lover Count Vronsky, and the idealistic farmer Levin, and his childhood friend Katy, who spurned him years before. There is tragedy and there is the bitter hurt of love gone wrong, all played out against the social backdrop of 19th century Russia. The sparse set, dominated by the polar imagery of technology and nature (the train and the soil), allows space for some captivating performance and clever choreography.

While Ony Uhiara and Robert Gilbert provide central gravitas as Anna and Vronsky, it was in Gillian Saker’s Katy and John Cumin’s Levin that I found the story resonating more successfully for me, with a tender realism that made me wish their union well. With moments of light heartedness amongst the pathos and a lot of story in a short time, this appeared to be a distilled vision of Tolstoy, but while the man himself may have had reservations, it engaged me and has since turned my eye towards the bookshelf.

Anna Karenina is on at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, until 2nd May 2015.

http://www.royalexchange.co.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/anna-karenina#.VT0R8sTLzq8.facebook

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You’re such a lovely audience, we’d like to take you home with us….

14 Sep

IMG_0572

My Salford-Irish heritage sometimes comes across in very subtle ways…

The blog title reveals little except a reference to live performance (which I’ll come to in a bit) and the fact I’m currently listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!

So, where to begin? I’ve been a bit lax in my reports on my personal cultural engagement. Or, if that sounds a bit too pretentious, I could say that I’ve been a bit lazy in reporting what I’ve been up to (in a creative sense)! Either that, or I’ve been too busy. Hmm…no, ‘lazy’ pretty much covers it…

Anyway!

Hic Dragones, who I reported on last April are running another potentially interesting and exciting conference weekend in Manchester. The group are quite enamored with the strange and the bizarre, specializing in small press and conferences concerning the ‘weird, the dark and the strange’ (their words), and have asked for submissions for that weekend, that would be around twenty minutes in length. They want some dark and bizarre fiction apparently, although they usually except non-fiction. I’m strongly toying with the idea of putting myself forward. Speaking in front of a ‘ready made’ crowd would, for me, be more daunting than delivering something at work (a college, as it happens). My Masters dissertation was concerned with the sanitization of the vampire in contemporary Literature and Film, so that could be the basis of a good (much abridged) piece, although not entirely clear how relevant that would be for this event. Incidentally, I may be bold and share the full ‘book’ on here in pdf format. Best that I check the rules and rights of such an action first!

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